Epiglottis and A Great Big Fob

A routine check-up back at Clinic E. Not with Mister A this time but one of his nice assistants. A nice assistant who introduced herself as ‘one of the doctors’, a phrase I’ve heard before both in real life and on the telly. It’s a comforting phrase. It’s good to know they’re part of the gang.

I hadn’t met this doctor before. She said she had just rotated. I nodded. She said she was enjoying it so far. I wondered where it fitted in. How did a stint in ENT rank in the scheme of things? I’d guess it was fairly low to middling. Maybe worse than spending time in plastic surgery but definitely better than a month in stoma care. Or the diabetic foot clinic.

The nice doctor may have been new but she knew the drill and soon had that familiar camera on the end of the familiar tube going up my nose and down my throat. There was no screen for her to look at the view on (only Mr A gets that perk). She had to make do with a sort of scope thingy.

After a minute or two she said she wanted to get someone else to take a look. I said is something not right. She said she’d just get someone else to take a look.

I instantly wanted to know how many months I might have left to live.

She left the room and came back in after what seemed like a couple of hours with Mr A in tow.

Let me have a look then, he said. And he took over the scope thingy.It didn’t take him long to work out what was what.

It’s a cyst. A cyst on your epiglottis.

Now the epiglottis, as every schoolboy knows, is a little bit of gristle that goes across the top of the windpipe when we swallow. It stops stuff going down the wrong way.

Mr A said it’s away from the site of your tonsil cancer. Meaning the cyst. It will be benign. They’re always benign. He said he’d seen loads of them. So no need for a biopsy. Then I was waiting for and I heard a but.

Mr A said but I’ll bring you back to clinic in a month to check it hasn’t grown. And if by some freakish chance it has grown? He said we’ll see. And he gave me what I’m sure he meant as a reassuring touch on the shoulder.

It didn’t stop me looking up treatment options and survival rates for epiglottal cancer on the way home, but it was reassuring. It really was.

The thing is I’m a worrier. He probably knows me well enough by now to realise that before I’d left the clinic I’d be already fretting about the probably benign cyst. And he probably wouldn’t be too shocked to learn that the next day I woke up with all the symptoms of an MS relapse. Clearly stress-related.

Now it’s often hard to describe MS symptoms in ways which do them justice without straying far into the realms of hyperbole and wacky metaphor. So in this case let’s just say I couldn’t move my hands properly.

Which doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Well, overnight I’d found myself suddenly unable to grip or feel with my fingers. Not totally, but power and sensation was much reduced. I couldn’t pick up a cup. I could barely use a knife and fork. So bad I needed a runner for Scrabble.

I also had what I initially thought might be a developing case of flu. A splitting headache,  a kind of painful ague in my shoulders/arms, and a kind of other-worldly brain fog. A fog where the world is experienced at a remove, like being off your face but sober.

A stroke maybe? I’ve got MS. I knew it wasn’t a stroke I was experiencing. It was a relapse.

I phoned my GP who agreed with me that on the face of it steroids might be a good idea but referred me to the MS nurse. She said I had secondary progressive MS and with that you don’t get relapses. I said I know a  relapse when I see one.

I checked the MS Society website. There is definitely a thing called relapsing SP MS. I phoned the MS nurse back. She said the consultants don’t like giving out steroids to people with SP MS. She said I was just having a shitty time, what with the cyst and everything.

She was right about that.

She said try to tough it out. See how you feel in a couple of days.

I felt like she was trying to off me with a great big fob.




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