There is a fairly common theme in literature, especially fairy tales and quest type fantasy stories, in which the hero of the story goes into the woods to retrieve something that's very important. The story is always fraught with danger, and usually the fate of the very world depends on it. In the process, the hero and his small band of stalwart comrades fight bloody battles to survive, and wonder if they are every going to be able to leave. Oftentimes they don't shower or sleep in real beds for weeks. It's a testing ground, a time to forge the sword of the human spirit. Despite intense loss and unforeseen sacrifices, the hero usually manages to get back to his world wiser, stronger, but sadder.
Six months ago, I entered my own personal woods. If everything had gone as planned, last Friday would have been my last injection of Interferon, and this Friday would be my last dosage of Ribavarin. I would have been "cured" of Hepatitus C, and I would have been out of those specific woods forever.
Of course, every good story needs unforeseen obstacles.
After the last time I had posted about my medical status, I gave up hope that this treatment would work. With a stroke of fatalistic genius, I figured that I would go through the original duration of the treatment, but that I wasn't going to be "cured" so I was able to quit worrying about the whole thing. Remarkably, I found myself having reached that mystical and mythical place of calm acceptance and serenity about it. I even practiced the sad, but brave smile in my mirror to make sure I got it right. Okay, maybe not that last part.
The next time I saw the doctor, there had been a fairly dramatic lowering of Hep C viral load, and there was again hope. Calm acceptance disappeared from my bag of tricks, and I again was flailing around with most evil of all emotions, hope.
I can't quite decided whether hope is the fire-breathing dragon in this little quest fantasy of mine or the narrow bridge over the raging river of fire. Hope is the thing that's gotta be faced down and conquered or else it will cremate the hero's heart in the fires of Mt. Doom. It's also the thing the hero has to navigate just perfectly, or he finds himself plummeting into the mouth of the lava monster below. If he indulges in too much hope, his spirit inevitably gets crushed. Too little hope, however, and he doesn't even attempt the journey. Tricky, tricky.
Hope has definitely kept my tired ass up at night on many occasions.
I meet with my liver doctor on Wednesday, and find out the blood test results that will decide whether it's possible for me to be "cured." If the viral load is still detectable, it means that the treatment is done, and I come out of the woods, having failed in my quest, yet still bleeding profusely from a magical wound that will never heal. If the viral load is undetectable, it means that I'm not leaving the woods, just crossing the river along a similar-looking path to another set of scary and dark woods for another year. I will again be battling the dragons of hope.
Interestingly enough to me, I was surprised to find out this last weekend, that I'm hoping more and more that I get another year in the woods. Part of it is hope and part of it is fear that I'll come out of the woods and find out that everything I've been battling has nothing to do with the meds, and everything to do with me.
After all, we create our own dragons, don't we?