Reflections on writing – and mortality

I’m rapidly recovering from my gall bladder surgery ten days ago.  The pain from the operation site has worn off (except for when aepilot_Jim‘s puppy enthusiastically jumps on my stomach, which he tries to do whenever he sees me!), and the suture sites are almost healed.  I go to the surgeon for post-operative clearance on Wednesday, and hopefully I’ll be given the go-ahead to return to my water fast program, which was disrupted by the problematic gall bladder.  It’ll be good to get back to losing weight!

What’s surprised me is the effect that the surgery has had on my ability to write fiction.  As regular readers will know, I hit a brick wall as far as creativity is concerned when I ran into kidney stone problems last year.  Those were eventually resolved after two procedures, just in time for Miss D. and I to move to Texas in January, which provided another two to three months of disruption while we packed up, traveled here, and unpacked and settled into our new home.  By the time I was ready to get back to writing, my gall bladder had begun acting up.

It now appears that my gall bladder had been affecting me for some months.  By the time it was removed, it was necrotic, so it had probably been slowly poisoning me for quite a while.  That might explain why I found it so difficult to concentrate on creative writing over the past few months, and to work out plot details and character developments.  It’s as if I was trying to think through fog, and not doing very well at it.  Even in the short period since my surgery, I’ve found the creative process beginning to work again, and this past weekend I got stuck into the next Maxwell novel once more.  It’s a huge relief to be able to put words on paper that don’t suck, and that I don’t have to discard the following day!

This, in turn, made me reflect on life and health in general.  We take an awful lot for granted;  and we often ignore warning signs until a lot more damage has been done than was absolutely necessary.  I know that in my case, because I live with back and sciatic nerve pain 24/7/365 following a work-related injury in 2004, I tend to ignore small increases in pain, because they merge into the background pain that’s always with me.  It takes a fairly significant increase for it to stand out from the background noise, so to speak.  I have to wonder whether that didn’t help to mask the effects of a slowly dying, dysfunctional gall bladder.  Would I have noticed it sooner if I hadn’t had my normal daily dose of pain to ‘cover’ it?  I don’t know . . . but it’s a thought.

I’m going to have to pay more attention to my body, and ‘listen’ better to any signals it might be sending me.  If I’d ignored my gall bladder for just a few weeks more, this situation might not have had so happy an ending.  I might have ended up with an ambulance ride to the ER, and emergency surgery to stop jaundice – or something worse.  That, on top of existing metabolic problems and other issues, might not have had a very good outcome.

I can only suggest to you, dear readers, that if you’re in my position, where it’s sometimes difficult to notice new health problems because they might be masked by existing ones, you should talk to your health care providers about anything they think might be of concern.  We all have our own health issues, so there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to this;  but as the old saying says, “prevention is better than cure”.  I can certainly testify to that from recent experience!



  1. Great advice Peter. My experience is similar, i lived with constant pain following neck surgery for over 10 years and ignored/failed to recognize other unrelated medical problems for too long. It's also the case that "toughing things out" as I tried to do (and as I think most men my age were taught) is a bad idea. If I had taken better care of my neck via more regular PT, exercise, massage therapy, etc., my work and family life would have been much much better. In other words, "toughing things out" had the opposite effect from what I had intended and expected.

    Finally, it is really hard to recognize when you aren't functioning on all cylinders mentally (and emotionally). Friends and loved ones may see the bad signs but they generally won't say anything, unless you ask…….

  2. "Well, first of all, let me say that I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years. It was one of those phobias that really didn’t pay off." Warren Zevon to David Letterman. Zevon died of mesothelioma.

  3. Peter,
    has there been any reason(s) found for the gall bladder problem?

    Sometimes it's the doctors that ignore medical issues:

    I've been aware of my low body temperature for at least 30 years. Runs about 2*F lower than the typical 98.6F. A couple years ago, it became eratic, sometimes as low as mid 93's. I've been trying to get some attention from doctors about this, suggesting they prescribe some thyroid meds, but they refuse, siting the somewhat normal test numbers. Now I find out there is an actual name for the condition:
    ——– I see fasting mentioned:
    The same article reviewed the well-known facts that T4 to T3 conversion can be impaired or decreased by fasting, illness, glucocorticoid, and in the fetus.

    I'm thinking a clue-bat might be appropriate for my next interaction with a doctor. Sigh…

  4. Peter, there's greater significance to this than you mention. As Will points out (above) doctors aren't perfect, and their training – which emphasizes "hoofbeats are horses, not zebras" – sometimes makes them blind to less obvious conditions and/or causes.

    It's your body, you own it in every sense of the word, so it's your responsibility to take care of it. That means being aware of what it's doing, and seeking professional attention when something changes. Sometimes, those changes may be subtle, or as in your case, masked by other conditions. Hypochondria and paranoia aside, if your favorite doctor isn't achieving success, it's probably time to try a different one.

    As economic and social conditions deteriorate it's even more important to get health issues resolved promptly. Today we have available to us, at least in the United States, the most modern and effective health care system ever developed, despite the atrocious and criminal negatives from Obamacare. Postponing medical attention may have more serious ramifications: First, Obamacare, and fallout from it, will continue to cause deterioration in level of care, and; Second, costs will go up. It's entirely possible that, due to Obamacare and the havoc it has wreaked on medical insurance that some procedures, specifically expensive testing, may become less available. If money, from whatever source, is not available to pay for a test or a procedure then medical facilities will not invest in equipment, space or training to perform it and that which is available will be in limited quantities and more expensive because of it.

    The time to get health issues resolved is now, not 3 months after SHTF when medical care will be much less available and probably also less competent.

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