Friday, April 22, 2005
Showing visitors around
On Saturday, one of those bright beautiful spring days of this past weekend, my visitors arrived. Buz and Diane, who come from New Glarus, Wisconsin, arrived at 2 p.m. After catching up with the lives of family and friends that I had grown up with in Madison, we set off on a trip to show them the sights of Carlisle and Concord.
As we had done with other visitors in times past, we headed to the North Bridge in Concord, not the usual hike through the Estabrook Woods, but this time by car. My husband Ken dropped Diane and me off at the Buttrick Mansion in the National Park so we could walk down the hill, across the bridge to the Minute Man statue. Ken and Buz would pick us up on Monument Street. Along the way, I did my best to describe the Bicentennial celebration of 1975 to Diane. "It was over there (pointing towards Fenn School) that President Ford flew in by helicopter to take part in the celebration," I explained. "And here on the hillside is where the many protesters camped overnight."
At the foot of the bridge, we circled the Minute Man statue sculpted by Daniel Chester French and paused long enough to read Ralph Waldo Emerson's phrase "the shot heard round the world." On the other side of the Concord River, we stopped to listen to the park ranger describe in detail the happenings of that fateful day, April 19, 1775, which was the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
Our next stop was Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott had lived. By now it was after 4:30 p.m. and the house and her father's school had closed for the day. We walked further down the road to The Wayside, which once was the home of Samuel Whitney, muster master for the Concord Minute Men. During the 19th century, at different times it was home to three literary families — the Alcotts, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Sidney, author of Five Little Peppers. The house was yet to open for the season.
Back in the car again, we drove to Monument Square and then climbed to the Old Hill Burying Ground. There we wandered through the weathered stones with names now associated with roads in Concord such as Hubbard and Keyes.
Our last stop for the day was the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, a short distance down Bedford Road, where we walked up Authors Ridge and paid our respects to the graves of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.
On Sunday morning, after breakfast we took our guests for a drive around our town. There are plenty of cranberry bogs in Northern Wisconsin, but we decided to start the Carlisle tour at the 40-acre Cranberry Bog on Curve Street. Under a spectacular clear blue sky we walked across the bog, stopping to spot a sharp-shinned hawk sailing over the Ballantines' log house on Fiske Street and listening to the call of bluebirds and watching one fly across the bog.
Then it was back in the car for a drive through Great Brook Farm State Park on North Road, past the ice cream stand in the distance, the boat landings and then on to Rutland Street and back to the center of town. Before heading home to Estabrook Road, we swung past "This New Old House" and the goat farm on Indian Hill Road.
At 11 a.m., as Buz and Diane climbed into their car for the trip into Boston, Ken and I stood on the porch and looked at one another with smiles on our faces. Yes, we agreed, we live in a pretty special and interesting corner of America. We were happily reminded of this once again by the simple act of showing visitors around.
G.I. hate this
Here is my contribution to the fight against colorectal cancer: Tell your doctors you're not going to have your colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy until they come up with a better screening method — or at least a better prep than the barbaric process in favor today.
Why would refusing a possibly life-saving screening be helpful to the cause? Many people aren't getting screened now; many more would if there were a noninvasive or at least less ghastly test. If we all hold out for a better procedure, more of us will benefit.
"This is a bit extreme," said my husband, a doctor and a sweet, kind man. Doctors, even those who've gone through the prep and procedure, have been lulled into thinking this is the best we can do. It's up to us, the consumers, to say no to these god-awful liquids they expect us to get down, and no to a process that guarantees you'll feel like hell for 24 hours.
Ninety percent of all colon cancer is detected in people 50 and older, but the National Cancer Institute says well over half of this age group has never undergone any kind of screening. No wonder. They've heard from the rest of us about the battle you wage against yourself to down either a gallon of polyethylene glycol-salt solution (a cousin of antifreeze, smarmily and inaccurately branded GoLytely and NuLytely) or the blessedly less-voluminous but nearly-as-sickening sodium-phosphate product known as Phospho-Soda. They both taste horrid, but the worst part is the feeling of your incensed stomach rising up to meet your throat and close it off to further assault. Taking this stuff causes every cell in your body, save a few neurons in the "should" center of the brain, to scream "No."
If you manage to get it all down, you breathe a sigh of relief and get on with your day, which will consist of hours of cramps and dramatic events in the bathroom. If you don't get it all down, well, you still get to spend the day in or near the bathroom, and the next day you endure the thinly disguised disapprobation of your doctor because you haven't produced a bowel as clean as they'd like.
I would be willing to prep for the prep by modifying my diet or adhering to a liquid diet for several days, rather than the one day that is recommended. I've asked various gastroenterologists to tell me what foods pass through the system most easily and completely and over what periods of time. They've looked at me blankly, as though the question were either too mysterious for one who studies the GI tract, or irrelevant, or as though I was being silly and should just go ahead and take the prep.
"Oh, it's the prep that's horrid; the procedure's a breeze," people say afterward. Well, after my recent one, I disagree. The procedure can be dreadful if you're not sufficiently anesthetized.
Screenings of all types have been credited with catching cancer early, when it is most treatable. My mom had colon cancer; it seems sensible to me that I get screened. What doesn't seem sensible is making myself sick in order to make my bowel look nice for the colonoscope. I know flying to the moon is very different from exploring inner space. But really, why can't America's scientific genius be applied to figuring out something better?
© 2005 The