Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Checking in with the B's

Both Dr. B1 and Dr. B2 have had a look at me in recent days.

These were the first exams I've had since my radiation and chemotherapy treatments wrapped up last month. As much as I would love to have the two Dr. Bs declare me cancer-free, neither is in a rush to do so.

Still, each doctor did have good news for me.

Dr. B2, my oncologist, told me that my worrisome blood counts have improved from 10 days earlier. That third and final chemo session, however, still is not happening.

Dr. B1, my head and neck surgeon, says he sees improvement in my tongue but I have to wait longer before we know if I'll be eating through my mouth and talking again.

As for me, I'm impatient for recovery. But I also know that only three months ago a cancer diagnosis was the furthest thing from my mind. I've come a long way.

A friend who has been with me every step of this ordeal joined me for Tuesday's visit with Dr. B1. Besides telling the nurse that my swollen face used to resemble the Julius the monkey logos on her Paul Frank scrubs, my friend asked the doctor some tough questions I hadn't thought to ask myself, or before I had a chance to write them out in my legal pad.

Dr. B1 held his line and stopped short of making predictions about what would happen to me.

We have to wait and see, Dr. B1 said.

I didn't walk out of the exam room empty-handed. During Tuesday's visit, Dr. B1 replaced my trach tube and collar.

Each time I get a new trach collar I feel like running around in circles and then dash off to the nearest dog park to show it off. After sleeping and showering with the same trach collar for several weeks in a row, I start to feel a little gross.

It wasn't till I was in the elevator on my way out of the building that I realized that the new apparatus was much different than the one I had when I arrived for my appointment.

The trach tube itself was longer. It felt like a shish kebob spear sticking out of my neck. If I rolled over in my sleep, my head would look like a hairy golf ball on a tee.

And I couldn't figure out how to open and close the tube's cannula, which I need to do several times a day to keep it clear of secretions. You just never know when a drill inspector might pop up and demand to check the cleanliness of your trach tube.

So I parted with my friend in the lobby and rode the elevator back up to the head and neck department.

Dr. B1 explained that my old trach tube was a "low profile" model and the new one was "high profile."

Oh, the trouble I could get myself into if I had the ability to speak without having a chance to calibrate my reactions.

I wanted to tell Dr. B that the attraction of a "high-profile" trach tube was lost on me. Wasn't it bad enough that my trach catapults secretions and sounds like a backfiring Harley-Davidson every time I cough? I don't need to look like I have a kazoo permanently lodged in my throat, and call even more attention to the hole in my neck.

Dr. B1 must have read my mind. After rummaging through a shelf of medical supplies, he found a tube that matched what I'm accustomed to wearing, and swapped it with the shish kebob spear.

Maybe the trach tube I'm wearing now will be the one I have when I hear that my cancer is in remission.


  1. Your friend should be slapped making that Paul Frank comment.

  2. Paul:

    I am your cousin, Dave's wife. We have never met, but I tell Dave every day how much I'd like to meet you. I love reading your blog. You are a great writer and incredibly inspiring. Some day we will meet but, until then, know that Dave and I are praying for you.

    Beth Tessier