31 days of gratitude, grumpy edition (day 3)

Today I am grateful for modern medicine and technology.  All of it.

I had my annual mammogram this morning.  I was easily distracted from my half-nude state and the repeated handling and smashing of my boobs by the elegant and mobile tomography machine that photographed my tissues.

As I walked out of the radiology area, I peeked into as many rooms as I could to see all the cool stuff– X-RAY, MRI, CT, PET, TOM, JANE machines.  Donuts, plates, platters, sliding beds, swinging arms.  They are pure magic, looking inside our bodies without so much as a poke.  Modern scan machines are beautiful, mostly with soft edges and mild colors.  The industrial engineers must watch Star Trek episodes when they design this stuff.

Just a few hours after the boob-smashing, I received an e-mail message through the on-line information system my clinic uses. It informed me that my mammo was fine, no malignancies detected.  Ta-da.

A couple weeks ago, I had a CT scan of my heart.  For 50 bucks, 1 or 2 minutes inside the CT donut, and a couple hours’ wait, I learned that I don’t have any calcium in my arteries.  This is relieving news, given my family’s history of keeling over from heart and arterial disease.  The respite from worrying is probably good for my health.

I also did some bloodwork, which is itself something of a miracle.  With one little stick and the offering of a little blood, we can learn so much.  I learned that my potassium and iron are low-normal, as usual, and that my hormone levels mean I’m in post-menopause.  Yay! My genetic purpose has officially ended and I can die without further affecting human evolution!

Many years ago, I learned that I had bladder cancer.  The doc found it by shoving a long hollow metal rod — the scope — up my urethra and staring around inside my bladder with the help of a camera and a wee lightbulb.  A week or two later, he shoved another scope up there and used tiny robot hands to clip out the tumor and scoop it out through the rod.  My bladder remained intact, and I didn’t have to be cut open. I would no doubt be dead or bladderless by now (quite possibly both), if not for modern surgical methods.

And meds, all the meds. Without my BP meds I would have stroked out several years ago.  Anthony’s gout maintenance meds have made life livable again.  Jesse’s anti-anxiety med makes a functional life a little more possible for her.  Antibiotics, antihistamines, asthma inhalers, epi-pens, advil, flu shots, vaccines, melatonin in pill form.  What would my family’s life be without all these things?

Because I hate people, I often find myself ruminating on the origins of all this wonder. So much of our understanding of the human body arises from cruelty – human experimentation, animal testing – and from the work of bigoted, misogynistic scientists. Pharmaceutical companies are motivated more by profit than by altruism, and have messed with costs and supplies in so many ugly ways.

And yet here I am, alive because of the good we’re able to make out of humanity’s inherent evil.