Friday, November 5, 2010


                   Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season. From the moment the turkey comes out of the  oven, you find yourself thinking about things that hadn’t crossed your mind all year long. Suddenly, you’re wracking your brain trying to remember what your sister Chloe, or your aunt Rebecca pointed out to you that day at the mall. That thing you made a mental note of, and were going to buy and hold on to until the holidays came around. One whiff of pumpkin pie, cinnamon and nutmeg and you’re reminded that you were supposed to be ten pounds lighter by now!

             Thanksgiving is a joyous day, and also a “good” guilt day. Good guilt is the kind you keep to yourself, the kind that doesn’t hurt or affect anyone around you. The kind you can shed whenever you’re ready.

While most people on Thanksgiving remember aunt Rebecca and are still ten pounds heavier than they hoped to be, my mind goes to another dimension. It happens every year. I’m standing in front of big bird, eyeing the instrument in my hand, having nothing but one thought. Liver biopsy.

I’m quite familiar with the instrument; I mean the biopsy needle much more than the turkey basting syringe. I can’t count the times a doctor, with a quick slight of his hand, plunged the long, thick needle into my skin under which my liver lies. Before I knew it, the procedure was over, and the doctor had extracted a sliver of my liver.

Big bird was dinner, but I had been there too.  

On the day of the Oscars two years ago, I was all smiles. Sure, my body was swollen with fluid since my organs were only four months old. This reaction was similar to when you bang your head. The bump that forms is liquid protecting the traumatized area. I was full of fluid, protecting me from the transplants. This healthy, bodily function made me smile, but it was my husband’s nomination for an Academy Award, which was the real reason for my smiles.

A few hours before attending the event, a doctor at UCLA Medical Center stood over me, holding the “turkey baster” while I lay in the pan, I mean on the cot. As soon as the needle pierced my belly, the bottle began to fill fast. 18 liters later, I went from being a plumper to shrinking to a Foster Farm size turkey filet (I love that commercial). Lying on the cot, I turned to the three full bottles and thought, Oh Lord, that’s all I need, is to look like a dried up prune on the red carpet.

Thankfully, I looked like my usual, belly-less self. I drove home light on my feet and relieved, ready to slip into my skin-tight Oscar gown. I had left the house in the morning with a beer belly, and had returned with washboard abs. Well, not quite. Anyway, I was going to the Oscars with my youngest son and my husband, the nominee for best Foreign Film. We had a blast on the red carpet and laughed at Hugh Jackman's jokes. We didn’t win, but all three of us looked and felt like winners.

                     I’ve been telling myself not to think about liver biopsies and needles this Thanksgiving, but somehow, I have the feeling it will happen again. It has become my “good” guilt. I’ve got this, I said to myself smiling devilishly, standing in the kitchen, turkey baster in hand last year, you’re going to be the most delicious, juicy bird ever. I strategically plunged the juice-filled, five-inch long syringe into the bird, with all the precision of a surgical instrument. While I gave my turkey its biopsy, I couldn’t help but stare at the liver resting in the juices at the bottom of the pan. 

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