It was raining, France was on strike and my back ached - I've got guts or I am totally insane

Popeye was coming home (to Les Tertres) last evening. At least this was the plan. I spent the day on the SNCF website to check whether or not his train would be leaving Paris at 5:30 p.m.

In the morning, it was o.k. At noon, the train was not scheduled any more. At 4:00 p.m., it came back, said to leave on schedule.

Popeye went to the station. The train was there allright. There would be two stops before arriving to Lamballe, on time: Laval and Rennes.

He called me to give me the scheduled arrival time: 8:30 p.m. at Lamballe. Great!

Alas! An hour later, they made an announcement on the train. It would stop in Rennes and that was it. Bye bye Lamballe, Saint-Brieuc and Brest. No other trains available until, until... well, they didn’t know for sure. Probably on Friday morning (today).

At 6:45, I got a phone call: ‘I’ll be stuck in Rennes at 8:00. What can I do?’

‘Take a cab’, I said, knowing that he would never do that. He hates cabs. The fare would be quite expensive of course, double actually since it is a one way trip but we could manage. So I called cab companies in Rennes. No cabs available. I made a few phone calls to check on our friends... Nobody was home yet.

So I called Popeye and said: ‘Wait for me at the station. I’m coming to pick you up.’ It would be a 55 miles trip on the freeway. Yuck!

Since May 2001, when the doctors diagnosed a brutal onset of wet macular degeneration, I have lost, among other things, the ability to drive. I started driving again two years ago around Pléneuf (but not too much) but it’s not really my thing. A lot of lack of spatialization, especially on the road.

American research about macular degeneration (the wet type) is very developed because this disease is extremely widespread in the States. It even affects very young kids and teenagers. In Europe, this type of MD is considered as an orphan disease. I spent one month going from hospital to hospital in Paris, looking for help. At one point, I even considered flying to John Hopkins, the Mecca of WDM.

All the specialists agreed on one point. The onset had been very brutal. Both eyes were affected. Diagnosis: Blindness within 2 months. All of them but one who had heard about a new medicine approved by the FDA, just one month before I got sick.

JC was studying in the States at the time. He got the medicine and sent it to me. We were afraid it would be blocked by the French customs but the medicine got through thanx to a big lie on the Customs slip.

I remember our happiness and hope when we got the first tablets. I do remember how sick they made me at first. But I was very brave or reckless. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

A few months later, I started to read again (quite painfully at first). I quit bumping into people on the sidewalks. I was able to cross a street and to go shopping. One year later, I started taking pictures again with my... left eye which by then had become quite healthy again. (Which meant that I had to train my brain to get used to my new ‘photographic eye’).

Life was beautiful again... 4 tablets a day! A strong will to recover. I’ve always been stubborn.

Cancer was a problem though besides being cancer because I could not take some medicines that would have made my life easier but would have deteriorated my vision. But I managed.

Actually, I’m very surprised how easy it is to adapt. For example, I can use our alarm system once Popeye explained the keyboard to me. It’s very easy for me now. But he needs glasses to use it! Funny, isn’t it?

Now, nine years later, I’m kind of fine and still on the American medicine.
I manage to do a lot of things with one ‘good’ eye. There are many things I still can’t do, of course, like finding a book on a shelf that is lower than me. Try to explain to a salesclerk that you can’t find the book you want because you are very partially sighted. Life can be very funny sometimes!

I always have to wear sunglasses, even at night. Light (from the sun or electric sources) really hurts me. And I get potentially blind when night falls.

I’m getting very good at using a computer and I’m so glad this happened to me at a time when computers can be adapted to deficiencies.

Well, back to Popeye stuck in Rennes.

When I told him that I was coming to pick him up after spending so many years without driving on a freeway, I hung up quickly because I knew he’d be going out of his mind. He tried to call me. I didn’t answer the phone.

And off I went. We have a great car. Safe, comfortable and fast.

It still was raining cats and dogs, of course and it was getting late. I knew I had to get to Rennes before nightfall. I had less than one hour to drive those 55 miles. And this was the worst time of the day because lots of people were driving home due to the SNCF strike.

When I got to Lamballe, I was panic-stricken. Lamballe was the beginning of the freeway for me. I stopped on the side of the road for a few minutes. I had to do it and I would do it. All I had to do was being extra-careful and relaxed at the same time. I could do it.

If at some point, I was getting too tired, Popeye would find a way to meet me somewhere. I only had to get as close to Rennes as I could.

So off I went. I felt the adrenaline flowing in my blood. I passed my first truck and that was it... I kept driving. I’m pretty sure I was sometimes going over the speed limit because I couldn’t check the cars behind me and in front of me, I couldn’t pass the many, many trucks while checking the speedometer.

All I knew was that I had to hit Rennes before nightfall hit me!

Nightfall hit at the very minute I was entering Rennes. Lots of cars all around me. No idea whatsoever where the station was. This was really hard. I was feeling very, very tired. The city lights were getting very blurred. I almost run a couple of red lights or maybe I did run them. I was so intent on not hitting anyone. I did use my warning lights  a lotand drove very slowly. Thank goodness for my Belgian license plates.

I don’t know how I managed to do it but after a while I found myself entering an underground parking lot which said: ‘Southern Train Station’.

I called Popeye who arrived a few minutes later, completely stressed out.

I was dead beat but I had done it!

This is my life, filled with unexpected challenges I have to meet to feel alive and well. I’m probably completely and totally insane.

It was raining, France was on strike and my back ached!

It’s still raining. France is trying to get back to normal and my back still aches a lot!

*Good Night, and Good Luck*

1 comment:

Myrna said...

Wow, you were brave! I am amazed. Poor Popeye--I can imagine how stressed and worried he was! Glad you made it there safely!