Fruit salad


Am recovering from yet another surgery to remove yet another “mass” from my abdomen. I think that maybe medical revenues are down, so every UT Southwestern doc is passing me around to their friends. “Hey, I’ve got a cancer patient who’s up for surgery! Just tell her she’s got a mass! She’s a gamer! Loves to hear that it’s kind of odd! That’ll hook her for sure!”

I will say, though, that I’m pretty sure I’m done. Finished. No mas. I’ve been poked and prodded and scanned and MRI’d and CT’d and X-rayed. I’ve had invasive tests, non-invasive tests, old tests, new tests, and even got signed up for the ACT test again last week before I caught them. (I’d do really poorly on it now, I think. There have been so many changes in life since I took it, like electric lights and powered flight.)

Mine do seem to spring forth quickly, though, so I probably shouldn’t tempt the gods. I think that’s maybe because things are bigger here in Texas. Or that we’re closer to the equator. Or that I’m kind of small, so things just look like they’re springing forth quickly.

Besides, I don’t think there’s any way any more “masses” can be hiding anywhere in my body. Unless it’s a mass of $1,000 bills … that’d be cool. Or a mass of solid gold, weighing a couple of pounds. But that never happens.

I’m genuinely puzzled by the medical establishment’s propensity to use fruit to describe all things growing where they shouldn’t. It’s probably a convenient frame of reference for Americans who are metric-system-challenged, and don’t know that 4 centimeters equal 1.5748031 of an inch.

Give or take.

My breast tumor was “lime-sized,” a designation I find troublingly inaccurate because limes come in all shapes and sizes. (Once an editor, always an editor.) I mean, they have those 10-for-$1 key limes, then they have giant honking limes that can barely fit inside a Corona even if you slice ’em thinly. I think those grow near the nuclear plants.

My mass last fall, plucked out during my outstandingly fun hysterectomy, was first deemed a “grapefruit,” which wasn’t all that scary, given that you have lots of extra room in your trunk area. My friends who’ve had children spring forth from their loins will attest to this. Besides, grapefruit are so happy. All pink and shiny and nutritious. Mmmm.

Then again, it’s a little less appetizing when placed in the same sentence as the word “mass.”

After they actually sliced it out, though, it turned out to be less of a happy little grapefruit than a “cantaloupe.” That’s not as much fun. Cantaloupes kind of look like they could be tumors, all wrinkly and gross and tough on the outside. And again, with the size… there are cantaloupes that are much bigger than those little round watermelons these days. How am I supposed to know whether it was a huge cantaloupe, or a tiny watermelon-sized cantaloupe? Lord knows no one wants to have a watermelon-sized “mass” removed, unless it’s going to get you onto one of those weird TLC shows.

As long as it wasn’t one of those sharp-edged starfruit thingies, I guess I should be happy.

So this latest one was suspected of being an orange… specifically, a navel orange, which are apparently bigger than regular oranges. (I’m not an orange-eater, so I don’t know these things.) But the shape actually was  oval, and deeper than they thought. (What good ARE those damn MRIs, anyway?) So it’s more of a mango.

No wonder I always leave the doctor’s office hungry.

I’ve had male friends whose doctors seem to describe their masses in sports terms. In these days of Title IX and Baylor’s Brittany Griner, I want mine defined that way, too. “Golf ball,” or “ping-pong ball,” or “baseball” or “softball.” My grapefruit/cantaloupe could be a handball, a sport with which I fell head over heels in love at the Sydney Olympics. I watched every game I could, even though I was covering other sports. I’d be OK describing my masses as “handballs.”

As long as we avoid basketballs or soccer balls.

This one resulted in my first-ever drain, called a “JP” by those in the know. That wasn’t me, until I actually got one. Now I’m going to whip it out at parties. (The term, not the actual drain. That would be gross.) It’s a tube that runs out of your incision, connected to a silicone ball. You squeeze the ball up, then close it up so it creates a vacuum that sucks out blood and other fluids, which collect in the ball so you can measure them. They put enough tubing between the incision and the ball that I could have stood in Dallas and had a friend in Louisiana squeeze the ball, actually. I could’ve jumped rope with the tubing, or tied it into a Gordian knot.

I have a friend named JP. We won’t tell her about this little post.

It sounds disgusting, but it’s really a pretty neat device. Although I don’t ever want one again. A friend who just had breast cancer surgery described them as little grenades. That’s perfect, because that’s just what the ball looks like. Apparently they don’t explode, though, at least not if you empty them every few hours like you’re supposed to.

We religiously emptied mine, if only because D and I both like that icky kind of stuff. I think she actually said “Cool!” the first time, bless her little forensic scientist heart.

Which reminds me that last week, as I checked our credit-card statement, I saw a $210 charge from a place called The Bone Room. I haven’t heard of a ribs place named that here in Dallas, so I called D.

Me: “Hey, I think there’s a wrong charge on the credit-card bill… some place called The Bone Room.”

D: “Oh, that’s mine. I had to get some stuff for work.”

Me: “What kind of stuff?”

D: “Just stuff. A humerus. And a jawbone.”

Me: “Humorous? What’s humorous?”

D: “No, really. A humerus. An arm bone. And a jawbone.”

Me: “Ewwww. No, wait… cool!”

Apparently The Bone Room is an online shopping place where you can order pieces of a human body, to be delivered directly to your home or office, for the low, low price of just $210, billed to your credit card so you can collect frequent-flyer miles off of them. (They’re not $105 each, if you’re wondering. The costs vary, depending on how old and how big the bones are. The jawbones, for instance, rise in price depending on how many teeth remain attached. Now aren’t you glad you read my blog?)

Anyway, back to my surgeries. In addition to contributing to the greater good by keeping various medical people employed, they also have resulted in a lovely latticework of scars. All of you friends with your tattoos, I don’t want to hear how tough you are anymore! Ha. I spit on your little subcutaneous ink injections via tiny little needles you can barely see. Give me a big old 10-blade scar any day. It’s just a tattoo with a story, right?

So now I have a couple of 2-inch tattoos with a story, a 9-inch tattoo with a story, and a new 6-inch tattoo with a story. Unfortunately, it’s the same story. Bo-ring.

So I’m trying to decide what kind of tattoo I should get to link all of my scars together. A spider web? Kinda cliched. A twisty, scary dragon? That’s a possibility. A big colorful koi, Eastern symbol of courage? Not really me. Feel free to suggest something. Winner gets a Starbucks card.

Or maybe a humerus…

About wordsmith1313

Now: Somewhat retired, although I don't do it very well. Formerly senior director of Communications and Marketing for the Dallas Zoo. Journalist. EMT. Writer. Breast cancer survivor. I love to travel, and will always return from a trip with a new friend or two. Those fortuitous meetings bring velvet to the rough edges of life.
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4 Responses to Fruit salad

  1. Thayer says:

    Hi Laurie, So sorry to hear of your latest medical adventure. Hope this wound heals swiftly an smoothly. I am thinking of you and D. xxoo TW

  2. Jo Butler says:

    Maybe a map of your journey from TN to TX? Or a vine with the corresponding fruit next to each scar?

  3. Sharon says:

    Sure wish you and D would write a book — one of those forensic private eye deals – it’d be a masterpiece!!

  4. ScarlettO says:

    Laurie, a childhood friend (a prof tattoo artist as well as an ER nurse) has inked a beautiful phoenix-type bird. I’ll email you the link.
    And so now, I get it.
    MIR

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