When I feel stress, I internalize it. That’s part of “the performer” in me. My mother set an example for me by being “stoic,” and I follow her lead. I can tell you right now that if you try to keep stress bottled up inside, it manifests in your body and can be a pain in the neck!
I thought that the year my Momma died was the most stressful year of my life. The day I was informed of her cancer diagnosis was the same day that I buried my best friend after his untimely death in a fire. I had spent the week before in East Texas working as a smiling storyteller during the day, and returning to the hotel at night to grieve and plan his memorial service.
For the next year, I watched helplessly as my mother’s disease progressed. She did not “go gentle into that good night.” She raged.
To my eternal chagrin, I wasn’t much help to my sister in caring for Momma and getting her to chemotherapy sessions. Although I live only 45 minutes away, I work for myself. I had many bookings as a storyteller that took me out of town; most of those bookings had been made a year in advance. I couldn’t re-arrange the dates, because school calendars are not all that flexible. I couldn’t cancel the engagements, because I don’t get paid for “sick leave” or “family leave.” If I want to get paid, I have to show up and perform. I was racked with grief and stress and guilt (not necessarily in that order).
The cancer went to Momma’s brain. Her final weeks were at home under the care of Home Hospice, but my little sister, my big brother, and I were with her constantly. Her pain was so great that she was finally given strong medication and slipped away in a morphine dream.
That morning, as I drove back to Denton, the stress finally reared its ugly head. I realized that there was intense pain on the left side of my neck. I could not turn my head to the left. Over the next year I was in constant pain. I went to doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists … no one could ease the pain. I kept working at trying to regain mobility, and finally just went on living life while trying not to think about it. Gradually, without my even knowing it, the mobility returned and the pain went away. A few months ago, I realized that I was finally pain free.
This morning, the pain in my neck is back with a vengeance.
Yesterday, I had an appointment with a gastroenterologist at the request of my physician. I thought I was going to her because I have high cholesterol (extremely high). My physician wanted to treat it aggressively, but many of the medications that control cholesterol are damaging to the liver. I was diagnosed this year as having Hepatitis C antibodies in my bloodstream. Probably I got the disease in 1981, when I gave birth and received a transfusion. Since Hepatitis C is a disease affecting the liver, my doctor has been reluctant to give me much medication. I thought my physician was just sending me for a routine check.
The gastroenterologist had not yet received the results of blood tests taken by my physician when I arrived. With no information on my condition, she proceeded to explain to me the “worst case scenario.” For 80% of people who have had Hepatitis C, chronic liver disease develops. The liver gradually begins to scar, and the scar tissue does not function. Cirrhosis occurs, and it can take twenty years or more to develop. It’s not a pretty way to make an exit.
As we waited for the paperwork, the gastroenterologist explained that the liver function tests I had taken would tell part of the tale. But, the only way to know for certain if I had liver damage was to have a liver biopsy.
This involves a big needle, and I am terrified of needles!
She also explained that if I have liver damage I could be facing a year of treatment with Interferon. From everything I’ve heard, that meant I’d be nauseated for a year. It was at that point that I broke down in tears.
I don’t know if the trigger to my tears was the thought of the needle, the Interferon, or just exasperation at having more medical crap in my future. It was the first time I had allowed myself to cut loose and wail in public about this diagnosis, and I think I frightened the doctor! You would think she had seen it before.
A few minutes later, she got the results of my tests and studied them. She said, “I may have good news.”
The results of the tests that were done were all good. Furthermore, during my physical exam, she had not felt any hardness in my liver, which is a good sign that there is no scar tissue buildup.
But (and there is always a “but,” isn’t there?), there is one more blood test that was not done. It is the one that will tell the tale.
If that test is negative, then it is possible that the positive results for Hepatitis C are false. A false positive could be caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis or a thyroid condition (both of which I have).
If that test is positive, then the worst case scenario begins.
I’m going to the laboratory to get that final blood test this morning. I’m shaking like a leaf in the breeze. My neck feels as if Godzilla has me in the grip of his teeth. My sister told me to “think positive.” Heck no! I’m “thinking negatively,” because I want the test results to be negative!
Today, I’m not allowing comments, because I don’t feel like talking. I want to get this blood drawn and then just putter around working on making some medicine bags. I don’t really need sympathy (hugs would be nice, but you can’t reach me, can you?), because everything might turn out to be hunky-dory. You could help me though, by sending out good thoughts. I want you all to please “think negatively!”