How much sharing is too much? So many of us trumpeting the barest details of our private lives online, there’s a growing debate about how much is too much. Today I pushed the boundaries of how much I’m willing to share by live-tweeting my day surgery, about my biopsy.
And I’ve just realized that it actually wasn’t my first biopsy, although it felt like it. Last year, I had a small thingy cut off my eyelid, and that was checked for cancer but thankfully, nothing came of it. Hell of an experience, that — an oversized eyelash curler holding out the eyelid, the awkwardness of the numbing drops and the sting of the anesthetic, the sounds of cutting and snipping, the smoke of the cauterizing . . . I had great appreciation for the nurses there, one of whom held my hand, and the professionalism and compassion of the doctor.
But that didn’t feel like a biopsy, for some reason. This one certainly did. Four worrisome moles circled on my back and tidily cut away, labeled carefully for analysis.
I tweeted to take my mind off what I was feeling and hearing, trying to see and document to keep my head objective and my anxiety under control. But in the interests of discretion on Twitter and Facebook, I left out a few of the gorier details — the sensation of my blood trickling and tickling in rivulets down my sides, for example. I questioned at first whether it should even matter what I omitted, because if you’re going to share the intimate details of a marginally invasive procedure, might as well go whole-hog, right? In for a penny, as they say. But my objective wasn’t shock value or titillation; I wasn’t aiming to gross people out (although I do enjoy doing that from time to time!). No, in this case, I wanted to share because somebody out there might read it who is about to go through the same thing, or knows of someone, and finding out in advance what it might feel like could help the next patient to be prepared for the ordeal.
Because even though I had a vague idea that I’d have to gown up and lie on a table, and there’d be needles involved, I didn’t know that my back would be packed around with absorbent pads, because there would be that much blood spilling. And I had the impression that it was going to be a sample taken from a needle piercing the things, my head not quite understanding that the whole piece of flesh making up the mole was going to have to be punched and sliced free, and the hole remaining stitched up. Four troublesome pieces of flesh cut away and packaged for a lab technician to examine. I thought I knew what it was going to be like, but I was only halfway there.
Awkward dressing after — the good news was I’d chosen to wear a button-front shirt. I drove myself home, unlike after having my eyelid treated. My husband had to pick me up and guide me out, what with the patch on my eye and the feeling of wooziness. Maybe this experience shows I’m getting better at handling discomfort, growing a little tougher as I approach 40.
But that is why I share: in the knowledge that being open and honest about my physical and emotional experience might be helpful to someone else who doesn’t know or isn’t sure what to expect. And commiseration for those who have gone through it. I’m also aware that my take on having my moles removed is heavily subjective, that there are individuals out there who have greater and lesser pain tolerances, anxieties, prior experiences with the medical profession that may not have been as positive as mine. In that event, my experience becomes useful for comparison, and maybe helps someone be able to process their own.
I know talking about it helps me to process and understand mine.
So if my tweets and/or this post are helpful to you or someone you know, I’m very glad. And if you read it just because — well, thanks for listening to my story. Hope I didn’t gross you out too much. 💋