When the doctor first told me I was in a state of shock.
Not medically. I just mean I was shocked that – after more than 30 years of saying, “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up” – I was told that I would have to have open-heart surgery sometime very soon. At first I wanted to argue. I wanted to ask how this particular check-up showed that I would need surgery when no other check-up showed I even needed a special diet. Or exercise. Or even aspirin. Basically my belief that “this cannot be happening” wanted to punch this guy in the face.
As he was telling me what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing, as he was telling me that I should be grateful to have surgery as a young man instead of as an old geezer, I was trying not to vomit. I was trying not to pass out.
I then paid my co-pay, walked out to the car that was illegally parked, and cried for a minute. Then I went to Arby’s and cried again.
When he said, “You have to have surgery” what I heard was, “You’re going to die.” I kept hearing that in my head over and over on the 90-minute drive home. I keep hearing it. I started to look around and notice the bigness of the sky and the speed of the other cars and the loudness of the music and the warmth of the sun. I called The Wife and told her that she should take the rest of the day off because we had to talk.
For the last half-hour of the drive I tried to analyze why I was crying. I’ve been told on and off since I was born that this surgery would eventually happen so it wasn’t a total surprise. Was I sad? Angry? Frustrated? It was all those things (I’m sure), but I think it had to do more with the unfairness of it all. These doctors are used to dealing with 400-pound smokers in their 60s who wouldn’t know what to do with a treadmill if it landed on their face and wiggled. Every time I go to the cardiologist I’m reminded why I eat the way I do and exercise the way I do.
The way I used to.
It’s unfair that I – someone who’s always done the responsible thing – is now faced with this possibility. It’s unfair that I have a one-year-old and another on the way and a crappy house I’ll never pay off and I was just starting to wrap my head around how to do finances and I want to see how this technology trend will end and I want to see how America is reborn from this income inequality. And now there’s a chance that I won’t.
That’s what got me more than anything. That’s where the fear and sadness and frustration come from. From all the things I’ll miss.
Notice how I didn’t mention the comic?
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