Gastroenterology

Yesterday I had my second ever colonoscopy. I am young for one, much less two, of these procedures. But when you have symptoms, they like you to get one. So yesterday was my second. Now, I am here to tell you that it is not as bad as you may have heard……well….totally subjective.

Two days before the procedure, they advise you to drink a lot of water. That is OK for me because I usually drink a bunch of water during the day. Then the day before you are allowed to have clear liquids, no food. You can have clear broth, jello and popsicles. No dairy. No food. No nothing. I was hungry but drank water and came to work prepared with a bunch of cold brewed coffee. Hungry but not starved. Not yet anyway.

Then, at 5:00 p.m. the day before, that’s when all the fun began. That is when I began drinking the approximately four liters of laxative that assisted in cleaning out my colon. It is a lot of liquid. And despite putting something in it that was called “lemon lime” flavor, it still tasted a bit like distilled water from the ocean. Along with a slightly unpleasant taste which was, if truly tasted, pretty gross. The instructions say to begin drinking this magical elixir at 5:00 and have 8 ounces every 15 minutes. So that is three hours of consuming a laxative. It doesn’t kick in till about an hour into the consumption but by the time that three hours expired, my colon was pretty darn clean. Yes, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Yes, I used a lot of toilet paper. I think that my decision to not eat anything during the day was a good one. I would recommend it if possible. Just think that if you put it in during that day, it will be coming out later on. So why put it in in the first place? Just a thought.

Then, most unfortunately, in the morning, there is one more liter to consume. My procedure was scheduled at 1:00 p.m. which meant that I had to finish the lovely drink by 7:00 a.m. and after that I could not consume or drink anything. Nothing. The instructions said that I could brush my teeth but I could not swallow the water. I finished when I was supposed to and had some water before the “do not drink anything” time. I spent the morning on many, many conference calls for work going back and forth to the bathroom (thankfully at home).

I took a late shower since I had a 12:15 check in. We got there too early and of course had to wait. By 12:30 they had still not called me back. I was feeling tired, grumpy and dehydrated. They finally called me ten minutes later. A lovely woman came in and quizzed me about my medical history and told me to change into a paper gown. I have to admit that it was better than most. It was semi-lined and came with socks, real socks (yay, socks). And the gown actually came with instructions. I changed and then the nurse came in to put the catheter in my vein that would deliver fluid and anesthesia. I gave her my standard vein stabbing warning. I have fainted in the past. It has not happened in a long time. But I want to fully disclose. I have issues with the needle puncturing me, my skin, myself. It makes me queasy just thinking about it. It is worse if I can feel it. So I told. And maybe because I told, it made her nervous. She first told me that my veins were good. She put the tourniquet on the middle of my forearm and then tried to stick me on the top part of my hand. This alone is disgusting. And then, it was good, till it wasn’t. She told me that she had “blown my vein”. I did not know what that was so I googled it today (it means that the needle has gone entirely through one side of the vein to the other – ew!!) Then she told me that she would have to take it out. So she did. And put a lot of pressure on it. My initial reaction to this was wanting to burst into tears. But I didn’t. I felt really badly for her. She was trying her best. So I didn’t cry. She easily got it into the vein in the crook of my arm (she used a smaller needle) and it was fine.

Then I walked into the procedure room. It is a surreal experience for a healthy person to have tubes hanging off of one arm and a blood pressure cuff on the other. The nurse told me that she would be administering anesthesia. She told me that if I woke up near the end to just keep breathing. This happened and in my anesthetized state I was convinced that I had not been under at all. I was adamant that I was awake the entire time. This was not the case. I woke at the end and it was definitely uncomfortable. I saw the inside of my colon on the screen. It could have been two seconds or five minutes. I have no idea. And then it was over. The procedure itself was as if it did not happen which I think is the goal. They wheeled me to the recovery area. They were telling me to pass the air out that they had pumped up into me and gave me water (hallelujah) and crackers. I could have kissed the nurses in the recovery room.

