Prostate Exams, Root Canals, & Other Scary Stuff

I don’t know what medical things people fear as they grow older. I suppose we all fear someday hearing the cancer word. Besides cancer, the two things old people talked a lot about that scared me the most were prostate exams and root canals.

For years I was actively engaged in the hobby of Amateur Radio and on most days talked to a bunch of older men scattered around the mid-West. Their favorite discussion topics were medically related and they especially reveled in talking about prostate problems.

It appeared there was a competition between them as to who had the most painful prostate problems and whose examinations and/or treatments were the most horrid. A couple of them had a gift when it came to describing in horrifying detail the size and shape of the instrument/s used to internally check the male genre’s urinary tract. These prostate rotor-rooters were always too large, too inflexible, too sharp, too barbed, too abrasive, and too many other too nasty adjectives you didn’t want to hear about. The more stories I heard the more convinced I became that an early death would be desirable.

The other medical dragon that has scares the bejesus out of me is people describing root canal procedures. Here the competition usually centers on how long the procedure takes, how excruciating the pain and discomfort is, and/or several more hows I can’t remember because I had quit listening before the list got beyond length and pain.

Several years ago it was my turn in the prostate barrel and after assurances from my family physician that the horror stories I have mentioned were no longer based in medical reality, I said “yes” to a urologist’s request to take a deep breath and bite hard on a well-worn oak stick. I did warn him however, that I knew his mother and I was a vengeful sort.

Recently, medical dragon two got slayed when I had my first root canal. My family dentist had referred me to a specialist in Cincinnati and convinced me that modern technology had made great progress in the art of wrestling dead nerves out of one’s dental works.

You know, we really do live in an age of medical miracles. We don’t cut people’s limbs off with just a shot of whiskey to deaden the pain. We don’t cauterised severe bleeding with an iron poker turned red-hot in the coals of a roaring fire. Surgeons no longer need to open people up from their Adam’s apple to their belly button to replace a human heart valve with one from a pig.

But, while the root canal really wasn’t any big deal and was over in about a half hour, the prostate exam was still somewhat rooted in the dark ages. It wasn’t close to anything those old men had me convinced of, but I still wish that urologist had offered me a stiff shot of whiskey along with the stick.

4 thoughts on “Prostate Exams, Root Canals, & Other Scary Stuff”

  1. My best friend from childhood is a doctor in Columbus. He was actually the head of ER at Mt. Carmel for years. Anyway, I’m reminded of a few years ago when I’d just received a prostate exam from my doc here in Chillicothe and talked to my friend on the phone later. I told him how much I hated the exam, and I got this retort: “Well, let me tell you something. It wasn’t the highlight of his day either.” I never looked at it from the other side (insert butt joke here) but I can certianly see his point.

    1. An old man at the truck stop said his doctor gave him the finger in the butt prostate exam and couldn’t determine if there was a problem. So, he directed him to see a specialist in Cincinnati. The old man drove to Cincinnati and was examined by the specialists who told him, “No problem here, why did your doctor refer you to me?” The old man said, “Well, I suppose his finger wasn’t long enough.” True story!

  2. This article causes me to long for another root canal; nowadays, they are fun! And they don’t hurt, but they still give one the pain-killing drugs, and if you claim it hurts you can get a prescritption for better pain-killing drugs so you’ll have a few left over for a rainy day.

    A couple years ago, though, I had a tooth, a molar, with a cavity on the backside of itself that needed a root canal; the cavity being in such a difficult place I was referred to a root canal specialist in Lexington, showed up for an evaluation, but the root canal was started that day, but they found so much infection (and there was a lot of bleeding) that they halted the root canal, unfinished, gave me a prescription for antibiotics and pain pills, giving me – I guess – the strongest over-the-counter pain pill before I left, making me feel really free-spirited for the drive home, and asked me to come back two weeks later to finish the job.

    Two weeks later, when asked about how it went, I admitted that there was a little pain for a few days and was told why hadn’t I called as I could have been given something stronger, as a lot of pain had been possible with a half-finished root canal. I could’ve kicked myself – you mean that I could have had even more pain-killing pills on reserve for more rainy days? Shucks!

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