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The Tube

BeepBeepBeep. Bzzzzzzz. THUDTHUDTHUDTHUDTHUDTHUD. Beeeeeeeeeeeep.

It’s like the diagnosis has already been given: boom, you’re dead, meet your new coffin. Couldn’t afford a nice pine, so we had this plastic one rigged up especially for you, with all the bells and whistles (literally). Thought you knew heaven? Well this ain’t hell, baby, but you’ll be hearing these sirens (Ma, it’s a twister!) and heavy bass thump-thumps for all eternity so hang on tight.

The worst part is, they give you headphones to put on your head, with filtered in radio, so all the while it sounds like Armageddon out there, in here it’s Eagles and Cher and horses with no names. That kind of music sort of loses something when you get a headache from all the high-pitched screaming that all but completely drowns out the Beach Boys (not that that’s a bad thing).

Tumor. It’s the word thought but never spoken. You try to think of anything else, of your upcoming seventeenth birthday, and the cake (Rango this year, last three cakes were Spiderman), but you can’t, because there’s a stupid little voice in your head whispering “Tumor. Cancer. You’re dead.” It doesn’t matter that your mom’s out there (she thought it might be MS) holding the tips of your fingers as tight as she can, because that’s all she can reach. It doesn’t matter if you got to hear a reassuring voice on the phone just a few days before telling you it was gonna be okay, that they’re praying for you. That they love you. It doesn’t matter, because you’re scared out of your mind that the little voice is right.

You cry as soon as the nurse says Needle. It’s not just a shot, it WON’T be over in a second, because this one STAYS in your arm, held in place by a piece of plastic which, by the way, eventually slips into your vein and dissolves. But only after they pump blue dye into you so they can see if there’s something in your brain that shouldn’t be there. After that, not only are you laying there thinking, “Oh my God, she’s sticking me and I can’t MOVE!” (can’t fight), now there’s the realization that somewhere inside of your vibrating, aching, screaming head, your brain is turning blue.

And now you can feel it: the needle, the plastic tube in your arm, the nurse tying the tourniquet (ouch) so they can find the right vein, and her fingers pushing hard on the crook of your elbow. You can’t move away this time, you can’t fight the injection. Can’t move anywhere, ‘cause there’s thick hospital plastic one inch to your right, to your left, maybe six inches above your nose, and the plastic sheeting under you is vibrating, stirring the blood.

Then it starts again. Bzzzzzzzz. BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Some of it sounds like the old dialup Internet, the mechanical hee-hawing and computer purring AOL used to make you wait through before you could find out if you had any mail. But it’s louder, it’s like you’re INSIDE of the computer, and the modem is hooked up to your head. Every once in a while, they ask you how you’re doin’.

“Well doc, I’m half-blind, strapped to a table, shoved in a tube, I got a freakin’ HUGE needle stuck in me, my face is all sticky ‘cause I haven’t stopped crying yet, and this is the third Frankie Valli song I’ve heard since I’ve gotten here. So tell me, is it cancer?”
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