Managing My Conditions

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I was lying on a gurney at Massachusetts General Hospital, my stomach gurgling and growling after two days with virtually no food: one day of a liquid diet consisting of chicken broth and unsweetened lime-green Jell-O, and a second day of no food, limited water, and massive quantities of a toxic mixture of Gatorade and Miralax.

After spending most of one evening and the following morning ensconced in the bathroom, I shakily walked over to the hospital for my once-in-a-decade colon scope, one I'd been putting off for several years due to Covid, other health challenges, and creative avoidance.

Now I was emptied of excuses, energy, and bodily fluids, as I waited impatiently to get the show on the road. Finally, after a 90-minute wait, a nurse ushered me back to the pre-op suite, where I changed into a white hospital johnnie and stretched out under a heated blanket.

Soon, a nurse was going over my list of medications: various supplements like Co-Q10 along with low-dose meds for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and prostate. "I see you have heart disease," the nurse said matter-of-factly, which I didn't want to hear before going into an operating room (even for a relatively safe procedure).

Some background: My father, a hard-driving Type A engineer, had a massive heart attack at 44, followed by a quadruple bypass at 60, and a second fatal heart attack at 61. Since childhood, I've exercised, watched my diet, and done everything I could to minimize my risks. Yet, two years ago, after a calcium scan, I discovered my faulty genes had caught up with me: I had significant plaque in two arteries and needed to take a statin to reduce my already low cholesterol and to lessen my risk of a heart attack.

Now, back at Mass General, I was relieved to finally roll into the operating room, where I was finally given a much-needed sedative—two hours of waiting had made me nervous—and time grew slippery and vague; half-an-hour passed and it was over.

As they were wheeling me out, the doctor mentioned that the procedure went well and that they found one small polyp, which he removed and sent out for biopsy. It all sounded routine; I would be notified within 14 days of the results. Still groggy from the sedative, I couldn't really gauge my risk. As I was getting dressed, the nurse mentioned that small polyp, and that it was quite common to find one.

Now, a few days later, I wonder if I'm about to dodge (or get dinged by) another bullet. My mind is clear enough to know that there are no guarantees, and that life as I age seems to call for the management of an ever-growing list of conditions.

Last year I had surgery for a spot of melanoma on my upper arm along with the removal of several lymph nodes; 15 years ago, I had a smaller melanoma on my chest. I have physicians watching my prostate, dry eyes, heart, and now my colon.

So there I was, and here I am, a 65-year-old man who has outlived his uncle, father, brother, and several other relatives, who is pressing up against the glass ceiling of his known world. Am I healthy? Am I sick?

Or am I simply in the reality of life in my 60s in a mortal body, one that doesn't come with a warranty or a money-back guarantee?

Judah Leblang is a Boston based writer, teacher, and storyteller. He will be performing his one-man show "It's Now or Never" at the Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston on Sunday October 23 at 4 PM. Tickets ($15) and more info at: