(Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from comedian Steve Bluestein’s new book, Take My Prostate…Please!)
I lived in fear of the words, “You have cancer” all my life and now there they were. And I didn’t know what to do with them.
How did I react? Strangely enough after I got off the phone with the doctor I broke out of my coma and sprang into action. No one was more surprised than I was. Instead of curling up in a ball and reviewing my will, I began making a plan. “Ok, let’s get going” was all I could think of. I was ready to fight this battle: however, the medical profession was not.
Let me tell you something about doctor’s offices and that girl they pay $10 an hour to make appointments. There is no immediately in their world. STAT is just something which writers put into scripts of Chicago Hope. I tell her I must see the doctor immediately; she tells me the earliest she can get me in is three weeks. THREE WEEKS! I’ve got cancer racing through my body and she wants me to wait THREE WEEKS. I beg, I plead, I all but cry. She has two people on hold, “Do you want that appointment or not? I can put you on the wait list in case someone dies …ah… cancels.”
Why don’t you just throw gasoline on my anxiety, lady? But what can I do? They have you over a barrel. I take the appointment in three weeks and hope I won’t die in the meantime.
When I get off the phone my initial reaction to the three-week wait was good. “OK. We got it early. I’ll be fine. Three weeks isn’t that long to wait. What are you so worried about?” That’s my daytime inner dialogue. Here’s my nighttime falling asleep inner dialogue, “What if it’s spread to the lining of the pancreas? Maybe it’s in my lungs now. I coughed this afternoon. Maybe I have lung cancer. What’s this pain in the back of my head? Oh my God I’ve got cancer all over my body.”
And by then it’s 4 a.m. and I can’t fall back to sleep so I walk around the house wondering who is going to pack up all this crap after I die. Now my anxiety kicks into high gear and I’m looking up movers and estate attorneys and mortuaries and…and… and… it’s 5 o’clock in the morning. Even my dog thinks I’m insane as he sits there licking his balls.
The three weeks fly by like I’ve been stretched out on one of those medieval contraptions they use to pull arms and legs off criminals. The agony of the wait was unbearable. Why is it when you’re on vacation in Europe three weeks fly like it’s 10 minutes, but when you’re waiting for something like an appointment to find out if your cancer has spread the time feels like an eternity?
In any case, I decided to see two doctors… a primary and then get a second opinion. I see the primary on Monday and then have to pay for parking again on Tuesday for the second opinion because the son of a bi*** appointment maker couldn’t book me in on the same day to see both doctors despite the fact that they are both in the same building.
Ugh! Here’s a question. Doctors make six figures a year, some make seven figures a year. Would it kill them to validate my parking? How much of a hit to their income could it be? What would it mean, one less round of golf? We’re paying $500 for an office visit, and we have to pay for our own parking? Somewhere there is a karma button those doctors are going to get hit with when they waltz through the pearly gates…of hell.
— Steve Bluestein
Steve Bluestein is a stand-up comedian, sitcom writer, playwright and author of two books, including Memoir of a Nobody, a collection of short stories about life, love, comedy, show business and overcoming a difficult childhood.