I rose early on Friday the fourteenth and drank a cup of hot water, which was all the
PET Scan prep sheet allowed me to ingest. I arrived at the West Wing at seven sharp,
less crusty than usual because I was a bit concerned with what might result from the
A hospital gown was probably the least desirable of any wardrobe item, unless one
considered shackles and manacles wardrobe items, but even the insult of having to
wear that gown wasn’t enough to elicit any of my usual verbal cynicism. A nurse
injected me with a dye, after which I lay in wait, mentally preparing to be intercalated
into a cylindrical tube for an ultimate show-all session.
After an hour, I was escorted to the scan room where it was noticeably cold. An aide
spread a heated cover over me as I lay face up on an automated slab. I thought of
myself in the future, on the ultimate slab, stiff, and wearing a toe tag.
The room was barren, the lighting a languid green. Technicians were courteous when
they had to interrupt their conversations to give me instructions, but always quickly
resumed talking to each other about extraneous things, as if I weren’t there. While
not offensive, such treatment made me feel lonely.
As the slab slowly, inexorably dragged me into the cylinder, I felt sorry for myself for
having to be mechanically searched for a dreaded malady. An internal section of the
cylinder began to turn, gain speed, and spin circuitously, loudly. It sounded like jet
engines upon takeoff from inside the cabin. My body was tightly strapped, so I could
move only my eyes.
Soon enough, it began to end, the noise and motion abating ever so gradually, at
last to a stop. The slab with me on it was extracted from the robotic duct.
“That’s it, Mr. Foley,” said a tech. “You did great.”
After I put my street clothes on, in the prep room, I was surprised when
Bridget Tyler knocked on the door, entered. Skipping any perfunctory pleasantries,
“Mr. Foley, I see something disturbing on the film, an enlarged lymph node.”
“And that could indicate some serious problems.”
“Maybe some type of lung disease metastasizing. I don’t want to speculate, but I
don’t like the way this looks. I want you to have a bronchoscopy.”
“More fun, I’m sure,” I said.
“Once again, more inconvenient than anything else. It’s a scope with a camera
inserted down the throat and threaded to the lungs. We’ll see those spots much
better that way and we can take samples with the attached forceps for a biopsy.
It sounds like an ordeal, but there’s enough anesthesia administered to make it
painless and unremembered.”
“Are we ever going to have a definitive diagnosis, or should I keep expecting
Tyler squinted, shook her head. “I understand your frustration, but what you’ve
undergone so far have been diagnostics designed to rule out certain conditions
under most circumstances, not definitively identify a specific problem. We haven’t
been able to rule out something serious as yet, but the bronchoscopy and a biopsy
will shed some light for us.”
“What’s the worst I can expect?”
The young internist didn’t hesitate. “Lung cancer.”
Oh, fuck, is what I thought. “The damned C-word,” is what I said, surprised at
myself for not feeling afraid. It was the dread of telling Liesl that pressurized my
chest as I sat on the padded examining table, legs hanging in front of me, ankles