Not just a body

Grocott's Mail - - OPINION & ADVICE -

Shortly af­ter I was di­ag­nosed I had an MRI scan. Just be­fore the scan I was in the chang­ing room af­ter hav­ing put on a gown. I over­heard a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween one of the nurses who does the scan­ning and what I as­sume was a doc­tor who looks at the scan re­sults.

The doc­tor asked the nurse about a par­tic­u­lar pa­tient. The nurse’s re­ply was some­thing like “I’m about to do breasts. I’ve just done a brain and be­fore that was a liver.”

I had a lit­tle gig­gle about this. I was no longer a whole hu­man be­ing. I was ‘breasts.’

Shortly af­ter that ‘breasts’ be­came ‘breast’.

And not long af­ter that I started chemo­ther­apy. And then I was no longer seen as a sin­gle body part. But I was still seen pri­mar­ily as a body, rather than as a whole hu­man be­ing.

Doc­tors and nurses were in­ter­ested in the side ef­fects that I was or was not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in my body. Chemo side ef­fects don’t just af­fect one body part. They have the po­ten­tial to run from the head (hair loss) to the toes (bruised nails which I did get, and nerve dam­age called neu­ropa­thy which didn’t hap­pen to me).

I read some­where that peo­ple who don’t ex­pect to get nau­sea from chemo­ther­apy are less likely to get nau­sea. I de­cided I wasn’t go­ing to have that side ef­fect and I didn’t. Well, not much.

I found be­ing seen pri­mar­ily as a body very dif­fi­cult. It’s not the way I usu­ally nav­i­gate my way through the world. I’m used to be­ing con­cerned pri­mar­ily with my thoughts, my ac­tions, my re­la­tion­ships and my words. And I think the peo­ple around me are mostly in­ter­ested in those things about me too.

I had to fight the urge ev­ery now and then in a doc­tor’s of­fice to stamp my foot and say “I’m a per­son!”

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