One August evening, I had some trouble sleeping. I was having some muscular pain in my chest, directly over the sternum. That day I'd been at the recording studio with Max, laying down some vocals and chain smoking. Before I left there in the late afternoon I noticed the pain, which I chalked up to hunger pangs.
But lying in bed, restless, it dawned on my that this was something new, something different. Of course, the pain hadn't ceased with a meal. Hunger was officially ruled out.
I lay there in pain. By this time the dolor had not only progressed to spasms. It had relocated. Now it hurt in my back on the left side, in the muscles over the rib cage. The spasms became so intense that I could only moan and sweat. Breathing was difficult.
Somehow the children slept throught the EMS visit, complete with fire truck and ambulance, their colored, rotating lights ablaze for all the neighborhood to see. They gave me some meds which did nothing to halt the spasms or the pain. They loaded me up for an inept, $700 ambulance ride.
For about 6 hours I lay in the hospital bed, my dad by my side making jokes to cheer me up. The pain didn't go away.
Finally I saw a doctor, who prescribed some pain medication that worked. I was discharged with about $2,400 of new debt in addition to what I now owed Greenville County EMS and without a definitive diagnosis.
A day later, another attack, another emergency room visit, another $1,100. This time I did receive a diagnosis: pleurisy. I felt like I ought to be strapped to a bed in some Dickensian sanitorium. I was given Prednisone, a steroid. I was also prescribed some muscle relaxers. I used a heating pad and hot showers whenever I felt twinges.
Prednisone made me more emotional than usual, weepy and intolerable. I further damaged my already cracking relationships. I quit smoking.
But smoking crept its way back into my life, escalating with increased stress levels. My solution? The patch.
On a nicotine patch I feel good. My brain and senses are sharpened. I am focused on whatever the task at hand is, less prone to distraction. My level of irritability seems low, in that things that might normally perturb me seem much smaller. The cravings are almost nonexistent on this, the fourth day.
I don't need to smoke anymore. But damn if I'm not already hooked on the patch.