First published: 17 Jan 2017

Survey says … no answer!

Not yet, anyway. The endoscopy (down) and the colonoscopy (up) are done. The pictures are fascinating, but they reveal no lurking community of cunning cancer cells sending their conniving compatriots into my neck. So, the next thing is lungs.

Remember the really old-fashioned butcher shops? The ‘family’ business ones? The ones which had your order cut, weighed and wrapped before you actually crossed the road and entered? And threw in some scraps and free soup bones for good measure? The ones whose dog was less fit than anything you cared to compare it to (I’ve never understood that analogy?) They sold offal, including sweetbreads, things which are very difficult to come by these days, but were cheap and nutritious – always a bonus – as well as being extremely tasty. Sweetbreads are specifically the organ meat from the thymus gland and the pancreas while the rest of the offal family comprise the internal organs and entrails, in fact, anything which is used as food except for skeletal muscle. Haggis and black pudding are still popular recipes but people shy away from most offal-y stuff nowadays even though they are really scrumptious. Knowing modern farming methods, they are probably fed back to the relatives of the donor animals which produced them.

Liver and kidneys are the most acceptable, but brains are great if they’re gently sautéed in butter and cognac, a la Hannibal Lecter. The taste is exquisite. Lecter, of course, was an offal gourmet. His famous line, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti,” played on his medical disturbance, a malevolent subcategory of an antisocial psychopathic disorder. This can be treated with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) but there are three specific dietary components which are banned during MAOI treatment: liver, beans, and wine. The good doctor hadn’t been taking his meds.

Lungs are part of the offal group. Haggis is heart, liver and lungs, ground up and mixed with onions, oatmeal, animal fat, spices, and salt, then boiled inside the animal’s stomach. Yummy. India has a delicacy presented as goat lung and liver masala curry. Leaves you breathless, eh?

Lungs are our next port of call for the primary cause of the tumor. Normally no news would be good news, but as we are peeling away layer after layer of possibilities, no news simply indicates that the problem is deeper than first anticipated. The lung guy is expected soon.

Food is on the agenda today because it was off the agenda both yesterday and the day before. I admitted myself on Sunday morning but, starting Saturday afternoon, I was confined to a ‘low-fiber’ diet and then, from Sunday morning to liquids only. Guinness and dark rum were obviously on the banned list but so was anything else that was of a dark persuasion. Only insipid, clear, boring, weak, wishy-washy, uninteresting, and dull stuff, which by taste was unsavory, and by definition was flavorless. Their best shot was Dal soup which is lentil. I love real lentil soup: thick and gooey, for Christmas starters, drizzled with real cream and lots of black pepper, but this was cold yuck. I told them not to leave any razor blades lying around or I could be tempted. Then they added the laxative.

My prior knowledge of laxatives was restricted to small tablets which gave you ‘the runs’. This was two liters of foul-tasting, opaque liquid which had to be drunk within an hour. Two liters. Two liters! TWO LITERS! TWO LITERS!

And then ……… nothing. Not a thing for ages. No gurgling. No rumblings. No eruptions. No screaming, ab-dab emissions threatening to disrupt the known Universe. Simply peace and calm. The stuff is called Peglac, a combination of polyethylene glycol and electrolytes and its role in life is to ‘lavage’ the gastrointestinal tract. Lavage: nice word. Peglac: awful liquid. It’s supposed to come in two flavors but the stuff I had tasted just like its intended target!

<Breaking news> … and there we may have it, as we speak, live reporting. The lung guy just came and he’s found a “consolidation” on yesterday’s CT scan in my lower right lung, so he needs to speak to the radiology guys to see if they agree and then probably do a biopsy. This would be a needle thrust between my ribs and poked around until he finds a nice piece of offal with which to play. More later </breaking news>

The steely knives have receded. Boy, they were nasty. Worst yet. All day Sunday, all night and then all day Monday till about 3 a.m. Now it’s bearable. Still there, but bearable. While they were at their steely height I was sitting on the edge of my bed, holding my head in my hands and rocking while mumbling to myself. A dietician bounced in and cheerily asked, “How are you?” If he understood my answer, I’m sure he didn’t like it. Strange bunch, dieticians.

The camera work was not as bad as anticipated. For some reason, I was anxious, whereas the very serious neck surgery didn’t bother me at all. It is a bit odd though having tubes down your throat and up your ass when you’re fully conscious. And, as I said, survey says … no answer.They did find a whole raft of ulcers, some small, some large, some shallow, some deep. And one which looks like a subterranean cave of nuclear submarine proportions. No pain, no bleeding, no irritation, so they should be easily treated. Probably caused by all the painkillers I’ve taken. A minor distraction from the elusive little bastard of the cancer.

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