I wasn’t trying to. If I would have known there was such a game, I would 100% have been on board. The game the same genre as “stealthily meowing during a serious conversation.” Somehow it’s even better that I did this INADVERTENTLY. So I’m at my ultrasound guided lymph node biopsy to stage my cancer—this doesn’t matter to the story except that I want my sister to stay with me because of course I do. Hospitals can be pretty strict about these things—even though functionally, this is a standard, clean(ish) procedure, the doctor is still shoving a huge needle into my armpit and wiggling it for awhile to “agitate the cells”, and that’s horrifying if you are the type of person who’s gonna squidge at things like that. I am FREAKING OUT because this is before I am staged or anything, so when the nurse stops Les from following me, I give her my crazy “I have CANCER” eyes, and ask nicely if my sister could stay.
The nurse says no, so I ask again—the crazy didn’t work, so maybe dial up the sad—I look at her nametag: “Emily, maybe my sister could just stay until the doctor comes so I’m not all alone. Last time I was here was unpleasant, and waiting with my sister calms me down.” This is crap, of course. Nothing is going to CALM ME DOWN right now, and Lesley is as freaked out as me. The nurse softens and leads us to the exam room, a long narrow space with a big window all along one side.
As she leaves, the nurse says, “They NEVER let anyone stay. I will ask, but they will say no.”
Me and Les continue our conversation from the waiting room: deciphering the initial cancer notes. She defends her terrible handwriting and spelling errors. As an English major, I suggest this could be read as modern poetry.
The nurse pokes her head back in the waiting room to say Les will have to leave before the procedure—doctors orders. We thumbs up. The nurse, who has SEEN SOME SHIT gives us a sharp look. “I told them that you would go quietly.”
“That is right. I will,” Les says. “As soon as they tell me to.”
“She won’t cry. Or scream,” I add helpfully.
“Or beg. Or go limp.” We are giggling now.
“Do you remember how I would go limp when you tried to carry me as a kid? I made myself way heavier!”
“We carried you go the bathroom when you couldn’t move because you had to pee so bad. You’re WELCOME!”
The nurse rolls her eyes and retreats.
The doctor comes in and we are arguing if it makes any difference for pee rates if you carry a child upside down. Les had situated herself in the most unobtrusive way possible, tucked behind some medical equipment, perched on the narrow window ledge. After the doctor goes through the yada yada yada and I sign some papers, and she lays me out for the exam: on my side, arm up, armpit exposed. She turns to Les.
“Are you going to throw up?” the doctor asks.
Me and Les laugh. Lesley is not a thrower-upper. “No.”
“Are you a fainter?”
We laugh again, but stifle it. This is not a laughing place. Do people really FAINT?! “No. Absolutely not.”
The doctor gives her a long look. “You REALLY want to be here?”
Lesley nods to me: “She wants me here.”
The doctor looks back at me and I smile. See how strong and brave I am being? She sighs, resigned. “If you faint, we won’t help you. Try to fall on the ledge sideways instead of down on the floor.”
“They won’t help you, Les,” I say. “I won’t help you either because I’ll have a huge needle in my armpit, and I’m not supposed to move. But I’ll take pictures after when we can check for a concussion.”
So poke, wiggle wiggle, scan scan. Poke poke, wiggle wiggle wiggle, notes notes. I am just looking at Lesley, I ask my doctor if she can see anything weird? I ask if my armpit is pregnant. I ask if it’s a boy or a girl, and me and Lesley talk about the feasibility of an armpit pregnancy. I cite Schwarzenegger’s Junior. After, as the nurse is sanitizing the ultrasound wand to put away, she covers it with a long thin plastic sheath.
I giggle and point to it. “Les, where do you think they get those sheaths? What do you think they are called?”
Les rolls her eyes: “Maybe they get them from the veterinarian supplies.”
The nurse looks confused at the doctor who says “Horse condoms. She’s saying that these look like horse condoms.”
And you know what? They really do. I wonder what ridiculous thing I can get my doctors to say next.