Afternoon InquisitionSkepticism

AI: Emotionally attached, Physically detached

ETA: Today you get two AI’s. Mostly because I’ve been drinking Vicodin. You can do that. and so I probably asked Mary to cover for me, but then forgot… or dreamed that I didn’t. Lay off. I had cancer.

Yesterday morning, I woke up with a stomach. This morning, I woke up without one.

In case you missed it, short story: while preparing for a gastric bypass, my surgeon found a not-so-benign tumor, so while I had my gastric bypass, he took my whole stomach out.

Typically during this surgery, they just detach the stomach, but leave it where it is because, you know, it’s an organ and stuff, and why take out things you don’t need to take out.

The weird thing is that I’ve found myself getting nostalgic about having a stomach. That’s weird, right? I mean…. it’s a stomach. But you don’t ever think about not having something like that. It’s always been there. You spend a large part of your life communicating with it. It tells you when you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, sick. It may not be a loving relationship, but it’s an important one nonetheless.

Obviously, being emotionally attached to something that’s growing cancer and shit and trying to kill me is probably not logical. Intellectually, I know that we had to say goodbye. Our time together was up.  But, anyone who’s spend a good amount of time here at Skepchick knows that I’m not known for jumping to rational conclusions… so I’m sitting here, a little weirded out that I’m sitting here and my stomach is hanging out at a lab, being looked at by pathologists. It’s be autopsied… without me. I always thought we’d be autopsied together.

Now, I realize that most of you probably have all your major organs in tact, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have irrational attachments to things. We all have a favorite pair of underwear that we wear on certain occasions… right? That’s not just me? And a favorite t-shirt or pajamas.

What are you weird emotional attachments? Are you a super skeptic who has freed yourself from such silliness? Do you have any body parts that, if you really thought about it, would be just weird to not have, even if you could function fine without them?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET

Maybe I’ll just buy myself one of these. Then I’ll still have a stomach, and it’s adorbs, and comes with a cancer-free guarantee… I assume. Also, it’s the featured image:



Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I assume that we’re excluding sensory organs and bits that interact with the outside world? Eyes, ears, crotch junk, hands and feet?

    I have maybe an irrational attachment to my teeth. I lost my wisdom teeth because I have the worst head-to-mouth size ratio on Earth, but otherwise I have all of my teeth. No braces, no fillings, no cosmetic work, I don’t even take particularly good care of them, and after 37 years I’ve never had so much as a toothache. At this point, I think I would feel sort of crushed if something went wrong with my teeth.

  2. BTW, I’m sorry about the cancer thing. You should have had a giant benefit concert for your cancer starring Elton John singing “Candle in the Wind” for you, plus lots of cash for you.

      1. I don’t know… you might need to do cancer + gastric bypass + Lyme disease or something. I swear I feel bad for you because I feel bad for me, because I had a cancer scare a few years ago and I didn’t manage to exploit it the way I should have. It just turned out that I had the most infected tonsils in American history rather than cancer, but my first thought was “benefit concert” since I’m old enough to remember Live Aid and “We Are The World” and all that crap. The surgeon was… surprised by my reaction. :)

        I think you should at least get Slash from Guns n’ Roses for your benefit concert, and buy a bunch of cheap guitars for him to sign that you can then sell off for 5-6 times their value.

  3. Awesome update, Elyse!

    Man, this post came at the “right” time or what? I’ve just got home today from being laid out at the dentist’s office getting my remaining teeth removed this very morning.

    *squick warning ahoy!*
    I was put under for this go around, but a year ago last month I was wide awake for getting all of my uppers yanked. Awake and numbed like crazy. As as I lay there, the dentist working with pilers, and hearing the sound of tooth cracking and watching each one being removed and set aside, I started to laugh.

    I couldn’t stop. My mouth remained opened so they could work, but I think I chuckled like a loon and sounded like a zombie for a good half hour. The whole thing was just so surreal to me, so ridiculous. Hell, I thought of any reaction I ought to have been having for being 30 years old and having to deal with dentures would be endless tears and worrying whether or not anyone would find me attractive ever again. But I laughed.

    My concerns were ridiculous. My natural teeth were shit. I had to turn my mouth to the side to bite things. The bottom front ones were loose to the point of falling out. My gums were constantly inflamed with infection and I was rocking some serious dragon breath. They had to go. It made perfect logical, reasonable sense. There was no good reason to be so attached to the damned things.

