I drink your milkshake
“Holy, hell, I know I’m tired, but that looks like my stomach.”
I was laying on my side with a straw in my mouth and sucking on the worst shake I’ve had in my life. I remember some huckster giving me a cement-mixer in college (Baileys and lime juice in a static snot ball). This shake was much the same thing, but tasted more like Mrs. Maples’ erasers. Chalk dust torture, indeed.
A few minutes earlier, Dr. Hmrahnnah (at least, that’s what it sounded like when the nurse introduced him to your hero, a man who has been up all night for one reason or another for the past week or so) had shoved a plastic shot glass in my hand. It was full of clear Pop Rocks.
“Swallow those as fast as you can,” Dr. Hmrahnnah said. “And try to keep the gas in your stomach.”
We’ve just met and the doctor is talking to me about gas. I don’t have a gas problem, I wanted to say. I just can’t swallow chicken.
“So I shouldn’t burp, then?” I asked.
Dr. Hmrahnnah gave me a look like he thought I was trying to be funny. “No, please.”
Over the next ten minutes, I felt like a tired, used up whore. Turn this way. Roll that way. Put this in your mouth. Don’t burp.
I can pretty much stomach anything. I’ve seen more dead people than I’ve seen films with Kevin Bacon. Bartenders from Hawaii to Monte Carlo will tell you I can drink just about anything and usually do. The barium shake and Alka Seltzer pop rocks were a little much. My gag reflex is not as controlled as I thought. Rather than asking, “So I shouldn’t burp?” I should’ve been asking, “Is it going to be a problem if I upchuck on your nurse?”
The payoff was worth it though, despite what I’m sure was about ten years worth of radiation in ten minutes. As I propped myself on my side and took deep breaths, I was told to suck down my third shake and watch the monitor. And there, in living black and white, was my esophagus, stomach, and, hey, my intestines! The only thing that would’ve made it better (aside from maybe a shot of bourbon) would’ve been having a recording I could put on You Tube. I thought about telling the doc about the Keno Crayon Incident and decided he wouldn’t understand the value of $400. Doctors never do.
“There’s your bowels,” he said.
So, there’s where I put my car keys, I thought.
All of this because I couldn’t choke down some cold cuts one day. Or, to be fair, several days over the course of the last few months. Solid foods–usually meat–felt like they were getting lodged in my throat. The wife, Madame Hypochondriac By Proxy, insisted I go see the doctor. The doctor did his job, which was to poke me a couple of times, grunt, throw some sample meds at me, and send me out the door with a referral for Dr. Hmrahnnah.
Dr. Google pretty much solved this mystery for me a couple of weeks ago. Dr. Google knows everything, including the fact that my throat is fine and I just have a fairly chronic case of heartburn. Dr. Hmrahnnah confirmed that this morning, for all intents and purposes, over shakes and Pop Rocks.
Last night I played poker with two guys who are recovering from testicular cancer. My cousin has a child going through chemo. So does a good friend of mine from college. Another friend of mine just told me today that her mother has breast cancer. These folks have lived through countless hours of prodding and poking from doctors. The fortitude it must take to deal with it is something beyond my comprehension. Despite the fact I feel like I’m falling apart on most days, I’m fairly healthy and I couldn’t feel any luckier than I do.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to see if I can find me a good 18-year-aged Barium to take the edge off.
I’m told it’s an acquired taste.