Pain Management

A while back, maybe ten years ago, I was referred to a specialist to have a growth on the tip of my tongue evaluated. It turned out to be a tumor, and though not particularly dangerous, the doctor decided to remove it then and there. I agreed. The problem, he warned, was that numbing my tongue would likely hurt even more than simply cutting the growth off cold turkey. Being a guy, I agreed with that too. 

Out of a drawer came a weird looking metal device, which the doctor clamped to my tongue for stretching into a pained caricature of Gene Simmons. And before I could mumble an objection, he whipped out a number-ten samurai sword and and began whittling (or whatever doctors do with number-ten samurai swords) away at the tumour. I almost passed out. I have been hurt many, many different ways, but never like that – never to that extent. 

The doc apologized for the pain, but reasserted he had no practical alternative. I’m a guy, so I tearfully agreed. As consolation I rolled out the door with a bottle of Oxycodone and tried to forget the whole experience.


The kitten hangs out on my pillow in the early morning. She thinks my hands are prey, and when I stir she swipes lightly at whatever inattentive fingers sneak out from the covers. This morning she actually caught one. The needle sharp, middle fish hook on her right paw got lucky and caught the pad of my left middle finger. It stuck. We played tug-of-war for five seconds, middle finger to middle claw, while we both screamed obscenities at each other. Once she finally unlatched, my eyes uncrossed and the poor (uninjured) kitten ran off to hide.


Pain is more interesting if it can be compared to prior experience. When you hit your thumb with a hammer, you instinctively relate it to something like being stung by a wasp. If your Corvette falls off the jack stands onto your chest, you might compare it to the time you raced your motorcycle into a wall. So it goes for everyone, I think – though maybe not the motorcycle part. But so it goes for me. I can tell myself that no matter how much it hurt for my kitten to finally catch her mouse, it’s nothing compared to having a vivisection performed on my tongue. And that’s strangely comforting to consider.


A while back, I started having a problem with my throat that causes me to walk around grunting and coughing like a sick gorilla. I’ve been referred to a specialist, whom I’ll be seeing tomorrow. He’s the same doctor who slayed my tongue ten years ago and he now plans to shove some sort of optical device down my throat to take pictures and help diagnose the problem. No one has mentioned anything about pain management. 

Now I’m anxiously wondering, fish hook or samurai sword?

Gavin W Sisk


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