I was listening to Starfucker’s version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and driving through the desert when I decided to make a doctor’s appointment. I don’t usually stand in front of the mirror and swallow but that’s what I had been doing that morning. It looked like I had a second Adam’s apple. There was a hard and slightly off center lump on my throat that moved when I swallowed. Maybe it was something that had always been there and now it was only visible because I had lost fifty pounds and transformed into a man dime. I told myself that it could be some sort of strange Siamese twin that lived under my skin but my rational side was shouting “tumor!”
I skipped the middleman and made an appointment with an ENT because my twin was firmly attached to my “T”. I was greeted by a rather jaded receptionist that had obviously been stiffed by a few patients because she demanded a copy of my credit card before I could talk to the doctor. I wouldn’t think there’d be too many people willing to dine and dash, or whatever you’d call it, at an ENT but so be it. Thirty minutes later I was sitting in a small room with a pocket door sans privacy as a strange old man rubbed my neck while humming loudly. He finished and rolled his chair around in front of me before telling me that I had a thyroid nodule, and that it would only be worrisome if I were a thirty year old male with a hard nodule that had worked around radioactive materials and had a history of cancer in my family. I checked all those boxes and ended up with a ten percent chance of having cancer, but they’d have to repeatedly poke my throat with a needle to find out. They scheduled me at the hospital.
I was hoping that the guy would tell me that I was a hypochondriac that had found a normal part of my neck thanks to losing my previously owned cordon of fat, but he didn’t. I was checking out in the lobby in a daze and staring at an old man and an even older woman who were dealing with the jaded receptionist. She asked for his medical history and he exploded saying “there was no fucking way” he was “going to deal with this bullshit” and he stormed out to smoke a cigarette. The even older lady went out to appease him. I remember thinking that he was the type that deserved a ten percent chance at cancer and that a hale and sexy young thing such as me shouldn’t be making biopsy appointments. That’s when I signed something the receptionist handed me and I started looking out the sliding glass door at the two old and arguing people.
He was pouting like an angst ridden teen and doing whatever it took to go home. He kept shouting “NO NO NO” and then he got into his car and drove away leaving the older woman on the curb with her had outstretched and pleading. That’s when it hit me. He was her son. She was taking her smoking and elderly son to the doctor because he had found something worse than I had and he was scared to be diagnosed with death so he drove away and left his mother behind. It was the ultimate failure to launch I bet. This was a fast forward many years into the life of a boy that never moves out and chain smokes around an enabling mother. My mind dwelled on their odd story, or my perception of it, for a week while I waited for my FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration – fancy way of saying biopsy).
I was late to the hospital and I’m never late for anything; they still made me wait. I was in the waiting room when a strange nursery rhyme started playing over the PA system and all the women around me started clapping like cheerleaders. I later learned that the short song always plays everywhere in the hospital when a baby is born and all the women start clapping in a weird Pavlovian response to a new life. Of course there’s no ominous bell that tolls when someone dies or is diagnosed with cancer, but what would happen if there was?
They had me lie down on a table and stare at a poster of the Eifel tower taped to the ceiling. The pathologist came in because he would be examining the samples removed from my throat to see if enough had been extracted. The radiologist (a handsome woman with red hair) started joking with the pathologist (a guy that looked exactly like you’d expect a pathologist to look). Apparently he had “just been playing with someone’s rectum” but not to worry, “it was no longer attached because if it was, it would change things.” They both laughed heartedly. Holy shit. Were these two PhD’s making homo jokes about a cancerous rectum shortly before sticking a needle in my throat? The rest of the procedure sucked. I won’t go into it. The redhead operating the sonogram told me that some nodules looked malignant and some didn’t; mine was somewhere in the middle. I had no choice but to go home and wait for the results.
My wife is going through a program that will eventually land her a job as a dental hygienist. I had recently been in for my turn as her guinea pig and she didn’t notice my nodule during her EOIO (intra-oral/extra-oral exam) because was in an area they don’t examine. She thought it would be a good idea for me to come in so the eleven other girls in her class could examine me to see what thyroid cancer could feel like. I turned her down despite the fact that I could make all sorts of ribald jokes while eleven girls rubbed my nodule. I made them in my head and laughed though. I didn’t laugh much while I was waiting for my results.
I’d swing between optimism and doomsday bullshit. It was probably nothing. Even if it was cancer, they’d just remove my thyroid and give me pills for life. I’m young and strong and cancer could suck it. I was going to die and I had never had a Guinness in Ireland or worn a kilt. Death was interrupting my key strokes when I wrote and I still haven’t written the novel I know I can. I’m years from starting my Iliad and this damn cancerous Siamese twin eating my neck from the inside out was going to kill me.
I got sick of waiting so I called my ENT. He was too busy but the results were back and he deigned to let his receptionist tell me. I didn’t have cancer. She blurted out the results over the phone in a nasal tone that reminded me of the receptionist from Ghostbusters. Remember her? I suppose I was relieved and disappointed all at the same time. Relieved, because, you know, I wasn’t going to die, and disappointed because all the worry and bullshit was for nothing. I’d be stuck with a lump and a bit of paranoia. I was driving when I got the news and as soon as I hung up, MC Hammer started playing on the radio. Seriously. I really had no other choice but to turn it up. “Its hammer go hammer MC hammer yo hammer and the rest can go and play.” Shitty 90’s music is just a part of life.
Anyway, my wife and I just went outside to take a picture of the “nodule” to go along with this post and I almost bumped into this little bastard on the way out. My wife saw it first and then screamed and pointed behind me at another one lurking towards my foot (my flip-flop won that battle); I was surrounded by Black Widows. I decided to use this image because it checks the box of bullshit symbolism: There’s no need to take a picture of a nodule that won’t kill you when you’re surrounded by spiders that can.
None of the other pictures really turned out anyway; they all made me look like a douche-kabob trying to show off his tattoos and abs. And to answer your question, this particular Black Widow died by way of a homemade wasp killer and lighter blowtorch.
Anyway, I write and sell books. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI