Monday, June 4, 2007

Of Embarrassment

Written by Chelise from Whispered Like Prayers

Nothing can ever be simple in my life. If paperwork has to be filled out, it is pages long and includes questions that can’t possibly answered without a family historian nearby. If it’s a special recipe I am cooking with, it includes product that even Martha Stewart wouldn’t know how to find. What is Vietnamese sassafras and where in the world do you get it in the U.S.? Somehow, in my life, whereas others avoid these situations like the plague – I manage to find the complex and the complicated, the drama wrought and the ripe with confusion – and they make up my every day life.

Luckily, unless you have to explain to someone the process you are going through to file the loan papers, or make the macaroons, or get from point a-to-b – unless you have to explain - then all this confusion is between you, and your own little private life. No one need know the weeks and tears and shouts spent searching for that one strain of sassafras for your macaroon. This is key. No one need know.

However, in the case of medical maladies – everything changes. Something about having a confusing and complex symptom or syndrome – makes utter strangers feel that they have a right to stare, ogle, and question. Nurses and doctors seem to lose their bedside manner when something strange occurs. And of course, it is impossible for me to remain on the side of the road which includes cut and dry colds and sprained ankles. Oh no, everything must be complicated. This is, after all, my life.

Case in point, when my son was born, he was just under twelve pounds. To put this in perspective, he was the size of large basketball with little limbs and a head sticking out. He was an adorable basketball, but huge none the less. The morning after my son was born nurses paraded into my hospital room to… well… stare at me. Finally, one of them spoke.

“Umm… was your son the biggest baby ever born here?”

For goodness sakes, how was I supposed to know the answer to that question? I didn’t know the birth weight of every child ever born there. I could barely remember my own child’s birth weight, and he’d been born the night before!

Several years later, I took a short flight in order to go and visit a friend. We met for lunch, and suddenly my stomach started hurting. Terrible cramps. Pains radiating up through my chest and arms. It was horrible. I was only 32, but I knew that the heart attack I had miraculously avoided had finally found me. My friend rushed me to the nearest emergency room as I clutched at my stomach and chest. Oh the pain.

After many hours, I was admitted and given an x-ray. My friend sat with me, arm around me, lending me support – when the doctor returned, with my x-ray film. He slapped it up onto one of those wall mounted light boards, and began to point out an odd grey color, an anomaly – all along my intestines.

“This would be the cause of your discomfort,” he explained.

“But, what is it!? What do I do??” I pleaded, still clutching at my aching heart.

“Take a laxative. It’s impacted fecal matter.”

And with that, the doctor pulled the films from the light board, turned to me and smiled, and patted me on the shoulder. “I think you’ll live.”

My friend offered this:

“Well, let’s skip dinner at Red Lobster and go get you some prune juice instead. Eh?”


More recently, I’ve had a breast cancer scare. Could it be a nice small innocuous lump? No. Certainly not. No run of the mill breast cancer scare for me. Instead, it’s blood. That’s right blood. Leaking from my nipple.

So far, everything looks good. I’ve had blood tests (though, my cholesterol is a bit high), and mammograms, (no impacted fecal matter causing this, thank you very much) and clinical exams (no lumps, bumps, or babies the size of basketballs, to be found, anywhere). One would think this would be the end of it, but no – the bleeding continues. Did I mention yet, it is coming from my nipple?

Do you know what it is like to have to tell every doctor, nurse and technician that you are there because there is blood coming from your nipple?

For your sake, I hope not.

As for me – things are always complicated, and nothing is ever simple. We still don’t know what is causing the bleeding in my nipple, and a surgical procedure to further investigate will be next. Is there a possibility that they will find that a Vietnamese boll weevil (the kind found only in rare Vietnamese sassafras) has burrowed its way into my breast? Of course there is a possibility. Its’ downright likely. Because this is my life. Some complications are nice and quiet and private. Some, I can ignore and allow myself to believe that everyone else can ignore as well.

Others though, are just a wee bit embarrassing.

Chelise Stroud Hery is a writer and artist. You can find her at her writing blog, Whispered Liked Prayers.


Mama Zen said...

Perfect! I so know that feeling: why does the simplest little thing have to turn into a major production?!?! And, I thought it was just me.

Good luck, and I hope it's not a boll weevil!

Surviving Motherhood said...

Another one here glad it's not just me that these things happen to! I always seem to turn in to the freak show that everyone comes to stare and point at.

Chelise said...

Thanks for the comments and comaradarie. Tee hee! Nice to know I'm not alone.

xo - Chel said...

I know it isn't any true comfort, but I'm also a complicated woman.

Loved the article and truly hope the nipple thing is nothing serious. Nipple thing? How professional sounding is that?

melody said...

Uh, the name above should be "melody" not an obsolete email...gee. Going to be now.

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