While I’m off batting away demons, some friends have come to bat for me by sharing some pretty amazing survival triumphs of their own. I am so happy and grateful to share them.
Think you’ve heard of some tough years? Read on for a chronicle of unbelievable, stunning setbacks and lifesaving ennui.
This is a two-part tale of an incredible trip to save one’s sanity along with body by the beloved blog-o-sphere cheering and writing champion, Paul Curran.
As I lay restlessly in the hospital bed, a plan began to form. I was here for internal bleeding, one of many, many complications that had cropped up from my cancer treatment.
It was under control but I knew what it meant – I had lost my right kidney, which we all knew was happening and came as no surprise. An ultrasound had confirmed that there was but slim remnants of that organ.
This had been a rare side effect of the radiation treatment – a treatment that was really a pact with the devil. In my case it was exceedingly effective and had destroyed the cancer, but it also created a list of horrendous side effects from the destruction of my kidneys to temporary impotence and many others in-between. I was now officially a dialysis patient and would remain so forever, barring a transplant. That was hard to accept.
This was the final straw, and the worst was that I KNEW it was not the end of the side effects – which the literature says can continue to appear up to 25 years after treatment.
At 45, I would pretty much be at the end of my life before I’d be done with the potential lifespan of side effects.
In the preceding year I’d spent all my savings on a degree that I finished just in time for an economic downturn; got laid off from my job because with the new degree I was overqualified; ended a 12 year relationship which meant giving up my house; was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent radiation, chemotherapy and three operations.
I’d also suffered major treatment side effects including a colostomy, temporary impotence, a fistula between my bladder and rectum and then endured the many, many issues that crop up with dialysis such as multiple operations, scopes, colonoscopies, endoscopes, too many more to list.
Along with all of that, the engine of my car blew up. I was unable to work and with no funds left, I finally had to draw welfare. The final topper, I had to move from where I was boarding because my landlady (not much older than me) died of a blood clot in her sleep.
I started drinking too much and clearly recognized that I was suffering from severe depression – certainly a state of mind that was natural given the few years of my life.
I had seriously contemplated suicide but didn’t have sufficient desire to follow through – sigh, a failure even at that. Ha! I needed help, of this I was sure and while lying in that hospital bed I decided it was time to get some help.
As difficult as my health issues had been over the previous few years, I had gotten excellent care and anything I desired treatment-wise was readily available. For instance when I came out of the last operation and recovered, I realized that they had cut through my belly button.
This meant nothing to me, but when my surgeon presented himself and asked if all was OK, I responded with: “My belly button is gone”! I was being funny, obviously having survived the cancer and surgery, my belly button was immaterial, but he took me seriously. “I apologize”, he said, “I can arrange for a plastic surgeon to rebuild your belly button and it will be covered under OHIP [the government health plan which normally did not cover non-life threatening plastic surgery].”
Expecting mental health care to be as carefully and meticulously addressed as physical health care, I requested a psych evaluation – my intention was to eventually get sessions set up so I could talk my way through the depression and get a hand up back to normal.
In physical health care the doctors were so thorough that I sometimes had to turn down tests or watch for duplication. I had never requested help that I did not enthusiastically receive.
My requests for a psych evaluation went unanswered. I knew that the hospital had a whole psychiatry floor filled with patients and psychiatrists, but try as I may, I could not get one to come to my room.
After a week of asking daily, two interns showed up – doctors in training – who were not psychiatrists or even psychiatry students, but rather were doing a rotation in their training for a few weeks in psychiatry.
These students were typically kept busy doing case histories and such. I thought perhaps this was the route to a real psychiatrist, so I was cheerful with them and we chatted for an hour or so while they took careful notes. (They were humorous at times in their naivety and when I complained about the impotence, they asked how I knew. Of course, I pointed out that I was sequestered here in the hospital so obviously it was an inability to masturbate – at which they turned all red, stuttered and moved to another topic).
And then nothing happened…
————— You can find Part 2 here ————–