The Cart Before the Horse

Some stories and movies begin at the ending. I tend to like these stories but only if done well. The middle of the story must be exceptional since what is usually the best part is given up front.

So you read, see, or hear this spectacular part of the story and just wonder how this character got to this point. A good example would be the movie American Beauty in which the lead character says (in narration) that he will be dead in less than a year.

I used to think authors used this cart before the horse technique to lessen the blow if a well liked character was going to die. We would get to choose how much emotion to invest in the doomed character and not get all pissed at the author for killing them off.

But that’s not it. I don’t think. It is to get the audience to focus more on the journey and maybe for the author to flaunt his/her skills at story structure.

Now that I’ve told you all that, I will begin this post at the end. Not to flaunt skills, but I just don’t want anyone to worry about me for a second.

I do not have cancer and I am not dying.

It started last week with a routine x-ray. A couple of days later I got a voicemail telling me I have to go back in to have some additional views. I knew what that meant. They saw something. I didn’t check my voicemail until the place was closed, so I had to sleep on that.

Next day I call and get that person’s voice mail. No one else will discuss the matter with me. So I Left a message. Waited all day and finally got a call back just before the place closed. I wanted to be in the place already having the additional films.

I get the next available appointment which is another couple of days out. So for a few days I’m thinking I could be dying. I don’t tell anyone as it is useless to worry someone about something that could be a false alarm.

I fill these days with distraction. Go out to the cemetery and take photos. Get eaten up by bugs or poison ivy or oak or something really dreadful. I have thousands, yes, thousands of red whelps all over my body. They itch like nothing I’ve had before, and I’ve had measles and chickenpox. This is horrible.

That is “Death of Marat” by David. Marat had a skin condition so he was always in the tub. That’s where he was murdered.

Anyway, I go back for x-rays and I’m covered in these red bumps. Tell the woman she may want to wear gloves (I would). She shows me the previous x-ray and, fuck, it looks like I’m ate up with cancer. She tells me I will know the results of this day’s xrays within an hour. Great. I get to find out I have cancer while my husband is out of town.

Same thing shows up. She tells me to go wait down the long hall to the left because they might need to do a sonogram. Patients whose films look good get to go to the right, put their clothes back on and leave. I get to go to what I thought of as death row. Sit. Wait. Read women’s mags. Wait. Why don’t they hire a masseuse for this part, huh?

Another patient joins me. I’m thinking about cracking a Green Mile joke to lessen the tension but decide not to after she says something about people who sew their own clothes being idiots. “It all ends up costing more than if you bought the clothing.”

The tech finally comes get me and I chant to myself, “Walking the mile, walking the mile…dead man walking…”

Anyway it turned out to be scar tissue from a surgery I had as a child. No cancer. Deep sigh.

Not the end of the story. Hang in there.

I get a piece of paper from the radioligist saying “You do not have cancer.” Get home, put it up on the counter in the kitchen.

Later that night I ask Spanky to spray some Benadryl on my itchy back. When she sees all the whelps she is horrified and says, “There’s something really wrong with you. This can’t be bug bites, it looks really bad, Mom.”

I tell her it’s nothing, not to worry.

What happens next is pretty horrible. She finds the radiology report and through her worried little eyes reads it wrong. She thinks it says, “You have cancer.”

She doesn’t ask me anything. Thinks I’m hiding bad news. In the middle of the night, she’s sobbing uncontrollably and wakes her sister Sweetpea. Tells her the news. Sweetpea comes downstairs and reads the report correctly. Tells Spanky. But Spanky says she read it on another paper.

Today I find out all about this and am sickened that the girls had to go through that.

Sweetpea says, “Man, I thought I was going to lose my hair.”

“You? Or me?” I ask.

“I was going to shave my head to make you a wig,” she says.

“All the way off?”

“Well I was gonna do a mohawk thing. Almost all.” She says.

Spanky chimes in, “Well I was thinking mine would be better because it’s longer and healthier.”

Man, I wanted to cry. I explained to them I would never hide such a thing.

About these horrible bites or whatever, I spent almost the entire day soaking in the pool. It feels as if I’ve rolled around in an ant pile.

But I don’t have cancer and I’m not dying. Whew.


25 thoughts on “The Cart Before the Horse

  1. Hi Kitty. It is good to hear you are ok. That is a great story. Those girls of yours are so wonderful. Talking about who has the best hair for their mom. I am doing the waiting game now. I had something show up in my breast ultrasound yesterday. I am having shoulder surgery before I can see a doctor about the breast. Have some great driving lessons..

  2. Voodoo, I hate doling out advice when someone didn’t ask for it, but I hope you reconsider the order of getting the breast thing cleared vs the shoulder surgery.

    Thanks TPgoddess. I was touched by their unselfishness. Teenagers willing to go bald for their mom.

  3. Sheesh Kitty, sorry you went through all that. I honestly believe that we should charge doctors for making us wait with dread for no reason because of scheduling.

