The Politics of Peroneal Pain: a Three-Question Essay

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been sick most of this year.  First was bleeding from esophageal varices and then came shingles.

First question: which condition do you think was more painful?

Shingles, yes.  After six weeks and damage to a nerve in my leg, I’m still in pain.  And the varices?  Never hurt at all, aside from the tube they shoved up my nose to pump the leftover blood from my stomach and the gas they pumped into my body when they stuffed a scope down my throat to see what was wrong.  Otherwise it’s not been a problem.

Second question: which condition do you think is more serious?

That’s right; the varices.  For shingles, since it was in my leg, the worst possible scenario is permanent nerve damage in my foot, which could keep me walking with a cane for the rest of my life.  But once you’ve bled from varices, you have a high chance of bleeding again.  It’s possible I could bleed to death if it happens again.  Not likely, but possible.  Also, the doctors kept telling me that varices are caused by cirrhosis of the liver which in itself is pretty serious.  They say I will probably need a liver transplant at some point.  Not today, but at some point.

Question number three: which condition do you think has occupied almost all my time?

Shingles.  Of course.  It hurts.  I mean, it HURTS.  It started with excruciating pain in my hip followed by stabbing, burning pain along the line of blisters.  And itching that turned into a mind-shattering sting if I scratched.  And for a bonus, it’s amazing how much pain you can get from a foot that’s half numb.

I was supposed to see a gastroenterologist to check on the varices a month ago.  A month.  And my liver.  What’s truly wrong with it?  What do I need to do?  I haven’t managed to schedule an appointment for either problem.  I can’t stand in line for hours to apply for the county hospital.  No one will do anything over the phone.  There is no way I can spend days sitting in the ER just to have someone look at my foot.  I cannot face that much pain from sitting all that time and I cannot miss any more work.  In short, I can’t focus on something that doesn’t cause me any pain when my whole leg is screaming at me.

And that’s not a good thing.

This whole situation reminds me of the current presidential race.  So many of the candidate wannabes remind me of shingles: they’re loud, painful, annoying, everywhere you go, and impossible to get rid of.  Their agendas are like varices: hidden, silent, an unknown entity.  What’s going on with my varices?  Are they enlarged?  Are they about to burst again?  I don’t know.  I can’t see them myself.  What’s going on with the candidates?  What are their real issues?  What do they care about, what will they do if elected?  They never seem to address those.  All you hear is the shingles yelling at you.

My humanities teacher taught me a very truthful sentence: “Once seen, it can never be unseen.”  But with me, it usually takes more than once.  I know how this game works.  You’d think I’d be a little faster to catch on.

Shingles hurts.  The pain has awakened me almost every night.  It’s hard to ignore.  But I have to step back a little.  There are other issues I have to look after.  I can’t let the screaming, burning  pain take over my whole life.  I don’t want to be one of those people who listens to all the politicians’ gobbledy-gook and believes it to be the ultimate truth.  I want to look at it all.  I want to see the lies behind the yakkety yak.  I need to remember the quiet but potentially deadly varices that hide behind the loud and pretty much benign case of shingles.  I have to look behind the noise and see what lurks in the shadows because that’s what can kill me.

That’s what’s important.


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