Archives For health

So.

It’s been quiet around here.

Well, it’s been a year. Heck, it’s been a couple of years. Life has a way of taking the wind out of your sails when you’re not looking.

Lots of things have happened; I turned 50. I’m parent to both a legal adult and a teenager. One whom I’m obliged to interact with in strictly an advisory capacity. And the other of whom wishes that were so.

I’ll leave you to figure out which is which (though the teen is oftentimes the more mature of the two).

In all seriousness, it’s been a journey of endeavoring to find a path forwards when my waistline isn’t the only thing in my life to go all pear-shaped.

Things have happened. Heavy things. Things I’m not sure I’m even ready to process yet. I mean how can I when my health is not great, my wife’s health is even worse than mine, and work is demanding more and more everyday…

Infirmity has a way of contracting one’s world till it seems as small as Hamlet’s nutshell. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the bandwidth (or the energy) to even begin to muster any outrage over the political climate in the U.S. (for instance). Life is more an unremitting treadmill of exhaustion and obligation.

It’s not that it’s a bad life, per se; I live in the wealthiest county in the world. I have a good family, a nice house… It’s just the weariness. The bone weariness. Nobody told me that one of life’s cruel jokes is that it demands more and more while taking health, energy, vitality at an ever-increasing rate as the years roll by.

Life seemingly takes more and more without truly giving anything back. It’s oftentime dry as sawdust, tedious… Repetitious. And I can’t fall apart; I’m the (as the saying goes) sole breadwinner for my family. It’s on my shoulders. It’s not that fun robbing Peter to pay Paul, keeping the bills paid, keeping a roof over our heads when more and more seems to be going out the door every day. Again, I’m not so much complaining as stating a fact (I know I live the most prosperous nation in the world, that I live what many would term a comfortable, middle class life; I get it). I guess it’s just getting harder and harder to get by on one income these days. Listen; I want to hustle, to bring home more green. I just don’t know how with: sleep apnea, thyroid disease, and my wife’s health challenges that take so much time and energy to address. I’m doing good to get up and go to the job I have… Seriously, I don’t measure my coffee in cups anymore; it’s pints. It’s either amazing, or distressing, how much caffeine I can imbibe in a given day and still be absolutely dragging myself in the door when I get home…

One day bleeds into the next, into the next, into the next. It’s hard to muster the energy to be excited about much of anything when I’m wondering what I’ll need to do to get some sleep. How much Melatonin will work for me? How about Valerian Root? Chamomille tea? I’m bone weary just sitting here typing this out.

Have you been there?

How did you break out of your rut?

Have you ever felt like the walking dead?

Photo Credit: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Oh, the things you’ll see!”, © 2011 Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Relax. No, I don’t have cancer, but it runs in my family. I’ve lost both a grandmother, and an uncle, to it. Because of this, despite not yet being fifty, I’m supposed to get an annual colonoscopy.

I’ve yet to have one.

The reason for this is simple, stupid, but nevertheless true: I’ve had a flexible sigmoidoscopy. What’s that, you ask?

A sigmoidoscopy is colonoscopy’s younger sibling (or maybe its second cousin, twice removed). All of the prep work is the same; meaning no food beginning 12-24 hours prior, stool softeners, and that lovely Cascara, which is like drinking chalk-flavored Gatorade.

In case you missed that, one’s mission–whether one accepts it, or not–is to self-induce diarrhea in advanced of undergoing the procedure. On purpose.

People died of diarrhea during the Civil War!

In any case, while the preparations are similar, there is one crucial difference between the flex sig and a full colonoscopy; namely, that a colonoscopy is done under general anesthesia, whereas the sigmoidoscopy is done fully awake.

Yes, you read that right: it’s done entirely conscious. And while both are out patient procedures, the former is usually done in a hospital, while the latter can be done in one’s doctor’s office.

If my understanding is correct, the prevailing medical thought is that because the flexible sigmoidoscopy doesn’t go as far into the colon, it’s less a pain in the butt, and can consequently be done awake.

Let that sink in.

