Surgery, Interviews, Guns…

For the last four weeks, I have been engaged in a job search. My contract with Chevron ended when I was in the hospital (it was a six month contract). We don’t live in a socialist utopia, and I am not rich. So I have to keep working.

For reasons outside of the scope of this writing, I have had a lot of jobs in my life. Which means I have often had to look for work. In the 90’s, I developed some philosophy and methods around looking for work. Spend as much time looking for a job as you plan on working at that job. So if you plan on working 40 hours a week, spend 40 hours a week looking for a job. Go to every interview. Even for jobs you know you don’t want. You can’t turn down a job you don’t have, and you just might be surprised at how different the job sounds when you are actually talking to someone you might be working with. Also, going to a lot of interviews gets you out of yourself. People can feel when you are there just trying to impress them. I generally go for the laughs and try to talk people out of hiring me. It works.

I have not used a lot of these methods since around 2008. People call me all the time. So all of the jobs I have had in the last 10 years have just been through people I know or recruiters finding me. I have sort of avoided the large employment survey that I invented for myself.

Getting out of the hospital, I knew I needed to work, so I just did what I know how to do. I started a 90’s, 40 hour work week, survey of corporate Houston. It also kept me busy. I don’t want to sit around thinking about cancer. That’s why I’m writing about cancer. It gets these thoughts out of my head. I find that I get a brief respite after the writing.

As this week began, I had 3 companies ready to make offers. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. Commute time vs culture vs money vs company size. I told them all that I was not available on Thursday or Friday of this week knowing that I had a Central Port surgery today and the first chemo infusion tomorrow. Of course, one of them wanted to meet me face to face today. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know what time the surgery was going to be. They only tell you the day, then they call you at 6pm the day before to let you know. I was just going to refuse the interview. Then I said, “I’ll let you know by 10am if I can make it by 11:30.”

So this morning I had a port installed in my chest. Beginning tomorrow they will use this port to deliver chemo. My arrival for pre-op was scheduled for 5:30am. My mother spent the night with me to get me there, and to take me home when I was all drugged up.

There are the usual questions asked by everyone involved. Have you been out of the country in the last 90 days? Are you allergic to anything? Have you ever had a blood transfusion? Every member of the surgical team asks these questions. I interrupted many of them before they started talking. “No I haven’t been out of the country in the last 90 days.”

The description of the procedure is pretty standard. We are gonna cut you here and slice you there. Then we’re going to close you back up. But the anesthesiologist perked up my attention a bit. Sedation not general. I was going to be awake while they sliced into a major vein in my neck. Interesting. Then one of the nurses asked me to name the doctor doing the procedure. I did. She said, “Oh he’s going to sing to you.”

Most of surgery is preparation and recovery. A good deal of that preparation for me is emotional. It’s all about answering the alarms. “They have prescribed three different pain killers for this procedure. I wonder what that means.”

I met the doctor. I asked him a good number of questions about how the procedure was accomplished. The mechanisms of catheterizing a vein that kept it from leaking. I asked which vein. He told me he was going to install the catheter in the jugular vein.

I said, “That sounds scary.”

“It is scary,” he laughed. I laughed with him. “But I have been doing this procedure for 20 years. When the catheter is installed in the jugular vein, it is less likely to clot.”

“You must do this a lot. Do you do any other procedures?”

“I used to do other procedures, but since I came to MD Anderson, I only do Central Ports.”


“I have done this procedure over 12,700 times.”

“Whoa. So I was reading that Avantis shouldn’t be administered within 28 days of a surgery because of the bleeding and all that.”

“In the 12,700 times I have performed this procedure, the catheter has only separated ONE time, and that was my fault. I only had a little bit of tubing left, so I only had a small bit left to clamp down. When under pressure, the tube separated. Now I will just open a new tubing package. So that was one time and had nothing to do with a side effect of the chemo administered through the central port.”

Every answer sounded like he had given it a thousand times. Not because he was boring, but because he was animated. Almost rehearsed. He talked without pauses. Like a weatherman explaining how the moisture was going to push off to the east outside of Punxsutawney.

“Did that answer your question,” with a smile.

“That more than explained my question. I feel unworried about that concern now.”

“Any more questions?”

“No. I think that covers it.”

“All right, I’ll see you in the other room.”

Minutes later I was wheeled to the other room. A room I was warned would be ice cold by the nurses and confirmed by my nurse mother. I was convinced that warm blankets were a good idea. The other room was a perfect room temperature.

Versed is a strange sedation that I have had a few times. I didn’t actually know that I was sedated. I had the idea several times to remove the overly warm blankets or to say something or to reach up with my hands to feel what he was doing mucking about inside my neck. I never had the sensation of can’t – like I want to do that but I can’t. It was more like – I don’t feel like trying.

About halfway through the procedure, someone turned on some music. The doctor started singing “What a Wonderful World” while mucking about inside my neck. Then it was “Beyond the Sea” followed by others that I can’t recall right now. During each, I thought I should join him, but then I didn’t want to try. He was doing such a great job. The nurse was wiping my chest and neck repeatedly.

In Post-Op, I started to snap out of it. I was asked for a urine sample and the nurse gave me my clothes when I went to the bathroom. I filled the sample cup and took the gown off. I saw what why the nurse had been wiping my chest and neck because she was unable to get all of the blood.

The picture totally changed for me. The doctor playfully singing “What a Wonderful World” became the doctor singing “What a Wonderful World” while cutting into the jugular vein in my neck. Blood pouring down my neck. A scene from a horror movie. I knew it was probably still as playful as it seemed, but I love the image. It made me laugh.

We were all wrapped up with neck catheters by 9:30am and I felt stupid, so I texted the recruiter with the company that wanted to see me at 11:30 to tell them I would be coming. My mother drove me home still all drugged up. I changed. We ate some bagels. I changed my clothes. Then we drove over to the Galleria/Uptown area – only a couple miles from my new apartment.

As I waltzed through the beautiful lobby singing “Beyond the Sea” under my breath, the drugs wore off and I wondered why the fuck I had agreed to do this. Just then, my main contact introduced herself. Finally face to face. I met her colleague. We sat in a very nice conference room talking about computers and people not knowing what they want. Writing code. Servers. Organizational difficulties.

They asked me questions about my approach to working with people and promoting change. I queued up an answer I have carefully crafted over the last four weeks of doing interviews for jobs that I didn’t want. I sounded rehearsed. I left no pauses between my thoughts, because it is annoying to be interrupted before finishing my thoughts.

Suddenly I was aware of the tube sticking out of my chest underneath my shirt. The blood that still really hadn’t been cleaned off of my skin properly (I can’t shower until Monday – doctor’s orders). I had just come from surgery to an interview that I was still uncertain I would be able to do while on chemo. Then I was back in the room with my canned answers and my rehearsed jokes and smiles. And I thought, “Sure I can do this job 12,700 more times while on chemo. The only time I really ever couldn’t do the job is when I thought I couldn’t.”

I accepted their offer an hour ago.

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3 responses to “Surgery, Interviews, Guns…”

  1. Did I read this correctly- you went to a job interview semi-sedated? Maybe I should follow suit for my next one! You are an inspiration, friend.

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