Why am I looking up? Because I’ve spent a long time looking down. Nothing much has changed, maybe. Life is about attitude. Terry Pratchett was of the opinion, often stated in his books, that we tell ourselves stories to explain life and understand it. I agree. If you are the victim of your life you will tell yourself quite a different story from the one you will tell if you are the hero of your life, or the villain in other people’s lives. I sometimes think my mother was so very difficult because she tended to live her life as a pre-emptive strike, conditioned by reacting to her father who was even more difficult. He was a drinker with mood swings which I didn’t hear about until I went to live with my mother. She did a very convincing take off of his shouting when the draught from a slammed door hit his gouty foot, which he was balancing on a gout stool while he sipped his ‘medicinal’ whiskey. So: small and terrified, turned to tense and aggressive and kept it up forever, long after the threat had gone.
It is difficult to live entirely in the present. I am doing my best to do so. Sometimes this comes down to telling myself: All is well. I am well. If the OH is out drinking that is his problem, not mine. Right now I am warm, I am well. All is well.
The only time you don’t want to live in the present is if it is really awful. If for example someone is saying to you: You may feel a scraping or twisting sensation as the camera goes into your duodenum and on the way back up I will revolve it in your oesophagus.
Happy place, happy place, I am in a happy place.
The camera down the neck started with a lot of waiting and filling in consent forms about it being OK if they accidentally shoved the camera through any bodily structures and out into the light of day. So ideal for building up tension I can’t imagine why there is no Hollywood blockbuster about it. On screen a huge lily-white rich upper class doctor saying it with a leer to a tiny defenceless mixed race transgender poor person and the entire film industry would grind to a halt while celebrities flounced up and down red carpets everywhere clad in potato sacks.
Being me I filled the form in meekly and sat and waited until my name was called, half an hour later. Oh at last it’s me. Yes it was and it was me taken to a different waiting room and left for another half hour. Tension was building beautifully. You could tell it was working by the way the two other ladies waiting were discussing previous operations in high pitched squeaks and nervous whinnies. I think it was Tony Hancock who used to remind us that there was always someone else worse off than us, and his name was……. and he lived at…………(56 Railway Cuttings East Cheam, probably, or nearby.) Well, amazingly, I met the lady worse off than me. She too had broken her upper arm in various places but, unlike lucky me, was in continual pain and was going private to have the nerves killed off in her shoulder, after which her arm would stop hurting, hopefully but would probably not work again, much. I felt blessed. The other lady had gone down the route of being interesting to doctors, and was able to give a lengthy description of all the procedures she had had for her guts, her colon, her lungs, her legs and all points north and how very understanding bosses at work had been about giving her time off. She was also very descriptive about how nothing had helped much and how her various consultants, with whom she seemed to be on first name terms, were alternately despairing of her and good at writing to her with another idea for surgery. I listened and felt perhaps my theory about them having to do things to you once you got into the system, might be right after all.
Then my name was called and they led me off into…………..another waiting room! The doctor and a nurse were very concerned. I had requested anaesthetic and a numbing spray. However, my hospital records indicated that the responsible adult I had nominated for looking after me and staying by my side for 24 solid hours (the OH) had a drinking problem and could not be nominated. Could other family members be drafted in to do the job? I said they could not but that the OH was high functioning. High functioning or not they had found his hospital records too and the only way was I was going to get the camera down my neck was if I just had the spray. No knock-out injection for me.
By now the tension had built. You could have fastened my hands to one end of a yew bow and my feet to the other and fired an arrow to Piccadilly Circus easily. TWANGGGG!
But I am meek and very British, so I thanked them politely that I was going to have a horrible procedure that I was terrified of whilst compos mentis and able to feel everything. Lovely. Thank you so much. I was assured that if there was a problem I could put my hand up. What, through the roof and grab passing planes, at all?
And then I was escorted.
Back to the second waiting room.
At this stage I would like to caution you that chomping on your computer or device on which you read me is inadvisable, besides which I haven’t got to the really knicker-gripping bit yet. Just hum some Great White Shark, fresh from the dentist, blood in the water music would you? Excellent. Thank you.
So I listened to some more stories from the far side of health and well-being, including: How the Neighbour Sent For The Ambulance While I Sat And Held My Arm Together and: I Wish They Would Just Get On And Put A Camera Up, My Consultant Cannot Decide If Have A Polyp Or A Constricted Colon.* I didn’t join in, I just sat and worried.
And then it was my turn. Come in. Lie down. Lie on your side. We are going to wind you up a bit. (You don’t say.) You are quite small, though we have this very long thick hose with a camera in it so we are going to wind you up a bit more. (No shit?) Try not to fall off the very high, shiny, polished, narrow table. Just relax.
Relax! Relax! Relax, are you crackers! Twang! Twing! Twong!
Open wide. Now the spray. A bit more spray. Swallow, more spray. Now we will put this gag on you to force your mouth open so you cannot escape. Now just swallow the camera on the end of this massive metal hosepipe.
Cakkers, oo ar cakkers, I kew oo er. Eee? retch retch retch, buuk buuk buuk, cakkers. Arrg Arrg Arrg.
Very good, now I’m going right through your stomach into your duodenum.
En, ere? China?
You’re doing very well, you’ll feel it twisting around quite a bit while I have a good look at your duodenum, keep very still.
Ere’s a choice? Arg arg.
I’m coming up into your stomach. You have a normal stomach.
O. I hag Ot. Ere is a Cangera ing it.
Up into your oesophagus. I am going to take several small samples, you may feel
AAAH! AAAH! AAAH!
I think you may have felt that.
Now I am going to revolve the camera in your oesophagus, this may be tricky because you have a small oesophagus and you may feel it.
ER ER ER ER ER ER AAARGH!
I thought so. One last look. All round. We’re coming out now. You may
retch retch retch bleurrg bleurrgh.
And I was thoroughly, and thanks to the lack of injection not only did I experience it all, I can recall it all too, as you can see.
But I had found and taken with me the diagram and summation from the first endoscopy in 2009. The doctor finished printing hers and we compared notes.
She declared that not only was I not worse, apart from a bit of inflammation I actually looked as if I had healed, on my own (because I cannot take the medication) and pending the histology she was going to recommend that I did not need the procedure repeating again, probably ever.
And afterwards the nurse said: You kept beautifully still, some people twist around as if they are trying to escape, they even do it with the camera in them.
Do they really? Fancy that!
* They use different cameras for either end of the body. They say+
+You really need to believe them. Though, of course, the cameras are washable. 30 degrees, no bleach, tumble dry.