An inkling of death

AFTER A POINT on the Highway of Life, death ceases to be a concept that has little to do with you, and it becomes considerably more real.

I have passed that point.

My father developed colon cancer when he was about 70, younger than I am now. He previously had dealt with prostate cancer. Both were in remission when a heart attack killed him with no warning when he was 75.

JM15_2_1024x1024In spite of my father and I appearing to be clones, I’ve had no significant health issues at all until relatively recently. I’ll be 74 in a couple of months.

Generally, I avoid the medical community when possible. If my body doesn’t bother me, I don’t bother it. We made a deal.

I keep my head firmly plunged into the sand. I am my own ostrich and worst enemy.

However, one of the many great aspects to healthcare in Mexico is that you can do lots of things on your own, things that would require the permission of a doctor above the Rio Bravo.

Due to this liberty, I give myself an annual checkup, a simple one that hits the high points. I go to an independent lab, and leave some blood. Sometimes I leave other things too, stuff that comes out of other orifices.

Cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, blood in the stool, etc. That latter is the old test for colon cancer. It’s marginally effective but better than nothing.

Due to my father’s having colon cancer, “they” say my chances are increased. I wonder if they are right. They probably are. Due to that, I got my first colonoscopy in Houston in 1997. No problem was found.

When I moved to Mexico, I read somewhere that colonoscopies are done under full anesthesia. I don’t want to do that, so I opted around 2005 for a barium enema, better than the stool test, not so good as colonoscopy.

You do not get anesthesia for a barium enema. By the way, barium enemas are no fun, but not nearly so bad as you may have heard.

Again, no problem was found. In 2011, I did it again with the same outcome.

Here we are in 2018. For some reason, I had decided not to do those tests anymore. I was sticking to my guns until about two months ago when my usual pattern down south changed noticeably. Every morning.

This is one of the warning signs of colon cancer, so my ears perked up.

Many physical issues clear themselves up if you’re patient. I waited. It did not clear itself up, but it did make a significant move toward normal. But not entirely.

I started checking around, and discovered colonoscopies are available without undergoing full anesthesia. I did it last Saturday and wrote about it in the eloquently titled post Getting a hose up my butt.

But today’s post is not about the procedure. It’s about the dark days before.

* * * *

Again, an inkling of death.

I kinda wigged out.

Sometimes the internet is great. Sometimes you should steer clear. Something I did not know was that colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and it’s one of the slow growers.

That means by the time you have symptoms, it’s made a bit of progress.

This put me into a funk. It wasn’t too bad in the daytime, but nights were another matter. You know how actual, trivial problems seem, well, trivial in the light of day, but at 3 a.m. they become catastrophic, an odd phenomenon.

Sleeping became a challenge. In the daylight hours, the situation was more manageable in my head, but it was still serious.

I became mostly convinced I was dead meat. This causes apathy, and I grew extremely apathetic and glum.

I was worried mostly about my child bride, less about myself. I am not young, and I have no more goals to reach, as if I ever had many in the first place.

I subscribe to no organized religion, but my experiences with LSD and psilocybin in the 1990s mostly convinced me of an afterlife. That was somewhat encouraging, and I was looking forward to it a bit.

But mostly it was a dark apathy.

The colonoscopy, however, found no polyps, not even precancerous ones. But the doctor did extract a bit of liquid and told me to take it to a lab for biopsy.

Biopsy!

And come back in a week, he said. We’ll have the results.

So there I was again. The cloud had dissipated somewhat, but I viewed the biopsy matter with a very dark eye.

The followup appointment was yesterday. The biopsy found nothing bad. The sun began shining again. I was good to go for a spell longer.

My only aunt, my father’s only sister, also was an ostrich. Her cancer — I do not know what type — appeared quickly and beyond repair when she was about 86. She died shortly after. She, my father and I  have the same surname.

My mother, on the other hand, made it to 90 and simply died of old age, too many things in her body just ran out of steam.

Turns out that what caused my bowel issue in the first place, what led me down this dark lane, was diverticulitis. I am being treated with antibiotics and intestinal flora.

I wish my body had just told me that in the first place.

I thought we had a deal.

 

 

47 thoughts on “An inkling of death

    1. Ms. Shoes: I shall not whine.

      By the way, if you put a YouTube link on a separate line here, the actual video appears. I adjusted your comment so that it does that. No charge.

