I went there. I did. And I know better. I’m enlightened. I have my own Angels. And still, I went right down the pathway of worry, fitful sleep, and elaborate scenarios of pain and suffering—byproducts of fear.
The week before Christmas was a tough one. Not only did I (needle phobe) have to go for a biopsy of my liver and wait five freaking days for the results, but on day three, I attended the memorial service of a long-time friend who died a tragic, unexplainable, death. One of those “we never know what tomorrow will bring” events.
Early 2016, my doctor discovered that I have hereditary hemochromatosis, a genetic iron overload-disease. Unchecked, the iron just stays in the liver and other internal organs wreaking havoc. Treatment? Therapeutic phlebotomies. Beginning in April, I gave a big bag of blood every two weeks. When I grew puny, energy-less, my doctor cut treatments back to once a month. I renamed my phlebotomies “iron-out” and stopped using the word “treatment” due to chemotherapy PTSD.
My (s)hero hematologist ordered an MRI of my liver December 13th to check progress. Results: Iron level was higher! How could that be? Thirteen therapeutic phlebotomies in eight months and my iron level increased? Needle biopsy of my liver. Eww! I made it through the test and the weekend and my friend’s memorial service.
Results Monday. Nope. Appointment rescheduled. On Tuesday, BF and I perched in the waiting room anxious for the results of the biopsy. I was flipping through a September issue of The New Yorker when the woman at the desk called me over. “We’re going to have to reschedule you. The pathology report from your biopsy is still not in. The pathologist needs more history.”
“What do you mean needs more history?”
“Do you want me to call the nurse and ask?”
“It means he needs more of your medical history.” She says this as if the words, your and medical would clear up all confusion in regard to the word history.
No shit Sherlock! I left.
I spent the next twenty-four hours speculating about this history. Previous iron levels? Last MRI? Or was it the cancer? The cancer of 2008 that rarely shadows my consciousness. Did he see cancer in this liver specimen? I stopped short of a full-on freak out. I wrote a “what if” journal entry . . . How would I have lived 2016 differently if I had known the year would end with a new diagnosis? A prewriting for the changes would I make this time . . . when I was well again.
Wednesday morning, 9:00 A.M., I was the first patient of the day. Same woman at the desk. She looked at her computer screen, “And you are here for the results of your PET scan?”
“No. Needle biopsy of my liver.” She’s looking at my chart and sees the order for a PET scan. Shit on a stick! I have cancer in my liver and Shero has ordered a PET scan. I slid in the restroom and steeled myself.
“Doctor wants labs on you today.”
Of course she does.
Doctor comes in and I search her face for signs of pity. None. “Your results are good! No evidence of damage to the liver whatsoever. No lesions. No cirrhosis. I suggest we return to phlebotomy twice a month and check you again in four months and see how we’re doing.”
Not only did I not have the C-word, my liver, albeit saturated with iron, proved healthy. I stopped in the lobby and texted BF and the kids.
What’s wrong with me? Why did I drag myself through the torture of worry. I know better!
I walked outside into the parking lot and the bright sun glinting off the snow and thanked the Universe for this experience. I promised to figure out the lesson. Try not go there again. Be thankful for my health. Live freely.
And my friend, Dave, may he rest in peace.