I’m a full-time healthcare provider. To myself. People assume that you’re cured after transplant, and that you go on your merry way with your phenomenal donor lungs and you live forever and ever with just the odd complication, sail through life, find a partner, have a lovely courtship, get engaged, get married in between a fabulous career
and shit and maybe even have a baby and yeehaw, THIS IS YOUR LIFE. YAY!
But stuff happens. Unglamorous stuff like bowel obstructions, cancer that will keep returning, anaemia, addiction, diabetes, painful infusions for osteoporosis, rejection, migraines, lung infections, chronic sinus, life threatening blood clots, and that one time when your adrenal system fails you and you literally drop dead at your friends funeral where your Mum has to resuscitate you. Talk about stealing someone’s thunder, but apparently I ‘died’ very elegantly and without much fuss. Side note: Thanks Mum and the White Ladies who diverted traffic so I could be ferried across a main road to a medical centre.
And so last week, I started uni. You would think two courses would be simple enough, even if I’ve missed out on the first three weeks of lectures and tutorials because my enrolment was all very eleventh hour*.
After I’d slept all day Monday and all night, I woke up exhausted yesterday, unable to get out of bed. I tried to convince myself that I was ok, to the point of saying out loud, ‘I’m fine. Really, I am. It’s just the general anaesthetic that’s making me feel yuck. I AM NOT GETTING A CHEST INFECTION.’ I repeated this until I started getting breathless, which was about third canon in. I felt like I was coming down with the flu, had a productive cough; I was having hot and cold sweats and my resting pulse rate was 100.
My gem of a Dad rushed me off to hospital and dropped me off with my overnight bag – the same overnight bag I gave a stern lecture to on Saturday morning after I went home the following day after my sinus surgery, in that I didn’t want to see it again for the foreseeable future, unless it was for a dirty weekend or for my trip out bush later this month.
I sat on my bed and did something I rarely do. I cried. It’s not that I’m a hard human being. In fact, the most benign things make me cry. Music mostly. It is easily the most affecting art form, but crying makes me feel torpid and vulnerable. I want to push myself away from myself, but I can’t because I’m so present in my body. Crying also gives me a roaring headache and I end up wondering what I was even crying about, because everything that I should have cried over (but didn’t) bleeds into what I’m feeling, and I cry like a kid who’s had his Tonka truck taken away.
But back to yesterday. I underwent my usual tests after which I saw a doctor I’ve known for a couple of years. We’re not ‘close’, and while I don’t know him particularly well, he’s an excellent doctor. He took my blood pressure, looked at my tattoo and said, ‘that looks fresh.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘It’s nearly five years old. It probably looks so good because I don’t go out in the sun and I slather myself in sunscreen. I’ve got really good genes too. Apart from the C.F ones, I mean. You should see my Mum. She looks amazing for her age.’
He raised his eyebrows and nodded. I’d rambled too much, and so cleared my throat, closed my mouth and darted my eyes southward to the benign hospital carpet. I either say too much, or too little. There seems to be no middle ground. For example, I’m currently crushing on someone who doesn’t know it (or maybe he does – who knows, but if you do, speak up, because I can’t!) who I’ve only ever managed a smile or a ‘thank you’, or a really loud ‘hi!’ or ‘great!’, or ‘can you please put my coffee down for me, I have the shakes because of the drugs’ with. Oh yeah – ‘I have the shakes because of the drugs?’ FFS, Carly.
So back to yesterday … My blood pressure was uncharacteristically low. So call me underwhelmed.**
Five years. What have I achieved in five years? Some small stuff. Nothing major. Except for surviving. I haven’t finished my research Masters or my novel, simply because ‘stuff’ gets in the way. Some obstacles are too big to go over, so I have to go around and that takes time. I’ll not forget when a friend said to me that I always seem to ‘take the long way round’. We were 19, and I said calmly that I’ve had some stops along the way. We’re do’t really see each other anymore. Life has deviated for both of us and there’s really not a lot we can talk about. I’m also a big believer in that just because you have a history with someone, you don’t need to maintain the friendship for friendships sake.
So when ‘stuff’ happens (read: when I become unwell. I’ll rarely say I’m sick – ‘sick’ is reserved for when I’m on life support), I make other plans. Because I always have a Plan B, C, D and E. Sometimes, I even have Plan F for FUCK ME, UNIVERSE – ARE YOU SERIOUS? But I always get through it. Whether I’ve had my chest cracked and opened up like a clam for transplant or my vagina ripped to shreds first through topical chemotherapy and then peeled off like the skin of a grape when surgery was my only option, I get through it. Even with a poo bag, I managed. I’m not saying I managed it well. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. But I managed.
The last five years have been about survival and just that. I’ve learned so much – about myself, about the world I find myself in and about other people, in both stop the clock beautiful ways and in less lovely ways. People can be … fucked. There I said it. People can be fucked. I like to think that for every misguided human being, there are three earth angels who are all managing their best. And that’s why I want to help look after people. That’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do – to be a light in the dark for someone when their light is fading.
We’re all just managing. I am just surviving. Every day is a new beginning. We’ve got this, people so let’s slather on sunscreen, pull on our boots and look fabulous while we’re doing it (thanks again, Mum).
* Currently checking to see if I can study just the one course this semester and an intensive in summer semester.
** which won’t last very long. I’m guessing I’ll be hypertensive tonight when I watch Patrick’s funeral on Offspring. And Nina gives birth #ohsweetbabycheesesicannotibelievethisishappeningandirealiseitsonlyatvshowbutFUCKIneedsomeEddieVedderrightnow