Friday, March 03, 2006

Bump in the Night




Let us begin at the beginning.

I was fifteen, and I was brushing my hair, when I felt something on the top of my head; a bump. I pressed it a few times, and determined it was under the skin, neither yielding to my touch nor going anyplace. I considered all the possible answers and determined, I have a brain tumor and I am going to die.

Keeping in mind my father had died six years before, I imagined my inevitable death from brain cancer was going to upset my mother somewhat. So, I kept this bad medical news to myself. Instead, I spent the next few weeks alternately draped moodily around the house and being cloyingly sweet to my mother, so that before I fell down and started frothing at the mouth her last memories would be good.

[These mood swings might have been more subtle than I realized. I asked my mother if she remembered this personality change and she said thoughtfully, “Had you been sweet at any time during that year, I believe I would remember it”]

After a few weeks, though, it occurred to me the brain tumor wasn’t getting any larger, nor was I losing the use of my extremities. Also, I needed to start obsessing about the prom. My brain tumor gradually took a back seat to whether I could conceivably look attractive in pale green taffeta (As it turns out, no).

But if it wasn’t a tumor bent on my destruction, what was it? After a few years with it, I developed a theory. I had this vague memory of being fourteen and pulling a small, heavy, safe-deposit box down on my head (I was grabbing something from a shelf above me, and didn’t realize there was a safe-deposit box between me and the object I desired). The corner of the safe-deposit box had hit my head really hard somewhere around where the bump developed.

Years passed. The bump and I went through life together. It was my own small Ayers rock, the mental mesa, the hill under my hair. I had to warn new boyfriends and hairstylists about it, lest they leap back in horror, which tends to compromise both a date and a haircut. I once had the satisfaction of having a friend who was in medical school and, therefore, knew everything, touch my head. He screamed “What the hell is that?”, and I said airily, “Guess they haven’t covered that yet in school, huh? Don’t worry, it’s rarely contagious”

But what about real doctors, you might be saying.

They had no idea what it was, either.

Every couple of years, I would mention to some new doctor I was seeing that he or she might want to palpate my head. The orthopedist, the neurologist and the GP all agreed that it fell neatly into Not My Problem. My bump lived in some medical No-Man’s Land, unloved and unwanted. The only thing they all agreed on was how it didn’t happen; my safe-deposit box tale was compelling, if you like stories about untreated concussions, but there was no way it created this…protuberance.

The bump, it appeared, would stay. I resigned myself to never having very short hair, which is probably for the best when you have a nose which puts one in mind of an Idaho Russet. But not a day went by that I didn’t glance in the mirror at some point and think “Bump, nothing personal, but I hate you”. The bump would endure, as indifferent to my feelings as Mount Everest.

Unfortunately, like Everest, it was still growing. I had suspected this for a few years, but in the last year, it was undeniable. I had always wanted to be taller, but this was no way to do it. Something must be done. Medical responsibility must be assigned.

A month ago, I was at the Dermatologist’s office, correcting the sins of having lived in a desert my entire life, when I happened to mention the bump to the Doctor. He felt it briefly, and said casually, “Yeah, that’s a Pyroclastic flow, I can take that off if you want. It’s a simple outpatient procedure”.

[Yes, I know it isn’t a Pyroclastic flow; that’s a form of lava. But when he said what it was actually called, I was in such a state of shock that someone would actually do something about it that the only thing my brain retained was how whatever it is sounds like “Pyroclastic flow”, and now I can’t think of what it is]

Did I want to have this removed? Did I want to have my teeny, weeny, boring conjoined twin removed? Did I want to pull my hair back into a ponytail without having to take minutes to adjust the hair so I didn’t look as if I had a marshmallow buried under my scalp?

Yes, please.



Blogger Yvonne said...

I found your blog through Mel's blog, and I enjoy your writing. Hope you don't mind if I drop in regularly!

6:58 AM  
Blogger elizawill said...

i was trying to google what my bump on my head was (it's been with me for years!!). i stumbled upon your was so funny...i could have written it myself!!! i always have to worn my hairdresser about my bump too! and my poor husband...God bless him....he loves me anyway.

5:46 PM  

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