Being better

I spend my days waiting to get better. I must be patient because it is long and slow and uncertain in coming. The concept of better is tenuous in any case. It doesn’t refer to a final state of wellness but rather something relative and elastic, a state of health in which no further treatment is required or of any use, and even the passage of time will aid no further. It’s likely to be a state of mind as much as it is of physical health. It’s when I understand and accept that this is as good as it will get, even if it means I’m no more than semi-functional.

It’s a generalised sense of waiting, or anticipation, much as you might anticipate a long sought holiday sometime in the middle distance. Within that, there is the more specific and urgent passage of time between engagements, between treatment and doctors’ appointments, waiting for each to come up and go by. Breaks have been few and far between, but I have about three weeks coming up in which I’ll get away from all of this limbo.

I think of myself as semi-functional these days, though perhaps that is harsh. My eyesight is failing, but that can and will be fixed. A resolution to my hearing loss is less certain, and maybe I’ll have to accept it. There’s no clear solution to my problems with speech either, though perhaps time will help, and when my missing teeth are replaced, it will be different. There is a treatment to fix the issues I have opening my mouth wide, but the contraption required costs $1500, and I won’t be doing that. Perhaps exercise will help, but I doubt it will ever be as it was.

On the other hand, I am walking much more freely. My hip is not nearly as cumbersome, though I still have no feeling in my right hip, quad and into my pelvis because of the damage done to my nerves there. Curiously, it affects my muscle definition. My left quad looks carved from marble, like an ancient statue of an Olympic athlete poised for action. Clearly defined are three layers of muscle in taut relief. My right quad has no definition at all, even though it has been worked as much as the other.

My general fitness is much better. The last couple of months have been good to me in that regard. I’ve walked much longer and further than before and pushed myself harder. As a result, my body has toned, and the shape has returned. The muscle I lost from my shoulders and chest have come back. This time last year, I looked like a rugby player. Today, I have the build of a swimmer with the trunk of a woodcutter.

I work hard to build and maintain that. Six months ago, I was capable of very little – so tiny that it was disconcerting. Now I do push-ups and crunches daily and am steadily improving. In this regard, I feel pretty functional – and probably have it over most men my age.

Many of the indicators that worried me have recently improved considerably. My resting heart rate when sleeping was around 80. Now it’s about 70, and I hope to get it down into the low sixties, where it was before all this treatment. I’m sleeping much better than before, though I dream too much.

Then there’s my face. It’s not so bad, considering, and much better than I expected. I still retain a form of attractiveness – a strong jaw, high cheekbones, clear, direct blue eyes, good hair, and the bearing and attitude of forthright honesty. All the same, I’m marked. My nose is slightly askew, and the surgery and the missing teeth mean that the right side of my mouth has a small sneer. There’s still some swelling, though it’s barely discernible, but curiously, my left cheek is puffier than it was before, perhaps as some referred swelling. It used to be more sharply defined with the hint of the concave – now, my face is less oval and more round in general, though I’ve slimmed down. I’ll never win beauty contests, though I still look pretty youthful.

The time will come when the waiting is over. It will be a relief and a release from a state I’m eager to end.

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