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Thursday, March 29, 2012
The Cutting Room Floor---Random %^&% that didn't make it
Ryan Jacks was sitting on the examination table, wearing a disposable gown made of what could only be described gratuitously as baby blue 4-ply toilet paper. Brisk air was rushing into the opening in the back of the gown and down to his butt crack, making him shiver.
He hated hospitals. Other than childbirth, nothing but bad things happened there. Gunshot wounds, broken limbs, disease, people came here because they were broken…like him. At least his headache was better today. Maybe he was getting better on his own.
Ryan first visited his family doctor almost a month ago, but when he couldn’t explain the headaches, he referred Ryan to Doctor Pheilguud; a neurologist at the hospital for further testing and it had taken him three weeks just to get an appointment. The first appointment with Doctor Pheilguud was four days ago. This was the follow-up visit where the doctor would have the test results, some answers and, hopefully, some good news. He had been sitting on the exam table for about five minutes after donning his gown on when he heard a soft tap on the door.
“Come in,” he said.
Cheryl, a cute redheaded nurse with green eyes, stepped back into the room. At his last visit, Ryan had noticed three key items of interest about Cheryl. First, she was very cute with just the right amount of freckles on her face and a great figure to boot. Second, she appeared to be somewhere around 25 to 28 years old, which was just a few years younger than Ryan’s 32 years of age. It was a difference was just enough to be appealing but not so much as to cause problems. Last year, he had taken out a 19-year-old (hey, she looked older, okay?) on a date and it was a disaster; she liked different music and movies and they had nothing to talk about. Third, Cheryl wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. As she wasn’t wearing any jewelry at all; no rings, necklace or bracelets; Ryan wasn’t clear if the lack of a ring meant anything or if it was a hospital policy, but it at least it left an open door for him for the moment anyway.
“So, Cheryl, this being a follow-up visit, why exactly am I having to wear one of these stylish gowns again?” Ryan asked, bemused. “You weren’t trying to check out my legs again, were you?”
She smiled mischievously and gave his legs, exposed from just below the knees, a discerning look. “They are certainly well defined. Do you run or bike?”
“I ride about 60 miles a week,” Ryan responded with a hint of pride.
“Impressive indeed,” Cheryl said with a grin, moving closer to him to wrap a blood pressure cuff around his left bicep. “But I hate to break it to you, champ, but the doctor noted in your file that you’ll probably be having another round of tests today.”
“Oh, great,” Ryan said in a deflated tone. Then he perked up. “Want to hear a joke?”
“Sure,” Cheryl said, proceeding to pump up the cuff.
“What’s the medical distinction between guts and balls?” He asked eagerly.
The nurse gave him a curious, bewildered look. “I don’t know.”
“Guts are when a husband comes home late after a night out with his buddies, finds his wife sweeping the floor and has the guts to say, ‘Are you still cleaning or are you about to fly off somewhere?’ Balls is when a husband comes home late after a night out with his buddies, reeking of perfume and beer, lipstick on his collar, slaps his wife on the butt and has the balls to say, ‘You’re next!’”
A Cheryl’s face flushed slightly with shock. Ryan realized his mistake immediately of telling her a guy joke.
When Cheryl noticed his mortified look, she burst into laughter and then released the air of the cuff. “That was pretty funny. When I get married, my husband better not every slap me on the butt, unless I ask him too, that is.” She winked at him. “By the way, your blood pressure is 116 over 74, very good. How is your head feeling today?”
“A little better today, thanks.” Ryan hesitated, pondering his next move.
Cheryl noticed his hesitation. “Is something wrong?”
“Uh, I’m not very good at this sort of thing,” Ryan said awkwardly, “but I was wondering if you were involved with anyone at the moment. Do you think you might be interested in going to dinner sometime?”
A flattered smile brightened her countenance, but then quickly turned to a mask of saddened recognition. “I’m sorry, Ryan. Under other circumstances, I’d love to go out with you, but I don’t think it will be possible.”
“Uh, what do you mean?”
Cheryl stiffened slightly. “The doctor will be in in a few minutes. Thanks for the invitation.” Then she quietly exited the room.
Well, that was the weirdest rejection I have ever had, Ryan thought. Under other circumstances? What did that mean? Was she involved or not? Then it hit him like walking into a glass wall in a funhouse. Oh, crap! She’s not involved and she likes me but I’m dying or seriously ill or something.
Ryan was stewing in his own thoughts when there was another tap on the door. “Come in.”
