Just when I thought that my creative juices had evaporated, I discovered yet another outlet. I was evolving into an allegorical electrician, and at the same time, a fundamental change in my health insurance threatened the fragile layer surrounding my internal wiring.
Eastern Maine Medical Center changed their insurance providers so they wouldn’t have to pay as much of the frontloaded costs. The new company offered a $1,000 “Choice Fund” at the start of each year ($2,000 for families). This ostensibly optimistic offering paid one hundred percent of any bills up front, and after, it was exhausted, then the policyholder would pay one hundred percent until their deductible was met. Then, and only if the person spent past their deductible, the insurance company would pay the expected eighty percent.
“I could sure use a drink right about now” is something I should have told myself during all of 2007. The year was not kind to me in the slightest. It all began in the first desolate few months of the year as the winter winds howled on well into April. I had purchased a Little Caesar’s pizza kit from one of my managers at work and as we cooked it while watching The Prestige, I realized that my memory isn’t what it used to be. As a matter of fact, my memory in regards to numbers, names, faces, and more was exponentially stronger the year before I was diagnosed with Leukemia. It’s ironic that I would remember the moment I realized my memory was faulty but worry about remembering specific things properly. Wait; was it The Prestige or The Illusionist?Great.
I wondered how much of this memory loss was my own undoing? Were my several attempts at making peace with weed my mental downfall or was it the chemotherapy? And by the same token, was I really to blame for my hair loss by pulling out clump after clump while under the initial effects of the same chemo or was it merely my family’s genetics?
“The better sex.” That term never had more meaning then at this point in time. I don’t hate on men but women had (and continue to have) a clear power over feeble-minded men like me.
Kyle had introduced us to his uncle and his group of friends during the summer. His uncle Ritchie was one of the kindest and most pleasurable guys with which to hang around and his friends were just as amazing. Shawn, Kyle and the rest of us would go out to “pre-game” at their apartment before they would head out to the bars. I was always one to be surrounded by drinkers but never one myself. My parents both had issues with alcohol and thus, I was still deathly afraid of heredity addiction.
The whole “nearly dying” thing really awoke me from my slumber. I had been too content in enjoying my life, so much so that I almost forgot to fear my myriad near run-ins with the Grim Reaper! The good news was that this “anxiety attack” was an error; I wasn’t really dying and so, I was able to mentally separate that event from a real flight-or-fight worthy response. My senses had been restored and I could now resume my normal life.
Oh, that’s right, I still had to work at MBNA making calls dutifully but never pushing people past their point of rational thought. I carefully laid out the terms of the credit card I was selling at the time and never lied to the customers (like I had heard some other people doing). It kept my conscience – and the money I earned there – clean.
My favorite time of the year was almost upon us: Summer. There was nothing quite like a Maine summer: breezy sunshine, endless things to do, and breathtaking views. I wondered yet again if I would have made it to this point without treatment. Yes, it was a morbid way to envision such a serene two/ two and a half months. But it’s hard not to think of alternate timelines, even with my health fully intact.
And my hair had finally awoken from its chemo-induced slumber. I’ll admit I was a little worried; for a while, the little hair I had left had grown into a spiral, very similar to the cliché spiral pattern that would hypnotize cartoon characters.
WARNING: This chapter features some vulgar audio clips from my past.
My nomad status returned during the month of March, akin to my brother and I’s younger selves as a divorcee’s child. It was hard not “reminisce” shuttling between Dad’s, Mom’s, and the apartment. I knew I had to be happy and spend as much time with everyone as I was physically able. I mean, after all…
I WAS HOME! FOR GOOD!
But the connections were there. We threw a massive party, just like the event when we were released back into our Father’s care after our foster run.
My brother and I rarely got along while staying at Lori and Todd’s, but I had hoped that after this deadly ordeal, our fighting days were over. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Mom recovered nicely from her surgery, and somehow, she was a fan of the food (maybe I’m still quite picky after all). February progressed without so much as a medical whimper, but with my past experiences, I was ready for the absolute worst. What was to befall me in my last weeks in Medical care; Crohn’s Disease? Chlamydia? A prolapsed anus?
…Maybe I should slow down on these guesses… Cannot afford to tempt fate at this junction.
Instead, I focused on what was to come after treatment. As much as I always knew I would come out of this relatively unscathed, I hadn’t thought of my future, post-treatment. I devoted so much of my own mental energy to healing, that the thought had rarely crossed my mind.
The New Year was here, my fungal infection was officially gone, and I was on the fourth treatment of six. Things were going great, as long as I kept myself preoccupied as much as possible.
TV did the trick for some of the day, as the usual Price is Right, Friends, Wheel/Jeopardy schedule couldn’t be broken, but I had to find creative ways to fill the rest– Aw, who am I kidding?! I had a freaking Gamecube now!
My biopsy got pushed back… I anxiously awaited this procedure so I could go home and visit my family for Christmas. It was supposed to be on the 9th, but my counts weren’t at the level needed for surgery, and since it wasn’t life-saving (like my experience with the EpiPen), it was put off until I could regenerate those levels on my own.
So instead, I was housed once again by Ronald McDonald and fulfilling a regular blood check every morning. The plus side is that I got to go out and about, and actually do things in Bangor. Of course my energy levels never really allowed us anything substantial in length, but we still accomplished as much as possible.
I was really beginning to enjoy the Ronald McDonald House; it wasn’t home, but it was close enough. And since my counts were coming back to more manageable levels, I was able to (with mask) hang out in the elusive common areas such as the two living rooms and the kitchen.
After the first week of hospitalization, I was told that I was a pleasant patient; I never made a commotion, was absurdly polite, and most importantly, did what I was told.
I was also commended over the course of my various treatments about how well my body was reacting to the chemotherapy. Sure, I had the requisite amount of nausea, lack of hunger, and hair loss, but overall, the astounded nurses and doctors reassured me that I had had it better than most of the kids they had treated.