By early September I was taking the full dosage of those Imuran and Mezavant tablets prescribed to me and the effects continued to heal my bowels without introducing me to any of the nasty side-effects. My stools were more or less back to normal and bloody results were becoming far and few between. I also felt my strength coming back and had also put on some weight to clock up 56 kilos on the scale. Still on the thin side but it felt a hell of a lot better than being a sickly 52 kilos.
But the positive developments did not excuse me from my daily routine and going out to enjoy myself, let alone returning to training, remained out of the question. That wasn’t going to happen until I had clearance from Dr. G or Dr. B.
Speaking of training, it goes without saying that my fitness and physique suffered greatly during my exile. Not to sound egotistical but before the ulcerative colitis attacked I was sitting pretty at around 58 to 59 kilos (which is still within the healthy weight range for a vertically-challenged man such as myself) with a ripped, athletic physique complete with chiselled abs. I regularly performed triple digits’ worth of push-ups, pull-ups and squats, a shit load of burpees, worked the heavy bag at home until it was completely bent out of shape and other crazy shit as part of my daily workouts.
In other words I was fit as a fiddle and felt pretty damn indestructable. The colitis changed all that. As stated in previous entries the resulting anaemia had robbed me of my energy, my weight plummeted and the color had been drained from my face, all of which did not go unnoticed by friends and family. And since much of this recovery phase was spent eating, sleeping and taking it easy my ravaged body entered that dreaded ‘skinny-fat’ zone. The abs were long gone, replaced by a doughy mid-section that looked like a semi-deflated balloon, the once-wide shoulders shrank though thankfully never progressed into mild kyphosis thanks to the light arm and shoulder exercises I performed in addition to walking drills, my arms and legs became rail thin and even shadow boxing, which had long been one of my favorite ways to warm-up before working out, became a rather taxing routine if I pushed myself too hard.
The extent of my regression was made shockingly clear when, on one particularly sunny afternoon a week before this entry took place, I decided to see if I could still perform pull-ups from the old swing set in the backyard. Mind you, I had not done a single pull-up since a few weeks prior to being hospitalized so I was well-aware that I would be rusty, but reality hit me harder than than a bar stool across the head followed by an uppercut to the jewels ever could.
I strained to pull myself up from the very first repetition and was completely winded after a mere five pull-ups.
What the fuck!!!???
I immediately stormed back into the house, slumped down on the sofa in the living room and sulked for a good three minutes. What a revolting, soul-crushing revelation that was, years of building myself into supreme fitness down the drain. Getting back into tip top shape was definitely going to be a rather long road once I was cleared to do so. But on the bright side at least I had another goal to shoot for in addition to putting this blasted colitis into permanent remission, it could be a rather fun and rewarding experience.
Not long after my meeting with the immunologist I’d made another trip to see Dr. G regarding the results of the blood test I did. My haemoglobin checked in at the 90s, placing me another step closer to the front door of the triple digits.
“Not long to go now before you’re back to triple digits,” Dr. G mused, “and I’m glad to see some color on your face again.”
My mother breathed a sigh of relief on her seat and crossed herself.
For me, it was mixed feelings. As pleased as I was to know that my levels were climbing and that my body was healing, I was admittedly a little sour at not being in the 100s yet. Yes, Dr. G and Dr. B warned me that it wouldn’t be a speedy process but man, my patience was wearing thin, though I didn’t show it.
So close yet so far.
Looks like I still had many plates of red meat and many doses of sunshine to get through, still, to raise that blood count.
But let it be known that in no way, shape or form was I disappointed with the outcome. To go from the 80s to the 90s was progress and I was happy about that. I was just feeling impatient, that’s all.
Having got that out of the way, my mother and I also informed Dr. G of my upcoming meeting with the haemotologist, set to take place on September 12 at the hospital. Dr. G didn’t say much, this appointment was to keep her updated on my progress. She simply congratulated me on a job well done so far and wished me well on the appointment.
But she added one thing; “They might suggest that you undergo an iron infusion since you lost a lot of blood. That would have affected your iron levels.”
“Don’t be nervous. You’re on the right track, just keep doing what you’re doing.”
My mother and I nodded our heads enthusiastically. She didn’t need to tell us twice.
September 12 finally arrived and I woke up feeling relaxed. I began the day with another set of walking exercises and shadow boxing, ate my breakfast, did some reading and some more exercises in the backyard under the sun, took a mid-morning nap before lunch and then dressed up for my appointment. Both of my parents had taken the day off from work to accompany me and we drove towards the hospital an hour prior to my appointment.
