Monday, January 14, 2008

One Day Closer to Death

With each doctor visit I brace myself to hear the news that they have finally found the cancer that I know is lurking somewhere in my body. I know it's there, they just aren't very good at finding it. I will have the last laugh when Aflac has to pay out the $5000 bonus I get for being diagnosed with cancer.

For many years I've suffered from heartburn and related pain. My earliest memory of this was getting a prescription for Zantac in 1989 or 1990 from Dr. Tesher, and giving half the bottle to Mark, who died 10 years after that of esophageal cancer. My guess is he never took the Zantac. He definitely never went to the doctor. The crack smoking probably didn't help his esophagus either.

I've been on and off the acid reflux medicine since then and when this last bout of pain started in the fall I went back on the Nexium. After 3 months the pain seemed to have localized in my chest and the pills weren't making a difference, as they usually do. So off I went to Dr. Eng who did the third endoscopy. He also gave me Prilosec to take twice a day instead of once, and of course I have trouble remembering that second pill. I also noticed that the last bottle of Nexium I was taking was 2 years old, so I'm hoping that's why it didn't work.

This past endoscopy was fairly typical. The lovely anesthesia, which I wish they would formulate for home use, was quite lovely, except for the horrible waking up part when I realized I was dreaming about work. What a waste of a great drug dream. I was also very confused as to why the clock wasn't on the wall where it was when I fell asleep. They had moved my bed and the nurse couldn't figure out what clock I was talking about. Frustrating. I was out for 13 minutes, it felt like an entire night, how restful.

As I was waking up from all this confusion, the doctor walked by and mentioned that I had "pilesophagitus."
"What?!" I said, "You are making that up." "
"Oh no, it's real," he answered. "It's when you a pill doesn't go all the way down the esophagus and creates an abrasion. You need to make sure to drink a full glass of water when you take a pill." Damn those pills, I KNEW they were killing me. At that point, my husband kindly pointed out that it was 2 words: pill esophagitis. Oh. Well that makes more sense.

This is Mark before he had cancer. This is NOT the position you are supposed to sit in after taking a pill. (Thank you Chris Egan I stole the photo from your site)

Then, Dr. Eng very casually mentioned that he sent out a sample for biopsy. BIOPSY. Surely that is the first time I've had that, something to cut off and send to a lab. It cannot be good. So immediately I started to cry. This way, when I get the bad news I will have already cried and gone through most of the grieving. Now I will have to just decide between chemo and radiation.

The part of this whole thing that really strikes home, and I think what scares me the most, is the realization that I am now only a few months from the age that Mark was when he was diagnosed with cancer. Real cancer, not fake in my head cancer. That I have caught up to him in age is freaked out. He was always 9 years older than me, and always will be. Except when someone dies do they get older? He was 46 when he died, and probably had just turned 45 when he was diagnosed (if I am remembering the series of events clearly). Had he ever gone to the doctor he might have been 44 when he would have been diagnosed. Which means that I am the age he was when he got cancer. So, by the same logic, I might only have 2 more years to live. The whole thing just freaks me out and I want my esophagus to stay away from the hands of any doctor.


Alex in NYC said...

Your husband was in the Spitters?

Jill said...

No, my husband is Marc (Slim). Mark in the Spitters was a dear friend who was Slim's best friend from high school and former bandmate in Dairyland Jubilee.