I had kind of a rough weekend.
For the record, I am a bit of a medical mystery. I had my colon removed three years ago due to a congenital nerve defect called hypoganglionosis. No one seems to know much about it, although according to Mary Roach’s recent book Gulp, Elvis may have had something similar. So at least I am in good company there. Except that he’s dead.
Anyway, since my surgery my body refuses to absorb iron. This has resulted in microcytic anemia, for which I require intravenous iron. I receive these treatments in Boston, which is a bit of a hike, but the level of care has outweighed the inconvenience.
When Phoebe broke her leg, however, my weekly appointments went from challenging to impossible. So, as mothers tend to do, I got distracted by
spoon feeding Phoebe ice cream my maternal duties and hoped the rest would just go away.
No such luck. On Friday I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a cement truck. My chest was tight and my hands and feet were numb. So of course I called the doctor…right?
Wrong. I had a better idea. I called the gas man.
Our smoke detectors had gone off the night before, so I decided we must have carbon monoxide. This must be the problem, I thought. It’s the air! It’s poison, I tell you, POISON!
Bill the Gas Man refuted my theory. No carbon monoxide.
I took the next logical step and Googled “anemia” and “death.” This brought up a story about the actress Brittany Murphy, who died from a lethal trifecta of anemia, pneumonia, and (alleged) mold.
Hmmm. Mold comes from dampness…and we left the car windows open during that rain storm and never replaced the floor mats. I called Phil.
“I think the car has toxic mold.”
“Stop Googling and call the doctor.”
Calling your doctor in Boston at 4:00 on a Friday is a sure fire way to NOT RESOLVE A DAMN THING. My exasperated hematologist said, “The chest pain is the lack of iron, but the numbness is probably a B12 and copper deficiency, which we can add to the IV when you come in next week.”
“So what are you supposed to do now?” Phil asked when I hung up.
“Suck on some pennies, I guess.” And try not to Google Copper deficiency and neurological defects.
I haven’t always been paranoid/simultaneously avoident about my health. I used to take things -even scary things -in stride. But then my sweet and loving Aunt Terry died. What we thought was fibromyalgia ended up being cancer that killed her two months after being diagnosed. Her death took my blissfully ignorant notion of “this could never happen to me” and kicked it to the curb. So maybe I call the gas man instead of the doctor because all I’ve got to lose in that scenario is a furnace.
Phil took the kids out for pizza. I got
busy on laundry back in bed. Have you ever flipped open a book to a page you really needed to read at that exact moment? Well, that’s what happened to me with Dani Shaprio’s Still Writing.
The greatest shocks I have experienced[…] ignited in me […] an awareness that life is fragile. That bad things had happened, and without a doubt, will happen again. That to love anything at all is to become able to lose it. Somedays, this awareness gets the better of me. Anxiety sets in. But more often than not, […] it has taught me that ordinary life -or what Joan Didion calls “ordinary blessings – is what is most precious.
I woke up Saturday morning determined to embrace my ordinary blessings.
We went to the beach to fly a kite.
It was a beautiful day. The girls were having a blast, which made me smile….but I still felt slightly removed. Like there was a pane of finger-smudged glass separating me from the rest of the world. Mindfulness is hard for me on a good day, and harder when I can’t feel my hands or feet. I was tired and cold and kept thinking about the couch. The couch and lots of blankets.
While we were at the beach, our fridge died. Rather than try and salvage some of the already questionable leftovers, we decided to go out for dinner.
As we drove along, I stared out the window and tried to “stay in the moment” – even though “the moment” was filled with non-stop bickering from the back seat that was making me want to bang my head against the dashboard. But then a miracle occurred.
I could hardly contain myself: “OMG. You guys.”
“I just saw the best thing ever.”
“Someone changed that street sign from Hoop Pole Lane to POOP HOLE LANE.”
We snarfed and snorted for a good 6 minutes. I thought Emma was going to puke from laughing: “THAT IS HILARIOUS!” I WANT TO LIVE ON POOP HOLE LANE!”
I realize this is not exactly an appropriate parent-child dialogue, which is why I made a public service announcement as we pulled into the parking lot.
“Hey girls, you know that “poop” is not a restaurant word, right?”
“Neither is DAMMIT.”
Thank you, Phoebe. Glad we are all on the same page here.
In the blog Positively Positive, Jennifer Pastiloff writes about finding the miraculous in the mundane – the rare moments in life when we can say, “I don’t need more than this.”
I look forward to regaining feeling in my extremities, and maybe one day absorbing nutrients the good old fashioned way, without needles. But in the meantime, it’s a relief to have moments when I can still stay “I don’t need more than this.”