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Friday, 1 March 2013

Speaking of cannibals



On seeing the Queen for the first time, Hilary Mantel wrote:
“I passed my eyes over her as a cannibal views his dinner, my gaze sharp enough to pick the meat off her bones. I felt that such was the force of my devouring curiosity that the party had dematerialised and the walls melted and there were only two of us in the vast room…And I felt sorry then. I wanted to apologise. I wanted to say: it’s nothing personal, it’s monarchy I’m staring at.”

 It sounds bizarre. The only parallel experience I can relate to – until very recently – was when I saw the Rolling Stones perform in the 1970’s. We were only three feet away from the stage. They were late. The hall went pitch black. Suddenly they were standing before us, floodlight and silent. And yes, my eyes (as the promoters intended) devoured them cannibalistically. Along with ten thousand other eyes eager to feed. So these things happen. Hilary made sense. 

And it made sense in a more personal way when I was forced to visit the doctor and I was devoured. This doctor is a lean man who looks a little like the actor Peter Capaldi. He stared at me, hungrily, it seemed, devouring every word I said, each hesitation, every moment of silence. I felt like an actor rehearsing his part, a soul before judgement recounting its life.

It had been easier the previous week. Easier still the week before that - before the pain began, and I was forced to make an appointment. 

As a fully paid up member of the ‘worried well’ I had checked up online and arrived at the surgery self-diagnosed but willing to let the Duty Nurse speak first. It seemed only fair. She threw the ball in my court. “What do you think it is?” she asked. I hesitated so as not to show arrogance. “Sciatica…perhaps…?” 

“No, it’s lumbago,” she said. “Most definitely lumbago.”

I was so relieved. My pain had a name. More, I got painkillers. 

The pain was manageable during the day. Mine was nocturnal, a fox in the buttocks gnawing its way into my lower vertebrae. An hour’s sleep if lucky, then downstairs wedged between strategically placed cushions watching appalling TV. Sometimes I paced the room, filling in time, and realising the Gestapo would have had a fairly easy time interrogating me. I’d have handed them the D.Day plans on plate in exchange for a triple strength codeine and a hip flask of laudanum.

As it was my painkillers were coming to an end and a repeat visit to the surgery was called for – along with a repeat prescription.

 “See the doctor,” my wife urged. “Not the Duty Nurse.”

“She’s very good,” I said. “She saw it at once – lumbago.”

“Hmm.”

I saw the doctor, and it was him staring at me like a Hilary Mantel cannibal. “Lumbago,” he said.

Ha! I thought. Lumbago endorsed. And then something made me say it - a minor thing that had erupted five day’s earlier – insignificant in terms of the blade gouging through my vertebrae. “I have a rash, bit itchy, bit unpleasant.”

His manner changed when he saw it, his expression more triumphant than devouring. “I should have seen that earlier,” he said. There was respect in his voice as though I had something infinitely more interesting than Lumbago. “Shingles,” he said. “You have shingles. The rash always comes later.”

I felt better, too. Lumbago was an old man’s disease in my eyes, something associated with whiskery Victorians when they weren’t having gout. Shingles is sexy. More C21st.

And not only that he gave me more pain-killers and Anti-inflammatory capsules (with some horrible potential side-effects but I won’t go into that since they haven’t occurred yet) 

And now I feel great. I sleep at nights. I snore with joy and abandon. And dream of cannibals. 


PS Bad things happen and then go away. I just had nothing else to write about this week.

22 comments:

Renee Miller said...

Still, with nothing to write about, it was pretty interesting. This guy I worked with had shingles frequently...

Mike Keyton said...

Don't say that, Renee. You mean they come back? Bugger. I thought this was it and never again. Oh, Renee, I'm dispirited : )

Maria Zannini said...

I was just about to say what Renee mentioned. It can recur.

Sorry.

DRC said...

Good thing is now you know the symptoms and what to look out for, so should it come back you can recognise what's going on and get back down the doctors before it gets any worse.

Hope it all clears up soon

Mike Keyton said...

