It’s been thirty-four years since I was discovered with the genetic condition we now know affectionately as FAP (familial polyposis – if you have the intestinal fortitude, you can check it out on Wikipedia). It resulted in the removal of my colon. Well, most of it. They left about an inch and a half. I was told then I was literally on the very edge of cancer. Just in time.
In the following three and a half decades I’ve been scoped probably close to a hundred times. Monthly ritual. Then quarterly. Then twice annually. Then annually. Always searching, fulgurating, snipping, biopsying a veritable field of polyps. Always clear, always benign, no changes.
But always the possibility. Always the shadow.
About six years ago they began scoping the upper intestinal track – all the guts I have left. Research was showing that FAP can manifest there in different ways, but more as a threat for blockages, not cancer, we were told.
And this week, for the first time in thirty some years, two blips in that upper track.
Ongoing fatigue, heart palpitations, dizziness and sudden weight loss led to the discovery of severe anemia which in turn led to the discovery of the latest stage presence of FAP in my life.
From those first images from the pill camera I swallowed last week, I had the impression they could be removed, the bleeding stopped, all my problems solved through an extended endoscopy scope, all neatly tied up in one afternoon. But they couldn’t get around the final bend. Only to the outskirts of much larger blips than I had understood were there. And then the word.
They couldn’t verify it. The biopsy from the border was benign. But they assured me cancer was in the middle of this. Surgery lay ahead.
But it didn’t hit me until I sat in that medical imaging waiting room the next morning, staring at those three bottles in the lab assistant’s hands.
It’s been thirty years, but I remember this. The CT scan. The pre-surgery ritual one week before my surgery then. Only then I remember one huge bottle for oral consumption and one for – well, one for consumption through another orifice. Chalky. Thick. A barrel of nauseating nastiness.
They’ve come a ways in three decades.
But here it was in the form of three bottles. Each a little smaller than a one liter bottle of Coke.
I had an instant internal reaction. Run. Escape. Hide. Brave Sir Robin. But I sat still. Impassive. Staring at those three bottles, listening listlessly to the verbal instructions. Drink each bottle slowly, evenly, steadily over fifteen minutes. Don’t chug it. Slow down if you get nauseated and let your stomach settle. You vomit, we reschedule and start all over.
I unscrew the first lid. Pull off the protective seal.
I stare down at it.
Creamy, white, liquid, soaplike. I can think of another comparison, but I won’t go there.
I stare down at it.
And with each drink it dawns on me. In drinking those three bottles, slowly, evenly, steadily, I am being given the opportunity to drink the one cup being passed to me. There is no space here for “let this cup pass from me.” It’s passed for three decades. Thank you. And now the three decades yield to three bottles. And each drink becomes an increasing affirmation.
Finishing the third bottle forty-five minutes later, the “yes” becomes an audible, “l’chaim!” A toast of trust. What can there be but trust in One who has been so kind all these years, even in the darkest night? What can there be but trust, a yielding to any and every potential outcome?
Here I am.