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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

The Surgery Channel

Submitted by on October 4, 2004 – 9:22 AM2 Comments

It all started about six weeks ago, when I went back to my dermatologist for the first time in five years. I don't know why it took me five years; I really like Dr. R. He's super-nice and attentive, he's cute, his nurses wear Powerpuff Girls scrub tops, and when he's checking my scalp for moles, it's like getting a massage. Maybe it's the brand of paper gown he uses that kept me away; not that anyone ever looks good in those things, but what's with just cutting a hole in the top of a rectangle and gluing a plastic "sash" onto the side? I look like an origami Klingon over here. Except for the stripey socks.

Anyway. I had a mole on my left forearm that looked kind of pissy, so I finally went in for a mole check, and not only did Dr. R think that mole looked funky, he also thought a bunch of other moles looked funky too, and decided that he should biopsy them. Fine. Alas, taking a biopsy-sized mole sample means taking the dermatology equivalent of a grapefruit spoon and divoting the top of the mole out, leaving a crater, which, ew, and he did four of them at once, and patients have to perform a whole wound-care hoodoo ritual, so after surviving the hole-punch attack, I had to go home and buy a bunch of gauze and a fifth of hydrogen peroxide and sit around on a towel twice a day, soaking my mole holes.

I know, gross — plus he took a mole off my back, in exactly the spot where you have to stop zipping up your dress from below and whip your arm over your head and hunch down to resume zipping up your dress from above. How non-handy. I wrenched my neck like five times.

A few days later, I had to bring Hobey to the vet for another look at his cranky teeth. It's sort of a long story and the vet can't really explain how it happened, but Hobey managed to get himself a chronic gum infection, so we tried antibiotics, which did nothing (probably because, in all the scuffling with the eye-dropper and plucking the beleaguered cat off a blade of the ceiling fan and whatnot, most of the twice-daily dropperful of medicine wound up on the floor or in Hobey's ear or sneezed all over my FACE, like, thanks, Hobe), and then we tried steroids, which helped a little, but not really, and if you keep a cat on steroids long enough, he'll eventually develop diabetes and a bunch of other side effects they can't predict. Hobey did look a little more muscular and had started winning more scraps with Little Joe, but as much as I enjoyed calling him "Barry Bonds" around the house, I needed a longer-term solution, and the vet said that if it were his cat, he'd just pull the problem teeth. Pull them out. Number of non-problem teeth? Four. Maybe five. I mean, the cat is nine years old; it's kind of soon for him to be keeping a little set of fangs in a little glass of water next to his bed with a little tab of Polident fizzing in it.

But the vet told me that this would take care of the infection and that Hobey would adjust afterwards and probably learn how to gum some kibble (…sigh), so I decided to go ahead with it. I felt all guilty every time I saw Hobey crunching on a morsel of Iams, knowing it would be among his last.

Then a couple of days later I got a mysterious voicemail from Dr. R, telling me to call him at my convenience. He left the message on Friday afternoon; he didn't say anything about anything, and usually when a doctor calls me with test results and it's good news, he or she just says something to that effect on my voicemail. Not Dr. R. Just "call me at your convenience." Naturally, I assumed that I had metastatic melanoma that had spread to my brain, which would explain why I had a bad headache (I'd spent six hours at the beer garden in Astoria the night before, but that had nothing to do with it, DON'T CALL ME A HYPOCHONDRIAC), so I went directly to WebMD, the better to ramp up my irrational paranoia with incorrectly interpreted facts and icky cross-section diagrams of diseased moles, much like the one currently corkscrewing its way into my cerebral cortex and trying to kill me at the age of 31.

What? Oh, like you've never gone on WebMD and convinced yourself that you only have weeks to live. Really? Never? Well, good. Don't, because when your friends call you up all "how's it going" and you start wailing about how you really can't talk right now because you have a fatal case of Peyronie's disease, it's not going to end well for anyone. Especially you. Because you really really don't have that. At all.

