Some Of It’s Funny Anyway

Kage Baker really applied herself to finding bright spots in her illness. She had never been an especially sunny person – Mamma called her “the sad little pine tree” when she was a child – and she grew up with a wide streak of dark suspicion. At her very worst, Kage was downright dour.

However, the sicker she got, the more determined she became to find  the good stuff. Some of it may have been sheer perversity – at a time when Fate was determined to hand her a pile of unmitigated shit, Kage became equally determined to refuse it. There really was good stuff, all the way to the end; she cultivated joy, hoarded peace, and wrung as much fun out of her life as she could. Every day. No matter what happened.

Doctors’ visits and paperwork are an endless fount of hilarity, you know. The folks who work in front offices are easily confused – a lot of them are fine, heroic people, but all too often, they are jargon-dependent drones who have forgotten how to use the first person singular pronoun and think Doctor is their employer’s given name. There is a high percentage of pomposity in the medical sciences, especially the support functions. Kage had fun sticking pins in their balloons of delusion. I’m learning to enjoy it too.

For instance, I will not respond tamely to the Imperial address – “How are we?” is not a query to which I know the answer. You, lady with a perfect manicure who cannot pronounce any portion of my name, may be fine and dandy. I neither know nor care: but I, personally, am here because I have cancer. How the hell do you think I am? Not that it matters to her, either – until I actually gave my honest answer, she wasn’t listening to me anyway. Only the shock of my not being socially cooperative got her attention.

Today I saw an internist and a psychologist, in two appointments back to back. When I checked in with reception – and again when I filled out paperwork – and yet again when the internist finished with me and turned me loose: each time, the receptionist informed me I was done. But I wasn’t, and I had the confirmations in hand to prove it; even though she denied my second appointment three times. You’d think she’d have gotten tired of my waving my little yellow postcard in front of her. But no, apparently every time I vanished from her sight  I ceased to exist.

Dinosaurs may not have primitive motion-activated vision (though Michael Crichton thought they did). But medical receptionists do.

I finally got the psychiatric exam I was required to have. The doctor was very nice, and even released me back into the wild (I did have a faint worry about that). In fact, looking over my recent history, she said “Oh my! I’d be worried if you weren’t depressed!” So I guess my  Prozac prescription will pass muster with Social Security. And the internist was astonished to discover I’ve been recently diagnosed with uterine cancer, and very grateful that I had brought her a copy of my biopsy report. Hopefully Social Security will okay that, too.

So I am taking as much enjoyment as I can from my little triumphs today. Bullying the receptionist is petty, of course; and as soon as I have any energy to spare, I will be contrite and offer up some penitent prayers. Until then, though, I’m going to continue to correct the pronunciation of my name (How do you get Batelmayo out of Bartholomew, anyway?), and insist on being allowed to keep ALL  my appointments, and refuse to pretend that my scary illness is a minor complaint.

I am not well. I am not happy. I am not very obliging, either. I gotta get my giggles where I can these days. So live with it, receptionists of the world! I’m trying to.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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11 Responses to Some Of It’s Funny Anyway

  1. Carol Light says:

    One thing that helped a friend of mine (and me) get through something similar was to cast the movie of the experience as we went. The primary oncologist would be played by Harrison Ford, the compassionate nurse practioner would be played by Sandra Bullock, the clueless receptionist would be played by all of Murphy Brown’s secretaries, one at a time, and so forth. Casting the main protagonist was harder, but you’re reminding me of Katherine Hepburn at her wittiest.

    Hang in there, you’re almost to the goal line.



  2. Mary Lynn says:

    Persevere–the goal is in sight.

    Be sure to get a copy of the report the internist and shrink send to you doctor and check it for errors. My shrink didn’t speak English as either a first or second language–maybe fifth. Anyway, he converted my emphysema to eczema. Big difference between my lungs not working and my flakey skin itching.


