The Scope of Things Too Numb

By Finn Årup Nielsen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Finn Årup Nielsen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Scopes are one thing I love about allopathy, a.k.a. “Western medicine” (a strange term, when you stop to think about it). Even Hippocrates would have appreciated the idea of shoving a camera into a human orifice and taking a visual safari through the guts of the matter.

Numbness is a second aspect of allopathy I truly appreciate. Drugs are freely provided to ensure that adventures like childbirth, surgery or scopes do not hurt—and incidentally to keep the patient from squirming too much. “First do no harm,” said Hippocrates. A drug-enhanced colonoscopy and glendoscopy certainly fall within that definition. After all, the docs are just investigating, right? In the most delightful way. Again, I am appreciative, even as the social philosopher in me wonders at the liberality of society’s drug-filled hand in the hospital while out in open society the other stingy hand slaps people into jail for alleviating pain with a certain common green herb.

In spite of studiously avoiding taking crazy pills so far, I most certainly dwell in Crazy Land.

Once blood is found in one’s stool, the rest of life in Crazy Land will be punctuated by scopes every few years. Thus, bathroom renovations are in order, since one is likely to spend considerable time there in preparation for said scopes. You might as well enjoy doing time there; so install a competent fan and lay in a supply of humorous books, together with a set of reading glasses. A phone or phone jack might be a good idea since we naturally forget our phones outside the bathroom and, as everyone knows, the surest way to make the phone ring is to visit the bathroom or start a shower or bath. Other items to consider when preparing the bathroom for a life of scopery are a sybaritic bidet, heated floor tile, tankless hot water in case you want to take a shower “every time”, bag balm and NetFlix.

Understandably, in order for the scope to see all the little growths your good bugs may not have been able to vanquish, all the muck in one’s gut must be cleared out. So, the day before, it’s Chemistry to the Rescue! Pay attention to the body on this day—it’s not going to pay any attention to you. Indeed, the lesson to be learned here is simple: You Are Not the Boss!

Somebody’s yammering at me, “What’s bag balm?” For those of you who have never nursed a baby, yearning to comfort overworked, tender tissue, it’s greasy stuff, originally devised for nursing sheep (hence “bag balm” rather than “titty toner”) that comes in a pretty tin. Remember that joke where all the body parts argue about which of them is most important to human existence? Remember who wins? Right: give those poor, overworked tissues some love.

The morning after your Bathroom Holiday, there you stand in the hospital lobby, ready for your Drug Holiday, which, alas, takes only a handful of hours, whereupon your private chauffeur will drive your addled self back home. When you finally sober up, you remember that you will now wait two weeks for the lab results. If you’re a Thoroughly Modern Patient, you hop online impatiently to see if the report has come in yet.

In my case, having not a single symptom of stomach, esophageal or throat cancer, and having had a colonoscopy a mere eight months earlier, I expected these scopes to be clear. Unproductive. Nada. I had imagined myself scooting over to the internist’s office a day or two later for the next scope, the rarely done small-bowel scope, which involves swallowing a tiny camera that will scour the 20-foot tube of “velvety tissue” for carcinoid tumors, adenomas and anything nasty and likely to interfere with the continuation of digestion. Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I imagine it’s also a bit more expensive, since I had had to talk pretty hard to wring this promise from the internist.

I was shocked to learn that a small polyp had been found in the colon and an entire family of them in the stomach. Big suckers, too: two of them over an inch. They had feet: they were pedunculated. Only one foot apiece, I assume. These feet weren’t made for walking, thank goodness. Still…eeuw.

The lab report straggled in. All three bits of me that had traveled to Vancouver were benign. No source of the blood loss was found, either. On meeting with the surgeon, however, who led me through the pictures one by one with patience and skill, I learned that benignancy is not necessarily a permanent state. Left alone, these footed little growths would eventually be malign. Cancer. He put me on a three-year schedule for repeat scopes, a recognition of the truth that was dawning on me and leaving me more numb than the anaesthetic had done.

This body is still busy doing cancer. We don’t know where it is. And some of the MDs don’t much care where it is—it’ll show up, sometime, somehow.

You suspect this has something to do with your polymyalgia? Huh? Pesky patients! They get these crazy ideas off the internet….

There’s only one person who can save this body from itself. Me.


Image by Finn Årup Nielsen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


This post and others made possible with help from generous contributors to the Wellness 4 Wolffy campaign. If you enjoy this blog and want to see more posts like this one, please help support Wolffy in her quest to get well.

An image saying "Wellness 4 Wolffy" in blue text. Two wolves stand howling on either side of the text, and the number 4 rests over a paw print.

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