MAN WITHOUT A FACE I stayed up for most the night, performing this ritual of going down to my laptop, typing what was on my mind, going back up stairs to try and get some sleep, and then going back down again, imagining what I want my writing achieve other than a brief moment of sanity and rearrangement of my current mental status….if that is possible. Stewing over some criticism my husband shared about my writing and frustrated by the fact he was kind of right, I drew a complete blank about what else to type. So there I sat, in a daze, flipping through the memories in my mind, angered about so many of the injustices that have occurred and bursting into an uncontrollable laughter with remembrances of some really great times. But there in an instant, my mind flashed me to Good Morning America where I was being interviewed about a book called “The Best Cancer”, I was the author, it got such great reviews, a New York Times best seller and better yet it gave exposure to Thyroid Cancer. As I stayed in that moment and wondered deeper into this fantasy, I wondered if the producers knew about my stage fright. I also was interested to know what my facial profile looked like on TV and if the timing would be so perfect that, “Ed”, my monthly chin zit, would be accompanying me, or better yet if “Ed” decided to bring the whole family. Most of all, I wondered if the man without a face was going to be there. Because he was the one that deserved the recognition, he is the one that inspired this dream and I attribute my being alive today to everything that he has done and helped me get through. It was after my second…..well technically…..third surgery that he arrived. Confidently walking into my hospital room, tall and slender with a dark suit, glasses of a sort of octagonal shape and sandy blonde hair…. he was dressed to the 9’s. With profound detail and a heavy Scottish accent, he came to my side and explained what in the hell happened to my neck the day before. I tried hard to focus my swollen eyes to get a glimpse through his, as by this time my trust in the “MD” behind any name didn’t mean shit. Whether or not gazing into the eyes is a reliable way to find out how legitimate someone is, I am not certain. However it seems to work for me and is, without fail, supported only moments later by some act of unadulterated ignorance or intellectual insight. However, very rarely the eye examination isn’t necessary, the presence alone defines them. The latter is what explained him. So, back to my story…… he walks into my room with his deep accent, introducing himself with the last name McIver. It was a name I would never forget simply because it was pronounced like MacGyver, oh’ how I loved that show. He started speaking in detail about the cancer that was taken out, the cancer that was still left and the reason why I looked like a war zone. Through his words I tried so hard to study his face, how his ear lobes were structured, which way he parted his hair, if he had pointed eye teeth and the color of his eyes. For those are the first things I study about most everyone. But, when the conversation ended just words and a silhouette remained engrained in my mind. It is so unlike me. I am such a visual person, never forgetting a face and always forgetting a name. But its, even more bizarre that this sort of fuzzy black out, if you will, occurred for several visits over the course of at least two years. Time and time again, I would travel to his clinic, going through the battery of tests he had waiting for me when I arrived and lastly meeting with him to go over the results. Time and time again, I could give exact details about the new computer monitor, the upgraded prescription printer, the corked tile that is lifting underneath the bench, the newest scratch on his “clean linen” tag and the tiniest piece of fuzz that remained in the corner from the previous visit. But, for the life of me, I could never come back home remembering the details of his face. I don’t know if my mind was in such awe, for him being so intelligent and forth right about my disease, that I became entranced by his accented words and ability to communicate with transparency. Maybe I didn’t care for whatever emerged through his lips didn’t need eyes or a face to back it up. Or maybe……. it’s another mental disorder I should place on my “probably have” list. Family Physician #1: Description: male, has a face, has a name and he should never of received his license to practice anything medically related. When I came to you feeling a tiny lump in my neck you said “it is a goiter.” You looked at me like I was crazy for even being in your office to begin with. I thought goiters were nutritional issues, I even questioned you on that. One thing you did was a blood test which turned out okay. But, did you know that people, in the United States “specifically my age” with lumps on their neck, and normal blood draws generally don’t have goiters? It’s usually cancer “dumb ass!” It’s usually treatable right now. You could of done the right thing, referred me on, given me an ultrasound or something more than what you did by just sending me home. You could of changed the course of my history right then and there in your office. You, you could have been “it”, but decided to make the executive decision of a goiter. I often wonder if you knew what happened to me just several months later, you were my family physician, surely they sent you the surgical notes, I wonder if you ever regretted it. ENT Surgeon #1: Description: male, has a face, has a name and neither of them are worth mentioning. You called yourself a health professional. Your ego was the only thing satiating you! Coming at me with a banded mirrored contraption haloing your albino colored hair, a needle in one hand and grabbing my tumor with your other, “90% chance its cancer” is what you said. My throat immediately closed up, tears welt in my eyes, I couldn’t catch my breath…..you took that as your opportunity to jab your needle deeper into my esophagus. I could feel the cells sucking up into your syringe. Did you know that most people do ultrasound guided biopsies these days? Yes, AND they even numb up the area so it doesn’t hurt so damn bad. I guess that kind of technology doesn’t exist in Missouri. Heaving a sigh directly at me and throwing your hands into the air while saying that I needed to “pull it together” you did one good thing by handing me a tissue and coldly walking away. At that moment, my heart told me to run and never return, my mind told me to trust the symbols behind your name. It took over two weeks for the swelling to go down. However, the memory of your forceful grabbing of my tumor and biopsy methods you used will never leave. Every moment you spent with me, talking about the upcoming surgery you kept bringing up Club Med. Making sure I could “walk the beach with a bikini and little to no scar.” I kept telling you I