Nearly every person with a significant disease experiences peaks and valleys. One is likely to have weeks or months when everything is fantastic, bringing some level of normalcy. There are other times when you understand what’s coming is damn serious. I would categorize this past Thursday [February 11] as ‘other.’
I had been on a plateau for weeks, a state of neither God awful nor wonderfully great. Suddenly, I felt wet. It turns out I was bleeding. I had uncontrolled rectum bleeding oozed from the rectum and a dull pain emanated from the lower left part of the abdomen, probably either in or near the sigmoid colon. Diverticular bleeding occurs in the colon and produces bright red or maroon bowel movements.
In contrast, bleeding in the stomach becomes partially digested and appears as black, tar-like bowel movements. Regardless, when everything goes to hell, everything bleeds. There are other complications as well.
Blood thinners (Inderal and Lisinopril) taken daily aggravate bleeding. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol, Tylenol with Codeine, Advil, etc., used for pain management also increases the risk of bleeding fifteen percent. Diet and exercise are additional factors as well. Most who experience such indignities just kind of ride it out, meaning waiting for the bleeding to subside naturally. The process stirs peculiar feelings.
When the patient experiences symptoms similar to me, the next step is find some young medical student to insert either a finger or proctoscope up your butt. If the patient is 61 (like me), clinicians are pretty convinced any bleeding is associated with a medical condition. On the other hand, if you’re 23, a wider field of possibilities. That list can be endless, but clinicians have seen stuck vibrators, shot glasses, house keys, small dolls and toy trucks. Most doctors will coat their finger or instrument with ‘Surgilube’ (lubritcant) and up they go. A few minutes, all said and done. Off the clinician goes, either to presumably laugh hysterically or nod in dismay.
Even though I’ve chosen to take this trip (dying) mostly without assistance, I cannot reiterate how alone one can feel. Sometimes, life seems damn futile, and one wishes for an ending. I mean, why continue? What’s the point? There are no ‘ new experimental treatments. No doctor was going to rush through the door with a wonderful ‘clinical trial’ promising a cure. I am dying, just so damn slowly.
My ass oozed. Seconds turned to minutes. Minutes turned to hours. Any form of company felt unwelcome. I texted no one and barely read any news. Instead, I peered through the window as light snow trickled against street lamps. Families, couples, an occasional jogger darted past. I am jealous. Jealous not that they could do what I now cannot, but more so that they did so without trepidation. They were alive. I am not.
I always felt death was some other person’s problem. I’ve become excellent at helping others through the process, but now it’s my turn. Death is in me. Its tenacity is impressive. It’s methodical. Can I now assist myself? My faith in God is profound. And having that faith means strength. Yet, at times, even faith can be diminished by the loneliness of experiencing life’s last flicker. Only now can I fully comprehend Christ’s cry, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”
Just like Christ, no matter where you are in the dying process, you’re still living. So, whatever form that ‘live’ is, you want to make every minute meaning. Days of doubt creep in. “Jesus. I mean, what’s left?” Oh, yeah. Dying. The hard part is dying. Flipping through the memorials of various people I have written, I become envious. They’ve passed. I have yet to die. There’s more suffering, more emotional and physical pain to endure. There’s more blood, more stroke(s), more cardiomyopathy, more Parkinson’s, and more osteoarthritis. I can’t f**king wait.
In Buddhism, death should be a gentle, peaceful process. Therefore, the one dying should be in a virtuous state of mind. This will help with rebirth. I cannot imagine myself wanting to springboard back into a new physical life. However, I know everything goes through a process of birth, growth, and end. What God promised me that whatever lay ahead is not the end. Nothing ever actually ends. When we pass, we move into a new beginning.
I’m still alive only by the grace of God. As such, every morning I awake, I believe God wishes me to do something meaningful. I was keeping that in mind, for after several hours, the bleeding subsided. And just like faith and love, I knew tomorrow would bring another new beginning, another era, another chapter in life, another chapter to be meaningful.