Why You Haven’t Seen Me Around Lately

Don’t you love this picture? I stole it from my daughter who, like me, is subject to documenting her life in photos, plus she knows I love chickens. She found these during the recent Apple Festival at the Queens County Farm Museum in New York. I’m using it for my post today because it felt oddly appropriate in light of several health scares I’ve gone through lately.

At the time I first saw the picture I’d just posted a story in which my uncle refers to eating chicken feet when he was growing up. Naturally the first thing I thought of was how it was probably good these young pullets and roosters didn’t realize that at any time they would meet the grim reaper as he was probably waiting just outside the fence picking one out that very minute. Wouldn’t have mattered anyhow because there’s not a goldarn thing they could do about it.

At the time I was awaiting results from a liver biopsy and I really identified with those chickens. The good luck I’ve already had in life so far held out one more time for me though. The markings that first showed up in an ultrasound were only fatty deposits that apparently resulted from a family gene that I was so lucky to inherit. All it meant was another pill to take, plus a couple of added vitamins, and the doctor announced I was good to go. Actually his exact words were, “you’re in good health for the health you’re in” which I found strangely reassuring.

Move ahead then to Tuesday of the past week. Hubby and I started our last week of classes, both of us all eager to finish up classes on Thursday. After class we attended a special movie screening of CHINATOWN for anyone who wanted to attend. Neither of us are predisposed to turning down old films for free on a big screen. It’s nice to see how movie making has changed, see familiar actors back in their youthful state, and compare as well how we’ve changed ourselves over the years.

What startled me the most is that I hardly remembered a thing, only the scene where Faye Dunnaway finally levels with Jack Nicholson about being forced to have sex with John Huston (her father in the film). It was still so powerful, no wonder I’ve didn’t forget that part!

By the end of the movie, it was already six o’clock; we were both starved so we decided to stop off at a local Mexican restaurant for dinner. I mention this fact not because it’s relevant, but it explains how restaurants get crossed off my list of places to eat. I think you’ll understand why if you have the patience to continue with this story.

Shortly after we got home I was on the phone with a friend who’s been recently diagnosed with lung cancer. After suffering round after round of an experimental treatment, which was the only hope her doctor handed her, she finally said “No More.” You never know what to say to people in that situation! I suspect one of the reasons may be that we have a “guilty survivor” complex.

I know that I do as I’ve lost many members of my family to cancer already: sister, brother, several uncles. I may not talk about it but it’s always on the back of my mind. “When will it be my turn, and how have I been so lucky to have been spared?” And there’s always that nagging voice in the back of my mind. “One day it’ll be your turn.” “And there’s not a goldarn thing you’ll be able to do to change it.

I was amazed at how bravely Vy is handling her situation, wondering how I would handle it should I be the one–like those chickens–to be the next choice of the Grim Reaper. I’m pretty sure I’d be ready to jump off a bridge someplace into a busy freeway. It’s the terrible psychological ordeal of knowing beforehand that would bother me most. Selfishly I hope to die either in my sleep or quickly and unexpectedly, probably in much the same way we’d all choose if we could.

We’d been chatting for more than half an hour when suddenly I felt completely and utterly exhausted even though it was only a few minutes after eight. I quickly made my excuses and hung up to join Hubby watching television, remarking to him how tired I felt. I had to give up by 8:30 to go to bed. I fell asleep almost directly.

About three hours later I woke up to spend the next hours until daylight running to the bathroom every hour on the hour, or everytime I took even a sip of the water on my nightstand. I’ve had gastrointestinal upsets before so Hubby thought we should go to the hospital. Needles. Tests. Then they hydrate you and send you home and all you ever know is that you had another one those vague “viral” things. So I resisted at first, until I too was finally convinced it would be worth anything to feel better.

After nearly a day in the emergency room and lots of blood draws, I was admitted. Over the next days I was poked and needled half to death, told the same story over and over again to doctor after doctor, and was told the Ct-scan showed something going on in my bowel.  Even though I’d had a colonoscopy only 18 months ago, I was prepped for another one.

All the time I’m wondering if it’s finally my turn. I kept having mental pictures of Vy, my sister, my brother, knowing this is what they must have gone through. In that interminal length of time, however, I’d come to the conclusion that I would face whatever was to come as bravely and with as much grace as I’d seen exhibited in all the examples mentioned.

But again, my luck is holding out. The scoping revealed only an irritated bowel, source unknown. Plus they found and removed a small polyp they expect to be benign. Finally the pesky little bacteria was isolated. I was lucky the doctors had already started a round of potent antibotic that turns out to work on my particular bacteria. I’m sure most people are familiar with how unrestful a hospital really is. I got about 3 hours of total sleep during the entire ordeal. But it was almost worth it to know that my luck is still there.

I apologize profusely for such a lengthy story, but it explains why I’ve been away from your blogs and mine for the past week. Full recovery will not be quick and will run a linear path I’m told by my doctors. It’s not the kind of recovery where you feel a little better each day, but where you may feel very well one day and not so good the next.

I hope to post some future stories that play up the positive aspects of my little adventure, the wonderful care and people I met, but it may take time. Recovery, as they say, will be slow. Meanwhile, although I’ll never know for certain, but there’s a good chance the seafood chimechanga I ate Tuesday for dinner was NOT the culprit. The bacteria can be picked up in many places. But just in case Tres Amigos, if you happen to notice that I don’t come there anymore, this is why.

Update: I was just interviewed by telephone by a representative of the Salt Lake County Health Department. The source of my recent intestinal malady is a nasty little bacteria called campylobacter, or the “campy virus.” There have apparently been enough cases reported in the county that they’re trying to pin down the source. I gave them the names of all the restaurants we’d eaten for the last two weeks of October, one of which happens to be a very fancy and ultra expensive place nestled in the Cottonwood Canyon foothills, and the only other I can think of, a local Soup or Salad. So it probably didn’t come from Tres Hombres, but I’ll still never be able to make myself eat there. Too bad, too, because they have strolling mariache bands on weekends and the best and biggest margaritas around.