Excerpts from “Unhinged: Then Use A Screw Driver"
At the time of my diagnosis in 2009, I started writing a journal. This was, in part, therapy for myself; but I also wanted to document my journey, with the possibility of sharing it with others someday. That day has arrived!
Over the coming months, I will be posting episodes from these writings, the best of, if you will. The work is yet to be finished. I think that at some point it became too painful to look back again and again, as any good writer should when revising and editing. So my aim now is that I finally finish what I started. I hope you enjoy my tendency toward the satiric — though some events were pretty dire at the time, I tried to put a positive spin on them (if you’ll excuse the pun), poking fun at myself in the process — all in the name of retaining my own sanity.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost
Entry One, “Trick or Treat”
I was in the throes of preparing for a meeting when I felt my side vibrate. Now, not that many people have my cell phone number, and those friends that do, know to not call me at work. I looked at the number, vaguely recognising it as my Dr’s office, took a sip of coffee and didn’t answer.
My mind began to wonder. Had they gotten my test results back?
I had gone by to get tested only a week prior, because I was getting mouth sores that didn’t seem to be going away. I passed them off as being stress related, but thought it prudent to get them checked out anyway. The Dr, being a thorough man, decided to run all the usual tests, just for luck. Better to be safe than sorry.
I looked at my watch, eleven fifteen, and sheepishly dialled into my cell phone answering machine. I held my breath…
The message was simple: Call the Dr’s office right away!
A numbness came over me – I felt the dread of the unknown creep up and tap me on the shoulder.
Knowing that I couldn’t risk procrastinating, I picked up the phone and hurriedly dialled, before I changed my mind.
The receptionist picked up. He sounded concerned. (But maybe that was just my paranoia talking.)
I was subsequently on hold for the Dr for only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. Finally the Dr came on the line. He told me that I needed to come down to see him right away. Stupidly, I asked if it was bad news. His answer was that of concern and ambiguity, and then reiteration that I should hop in a cab and make my way post haste.
My anxiety levels rose several notches. I went into that awful state of shock that one does when you hear that someone you love has died. Everything takes on a super-real quality, and it is almost as though you are acting outside of yourself.
After I hung up, I literally dropped everything, figuring I would pick up the pieces later on in the day and make my excuses to my employer once I knew what the hell was going on.
I soon arrived at the corner of the medical centre, and at first couldn’t bring myself to go in. I decided to walk once around the block to collect myself, and then head in without over thinking it too much.
I’m a bit of a paradox that way. I fully admit that I stick my head in the sand when it comes to matters of health, but once I realize that the situation is dire, I kick into emergency survival mode. Better to face the truth head on and deal with the consequences later.
I walked up to the receptionist, who called through to the Dr. I know what a busy man he is, and I was getting suspiciously preferential treatment. The receptionist got off the phone and told me to go through.
As I headed to the office, I briefly thought about how I would feel when I was exiting – in twenty minutes or so – one emotion towards the door, and another walking away from it…how silly.
I again blocked my thoughts and forged ahead; my destiny lay in that room, in the hands of one man. How strange it is to think that someone you hardly even know has that kind of power over you. One minute you think you are fully in control of your life, the next it is taken away. It’s as though you are being sent to the principal’s office for being too greedy in thinking you can have it all, and you need to be taken down a few notches.
I crossed the threshold, attempting to seem as casual as I could; but not too casual, for fear of coming off as cavalier. I sat down.
You know it’s bad when the Dr begins with, “You can’t let what I am about to tell you kill your soul.”
Jesus! (I thought)
At that moment, I felt myself melt into the chair. In fact, I wanted to be the chair, with someone else in it. Time narrowed, and then stopped in its tracks.
The Dr. went on to list a myriad of issues that had arisen. In order of relative importance:
1) I had contracted Syphilis, and it was now “teetering” – A lovable term that ostensibly means that it might potentially affect brain functioning.
2) I had contracted HIV.
3) And, lastly, the cherry on my day, I’d also gotten Hepatitis C.
Now, I tip my hat to the Dr who somehow, in presenting all this, managed to forge a path to clarity; just enough for me to deal with the first matter at hand – Syphilis.
To his credit, he orchestrated getting me in to see a specialist that same day, who was going to perform a spinal tap. Basically, taking fluid from the base of my spine to determine if the Syphilis had worked its way up into my brain.
Peeling myself from the chair, I grabbed my coat, bag, and glided out the door. I say glided, because I couldn’t really feel my feet touching the ground. They were numb, just like the rest of me.
I felt as though I’d been sucked deep into the earth and encased in one of the more solitary levels of Dante’s Inferno.
As I exited the medical building, it was a bright and sunny day outside. People were milling around Church Street, preparing for the night’s festivities. You see, tonight was All Hallows’ Eve, commonly known as Halloween.
And no, the irony of this fateful day was not lost on me. Henceforth, Halloween would be a yearly reminder of my own ghosts and goblins that lurk within.
I only had an hour before having to make the one o’clock brain fluid extraction. No time to waste. No time to think.
What maniacal twists and turns lay ahead?
Yo be continued . . .