These last few weeks I have had the honor to look “uncommon health issues,” according to those well-respected in the medical field, in the face and, in my blatantly loud and – for the most part -an unwillfully forceful voice, yell a resounding “fuck you.”
Did I start out considering it an “honor”? No. Did it take a while to see this as a positive and not a negative? Absolutely. But, no matter what your journey will be, we are all the same in the respect that, at some point, we will battle the fact that only you know your body better than anyone else. And while I hope, for your sake, that this battle unfolds later rather than sooner, I also pray that, whenever the issue arises, you grasp it with all the forceful strength that you can muster, stand up, stop sweetly apologizing for causing a scene, and demand an answer.
Learning that life is a gift, and that we should embrace everyday that we are given, is a theme we are first introduced to in elementary school. A lesson that is no doubt later memorialized in high school graduation speeches, and college, too. And one that we still struggle our entire lives to learn as an adult, a lesson that can manage to be both simultaneously as expected and as unfamiliar as wandering our own home in the dark, hands outstretched to avoid the furniture.
But in elementary school it was easier. Back when your mind couldn’t comprehend the complexity of life and death and everything in between, superheros existed to make sense of it all. We created figures so heroic they could transform the world that we were so busy discovering; they could fly between buildings, use microscopic vision, maybe save the world even. But, inevitably you grow up, and perspectives shift, and soon you realize that your new superheros are in the form of single parents, and cancer survivors, and people who get out of bed every fucking day with no reason better than habit.
Two stories have inspired this post, which is nothing more than an attempt to bring organized form to an otherwise rambling train of thought. An attempt to bring peace to a conclusion. Nothing more than to quiet my own sporadic mind, if you will. One of the stories is not my own, and for that purpose will not be addressed here, other than perhaps the unconscious influence it has had on my own introspection. The other story is mine alone, told in enough pieces to give you a main idea, but probably not enough to give you anything concrete. Exactly as it should be. Exactly how it has also been presented to me.
One of my Day Zero Project goals was to get over my fear of doctors and get a full physical. This was required annually in high school, when I was an active participant in sports. Since then, other than a few attempts in college, I have not been to doctor in over 11 years. And now, I am strong enough blame only myself. Because it was me that gave up on the fight, and because it took me a long time before I decided that I knew my body better than your medical textbooks do, goddamnit. I have felt that something was wrong for a long time. I had an inkling in high school, and the beginning of college I had some pretty scary experiences, and I spoke up. I went to specialists, I searched for answers-as much as a person can who really doesn’t want to know the truth. But I got passed around too much from doctors who couldn’t make a distinctive diagnosis, and I got tired of being told that I had some peculiar test results, but nothing really disturbing either, and I got busy living a life.
Before this acceptance of blaming myself, I blamed others. I blamed the multiple times I have been to various doctors and “specialists” who, despite my protests otherwise, were convinced that nothing was wrong. I blamed witnessing the cases of multiple friends, who were “fully medicated” and treated, but still saw suicide as the only option. I blamed an experience I had with my grandma, who went from doctor to doctor with issues, arguing for adequate care, and died when everyone quit paying attention. And now I realize that maybe how I remember it was not exactly how it was. But that’s the thing about memories; what you remember is probably only half truth, but try as you might to change it, even years later, you can’t do a damn thing about it. Regardless, I taught myself that doctors don’t know half as much shit as we are comfortable believing.
With all of these thoughts running marathons in my mind, I bit the bullet and went to the doctor on January 5. I picked one of the nearest clinics to my apartment, and picked the nicest looking lady from the stock photos in the lobby of the doctor boards or where ever those pictures come from. And I hit the jackpot. I finally got someone who believed me when I said that something just wasn’t right.
I have been to four blood draws, seen countless vials, done three 12 hour fastings, one ultrasound, one 24 hour urine sample, and a CAT scan. So far we know that I have an abnormal liver function and blood in my body where it shouldn’t be.
Now, other than somewhat seasonally chronic strep as a kid, I have NEVER been unhealthy. And, all things considered, will this kill me? Chances are not likely. But is it scary? Hell yeah. And-side note-nothing defines self-deprecation more than sitting in a waiting room with a container full of urine that looks like a half-gallon of milk.
We are still testing. We have narrowed out a lot of what I do not have, which is nice, but it also leaves so many questions unanswered. Of course, the things that I do not have are those things that are easy to test for, things that are easily controlled by medication. So the more things that are crossed off the list, the scarier a diagnosis becomes. But I am trying to remain positive. And hopeful. And at least grateful for the simple fact that the doctor that I picked out at random is finally as uncomfortable with what is going on in my body as I am.
Because, in her persistence, at least to me, a hero has been made. She can’t fly between buildings, and utilize microscopic vision, or even pretend to save the world. But maybe, if I am very lucky, she can save me. She can get to the bottom of whatever it is that my body has been trying to tell me for far too long, and tell me that, yes, my life can continue as uninterrupted as it is supposed to, and remind me gently to schedule a routine follow-up once in a while.