Friday, December 19, 2008

My Journey

I’ve begun a journey—a very important journey.

It is not the most important journey of my life, but it ranks very near the most important—that one being the journey that first brought me into this world.

This journey, you see, is a journey towards wellness. This is the one that will determine how much longer I will stay in this world.

I would like to stay awhile. The next world is better, I understand. But I am still attached to this one, and to certain people in it. Also, I have a few more things I’d like to do here before I leave.

So I have embarked on this journey …

A couple of months ago, I learned I have a potentially fatal disease: hereditary hemochromatosis, a disease that causes an excessive amount of iron in the blood. It is potentially fatal because too much iron can damage the body's organs, in particular the liver.

My liver has already suffered some damage, it seems. The damage has been exacerbated by my intake of alcohol, which further increases the amount of iron.

That’s two insults to the liver, as my doctor puts it. Two very rude insults: hemochromatosis and alcohol.

I’m in trouble …

Fortunately, the results of my biopsy were encouraging. I haven’t developed cirrhosis yet. But I’m close. Close enough that I have to take action now if I want to live.

And I want to live.

So, I’ve stopped drinking (this is week five of no alcohol), and in a couple of weeks I will begin my treatment, which will consist of regular phlebotomies to reduce the iron in my blood.

It will take several months to get my iron down to a normal level. After that, I will require a phlebotomy every three months for the rest of my life to keep it normal. But that's okay, because those phlebotomies will enable me to have a normal, healthy life—and a longer one.

Also, if I continue to avoid alcohol, it is possible my liver will repair itself in a few years.

That’s not a bad prognosis, but of course it’s only a prognosis. I have to actually follow through on the treatment—and continue avoiding alcohol—before I can truly say, "I dodged a bullet!"

I have to take the journey …