Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba
Taken from Huatusco, Veracruz, the closest town to Margarita's family's ranch.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Letter Before Hitting the Road May 2007

Hey Carol,

I just wanted to say that I was really touched by your email and am sorry for not responding more promptly.  I dumped water on my keyboard by accident and half the keys aren't working at the moment and we're in the process of preparing for the "business venture"...

I have a lot of mixed feelings about medical care, hospitals, surgeries, etc...  Some of it is rational.  Some isn't rational.  My father was an Opthalmologist in Somerville for a little over a year.  My mother says that when he was in Med School he and some colleagues of his would practice certain proceedures on each other.  One of the procedures was a colonoscopy.  They drew straws and he unfortunately didn't draw the shortest.  My mother believes that had he drawn the shortest straw they would have discovered his colon blanketed with polyps before they became cancerous.  Instead, he was "lucky" not to have them shoving a scope up his ass...  And then the first year of his practice he became incredibly ill and died of cancer of the Liver that began in his large intestine in under a year; never really being able to establish his practice and leaving a young wife and 3 young children...  Since his cancer is hereditary (medical science was just discovering it) we were all checked for polyps when we reached puberty.  So, at the age of 12 I was found with my colon covered by polyps.  In 8th grade I had my large intestine removed.  That supposedly did the trick.  But with more research the "experts" suddenly realize that they understand our "illness" less.  Of 8 offspring on my paternal grandmother's side (she died of cancer when my father was a boy) only my older sister Sheri was clear of the gene.  My younger sister Beth had her large intestine removed after me.  And then 13 years later she started complaining of a lump in her throat.  My mother claimed that she was hyperchondriacal and didn't do anything about it.  So, crazy Beth went to the Rutgers health services there where she was studying at the time and they diagnosed her with Thyroid Cancer...  Which led me to research our "illness" and find so much more terrible possibilities...  Back in 1983 the experts said that the removal of the large intestine removes the risk.  In 1997 different researchers from around the world began arguing that the illness encompasses Thyroid Cancer, Breast Cancer, Rectal Cancer, Stomach Cancer, etc...  The surgeons believed that with the removal of the Large Intestine polyps in the rectum and small intestine would disappear.  But that didn't happen with me.  And in the late nineties mine started bleeding more...  Then in 2001 I started experiencing acute pain.  But I was very fatalistic believing that what happened happened.  At the same time I began a crazy relationship with my last girlfriend in the U.S. and something about our connection inspired me to go see a doctor...  The "#1" in his field in the world said that I would have cancer of the rectum within a year or so based on the numbers of polyps and the statistics and that if I didn't remove my rectum, I would die...  And, ya know what?  I believe him.  But let me tell you...  He was a cool God emulating bastard and he fucked up.  He didn't like answering the difficult questions and he wasn't on the line with his patients.  He was god.  He didn't need to bring himself to our level. 

I could go on for hours writing about these experiences...  Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan was a horror story; the least friendly and least helpful nurses in the world.  Someone gave me an unsanitary I.V. needle which inflamed my arm and gave me a fever.  And against Hospital ethics they discharged me with a fever because of Insurance Company Hospital stay limits... 

Before the surgery, a crazy question popped into my head and I took the surgeon by surprise.  I asked him, "What is the chance of the surgery causing sexual disfunction?"  He was not expecting that question and stared at me with his mouth agape thinking of a good response.  Then after a few seconds pause he said, "It's a 3% chance.  But with us, it drops down to 1%, since we're the best in the field.  We created the process."  What he was planning was a J-Pouch procedure to keep from giving me a permanent external bag at the age of 33.  The J-Pouch is the conversion of part of the lower part of the small intestine into a semi-artificial rectum...  A day or so after the surgery I had this strange feeling...  really indescribable; a knowing.  And I exclaimed to myself "I'm the 1%!"  I can have sex.  It's not the same for me as it was before, although my partner doesn't sense anything abnormal.  But I can't impregnate anyone...  I don't know what happened in the surgery.  But afterwards I was informed by the surgeon that what normally takes 3 hours took them 6 hours...

I left the U.S. a year after my last surgery.  And I've had some hell of a time in Mexico.  But I believe it would have been the same in the U.S. 

In 2006 I started getting sick again.  But we didn't have an economy for good medical care at the time.  I wrote to my family and no one wanted to help.  Finally my mother sent me $500 to see some doctors...  I was sure that I was developing cancer in my Duodenum.  But the upper endoscopy showed differently, thank god. 

Through different tests I was found with Hiatal Hernia, High Blood Pressure, Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Gastritis, low obsorption of Iron possibly due to inflamation of my duodenum and an inflamed Gall Bladder with a bunch of gall stones...  My internist at the moment gave me a diet for all of those problems which would have killed me of starvation; it just wasn't realistic.  I needed to schedule the removal of my gall bladder for January.  But we just couldn't come up with the money.  And then just after New Years I got sick again and the left side of my abdomin became incredibly inflamed.  Look, I felt my gall bladder inflamed for at least a year.  And this inflamation was on the other side...  I did a ton of research on the internet and only created the worst images in my mind.  At that moment I became strangely inspired against the gall bladder surgery and against another upper-endoscopy and against all the terrible medications I was taking...  And I did some alternative investigations on the internet and came up with a new diet for me.  And let me tell you, without coming up with the actual illnesses or the actual origins of the symptoms, I got rid of almost all the inflamation and discomfort. 

