- Truly good news concluding this season’s cancer scare.
- Dislike of purple prose such as “out of the jaws of death.”
- How Gloria Steinem, the feminist movement, and bra burning entered Dr. Imran Siddiqui’s operation room at the basement of Geisinger’ s Grey’s Woods facility, Greater State College, PA.
- What’s next?
Truly good news explained.
Summary: No fourth cancer; plus kidney cancer will not affect my lifespan. I will die eventually, but not from this season’s scare. Who knows? I may live to be 100.
Earlier this year, I found a small lump just below the skin on my belly close to my rib cage. On my medical chart, my belly is called “abdominal wall.”
After months of procrastination when the lump became larger and changed texture, I finally saw Dr. Imran Siddiqui at the Geisinger Medical Center’s Grey’s Woods. The facility is a beautiful 20 minute ride away from Addison Court where I have an apartment. The building houses 90 elderly and disabled low-income elderly and disabled residents and an excellent Indian restaurant.
Whether the lump was simply fat or a tumor only surgery would determine. Webster’s defines tumor as “a mass of tissue found in or on the body that is made up of abnormal cells.”
This is Dr. Siddiqui:
Despite counsel from friends not to worry until I knew there was something worth worrying about, I worried. Since age 28 I have had biopsies for three tumors; two of which turned out to be cancer. If this turned out to be cancer, it would be my fourth (Cancer IV).
At a biopsy at his office, Dr. Siddiqui inserted a needle and other impedimenta into the tumor and removed a considerable quantity of cells. The next step: Send the bag of cells to a pathologist who then looked at slides prepared from it under a microscope.
The pathologist’s job was to determine whether I had cancer. Given the location of the tumor, it could be one of any number of kinds of cancer. Then would follow more tests and determination on treatment.
Upon my characteristic questioning, Imran (occasionally I called him by his first name) predicted there was a 50 percent chance of it being cancer. That is high. In the past, two previous cancerous tumors were predicted to be less than 10 percent malignant—putting me on the wrong side of the odds.
The waiting period was difficult. The specimens were sent by currier (whether Federal Express or postal service I have not yet found out) to Geisinger Medical Center headquarters in Danville, PA, 71 miles away.
The pathologist at Danville who made the determination is Dr. R. Patrick Dorion:
Dr. Dorion sent his report to Dr. Siddiqui and to another physician whom you will meet shortly. Impatient for the results, I called and called again. One nurse read out the pathologist’s report saying the sample taken was not cancerous. She assured me I had escaped Cancer IV.
Alas, the good news was premature. When I returned to Dr. Siddiqui cheerful for the routine removal of stitches for Biopsy I, Dr. Siddiqui explained, the pathologist meant the sample is not sufficient. Remove the entire tumor. Ergo more surgery. More intense surgery. I hate surgery.
At which point the urge was strong to utter each of George Carlin’s 7 words too obscene to be broadcast on network television.
I had the surprisingly good sense not to say the words at the tip of my tongue. Some good fairy hovered over me reminding of past incidents where poor impulse control resulted in disaster.
I should point out my high praise for Geisinger Medical Center. Plus my praise for the uniformly excellent physicians (one of whom literally saved my life), nurses, and staff.
I will delay considerable Geisinger praise earned until I pass the cooling off point and resume this not yet completed posting.
My haste is a consequence of a phone call I received last night from a good friend Bonnie Finkelstein returning to Philadelphia after reading my “ordeal” while vacationing with her family (including two grandchildren) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina . She had read the previous posting describing the operation and was eager to learn the outcome.
“I was afraid to call,” she said, “because I thought it might be bad news.” Out of consideration for readers concerned I am at death’s door, I have decided to pause this all too brief recitation to reassure. I am OK.
Coming next to this posting will be still more on the as yet uncompleted recitation of my cancer experience for those of you who have not had enough.
Also, I am eager to tell you about how Gloria Steinem entered the operating room. Not to push fast forward too much, there I was literally under the knife.
Dr. Siddiqui said, “You’re a writer. Tell us as story.” I told him about how Gloria Steinem tap danced on television (an obsession at the time which I will explain later). The story was frequently interrupted by my requests for more Novocaine-like injections.
Dr. Siddiqui had never heard of Gloria Steinem nor had three of the four nurses attending. That of course led to an explanation of the feminist movement which, in due course, will be followed up by my convincing Imran to become a card-carrying member of the National Organization for Women.
For the time being, I close with a video of the woman I most admire in the feminist movement.
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Copyright © 2014 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.