Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cutting Through the Mee-Maw

It's three days since Jason was discharged from the hospital, and he's really doing well. Having endured pretty much a lifetime of living with Crohn's disease, this last flare-up which began in May 09, couldn't be brought under control, and he ended up where two thirds of Crohn's sufferers end up... with major surgery. Most folk with Crohn's keep it to themselves. And those with Crohn's who are out of the closet, don't really go into details. Consequently, it's one of those conditions that is greatly misunderstood, and largely ignored.

I remember being a child, standing by my grandmother's side on our walk to the market one Wednesday morning. We'd bumped into a friend of hers in the street, another old lady, and the two women were gabbing. (These are English slang terms... "bumped into" meaning we met someone along the way, and "gabbing" means non stop talking, usually about other people.) During the course of the conversation a neighbour was mentioned. She'd been in the hospital, and had an operation. My ears pricked up, and I stopped looking around aimlessly and came over all attentive. And then the weirdest thing happened. The other lady, while freely jawing about the situation suddenly tailed off mid sentence and her mouth moved but no sound came out. We call this mee-mawing back home. Where you mouth the words, but your voice is AWOL. Course, this always happened with the old folk when kids were around. And it always happened just as conversation was getting interesting. They'd been talking about the neighbour being in hopsital and having an operation. It'd be six months before she'd be back to normal. Poor woman. Well, you know what's wrong with her, don't you. She's had a... and the mee-mawing began, accompanied with the most curious distortions of the face, forehead, and eyebrows.

It's really weird how an absence of information always causes the mind to go into overdrive. Being human, we tend to try to fill in the missing pieces. In the main, for most of us, this strange pastime of ours is usually without malice. But the missing pieces we fill in are invariably inaccurate. My young innocent mind boggled as to what could possibly be wrong with the neighbour, and why it was such a secret. Not for any kind of nosiness though. But more out of a fear of one day going into hospital and having them do something to me that meant I'd be ill for at least six months. It would be many years later as a young adult woman, that I'd discover this type of mee-mawing among gabbing women, was usually where a hysterectomy was involved.

It's strange, but once armed with all the information (and of course, being old enough to comprehend what such an operation means to a woman), I was then able to actually feel the correct kind of sympathy with an understanding. I daresay, back in the day, hysterectomies were so frequent among older women, because of the quietness that surrounded them. I do believe that as the ways of the 1940's gave way to the fifties and on through the 1960's to the seventies... we began to understand more as medicine advanced, and became more open to discussions about women's health. Today, breast cancer is screened for, as is ovarian cancer and many other "women's" stuff. Through a willingness to be open, understanding came forth. And through this we have been able to leave the stigma of certain conditions behind and advance.

Jason has had a bowel resection. He's barely 35 years of age. This type of surgery abounds with myths and misinformation. It's a classic for mee-mawing. Mee-mawing, though very well intentioned at times, feeds into the imagination and perpetuates ignorance. With his permission, I am trying to blow the lid off a condition whose sufferers feel like lepers, and consequently live a life without understanding, and a life that often appears to those around as being anti social at times. They often withdraw from full social interaction, because well... you just don't go round telling folk that your insides are shot-at and you need your own personal rest-room. (Shot-at is another good old English slang term, meaning "in a hopelessly bad condition".)

He's doing very well considering that surgery was only a week ago. They removed around ten inches from the terminal ileum, which is the end of the small bowel. It's a common site for Crohn's, and it's usually the last resort when all other medication has failed to arrest the flare-up. They rejoined the section without incident, and although it's gonna be many months before he can bend properly, or lift anything significant, he will heal well. Just to diffuse one mee-mawing myth, if I may... he hasn't been given a bag. Yes, he's had a bowel resection, and though it might be hurting like all hell right now for him, his bits and pieces still work fine. It would appear that bowel surgery is no longer in the dark ages. There are magnificent surgeons out there, who are bringing Crohn's into the 21st century.

1 comment:

Lisa Shelton said...

You really should try serrapeptase. It is a digestive enzyme. I have had crohns for 15 years and have had 2 major surgeries. It continuse to return. I started taking the serrapeptase a month ago, and for the first time in years, i am completely off steroid medications and doing great. You truly have nothing to lose.