After the initial “you’re not going to die” high, my brain kicks into overdrive. I start analyzing everything Dr. Warr said. Was he lying to me? When we were ready to leave, he asked me to fill out a patient feedback form. I mean, that would be absurd, telling a patient a bunch of lies just to get a good score, right? Right. If anything, he picked me to do it (even though he said he just does all his patients one after the other so there’s no chance of picking and choosing) because he did have good news.
I wake up at 4 a.m. having a panic attack. I feel like I’m going to vomit, I’m shivering, and I can’t stop thinking about, well, everything that could possibly go wrong. I’m past the point of weeping. Instead, I’m frustrated. What the fuck is this? Stop it, brain! Just stop it!
I take an Ativan. It doesn’t do anything. I think about taking another one. I really want to take another one. Should I take another one? No. If I’m already dependent on these things… No. I won’t.
I sleep poorly for the rest of the night. I can’t get out of bed in the morning. Kevin gets up, takes care of Morrigan. I can hear the babies rustling around in their cribs. I don’t want to leave the bed. I clutch my stomach.
Isn’t Zoloft supposed to help? What if it’s making the anxiety worse? Is that a possible side effect? Will I have to find another one?
I google Zoloft and find out that anxiety might get worse before lifting after a couple weeks.
Well, that’s just fucking fantastic. Expecting a magical, instantaneous cure isn’t realistic, but it’s still maddening. I suppose I can regard this as another illness I have to deal with, but I hate it. I just want to be whole and well and get out of bed and grab life by the balls and be the strong woman everyone keeps telling me they think I am.
But I feel like a fraud.
Kevin comes in. “You’re going to beat this,” he says for the thousandth time. “I know it. It’s going to suck for a while, but then it’s going to get better.” I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have him telling me that every time I get afraid. It’s already hard enough.
“Your daughters need you,” he says.
That’s enough. I get out of bed. I go into the nursery. The babies are smiling and giggling, as they always are in the morning.
It helps. Maybe just a little, but it helps.
The crying, the tears, the fear–it makes my brain hurt. Like my amygdala is bruised and battered from the extreme emotions I’m slamming into it.
It’s not just the threat of death that sends my anxiety sky-high. It’s every little twinge. Do I have a headache now? I thought I didn’t when they asked, but my brain hurts. Maybe it’s because I’m not sleeping well or because I’m so tense, or maybe I need a brain MRI like Dr. Cho said.
My memories are sinister now. The pregnancy–all those little aches and pains that I know now weren’t pregnancy aches and pains but the tumors.
When I was a few weeks along, my shoulder started hurting. I started doing the exercises from the book 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life, but they weren’t helping. I went into have prenatal massages. The next day after the third one, my shoulder hurt so bad I couldn’t move it. It was excruciating. I thought she’d overworked it, but now I know it was a tumor–Dr. Warr said there’s one in my clavicle.
I also had a burning, stabbing pain in my abdomen up near my ribcage (although everything was up near my ribcage at the end). I thought it was muscles being twisted out of alignment. I would sit on the couch with an ice pack, and it would sometimes subside, sometimes not. Now I’m pretty sure it was the liver tumor.
It’s frightening. Everything has been ruined. All the excitement, the resigned determination to get through the pain to have my beautiful twin girls. The memories are no longer tinged with happiness and anticipation. They’re tinged with ugly foreboding.
The days are hard. The nights are hard. Mom and Dad are coming. Once they’re here, I can collapse into bed and not worry about having to help take care of the children.
I have a dream that Kevin started coughing up blood but didn’t tell anyone. I wake to another panic attack.
I’m scrolling through Facebook listlessly, as I do quite frequently. Someone has shared a post that says, “Insulin isn’t a luxury for diabetics!”
I’m so tired of American politics is my first thought. I’m glad I’m in Canada, even though drugs aren’t free here is my second. I don’t know how we would pay for this if we were in the U.S. I have a good job, so I’d have decent health insurance. The immunoboosters are going to be expensive as it is.
This is like diabetes. It settles over me. Sixty, seventy? years ago, diabetes was a death sentence. Someone who got it would be as terrified as I am when insulin was first developed. But now, nobody dies from it. They get insulin, they take it every day, and they live with little to no restrictions.
The thought that I’m living on borrowed time lifts from my shoulders. It’s not. Modern medicine has found a way to manage this. I will always have this, but a diabetic will always have insulin. And I don’t have to take my medication every day, only every three weeks. As time goes on, maybe they’ll develop a way for me to take it at home and not in the hospital. Medicine will continue to advance, and it won’t be as frightening of a disease as it once was.
My brother continues the reassurance. “Have you ever had the flu? Chicken pox? Mumps and not even know it? Modern medicine is keeping us going. It’s advancing every day. They’re testing nanobots that will eradicate cancer, you know?”
OK, Chris, ok. I get it. Nanobots. He always makes me smile.
Maybe it’s naive to compare this to diabetes, the flu, chicken pox. Maybe it’s too simplistic. But if it gets me through the days, out of bed and engaging in life again, isn’t it worth whatever simple naivete I’ve latched onto?