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Friday, January 31, 2014

CAT scan...looking into the green galaxy

Decked out in a hospital gown (I have worn these at least three times a year for twenty years, so you'd think I'd remember if they open up in the back or the front, but I never do), IV plugged into my inner left elbow, nice warm blanket over me, I lie on a very narrow mattress--kind of like a stretcher, but on a track, and am asked to raise my arms over my head (with the IV in, mind you--that I could have gladly done without).  They are checking for the source of some "occult" bleeding--I muse as I wait for the "ride" into the CAT scan that "occult" sounds as if someone has put a hex on me....yet my own body, and my war with it all my life, have created a condition that has been my challenge--lupus asks, "How much are you willing to go through and keep tethered to this life?  What price for the privilege of more days?" and I say yes.  Harder to say this unequivocal "yes" in the times before Imuran came into my life, not a remedy for poison, but the very poison itself that heals, a Janus-faced medicine.  I say yes now because I have hope for myself, after all this time.

It's like the strangest carnival ride ever, the stretcher-bed moving on a track into what can only be described as the biggest vanilla donut, or inner tube, I've ever seen.  The technician (a bubbly person named Jessica) tells me the CAT scan's computer-voice will tell me when to hold my breath.  I look into the smoked glass hoop, embedded in the massive white circle, and see a bank of green lights. The stretcher moves beneath the hoop and the computerized voice (a woman's) tells me to hold my breath. Seconds go by and as I am passed under the scanner, I see that something under the smoky glass hoop is circling my body, and the green bank of lights is circling also, until it blurs and makes an optical illusion: green shooting stars encircling me, fireflies in this strange and particular night.  The computer voice barks at me after a few seconds, tells me "Breathe!"  I breathe deep into my belly and let the breath out.  Thank  you, Zen Center!

The next step is contrast dye in the IV; Jessica the nurse tells me it will feel hot, hotter in certain areas of my body (hands, feet, etc.)  When the body-flush comes, it feels exactly as if I have been cutting up masses of fresh ginger and rubbing the juice into my face, hands, and feet:  the warmth is surprising, a little scary, but not terribly unpleasant, just deeply intense.  Back into the spinning green galaxy, another pass-through, holding the breath on command, then releasing.  IV pulled, cotton and tape on the arm, and then a third pass-through into the CAT scan.

"Results in a few days," she says breezily as I get up.  I hope they find nothing, that the residual bleeding is something further to do with the vagaries of lupus.  I never can find my way out of this medical clinic; it's like a warren.  Finally I find my way out (after helping a couple of other people find the exit), I locate the coffee kiosk.  Probably stupid to have a latte this time of day, but I buy one anyway.

This sort of thing doesn't look, to the ordinary eye, like a fight: but it is.  Each of us fights to stay alive, in our own separate ways: I'm amazed at the resilience of human beings and their striving towards the light.  This is my own striving: to be willing to embrace these times because I so want to be well.

Now home, I plan to make dinner for Thistle and me, and after she is asleep, I will work on the little book I am hand-sewing for her.  It's made from a pre-printed panel, a cheerful story of jungle animals, smiling monkeys and giraffes.  This is significant because I have not been able to really sew for too long--weirdly, sewing projects began to cause me so much anxiety that I simply stopped, unless I had a costume to make or a simple blanket to sew for Thistle's nap blanket at school.  Last night, though, I finally picked up this project and just worked without fanfare, just me, late at night, sewing a cloth book for my grandchild.

These days are the ones that keep me tethered to this life.   Life itself is enough reason to keep living.