It’s November. Technically, we’re halfway through the November. But whose being technical?
I was dreading this month… for months. November, for me, did not mean exploding reds, oranges, and yellows on trees. That’s what most people think of when they hear the word. Most also think of a plump roast turkey, overflowing mashed potatoes, faded green bean casseroles adjacent to family and friends swarming ’round a table. I sadly didn’t think of that either. November didn’t mean a few weeks left to truck through school… as it means for both of my moms. I wasn’t even focusing attention on hibernating… as I ritually do… staying put inside my cozy home, curled in a fetal position under piles of quilted, thick blankets, knowing the temperature was plunging outside… and not affecting me. No. Something different was affecting me this year… affecting my mind. For me, this month simply meant two things: doctors… doctors… an all-important MRI exam… and yep, more doctors. Maybe by the end of November it would mean one more thing: a diagnosis. …Maybe.
Honestness typed out in black and white for you: I’ve been thinking about November since May when first diagnosed as having optic neuritis. That’s also when I was first told optic neuritis would be the hopeful diagnosis. Hopeful meaning there could be a worse one — multiple sclerosis. The last I heard was in May… that I needed to get a second MRI six months after my spat with optic neuritis. November. Six months after May is November. That second November MRI would apparently prove if I had “white matter changes”… ‘white matter’ being something not defined or explained to me still. Doctor jargon, except I’m 100% convinced it resembles the static on a TV screen. Anyway, what I picked up through the multiple visits with doctors was if your ‘white matter’ changes, you have multiple sclerosis. Funny, the second word being one I can still barely pronounce. Thank goodness there’s the abbreviation of M. S.
So what have been doing these past six months… other than thinking… wondering if somewhere in my head, body, arms, down to my fingertips if this ‘white matter’ is changing? Nothing. I mean sure, I’ve been living. It’s not like I’m cooping myself in my home, being anti-social, mumbling to myself ‘white matter white matter whitematterwhitematter.’ No, no. We have to keep living. All humans. We have to keep going, staggering forward no matter what unknown, unforeseen unfortunates lay ahead. So that’s what I did. I kept going. As you know, I got married.
Explored the beautiful country of Belize with my brand spankin’ new husband.
We got a home and are living together for the first time. We celebrated when my puppy officially got a daddy.
Our dearest friends got married. I went to the beach with my family, my husband. My little baby sister grew up… in the blink of a eye — an adult; she too got married. Other loved family member tied the knot. And amazing news from our best friends that a baby is on the way. A lot has happened. …And yet, I’m still sitting here… thinking exactly what I was thinking yesterday, the day before, the week before, six months before: when is this MRI?
The question is still looming? you may ask. That’s at least what I ask myself… then I remember the new developments… not that it matters because in the end, I still ask myself this same question. See, I’ve been obsessing so much over November that I began stalking my optic neurologist in October. A month ahead isn’t bad. I needed that month to plan the future. So I called… left voicemails… called… left more voicemails. All unreturned. That was the beginning and middle of October. That was also when I announced to James, my sister, and my parents that I was not getting a second MRI. “I’ve had no problems since so I don’t see a point in going. Plus, it’s expensive”… and a second plus, I’d add — in a whisper, “I don’t want to go anyway.” They made sad faces at me, my sister argued my points. And that’s about when the phone call finally came. “Hi,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant. “I was supposed to be having an MRI next month after I was diagnosed with optic neuritis… but I haven’t gotten any calls on this. Am I supposed to set this up? If so, who am I supposed to call?” Debbie. Ah, the always-there Debbie was on the other end. “Nooo, you don’t call. We call and set it up. Buuut… it says heeere… that your insurance declined the MRI.”
