Monday, April 12, 2010

The Silent Killer and Sanibel Island...

I am sitting here waiting to see a doctor.  Hoping to get some new medication to control my diabetes symptoms.  I'm told they call it the "silent killer."  In my case it should be called the "silent annoyer."  The symptoms?  A whole litany of things I've never dealt with before: high blood pressure, weight loss (20 lbs in a month), excessive thirst (I've been chugging about three or four gallons of water a day), excessive urination (see "chugging"), crippling headaches (they incapacitate me at times), weird out of the blue dizziness, right leg numb, and a bunch of other stuff.  So what we tried to correct with diet and exercise will now have to be dealt with through medication.

Okay.  That's the last time you will EVER hear me talk about my health.

I hate it.  I hate when people whine about their health. My grandmother was a hypochondriac and for the last thirty years of her life she was dying.  About to drop over any second.  Every time, as a child, I visited her I listened to endless theories on how she just very well might die that day.  A cough was pneumonia. A sprain was a compound fracture.  A sore muscle was polio.  It was ridiculous.

I'll tell you what.  If they tell me I've got about forty five minutes to live, THEN I'll talk about it one more time.  But it'll have to be quick.

But since I'm on the subject.

In 1993 I traveled down to Sanibel Island off the gulf coast of Florida to do a whole season of plays; Lend Me a Tenor, The Rainmaker, Two by Two, Wait Until Dark, The Foreigner and Run For Your Wife.  There was a little SPT (Small Professional Theatre) down there called Pirate Playhouse.  Embarrassing name for an Equity theatre.  Nonetheless, I did a lot of work there, always in the bitterly cold months of December, January and February.  Anything to get out of NYC during those months.  And Sanibel Island is just beautiful.  I always described it as Gilligan's Island with electricity.  Adding up all the time I spent doing theatre there, I probably spent a year of my life on that island.  And it's a paradise, it really is.  Beaches beyond anything I'd ever seen.  Beautiful houses.  Literally an island paradise.  Angie and I hope to retire there someday.

The theatre itself, which is still there but now they do non-Equity musical reviews and the like, mostly using local actors, is a great 200 seater with state of the art facilities.  Back in those days it was run by Bob Cacioppo who is now the AD at Florida Rep in Fort Myers.  As near as I can tell he was fired for doing good theatre.  The board, apparently, didn't like the fact that actual plays were being done there, Williams, Shakespeare, Miller, Odets, Inge, Simon and the like.  They wanted snappy musicals with lots of glitter and jazz hands.  The kind of stuff that makes me want to throw canned hams at the stage.  Anyway, that's another blog.

So I'm doing Run For Your Wife during that season.  I'd been feeling a tad under the weather for a few days but I thought it was because of all the tippling I and the cast had been doing.  I tended to tipple a lot back then.  So I'm doing the play and getting weaker and weaker as the night wears on.  Finally, midway through the second act I knew I was gonna go down.  Something just told me I was going to.  In the middle of a scene in front of a packed house I simply walked off stage and passed out.  Later I found out the stage manager had then walked on stage and canceled the performance and asked if there was a doctor in the house.  Well, it's Sanibel.  I think EVERYONE in that house was a doctor.

I awoke in the emergency room.  Getting blood transfusions.  It was a duadenal ulcer.  About half the blood in my system was now in my stomach.  Duadenal ulcers are tricky because there are no nerve endings in the duadenal tract, apparently, so there is on pain involved.  You just drop.  And I dropped.

So they went in and cauterized the ulcer.  I was out of the play for a week or two.  Which kind of sucked because I really enjoyed doing that stupid little play.

The old cliche' "if you don't have your health, you don't have anything" is annoyingly true.  It never occurred to me I might someday have health issues such as diabetes or ulcers or heart problems.  Never.  Because I was blessed with an incredible constitution.  The things I've done to myself would kill a half dozen normal people.  And so I'm surprised, startled even, to have to deal with these things now.

Our bodies begin to betray us.  We turn into our parents and their parents and finally understand the meaning of the foreign words they used when we were young.  We have to spend time looking up medical terms, terms we've heard about and seen on bad TV movies but never really taken the time to really understand.  We have to pace ourselves.  And, like our parents and their parents, we have to sashay through life doing normal, everyday, working things, all the while knowing that lurking just beyond our passive countenance is a disease doing unwanted things to our body.  We want to tell people about it.  The guy at the checkout line, "Um, listen, could you please not be so curt with me right now?  I was just diagnosed with diabetes, that's the "silent killer" in case you didn't know, and I'm really in need of just a tiny bit of compassion right now."  In my case, an audience, "Um, listen, I just want to stop the show here for just a second if you don't mind.  Normally, I do that scene with a great deal of emotion.  Other audiences have wept uncontrollably at this moment.  But I can't raise my voice because it will bring on a blood pressure surge and a crippling headache.  So I'm changing my performance so that it's not the best I can do...just to accommodate my disease.  I hope you don't mind.  By the way, it's called The Silent Killer.  Now back to the show."

So what's to be done?  Nothing.  Acceptance.  Grace.  Trust.  Get older.  No use fighting that.  Become less.  It's a losing game.

On the plus side our new puppy, Francis, is making me really dig life in general.

See you tomorrow