I had cancer in 2002 and know what chronic pain can be like. It’s insidious in the way that it builds a sluice to slowly drain your will to live. You live with it twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but you don’t measure time in anything close to weeks. While awake (which is as little as possible because sleep, like death, is the only thing that brings relief) time is measured in seconds until enough seconds equal a minute and then enough minutes equal an hour, etc., etc., etc. Happy thought, eh? Well any of you women who have given birth know a different kind of pain. I think the best medical term to describe it is acute.

This acute type of pain may “only” last a couple of hours, but each second feels like a day; each minute feels like a year; and an hour might as well be a century.

I’ve been absent for a few days from my blog because last Thursday night I had my first kidney stone in forty-seven years of life. It, as do all things, passed. But until it did, I lay on the Emergency Room bed, curled in a poor attempt at a fetal position, on my back, eyes closed, my only goal (other than a stranger suddenly dropping by with a loaded gun OR for them to finish with the questions and begin the glorious painkiller drip) was not to cry actual tears in front of this gaggle of complete strangers whose faces I’d yet to see (eyes closed).

Sunday night, I started feeling the precursor sensations, which I will spare you. Let’s just say they are not painful, per se, but they are extraordinarily uncomfortable. The onset symptoms, I mean. Just imagine having the urge to go to the bathroom, getting up and walking into the bathroom, only to discover less and less output until—at output zero—the crazy illusion of a full bladder (which in and of itself is pretty painful without relief) is accompanied by the kidney stone pain mentioned above. So to the Emergency Room I went. Huh-uh—we’re staying way ahead of this one.

By the time Mr. Pain arrives, Dr. Dilaudid is already going to be waiting for his ass. And trust me, no one with the surname “Pain” that I’ve yet met is a match for the evil genius, Dr. Dilaudid. I hung out, sometimes hourly you see, with the diabolical doctor during my daily radiation/chemo extravaganza; per mg, he’s ten times more potent than morphine and has a street name of Drugstore Heroin.

Yet the good Doctor D wasn’t to appear for another couple of hours. They farted away enough of the spare time I had judiciously brought with me and I was reduced to a quivering mess begging for pain meds like a dope fiend once again (only this time the pain wasn’t quite as horrific so I had my eyes open and could see each of the individuals fumbling the ball).

It all worked out. After a second CAT scan in just about as many days, they discovered my first stone had a twin brother who was hiding out (ala the woman who successfully delivers her child and then an hour later goes into labor again and they find another Junior inside).

NOT Dr. Antuna, but rather my second favorite doc from the televised ER, actress Maura Tierney (Dr. Abby Lockhart). Yes, Sherry Stringfield was my first.

And for you women who might be scoffing at my comparison of a kidney stone passing to a birth canal delivery, my first doctor (Thursday) was a wonderful woman named Dr. Antuna, MD (pronounced An-tuna, but which in my opiate-induced happiness sounded a little different and, not having actually seen any of my saviors, I said “your nickname is Aunt TUNA?”

As I mentioned, she was a wonderful woman and I tracked her down later to apologize for acting like such a polar bear’s ass and she gave me a hug before sending me on my way.

But I digress, as usual. Back in the ER, she had informed me that my total loss of pain was not due to the very excellent drugs, not even the (evil but necessary) Dr. D, which she would have had to administer in such a large dose as to stop my breathing to completely assuage the pain. She also told me this in response to me asking “don’t they say this is the only pain a man can suffer that gets him close to what a woman experiences in delivery?”, leaning over as if sharing a secret between just the two of us:

“Passing a kidney stone is more painful than delivering a baby.”

I still hand it to the ladies, however, because they get the lovely precursor of many hours of labor before experiencing such pain (not to mention what must by then look like the ape-ish face of their “beloved” bending over them telling them everything is going to be all right).

