There’s a thing that’s been on my mind a lot. We grow up knowing the old sayings are ultimately true. “Anything can happen at any time.” “Every day is a gift.” “Your life can change in the blink of an eye.” Or the ring of a phone, or the squeal of a brake. Blah blah blah. I know I never expected life to be easy, and I’m pretty sure most of my peers didn’t either. I honestly don’t think anyone from the Midwest ever thinks it (no offense to folks on the coasts).
We’re taught to be prepared for physical and/or financial hiccups. Most of us see disability or death early on, and generally accept it’s just a part of living. But, I think we assume the emergencies and the unexpected events will be from car accidents. Heart attacks. Maybe a stroke when we get much older. Many serve in the Military, so that’s a whole schlew of injuries and illnesses waiting to happen. But I think we basically expect stuff that is straight forward and explainable. Basic Cause and Effect.
What seems to so dramatically pull the proverbial rug out from under us is what I’m calling TWU, or The Weird and Unexplained. When there’s a physiological or psychological ailment or affliction that doesn’t seem to have a explanation. When doctors, nurses or specialists run a battery of tests and then stand back and stare at us, literally scratching their heads. They go back to their drawing boards and try try again, but still can’t give us a solid answer for what’s going on. For whatever reason, 2 + 2 do not equal 4. Or…yes, they do equal four, but it’s not the normal math. It’s something like an eagle + a Buick = 4, and we don’t know why. TWU.
For example, I used to have chronic hives. I’m not talking about blotches or bumps. I’m talking giant, hard, body-distorting hives. And I don’t have allergies, so it was a big expensive mystery. Tests, biopsies, three different specialists, on and on. Chronic idiopathic urticaria. One dermatologist finally told me the “idiopathic” meant my doctors were idiots who couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Which was really very funny. Husband and I got a good laugh out of that.
My hives have basically gone away. Or gone into hibernation. Or haven’t been triggered by whatever mysterious element used to set them off. I’m quite fortunate. Of course, I have this other mysterious illness in my central nervous system, but doctors at least know WHAT Multiple Sclerosis is. Technically. They don’t know what causes it. They can’t tell you why it does certain things to some patients but not to others. They can’t tell you how medications work, or why. It’s kind of a big “throw it at a dart board and see what sticks” situation. It’s not ideal for anybody, but…again…at least there are things we know about MS. Not everyone is as lucky with their mystery conditions. And I think I can speak for everyone on the planet (terribly bravado of me, I know, but hear me out) and say that NOT KNOWING is the worst part of any status.
I think most of us really feel we just want to KNOW so we can decided what to DO.
I am sure the doctors/nurses/specialists feel the same way. But until that happens, they order tests and scans and blood draws. They try to alleviate symptoms. Medical people try to keep their patients up and walking and going on with their lives. It’s the patients and their families who get to live with the ambiguity of a pain, limp or lump, a twitch or spasm that has no explainable cause. Patients get to absorb the expense of time off work for procedures, and miles driven to specialists. Patients watch the experts scratch their heads, and leave an office wondering how they’re going to explain the puzzle to children, partners, bosses.
It’s TWU that pulls the rug out from under us. It stretches nerves beyond taut. It tests loyalties. It empties bank accounts. Often, more quickly than the actual ailment itself.
There’s a kind medicine and crisis I think we all grow up pretty prepared to face. If it’s a break, it gets set. If it’s a hole, it gets stitched. If it’s a clog, it gets routed. But this other stuff…stuff involving electrical impulses or blurry scans or pate-scratching doctors that make the unexplained so much more complicated and nerve-wracking.
So for all you TWU-free folks out there…. All you miracle few who deny they’ve ever been, known, or seen anyone in a similar state of flux. Please hear this. If you know someone who may be dealing with TWU, cut them some slack. If they seem pensive, don’t lose your patience. If they seem focused on their TWU, don’t mock them. If they take a little longer to complete a task at the office, don’t assume they can’t do their job. Have some empathy. Put yourself in their shoes. Don’t be crass. Don’t be a jerk. It’s not about you. It’s about your friend, partner, employee, teammate, child or parent. And if/when the TWU mystery is solved and they finally get a straight-ish answer about what’s happening to them, they’re going to need help getting the rug BACK under their feet.
You could be there for that, if you haven’t pushed them too far away. Just remember, “life can change in the blink of an eye.” And that applies to all of us. Eagle + Buick = 4.