Oh, I love him and it hurts. White-knuckled, time fast and furious in the waiting room. I read and re-read the same paragraphs. Try to get lost in reading, try not thinking about Steve.He’s in the bowels of the hospital where I cannot be.They’re cutting him, scooping out polyps from his nose and taking a tissue sample from his larynx. (He had cancer removed from his larynx and radiation therapy earlier this year.) I wonder What if they find more – what else could they find? Doctor told us 98% of nasal polyps are not cancerous. Still, we’re having them biopsied.I’ve spent the last month watching Steve smoke. When he exhales, he blows it back out his nostrils. Sometimes it’s beautiful, when the smoke wafts in the golden afternoon sunlight. Other times it’s yellowish, thick choky smoke.
I imagine hot, tar-laden smoke gumming up his larynx, his lungs, coating and burning everything as it bathes his lungs, his brain. A smoke bed for his polyps.
At first I thought, OK, I’ll be an example. I won’t smoke.
And then him getting further away from me, him feeling guilty – not enjoying the time he’s smoking. And me appearing self-righteous. So I smoke when he smokes.
Steve says, it’s OK, nothing to worry about – the doctors cut the cancer off his larynx and then they irradiated him. He says it took 40 years for the cancer to grow – it’ll take another 40 years for it to grow back.
My understanding of this is different. I believe that he’s exposed all his cells to these toxins, and these cells now have more of a tendency to become cancerous. A cell can only absorb so much interference to its weaving before it goes crazy. And I imagine all these little cells along his throat, his sinuses, his lungs – all of which have been stressed, the DNA weaving coming undone.
It’s complicated. I hope, hope, hope that he won’t smoke after this last surgery. I get sad, but it’s his life.
The receptionist calls “Smith Family” to her. She points at a door and says something, I hear the word “left.” I’m confused. She has to bring me to the consultation room, where Steve’s doctor waits.
He has pictures. There’s Steve, lights out. Something down his throat. And before pictures of wet red tissue, with occasional yellowish whitish tissue. These are the polyps. And then another picture -Â uniform chunks of beef fat, chicken fat, on a napkin. These are the polyps, now removed.
And he draws two circles (eyes), two triangles, a jagged line for teeth. And a sideways drawing, boxlike, representing the path of the nose through the head into the brain.
He said the sinuses were packed. Chock full of polyps. Says something about them growing close under the brain, close to the eye.
I’m hoping Steve is one of the majority, the 98% of non-cancerous nasal polyp holders.
I ask the doctor to repeat everything he said about the second picture. He doesn’t. I think he thinks I’m stupid, a kind of young trophy wife. I have the urge to tell him, Hey, I’m special and I’m flawed. I have an electrical engineering degree. I’ve come to this body and face for the first time in my life. I am an old person in a young person’s body. I am done with elitism and exceptionalism, though. Let his impression of me be his own.
Back in Steve’s recovery room, and he’s coming back from the anesthesia. He’s confused, and his voice is a liquidy whisper. I pat him on the head, kiss his cheek. He seems fragile.
The doctor’s packed wadding in his nose and up through his sinuses. Two black strings are attached to the wadding. He’ll pull it out Monday.
Nurse says there’s a checklist of things that have to happen before she’ll let Steve go. He has to urinate, be steady on his feet, eat something without vomiting, and the bleeding has to slow down.
We want to go because we do not have health insurance to pay for this hospital bed.
No problem on the first three checklist items. But the blood keeps coming. He lost a pint during surgery, so he’s on a drip.
I smell blood, blood. It seems to be coming from my nose, but this is because I’m smelling his blood.
And he cannot breathe through his nose – it’s packed with wadding until Monday. The blood saturated the wadding. He can’t sneeze, he can’t blow his nose, he can’t breathe. And he coughs up bloody mucous, and his voice gurgles.
Finally the bleeding slows down enough and they let us go.