Thursday, December 4, 2014

Unmitigated gall? Mitigated gall? Tomato? Tomahto?

In the year-plus that I've been writing this blog/column, my wife Sheri has never, truly, asked me not to write about something. She's been my partner through many of my column-writing years, both in New York and here in Maine, so she knows that I need to write what I need to write.

By the way, this writing/not writing has never been about some melodramatic expose likely to bring hoodlums to our house to break things, including one or both of us, to get me to see the error of my ways. (I have had threats like that, but they were before Sheri and I met and mostly involved comparisons to Adolf Hitler, and/or his henchmen, so I'm not sure how serious they were.) Frankly, it isn't always easy to find something to write about each week. When I do come across an idea, I don't like to abandon it just because it might prove embarrassing to one or the other of us.

So, when Sheri asked me not to write about the hospital/medical stuff we were going through this week, I knew the request came only after considerable thought. I also sensed that this request was motivated by something other than what normally causes her to hope that I don't write about what she's pretty sure I'm going to write about.

Early on in our relationship, her main concern was that I not write something embarrassing, especially to her. When she saw that embarrassing was my middle name, she modified her wish. She asked me to just not write something that would make it uncomfortable for her to leave the house for a week, or more.

Hey, I'm a sport. I'm a player. I figured I could do that. And other than a column I wrote in New York about trying to get rid of squirrels using a method that involved a garden hose, a duct-taped extension, her leaning out over the edge of a roof while I (hopefully) held her to keep from falling, as we tried to blast a squirrel nest from a backyard tree during a violent thunderstorm... I've been pretty successful.

Sure enough, the latest request, presented while sitting in the gastro doctor's office waiting to try, again. to determine what, if anything, we could do about the pain in my stomach, came from a worry Sheri had about regular readers of the column. I asked her why she didn't want me to write about it. She was concerned that as we failed to make progress on a solution, people would become discouraged, worrying that maybe they would have to go through the same trial and error over what their ailment was.

I considered that a terrific answer/reason and it did cause me to pause for a moment. The last thing I want is for anyone to be discouraged by anything I write. Au contraire, as our French friends say, I want people to feel encouraged and supported by my writing. That's actually the main point of struggling to put a piece together week after week.

But, here's the thing... I decided I needed to write about this as I have written about every other aspect of my journey through cancer. Remember, I said in the very beginning that I would tell the story of what I was going through, at any point in this fight, as honestly and openly as I possibly could. How else, I figure, can people count on what I say to be credible.

Regular readers know I wasn't always the type of person I am now. Previously, my main goal was to keep you happy. If that meant being somewhat circumspect, well... it was for your own good, right? What you didn't know wouldn't hurt me. I wanted to control your pain and unhappiness. So I doled out the truth in pieces I determined were just right for you to take. My goodness. What an ass. That's the worst possible kind of ass-ness, by the way, because at first blush it can seem like a well-intentioned effort to help another person through pain and sorrow.

But it doesn't. It's wrong-headed. People have the right to suffer their own pain at their own time and in their own amounts.

So, you might ask, other than, blahbiddy blah blah blah humina squawk and fizz, what's it all about, Alfie?

It's about me telling you that I am surely going to have my gall bladder removed, even though we aren't 100 percent sure that it's the culprit. There was one more test Gastro Guy wanted to run, but it would have meant injecting my body with IV contrast to help the scan I needed and that was a non-starter. From the very beginning, I was told not to have IV contrast used during scans. The possible issues for patients with multiple myeloma include renal failure. I didn't even have to consult my well-worn copy of Reader's Digest's “Make Pain Disappear; Proven Strategies to get the Relief you Need” to know that renal failure was bad.

Now, the normal Plan B would be for me to drink a god-awful liquid that would produce the necessary contrast. But Plan B wasn't an option because... Well, I don't know because. I was just told, by yet another very nice nurse lady, that this next test was not Plan B-able.

So, it's time for there to be one less gall bladder in the world. Which is a great Plan C, if ever I heard one.

As to Sheri's concern: I hope you haven't found this search for a solution discouraging. There's no reason to when you consider that determining what it isn't can be just as important as figuring out what it is. Besides, I think the Masons have something to do with it and I know a guy.

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.”