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    2. And furthermore, Ms. Shoes, due to your insensitive response to this affliction, I will be contacting your advertisers. Then we’ll see what more can be done to put you out on the street. For good.

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      1. Go ahead. Maybe I can take Roseanne Barr’s spot on that TV show. Meanwhile I know that you’ll buck up, taking your treatment like a man, and not complain. You have so much talent for doing so, if you ended up with a colostomy bag, you’d make it seem like the latest must-have accessory, opining why more people don’t have one.

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  1. Great news that nothing came back with any serious results, Felipe! Prayers do get answered sometimes! Have a glorious weekend, my friend!

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    1. Carole: “They” say it’s unwise to take health advice from friends and neighbors, but I may have to look into that. Yes, it’s available here under the same name. Thanks.

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  2. Happy to read that your thoughts of demise were greatly exaggerated.

    I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is curious about your experiences with LSD and psilocybin, especially as led you to a belief in an afterlife. Maybe you could write about it some day.

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    1. Ray: I wrote about it at length many, many years ago on my previous website, now defunct. It’s a very complicated topic. Describing what happened is next to impossible due to its being an experience — for me at least — that is far beyond words, beyond the faintest possibility of verbal description.

      What people experience, from what I have read, and I have read a lot on it, varies widely, depending on the individual involved. Most people, I think, do it for “fun.” I guess it can provide that. That was not my experience.

      I just did LSD and psilocybin twice each. My experience with psychedelic cactus (San Pedro) was a flop. Nothing happened. That last thing I tried was ayahuasca in a chemical form, not the plants themselves. It told me to stop doing those things, that I did not need it any longer. Literally. Really. So I stopped. I believed it.

      The only part of those experiences that I can describe in words was something that happened to me in the final hour or so of my last psilocybin voyage. The effects had mostly worn off, so it was easier to put words around what happened. I remember it clearly. It involved a woman and a black panther, and that’s why there’s a black panther carved into both sides of the front door of the Hacienda.

      I’ll give you the details when you visit.

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      1. You wrote some really good stuff back in the beginning. Many times I have surfed for hours looking for them. Found some old things you wrote for Mexconnect but not the good stuff. Sad.

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        1. Dan: I zapped that original blog instead of just taking it offline. Now I wish I had not, if for no other reason than it was good for mining. Not quite sure why I erased it. Stupidity, I guess.

          My creative juices have dimmed with age. There’s no doubt about it.

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          1. I think you erased it due to the other side of your family were staring to get internet savvy. I miss access to it.

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      2. Felipe: I am pleased to hear there are still footsteps to be left by you.

        I tried it (LSD) for fun the first time, and there was some fun in it. The next few times it was for insight and entertainment. My downside with it was that there was always a point when I wished it was over. 12 hours was too long.

        Mushrooms were always a social event, the last one being a night with friends planned ahead as a “Farewell to Psychedelics.” And it was. Cannabis continued for years, but dwindled to an end.

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        1. Kris: My relatively few encounters with entheogens were not done with any desire for fun or entertainment. I did it at a very low point of my life, and I was hoping it would improve things, set me straight, and it did. I think — and so do others from what I’ve read — that one’s experience is tightly connected with one’s intentions. If you go into it for fun, that’s pretty much what you get. If you go into it with serious intentions, you get that, sometimes to a colossal degree.

          Yes, LSD is a long haul, hours and hours. I did not find it excessive in the slightest. I had no sense of time. Psilocybin lasts about half that time. As for pot, it’s a different thing altogether. Never been much of a pot fan. It’s a low-level chill-out product, in my opinion.

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          1. Felipe: The first time opened up my mind to deeper thoughts, and from then on, when I took it, I was doing a lot of soul searching regarding the meaning of life, and if it was worth the mental anguish. I think I did it in total maybe four times.

            The other stuff was involvement in the “if you remember the ’70s you didn’t live through them” movement.

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            1. Kris: I do remember the 1970s. The first half I was married with a daughter. The second half, I was divorced but still with a daughter except for the years my ex-wife and her boyfriend (now husband for decades) hightailed it to Canada to avoid prosecution on pot-dealing charges … with my daughter.

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    2. Ray PS: Prior to that time, I had been an agnostic most of my adult life. (Atheism to me is just another religion.) But after that time, I quit being an agnostic real damn fast.

