Friday, December 21, 2007


Aside from my yearly visit to the gyno, I stay away from doctor’s offices. Not that they aren’t a barrel of monkeys, but I do all that yoga and eat all those darn vegetables so that I have the privilege of only darkening the doctorial doorstep when I need to re-up on the birth control pills and Xanax.

But once every 4-5 years I have some odd medical issue that forces me to look hard at the (wo)man in the mirror and ask her to change her ways for a day. The last time was a bizarre Christmas Eve mishap.

For years I’d had this swollen gland-like spot on my neck, which Mr. Crud and I called appropriately enough “my neck thing.” When I had salty, spicy foods or even for no apparent reason it would swell and grow sore, turning a leisurely slurping of Hot and Sour soup into a trial.

“Goddamnit, my thing’s doing it again.” I said and immediately started pressing on it. Because what’s better for a sore, aggravated gland then smashing it into my neck with my fingers as if to push it back to the body netherworld from whence it came.

Pressing on my neck thing became a bit of a pastime. Sometimes I could make it shoot out a salty, pus-like fluid into my mouth. (Here we go down that literary ick girl path again.) Of course, the pressing enraged the thing and made it grow red and more swollen, the opposite of my eradication goals.

“You made it angry again,” Mr. Crud said in his best tsk-tsk-tsk voice.

On Christmas Eve of 2002, the neck thing came to a head. Mr. Crud, my brother Max, and I played a spirited game of Trivial Pursuit at my parents’ house. After eating my share of pecan bars and spiced nuts, the neck thing was up to its old tricks. I went to the bathroom and pressed, quickly discovering a thicker more substantial goo was a-oozing. I’ve cracked the code! I’ll pass whatever little clogged stone is in there through my salivary glands! A Christmas miracle!!

I pressed and pressed and eventually started to feel lightheaded so I returned to the table where I shared my exciting discovery with my disgusted compatriots and pressed once again.

The next thing I knew I was flat on my back, still sitting in the chair but toppled over. Max and the Mister crowded over me, calling my name. I’d peed myself in what Mr. Crud claims to be the most impressive self-pissing he’s ever witnessed.

“It all came out at once. It was like a power washer.” I impress on so many levels.

As I slowly came around, my sweet brother mopped up my impressive pee with towels. We debated telling my parents and rushing to the emergency room, but after I started to feel better thanks to Xanax, we decided against it. My dad had been battling cancer for a few years and the last thing my exhausted folks needed was a midnight trip to another hospital. (At this point we had the idea to print “I ruined Christmas” t-shirts. I still think it’s a swell idea, but who has time for million dollar ideas with all this crud to write.)

The next morning—Christmas! Hooray! Santa brought me a Thich Nhat Hanh day planner!!—we told my folks of the incident in the mildest terms possible. After a brief family conference, it was decided that non-insurance having me would wait to return home so I could visit the university’s clinic.

After telling my tale to a string of confused doctors, the Ear, Nose and Throat specialist had my answer: I had pressed too hard on my carotid artery. The passing out and peeing of self was my body’s way of staying “Step the fuck off!” My neck thing was an abnormal salivary gland caused by another one of my weird health discoveries of 3 years previous-TMJ or rather a misaligned jaw. Dr. Ear-Nose-Throat advised me to lay off with the neck thing pressing, which was not a problem since even grazing that area sent my limbs a-tingling with the feeling that I was about to pass out again. After a few weeks of not pressing, my neck thing stopped swelling and hasn’t been an issue since. Who knew the wisdom in that motherly advice “Don’t play with it!”

A few days ago my 5-year good health grace period was up again. This time the culprit was a burning in my gut that didn’t cease for 2 days. All other digestive systems were go, but the burning intensified. After a frustrating morning of calling the health advice nurse who was convinced I was having a heart attack and trying to get appointments at two clinics, (who do you have to blow to talk to a doctor these days?) Mr. Crud and I headed off for the dingy urgent care center in Clackamas.

“It’s a 2 hour wait,” the receptionist informed me.

My instinct was to run away and pretend this whole crying-from-pain and fear-of-dying-from-burning-guts thing wasn’t happening. I knew Mr. Crud wouldn’t let me off so easy so I filled out my paperwork and took a seat near a surly teenager and burly bearded guy in the waiting area. A TV babbled from the corner of the room, making reading the fun memoir of Phoebe Damrosch’s adventures in high-end food service (Service Included) impossible. I gave in. I watched America’s Funniest Home Videos and found myself longing for the smooth MC skills of Bob Saget as the new guy hardy-har-harred his way through the usual panoply of videos: kids falling down, getting their heads stuck in hilarious places, but sadly no ball smashing. I thought “Ouch, My Balls” moments were the bread and butter of AFHV. Next came The Cosby Show. Mr. Crud and I flexed our sociological muscles for awhile (Ever notice how Cos’ kids and grandkids got more and more light-skinned as the show went on? Coincidence?) while I tried to remember why I adored this show as a child.

