Had my follow visit with the gastroenterologist yesterday. This was the visit where he tells me the results of the endoscopy (AKA – alien tentacle probe) and biopsy of my stomach lining. It occurred to me around noon that he might tell me something I don’t want to hear, and I started to get scared.
By the time I got to the office I was on the verge of a heart attack. The nurse did the usual measure my vitals stuff. She commented that my heart rate was 125 beats per minute. I asked “uh, is that bad?” She laughed and said no, you just have white coat tachycardia? What is that? It’s caused by getting scared to death at the sight of a doctor in a white coat.
And why not? Doctors are scary – they hold your life in their hands. And if they can’t figure out what is wrong with you, then you get labeled a hypochondriac. After all, it did take these doctors 57 years to figure out that I had bipolar disorder rather than just a severe case of being a cantankerous crone. Not a lot of trust going on here.
Before I go any farther I’ll say that I’m going to live, nothing serious. I have helicobacter pylori gastritis. It’s a form of extreme belly ache caused by the H. pylori bacterium. About 20 years ago researchers figured out that bacteria rather than stress causes ulcers and gastric cancer and can be cured rather than just managed by a bland diet and lots of antacids.
He asked me if I’ve been out of the country recently and I had to laugh. The answer is no, not recently. But I’ve traveled all over the world. The only continents I haven’t visited are Antarctica and Australia. The Doc said that this infection is usually from bad water and is common in Mexico and Jamaica, both places I’ve been to on more than one occasion.
I could have had this thing going on for years or even decades. That’s explains a lot. I’ve always passed it off as “I just have a weak stomach” because I’ve had episodes of debilitating stomach distress for as long as I can remember.
I’ve always had a morbid fascination with that show “Mystery Diagnosis.” It’s a show about people who suffer for years or decades with some malady that the doctors can’t figure out. The thing that brings me hope is that these people never give up. They keep searching the internet and go to doctor after doctor looking for an answer. And they are relieved when some doctor finally figures out what is wrong with them, even if it’s serious.
Well, I’m hugely relieved and I don’t even have something all that serious. All I have is some designer belly bug that is totally treatable. So today is a happy day for me. I can get rid of my recurring stomach ache and get on with it. Yiipeee!
I’ve always considered myself as a generally healthy person. I watch what I eat, usually, but not always. I’m not overweight; I drink alcohol sparingly, almost never at home – usually only on vacation. I try to get adequate sleep and exercise. My main vice is smoking cigarettes with my morning coffee and few in the evening after dinner. I don’t sit around chain-smoking all day.
But now that I’m in the latter half of my 50s it seems that either my body is failing me or Doctors have new toys that they want to try out on a willing victim…er, I mean the patient.
A few weeks ago I had that whole fever, vomiting, excruciating abdominal pain, wishing I was dead episode. I blogged about it some, but finally decided to shut up about it because I didn’t want to bore everyone to death.
In the meantime I went on living my life, but although the problem relented somewhat, it didn’t go completely away. As a result I found myself sitting in the office of a gastroenterologist on Monday. Try saying that 5 times fast. What a tongue twister. He poked and prodded and asked me a myriad of questions. I went there with the expectation that he was going to pat me on the head, allude to me being a hypochondriac and send me home with instructions to take antacids, chill out and stop being a big cry baby wussy.
Well I was way wrong, he said he wanted me to get an upper GI endoscopy immediately if not sooner and his assistant set me up with an appointment to do it the very next day. With my recent experience of the wheels of medical care grinding even slower than a political bureaucracy, the swiftness of this scared the living hell out of me.
So you want me to say “ah” run a tube down from my mouth all the way to China? Um, no, I really don’t want to this. But I decided that I probably needed to bite the bullet, or in this case the tube, so I relented and agreed to the procedure. There’s not enough Xanax in the world to pull me down from the ceiling on this issue.
It turned out to be really scary thinking about it, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The beauty of it is that they knock your happy ass out cold, well before poking your orifices with creepy alien tentacle like gadgets. They keep all the hardware out of your line of sight. I had to twist my head around hard to see the gadget they were going to use and then squeezed my eyes shut. EEEEE, I wished I hadn’t seen that thing. It looked like something they lifted from Area 51.
The last thing I remember is the nurse patting me on the arm, poking a syringe in my IV and saying “this will help you relax, honey.” The next thing I knew, a different nurse was gently shaking my shoulder and telling me that it was all over and was time to wake up. I didn’t want to, being all warm, comfy, and sleepy. But I did just to humor her and to not scare Hubman, who was there at my side.
The Doc told Mr. Husband that he didn’t seen anything major to freak out about like cancer or an ulcer, but that I did have scarring in my duodenum, indicating that I had ulcers in the past. Hmm maybe that explains some of the major stomach episodes in my life. No one thought to check on this before, or I didn’t follow up, whatever. My suspicion was that I didn’t fit the profile for a person with ulcers; middle-aged, fat, stressed out male, so they didn’t test me for them in the past.
So I have a semi-clean bill of health regarding my digestive system, but I’m supposed to avoid alcohol, spicy and smoked foods, and have a follow-up visit with the Doc in a few weeks. Well damn, where’s the fun in that? Next thing you know, I’ll only be allowed to eat soggy rice and baby food. Oh, the indignity of it all!