Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Great Whodunit: Me

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? ~ Sir Arther Conan Doyle 

For reasons beyond my control, I've been voraciously drawn to reading mysteries lately. I've rekindled my passion for classics featuring my beloved Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple and have increased my thankfulness for the visions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. I've finally taken the advice of numerous friends and have been introduced to books by Daniel Silva and Ken Follett. Most recently, I've fallen in love with the wonderful juxtaposition of the Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish Community featured in the mysteries by Rochelle Krich. Each one of these novels of suspense have taken me out of my own life, and dropped me into a world of clues, lies, deception, secrets and riddles. I've had to face each conundrum and try to puzzle out the answer, along with the detectives. I've delighted in feeling completely overwhelmed by too many possibilities, and then been able to narrow them down to make "probable" from the "improbable". From Victorian drawing rooms to the seedy underside of lower Manhattan, I've relished the final moments of victorious revelation. My love of great literary fiction,whose prose elegantly flows off the tongue to create poetry on every page, has taken a backseat to "The Great Whodunit" lately.

The reason for this is simple: my health has taken a turn for the worse. Not only that, it has been an enormous mystery for my doctors. The type of cancer I had 7 years ago was rare enough then. I was the youngest person to have ever been diagnosed with it. Not only my own doctors, but others my mother consulted with, agreed: it was gone forever. To quote another thriller, "Poltergeist", "It's back...!". My doctors are stumped. Though the type of cancer I have is rare, and does have a 50% recurrence rate within 10 years, most specialists felt that this was not going to be the case for me. After 5 years, I pronounced absolutely "cancer free". To compound this, I began having excruciating nerve pain on one side of my head. It was agonizing, debilitating and completely humiliating. My neurologist is still working various scenarios on this piece, but thankfully, after many days of pain, the right medications are keeping me comfortable from a neurological perspective. How could two rare, complex and peculiar syndromes hit a seemingly healthy, 44 year old non-smoking yoga teacher? Why at the same time? What can be done to help me? These are puzzles we don't have all the answers too.

At the moment, I feel a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. My photo is staring back at me (and my doctors) on the lid. The pieces are shaped strangely. Some are easy to fit into place. Others seem to have no place at all, but because they came in the box, they must certainly fit in somewhere. The clues are there. The information is at hand in my scans, blood work, family history and symptoms. But, how to discern the entire cryptogram remains partially veiled right now. It's as if I'm my own mystery novel...and as much as I'd like to skip to the last page and say "Of course! That's it! How could we not have seen that before?", that's not how life, or medicine, works. 

In the meantime, I'm learning to live as a walking cliffhanger. I've learned to clean my house, shop at the market, cook, take my dogs for walks, read, write and even sleep, not knowing what my physical state will be very soon. I am dealing with the ability to pay my bills, to send out holiday cards and to plan special events not even knowing what my future will be when these are all received. I won't lie: it's an awful feeling. I hate every moment of it. The past two months have been the beginning chapters of a mystery novel. I can begin to see the parameters of the quandary, but the more 'clues' I receive, the more confused I (and my caregivers) seem to be.

It's just like that first run I take when I ski in the winter: I know I'll catch myself (at worst, in a baby-like 'snowplow' down the mountain), but there is that moment of panic where my heart beats a thousand times a minute and I find myself thinking "Can I turn back, or can I really do this?". Unfortunately, there is no turning back on this run. I can't take the chair lift down the mountain in the ride of shame. I simply have to point my skis, small as they are, down the hill and trust enough to know that I can conquer this particular slope.

In the meantime, you can spot me in a coffee shop reading novels in which I can discover the end does eventually come, terrible occurrences will happen along the way, but good will triumph in time.


Cass said...

I love mysteries! My favorite type of book to read!

Love you my friend! And Happy Birthday!!

Ellen said...

I love you, too, Cassie. You are my little sister in spirit, as you well know.

Debbie Diesen said...

Sending you all my best hopes for answers to your medical mysteries -- for a cure and an end to the nerve pain and the cancer. You are in my thoughts. I hope 2011 will be an auspicious year that will bring answers and better health.