Monday, November 14, 2011

I don't know what's wrong with me.

I'm still not back to my usual self, whatever that even means anymore.  I don't feel like I'm here.  My mind is fuzzy and things don't seem real to me.  It's like things move differently.  I feel quiet and subdued, and when I try to speak my words feel like rambling or muttering, or don't come out at all.  I'm having trouble hearing and understanding people.  I've had quite a lot of sleep lately, though not only for my fatigue.  It's one of the only ways I can stop coughing. 

What my pulmonologist diagnosed as post-nasal drip has been driving me nuts lately.  I can't stop with this sharp, unproductive cough.  Sometimes it gets so severe I nearly vomit.  If I rest on either side it'll fade and eventually stop over the course of about ten minutes, but even rolling over is to roll the dice.  Sometimes it disturbs things and I start coughing all over again.  I'm getting desperate.  I need to find a way to treat this, even if it means injections to figure out exactly what's triggering it, then more to desensitize me to it. 

I wonder how much of my suffering is from malnutrition.  For days, I've suffered the two-pronged attack of having absolutely no appetite, yet occasionally suffering intense hunger pains.  It's a strange sensation, to feel that hungry, yet to be unable to bring oneself to each more than a mouthful or two of anything.  I've found popcorn and rice cakes to be ideal.  They're light enough that I can usually get a fair amount down, and their dry, crispy texture scrapes the mucus from my esophagus, giving me a temporary reprieve from the coughing. 

I'm starting to understand why some cancer patients turn to marijuana.  I've never smoked it myself, though I've smelled it wafting out from under dorm room doors countless times and attended at least one party where the air was thick with the stuff.  These days I could use something to give my appetite a little kick start.  And my mood, too. 

What I really need is something to help me focus.  I nearly killed myself the other night, driving down some unfamiliar roads.  It was very dark, and while I saw a stop sign it was in an odd position and angled strangely enough to confuse me as to which fork in the road was the primary.  Had I been any slower on the brake, I would have been T-boned.  Instead all I got was a well-deserved honk, and a reminder that perhaps I shouldn't be out driving so late.  Especially when I'm still suffering from a sensitivity to light.  I swear there's a special place in hell for people who never turn off their high-beams, or have improperly calibrated high-intensity headlights. 

I recall speaking to my co-workers about headlights earlier this year.  I told them that I could swear they were getting brighter every year.  I even wrote a letter about it to my congressman.  It got so bad I bought a pair of sunglasses to wear on busy roads.  Of course now I see that for what it really was: a symptom, not an observation. 

At times, I wonder if any of them recall those brief conversations.  I wonder if they too now understand that they were signs of a much bigger problem.  I remember the severe stomach pains my co-worker used to feel, for months before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

But I can't start with the "what ifs."  I can't blame myself for not seeing the signs.  That's a path down which I can't go.  For you see, it wasn't always just subtle symptoms, little nudges toward a terrible truth.  Sometimes it was something I - were I a more spiritual person - might consider paranormal insight. 

For my entire life, I've gone through the paces.  I went to school as I was supposed to.  Then college.  Then I got a job.  My quote in my high school year book bemoans this inevitable cycle: studying to get into college, so we can get a good job, so we can work long enough to give ourselves a few years to live before we die.  Even so, I never actually felt that my life would turn out like that.  I had this inexplicable notion that my preparation, my savings, all of that would be for nothing.  Now, given, I had expected the problem to be of a global scale rather than personal.  The collapse of the economy, or of America.  Some sort of apocalypse.  Nuclear war.  Not something as mundane - insignificant - as my early death.

More telling is an old fear of mine.  When I was young (single-digits) young, I was terrified of cancer.  Especially brain cancer.  I thought the only thing worse than your body turning against you would be your body devouring your mind as it does so.  There was nothing more frightening to me than the idea of watching your own mind - your own self - fade away.  I carried that fear long enough that that Flowers for Algernon story we've all read struck a chord with me. 

Still, that fear faded over time, such that there was none of it left by the time I got my diagnosis.  I suppose actually having brain cancer is scary enough as it is.

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