April 3, 2013 —
Medical terminology is my new muse. It’s almost poetic. “Mass, mobile and firm” was the caption on one of the snapshots my doctor handed me of my recent endoscopy, while I was still woozy from the Propofol (reportedly Michael Jackson’s drug of choice).
A Schatzki’s Ring surrounds my esophagus, but not so much that I can’t breathe. An old hiatal hernia was reignited by the endoscope that squiggled its way to my abdomen, a paparazzi to my polyps and the mass, “suspicious of a GIST.” As I understand it, a GIST, short for Gastro-Intestinal Stroma Tumor, is rare. Malignant and benign at once, it is a good metaphor for life.
My abdominal discomfort continues, not wholly explained by the recent battery of tests. My internist said, “That’s the trouble with those tests—they find things that are better left alone.” I guess that’s why he’s an internist and not a surgeon. He was trying to lessen my fear, I suspect. For a few days after the endoscopy I was in denial. It was a pleasant state. But then I made the mistake of consulting the god Internet. Before bed. I had an awful night full of significant dreams and woke early, frozen in place while I pondered mortality.
I considered not sharing my new knowledge with my spouse. But who am I kidding? I share everything. Witness this column. It was good that I did. Together we decided it was too early to divvy up the silver and the art.
Soon, there will be more tests. An endoscopic ultrasound is next, to determine how or whether to extract the mass, which I am told can be done laparoscopically. Amazing.
Then there will be the dread colonoscopy. I will try, dear Reader, not to share it with you. I encourage you to get your own, especially if you’re over 50. And what are you doing reading a newspaper if you’re not over 50?
I suspect that the reason people retire at 65 is so they have time for all the doctor visits required for longevity. Between Physical Therapy and Ultrasound, Endoscopy and Therapy, I barely have time to read the paper, let alone work. But time is what I have and it’s getting more dear every day.
As friends and relatives pass on, sometimes much too soon, my everyday gripes pale. My friend Sheila has a few years on me. As a lawyer she spends her time defending political prisoners. On her own time, she travels far and wide. In a recent missive from India she quoted a line from the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”—“Here, people view life as a privilege, not an absolute right.”
In my last column, I made a promise hastened by the shock of the sudden death of Peter English at age 48. In the month that has ensued I realized it was best to leave his family in peace to work out their enormous grief. Peter was well-loved by Cathy Maguire and their children Liam and Oona and by a large family. He was liked by everyone, it seems, and especially by those who did business with him, which included most of the artists in the river valley. Peter’s last profession was as a framer of fine art. He was self-taught and had an artist’s eye, evidenced by the handsome house he left his family. His death was sudden, but his life was full of purpose and love—a good road map for the rest of us.