Fatigue was the only symptom that plagued me. The kind of fatigue where moving a toe felt like lifting a truck. It was reminiscent of early pregnancy, when you’re building a life support system. When I say I’m exhausted now, I most often recant because I know how bad real fatigue feels.
Several months ago, I had the shingles. Until then, I thought it was a virus that only struck the elderly. At first, I thought the bumps were strange bug bites and wondered where I had ventured and what creature may have greeted me with its teeth.
I went to a weekend urgent care physician, and she informed me I needed to wait it out and that I may experience some pain at the site. So I did. I waited. There was no pain and the fatigue seemed to come in waves, which to me, symbolized that it was waning.
A couple of nights later, after my daughter was fast asleep, I began to feel like my head was burning. It started off subtle, signaling me to take my temperature. Well, the heat I felt didn’t match the thermometer reading. I was still at 98.6 degrees, but felt like I was at 102 and gliding toward 110. I could lay an unwrapped ice pack on my head for an hour and it did very little to soothe the burning. Even my eyes were on fire, making lights turn into daggers.
The next day we called the doctor and an MRI was scheduled, as well as an appointment with a Neurologist. My physician’s primary concern, based on all of my symptoms, was possible Multiple Sclerosis. This is where I was on the phone, but couldn’t hear sentences, only words. Words like, “concerned”, “neurological”, “disease” and “precaution”. This is where you suddenly feel completely aware of your senses and surroundings. You see, hear and feel everything magnified times one hundred of the norm.
I must’ve been pretty sick because even the shock didn’t sink in until after the MRI, when the burning just sort of died in the course of a day. The fatigue was still very much alive and kicking. Now, I had to wait for the results. I was informed they would take approximately two days, which as I saw it was 2880 minutes of waiting and wondering.
I crashed head on into my mortality. We all, subconsciously, feel like we’re immortal until an illness or a birthday provokes us to question it. My emotions were schizophrenic. One minute, I was thinking Montel Williams and Terry Garr have this and they are fully functioning. I was thinking Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s Disease and he’s still doing guest spots on The Good Wife. I was thinking of what type of foundation I could start and pour my heart into to find a cure. Positive, positive, positive.
The next minute, I was watching my daughter and wondering if she would suffer in the wake of a positive diagnosis. For the next two days, I lived like I only had two days left.
I looked into my daughter’s eyes every time I spoke to her. They never strayed to daydream or check something on my iPhone. When we were speaking, our surroundings completely melted away. It was just her, our words and me. We were floating.
I gave her my undivided attention when she asked me a question. I listened and thoughtfully formulated an answer. I spent minutes on simple words following “why”, “where” or “what”. Seeing and hearing were my only senses.
When I hugged her, I paid attention to how her head felt settled on my shoulder and her curly hair tickled my cheek. I noticed how tight she hugged me. I could hear her breath and quiet giggle as she embraced me. Touch and hearing were my only senses.
When she played, I watched her and made about 100, mental 8 mm movies. There was action when she ran around the island in our kitchen. There was sadness, when she stepped on a toy. There was anger when I asked her to go potty and to bed. There was glee, when she read about princesses. There was animation when she did pretend play with her stuffed animals. Each movie carried several minutes of my undivided attention. A camcorder could catch the words and moving pictures, but my mental camera could capture each emotion I felt at every minute.
If my life was going to change, I wanted to remember how it felt to be with her and healthy. If my life was going to change, I might not notice these little things as much. If my life was going to change, I wanted to hold on to this bin of mental movies and play them to remind myself of what’s most important.
After those 2880 minutes and then some, I received the results of my MRI and it was “mostly” clear. I hate when they use the word “mostly” because there’s a small seed of doubt something might develop in the future. It’s CYA for the radiologist, but a “to be continued” for me. Regardless, the Neurologist was confident that I did not have MS and that I most likely had Viral Meningitis, which was frightening, yet reassuring.
I will never forget how I felt during every one of those 2880 minutes and if I ever forget, I have a mental library of 8 mm movies I can replay and realize that I am here now. I am alive. I am healthy. And, I am lucky to live my life with my loved ones at my side.