Today Was A Good Day: Early Birthday Gift

Another visit to the doc, find out the results of those tests,
Hopeful of a further reduction to these meds,
Shining brightly now, that proverbial light, I can see it in the distance,
Gotta choreograph that victory dance, plan the celebrations,
Second-to-last chapter, inspired by that Ice-Cube banger,
Sincere thanks to fam, friends and those three angels, this was a team effort.  


It didn’t take long to rouse the drowsiness from my eyes on the morning of the twenty-third of January. On an average day I would drag my half-asleep self into the bathroom to splash cold water on my face over the sink in order to wash away that zombified state but on this day, I was as alert as a guard dog as soon as the alarm went off, practically jumping out of my bed like a professional athlete that had been ordered by his coach to get up at the break of dawn and run several miles.

Can’t snooze now, Buddy, you’ve got another meeting with the doc. Get up off your ass!

Well, I didn’t hit the road like Forrest Gump but following the de-zombification process I returned to my room to do some mobility drills and also stretched out my body, still smarting from the previous day’s workout and teaching session at the Wing Chun Academy. It was one of those days where my creaky body once again saw it fit to remind me of my advancing age and I winced during a few movements, feeling the sting of muscle tightness in my legs, back and sides. This ageing vehicle had certainly accumulated plenty of miles and no longer shook off the effects of a hard training session as easily as it did ten years ago (five years ago, too, for that matter).
But I was far from ready for the scrapheap. My back, knees and shoulders would gripe every now and then but I remained strong, fit and free of any chronic ailments that hindered my mobility and balance. I’d like to think that once I am retired and living out my twilight years I’ll be like Jack Lalanne, still capable of performing crazy fitness feats and outclassing younger lions in athletic endeavors at an age where most people would be content to sit in their recliners all day. As tempting as a life of rest and leisure sounded, I preferred to still be able to throw down.

Ok, we’re going off-topic here. Time to regroup.

Following that stretching and mobility session I headed to the kitchen for a breakfast of banana, porridge and boiled egg and washed it down with a ‘glass of ambition’ as Dolly Parton described it in that Nine-to-five song, though I am not a coffee drinker so for me it was a glass of warm water and a vitamin D tablet. Boring, I know, but it did the trick. I rested up afterwards, allowing my meal to digest adequately before heading to the showers to get dressed, head-banging to the song by Ice Cube that inspired this post as it rang on high rotation in my head. I took that as a sign of impending good news. 
Oh yes, today IS going to be a good day!
I carried that confidence with me as my father and I drove to Dr. B’s clinic, for once not feeling the nerves within swirling in my stomach as though I was a human blender. I felt like a kid on Christmas Day waiting to open his gifts as we took our seats in the waiting room.
Today IS going to be a good day!
Rinse and repeat. It was probably the first time in a long time that I was visiting the doctor without feeling queasy.

Upon arrival, it hardly mattered that the lights in the waiting room were kept at a relatively low dim, a stark contrast to my mind where it was all sunshine and good vibes. There appeared to be five new pictures added to the small collage of children’s drawings that were tacked to the wall in the back of the room, just above the play area in one of the corners. If I recall correctly there were also two elderly couples in the waiting room with us and they stared at my father and I during most of our time together, trying to figure out who was the patient and the support system. I’ll bet they would have been just as stunned as the others that I’d crossed paths with throughout this saga if they knew that it was the young bull, not the old bull, who was the patient. If there’s something I learned during this journey it’s that younger folks are not immune from sucky illnesses and health conditions that required them to undergo a totally invasive and embarrassing medical procedure. Colonoscopies were not just for older folks with an increased susceptibility to bowel cancer.

At least I’ll know exactly what to expect once I am ordered to undergo bowel cancer checks every few years when I’m older.

Dr. B called us into his office following a twenty-minute wait, the result of my father and I arriving rather early and Dr. B’s previous patient taking their time during their meeting. Upon entering the office a younger doctor, fresh-faced and probably aged in his early-to-mid-twenties, was standing beside Dr. B’s desk waiting for our arrival. He was Dr. B’s understudy, his protégé if you will, and I have to admit that I felt a sense of relief when I shook his hand. It was great to know that Dr. B, the genius that had restored me back to good health, was passing his gifts and wisdom down to the next generation, so to speak.
Both men were dressed in business attire that day, suggesting that neither had to rise earlier than the sun to oversee a colonoscopy prior to our meeting.
The young would-be doctor sat on a chair beside Dr. B’s sprawling desk that was still stacked with cards regarding different bowel disorders and surrounded a model of the digestive system, not far from where family photos and one of those ‘World’s Best Dad’ mugs were placed, while my father once again took a seat on one of the chairs lined up on the side of the room, facing the massive window that looked over an impressive view of the rooftops and green fields in the nearby suburbs. There was a cool breeze outside set against the backdrop of the sun’s full bloom, which I took as a good omen. Dr. B sat down on his desk and after exchanging pleasantries with us uploaded some files on his computer before turning towards me, eyeing me with a smile on his face. His understudy might as well have started a drum roll at that moment.

“I am pleased to say that you are now in clinical remission,” he announced rather triumphantly.

