In the 1965 hilarious film, The Great Race, Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) chases our hero, The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) around the globe. Whenever Professor Fate attempts to unleash a hidden gem of an engine booster or booby trap, he yells to his sidekick, PUSH THE BUTTON, MAX! – which Max does, to uproarious and hijinxed disastrous results.
It would have been a Leslie Nielsen film if it were done in 80s.
What sparked this memory this morning is how often there’s a voice inside me egging me on to push the panic button. Come on, Max, this is a great idea! Let’s pull all ripcords, let the chips fall where they may! Damn the consequences, HOO-RAH!
Yesterday, I got an email from Kaiser to follow-up on some routine bloodwork I get done every few months now, just to keep tabs on my post-Leukemia cells. Apparently, my liver enzymes were elevated. Like, Wonkavator-through-the-factory's-glass-ceiling elevated.
My doctor wrote me that I had to come in for follow-up labs right away, that if I drank alcohol I should stop immediately, and that she was informing my oncologist, Dr. Li (which humorously autocorrected to “Dr. Lithium”).
Professor Fate wanted Max to push the button so bad. It’s bad news, it’s tragic, it’s cancer, it’s death, it’s imminent! PUSH THE BUTTON!
But… here’s the thing I’ve learned about pushing that button, from the movie, and from my own life experience: It rarely does anything productive.
So, I texted my coworker and my boss that I would be in late, that I was going to Kaiser, and then I called my naturopath/chiropractor/nutritionist in SF and made an appointment with him for that morning, too.
Because, this is how The Great Leslie would approach it: Pause, Assess, Reframe, Choose Love.
Well, maybe he wouldn't use those terms, but he would pause, at least, and assess before leaping out of the hot air balloon.
I arrive at Kaiser, and walk down the hallway. I’m toodling to myself, softly singing/humming tunelessly, just making notes up to distract my thought-life. I realize I’m practicing something called self-soothing, a practice I read about for babies learning to fall asleep on their own.
Instead of fully freaking out, I’m using a positive biofeedback technique to calm my pulse, my panic. And, it works, a little.
After they take 7 vials of my blood, I drive into the city to see my chiro. The man I credit for saving my ovaries from nuclear annihilation during chemo, with his supplements, nutritional advice, and amazingly accurate diagnoses of what’s going on in my body.
I tell him that my Kaiser doctor said it had nothing to do with having poured chemo into my body for 6 months, since that was finished last March. It couldn’t possibly be related.
Of course my liver and kidneys are still bouncing back, shmucks. I “love” the way Western medicine brains work: There is no immediate cause of this that we can see, so it must be something new and traumatic and deadly.
How about a patient history, assh— Sorry, Idiots.
It’s like telling someone who broke their ankle a year and a half ago that that has no bearing on why they’re now experiencing pain in their hips. … You guys did learn the whole, “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone” song in medical school, right?
Anyway, my annoyance with Western medicine aside, I went to the doctor I trust, after having done what the Western folks wanted me to do.
We did some muscle testing, which is like the coolest thing ever. He handed me a small vial filled with clear liquid marked GMO corn. Told me to hold my other arm out and try to resist his pushing it down. My arm fell like an anvil. It weakens my system.
He held out one labeled organic corn? My arm stayed straight as a compass.
We did this several times: Pasteurized milk? Down. Raw milk? Up. Non-organic eggs? Down. Organic eggs? Up.
What I should offer at this point is that I have been eating a ton of crap these past few weeks. Whatever cookies, candy, cupcakes have been lain out at work, I’ve eaten – because I’m stressed. And sooner or later, my ban against refined sugar and dairy yields, and I go to town.
I’ve also been busy so I haven’t been cooking at home, and have therefore been eating take-out foods, which, although aren’t the worst foods I could choose, are surely not all made with my liver in mind.
So, I’ve been tired, stressed out (as you’ve read), and eating crap to boost me back up.
Yeah, apparently my overworked and Hirojima’d organs need some TenderLovingCare.
(Heh. ... Organs... lovin'... heh...)
Pushing the panic button does nothing for me except exacerbate an already very sensitive system. I don’t like hearing that I really have to stop eating the cupcakes at work, and not use half&half at Peet’s. Or, since it's not organic, I can't drink Peet's at all. I don’t like knowing that because of something I didn’t ask for I now have to work extra hard to fix its effects.
But, What I like less is driving to Kaiser on a Friday morning, thinking about the children I won’t be able to have. The life I won’t be able to “figure out.” The X-Men movie I won’t be able to see.
Look, Death and I have a pretty intimate relationship. We’ve fought an epic battle, and He’s waiting and watching in the corner, seeing if my hubris will bring me down. If, like in Million Dollar Baby, I will let my guard down and He’ll have the chance to (spoiler alert).
What I got to see from yesterday’s panic/not panic "opportunity" was that I still am pretty keen on this Life thing. That I can’t quit my job without health insurance. That I stress out about things I don't need to. And that I’ve accomplished a whole lot in the year and a half since I was diagnosed, things I want to continue to do: play music, make art, be with friends, travel.
I don’t need to push the panic button to “wake me up” – Life has a way of pushing it for me. Of pushing the button on the side of my cosmic cell phone to illuminate the time and remind me to stop freaking out in my head and get into my life.
So, today, I’m going to hum tunelessly as I get dressed, cook organic eggs, do (some) dishes, and head to an 11-year old’s birthday party to shoot mini-marshmallows at my friends. Because that’s the text Life is sending me today.
But don't worry, I won't eat any. ;)