(With apologies to Harvey and Joyce Pekar)
Facebook reminded me that today is the one year anniversary of my first trip to the local Emergency Department to figure out what was wrong with me and my butt.
At the time, I really thought it was just hemorrhoids, maybe a fissure. At the time, the ED was packed with masked people waiting to be seem, some in a state of great pain covered in blankets and rolled into a corner to wait for a bed that was hours from becoming available. At the time, I thought my situation wasn’t worthy of keeping these people from their turn.
My wife and I stayed 12 hours in the waiting room before they took us back for a quick look-see up my bum. They didn’t see anything in their superficial exam. They didn’t go more than a fingertip deep. By the time I got back into an exam room, I hadn’t developed any new symptoms or demonstrated any of the things that brought me into the hospital in the first place. I was given the option to wait there for several more hours and check into a room for more examinations and tests or go home. If the symptoms returned, I was instructed to come back.
So we went home. My poor wife, exhausted from sitting in a plastic chair and keeping me from losing my mind over my situation, fell asleep quick. I couldn’t sleep. I had a feeling something was wrong and they had missed whatever it was in the name of expedience. At the time, I was still someone who didn’t want to be a bother or get under foot. So I let it go, hoping that things would just get better and the symptoms would disappear.
The next day, the key event that sent me to the ED repeated itself, so it was back to the ED for another 10 hour wait before we just gave up and made arrangements to see my family doctor, who referred me for a colonoscopy.
And the rest is our cancer year.
I was terrified in that waiting room. I spent half of a day crying and shaking, wondering what was happening to my body, what it could mean. My blood work at the time did not suggest anything DIRE, like – y’know – the big “C”, but I wasn’t given all the tests and had yet to have someone take a deeper look into the problem area.
It has been a year since that first step to figuring out what was wrong and I am glad my wife encouraged me not to ignore it. Those who live the life of fighting colorectal cancer recommend that ANYONE over the age of 45 get their colonoscopy and follow the recommendations for follow-ups every decade, five years, or annually. If you have a family history of cancer or any CR diseases, it is imperative to have this exam. Catching polyps and malignancies early on can mean a smoother ride to a cure.
I was “staged” at 2A, meaning they caught the tumor early enough that I didn’t die. Given what happened to me over the last year, a more aggressive round of chemotherapy infusions would have likely put me down for good. Instead, I was only hospitalized with viral infections twice, once with a blood pressure reading so low that the cuffs couldn’t detect any at all.
My wife was advised to prepare herself for the worst. But my asshole is like me; an asshole. I wasn’t going to die that day. In fact the medics who carted me down the stairs in a chair said they had never encountered someone in my condition conscious, much less speaking.
I guess that’s a product of me being too stupid to know when I’m supposed to die.
So “happy”(?) anniversary on the day that saved my life.