And For My Next Test….

Imagine a big, fat, horse tail hair stuck in your throat.  No matter how often or how hard you try to clear or swallow, it stays right there.  That might faintly resemble this test.

I’ve had allergy test after allergy test, throat x-rays, video throat x-rays, a stomach acid prescription, two visits with a speech therapist, and an upper endoscopy in an ongoing effort to discover why I daily, and in some episodes constantly clear my throat (and cough).  None solved the mystery or even began to.

These next tests (Esophageal Manometry/Motility Study and 24-hour PH & Impedance Monitor Study) took place in the sixth week of my daily radiation treatments.   It was presented as a 24-hour monitoring test involving a tube through my nose and into my stomach.  That sounds much less medieval than pushing a two-foot wire up my nose.  The test began when a nurse squirted a horrible tasting numbing agent up my nose.  You sniff it in and swallow.  In a moment, when you notice it has become difficult to swallow, it’s time to lube and push the first tube into the nostril.  It looks like a semi-rigid strand of beads.  The beads are pressure sensors and will measure the target depth for the next probe, the wire that will remain for 24 hours.

The first probe was unpleasant, the second was quite painful.  There is a sharp turn southwards early in the passageway from my nostril to my stomach.  The beaded tube made the turn without much resistance due partially to the fact that its dimensions are close to the dimensions of the tunnel it’s slithering through.

The second intrusion, the wire, having a smaller diameter and being more rigid, needs to ram its blunt head into that sharp turn corner a few times until it realizes the path of least resistance would be to JUST MAKE THE TURN!

2018 06 06_1074_edited-1Once in place, the exposed plastic covered wire was taped to my face.  I thought that was to keep it from accidentally pulling out of my nose, but I soon discovered that when I eat and swallow solid food, the ascending food pulls the wire with it deeper into my stomach.  The wire would draw annoyingly into my nose, trying to go farther in each time I swallow, removing any joy there might have been in the meal.  I had to pinch and hold it in place while eating, to win this tiny but extremely irritating Tug-Of-War competition.  Or, did I have a fish on?

The dry end of the wire is connected to what looks a bit like a game controller.   It’s worn like a shoulder bag and has numbered and symbol buttons of various sizes, and a digital back-lit display screen.  When I clear my throat, I push button #1, when I cough – push button #2, take a pill – button #3.  There’s a push button with an icon for I’m eating,  another with an icon for I stopped eating.  There’s one with a symbol for I’m horizontal and another for I’m vertical; and one more for I’m having sex.  “Really!?” my wife asked.  I tried to bolster my case by showing her the icon button that could possibly be misunderstood, especially if you looked at it from the proper angle.  “Come on, it’s a medical test” I assured.  I think she bought it for a fleeting moment.

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Here are the immediate test results: If you are annoyed by people constantly greeting you, making eye contact and smiling, speaking to you without invitation; if you prefer to be almost invisible, you should put one of these wires up your nose and walk around in public.  There might be an untapped market for something that looks like the real thing but would only need to go a short distance into your nostril.  Who would know?  Who’s going to check?  If anyone should dare to approach, just start coughing and throat clearing as you busily push the beeping buttons on the control box.  Maybe I could make and market these in my retirement.

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St Patrick’s Day

I’ve been working on a theory about time; specifically, the passing of time and the perceived passing of time.  I know I have the same number of hours in a day as everyone else, and the same number of hours in a day as when I was younger.  I think the hours were somehow fatter when I was younger.  I could accomplish a lot more in those fat hours.  My hours seem much thinner these days.  They stack tighter and can be passed quicker.  It’s hard to get things done in a thin hour.

Everyone is busy.  We all have things to do on weekends, and things we’ll try to get done after work.  There are things that need to be done before you go, and things to finish before they arrive.  I have indoor projects best suited for dark, rainy winter days, and projects postponed until the longer, warmer summer days are here.  Lately I find myself considering a vast, new scheduling option: “soon after retiring.”  It appears to be wide open.

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Taken recently on the way to visit my brother, Mark, in Salem

Today is St Patrick’s Day.  On St Patrick’s Day 2011, I had prostate surgery.  I’ve never been zealous about the holiday, but the night before, I asked my wife to find a green ribbon I could tie in a bow attached to myself where my surgeon would lift the blanket and be surprised to see I was celebrating St Patrick’s Day.  That might have been fun, but I had just recently met my surgeon, and that could have made me appear to be irresponsible, or a weird-O.  So I didn’t.  Looking back over our seven year relationship, the doctor and I have shared a few laughs, and I’ll bet the green St Patrick’s Day ribbon likely would have made a unique and memorable surgery.

Four Minute Rodeo

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent into retirement, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and your Medicare application is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins.”

That’s kind of how it feels lately, like the calm before the storm.  Or maybe it’s more like the proverbial “elephant in the room.”  The presents of the impending retirement elephant is acknowledged, but is still a big unknown.  It seems to be headed this way with the speed (and options) of an jetliner on final approach.

I went in for the EKG and treadmill stress test as the heart doctor requested.  They shave your chest for that!  Well, they shave stripes on your chest.  The treadmill is a four minute rodeo, with the Arena Director and Flagman standing close by.  My legs were getting heavy and my arms were getting longer, but I made it to the horn.  I haven’t been back to the heart doctor, but his office called soon after the tests and seemed urgent about setting me up with a prescription.  I looked it up online, to sum up its benefits: “It is also used to treat or prevent heart attack.”

My little brother turned 60 last month.  I made some pictures to help celebrate the milestone.

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