What was I saying? Oh, right, so, that weekend sucked, because…dying, but the good news is that I didn't have metastatic melanoma (…yet). The bad news is that 1) two of the four moles would have to come out entirely, 2) as well as the funkiest mole of all, the George Clinton of moles, conveniently located on my left butt cheek.

Now, I don't know if you've ever had a mole or moles removed, but it's not as easy as just scraping the surface off. A mole is like a lily pad. The surface is small and placid and flat, but beneath the surface it's a hopeless tangle of snarly muddy roots. And the mole on my butt…not small. Dr. R looked at it and did something with his eyebrows and asked me if I'd noticed any changes in it recently, which…not really in the habit of looking at my own naked dupa in the mirror, sir, so, no.

I trucked back in to have it taken off. It took six stitches. SIX. For a mole ON MY ASS. The thing had tendrils wrapping around my pelvic saddle, apparently. I mean, my God. And then the nurse put a big old gauze goiter of a pressure dressing on it and sent me home, and I felt fine for a few hours, but then…do you know how difficult it is to get through the average day without either moving or sitting on one of your cheeks? It's difficult. It's even more difficult to get in and out of a car. I felt like Eugene Levy's character in Splash when he's flailing around in that cast. Then I took the bandage off and I'd gotten such insane bruising from the anesthetic injections that it looked like a zombie kindergartener had bitten me on the bun.

Who's sexier than me? Nobody.

But in a few days, I felt better, or at least good enough to stop walking with my right leg and dragging my left leg behind me like a sled, which of course meant that I had to bring the Hobe in to have most of his teeth taken out, and he had to stay overnight, which Little Joe didn't really get — I came home sans Hobey and Little Joe started running around looking for him, if by "running around" you mean "sitting in front of the closet," and if by "looking for him" you mean "Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee? Mee?" I was just about to get exasperated and put him in the bathroom when Little Joe emitted a virtuosic "mee" the likes of which I have never heard, the "mee" War & Peace, the feline equivalent of the "Ev'ry Mountain" tenor recitative from Handel's "Messiah." At the end of it, he curled up in a loaf, exhausted. It lasted seventeen seconds, and it apparently purged him of any memory of Hobey because after that he acted like the only cat in the house.

I went to pick up the Hobe the next day. God, the horror. The vet told me that it took more than two hours to get all the bad teeth out, and that getting them out involved breaking them and wrenching them out of the jaw. Hobey kept trying to meow, but it hurt too much, so he'd just sort of go, "Ehh." The vet gave me a bunch of medicines and said to feed him baby food and gave Hobey another shot of Novocain, and we went home. When we got home, Hobey hopped out of the carrier, and he'd drooled blood all over his white ruff but he wouldn't let me wipe it off; he ran away from me, or tried to, but he was still a little loopy so he bonked into a chair leg and then sidewaysed under the bed all "Ehh EHH!" and Little Joe sat next to the bed and hissed.

"I'm the worst cat owner in the world," I told Little Joe.

So depressing. Even more depressing: I sat next to the bed and opened a yogurt for the Hobe. He crept out, still covered with gore, lapped at it once, and slunk back under the bed. Yogurt is his favorite. Worst cat owner in the world.

"Oh, stop it. Here, have some yogurt."

Hobey felt much better a day later — got himself cleaned up, took his medicine without too much resistance, ate lunch — but he continued to milk it for most of the week. He whipped Little Joe's ass in a fight over their catnip spider, then walked over to me all, "Oh, I am such a hurty cat. Human food, please." Brat. But of course I mushed up some Chicken of the Sea for him. I did not put in the blender, as the vet had suggested, because I must maintain boundaries, lest I become one of those pet owners that buys the pwecious wittle babies cold cuts and cuts the Boar's Head into strips with a fork and knife and serves it on a china plate, because — talk about depressing. A vegetarian, tearing pastrami into bites for her cats. No.

