Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Bounty Hunter Awaits

Meals in bed
Life is like being on the run from an anonymous Bounty Hunter.  If my family medical history’s a good predictor, my own Bounty Hunter’ll be chasing me into my eighth or ninth decade.

I can’t see myself as a sweet old lady, taking all my meals in bed.  Not exactly the sit-on-my-duff sort of person.  Most likely my carers’ll help old Bounty Hunter take me away.

So when I got sick, my patience surprised me.   Surprised everyone, apparently.  Loving son, El Punko said that, since my symptoms were respiratory, a bit of oxygen deprivation might be helpful at peace negotiations.

Cheek like that, he’s off my Christmas list, but don’t tell him.  He’s great at gift giving.  He got me this really kickass Witch Ball last year.  I’d hate my next Christmas spoiled just because you can’t keep a secret.

Admittedly, there were less patient moments on the NHS conveyor belt.  The day I stood in the surgery parking lot screaming, ‘I hate the NHS.  I hate this surgery.  I hate all doctors.’ 

Probably a daily occurrence for them, now that I think about it.

But anyway, how a person responds to illness has nothing to do with what you’re made of.  I’m about as demure as a wet cat, but other than that one hissy fit, I’ve patiently told my story to a cast of thousands and never once pointed out that none of them were paying attention or that yes, fatigue is a symptom or that when my heart danced the Flamenco after taking the prescribed steroids, the cardiology referral was to cover their over-worked asses.  Or arses, I suppose it should be.  But not because I had a heart problem.

Witch Ball
Which is why I didn’t go immediately.  To the cardiologist.  Plus, we were coming up to Christmas –the Witch Ball Christmas, to be exact – and I’d been referred for 3000 unnecessary tests as they do when your heart goes biddly boo bee doo deee doo, even if the reason it did is because you’ve been on steroids. 

Mostly I didn’t go because, although I’d been told not to talk about my fatigue – fatigue isn’t a symptom – I was fecking tired. Not exactly the behaviour of a wet cat, but I had to choose my battles.  So I only went to the respiratory specialist.  Because, you know, my symptoms were respiratory.

They treated my respiratory symptoms, but I was still tired (which is not a symptom).  My short term memory took a handbasket to hell (along with several bottles of homemade damson gin, I suspect).  I stopped walking dogs, pruning trees, writing.  I sat out Samhain and ghost walks, candle services, Yule parties, New Year champagne and more.  I gave up my life but unexpectedly, didn’t mourn it.  Something inside me, some magical cottage in the dark wood of my psyche felt this was a time of waiting.

Doodle bed games
Tired but not sleepy, I knitted like Madame DeFarge.  Played bed games with Doodle, discovered how really awful telly is.  Watched Youtube videos, read blogs and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next web stories I’d not had time for before.  Witnessed twenty-first century literary wisdom buzzing through reams of Tweets about 99p e-books and cover launches, how-to-write essays and book reviews,

gradually becoming invisible myself,

not blogging or tweeting or posting on Facebook, not pushing a manuscript in this or that person’s face,

quiet and patient until I saw it differently, this Writer's Life we'd all been told we had to live.  Like editing someone else’s writing.  Seeing clearly what’s not plain to the writer herself.  And I thought blasphemy.  I thought . . .

That’s not the way I want it done.  That’s not the person I want to be.  A thought which initially scared me, because any twenty-first century writer knows what that thought means.  If you're not socially aggressive, you commit publishing suicide.

So I let the NHS distract me from scary and blasphemous thoughts.  All my tests were negative, and since fatigue isn’t a symptom, my Bounty Hunter’s name had to be heart disease.  And who’s the naughty wet cat who didn’t make an appointment with the cardiologist?

There’s blasphemous me in the cardiologist’s waiting room, sitting next to the Bitler who’s convinced I’m in heart failure.  Mine is an intuitive soul.  This isn’t the end.  This is a time of waiting.  A threshold.  But I don’t say that because the Bitler’s a woman of science, and she’s waiting until science has spoken.

That’s when I notice her lipstick’s only on one side of her mouth.  We both laugh for a who-gives-a-shit moment that transcends science and blasphemy and the expectations of people who won’t ever give you a Witch Ball.  The kind of moment that makes sense when you’re in it but doesn’t translate into words, yet leaves you knowing that you have to do what you can live with.  The kind of moment that matters.

A little touch of fatigue.

The cardiologist says my heart’s fine.  In fact, he thinks I’m suffering from fatigue.