2014 Annual Letter


Many people pick jobs based on their training. Others turn up employment opportunities through specific life experiences. Fewer seem to find occupations because of their special talents. I may have sniffed my way into a new calling through medical intervention. Best-case scenario: become an international spy, able to smuggle top-secret information across international borders with aplomb. Not-quite-as-intriguing: develop a nose for being a pretty good drug mule.


Harken back to last year's letter among my new medical stable is an otolaryngologist. I went to the first appointment naively thinking that she would be able to remove a food particle that had lodged in my proboscis when I sneezed while eating trail mix. (insert sound of Chris scoffing here)


After some scoping and probing, the ENT informed me that I was sprouting a nasal polyp and scheduled a CT scan to plot the best course of action. I've always sported a slight twitch to test drive an MRI machine; had to settle for being heavily irradiated, instead.


At the follow-up visit, the doctor showed me a beak's-eye view on her iPad. After a failed attempt at a round of Angry Birds, I asked for clarification of the blobs on the screen. She pointed out a patch of pixels and said that was the growth. (Was disappointed to find no images of a gorilla anywhere.) Her response to my layman's question "How big is it?" was to compare it to a grape. Have heard of kids stuffing pennies, LEGO blocks and other things up their sniffers, so a grape seemed manageable.


The procedure to remove the growth was scheduled for months later. I didn't really like the idea of a grape growing in my honker for longer than necessary, so tried to pick an earlier date. I settled for a spot on the waiting list. A worthwhile lesson: if you feel snubbed by a long wait to see a doctor, ask to be put on the "will call" list. Broken folks who need medical attention frequently end up cancelling their appointments. Prominent, long waits can be shortened into mere stubby days if one has some flexibility. At least, that's the hook that worked for me.


I woke from the general anesthesia to hear the doctor explain there had been a wrinkle, and she was happy with her call to hold the procedure at the hospital, instead of in her office. Turns out the polyp was larger than I anticipated. Rather than a swollen grape, it was more the size of a mandarin orange. To be fair, the shape had flattened somewhat to adjust to my humongous nasal cavity.


My patient wife endured my drug-induced plans to rent out the newly-discovered-and-recently-vacated cavernous hall in my head to the highest bidder as she checked me out, drove me home, and stuffed me into bed for the night.


No surgical procedure is complete without bandages. My snout certainly felt swollen as gauze was packed inside. Felt like the butt of a magician's joke the next day as the ENT extracted what seemed like an endless roll literally several feet of dressing. A follow-up appointment scheduled for this spring makes me suspicious that, at the last minute, she stashed some microfilm for safekeeping.


To give some perspective, this all happened amidst the ongoing debate about the Affordable Care Act in the US. On a more sombre note, we have other reasons to be extremely grateful for Canada not blowing its medical system as Chris' Dad passed away this year. We feel so thankful for the excellent care John received from his professional and sensitive doctors, as well as for the support and kindness of extended family and friends who cared for him and comfort us in our loss. He was a good man and is missed.


Finally, last year's skin cancer turned out to be easy to deal with (compared to growing an orchard in one's schnoz). At least, no citrus fruits were cited as comparisons. A small basal cell carcinoma on the left temple was excised apparently between sets by an Aussie surf-doctor in a procedure that took less time than the average visit to a dentist. Bonus: a mini facelift for free.


Don't be alarmed if a youthful-looking-at-least-on-the-left-side man of intrigue sporting a long-sleeved shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and layers of SPF 50+ lotion (with a rejuvenated sense of smell) walks up to say hi. It could well be just I darting between the cold and shade.


Wishing you and yours excellent health and short doctors' waits for 2015.


copyright 2014 by Todd Strong


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