March was MS Awareness Month and although March is over I believe it's vitally important to continue the discussion of what it's like to live with a disability or illness. Raising awareness and educating others can lead to better emotional health and, hopefully, produce more tolerance and compassion for one another.
There's a scene in an episode of the television series M*A*S*H when company clerk Radar O'Reilly befriends a young, badly wounded soldier. Complications arise and the doctors rush in to save the boy, but to no avail. Radar is crushed after learning of the death and stumbles over to sit on a nearby bench. When one of the doctors, B.J. Hunnicutt, tries to comfort him, Radar utters, "I was just talking to him. How can he be alive one minute and dead the next? How can things change on a dime so quickly?" B.J. replies, "It's not much more than that."
I think, sometimes, that B.J.'s reply parallels my own life. I'm not dying of anything terminal, but I've had my share of diagnoses that have changed my life forever.
It's been a long road to get to where I am, and now the road got even longer.
A week ago I felt sheer joy after attending a fabulous midlife conference for women. I came away feeling inspired to do and be better in my professional life. I felt so alive and truly blessed.
One week later I received disturbing news. I have three very large kidney stones located on either side of my kidneys. Having had kidney stones six years ago I'm familiar with the pain and suffering they can cause. It's a pain worse than childbirth, one that brought me to my knees screaming for mercy.
Not a whole lot of fun.
I'm angry at my doctor, a nephrologist, who in six years never listened to my complaints about the gnawing stabs in my back, and didn't recommend a simple urine test to check for new kidney stones.
I'm also angry at myself for being a better advocate to others than I was for myself. I should have insisted on testing for kidney stones, but I felt safe in the care of my doctor.
I find myself at the starting gate one more time.
At the recommendation of my new urologist I'm waiting to have the first of two procedures to be performed weeks apart that blast the stones using sound waves. Called a lithotripsy, this procedure allows the stones to "pass" out of the body which sometimes causes great pain.
While I'm waiting for the first available appointment for the lithotripsy I've been to the ER because of abdominal pain. The scans performed there revealed that my kidney stones are smaller than the size I was told by my urologist. My new nephrologist wants me to get a second opinion from another urologist before getting the lithotripsy done.
You can imagine how easy it is to speak to three different doctors on the telephone before making an informed decision. I've called so many times to request a return phone call that I'm sure I have a red mark next to my name on their note pads that says "Trouble Ahead!"
I've been "sick" for more than half of my life. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. I'm tired of visiting doctors, tired of medications and injections. I'm tired of pain, fatigue, weakness and spasms. I'm tired of canceling plans, of staying close to home and having the need to explain why I'm not feeling well. I hate drawing attention to myself.
And I'm tired of wasting whatever precious time I have on this earth by dealing with illness.
I'm know I'm taking a risk by writing a post that's not my usual positive one. But I think that every once in awhile we all need to vent our frustrations a little when we get knocked down. It's only human. Our courage and inner strength are being tested, and there's no shame in asking for love and support to get back up again.
Next time when life changes on a dime I hope my dime will fall heads up.