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BORROWED IRONIES: MUSINGS OF A MEDICAL PARODISIAC JAMES H. FOSTER THE LESION THAT'S KNOWNAS 'WEN' (with apologies to Robert W. Servilds THE SHOOTING OF DAN McGREW) A bunch of the boys were shootin' it up in the After-the-Game saloon. The old juke box in die corner was blarin' a soulful western tune. Back of the bar, awaitin' his turn, sat languorous Dan McNear Not sayin' a word, just sippin' away at his micro-brewery beer. At last it came, his time at the game, and he stood up straight and tall. He picked up his cue, considered his moves, and took aim at the number nine ball. As he leaned over the table, his opponent was able to see the back of his head. When Dan took aim, that man exclaimed with a voice full of worry and dread: "My God, McNear, this you've got to hear tho' I don't want to make you jump; Sure as little green apples will make you sick, on your neck there's a strange-looking bump!" The cue stick dropped, the music stopped, and the crowd grew quiet and still. A gruesome hunch seized that motley bunch; with their fears came an awful chill. Dan reached behind where 'twas easy to find a dime-sized lump 'neath the skin. He said not a word, just nodded his head and went to the bar for a gin. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 42, 2 ¦ Winter 1999 | 245 Now Dan was a man who had been through a lot, including Vietnam and divorce. He was a bother to no one and handled his problems all alone as a matter of course. He was careful and quiet, watched his health and his diet and hadn't been to a doctor in years, But now he was driven by the fright he'd been given to seek help to manage his fears. He made an appointment to see a physician. The nurse took his pressure and then Doc quickly concluded a gland was occluded; The lesion was known as a wen. "Not to worry," he said, "but let's worry instead 'bout your pressure that's running too high. Your heart could be strained or a vessel could blow from which you're more likely to die. We'll do a few tests and hope for the best, then start you on something that's good To lower the pressure, to prevent future problems and make you feel as good as you should." After multiple tests there followed the stress of the long wait for news to return. A whole week went by before the doctor replied with a voice now full of concern: "Your potassium's low, which means we must know if your adrenal has a tumor inside. A scan known as CAT will help tell us that and will let us your future decide." Next day the CAT scan went as well as they planned but yielded a great surprise: The adrenal was clear, but the liver right near showed a tumor of half-lemon size. Well, that was a curve-ball that set them to wondrin' what it was that next they should do. But forty tests later, of the tumor's true nature they had no reliable clue. Their failure was clear but so was their duty: to rule out a curable cancer. So they sadly conceded an operation was needed to provide a definitive answer. They sent for a surgeon who took over the burden of finding out just what it was. The operation was hard, much harder than planned, and this was mainly because 246 James H. Foster ¦ Borrowed Ironies The liver looked clean; no lesion was seen; 'Twas perplexing to know what to do. Half the liver they took, the part with the shadow, with the hope there'd be something to view. After a bit of confusion and a hefty transfusion they finally got it resected. But the risk to Dan's life by this cut of the knife had been larger by far than expected. They sectioned the liver and no lesion was found, still that led to a happy prognosis. But...


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pp. 245-261
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