Chronicle of Our Death Forestalled

Our story — this one, anyway — begins during that fateful spring of 2010. We, like the rest of the country, were watching the sausage that was the Affordable Care Act being made. The bill, as it had evolved, was not the one we had preferred — can you say Public Option? — but after the compromises that had preceded its introduction, and the politics that had attended its debate, we threw up our hands and were ready to accept a half-measure instead of no measure at all.

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

So the bill passed, and upon its implementation, we bought health insurance — for the first time in twenty years. This was even more of a novelty than it sounds. For most of our adult life, as a grad student and a freelancer, we’ve gone without. The secret, we learned, was never to get sick.

Which worked out pretty well. Except for that emergency appendectomy. The doctor rushed us to the hospital and into surgery, with a brief stop at the front desk to take out a loan.

That was thirty years ago, and it made a fun story — how we asked for a local instead of a general anesthetic, since that would shave an expensive day or two off our stay. How, looking at the itemized bill, we noticed we were charged a few bucks for footies. It was worth it. Our feet were cold.

Anyway, Obamacare passed, we bought insurance, and last winter, out of the blue, they mailed us a Shit Kit — poop on a stick, mail it back. That was fun! They included a cute little biohazard baggie and everything!

Time passes, and eventually we get the results in the mail — along with an invitation to schedule a colonoscopy. Blood in the Stool, worst Dylan track ever. But the hospital roto-rooter team is backed up, and they can’t snake a cam up our ass until late July. No problem! Probably hemorrhoids. Maybe we’ll have to buy one of those cushions.

Ever have a colonoscopy? We have pictures we’d love to share with you. Lucky for us, they didn’t find the gerbil.

They did find polyps. Three of them. Snipped them off right there, since they were up our ass anyway. Sent them off to the lab.

And here’s where things start moving really fast. Some three weeks ago, we get a call. Yeah, uh, one of those polyps? Not good. Care for a cat scan? Oh, and we’d like for you to meet with one of our friendly surgeons.

A few days later, we’re in Friendly Surgeon’s office, and he takes us on a guided tour of our innards, which is some pretty awesome tech, if you’ve never had the pleasure. Here are your lungs, here’s your stomach, here’s your colon — oh, and that spot down there, that’s your cancer.


But hey, easy fix: We’ll just cut a slice below your belly, yank out your colon, cut off that lower bend, stitch the ends back together, and stuff it back in. Done and done.

How’s next Tuesday?

Sure, why not. Which is how we found ourself undergoing major surgery last week to remove a cancer we barely knew we had, and would never have suspected had we not mailed in our poop months earlier because they asked for it.

Sigmoid colectomy is the medical term. They want to make sure the cancer’s all dug out, and they really want to make sure it hasn’t reached the local lymph nodes, which apparently are a superhighway to the rest of your body. That can happen if you wait too long. Like, if you don’t know the cancer’s there in the first place.

Or you can’t afford the operation.

Retail price for the adventure is around $33,000. But we’re only on the hook for around seven grand, because golly, we’re insured!

And that’s it, really. The cancer hadn’t spread, so no chemo. And the operation itself was pretty much painless — the mildest tummyache at worst. We didn’t even get to groove on a morphine drip. They sent us home after a few days with nothing more powerful than Tylenol and Motrin.

So we’re now a cancer survivor, following a heroic battle that lasted a whole week. And if there’s one thing we learned from our epic ordeal, one piece of advice we can pass along to our fellow citizens, it’s this:

Without Obamacare, we’d be dead.


Know a guy who didn’t make it. Refused to have anyone stick anything up his ass — believed that was the manly way to be — until it was too late. Call it natural selection, I guess. Just one more way machismo can backfire (NPI) on you.

@jhoughton1: It’s not like you’re going to the bar looking for it — unless you are, but that’s a different story.

In this case, you’re just a slab of meat when you walk into the building, and all the poking and prodding is just part of the adventure. I don’t get how that interferes with being a dude, but being a dude is something I’ve never understood. Except the part about refusing to ask for directions.

Thanks Obama!

Seriously, thanks, because without Nojo where would I come to see if there is a thoughtful piece about the 3-2-1 hagiography of John “Tailhook” McCain.

What, too soon? Too soon for the man who unleashed the Palinbunny on us? The T&A Veep With a Gun who led directly to the shitstain on the White House carpet we have now?

No, never too fucking soon.

And while you’re at it, have the prostate checked as well. That can actually be fun…

You are OK. Sigh of relief.

