What will Kill Me? Decisions decisions…
When I was young and dumb, before AIDS was invented – or rather before we knew about it – I wrote this very stupid poem:
(To be recited in a posh Chelsea Sloane-Ranger voice)
“Eau! For a terminal Illness!
Nothing too painful of course.
Just something to give me a pale set look
Like a vision of Christ on the cross.
So that all who meet me on my way to the grave
Will say “Eau! How are you? SO sorry! How brave!
And hundreds of virgins, on my way down the street
Will cry Eau! How romantic! As they lie at my feet
I forget the rest. But as I was young and good looking and sexy as hell perhaps you’ll forgive me. And now that I’m older, uglier, and have almost forgotten sex completely the whole idea of a terminal illness makes me cry. Especially as I have had quite a few opportunities to watch people die. And there’s nothing fucking romantic about it whatsoever. And yet in my low moments, when I forget that the world is now so much more interesting than it used to be and if I leave I’ll never find out how it all turns out; a terminal illness occasionally feels like a good escape route. Suicide is far too much work. Messy, sordid and it leaves all sorts of people with far too much guilt.
“Neau! Not a terminal illness!
It’s just too painful of course.
It’s something that gives me that pale set look
Of dying so slow on a cross.
And all who meet me on my way to the grave
Swallow their pity and try to be brave
And beautiful people rush down the street
Avoiding my eye and speeding their feet….”
A NICE leaflet (it was actually, but NICE is an acronym for National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the official body in the UK for medicine evaluation and approval on behalf of the NHS. So why isn’t the acronym NIHCE? Doesn’t have the same cuddliness I suppose.) given to me by the Doctor gave me the bad news and I’m still reeling from the shock: my chances of dying from a stroke are MUCH less than I thought they were. (https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg180/resources/patient-decision-%20aid-243734797) For years I have believed – and doctors and articles in the newspapers reinforced the belief – that my heart condition, Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation would send a great big clot rushing through my veins to heart or brain and bang! At some point. Any point. Any minute. To avoid this I have been enjoined to make avoiding a stroke a major project.
Stroke prevention project part 1: eat! Vegetables! Fruit! Five a day – do you know how difficult that is? Especially if you happen to be in Scotland. Or Tokyo. Or the USA. Anywhere with a preponderance of meat or fish. Or, in Glasgow, where the national dish is offal mashed up with coagulated blood and fat. Or most restaurants in the UK unless specifically vegetarian or vegan. And most of those are so brimming with conspicuous virtue and self-righteousness there’s little room for me.
Part 2: Exercise! Walk 10,000 steps a day! Make heart and lungs work hard for minimum 40 minutes a day! Plus three sessions of extreme exercise once a week. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT IS? The Extreme Exercise part was easy when I was doing Karate three times a week. But doing Karate three times a week buggered a knee, two calves, the base of the spine and a shoulder. So that’s now on the back burner, burning slowly away. Regrettable.
My iPhone has this clever app which tells me how many kilometres I walk a day. Km? Why, Mr Dead Jobs? Even Americans speak miles. I suppose I’m now used to km. Pity we’re leaving Europe. So my walking today is a mere 4.5 Km around 7,090 steps. Not enough to stop that glutinous blob of coagulated matter from forming deep in my fundament and setting out on a vascular adventure, should it wish to do so.
And the chances of it doing so, as I said, are much smaller than I thought! So all that dashing about, all those healthy things took so much more stress and effort than they could have. And time and money.
So that’s Death A. Not Looming any more. Well, a tiny possibility.
So I have to contemplate the possibility of Death B. Oh slow sweet Cancer calls the mighty and the low, lurks, strikes. Murdered my aunt in front of my eyes. Tortured her to death and in that masochistic way Cancer has, gave her so much false hope, took it away, gave it again, took it away. So Death B could be Big C. C also stands for cunt which is a bad word for a good thing. We all came out that way.
So which one, which brand. As I write this I am in the waiting room of the Endoscopy Department at Hammersmith Hospital waiting for a gastroscopy. They will shove a camera down my throat to see why there is a horrible round pain in my centre; why I have trouble getting food down, why I have much nausea and reflux. Mr Google ticks every box for Oesophageal Cancer. MrGoogle is always wrong. His job is to cause deep panic, exaggerate traces of symptoms until they are bigger than you are. It’s the reverse of a placebo. M, on the other hand, is always right. He says I have a hiatus hernia which is very boring and common and not romantic at all. As for me, I think it’s probably an ulcer.
So chances are, no big C. Well not that one anyway. There’s always the melanoma factor. Having spent so many years in the sun how could I possibly have avoided that little invasion….?
UPDATE That was a laugh. I was called into a cubicle and told to take my pants off. Well, nurse, you aren’t my type and anyway I’m here for the cakehole invasion not the bumhole entry! Gosh says Nurse, that’s not right… So I had to phone the GP who told me to take it up with the hospital. Unwilling to take anything up anything, I asked to see the nice doctor Camilla who said, “Oh really? Fine. We’ll do that then! And she did. A camera with tube down the throat and as M said, a hiatus hernia. And an ulcer. Inconvenient, but certainly not terminal!
Might another brand of Cancer be my escape route into the sordid crushing machinery of the NHS and a cheap exit? For example, is this anomaly inside my nostril a buzzing lump of overactive cells with a suicidal agenda of consuming its host? Or more like a bacterial or fungal infection picked up by picking? A finger fungus? Or is there a bubbling unhappy mole somewhere on my body as yet undetected, waiting to erupt too late into my awareness?
Well according to https://www.aimatmelanoma.org/melanoma-risk-factors/skin-types-and-risk/ my skin is Type 3, which is pretty normal and average. But to avoid melanomas turning into life-stealing omnivorous monsters, I would have to SPOT the bugger. This requires looking for anomalies ALL over the body! Hours! Mirrors. Magnifying glasses. Contortions of every sort to examine areas never seen before.
Luckily for my uncle his melanoma popped up on top of his ear and he spotted it while shaving. Unluckily for my uncle despite all the efforts of hundreds of people it murdered him too. By eating him from the outside in until finally, nesting cosily in his brain, it shut him down.
Or is this headache a nascent brain tumour?
Or is this pain in the leg a DVT?
Or is what is consuming me simply a lethal combination of old age and hypochondria? It’s not my fault! I blame the idiot who told me most teachers die within 4 years of retirement.
Probably what kills them is a lethal combination of old age and hypochondria brought on by some idiot predicting death…or, of course a number 37 bus.
Bah. Time to get obsessed about something quite different. Hmmm. Stamps?