didn’t care about my scar, let alone Club Med. I told you I was a single mother with a baby girl to raise. I told you I wanted it gone and the job done right. You were only concerned with Club Med. I daily feel the pain from that surgery almost a decade ago. You were in way over your head, yet your ego didn’t allow you to back down. Instead you took on a 10 hour surgery all by yourself. Someone should of given you a sticker for a job well done…or was it? White as your wiry hair you arrived in the recovery room when I told the nurse I couldn’t move my arm. I told you it was all forgivable as long as the cancer was gone. You kept assuring me you removed all of the thyroid and the lymph tissue that was suspicious. You knew what you left behind, reason or not, you couldn’t even tell me the truth. Ignorant people: Too many to count too many to describe many of them family, many of them friends So this is what you are talking about….”the best cancer” huh? I suppose in a way I can see where you are coming from. After a decade of having it, it hasn’t killed me yet. Or has it? Funny how when you asked me what happened to my neck and I told you, you said that your “cousin had that”…”it’s the “best cancer”, then immediately started in about your fake nails. I smiled and went along with it. But, do you know what I was really thinking? It was acknowledgement that you were another one of them. Sad how when I called you, audibly sobbing about having to go in for another surgery, completely shocked by their findings, you had to call me back……you know, “business”, and when you did…..the most comforting words came from your lips “honey, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” I, gathered myself, smiled and went along with it. But, do you know what I was really thinking? It was acknowledgement that you were another one of them. Interesting on how you called me about the “painstaking” research you did, coming to the conclusion that it was “the best cancer” so you didn’t need to make the hour long drive to be there for me. Overwhelming disappointment stumbled across my chest my heart ached in grief. But, I managed to push it aside, smile and go along with it. But, do you know what I was really thinking? It was acknowledgement that you were another one of them. Coming into your office with my arm completely paralyzed and a fresh scar on my neck, out of the blue, you decided that now would be the “best” time to tell me that my daughter has a syndrome but can’t put your finger on it. Like one big blow wasn’t enough to a single mother and something like that couldn’t of waited for a week or two. I mean, we waited 18 months before this grand statement occurred! But, I guess that is what happens when you have the “best cancer” you aren’t privy to such accommodations. So I smiled and pushed it aside then went along with it. But, do you know what I was really thinking? It was acknowledgement that you were another one of them. Shocking it was for you to tell me that I didn’t qualify. A person who actually contributes to this society who is asking for nothing other than some help with insurance as I went through this. I made too much money you said. My comment about quitting my job and bilking the government for every piece of aid that I could get seemed to be an acceptable option for your ultimate approval. I rolled my eyes and scoffed at the thought. But, do you know what I was really thinking? It was acknowledgement that you were another one of them. Devastating on how this “best cancer” led me back to you. Your abuse, your manipulation, your gambling problem and your psychotic mind games, getting away from you the first time was hard enough. Your stalking, intimidating and threats of killing yourself if I ever left was horrible enough. How very depressing it was for me to realize that this “best cancer” gave me no other choice but to go back to you so our daughter had a roof over her head, some food to eat and gave me an opportunity to heal and afford insurance. After trying to make the best of our relationship for another two years I knew if the cancer didn’t kill me that you eventually would. From leaving a hanging noose in the garage for me to see every time we exchanged visitations to taking two full bottles of antidepressants and xanax, you were determined to keep your control on me. As you unconsciously called me on your way out of this world, I knew what you had done. I toggled with the idea of just hanging up and going to bed. Your life at that very moment was in my hands. There are days I wish I hadn’t saved your life. I knew you weren’t going to change. I knew you would continue spewing your hell at me. Even so, I pushed it aside and went along with it. But, do you know what I was really thinking when you did this? It was acknowledgement that you were another one of them. Many days, I come across you, your different faces, your different names but one thing remains. Your twisted opinion on how this is “the best cancer”. Never giving a second thought to all that it has taken from me or made me put up with, never acknowledging that my pain runs deeper than your research, deeper than your “suck it up” approach, deeper than your psychotic manipulations, deeper than your needles and deeper than your manicured nails. I kept praying that someday there would be someone who would “get it”, someone who would understand what having the “best cancer” feels like, what it does to your thoughts and how it influences your life’s path. I desperately yearned for someone who realized that I didn’t need sympathy. One person who felt that ignorance was not an option. Grocery stores, business meetings, neighbors, friends, family, conferences, hospitals, doctors, vacations it didn’t matter. Time and time again I came across them studying their eyes, their hair part, their ear lobe structure and pointed eye teeth. Taking a deep gaze into their legitimacy, categorizing their intelligence, time and time again they would be placed on “another one of them” list. Methodically searching, emotionally stuck, feelings of insanity, moments of rage, fearful of speaking my truth, pacing my soul searching for peace, gritting down upon my teeth, forcing smiles out of my face, my mind frequented thoughts of settling, my heart completely enraged by the idea of it all. Then, the day came when my prayer was answered. He walked into my hospital room dressed to the 9’s, octagonal glasses and a deep accent. I couldn’t see his eyes, I couldn’t study his features, his spirit corroborated that his words were genuine. My whole body came to a screeching halt from the desperate search of someone who “gets it” my heart smiled and entire body exhaled. I laid my head back, took in the moment, listened to his words and embraced his much anticipated arrival. No wonder why I couldn’t remember his face. He is not another one of them.
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