Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Cauliflower Show Goes on the Road

I got to see two doctors in two days this time! It's kind of like a surf'n'turf dinner, or, maybe, a pasta dish and an entree.

1. Appetizer

Good evening tumor fans! K and I are on the train, returning from a worldwind trip to the Big Fruit and F'in' Famous Cancer Hospital. Brings me back to old times and my last big tumor. Oh, sweet memory!

As faithful readers will know, on Friday, September 9, Dr. Famous Squamous walked us back from sheer terror to mere concern, telling us that the cauliflower in my head is probably not the scary papillary squamous cell carcinoma, but the creepy-sounding but less dangerous osteoradionecrosis (known as ORN to cool people, or, to me, as a squeamish cell tumor). However, the pathologists at Wicked Famous Cancer Hospital continue to be coy, refusing to be pinned down on whether this is cancer or just another manifestation of the little Fukashima inside my head.

After work on the 13th, we hopped a train down south. As always, we stayed in the home of our generous friends, R and H, who live conveniently close to F'in' Famous.

2. Pasta Course

On the 14th, K and I hiked downtown for a reunion with the warm but suave Dr. The Fixer. Dr. Fixer is the reconstructive surgeon who expertly reassembled the right side of my face in 2005 only to watch it melt like a Hershey bar in the sun under the proton beam of Dr. Zap. That still irks him. He also had to repair me twice more in 2006 and 2007 when my cheek fell open.* Good times! Anyway, I am the patient that refuses to go away.

On the 14th, our question to him was simple. If the cauliflower turns out to be squamous unstead of squeamish, and if we can sucker some poor surgeon into taking the whole thing out, can he put me back together? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The cauliflower is in a really bad place, and you just can't get there from here.

The good news is that Dr. Fixer has seen a lot of ORN, and the MRI and CT of my clivus look like ORN to him. The other bad news is that I have a whole lot of ORN, not just in my clivus, but in my sphenoid bone, particularly on the right. The sphenoid comprises two big wings of bone on either side of the clivus.**

After that, we took the subway to Greenwich Village to lunch and loiter with my dear friend J, another of the ever sympathetic and helpful Tumoriffic stalwarts. On the subway, however, we overshot the meeting place. K was uncharacteristically grumpy about it since she was very hangry. Don't make her hangry. You wouldn't like her when she's hangry.

Later, K and I hiked across Central Park and cabbed uptown to have dinner with my cousin and cousin-in-law A and D at a wonderful Italian restaurant. I don't remember the name, but it was something like "The Meningococco."

Afterwards, we walked to their apartment to say "hi" to their kids, J and P, and their dog, Charlie. Charlie was so happy to see us, he peed on the floor. He never does that anymore, so we were flattered.

3. The Entree

Finally, early this afternoon, we hiked back to the main campus of F'in' Famous to meet the eminent skull-base neurosurgeon, Dr. Agent Skully. She was soft-spoken, but impressive, and her eyes bugged out only a little when we discussed my history.  She looked at my films, and I gave her my delectable pathology slides, which she promptly ate. (Just kidding.)

Not being an old friend like Dr. Fixer, and, thinking of the recent premature diagnosis, she was a little reserved, not committing to what she thought was going on with the cauliflower. She was logical and methodical. Nothing can be decided until Pathology has spoken. F'in' Famous is about 10 times larger than Wicked, so they have seen a lot more weirdos like me. If anyone can make a diagnosis with these slides, they can. It will take them 7-10 days. After that, Dr. Skully will present my case to her colleagues in a weekly conference known as Tumor Board. ***

If even the F'in' pathologists cannot come up with a firm diagnosis, Dr. Skully wants to go in through my nostrils and nibble off a bit more crud so they can subject it to more tests in the pathology lab. If, on the other hand, the crud turns out to be squamous cell carcinoma after all, she has not excluded the possibility of doing an open procedure like I fantasized. She would have to discuss it with another surgeon from ENT, and she would still have to pursuade Dr. Fixer that it was somehow possible to put me back together, but I can dream.

Meanwhile, I think I will need to be on antibiotics for a good long time. We'll discuss it with Dr. Bug, but that's my guess. Maybe I can breed my very own uber-antibiotic-resistant bacteria on my own clivus.

4. Dessert

Once again, I had fun with the pre-visit questionaire. Mostly in my head, not on paper. I don't want them to call a psych consult on me.

What is the most important thing our staff can do for you today?  Keep me from dying.

Are you unable to care for yourself and have no one to help you?  Only when my wife goes on a trip.

Where was your last fall?  I spent it mostly near home. I tend to travel more during the other seasons.

Do you use oxygen at home?  Of course I do! Where the smell do you think I live?!? Neptune?!?

Would you like to talk to someone about talking to your minor children aboout cancer?  I find that offensive. I consider no child minor! Children are major!

Who do you live with?  You mean WITH WHOM DO I LIVE. This is supposed to be a renowned cancer center! Get your grammar right, you losers!

5. Digestif

The next menu should be out in about 10 days when we have heard from Dr. Skully. 

By the way, if this story were fictional, I would consider the author to be pretty lousy. I really doubt that I have squamous cell carcinoma. We're just making absolutely sure. 

If this were well-written, the conversation with Dr. Squamous would take place far later so that I could spend more of the story in terrible fear. On the other hand, what if George R. R. Martin wrote it? Just as we thought things were going to resolve for the better, Ramsay Squamous would suddenly appear, and every knows what happens when Ramsay Squamous shows up!

Stay away from my story, George R. R. Martin. You have better things to do. Like finishing the Song of Ice and Fire series already. Seriously, man, get to it!

Be well, 


* If anyone's counting, he actually patched my up twice in 2005, once, after Dr. The Coach and Dr. Mister Rogers scraped out my osteosarcoma, and, again, two days later along with Dr. Rogers after my meninges (brain lining) sprung a leak.

** The sphenoid houses the sphenoid sinuses.  (If you guessed maxillary sinuses, you're a dummy.) The shape of these determines different degrees of resonance in singing voices such as, for instance, Luciano Pavoratti and Bob Dylan. As time passes I will sound more and more like Bob.

*** I have been the star of many tumor boards in many hospitals. In those venues, I'm like a medical version of Hamilton!

Photo with No Apparent Relationship to this Post:


  1. A photo of sea lion's nostrils (with relaxed mystacial muscles) is _somewhat_ related to this...

  2. Sheesh! Well, that beats the taown (as Oliver Wendell Holmes puts it in The Deacon's Masterpiece, which is a good poem for a doc to read [as well as anyone else]).