Coming back here wasn’t an easy thing to do. It’s been 3 months since my last post, which is not such a long time from the usual perspective, although it may seem like ages in certain life situations. It wasn’t grief that kept me away, grief was and is still here like some dark shadow hanging over me, and you know what – it’s not improving with time. It’s quite a sad and tough job to be still here living this post traumatic life and trying to make all those loose ends meet in any meaningful way, it’s very hard even without all the complications I had to face lately. My mom hurt her hand very badly and wore a plaster for the first time in her life. Brother of my dad’s best friend was diagnosed with cancer and endured two operations so far. My uncle and my aunt’s best friend both suffered strokes. Two good people I’ve known for quite a long time passed away. And on the top of all that, I started having some very weird upper GI problems myself. Pains in the middle of the chest stabbing backwards through the spine, heart skipping beats, tons of air in the stomach and burping. The only moments of peace were when I avoided food completely, but I still burped, even in the bed. Things got from bad to worse, I had some constant feeling of “there is something stuck in the middle of my esophagus…”, so it began to seem pretty plausible to prepare myself for joining dad some time soon.
Everybody was prone to say that it was “stress related” (stress is pretty much overrated if you ask me, perfect excuse for “I don’t have a clue what is going on with you” situation), even though I have very rich 20 years long “dealing with stress” experience, and even in my worst panic periods I never burped like hell with heart skipping beats, but it just HAD to be stress. So I went to the lab and ordered a Helicobacter pylori blood test – Serbia is a fascinating country, any ordinary citizen can enter a private lab and ask for any analysis in the world as long as you can pay it, it functions like a supermarket. It came back positive. Ok, next logical step, I found a good GI doctor who put me on that horrible Helicobacter pylori eradication treatment, plus I had to eradicate Candida albicans as well. It worked like magic, I was totally exhausted but completely symptom free. Happiness lasted for about three weeks, and then it all tumbled down on my stomach even worse than before. I was at the end of my nerves with “now what”, staring at my gastroenterologist in bewilderment in his office. Well, it could be stress in the end you know… Not again, not with the stress story, please. Potent stomach acid inhibitors and some drugs to calm me down at dosages so mild that I knew couldn’t make any difference in my case. Try this for two months, he said. Two months?? No way. I was already only sitting or lying down and barely eating, so you wanted me to go on like that for two more months? I would die or turn into skeleton for sure. Well, either that or upper GI endoscopy in two weeks. Even the name of that procedure makes my nerves dance in a very hellish way.
No wonder they prefer to call it Upper GI endoscopy.
Firstly, I have panic disorder. Panic disorder is all about feelings of imminent dread, choking, heart beating like crazy, feeling that you’ll either go mad or die for sure… and now you want to stick something very similar to a garden hose all the way down my esophagus, stomach and duodenum and make me endure that and pretend as if nothing is happening? In Serbia it is pretty much a custom to do this to say the least pretty uncomfortable invasive procedure without sedation. So I am supposed to choke and gag (I could hear the sounds and didn’t like them at all) while you wander up and down inside me for several minutes, and you also want me to keep calm at the same time, without moving, jumping of the table, hurting myself etc… VERY BAD JOKE. I run out of buses after two stops without hoses inserted into my intestines, you know.
Secondly, my dad died of gastrointestinal cancer. One of the last procedures he endured was precisely upper GI endoscopy, without sedation. I still remember his red face and eyes that were almost popping out of the face distorted in some horror like grimace.
Ok, in that case we can do it with sedation… that’s not free. That sounded better, minus the cost. But I was never given an anesthetic before. What’s the feeling? Will I wake up? Will he damage my stomach with his “hose”? And the most important thing, will he find something… something bad…? I couldn’t decide. On one hand, living in ignorance with these cancer like symptoms is pure hell. Enduring the procedure is pure hell as well. As the days went on, the ignorance hell grew worse and worse, I had to do something to end it. Whatever. Eradicate fear with more fear. There was no other way.
I thought I was the craziest person on planet up until I met different people in the endoscopy department. That place is all about fear, uncertainty and hope. But mostly fear. Some of them were more scared than I was. When you go for an endoscopy, you have to fast. Hunger makes things worse, because your ability to tolerate anxiety grows significantly lower. There was one guy with a women there who didn’t utter a word. Judging by the looks on their faces, I was convinced that she had to do the procedure. I did my paranoid google self-training very well beforehand, so I tried to calm everybody down… but deep down there, I knew – up until I lie on that table and have my own experience, nothing that another person says can explain how that feels. Those are feelings, not words.
