Friday, February 18, 2011

A little more Badger

I'm always hesitant when the phone rings. I don't know if it's a general phone avoidance or phone phobia, but I get this internal cringe when the phone rings. It's not like I've had many horrible phone experiences in my life, but I am, decidedly, anti-phone these days.

It takes a lot of effort to remove oneself from a comfy couch and walk to the phone. You'd think, being in the company of one who loves emerging technology, we'd have a portable phone but pshh. Seriously, who uses those things? We have 1 phone jack and an antiquated non-cordless phone.

When the phone rings, it takes a lot to answer it. It's either someone confirming an appointment or someone changing an appointment or someone trying to change my power company. No one ever rings to offer me a million dollars or a chat. Not that I'd be keen on a chat. I'd have to sit on the stairs and that's really uncomfy.

And I'm exactly the same way with my mobile. It's more likely to run out of batteries than be used, though I am trying to get better at texting people. I just enjoy socialising when it's my own decision.

I spent some time this morning trying to pass on and receive messages with my gastro. He's been quite a find, after the first gastro was a complete waste, so I look forward to hearing from him. He is genuinely interested in the TRAPS disease and wants to know more. He also, genuinely, wants to help.

So when he mentioned that he'd try to see me ASAP when symptoms started forming a pattern, I leapt on that. Are you sure?? I asked, aghast that someone was actually taking me seriously. Really? And in my head I'm thinking, pinch me! Pinch me! I'm dreaming!

Last Friday morning, thursday night I guess, I noticed a pinching feeling in the area surrounding my right kidney. It was enough to wake me several times. Ow, I thought. That's not good. But I went on into 'work' and dutifully ignored it.

Saturday morning it was more than a pinch and more than an occasional Ow. It was more of a sustained owwwww but still only coming in periodic waves.

Today, now a week on, it's more of the 'why do I need a kidney and for the love of G-d would you stop' sensation. I rang my GP's office on Monday looking for an appointment. 'You need to ring a week in advance' the woman tells me curtly (as though I plan these things, as you would a teeth cleaning). He can see you 3:15 next Monday. Oh, I say. That's quite a ways away. Take it or leave it she tells me. Yikes! Drives a hard bargain, these headphone equipped women.

So, here we are. It's Friday. It hurts and I see the doctor on Monday. Options available to me are the 'after hours' or accident/emergency variety of doctor. The emergency room (seems a bit OTT, you know?) or wait.

So I rang the Gastro, thinking of his offer. I get put onto his PA, a wonderful and lovely and patient girl. Oh, she says, are you the TRAPS lady? I hate to call you that, she says.

Oh no, I butt in. I've been called worse. It is me and I've got these symptoms and he said he wanted to know when it was happening. Tell him that it's mild now but it's going to get worse and I thought he ought to know.

I like how you're so calm, she says. Like you know it's going to get worse and yet you're so calm.

Well, I think to myself. I've done the panic and cry thing in the past and all I did was upset everyone around me. Besides, it's not going to kill me...yet.

My counselor and I have agreed that I enjoy the art of grim and depressing humour. Not in the Hannibal Lecter sort of way, though I do enjoy a nice Chianti. I still have a couple bottles in the cellar and need to check their drink by dates. (What? Didn't you spend your 20s cellaring imported Italian wines? No?)

I don't know what it is about me, but I have a tendency to deflect situations into some macabre, satiric humour. I read once that comedians are funny because they're brutally honest about their pain and they're ok with it. I think of myself as an excellent comedian. It is how I deflect pain. It's how I degrade myself and it's how I am brutally honest with my own limitations.

And I adore making people laugh. Laughter is a nice way of someone saying they accept you. I don't think people expect it when they meet me. Sitting in a doctor's office and dealing with these concepts and walking away with him laughing is a highlight for me. I've had doctors comment that they adore working with me because we get to be so real and so informal. I also enjoy when they curse.

I once had a GP, who I was very fond of, bang his head on his desk when he realised he was completely overwhelmed with being able to help me and said: Frankly, I should just discharge you because you're too hard. But I like you too much.

And maybe that's the thing. I like that people like me, and I like to make things easier for them. Because life is hard. I know how hard it can be. So a light moment for them and for me is pure gold.

My counselor says it's a self-soothing mechanism that I've taught myself over time. That by somehow finding a spark of humour, I've accepted the bleak, decided I'm over the bleak, and can move on to positive things.

