Thursday, December 07, 2006

That Old Familiar Feeling

When the doctor phones and says he needs you to call him back, generally speaking it's not a good thing. So I was a little (only a little) alarmed to get a message from the neurologist saying precisely that. Apparently, some of the bloodwork from October finally came back, and was not particularly promising.

Over the phone, the doctor asked me about lingering symptoms; I detailed some of what I'd been experiencing after ending the oral steroids. His response: "Really? That's weird." "Doctor, that's not exactly the reaction I was hoping for," I teased. He laughed, "Hey, I'm only human -- I don't have all the answers." Apparently, I've been assigned the world's only modest medical specialist.

It's funny -- I run my hand over the back of my neck, and it doesn't seem any different. There's no redness or mark of any kind. But something in there is playing havoc with my nerves. Numb hands, numb arms, numb back, numb neck, numb tongue, numb face, numb legs... An attempt at running over the weekend proved disastrous. "Doctor, I really don't want the IV steroids again." "I know," he said gently, "I know." He's scheduled two new MRIs for Friday, to follow up on things. Another trip to Tokyo. Maybe another hospital stay. I want to refuse.

That evening, after everyone else had gone home, I dropped the coffee mug I keep for use at work. It shattered, spraying shards of Korean-printed ceramic all over the bathroom tile. I don't know why I dropped it: was it my hands? I held my breath, waiting to see what my reaction would be. Nothing. A total emotional blank. I gathered up the pieces as best I could, and left the remainder for the cleaning crew.

Everything seems so far removed from me. Someone else's cup, someone else's hands. Someone else's mess.

The worst part is knowing what a boring conversationalist I've become. My urge is to give a running commentary: "Today, my left ear is numb, but not the right. It actually feels warm, like I smeared it with IcyHot. Is my ear red? It feels like it would be red. My forearms are numb today, too. But not as bad as yesterday. Yesterday I was numb up to here. Am I walking funny? Because I think my feet might be getting numb. Hard to say since it's so cold out." and so forth. People's well of compassion and patience runs dry pretty quickly. Which is only natural -- if the laws of nature were strictly applied, I'd be left out on an ice floe somewhere. I'd be trying to sell gum to tourists at a kitschy streetside beer garden like the woman we saw in Hanoi. She was shaking so badly, 'Madam please' her whole body a twitchy tremor intent on her begging. What do you do with people like that? You ignore them. "What do you think was wrong with her?" I asked the group later. A shrug, "Probably MS." Oh? Is that all?