« Tháinig mé slán | Main | "I think we got that thing cured" »

November 06, 2010

Swallowing, you complete me


It was roughly a year ago when I first got scared I had cancer. My first of many breakdowns happened at Sonoma State when I was rushing to a meeting with Dr Madathil but instead found myself in the office of Stephanie, the department super admin and every counseling graduate student's mom.

I walked into her office and she took one look at me and said, "What's wrong?" I cried immediately and she took me in her arms. It was the beginning of my journey.

12 months, many breakdowns, and a river of tears later I again found myself in Stephanie's office with important news. This time we cried for happy.

I can swallow. It hurts a lot, but I can swallow with gusto. Tonight I had chocolate mousse Claire picked up at WF. It was nice. My first "meal" since March was three bites of mashed potatoes last Thursday.

Dr. Deepak Gurushanthaiah, a.k.a. Dr G, a.k.a. the Dude, the great surgeon who did such a nice job on what is referred to as the "gross disease" - the only evidence that I had cancer was in those 7 lymph nodes he removed in January - met me again in the ambulatory OR room in Oakland Kaiser to restore the opening to my esophagus. According to him I had no lumen (the open area of the esophagus). He said he saw that the tissue had scarred over due to radiation and chemotherapy damage. The tissue had attached to the back of my vocal chord box. He said he "tore it open" and that's certainly how it feels.

Of note was the energy in the OR. Assisting was Dr Boyd, a.k.a. Dr Smiley, who also assisted in the January surgery. The best description of the energy was silly, in particular Dr G was silly.

When you enter the hospital there are several identity checks that the staff do to ensure the patient and procedure are proper. This includes asking the same questions (name, DOB, type of procedure, etc.) in the OR. Dr G made it into theater.

He had the team gather around me and said, "We are gathered here today for who?" and he looks at me with huge eyes and I respond my name and the he says "and he is how old ..." and so on. It was, by far, the best Dr and hospital related experience I've ever had from intake to discharge. Truly an amazing day.

I'm taking appointments for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Please let me know when and where you are available and we'll meet up to toast our friendship and encourage my esophagus to relent on its stricture producing ability.

This experience has given me a perspective on eating in general. I was never in danger of starvation because I had the g tube, but I was starving for the experience of the process of eating. I watched people eat and realized that eating was far more than food for the body. It was also food for the mind as well as the spirit. The process of eating fuels imagination and encourages human connection, binding us together, in my experience, like no other ritual.

This Thanksgiving will be, for me, a true blessing not because I can eat, but because I can eat with my family and friends in a manner befitting our kind. For that I am immensely grateful.

Posted by Michael at November 6, 2010 10:10 PM