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It's everything I want to tell people when they make small talk and profound talk, but I often can't. Sickness, sex, and the process of dealing with aging parents feel unspeakable and sometimes unreachable, but they sure aren't here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Integration of the Wolf's Bite

03-KEELE Originally uploaded by rent-a-moose.
I try to embrace the destructive parts of myself instead of distancing myself from them. Considering that my body is both my ally and my enemy through lupus, my path isn't level, let alone readily discernible. It shifts and looks different depending on the angle. This reality of the body has served nicely as a metaphor for my psyche, but that's another meditation. "Lupus" is Latin for wolf. The story behind the terminology is here:
The term lupus (Latin for wolf) is attributed to the thirteenth century physician Rogerius who used it to describe erosive facial lesions that were reminiscent of a wolf's bite.

I often feel bitten. After the lupus diagnosis on 8.28.98 that brought with it Sjogren's, fibro, and bone disease shortly thereafter, the basic treatment wasn't working. I wasn't one of the 300,000 American women who had the inactive or mild version of the disease. It was apparent that another drug had to be added to Plaquenil, prednisone, Medrol packs, Ansaid, and Solumedrol pulses: methotrexate. I hated needles and was a wimp about them - I still am, but now I know more about trigger spots on my body, ways of inserting the needle, and the proper length of the needle given my weight. As a rheumatology patient, I get doses of oncology drugs at amounts that are far lower than the cancer dose. That's still no picnic. The fact that an intramuscular stick was involved just added salt to the nausea. As soon as the drug was prescribed, I did what I did for every drug that entered my body: I researched it laboriously. I was scared of the increased risk of infections (rightly so, I learned these years, after bizarre bouts with bacteria and prolonged antibiotics) and scared of what the drug could do long-term to my fertility. Then the dreams came. I was walking through a building with what appeared to be an atrium or rotunda. I now recognize this building as my dream interpretation of the main lobby of the local hospital where my diagnosis was made. In both dream and reality, you can stand in the lobbby and look up to see all the stories of the hospital. I can look up and see the first floor, where the cancer patients are, or to the sixth floor, where the neuro patients are. In the dream, I have shackles on my wrists with chains leading to wolves on either side of me. We are bound together. I'm fearful of my death and that the wolves will turn on me since they have nowhere to go but to attack me. They don't. They move with me like any dog that's relatively new on a leash: basically following along but also tugging and pulling, restless but guided. That has, in fact, been the reality of my walk with lupus, although the wolves have sometimes been in charge of the lead and dragging me on my ass. Ass times were my worst times with neurological symptoms, neuropathies, and brain inflammation.

It's an uneasy balance at times, like when two natural leaders learn to ballroom dance with each other. Learning how to dominate and overcome my pain symptoms while being submissive to other symptoms has been my ultimate in tightrope-walking. In the dream, I'm walking through the atrium, wolves both shackled and in tow, and finally winding my way up the floors, when I'm stopped by a figure, neither a man nor a woman, whose message I heard as clearly in the dream as I do now in my head:

"If you ever want children, they'll have to build you a synthetic womb."

It took acceptance to realize that my own womb really wouldn't cut it if I wanted children of my own, and then I began my search into where reproduction, contracts, and technology have met. I've reconciled the fact that being a "true" biological mother doesn't negate my mothering abilities. I wonder about another woman carrying a child made from my ovum and a donor's sperm. I wonder about adoption. I wonder about ways of creating family, not with a primary person - a spouse for lack of better terminology - but with, for example, a childless gay couple I know, or with a very good friend who could make a commitment to raising a child with me.

There are many possibilities, even when shackled to wild things.

Photo credit: "03-KEELE" by rent-a-moose on flickr (click on photo to see more ofthis artist’s work). Her website is MooseRental. She also keeps a LiveJournal with great photos. Permission obtained for use.

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