Apples, Buttons, Band-aids, Oh My

8 01 2016

You are about to learn some troubling news. It’s news about me and it may turn the tide about how you treat me or even feel about me.

I have a gag reflex. I know, I know… this is uncomfortable. You had no idea. It’s something I have struggled with my entire life. My children, and often my own wife, pick on me about it. It’s an uncommon reflex to say the least. It’s not the same as when the doctor uses the little rubber mallet to tap on your knee during a routine exam. It’s not even like having a wooden popsicle stick holding your tongue down. No. This is worse. Besides not being able to swallow even the smallest of pills, I gag at the sight of a large Adam’s Apple. Even as I type the word, I’m needing to turn my head. If I see a man with a protruding laryngeal prominence, I have to look away. If I see someone touch it, I’m gone. Seriously. It’s one of the main reasons I grew a beard as soon as I left home for college. As a 17 year old, 6′ 1″, 140 pound college freshman, my Adam’s Apple inhibited my ability to shave without the near dry heave. It just stuck out too far.

Likewise my belly button is troubling. Some might consider the natural divet of the abdomen a target for tickling. Not so in my case. It’s a bullseye for the eject button of my last meal. It was all I could do to clean and care for both of my infant son’s umbilical residue during their first weeks of life here on earth without throwing up. Changing the most toxic diaper had little to no effect in comparison to having to put ointment on that little piece of flesh. I prayed more earnestly than anything in my life that it would fall off sooner than later.

My own belly button is something that has always made me uncomfortable. Yes, I’ll laugh it off when around friends and family. But deep inside I wish I didn’t have it. I won’t wear some button down shirts because the placement of that third-from the-bottom button rubs against it. I’m too old to wear medium to low rise jeans, but I will continue to do so and carry the just cause of ridicule. Because at least then there is little to no chance my belt buckle will come anywhere near it. Needless to say I could never be a rodeo star or be a wrestler. Those buckles. No thank you.

The last 5 days have forced me to pay attention to my belly button like a lonely old gorilla in the rain forest. It’s never had so much attention. You see, eighteen months ago I developed an umbilical hernia. Yes, what had been an inny, had become an outee. And it hurt. I mean beyond the normal uncomfortable state around my belly button, it really was easily irritated. Yet I wouldn’t talk to a doctor about it because I knew he would want to touch it, and well… that was just not going to happen.

Then came that hapless day during my annual physical, which always now includes the full deal Prostate Cancer screening. (Thanks Dad!) My doctor asked, “So, is there anything going on that we need to talk about?”. Okay, it was a weak moment. I mean he had just taken off the glove and tossed it into the can with the red lining. Without thinking I said, “Well Doc, I’ve been having increased pain in my belly button area.” And there it was. The beginning of the path to the most unsettling circumstance of my life. Not only was someone about to stick their finger inside my belly button, they were going to cut it open, dig around in there and then sew it back up. I have no words.

Well, okay. That’s not true. I’ve got words. To be completely honest I also have the same gag reflex with my eyes. I wear contacts now though. I’ve gotten over that hurdle. Granted, I wear extended wear contacts and I extend them much further than recommended. To create an even better system, I’ve even reduced the situation to where I now only wear one contact instead of two! So I only have to deal with one eyeball every other month (or so).

Since I’ve done so well with my eyeballs, I figured I could do the same with my belly button. Mind over matter they say. They are wrong. There has been much anxiety this week. Way too much anxiety. I communicated my issues to the surgeon immediately upon my first consultation back before Christmas. And what did he do? He stuck his finger right in there. I yelled. The nurse came running in to see if the doctor needed help. Yes! He needed help! He needed to be helped right out of that exam room! And I needed one of those banana shaped bowls to catch what was about to come flying out of my mouth. He removed his hand very quickly and I didn’t press charges or file a complaint. I would be asleep the next time he tried that move. Or at least that is what I thought.

This past Monday Tana and Candy got me all good and ready for surgery. Candy called me Jimi Hendrix and we all had a nice conversation about names and how Tana had complained to her Dad about her name more than once and how frustrating ordering pizza was. Candy’s last name is Cash, or maybe Crush, or maybe even Corn. I’m not entirely sure because very soon after the nice talk I had to be laid flat on my back and have cold wash rags placed on my forehead and, you guessed it, right across my Adam’s Apple. The nausea soon passed (once the cold rag was removed from my neck) and the doctor stopped by to say hello. And then he did it again! Right there in front of my sweet wife, who had just prayed over me. He pulled up my gown, took one look and with the speed of a champion fast draw gun fighter, he poked my protruded umbilicus with his right index finger. I think I passed out at that point.

The first batch of medicine they give you to prep for surgery has somewhat of an amnesia effect. And that’s a good thing. I had no idea what they did to fix my hernia. The good doctor had wanted to explain the procedure to me. I just stuck my fingers in my ears, closed my eyes and sang La, La, La, La, La as loud as I could. All I know is that it’s hard to stand up straight and coughing is not pleasant. Even after 5 days. Today I attempted to look up the treatment and procedure online. I thought I had worked up enough curiosity to overcome the reflex. I got 3 sentences in and I had to stop. It’s still too soon. I did almost have a break through in the middle of the night though. I came as close as possible to ripping off the band-aid and using a fork to scratch the itch that is now happening deep down in the healing. I scratched the kneecap of my right leg. That was as close as I can get. It didn’t really help, but I was able to go back to sleep.

There are hard days ahead people. At some point I’m going to have to remove the band-aid for good and do a deep cleaning of the wound. I have changed the dressing a couple of times already and I think it went well. I’ve figured out a way to watch YouTube videos of puppies doing funny things to distract me.

Now that you know of my Kryptonite I hope you won’t use it against me. For those of you with similar issues, let’s imagine briefly talking about it in a small group and then let’s never think of it again. I’m here for you… but only to watch videos of puppies together.



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