One reports to one’s doctor’s office, after having quite literally crapped one’s guts out, to lie prone upon a table, in a too-cold room, with nothing but a paper gown on to ward off the chill. The doctor enters, with a nurse, because like the boy and girl scouts this requires two-deep leadership (it wouldn’t do to have anything untoward occur). And then, without so much as a by-your-leave (or even dinner), lube is lugubriously applied to a region reserved as an exit only zone. After that, a long tube, at a snail’s pace, is inserted. All the while, the nurse is encouraging relaxation; “just breathe,” she says.

As if.

Photo Credit: “Colonoscopy?”, © 2009 Rollan Budi, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Relaxation is about the farthest thing from one’s mind at that point. It’s more like grin and bear it–or grimace and bear it. One of the two. The best that can happen is an uneasy peace; it’s not going to last forever, or one will die right there of embarrassment.

There is after all a long, dark tube right up there in the Hershey Highway.

But the worst is yet to come:

Air, like helium into party balloons, is pumped up in there so that the doctor may better appreciate the structures of the lower bowel. Only it’s no party; it’s quite literally a pain in the butt. And beyond.

As a patient, whether one can, or cannot, see the monitor upon which the Colon Cam is displayed, one’s doctor will typically begin a descriptive video service. (Nowhere did this item ever even begin to appear on my bucket list: have your sigmoid colon described in vivid detail by your doctor). “That’s a hemorrhoid! There’s another one! Good! Don’t see any polyps! Oh, look! A piece of poo!”

If one felt embarrassed before, that right there would be where the bottom fell out of the nadir of embarrassment. Oh, to melt through the table, into the floor, and be no more! Curse this too, too solid flesh!

Then at last it’s over, one is handed tissues to wipe off the thick, viscous jelly from one’s nethers; the doctor and nurse exuent omnes, and one is left to contemplate the series of events leading to this tube time and place.

Wiping, washing, and dressing complete, one is free to leave; breathing a sigh (or several) of relief, thinking the worst is behind you.

Oh, how wrong that is!

The air pumped up in there, no longer having a tube occluding its exit route, discovers the point of least resistance–namely, one’s anus. If the blow-by-blow of the colon highway was the bottom dropping out of the nadir of the experience this is somehow even lower.

It’s not just a little gas; it’s like the inevitable results of a weeklong refried bean binge, the Vesuvius of anal expulsions (think pyroclastic flow–all hot ash and gas, no lava), and the Manhattan Project all rolled into one. In other words, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Yet other than death there is no escaping these noxious emissions.

Photo Credit: “Fart Bomb”, © 2006 basibanget, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is why I have yet to have a full colonoscopy. The defense rests. I place myself upon the mercy of the court.

Have you had a colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy? How did it go?

 

Fear from Flickr via Wylio

© 2010 Vic, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Hi!

How are you?

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

I know, I know… You think I’ve forgotten about you.

That’s really not true. Like the Willie Nelson song says, “You were always on my mind.”

It’s not that; it’s just that there have been other things on my mind.

Like exercise. You’re right–it’s been three years now since I started exercising regularly. (I still have a “dad bod”). That takes time–and energy.

Then there are other things–more important things. Like my wife’s health. She’s probably going to need two serious surgeries. And my own sleep apnea all but kicking my butt. My son growing up, spreading his wings, about to fly the coop.

And there are job stresses. We’ve reorganized, transitioned to a Shared Services model of IT support, and reorganized again. I’m left, for all intents and purposes, right where I was before. Things were said, promises made, but it all fizzled out. Yes, I’m pretty good at what I do. It’s not that. It’s that by being good at what I do I’ve painted myself into a corner.

But mostly, I’ve been afraid. Afraid I didn’t have anything to say, afraid to say what was on my mind, afraid of change, afraid of not changing, afraid of the uncertainty around my wife’s health. When the fears ramp up, all my latent insecurities bubble up to the surface. Leading me to irrational places. It’s true what they say about fear; that by-and-large it’s False Evidence Appearing Real. Like when a friend didn’t return a text, did I assume this person was just busy and/or presently unavailable. No, sadly I went to so-and-so-just-must-be-blocking-me-in-iMessage.

I was just so sure of it.

You might judge me, or consider me pathetic. Lord knows I do much of the time. I’m particularly good at beating myself up.

Everything is up in the air, in transition, but at the same time other things feel as if they’ll never change. And I don’t know to make them change–or how to change me.

I feel stuck. Running to stand still, never catching up.

