April 2018

Thursday, December 18, 2014

'Tis the Season

…to have the flu. Fa-la-la la-la la la. This one's been a doozy. Granted, I suppose it's not as bad as when I was having radiation and also had pneumonia, the swine flu, and food allergies. 

This one's just been a regular person's flu, unaccompanied by other traumas. Still, Ann says that I was a better patient after brain surgery than I am with the flu. That makes sense. Brain surgery was a least somewhat novel and interesting. Sore throat, fever, chills, headache, laryngitis--they're all so dull. AND unpleasant.

I was trying to tell my friend Karen why I saw brain tumors as an interesting adventure whereas the flu just seemed like an inconvenience. She said, "That's interesting" in that way that means, "That doesn't make any sense." She was right, and as I attempted to explain it, I realized it was illogical. But there it is, nonetheless: I have a very different attitude towards the flu than towards brain tumors: brain tumors were interesting; the flu is tedious. 

Last Tuesday, when symptoms were just beginning, I emailed my Practicum Instructor (essentially my boss) to say I wouldn't be in on Wednesday because there are so many pregnant women in the office (including my practicum instructor), and I didn't want to take the chance of making one of them sick.

My practicum instructor responded via email, "It would probably be healthier for you not to come in as well." Funny, I hadn't thought of that. I've never thought of my own health when deciding whether or not to go to work or to school. I've always thought I could push through.

I remember once in my first year of teaching high school when I had the flu and laryngitis (like I do now), and I taught my classes. Since I couldn't speak, I would write what I needed to say on the white board.

This was stupid. I could even see that at the time. Perhaps with a few years (I'm fifty now), and a couple of brain tumors, I should have a clearer awareness of my own health and more humility about the importance of me being places. The world, I should have learned, can go on without me. It nearly did with my brain tumors, and one day it will for sure. 

However, I have not learned this simple lesson. I still see my presence as important, whatever my health may be. There is some healthiness to this attitude, I think: a belief that I am fully alive and needed even if I do have disabilities. But there's a fine line between asserting my aliveness and being humble, recognizing my humanity. I haven't found that line yet. 

A week into the flu, I went to a nearby town for some tests that I need to take in order to challenge my bad insurance company, which is denying my ongoing disability claim just to be a pain (and not, it seems to me, because they might really believe that I can work for 80% of my previous salary.) When Ann and I went into the doctor's office, I introduced myself in a whisper and the doctor looked kerfuffled. Ann told him, "She's had the flu for a week." (At this, the doctor took a step back). Ann continued, "She hasn't had a fever since Thursday and isn't contagious" (At this, the doctor did not step forward), "but she's lost her voice and can only speak in a whisper."

The doctor looked from Ann to me. I whispered, "That's right," and he looked at Ann again.

"Who are you?" he asked.

Ann introduced herself and the doctor sent us happily home, with a plan to meet again in a couple of weeks. This doctor  specializes in neuropsychological testing (whatever that is). He doesn't do the flu.

I'm tired of doing the flu, too. 

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