Maria, I take refuge and comfort in the word 'can'. Presumably then it might not : )

And yes, DRC, I know the symptoms, Sciatica?Pfft! Lumbago? Pftt! Shingles, it is.

Angela Brown said...

It seems these ailments are particularly similar. But in making sure to feed the cannibalistic doctor with information about your condition, you've been diagnosed and doped up properly.

Long live codeine.

Okay, I just looked at the last sentence I wrote and that could be misread in so many ways.

Just glad you're able to snore with reckless abandon now :-)

mrcrashhappy said...

Ah, the reawakened herpes virus that once plagued you as chickenpox when a child. Big sympathies. Had a pal in grad school who succumbed due to lack of sleep and poor nourishment and stress (i.e., the usual). I hope never to do anything which rouses that sleeping beasty. Take care.

LD Masterson said...

My Dad had shingle awhile back. He said they were miserable in the beginning but eased off after a while. No recurrence so far. I'll keep my fingers crossed for both of you.

Shirley Wells said...

I was also about to mention that it can recur. However, as you've been depressed by this piece of news already, I'll keep quiet.

Feel better soon!

Mike Keyton said...

Well, looking on the bright side, Shirley, if it does re-occur, I can simply recylce this blog post : )

Mike Keyton said...

PS Thanks, too, for the good wishes.

Jeanne said...

Mike,

It sounds like you had two unnecessary surgeries. Too bad you had to go through that. There are vaccinations now. You might ask your doc if getting one would help to prevent a future outbreak. You might also ask if you can keep some acyclovir (anti-viral tablets) on hand. If you should get the pains, then, at a time when you couldn't make a doctor appointment (eg. on a weekend or while travelling) you could begin the medication before seeing the doctor. It would pay also to read some preventive-medicine info. I wrote some articles for a preventive medicine clinic once and they were recommending that people who had any kind of herpes virus ingest higher levels of vitamin C and L-lysine tablets.

Jeanne said...

Mike,

It sounds like you had two unnecessary surgeries. Too bad you had to go through that. There are vaccinations now. You might ask your doc if getting one would help to prevent a future outbreak. You might also ask if you can keep some acyclovir (anti-viral tablets) on hand. If you should get the pains, then, at a time when you couldn't make a doctor appointment (eg. on a weekend or while travelling) you could begin the medication before seeing the doctor. It would pay also to read some preventive-medicine info. I wrote some articles for a preventive medicine clinic once and they were recommending that people who had any kind of herpes virus ingest higher levels of vitamin C and L-lysine tablets.

Mike Keyton said...

Angela I second that, codeine is my new best friend.

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks, Crash. What puzzles me is that 'stress' is apparently the trigger in setting off the latent chicken-pox virus. And I don't get that. I'm not stressed, I eat well and though I'd like to sleep a bit longer, on the whole I get enough.
One of life's mysteries : )

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks, Linda. And if it reoccurs, I'll know you've uncrossed your fingers : )

Mike Keyton said...

Jeanne, thanks for the good wishes, and I'll bear the advice in mind. I haven't heard of the anti-virals - though over here we're being discouraged from having them ref viral immunity problems. I'll google L-Lysine tablets, too. Ref Vitamin C I consume plenty of fruit and veg. Fingers crossed, I suppose. I'm still puzzled by what triggered it.

Jeanne said...

It's usually induced by stress and an immunity system that needs strengthening. What knocks down immunity? Any illness, lack of sleep, alcohol, sugar, refined foods....

Mike Keyton said...

I live in Monmouth. We don't do stress : ) I eat well, and drink only at the weekends. We won't speak about the past : ). I googled the causes but none of them compute. It's a mystery, but I'm grateful for you getting back to me Jeanne.

LD Masterson said...

If I need to uncross my fingers for anything, I'll cross something else in the meantime. Toes (yes, I can do that), legs, eyes...

Mike Keyton said...

Crossing toes... Almost as good as crossing continents. Miracle worker!

mrcrashhappy said...

Sometimes I believe the medicos whip out the "stress" cause in the absence of any certain knowledge or a cure that won't be worse.