Went to the doctor a couple days ago for persistant swelling in my legs, arms, neck–just about everywhere, really–as well as pain in moving and weight gain that just didn’t seem to tally with my food intake. She listened to me, asked a couple questions: “Have you been waking up a lot at night?” “Are you sleepy during the day?” “Do you snore?”…
And then said, “There’s little question in my mind that you have sleep apnea, that it’s advanced, and that if you don’t do something about it now your son will wake to find you struggling for breath some morning, or worse.”
And they wonder why I don’t like going to doctors.
All jesting aside, hearing that was terrifying. “Doing something about it” looks like it’s going to involve turning myself into Cyborg Woman every night and sleeping attached to a machine, as well as surgery. And I am in the process of (once again) trying to obtain health insurance. While the new laws that were supposed to be designed for people like me mean that insurance companies can’t outright deny me coverage, they apparently don’t mean that said companies can’t price my coverage prohibitively high. In essence, I am about where I was before the Affordable Health Care act passed–trying to apply for health insurance in a world where the people offering it do not want me to have it–and where they can price me right out of the market.
But my doctor’s preliminary diagnosis (I had a blood gas test yesterday, and I’m scheduled for a sleep apnea test study consult this coming week) has simplified things enormously. I no longer can afford to dither around. While I will continue to try to get onto the Oregon Health Plan, I’ve accepted that if I want to see my son graduate from high school, see my grandchildren, grow old, I can no longer afford to wait around for the insurance companies to dream up yet more innovative ways of making sure that I understand that they really, really don’t want me hanging around, and that if Big Brother (as they like to refer to the forces in government maintaining that they should Do The Right Thing and actually provide the health insurance for which they are paid billions) is going to insist I get to hang out with them, by all Gods they’re going to be sure it’s worth their while.
And all this to save my life with two comparatively simple procedures, procedures which my doctor says should effect a total cure or at least a significant reduction in symptoms. We’re not talking a few more good years here–we’re talking the prospect of a long and healthy life. That’s worth fighting for. And in my case, since I really don’t have a viable choice, it’s worth going into debt for. Is it worth it to me to incur the huge bills I know will be my lot if I proceed with treatment as an uninsured person? Is it worth it to me to watch my son grow up? Well, yes, it is. So I’m moving ahead. I haven’t forgotten you, health insurance people. You can expect to continue hearing from me for the foreseeable future. But I’m not waiting for you to make what we both should know is a good investment in my continued productive, tax-paying, hard-working, good-momming, writing, designing, future. I’m going to do what I need to do, and then I’m going to deal with the consequences.
But all that’s the downside. The upside is that I’ve rediscovered fun. Not intellectual, comedy. Not deep, deep joy–I’ve never really lost that–but the value of sheer, goofy, creative fun. This diagnosis has reminded me that I’m not immortal. At some point my son will be left with nothing but memories of me.
And what will he remember?
I think back over the few years, and I know that what he’ll remember is a mom who “did her best,” but who was weighed down by a lot of things over which she had no control, a woman who gradually became more and more embroiled in the struggle of keeping everything together, and who, to a great degree, had forgotten why.
This diagnosis has reminded me. Furthermore, since one of the things that happens when it gets as advanced as mine apparently is, is that one operates in a constant state of oxygen deprivation. This is not good, don’t get me wrong. I’m making every effort to get my oxygen back. But in the meantime one of the side effects is that it makes it a little easier to let go of some of the big scary stuff and just sit and listen to YouTube with my kid, or look at a strip of those inflated plastic tubes that one sometimes finds in boxes and see not recyclable trash, but something that, combined with a fat black sharpie marker, a hair clip that has been lurking in the bottom drawer in the bathroom, and a little scotch tape can become a really remarkable modern interpretation of a Native American war bonnet–one which stays securely on the head, and which can be produced without harming a single eagle. One which I might point out I am wearing as I type this very post.
I have work to do. I’ll get to it. But for right now, thanks to a really scary diagnosis and the lovely, slightly floaty state in which I seem to be living right now, blogging in a home made war bonnet, with my son sitting at the table exploring the wonders of Music and Kindle Fire and smiling at me occasionally, is enough. It’s more than enough. It’s a memory worth making. And what’s more, this morning has provided me with a wonderful bit of headgear perfectly suited to phone duels with the soulless, godless hacks who keep losing my insurance applications, forcing me to recalculate up-to-the-minute taxes, then re-apply, and then “go to the end of the waiting list,” since the process has taken too long. When I start making those calls, filling out those forms for the bazillionth time, I will do it wearing my my plastic-tube-sharpie-and-alligator-clip war bonnet. So they just better watch out, is all I have to say. And when I succeed in actually getting insurance, I will take that damned card, make a xerox, and staple it to the end of my war bonnet–another feather in my cap.