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I never really liked that part of my kidney anyways

Posted Oct 10 2011 8:38pm

Artur Rimbaud, Harar

Artur Rimbaud (1854-1891), Harar

I’ve been putting off the writing of this update, thinking perhaps that in writing these words, that which seemed surreal enough to be a part of someone else’s life would become more painfully my own. My last trip to Sloan-Kettering (thank you Cigna) did not go as I had hoped: “Mr. Ricciardelli, it turns out that thing we thought was a cancerous mass on your kidney is actually a stray piece of popcorn,” is not what anyone said. Turns out that although blessedly small, that thing on my kidney has blood flow to it and is a prime candidate for removal.

But again, at 2cm x 2.5cm it is blessedly small– 3cm to 7cm is considered small, this is, in a sense, despite the way it feels in my life, smaller than small. It is, however, in a tricky spot–lower portion of the upper pole–but inside the kidney itself, as opposed to outside and more readily accessible.  I’m told that this position narrows down the number of surgeons in the world who can actually perform this surgery, and there is a chance, if things go wrong, that I can lose my whole kidney instead of just part.

I have the surgeon (thank you again Cigna) and I have the date (beginning of November), what I don’t have is any sense of how I should be taking all this. I postponed the surgery a few weeks in order to attend to some work projects that simply needed to be done, and I was able to lose myself in them sufficiently to not think about much otherwise. They are now done.  I went to see my primary care physician today for an OK physical for surgery–I apparently am.  All that’s left is a few weeks and my appointment with the scalpel and the dreaded anesthesia.

And as I prepare to have a piece of my kidney removed, my mind, a decently read but unruly thing, turns to the admonitions of the 19th century French symbolist poet turned gunrunner in Africa, Artur Rimbaud. Cancer ridden and returned to France he lay misdiagnosed and amputated on what would be his deathbed and wrote :

Where are the paths between the mountains, the cavalcades and promenades, the deserts, rivers and seas? And now living a legless existence!

….Were someone to ask my advice, I would tell him: You’ve come this far: now don’t let them amputate. Get hacked up, ripped apart, torn to pieces, but don’t tolerate amputation. If death comes, it’s a far better thing than life with too few limbs. Many have said as much; and if I had to do over again I would do it differently. Better to live a year in hell than to be amputated.

Losing a kidney or a part thereof is not losing a leg. And it’s probably never good policy to get one’s medical advice from a dead French symbolist poet–especially one I tried so hard to emulate in my teens. But I’d be lying now if I said that a part of me didn’t want to pack that same old traveling duffel bag I have stored in the trunk of my Jaguar and set out reckless again for “the paths between the mountains, the cavalcades and promenades, the deserts, rivers and seas.”

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