Annual Physical = Anxiety

Posted by Danny

I changed doctors about a year and a half ago.  I’d been seeing this guy for years, he’d touched me in so many personal ways, I felt an intimate connection with him.  But he couldn’t remember my name.  It hurt.  So I made a change.

My new physician’s name is Brian.  I like him a lot.  He’s about my age – I think he understands some of what I’m facing as a 46-year-old man.

Even though he’s a great guy, I was still dreading my physical last week.  I get excited about a massage, there’s a woman named Shelva in West Virginia who gives me my annual rub down at Capon Springs.  Her hands are like money!  But for some reason, I didn’t have the same level of enthusiasm about my family practitioner.  

I had worked myself up – I struggled to sleep the night before.  The anxiety of someone I didn’t know poking and prodding all over my body just about undid me.  The words, “Turn around and bend over – this won’t hurt a bit” kept echoing through my head.  I could smell the latex glove.

I woke up early.  I wanted to make sure I’d done all of my business before heading to the internal masseuse.  I cleaned extra well.  I wanted be his tidiest patient that day.  I can imagine some of the conversations he must have with his nurse after certain patients leave the office.  I didn’t want to be the topic of their water cooler talk.  And if I was, I wanted it to be good…”Did you smell him?”  “I sure did!  Like Old spice!”  “Un huh.”

We all know why there is mouthwash in the dentist’s bathroom.  If I was Brian, I’d invest in a bidet.

The nurse entered.  “Are you having any problems Mr. Ham?”

“Anxiety.”

“How often does this occur?”

“Anally – I mean annually.”

“The doctor will be here in a minute.”

She didn’t tell me to remove my clothes.  At my other doctor’s office, I had to disrobe by now – down to my boxers.  I don’t want to undress in front of him.  That’s so personal.

He enters, “I’m going to listen to your heart first.  Take a few deep breaths.”

He’s a big guy.  Athletic.  Look – at –  those – hands!

“Sounds good.  You’ll feel a little pressure on your stomach.”

He’s going for my pelvis.  It’s coming…

“Let’s take a look at your feet.  I see you have several planters warts.”

He didn’t even look down there.  What’s up with that?

Now it’s recommended that caucasian men get a prostate exam at age 50. But I can do one this year  if you’d like.  It’s your call.”

My other doctor started those when I hit 40!  That’s not right.  Why did he do that?  I feel so violated.

“Uh, un, I’m good.  I would not like one of those.  Actually, my prostate is feeling in-credible!  Never felt better.  Healthiest prostate in Raleigh!  Everythings just fine with my prostate.  Got those warts on my feet, but my prostate is dandy, no warts there!  I’m thinking 50 is good.  Yeaaaaa, 50.”

I’m going to sue my former doctor.

Hiding Out From Child Protective Services

she looks fine to me

Posted by Jesse

I can’t believe this happened again.

I offer to drive the morning shift all the time (by “offer” I mean I stumble into the kitchen two minutes before departure time, sparsely dressed, one eye open, and grunt “need me to drive? no? cool.”) but Danny handles it almost every day. He says he enjoys the time in the car with the girls and I enjoy the extra sleep enough to believe him.

But once every two weeks or so Danny has an early meeting, and I get the morning shift.

Late in the spring we had one such morning. The girls were eating cereal and I was making lunches, when Michelle begin mixing tears with her milk. It should be noted that encountering her melancholy countenance in the a.m. is NOT a rare occurrence. It can be triggered by a frustrating bout with hair, a missing button on a skirt, or not getting the prize in the cereal box. Or, apparently, an upset stomach.

“I don’t feeeeeel gooooood,” she sobbed.

Uh-oh. Two things come into play here:

1) The Tanner family (Danny’s parents) and the Katsopolis family (my parents) handled sick days very differently. He likes to claim we weren’t allowed to miss school if we revealed a severed appendage dangling loosely off of our bodies. I like to tease that he was basically home-schooled since “sick days” meant any day he had gym. Both are exaggerations. Slight exaggerations.

2) I am not about to be the sucker Uncle who gets played! And, to be totally honest, I hate having to bother Danny when I’ve got “kid duty” because he won’t ask for help unless he really needs it, meaning he’s either got an important meeting or he’s taking his quarterly night out to socialize. I try to avoid contacting him if at all possible. His over-caring self would literally feel guilty that one of his girls got sick on a morning he wasn’t there.

So I did the thermometer thing. Normal enough. I inspected for unusually pale (or green) skin complexion. Other than her claim of not feeling good, I couldn’t see any obvious sign of illness. I worked at Camp Sea Gull for over a decade, and the nurses have told me repeatedly that a stomach ache with no other symptoms is usually just something else. Michelle probably forgot to do her homework and was dreading facing the teacher.

I cracked a few jokes, got a smile or two out of her, got the other two girls in on the “buck up, kid, you’ll be fine by lunch” routine, and we were off.

She threw up on her desk around 9:30 a.m.

