I spend my days and nights wondering what will be the next thing wrong with me. Analyzing every ache, pain, bump or bruise. I've been this way for as long as I can remember. It would really frustrate my parents, especially my mother. As a pre-teen, I was terminally ill at least once a month. This was pre-internet, or at least pre-my access to it, so I had to stick with the things I knew. The most popular ailment of the time: brain tumor.
I used to get constant headaches when I was younger. Sometimes mild, sometimes just enough to be annoying, but occasionally, they were knock down, lie in my room in the dark, in the cold, buried under the blankets, please don't speak in anything more than a whisper headaches. Those were the headaches that gave me the ammunition. These were the headaches that were caused by my brain tumor.
Sidebar: I am not making light of anyone who may be suffering from a brain tumor. Just recounting a story.
I suppose that my incessant yammering about my impending doom, along with one of the aforementioned headaches, finally drove my mother to the point of taking me to the hospital. She knew it was serious, at least to me, when I physically couldn't function because of the red-hot spike that was dead center in my skull. By far, the longest trip in a car, ever. In the real world, that trip was less than 20 minutes. In my world, where every bump in the road equated to John Henry driving that spike another inch deeper into my brain, the trip may have lasted 4 years.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I was taken into a room and provided with a life-long fear of needles. The poor nurse who attended me may have been new or just bad at drawing blood, but she ruined me for life. I'm sure that it didn't help that around that time, I also used to get the most ridiculous heat rash in the crook of my arms. (In case that's a country term, it's the other side of my elbows.) So, I'm Black, then it's summer so I'm even BLACKER, and on top of that, I have this rash which has discolored my skin even more, exactly in the place where she needs to take blood. She assures me that it will only be a little pinch, but she lies. Chalk it up to my heightened sensitivity because of the
brain tumor headachemigraine, but it felt like she had just sliced into my arm with a sword and a dull one at that. She is a very aware nurse, I will give her that, for she recognized right away that she wasn't in a vein (hence the lack of blood draining from my body) and that I was in pain. The latter, though, she probably realized because I was screaming like a banshee.
Now, instead of removing the needle and taking another STAB at me. I know, I'm sorry, bad pun. She decided that it would be easier if she just moved the needle around in my arm until she found some blood. I am not joking. I have now completely forgotten about my head because my arm is on fire. I screamed. And screamed again. And again. Until the nurse got scared and I told my mom to make her take it out and go away. My mom, being the superhero that she is, obliged. The nurse, who was just trying to do her job, informed my mom that she had to get blood for tests. I yelled out to get someone else to do it. The nurse looked like I just stole her puppy. I was in too much pain to feel bad.
After being admitted, and several rounds of testing, the esteemed hospital staff diagnosed me with, and I couldn't make this up folks, an allergy to cheese and hot dogs. Staples for a pre-teen on summer vacation. They told my mother to keep me away from the processed foods. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Not eating a hot dog will cure me forever! Tomorrow, I'm having a hot dog.
Yesterday, after I got out of the shower, I looked at myself in the mirror and it kicked in. I started thinking. Why haven't I put any weight back on? I had the flu and lost it, but it hasn't come back and it always comes back. Am I getting too skinny? Is something wrong with me? And in the mirror, I have this arguement with myself. You can't be sick or your body wouldn't bother to bloat up for your period. But it goes away as soon as it's over. You can't be sick or else your hair wouldn't be growing so rapidly. What if that's some freak symptom? You're not sick. What about my skin? What about this spot, or that spot? Give it up and go to bed already, would you?
So I did. I went and laid down. With dinner only 3 hours gone by, I wondered why in the world would I be hungry at that moment? I had some water thinking it would help. I soon realized that it wasn't that I was hungry, but I was feeling a bit nauseated. This too, I thought would pass. But it didn't. It got to the point where I had to get up and take something for it. Hello Pepto my old friend, I've come to chew you up again. It must be psychosomatic that as soon as the Pepto hits my mouth and I chew it, I feel better. Finally, better enough to rest.
Until about 3 minutes later when my shoulder starts to hurt. Of course, being who I am, I immediately start to think that I'm dying. I lay in my bed worrying, wondering. Should I say anything? It is my left side. What if I'm just being stupid? But the pain is getting worse. There's nothing wrong with you, it's just an old injury flaring up. But WHAT IF IT ISN'T?!?! Just lay here quietly and stop freaking out. I tried that. The pain dissipated as the yucky feeling did. The psychosis did not.
I wanted to feel my heartbeat. Make sure it was normal. I couldn't feel it. With my hand on my chest as still as I could be, I couldn't feel my heart beating. Common sense told me it still was otherwise I'd be dead, but that was not comforting. I tried for the aortic pulse. It was there, but faint. It seemed to be hiding behind some swollen glands. That are now a lump. And I wonder if something is wrong with me. And what would happen if I died right there. And a wave washed over me. Can't quite explain it but it freaked me out even more. Somehow, common sense yelled loud enough to get past all the other voices in my head. It said, "You're just sleepy, dumbass". Somehow, that didn't calm me. I laid awake. Worrying. Scared that something was wrong. Scared that I might die if I fall asleep. Scared that if I stroked out that no one would even notice till morning when it would be way too late. Scared that I haven't done a quarter of the things I want to do, seen a quarter of the places I want to see.
As I laid in bed, paranoid, a lone tear rolled down my cheek and made it's way into my hair. I made it through the night and the waking hours aren't so scary.