SLIP | Dance by @PhillipChbeeb & @ReneeKester | Music by @ElliotMossMusic | Shot by Jerel Mascarinas
I left my name behind during my last trip and found new homes for more of my belongings since I have returned. My life grows smaller and smaller still. Fewer things, fewer people, less and less and less. It is exhausting to be alive and so isolated, to survive this hollow crush of vacuum inside my heart and skin. I do not want any of it. I no longer even have the energy to wish it were different. It just is.
There was a political argument last summer between me and an American that lasted for months. “Healthcare is not a human right,” he said, those literal words dropped from his mouth, and I would not stand for it. (Bad enough he has a thing for guns.) Bitter fire licked the inside of my damaged frame. “And what am I, then? What do I mean to you? What rights do I have, with this crippled body I cannot afford to fix?”
He thought the Canadian system was better than it is, that my injuries must have been mended to the limit of possibility before they were abandoned, but that’s never been the case. I have been broken since I was a teenager, struck by a drunk driver in a truck while crossing a street, and because I have always been poor, I have never been able to afford to see the specialists who could diagnose what ails, let alone heal me. (I have had partners who could have helped me financially, but they did not offer and I did not ask, even when I hurt so much I could not walk.) Because of this, my adult life has never had a day without pain.
The problem, according to my semi-socialist government, (the worst of both systems), is that even though I was on a cane for years and could barely lift my right arm for nearly a decade, my damage does not immediately threaten my life nor, conversely, is it so mild that a GP could stick a pharmaceutical band-aid on it and call it done. Instead I live in the hollow of the system, the trough of suffering in between the two extremes; constant chronic pain destroys my quality of life, but not “enough” to be treated for free.
After his surprise came horror and eventually the offer of a peculiar deal; to stop arguing these politics with me if I agree to let him cover my medical bills. This particular treaty, though gracious, struck me as untenable for a long while. It is not that he cannot afford it, I know he can, but I was steadfast for months. At the heart of it, the unfairness that still remains unaddressed, the countless others who are stuck in my position who are not so lucky to have any patron. Be the change, do not falter.
Yet now, almost a year later, the appointments have begun. Not because of what he offered, but to remove the look that crawls across his face when he sees me wince. It irks me to the marrow to be a burden, I rage against it, but there is one thing that trumps it – I cannot stand to cause pain. I have been well trained by my awful history to pay my own distress little mind in comparison to that of others. (Did you know that the root of “martyr” is “witness”?) My resistance activated both until, unknowingly, he tripped that wire.
So I booked some appointments and started seeing specialists. (Without telling him what it’s cost me, aside from sharing how hard it is to do these things alone. Perhaps he’ll read this confession and ask to address the credit card bills that have been too large for me to pay. Won’t that be another fascinating conversation?) Some of them started talking about having to cut me open. Some of them sent me for tests. But all of them passed me to other specialists, until earlier this week I was examined by an an osteopathic at an expensive sports medicine clinic so foreign to my experience that it looked to me like the set of a dystopian sci-fi film, the background of some medical breakthrough the plebeians aren’t allowed to have. The doctor’s specialties are musculoskeletal problems and athletical medical injuries. He was quick with his diagnosis, but seemed very sure and all the symptoms seem to line up.
The doctor believes I have a severe case of sacroiliitis caused by previous injuries. (The sacroiliac joints are inside the hips and connect the leg to the spine.) He told me my original injury must have been truly serious, it’s “flat-out amazing” that I get around as well as I do, and that the remaining pain is most likely an inflamed sacroiliac joint that originally puffed up when I was walking on even more “impossible pain”. (He guessed that, but correctly. I did so for years.) Also, sacroiliitis will never heal without medical intervention.
To treat it, I’m to go to a chiropractor, be studded with needles run through with electric current to relax the area, and then the doctor will give me an ultrasound guided Sacroiliac Joint Steroid Injection of corticosteroids directly into the space between my bones right after. If his diagnosis is correct, that I’ve mostly healed from the original injury and all that’s left is reactionary protectionist instinct, the pain should evaporate after only one shot. My appointment is at the end of July. I am dreading every part of it.
Fun fact: According to Wikipedia, corticosteroids were voted Allergen of the Year in 2005 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
He had no comment on my other sources of chronic pain, (ankle, shoulder, the mysterious misplaced lump of hot and suffering tissue that lives in my lumbar), or the the blood-where-it-shouldn’t-be and the follow-up ultrasound appointments, but if he is correct about the sacroiliitis, then he will be able to remove the debilitating screwdriver-in-the-flesh source of what cripples me most. I’ll be able to move again. I’ll be able to walk and to run.
I might even be able to dance.