My doctor called me today. A blood specialist with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, even though I don’t have cancer, but a blood issue. She told me I need to take it more seriously, the fact that I almost died recently in December 2020, and also a couple years earlier in May 2018.
Both times, I had a headache that I felt was a bit more than a headache. Both times in the hospital, the MRI showed I had a massive blood clot in my brain, and I was promptly admitted.
The first blood clot dissolved after almost a year. I am hoping for the same or better results with this current one. This involves diligent treatments and constant self-monitoring of my body. However, sometimes I have doubts about what is happening with my body. Every day I have to monitor my headache: Is it a headache, or is it a “HEADACHE”? Because if it’s a “HEADACHE”, I have to go the Emergency Room and make sure the clot is not getting bigger (or coming back after a remission, as it did this past December). I’m only about 75% sure on any given day that I know what type of headache or “HEADACHE” I’m experiencing. This daily monitoring and anxiety and other feelings are just so exhausting. I just want to live my life and not feel like I’m on the brink of death with every twinge in my head.
So today my doctor called me, after I had requested another MRI and then ceasing the treatments if the MRI showed positive results. Apparently I’m being too blase about it, not feeling the gravity of the situation that I “could have died” both times (her words, not mine). But I don’t know how to understand the gravity of the situation because I’ve never died before. How does anyone take it completely 100% seriously? Sure, the majority of us are probably at least somewhat scared of dying. But we still do things that are risky, dangerous, or at least ill-informed. We drive over the speed limit even when we know it’s dangerous. Heck, we get into cars every day when we know how dangerous driving is. We go surfing, snowboarding, skydiving. We eat junk food and gain weight and develop heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol. We smoke, drink, do drugs. And more recently, some of us go out in public without masks, without caution to the pandemic that has killed half a million Americans in less than a year. We all are aware of the risks of every day choices we make that can lead to our slow or sudden deaths. Is it that we don’t take it seriously? I don’t think that our brains are able to fully grasp what death is until we experience it.
One thing I’ve experienced with my situation, and also with the pandemic, is that life is such an important, sacred thing. It is all we have in this world. We treat it so carelessly sometimes, even though we know how important it is, even though we know it’s truly our only possession here.
But sometimes the ways to protect ourselves are out of our control. I didn’t choose to be in 2 car accidents where the drivers were reckless and/or drunk. I don’t choose to leave my house without a mask, or to gather with friends and family. But others do, and I can’t always protect myself. For example, when I had the headache (or rather, the “HEADACHE”) in December 2020, I was forced to go into the ER and spend the night in the hospital, DURING A PANDEMIC. I have been making responsible pandemic choices since March 2020, and yet there I was in a building with dozens of COVID19 patients. But not going to the ER probably would have killed me, so I weighed my options.
Being unable to always protect ourselves somehow makes me feel better. I know that I am trying my best, and that’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do: Make the best choice, hopefully the safest choice, and live our lives. Taking it seriously, but also knowing that all we can do is try our best on any given day.