Today, I would like to share a medical procedure I had just after New Year’s Day. January 19, 2016 – to be exact.
A few years ago, I started having a bit of difficulty when swallowing. Suddenly, my throat would tighten; I could feel a bit of a spasm. I slowed down the eating process, hoping my husband would not notice. He did.
One afternoon while we were eating at a restaurant, the spasm returned. I attempted swallowing a bit. I could not. I got the hiccups – something I never get. I cleared my throat only to realize I needed to rush to the ladies room. I covered my mouth with my hands in hopes nothing regurgitated. I’m pleased to report; I made it to the ladies room. About ten minutes later, I returned to the table, requesting a ‘doggie bag’ for my salad.
My mind drifted to my father. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December 1997. I lost him from that dreadful, debilitating disease on July 6, 1999. I knew the symptoms of this cancer well:
- Inability to swallow without regurgitating
- Weight loss, due to the inability to eat food
- Pain or burning in the throat
- Choking while eating
Of these symptoms, I experienced five. I procrastinated, hoping and praying that I was simply overreacting, or maybe my mind was imagining them because I was still grieving over the loss of my father. I kept telling myself that “this too shall pass,” and I refused to go to the doctor.
Since I’ve increased my exercise routines, power walking and the treadmill, I noticed at times I would get an upset stomach, resulting in a quick rush to the restrooms during my exercise. This was quite embarrassing to me. Later, I would taste a strange bitterness in my mouth and throat. Researching, as I always do, I discovered I was suffering with some ‘GI issues.’ I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist, Dr. Jeffrey R. Joyner, http://www.lowcountrygi.com/ since he is such a respected gastroenterologist; I had to wait two months to see him even though he was the doctor performing another procedure a few years ago. When I visited his office, I shared what was happening inside of my body. He made a few suggestions, and I am happy to say, his suggestions worked. I needed to take a daily dosage of Fiber Con, and I needed to make certain I ate something before exercising.
Since I was at the office, I cleared my throat and whispered, “I am having a problem with swallowing sometimes.” I paused. “Let me explain. I lost my dad in 1999 due to esophageal cancer. I think I might have it.”
I really thought I was under control with these grief emotions, especially after 16 years, but I wasn’t. Tears rushed down my face. I apologized. Dr. Joyner handed me a tissue.
“You have no reason to apologize. Grief is a difficult emotion. Incidentally, I do not believe you have esophageal cancer.”
“But – I have the same symptoms.”
“Let’s not worry about that now. I am almost positive you do not have esophageal cancer, but I would like to schedule an endoscopy.” He asked me additional questions.
My response to each was a soft, emotional “No.”
I wiped tears, cleared my throat and attempted to smile.
The endoscopy was scheduled. I was sad that it couldn’t be done before the holidays and then I remembered the holidays of 1997 – early July 1999. Maybe I didn’t want to go through the holidays knowing something was wrong.
Arriving home, I researched endoscopy again. According to the Mayo Clinic, “upper endoscopy is a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system with a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube. A specialist in diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist) uses an endoscopy to diagnose and, sometimes, treat conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum). http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/endoscopy/basics/definition/PRC-20020363
So, during the Christmas holidays of 2015, I kept myself busy. My sister and other family members were coming for Thanksgiving this year. I was certain I could manage a smile while knowing and appreciating the little things in life. I didn’t mention how frightened I was. I did not want sympathy or pity from anyone.
Nevertheless, when I was alone, I found myself worrying. While eating tilapia and yellow rice, I choked and then I remembered, almost every time I ate rice, I would choke. No more rice for me!
Thanksgiving and Christmas slowly passed by. I counted the days until my endoscopy and I prayed. And prayed…AND PRAYED. “Please God. Please don’t let me have esophageal cancer.”
The morning of Tuesday, January 19 arrived. My procedure was scheduled for 8 am. We arrived at 7:20.
By 7:30 I was in the procedure room, ready to get this procedure over. I slid on the bed, curious and anxious to get this morning going. I said another prayer while speculating if God ever got tired from hearing my prayers. Maybe I needed to pray in a different manner. Dr. Joyner came to see me, telling me everything would be fine and for me not to worry. Easier said than done.
Just what would I do IF I did have esophageal cancer? What would I say to my husband? Who would take care of me?
I admit it. I never had these discussions with Phil. I was hopeful he would be my rock – again.
The anesthesiologist welcomed me, telling me I needed to lie on the left side of my body. She told me I would be given the drugs so I could be asleep during the procedure. In a few minutes, she returned. She smiled. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. This takes maybe 20 seconds. You’ll be asleep soon.”
I remember counting. One…two…three… I don’t remember four!
I was out, almost as quickly as turning a light off.
When I awoke, I heard music. The nurse welcomed me.
“I heard music. Did the song – for the life of me I cannot recall the title – play?”
“You heard it?” The nurse said.
“Yes. I am a music person and a singer.”
“What would you like to drink? Dr. Joyner will be here in a few minutes.”
And that is when I looked at her, asking her the dreaded question “Do I have esophageal cancer?”
“No.” She said. “You are fine.”
Dr. Joyner entered the room. “I understand you were a bit worried,” he said.
“Do I have esophageal cancer?” I repeated. Tears filled my eyes.
“No. You have a hiatal hernia. Nothing more. No cancer and no pre cancer cells. I did a biopsy just to be sure.”
I sighed, wiping my tears.
I looked up at the ceiling. Thank you, God.
Before I had the endoscopy, I knew what to expect from it. I was prepared, or as prepared as one can be, for the dreaded six letter word – cancer.
My husband entered the room. I reached for his hand. “No cancer,” I said.
“Thank God,” he said, kissing my hand. “When you’re dressed we can go home.”
“Good,” I said. “My fresh pot of coffee awaits and you can go to work.”
“Only if you promise to rest the rest of the day.”
I crossed my hands over my chest. “Scouts Honor,” I said.
“Yeah, and you were not a girl scout.”
“I was a den mother for the Cub Scouts. That should count.”
Phil tossed his head back and forth, rolling his eyes at me. His body language says so much! The nurse arrived with a wheelchair.
“Ah..I don’t need that. I can walk.”
“Not today,” she smiled. I hopped into the wheelchair and slid in the car. It was 8:15 am. “In and out surgery, just like drive thru windows for fast food,” I said. The nurse laughed and wished me a good day.
I return to the doctor in March. Since the procedure I haven’t had any symptoms, or difficulty swallowing. I think I have God, my family and friends and the doctor to thank. Looks like 2016 will be a good year.