Monday, October 28, 2019

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Friday, October 25, 2019

Surgery without anaesthetic? It happened to me




This was going to be tacked on to my last post  about my hatred and dread of doctors,  but it  began to spill out of me dreadfully today and I couldn't make it stop. I just hope I don't lose followers, as I did last  time I expressed anything really painful.  Only celebrities can "admit" to  traumatic experiences like this and get a readership spike. The rest of us, apparently, get the opposite.




On Monday night I got a call, out of the blue, during supper, that I had to have a "consultation  with a surgeon" (?) on WEDNESDAY, and to do my "cleanout" tomorrow. Cleanout? Oh yes, for the colonoscopy. (But nobody told me I had to -) Which  was on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow - two days, what, what?  - followed by "the surgery". I was completely unable to take any of this in, because it was said by a receptionist who talked very very  fast and was obviously at the end of her shift. When I began to ask desperate questions, the putdown vocal tone and "calm down now!" attitude immediately kicked in. Only when I asked her for clarification did she email me colonoscopy "prep" notes, but nothing more, except a  time and place.




The prep is better not talked about, not something for family viewing anyway, but it left me in a lot of pain in a very vulnerable area. In the hospital I was "prepped" for the procedure by a mechanically cheery nurse whom I heard say the exact same things to patients on the other side of the hospital curtain. The "surgeon", whom I had never met in my life before and whom I could not see because they had taken my glasses away, rattled on about "if I can do the procedure" (If?. . .  Procedure?), then I was pushed into the next room. I was hooked up to an IV, so I assumed it would  be like the last time I had one of these: I'd lie on my side, they'd turn on the juice, and it would be "bye-bye- land" until it was done.




Except.

There was none. 

No. None. NO ANAESTHETIC for the colonoscopy - I was awake and conscious for the entire 45-minute thing, which was like being  assaulted by a roto-rooter. At one point I began screaming - the pain was approaching the level of childbirth as the probe with the camera on the end punched and twisted and jabbed at the turns and folds inside my colon, and the nurse kept on telling me to keep quiet because I was disturbing the other patients. I asked why I was awake,  and I was told, in  a slightly indulgent, sighing tone, "Dr. So-and-so doubled the dose of pain medication," no doubt a ploy to get me to subside because I was making too much of a fuss. In other words, if you've had all that pain medication, you can't have any pain, so what are you complaining about?  But I was awake, and in extreme pain, and no one would explain anything to me as to WHY this needed to happen.  Nor was there any sense of apology for hurting me. Getting someone to listen was impossible.




After the "procedure", everyone rapidly exited the room and left me completely alone. No one asked me how I was doing (horrible) or if it still hurt (which it did, a lot, though today it is MUCH worse and at least a 7 or 8 out of 10). Nobody said anything at all because there was no one there. They just left, with no explanation of anything they had done, or why. Then my husband took me home. I was too dazed even to cry, although I don't remember feeling  this deeply violated in many, many years.

When my husband recently had his prostate surgery, he was treated like a king. His urologist spent 45 minutes with him carefully explaining what they were going to be doing (and he had several weeks of lead  time  to prepare himself emotionally). He was given a FIFTY-PAGE document to read outlining the procedure, including every conceivable outcome from best to worst, so he wouldn't have to face any surprises. The feeling was that "men feel awfully vulnerable about things like this, it's their manhood after all, so they need lots of reassurance," which he got - in spades, from the family as well as the medical support team.




After the surgery, he spent the night in a quiet, beautiful room that even had a restful view. I remember him telling me the food was great. When he got home the next day, the entire family pitched in to help, and there were many solicitous emails flying  back and forth - and they are STILL constantly asking him how he is, weeks later, though his recovery was textbook, he experienced no pain at all (he was given an epidural, which means he felt nothing below the waist), and is back to normal now. While I can't sit down because of the inflamed, toothachey sensation in my unmentionable parts, and keep getting waves of uncontrollable, deep shuddering that I know is the awakening of a very old trauma.

I am an older woman, I have had  psychiatric and addiction problems in the past, and I was deeply violated, including sexually violated, in the hospital system over and over again, but whenever I express the view that the medical community treats me with dismissal or even contempt because of that bottom-of-the-barrel status, I am met with eye-rolls, sighs and shaking heads (followed by walking away). How on earth could I even THINK this would affect the professionalism of the medical community, which is always completely impartial and  treats everyone with equal respect?




