Guest Column: I’d rather be driving by Mary Bryant*

I’d rather be driving.

It’s strange if not unnerving how life can turn on a dime.  I can remember my mother saying that about our brand new 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88. It was our first car with power steering!

I digress.  That is not the dime I was speaking of but hey, I’ve always had a love affair with cars and can turn nearly any story into something about cars or roads.

Three years ago I was living in the mountains in rural Colorado near many hiking trails.  I loved hiking alone or with my partner at the time or several of my women friends.  I could knock out 5 miles at 10,000 feet without breathing hard.  It was that year that my partner and I took a month to drive around the Canyonlands National Park of Southern Utah.  Some of the back roads were pretty treacherous.  Hiking in the slot canyons was magnificent!

Then two years ago I went with my partner on a few months journey to Greece.  We did a lot of island hopping and we rented a tiny car on the Isle of Crete.  Driving across and around the island was an adventure.  Very curvy mountain roads, in fact, the tourist busses nearly knocked us off of the side of the road and the sheep roamed free…and it was not uncommon to see one of them asleep in the middle of the road.

Shortly after that trip I was diagnosed with acute anemia, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, 3 fractured discs and primary biliary cirrhosis.  Suddenly, the aforementioned dime was spinning out of control.

Primary biliary cirrhosis is a liver disease that can’t be cured except with a liver transplant.  High levels of bilirubin in your blood prevent the bilirubin from breaking down.  Sounds like a 50″s rock band …Billy and the Rubins in charge of my life.  I’d rather it was the Beatles. I try to think of that when depression sets in.

The arthritis and osteoporosis stopped me in my tracks.  Some days it is too painful to walk at all.

Consequently I have monthly blood labs with iron infusions about every 3 months.  I have endoscopies every 6 months and ultrasounds and bone density tests frequently.  Alas, the drive to Vanderbilt Hospital is pleasant unless you happen to hit rush hour…and they have free valet parking, which is a real plus in downtown Nashville.

The physical changes are obvious.  The mental and emotional changes are pretty unpleasant.  Asking for help and support from family members is humbling.  And spending a couple of days in the hospital every two or three or months is demeaning. Hearing whispers in conversations is uncomfortable because  paranoia begins to insinuate itself in the mind.

One of my seriously bad times came when I was on a cruise with my sister around Iceland.  We were gone eleven days…most of which I didn’t even get up to eat.  She took great care of me but it sure changed the kind of trip we thought it would be.

I did better on my trip to Italy last month. New medications have improved my quality of life but death still looms nearby as I know it might occur at the next exit ramp.

Now I wake up every morning with gentle twists and turns till both feet are on terra firma to see if my back and legs plan to support me or not.

All things considered, I’d still rather be driving.

*A romantic traveler