For 16 years I’ve been an insulin dependent diabetic.
For 14 years I have had an insulin pump attached to me 24/7.
For the past year and a half I have been using my pump and taking shots because my insulin needs have been so great.
I poke my fingers to test my blood 3-10 times a day.
For 9 years I’ve been on thyroid medications.
For 2 years, since adding Myasthenia Gravis to my list of diagnoses, I take about 20 pills a day.
I try my best to grin and bear the many side effects of these medications. (Some days I am more successful than others.)
For a year and a half I have been receiving monthly IVIG therapy which means nurses pump me full of other people’s antibodies. It means two mornings at the hospital each hooked up to an IV and then feeling like I have the flu for about four days.
All of this has been fine. I’ve been able to appreciate that this is what keeps me going. It keeps me somewhat healthy.
But now there’s a new treatment and for some reason it’s not like the others. I can’t handle it the same way. Plasmapharesis is a different beast.
I dread these appointments. The night before I start feeling sick and all I want to do is sleep to escape it. As I get ready to go I feel anxious, angry and like I want to swear at everyone. Every instinct in my body is screaming at me to run away. But instead I put on my makeup to feel brave. I plod through the snow to the bus. I smile at the nurses when I arrive (it’s not their fault) and I climb into the prison of a hospital bed. I fight back the tears and roll up my sleeves. I do all that I can to make my veins cooperate (drink lots, keep them warm, squeeze the little ball). I bare my skin and offer it to them as they pierce me with the biggest IVs I’ve ever seen.
And then I sit for several hours and choke back my revulsion at the large metal skewer in my elbow. I don’t think about what would happen if I accidentally moved that arm. I pretend that my blood is not racing through my veins, much faster that it was ever intended to move, as they pull it all out, exchange my plasma, and feed it back in my other arm. I calm my mind and listen to music and tell myself that this is good. I will feel better. Universal health care and modern medicine are saving my life and keeping me functional.
I chat with the nurse as she pulls the needles out. I’m not grossed out when my blood splatters on the bed sheets and when my arm won’t stop bleeding. I leave, and smile, and thank her for her care. And I walk downstairs to the main entrance. Before I leave to catch the bus I stop in the washroom and as I enter the stall I sob with relief that it’s over. My body is shaking and my legs quiver and I feel like I’ve been assaulted. Then I pull myself together, wipe my face, wash my hands and go home, grateful that I have 4 weeks reprieve.
And when people ask “how was it today?” I answer “I hated it, but it was fine.”