See, I AM positive. It's just my positivity isn't rainbows, bunnies and fluffy. It's decidedly dark, meaty and more Philly Cheesesteak than brown rice and miso.

So when the lovely PA responds that I'm calm despite what's going on, to me it's a non-issue. And I actually sort of thought, well, what would you prefer? Me sobbing on the phone and clutching the ground in agony? But then I thought, omg, maybe I am going to die and I should head her warning and, yeah, nah. Not going to happen.

It gives me mental clarity, the grim Jennifer. It lets me get the crap out of the way and get onto business. It also lightens the load. I don't want your sadness, I'm not pitying myself so let's get to the real business of making me better.

I'm finding it hard to curb the habit though. In front of my daughter, I don't want to joke about her health. I'll joke about her high energy, her inability to sleep before 10pm, but this disease, nope. Not funny. Not to me. I'm a real badger about it.

We're not going to dismiss it. I'm not going to allow you to lessen this illness. I'm not going to allow you to replace your discomfort with a blase attitude. And maybe it makes me appear boring and serious and a real stick in the mud.

I started seeing my first specialist, a gyn when I was 13 about the intense pelvic pain I was experiencing. My mother, who never experienced more than 'bad cramps', didn't get what was going on. It felt like a weedwhacker was tearing my uterus apart. I would bleed in excess and pass clots. I would vomit from the pain of the cramping. And yet, it was the 'take 2 tylenol and get over it' attitude I hated the most.

I almost feel sad to admit, but I was a geek. I adored school work and writing essays. Having to miss drama or video production was horror for me. I wanted to be at school for those bits (the other bits like math or science or pe I could happily miss) but I wanted to go to play practice. And yet, it was always, oh Jennifer is an attention seeker and keeping me home was regarded as this generous, excessive and euphoric reward I was being granted and not the kind and caring regard to my pain and my health. There was no humanity in my childhood.

Kids her age don't get pelvic pain. It's growing pains. She'll get over it. She likes the attention and even negative attention is attention.

I didn't get over it. Because there was and is nothing to 'get over'. It's a lifelong commitment, being ill. It will last longer than any friendship, and longer than my own lifetime.

So I saw my first gyn. I was given monthly prescriptions for Vicodin. And it did nothing for me. It was suggested I have a laparoscopy at the age of 14, but my mother said no. I think about the relief I found after my lap in 2003, at the age of 22, and think how much better the previous 8 years could have been.

It wasn't long-lasting, the relief, but it was relief nonetheless. I often question why those of us with adhesions don't get yearly laps, besides the cost and the recovery period.

I had a major kidney infection when I was 15. I had just finished driver's ed and literally, overnight, struck down. The symptoms had been ongoing, but due to the drama caused by me wanting to see a doctor, I ignored it. After 2 ERs, it was found that my right kidney had abscessed.

It took several hours of fluids and kind nurses taking my abuse as they forced the pus from the kidney. That event most likely has paved the way for the recurrent kidney inflammation now. I was in kidney failure.

And I don't want that for my child. Yes, I know how hard it is for you to look at your precious child and imagine the effects of illness. And to admit it to yourself, to other people. I know that people will accuse you of attention seeking, or being mad and off your rocker, but it is worth it to have someone else repeat your fears and worries.

When the paed told me that he suspected that there was arthritis in my daughter's knees, my heart stopped momentarily. I knew what was coming for her. A lifetime of hurt and pain and drugs and sadness. Of limitations and always, always pushing through, but my g-d my heart lifted and I thought, yes! Someone else gets it.

The unresolved pain of my own diagnosis still lingers in me. I think that anger is the force behind my momentum. It powers my satiric nature. It is the power that pushes me through pain, through illness. And I don't want that for her.

I want her force to be fuller. To be brighter. To be of love and confidence and the power of her.

I think, for the most part, the calmness comes because of that simply and easily discarded word: Diagnosis. I got mine. It's my golden ticket. It, all at once, makes me and destroys me. I am finally real. No one can brush me off now. And yet, what an absolutely shitty gift.

I want the same for her. I want her to achieve her golden ticket status early so that we can brush it off and move forward.

I also really want this liver/kidney pain to stop. And knowing that it won't, I open myself up a little more. A little more vulnerable. A little more grey and depressing.

A little more badger.


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