Today, a stranger flipped me off on the freeway.
I’d been driving well within the speed limit, my mind on an upcoming colonoscopy, the cold, hard reality of a doctor’s My Chart response — after I’d asked why I needed to have another one so soon:
“Last colonoscopy was 10/2015. Rationale for 1 year follow up was that polyp removed from ascending colon had precancerous potential (sessile serrated adenoma) and the hemorrhoid that was resected also had a precancerous polyp (tubular adenoma). We do not know if the tubular adenoma was completely removed. Since we are almost 2 years from last procedure, it is reasonable to repeat colonoscopy. I do not anticipate that Carol will need colonoscopy as frequently after this. Subsequent exam will likely be in 3-5 years.”
The stranger had no way of knowing. But even if he/she had, it wouldn’t have mattered. Even if I managed to stop them further along down I-405 North, the person would’ve shrugged, stared through me, and told me to go fuck myself. Believe me, I know these things.
I told a few friends a few days ago in an email. They never responded. I texted another woman, someone I thought would— well, never mind. She texted back, “So frustrating!” and went about her day with her new friends. Only one cared enough to spend some time talking about his own health issues, conveying his concern, on Facebook in a PM.
My mother, my brother, and his wife in Hawaii wouldn’t care at all. So, I’m not going to tell them.
What I’m going through is more than the upcoming colonoscopy. I was supposed to have my one-year follow-up in Oct. but I kept putting it off because of this doctor. She scared me to death the first time. When I tried to look for hope, she shut me down, couching her words toward cancer every time. Even when I was sure it was just a prolapsed hemorrhoid I’d been dealing with for most of my adult life — I’d already had three surgeries to remove my hemorrhoids, but they just grew back — she kept insisting it could be something worse.
Even after a surgeon removed the suspicious mass, confirmed it was a prolapsed hemorrhoid but with a tubular adenoma (she said benign polyp — aka, “no cancer”) at the apex, that wasn’t good enough. The colonoscopy doctor needed to keep an eye on it, since she wasn’t sure the entire polyp had been removed.
The other reason I avoided another colonoscopy is my fear of losing complete continence if more polyps/hemorrhoids needed removal. I can’t afford another hemorrhoidectomy; my sphincter walls are already weak from the many hemorrhoids and that one anal fistula doctors removed/dug out.
After the first anal fistulectomy (circa, 1995), I had to quit my job as an assistant editor of a trade publication. I couldn’t leave my apartment. I couldn’t eat or drink anything without having an accident, and not the small kind.
I remember taking two spoonfuls of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup the day after my surgery, rising with a sense of unease, and watching a flood of liquid bile pour out of my rear, through the sides of my underwear, down my legs — in a horrific gush.
I would spend about five to six years running for cover, admitting defeat, buying adult diapers, hating myself in the mirror because everything I wore bulked up embarrassingly from behind. Even the adult diapers didn’t help when I had an accident. They weren’t enough.
So, my next colonoscopy (because I’m precancerous, you see) is July 17, four days before my son, my only child gets to play his first soccer tournament with a new team since his last MCL tear that took him out of the JV season this spring.
I’m deathly afraid the new colonoscopy doctor (I had to switch to the one my husband sees) will find cancerous polyps near the rectum, remove them, cut into more muscle, weaken my already weakened sphincter, and I will never be able to see my son play soccer again.
But wait, there’s more.
When I had my first colonoscopy in Oct. 2015, nobody went into any detail about the polyps they’d found. The doctor and nurses only focused on the suspicious mass sticking out of my butt — stuck on the prolapsed hemorrhoid (previous doctors and surgeons repeatedly told me was a prolapsed hemorrhoid that would just continue to grow).
My husband and I remember them dismissing two or three other polyps as benign, not even that large, but making a big deal about my prolapsed hemorrhoid. Nobody said precancerous. Nobody pointed out the dangers of sessile serrated polyps, which can be especially aggressive if left untreated and the reason for “interval cancer,” or the even more dangerous cancer source, that tubular adenoma.
I had to find out on my own.
While desperately searching my online records, I stumbled on the surgeon’s notes from an appointment, where she mentioned an ovarian cyst from the CT scan they’d ordered right after my first colonoscopy.
Ovarian cyst?! Could that be the reason I’d felt sharp, stabbing pain in my lower right (that’s where the cyst was) pelvis area? Why I can only eat a few bites of food before I feel full/nauseous a lot of the time?
When I asked the colonoscopy staff about the ovarian cyst, a nurse directed me to pursue the matter with an ob-gyn. So I am. My first appt. is July 6. Fingers crossed.
I came home today after a stranger gave me the finger for not driving fast enough on I-405… to find my husband busily making Caesar salad for an office potluck tomorrow. He casually said he’d gone to a walk-in clinic for his irregular skipping heartbeat.
The doctor there diagnosed him with PVC (premature ventricular contractions), but not to worry since he believed it to be benign. An EKG is in order, just to rule out the worst-case-scenario.
My husband also starts the next round of BCG treatments for his bladder cancer, July 18 — one day after my colonoscopy.
Alas, nobody cares. It’s summer. They have their own problems.
Dealing with scary issues like health is an utterly lonely proposition. All of the people in my life I thought loved me… I don’t know anymore.
All of the things I’ve done for them, all of the times I said I love them, all of the times I dropped everything for them… All of the goddamned effort I put into each and every relationship was for what?
Do me a favor: Keep your eulogies to yourselves.
I don’t care about you anymore.