Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down
the medicine go dow-on
the medicine go down
Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down
In the most delightful way

Last week, my brain melted. I’m sure that it’s happened to you. It happens to me when I’ve gotten a piece of really amazing or really horrible news, but only as a complete surprise. It happens when one of those things that you didn’t know you didn’t know comes flying at you, usually from behind like a flight attendant catching you using your phone after the doors are closed while wearing a ten-gallon hat and tasteless clothing just to make it even more overwhelming.

Michael and I had an appointment with my new thoracic surgeon last Tuesday afternoon. Because he’s the head of the department, we first met with his fellow, a lovely woman about my age who took down all of the mundane surgical information from us (punctured lung, left, in 2000; tumor really big in June, smaller ever since; otherwise really healthy) so that she could then translate it into doctor-speak for him in the back room while they plotted over my scans to determine how to remove the friendly-fire in my chest.

Fifty minutes later (we’d been playing the gopher golf card game on my iPad to pass the time), she came back with him.

“So, we’re going to remove your entire thymus, and the best way to do that is through your sternum.”
Well, it’s lovely to meet you too, and I’m so not looking forward to this outpatient surgery even though your bio is very fancy… Enter my personal boogeyman wearing a beer-stained “I’m with stupid” t-shirt over his inner-tube sized rolls of fat. WAIT, WHAT? Quick, stall while you figure out how to stop this conversation from progressing any further into horrible-land.
“What’s my thymus and why do you want to remove it?”
“It’s a small organ between your heart and your chest wall that is very useful for your immune system as a child, but becomes redundant and entirely useless as you age. It literally turns into fat and has no purpose starting in your early twenties. You’ll be fine without it. I want to remove it because your tumor is wrapped all around it and might actually be growing from it, and it’s easier to remove your whole thymus than just the tumor.”
“But I like my thymus.” He smiled benignly.
Lydia, you had no idea what it was ten seconds ago. Shut UP rational brain he’s talking about CRACKING OPEN OUR CHEST. Oh, right, carry on.
“So, for the sake of argument, lets say we leave everything where it’s currently living. If I still have cancer, the tumor would just start growing again. If I don’t, what happens to the leftover nubbin?”
His fellow jumped in. “Your body either breaks it down if it’s small enough or if your body really goes after it. Otherwise it calcifies in place.”
“Um, what? You mean one of the possibilities is that I grow a new bone to memorialize this bullshit in my body ever after?” Both of them smiled benignly.

Michael and I were suddenly, somehow, holding hands. It immediately got a little less horrible.

“Okay, so, go through sternum, remove thymus. That’s your best recommendation?”
“It’s the only way to make sure that we’ve gotten as much of it as possible. The surgery is too extensive to do with robotics accurately.”
“How do you get through my sternum?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“With a saw.”

I started to cry. Honestly, how much more can there possibly be? The room stayed quiet, and Michael just rubbed my hand.

“Well fuck. Oh, sorry.”
“No need to apologize, completely understandable reaction.” My wavering stopped; I immediately liked him.

We kept going back and forth. He emphasized that this procedure is non-curative and only done for diagnostic purposes because lymphoma is a blood disease, recovery is the equivalent of breaking a bone cleanly without muscle damage, pain is manageable.

Michael and I left feeling dazed. At the Starbucks on the way to the pre-op clinic for whatever needed to be done there, I got a hot chocolate and a donut.

Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down
the medicine go dow-on
the medicine go down
Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down
In the most delightful way


Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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