That’s about what I did. Silence, that static white-matter-look-alike being heard in between her ears and mine. “Excuse me?” I asked her to repeat what she said. She had no problem doing so. “Your insurance. They declined it.” Emphasis again put on the d-word. I guess when I said ‘excuse me’ what I was asking for wasn’t a repetition but an explanation… what to do… where to go from here. She may have repeated herself a third time, without being prompted. I interrupted. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand you. What do you mean ‘declined’ it? What does that mean? What am I supposed to do now?” Per Debbie, it meant nothing too bad… just that my doctor was now in “what’s called Face-to-Face… meaning he’s talking with your insurance company to convince them this is needed.” My heart started to beat again. “So… what do I do from here?” Her answer was almost worst than a diagnosis: “Just wait.”
Just wait. *Humph* That’s what I’ve been doing, Debbie… waiting.
So I waited again.
And waited still some more… until November came. Until today… or so I thought.
My phone rings while I’m at work. I didn’t recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail… and when I left work, I listen to it. The voice on the other end identifies herself as trusted ‘ole Debbie, saying I have an appointment scheduled with Dr. Thurston next week… but that he cannot make that day so he wants to reschedule for December. “Call me to let me know this date and time is okay with you!” Click. The voicemail ends. Well, Debbie. Here’s what you needed to know: One, I knew I had an appointment coming up. You were not reminding me. In fact, I was using my pending date to use you. If you continued to ignore me, I realized you would be forced to call me to double check the appointment slot. I used that date to my advantage, Debs. Two, I cannot and will not make the December appointment because three, I refuse — r-e-f-u-s-e — to step into your doctor’s office… wait two hours for the elusive Dr. Thurston… only for him to ask me how I am… me say perfect… him do basic eye tests… determine I’m just what I said I was… me go home, unresolved… and have to foot a massive optic neurologist bill. No, Debs. Ohhh no, you got another thing comin’. So I leave her a voicemail saying just this. In fact, I added a little more… asking her why on earth would I go to a check-up if the entire reason it was schedule was to review my MRI scans… and, if you don’t remember Debs… the last I heard from you was at the end of October when you said you were in this “face-to-face” dispute with my insurance company. Remember? I do. Then I hung up.
I’ve yet to have a call back… but we’re still in the same day I got the phone call. I’m actually not worried… and I’m almost relieved. I’m making the decisions now. I will not see my doctor for the purpose of them to use and abuse my money. The point of this appointment was to discuss my MRI scans… not to have a sit down coffee chat about my past eye problem. What I said and what he can say does not prove anything about my health. The MRI only proves that. At least that’s what I’ve been brainwashed to believe these past six months.
In the end, I’m left with my familiar half-a-year friend… that shadowy no-answer question: when is this MRI? I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to receive the answer. In fact, I don’t know if I necessarily want an answer. The truth is — despite what my loved ones tell me — I haven’t positively made a decision on if I’m going. James and I had to pay off hundreds of hundreds… of hundreds… of dollars worth of doctor and MRI trips. That was our “welcome home from Belize” mail… and his “welcome to married life with me” realization. Quiet frankly, it’s not worth it to me to do a double take. Moving past the fact that I’m terrified of those machines, I know I feel fine. …Granted, I felt fine before, but if something happens again, that will prove I have M. S. — MRI or not. So why pay the extra money to get one now? I suppose the doctor answer is, “If we catch it early, you can treat it better.” But I’m still confused about this term — ‘treatment.’ I know people that have had health problems… and through them, I’ve learned the diagnosis of M. S. is thrown around… almost as much as A. D. D. That means if I am diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and am given a slip to take ‘preventative’ pills… I won’t believe them anyway. I’ll have to see multiple doctors to get multiple opinions… which means multiple bills. And damned if I’m stuffing pills down my throat if I don’t believe they are treating something in me.
…So is it just me or does it seem smarter to wait? Waiting seems comfortable now. A reassurance. Granted, I’m not convinced I’ll pass up my MRI — if ever scheduled… but I do know if I have M. S., I’ll show other symptoms in life… and then the doctors will know for sure. And I’ll be convinced.
I’ve never been one who doesn’t think something through all the way. In fact, I mull over things so thoroughly that I begin to go insane. Maybe I’ve lost my mind after all on this topic… or maybe I’m thinking exactly as I should…