The Diagnosis

by Chris Burton

Every year brings reminders of life’s significance. College reunions, anniversaries, milestone birthdays and the like. As February approached my wife and I counted down and remembered where we were this time last year. The details in what remains the most difficult month of our short life together thus far. When we almost lost it all.

I remember that Saturday morning. Finally out of the hospital and armed with a diagnosis. My rheumatologist told me the previous day that what I was going through was in fact lupus. I’ll never forget his optimism as he told me that this was the best time in human history to have the disease. Medical advances had made it quite possible to lead a happy life in spite of the condition. To this day he remains one of the best deliverers of bad news I have ever met.

His optimism gave me hope. I wanted to call everyone I knew. The high dose of prednisone made me feel like I could call everyone. I don’t really know what stopped me from doing this but I planned on calling everyone in my phone’s directory. Credit card companies and pizza delivery places included.

I made the rounds of calling my loved ones and giving them the news. My optimism quickly faded into sadness as I realized they did not share the joy I had in knowing what it was. I approached each phone call with the same enthusiasm one would have upon receiving admittance into a prestigious school. Their silence or tears made me feel like I had dropped a bomb on their lives. I tried to draw inspiration from Magic Johnson’s press conference when he told the world he had HIV. In the face of what was perceived as a death sentence, he had the courage to encourage those who cared about him and to still hope. I wanted to do the same thing. 

It was exhausting. I didn’t know what the next steps were.