Dear Lily June,
There are few things in this world that rattle me more than going to the doctor. I’ve talked about this before, but between the ages of 19 and 20, I saw more doctors and specialists than I cared to count, and the worst part was never what they found. For so long, until I got my diagnoses of interstitial cystitis and stress-induced alopecia areata, it was what they didn’t find.
They didn’t find bacteria in my urine, although they were happy to proscribe me antibiotics anyway. One nurse even recommended cranberry juice and asparagus as a preventative measure against UTIs, though, as it turns out, with my condition, that was like pouring battery acid into the open wounds in my bladder.
They didn’t find lupus or any other specific medical cause for my hair loss, although they were quick to point out that stress causes the body to attack itself in all kinds of ways. Great, I thought at the time. Now I have to stress out about how much I’m stressing.
They didn’t find me a new bladder or new hair, not even so much as a zip lock bag or a wig.
In short, I was granted a whole lot of shrugs and referrals and testing to find out why they call medicine a practice and not a final performance. I felt like my body was going through a terrible dress rehearsal (though I never did break a leg…) and that, once on the real stage called life, I might do a much better job at living.
This time going, though, Lily, I can’t say I know my lines much better than I knew them the first time around. I still, no matter how well I prepare the script of my symptoms and questions beforehand, get tongue-tied in front of the doctors themselves. Yesterday, at my appointment, it didn’t occur to me, for instance, to tell my doctor that I was experiencing pain on a constant basis.
When she asked, her hand crammed into my lady parts for my examination, if I was having any problems, I clammed up. Amazing that being that open with a stranger wouldn’t stimulate me into conversation.
I was lucky that this particular doctor had an impeccable bedside manner, registered the discomfort on my face, and pried into my medical history until she got to the core of what’s been bothering me. Headaches. Weight loss. Bruising. Unexplained bleeding. And everpresent from the moment the doctors pulled you out of me has been pain.
It has nothing to do with you, Lily, or the miracle of your existence. If anything, your smile has kept these old bones going, even when I’ve felt like internally something was grating my organs up like a finely aged cheese. I have to admit it, no matter how much I’ve been trying to “push on through” to be a good Mommy to you: There is something wrong with me. Physically.
When I first scheduled my hydrodistention procedure last summer, I was months into mothering a newborn you and working full time, and I was strapped to the limit by medical bills and a complete lack of sanity brought on by PPD. When my doctor’s nurse called to say they’d have to reschedule because my urologist was going on vacation, I was only too eager to just say “To hell with it” altogether.
I wish I hadn’t.
The recent blood in my urine (the ten-cent word is hematuria, Lily) was confirmed at the doctor’s yesterday. (With all respect to doctors–seriously–I love it when they tell you something you already know, namely the symptom that brought you to them in the first place.) Now, I get the fun of putting my heart in my mouth and laying down on a bed of pins and needles until I get the results of additional testing.
Likely, they will find nothing.
Likely, they will, as responsible doctors do when they have no answers for a patient who is suffering, push me back up the specialist ladder. Likely, I will go back to the urologist and have to, once again, schedule–and this time go through with–that hydrodistention + cystoscopy procedure so that they can fill my bladder up like a water balloon and cram a snaking camera into my urethra.
For some patients, this procedure can actually provide relief. For others, the process is excruciating and can result in lasting pain for up to a month. Guess which camp your mother expects to fall into?
In the meantime, beginning again at the bottom rung of a medical mystery, as I did eleven years ago, seemed to coincide perfectly with this week’s Six Word Story Challenge, hosted by the blogger Sometimes Stellar Storyteller. This week’s word for inspiration being “Anticipation,” I wrote the following piece:
You peed in that little cup.
I know it’s not likely to win me anything, but I found just playing along gave me some much needed (at least mental) relief. As your six “words,” Lily, might at this point only be “dada,” “mmphf,” “blahblah,” and “buttered bad guys,” I’m not expecting you to (yet) play along. But I look forward, in sweet anticipation, to someday crafting six-word (or more!) stories with you.
And I hope anyone else tuning into your online letters might join in, too, or at least cast their votes for others with far better narratives than I.
When it comes to getting my test results, I feel the feeling expressed in the immortal words of my favorite doctor, Frank-N-Furter:
- By Federico Candoni – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45290451
- By Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14778889774/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/practicaltreatis1879robe/practicaltreatis1879robe#page/n567/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43754665