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  3. My mother had diverticulitis. Had a surgery that basically cut out part of the colon. It was a great thing and had a lot of surprising ancillary benefits like lowering her blood pressure.

    So if surgery is indicated, don’t shy away; embrace it.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where we are prone but so far unaffected. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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  4. Interesting stuff here, señor. Having reached an age similar to yours, I can quickly identify with your current musings. As you know, I have my own health issues at the moment. Having looked at these matters quite closely, I can assure you that you are in fact dead meat. It’s just a matter of what day.
    But no worries, I’m sure we will converse in that afterlife you have found. For one, I do not fear it, although I will not rush to the passage if I have a choice.
    Perhaps you remember that old Southern expression, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but not today.”

    I bet we discuss this further when I see you in person in your present paradise.

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  5. Chronic stress, environmental toxins, ultra-processed foods, GMOs, lack of adequate sleep and fiber will screw up your gastrointestinal (GI) system. The gut plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system — in fact, 80% of our immune system is located there.

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    1. Andrés: Sometimes life does not follow one’s preferred script. I have no chronic stress. Quite the contrary. No environmental toxins that I know of. Next to no processed foods, ultra or otherwise. Don’t worry about GMOs. I get plenty of sleep and fiber. So go figure.

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  6. Felipe,

    Glad to hear all is well, despite the loss of several nights sleep. Being a believer I try very hard to not let events in this life cause me too much concern (being human I’m not always successful). I believe God will take me when he wants me, and there is no reason to fret over the date or time. What awaits in the next life lasts forever and will be far greater than this current existence. However, all that being said, I do my part to remain here as long as possible. I try to eat well and exercise regularly.

    Best Regards,
    Troy

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    1. Troy: Thanks. I was glad to hear that all was well too. At least regarding the presence of tumors. Still have some niggling issues, but that will work out in time. I too try to eat well and exercise regularly.

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  7. Felipe,

    Please don’t avoid the colonoscopies in future. It could extend the length of your “Highway of Life.” I had one several years ago that resulted in a diagnoses of cancer. The doc took out about 1/2 of my colon and sewed the healthy part back together. (He claims you can function just fine with only 6″ of colon.) I now have to have a colonoscopy every two years. Except for ongoing diverticulitis I have been clean every since. Colonoscopy is lightweight compared to cystoscopy. I’ve had about 15 of those and they are definitely no fun.

    Landslide Larry

    Living on the landslide where a boulder finally crashed through my house.

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  8. Here I’m covered in fascination at the kind comments you got with this one, señor. Perhaps the one thing we mostly agree on is that each of us will die. We have some interesting takes on what happens after that, or not.

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  9. After watching my father’s decline, I’m very much aware that medical technology has the capability to do things it maybe shouldn’t do. It’s something to seriously consider. But a colonoscopy probably isn’t in that category.

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    1. Creigh: I know what you’re talking about, and it’s a serious dilemma. Need to stay in some middle ground. Of course, most doctors prefer going to the extreme. Makes sense from their perspective, I guess.

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  10. I have been watching the comments here. I have had this procedure done three times. Once in a private clinic, once in the hospital and the third time in the VA hospital. I can tell you that the procedure is nothing compared to the prep for it. Who knew there was so much of that stuff up there.
    The first two times things were fine. The last time was at the VA, and they took out some polyps.

    The VA did this industrial style. There were about twenty guys sitting there in their all together under those flimsy robes. It struck me then that the VA is the realm of the old and ugly. Not a good-looking person among them. All were butt ugly. Me included.

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    1. Señor Gill: As I mentioned before, I’ve done the colonoscopy twice now, and the barium enema twice too. The prep is the same. It’s also improved since my last excursion in 2011. The prep, that is. I found the most disagreeable part was not eating. I get grumpy when I cannot eat.

      I don’t think I would have gone to the VA to do that. I imagine you had a reason for that.

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  11. I once took the bus to a lab for a barium enema. I thought it was all done, and I took the bus back to work. I didn’t make it. I went home for the rest of the day. It was awful.

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    1. Señor Gill: Shoulda had someone take you and return you home, and shoulda blown off work that day, but you know that now. Lordy, lordy. As for the procedure itself, it sure was no fun, but I didn’t find it so terrible.

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