May 17, 2002
Appointed


I've been on hold for 24 minutes and 13 seconds, according to the LED read-out on the File Room phone.  

During that time, I've been transferred to four different medical departments ... spoken with five different Kaiser healthcare professionals with varying levels of success/frustration/language-barrier difficulty ... endured 23 minutes and 13 seconds' worth of KDFC-FM Classical 102.1 ("An Island of Sanity in the Middle of Your Workday"). While I've waited, I've composed two different shopping lists ("Grocery Stuff" and "Girl Stuff"), doodled ten different cartoony faces on the margins of my Day-Timer and gnawed off two of my best fingernails.

But that's OK. I am a woman of infinite patience. If I have to sit here in the Dirt Company File Room and fritter away my entire lunch hour, waiting to schedule a stoopid doctor's appointment ... then I'll sit here and wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

Because this isn't just any stoopid doctor's appointment I'm trying to schedule. This is the stoopid doctor's appointment that very well may change my life, and David's life, and the lives of everyone within a 43,897,621 mile radius of me.

For a couple of days every month, anyway.

Eventually my patience is rewarded, and I find myself speaking to an honest-to-god human being once again. (Even better: an honest-to-god human being who 1.) speaks English and 2.) has an appointment book sitting in front of her.) 

"Is there a specific issue you'll want to discuss with the physician when you come in next month, Ma'am?" she asks me.

Criminy. A 'specific issue'?  Where to begin?

I could start, I suppose, by telling the doctor that I'm a forty-four year old woman in relatively decent health: good diet, regular exercise, non-smoker, non-drinker, optimistic mental outlook. I'm still lugging around twenty pounds more than I need, but I'm working on it. Three and a half years sober. Three grown children. Four years since the last time my feet were in a doctor's stirrups. (For professional reasons, anyway.)  

I could explain that I've remarried within the last year -- blissfully happy, great sex life, no complaints there -- and that my husband and I have no plans to start a *new* family.

I could give the doctor some gynecological back-history: that my menstrual cycle has run pretty much like clockwork since March 27, 1971 at 5:17 p.m. PST. Twenty-eight day cycles, regular as rain in TicTac, with the occasional time-off for good behavior (or bad behavior, depending on how you look at it).  Nothing unusual or noteworthy about the periods themselves, except for the occasional chocolate craving or gut-crushing cramps. I could tell the doctor that within a year of getting sober -- back in September 1998 -- I began to notice a peculiar new phenomenon: that two or three days before my period started, every month, I experienced a noticeable spike in hormonal malfunction. Weepy/cranky/headachey/tired/utterly dysfunctional, almost to the point of incapacitation. Muscle cramps. Diarrhea. Cystic acne. Cold hands and feet. Bizarre cravings for tomatoes and corn dogs and Lucky Charms. It would descend out of nowhere, like a toxic cloud, and make my life absolutely unbearable for seventy-two hours. As soon as my menstrual flow started, the cloud would completely disappear, as quickly as it had appeared, and everything would go back to *normal* again. At first I didn't know what to make of it. Maybe this is a natural part of the recovery process, I told myself when it started ... this sudden hormonal hypersensitivity, once a month, not unlike the insomnia and the constipation and the sugar cravings and all of the other weird physical changes I was experiencing as a result of quitting alcohol.  Except that the insomnia and the constipation and the sugar cravings went away eventually, as I moved further into the recovery process, while The Seventy-Two Hours From Hell, as I'd begun to refer to them, continued to plague me month after month.

After a while, I began to suspect that it had been this way all along. I'd just been too screwed up to notice it until I got sober. Maybe I'll ask the doctor if that could be the case.

I could tell the doctor that some months are worse than others: that, in fact, there are some months, like last month, when those two or three days find me absolutely filled with energy and vitality and joy -- it's like being on really good speed for three days, except without the physical or financial consequences (and without the nasty chemical hangover the next day) -- but that these *Golden Months* have grown fewer and further between, the past year or two, and mostly now I'm dealing with two or three days' worth of feeling bleak and depleted, physically and emotionally, every single month.

I could tell the doctor that so far this month has been the worst I can EVER remember: that I felt the toxic cloud begin to descend almost a full two weeks before my period was due, instead of the usual two or three days, and that even though I pulled out all of the weapons in my arsenal -- less caffeine, less salt, more sleep, ibuprofen, hot baths, deep cleansing breaths -- the cloud now has me fully engulfed in ridiculous, inexplicable, self-perpetuating misery ... that everything is reducing me to tears at the moment: rude clients, last-minute schedule changes, 10 p.m. collect calls from TicTac, slow elevators, GAP commercials on TV ... that it's beginning to negatively impact everything from my energy level to my job performance to my personal relationships. (He's too nice to say so, of course, but I'm sure David doesn't particularly enjoy being told to "shut up.")  I could tell the doctor that I'm sick and tired of feeling like this, even if it's only for a few hours every four weeks or so. My life is so good, so rich, so BLESSED, twenty-five days out of the month. Must this be the trade-off? 

I could say that I'm tired of the wasted time, the missed opportunities, the ridiculous excuses I'm forced to make. ("I'm sorry I hung up on you earlier, Sir. I'm just a little hormonal today.") I could say that I'm ready to try anything ... anything ... just to get some relief from The Seventy-Two Hours From Hell.

Or I could just cut to the chase.

"I want to talk to the physician about perimenopause," I tell the nurse.

And she writes my name down in her appointment book and says OK, Mrs. Rafter. See you next month.



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