It’s the weekend, and I happily realize that after months of abject toxicity I finally have a full weekend with no in-hospital patients to rounds. So I can probably plan something–who am I kidding, what I mean is I can finally vegetate for 48 hours. Of course something is bound to come up–an event I had said yes to weeks ago, some Zoom meeting I have to attend. Which instantly reminds me–yes, I have to run some errands tomorrow. See.
I wake-up with neck pain. Not tonsillitis, but it’s localized somewhere lower, at the center, below the Adam’s apple, probably on the lower oropharynx or esophagus. I’m not sure what’s causing it. Of course whenever I have symptoms I forget that I’m a doctor and do the most logical thing of all: terrorize myself by googling it. Google says I may I have esophageal cancer. Which is actually top of mind, as lately I’ve been having a lot of esophageal, gastric, and esophagogastric junction cancer patients. In the clinics these are some of the more difficult malignancies I have to deal with. Clinical trials that have so far been conducted have used such heterogenous populations that institutions could hardly come up with a strong consensus.
Maybe coffee will solve this neck pain, but it doesn’t. The coffee instead goes down very slowly, making me conclude that I indeed have dysphagia and probably an obstructing tumor. I press on my neck. Maybe if I press on it I’d come up with a logical theory, or successfully dislodge something. My mother sees me pressing on my neck, and immediately concludes that I’m examining myself for cancer. She tells me to stop it and just seek the consult of an ENT. The last time I had consulted an ENT was a few months ago when I palpated what seemed like an enlarged lymph node behind my right ear. I consulted the ENT via Viber for reassurance. The first thing she said was it could be… (Me: please say it’s just reactive, please say it’s just reactive)… nasopharyngeal cancer. I immediately had a CT scan the next day, and the CT scan results showed that the lymph nodes were not even really enlarged. That they were normal in size. Imagine the deep palpation I might have been doing to actually feel the damn thing and take it as something huge.
I eat my breakfast of hotdog, rice, and eggs. They all go down very slowly, very painfully. Damn it. I open my mouth wide and look at my tonsils, of course they look normal. If i have a laryngeal mirror I will just jam it in my throat: may be I’ll see fish bones stuck in there, or an abscess. Or maybe my unhealthy lifestyle, multiple vices, and sexual deviance are finally catching up with me, punishing me for my un-Catholic behavior.
I spend the rest of the day in my my bed, dying. To distract myself I decide to watch true crime documentaries.I sink further and further into anxiety. And loneliness. I try to eat lunch, maybe the rice and the pork will get stuck in my throat, confirming that there’s a huge tumor there. Maybe I should make an appointment with a radiation oncologist, just in case. But what if it’s a neurologic disease after all. Or, how dare I forget, COVID.
I say, you know what, maybe this pain is from all the talking and laughing and braying yesterday, when I had dinner with Namtab Pots, Paul From The Future, and Ruth Marx. Or maybe I’m just terribly acidic from all the alcohol and coffee I’ve been abusing. What if I rest my voice and take 1 capsule of pantoprazole + domperidone. And sleep.
The following day, Sunday, I am fine. I can swallow. I can SWALLOW!
Time to think of other things to worry–and WHINE–about.