I’ve been preoccupied with composing an account of my escape from an American medical establishment that left me to die of prostate cancer to an alternative approach in Tijuana, Mexico, that saved my life. Pardon me, then, if I don’t opine this week upon our socio-political meltdown for a couple of thousand words. Instead, allow me to offer a section of the emerging book that I wrote just moments ago. The “chronology” sections, by the way, are interspersed with more subjective sections titled “commentary”. What’s below is a section of the latter kind.
Again, I find myself having to defend the “chronology” section as a repository of facts. The effort above seems like a broad, deep pool of feelings. But when a crime victim has PTSD and sues the criminal for damages to help with therapy costs, date and location aren’t really as important as the fact that the perpetrator kept the victim in a cold, wet basement for a month. The fact of feeling strikes me as no less relevant when we consider the damage done by our medical establishment. It’s a fact that I felt myself progressively invaded by a deadly illness yet couldn’t even get a diagnosis. It’s a fact that I was driven to think about suicide in the utter absence of any support from highly paid “professionals”. It’s a fact that the PSA results were available long before I was informed of them, and that any reasonable person would therefore have supposed those results to be unremarkable; and it’s a fact that any such person, surprised in that reasonable supposition by the news that cancer had practically devoured one of his organs, would be somewhat traumatized. Good grief! It remained a fact throughout this time that I still couldn’t do more than a sponge-squeeze over the toilet bowl without a catheter, two and three months into my original blockage!
No spokesman for ___ Urology ever tried to claim that the COVID pandemic was to blame. I’m sure I would have heard that excuse if any excuse at all had ever been offered… but no, none was ever offered. Even if we concede that the way our hospitals shut their doors and closed their labs to non-COVID patients led to magnified misery, however, we’ve done nothing but admit that the system is a disaster. If you can’t handle the victims of a train wreck without disconnecting all of your existing patients previously placed on life-support, then you’re running a pretty crappy health-care facility.
I’m in a hurry to close the book of memory on these sulfur-scented pages, so let me wind up the present commentary by squeezing in a thought that I’d entertained right from the start of my ordeal. The first time I ever met Dr. X (March 12), I asked him a question so obvious—yet so puzzling—that it almost turned reality inside-out. Where were all the Enlarged Prostate victims of the past? Even if their enlargement was benign and not cancerous, they would have died an excruciating death within a few days because of not being able to urinate. Dr. X gave the laconic response that people just didn’t live as long in the past. This apparently meant both that a) men didn’t develop enlarged prostates very often because they were in their graves before reaching their sixth decade, and b) when they did suffer a urinary blockage… yes, they were goners very quickly. He added something nondescript about the nightmarish ways that the latter sufferers would try to handle their condition.
Okay, but… but where’s the evidence of the nightmare? Does it appear only in med-school textbooks? Why? Because ancient authors were squeamish about portraying such horrors before a general audience? Aelfric wasn’t squeamish about graphically describing the demise of Herod in one of his sermons. The epic poet Lucan wasn’t squeamish about graphically describing bizarre (perhaps even imaginary) mutilations in battle scenes. Suetonius didn’t seem to think the tender eyes of his readers couldn’t bear ghastly detail when it came to the excesses and orgies of decadent Roman emperors. Why is urinary dysfunction the single sort of physical torture excluded from pages accessible to the layman’s eye?
And plenty of fellows got old, in the old days. I’ve browsed through more than one decrepit Irish graveyard in my time. Such places make interesting reading. There are waves of die-off: the Reaper works his scythe most actively at certain moments in a man’s life. Young lads doing hard manual labor with more brawn than brain sometimes didn’t see thirty. A man who lived past forty in this group had a good chance of seeing eighty. Where is the vast harvest at fifty or sixty—especially vast if almost all males are doomed to develop an enlarged prostate during those years?
To this day, I don’t know why prostate cancer chose me, in particular. An inquisitive mind might look at all I’ve just written and say, “Our toxic modern environment is the evasive culprit you seek: our poisoned water, our poisoned air, our poisoned workplaces.” Granted. That sounds very reasonable. Yet in my case, others around me (thank God) weren’t struck down. If environmental pollution was the only relevant factor, then I should have had a lot of company.
I keep returning to stress. Am I saying that people didn’t suffer stress in ancient and medieval times? Yes, I am: or few of them, to be exact, suffered stress to the degree that we routinely do. A Roman who wasn’t one of Caligula’s courtiers could get on with his life without great hassle. An astronomer who didn’t publicize his findings could live comfortably elbow-to-elbow with the Spanish Inquisition. And nobody, even among the most tormented—even Boethius languishing in his cell—was being suddenly informed that his identity had been stolen, or that his bills couldn’t be paid because a credit card had expired and his account’s password mysteriously refused to work. We are blindsided and bushwhacked by such menacing assassins constantly, almost daily. Even on a day when we don’t receive a red e-alert, we can’t be sure that our sailing will be smooth until we lie in bed that night.
I am conservative in most of my tastes. Yet (or, I should write, “hence”) it annoys me when self-declared “conservative” mouthpieces praise our feverishly progressive lifestyle to the skies. In the particular instance of cancer, we’re even supposed to celebrate radiation- and chemo-therapy as a blessing of our era. Some of the “alternative” therapies—diet, supplements from rare plants, heat therapy, yoga—would land us in a pretty place, wouldn’t they, if we had to rely upon them and nothing else? (Pause for superior smirks.) Well, I’ll have much to say shortly about such “conserved” treatments, and also about extremely advanced ones that the “progressive conservative” Medi-Pharm establishment regularly slanders and stifles. For the moment, just accept that for some of us older folks who don’t blithely punch buttons without any idea of what they may ignite, this brave new world is terrifying.
It made me a nervous wreck, at any rate: it was one of the contributing factors. A rich man who knew that Caligula’s eye was lustfully studying his possessions could pack his tail out of Rome overnight for months at a time. Now “they” know where you are 24/7 even when your phone’s turned off… and you, for your part, really have no idea who “they” are.