Down here so laughable and small

9 08 2020

I mentioned on Twitter that I’d recently had cancer surgery, and someone—a Dr Lilly Evans—who responded encouragingly also told me to “accept help you are offered”.

I’m not so great at that.

It’s not that I don’t want help. . . sometimes, but that I have difficulty accepting it. . . sometimes.

When I told my friends in NYC that I had cancer and would be getting surgery, they all asked what they could do, volunteered to take me home. I accepted because I knew I’d be in no shape to get myself home, and insisting I could do Everything myself would have just been dumb.

Also, the clinic was clear that I if I didn’t have someone to pick me up, they wouldn’t perform the surgery.  So there’s that.

So I asked my friend C, who lives near me in Brooklyn, to pick me up. She’s one of my oldest New York friends and, as I’d told her, we’ve been drunk together, so she wouldn’t be fazed if I were loopy coming out of the clinic.

Anyway, I’m not sure what more any of them can do. Friends here and elsewhere regularly check in, and C and I have gone on a couple of walks. My parents call and my sister texts to see if I’m all right; it makes it easier that I mostly am.

I don’t know that I will be, come the radiation. I know: don’t borrow trouble, but this is going to be harder on me than the surgery. It’s one thing to have surgery and within two weeks be largely recovered; the radiation will last weeks, with the effects lingering even longer.

It’s also going to drive home that, yes, I am a cancer patient. I was diagnosed at the end of June and had the lump removed about a month later; I barely had time to have cancer before it was scooped out of me.

That’s not how it works, of course. Or maybe, not of course, since I still don’t know how this works, still don’t know how to be a cancer patient. And I suspect that the radiation—and the chemo, if I need it—will drive home that indeed I am, whether or not I know what that identity means.


It’s easier in the clinics. I’ve told friends that I’ve amassed my own collection of doctors within Mount Sinai, but, really, it’s more that they’ve collected bits of me. The radiologist, surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and medical oncologist, each with their own sight into my cells and my treatment, don’t wait to be asked for help. Their secretaries set up the appointments, and I show up.

Taking care of these bits of me is their job.

And it’s one they do very well. Y’all know I’m all about “brand loyalty is for suckers”, but I have received terrific care from almost everyone at each of the Mount Sinai clinics I’ve visited. (And those who haven’t been terrific were still. . . fine.) Everyone from the receptionists to the secretaries to the techs to the nurses and to the doctors themselves have all been real human beings, and have treated me the same.

My second biopsy was rough, in and out of the MRI, and at the end of a long day of testing and waiting. Every time they pulled me out of the machine, one of the nurses would come beside me, put her hand on my back, and cover my hand, to keep it warm. She didn’t have to do that, and I wouldn’t have even thought to have asked for it; I get the sense she does that for everyone.

The doctors have been straightforward, and, during procedures (in which I was conscious), have explained what they were doing, asked how I was doing, asked if I had questions, and, when they could, chatted about. . . whatever. And as soon as they had results, they called, and outlined what was next.

So even if they were there to deal only with bits of me, they still treated the whole of me as what—or who—ultimately mattered. I expected them to be professional; I didn’t expect them to be kind.


Maybe that’s what makes it easier to accept help from these professionals: that they are professionals. I expect that if they’re good with me, they’re good with everyone. It’s nothing personal, so I can let them take care of me. That’s what they do.

Yeah, I know, that’s what friends do, too; it’s just that with them, it’s all personal. And that makes it hard.




3 responses

10 08 2020

so glad you are letting folks lend a hand and that yer medical tx is good, if you have to get cancer nyc is probably the best medical care in the world so for what it’s worth there is that.
deep breathes….
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12 08 2020

My one complaint is that time-management at some of the clinics is not always so great, but the care has been excellent. I don’t recommend cancer, but I’d absolutely recommend Mount Sinai for cancer treatment.

14 08 2020

yeah that’s a broader trend in medicine but particularly cruel for such as serious condition with so much worry and all.
“This week, Marc sat down with ER doctor turned New York Times Best Selling author, Dr. Michele Harper to discuss her new book, “The Beauty in Breaking.”

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