Thursday, 3 July 2014

#1 In the Beginning

It started with a weird tingling feeling on my chin. That feeling you get when you think you’re going to get a pimple. I was constantly aware of it, would rub it, as if that was going to make it go away. And I just knew, if I waited a few days, it would be there…a great big zit, full blown and ugly on the front of my face.

The feeling never went away, and I never got that zit. The tingling spread to more than just my chin, and became more of a numb feeling, like when you have your face frozen at the dentist. I had lost the feeling on the right side of my face, and it was progressing, from my chin, across my face and right up into my scalp. I was accidently biting my tongue or the inside of my cheek and noticed my right eye drooped and constantly watered. It didn’t go away.

I had been under an incredible amount of stress for the previous two years, starting in 1987, the year of the divorce, the back injury, and the job lay off. My biggest concern was finding a new job; full time day shift if possible as I was now a single mom with two kids to support. It was a famine year in the ongoing feast or famine war that repeats itself in nursing, and jobs were hard to find.

The next year I finally, and reluctantly, found a position in Toronto and moved the kids from a small town to the suburbs. If that was not enough stress, my father died suddenly a few months after the move. I always felt it was fate, that I took that job in the city, and was living a few blocks from my parents at the time of Dad’s death. I was close by, something that wouldn’t have happened had I still been living more than an hour’s drive away.

I remember having a terrible case of the flu in January 1989, followed a few months later by double pneumonia. Work, grief and the stress of single parenting had left me vulnerable, depleted. When my symptoms began I had no family doctor in the city, so I went to the walk-in clinic at the small plaza near my townhouse.

I walked into the walk-in clinic, nervous and unsure, and came out scared to death and feeling so alone. “We have to rule out a brain tumour,” the doctor said. Just like that, all business and no concern. He made me an appointment to see a neurologist. I worked in health care, I knew these guys were busy and there was most often a long wait for an appointment, so when my referral was for the next week, I knew there was something to worry about.

I swear, that was the longest week of my life. I told no one, but went about my days as if nothing was wrong. If it was serious, I would know so enough.

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