Finally my name was called and I was ushered to a bare-walled examining room with only an old issue of Family Circle to keep me company. At least this time I didn’t have to regale the nurse and doctor with the history of my neck thing, instead I elaborated on my hunk of burning stomach and how, yes, it hurt constantly and no, I hadn’t puked or experienced any notable--to be couth for once--bowel movements.

“I WISH I was vomiting and having diarrhea!” I exclaimed. “I wouldn’t be here if that was happening.”

The nurse slowly backed out of the room. I picked up the Family Circle. The recipe of the month was Fish Fillet Pizza Roll Out. I put down the Family Circle. At least there were no Cos adventures to keep me from reading about Ms. Damrosch’s adventures at Per Se. Under normal circumstances my mouth would have been watering at the food she wrote about: salmon cornets, oysters, truffles-a-go-go, but instead my gut lurched at the though of putting any delicacy in my mouth. I had been subsisting on soup for the past few days. Sadly, I had been pondering the weight loss possibilities of this little bout with gut burn. The Beauty Myth never rests.

Dr. Reynold Orchard (I had to print his real name because it rocks) listened to me breathe, poked at my gut, and ran down the usual suspects. Nothing.

“We’ll give you a GI cocktail. That ought to do it.” He left the room and was replaced by a happy-go-lucky nurse who advised me to toss it back quickly lest I taste the foul liquid. My mouth and throat quickly numbed but the gut burn remained.

The corners of Dr. Orchard’s mouth turned down at this news. “You still feel it? Hmmm…”

What was left but to take some blood from my—in the words of the bouncy nurse—“great veins.” If I didn’t hear from them, then everything was fine. I could call for my results the following night. Dr. Orchard gave me a prescription for Vicodin and we were, after 4 hours, on our way.

“I had to watch another Cosby Show and Sister, Sister with Jacquee,” Mr. Crud said. One of us had certainly been traumatized.

At Fred Meyer, I doubled over in pain with only celebrity tabloids to distract me. I had only had half a bagel since entering the clinic and the burn was angry.

“You’re going to take it, right?” Mr. Crud asked after the Vicodin.

I nodded as I was unable to form words at the moment. It was another “we’re so old” moment. I remember when my friends and I used to endure the pain just so we could get wicked messed up with our painkillers later. Good times. So glad most of us survived.

Two days later and the burn has finally taken leave, at least most of the time. I’ve moved onto some monumentally bad menstrual cramps, but at least it’s the devil that I know. I still don’t have much of an appetite except for Japanese food. (No, I swear this is not some overblown scheme to eat sushi at every meal.) And because it’s that jingle belly time of year, I feel compelled to leave you with a few words of holiday wisdom:

The health care system really is fucked (I have good insurance and still seeing a doctor was a hassle, which is really what you need when you feel like shit.)

Appreciate your good or medium-good health

Don’t eat a Fish Filet Pizza Roll-Out


Monday, December 10, 2007

I Wish You a Cruddy Chanukah

Greetings, coolios. Please forgive my inconsistent blogging ways as I have been trying to get my fiction groove on for the last few weeks. It’s going comme ci comme ca—pardon my French. Thanks for asking.

In lieu of the usual tales of transportation woes and bitchy musings, I take a moment to wish you and yours a very Chappy Chanukkah (Chappy Chan for short) and to list my gifts so far with—because the Jewish folks love it—commentary.

Night #1

Upright Citizens Brigade Season 2. Thank Amy Poehler, they finally released another season of one of my all-time favorite TV shows.

Night #2
An Official Dundee Award. Hooray! Now I can share my Office obsession with my coworkers by proudly displaying my Dundee on my desk. This very special award comes with changeable name-plates. I plan on alternating between “Hottest in the Office” and the “Don’t Go In There After Me” award.

Night #3
Hooray for hip hop Hanukkah! Ghostface Killah’s The Big Doe Rehab will show me the true meaning of the holiday season.

Night #4

Season 1 and 2 of The Office on DVD. Mr. Crud tricked me into thinking he got me the second half of the last Sopranos season. But we would have bought that anyway, I mentally whined. Not the true spirit of Chanukkah at all. The real gift was the guilt.

Night #5

A new set of brighter bike lights. Dare not to see me now, motherscratchers!

Night #6

Jellybath!!!!! I am a bath-and-body product-a-holic. Now I have my holy grail: a powder that when added to a hot bath turns into the consistency of jell-o. After the novelty wears off, I plan to reenact the scene from Poltergeist when the mom and daughter have just returned from the great beyond and are lying in a tub, covered with what appears to be cherry jell-o. “Thank God you’re alive, Carol Ann!”

Stay tuned for the final 2 nights o’ gifts. My money is on yoga props since I asked for—and helped Mr. Crud pick out—yoga props. Maybe then I will learn the true meaning of Hanukkah, opening my heart to embrace humanity or something like that. I’m sure Ghostface will guide my way.