Story Time – The Long and the Short of It


Disclaimer: About a decade of having Crohn’s Disease has given me an issue of “terminal oversharing” when it comes to my insides (or the contents therein). When doctors are asking you on a daily basis how often you’re going to the bathroom, how long you’re spending each time and vivid descriptions of anything that comes out of you, you either get over your embarrassment or people start misdiagnosing you.

I realize that this is understandably unpleasant for most people to read about. But I should make clear that my chronic illness is more of a framing device for this story. I don’t plan to get into the messy particulars. I only mention it because otherwise you’d have no clue why your handsome protagonist was in the hospital and why he was so indifferent to what would be a fairly worrisome procedure otherwise.

End Disclaimer.

It’d been about two years and some change since my surgery. The upside of having your intestine removed for Crohn’s Disease is that it’s actually a decent “nuclear option” – very effective but with some unintended consequences. The only trouble is that, like a lingering zombie threat, it can often regrow if even the slightest bit is left. Did I mention we were fighting zombies in that analogy? In hindsight, mentioning that seems sort of important.

My specialist at the time of surgery had been letting me handle my recovery mostly on my own. Probably because he retired. I assume, if stereotypes are to be believed, to somewhere warm with plentiful golf courses.

(Though, since he confided to me in our last office visit that he stayed on an extra three months just to see my treatment through to the end, I can’t help but say he deserves a nice retirement by virtue of being such a decent human being alone.)

His replacement didn’t last long. She was, and I’m trying to be kind here, fixated on my anus. “Do you know what an anal fistula is?” “Did you ever have an anal fistula?” “Have you ever been checked for an anal fistula?” “Do you mind if I check your anus right now?”

“Hello,” I said, reaching out my hand to shake hers. “My name is Matt. What’s yours, person who literally started asking about my anus before she introduced herself?”

Luckily, she turned out to be a doctor, but still.

Thing went predictably downhill from there. She seemed fairly disinterested in the wealth of paperwork available on problems and surgeries I actually did have. She ordered a bevy of tests aimed at finding some mythical anal fistula that never was. I don’t know why she wanted to find that thing so much. Perhaps, like some even more horrible Captain Ahab, this was her brown whale.

Long story short (or at least medium), I requested another doctor.

“Bad news on that,” I was told by my General Practitioner. “The doctor you’re leaving and our other gastroenterologist are sort of…an item. They’re…involved. Romantically. They sort of met here and hit it off…”

“I get it,” I said, stopping him before I heard something I probably wouldn’t want to know about two people who considered gastroenterology a perfect backdrop for romance. “What’s that got to do with anything? They’re doctors, right? Can’t they keep their personal and professional stuff separate?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. No?” At least he was honest. So I got sent to a different practice in a weird part of town. You know, the part where your Main Street goes all the way from North to South Main and suddenly you’re driving on East Main Street.

(To say nothing of my confusion when I turned onto East South Street. What the hell, city planners?)

My new specialist was competent enough – a good mix of action and knowing when inaction was the better option. He told me that doctors tend to just throw Humira at people with Crohn’s Disease nowadays. (I assume he meant metaphorically.) But studies showed it only helped bringing the disease into remission. It wouldn’t do anything to make remission last longer. So, instead, he poisoned me.

Okay. Sorry. Jumping ahead in the story a bit. Let me ease us into that part.

He prescribed a medicine that was effective in keeping my disease at bay. The downside was that not everyone tolerated it well. And those who didn’t, well, they tended not to tolerate it spectacularly.

Still, I gave it a try. And three weeks later, as I projectile vomited the instant I swallowed it for the third night in the row, my pattern recognition made note of it. In short, I tried it one more time, just to be sure. More projectile vomiting.

“Ugh. I’m not doing that again.” I talked to my doctor. He said to try it again. The outcome was more or less as projectile vomit-y as before, though by that point I was at least used to it enough that I tried to mix in some “Exorcist” quotes to make it funnier.

(For the record, I’ve now been poisoned, stabbed, hung and disemboweled. I’m just three steps away from completing the “Vigo the Carpathian Challenge” from “Ghostbusters II.”)

From there, my specialist nodded his head sagely and said, “Well, why don’t we do some tests? Have you ever drank barium?” I had – oftentimes even for medical reasons. “Good. And how do you feel about undergoing a medical test that is, in some ways, less pleasant than projectile vomiting but has the benefit of taking much, much longer?” he asked. Okay. He didn’t ask that. But he should have.

Alas, this is getting too long and I haven’t even got to the story yet, so that, dear friends, will have to be a tale for another day. Or later today? Tomorrow? Stay tuned.


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