I am, as near as makes no difference, your age. I have put off a colonoscopy for nearly 10 years. I just don’t want to deal with it.

@blogenfreude: do it. To not do so is the more cowardly act.

@peggynooner: Tonight we mourn a man who on occasion talked a good game.

@nojo: I’m so glad you’re OK (and insured). Hugs.

@blogenfreude: Yeah, well, deal with it. I was totally unaware, no symptoms, nothing. If they hadn’t caught it before it spread to the lymph nodes, I’d be toast.

Maybe your insurance offers Shit Kits. Just scoop up some poop on a little plastic stick, mail it in, and the lab will tell you if your crap is less than desirable. Then you schedule the asscam.

@¡Andrew!: That’s why I’m even bothering to write about it — Obamacare success story. Figure I gotta represent, get it on the record.

Personally, it really goes down as a wacky adventure. Particularly the Versed they drip into you to initiate a beneficial psychotic reaction before surgery. That shit’s a fucking trip.

@nojo: I can’t believe they didn’t give you the good stuff to take home as party favors for friends and well-wishers. I mean, it’s just polite.

@nojo: Dude.

Do you remember the procedure (scope) while you were on Versed? In the cardiac cath lab, we used to tell patients that Versed wiped the memory. I’ve always suspected that claim was a lie.

Oh, and fuck you for getting sick. Thank you for getting better.

Assholes here won’t let me take a cab/Uber home after my scope. Ain’t got no friends. Told my daughter I might need her to come for the holidays so she can drive my Versed ass home as I shit out my brains.

That reminds me…

In bootcamp, I didn’t shit for a week (no doors on the stalls), and I was on my period THE WHOLE TIME.

Anyway, I was told to eat the exlax chocolate pudding in the chow hall. It worked too well (although it didn’t stop MY FUCKING PERIOD), and I had the trots.

One of my company commanders ask why I was walking around the barracks with a roll of toilet paper. I told him that I was shitting my brains out. He replied, “You won’t need that whole roll.”

@peggynooner: Never too soon.

Oh, hey.

Thoughts on Steve Schmidt?

@¡Andrew!: RIGHT?!

Oh, hey – looks like Trump can’t fire us as easily as he’d like. We got a MAGA motherfucker on the verge of being canned. Wonder who he’ll thank for keeping him in his job?

@JNOV: Colonoscopy was conscious. Couldn’t see the monitor, but they sent me home with printouts.

But surgery, yeah. Versed. Wow. They explained it to me beforehand — right before, at the hospital — but I was framing it wrong in my mind, comparing what they were saying to when I got gassed by the dentist as a kid. Figured I’d be counting backwards from a hundred in the operating room.

What actually happened: They set up an IV in the initial waiting area, explain Versed, and everything’s over.

It wasn’t a memory wipe. It was a straight blackout. That happened to me once. I got shitfaced drunk and talked to my mom all night. Didn’t remember a thing. Somehow I didn’t embarrass myself.

What’s psychotic about Versed is coming back. Total dissociation. It’s not the blackout (been there!), but the complete alienation of your consciousness from reality — including your body. Everything’s there, you know everything’s there, you’re just not part of it.

It’s Wittgenstein, really, “The World As I Found It”, a thought experiment where he catalogs reality, including those parts under his direct control. That’s what went through my mind in post-op, and for hours later — I know this! It’s totally Wittgenstein!

Also, I was giggling my head off.

God help anyone lacking the intellectual background to process the experience. Or, short of that, a few acid trips under their belt.

The clinical explanation of Versed ain’t wrong, it’s just, well, clinical. If they said I was going to black out in a few minutes, come to after the operation, and feel like I was having a wild trip for the next several hours, that would have totally nailed it.

@JNOV: Oh, and the anesthesiologist did explain that the Versed effect isn’t total for some people, but that such cases are rare. Totally buy that — in my language, it would be a punctuated blackout.

@¡Andrew!: I know, right? But they didn’t even give me the good stuff at the hospital. Fuck modern medicine, they rip out your guts and it doesn’t even hurt.

@JNOV: What about Schmidt? I know Rachel loves him, and credit to him for not drinking the Kool-Aid, but that’s old news. I dropped my party affiliation thirty years ago, and nobody gave me a pony.

@nojo: Oh – versed for the surgery? Okay!

Schmidt-I think he’s funny. I think he’s sincere in his, “Sorry about the Palin fuck up. For real. Really fucking sorry about that shit!” The same with Nicole Wallace – mad props to her for being the first TV person I heard who called Trump a racist. I think it was after the Shithole Country thing. Everyone else up to that point had been calling him “racial.” I have no idea what that means. Or they’d been describing his statements as sort of kind of maybe racist. Except for brown people. We knew.

