Infusions? Being hooked up to an IV every month to get medication?
It’s funny how comfortable I am now, walking into Dr. Parker’s office. Ma seems to feel the same way, giving the rheumatologist a friendly greeting and motioning for me to begin.
“How are you doing, Libby?” she asks.
Gone are the days of stammering over my symptoms, trying to explain them away, feeling uncomfortable. I’ve learned that what I feel is real, and I’m the best one to advocate for myself. I tell Dr. Parker about the joint pain coming back, the fatigue.
“I don’t know why,” I tell her, a little plaintively. “I’ve been taking the pills every day, reducing the dose like you told me, but it’s just not working.”
She nods sympathetically, “Hmm. It seems that you’re not responding to the other medication with a lower dose of steroids. Looks like it’s time for a change of treatment plan.”
She starts talking options. Here, Ma gets involved again. She asks a million questions, and my mind starts to drift. It’s hard to focus.
Dr. Parker turns back to me when they’re done. “So, how does that sound, Libby?”
I’m embarrassed to ask her to repeat, but my expression gives me away.
“It’s the next-best option,” the rheumatologist explains. “An immunosuppressant medication. You’d do infusions every few weeks, through an IV. That should make a big difference to your symptoms.”
Infusions? Being hooked up to an IV every month to get medication? My stomach muscles tense up.
My reaction must be obvious, because the doctor hastens to reassure me. “I know it’s an adjustment, Libby. But this is really a great option. You’ll do them down at an infusion center every four weeks, it takes a couple of hours each time, you can take a nap or read…. You’ll see. It’s not that scary when you get used to it.”
I bite my lip.
“You’re a strong girl, Libby.” Dr. Parker stands up, shuffling her papers. Our appointment is over. “I’m sure you’ll manage just fine.”
Shaindy does infusions, too. She’s the first person I call once I escape to my room.
“What’s up, Libs?” she trills. “Sunny with a chance of headaches?”
I chuckle because she expects me to. “Shaindy, the doctor wants me to start doing infusions.”
And then I start to cry, just a little bit, just so my voice wobbles and tears wet the phone pressed against my cheek. “I don’t want to. I can’t do this. I don’t want to be the girl doing infusions…. I’m scared, okay?”
Shaindy’s quiet. I’m glad she’s taking this seriously, not whooping and offering to Skype me for an infusion party. I mean, I’m starting to appreciate the humor, and she’s really awesome, but right now, I just want to cry to someone who really gets it.
“It is scary,” I hear her say, finally. “I know. I remember what it felt like at the beginning. But Libby, you’re wrong about one thing. You can do this. You can. You need to believe that.”
I sort of know that I can, because I will, because I have to. But I don’t want to admit it.
“Libby, are you there?”
“Yeah.” My fingers crush a tissue to pieces. “I’m here.”
“Okay, so listen. Repeat after me: ‘I can do this!’ ”
I can’t help it. I stifle a sob, give a tiny laugh, and hiccup. “Are we playing a game?”
“No, I’m serious. Come on, say it! ‘I can do this!’ ”
“I can do this,” I say, rolling my eyes at the mirror.
“No, really! Say it like you mean it,” she pushes. “ ‘I can do this!’ ”
I smirk, but then feel myself starting to smile for real. “Okayyy… Here goes: I can do this!”
“Libby, you really can. I mean it. Yes, you’ll do infusions, and yes, you’ll be okay. Really!”
The tears have dried by now. “Okay, okay. I know, I can and I will,” I say.
When we hang up, a new empowerment is trickling through me, an infusion of sorts.
I can do this.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 820)
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