When I was finally deemed good to go. I was wheelchaired out and was treated to a very late lunch when we left the facility. I devoured my meal. After the procedure, I was told that it all looked good but I will receive my official results in about a week. Despite all of it, I am glad that I had it done. I know that the symptoms I am having are not indicative of something worse. So if it is time for you, if you are fifty years old or if younger and have colon cancer in your family, go and have a colonoscopy. No one wants to. Everyone is afraid. The preparation is completely unpleasant. But when you are done, you know. And when you know, you just feel better. And knowing is way better than not knowing.

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You are Wrong

What if the person in the world, the person with your face and your life, is not the person that the you inside you thinks they are. What if the outside person and the inside person are at odds. Like one of those giant jawbreakers that is speckly colored and white outside but way, way down inside, there is this tiny bit of completely hidden and different color. So deep that no one sees it. That is me. That hidden away bit. You think you know but you are wrong. split-in-two-jawbreaker

Recently I managed to drop a few pounds. It took a while. Like over six months. Apparently it is enough weight for people to notice. For people to comment. Positively. The whole thing makes me uncomfortable. Because I don’t see what they see. The green sweatpants which used to be the only pants that fit me are now so big that I can’t really wear them without them falling off of my body. But when I look in the mirror I see that same snug green sweatpants wearing person. It doesn’t matter what you see. I am not thin. I am the pudgy one. I could never be the thin girl.

I have been a runner for a long time. I have run fast. I have run slow. I have trotted and I have jogged. I started taking a boot camp class last summer when my son was with my mom in NY. I got stronger. I can do push-ups. I swing a kettle bell. People look at me and think that I am athletic. An actual athlete. But I am not what they think. I am the girl who hid in the back of the line in gym class. The one in the far outfield where the ball never came. I am the one who could never do a cartwheel. The one who only pretended to have had a turn doing gymnastics. Still hiding. I could never be the athlete.

Sometimes I do presentations in front of large groups of people. The topics are generally not very exciting but I try my best. When I am public speaking, I try to be relaxed. I try to not be too nervous. People think that I am outgoing and like to stand in front of people and talk. They say that I am good at it. But I am not what they think. I am the one who is constantly second guessing. The one who is afraid to not know the answer. I could never be the one who knows the answers. I could never be the professional.

This is why compliments are difficult to accept. Because they are not about me. They are about someone else. The shiny hard outside. I realize that this sounds off. Wrong. Potentially demented. But it is what it is.

The one part that I know is me, I think, is that I am a mother. And maybe because although he is part of me, he is separate. I can see him functioning outside of myself. I can see that other people find him as witty and wonderful to be around as I do. I can’t deny that. It can’t be denied when it is right there. I wonder why it is so easy to deny all the rest. The rest that is actually me too.

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Outrageous Brownies

I made Ina Garten’s brownie recipe over the weekend. I had seen her make this particular recipe on her television show (she is the Barefoot Contessa). I remember it because it had some instant coffee in it and that seemed like an intriguing and potentially very decadent ingredient. I don’t know why. It was actually the least decadent of all the ingredients which included six eggs, a pound of chocolate chips, some unsweetened chocolate and a pound of butter (that would be four sticks if you weren’t sure). I had to jerry-rig a double boiler to melt the butter and chocolate and that was a pretty successful endeavor. Once baked the entire pan had to be refrigerated prior to cutting. They are like gold bars in my fridge. They are seriously dense and are every bit as rich as you think that they might be. When I tasted the batter it seemed really salty to me but the finished product turned out pretty well. brownie madness

Funnily enough, no one in my house has eaten more than a crumb of one since I made them. So now I am trying to give them all away.

