The Medical-Industral Complex Will Just Have To Wait A Little While Longer For Me

A thoracic surgeon performs a mitral valve rep...
Image via Wikipedia

Went to see the orthopedic surgeon this morning who asked — sort of like ” Wanna latte?” or “Want to see a movie?” how I felt about having my left hip replaced within the next seven months.

Not an option, I said. He insists it will be within the next two years.


Am I the only person (or maybe the only person of the female gender?) in the United States who doesn’t get all excited by the notion of being cut open? Who finds it wearying to keep having to explain how I feel about my health and proposed treatments/medication/therapy/surgery? I feel like I’ve moved to Azerbaijan or some rural outpost of a small African nation where my mouth is moving, but the sounds coming out of it are so unfamiliar as to be disorienting to the listener.

No, I really don’t want: to swallow fistfuls of pills daily; sign up for major surgery; worry that my needs to be treated like a human being are scary or difficult for the medical professionals I deal with.

I think this is deeply cultural. How we feel about our bodies and the people we allow to help us heal is very culturally determined; I grew up and spent 30 years in Canada. Rates of orthopedic surgery are lower there, maybe because the rates of obesity (which aggravate joint pain and mobility) have traditionally been lower and because surgeries aren’t as lucrative or profitable for the medical-industrial complex.

When you see a doctor, do you care if they care about your feelings?

Or do you just want everything fixed now, everything else be damned?

Whose Nose Do You Have?

Nostrils by David Shankbone
Image via Wikipedia

Loved this poignant essay in Elle about a young woman regretting her nose job that took away the nose that resembled her Dad’s, who is now dying:

And then there was my nose—his nose—which grew more exaggerated at the onset of puberty. It became the focus of my self-loathing, a manifestation of all my shortcomings as a girl. Altering it was one way, at least, that I could become more feminine.

So, a few days after high school graduation, I finally got my nose job. The surgery flattened the bridge of my nose but left it with a lengthy tip and asymmetrical nostrils. A second procedure shaved down the tip and reshaped the nostrils. As promised, it made my face softer. Less self-conscious, I began to put more care into the way I dressed and even wore a little makeup.

But the anxious, tugging sensation in my chest was still there. Surgery eliminated the one problem that had so preoccupied me, but it forced me to acknowledge another, bigger issue—my sexuality—that would make me a failed woman in my father’s eyes.

I definitely have my Dad’s nose, one that looks a little better on my two half-brothers. But I couldn’t imagine changing it.

Who do you most resemble, your Dad or Mom? Have you surgically altered any of your features?

Designer Labia? Count Me Out, Boys

Doctors conduct a vagina surgery on a patient ...
Is this really the place for a scalpel? Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

British women are lining up to nip and tuck their lady parts, reports the BBC. The surgery, performed to make the labia, the external vaginal lips, more attractive isn’t new, but last year saw a 70 percent jump in its popularity. Labiaplasty (warning, graphic photo attached), is done for a combination of aesthetic and functional reasons, surgeons say. It’s increasingly popular worldwide, sorry to say.

One doctor tells the BBC:

“They’ve gone a bit over the top. Essentially this is just about removing a bit of loose flesh, leaving behind an elegant-looking labia with minimum scarring. The procedure won’t interfere with sexual function.

“Women want this for a number of reasons – some find it uncomfortable to ride a bike for instance, but for the majority it is aesthetic, that’s true.

“Lads’ mags are looked at by girlfriends, and make them think more about the way they look. We live in times where we are much more open about our bodies – and changing them – and labioplasty is simply a part of this.””

“Elegant-looking”? Please, show me (no, not literally, thanks) a chic set of male genitalia — or a bunch of guys lining up surgery to make sure their boy-bits are as attractive as all those in porn magazines, terrified to be considered unattractive by their female (or male) sexual partners.

Any guy who’s wigged out by a woman whose vagina doesn’t match his porn-fueled fantasies is really a very sad little thing and any woman who cuts her flesh to please him and his ilk needs to re-consider.

Want sex, even with your allegedly imperfect labia? Try a little candlelight, a little wine, a little — acceptance?

Life After Stitches (or Staples)

Image by Andy G via Flickr

One of the best writers at The New York Times, I think, is Dana Jennings, an editor there, who has been writing about his brutal and exhausting battle with prostate cancer. Unlike much Times’ copy, which can be polite, accurate but bloodless, Jennings’ personal essays on this subject practically jump off the page and grab you by the throat. They’re not always fun, but they remind me, anyway, what great writing is about.

In today’s Times’ column, Cases, a weekly, long-running feature about the personal experience of illness or healthcare (open to all writers, I’ve written two of them), he writes eloquently about the many scars his body now carries, from childhood mishaps to major abdominal surgery to acne scars on his back. His honesty is extraordinary, and, I think refreshing.

“For all the potential tales of woe they suggest, scars are also signposts of optimism. If your body is game enough to knit itself back together after a hard physical lesson, that means you’re still alive, means you’re on the path toward healing…The scars remind me, too, that in this vain culture our vanity needs to be punctured and deflated — and that’s not such a bad thing. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, better to be scarred and living than a dead lion.”

As someone with coconut knees (tiny indentations on the top of each, like a coconut, from one arthroscopy apiece) and two scars on the inside of each wrist — one, a half-inch souvenir of a motorbike ride in Thailand gone awry and the other from scraping against a wet wire during a gale-force wind while sailboat racing off Long Island Sound — I value my scars as well. Like Jennings reminds us, they’re the roadmap of our lives, reminding us, and those who get close enough to see them, of some of the best, and worst, places we’ve been.