If there were a place you could go to voluntarily be lashed with a whip, I’d have signed up in hopes of relieving my guilt.

Fast forward to last week. I’m on morning duty again, and again we have morning tears. This day Michelle is going on a field trip, so she’s picking out an outfit rather than wearing her usual uniform–a source of much consternation, since she has to choose between shorter-legged jeans (tapered? capri’ed? cuffed? what do you call those things?) that leave her a bit chilly or the longer jeans that will almost certainly get a bit wet. I know where this choice will go–Michelle HATES wet jeans. But she’s not happy being chilly either.

“I don’t feel good,” she let it be known. But–Stephanie can attest–there was no force behind this statement. No insistence. I was sure it was all about the jeans. I didn’t even take her temperature.

Her teachers did. She had a fever of 102. Though, I’d like to point out, that was a reading taken after being outside and doing some creek stomping, so I think when I am on trial my lawyer will be able to make a good case that you cannot prove she was actually sick when I dropped her off.

Regardless….don’t tell Michelle, but next time I’m driving the morning shift? She’s got a four-word “get out of school free” card if she’s smart enough to play it. Blame Danny–he’s the fool who leaves me in charge of these girls.

 

Waiting for the All Clear

Posted by Danny

I got a call from DJ’s orthodontist on Saturday; she’s a very good friend of ours.   She had been trying to find a time that we could meet to catch up.  Our calendars wouldn’t mesh.  I said, “Is there something you need to tell me?”

“Well, yes.  It is no big deal!” she strongly stated.

“Give it to me.”

“There is a round white dot on DJ’s x-ray – it could be several things, none of them serious, but I think you should get it checked out.  In fact, I’ve talked to a friend who is an ENT and he can see you next week.”  She then proceeded to reassure me it was nothing serious and explained the four logical things the spot could represent.

“Why does this spot need to be checked out?”

“It could perhaps be making it more difficult for DJ to breath out of her nose.”

“Do you see this in other patients?”

“Similar things.  I just haven’t seen a round spot exactly like this in the front of the nose (she used layman’s terms for me).  But this is not something to worry about.  Go see him next week so we can figure out exactly what it is.”

I didn’t know how fearful I’d become. 

Before we discovered Lisa had colon cancer, we were assured her stomach issues were not serious.  We’d read on the web that stage 4 colon cancer was deadly but our physicians would tell us incredible stories of those who had survived.  We heard, on multiple occasions, from seasoned oncological professionals, “I have never seen this before.”   I guess it was natural that even though a dear friend I trust and respect immensely told me not to worry, I did.

What was I expecting?  Colon cancer that had spread to the nose?

Ridiculous – and yet it did cross my mind.  I thought to myself, I know this won’t be serious because it says that God won’t give you more than you can handle – and I can’t handle anymore.

We were blessed this time.  With the help of friends and with some medical professionals’ coveted cell phone numbers, we were able to get an answer within about 48 hours of learning about this issue (and she is fine).  That is not the case for many.

There are those among us waiting for an answer.  There are those who go back for a checkup every six months to find out if the cancer has come back.  And they hold their breath in fear, just like I did today. 

I know there have been times that someone has shared with me that they were waiting for a result.  It went in one ear and out the other.  I had no idea how scary waiting could be.  I do now.  And I’ll be more caring and more empathetic, understanding the places your mind can go as you wait for the all clear.

(Thank you to the best orthodontist and ENT in Raleigh!  You’re an answer to prayer.)

Nothing Better than a Good Scoping of your Butt

 

Get lots of this...

Posted by Danny

Until we begin to be comfortable talking about our intestines, bowel movements and colonoscopies, it’s going to be tough to really begin attacking colon cancer.  I am currently aware of three acquaintances under the age of 45 who have died from this horrible disease in the past 12 months.  That is unacceptable.

As Jesse shared with you earlier this month, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  I think it’s time I weigh in.

Lisa’s symptoms began about a year and a half before she was diagnosed.  She would have cramps at times.  She wouldhave a strong sensation that she needed to  go to the bathroom and then nothing would happen when she got there.  At times she would have many small bowel movements in a row.  But these symptoms would come and go, a strong indicator that this was probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome.   She would go months without any problems, followed by a few weeks of discomfort.  When asked what her symptoms were, she would tell people, “Things just weren’t right.”  Follow you gut – or in this case, your colon.

After Lisa was diagnosed, I went to my annual physical.  I shared with my doctor what our family was dealing with and that I had some blood on my toilet paper.  He suggested, for my peace of mind, that I go ahead and get a colonoscopy.  Although I didn’t want to go through the process, I decided I’d sleep better once we had a clear DVD of my intestines.

This is my journal entry several hours after my colonoscopy:

Journal Entry, September 30, 2009

I have pooped nonstop for 24 hours.  Had my colonoscopy today and all was clear.  Butt you drink this thick salt water and then poop like you’re getting paid for it.  I pooped from 7 pm until 1 am, at 5:45 am and from 8 am to 3 pm.  And you couldn’t eat for about 48 hours prior to the procedure.  My poop was as clear as spring water by this afternoon – lost 8 pounds.