One doctor I had seen for fifteen years insisted that the medical community had nothing to do with my perception of mistreatment and that I "stigmatize myself". Doctors "would never" do anything so harmful to anyone, and "people like me" are never treated any differently, they're really quite tolerant of those kinds of things, so I had better "work on my attitude".

Apparently, nothing can or will be done about this, because in their minds,  nothing happened.  It's done, and I am in extreme pain. I can't talk about it either, it's too embarrassing and no one is interested, and even writing this now is a risk. I don't feel good about it, but I ask myself why I even write, if I must censor myself so carefully about things that affect me so profoundly. 

I know that nerve damage, which is what this feels like, may well be permanent. Doing a colonoscopy without anaesthetic means the body is tense, the muscles are tight, and the pain made me involuntarily thrash, though I could  vaguely see (without my glasses) two figures holding me down, one on either side, while she "did it". I could NOT "just hold still, it'll be over in a minute", said to me in exasperated  "we've got another one" end-of-shift tones. The best image I could conjure up was of a bad dog at the vet.




I was only to find out later that there was also a surgical procedure done, surgery without anaesthetic, because it was easier for her to do this (and FASTER - I think the main thing was that she could get out of there quickly) while I was fully conscious. I kept thinking of the dentist's scene in The Boys from Brazil, and I keep wondering - some dark, hidden, wounded part of me keeps wondering - why? Well, why did ANY of it happen anyway, my past which apparently cemented me into  a marginalized, silenced, powerless category from which there is no escape except death?

And why the sighing, the eye-rolling, the "we've got another one" attitude when I screamed out in pain? I don't remember pain like  that, ever, except perhaps in childbirth, or being sexually  assaulted over and over which also happened - but we don't write  about that, do we, or  express it, you must just keep it to yourself because it's "not nice", it's "nasty", I'm meant to deal with it like a mature person on my own, and besides, it "probably didn't happen anyway".

But this did.

This. Did.


Lobotomy: Before and After




















Wednesday, October 23, 2019

I hate doctors, and I don't want to go (take two)




The title sums it all up. I hate doctors. When have they done anything good for me? Every time I go, it turns out to be "nothing".

So should I conclude that it will always be "nothing"? The "it hasn't happened up to now, so it won't happen in the future" philosophy sucks rocks because it's illogical. It simply isn't true.

I am at the age - God, I hate that word - where I maybe need to worry. This is the time people are told to have screening tests like colonoscopies (which I always call colostomies by mistake - I freaked out a friend once by telling her I was supposed to have one) which scare me half to death because I've been told they can be agonizingly painful. One health forum had a comment from someone who said she would take her chances with serious disease rather than go through that again.




My husband collapsed on the floor about a year ago, and paramedics and police rushed over. Made me wonder why everyone ignores me when I have a medical problem, but then, he's male and considerably older than me. It might be heart disease, after all (because we all know women don't have heart attacks!). In the hospital they put him through a meat grinder, doing every possible diagnostic test on him. The follow-up was even more rigorous, cardiac, neurological, urological, bowel and guts and everything else they could ream out.

The result was exactly nothing.

So I don't want to go to the doctor. I don't want to go to the doctor because I've had some symptoms lately that are probably nothing, but at the same time scare the hell out of me.




It's funny, because Bill and I have talked about how we can't afford to live as long as our parents did (all four them were well over 90). In fact, we may have trouble affording our 70s. We've joked that if we make it to 80, we'll kill each other, kind of like a duel where we both shoot at once. But what if he misses, and I don't? Will I be charged with murder, or merely self-defense?

It doesn't sound good.

I think about cancer, everyone does, or do they? I don't know, I don't interview everyone in the world, or on the street. The thing is, people with cancer are usually seen as heroes, brave souls who keep smiling no matter how much it hurts. In contrast, don't ever get a psychiatric problem, for no one will visit you in the hospital with flowers and balloons. They will not. Talk about being left alone, but that is what happens. At a time when you are at your most vulnerable and in need of comfort, people shrink back in dread. They don't even talk about it except in whispers. This is not an idle statement, but based on some 50 years' experience. But I am doubted there, too. How can I even think that people could be so callous?

