This is not a blog entry or a book review discussing Alice Sebold’s breakout novel of the same name. Although I could discuss the brilliance of this heartbreaking novel. Has this ever happened to you? You engage a painter to give you an estimate. After what seemingly is a long time he gives you an estimate. You about have a heart attack when he asked “what do you want me to do what about all the Termites?” Termites? I really can’t remember what happens next. Should I check the balance of my anemic checkbook; look in drawers where I stash mad money or go to the refrigerator and grab a bottle of wine?
I had a similar encounter a few weeks ago with one of my “men in white coats”. Instead of termites, we were discussing the surprising fragility of my BONES. Words were thrown out like SEVERE osteoporosis. Fall risk. I was SHOCKED. I run Leslie Inc. As you read from last week’s entry, my dedicated board of directors is constantly playing referee between grumpy nerves and muscles in my bargain-basement body. WHAT?? Now you’re telling me that the basic structure is about to collapse? If I were a house, you couldn’t even say “but the Bones of this old house are solid”. Now this ragtag body seems REALLY dilapidated.
The solution? I have to give myself an injection daily in either my abdomen or thigh. I told my good friends “if you ever have to take me into the emergency room, please tell the docs I am not a middle-aged junkie but a lady with bad bones. So, in addition to cellulite, now I have to worry about all these wretched bruises from jabbing myself in the thigh daily. I hope I don’t have a date anytime soon because as Ricky said to Lucy “you’ve got a lot of explaining to do”. Or do I have a bruised ego? Because as I step off the elevator in his office, it looks like “Bingo time” at the old folks home.
But I realized something. In doctor’s offices everywhere this scenario is perfectly NORMAL (It was a terrible time to be made aware that I can have normal problems).
By this, doctors are handing out serious diagnoses of CANCER; ALS; Alzheimer’s daily. These diagnoses change landscapes. They can change the landscape of a family. They change the landscape of a body. They can even change the landscape of a human heart. These proclamations become bold lines of demarcations in our life. “Before” and “After”. Suddenly nothing is ever the same.
But here’s the good news for me. I have a bone doctor who views us as a TEAM. He listens to me and confers with me. My other doctor never looked me in the eyes. She didn’t have time. My doctors seek my advice and opinion until I have to remind them occasionally “you know, I am not a REAL doctor. I just play one on TV.” It is a partnership in all the best senses of the word. I have noticed these doctors give the most simplistic examples of things. My fancy neurosurgeon refers to the nerves and muscles which travel from my brain down my arm as “the highway”. Sometimes my “interstate” gets littered with debris and requires surgically cleaning it up. They view me as a partner. An equal. We are in this thing together. I am well aware that all the “men in white coats” in my orbit are invested in my well-being. It took a bad test and doctor to realize just how lucky I am. I will continue my journey, jabbing myself, running Leslie Inc. and doing whatever it takes. You do the same.
Never apologize for asking questions. Or pushing back. You don’t want to discover termites. Time is important. It gives you the luxury of choice. Because as another literary hero, Flannery O’Connor, put it “the life you save may be your own.”