In the merriment of the season is a go-round that Swenny and I have found necessary for the care and keeping of chronic liver disease. Halloween Eve marked Swenny’s first test of cirrhosis, an esophageal scope in which a varix was found and banded. At the same time, a biopsy was done on his stomach with good results. Four weeks later, a second scope was done and the initial varix re-banded. A concerning stomach fold was being watched, so a CT scan was scheduled along with a third esophageal scope.
Results from the CT scan were good: no cancer, no blood clot. The third esophageal scope was postponed until January, and a doctor’s appointment made for late December.
Throughout this, Swenny and I have found a comfortable pattern of tests and treatment, with a routine fitting our separate yet entwined lives. On days when he has a procedure requiring anesthesia, he spends the night here, at the home where we share the title. After we leave the hospital, I drop him off and depending on orders, pick up prescriptions, and return home with soup from whatever restaurant has the softest-of-the-day. A chocolate shake follows. He rests, and when he falls asleep, I study the doctor’s notes, researching what he has written until I find and explore every potential risk, every potential complication and every potential outcome. The possibilities seem endless, so I settle on what I think is likely, without full understanding of what it all means.
Between appointments, the business of life keeps us occupied, more separately of late than not. Daily conversations are no longer a given, and days can stretch to a week or longer before we see each other. I continue to position myself for entry into his appointments to no avail. I’m thankful to have met his doctor, though, and for the opportunity to counter Swenny’s claims of sobriety with what I know to be true: his drinking continues, confirmed by the traces of alcohol I sense in phone calls at night and in shaking hands by day.
This is where cirrhosis is helpful. It opens difficult conversations about the detriment of alcoholism to Swenny’s life and livelihood, and about the threat of more alcohol to take away any chance for an ever-after by turning compensated into decompensated.
When the reality of his symptoms is not enough for him to accept help, we question together why he lets by the opportunities to stop his cirrhosis, or at least slow its progression. And when I ask for how long he intends to use every result that is not devastating as a pass to drink, I do so hoping that bad news doesn’t answer first.
Until then, we continue to go round.
All we ever do, is all we ever knew. ~ The Head and the Heart