Man, if he had said anything else following those words I didn’t hear it. I immediately froze, wide-eyed and paralyzed with shock and awe, betraying the euphoria and excitement that immediately washed over me like a sandstorm rolling over a barren desert.
I think this is what being ‘gobsmacked’ feels like. Or maybe a delayed reaction.
Nope, no delayed reaction. I sat still in a trance for a rather long time, like someone that had won a million dollars but couldn’t quite wrap their head around the fact. It was a completely different story inside my mind where the music was turned up at full blast and all guests at the party were dancing and celebrating at levels that would have put Brazilian Carnival to shame but I didn’t let those emotions explode out of me like fireworks on New Years’ Eve. I didn’t want Dr. B’s understudy to think that one of his mentor’s clients was a total lunatic and Dr. B himself probably would have been left wondering what kind of monster he’d just created. Still, it felt like those moments during the conclusion of a boxing match, where the referee calls the two combatants to the center of the ring shortly before the fight’s outcome is announced and the challenger hears the words, “the winner…..and NEW……” you never hear anything else that escapes the announcer’s lips as he is immediately drowned by the sound of cheering and jubilation as the winning fighter and their supporters celebrate wildly.
Meanwhile, you would have needed a chisel to remove the wide grin that took over my father’s entire face. He was just as pleased as I was.

Dr. B gave me a moment to take in the good news before continuing on. He wasn’t done spreading good cheer just yet.
“I think we can now reduce your Mezavant dosage by one,” he added.
That meant three Imuran Tablets and three Mezavant tablets. It was not exactly an astronomical reduction but it was still one pill less and another step towards a normal life that didn’t involve having to take medication in order to shit like a normal human being. This date instantly became a very early candidate for the ‘best day of 2019’ and I was glad that Dr. B’s understudy had a ringside seat to it all so he can see first-hand just how good his mentor really is.
You’re in good hands, Kid. Your teacher pulled a broken-down man from the depths of severe pancolitis and restored him back to normal. He’s the fuckin’ Don!
That’s Don with a capital D.
Dr. B then turned his computer screen towards me and on it were the results of my recent blood and stool tests. Little did I know that the celebrations were about to be temporarily halted to make way for a final serving of shock and horror. Dr. B annotated on the screen the relevant areas of the test results and revealed that my haemoglobin levels were still at healthy levels.

So far so good!

Hold on tight, Cowboy. There’s more.

Dr. B turned his attention towards my faecal calprotectin levels, which measured the amount of calprotectin in my stools. Elevated levels would have been consistent with the migration of neutrophils to the intestinal mucosa, indicating an inflammation of the bowels. Well, the results of the previous week’s stool test indicated that mine was at a level twelve, a healthy result, but according to Dr. B my past tests had indicated that it had been in the thousands when my health was at its worst. That’s right, THOUSANDS! Four zeroes territory.
Holy shit……!
My jaw almost hit the floor while my father gasped in disbelief. That was pretty fucking elevated!
That little revelation sure did put the trials and tribulations from the previous year into perspective and a part of me wondered why Dr. B had kept that rather startling statistic under wraps until now. Was it to surprise me with how far I’d come? Or did he choose to withhold it from me until I had recovered sufficiently so as not to burden me with more disturbing news as I was already overwhelmed by my initial diagnosis? Either way, I felt proud to have left all of it behind in less than a year.

Dr. B got back on track with the good news. “Your rate of recovery from this has been quite impressive,” he added, “clearly your fitness and strength have served you well. You didn’t feel any side effects from the medication?”
“No,” I replied proudly and it was the honest truth. Not once did any of the ugly side-effects that Dr. B warned me about rear their ugly heads.
“Well I’m glad to hear that,” he said with a smile, “you really are a tough guy.”
He then eyed me up and down and grinned.
“You’re working out again, right?”
“Yeah, I am.”
The shirt that I wore for that appointment was rather tight-fitting and hugged all the right places, particularly my chest and shoulders. I was in far better shape than I had been when he first laid eyes on me, back when I was skeletal and anemic.
“Well keep it up,” he mused, “it’s nice to see that you’re in much better shape now.”

Music to my ears. Thanks, Doc!

“I think we’ll be able to gradually cease treatment within the next couple of years.”

If the confirmation of the remission was akin to winning the lottery then this was winning the lottery plus the Nobel Peace Prize to boot, not that I thought I was ever going to win either one any time soon. If this was a game of Mario Kart that annoying Lakitu dude would have pulled up on my screen and held a sign on my face that read ‘Final Lap’, the light at the end of the long tunnel was finally manifesting itself in the distance.
“We’re glad to hear that, Doc,” my father added, “so it’s down to three of both?”
“That’s right,” he answered, “whatever it is that he is doing, just keep doing it.”
“I’m just eating healthily, staying active and trying not to stress too much,” I said.
“And he’s taking his medication religiously,” echoed my father.
Dr. B chuckled. “Yeah, just do more of that.”

We booked a follow-up appointment for July, later changed to June due to conflicting schedules, before my father and I drove off in very high spirits. I texted my mother and sister my results and they were just as stoked, it was definitely a good time for me and the family.
‘I am pleased to say that you are now in clinical remission’.
Man, those words stayed with me for the rest of the day and a week later, an envelope arrived in the mail from Dr. B that contained a copy of the letter that he had delivered to Dr. G confirming the remission. I’d like to think that Dr. G jumped up and down and did a happy dance in her office upon reading that as she, too, played a major role in my recovery and deserved credit. She and Dr. B made one hell of a team and with additional help from Dr. R and that iron infusion, helped me conquer that disease. The favorable results were the perfect early birthday gift and definitely worth the early wake-up.
In addition to Dr. B’s positive news that song by Ice Cube continued to reverberate in my mind for the rest of the day, and I was more than happy to keep it playing on repeat.

I gotta say it was a good day.

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