I walked in very hesitantly, I gave all my data, I was warned about the procedure… and I signed that I accept. That is stressful, signing that you’re completely aware of possible complications and that you still accept the procedure. I climbed onto the bed and the guy who was about to place the IV line started the small talk. I knew what that was, merely a way to engage my mind in a conversation and keep it away from the procedure, I used the distraction technique so many times to get myself out of PD pits. It was helpful, yet not really necessary, because once I lay on that bed some strange peace came over me. I knew that nothing any more depended on me. I gave up on the control, just like you do it when you jump into the water for the first time. When you’re in the middle of the jump, there is no turning back. And it’s your own jump, nobody can truly help you or do it for you. You can have a whole crowd out there cheering for you, but you’re alone in your own battle. Now what exactly happened that turned a control freak like me into a pretty calm person I still don’t know, as the guy was still only applying the IV line, nothing was yet injected. Then the “medicine man” came in. I just asked if I would be totally knocked out. Yes, he said, is that a problem? No, no problem at all, that is precisely what I want, to be miles away from all the fears, hells, problems, procedures, uncertainties. I was so so tired. They turned the main lights off, and I remember closing my eyes on purpose. I so badly wanted to sleep. Several more instants with closed eyes and my own thoughts, and that’s where the movie stopped. The next thing was the anesthesiologist asking me why I was sleeping. 🙂 Well you injected something, and you’re asking me why I was sleeping…crazy. I saw the nurse and she was smiling. I asked her when we would start. Start what, she asked. Well, the damn thing, the endoscopy. Endoscopy? We finished it, darling. I automatically did my best to check if I could feel something in my mouth, on my lips, in my throat. Zero. Nothing. Nada. This woman is joking, I thought. We took some biopsies, too, you know, she added. I was like… aaaaa? and said “Seriously???” She started giggling and everything became funny. The anesthesiologist wanted me to try to get up and then all the stuff started moving around in little flashes, in some strange funny vertigo. No way, man, I’ll fall, I said. He told me to look at the nurse and asked if I see her. Yep, but she is SOOOOOO strange, I said and laughed. The nurse laughed back, but he froze completely. What do you mean strange? How strange? AAA, I thought, this one here is checking for a possible brain damage. Well, if I look right at her, she’s fine. But if I move my eyes to the left or right, she spins and dilutes :)) She laughed like crazy at that point. He said, oh good, that’s ok :))They moved me to a bed for recovery and told me not to rise my head. No nausea, no pain, no acid, no saliva, no nothing. These people kid me for sure, I can swear and sign that they didn’t do anything. Within 2 more minutes, I sat and nothing was spinning any more. I was totally fine, not feeling crazy, not feeling tired, not feeling drunk. I felt myself, just a bit happier – weird. And very relieved that I did the wretched procedure and endured it so well. They told me to continue lying there, but I wanted to go to the waiting room and sit there. I wanted to tell all that people that there was nothing to fear. Nothing at all. I wanted to help – them. So I went out and they were amazed how ok and normal I looked. The couple was still pretty quiet, I said it was great and that I didn’t feel or remember a thing. Going to the dentist’s is FAR FAR worse, yet I like going to my dentist’s office. I sat there and talked with an old guy who unfortunately had gastric cancer, then he recovered, but things didn’t seem so well again. I cheered him up a bit and that was really good. Then an older woman came out and her daughter told me – you’re great in comparison to my mom… why, I asked? Then I saw the women, she seemed pretty drunk and cranky. 😀 It seemed that she was always cranky when drunk, so that’s how her system reacts. She was angry with the technician because they had to keep her there some more time, she wanted to go lie on her couch and have a beer or two :))
Then the couple went in. I continued chatting with the man next to me and after some time something totally weird happened. The couple came back and the IV line was – in his hand. With the other hand he grabbed my free hand and held it in such a strong and emotional way. Thank you SO MUCH, he said. It resulted that he wanted to run away and that he decided to give up. But when I said what I said about my procedure, he changed his mind. And did it. He said, I managed, but only because of you. That felt so good. He thanked and thanked me up until I was allowed to go, and that wonderful feeling will be always there in my heart. The feeling that I helped somebody, that I dissipated his fear, that I helped him “jump”.
But I’m still wondering about my own feeling when I could sit without vertigo. Something was pushing me out into the waiting room to tell the people that it was nothing. It wasn’t about me any more. I just had to do it, as if I knew it would help somebody. 🙂 I’m still waiting for the biopsy results, till Monday. There are some inflammation points, hiatal hernia, swelling… so yes, it’s not really stress. And it wasn’t just in my head. I’m pretty happy and calm now knowing that I did what I should, yet I still have indigestion and burping.
So if I can help anybody else out there, if you need an upper GI endoscopy, opt for sedation. Find a good – that means experienced doctor with a good team who did the same procedure many times and have no fears. Literally, leave your fear in his / her hands. You won’t remember the procedure at all and it may save your health or even your life, don’t postpone it if it is necessary because there is truly no reason for that.
Just to add one more thing, I read about an initiative to post blogs about compassion on February 20th using the hashtag #1000Speak spreading the kindness towards others in the blogosphere. May this be my little contribution to make this world at least somewhat kinder and friendlier place.
If you’re interested, check out this link:
1000 speak for compassion