There was no denying that there was something seriously wrong with me.
I’ll just say this about it: there was black blood in the bowl when I looked back down. I’ve become an expert over the years at avoiding the little aches and pains. I can sit here and write this because I have never had a symptom that didn’t resolve itself, often with no help from me. But some things just can’t be denied, and so I knew had to go to urgent care.
Black blood portends nothing good. I felt like a lifetime of neglect and excess was now oozing out of me, demanding that I pay attention. Could it be fatal? I didn’t know. Do the reading on Google, as I did. It’s not encouraging, to say the least.
And so, I had to take stock. I looked around my apartment and wondered if I would ever see it again. Or if I would, when? And if when, who would have been in there in the meanwhile? Friends? My daughter? I had no idea. I wasn’t well enough to clean it properly on any account. There was no time to write a will, to leave instructions. Suddenly, there was no time. Just like that, I wondered if I was out of time, finally.
I may have talked myself out of leaving, but the trips to the toilet were becoming more urgent, more frequent, more painful. I packed some books and notebooks, some extra ink in my bag, put on my coat and shoes and left my apartment. I locked the deadbolt. I stopped and took what may have been one last look at my door, the umber 507. I was not certain that I would ever see it again.
This may seem a little over-the-top and melodramatic to some of you. But when you reach a certain age, as I have, and you live alone, as I do, then you have to at least account for the worst case scenario. Once you do, it’s not hard to spiral down and go to the bad place. To put it mildly, it was an emotional leave taking from my place. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so alone or vulnerable in my life.
After being poked and prodded and even entered (as it were), and having had my blood pressure taken scores of times, I was examined by a gastroscope-wielding specialist whose name I didn’t quite get. This involved sliding the instrument into my stomach by way of my mouth, a procedure that the doctor and nurse and others in the room sneakily knocked me out for. (Which I am so thankful for.) In their examination, they found a small vein that was “actively bleeding,” I think was how my doctor put it.
This they cauterized and in so doing, solved my problem. No more bleeding. Good thing, because my hemoglobin count was down a full third from all the blood I lost. They wanted to keep me in the hospital for three days to monitor me, but I checked myself out the next morning. I knew what we were all looking for; I told them I could monitor myself at home.
I had an AFA grant to apply for. I had an important rehearsal to attend for a collective play I am shepherding into existence. My doctor said sarcastically that it was too bad my healing was getting in the way of my busy schedule. I told him I am a person of the theatre and that there was nothing I could do about it.
So after all that, home and back in a little over 24 hours. I have no complaints about our health care system in Alberta, let me tell you. I was treated with consummate professionalism ever step of the way.
It took a little out of me. I’d already lost 25 pounds in 2016 and I lost another 5 throughout this ordeal. I’m a little weak still, probably from the loss of blood. But I was never so glad to get back to my place, to my own personal mess, the books that never manage to find their way onto shelf, the laundry that never gets put away, and to my very own bed.
And yet, something lingers . . . that dread that I felt when I closed my door and walked down the stairs of my apartment to the street and on to urgent care, that sudden awareness that we can delay the inevitable but we can’t cheat death, it will find us all. Never had I felt it more intensely before. The chill lingers, even though it looks like it missed me. This time.
I’m glad to be here. I really am. I don’t really care that I had a rotten night’s sleep. I don’t mind that it’s cold outside again, because I can go outside, again. I have a play to get into production. I have a book to finish. I still have things to do. I’m thankful to be here.
If you are reading these words, I suggest you look around and give thanks for what you have, in your own way.
For all it’s problems, it’s still a beautiful world after all.