A Word on Vices

I'd like to talk about the things that kill us: Vices. 

What a week. A diagnostic one. A trip to the doctor this past monday found me urinating in a cup for a quick analysis, then my blood drawn and sent to the lab for further tests. The doctor suspected something, but stayed uncommitted. She told me to go home and rest. I did. I spent the day on the couch, nursing a headache. Overcome by lethargy, blurry vision, and insatiable thirst, I watched TV, slept, ate and drank water. I thought I had cancer. 

Tuesday I stayed in bed most of the day. Slept. I slipped in and out of consciousness and refrained from eating sugar. Irritable, I fought with my wife for no reason; maudlin, I cried over nothing. 

Wednesday, I began feeling better. I even told a joke or two. Seeing my wife smile was a wonderful thing. I wrote. I waited for the blood reports to come in. Whatever news it would give me would be awful, I knew, but there was a slight hope, a chance that I might be spared the fate that killed my grandmother and my grandfather. 

Thursday, the doctor called me. Her suspicions were confirmed. She said I have type 2 diabetes, advanced stage. She says I must have had it for years. My heart sank. What else? She said my LDL cholesterol was at critical levels. She ordered me to see her diabetes specialist Dr. Hana the following day. I  made the appointment online. 

Friday, my wife and I drove to San Francisco to the medical clinic, met with Dr. Hana. After another urine analysis she suggested I check into a hospital. I refused. What was all this fuss? We settled on a different plan. I would drink a gallon of water, eat a light breakfast and see her in a couple of hours. 

While at breakfast Dr. Hana called. She said she spoke to her colleagues about my case and they ordered her to order me to the ER. Her voice sounded urgent. I told her I would drive back to Napa, where we live, and check into Queen of the Valley. 

I spent a night in the ER. The nurses set up a saline drip that pumped fluid into my veins. Every few hours a nurse or doctor would visit me and check my blood pressure, inject me with insulin, give me pill to swallow. I slipped in and out of consciousness. 

Through it all my wife's love and care and attention sustained me. She saved my life. Every few hours I was taught the facts of diabetes, how to manage it. The nurses instructed me on how to use the blood glucose monitor, how to inject myself with insulin. The nutritionist visited me to teach me how to read the food labels on packaging. I was handed packets to read, all while my head felt ready to burst. 

The reality: I am a diabetic. My relationship to food and drink has instantly changed. I am no longer free to eat and drink what I want, to abuse my body with alcohol, nicotine, sodas, coffee, cream, fatty bacon and red meat, et. al. I am forced by my failed pancreas to inject myself four times a day with insulin, consume pills to keep me alive. 

I know that by following a proper diet and getting plenty of exercise and rest, I can overcome my dependence on insulin and the drugs, but that reality seems far-fetched at this moment. Right now, I am, no pun intended, digesting this new situation. It is sobering to think that a man who has never been in the hospital (except for the day he was born), who has never broken a bone, or undergone surgery of any kind, now has to face this life-threatening disease. Will my toes be amputated? Will I go blind? Will I lose my hearing? Writers are trained to see the glass half empty. 

There is more to say and it is late and I am dizzy from the insulin shot that burns in my stomach and works its way through my system. There is more for me to say and I will say it. I will try. I only hope I have the words. At this moment, I don't have perspective. Not yet. This feeling in me is still raw. 

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