(The things that prednisone does to me. The field where I lay my body. A snake. Coming to grips with that thing called mortality).
Pills everywhere. Lined up on the surface of my coffee table. I count the pills. Stare at the pills. I take the pills. Shove them into my gullet and let them start their journey. Water them. Feel them disperse in the void that is my body. It’s just before midnight. I’m sitting on my couch. Half aware of the TV droning away; advertising the latest state-of-the-art exercise equipment promising me I will: “Get the body you deserve.”
I have a body, thanks. A broken body… which anymore is just a receptacle for pills.
I take my prednisone. Tiny white pills lined up in a nice row on my coffee table. My final dose for the day.
The only medication that I am currently allowed to take. My Dr. told me to keep taking it. In a few hours I am to report to the hospital for surgery. Thank you Crohn’s.
Get the body you deserve? Body by Crohn’s? Nobody deserves this.
A few hours later my prednisone “thoughts” arrive like sky-falling anvils. Just not the cartoon kind. Their impact is violent. Skittering about my mind; fracturing it like a sheet of ice. Cracks radiate out from the center of my brain. Each hairline another thought that spider-webs out into a void of darkness and fear. I travel each and every jagged splinter. A disjointed maze that never ends, only spills back on itself forcing me to start at the beginning again.
My Dr. had instructed me to keep taking the prednisone. That it would help prepare my body for the “shock of surgery”. His words not mine. And just before surgery they will give me an even higher dose.
I imagine the pills as tiny cars swallowed by the highway that is my throat. I am behind the wheel of all of them. Gas pedals jammed to the floor as I drive down the old roads lost in the unfamiliar shadows someplace far from here. To some field where I can lay my body. Soak in some rays. Recapture my simpler life. My life before I had ever heard the word “Crohn’s”. The field is wide, broken up only by some trees and a smattering of clouds that take the shape of nothing. I could lay there all day. Send for my wife and son.
You ever see a field like that?
One of the more cruel realities of life though – we can’t escape ourselves. Nor our broken body.
Body by Crohn’s.
I decide to head to bed. A few hours will be up soon enough. Besides, I’ve seen this cop show already. I figured it out within the five minutes the first time. It’s the girlfriend in the hospital bed. Hospital bed. Who wants to watch that crap?
An hour later I am in my bedroom. You see, that’s what prednisone does to me. An hour before I decided it was time to go to bed. An hour later I make it there. I’m in an endless loop of not being able to shut down. Can’t turn off. My brain betrays me with every thought. Mulling over that dreadful word in my mind: surgery. I pass “Go” a thousand times. I’m playing this game alone; and not winning. I brush my teeth. Then I floss. Then I brush them again because my gums bled and I hate the thought of any blood inside my mouth. I use mouthwash. I’m careful not to ingest anything. Don’t feed me after midnight. Not the night before surgery at least.
The thought of surgery has scared the “you know what” out of me. And I really don’t have any of that stuff left.
Surgery. Such an ugly word. In my world “Surgery” is a four letter word that even the most foul-mouthed truckers don’t use. Ever since my GI referred me to a proctologist the word has been bantered about. Seems there are things growing deep within me. Bad things that the good Dr. wants to remove.
There is an abscess that each day weaves deeper and deeper into my flesh. Filling in like a deep lake bed carved out by a glacier after a long ago ice age. Can you see the sign? No swimming allowed!
There is a fistula, opening into itself like a black hole in space, a looped Möbius strip. I simultaneously drown in the lake and get sucked into the void. These things are carving out the good pieces of me and replacing them with something I can’t, as of yet, name. Something fades. Something takes its place. The good tissue loses ground. While the bad whittles away some more prime real estate in my colon.
Maybe it was because I was 36 and couldn’t believe my body had betrayed me. Just beneath the surface of my skin the word “Invincible” was tattooed over and over, everywhere. Of course I only saw this on a subliminal level. But of course, I believed it. Who doesn’t? Isn’t it amazing, the shit we tell ourselves? You’re different. You’re special. It won’t happen to you. Slowly but surely over the last few months the word “Mortal” had crept in and coiled around my spine. Squeezed tight, zero to my bones, held fast between tissue and muscle. It’s a snake in the tall grass in that field I told you about. The one where I want to lay my body. Where I want to recapture what isn’t there. I hear the snake hissing to me in my dreams. Showing up in my prednisone induced trances. I don’t dare speak to it though. Nor face it. I avoided it, in my eyes, just now when I brushed my teeth in the weary hours of this “surgery” morning. I can feel it sliding just beneath the surface of things. It is there in my dimples when I force myself to smile in the mirror. (Of course, it has always been there).
A week ago I almost canceled the surgery. I had gotten out of the shower during which I had felt my abscess “pop” and drain. It was a wonderful feeling. I saw “Invincible” soaring beneath my skin again. Of course it was only a partial “pop.” Only a small portion of the lake had drained. A small hole in the dam had burst and I thought the entire wall had come down. I mistakenly thought the antibiotics Cipro and Flagyl had finally worked. The abscess conquered by modern medicine. Who needs surgery? Even if it is “outpatient.” Not this guy.
Later that same day I spoke with my mother-in-law. Told her how things had changed that I didn’t need the surgery. Of course she informed me that wasn’t a good idea. Of course she was right. Within a day things were worse. The dark lake topped off. A late summer storm dumped some ten inches of rain stirring up the silt and dirt until the water was a murky brown. A crooked sign jammed in the muddy bank. No swimming allowed! And I continued to drown in the pain of the thing.
As I finally head to bed I stop to look out our picture window. A half hour later I glance at my watch. Another detour through the black hole of my fistula. Really all this pain from the fistula and abscess is like a giant highway of fly paper. I’m stuck on the melting tar of that highway. I can’t pull over. There are no exits on this stretch of the road. In the distance there is a lovely field awash in tall grass and something else stirring just there between the green, still blades.
All this fear in me. All this fear for simple outpatient surgery.
It is shortly after 6:00 am. We are leaving our subdivision for the hospital. It is still dark. There is nothing to see. Only the moon out the window. The steady hum of the tires lulls me into a trance. In the distance somewhere lies the hospital. It is the field where I will go to lay my body. Where I will have to, in slow trepidation, look into myself. To face the snake sliding there just beneath my eyes. To somehow muster the strength to say, in an albeit shaky voice: “Hello.”