We made it to the sixth floor of the hospital where the haemotologist’s office was located with twenty minutes to spare. In a refreshing change from all the other places I had been in this hospital, the sixth floor was brightly-lit and spacious and that sickly hospital smell wasn’t as overpowering. I quickly approached the receptionist’s table, confirmed my booking, filled out a document asking for my personal details and then joined my parents in the waiting area. There were many vacant seats, indicative of a rather slow day at the office, and I seemed to be the youngest patient in a room populated by senior citizens, just as it was during my two day hospital stay a couple of months earlier.
A pile of worn-out magazines sat on a table in the centre of the area, beneath a post on which a flat-screen TV was hung playing one of those mid-day talk shows. I had been battling the urge to urinate for the last few minutes, believing that I would be called in quicker than expected just like my blood test following my meeting with the immunologist since there didn’t seem to be too many people before me. Alas, the call of nature became unbearable five minutes before my scheduled appointment. I quickly excused myself, made a beeline for the men’s room and did my business.
Damn, shouldn’t have drank so much water before leaving! I hope I don’t miss their call.
Quick as a flash, I cleaned myself up, flushed the can and then power walked back to my seat.
“No one called you yet,” Mom said.
It would be fifteen minutes before I was finally summoned. So much for the perception of a slow day.
The haemotologist, whom we shall call Dr. R, was a rather short, bespectacled lady of Hispanic appearance with an upbeat personality that was a sharp contrast to the rather small, colorless room on the sixth floor that was her office. It closely resembled that dark office of the very first doctor I consulted months ago, albeit a lot more organized and with more medical paraphernalia lying around. We began our meeting with some good news regarding another blood test I was required to take a week prior to our meeting (which I did not long after my last appointment with Dr. G) and the results almost caused me to jump out my chair, run out of the room and do laps around the floor.
“Your haemoglobin levels are now 104,” she said, grinning.
Man, I didn’t care that my parents were seated near me and that I was speaking with a medical practitioner, I allowed myself to show some emotion. Consumed by excitement and relief I did a silly little victory dance on my seat, managing to keep a tight lid on the more extreme emotions that threatened to bubble to the surface. At last, I was out of criticaly-anaemic territory.
But there was another obstacle to the victory.
“Your haemoglobin levels are on a decent level now,” said Dr. P, “but your iron levels haven’t quite caught up yet. And since you are currently on medication to treat a digestive disease, putting you on iron tablets could have adverse side-effects. Therefore, you WILL need to undergo an iron infusion.”
Ugh! That fucking ulcerative colitis! Even in a bruised and battered state it was still taunting me, reminding me of its handiwork through months of blood loss.
Get ready, motherfucker. I’ll kill you some more with Mezavant tablets tonight!
My parents, too, seemed quite apprehensive, particularly my mother. Dr. R sensed this and gave us all a quick rundown on the procedure.
“It will take about half an hour,” she said, “you will be hooked onto a drip and the solution will be pumped into your system. There may be side effects but they aren’t very common.
Ok, I’ve had experience with being hooked onto a drip. I can handle that. Hold on, did you say ‘side effects’?
“What type of side effects?” asked Dad.
“Some muscle pain, probably headaches and nausea, and in rare cases fever and chills.”
Yup, uh-huh, ok, doc, thanks for the heads up.
“But again, they’re not very common,” added Dr. P, “but I still have to inform you of the possibility.”
Dr. R leaned in and smiled. “Don’t worry about it too much,” she said, “your haemoglobin levels are at a good level now, you’ll be back to normal before you know it. The iron infusion should speed up your results.”
I love how the doctors and specialists that I’ve seen so far know just what to say whenever they can sense that I’m starting to feel nervous or pissed off. Or both.
Dr. P then did some brief tests on me, checking my blood pressure, heartbeat, breathing and also my lymph nodes, before giving me some printed documents during the conclusion of our meeting; a few pages’ worth of my latest blood test results, a pamphlet that informed us of the formula that they were going to pump into me, and a sheet for…….drum roll, please…….another blood test!!!!!
Yup, that’s right, I was to have more blood drained out of me before we left!
Oh man……I hope this doesn’t knock me back into the 90s.
And so we took an elevator back down to the ground floor, over to the blood test clinics and…..you know the rest.
We got home just a little after 5pm, narrowly missing the afternoon peak-hour traffic. We had a nice family dinner before I washed up and got ready for bed.
I lay in bed that night, reflecting on the meeting with Dr. P. Well, I guess I’m about to find out what an iron infusion feels like. I wasn’t too nervous but I still hoped that my body would be strong enough to ward off any side-effects the way it did with the Imuran and Mezavant.
And of course I allowed myself to bask in the glory of having crossed back into the triple digits in regards to my haemoglobin levels. Finally, I was at the home stretch! Barring any serious mishaps I would be back to normal before the month was out.