But yeah. I like Nicole. I like Schmidt, buuuut…

@nojo: I don’t think I’d like this Versed.

@JNOV: Oh, no doubt Schmidt is sincere. But he’s been publicly expressing deep misgivings for more than a year. Turning in his card at this point really isn’t news.

@nojo: Hmmmmm. I wonder if they gave my kid versed when they extracted her wisdom teeth. When they brought me into the recovery room, she started talking to me in an Italian(?) accent saying, “Mah-MAH! I love you, muh-MAH. I love you! I love you! Muh-mah!” I think she was stroking my arm. She doesn’t remember it, and if she says she does, she just remembers me telling this story. You know how kids are.

@nojo: Oh, yeah – don’t give a shit about his card. I’m just wondering if he has an end game. He gives good rant.

@JNOV: My comparison of Versed with acid is not casual. It’s serious fucking shit. It also gave me extended giggle fits soon as I recognized what it waa doing. Man, I’ve been there.

@JNOV: I would be squeamish about using Versed for dentistry. Major surgery where they chop off a chunk of your gut, sure.

@JNOV: Schmidt? I forget the specific chatter, but his endgame is some bipartisan candidate shit. He has no future in the party as it has suddenly evolved.

@nojo: I’ve never tried hallucinogenics out of fear. My interior world is so weird, I’m afraid to turn it to 11.


He has no future in the party as it has suddenly evolved removed its hood.

@JNOV: True. I was being unnecessarily polite about evolution.

@JNOV: Acid rips away everything you think about yourself — everything you tell yourself — and leaves what’s actually there. If you’re fucked up in any way, it is not going to be pleasant. (Been there too!)

The clarity is fucking intense. And if you have your shit together, it can be fucking awesome. (Really been there!) Me, I never hallucinated. I merely controlled the fundamental nature of existence for a few hours. As is done.

The comparison with Versed after-effects is not that as such, but an awareness that sometimes consciousness can go on holiday. If you’re familiar with that, Versed is just a different kind of trip. If that’s new to you — well, I really can’t imagine how everyone else in the post-op ward dealt with it. That video of the kid in the car following his dentist appointment comes to mind.

Whoa, come back for the Walnuts memories and stay for chatter about asscams and acid trips (which was the original title for The Outlaws’ hit)!

@nojo: I’m sure I had the same, because one minute I was lying on the gurney, where the ScopeDoc had ten patients in line, the next minute I was being told it was over. Total memory whiteout.

@JNOV: Nobody gets a pass for any complicity in getting us here. Everyone who ever exclaimed “You’re Fired!” after Twitler “popularized”the phrase should be forced to share jello with Bill Cosby.

@Beggars Biscuit: I really did want to count backwards from a hundred. That would’ve been fun.

But if they’re gonna roofie me, shouldn’t I at least get a video? I’d like to watch myself totally wasted.

@peggynooner: Yeesh, the bullshit is getting really thick out there. I fear for my sanity when Kissinger finally kicks.

@nojo: Better find an industrial strength shovel; it’s pouring down like a blizzard in Chicago.

@¡Andrew!: My liberal high school friends are beside themselves with grief on Facebook right now. It’s like they’re mainlining the Times.

I’ve tried pointing out a few things, but I might as well be pooping in their punchbowl. They’re the Percy Weasleys of the world.

@nojo: “Yes, he was a resolute opponent of torture. He was also a leading cheerleader for the war that gave rise to it.” PLUNK!

@nojo: Tell them I’m rolling my eyes at them. People can be such fools, jeezus.

@¡Andrew!: What’s happening is that they won’t hear of it. They’re deeply invested in Bipartisan Hero, Public Man of Integrity, and anything that disturbs that ideal is summarily dismissed.

And in the next breath they express amazement that people just won’t see the truth about Donald Trump.

And that’s what’s eating at me. It not just a man receiving credit where none is deserved, it’s not just a carefully contrived public reputation playing out, it’s the need for that investment, the refusal to disturb it, whatever the object of adoration.

And hey, I’ve had heroes. Two of them come to mind: Woody Allen and Bill Cosby. You learn to deal with it.

@¡Andrew!: WaPo columnist: “As McCain ascends to heaven on an updraft of praise…”

The inferno is consuming everything in its path. I’m just glad this didn’t happen while I was in the hospital, or the nurses would have needed to sedate me for the protection of other patients.

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