I had to do a really important presentation to a large group of people yesterday. I brought one with me intending to give it to the person who asked the most interesting or intuitive or probing question. I didn’t tell them that this action would potentially earn them a gold brick of brownie. And ultimately, there were few questions. None too interesting or probing so I ended up giving the treat to a very hardworking administrative assistant who was on the same floor as my meeting. I hope that she enjoyed it.

I actually really like to bake. Don’t like to cook but like to bake. Too bad it is not the opposite. And these days I seem to always be cooking but never baking. Maybe that is why I was baking this past weekend. Maybe it was an attempt to snap myself out of it because lately I just feel like I am in a rut. I have no patience. I can’t seem to catch up with work. I am snappy at home. I have mostly stopped cooking on the weekends so that weekday dinner nights are a crapshoot and I am scrambling to feed my son something that I would want to eat. Since finishing the 10K my motivation for working out is very low. And I keep eating from the container of brownie crumbles that were too cracked up to actually give to anyone. One small piece here and there. I am certain that the calculation in my fitness tracker for “homemade” brownies does not come close to the amount of calories in Ina’s recipe.

It has gotten so bad that I have jokingly said that the fifth grade East Coast Study Tour Field Trip I am going on with my son next month sounds like fun. It is going to be ten days on a bus with the entire fifth grade traveling from Virginia to Washington, D.C. to Pennsylvania to New York to Boston. We will be visiting many, many sites. As parent chaperones, we were forced to sign a piece of paper that said that we would not drink. Which is sort of tortuous and kind of a bummer. I will be forcing my NY family to come and meet us in NYC for one of our days. That will be fun. I am hopeful that this upcoming trip will be just what I need. I have to admit that I have a drinking night planned for Saturday involving a punch bowl that requires a minimum of four people just to order. Maybe that is to get ahead of the ten days dry on a bus. Wasn’t that the title of a movie? Anyway, here’s to rocking the boat in an attempt to shake off the dust and try to remember that just waking up is a reason to be thankful.

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Goals

Goals. I am not good with them. I generally do not have any. No long term ones. No short term ones. I struggle coming up with one to feed to my boot camp coach every week.

Then in January I ran a 10K. It was my personal best. I tried to run really fast. And sort of did. Except that my arch nemesis of running ended up beating me. I did the best that I could and I still did not beat her.

A word on my arch nemesis (I mentioned her to my boss today and she said, “you have an arch-nemesis of running?” Yes, yes I do). She is a lovely woman who is an attorney. We know each other to say hello. She is in my age group and she is a fast runner. I think the thing that gets me the most about the fact that she consistently beats me is that she does not look like an athlete. She is just darn fast. I suppose that whole judging books by covers thing is pretty accurate.

After losing to her after running my heart out, I decided that I really wanted to beat her. Well, I really just wanted to beat her time. A time that I had not been able to beat. And then, just like that I had a goal.Annie's picture

All kinds of things happen to you when you have a goal. You find yourself working hard. You find yourself going outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes it is really difficult. And sometimes you wonder why you are putting yourself through it. This was me. My boot camp coach emailed me track workouts which I started doing on the weekend. I loved the first one and hated every one after. I am certain that I looked ridiculous running as fast as I could around that dratted track. My heart pounding. Sounding like a locomotive. But I did all the workouts she sent me. And I think that helped me to get faster.

Then the weekend before the race, I had the stomach flu and managed to lose a few pounds. Lean and mean. I could not do my track workout that weekend and ended up also forgoing my long run on Sunday.

And all of a sudden, it was the weekend of the race. Based on how I felt, I knew that this race was different for me. The night before I was all nerves. The morning of I felt nauseous. I was supposed to meet the boot camp folks before the start but I just couldn’t do it. At the starting line, I did not see anyone I knew. Not my arch nemesis. I didn’t see her at the start and I didn’t see her on the course. I thought that maybe she was not running.

