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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

"...her face is a map of the world..."

The title comes from the song "Suddenly I See" by K.T. Tunstall.  You can find the full song lyrics HERE.  In the aftermath of last week's medical stuff (see THIS posting) I'm left thinking about some of the bigger things in life.  That's where the song lyric comes in:  It's this idea that somehow you can see in someone's very face the life that they have lived, the world they have been in (or, in some cases survived).  When I think about the life I've lived and the world I have been in, well, at times it's not always a pleasant sight.  Kind of just like my face.

Now I'll say right off the bat that I am far, far luckier than many.  Heck, I am only here by the graces of modern (well, at least late 1960s modern) medical technology, courtesy of a removed but-formerly-ruptured appendix when I was about 5 years old.  Lessor versions with that same story theme have played out over the years, and there have been a few occasions over the recent past as well.  There have also been plenty of occasions where, rather than somehow being able to celebrate the fact that I, unlike some others, didn't fall prey to some terrible thing, I've been left with a kind of pit-in-the-stomach form of survivor's guilt.  It's as if there is this thing inside of me that refuses to accept the positive side of just about anything.  

I am, according to some learned folks, hard-wired for adversity.  My mental machinery is designed to seek out and survive all that the world throws at me.  I am in a perpetual state of looking for threats and preparing for the worst.  Is this a good thing?  I don't know.  When I think though about what happens after literally decades of having that kind of constant tension in my life, I'm left wondering if there is a kind of physical toll to it all, a kin to a rubber band that has been stretched too far for too long.  Time, as they say, will tell.

Where does all this lead?  I don't really know.  What I do know is that I've been thinking a lot lately about the costs of survival.  I'm also wondering what more I need to do in order to get off the built-for-survival train that has carried me throughout these past 5 or so decades.  At some point, I should run out of threats, real or imaginary.  Then, in what could best be described as an adult-sized portion of irony, perhaps the final threat to me is the toll that decades of stress, anxiety, and surviving have taken.  Yes, the final threat may very well be me.

Finally, I know in my very gut that all of us, me included, are always capable of changing, learning, and growing.  I also know that part of the drive I describe above has helped me do some good things in my life as well.  Like most tools though, the trick is to use it as intended.  After all, you can use a $150 DeWalt drill to bang a nail into a wall (and break it in the process) or you can use a $20 hammer for that same purpose.  Life, it seems, always comes down to some kind of choice.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Tube Time

An actual joke I told the nurses who wheeled me into the procedure room for a recent combination endoscopy and colonoscopy...

Q:  What's the difference between the tubes used for a colonoscopy and an endoscopy?

A:  The taste.

I know, that's pretty horrible, but consider the fact that it's pretty darn hard to come up with an "endoscopy/colonoscopy" joke.  And yes, I actually came up with that all on my own.

What's definitely not a joke is the fact that I had been trying to get this procedure done since early 2000, and have endured more reschedules than Walmart has endured employee class-action lawsuits (I know, HR humor isn't very funny either).  Up until the actual event, my last procedure date was supposed to be July 29th, which got rescheduled a week beforehand to today.  For the record, anyone who thinks that COVID is no longer an issue in this country needs their head examined.

So what have I learned from this whole experience, outside of the fact that COVID is alive and well, still wreaking havoc with healthcare?

First, I shouldn't give driving directions while still under the lingering effects of sedation.  I actually had Ms. Rivers driving in circles around Scranton for a bit on the way home.

Second, I need to think long and hard about what happens next.  For example, they want to do another colonoscopy in a year, mostly because, in their estimation, my prep wasn't very good this time around.  I will note that following the rules was burned into me from an early age.  I followed the prep instructions to the letter.  Upon hearing this, one of the staff at the hospital suggested that I may need to do two days of prep for "2022 Colonoscopy 2.0".  This is where the "think long and hard" part comes into play.  At this stage, I am unwilling to do that; while my opinion could change, I doubt it will.  If you've ever been through colonoscopy prep you will know why.  I'll certainly consider other options, such as maybe different prep potions, but two days of broth, Gatorade, and orange jello?  I don't think so.

Third, the older you get, the more you think about the mortal coil.  My test results were not great, but, I am sure they could be much, much worse.  For example, the newly decreed lifetime forever ban on all things Advil (and its various cousins) will be a pain in my head, but if it stops some degree of gut rot, well, it's probably worth it.  Other things will not be quite so simple, such as potentially altering my diet away from that of an average 12-year-old boy and more towards that of a 58-year-old boy.

Finally, it's all so very, very tiring.  As noted above, I have been trying to get these tests done since 2000.  Now that it's over, well, I am just fatigued, both physically (from the IV joy juice they gave me) and mentally (all that time spent beforehand thinking about this, and the prospect of having other things to think about after the fact).  In the final analysis, though, this is life, which reminds me of the fact that the older I get, the more the John Mellencamp song Minutes to Memories makes sense.  

"There are no free rides, no one said it'd be easy"...