Prompt for December 5th: Letting go: For next year, I’m letting go of…
I stood in my Rheumatologist’s office on Tuesday afternoon, clad in a paper gown and tights.
This Autumn marked seven years since my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis; seven years of blood tests and drugs and flares. Steroids. Injections. Tweaking dosages to get things just right. Weird side effects. Never fully achieving a remission.
In that mix, I’d had a cardiac episode; gone through a divorce; had several relapses of my eating disorder; travelled the world; run twelve marathons.
All in a day’s work.
My visit to my doctor was routine. I see him every four to six weeks in the ordinary course, as I have for seven years. Rain. Shine. Married. Divorced. Gainfully employed or not.
Sometimes I joke that my Rheumatologist is the one person in my life with whom I have ever been completely open and honest. With others, I clam up easily or I tell pieces of the truth and leave out vital information. With my doctor, I’ve always managed to tell him everything because he makes me feel…normal.
Throughout any of my health issues in the years since he’s been my doctor, he’s never treated me like a freak or a fragile baby bird as many of my other healthcare providers have or did.
He has always just treated me like…me.
All of this brought me to Tuesday, following the Jetlag Apocalypse, and found me paper-gown clad in the doctor’s office.
Where have you been travelling? he asked me, eyebrow raised. He didn’t even bother to ask if I had been travelling; he just assumed. I told him; told him I was just back. And he looked surprised, but he didn’t tell me why.
Then he examined me. Checked all the places prone to flares. And it was funny, because I hadn’t really thought about it, but while my body had felt sort-of stiff and yucky from over-training and some run-of-the-mills tendon problems in my foot, there was really nothing wrong. I hadn’t thought much of that. My joints were intact. My hands were working; my elbows — even the right one, where there was a significant erosion — were functioning well.
We then got into a conversation about running; about the marathon.
When’s the next one? he asked.
I ran Philly a few weeks ago, but I sucked at it, I said.
Listen, he replied, That you have even run ONE marathon is a miracle. I don’t even care about YOU, that you can do this makes ME feel good.
He was kidding, but he was serious, too. And we chuckled about it a little.
You’re doing fine, he said, Everything looks good. You don’t have to come back for three months.
And we both grinned, because that was huge. In the years since I’d been seeing him, I’d never been healthy enough to go that long between visits.
It made me think about the events of a few days prior, when I had been taking a morning swim at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. If you’ve never been to the pool at the Mandarin, it’s a weird, sort-of art deco-y place, and the pool is hemmed in on all sides by mirrors. If you hate to see yourself in a bathing suit, this would not be the swim club for you.
Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of seeing myself in a bathing suit.
But there I was — pale, swimsuit-clad, and exposed to the mirrored walls. And for the first time in a very long time I thought, Hey, I look pretty healthy.
So fast forward back to Tuesday, in my paper gown, where my doctor told me that I was right where I needed to be; that I was a success. And in the mirrors the week before, I’d seen a woman, and not an ogre in the reflection staring back at me.
It dawned on me then that I was in remission. And I was finally in recovery, too.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that my sick-self is not coming along with me into next year. Insofar as it is within my control, I’m letting go of All That. And insofar as it is not within my control, I’m letting go of All That too.