I felt good throughout the race. My first mile was the slowest and my last mile was the fastest and I averaged 8:45 minute miles. I crossed the finish at 54:23. My new personal best. I found my friend Annie when I was done. She was my finish line support that day. We chatted for a moment and then went to pick up my t-shirt. And as I walked up, there she was, right next to me. Picking up her shirt. My arch nemesis. Had she come in before me? Did I beat her? I wouldn’t know till later in the day. And I had beat her. It was very close. It was less than a minute. But I did it.

And I reached that goal. As small as it was. And it was pretty satisfying. I understand why people have them. I understand how nerve-wracking it feels thinking about the potential for failure. I told a friend that I wasn’t sure what I should try to do next. And he said “run faster”. He may be on to something.

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The Words

There are so many words inside of me right now. They are fast and slippery and hard to catch hold of. Or maybe they are fluttering and flapping, strewing feathers everywhere. Or maybe they are less frenetic and wilier, like an octopus carefully camouflaged. And because of this, their vast, vast numbers, I can’t seem to get them out of me. There is no room. Every inch of space to be used to escape inside of me is blocked. Blocked and blocked by more and more words. The cute little tails of “q”s and tumbling “x”s intertwining with capitol “A”s and “w”s. Forming an unreadable, un-writeable alphabetical dam.

This is why I am writing without entirely being sure what I am writing about. Yet, I am still writing. That just seems inherently wrong.

I can say that over the past week I have just been in a really good mood. I would even potentially go as far as calling it happy. That is not a mood I associate with myself frequently. Although, if I had to guess, other people do. I find that odd. And wrong. But who am I to judge.

Maybe it is because I am not feeling squashed at work by emailed questions regarding health care reform. Maybe it is because I seem to have actually gotten through the 475 pages of health care reform rules that were published last week. Maybe because it is Thursday. Maybe because I did the sliding alligator walk five times across the workout floor today when I used to barely be able to do two. Go ahead, look it up, it’s a thing. And a really hard thing at that. Maybe because the unused desk that was taking up space in my son’s room is gone. Maybe it is because I actually went to Wal-Mart to buy one banana today. That was actually quite amusing. It was forty cents and I could feel the people on either side of me in line thinking, a banana? Really? I felt very ten about the whole thing (Doctor Who reference – “always bring a banana to a party”). Have I mentioned how much I dislike Wal-Mart?

Maybe it is just that I have an appropriate hormone level going at the moment. No dips or spikes. Or maybe it is because I am going to have my teeth cleaned in two weeks. When I called my dentist to make the appointment, my dentist actually answered the phone. It completely threw me off. It was like calling a legislator’s office and having them answer. Freaky strange. I said to him, “so you answer phones now” and he said, “I do everything.” I like my dentist. We go way back.

And the writing seems to have eased the passage of the words. The letters are coming together and not fighting any more. They are joining hands and singing kumbaya. I appreciate their willingness to get along and leave my head. I think that their way was eased by the final dregs of cold brewed coffee swigged directly from my Whole Foods growler. Swigging from a growler seems so decadent that it can only be done in the privacy of one’s own home.

I have moved onto beer which, is likely to staunch any further abhorrent word blockages. It is a large chocolate stout beer. It is delicious. And has come at the exact right moment of my evening.

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Beards and Beers

After writing about my time spent at Borders last week, I was thinking about some of the people that I met while working there. Many, many of them honestly seemed to exist only at the store. Maybe only in the downstairs backroom where the books came in from the loading zone. They were bearded and quiet, back before hipsters were hip. Sometimes forced into managerial roles which may or may not have suited them. They were younger than me and older than me. I mostly liked them. They were a genial bunch. I worked many different shifts so I got to know the old time day guys and the younger closers. It was a good gig for me and I loved the discount.

When I worked at Borders, it was definitely a transitional time in my life. I could have easily left Hawaii and never come back. I was never one of those people who always wanted to come here. I do not have wanderlust. But sometimes things just happen. While at Borders, my then boyfriend had returned to Korea where he was studying through a program at UH. I knew when he went back that our relationship was in trouble. He had received a card from a Korean woman when he came back. He asked me to marry him and I said no. And then he left again. And he left me in this limbo. Stuck in this near seven year relationship, separated by distance, all the while knowing, in my heart that we were finished. And ultimately, as far as I know, he has never returned.

