I give up. I can't sleep. It's 3:45 Wednesday morning and I am afraid it's all over. A week ago, I was queasy. Not consistently, but often. Every now and again, there would be a wave of true nausea. My breasts felt like they were going to pop. They're still sensitive, but it's not the same. And nausea? Even queasiness? Haven't felt it for days.
At twenty-five days past ovulation, it's way too soon for these symptoms to be fading. I hate to read into this in any way. But how can I not? I've been down this road before.
And that's not all.
For the past few weeks, J~ has had a strange weakness in his right arm. A trip to a chiropractor led to Xrays, an MRI, referral to a neurosurgeon.
The appointment was yesterday and it was not good. Even I, having never seen an MRI before in my life, knew this immediately when the black and white image of J~'s neck came up on Dr. S~'s computer screen.
The doctor pointed to the line between the vertebral bones. "This dark area is your spinal cord," he said, "and this white," he said, running his finger alongside the cord, "is your friend. It's the spinal fluid." The fluid cushions the cord inside the spinal column, inside the disks of bone. Here's the alarming part: the white area, halfway down J~'s neck, thins to nothing, then thickens again. The spinal cord itself is narrowed, pinched by ruptured vertebral disks. Dr. S~ pointed to the cord where the pinch was most severe. "See this white spot?" he said, "When we see this, if that was in your brain, we call it a stroke. It means there is already damage." Though recovery of the strength and mobility J~ had just three weeks ago is not guaranteed, Dr. S~ was adamant. "We need to fix this."
"Fix this" means surgery. It means shaving off the blown-out bone and adding artificial material, fusing three of J~'s vertebral disks with a metal plate. The spinal cord will be exposed, Dr. S~ told us, his face grave. "I'll be looking right at it. Everything that you imagine going wrong in this kind of situation, could go wrong. You could die. You could be paralyzed." Without the surgery, he went on to explain, J~ is at risk. Just one fall at home, just one rear-ending on the highway, and J~ could be paralyzed. "I've seen it happen."
On the wall of his office, there is a framed Connecticut Magazine. The cover story is something along the lines of, "Best Doctors in the state, as ranked by Doctors." Dr. S~ is listed, and this is reassuring, but not entirely. Similarly, it is reassuring, but not entirely, that he has done this procedure close to a thousand times without killing or paralyzing a one. "But it does happen," he made sure we understood. "In my case, maybe less than one in a thousand."
The surgery is scheduled for the soonest possible date: Friday, July 20th. If all goes well, J~ will miss work for about a month. In the meantime, he has appointments lined up: a second opinion, a third. A follow-up with the chiropractor, a meeting with the doc who will serve as his primary care provider while in the hospital. There is more, but we were reeling and I can't remember all of it. "Wear your seat belt," Dr. S~ admonished as we got up to leave. "Be careful."
Right now: J~ is sleeping in our bed. I can hear his breathing through the closed door of my office. Our neighbor's rooster is crowing, has been crowing for what seems an hour. Time is moving slowly. Outside my window, it is still dark. The rooster is impatient for morning, the Fourth of July, a holiday oasis in the midst of a very difficult week. Soon, the passage of time will again be brisk and leading unequivocally and without apology toward all things great and small. Although I am not sleeping, will likely not sleep again any time soon, at this moment, the night is a comfort.