Creative Every Day’s theme for April is The Senses. I haven’t written to that specifically because after all, everything impacts the senses. For some people, though, colonoscopies penetrate (sorry) far more than the five senses, and that’s what this post is about.
The Dreaded Colonoscopy
There’s supposed to be a double meaning in the title of this post because a real plug is not what you need for colonoscopy. You need to run free and clear. My husband is running free and clear in more than one way right now. We’re at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles today because my husband had a colonoscopy. This was the dreaded test, the medical event that would never occur. How could it? My husband doesn’t get sick and he doesn’t go to the doctor. I had a few things to say about that. Mainly, if you get colon cancer that could have been detected and treated had you undergone a colonoscopy, I’ll take care of you, but it’ll be begrudgingly. If you have a colonoscopy and still get colon cancer, I’ll do anything I can for you.
Does that sound mercenary? I meant it. But Mark got the face-saving opportunity to have a colonoscopy when our doctor retired about 18 months ago. I said, “Mark, if you want to see Dr. Newbrough again, this is your last chance.” So he did, and he had the colonoscopy, and he had a carcinoid tumor.
Before I talk about that, I wonder how many of you out there have avoided having a colonoscopy? Or have a spouse who refuses? Because they are not that bad. I’ll give you the secret. During the prep, when they tell you to drink this humongous amount of fluid – don’t. Just drink until you run clear. Then stop. My first one I drank it all and threw up. The second and third, I stopped when I was clear and it was fine.
We got lucky. Mark’s colonoscopy turned up a carcinoid, which is a neuro-endocrine tumor, not colon cancer. Lot’s of things went right: he got the colonoscopy, the doctor took the right tissue, the lab made the correct identification. Then it went wrong – the interim doctor (we hadn’t found another family doctor yet) called my husband in to tell him he had carcinoid, which wasn’t cancer but it wasn’t not cancer either. I got busy on the internet and said, “Mark, you have cancer. Carcinoid is cancer. There’s no in-between about it.”
I’ll talk about luck again in a second, because it’s an interesting concept. Meanwhile, luckily, we found a carcinoid specialist a few hours away at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. We found out some interesting things. Most carcinoid tumors occur in the small intestine – a place colonoscopies don’t go. Seven percent occur in the sigmoid colon, where Mark’s was found. Carcinoid is a rare cancer. Yes, I know, you’re thinking, every time someone has something they think it’s rare, or there’s something special about what they have. But it is rare – a general oncologist MIGHT see two or three cases in a career. It usually isn’t found until the patient has carcinoid syndrome, and then it is misdiagnosed repeatedly because carcinoid syndrome mimics many other diseases. So here, too, we were lucky.
Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who integrated baseball by hiring Jackie Robinson, had a favorite saying: luck is the residue of design. It is. Usually when we say, “Wow, that was lucky,” it’s the result of some sort of preparation. Where we WERE lucky was having parents who were able to provide us with an upbringing that left us with the resources to be lucky. So many people, intellectually, educationally, economically, don’t have enough resources to plan luck through no fault of their own.
Those resources in turn, made us lucky enough to have health insurance. Insurance that enabled us to have the colonoscopy in the first place and then seek out the best treatment. I’m grateful for that insurance, for the ability to have those lovely colonoscopies that have saved my husband’s life.
That’s why I’m sitting here in the Cedar’s waiting room yet again, while Mark has his follow-up blood work, MRIs, CTs, etc. We’re 18 months from diagnosis, and two follow-ups into the three year regimen of six-month follow-ups. Mark was tired of them on the first go round and asked Dr. Wolin, “Do you think I really need the follow-up?” To which he replied, as you might expect, “Yes.” But Mark remains a medical system holdout even while immersed in treatment. We did get a new family doctor, and upon Mark’s first visit, Dr. Nichols examined his very slim records and remarked, “I see you’ve been living on the fringes of medical care.” True that.
The First McDonalds
SO – we headed up here yesterday from our weekend in Carlsbad so Mark could have his sigmoidosocpy. We drove through Downey and I had just that morning read on facebook that my friend Laura Wolfe had just the day before been at oldest existing McDonalds, which is in Downey! So I said, “Let’s see if we can find it – we have time.” The oldest existing McDonald’s, you know, is far more than what it seems. McDonalds revolutionized the food industry and for that alone it’s historic.
I remember when McDonalds began expanding, but my mother would not let us go! There just had to be something bad about a 15 cent hamburger. Whether there was or not is a matter of debate, but I think my mom’s concern was how could it be real beef?
McDonald’s had other visitors that day besides us – that’s my husband in the foreground. These visitors, however, didn’t stop for food and I have no idea what they were doing in the parking lot.
Arriving in Beverly Hills, having checked in at the Sofitel, Mark went for his sigmoid while I spent that time in the Apple Store at the Beverly Center playing with an iPad. Oh how I long to have an iPad so I can feel like Jean Luc Picard with my tablet computer.
We stay at the Sofitel, a lovely French hotel right across the street from Cedars and the Beverly Center. They are expensive but they have a Cedar’s special rate, and you can’t beat the convenience. We’ve found convenience counts for a lot.
After the sigmoid, Mark expressed a desire to visit that wonder of wonders, IKEA. What an amazing place – I am in love with IKEA. Where else can you buy a well-designed, attractive and functional floor lamp for $39?
Dinner? Dar Magreb on Sunset Boulevard.
Having spent two years in the Peace Corps in Morocco, we like to eat in Moroccan restaurants where we find them.
We entered the very large door and found decor that was exactly right.
The only inauthentic touch was that all the cushions on the banquettes matched. Usually, they are a hodge-podge of colors. I want lanterns for our house like those in the restaurant.
So here I am, waiting in the imaging center for Mark to finish his MRI. Then we’ll have lunch and see Dr. Wolin at 2:00 before heading up to Bakersfield. Mark will ask Dr. Wolin if he really needs to come back in six months and Dr. Wolin will say yes.
A Perfect Ten
And the next time we return, we’ll be grandparents again – here in the waiting room I got an email from Karen, our daughter who lives in Colorado, saying she’s pregnant! That’ll be number 4 for her, grandchild 10 for us. We’ll have a perfect ten. I’ll be visiting Colorado next week and keeping the kids while Karen and Steve get away for a two-night stay at the Redstone Inn, which we bought them for Christmas. (The two-night stay, not the Redstone Inn.) Good thing too, as their get-away times will again get more difficult with a new little one on the way. And I’ll rest up for November and the arrival of 10 of 10, when no doubt I will be in Colorado taking care of numbers 7, 8, and 9 of 10.