Working at Borders, I was hanging out with a younger bunch. We would drink a lot. We would go to strip clubs because they were the only bars open late enough for our tastes. Me & G (2)One of the guys was shortish and stocky. And bearded. He was damaged and creative. I was untethered. Living the most selfish of selfish lives. I shaved my head. Waiting to be broken up with. But before that happened, the definitive break up, which did happen, I kissed this boy. He was shy and local. I was brass and New York. We would have never worked. And maybe he was just my move to spite my ex. For the Korean woman who had the balls to send him a card. To our apartment. Which I could not read. Because it was in Korean. So this incident. This toe dipping experiment. Does it make me a cheater? And what is it they say on all of those yelling day time shows, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” And in the actual and true sense of the word, then yes, I am a cheater.

But I would like to think that I was not the cheater. Likely had been cheated on. That technically speaking, I was already dumped. Just that he had not yet told me. And maybe when feeling dumped, or neglected, or taken for granted, people just want to feel acknowledged. They want to know that they still exist. That they matter. That someone sees them. The real them. So maybe I just wanted to be seen. Wanted to be acknowledged. And that’s all. Not a cheater. Happy to be seen. Even if for a moment.

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I Miss Borders

I used to work at Borders bookstore back in the day. It was a time in my life when I short on confidence and desperately needed work. I remember being taken into a backroom, talking to a manager and feeling very nervous that I would not get hired. I must have agreed to work just about any shift because before I knew it, I was closing every Friday and Saturday night. This was back in the heyday of Ward Center. The store had a coffee shop upstairs where people (mostly non-book buying people) would spend literally the entire day and night camped out at a table. It was a place where there were stacks of books as tall as I was left in the children’s reading area every night by the time we closed. Where there were tons of people hanging out in the magazine section browsing. We, the closing crew, were responsible for returning the abandoned merchandise to its rightful place. To straighten out the magazines. Although aggravating and tedious, I worked with really great people. And got a fantastic discount.

Many years later, I am still close friends with two of those people. One is my running buddy who I see every Sunday, very, very early in the morning. And the other is a friend who, although we see each other infrequently, we tend to spend important holidays together, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although closing both weekend nights seemed like it put a dent in my social life, I think that ultimately I gained more than I lost.

There were many weekend nights spent traipsing up and down the stairs. I always loved trying to find that one book for a customer that they were looking for. It was like winning. The old time closers, we tried to have fun when we could. Sometimes we dressed up. I frequently wore my vintage clothing. On more than one occasion we did 80s night. Me & DavidWe sometimes went out and sang karaoke. We frequently drank quite a bit. Brew Moon, when it was still open, had a late night happy hour that we often took advantage of. We knew the waitstaff, fellow service industry sufferers.

Now that Borders is Bed, Bath and Beyond, I have a really hard time shopping there. I find it difficult to use the stairs that previously featured local artwork. And winding my way through the second floor often reminds me of a single themed garage sale. All kinds of stuff that somehow made sense to someone to all be sold from the same place. It seems too packed and too disorganized. Like someone’s bad dream. And maybe it is. No more books. Hardly any place to get one anymore. So despite the fact I complained about the people who left the stacks and stacks, at least there were stacks that had been looked at. Maybe spilled coffee on or nibbled or drooled on. Touched and browsed. My family and I were dreadfully sad when a long time bookstore holdout was turned in to a Ross store. We do not go there. We yearn for the days when there were more opportunities to touch the books. Hold them. Peruse them. And buy them. We have our fingers crossed that one of the final bookstores, located at the mall, does not meet the same fate. Maybe its diversification into games and Starbucks can help save it. One can only hope.

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