Day -7 – The Owl

Trigger warning: Death talk

Some believe owls are harbingers of death.
The one on Athena’s shoulder thinks those people are idiots.

“I have to tell you that sometimes, due to complications, we have to send patients to the ICU, and that sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t come back,” Dr. Swiss said nonchalantly and proceeded to talk about the hospital’s privacy policy. Up to that point I was bobbing my head up and down furiously, and stopped suddenly mid-nod. I already knew quite a lot about what’s about to happen in the next 6 weeks. I was told all of it before, but there was something in the way she said this that made dying sound like a completely new concept. They just full-on don’t come back, hey? Well would you look at that.

Of course I know I can die. Besides the fact that everyone can, at any moment, I am about to switch out my blood building cells with those of another person, and that sounds just a tiny bit risky. In the beginning, when we didn’t know anything about my condition, death was all I could think about. I wailed about it already to the lovely psychologist, Frau Lamp, who promised I would live to see old age, I’ve talked about it with Dr. Frozen and Dr. Pancake, who said that after four weeks in isolation I was going to die, of boredom, and yet, when I sat there with Dr. Swiss, my heart tightened and I thought, “Girl, that’s harsh.”

Some people with aplastic anemia do die, and some people die from complications of a stem cell transplant, but most don’t. And they tell me the house is betting on me. I’m young (although that’s what everyone tells you at 35 except when talking about having babies – then they look at you as if they’ve come to mourn the passing of your poor decrepit eggs), I’m fit (although just barely, after mountains of cigarettes and rivers of beer I’ve consumed since I was fourteen), and my 26-year-old brother is a full match (can’t argue with that – he really stepped up with sibling utility here).

So why does the Earth stop revolving for a moment every time I see evidence of death on it?

“I’m not talking to you until you get me that Porg in the window!”

I’ve had a lot of grim thoughts since my diagnosis. My world has gotten a little darker, like the dimmer had been turned a few notches, and I can’t imagine that is ever going to change. At the same time, I feel I can enjoy it more than before. Death itself doesn’t scare me. I’m not religious and I don’t believe that my consciousness persists somehow after I die so I don’t expect to feel any pain. But, like Derren Brown (of all people) said, atheists fear death because it deprives them of the pleasures of living.

I’ve had to quit all my vices (ok, I can totally still eat ice cream), but I don’t care. I can read, I can enjoy art, I can have a conversation with my partner that I’m going to remember fully the next day. I’m even into tea now. That’s how serious this is. You don’t know what you got til it’s gone goes the song, and I’m here to tell you, along with anyone who’s ever had a life-threatening experience, that it’s true, even if it’s not gone. Even if it’s on the verge of gone. Even if someone makes a weak threat about it being gone. Even if someone mentions there is a slim chance of it maybe one day being gone.

“I’m high on life, man”

So that’s where we were yesterday. Day 2 is going to be a different story. I’m going all medical on you. Until then, stay alive, babies.

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