I now know what lab rats feel like. Say no to animal testing.

Amidst a frustratingly sad breakup that resulted in the tumultuous lost of my best friend and my immediate trust in people, I had to endure the unexpected deaths of a friend’s mother and my brother’s best friend, the premature mental health diagnosis of another friend’s mother, a tragic car accident that killed close friends of an acquaintance, a divorce of a close friend’s parents and the dognapping of my adopted dog all in one month. What a way to wrap up the year. All I can say is that it has been a loooooooooong December. (I’ve developed a idiosyncratic quirk that makes me ascertain a single song to capture my isolated momentous mood.)

A Long December
Counting Crows

A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember the last thing you said as you were leavin’
Now the days go by so fast

And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven… I wish you would

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California… I think you should

Drove up to the Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her

And it’s been a long December and there’s no reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better that the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

And it’s one more day up in the canyon
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean… I guess I should

But, despite all of this…which has weakened my soul and spirit to exhaustion…I feel more alive than I have felt in a very long time. I liken my sense of renewal to that of the Phoenix, the bird in Egyptian mythology that lived in the desert for 500 years and then consumed itself by fire, later to rise renewed from its ashes. I feel alive and I don’t want these tragedies to have happened in vain. If anything, it’s a scant reminder to not ever take things for granted. I cherish my life and will make do with what I have. I will not save things to wear on special occasions, I will not say maybe tomorrow, I won’t let not having enough money stop me from doing things and going places that I have yet to see or do, I will let those I love and care about know that they are the world to me, I will never take for granted my friends or family, I will not hold grudges and I will will myself to forgive and to accept the flaws in myself and in others.

Last Thursday, I finally scooped up enough sense and courage to go in and see my rheumatologist, Dr. Marilyn Solsky, whom I simply adore, for a much needed checkup. The last time I was in was probably April. I had a little scare last month when I spit in some blood while brushing my teeth. Overwhelmed by fear of not having enough time to finish my tasks here on Earth, I contacted her and she wrote me back and asked if she had told me it was serious, which she didn’t think it was, would I come in sooner. She subsided my fears so I felt compelled to go in and subside her own fears for me. She is by far the most compassionate and caring doctor I have ever met. And trust me, I’ve met a lot of doctors. I love her. She was so excited to see how well I looked. She told me that I had made her day. She expected me in worse condition and was amazed at how well I was doing. I confessed that I had stopped taking my medication, Plaquenil, after the first month and was morally opposed to starting the methotrexate, which is basically chemotherapy that has not been clinically proven or approved by the FDA. She basically was convinced, though she doesn’t quite know how, that my body was healing itself without the help of drugs. She trusted my methods and decided not to prescribe me any more medications. She only ask that I do some baseline tests so that she can make sure my internal organs were operating up to par. She did some blood work to test my thyroid and Vitamin D and B12 levels which were a little low the last time and wrote me up some test orders.

The next day was one of the loneliest days I’ve had in a really long time. After a long morning of making last minute doctor’s appointments for the year, I was able to fit all three new appointments around an existing dental appointment, I left work early around 11:30am to make a noon appointment for a pulmonary function test in Century City.

The PFT’s evaluate how well your lungs work. From WebMD, the tests determine how much air your lungs can hold, how quickly you can move air in and out of your lungs, and how well your lungs add oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from your blood. The tests can diagnose lung diseases and measure the severity of lung problems. Spirometry is the first lung function test done. It measures how much and how quickly you can move air out of your lungs. For this test, you breathe into a mouthpiece attached to a recording device (spirometer). The information collected by the spirometer may be printed out on a chart called a spirogram. The technician looked at my chart and then asked me how old I was. Then he gave me the saddest empathetic look that brought me to the verge of tears.

I then ran downstairs to get to my 1:00pm appointment for an echocardiogram. The Mayo Clinic states an echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of the heart. This common test allows your doctor to see the complicated dance that is your heart in motion — ventricles squeezing and relaxing, and valves opening and closing in rhythm with your heartbeat. Your doctor can use these images to identify various abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves. I had to check in as an outpatient at the Century City Hospital, complete with patient wristband and everything. It took awhile to check-in. I was called by a really warm technician named Lily. I’m so glad it was a woman because you have to completely undress from the waist up and lie down on an examining bed as the technician attaches sticky patches (electrodes) to your chest and presses a transducer covered in cold blue gel firmly against you to produce a live beating image of your heart. It’s like an ultrasound of a baby except it’s your heart. Very cool. Lily showed me all the different angles of my heart and gave me a brief refresher course on anatomy and the cardiovascular system.

It was 2:15 by the time I was dressed and out the door. I had to make it to the Miracle Mile for my 2:00pm dentist appointment for an orthodontic spacer. I am getting my teeth spaced so that the dentist can fit a crown in the very back of my mouth where there is currently no room for one. I was late. But, they were understanding and as always very cheery to see me. They are so sweet there. That was where I learned that one of the girls there was friends with the people who died in the terrible car accident in Los Feliz that Monday night. The girl said that it didn’t feel like the holidays. I told her I knew exactly how she felt and we held a moment of silence.

I was done by 4:00pm and had an hour and 45 minutes to kill before my next appointment at 5:45pm. By this time, I was exhausted. I decided to go home and pack so that I could just hop on the freeway after the CAT scan of the chest in Beverly Hills and drive down to Long Beach. I drove to Hollywood packed up all my presents for people, my laundry and overnight bag…it took 4 trips and made it back down to Beverly Hills five minutes late for my appointment. I thought they’d be upset because it seemed like I was the last person they were seeing for the day and that I was holding them up. It was the Friday before Christmas.

The lobby was empty but the receptionist was friendly and talkative and that made me feel better. I filled out some paperwork and waited for my name to be called. This is where I started to feel super lonely. Another man came in with his wife. He was getting a test done too. I wanted someone there with me to hold my hand. It’s kind of nice to have a support system. I found out that the other patient was a doctor himself. I thought it weird that he was here with me getting a test done. He is human like all of us, I suppose. Radiology Info states, CT of the chest is used to take a closer look at findings detected on conventional chest x-rays or may be used to investigate and try to explain clinical signs or symptoms of disease of the chest. The CT examination may provide more specific information regarding the nature and extent of the findings or, in some cases, determine that the chest is normal. I had a conventional chest x-ray done in the spring that came back normal. But, Dr. Solsky wanted reassurance. Into the room I went. The technician dictated the procedure over the loud speakers. I was alone. I started to twiddle my thumbs and move to a song that was playing in my head when he had asked me to hold still. It got super lonely in the CAT scan room. Granted, not as lonely as a MRI machine. I had to get a neurological test done once and that machine was one of the loneliest places on Earth. The technician who took my chest x-ray the last time did my CAT scan too. He’s a nice man who wished me well with whatever I had to face after we were done.

After a grueling day of being poked and prodded I was ready to just do nothing and relax with those who unconditionally love me. My family is my support network and they make me laugh uncontrollably. I don’t know what I would do without them. I love you guys.

Here’s to a great 2007 because frankly I don’t think it can get any worse than this. And if I can rise to the occasion in all of this craziness then I think I can do anything. I think I just grew some mad balls.

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