Sunday, January 22, 2012

Random Law School Update 30

Last Location: Denver-Boulder-Steamboat-Pagosa Springs, Colorado; Tampa, Florida; Tucson, Arizona
Arrival Date: December 17, 2011
Departure Date: January 08, 2011

Current Location: Washington, DC
Arrival Date: January 08, 2011
Departure Date: Undetermined

This week has been hard medically. I have been inflicted with severe anemia due to an excessive loss of blood. I feel emotional and fatigued, I get winded going up a single flight of stairs, I gasp for air in spin class, and my vision goes black when I stand up too quickly. Not to mention the unsettling amount of bleeding – gentlemen, you don't want to know. My doctors get mad at me, but they don't really have any solutions. They just tell me to find a new hematologist, which is harder than it sounds. Online physician listings offer little more than name and location and I don't come from a family of doctors who would know what to look for in a good physician. And then there is the issue of health insurance, and of travel. I am limited because I don't have a car, or much free time.

One of my general practitioners finally got fed up with it on Thursday and trapped me in the Student Health Office. She called a security guard and made me take an escort to the hospital (I had refused an ambulance for fear that my insurance wouldn't fully cover it). Then I had to wait in the Emergency Room for a bunch of nurses and doctors come in to ask me the same questions over and over again and to take the same panel of blood tests that my doctor got mad at me for ordering just a few days prior – I had come to try to keep the blood in, not to have more taken out! The nurse came in to insert my IV; I turned to look just in time to see dark blood splatter across my arm. And I panicked, for the first time in over a year. The entire wing of the hospital erupted in commotion, the women next to me nearly falling out if her bed to see what is happening. I was mortified. I left several hours later just as lightheaded and groggy as I came in, with even less blood in me, and without any treatment to stop the bleeding. I stopped by the Whole Foods on my way home and picked up an herb know to regulate menstrual cycles. The next morning, for the first time in 12 days, the bleeding was visibly lighter.

Sometimes I get scared. Not the kind of scared-of-death scared that people write about in troubled poetry or confess in their deepest moments of despair. I think that I am pretty secure with my mortality. My scared is more like the type you might get when it occurs to you that there is a chance – however small – that you will fail this next exam, despite your best efforts and despite the fact that you have never failed before. That, mixed with the queasy-sick feeling you get after watching a slasher film where every item of scenery manages to find itself covered in the blood of hapless stock characters.

My biggest fear though, during the hardest weeks, is that I will overburden my closest friends. It happened once, my 1L year, and I have never ceased to regret it. Now, when I am at my most scared, I shut myself in my room alone and lay in bed shaking, until I realize that even at my worst, I am okay. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to write this, but it has occurred to me, at least I think, that most of us have moments like this – even those for whom nothing ever seems to go wrong.

Having a medical condition and being a law student is hard. I tell myself that it is better than, say, had I been a professional mountain-biker or base-jumping instructor – something that I might have to quit outright. This is hard in much more subtle ways. Looking for a job is hard because I am not sure what to tell employers about why I am not graduating with my peers, or why I have decided, after much deliberation, to take a reduced course-load to make time for medical appointments and alternative therapies. It is hard to explain to my peers why I don't go out that often, or why I drink so little when I do. It is hard telling people that I went to Colorado with my parents and didn't ski. It is hard explaining to doctors that, yes, I care about my health, but that I can't submit to treatments that risk making it difficult or impossible to study for weeks on end. And it is hard to admit to myself that my body probably needs more rest than I am willing to give it.

Things are looking up this week. I always hate to end on an awkward, "no I am not better yet" note. You always want to tell these stories in the past tense, like "all of these awful things happened and then after, everything was okay!" Those are the best stories, in part, because you are still around to tell them, but also because they go to show that bad things, by and large, tend to get better and leave our lives richer and more colorful than they were when we began. I have committed to telling my story from the middle though, and with that comes the possibility that things won't end particularly well. Of course that is the brilliance of it all, the suspense. And having an opportunity to care, because you know at any given moment you may be empowered to affect the outcome. One thing I have always hated about reading amazing stories about interesting people who have long since come and gone (or in the case of fiction, never been) is the feeling that I am forever denied an opportunity to be a part of their story. But then I remember that there are interesting people all around me who are right now in the middle of their stories. And I do my best to be a part of them. You all are part of mine now.



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