But cancer, now! There's a great opportunity for bravery, for heroism, for stoicism in the face of pain, and lots and lots of warm get-well wishes. Flowers, candy, visitors to perk you up, tons of Facebook encouragement, and So Much More.




Do I sound just a little bit cynical? I have my reasons.

I don't think I have cancer. So why go? I have this niggling worry. Shouldn't I just ignore it? I have had alarming symptoms for EIGHT years, with no relief because I've been told "we can't find anything" and "there's nothing we can do". Do I want to be called a hypochondriac? But how can you be a hypochondriac if you hate doctors and stay away for years at a time?

There is something cold and frightening about the medical assembly line, the way you come out the other end feeling like dressed meat ready for the oven. There is a "NEXT!" feeling that only seems to get worse over the years. They literally call it "processing patients", and see nothing untoward about it. Too many patients, not enough time, because the equipment is absurdly expensive, the tests take forever and suck up resources, and it's usually for nothing. 

But we are stuck with it. In the past, if you had cancer, you just died. Probably horribly, because there wasn't even a good way to manage pain. Unlike today, when it's the banner illness that has spawned a million fundraising walks in every color of the rainbow, it was heavily stigmatized: people didn't even say the name. Probably this was fear, a dread that "something" had taken you over, colonized your body and was eating away at you beyond your control. This "something" would suck out the marrow from your bones, cause you to waste away to a skeleton, and probably drive away all but the most loyal family members who probably prayed that it would all be over soon.




All kinds of stuff has been written about illness, its social and emotional significance, etc. Usually the sufferer is blamed for not having it all together emotionally, for having "unresolved issues" (as if everyone doesn't have those). I wonder now if it isn't just bloody bad luck. Have you noticed how unevenly luck and blessings are distributed in life? Ain't it a bitch, and don't you wish it was different? People still get sick and die, in spite of all that fancy equipment. I've had five friends die in the last few years, and three of them were only in their mid-50s. One who was exactly my age at the time pulled his truck over, opened the door, and fell to the ground dead. Perhaps his fate was better than the woman who battled breast cancer for years, or Glen, one of the most beautiful men I have ever known, who escaped from a psych ward, swallowed a bottle of pills, and was found frozen to death beside the railroad tracks.




Oh, and that's another thing: the war imagery we use, especially for cancer. She "battled" breast cancer, she "waged a valiant struggle", and sometimes she "triumphed" or scored a "victory" over it. I wonder why we do this. No one questions it, and when no one questions something I just get furious because we are PEOPLE, not cattle! My feeling has always been that you should question everything, especially loony social trends. The war imagery not only renders the sufferer especially valuable for being a "good soldier" (and we still think the military is special, no matter what anyone says), it places the whole thing at a safe, fictionalized distance, as if we're watching a World War II movie on TV or going to the Cenotaph for 45 minutes to watch old men stand in the rain.

Ah, the stoicism, the smiling in the face of doom. I wonder why people feel they have to do this, why it has become such a cultural imperative. If I had cancer, I think I'd raise bloody hell and be so hard to get along with, NO ONE would come visit me (a situation I should be used to by now). Then again, maybe I'd be terrified. I know I would not be stoical. I'd be shit-scared and probably miserable from all the clinical attention, the being fed through machines with no one talking to you.




I've heard it said that quite often, when you get your diagnosis, the doctor comes in the room, says to the patient "you have cancer", then turns and leaves you sitting there alone. If I don't go, I won't hear that, will I? These guys are sons-of-bitches, aren't they? Are there any good ones? Well, OK, my brother-in-law, he's a Gunning man and as far as I'm concerned they're all great, but he lives all the way across the country.

If I don't go, I don't need to hear any of that shit. But if I don't go, this little scritchy-scrabbly feeling in my gut may not stop for a long time. If ever.





Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Our girl at the Federal Election!










My 15-year-old granddaughter Caitlin helps her CTV News reporter/Mom cover the Federal Election in Canada! While the NDP did not sweep the country as hoped, local Vancouver representation is stronger than ever. Note how Caitlin's sweater matched Jagmeet Singh's turban! Most adults aren't as politically aware/astute as Caitlin. Wow, what a girl! I literally watched this kid get born, and it amazes me how every stage of her life has unfolded so far. More great things to come!