    The last time I got a scare like that (the thing on my chest) I figured I was dying too and decided to eat whatever the heck I wanted to eat for a week, so there.

    Your girls are wonderful.

  4. Michele, this happened to me before but with a different doctor. They did a chest xray and left a message right before closing on a Friday before a Labor Day weekend. The message sounded grave, “I called to talk to you about your xray. Please call us back.

    For that, I changed doctors. This time, however, it was the radiologist’s fault. Nothing to do with my doctor.

  5. Wow. Kitty? I would send you to sit in the corner if I thought it would do any good.

    You and the girls–go buy snowcones. Snowcones at night in the summer with the windows rolled down and the music blaring, that’s a Saturday night to remember.

  6. Let’s see. I went for the first xray on Friday just before they closed. They said the report would take ten days. I got the voice mail on Monday. Second set of xrays on Thursday.
    So, about 4 emo days of shitting bricks. LOL.

    The girls were ultra clingy yesterday and helped with housework without my asking.

    On one of the worry days I came back from the grocery store with a trunk full of groceries. Everyone was too busy to help me bring them in and I was fuming, thinking, I’m spending the last days of my life hauling groceries into the house.
    :::melodramatic back of the hand to the forehead:::

  7. Kitty,thanks for your advice. I have changed plans. There is a specialist that I would like to see. I just have to wait till Monday to call the doctors. This just came up Friday late afternoon. Sorry you had to go through this waiting . I do appreciate you advice. So, if you have some more, bring it on.

  8. Oh my god!!! I’m sorry you had to spend even a minute thinking you might have cancer, but damn, those poor girls!!! This just took my breath away.

    Oh, and I’m glad you’re OK šŸ™‚

  9. Kitty that post has me crying. I hate that you were going through that and didn’t say anything but at the same time I understand. The gonna’ die or live thing before we know what’s what is our story to live with and tell when we choose…. Damn, though, i have to say that there is so much love in those kids of yours. Wow. Not that I’m surprised given who their mother is but the mowhawk wig is probably the best offer ever… Sucks extremely hard that they had to think you were sick but at the same time sometimes the fragile nature of things can be an important idea to tackle in a way… I dunno’… I’m babbling…

    Cuz mostly I am glad glad glad you are okay.

  10. Wait, not a mohawk wig for me, she was going to shave herself a little mohawk and give the rest of her hair to me for a wig.

    Man, I just visualized a mohawk on me. Not pretty.

    I’m always teasing about how I got cheated in life because I didn’t get any sisters. Of course in my mind I idealized them.

    Having daughters is a way to make up for that, maybe. We have a sort of sisterhood. So much of my life was surrounded with guys. Four brothers growing up, me the only girl. Then I got married and had a only a son for 8 years. I never did think I would be so blessed with girls/women in my life and finally I got that. Finally. I am really really fortunate/blessed.

  11. My mother didn’t tell me when she had breast cancer at first. I found the doctor’s report. I was a grown up but it was horrible. I still don’t totally trust her to tell me everything. She promised never to do that again but stil…

  12. What a horrible way to find out, Kym.

    When I started nursing in the mid 80’s, the doctor would keep cancer diagnosis from some of the patients. The ones who requested it be that way. This was if nothing could be done for them and back then, there was a lot of that. It was so odd, people living out their last days in complete denial. The families would know, but the patient wouldn’t.

    If I had it, I’d tell my family as soon as I found out unless there was some big event like a wedding I didn’t want to mess up. Something that could wait a few days.
    Kids know when something is wrong. If you don’t tell them what it is, they will think the worst.

    I’m glad your mother beat cancer, Kym. I know a lot of people who have survived it.

  13. I think it was chiggers. I’m not sure because I never saw any bugs or felt anything bite me. It could be a severe allergic reaction to something. It’s just about gone now.

  14. I’ve been reading in the papers that the chiggers are really bad this year. This is the fourth time this summer that I get them. It is by far the worst I’ve had them, however.

  15. Hi Kitty,
    Iam happy ur OK, i saw those movies American Beauty and the Green Mile , very interesting movies and i wonder those movies, especially American movies.


  16. Your family is lovely. I wonder why you were eaten up by chiggers or got hives right when you thought you might have cancer. I wonder if your body went into a mode and became susceptible. And I’m also very impressed that the scary thoughts brought you and your family to an awesome place with each other, to be able to make those hard decisions and to express them. I’m so happy to see that you received so much love.

  17. Hey Kumar, thanks for stopping by again. Both those movies are two of my favorites.

    Thanks Radio. I’m really blessed to have these girls.

    I will have to do some chigger research because I’ve never seen such a severe reaction to them before. I’m not usually in Texas in June, this is probably my first June here in over 10 years. I used to hear people talk about them and almost didn’t believe they existed because I’d never been bitten by one until last year. I think maybe i’ve become allergic to them.

    The strange thing is there was not a single whelp on my face or hands.

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