Because I like long titles, that's why.
In the 1970's, my sister developed complications while delivering her last child and had to have her blood transfused, or die. Placenta praevia, I believe they call it. She ended up with two things out of the precarious deal: My sweet, tough and beautiful niece, Carly, and a case of Hepatitis C, that lay dormant in her body for the better part of thirty years. She was relatively asymptomatic for a good long while, but began to show increasingly more severe symptoms, and by the time 2009 rolled around, was having to visit the emergency clinics to have pumped out of her what her failing liver could not process. I accompanied her to the University of Washington Hospital in February of 2010 in an attempt to get her on a list for a liver transplant, but it seemed clear by that time that 1) The disease was progressing exponentially and 2) The wait for a liver would take much longer than my sister had left to live. We all visited her at her house at the end of April, listened happily to the music of John Prine, and more or less pretended that she wasn't lying in her living room on a hospital bed, and those weren't Hospice instructions tacked to the sheet of green paper on the wall. Mary and I left for the Oregon Coast where I stared out at the water, watched the pelicans, and wondered about life's transitions. When we returned, Penny was in the hospital and not making much sense. We bought for her one last order of fish and chips and drove home. That was Sunday. On Wednesday, May 5th, she did not wake up. Don't talk to me about the trouble with Obamacare, or any other kind of health care snafus, because I will only slam my dead sister's case back down your throat. If the Affordable Care Act had been up and running in 2010, my sister would be alive today. You see, even though there was no test to detect Hep C in blood until 1992, it was still one of those notorious pre-existing conditions. But I don't really want to argue about insurance companies. I just want to tell you that I mourn my dear sister to this day and will probably never stop mourning her. On Facebook, there is a little doo-dad you can click on that allows you to poke a person as a means to let them know that you're thinking of them. Two weeks after she died, and for reasons inexplicable to me, my sister poked me on Facebook. As far as signs go, that's enough for me.
Have I told you abut BCG treatments? Yes, I have. Have I told you about the kidney stones that relentlessly attacked me about the time I was recovering from cancer? No. Don't judge. Kidney stones hurt like hell. I had one nurse tell me that she'd had both kidney stones and labor, and she'd choose labor over the stones any day. I asked my urologist,Dr. A., if the stones could somehow be connected to the bladder cancer and he said, "No."
"But couldn't they have irritated the bladder so much over time that they created an environment for cancer cells to grow?"
He said, "No."
Then I started noticing other symptoms in addition to the stones, such as extreme fatigue, bone pain, confusion, among others and I began to worry that maybe the cancer had returned in a different form and my days were numbered. I was writing two different novels at the time; One that started out being called, The Short Happy Life of Cameron Galloway, and then morphed into The Boy Who Sat on Eggs, which then became Hello In There, and then was finally published as Cameron and the Girls. The other novel I was working on was called Boy Unknown, the story of an adolescent who can cure people of their ailments by reading to them. This was the irony I lived through most of 2010. I read to myself a lot, but no cures. Just additional diseases. But the big one didn't appear under the guise of diagnosis until 2011, so it doesn't qualify for this post.
While I was in New York in October, back in Spokane my closest friend was walking up the stairs to his writing room with a piece of toast and a cup of coffee and fell, down the stairs, but also into a coma that he never woke up from. He lingered for a couple of days, long enough for me to think about coming home and fulfilling the promise I had made to him a year before. I told him that yes, if he was in a vegetative state with no hope for recovery, I would be willing to kill him as a favor not only to him but to those suffering around him. Perhaps kill is too harsh a word. I would be willing to put him out of his misery as only a close friend should be willing to do in such a circumstance. I was never put to that test; Bob died before I returned. I would have done it, though, and met whatever consequences faced me as a result.
By the time 2010 was drawing to a close, I was very much looking forward to 2011. I don't know why, though. An additional life threatening diagnosis and two more surgeries awaited me. But here I am. Looking at the close of another year. Still alive. Still kicking. I get maudlin at the end of a calendar year. I am a sentimentalist who has developed into a bit of a realist. But you know what? 2010 made me that way. And it's now freed me up in a way I've never felt free before. Here I now sit at the center of the world; just like me, the equator makes the earth a little rounder at the middle, and I couldn't be happier.
As I write, I hear music out my window. The people here are celebrating not only the New Year, but the opening of a new street. A new street? Yes, a new street. I hope always to be in a place that thinks a new street is worth celebrating.
Tomorrow is a new year. And even if Hell on Earth awaits me again in 2014, I will be prepared for it. I'm walking down this new street now. And I feel like celebrating.