Words of a feather
Some words come in pairs or groups.
Method in madness, rest and recuperation, the five Ws and H, the three Rs which aren't really all Rs, but still; and many more I can't think of just now, I am sure. In my life though, I think I have been chased by C words. Let's not go into commitment, the C word men are supposed to dread. But I had a lot of commitment to words that began with C, and they shaped my life to an extent.
Really. When I was an impressionable thirteen-year old, I read that chips, chocolates, cookies, cakes and carbonated drinks were bad for you and caused acne. So I didn't indulge in any of them. Of course, the real reason was to save pocket money to buy books, but boycotting them did take place. And I had a clear complexion throughout my teens, only to break out horrendously in my twenties. But by then the pattern was set. I added sugar and sweets to the list of things I didn't eat.
During the thirties one worries about calorie counting- carbohydrates, cholesterol, calcium deficiency and such. But since I had healthy eating habits and a routine of exercise, the thirties passed me by without troubling me with the C words.
(If you are going to write in and point out the other C word, cigarettes, or booze, save your breath. I will merely say piffle to you. I am not talking about vices here. I am talking about practicing virtues. And anyway, nicotine and alcohol do not count as C words.)
Then came the so-called arthritis last year. Through all the pain and discomfort, until a tentative diagnosis of 'undiff' connective tissue disorder was made, I looked back at my commitment to the C words. I didn't take sugar, I didn't eat deep-fried food, I exercised regularly, and yet here I was being treated for a disease I tried to avoid ever since I learnt about it. I thought it was unfair. Until the doctor pointed out that my very reasonable weight and good health was what kept me mobile instead of bedridden, considering the severity of the symptoms. Ah well, all in a good cause then.
Over the last four weeks, into my life came new C words. These are different from the avoidance and good health practices.
During my stay in the nursing home in January, my doctor ordered a bunch of tests. One of them was a GI endoscopy. It doesn't sound nice, and wasn't nice. The conclusions drawn from it weren't nice either.
Now it doesn't require a Mensa membership to figure out that hyperplasia isn’t a good thing. That was reinforced by the doctor asking for another, more extensive endoscopy. The findings there weren't nice either, and featured words like "hyperplasia of squamous epithelium…blah, blah, blah… focally bordering on Carcinoma 'in situ'."
The biopsy slides were sent for a second opinion from another pathologist. Like all of us who can Google, I am quickly well read on any given topic, so I took preemptive action. I went and got a tonsure, as carcinoma is generally followed by chemotherapy, after all.
As it happened, there was another C word in between, a CT scan. And that was when my aggravation with life began.
I hiccuped with laughter when I was first told, stop breathing, Missus Em. You know what he means, I told myself sternly and held my breath. After a zillion times of stopping breathing, I was injected with a dye. Or at least they tried to, once they found a vein. Then they found another, and another. Another zillion times of stopping breathing followed. The technician kept apologising for all the discomfort and pain they were causing me.
And he kept stroking my shaven head!
The pathologist who did the FNAC a couple of days later? He told me I was a model patient, very cooperative and wonderful. And he stroked my head too.
There won't be any surgery, said the surgeon, packing me off to a specialist for further treatment. And stroked my pate.
The oncologist I met was taken aback at my shaven head. There wasn't going to be chemotherapy, he said. We discussed treatment protocol and talked further. As he got up to see me out, he asked if I was satisfied with the plan. I grumbled that my beautiful tonsure was totally wasted.
Oh no, you look like a model, Missus Em, he assured me. Supermodel in size zero, sniggered the friend who accompanied me. Yeah, if wearing clothes three sizes too large is the rage this season, I retorted, looking daggers at her. But she is immune to my glowering. The oncologist, at least, didn't stroke my head.
Last week, I was admitted for observation. From the admitting doctor to the nurses who hooked me up to oxygen and other tubes, medical personnel seemed to find my shaven head irresistible.
Friends came visiting. One of them said I looked an absolute cherub. A C word. I grumbled that cherubs are fat babies, I am fifty years old and not fat. She ignored me. And stroked my head. Another friend entered the room, took one look at me and said, ooh, you look so cute, Lali. She stroked my head. Cute? Me?
As he discharged me and told me how to conduct my life at home, the oncologist patted my hand. Be a good girl, and follow my instructions, he said. I nodded, good girl I can live with. We arranged dates and times for reviews, and he took leave. And he stroked my head.
I'd rather liked being Missus Em, Supermodel.