Since my previous entry to this blog I have become or had to become aware of the precious undertaking of time on this earth. Moreover, I have become more keenly aware that there are events and forces of ones making and being centre stage to that presses one to acknowledge why he arrives at the moment he is experiencing.
For the past few weeks I have been living with the spectre of the unknown knocking plaintively at my doorstep. It all started with feeling faint and the uncomfortable recognition that my body was not working the way I wanted; no demanded it perform day after day. My heart was racing, fast. I sat down knowing I needed to but not wanting to. My heart was pounding so fast it was shaking my entire body to its frenetic beat.
I called my wife and told her “I don’t feel good”. She suggested I go straight to the emergency area of the local hospital in the community I worked. It felt good to hear her voice. I knew I had to gather myself, and call it. “We have to go”, I said to my work crew. At first they were not sure what was going on. I had always maintained a go go go pace. When they saw how pale my face was they realized it and I was serious.
I drove them home. By breathing deeply and focusing on the task I calmed myself enough to do this. Driving and a fast heart rate I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, but I wanted to make sure my workers were safely home by my hand. After which I parked outside the hospital and went to the emergency area.
The waiting room was full, I took a number and waited to be called. Fortunately this was not too long. I gave my information. I was fitted with a wristband and asked to wait some more. I knew they would be watching me to make sure nothing further occurred to my condition. I was concerned but I knew there was nothing else I could do. I wanted to get to the bottom of it.
A nurse hooked me up to a heart monitor. She looked at me and said: “You can stop running now”. I replied that what she said meant more to me than she knew. I won’t go into too many specifics; I was given tests. I waited and listened to the gurgling and coughing of another patient much worse off in another bed. Someone came over and said he needed to take some blood. I pointed to the unused IV tap a nurse had placed in my arm hours earlier saying “Wouldn’t it be easier to use this?” He smiled and without missing a beat said “Where would the fun be in that?” We both had a laugh and then he did his thing and left. There would be a lot of the waiting inherent in a emergency area pushed to and sometimes past the limit of its resources. This is not a political statement. It’s just the way it is and commonly encountered in any human society. Poised to wait.
I stayed for dinner. I was hungry and I enjoyed being catered to, a sensation that felt foreign to me. It just was not something I was used to once my wife and I started our family. If only the electrodes and beeps and painful moans and fluorescent lights were absent, it would be just like I made a reservation. I guess I did in a way.
I spoke with the doctors who were primarily concerned with my heart function. I was asked various questions regarding family history, smoking, drinking etc. The cardiologist then pronounced that I shouldn’t be too concerned since this was the first time it ever happened to me. He gave some of examples of treating it on my own if it ever happened again, and to come back if it went beyond once in a blue moon. With that I was free to go. Gathering my clothes and belongings I was relieved but still unsure. The wound I had suffered was still fresh. I knew something about me was different, and the inkling of tumultuous change reverberated in my skull, and in my heart. I didn’t need to be told twice that my body was saying something. It took that faint moment to realize that I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace I had been pushing myself for years. It was also a check down that I was fooling myself into thinking I would be able to continue for another ten years. Ten years?! Really I thought that, even though I knew I wasn’t treating my body very gently. I chose to try and gut it out like I always had. Like I always treated long term situations. Choosing to endure, to persevere. Admirable, but ridonkulous.
It would be a few days of moving slower in my work, being careful, discovering how unnecessary many of my actions and worries over the years regarding my work were. That people had long ago came to appreciate the work I did for them and they were quite happy even if I had an off day. I realized the work was secondary and the relationships I developed with my clients was even more important to them. They felt more secure in their building, more happy in the places they lived, more looking forward to the enjoyment of their homes.
It was during the weekend following my emergency room visit that the attending physician called me on my cell phone. He asked how I was doing and if I had any further incidents regarding my heart to which I replied in the negative. He said he saw my x-ray films which were taken because I was complaining of pain in my chest. “I saw a small spot of pneumonia on your left lung, he said. I want to a run a CT scan of your chest”. I discussed the phone call with my wife and because of her work experience thought it odd. She felt I was in good care but a tinge of concern coloured her “Hmm”.
As I lay in the scanner I held my breath on command and felt the warmth of the dye being injected into my system, I tried to control the swimming concern in my mind of the lack of control over things in my body which were occurring without my confident permission. More tests would follow and at first I had been anxious to figure out the results of each one hanging on the words of the doctors, my wife, in order to find a way to touch bottom so that I could swim back to the surface. The waiting at first exasperating has now been replaced by a quiet plodding, the rollercoaster dips and valleys have been smoothed to a track which allows me to look up awhile suspended at a plateaued crest; an island amidst the pit of the swirling chaos below…
“You have a mass over your left lung and the concern is it’s starting to wrap around your sternum”, our family doctor said to me. Mass?… I could not make the connection. I was still too young. Too ignorant. Still innocent. He continued: “I want you to see a thoracic specialist” More befuddlement for me. Fortunately my wife Betty was there to be the experienced ear, to ask the specific questions that needed to be asked:
“Is it metastasizing?”
“What about pleural effusion?”
There is some fluid.
“How large is the mass?”
Approximately 3.5 by 1.5 cm
These questions did not mean anything to me. They just sounded ominous. Like I said ignorant. Ignorant of my family history. Even ignorant of my recent (two years ago) family history.
He recommended the name of a thoracic surgeon, Betty wanted someone she was more familiar with. We decided to try the latter first.
We later found out he was going away. So we went with the former. Life is a curve made of straight lines…
That was February.