“Use the room over there,” she said, pointing towards the closed door to my right and handing me a clear, plastic cup with blue-twist top. “When you’re done, open the slot behind you, place the sample and close the slot door.”
It’s opening day at my cancer hospital. First peek into my innards is a urine sample, checking for protein. Too much excreted protein may signal kidney disease, a death knell to my upcoming cancer treatment. Which would in turn mean a death knell for me. The urine sample will be followed by a needlestick into one of my veins to fill an endless line of blood tubes. Some will be used to check routine blood labs. The rest will be mailed to some lab somewhere for monitoring my immune response during treatment.
This all began four-and-a-half years ago with an MRI, a picture of my brain. Then came surgery, a physical invasion into my brain, followed by a course of chemotherapy, a chemical invasion into my brain. Inpatient rehab while suffering steroid-induced insomnia had me wiggling my tush by every nurse and lab assistant 24/7 while pushing the IV pole around the ICU. My front side had already been exposed both pre- and post-op by the nurse responsible to insert and remove my Foley catheter. Luckily, I slept through that.
Daily hospital rounds by social workers and clergy of all religions, asking a multitude of questions to find out if I was depressed. When I answered that I was not, they each dug even deeper, trying to discover what was wrong with my psyche to make me not depressed. Maybe I needed a medicine to expose my subclinical depression so that I could then be treated with an antidepressant.
I am a four-and-a-half-year survivor of malignant brain cancer. I have survived two brain surgeries, radiation therapy, and two courses of chemotherapy. Today, I stand in line to check in at the chemo lab entry desk to once again initiate chemotherapy.
I have been poked and prodded in every orifice, and stuck with needles where there was no orifice. I have given samples of blood and urine. My brain tissue is sitting in some lab somewhere in a bottle or on a microscope slide waiting to be studied. My brain, my body, and my mind have all been exposed.
I am naked.