To be honest, the liquid they give you to drink to get you moving is awful.  It’s the consistency of thin lotion and it tastes putrid. 

I thought I’d doctor the brew by adding some Crystal Light – a friend suggested that might make the elixir go down easier.  She is no longer my friend. 

I’d hold my nose and stand over the sink – trying to down it like a frat boy with a beer bong.  I’d get half way through and gag – taking a few minutes to clear my watery eyes.  My mouth drawn in and my eyes clinched shut, sweat dripping down my forehead.  A deep breath and I’d chug some more. 

You “get to” drink about 25 glasses of the serum.  But in between each, you get a 15 minute break.  I’d go from standing up and  imbibing to flat on my back in the bed to a  mad dash to the toilet (suggestion:  wear elastic waist pants the day before your procedure – or better yet, lock your bedroom door and go with the Full Monty).  And every time I’d go back to the jug to pour my next glass, it would appear as if someone had refilled it to the brim.

It’s much more fun to be the spouse of someone prepping for a colonoscopy than to actually be the preppee.  Having a wife who was very private about her bathroom habits, I spent the night she had her cleansing in stitches.  If I recall, she had her revenge as I ran, with clinched cheeks, to the pot.

Although the only thing we found when I was scoped was that I’m apparently an aggressive wiper, it was worth it.  That’s one less thing to be concerned about.  It truly was much “doo doo” about nothing!

It’s March: Time To Cover Your A$$

POSTED BY JESSE

I was checking out the Mothers With Cancer blog when I came across a post alerting me that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. I figured that would probably be a good thing to pass on to our blog readers since, you know, it’s kind of relevant to our situation here.

I am sure that March was designated as the month for colorectal cancer awareness before Lisa was diagnosed with hers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she planned her trip to heaven as a lead-in to Awareness Month; she was a meticulous planner. And this may be too blunt for some people, but it’s a fact: in March 2009 no one had a clue that Lisa’s gastrointestinal tract was a ticking time bomb; by March 2010 she was gone. If that’s not reason enough to get your colonoscopy, I’m sorry–that’s the best I got.

How clueless were we? Extremely. Ignorant enough that I didn’t even know what one was or why you got one before Lisa had hers. And based on our family email chain the week Lisa went to get checked out, you can tell that none of us had a clue what we were in for (the topic was the family Christmas exchange, but as you can see we took a turn into Lisa’s impending screening):

Sallie: I’ll take Lisa! I have lots of potty/poop-related items in mind. Sam will put together a collection of his favorite poopy diapers for her too. (Danny told me to say it!)

Danny: I DID NOT.  Her poop is off limits for me.  I have pledged not to make any jokes about her colon…and except for putting together a care package for her the other night (had each kid go find something potty related to put by her bed – magazine, plunger, t. paper, crossword puzzle), I have done well.

Me: what’s up with Lisa’s colon? And if she gets it -oscopied is there anything we can get bronzed? Or how about poo-wtered? [note: this was in reference to my mother giving us all our bronzed baby shoes one Christmas]

Sallie: Poo-tered – I laughed so hard I nearly peed in my pants. For once it is not me as the “butt” of the joke!

Danny: She’s been having a lot of stomach issues.  They are ruling things out.  Probably much doo doo about nothing.

Lisa: I’m not coming to Christmas [note: it is assumed she was rolling her eyes at this point]

Me: so no one has honestly answered my question about Lisa–has she been diagnosed? the closest explanation I got was Bruce saying it’s much doo-doo about nothing.

At which point my mom informed me what was happening and why, though even then she said she suspected it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We would have really liked an IBS diagnosis–the fatality rate is much lower and, as you can see, we could have made potty jokes for days.

So what’s it going to take to get you to get checked out? I’ve tried fear and humor. I could sprinkle in some guilt and say you owe it to those around you if you won’t do it for yourself. And if you have had any recurring/consistent stomach issues, then by all means get your ass (pun very much intended) to the doctor now.

I don’t want to get into pitting one type of cancer against another (we’ve been through colon and breast in my immediate family; I think a grandparent may have even battled leukemia at one point), but colon cancer is not currently getting the love that breast cancer awareness enjoys, with its turning everything pink. Colon cancer is less of a sexy cause, so it’s even more important we push it on the grassroots level. (I feel compelled to point out again: I am not calling for LESS breast cancer awareness, I’m calling for raised levels of colorectal cancer awareness!)

Later this month Danny and I might share some of our own experiences with getting a colonoscopy. Go ahead and make your appointment now and we’ll walk you through this thing step by step.

Here’s some more colorectal cancer screening info from the CDC:

-“Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer—cancer of the colon or rectum—is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer also is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.”

-“It is estimated that as many as 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were screened routinely.”

-“You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier or more often than other people if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer; or
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.”
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