b Papa Dog's Blog: Scar Tissue

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Scar Tissue

I believe I’ve mentioned, once or twice, that I was a bit of a wreck in the Days Before Mama Dog. Here’s how poorly I took care of myself. Round about ten years ago, I noticed a bulge in my crotchal region. I thought, “Huh. A bulge. Wonder how long that’s been there?” Then I went out drinking. A few weeks later, I noticed the bulge again and thought maybe it was a little bigger. I thought, “Huh. Still there. Seems to be bigger. Maybe it’s not going to go away.” Then I went out drinking. After a few months had gone by and the bulge had failed to evaporate, I thought. “Huh. Guess it’s a tumour. Oh well.” See, I was then at probably the poorest and least insured point of my life, and I figured my options pretty much boiled down to “ignore it until it kills you.”

A side note – right around this time, the Clintons were trying to arrange for universal health care in America. The Bad Guys Cabal was flooding the airwaves with commercials portraying this as a bad thing. I heard some right wing fathead on the radio saying, “If they pass this, we’ll have a system just like Canada!” like that’s in some way a bad thing? Let me emphasise: if I still lived in Canada and noticed a bulge on my crotch, I’d have gone to a doctor and got it looked at, because we have universal health care. Because I lived in an unfettered free market, though, my best bet was to drink heavily to dull the pain when it came. Newt Gingrich, are you out there? Could you explain again why universal health care is bad?

The pain never did come. Years passed, and because I’m so hopeless, I never did see a doctor, even after I was working a proper job with proper benefits. I kept forgetting to fill out the forms before the end of the enrolment period. I was sort of used to the tumour on my crotch and it seemed like too much trouble to figure out what the difference was between an HMO and a PPO. “Oh no,” said Mama Dog, very early in the game, “that won’t do at all.” She helped me fill out the forms. She set me up with her own doctor.

You can imagine my trepidation, I hope. The bulge hadn’t changed in any way in the five years I’d spent with it, but I’d long since become convinced it was at least some sort of cyst. I almost didn’t want to find out for sure, but Mama Dog wasn’t about to let me let things slide forever, my natural inclination to do so notwithstanding. I went for my first doctor’s appointment since my immigration physical in 1986. Dr. Connie took a look at my crotch bulge. “That’s a hernia,” she said flatly. “Really?” I asked, beaming. I doubt she’d ever seen somebody so relieved to hear they had a hernia. “Unless I’m very much mistaken,” she replied. She wasn’t. She sent me to a specialist, who confirmed the diagnosis of an inguinal hernia. I had always assumed a hernia was something you felt suddenly and painfully, when lifting a heavy box or something. That’s the way it always is in sitcoms, at any rate. But it’s not so, not usually. Most hernias occur gradually, as tissue is stressed and weakened by every day wear and tear. When the break comes, it can happen completely outside the awareness of the victim, as was the case with me. I may well have been walking around with a hernia for a year or more before I noticed the bulge. Go figure. It turned out I was bilaterally herniated, or soon would be. That is, the bulge was on the right side of my groin, but the left was ready to go pretty much any time. The specialist suggested correcting both sides and I said, yeah, sure, what the hell. No sense having to go back in there a year later. Besides, I had insurance.

I scheduled the surgery for many months in advance because I enjoy having time to brood over unpleasant things before getting them done. I think I just like to have time to get really used to an idea. By the time of my surgery date, I was so used to the idea that it felt almost routine. Mama Dog was actually more nervous. I had to tell her she needed to be calm so that I could be calm, and she did just that, clamping down on the visible displays of anxiety, helping me maintain my primitive Zen until the needle with the good drugs was safely in my arm and I wasn’t even bothered anymore by the idea that the stuff that would soon be holding my intestines in was the same stuff they use to make comics bags .

Four years or so later, we were in the very same waiting room in the very same hospital, only this time I was the one required to provide an example of calm, because Mama Dog was the one about to entrust her health and well being to a crew of strangers with knives. We weren’t necessarily expecting surgery, but that’s how it panned out. Baby Dog was born by C-section. Now, many who peruse this page are all too familiar with the particulars of childbirth, but those who haven’t been down this path might not realise that a Caesarean is major surgery. A big incision is made, much bigger than the dinky one used to shove a laparoscope into my innards for the hernia repair. Organs are removed, because they lie between the baby and the doctor. And worst of all – if you ask me – they don’t generally knock you out for it. Man, I wanted some anaesthetic, and nobody was even cutting me. Before I went into the OR, the nurse said, “There’s a screen, but you can stand up and look around if you want to.” No thank you please. I planted myself in the Husband Chair, looked Mama Dog in the eye, stroked her hair, and tried to remember the calming things they tell you to say in birthing class. “This feels really weird,” she said, sounding more than a tad on the dopy side. I saw a spray and felt something warm and wet hit my arm. I looked at the blood, almost said “Hey, that’s your blood,” but realised in time that I shouldn’t. There were weird machine sounds. “Is that a cry?” Mama Dog asked. “No,” I said, “I think it’s—” and then I heard—yes, that’s what that was, that was a cry. Fancy that.

I have three small scars down under my belly. Only one of them is really visible anymore, and you can barely see it. I can’t even remember for sure where the other two are. Mama Dog has a great long line traversing the bottom of her tummy, but it’s getting less prominent and will continue to fade with the years. It’s not so bad having scars. In a way, they’re like tattoos. When people ask about my tattoos, I say they’re my personal iconography. It’s the same with the scars. They’re always there to tell us the story of the life we make together.

PS to Anonymous in Beantown: I dissembled unintentionally when I said your fabulous prize would be on the way in Monday’s post – there was of course no Monday post, in honour of Thanksgiving. Or, no, down here it’s some sort of celebration of genocide. No mail, at any rate. Then on Tuesday I plumb forgot. But today it went out. Keep an eye out – the silly envelope I made up looks kind of like junk mail, so don’t toss it without looking.

PPS – Finally finished reading Nana. Started Love and Hydrogen, by Jim Shepard. Still stuck in August with the newspapers. Even I’m starting to think that maybe I should just throw them out. But no.


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