Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Worst Week Of My Life - Day 6

In 1972, the movie The Poseiden Adventure came out. The theme song for the movie, The Morning After", sung by Maureen McGovern, was perhaps a better song than the movie was a movie. It's opening lyrics are "There's got to be a morning after, if we can hold on through the night." That could have been my song on the morning of November 23, 2012. I had held on through the night, not sleeping all that much.

The rest of the lyrics of that song are moderately trite, alluding to metaphors and links to the movie itself, but the tune was catchy and the singing was terrific.  It won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Original Song in March 1973. I wish my morning after song could have been that successful. Nonetheless, as with the song lyrics, I awoke with at least a minimal, miniscule sense of hope that day.

The Neurologists at Foothills had called in an ALS specialist to confirm their diagnosis. They wanted to be certain, leaving me with the faint hope of a mistake, a hope that maybe it was something which they could treat, or even cure. The ALS Neurologist, a doctor doing brain research at the University campus nearby where Elizabeth worked, arrived at about 9:00 AM.

There was talk of another Nerve Conductivity test, however the doctor opted for a simple EMG, the test with the immensely long needles used to tickle your nerve endings. He was much more adept at these tests than the technician from the day before. He was also very efficient. In what seemed like a matter of moments, he stopped, looked at me, and said "I'm sorry. You have ALS."

I started crying, unable to hold back any longer. After a moment I regained my composure and said "At least it's a relief to know for sure." We talked for a moment. I asked him about various kinds of ALS and if there was any chance of a different diagnosis in the future. He said "You have plain old, ordinary, run of the mill ALS. Sorry."

Then he gave me the best piece of advice anyone ever receiving this diagnosis could get. "If there's anything you want to do, do it sooner rather than later." I've taken that advice for the last four years, doing what I wanted as soon and as often as I could. My limitations today would have prevented me from doing much of what I did a couple of years ago.

As we walked back to my hospital room, he said "There's no sense in us keeping you for the weekend. There's nothing we can do for you here." And with that, I was released from the hospital. My friend Bobbi happened to arrive for a visit just then. She helped me get ready to go. I had another tearful meltdown, crying and declaring "I don't want to die." I still feel that way.

Dion came to pick me up. We were headed for the 4,000 square foot log "cabin" we had rented for the weekend. Most of my group of friends were there for Friday night, as well as my brother, Peter. As each of them arrived, I took them aside for a moment to tell them about my diagnosis. I wanted to avoid whispered questions and answer all night, and all weekend. Just get it out there and deal with it.

As the evening wore on and the emotions set in, there were tears, a great many tears, so many that my friend Mike George refers to that Friday as "the night of crying". He's right. It was. On the plus side, by the next day there were no more tears to be had. I went to bed that night thinking that my life was ending. I was to wake up in the morning thinking it was just another day in what had been, so far, an interesting life. It's like the Chinese curse. "May you live in interesting times".

There is always a morning after. There's got to be a morning after. Otherwise you're dead. I wasn't dead yet. A part of me was, but not all of me. I was going to die from ALS. I had to live with it until then.

No comments:

Post a Comment