I’m not a big fan of hospital or doctors waiting rooms. I imagine the medieval miasma gathering at ceiling level, forming a devastating suffusion of germs spiking into an unseen tornado of air, the tip of which sweeps through me, as a nurse bustles by.
The lady sitting opposite me furiously applies antibacterial gel to her hands hoping it will provide an adequate barrier to the coughs and sneezes surrounding us.
Thankfully, I’m not often in this environment. Today I’ve been referred to the new local IBS clinic in the hope they can help me investigate why my symptoms are getting worse. Why foods I was previously able to tolerate are now becoming problematic.
You’ll be pleased to hear that I’m not going to regale you with any of the presenting detail (to be honest mine are relatively innocuous compared to some of the terrible symptoms sufferers endure) but I will say this. Being in a state of constant low level abdominal discomfort is exhausting.
Perhaps to my own detriment, I’m also not a huge fan of drugs. I might take a paracetamol if my head is really pounding but I can’t see the point of something I can take for the rest of my life to “settle” my stomach. Clearly my stomach is objecting to something, how am I ever going to find out what that is if I am taking frequent doses of symptom suppressors? And I just know that the requirement will be for the dose to increase over time until my ingestion of drugs exceeds food! It’s a slippery slope.
It’s at this point I should let you in on a bit of family history. When my Dad was in his early fifties he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon. The doctor told him in mid-December that “he may as well enjoy Christmas and they’d operate in January.” My parents assumed the worst. The operation involved taking away a long section of his large intestine and he endured nine months of chemotherapy. Tests were done which showed his cancer wasn’t a genetic type – which he was very relieved about – and he set about, in his typical stubborn way, getting better.
He is now 76.
So back to me, four years ago, following a year of tests in which they found nothing sinister, my diagnosis became IBS. I started omitting foods from my diet, with some success I believe, but now, as the lists of food that my stomach isn’t happy with began to grow, I have concluded that I need help.
Hence, even though I need to be at work finishing the year end audit, I’m here. Picking up all sorts of germs as I sit typing into my mobile phone, waiting to be seen.
I know there is not going to be an instant answer. I know there will be tests, head scratching and “let’s just try…” but we all owe it to our families not to be squeamish about the tests and screening, to catch things (if they are there) early, and to learn from the example of my Dad, who against all expectation, just kept on living.
I love you Dad