Doctor Pheilguud walked in with an open laptop computer resting on a manila folder in one arm, shut the door behind him and then shook Ryan’s hand. “So, Ryan, how are your headaches today?”
“They’re okay today, I guess. What’s wrong with me?”
The doctor set the laptop down on the counter and pulled a couple of x-ray films from the manila folder. He slid the films onto the backlit viewing screen mounted on the wall and flicked on the switch. Bright fluorescent light pulsed on, causing Ryan to squint as his eyes adjusted to the harsh light. The x-rays showed two views of Ryan’s brain.
Doctor Pheilguud started pointing at various parts of Ryan’s brain on the backlit images. “So what we have here is the cerebrum, here is the cerebellum and here is the brain stem. At the bottom of the brain stem, see this?” The doctor was pointing to what like a hazy walnut at the base of brain stem.
“Yeah, I see it. I take it that isn’t supposed to be there, right?” Ryan asked.
“Correct, that’s a grade IV astrocytoma, also known as a glioblastoma multiforme. In layman’s terms: a malignant brain tumor.”
A malignant brain tumor…? Holy crap, Ryan thought, he mind racing like a wallaby being chased by a pack of dingoes. Am I dying? Can it be fixed? Do I need chemotherapy, an operation, something else? I never vacationed in Europe…I never went on that Mediterranean cruise and screwed a hot Greek chick…heck, I never even made it to the Mustang Ranch…
The doctor stood there, waiting for several moments for the implications of the diagnosis to sink in. “Mr. Jacks, do you have any questions?”
Ryan shook himself free on his hysteria. “Mr. Jacks is my father. Just call me Ryan, please.”
“Certainly, Ryan,” Doctor Pheilguud said with uncomfortable smile. The worst part of his job was being to bearer of bad news. That and being puked on…that was pretty bad too. When that happened, he usually started heaving too. Ironically, he was fine with blood, guts, and entrails, but not vomitus. That got him almost every time. He shivered at the thought.
“So, Doc, what’s the treatment?” Ryan asked apprehensively.
“Uh, yes,“ the doctor said, clearing his head of images of regurgitation. “Unfortunately, a grade IV astrocytoma is inoperable with current medical technology. So, that leaves us with only three options that I can see.”
“And they are?” Ryan asked with a mixture of disenchantment and expectation.
“First, we can treat the symptoms and leave the tumor alone. You will probably live another nine months to a year but will be relatively pain free for about the first six months, until the tumor grows too large. Then, any pain meds short of making you comatose won’t completely eliminate the pain.
“Alternatively, we could try chemotherapy. The success rate is very slim, less than 7%. We probably won’t cure you but you might live an extra year, maybe fifteen months. Unfortunately, the side effects of the chemo would cause you to be miserable; nausea, hair loss, extreme fatigue; and possibly bedridden for most of that extra time. The bottom line is that you probably wouldn’t have more than six good months that way either.”
Ryan shook his head bitterly. Now he knew why Cheryl had that look on her face. He really was dying. “Hey, wait a second. Didn’t you say three options? What is the third option?”
The doctor cleared his throat uncomfortably. He started slowly, “I don’t usually recommend this option except in the most extreme cases, but I feel your case warrants it. Have you ever heard of cryonics?”
“Cryonics? Uh, sure, that’s like Steve Austin, the six-million-dollar man, from that TV show, right? What do you want to do, take out my brain and replace with a cryonic brain? Hey, that might be pretty cool…”
The doctor gave a stifled chuckle. “Uh, no, Ryan, that’s bionics. Cryonics or cryopreservation is basically suspended animation by placing a person in a very cold environment…”
Ryan cut up him off, “Freezing? You want to freeze me?!?!”
“Correct. The idea is to cryopreserve you until a time in the future when the medical technology has advanced to the point when they can successfully remove the tumor.” The doctor reached for the manila folder again, pulled out three brochures and handed them to Ryan. “I know this is a lot to digest. Take these home and think about it. Talk to family and friends. Make an appointment for a week from now and we can discuss the options again and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have. You’ll want to make a decision soon though because the smaller the tumor is, the better the chance of success of a future operation.”
Ryan glanced at the brochures. The first one was from a place named Freeze Frames, a cryonics facility in Michigan. The next brochure was for a place called A Quintessentially Frozen Connection, based out of Arizona. The last brochure was for a facility in upstate New York called Frigid Friends.
Why do they all have to have such stupid names? Ryan thought. They sound like daycare centers. Jesus, what am I getting into???