THE GOLD STANDARD

The tentative date I wanted, June 22, was not available for the surgery anymore so we would have to do it earlier, this Wednesday, June 8th, to be exact.  Dr. C’s office is somewhat aware I am less than thrilled to get this mastectomy started and would prolong the dirty deed, as much as I possibly can.  Dr. C’s assistant, lets me know if I am still hesitant about the surgery Dr. C is more than happy to chat with me again, I tell her that won’t be necessary.  Shortly after, Dr. B’s (the plastic surgeon) office calls me to come in the same day to get more measurements for the expanders they will insert. It was such short notice!  Who was going to go with me?!!

It’s not like I couldn’t ask the usual suspects, Dawn, Lisa, Liz, it was just this appointment would be brief and I would rather they come with me when I need an insurmountable amount of emotional support and when lots of notes need to be taken while I’m in a distraught state of mind.  I learned the hard way during my first “surprise biopsy” (another story for another time) to never go to another cancer doctor appointment alone.  So, I texted Petey, “Are u golfing today?”

The majority of the guys, so far, have been phenomenally supportive. Some have even offered to come with me to appointments, but generally I want my girlfriends by my side comforting me when I break down in front of strangers. The last person I want with me, in the doctor’s office, is some guy who can’t understand my mental state right now or handle the emotions I’m going through.  But I knew this visit was going to be quick and it was Dr. B who was going to be jotting down notes about my breasts, so the person I bring with me would only be there for moral support.

I hadn’t heard from Petey for a while, probably because I haven’t been playing online poker for a while and when I do I’m always convinced to play in a tourney (that’s short for a tournament of 9 to 27 players), which I think Petey doesn’t have the patience to play in.  But he’s made up for lost time and has called me up every week since I’ve announced my cancer, to check up on me.  And every time we take his dog for a walk he tells me if I need any ride anywhere or to need someone to go to appointments he would be there.  I decided it was time to take him up on his offer!

The whole energy going with a guy friend is very different from going with a girlfriend. Suddenly, the “best route” we would take, to make it to my 3:30pm appointment with Dr. B (who was working out of Toronto Eastern General (TEG) for the day) would be a huge discussion while driving.  We had to make it all the way from the west end to the east end in 30 minutes,

“Are you sure we’re going to make it on time?”

“I thought it was Toronto Western we were going to?”

“I’m sure going up Dupont across would be faster than Harbord.”

“That street doesn’t go up to Dupont.  Oh, well look at that, it does go up north, too late, we missed the turn.”

“Why don’t you use your iPhone to check the fastest route?”

“I don’t have to, because I know how to get to TEG, it’s Friday afternoon traffic that’s keepin’ us from getting there on time.”

Notice the absence of exclamation marks(!!!)?  The cancer seemed to have negated a full blown argument and instead we just discussed intensely, the traffic, for- like-ever.

“Why don’t you make a phone call to the doctor’s office to let them know you may be a few minutes late?”

“I don’t have their number and what’s the worse that can happen. I’m late, Dr. B leaves early for the day, I miss the appointment, he doesn’t get the measurements, the expanders don’t get ordered in time, and we have re-schedule the operation for a later date.”  It was a “win-win” situation, in my head.

“It’s probably a good thing to get this done this early…” Petey says.

“NooooOOooooo…” I say.  And he continues to reason with me but I’m only half listening.  It’s going to get done early whether I want it gone or not.

Before I found out the Toronto Eastern was being beautifully renovated in certain wings, I stumbled my way to the F-wing, into Minor Surgery, which looked to me like it was “straight outta’ dodge!”  The first thing I noticed was the air conditioner in the window was too small, so cardboard was taped around the window to cover any open space and duct tape was concealing any small cracks.  Petey, who parked the car and came in to meet me in the small office, I quickly mouthed, the word “GHETTO” to, the minute he stepped in the room. We waited for the nurse to come take my info, by texting friends to think twice about coming to TEG for any minor surgeries .  The nurse came out from what looked like the operating room, she asked me why I was seeing Dr. B., I told her, for measurements.  She told me to wait a little bit longer and then scurried back to assist a doctor calling out to her from the operating room.  A man in scrubs came out of the same room wearing telescopic-like glasses and looked over at us.  Petey and I looked at each other with perplexed looks and tried not to laugh, Petey asks, “Is he your doctor?” I shake my head, no.  Had he been, Petey assured me, “I wanted to tell him your boobs aren’t that small, take off the glasses!” I started laughing, just as a name was called from the surgery room and a man answered by walking out from some change room across where we were sitting, he wore a hospital gown with the back open and I try to look everywhere else other than to his backside. Petey and I exchange more snickering glances giving each other “WTF?!!” looks.  Now, if I had not met Dr. B at Women’s College Hospital already and if the measuring of my breasts wasn’t so urgent, I seriously would have walked away.  Not because I was nervous, and I usually am these days when I meet with doctors, but because I wanted this Monty Python sketch to end!

