Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Andrew's Anus and the Proctologist [a LifeLube exclusive, part 4 in a series]

I’m Andrew’s anus, and getting the care I need has often been a struggle for Andy.

That was especially true in the mid-1980's when I had my first wart outbreak. Although I eventually got the surgery I needed, Andy discovered treatment didn’t mean a cure for my HPV (human papillomavirus.)

Andy figured no one could be worse than the pathetic excuse for a doctor he’d recently encountered. His second prospect seemed more professional - there was even an academic air about him. Andy disclosed that he had two immediate issues –anal warts and a recent positive test for the “AIDS virus.”

“I’m a cardiologist,” the doctor replied. “I’m not sure why they referred you to me as this isn’t my area of expertise. Perhaps it’s because I answered a survey expressing interest in continuing education about AIDS?”

The doctor examined Andy and observed, “You look like a healthy young man to me. Frankly it doesn’t seem possible that you have AIDS. Do you mind if I run a test to verify that you are infected?”

Too anxious to fathom the implications of this, Andy agreed.The blood was drawn and the the required referral for me was provided.

“Well it’s not the worst case of anal warts I’ve ever seen,” the proctologist quipped wryly after examining me.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I wondered. Outpatient surgery was planned and this time it was actually done. Just before he went under, Andy caught a glimpse of his chart. HTLVIII (an early tag for what we now call HIV) was emblazoned in four-inch blood-red letters across the front.

The first week of recovery was hard going, but I hung tough. At his follow-up visit a week later, the proctologist told Andy he was retiring and that he’d refer us to someone else for future care. Almost as an afterthought, he asked Andy if he understood how I got the warts. Caught off guard, Andy waffled and the doctor sternly told him that whoever said my warts were the result of anything but homosexual activity was a liar.

Andy wasn’t aware then that 30% of straight guys have detectable anal HPV, but he did know the doctor’s tone was inappropriate. Still, he had bigger fish to fry and let it go.

Andy still hadn’t found an AIDS doctor.

One night, the most experienced local provider in the area came to talk to his support group. Dr. Bradley was a seasoned and compassionate man who confessed that treating a terminal disease was a big change for him. “I’m used to being able to cure what ails my patients,” he confided, “but I feel powerless against this disease. This is happening to my community and somebody has to try to do something,” he explained.

“Something” in those days consisted of helping new patients understand their T-cell counts, struggling to ward off a bunch of different infections for folks in and out of the hospital, and attempting to help them die with some dignity when the time came.

Andy saw the new proctologist for the recommended follow up, and the doc briefly examined me. He was younger and his office was more modern, but he didn’t show any more compassion. It seemed like he was anxious to close out the case. “Everything looks fine and I don’t see any reason for you to come back,” he advised.

Andy decided to ask Dr. Bradley to be his main healthcare provider. It only took a few minutes in the exam room to know he’d made the right choice. Dr. B. knew as much as anyone in the state about AIDS, yet he’d been humbled by the fortitude of his patients.

A self-described bisexual, Dr. B. had no qualms about sex – straight sex, gay sex, oral sex, or butt sex.

He didn’t pass judgment and he understood the lives of his gay patients.

When Andy mentioned the cardiologist and the confirmatory blood test, Dr. Bradley smiled. “That was nice of him, huh? You do know he’s the CEO of your HMO, don’t you?” Andy hadn’t, of course.

Some months later, Andy was shocked and disappointed when Dr. B, after conscientiously performing a rectal exam, discovered a couple of small warts in me. Andy and I hadn’t really understood. We assumed the surgery had cured me. “No - this is to be expected,” Dr. B. explained. “But don’t worry,” he assured Andy, “if we’re vigilant and treat them when they’re few and small, we may get them under control.”

Eventually, and for a very long time, we did.

(to be continued. read part 5 next tuesday, march 8)

As told to Mark Hubbard

Read previous installments.


  1. This series is so great, and so necessary.

  2. I love it! very informative in a very casual way.!!!


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