A Game of Poker

May 14, 2008
By Alyssa Bratton, Waterford, MI

The silence was an echo of the news I was about to be given. The room was a hollow shell of fear and frustration, people sitting patiently, not eager to be given the news one way or the other. In a state of limbo, no one inside knew the answers to what was going on. I touched my left eye, the thing that started me on this venture. My arms still red and bruised from the tests of the week before. The term they kept throwing around is one that now stays with me everyday of my life: multiple sclerosis.

While sitting in the waiting room, I heard a quirky woman sing my name “Emily? The doctor is ready to see you now.” The woman seemed so out of place here, even the high pitched chirp of her voice didn’t quite fit. The voice of an attention deprived child, whiney and loud with out even trying. She wore uniform pants, a top to match and a pair of blue Crocs that matched the lettering on her nurse’s uniform. Her skin was as orange as an oompa loompa; clearly, working at a doctor’s office had taught her nothing about skin cancer. Her hair, a bright blonde, parted on the side and combed perfectly back into a high pony tail. Her white smile taunted me to stand up to face my death, and her eyes questioned me as though misunderstanding why I couldn’t even pretend to be happy-go-lucky.

Her light spoken, happy words led me to my room. I remember seeing a seventeen on the door and wondering if this was just at random or if this is the room they took people when they get the bad news. This room was cold and unfriendly, just like all the other rooms in the doctor’s office. Maybe this was the room’s way of telling me to get out before it was too late.

As I watched the knob on the door turn, I saw the slight hesitation in this simple act. I found my self shaking with anticipation. This visit was to ensure that I would not overreact to the news I was about to be given. Finally the doctor graced me with her presence. Her name tag read Carrie; she was a kind looking women, with a modest smile that could almost calm all of your nerves. I remember her having long flowing brown hair that was braided and draped over one shoulder. Her eyes as kind as her smile, pale blue and very calm; like a deep ocean.

With one look at my file she began to speak. I found myself clinging to every word she spoke, and yet not understanding any of it. She spoke every word with crisp certainty, as though reading from a text book for her doctors degree. It was as if there was a cloud between us. Try as I might, I could not get through the cloud to hear the answer I knew was coming. As the cloud cleared all of a sudden I heard the words escape her mouth.
“Emily, you have multiple sclerosis. There are treatments for this and we are going to fight this.” My mind blocked her out again and, became cold to her comforting exterior. I knew that I was just a patient to her and the comfort she was trying to provide at this point was beyond her reach. I found myself shaking, craving the touch of someone I loved, but at that moment I had the doctor who only wanted to make the best of the situation.
“Where do I begin?” I pushed myself to speak.
“We will begin by deciding which treatment would be best for you, along with setting up an appointment for a specialist to come to your house to assist you in learning how to use the medication that you choose. This would also be the time to look into your insurance to see if you are covered” she stated with little emotion. I had to hold the tears back and remind myself to breathe.
The hours that followed were filled with charts, pamphlets, and insurance procedures. The medication was $1,000 a month, but with my insurance the price was lowered to a $100 a month. Still not an amount of money that was easy to lose, but it was necessary. I left the doctor’s office quickly, I remember praying that this was all a bad dream and that I would just wake up already.

“With the medication you chose, you will be giving yourself a shot into the subcutaneous tissue everyday, rotating the area that the shot will be injected into,” Mrs. Peterson had explained to me. She had come to my house, a few days after my dreadful appointment, to teach me the proper way to use my medication. “You stick the needle into the jar, pull the end so that the needle takes in all the medication that the jar contains. After doing so, you hold the needle upside down, flick the glass to get all the bubbles out that you can. Are you following me? Then you place the needle into the skin, inject the medicine and you are ready for the day. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” I muttered with a tough face, and a very fearful voice.
“Ok. You will need to do this shot at the same time every day, and when you have to inject the shots into your back, you may need assistance from someone else. So it is a good thing that your daughter is here to learn with you.” I looked over into my daughters champaign. I knew that in that secession I would need her next to me. My daughter Bailey, who was sixteen, insisted on going with me to help. Though I wanted her there, I knew that it would be difficult on her to see her mother go through something like this, for her and myself I had to be strong.
“Alright” Mrs. Peterson chimed in with a sigh of relief, and pulled me back into reality. “I believe that I have covered everything. Now I know how intimidating it can be injecting yourself the first couple of times, so if you need anything, let me know.” She placed her card on the table, as though it were the most precious thing she possessed. “That has my home number, and my cell phone number on it. You can feel free to call me at any time.” I remember her looking down at it then, to her it was a life line of hope and care. “Thank you.” There was an awkward good-bye as we reached the door.
Injecting the medication myself was the most difficult part, I placed the needle over my skin, shaking out for fear of hurting myself. More than anything, I wished that my daughter had someone else to confide in. I knew deep down she was hiding her fear with support and understanding, she didn’t want me to worry about her. Her father died in a car accident when she was two. Bailey has her father’s curly cinnamon brown hair, she has a beautiful white smile, and high cheek bones. A longer nose with a slight bump in the center, that unfortunate characteristic she got from me. She has a sweet personality, very intelligent, and loving.
Through out the months that followed, the medicine had changed me completely. I rarely could bring myself to get out of bed. All I wanted to do was sleep, and when I wasn’t sleeping all I ended up doing was yelling. My daughter and I tried to keep things together, but all I could do was let things fall apart. I didn’t have the energy to try, I didn’t have the energy to work. I didn’t have the energy to calm down and communicate properly. I just wanted to sleep. She learned to cook, do laundry, and just tried to accommodate me in any way possible.
“Mom, you need help. Something’s been wrong, for the past five months you have not been yourself,” I heard her declare. My loving daughter finally forced me to confront the problem, as she was driving me around on a typical Saturday afternoon. “We aren’t really going to the mall, I’m taking you to the doctor. I have already made you the appointment and was not sure how you would react so I decided not to tell you.” When I looked at her I realized she was no longer my little girl, she had grown up and learned how to take care of her mother when she needed help. “Mom you’re going to be alright, I promise.”
“Thank you” a part of me mumbled from behind the sheet of darkness mumbled.
The doctor looked at my symptoms, and had come to the conclusion that the medication I had been taking, had been altering my personality. He recommended a new medication that I would be injecting myself with every other day, and to let him know if I had any problems.
Now, years later after my diagnosis, changing medications to find which one works best for me, plus my daughter and me working through the process together, I am happy. Everyday I am thankful to be alive, and have learned that you can’t choose the circumstances of your life. You have to try, and when things get out of hand, reach out to someone who loves you for support. I’ve learned that you can’t choose the hand that you were dealt, but you have to play the cards that are laid in front of you.

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