(photo)Okay, so my neurologist didn't exactly use the word, FUBAR. She may have started our appointment by saying I was "special", but as any seasoned chronic illness patient knows, that is doctor speak for FUBAR. You see, out of options A (write your will now), B (don't stress, you've got a good 10 or 20 yrs of painful, untreatable, deterioration to write your will), and C (we have no fricken idea what you have, you weirdarse freak), it appears that I am a big fat C.
Don't get me wrong. I'm pretty happy to finally rule out some of the particularly nasty things which have been hanging over my head as serious contenders for a cause. Lets face it, avoiding a painful death any time soon features pretty high on the win side of the ledger. So a big YAY to no death. And a big old YAY to no long lingering nastiness whilst I'm at it. But a big loud and moist raspberry to no answers.
My neurologist is lovely. She's a top specialist in the country and I know she tried her best to work out what the hell is going on with this stupid body of mine. The testing she organised for me in hospital was very thorough and managed to rule out many hard to pronounce and scary diagnoses. But being told that you're one of a handful of her patients who will most likely never have a name or known cause for their illness, is a rather big blow. Turns out knowing that my current state of health was likely permanent, is a lot different to having it finally confirmed.
The one thing I know from my hospital stay is that I have seen all the top doctors. This was further confirmed by the epileptologist who brought his students in to interview me. As I listed off the testing I've had done and the doctors I've seen even prior to my stay, he was in awe. It's not often that a patient is so thoroughly investigated, being 'interesting' has some perks. So at least I know I've done all that I can do to find some answers. But conversely it means there is no where else to go. And frankly, that's a little disheartening.
I am left with a complex collection of weird unexplainable symptoms. Apparently, it's clear I have severe autonomic dysfunction, that my hypothalamus and pituitary are no longer working properly, that I have either a primary or secondary enteric dysautonomia, progressing small fibre neuropathy, some of my axonal sheaths are thinning, the list goes on and on. My body is clearly breaking, but none of that gives me a definitive diagnosis as to why. And with no definitive diagnosis, I have no treatment plan past symptom management. A cure is no longer a realistic option. I have no idea what comes next, though with six years of consistent progression it's a pretty safe bet that it'll continue to progress. But most concerning for me, is the fact that I don't know if this is something I can pass on to my kids.
I know I have a team of doctors who are all the top in their fields, who are willing to go above and beyond, are willing to investigate anything I suggest, and are equally frustrated. Doctors who take me seriously and work collaboratively despite all the obstacles my contrary body provides them. And thanks to that one fact, I've ticked all the testing/hypothesis boxes off my list. I know in this respect I am far luckier than many other patients. I now also know that even with all this it is still no guarantee of answers, or solutions.
Since yesterday I have alternated between, tears, anger, and numbness. The stress before yesterday's appointment, thanks to all the possible "what ifs" that kept playing through my mind, has taken a toll. Add in that I am in the midst of a bad run of insomnia and my coping reserves are a bit lacking. A long soak in the bath last night and just sitting in my garden today, feeling the earth under my feet has helped. I'm no where near finished processing what it all means. I'm at a crossroads. I've done all I can and I have to make a choice to accept that what I was told is the simple truth. That it is what it is, no matter how much I wish it were otherwise. Sometimes, shit just happens.
As I sit here tonight I realise that my ideas of hope are evolving. Where once I hoped for a cure, now I hope for happiness and acceptance. And whilst the recency of this news means I am still an emotional basketcase as I sort through all the implications for my life and that of my family, I do believe that happiness is a choice you can make regardless of your circumstances. And if this is as good as it gets I will damn well make the most of it. Besides, happiness really is the best way to give my body the middle finger.
In the words of Peggy Lee,
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is "
Pretty sure this will be playing rather loudly on loop for a while.