Thursday, February 16, 2017

(With apologies to Janis Joplin:) "take another little chunk of my tongue now baby"

...So after breakfast, my girlfriend, ever supportive, drives me to the hospital - which I'm very grateful for, because, while I could have made my way there by transit on my own steam, I had no idea how invasive the procedure would be, or what sort of condition I would be in afterwards to get home. My tongue, as it has done for two months now, hurts: kind of akin to the feeling you get when you bite on it, hard, but deep and lingering, all on the left side. If I stick the tip in my right cheek, you can see lesions on it in back - the white and red cluster on the tongue itself, in the bottom right of this pic (I think the brown thing is a filled tooth or something):

My GP, observing this cluster, said it needed to get looked at. A walk in doc, fielding a request for antibiotics in advance of the ENT appointment - I thought I would try to anticipate that that might be all the ENT was going to prescribe, as a preliminary, so we could maybe skip a step in the event they proved ineffective by the time I got there - declared it wasn't bacterial, made a call, and had the ENT appointment moved up a week, to last week, which made me a bit nervous (it doesn't happen very often that  people actually try to rush you through the system, you know?). The ENT, looking in my mouth, scheduled me for a biopsy at his closest convenience. Today was the day of that, at 8:15 AM.

It's a hell of a word, biopsy. It kind of evokes an autopsy, except on a living thing (which also brings to mind the concept of vivisection). So how serious are these lesions, anyhow? Based on his first look last week, my ENT was giving me a fifty fifty chance that it was something called lichen planus - or else it was cancer. Either way, it likely relates to my swollen lymph node of the fall and my ongoing sore throat and inner ear pain, all on the left side of my head, all manageable - at least in terms of present pain levels - but starting to freak me out no less. It went undiagnosed and untreated because I was more concerned, when symptoms first manifested in September, about the lump in my throat - which proved to be nothing, or so I was repeatedly told. Now that the lump has faded, the growth on my tongue has taken centre stage, suggesting that hey, maybe it was something after all...

Today's procedure went like this: after I assumed position on the narrow hospital bed - more gurney than bed, really - the ENT dried off my tongue a bit and had me stick it out to one side, taking a deeper look. He held it out of my mouth between pieces of gauze, peering, telling me to keep my eyes closed, telling me to relax. He quickly amended the "possible lichen planus" diagnosis: now that he can see better, he can see one clear big lump in back that he figures might be a viral growth, which needs to be cut out - if, that is, it's not cancer, which is still a concern, and which would require other avenues of treatment. The nurse went to get a clamp to hold my tongue in place, while he put three needles into different spots to freeze it. As film geeks out there might anticipate, with my tongue held out to one side, I had an unwelcome image from Salo flicker through my head.

...And with that image in mind, and my tongue in whatever contraption the nurse brought in - which I never did get a glimpse of - he got cutting. It took about fifteen minutes, after which he put in a few dissolving stitches; I didn't feel much of anything, though it hurts now, and told me to come see him next week to talk about the results and the next step.

"Can I see what you cut out?"

The nurse was happy to oblige, holding the jar up to the light so I could snap a pic. It doesn't seem like very much at all, seen this way, but I sure can feel the effects of this on my mouth.

And now for a week of waiting. I can use mouthwash or salt water rinse for comfort, can eat normally - he's got no suggestions, really. And he was not forthcoming with any offers of painkillers: though my inner ear is starting to hurt a fair bit, I have been told that there's a newly legislated mandate that opiods are only to be prescribed for very, very serious sicknesses, so I'm left with Tylenol and discomfort (of course, if it's cancer, I might get some painkillers, I guess, but if it's a viral growth, probably not).

I resent that, actually - that the government response to the opiod crisis means that people in pain can no longer expect treatment for it. There's enough of a disconnect between the two things - junkies dying of fetanyl-laced IV drugs and my ear, throat, and tongue pain - that it seems kind of silly, akin to outlawing the sale of Christmas trees to help prevent forest fires or something. Feckin' misguided bureaucracy; but what more would you expect of our provincial government?

In any event, it's a good excuse to stay home and watch movies. Did you realize that the heavy in Ben Affleck's The Town was played by Jeremy Renner? I hadn't. He's great in it; it might have been the first thing I ever saw him in (though I later caught up with him in that Jeffrey Dahmer movie, which is amazing, and prompted Kathryn Bigelow to cast him for The Hurt Locker). There's lots I like in this movie, in fact. It's not as good as Gone Baby Gone, but it's a ton better than fuckin' Argo, which I still think is a self-serving Hollywood liberal handjob and a one joke film to boot. I didn't much like The Town either, when I first saw it theatrically, but I revisited it with my girl the other night, in the theatrical version, wondering if my opinion of it would have changed since I saw it theatrically, and I have to admit I enjoyed the experience, and not just because of Renner. I still thought the ending rang false and feelgoody, but I guess not all Boston crime films can be The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

So with the theatrical version fresh in my head, I'm watching the extended cut of The Town now, and am going to get back to it. I wonder if I'm going to end up all Roger Ebert-y, jawless and using typing as a primary means of communication? (Because my carpal tunnel problems are really going to be a pisser, then).

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