Not as in "homesick" but, rather, at home, sick. Day 3. Misery.
Tea and saltines have become my constant companions, and yesterday was one of those sick days where you literally cannot do anything except move from couch to bed. And back again.
I couldn't even focus enough to read, and going to the drugstore to pick up a prescription was agony--the noise, the bright lights...the waiting. My sister's observation that 'all my senses are heightened' right now was aptly and ironically right. Senses heightened when feeling the lowest.
It started Tuesday night, innocuously enough, I thought.
I was doing my standard after-work 4km, and was albout half-way through when my vision suddenly went wonky. I gave my head a shake (truly I did, like I thought, "hey, this will help") and stopped running abruptly. I looked up at a nearby street sign. There were two of them, one on top of the other, diagonally. Well, there wasn't really two of them--but my eyes thought there were. I stopped even walking, and looked at the ground, breathing hard, suddenly aware they my head was hurting. Really hurting. And I was halfway through my run, meaning, I still had to get back to my car, which was 2 km away. I walked back. It felt alot further away then it was. I got back to my car, had water ( somehow I connected how weird I felt to dehydration, but downing one bottle, then another, of water, did very little.)
I managed to drive home, telling myself all was well, and believing it for a while, until my headache would swell up again, like a wave cresting, and then "crash"....land solidly on the shore, in this case the shore being the back of my head, right side, the crash causing a pain I'd never felt before, not even last week, when that three-day-headache followed me around, from work, to home, to sleep, to morning, pills having no effect on its stubborn presence.
This was nothing like that. This wasn't "I can manage" pain. This was, "Get-me-home-to-a-dark-room-block-out-the-world" kind of pain.
I got home. I blocked out the world. I had some gingerale and some tylenol, all which decided to make a re-appearance a short time later. I lulled myself into a fitful sleep thinking that sleep would get rid of this monster.
I awoke early Wednesday morning, five-am early, and washed down some Advil with water. That bought me two hours more sleep, and some respite (not all, but enough for me to shower, get ready for work, and go. And call my doctor on the way in to get an appointment, which I luckily did).
Computers, phones, talking, brightness. Soup for lunch. Eating gingerly, but hungrily. The echo of my headache (irony again) at the back of my mind.
Bright again (and bright, so bright, outside). No waiting. I describe my headache episode, hopefully. As in 'fix me'. Hoping for pills, ones that will work. He writes everything down. Checks my eyes, neck, blood pressure. Sits back down, writes some more.
"I don't want to scare you, but when a headache comes on like this, it is sometimes something that we can't see just by looking at you." I must have looked blank.
"Meaning, you need to get this looked at, have a scan, so that anything serious, like a bleed in the brain, can be ruled out".
Me, in my (aching) head: "What?"
And then, out loud, "Okay".
Because I was already scared. I'd been scared last night when my vision had altered and I'd been entertaining these kind of skittering thoughts since then. Worry. What to do about it. Now, the doctor was telling me to go to emergency and get the scan done immediately.
"I'll write you a note", he said, scribbling something illegible on a piece of prescription-pad paper and handing it to me. "You can go to any emergency room".
Me: "Okay" again.
So I left, went back to work, sent an email to my boss, talked to both my bosses on the way back downtown, letting them know the situation. I got home, changed out of my workclothes, and walked to St. Michael's hospital, down the street. Registered at the emergency ward. Confused when the nurse asked me if I'd been there before. "Well, I was born here..." but that was not really what they meant, I think.
Paperwork processed, I settle in to wait. And wait I do. Arriving at 3pm or so, I saw a doctor around 7pm. After I'd been shown into the room where one waits for the doctor, I lay down, lights off, to get some relief from the endless noise and lights of the hospital. My headache was gaining strength after four hours in a chair, with nothing to read. Only a screen to stare at, the same endless-news-headlines on a boring, monotonous loop.
After seeing the doctor, I go to wait for someone to bring me up to get the scan done. This happens pretty fast in hospital-time. Under half an hour. I go upstairs with the hospital porter, to the neurology floor, where I snag a magazine (Toronto Life Fashion, but I'm desperate at this point) and I am told to sit and wait (another waiting area, it seems impossible) for the scan. However, the lighting on this floor is dimmer, and it's quiet. So I sit, quiet too, and read. And think about the scan. I don't know how it works. Does it hurt? I'm scared. And the hospital itself--I realized I haven't been near one since last year, when my Dad was at Lakeridge in Oshawa. When I was there almost every day for well over a month.
The scan-tech arrives and ushers me into a large room, huge windows, almost dark out (it's nearly 9pm at this point). Gives me the instructions--to lie on the stretcher-bed, and not to move my head at all. And to close my eyes as the bed backs up into a giant open-mouthed machine, as there are laser-lights on the way in.
"You can open your eyes now" he says, from far away.
"Can I keep them closed?" I ask.
"Yes" he says back.
I don't open my eyes. I concentrate on breathing. Deeply. Calmly. I think about my father. All the treatments. The procedures. How even when people were around him, he must have felt utterly alone at times. Isolated by illness, aggrieved by his own worsening condition. Being the head of the family, still. Trying to keep up that end of things by being strong and seemingly untouchable during his own trial-by-fire.
Lying stone-still in the cat-scan machine, nevertheless I felt the tears falling, nowhere to go but down the sides of my prone face, falling into my ears of all places. I tried to channel my dad as I lay there. The scan-tech did not tell me how long it would take, I had guessed not long, he was pretty brisk about it all. But I channelled my dad anyway, hoping for some of his calm demeanor, that had seen him through the worst of his illness.
I called to him, silently, in my head. I think he heard me. I stopped crying and just lay there, still working on calming my breath.
The scan ended abruptly, I got up, almost losing my balance as I did so. Went back out to wait some more. But I brought the magazine with me back to the emergency ward, and the tylenol 2's that a nurse had given me a couple of hours before were making everything slow down, even my racing heart.
Another hour. Then the doctor came in with the 'all clear' results of the scan. I'm overjoyed inside. I really wasn't sure what to make of this hideous, rogue headache. Now all it can be is a run-of-the-mill, catch-me-if-you-can headache. Which it is. And is still. I get a prescription for tylenol 2's and a copy of the scan results, that state clearly 'your head is fine' (not in those words, but you know).
I go home, on foot. I eat some rice. I go to bed, head still reminding me who's in charge.
Next day, Thursday now. I don't go to work. It's an effort to even go to the drugstore to pick up the prescription, but I do, if only to help get rid of this insistent, nagging pain. I sleep most of the day, and all of the night. And I wake up, Friday morning now, with the headache still in tow. But--it's weakening. And as it weakens, I start to feel slightly stronger.
It's now Friday afternoon. I've had at least four cups of tea, innumerable saltines, and two lovely pain pills. I've had a bath and some gingerale. It's still ever-bright out, and I've kept the blinds closed to avoid the light. But I did make it across the street to the little store to see if the New Yorker was in (it wasn't) and I picked up my mail. The effort left me a bit dizzy, but still upright.
And now I'm here, online, a place I haven't been since the whole ordeal began. And I can't run all weekend. (not that I want to do much of anything. I haven't had a proper meal in going-on four days and no coffee either).
But just writing it down helps, it helps make sense of it all somehow, that my body wanted a rest, a break, and I don't usually give in to it that easily.
This is a good reminder that sometimes--one must.