A Stranger World, A Frailer World

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I feel absolutely fine, most of the time.  I’m just a person, walking around, nothing particularly wrong.
Then I get in the tub, and see my scars turn an angry red in the hot water, and I remember that I’m a patient.
I go to the supermarket, and see all the foods I can no longer eat, and feel the tremendous swell of guilt at all the foods I should be eating but am not, and I remember that I am a patient.
I go to the doctor, who is very concerned about how I’m doing, and he prescribes all sorts of new medicines to get my blood back to where it should be because my heart, my heart could go again, you don’t want that, do you?  And I am a patient.
Patients aren’t people.  They’re problems to be solved, and are expected to be compliant – let us poke you with needles, fill you with medicines, summon you to doctors’ offices at our convenience.  You’re not human on some vital level until you’re well again.
I’ll never be well again.  I’ll always have some heart issues.  I’ll always be a fragile status until, well, my life ends.
Which is not to say that things aren’t good, most of the time.  I have it better than other more serious heart patients like Tobias Buckell, who can’t even go for a run should he desire.  But nine months after my open-heart surgery, I’m still wading through a shock that really, you’re not well, you’re possessed of a body that will kill you unless you constantly monitor and maintain it.  Life isn’t a given now, it’s a thing that must be cultivated, and I’m probably not doing half as well at that as I should because frankly, looking into that abyss terrifies me.
Yet I do.  I eat better, if not a life turned vegetarian.  I get more exercise, though admittedly all of it is with the four-times-a-day pup-walk at this stage.  I take all my medicines diligently.  Yet underneath everything is a lurking convalescence, the realization that all of this is an illusion that could be ripped aside at any time, that one bad reading could send me back to the days when I couldn’t get out of my bed to pee.
It’s an oscillation, because I can’t quite get all the sides of it.  After watching everyone’s reaction to Rebecca’s cancer, I have come to the conclusion that maybe a few bold humans can look the death of a loved one in the eye and process it, but for most of us it’s a horror that we skid off of; we can deny it, we can work around bits of it, we can concentrate over here and kind of slide towards it sideways, but looking it dead-on is something that would destroy us.  And so it is with me, guiltily gobbling a Pop Tart.
I have been instructed that I must go to cardiac rehab therapy, which terrifies the bejesus out of me.  I’ve had the prescription since Monday, but haven’t called, because I know what awaits me: cold tile floors, things hooked to my chest, readings that tell me exactly how sick I am.  And if I avoid them, I can pretend I’m not sick even if I am, I really am.
I’m calling now.  Because I know this is an illusion: I can pretend to be well and get sick, or look at my sickness and get well.
I just wish getting well felt as good as pretending to be well.

1 Comment

  1. ewinbee
    Oct 17, 2013

    Welcome to the club.
    I don’t mean that dismissively or snidely (you’ve probably heard plenty of both from people on your side of this particular fence)… but empathetically. It’s not a fun place to be, I know.
    In my case, it’s my mind I can’t trust. I have to constantly keep in mind: take your medication, eat regularly and don’t ever let your blood sugar go low, get enough sleep, don’t over-plan… you might have a depressive spell, and it might kill you.
    It’s like taking care of a child.

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