I don't believe I'm 100% because I'm not able to stick to the diet on a daily basis due to our work schedule and pressures.  But, I have a general idea what to do when I start feeling off...

Don't feel bad about your surgeries and your precautions.  You do the right thing even if you're working in the health care field...  I can second guess myself also.  After changing my diet this year I second guess our family illness and think that with a different reality/diet from childhood on, we wouldn't have had so many polyps in our intestines...  But that reality wasn't mine and I had the surgeries.  I didn't have the chance to play with a different fate...  So, I live with what I live with.  With all of my "philosophies" and intellectual arguments with modern western medicine I wouldn't have second guessed your medical concerns or decisions...(I've never been a follower of alternative or Eastern Medicine or homeopathic medicine, although I probably would have benefited).  

As for you husband's health...  Don't be so certain that he's "just fine".  He's still "young" enough to be able to carry that stress.  But in the following years?  Lung Cancer is the #1 killer in the realm of cancer and the least remidable once it begins.  And, I believe heart disease is the #1 killer of Americans before car accidents.  Heart disease is caused by both smoking and high cholesterol diets...  Obesity is the #1 cause of diabetes...  I don't think he should be teasing you for your "issues" being small...  You just don't let them become big, no?  

Polyps are guarrantees of cancer.  But colon cancer is almost an "epidemic" in 1st world nations today.  The great thing about colon cancer is that you have a ton of time to take care of it after you're diagnosed with it (if you don't have what I have which is called Familial Adenomous Poliposis/Gardners Syndrome and is only about 1% of the people with Colon Cancer).  Diabetes doesn't have a western medical cure.  Lung Cancer will kill you in under 2 years and is extremely difficult to cure...  And the terrible thing is that quitting the habit doesn't remove the risk, since the damage is done.  However, by quitting smoking you cease increasing the risk...  Just to clarify one thing: I'm not a health nut (the opposite; a Jersey Boy health fool).  I never campaigned against smoking.  I don't smoke because I become dizzy when I smoke ever since my last surgery.  (Some people say that I have a guardian angel looking after me; I say that it's my father).  I know what I know due to personal research I've done over time.  I did research after my sister got ill.  I did research for myself and for my mother-in-law who has diabetes now for 3 years.  And I did research for a 74-year-old friend of mine Robert who has come down with certain symptoms here in Mexico...  He was a heavy smoker and both his parents died of lung cancer around this age.  An X-ray showed white blotches on his lower lungs.  But the doctors told him that lung cancer in the lower lung is extremely rare and he doesn't have a coughing problem.  Well, his doctors are wrong and he needs to have a cat scan...  He hasn't smoked for over 20 years... 

We leave for Leon, Guanajuato on Wednesday.  We'll be there for at least 20 days.  I'll try to get to the internet before I leave and while there... 

I'm sorry that we didn't know each other better in High School.  But, that was a whole different world in my life of chaos and turmoil and I imagine that friendship would have disappeared with all the rest at that time.  Instead, I feel very fortunate to have this chance now, although it's not in person.

You take care of yourself and be real good to yourself no matter what happens in other people's lives and minds.  As cynical as it may sound; you are the only person you truly live with and the closest person you will know and feel.  You are always first because you are inside you and you sense you.  The people you love or better yet, the people who love you benefit more from you when you are true to yourself and healthy. 

Thanks for the email.  I hope your Monday's a real good one. 


Somehow Carol and I came into contact through MyLife before I entered Facebook.  She asked to be friends with me and told me that we had very briefly dated in Freshman year of Somerville High School.  I remember kissing her goodbye on the corner of Davenport Street after a Friday night high school football game.  Now I remember!  We volunteered together at the snackbar one of those Friday nights.  I loved that evening serving hot dogs and hot chocolate.  All the kids working were so jovial.  It was like a party serving the fans.  It was as if we were also part of the football game, like the cheerleaders and the school band.  Truthfully, I don't know what happened after that kiss.  I know that she walked home with her friend, since she lived in Somerville and we (I don't know who was the friend with me) returned to Branchburg in someone's parent's car.  The letters are important for bringing back to life an multi-faceted experience and the question, "what else was going on at the time?"  26-years-ago and 4 years ago.  I totally forgot that she had so many surgeries and that she was suffering at the time.  We became so immersed in the intensity of our business and economic concerns that I must have become disconnected with her, although I invited her to Facebook.  

A great part of my mother's destiny clearly is the caring for people with illnesses hospitalized or not that began with the schizophrenia of her mother and the alcoholism of her father, caring after her younger brother, my Uncle Henry, when she was at least 10-years-old.  Then she had to care after my father for less than a year, then me and my younger sister.  She spent time with my father's older brother Stan the times he was hospitalized for his heart surgeries, was faithful to my cousins Seth and Elise when they had their colons removed.  Not long after marrying Bruce, Bruce was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer if I am correct and then was hospitalized for something else. For many years now, my mother works in a hospital caring for people who with mortal illnesses waiting for death, offering counceling to them and their family members.    My mother on the other hand has never been ill, never had a surgery, never been in the hospital for more than giving birth to her 3 children and for being extremely faithful to those whom she cares about.   That's part of her life work.

I'm on the other side.  I love offering moral support to those who are ill, but from personal experience.  So, reading these letters, because there are the letters that Carol wrote me, I am just so disappointed in having lost track of our communications and in having forgotten about what had happened and was happening in her life.  I write this because it's all part of the crazy complex experience of life that should cause us to think and not cause us to shut down our minds.

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