Speaking of “ape-ish”, and all apologies to women everywhere, but when searching for a good female ER doctor shot, the one of Maura Tierney really summed up best what I was looking for (and even vaguely resembled Dr. Antuna perhaps twenty years earlier)—but I made the mistake of going to IMDB.com to see what Sherry Stringfield was up to and, well, the fairer sex is called that for a reason, and because I could (which is not always a good reason to do things, I know), I included her “head shot” here. Come on, forgive me. I really thought she was the better actor, made a great doctor on ER (which, in its first 4-5 seasons was the best show on television, by far), and when I watched the show I was not even all that attracted to her. Truth told, I saw that picture, and even though I already had the last one of Tierney, I dug deep and decided I really had to end this particular blog on a high note.

Good Lord, I started the blog off with a story of cancer and then included an image of a snail crawling across a razor.

I think even the women readers probably feel visually cleansed at this point.


The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.



Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.)

Snail Image credit: linleo / 123RF Stock Photo

Evil Doctor Image credit: Tommy Wright / Deviant Art


13 Responses to The Iceman May Cometh, But The Kidney Stone Passeth (If You’re Lucky)

  1. Jo VonBargen says:

    Hmm. You get lost in the ‘shroom patch again, kiddo? LOL

  2. Rob, I’ve never suffered through cancer treatments, but I have had three kidney stone episodes. One of them came on me when I had just gotten in the car to take my daughter to a doctor’s visit two hours away. By the time I got to the doctor’s office, I had to lie down on the floor in the examining room while he tended to my daughter. That makes a really good impression on a big-time ortho doc, by the way.
    Anyway, I’m glad you came through it all right. SW

    • rsguthrie says:

      I’m so sorry, Stephen. I actually smiled at the image, but in that “I know exactly what he looked like and I’ll bet, in the moment, he could not have cared less about impressions.” I’m glad you came through okay, too. Wow.

  3. I’m a women obviously but I didn’t know how real birth feels like because I had my son from an emergency c-section. I wish you a speedy recovery and I can understand how painful that can be because my dad had one too before and it was awfully painful just seeing how much in pain he was.

  4. Katy Sozaeva says:

    Dilaudid. Pssssh. Lightweight. 🙂 Seriously, I suffer from chronic pain and have to take high doses of morphine every day, so if I go into the hospital with a severe, acute pain attack for whatever reason, they usually start with Dilaudid, but quickly advance to the *strong* stuff. Once – and only once – they gave me a shot of … something… that turned me totally boneless and had me looking at the ceiling in wonder for about 20 minutes. It was GLOOOOORIOUS, but they’ve never given me that stuff again. *sigh*

    Sorry to hear you suffered through one of these. One of my earlier diverticulitis attacks was originally suspected to be a kidney stone. fortunately (??) it was just a pocket of something in my intestine trying to break free and kill me… Heh.

  5. I had it bad for Sherry Stringfield back in the day. This is not helping Rob. And I’m sure it wouldn’t have helped to see that IMDb picture in the ER whilst curled up in the foetal position.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Yeah, I liked her, too…just not as much as that pic on IMDB. My wife said, after reading the blog, she wouldn’t have recognized her in that shot. I would have, but it might have taken a second or two. I am sure that you’ve seen the ER kidney stone fetal position of which I wrote in your line of work. And no, not even that pic would have helped. 😉

  6. Yikes, condolences, man. I’ve passed three in the last two months. That first one is sheer agony. I really wondered if I was dying a few times. Then I wished I *would* die for awhile. Thank God I passed mine while I was waiting for the doctor, an experience like yours might have driven me insane.

    I guess the silver lining is that after the first, they get easier. The last two haven’t been nearly as bad as that first time. Still painful, and I still needed to take time off from work to pass them, but not “holy mother of God I have to lie on the floor and moan” painful.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Speaking of condolences, right back to you. Yes, the second one was not as painful. Love your “holy mother of God” qualifier. AND the thinking you were dying and then wishing you would die. Yep. : |

  7. Glad you survived. When I was a child, I stumbled across these two poems that sent me (and my mum) into hysterics any time I read them aloud. One was entitled, “When Ma Is Sick” and the other was entitled, you guessed it, “When Pa Is Sick.” There are indeed different pains we experience by gender and there are indeed different manners in which we experience them. There in lies the real difference.

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