The Odessa Record -

In for the fight of his life


December 12, 2019

[Editor’s note: Pat Gamache of Odessa continues the story of his dealings with the medical profession and battles with addiction and illness. His earlier submission ran in the 2019 issues of October 10, 17 and 24.]

I saw a doctor (not here) about a chronic sinusitis issue from my head injuries, and asked him to explain to me why my antibiotics had made a big improvement to my pain level, digestive issues and more.

What I got was the addiction stigma and the “you’re a walking dead person” attitude.

He questioned all the meds prescribed for me by my gastroenterologist of seven years, who has 27 years of experience in his field and has been voted the best abdominal surgeon in western Washington. Plus, I’ve been stable for over four years now.

This doctor was just an intern. He was acting like I only had weeks to live, and he wanted to reinvent the wheel again. I get that a lot from doctors who don’t know me or are fresh out of school. I call them textbook taught, not experience taught. He scared my wife, and my post-traumatic stress about having liver disease kicked up again.

I write this because writing is my stress reliever. Being told you have liver disease is like being a prisoner on death row without a chance of a pardon. Learning to live with liver disease was a whole new way of life. So much to learn. So many things that needed to change: Fluid intake, salt, foods, etc.

I did not do detox or rehab or AA after my diagnosis. If I had, they would have referred to me as a train wreck. I just hadn’t run off the tracks yet. Close, though. I had to admit and accept that I was a multiple prescription addict. Not all my fault. So I wrote this about three months in.

The Challenge

I feel like a tight rope walker

The wind is starting to blow

It’s hard to walk this thin rope

So easy to fall off

I meet the challenge head on

As I try to stay focused

Look straight ahead

Take one baby step at a time

To live one day at a time

The next thing I wrote was what I told those who asked how I was doing.

I’ve been better ,

I’ve been worse,

I am still here,

They haven’t called the hearse

I would read quotes of terminally ill people and near-death survivors. One quote by Steve Jobs really hit home for me. “Remembering you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have nothing to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

I had nothing left to hide. I was an open book now, naked in front of God and the world. There were multiple other issues to go along with liver disease, esophageal varices, multiple lung nodules, lumps in both breasts, ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, anemia and so many more.

I would bleed uncontrollably because my blood would not clot properly. Constant nose bleeds. Capillaries that would burst and leave little red spots, constant itching, digestive issues, besides all the pain from my injuries in life. Allergic reactions to at least a dozen prescribed medications and many more. The train was at full throttle, and the bridge was out. I was approaching the end of the line fast.

The words of my primary care physician will forever be engraved in my brain, “I am so sorry for you, but all I can do is be here to talk with if you need to.” Another one sternly said, “Get your house in order now because you won’t make 3 to 6 months.” I cried so hard. It was really needed. I’ve learned you’re still a man, even though you cry.

I found a great therapist who had dealt with the terminally ill. I needed to talk, without being judged.

Doing a little research on liver disease, I found that a lot of marriages fail. Approx. 25 percent of such patients commit suicide, usually with Tylenol. Another 25 percent can’t adhere to the changes and fail or just won’t stop. Some get frustrated with the long wait for a liver, and 36 percent die waiting for one. It can take years. It all depends on your MELD (Model For End-Stage Liver Disease) score.

At this point, I felt that if I worked real hard at it, I had approximately the same chance for survival as for getting a liver transplant. I had also decided that I would not get on a transplant list. My reasons were my age and how long I might live anyway. The wait and the list are long, and I felt that a liver should be given to someone younger, with a family and a better chance at survival.

There was also this urgency to make things as simple as possible for my wife after I was gone. She is my everything.

As if things weren’t bad enough already. My wife had had a fall in the snow that winter and needed a new hip! The fall and replacement aggravated her low back. So fusion was recommended. They told her to apply for disability because things wouldn’t be getting any better. She was approved within 90 days. Unheard of! Mine took well over five years. Frustration abounded from all that was happening. A song from my past just kept popping into my head. I had no idea who did it, but the chorus line was, “Texas and the roads go on forever.” That was about all I could remember.

Then one morning on my way to a therapist appointment, it comes on the radio. They never said who it was by, but I wrote down the time and station. When I got home, I went to their website. There it was, Chris Rea’s “Texas.” I loved to drive and it’s a driving song. I guess that’s why it was stuck in the far reaches of my mind.


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