So, yeah. The house, in brief: One human. Two cats. Twenty-five stitches. Not our best week.

Then I had to go back to Dr. R and reduce the stitch count by six. He told me that the mole itself tested sketchy, but not cancerous, although it's good that he took it off because it looked like it had an evil plan. As a nurse clipped the stitches, I started thinking about a tree in my parents' back yard. My parents had the yard re-landscaped a couple years ago, and they had this fluffy pine tree put in near the patio, which died like two days later and turned a really bright shade of orange as a result, but it looked really cool, like it was supposed to be orange, so I asked if it was supposed to be orange and my father testily responded that no, it most certainly was not, and it was the umpteenth planting that had died blah blah they'd have to call the guy and have him take it out blah. So I suggested that they just leave it, and brag to everyone who came over that they'd managed to get their hands on an Orange Japanese Fighting Pine, "oh, it's reeeeeeally rare — and dangerous, so you'd better move your chair over here," and I made up a whole story where my parents have friends over for a barbecue and one of them disappears, and everyone's like, "Where's Wayne?" and then my mom finds Wayne's glasses at the foot of the Orange Japanese Fighting Pine and is like, "Oh…oh God," and the Orange Japanese Fighting Pine is like, "[burp]" and coughs up one of Wayne's shoes, and my dad was like, "It's a dead tree, Sarah," and I was like, "But this is a better story, and it saves you money!" and he wanted to know why it was Japanese, and I told him to quit stepping on my punchlines or I'd feed him to the Orange Japanese Fighting Pine — or did he think Orange Piranha Pine was funnier?

"I put you through college. For this."
"Or maybe 'Fighting Fugu Pine'? Maybe that's too many Fs."
"I'm getting another rum sour."
"'Fighting Fir'? 'Japanese Fighting Fir'? …Dad?"

And so began the dubbing of inanimate objects as Japanese and Fighting — and the smaller the object, the funnier it is (in theory), like when Halacita left her teeny Bic on a sunny windowsill for an hour and then lit a cigarette for me, and the flame came shooting up four inches all "RRRAARRRRR"? Japanese Fighting Lighter. Or if a garbanzo bean goes over the wall while you're tossing a salad and just keeps rolling away from you and won't let you pick it up? Japanese Fighting Chickpea. And as the nurse is removing my stitches, which tickled anyway, I started laughing, thinking of my Japanese Fighting Mole in a test tube at the lab, wearing a very tiny rising-sun headband and doing stretches, and a lab tech trying to pick it up with a pair of tongs and the Japanese Fighting Mole yelling "keeeee-YAHHH" in a very tiny voice and hissing and flailing around as the tech tries to slap a slide cover on it, and another lab tech comes over all, "What's the problem, Bob?" and Bob says, "Oh, you know, Joe. Japanese Fighting Mole," and Joe clucks and says, "Unruly little bastards." But then I stopped laughing, because I have a whole brigade of Japanese Fighting Moles ronin-ing it up in my epidermis and at least three more appointments with Dr. R before I can declare victory. Unruly little bastards indeed.

So, I've got to go. I have yet another Japanese Fighting Appointment with Dr. R in half an hour, and Toothless Mahoney wants his lunch, and I really hope Little Joe's legs don't fall off or something, because we've just about had it with wound-care regimens around here and the idea of pulling Little Rug around the neighborhood in a Japanese Fighting Red Wagon is just really bleak.

October 4, 2004

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  • Dann says:


    Sorry to hear about all the drama. But I have to say this is the funniest thing I've read in a long time.

  • Ashley says:

    Anytime I realize I have to have another appointment with a dermatologist, I come back to this. I read it when you first posted it, and my propensity towards LOL'ing for real has not lessened, regardless of how many times I read it.

    And now, off to make an appointment to get my unruly little bastards checked out. Perhaps with your Dr. Robbie, as I haven't found a good dermatologist since I moved here.

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