Things have gotten a little strange. Topsy turvy, upside down, through the looking glass, into the upside down—strange.
Health issues for me are relatively stable. Another round of testing and diagnostics at the end of 2016 revealed nothing. No changes. No new developments. No new insight. Doctors conclude that means that I am stable, and that things have leveled off for me. I tend to think this means that the doctors simply aren’t looking in the right areas. But who am I to question the process at this point? My pushing for new or different answers has revealed very little. Specialists in multiple areas have all concluded that things are inconclusive. So, here I stand, with my transverse myelitis diagnosis, my array of daily prescription pills, and very little else to talk about.
And things really are relatively stable, physically speaking. I am back to regularly exercise and running, training up for the spring running season. A half marathon on the horizon, and my first sub-two-hour half marathon in the books, courtesy of my running in 2016. Symptoms are relatively the same. Mostly annoying. Sometimes disturbing. Always present. But relatively stable.
My latest EEG revealed a “soft” or “squished” reading of my brain waves. Whatever the hell that means. But it would suggest that my brain waves were not hitting on all cylinders that day. Sleepy? Drowsy? Confused? Worse? Who the hell knows. And my mental health, in general, has been good. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that I take an antidepressant to deal with nerve pain. Because an antidepressant surely would not exacerbate what may or may not be an undiagnosed form of clinical depression. Might help even. But, you know. Things are stable.
I did add high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and an abnormal mole on my back (biopsy results—negative) to the mix. But nothing moved the needle significantly, health-wise. Stable is, as stable does.
Why, then, would things be strange? Because I’m not the only person currently dealing with health issues. My father has very recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the extent of which is still under investigation and diagnosis. All signs point to the cancer being contained within the prostate, meaning that excising the offending gland may solve the issue, with little to no further treatment. But still, the C-word. Cancer. It sucks. No matter how much it appears to be self-contained.
My mother went through a round of breast cancer, beating back the demons with a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and five years of monitoring, testing, and prescription drugs to make sure it did not come back. My step-father-in-law went through a round of sarcoma in his leg, beating back his demons with chemotherapy, removal of the sarcoma, and a round of radiation, now followed again with regular monitoring and testing to make sure it does not come back. The C-word is not always lethal. But sometimes, it is.
My father-in-law succumbed to cancer in multiple organs. My uncle (ironically, at my dad’s current age) succumbed to colon cancer that spread to other organs. Three of my grandparents succumbed to cancer in some form. My college roommate and fraternity brother succumbed to a brain tumor. Many other friends, family, and close community members have succumbed to various forms of cancer. It sucks. Quite literally.
So, as I quietly worry about annoying, disturbing, and invisible ailments that don’t seem to have any real end goal or purpose (or even a measurable progression at this point), I am confronted with family members that are dealing with very real, very diagnosable health ailments that could be terminal if not properly and timely treated. Not whatever intangible chronic pain/chronic illness/chronic annoyance that I deal with, regardless of its various tentacles. Really serious health ailments that literally mean the difference between life and death.
I have to put myself in check for a while, because things could be a whole lot different for me. Instead of vague (but constant) symptoms that cannot be diagnosed with any blood test or other definitive detection method, I could have very real issues that—although treatable—are potentially terminal. That should put things into perspective.
I can live for a long, long time with annoying and disturbing (even if not fully defined) symptoms. But I need to be a source of support for my dad and others that are dealing with other health issues. A rock. Something stable. Things seem upside down only because I’ve spent three plus years going through tests, doctor visits, specialty consultations, and questions for chronic symptoms, without any real or tangible answers. But my dad and others like him were broadsided with much more serious health issues. I am eternally grateful for the speed with which his diagnosis was made, and for which the treatment plan seems to be coming together. But I quietly (and quite shamefully) lament that my issues do not have a more defined path. That’s really messed up, I know. Selfish, even. But at least I’m predictable. And stable.
Now, though, I do get to be a source of knowledge on all things medical. Like reassuring my dad that he is fully entitled to call his doctor’s office and get a copy of his pathology report without scheduling another appointment. Because it’s his health information, and he has a right to see it. And pushing him to check on how quickly tests have been scheduled, reminding him of your experiences that the scheduling honchos for the doctor’s office and radiologist’s office do not always convey the urgency on the first communication. That it is OK to pester and question. Because it is his health, not someone else’s.
So maybe this is a messed up version of a M. Night Shyamalan movie, where my medical experiences over the last three years, although not entirely satisfying or fruitful for me, were all for the purpose of…helping my dad through his very serious medical issues. So that I can make sure that he is going to be just fine. Maybe I have become the rock, since rocks are stable and I am, after all, stable. Up is down, left is right, and my strange medical journey has led me here, to be a source of confidence, comfort, and knowledge. I’ll take a lifetime of annoying, chronic issues that are undefined, if it means that I get to materially help and advise my dad and my loved ones around me.