    But I laughed. And I went home and cried. I wanted to keep a few, take them home with me as some weird symbol of what I’ve lost. Hell, I’m trying not to cry now. I’m supposed to be all empowered and shit, not giving a toss about my looks and how I’m perceived by others, and yet with my “meth mouth”, I’ve been even more anxious (yeah, I know, I did manage CONvergence thanks to just enough booze to activate my “don’t give a fuck”). I mean, damn, they’re just teeth, right? I’ve managed food just fine without most of them (nothing will get between me and sushi, damnit). It’s not like having a major organ or limb removed to save your life, right?

    And yet…

      1. Would this be Alanis Morrissette ironic or ironic-ironic? I’m too Vicodin’d up to care :)

        As for “what I did”: Juvenile Periodontitis. They’ve been bad since I was little and combine that with no dental coverage until about two years ago and voila!

  4. I’m sorry you are going through that. It’s certainly not weird or irrational to be thoroughly shaken up after something like that. Good luck with your recovery.

  5. I can’t seem to throw old computer hardware away

    I think we all can agree that that’s pretty much the same thing

    btw: love the timed edit function

  6. I have undergone an unusual amount of surgery considering my age, including the removal of several body parts – all of which I was REALLY REALLY glad to be rid of. First was wisdom teeth and an additional molar – nothing compared to your stomach really.

    Then both breasts, and it took me a long time to really internalize that they were gone. Really gone. Finally gone. As in not there anymore, declaring to the world that I was something other than who I felt inside. I would look in the mirror and find myself surprised all the time. Realizing I could take my shirt of (not just outside, but at all, even inside, even alone) was amazing. Shocking. It took ages to get used to that kind of thing (and now I only wear a shirt when it’s legally mandatory).

    The other one was my gallbladder. I didn’t feel particularly emotionally attached to it, but the damned thing made me really sick for more than 5 years before we figured out what was wrong with me. I lost a job over it, I lost a lot of income over it, I missed holidays and spent extended periods of time in too much pain to move while doctors were confused and misdiagnosed me repeatedly. Getting an organ removed was a small price to pay for finally being able to live my life again – but I will admit I miss it a little when I eat something too greasy!

    I do have emotional attachment to an organ I do not have, and never have had – I don’t have a dick! But when I leave the house without my packy for whatever reason (a prostetic dick I wear pretty much all the time) it is seriously weird. It’s uncomfortable and makes me feel kind of naked. I have a feeling that waking up with a real one (magic!) would actually be LESS weird to me than the feeling of being without my fake one.

    1. Ummm… going with my general theme today, you ABSOLUTELY needed a benefit concert! I hope you don’t mind. You seem pretty cool with your current situation, and wouldn’t it be even cooler with lots and lots of unearned money?

        1. Hush… we could get Elton John to sing “Candle in the Wind” and then “Benny and the Jets” and then I guess we all explode in a sea of cheese.

  7. I have a history of PKD in my family so I’m pretty attached to my kidneys. When I have a twinge (or more realisticly think I have a twinge) in them, I talk to them. I tell them ab my pee sometimes.
    I used to talk to my dad’s kidney too. The new one, not the two layabouts bumming around in there.
    No one talks to those guys anymore.

  8. I’m a latent hoarder. I loathe throwing anything away. Fortunately I’m also frugal to a fault, so I don’t acquire that much stuff to hoard and I’ve made some pragmatic decisions, like throwing away magazines that I’m unlikely to ever read again.

    My favourite teddy bear from childhood shares my bed with me. And the poster my best friend gave me for Christmas when I was 15 is still on my bedroom wall. (I got a classy photo-poster of a woman about to take off her shirt. He got an airbrush art naked woman and alligator in return.)

  9. I’m with others on the teeth thing. I live in mortal fear of the day when I will start to lose mine or need to get them replaced. I think that’s largely a vanity concern.

  10. I’ve had a couple of teeth removed, but I didn’t miss them.

    I would miss my fave pj’s, though, since I wear them all the time, and detest the rare occasions when I have to cover them with artifacts.

  11. I’m glad you’re recovering. I’m not sure how I’d react to losing ANY of my body parts.

    But, coincidently, I just learned that my grandmother passed away this afternoon. Not a surprise as her health had been declining for a couple weeks. I’m sad, but on the other hand she was just short of 103 and had a good life.

  12. My husband had one of his adrenal glands removed several years ago and it currently resides in his parent’s home in formalin.

