Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Word or Two About Colonoscopies

Two days ago I checked in for a routine colonoscopy and discovered, much to my surprise, that I am 54 years old. This was quite a shock, as I was fairly certain I was still 53. At this rate, I’ll be well on my way to 60 in no time at all. As it was, I hadn’t eaten for a day and a half and my digestive system had been going through hell since the night before, so I’m fairly certain I looked at least 54, maybe even 55.

Should I be sad about my impending old age? I mean, what’s the alternative? If I weren’t progressing chronologically I wouldn’t be alive, would I? So isn’t aging the better option?

I could be stubborn about the entire thing and claim that I want neither to be dead, nor to be aging, but that sort of viewpoint is rather illogical, isn’t it? It’s not as if mother nature is playing a cruel joke on me or anything. I’m fairly certain that everyone else is going through the same sort of thing – unless one’s a vampire, but then there’s whole “can’t be out in the sun” issue. I’m not sure it’d be a good trade-off.

It’s not the aging that bothers me, it’s the pain in my legs and being so tired I could really use a good nap right about now. Those things have nothing to do with age however, so I can’t lay the blame on the calendar, as much as I would like to blame someone.

But there are so many good things about aging! In no particular order:

  1.  No one expects me to look like I’m 20 anymore. This is good, since even at 20 I didn’t look like I was 20.
  2.  I’m wiser now than I was then. That’s not saying a hell of a lot, since being wise isn’t a) all it’s cracked up to be, and b) not something I’m really good at, even now. But still.
  3.  AARP has me on their radar and sends me lots of lovely junk mail.
  4. I can turn down invitations with “I’m old and feeble, and so therefore can’t go.” This usually gets me a disdainful look, but I’m too old to care.
  5. I can start planning for my retirement! You know, the one that I won’t be able to take for a good many years yet since I have a teeny little retirement account.
  6. I no longer have to wonder, “Should I have kids, or should I not?” Really, it’s sort of late to think of things like that.
  7. I get to have routine things like colonoscopies!

II   I think number 7 is definitely the best part of being older. I had so much fun not eating for a whole day, then ingesting vile fluid that turned my insides to fluid, which had to come out repeatedly over and over again all night, then the next morning, when I got to ingest more vile fluid. While I was doing so, I was thinking: Really? This is necessary? They can’t figure out a better way to take a look at things? This is modern medicine at its finest?

Everyone says a colonoscopy is no big deal. And they’re absolutely correct. It’s the prep that sucks the most, and the colonoscopy itself is a breeze, mostly because I had no idea what was going on when it was going on. Afterwards I was ready for a huge meal, and then a long nap.

I know what happens when one doesn’t get diagnosed in time, and so how important a colonoscopy is. My friend Stew, who stars in An Uncommon Friendship: a memoir of love, mental illness, and friendship, didn’t get one when he needed one, and he was only in his mid 30’s, so it hadn’t come up. Instead, he was subjected to all other kinds of tests and diagnoses and procedures, and by the time they got around to figuring out he had colon cancer, it was too late, and it had already spread to his liver. I watched from a distance as he grew worse, and then I was there with him for his last days, and I sat with him and told him everything would be okay.

“Okay” when one is dying doesn’t mean the same thing as when one is not dying.

For months he threw up everything he ate, and even during those last days, anything ingested came back up, even a few sips of a smoothie. We couldn’t even give him morphine orally because it would come up also. Instead, he received topical morphine, rubbed into his arm.

Here’s what I have to say about colonoscopies: If you’re of the age when you should be screened, get one. Seriously. It’s a major pain in the ass (pun intended), and I’m happy knowing I won’t have to do it for another ten years, but it’s better to find out if there’s something going on sooner rather than later. Early detection = better chance of beating it. This is coming from someone who tends toward the “whatever” philosophy regarding her own health, so if I were you, I’d listen.