The nurse comes back and tells me I can go change into a hospital gown with the front side open and I could leave my clothes in the change room because I would be the last patient of the day.  I could then go into the examination room which was literally next to the change room which was right behind Petey.  Not a lot of privacy.  I change, cover myself up, and step around the change room to tell Petey, if he needed to leave to make his next appointment, while I was in the examination room, he could leave and I would get myself home by public transit.  All is good for time, so I go wait on the examination table next to the change room, separated by a curtain.  A curtain!

Dr. B comes over from the surgery room and pulls the curtain a little.  We discuss the finer details of the procedure and go over some questions I have we didn’t get around to the last time we met.  I find out I will not have to buy a $400 dollar prosthesis to fill my bra out in the interim, doing chemo to inserting the actual implant.  Dr. B will fill my breast with as much of the expander as possible and when I start chemo, saline will be injected into the expander each week to increase the breast space bigger and bigger therefore, filling my bra back to the size it once was.  He said, I shouldn’t worry, as this procedure was the gold standard, in breast reconstruction.  “THE GOLD STANDARD” I felt somewhat special! However, doesn’t it sound like a line, a car dealer would use, to sell a guy on the latest and greatest feature in safety air bags (ha ha, see what I did there).  It’s dude language, isn’t it? It’s a line dudes use to convince other dudes to buy something they don’t need?  AND I LIKE IT!  I am going to steal it!! “Yeah, these platform heeled Chie Mihara’s, they are like the GOLD STANDARD in designer footwear. It’s totally worth the $475 you’re paying.  IT’S THE GOLD STANDARD!”  See you’re convinced.

Anyhow back to the measuring.  Dr. B measures both breasts, noting equidistances between both and whatnot.  He then tells me we need to take pictures at different angle for him to decide what types of expanders to use for they breast shape I have.  But to do so, he has to move the examination bed away from the wall for me to stand against.  He closes the supply closet behind him but only after he asks, “Kathy do you mind if I close this door?” because she’s washing up inside there and then draws the curtain around to cover the door and instantly, the other side of the curtain by the wall, where I am standing against, opens up and exposes me to the back of the office into the surgery room.  I am standing half-naked as I reach over and pull the curtain back against the wall.  “Ghetto.” is whispered in my mind again as Dr. B assures me there is no one else here, but I would rather Kathy see me all nekkid than by some dude who’s backside is exposed or by some guy who’s wearing telescopic glasses.

The pictures get taken and I get dressed before signing a release for plastic surgery.  It’s the first time, I’m feeling a little less apprehensive about the expanders and implants.

Petey and I leave the office, he asks how I am, I say I just signed away my boob. Petey tells me when I came out in my hospital gown, he was going to yell out to me “Hey, she told you, you’re supposed to keep the front side open!”  I shake my head and think, “Dudes..” and I ask him if he’s decided on a good route back across town.

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navigating my way through cancer with laughter, fear, and madness.

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5 comments on “THE GOLD STANDARD
  1. natalie says:

    WOW! what a story!! funny, and heartfelt, honest and so very …. real. Thanks for showing me just how important friends are and a great sense of humor – it’s what will get you through the tough times. Thanks for sharing this Norine!!

    xoxo n

  2. Sandy says:

    Norine, you should send this off to the Globe & Mail. You are a talented writer. Though, I’m sorry you have to go through this.

  3. Marni says:

    Our thoughts, prayers, love and support are with you always xoxoxoxo

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