  13. “so I’m sitting here, a little weirded out that I’m sitting here and my stomach is hanging out at a lab, being looked at by pathologists. It’s be autopsied… without me. I always thought we’d be autopsied together.”

    I have a couple aunts who had their amputated legs buried in little graves next to theirs. Little headstones and everything.

  14. I have MS. so I kinda miss having a full, fit, coherant nervous system and a nice-r immune system. But, hey, I cope. I also agree for the teeth thing. My upper canins were remodeled. bah :(

  15. I’m sorry to hear about all your trouble. I hope you’re recovering well. Please keep us up -to-date on how you’re doing.

    I kind of understand how you feel. I have a twisted (literally) back, and if someone told me they could fix it, I don’t know if I could take them up on it. It’s a pain, and it causes a lot of problems, but it’s just a part of who I am. Or, if it was fixed, I’d have a really hard time adjusting. My dislocating ribs are just a part of me (most of the time, anyways).

  16. Elyse, don’t think about it as your stomach trying to kill you think about it as your stomach being too awesome for your overall health.

    You know turn it into a rock star is born kinda thing… except he’s moved out now and not realized the value he had in his old loving home yet.

    1. Are you saying I’m not cool enough to have a stomach?

      I sure hope my brain and heart don’t feel the same way…

  17. I’m really sentimental about my disabilities, actually. I never had any idea I’d have to be. But, after somewhere between 16 and 26 years of chronic depression, I suddenly wasn’t depressed anymore last spring. IT was REALLY weird. And now because of some additional pathological hormonal shit that we haven’t yet sorted out, I may someday no longer have ADHD. I don’t think it’s very likely, but it could happen.

    And that would totally screw up everything I know about myself.

  18. Many many years ago, my dad suffered from kidney failure and had to get a transplant. His sister (my aunt) donated one of her kidneys to him. Years later, she died from leukemia. So yes, emotional attachment, hoo boy.

    Her kidney is a part of her that lives on, and even though it may not be a part that really defines her in terms of who she was as a person, it contributed to that. And my father, who would have died if he’d been living in any other time, is still alive years later, with an organ that keeps him alive but is in an uneasy alliance with his body. And she’s gone, but her kidney, which has none of her memory, or her knowledge, or her love, is still doing its thing for my dad. There’s reverberating mess of love and gratitude, and also guilt there.

  19. Funny story.

    A couple years ago I was hit by a car. I came off surprisingly well, considering. Got away with just a broken collarbone. My heavy winter coat kept me from getting sliced up and my other injuries were all on the level of bruising.

    But! When I was loaded into the ambulance, I was quite conscious and argumentative. I don’t know if it was just adrenaline or if I’m secretly not very bright or what, but I didn’t think I needed to go to the hospital (the shoulder hadn’t really started to hurt yet) and I was totally super fine. And when the nice EMT went to cut open my shirt to see what a mess there was, well, I told him not to. I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to make decisions at this point in time. (Or ever. It’s worth noting that the day after the accident I went and did my Christmas shopping. I insisted on having the package I’d been picking up when I was hit carried with me at the hospital. All around silliness.)

    But he let me keep that shirt on. It was a favorite, you see. That night, when I was back in my dorm on painkillers, it took fifteen minutes to get out of the shirt and there was some pained squeaking as a result. But it survived. That shirt is now among my favorite articles of clothing and attended by totemic significance.

  20. I hope you heal quickly! That’s a pretty scary and difficult experience. I guess it’s super lucky you decided to have the bypass!

    I actually totally understand having an attachment to your body parts. I have some sort of weird spiritual (I know, very unskeptical, but eh) attachment to my limbs. For example, I am opposed to having my organs removed post-death. It just feels wrong to me. I have plans to have them placed in canopic jars in the standard fashion once I pass away, at least I hope that is what will be done. I do want to donate my brain to science, but otherwise, I like my organs where they are.

    I am not an organ donor (which I get a lot of shit for). I had a lot of trouble going through the removal of my wisdom teeth (I’ve had a lot of dental work – weak enamel, no exposure to fluoride as a child, etc.). In 2009, I had to have my gall bladder removed – which, as much as I wanted it out of me and hated the thing after 3 years of sickness and pain, it was still weird feeling my organs adjust and feeling the emptiness inside.

    Of course, later that year I had my tubes tied, which violated another part of my physical preferences – I don’t like anything *in* me, like needles, etc. – so it freaked me out, but I had to get it done.

    It’s bizarre!

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