I don’t want to watch anyone else die from colon cancer. I’d rather everyone get old with me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Queen Gives Us A Scare

Our oldest dog, Honey, is 14 or so. She's aged very gracefully, much better than I have, and at the last vet visit was declared in fabulous health fora dog her age. Still, knowing she's 14, we're on the lookout for any signs that things may be going awry.

Going awry happens to all of us eventually, doesn't it?

Late last night we were hanging out on the couch, as we tend to do late at night when we're considering going to bed but not yet up to making the long trek up the stairs. Ash was probably laying next to me with his head in someone's lap, or close to it, probably me, since he finds me very comforting. We saw Honey get up from the carpet and walk towards the kitchen, behind us. She does this sort of thing all the time. "Should I lay here? Should I lie there?" She still has trouble with lay and lie, not knowing which is the appropriate word. It's okay -- she's a dog and not expected to have perfect grammar.

We heard her lay down, behind us, on the floor, which she seems to like because it's cool, and then we heard scrambling and thrashing.

Scrambling and thrashing are not sounds we're used to, though occasionally she slips on the hardwood floor and then tries to cover it up by acting as if she meant to do it all along. Andrew looked over the couch and I said, "What's going on over there?" I can't see back there because my head doesn't do 180 degree turns. I  blame my parents for not producing something more functional when they made me.

"I don't know," he said, "But . . . "

And then he jumped up and ran to her. "There's something wrong!"

I ran to her also, as did Ash, who regards Honey with all the reverence due a supreme being.

Her head was at an awkward angle, twisted so that her left eye appeared to be bulging because of the angle of her neck, and she looked desperate and unhappy and confused. We knelt by her and tried to move her head, but it wouldn't move, and her desperation didn't seem to be dissipating, despite the fact the three of us were standing over her like avenging angels. Of course, it wasn't avenging angels she needed, it was help of some sort, if only us stupid humans could figure it out.

"We need to take her to the vet," I said, and Andrew went looking for the number to the emergency vet.

We recently used the emergency vet when Ash consumed chocolate chocolate cake to celebrate my birthday, so we know which one to go to.

As Andrew looked up the info I stayed with Honey, and I petted her and told her everything was going to be okay. Then I looked at her as a whole, instead of focusing on her head and her bulging panicked eyes. "Hey," I said to the poor thing, "Where's your other leg?" I could see one back leg on the side she was laying on, it was right there where it was supposed to be, on the floor, but the other one, where was it? The one leg was there, but there should have been two legs. When last I saw her she had two back legs, not just one.

Did I mention that this year Honey has grown a fabulously healthy thick long coat? It's gold and soft and fabulous, and things can get lost in there.

Like legs.

I found her other back leg at her neck. She'd broken a toenail on that foot, and when she'd been scratching herself up at her neck, or ears, the toe had caught in some of that luxurious fur and was stuck there. My dog was not having a seizure, or an attack of some sort, and she wasn't anywhere close to being terminal. She just had her toe stuck to her fur, which was why her head was twisted to the side with the toe attached to it.

Oh sure, it's funny now.

I yelled out that she was fine, that I'd found the problem and what I really needed was a pair of scissors, because that fur was not going to be dislodged easily. Andrew couldn't find the scissors, and as he ran around looking for them I tried to separate her toe from the fur that was quite attached to it. Just as he gave up on the scissors and brought me a knife I separated the toe, with the hair coming loose in a big clump, and Honey was free.

She was shaking quite a bit by then, no doubt more alarmed by my panic than by the fact that her toe was stuck to her neck, so I sat down with her in the living room and we calmed each other down while I cut off the offending toenail. I tried another toenail as well, but she wasn't ready to have anything else done, so I made an appointment with her to do some more grooming on both toes and fur today. If she cancels on me she has to pay a cancellation fee.

She's fine, and she says the only problem is that she would like to have servants who are a bit quicker with a diagnosis. I told her too bad, she's stuck with us.