Thursday, October 23, 2014

Really. I have got to start paying more attention

My search for a cure for what ails me, stomach subdivision, drifted back to the more conventional side this week as Sheri and I went to a palliative care doctor. You're probably thinking, “A what?” I know, right? Prior to this experience, neither Sheri nor I knew what a palliative care doctor did.
In fact, until my Augusta oncologist suggested earlier this month that I go see one, I had never even heard of such a thing. But one of Sheri's friends had.

“Yes. She said a palliative provides end-of-life care.”

“Well. That's good to... Wait. What?! End-of-when care?”

“End-of-life. She says people normally see a palliative doctor when their illness has brought them close to death and he helps them deal with the pain- physical, mental and spiritual.”

“Well. That certainly seems like the type of thing I would use. Good to know it's available. I just didn't think I needed it now. I thought my oncologist said this new guy would help me deal with the pain in my stomach?”

“Maybe he does that sort of thing too. I'm just telling you what my friend says each time she hears me say you're going to a palliative care specialist.”

Look, I was 98% sure that I was to see this person to help me deal with my pain, but we all know paying attention isn't always one of my strengths. You mix in a large dollop of denial, and there is a chance, small though it may be, that I missed something. Just remember, my doctors and nursing staff told me over and over, from day one, that there was no cure for multiple myeloma, but it was a year before I actually heard them and processed what that meant.

Anyway, we went to the appointment, and once again found ourselves walking the corridors of the hospital, looking for yet another new office (with the help of one of the wonderful volunteers), past places we'd already looked for answers, past many people who seemed worse off than I was, to arrive at the latest location in our search for hope.

As I answered the usual intake questions, Sheri casually inquired what sort of doctor we were seeing.

“Palliative care.”

“Right, but what does a palliative care doctor... do?”

“Oh,” the nice lady doing the intake said, “End-of-life care, physical, mental, spiritual.”

I wish I could leave a large chunk of white space here. It would be the only thing that could adequately convey how we felt when she said that. Eventually...

Me to Sheri: Did you hear the oncologist say anything about end-of-life?

Sheri to me: No. I thought he said this was to help you deal with the pain.

The fact that Sheri was somewhat stunned was disconcerting. She's always the one who has the proper grasp on what's going on.

Me to the nice lady: I thought my oncologist sent me here to deal with my pain?

Nice lady: Well, he does that too. I'm sure that's why you're here.

Whether it was the way she said it, or the way I heard, her answer fell a little short of providing the comfort I'm sure she intended.

Then we met the doctor and the whole end-of-life thing became something we agreed we could make an appointment for in the future, hopefully the distant future, but for now he wanted to talk about my stomach pain. And talk we did.

Just so you know that I am capable of restraint: as part of his questioning, he asked what other specialists I had seen. I told him, but really, really wanted to add that I was going to see a voodoo specialist but I heard you had to bring your own chicken. (Sorry, it never gets old.) But I didn't! I did point out to him, however, that I was seeing him only after I had already seen an acupuncturist and a medical intuitive, so...

That was just me being an ass, by the way. Both those people had helped me a lot, and I'd actually made the appointment to see him before I saw either one of them. But, restraint is relative- you can look it up.

As we talked, Sheri and I felt our hope actually stay with us, rather than fading. While the tests showed that there was nothing physically wrong with my gall bladder, none of them really assessed how my gall bladder was working. In other words, it could be like that car you bought from the local shopper- it looked great, but didn't work so well. He also prescribed a medicine that would help deal with excess stuff (bile? Acid? Don't remember) that could be getting into my stomach.

Or it might be something else entirely. But at least it gives us hope that we might have found the long-sought solution, and in the Arnold house, we eat hope with a spoon.
There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”