Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Personal Glimpse at Mortality

When does that childhood belief in personal immortality end? When do we stop believing we are invincible?

When we’re young, we believe we can’t be hurt. We do stupid things – we ride our bikes in traffic; we jump off of roofs; we step out between two parked cars; we cross the street without looking both ways.

Even though our parents warned us not to.

As we get older, we take different chances. We drive over the speed limit or force a long yellow light.

Or ride motorcycles.

We go out in the sun without proper protection. We eat undercooked meat and have unprotected, premarital sex without a second thought.

And even when we come face to face with death, we rarely blink. We curse, we cry, but how often do we alter our behavior?

P.Pie’s father’s passing was a terrible dose of reality. And Doss’s passing was a cruel slap in the face.

But neither of those incidents made me think of my own mortality. In the last ten days, that’s changed.

[ed. note: it gets a little gross here, continue at your own risk]

Recently, I had noticed some blood in my stool. Since I have a history colon cancer in my family, I was immediately concerned. So I made an appointment with my regular doctor.
[ed. note: that’s actually saying a lot. I hate going to the doctor and will put it off until I’m almost blind from pain.]

After a short but uncomfortable examine, Dr. Nose proclaimed that the bleeding was NOT from hemorrhoids. I would need a colonoscopy for a *ahem* closer look.

My initial thought was that the colonoscopy would be the worst part of it. It wasn’t. As it turns out, these days they give you a valium/morphine blend which the call ‘conscious sedation.’ Great high and you don’t remember any of the unpleasant parts.

No, the worst part was the gallon of colyte they make you drink to clean you out. Basically it tastes like a glass of water that had a handful of pennies soaking in it. Actually, it tastes like 15 eight ounce glasses of water, each with a handful of pennies in it. Really, really, awful.

But I did it and it’s a good thing I did.

The bleeding was indeed caused by a polyp in my descending colon.

When my father was 44, he had colon cancer – a quarter-sized polyp that they took out with part of his colon. I’m 38 and my polyp is the size of a softball.

Due to its size, the doctor did not want take it out immediately with out knowing its cancer status. So they took a biopsy and sent it off to be tested. If it came back cancerous or strongly pre-cancerous, they would want to cut me open and take out part of my guts with the polyp.

If it was non-cancerous or super-early pre-cancerous, they would take it out the same way they found it. While the idea of that sounds less than fun, it’s better than being cut on; if they cut me open, I’ll be in the hospital for 7-10 days.

The other way is an outpatient event.

I got the results back Wednesday. While it’s a monstrous size, it’s in the super-early pre-cancerous stage. They won’t have to operate.

Of course, this is only the halfway mark; once they get it out, they will do more tests on the polyp and if they see anything that looks dangerous, they will re-evaluate the course of action. That can mean opening me up anyway to remove some of my colon, or potentially some chemo.

As you might imagine, I’ve been a little stressed out. Thankfully, P.Pie and the Squeaker have been uber-positive and buoyed my spirits.

The great biopsy news helped, too.