The dermatofibrosarcoma of Darier Ferrand is one of the million and one goombas that seem to lurk about in the world, just waiting to fuck with us. According to one french entry about it, the sarcoma evolves “indolently”. That was certainly true about mine. In return, my response to the thing evolved indolently too, until last year I finally saw a dermatologist in Santa Monica and had him do a biopsy of this welt like thing on my thigh. The biopsy came back with the conclusion that the lab hadn’t had enough material to make a definitive identification. Two weeks ago, I went to a French doctor who, without much ado, took a much bigger chunk of my thigh and sent it to the laboratory, where they ID’ed it. And so it was that I was advised by a surgeon that it was the kind of thing which, though benign, would produce troubles for me later on. His advise was to take it out.
Yesterday morning, A. and I advanced to the Clinique St. Jean, which is just around the corner here in Montpellier. I promised that I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything the previous night or morning. I showered in this chemical substance that I think was designed to kill my lice, if I had them, and that apparently rendered me medically neutral as far as germs go. And then I was off, which meant the dreams of my childhood were fullfilled and I was wheeled on a gurney through the halls of a hospital. And then I went under general anaesthesia.
General anaesthesia my be the most disturbing thing I have ever undergone. There was little ceremony. First, I was hooked up to a drip, and then the triangular shaped plastic bit was fitted over my mouth and nose and I smelled anti-life. Whatever it is that composes that anaesthetic, the smell went through me like death. In fact, it is surely one of the smells of death. I don’t have a group on my tongue that corresponds to its taste. It was the taste of Anti-Roger.
Then it was two hours later and I was waked up. I was in a room with a bunch of other patients and some jolly doctors and nurses. The personnel at Clinique St. Jean are invariably nice and sweet. The hospital services a lot of children, and perhaps that is one of the reasons. In comparison, American hospitals are pits of doom. But at the time I woke up, the jolliness was viscerally revolting. I was asked if ca va, and I answered oui, but all the while I was having the wierdest reaction, a sort of full body panic. I felt somehow that I’d been turned wrong in my skin. In fact, the divot taken out of my thigh and the skin grafts taken out of my lower stomach didn’t even register, at that moment. Now they do, of course, and I’m enjoying the idea that I can now describe, with some authenticity, the feeling of being shot in some future novel – or maybe the novel I am writing now. But the full body panic was very different. I could barely stand the room, and then, fortunately, it was decided to wheel me elsewhere. The childish pleasure of being pushed on the gurney was, to say the least, attenuated. Finally, though, I saw A.
There have been countless times in the past when A. has saved my sanity. This was one of those times, a big one. I felt finally that I was anchored, that the panic would pass, that I’d be out of here, and that I would do this and we’d be all right.
Now I sit here with my two cannes anglaises next to me, wondering how it was I thought this was going to be easy. Of course, that’s my narcissism. Soon enough, the skin grafts will attach themselves and I’ll be a new man, sans goomba. At the moment, though, I am definitely on Jimmy Stewart’s frequency in Rear Window. Save for the fact that I have no neighbors to peer at in this heat wave.