Stuck, and afraid.

image

“Behold the mobile prostate van,
Let all your trousers fall,
Bring forth a shining speculum
For this won’t hurt at all.”

I saw this on the street today. As a man of a certain age, I’ve been there–in the doctor’s office, mind you. There’s no way I’d head into some van to have my nethers poked and prodded.

NO. WAY.

In fact, after I recovered from the sheer horror and shock of seeing the smiling faces on the side of the van (I mean seriously, who enjoys the finger wave? the old guy looks happy, the guy in the middle has got a face saying “can we do that again that was kinda fun,” the football player has assumed the position, and I’m not sure what the couple is doing–lady, you don’t have one), it occurred to me that this is kind of comical. I know prostate cancer is no laughing matter, but getting checked sure is a pain in the butt!

Now turn your head and cough…

Okay, that was bad, but somehow it just doesn’t make me wanna sing ‘He Touched Me,’ you know? Because I can assure that it wouldn’t be joy which flooded my soul… You wanna know something else? When I was a new believer lo these many years ago, we would sing ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus Name’ at the church. When we got to the second verse–because I didn’t know the word, “prostrate” at the time–I heartily sang to “let angels’ prostates fall.”

Hold that image in your mind’s eye for a minute. Who’s gonna clean that up? “Angels,” came a booming voice, “pick up your prostates! Put them back. Let’s try this again. Clean up in aisle five.”

“All hail the power of Jesus name… No, no, no!”

——————————-

Okay, seriously, while our body parts/bodily functions may indeed cause us some discomfiture, the need for prostrate screening is real. Men, get checked. For your sake, for your family’s, for everyone who Depends upon you.

This has been a PSA from your friendly, neighborhood RandomlyChad. Oh, and, “Thank-you, sir! May I have another!”

Your friend Ricky Anderson calls the gym the “hurting place.” He’s not kidding! In the last week, you’ve:

Sprained your back

Sprained your foot (in the locker room. No, you don’t want to talk about it).

And you’ve  come down with the aptly (yet oh-so-understatedly) named “exertional headaches.” For the Star Wars fan, it feels like Alderaan exploding inside your head. Or maybe the Death Star. One of the two.

It hurts.

A lot.

The first time it happens, you’re like Is this an aneurysm? Am I having a stroke? Did Freddie Kruger somehow slip his gloved hand into the dura mater? Inside my skull? All you know is your world is pain. One thousand suns have gone super nova at the base of your skull…

You babble the Pater Noster, crawling into a dark and quiet place. The back of your head all the while hammering a staccato rhythm in time with the beating of your heart. It throbs, it pulses, it pounds.

You do all you can to just breathe. In, and out. In, and out. You’re calmer. You open your eyes.

That’s when you notice the halos. Everything–every bright thing–is ringed with a glowing halo. But the centers of those rings are mushy, indistinct.

Blurry. Yes, blurry. That’s the word you’re looking for. Even with your glasses on, the world is both bright, and blurry.

But you’re not dying. No grey matter has begun leaking from your ears (although you halfway wish some would–it would relieve the pressure). You want nothing but a bottle of Ibuprofen, and some rest (you settle for two pills, and let your wife drive the car).

The headache eventually subsides, leaving you with an aching, stiff neck. You read somewhere that rest is the only cure for exertional headaches.

So you take a day off.

One day off working out, and a day off of your supplements.

Then you’re up bright and early for your cardio… And you did it! No headache. This gives you hope for lifting day. You’re smart about it: you drink your protein shake, washing down two ibuprofen with it. You wait a bit, and then head out to the gym. Instead of pushing yourself, you opt for about seventy-five percent of the level you were at before. You take it nice and slow.

Your reps are slow–up, and down; up, and down. All the while you’re controlling your breathing. A headache threatens to come on. You breathe through it, gently working your neck. The pain subaides, and you continue your workout. You’re very conscious of:

Your form

Your breathing

Your blood pressure

You make it through! Congratulations!

You didn’t let the pain get you down.* Whether you worked out as hard as you wanted, or not–you did it.

You’re a champion in my book.

*Whatever pain, or hard thing, you’re facing friends: stare it down, master it. Push through to the other side. Whether it’s working out, writing, painting, cleaning house:

YOU CAN DO IT!

Master your gym today.