As I lay on the table, my legs and abdomen inside the CT scan, a lot of thoughts went through my head. The most predominant thought, of course, was that I hoped the pressure/discomfort in my abdomen was nothing. If I really, truly believed that, though, I probably wouldn’t be here. My health insurance provider certainly didn’t want me here; they’d protested my need for such a test, and only after the receptionist at my doctor’s office fought valiantly for my cause did they grudgingly agree to it. I had to pay $543 out-of-pocket (who knows what the difference was that they paid; I certainly wasn’t privy to such information).
I’d been suffering from the discomfort for well over five months, and during that time I was ignoring it, simply trying to finish my novel, The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World, a lengthy tome I’d been working on for well over two years while slogging through a seven-day work week with a busy pet-sitting business. The only reason I’d finally decided to schedule this test was at the insistence of one my sisters. One of her closest friends had recently suffered from a similar ailment and was diagnosed with colon cancer. She figured it was in my best interest to at least rule out the worst.
Why I’d ignored it, besides the obvious that I am a male who doesn’t see a doctor unless I believe conclusively that I am dying, was that I was planning to self-publish and promote what was to be my debut novel, a task I considered to be of the utmost importance. I didn’t want to squander (yes, I said squander) the money I’d so diligently saved for this project on chemotherapy and other expensive medical bills. I was of the opinion (and rightfully so, as you can tell by the health insurance providers reluctance to allow a CT scan) that they would do little for me in that event and I would be forced to spend my life savings. So it was I continued to work on the book and my business, hoping that if the worst-case scenario did arise that I would at least leave something behind.
So there I was, getting the test, because the book (to the best of my abilities) was finished. At least, was finished in the sense that I had done the very best I could. I had not had it proofread nor copy-edited, as these required more time than I felt I had. I’d simply gone over it and over it myself, hoping I’d caught every continuity problem, every grammatical mistake. The thing with this book, however, was that it was HUGE. I’d realized late in the game that you didn’t want your debut novel to be the size of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’, but it was too late for that. What was done was done. I wasn’t about to try to write a much shorter, condensed book.
The CT tech placed a catheter in my arm and injected dye into my system. After the warmth passed she went into the control booth and snapped some shots. I watched her through the glass, trying to get a read on her reaction as she studied the computer screen. Time passed slowly. She called a doctor in who looked at the results, shaking his head. They both looked at me through the glass and, when they saw me looking, quickly looked away.
She came back in and with a wan smile told me they needed to take some more pictures.
“Is there anything wrong?” I asked.
“I just need a better angle, honey.” Her answer seemed evasive, and she wasn’t looking me in the eyes. It was in my humble opinion that I was, officially or otherwise, dead. She took the shots, came back in and told me I could get dressed.
“When will I know the results?”
“Someone from your doctor’s office will call you within the next couple of days.”
Two days passed, then a week. No word from my doctor’s office. My initial thought was ‘no news is good news’ but I decided I’d better set the wheels in motion and get my book to a publisher, as well as find someone to promote it. If I was going to spend the next six-fourteen months slowly wasting away I wanted to at least have my book available for public consumption. I decided upon Createspace as the publisher because the ex-mayor of New Orleans deemed them worthy to publish his book and, besides, they owned and controlled Kindle. I did very little research into their company besides that. Then I solicited four or five promotion firms and picked the one that seemed as if they gave a crap about my book and me. They worked almost solely over the Internet so I then needed to hire someone to create a website. As all these pieces of the puzzle were being assembled my sister continued to pester me about the results of the test.
“I don’t know and I don’t want to know,” I said.
Then my mom called, insisting I find out. Cancer is not a matter to be taken lightly. So I called the doctor’s office and was told they would get back to me. Days passed, then another week. I called back, asked what was going on. By this time I was certain I was living on borrowed time. I’d just lost a cousin to breast cancer a year earlier; cancer ran rampant through my family genealogy.
Meanwhile I was trying to make good decisions regarding the book but I wasn’t getting much sleep. In fact I made many bad decisions. No one liked the picture of myself I chose for the cover (nine out of ten thought I was an idiot for choosing that photo) but I kept it because it was an inside joke with myself. I looked positively deranged, and that was how I felt. And when the digital copy came back and I reviewed it I found dozens of mistakes still within the manuscript. Fortunately the publisher also made several mistakes so I was allowed to go through it and resubmit it for free. Many of my mistakes were continuity problems, as well as the use of celebrity names that (if it ever sold) would get me in trouble. In a feverish eight days I went through the 1021 page manuscript and corrected everything to the best of my abilities, hoping against hope I’d gotten everything right.
And still the doctor never called. I was feeling very tired every day, nauseous, dizzy, weak. I struggled through every day in physical and mental anguish. Depression settled over me and I could not shake it. Suicide came to mind several times and it was only with great effort that I fought it off.
Several panicked messages later the doctor’s office finally called. This was over a month after I’d gotten the test, finished the book, sent it to be published, hired a promotion company, hired a website designer and prepared (in a most unprepared fashion) to launch the book. I didn’t catch the call, my voicemail did. With bated breath I listened:
“Hi Edgar, I am so very, very sorry. I was out of the country for three weeks and somehow your test results got lost in the shuffle. I can’t begin to express my concern over how you may be feeling about this.”
‘How I feel?’ I thought. ‘I wanna kill you assholes!’
“Let me start by telling you it’s very good news…”
“All of your major organs look fine, very healthy. A small hernia, a tear in the muscle lining your abdomen, is causing the pressure you are feeling. At this point it’s so small that I wouldn’t worry about it but, eventually, you may need surgery to have it corrected. So, again, nothing to worry about, and I am so sorry about the mix-up. Please call me if you have any other questions.”
That was it, I wasn’t dying; all the physical ailments I was feeling were entirely psychosomatic. I thought I was sick so my brain made it so. Suddenly I wasn’t tired, weak, dizzy or depressed. I was in the pink, a right proper example of male health at it’s finest! I wouldn’t have to spend my life savings on saving my life (or dying painfully) after all! But now there was the small matter of the chain of events I’d set into motion. Would people notice when they read my book that it hadn’t been proofread or professionally edited? Well…yes, probably. Will it matter? Only time will tell…