Closing the Door   11 comments

There was no denying that there was something seriously wrong with me. chumir

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.

Posted February 4, 2017 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

11 responses to “Closing the Door

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  1. Really enjoyed “The Piano Teacher”. I’m about your age so many of your comments were exactly how I have been feeling. Please keep writing. Hope I can see you at a book signing or at an author tour. Want to travel to northern Alberta? Beautiful up here in the summer.

  2. You don’t know me, I don’t know you, I have only known of you. I taught dance alongside the drama teacher Rick Jobb at Crescent Heights High School until his retirement. Thankfully I did because now I also teach drama! He always said “eat your ice cream while it’s on your plate”, live like someone left the gate open”. I get the impression you have lived life like this. I hope you can lean on your friends. finish your will and know every day matters for time and well being. I appreciated the openness and sincerity in your personal account although it was an unpleasant reminder of how life can slowly fade behind us but so quickly. Best wishes to feel better and do what you love to do.

  3. While a traumatic experience, you are fortunate to have been giving the valuable “learning moment”. Indeed, we all run out of time. Be conscious of the truly important things in every moment. Get your will done! Very happy for you and all of us who enjoy your work that there is a happy ending.

  4. Glad it’s ended well, and to be reminded that “the end” sneaks up on us more often than not. At age 58, every time in the past decade that my body has done some weird thing, my first thought has been “Am I dying or what?” It’s ridiculous but there you have it. At least you had the good sense to get yourself to a doctor; some of us would’ve ignored symptoms, as if they’d go away, given half a chance. -Kate

  5. You are well. Good. Odd that we need these “life shocks” every once in awhile to remind us to value ourselves, our bodies and every moment we are lucky enough to live. Take good care. We need our story tellers.

    Sandra Crozier-McKee
  6. Eugene – glad to hear the outcome. As you and I both know, I can fully relate. The lack of time to process and prepare is what hits you – glad that time is once again on your side my friend.

  7. Hey Eugene,

    Very glad to hear you are still with us. I finally decided to try to be a real writer. Must have horseshoes somewhere. Have a GN with Nimbus coming out in 2018, a narrative poem that might land with another, and I’m working on another GN (all historic fiction). Kind of a late launch, for me, but, who knows? We may both live forever.


  8. Hi Eugene ,I am so glad to hear and know you are perfectly Ok! You are fine and it is just a small case to you —stomach ulcer caused small you need pay more attention to new bleeding as well as intake more protein-rich food and increase the Hemoglobin as soon as possible,furthermore,don’t consume any alcohol or alcohol-related drinks plus no cigarettes at all during your ongoing recovery from this disease. I ,sincerely ,hope you stay healthy! Good luck! God bless you!

  9. Enjoy the sunshine today and take care.

  10. I’m very glad they caught it quickly. As someone who grew up in a hospital and have lived my life with the results of polio I often get frustrated with how little attention people give to their bodies and take how it operates for granted. Like your bicycle, your body also needs an annual check up. Your play will be a lot more successful if you are still around for the production. Take care of yourself and look at your body with the same level of detail that you used to describe leaving your home…annual check up’s my friend, take care and glad to know you are on the rebound. Now get that will written, if you’re like me it’s pretty straight forward when you have little to leave and only one daughter but you are doing her a favour while protecting your writing legacy (you don’t want some public trustee deciding the fate of your life’s work) with a simple 3 page will…become a sage not a senior

  11. A beautifully written account, Eugene. I will think of this piece as a well considered reminder to treat myself well, and to treat others well.

    An engaging and provocative start to my day. Thank you.

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