Dancing on My Own Graves’

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 3.16.37 PMOne of my favorite haunts in Hampstead, London.

I come from a long line of dead people.

Don’t we all?

There’s a serious lesson in that silly opening line. It’s one that I only came to fully appreciate after I got sick from Graves’ Disease.

Death. The Grim Reaper. Oh, he’s coming, y’all. For us all.

Where? When? How? Who knows.

I wouldn’t say that my own death frightens me. More like the idea of it, until I got really sick, was such an abstraction that I couldn’t fully fathom it. Kinda like the way that until you have a child you can’t comprehend the intense, visceral, heartbreaking sensation your kid will bring to the surface.

As I’ve said before, I started to understand my mortality the night my heart started to run like a freight train. Then I fell into a fit of madness as Graves’ messed with my mind, leaving me a whole new appreciation for mental health issues. A couple of months later—ironically when the fog of what can only be called crazy lifted, something in my chest squeezed tight.

42-year old female. Anxiety-prone. Overachiever. Family history of heart disease, mid-life cardiac arrest. Recent Graves’ disease diagnosis. Current prescriptions include… Unlike my first hospital excursion, for the squeezing thingy they admitted me to the cardiac floor.

While the doctors and nurses did my workup, the Angel of Death danced in hospital corridors. And he was waltzing around on the floor to which they sent me after admitting me for chest pain and a funny readout in the ER.

*  *  *

I’ve been a parent now for 8 years. During that time, I’ve often dreamed of a night alone in a quiet room, decent view, and something approximating maid and room service.

The room that they gave me in the cardiac care unit that night? Yeah, that didn’t prove to be a chance to live my dream. For starters, the interior design was lacking. High up on the wall the paper was ripped. There was a tiny hole underneath the television and some sort of icky yellow stain in the corner. Do I even want to know what caused all of this?

Also, the running that I did on the treadmill the next morning while watching The View? Not a relaxing spa treatment. Not at all. Thankfully, however, they caught me when I lurched back into the waiting gurney, too weak from lack of food in 20 hours. The juice they gave me? Surprisingly tasty.

A few hours after jogging braless with a bad case of hypoglycemia in my flimsy hospital gown, I got the all-clear and a referral to my GI doctor. The suspected cause? Really bad reflux. Like every other system in my body, the excess thyroid hormone had put my GI tract on fast forward and it would take time for everything to return to normal. A little while after that I was released home. There, liberated from the portable monitor they’d strapped to me the day before, I could climb into my shower and scrub away the smell of sickness and pain.

If I let it, that night on the cardiac floor still haunts me. Pretty sure that someone coded and “checked out” in the room next door. I swear when it happened Death brushed his fingers along the wall and whispered in a low tone: Hey, honey. I got your number. Time and place? All set. Not tonight, though. Catch you… later.

The Grim Reaper. Easily the least desirable neighbor ever.

He’s still out there, of course. Lurking. That dude, he gets around. Perhaps you, too, have seen his work?

After a good solid year of working with this autoimmune thyroid disease that I’m rockin’, I also understand that statistically it won’t be the Graves’ disease that brings me down, especially now that it’s under control. I danced my way right of meeting Death, though the thyroid storm–if let run its course–coulda led me to meet him firsthand. A hundred or so years ago, that was commonplace. *shudder*

Therefore while I feel good, while I feel alive, while I feel like dancing again—albeit in tennis shoes because high heels really hurt my low back and knees (Welcome to the Fabulous Forties, girlie!), I’m gonna dance all over this Graves’ of mine.

Oh, and Mr. Death? If you can hear me then listen up:

Yes. Catch me… later.

Much, much later.


    • Thanks for the note, Jen. I’m pretty grateful, too. In large part because in the time since then I’ve come to know better so many like-minded, like-hearted writers like you. ❤ to you.

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