Night of the Living Dead

*The following is a word-for-word journal entry from Thursday, September 17. There is no embellishment or editing. NOTE: two days earlier, I took myself to Urgent Care for pain in my left abdomen. I assumed a bladder infection following a catheter camera examination the previous Friday, and hoped it would be caught quickly so that cancer surgery would not be delayed. A urine sample and talk with a doctor identified nothing at that time. However, five days AFTER this journal entry, rapidly increasing abdominal pain and a second appointment, along with another CT scan, revealed I was suffering from diverticulitis, or an inflammation of the interior lining of the large intestine. This was treated with two prescribed antibiotics, and my surgery would happen, as scheduled.*

9:06 am.

Oh look! A brand new day!

(49% sarcasm)

The girls are coming over today. Daran said ‘errands’, which means she wants an extra pair of hands for the Grandlings. Since I’m mostly fine, and have ZERO else to do, I’m all in. Maybe there’s a Horchata Cream Frap in my future!

12:20 pm.

Cooked and ate breakfast. Load of dishes. Now getting ready for the kids. Watched Night of the Living Dead – 1990 during all of the above. Drew no contemporary life parallels. I feel tired after all that. Guess I’ll see how I feel tonight. 19 days to go.

I don’t know what other motivation there is. There is no relationship or reward, or seemingly anything pushing me to this ‘first finish line’. Just counting down the days. Admittedly, that’s not much. The last couple of days, I haven’t felt too journal-wordy, either. I know it’s rooted in the Tuesday pain and Urgent Care visit, and some lingering right arm nerve pain from over-popping my shoulder around the same time. That just leaves me flat.

*By Sunday night, after dog sitting from Thursday night till Sunday afternoon, what started out as a mild pain and a whole lot of worry had turned into enough abdominal pain that I was emailing my doctor and popping a Percocet in hopes of having a few hours of relief and maybe a little uninterrupted sleep. Fortunately, the pain never returned after the meds wore off, and within a couple of days, I was being treated for the unexpected BONUS condition, in time for the BIG operation.*

(c) copyright 2020 William S. Friday

Panic Room

The third symptom was fear.

I thought I was taking things pretty well when the ER doc told me, “Your CT scan revealed a large mass on your right kidney.” Which, when you think about it, is not a something anyone is supposed to take well.

A short time earlier, my assigned ER nurse, another 59 year old man in seemingly perfect health, was joking with me about how what I was experiencing was probably the early stages of kidney stones. About how he knew a guy when he was in the navy who shot kidney stones, pain free, into the metal latrine urinals, and still remembered the sound of the stones going “PING” whenever his buddy passed another one.

Now, the time for jokes was over. I was being gurneyed by that same nurse, who decided that I shouldn’t have to wait for the technician to come get me. Because that same doctor who told me how large “large” was, also explained to me that this second CT scan would include a contrast dye, injected into my existing forearm IV, which would illuminate the mass three-dimensionally, on the second film.

While somehow, from the time my wheeling through the halls commenced, to when I arrived in the imaging suite, I began to notice that my body was shaking. Shivering, actually, as if the hospital temperature had dropped 20 degrees in the two minutes it took to go from one room to the other. Then, as I moved myself from the gurney to the table, the technician explained what would happen when the dye was injected… to expect a sudden, cold feeling in my pelvic region, followed by a sensation of urinating all over myself… and that was when the shivering became panic.

When I first thought, “This is…”

Back in high school, I was in the drama club. After getting cast in a couple of key supporting roles in the 9th and 10th grades when, from out of nowhere, I started to develop what I thought was stage fright. It made for a very short acting career. After high school, it followed me to college, and any public speaking I would have to do in a class. This stage fright continued into my early professional life. Any time I had to be in a meeting with management, any time I had to address clients, any time I had to record a message on an answering machine without a full written script, just to say the words, “Please leave a message at the beep”. And even though this intense fear of public speaking disappeared when I was in my mid-thirties, mysteriously… miraculously… in front of a roomful of sweet, older ladies at a radio advertiser luncheon, and never EVER returned, I still remember what out of control panic feels like.

After the shivering moved from my limbs to my lungs, and my breathing became shallow while my chest began to quake, the technician noticed what was going on in my body just as I was about to, for the second time, be conveyor-belted into the machine that looks like… warning, sci-fi reference… a tiny, single-occupancy Stargate. She asked if I wanted a blanket, to which I said,

“No thanks. It’s just fear.”

(c) copyright 2020 William S. Friday