Sometimes things aren’t as bad as they seem… they’re worse. There I was worrying that there was something in my successful-for-the-first-time-in-ages Herbalife diet that was making my TSH Hormone skyrocket and I couldn’t have been more wrong. My darling doctor, the one who still has time to listen to everything I have to say, the big worries and the small ones, the skyrocketing hormone and the scaly light brown things appearing on different parts of the body (legs, stomach, arms, breast) and growing! or the pain under the shoulder blade that has been coming and going daily for over four months now and for which I have seen everyone under the sun (the osteopath, the physiotherapist, the kinesiologist, the chiropractor, the witch doctor, the homeopath, the acupuncturist, the bone man, my domestic assistant, none of whom have seen fit to listen while I gently suggested that it could be coming from my shoulder and not my cervical vertebrae or a back muscle)… who, as I said, has time to listen and even make elaborate drawings on a prescription block to illustrate his intricate explanations and then still inquire about my summer vacation after telling me the tale of the woman who died in his arms recently (a patient, of course, not his wife, whom he says he couldn’t kill with strychnine).
The big one, of course, is the hormone that has gone from 4.5 to 55+ in the last four months. And if this does not come from something I am putting into my mouth, then that leaves only two other options: something I am putting in somewhere else –I check and find nothing- or…. something inside that has gone haywire. Hormones are never simple. When something goes awry with a hormone it never has anything to do with a swollen finger or an ingrown toenail, no. It has to do with something “hyper” or “hypo”: the hypothalamus or the hypophysis or the hydraulics or hypochondria, never simple, never. THS is the hormone for the functioning of the thyroid and the thyroid has been hypo-functioning for years and under medication. Every doctor, naturalist or homeopath I have ever consulted has said one thing: DO NOT STOP TAKING YOUR THYROID MEDICINE. When even a Naturopath who prescribes nothing but different types of “grasses” will order you to keep on taking that venomous little pill, then it must be important. So a skyrocketing thyroid hormone cannot be good news, and it seems it might not be. My darling doctor, who is never exaggerated or dramatic, began using words like cerebral CAT scan of the hypothalamus and adenoma (too close to other “noma’s” for comfort) which, he promptly told me had nothing, nothing mind you, to do with adeno-carcinoma (heaven forbid!) but must be diagnosed none the less through the scan which will detect any growth (uh, oh) of the hypothalamus or the hypophysis. So my conclusion: the madwoman in the attic has been entertaining herself (ever since Katie’s questions brought so much silence to the otherwise tortuous tales) with extraneous growths.
I find myself miraculously calm, even curious about the eventual outcome of the mystery: curious and well-accompanied by my internist. As a matter of fact, once the order for the CAT scan has been written out and he has given me precise instructions as to how to find the correct receptionist in the hospital across the street (this time the illustration is just manual, drawn with a finger on the envelope containing my Scan Order), we move to the brown scaly things (oh, he says, I have loads of those, no danger what so ever, must humidify the skin, dermatologist), and then the pain under shoulder blade (ultrasound scan of shoulder, possible degeneration of shoulder capsule with pinched tendon… duh, logical my dear Watson, finally someone listened when I said the pain did not come from the spine, but from the shoulder), he makes out another order, gives me the address of the laboratory where they will do the blood test to see if it is the hypo-what-ever and tells me I am looking good, not to worry, adenomas in the “hypos” are run of the mill stuff, his secretary has had one for years and she is fine, takes my hand and, now, escorts me to the door excusing himself because he has two more patients to see before lunch.
So I am to have my head examined (something that probably should have been done eons ago). It will be interesting to see what they find. The rotting corpse, or maybe just the dry bones of the madwoman in the attic (starved to death for want of story, no doubt); scar tissue from early childhood traumas; discarded afterthoughts, no sense nonsense that has built up over the years… goodness, if they just knew how to look for the interesting rubbish left by the passing of time I can only begin to imagine what they might find.
On the way home it occurs to me to think about what I would feel if they diagnosed a cancer. It is an interesting proposition (of course, there would be no pain). Supposing – I muse- my time here were quite limited, what would I do. Imagination, being what it is, goes to the least logical: I could call my friend, Doug; what with the money I have we could have a hell of a spree together and then he could keep me company while I die. The fantasy deepens: of course, he will continue to be my muse and I will write everything now because with the time so limited and an end in sight, the urgency to get it all down grows. I look forward to sitting and writing for a couple of hours a day, or more, if necessary. The fantasy dissolves in the face of reality: Doug has other interests, he has a life –you know- not just sitting around waiting for you to come up with something serious so he can come running to your rescue. And, besides, supposing he gets here and then you don’t get along, you don’t like him, he doesn’t like you: then you are condemned to live the last months of your life with someone you dislike or who dislikes you. No good. End of fantasy. Well, I can write. That stays fast. Good. I will become the “heroine” of dying, it will be the thing I do best of all in life, no one will have done it better and I will write down every moment of the experience (except the last one, of course). It was Virginia Woolf who said that her own death was the only thing she would not be able to write about or something like that.
Suddenly I realize I have been walking down a sunlit street without even seeing where I am going. Cars whiz past, people trot by, there are sounds, birds chirp, horns honk, men and women talking, a baby gurgles, a door opens and then slams, brakes screech. The air is warm and I am perspiring. I look at my watch. I have 50 minutes in which to eat lunch: there is an obligatory 5-hour fast before the CAT scan. Already I can taste the cool gazpacho; I will have a salad, perhaps some fish or chicken, a cup of black coffee, no dessert… bubbly water. A man smiles in passing, I smile back. I feel the air filling my lungs and coming out my nose warmed by the blood that courses in my veins. Life, it is happening, but only all the time, at every instant, while I am entertaining myself with preparations for a death that has not yet even been announced. I head for the restaurant, chuckling softly to myself.