Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fog City

A life ride

I noticed a hardness in my midsection. I didn’t worry because I assumed it would go away. A few weeks passed and the condition seemed slightly worse. I decided to go to the doctor. It had been awhile since my last physical, so my visit would provide a proper overview. After I explained my concern, my doctor conducted his brief examination. To my surprise, he asked if I’d experienced intravenous drug use. I said yes, some 35 years earlier, why? My liver was enlarged and blood work was immediately ordered. Boom! I had Hepatitis C and some cirrhosis.
Shock! How could this be? I knew but still couldn’t believe it. My mind reeled. There wasn’t a cure. My liver would deteriorate until it no longer functioned, and I would die. This thought wracked my mind. I was tormented by the notion of my youthful indiscretions, stupidity and arrogance. The anger and futility of not knowing until it was too late, haunted me. Why would a virus wait 35 years to raise its ugly head. Certainly this was a cruel and unusual punishment for such a minor infraction.
Hmmm…resilience, courage, sense of humor! Good judgement comes from experience… experience comes from bad judgement.
I look in the mirror. I shudder to think a disease is working overtime to kill me. I look so normal and vibrant. I feel cheated, cheated out of a good portion of my life. I didn’t do anything wrong. I feel like I’m on death row, for a crime I didn’t commit. Worry!
Time passes. More tests. Explanations about treatment. Wait!
How will it come this death? I only hope suddenly and unexpected. But I dare say that probably won’t be the case. Yet, I don’t want to linger, feeble, with staring eyes reminding me of what I’ll miss. Dying is fearful, but paradoxically has a calming affect. Simply put, all my other incidental manias and anxieties have been relegated trivial.
Never discount prayer. I invoke the Prayer of St. Francis: grant that I may not so much seek to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving, that I receive, and it is in dying, that I’m born to eternal life.
The night time is the worse. Sleep comes grudgingly. I think of the death process. The blood flow dammed in the liver, nutrients never reaching their destination. Toxins build and spread, I turn yellow. Sleep!
Daily life goes on. Family obligations and social functions, all provide necessary distractions from my self examination. Never the less it continues. I think of the books I haven’t read, and the ideas I haven’t said. All the unseen components which are me, and I’m saddened.
Now begins the treatment. Interferon and Ribavirin. Pills and injections, constantly for a full year, with a success rate of maybe 30%. Needless to say the side affects were significant. The earlier mental anguish, was replaced or expanded by pharmaceutical induced depression, fatigue, nausea, anemia and all manner of grumpiness. Denying depression and moodiness, when questioned by loving family members, became difficult. Trying to act normal or enthusiastic about others, when I didn’t want to be bothered, was a concern. At any rate, everyone weathered the storm, including me. Unfortunately, the first blood test after completion of treatment showed high levels of the virus. So it was all for nought.
I was glad it was over. My attitude changed. I figured the slow pace of the virus would still allow me a relatively long life. I rid my psyche of negativity, and focused on all that’s positive. Grandkids. Exercise. Sons. Dear Wife. Extended Family. Nature. Goodness. Mindfulness. Humor. and the list goes on! I decided to get on with it, and I did. Although, I did keep abreast of what was happening with Hep C trials. I knew companies were close, and FDA approval was all that was necessary for new drugs. I lived my life like nothing was the matter. Lo and behold, as 2014 drew to a close, Harvoni came on the market. It was exciting because the treatment was only three months, one pill a day. The success rate was nearly 100%. I believe I was one of the early recipients. I was skeptical of course. But three months after completion, the benchmark, the virus was gone, kaput, undetectable, cured!
I was sixty years old when this roller coaster ride began. My wife and I raised three sons and they have given me four grandchildren. I worked all my life. Reminiscing about the random chaos of the late sixties and early seventies, and how I successfully survived, gives me peace of mind. Now at sixty eight, another bout won, I’m pleased to witness my progeny, and proclaim, Hallelujah!