Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stick Out Your Tongue And Gargle

Posted by Picasa I found a lump. It was on my tongue, way in the back, hiding like a butt-crack mole and rubbing against the back of my throat as my tongue retracted.

For two weeks now, I've had a funny feeling throat. It felt like I had a piece of tomato skin stuck to the back of it. I kept drinking fluids to wash the feeling down but it persisted on making me wonder what was happening in the back of my mouth.

I'm not a hyperchondriac. I've been to the doctor twice, now, since high school. The first time for nerve damage in my right arm due to a couple of twenty hour work days followed by an amazing St. Patty's Day meal with lots of sex and a bottle of wine. I fell asleep on my arm and woke up with half of it not functioning. I knew what had happened and I knew what to expect. I could grip anything but I could not open my hand. This meant I could still swing a hammer, I just couldn't let go of the hammer. I taped my wrist straight with a splint and swung away, but my girlfriend forced me to go see a doctor who charged me forty bucks just to give what I had a name-- "Drop Wrist Syndrome".

Cool. I had "Drop Wrist Syndrome". Here's your forty bucks.

He told me the nerve would come back in four to six weeks and it did.

"A millimeter a day," he had said.

My nerve had 42 millimeters of damage to it, according to my Doc.

The Radial nerve. It's the one you hit when you hit your funny bone. Amazing what you learn when something goes wrong with you.

So I tried to stop in to see my Mum's doctor. He "was out" last week so this week he was swamped. Try the clinic...

Tomorrow morning at eight thirty. Can you come back at nine thirty? We'll see you now, at ten fifteen...

For a hundred and ten dollars (I wasn't about to plead poverty when the waiting room was full of poor) I got a woman doctor to put her cold hands on my glands and ask me to stick out my tongue.

"Yes. Ooooh. Oh my, you DO have a little growth or something back there. We're lucky we caught this early. Have you ever chewed tobacco or smoked?"

You mean CANCER? I thought.

"Yes. But over fifteen years ago."

"Well, you really should see an ear, nose and throat specialist to find out what that thing is. You don't want to let these things go for very long."

I got an appointment for eight o'clock the next morning. At work, everyone wanted to see the "growth". I got all kinds of advice and a woman who works with us suggested I gargle with salt water.

I've got a GROWTH and she wants me to gargle with salt water? Crazy!!

I spent an hour after work, shifting money around and thinking about my decision to not carry health insurance. I'm never sick, I thought. Ever. I don't even get colds or flus beyond a mild hint of either once or twice a year. Like maybe I feel a little hot and sluggish for a few hours...

What was that?

Must have been that nasty flu bug that's going around...

But now I've got a GROWTH. This is going to cost me a fortune. I have to go to a SPECIALIST. If it's CANCER I'll have to call in some loans. Maybe put off treatment until I can finagle some insurance? Would I just not have chemotherapy and hope my immune system wins on its own?

"Just gargle with salt water. You'll be fine." said the woman at work.

You have no idea what I am going through, I thought, but didn't say out loud.

"Salt water, huh? Yeah, OK. I'll try that."

I got together five hundred in cash to make the first installment toward my longterm illness. I got up early and made the hour long drive into Grants Pass. I checked in and then checked the box that said NO INSURANCE.

"But I have five hundred cash," I said to the lady at the registry.

"What seems to be the problem?" a friendly and elderly doctor asked me as he entered the examination room and found me fidgetting and sweating in drips from both armpits. This was the first time beyond mild ear infections from swimming too much in dirty lake water or microalgae-filled ocean water that my body had betrayed me. It had grown a GROWTH, without my permission, and now I was going to have to explain why I chewed tobacco oh so long ago and how I had hid it from girls I was kissing by washing out my mouth and brushing just before I knew the kissy's were about to start...

I had stood before the mirror many times, stuck out my tongue as far as I could, and then stared in disbelief at the little white nodule that grew there. It was like a wart on my tongue. It had to be CANCER. Probably benign, but my sister had breast cancer that was not benign and I checked this box at the doctor's office like I was signing my own death warrant and when the doctor got a good look at this rapidly growing bit of rogue cells, he was sure to shake his head slowly and offer me some calm, sage assurances that I had time to get my affairs in order.

"Looks like one of your taste buds is a little inflamed. Did you burn the back of your throat with something? Maybe some hot coffee?"

An inflamed taste bud?

"Is that what that thing is?" I said, trying to sound like I was ready for that to come from him. "They get that big?"

"It's not much bigger than normal. Just a bit taller and harder. I'm surprised you even noticed it."

"Well, it was tickling the back of my throat. It felt like I had something to swallow all the time. It was horrible."

"Well, I would just gargle with salt water twice a day."

"That's it?"

"You could brush your tongue with a toothbrush, and use a little diluted vinegar."

"And I'll be fine?"


I'm gonna live! I'm gonna live!

The whole thing cost me almost 250 bucks, plus a couple hundred in lost wages.

I learned--

I weigh 264 these days.

My blood pressure is starting to climb. (Mum has had high blood pressure for years and years. Pops' pressure was always nearly perfect.)

I can be led down the wrong path if I am primed by a few chosen words by men and women "experts".

I'm still as healthy as a horse.

Who needs health insurance?

I'm not dying and I can still afford good beer.

1 comment:

carol said...

glad you're ok scottie.vacation nearly over so will be in touch soon