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Bitter Pills
February 14, 2000


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I tell people I'm doing just fine now, and mostly I believe it too. The shortness of breath is more or less gone, the pounding chest doesn't hit me any more. I'm eating right (sometimes still too much, but we're working on that too and if it's too much, at least it's too much fiber-based low sodium stuff). People ask me how I am and I give a sunny smile and say that the medication is doing wonders and I'm fine. Just fine.

But it's not always true. It's not true today. Today, I'm nauseous as Hell and it's the medication that's doing it, and I know that to be true because it happens every now and again. I feel terrible and I want to go home and die, but I can't. I need to work, and I have three outside appointments I need to go to.

I have a serious condition. It's still serious. I need to do radical things to make sure I keep breathing. That includes taking a handful of pills a day. Do you know what they call "keeping your side effects on the positive side of tolerable" when you're on medication? "Tolerating the drugs." I'm tolerating the drugs. I may be nauseous sometimes but not every time, and I don't throw it back up. I'm not usually dizzy. I'm not usually feeling worse.

I so much didn't want to get out of bed today. It's raining on top of snow, so the world is glazed over and miserable, here. Digging my car out felt like I was digging my own grave, and my feet are damp now. I wanted to close my eyes and drift away, riding out the side effects.

You should see the list of warnings on the stuff I'm taking. According to the inserts from Rite Aid, I should be lying on a couch listening to the songs of the apple people. It goes from dizziness to sexual dysfunction. Not that I'm suffering from all of them, mind. At least, not yet. So stop snickering behind your hand. It's not funny, damn it! All right, maybe it is.

Maybe I'm not sure what's funny any more. There is a kind of irony that as the last original Peanuts Sunday Strip went to press, Charles Schultz died. It was a shock. It shouldn't have been. He was an old man, with Colon Cancer, who had retired because his health was so poor. But it shocked us all, becuase we didn't see Charles Schultz as an old man. We saw him as an old friend, who did things the right way because it's important to do things the right way. He told us stories. He added to our cultural heritage. He reminded us of simpler truths.

And as they printed his last strip, he slipped out the back door, to sleep on a doghouse or lose his kite in a tree. Listening to the tinny glory that is Beethoven on a toy piano. Stopping off for a nickel's worth of psychoanalysis.

The best part of Peanuts is it remained true. Charlie Brown never got the Little Red Haired Girl. He never really became a success at anything he tried. He never stopped being Wishy-Washy. And yet, he seemed often content with his life, through adversity. He might be depressed, but he never gave up. He always went back out to that pitcher's mound. He always ran for that football one last time. And when he ran, he was always -- always -- convinced he could kick that football to the moon!

I guess maybe I can survive my medication another day. Charlie Brown would.

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