I’m the only person I know who can leave the doctor feeling substantially worse than when I arrived, for no good therapeutic reason. Trying to heave a frankly featherweight rucksack onto my shoulder, I overbent my elbow and seem to have pulled a tendon. When the joint is bent for too long, it won’t straighten; when I straighten it, it stiffens in that position.
Worse, I’m now on what the doctor herself described as a “cocktail” of drugs: entirely unrelated to my elbow, but with an occasionally detrimental effect on my arse. A gentleman by the name of Mr H. pylori and his flagellate family are the immediate cause of this tanking-up on tablets. The combined effect of all three medicines is to have turned my upper gut into an ineffectual flappy collection of valves and tubes, which do nothing to actually break down food; the barroom collective noun for them is particularly ironic, given that one of the antibiotics reacts strongly, and in a projectile fashion, with alcohol.
A diagnosis is as good as a rest, though: I’ve suffered from recurrent heartburn for years, and looking back may well have had a low-level pyloric infection all that time. The stress of moving house a few months ago doubtlessly—to me, anyway—aggravated something that was there already. Taking one of the three medications throughout Christmas meant I was able to enjoy mild seasonal excess for the first time in as long as I can remember.
Even though I’ve only just started a long and depressing week of treatment, I’ve at least already recovered from the intimations of mortality brought on by the initial pangs of gastritis last year. When one is in the middle of a biography of Bill Hicks—dead from pancreatic cancer only a smidgeon older than I am currently—then sharp, hot pains, feeling like brusque radar sweeps made by the body across a pyloric warzone, hardly settle the mind, let alone the stomach. Now that’s a cocktail of coincidences I’m glad to have put behind me.