Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"I've had enough bad news to last a lifetime" - Del Amitri

OK, it's been a stressful couple of weeks for me. I'm going to try to write about it without getting into too many specifics because, well, you just don't need to know them.

In a nutshell, a two-week period a couple of weeks ago involved 3 different doctors, a dentist (just coincidental) and a blood test at the lab.

For the past two years, I've had an issue with some wee beasties swimming around in my bloodstream. They can check your blood for certain markers that indicate the evidence of said beasties. As I understand it, any numbers below 10 mean you don' t have the beasties, any numbers from 11 to 100 are inconclusive, and any numbers over 1oo indicate the positive presence of the beasties. My first blood test indicated markers over the 1,000 level. Now this isn't dangerous, but it's a little off-putting, if you know what I mean, to know that there are little wee beastie parties going on in your body. There's nothing to be done to evict the beasties except to wait for them to get tired of the neighborhood and decide to move on.

Anyway, every 6 months or so I'd get another blood test and every time, my numbers would actually increase. Apparently the beasties found my body a very attractive place to live. I mean, the temperature's a pretty constant 98.6 degrees F, food is provided daily, lots of entertainment opportunities, housing prices are low, the schools are good, nearby shopping, and so forth.

On my last doctor visit, he prescribed yet another blood test and explained to me that some people never get rid of the beasties and go on to live, and I love this phrase, perfectly normal lives. This is the same guy who would describe a truck full of Jell-O Pudding rolling over your chest as "a little pressure". Anyway, as I was about to leave, he asked if there were any other issues and, like the addle-pated idiot that I am, I mentioned a small development that had occurred recently. He immediately got the doctoral look of concern and demanded to check me out. He poked, he prodded, he actually inserted things into me. He then declared that I would probably need surgery and referred me to a surgeon.

So the next morning I go to the lab and get impaled for a blood test. A few days later, I go to see the surgeon. He poked, he prodded, he inserted things into me. He asked how old I was. When I told him that I was 52, he asked when I had my last colonoscopy. I told him that I'd never had a colonoscopy. He said that he wouldn't even consider operating on me until I had a pre-op colonoscopy and a pre-op checkup with my physician including an EKG. He then referred me to a gastroenterologist.

So a few days later I go to see the third doctor. I got a description which sounded to me like, "We move a full crew and lots of heavy machinery into your body, burn off anything that's in the way, snip off anything we don't like, and get lots of before-and-after photos. It's incredibly painful, but you'll be unconscious." You're damn straight I will.

I won't give you any information at all about the day-before preparation for the colonoscopy, except to say that I was very disappointed to learn that vodka does not count as a "clear liquid" for these purposes.

So I'm in for the procedure. I can tell that my body is in full retreat because they had to stab me 3 times before they found a vein. I'm wearing a T-shirt, socks, and a gown that's, shall we say, immodest. They had me roll over on my side and I watched as the doctor put the hypodermic into the IV drip (it was a clear liquid, I would've rather gone with the vodka). The last thing I remember seeing was the large television set on which my intestinal tract would soon be displayed in hi-def. This, folks, is reality TV.

Finally, we come to the good news. Six months ago, the markers for the wee beasties in my bloodstream had escalated to 3,435. In this last blood test, the number was down to 8. Remember that anything below 10 means no infection. Also, after the procedure, the gastroenterologist told me that everything looked good and that, to quote him, "Surgery is not indicated." Just as the three greatest words in the English language are "I love you", the 4 greatest words are "surgery is not indicated". Trust me.

Plus I got a whole folder full of pictures of my innards.

No, no matter how much you beg, I will not post them here.

I'm hale and healthy, folks. Also, next week starts two weeks' vacation for me, and I get to enjoy it knowing that I'm wee beastie-free and I don't have the prospect of surgery hanging over my head.

For all of these things, I am grateful.

Gone, gone at last, gone at last
Gone at last, gone at last
I had a long streak of that bad luck
But I'm prayin' it's gone at last
--Paul Simon

Monday, October 5, 2009

Unclear On The Concepts

I don't know if it's me or if things around me have started changing. I find myself uttering the phrase, "You're kidding, right?" a whole lot more often than I used to.

We went to the movies yesterday (The Invention of Lying, a very funny concept that could have easily been condensed into a 5-minute Saturday Night Live skit but was a bit stretched for a 2-hour movie). Before going into the theater, we made the ritual stop at the concession counter.

If you've been to the movies lately, you know that a small popcorn comes in grocery sack and a small drink comes in a 55-gallon drum. A large popcorn is backed in on a flatbed truck and a large drink is delivered via fuel tanker. We ordered a small popcorn and a small Mr. Pibb. The guy behind the counter asked if we'd like to upgrade to a large and informed us that by doing so, we'd get free refills.


Is it just me? If I've ordered the smallest version of something that you offer, would I ever want to get the larger version if all that gets me is even more of what I've just ordered? Who came up with this marketing ploy? Does anybody ever accept this offer? If so, why?

I can see where this might work at, say, a bar. If I ordered a margarita and the waitperson told me that if I got a jumbo margarita then I could get free refills, I'd certainly go for it. But if I don't think I can even finish your smallest pork chop, don't try to sell me a whole pork loin by telling me that I have the option for free pigs.

And now, a brief word on conjunctions. Before the movie, our good friends at Sprint put a reminder on the screen that said, "Don't forget to silence your cell phone and enjoy the movie", which immediately prompted me to say, "Gosh, I remembered to silence my cell phone, but I forgot to enjoy the movie." You see, these were two different, unrelated concepts that they were trying to convey here. They didn't need the "and", and it changed the whole meaning of the sentence. What they wanted there was two sentences: "Don't forget to silence your cell phone. Enjoy the movie."

Yeah, yeah, I know. Trivial little English language peeve. Nobody except Bilbo and me cares. However conjunctions can make a difference in interpretation. Consider the following two sentences:

1) He's got long hair and he's brilliant.

2) He's got long hair but he's brilliant.

When using "and", the first clause is simply descriptive. When using "but", there's an implication that he's brilliant despite the fact that he has long hair, and therefore that long-haired guys are not, as a rule, particularly smart.

Not sure how I got off on this tangent when I was talking about popcorn.

"It was a stupid post and I read the whole thing."

"It was a stupid post but I read the whole thing."

Come to think of it, conjunctions may not necessarily make such a big difference after all.

He's kidding, right?

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