Brian McLane

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August 26th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Social Commentary

“It could be cancer.”

“First thing I thought was thank God I got life insurance.”

But hearing those words just stopped time for me. I don’t remember how long it was before I was able to refocus on what my doctor was saying to me. So many things went through my mind.

The next thing I thought about was all those times I was asked to donate to cancer causes I didn’t. Then my wife and kids. It’s why you get insurance. For the stuff you don’t see coming. We’re all going to die. We just don’t have a crystal ball and don’t know when or of what.

What would I tell the people whom I loved and who I knew cared about me. I was sulking and depressed, already preparing for my final days. I just kept thinking though at least I had my life insurance.

“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Let’s take one step at a time,” my Gastroenterologist said. It was diplomatic and what was proper according to protocol.

Back in February or March my doctor had expressed a curiosity about some abnormal readings in my liver function. I had been getting sick a lot because my daughter Sofia had been bringing home a new cold or virus every other week from daycare. I was taking Airborne (which I have since found out is very bad for you – though it always works and keeps me from contracting something whenever I fly), ibuprofen, antibiotics as well as Lipitor to help manage my cholesterol. It was suspected that this was all too much on my Liver. So I cut it all out but the readings remained. Low hemoglobin it was thought.

I had been complaining about all the tests that I had been going through at the request of my primary doctor. First blood, then a second round of bloods, an ultra-sound, cat-scan, endoscopy (I had had a colonoscopy done a few months earlier), now I was being sent by my Gastroenterologist to a specialist at the Celiac Disease Center Columbia because it suspected that perhaps it was something called Celiac Sprue, a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.

But after those tests, I tested negative for the antibodies associated with Celiac. The Doctor recommended that to make sure to rule out Celiac Sprue Disease, I needed to have yet another test done called a “Small Bowel Capsule Endoscopy.”

“Why” I asked? What if that too comes up negative? It’s like we’re hunting for Moby Dick. “What are we looking for here. What else could it be?”

“Well it could be cancer (long pause)….. of the small intestine. (Another long pause). You don’t have to take the test, it’s up to you but if you really want to rule it out….”

“Of course” I said.

It’s what my grandfather Ralph McLane died of in 1951 – also at the age of 46. He didn’t have life insurance. Too busy with his clarinet. In fact I think my Grandmother had to sell his Selmer clarinets and I’m still trying to track them down. I woke my father up in the middle of the night and asked to know if indeed that was the case. We never quite knew. My dad confirmed it but said not to worry. That was 60 years ago and they caught it too late. Nowadays they have much better methods and technology.

And with that I scheduled a small bowel capsule endoscopy with a Dr. Tenner in Brooklyn. He is excellent, busy, but excellent. And skeptical that I had anything wrong with me. He asked if I had had a colonoscopy. I said yes and that it was negative. I could tell that sealed it for him. Interestingly my best friend David asked the same thing.

“You had a colonoscopy?”


“How long ago.”

“Back in October of 2010.”

“And they didn’t find anything.”


“Dude you’re fine.”

He went on to rail about the state of medicine and that Celiac Sprue was the fad of the moment.

I was miserable that whole week (and the week while I was waiting for the results). It’s a terrible thing to have hanging over your head. I was getting morbid about how this could be the big one. But if God wanted to call me home, then there was nothing I could do to stop it.

So I went last week and let them take 7 vials of blood. They were really going to look hard. And last Thursday I strapped on a wrap-around and wore a recorder not unlike what you see Mr. Spock wear on Star Trek and swallowed the pill size camera. I fasted all day on Wednesday and couldn’t eat Thursday until 2.

While I had to wait a week for the results, which was very stressful, the results came back today. Negative in the blood, I’m not anemic, and no cancer.

Dr. Tenner brought in a younger doctor and drew a bell curve, pointing out that 95 percent of people fall inside that curve on the blood tests as showing negative for these types of markers. But there is a small percentage of people (of which I am one), that fall outside of the curve, which is what caused the other three doctors I saw to over-react.

A trying time, but I thought I would share it with you.

I urge you to watch it. And if you take nothing else away from this article, please consider protecting the ones you love and get some life insurance. It was a small comfort in what was a difficult week for me.

Here is a video from Dr. Alice Roberts about what it is like to have a small bowel capsule endoscopy.

small bowel capsule endoscopy

Click for small bowel capsule endoscopy

It’s not CANCER! Small Bowel Capsule #Endoscopy

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Jim

    Glad you’re ok!

  • admin

    Thanks Jim. Quite a reality check, especially with kids. The sucky part is that one day we’re all going to face that. Scary feeling. Hope you’re well. B

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