A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Hundred-Dollar Bump

Today I took Taz to the vet. I had recently noticed a bump the size of a pea under the skin on her right shoulder. It was very tender; she wouldn't let me examine it at all, so I decided to have the doctor take a look at it.

It might have been a tick, but on our downtown walks we don't encounter many of the pests that trouble dogs. It might have been a mast cell--the fastgrowing ones are the most dangerous--but it wasn't in a typical location, and she's not the age or type of dog most susceptible to them. It might have been a plugged duct--nothing dangerous at all; that was the likeliest. But I wasn't sure, so I took her in for a check.

The doctor whisked her out of the examining room, shaved a dime-sized spot around the lump and did a percutaneous biopsy. Five minutes later Taz was back, excited and jumpy, but otherwise fine. I paid the bill and took her home. A few hours later, the vet called to say that the biopsy had not turned up anything suspicious. That doesn't guarantee that, in another part of the lump, there's not some malignancy, she warned. But it's unlikely. Keep an eye on it, and only bring her back in if it gets bigger or more tender.

$97.20 to tell me she was fine. I was reminded of the time when my youngest son was a toddler, riding in the back seat of the car next to my Aunt Helen. Cicily, my aunt called to me as I drove. There's a little hole in this beanbag. I'm not sure, but I think Amir might have put one of the beans up his nose.

We got home, and I got out the flashlight. We couldn't see anything, but that didn't mean there wasn't a bean pushed way up out of sight. Amir was too little to tell me clearly what he had or hadn't done. I had no insurance, and tended to be conservative about these things. But it was Friday morning; if I did nothing, and there was a bean in his nose and it swelled up, blocking his nasal passage, I would be looking at a scary emergency room visit over the weekend. I called my pediatrician and got the kid an appointment with an EENT. A couple of hours later, we were in the specialist's office.

There's nothing in there, the doctor said after a brief exam. Then he hit me with what seemed to be a pretty steep bill. I was already wishing I had gambled and waited it out.

Wow, I said. How much would it have cost if there had been a bean in his nose?

The same, he answered.

I couldn't believe it. Well, in that case, I wish there had been a bean, I told him.

He was pissed, needless to say, and gave me a very curt lecture. But jeez, if I had averted a disaster by my quick action, I wouldn't have felt bad about spending all that time and money. Going through the same amount of trouble and cash for a false alarm, though, made me feel like an overreacting mom and a sucker.

I'm not wishing cancer or Lyme disease on my dog. I'm happy that she seems to be okay, after all. But going to the doctor or the dentist or the vet is like going to get a bad haircut. It seems like someone should be paying you to do it.



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