IF ONLY I were a golden retriever. Then, if I got sick, I could see the veterinarian and be treated like a human.
In the end, there would be treats.
Instead, the situation is somewhat reversed. I must see people doctors.
Woof. I repeat, woof.
FIRST, let me tell you I am fine. Do not worry.
Second, let me tell you about my goiter.
I've always wanted to say that.
I LOOK UP at the radiologist as he fishes a needle in and out of a lump in my neck. He is doing a biopsy. I stare at the ceiling and wonder if I will eventually wind up on the pages of National Geographic, the woman with a bowling ball below her chin.
Because he belongs to the secret society of people who peek inside our bodies, murmur "ooh" and "ahh" but have taken an oath not to spill the beans, he cannot offer me an inkling of what he knows.
That must come from the regular doctor.
"Good luck," he says, as he leaves.
Wait. Good luck?
WHILE here at the imaging center, I submit to an annual screening for another type of cancer, one that afflicts women in my family.
And then I leave, unaware of what is to come.
Meanwhile, at opposite ends of the city, doctors conspire to torture me.
THEY GET advice, I am certain, from my dentist, who recently declared that insurance pays for only half the plaque.
They check in with my sinus doctor, who packs in extra patients by speaking rapidly, like Joe Isuzu:
The ophthalmologist could be in on it. I wouldn't know. I'm always too dilated to keep an eye on him.
ANXIOUS to know biopsy results, I call the endocrinologist. Not the endocrinologist I dropped after he kept me waiting for an hour and 20 minutes. Rather, the new one, who requires a two-month-advance booking.
I get the office answering machine. It tells me a nurse will call within 72 hours. There are marriages that do not last 72 hours.
THE WEEKEND begins. Not wanting to coddle myself, I spend it on the scariest thyroid Internet sites I can find, pondering worst case scenarios. Still, I learn that thyroid cancer is a "good" cancer and am resigned to it by Monday.
By Tuesday, I have switched from phone calls to faxes. I am considering a singing telegram when the doctor's office finally calls back.
No cancer, the cheery nurse says.
Oddly, after all this, I feel slightly cheated, no doubt a byproduct of childhood ice cream cones for tooth extractions.
AT WEEK'S end, Round 2 begins.
The ob-gyn nurse calls, immediately stirring suspicion. After years of "all clear" phone calls, she wants me to come in to discuss the ultrasound.
I feel my face turn white. Have the doctors found something?
It's a new policy, she tells me. No results over the telephone. I might be OK, and I might not.
I TAKE THIS explanation quite well, I think: I leap through the phone wires and land somewhere underground, below a GTE substation. I pull myself back to the chair, extracting fiberoptic cables from my teeth.
We compromise. She agrees to send me the paper radiology report. I spend another weekend on the Internet, reading about women's health.
I know I have bought retribution. First: there will be a probing biopsy reminiscent of alien abduction. Second: The next time the nurse sees me, she will insist on weighing me.
ONE BIOPSY later, the doctor leaves a message on my voice mail, a puzzling turn of events. I have been warned that doctors have no time for phone calls.
This personal contact touches me.
I play back the message.
The doctor wants publicity for her daughter's school project.
FINALLY, my appointment arrives. I've been told that if I miss it, I'll have to pay $25, but that the doctor might miss it, because she's on call.
Twenty minutes before the appointment, her office says she's on time.
An hour and 20 minutes later, she sees me for four minutes. She tells me my biopsy is normal, then charges me $60.
I wonder why this office visit is necessary, until I read about rising malpractice insurance costs.
But I am normal.
Normal I am.
I think this calls for a Milk Bone.
_ Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or pryansptimes.com.