  3. Kate says:

    Oh jeez Louise, Mary Lynn – what a screw-up! See what I mean, though? As long as it did get corrected, it’s a funny story now. Even though you must have been setting your hair on fire when it happened …


  4. Medrith says:

    “Batelmayo”???!? What in the WORLD? I thought I had it bad, with Medrith turned into”Meredith” or “Meeedrit” or whatever. I am so impressed with your attitude through all this. Keep on keeping on, I’m keeping on praying for you.


  5. Margaret says:

    Oh no, causing the receptionist to wake up is not bullying; it’s a public service. With luck, it’ll mean she actually pays a little attention to the next patient, maybe even the next two or three. The surgeon’s staff had failed to send my lumpectomy and pathology results along to the oncologist that the surgeon had recommended and with whom his office had made the appointment. Fortunately, I had taken good notes of what the surgeon told me about the results, so could tell the oncologist something and she could proceed from there. The next time I saw the surgeon for a followup, I mentioned that I thought his staff was slacking a bit. “My staff doesn’t slack off. They’re very busy,” was his reply, as he pokered up. But I was fiendishly pleased after I got my clothes back on and emerged from the examining room, to see that someone had apparently given the office persons a good talking-to – very chastened-looking and the traditional nonstop chatting and gossiping was considerably damped. After that I knew to get copies of all results “for my files” so if the next doctor down the line hadn’t had them yet, I could produce my copy. But the thought about why this should repeatedly be necessary does come to mind. Better to get the reputation of being unkind to the doctor’s office staff than to have to repeat appointments because some other doctor doesn’t have the paperwork that’s needed to proceed, I figure.


  6. athene says:

    >>Batelmayo out of Bartholomew, anyway?
    Oh, my dear, let me count the ways. Welcome to my world.


  7. Kate says:

    It seems to be the lurking diphthongs in my names that confuse half the world. Especially when combined with plosives and hard consonants. The laterals and rhotics usually throw ’em, too. And when they are adjacent, as in *my* names – it’s a mess. However, knowing why half the world has problems pronouncing my names doesn’t help the outrage when they don’t even try. I am a cranky old bat.


  8. PJ says:

    Not just pompous but thoroughly patronizing. It must be a job requirement.

    And Bartholomew is the name they keep mangling??? I thought it must be something more exotic, but I shouldn’t be surprised. They routine insist on pronouncing the H in Thompson. And that’s about as plain vanilla as they come.

    Stay strong! Stay cranky! Blessings to you.


  9. Kate says:

    PJ – it’s that dreaded diphthong again: TH is a real toughie for non-native English speakers. And even for some folks who are native speakers. I am frequently questioned by folks whose accents indicate an origin somewhere in the Midwest or South, as to “what kind of a name is that?” Am I American? Which I am, born and bred here, and “Bartholomew” is not all that uncommon a name. Not only that, but it’s the name of one of the Apostles – so it always amazes me when people from the US Bible Belt are suspicious of it. Don’t they know their New Testament?

    Of course, I was raised Roman Catholic. To a lot of Baptists and Lutherans, the Roman Catholics are pagans anyway. Or so I have often been told.


  10. Tom says:

    I bet you know this – Bartolomeo is the Spanish version of your last name. For people who learned to read by the See-Say method (instead of phonics and syllabification), they will revert to the most familiar approximation.

    But stay cranky – you need your spleen now more than ever!

    Some time I’ll tell you all about the time a Fundamentalist gospel quartet refused to audition me because I’d been singing for Christian Scientists.


  11. Kate says:

    Eeek, Tom – you had Christian Scientist cooties? Quelle horreur!

    Yeah, I do know that the Spanish (and Italian) for my surname is Bartolomeo. But I also know that an “O” and a “W” are different letters of the alphabet, not pronounced in any similar way. I am unusually insensitive to the needs of the semi-literate, especially when they are in positions of clerical authority.

    Oh, crank, crank, crank …. lol.


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