Getting it in the end

One of life’s more amusing aspects, perhaps only seen in hindsight, is that sometimes you get what you ask for or, worse, what was recommended.

Reaching the wild and wonderful age of forty meant that once a year, I got to have a medical professional explore my nether regions for the secret of life, Jimmy Hoffa, or maybe my prostate; it’s hard to tell. Slipping and sliding around on Vaseline-coated underwear after having the vampires at the local medical lab drain a quart or two punctuated my day at the “let’s humiliate the old fart” theme park.

The follow-on telephone call usually consisted of the heart-felt comment, “everything was negative,” which was true on so many levels.

Except for this last time, it wasn’t. My PSA was elevated, and no, we aren’t talking public service announcements. It was my prostate screening agent — the Inspector Clouseau of biological diagnostics.

Taking that aboard, I did what I speculate most men do — I tried to ignore it. La-la-la, I can’t hear you. Unfortunately — maybe — for me, my doctor didn’t ignore the issue, so when the next requisite ass ballet rolled around, the inevitable question came up if I had done anything about it.

Prostate? What prostate? Oh, that prostate. Well, if the PSA is high again, then yes, I’ll look into it.

Fingers crossed, I visited the professional blood suckers again. No dice. Elevated PSA again. Stupid gland.

Okay, time to visit the urologist. Come to find out, elevated PSA might mean something. Or not. Low PSA might as well. Or not. Oh, the wonders of medical science. Perhaps we should just break out the leeches and voodoo dolls.

“Cut the crap, doc. What do I do?”

“Do you want to know or not?”

Grrr. I know what I wanted to answer but didn’t. “Yes, I want to know.”

“We need to do a biopsy of your prostate.”

My mind suddenly filled with the image of a doc standing over me with a razor-sharp blood-stained knife. Choking down my initial response of, the hell you will, I instead answered, “And what would that involve?”

“Outpatient. Five or ten-minute procedure. Take a sample of the prostate and give you a definitive answer within a week.”

“Oh, okay. Sounds doable. Let’s get this over with.” Now at this point, I probably should have asked for a few details, but since I have the attention span of a gerbil, I didn’t.

The date for the procedure arrived, and I slunk into the ultrasound room expecting a five to ten-minute procedure. In retrospect, that is probably what it was, but from my perspective, it was five to ten minutes of being sodomized by a rabid mountain gorilla with herpes.

Anyway, things started slowly. I got up on the table, laid on my side, and fruitlessly tried to cover my exposed dignity with a tissue paper blanket. Within moments, the nurse came in with a big smile and a perky attitude. That should have been my first clue that something horrible was about to happen. People who sport unnaturally positive attitudes are trying to mask hideous truths. In my case, the mask came off as she described the procedure.

“The doctor will take an ultrasound of the prostate.”

Okay, I’m cool with that. Reconnoiter the area. Better than going in blind with guns blazing. How little did I know?

“Then he will numb the area.”

Good. Don’t want to feel anything.

“And take a few samples of your prostate.”

Okay . . . wait . . . a few samples, as in more than one?

“To do that, he will use a needle in a device that makes a noise like this.” POP!

Was that a starter pistol? Since I’m facing the wall, I can’t see what the hell she’s wielding. By the sound, it must be like a nail or staple gun or something used to make holes for ear piercings. Uh oh.

“He will be taking twelve samples. You should just feel pressure and maybe a pinch.”

Twelve samples, what the hell! Was this a biopsy, or was he installing a heat pump? It took all my much-diminished courage to not leap off the table and run screaming out of the office, paper diaper or not.

The doctor sailed in before I could decide to streak out to the car. “Hi, how are you doing?”

Do you want the truth? I think not. “Well, I’m here. That’s something.”

“This should only take a few minutes once we get started.”

Famous last words. “Okay.”

Now, I have nothing personal against people who are used to this sort of thing, but philosophically, I’m opposed to things going the wrong direction, especially from an anatomical perspective.

“First, we are going to do the ultrasound.”

Uh-okay. Then the feeling started, and alarm bells went off in my head. Intruder alert! Intruder alert! I can’t describe the sensation other than to say it was not anything I ever wanted to experience. Adding to my misery was the realization that this was just the beginning.

So what seemed like several minutes passed as the doctor shoved what felt like a baseball bat up my backside. Minutes passed, or maybe seconds. It’s hard to tell when you’re mind is screaming, “NOOOOOOO!”

“Okay, that should do.” Floop. One less pain in my backside. “Now we just need to apply the numbing agent.”

Why couldn’t that have happened first? Good. Very much overdue.

“You’ll just feel some pressure.”

Uh, okay. Pressure, like someone tapping you on the shoulder, or . . . YIKES . . . like someone swinging a pick-ax in a diamond mine.

“And now the other side.”

ARGH! I glared at the emergency pull cord on the wall and contemplated pulling it. Maybe the National Guard will arrive to save my –

“We will start taking samples *blah, blah, blah blah*” I lost track, anterior, posterior, up, down sideways, inside-out, who knows. All I remember is the doc rooting around like a squirrel digging for nuts, then the announcement of location “First floor, anterior colon, activewear, and lawn furniture,” followed by a POP and a sharp jab as a hollow needle perforated my colon wall, and took a chunk of my prostate, my dignity, and composure.

At this point, I was wishing I didn’t know so much about what was happening to me. I can’t believe I went to college to understand stuff like this. Ignorance is bliss, indeed.

I whimpered softly.

“You okay, Mr. Miller?”

Let’s see. You have a staple gun in my butt, which is punching holes in my colon and prostate. “Uh, yeah,” I lied, trying not to go falsetto. My mind was going a million miles an hour. Happy thought! Happy thought! Yeah, a beach, ocean waves, being eaten alive by feral pigs — any place but here.

Somewhere from deep inside my brain, the logical part of my mind, which apparently had been taking an unauthorized hiatus, popped up like one of those moles in a whack-a-mole game and tossed out this gem: “That was one, now only eleven left.” Thanks a lot jackass.

So like counting (crotch-kicking) sheep at night, I ticked off the subsequent pulls on the prostate poker (or whatever the hell the medical inquisitors call that thing), and kept my eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel. Which, in hindsight, is a spectacularly poor choice of words.

Anyway, six hours later (in reality, probably about 3 minutes), POP number 12 erupted from my sphincter, and I heard the doc say. “Okay, all done.”

Excuse me if I don’t jump up and dance a jig of joy. Doc left, and the nurse leaned over me.

“For the next week, you might have some bleeding when you go to the bathroom and when you ejaculate.”

Oh great, the gift that keeps on giving. “Uh-huh,” I said with difficulty since I was shaking like a leaf and trying to forget the last few minutes.

The nurse cleaned up the mess, which, thankfully, I didn’t have to look at, and told me to take my time getting dressed. No problem there.

Sat up, took inventory, and got dressed. A few minutes later, I walked back to the lobby. My wife and daughter looked up. “Wow, are you done already?”

I glanced outside and looked at my watch. She wasn’t kidding. “How did it go?”

“Like a misdirected root canal.” Suddenly it occurred to me that I was in one of those Catch-22 moments. If I didn’t have cancer, this was all for nothing. If I did have cancer, well . . . So with that happy thought, I went home and waited.

A week later, I got the news. “Your results were negative.”

So I went through all that for nothing. Well, maybe not. I don’t have cancer, and Jimmy Hoffa isn’t in my colon.

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