We’re all afraid of something. Ignoring it may work for a little while, but facing it head on is the only way to really conquer the fear.
I have my mother’s body, from the two chins and small hands, to the renaissance curves and pendulous breasts. My belly, round and firm at the same time, a small waist compared to my buttocks that are wide like all the women on her side of the family. I have the same thick thighs and narrow feet, and the pinky toes that curl under the other toes.
My mother chewed antacids as far back as I can remember. I could always find a white box of peppermint CHOOZ gum in her pocketbook, on her headboard, in the glove compartment. For years my mother swallowed her anger, her grief, her feelings of losing control.
I am much better at expressing myself – crying, yelling, feeling my feelings and letting them go. And still, I have the same reflux issues that she did. The ones that eventually turned into esophageal cancer and killed her.
And it scares me to death.
Already I am coughing up gastric juices in the middle of the night if I don’t sleep with the head of my bed propped up on risers. I am taking the same medicine that my mother was on (in smaller doses) and not eating after 6 pm. I try to avoid chocolate and spicy foods and sugar, all triggers for the acid. And still, the reflux wakes me up from a dead sleep.
And each time my food comes back up at me I think of my mother, how she felt full after eating a quarter of bagel, or three little peanut butter crackers. How she tolerated the experimental procedures to blast the cancer with pellets down a tube in her throat when radiation and chemo were no longer an option.
I know that the power of my fearful thoughts can’t be helping the situation. And that stress is a major contributor to reflux. But I have been too afraid to do anything about it.
My friend Liz has a family history of colon cancer and she’s been avoiding a colonoscopy for several years. When we got together a few weeks ago she told me she had finally made an appointment, just to get it done. To know. And the results came back-no cancer. No pre-cancer. No need for another test for five years. She was ecstatic.
I was so inspired by her courage that I finally made an appointment with the gastroenterologist, the man who first discovered my mother’s cancer. I told him I wanted an endoscopy to know what the inside of my body is really doing. I wanted to hear him tell me that I don’t have Barrett’s esophagus, the wearing away of the lining that is a pre-cursor to cancer.
I wanted him to tell me that if I just lose weight, the symptoms will go away and I will live a long and healthy life. I wanted him to reassure me that, in this particular case, I do not have my mother’s body.
He assured me I don’t have any alarm symptoms. That losing weight will, indeed, alleviate the reflux. And, as you read this, I’m having that endoscopy just to be sure. And I’m expecting the same all-clear results that Liz got.
ADDENDUM: All tests were clear! No problems in my esophagus. I am rejoicing on so many levels.