"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My 20-hour Disease

On Friday I had a routine annual medical test. The results, which of course I hoped to be an "all clear" were expected sometime this week, by letter. This being a week with a Monday holiday, I tried not to obsess.

Yesterday was hectic. Busy day at my temporary office job. Later, at a diocesan committee meeting, where we mourned the sad, sudden loss of our friend and fellow committee member, the fine and inspiring priest who died so very recently.

I returned home at 6 p.m. The Chap said there was a message from the medical office. I was supposed to call them. Late as it was, I tried. Someone was there, but not the person who called me. I left a voice mail saying when I could be reached at home this morning.

Being cursed with an imagination, my brain went into overdrive. Tests Friday, phone call Tuesday--as soon as the tests were read. Something had to be Very Wrong.

I could hardly taste my supper. I tried to distract myself with a light novel and a grim television show. It was almost impossible to focus. I was preparing myself for a Different sort of life, one that incorporated a Disease.

I've been blessed with good health. Every couple of years I get a cold. I've only had the flu once as an adult, and once as a teenager. As for surgery, I'm a stranger to it, apart from a series of plastic surgeries when I was two, three years old. (Therefore I must answer "Yes" if ever anybody should ask if I've had "work done". I got it out of the way early, and trust me, it wasn't voluntary.) I've got all my useless parts--tonsils, appendix. The only thing missing is four wisdom teeth.

Confronted with a possible fearsome change in my health history, I tried to be calm. No, I forced myself to be. Whatever happened, I could deal with it. My parents had raised me to be strong and brave. My husband would support me. My dogs needed me.

I actually slept the night through. Woke up once or twice, but went back to sleep after the necessary worry session.

As soon as the medical office opened, I rang the person who'd phoned yesterday. She explained the purpose of her call, said I needed a follow-up. I asked if an appointment might be available today. She had a one o'clock.

Bizarrely, in the midst of this angst, I had to attend a rare out-of-session Legislative session to deal with the governor's vetoes and a technical correction to the state budget. On the one hand, I wasn't in the mood. And yet I didn't really mind having someplace to go, something to do.

The session was the strangest one yet. We sustained one veto and waited, waited, waited for the Senate to do something. The Speaker dismissed us for lunch. I left the chamber, knowing I wouldn't be able to return because of my appointment.

In the medical office waiting room, I was speed-reading home decorating magazines and wishing the music they played could drown out the thump-thump of my heart.

When they called me into the exam room, I was only shaking on the inside. I was funny--made the technician laugh several times.

The second tests were done and I awaited my fate while reading another home decorating magazine. Then Oprah's magazine.

By the time the tech returned, I'd made my mental list: update my will, finish my novel, tell my husband how much I love him, phone my parents.

"You're fine. Everything's normal." She handed me a paper and showed me where those latter two words were printed.

It was 2:00. My disease was cured. (The one that had only existed in my head.)

In the car, I babbled some incoherent thankful prayers. I wrapped my hands around the steering wheel, and wondered for a moment if I'd be able to drive. I was weak with relief. At some point I remembered to phone the Chap's cell phone.

Driving out of the vast medical complex, I was preoccupied with two things.

First, I vowed to fulfill my mental list anyway, because everything on it was so important: update my will, finish my novel, tell my husband how much I love him, phone my parents (not to break bad news!)

Second, I thought about all the unknown people who would receive confirmation of their disease on this same day. Oh, how I prayed for them--prayers of support, for strength, for successful treatments and outcomes.

Next thing I knew I was pulling into the car park of the college where my office is located. I entered the building. I sat down at my desk. I resumed my work.

Friends, if you feel inclined to say to me, "So glad you had good news!" or "Gosh, how lucky you are!" or anything in that vein, I ask that you join me in thinking good thoughts on behalf of all those people who weren't me today.

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