Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Belated Review of Coach

It's no secret that many of us in the infamous blogging class were in turns intimidated, impressed, and bemused by our celebrity prof, Coach. No doubt, he's a funky and intriguing guy who fell for us despite his best efforts to remain aloof.

It was thus with a certain amount of pride that I watched him moderate "Our Favorite Authors" at the Bushnell last Saturday night. For those of you who couldn't make it, Coach was witty and urbane, with his self-deprecating humor, and he skillfully moderated an awkward mix of authors: the blinding funny but slightly awe-struck Jennifer Weiner; the crusty, doomday-speaking Kurt Vonnegut, who clearly was playing at being a curmudgeon; and the smart, bristly Joyce Carol Oates, who repeated skewered Vonnegut's role-playing and displayed a sense of humor so dry it crackled.

Coach kept the pace going and did what he could to prevent open warfare between Oates and Vonnegut (I had to go with Oates on most of the pickering, as Vonnegut was just plain nasty at points). You could also see that he trying to be protective of Weiner, who took a couple jabs from Vonnegut right on the chin.

The whole night was amazing, listening to two of the great intellects of our age verbally spar, although Weiner held her own and kept the audience laughing. She probably is laughing all the way to bank, anyway, as they say, because her books sell like wild. I haven't seen Cameron Diaz in any Vonnegut movies recently, have you?

I felt like a proud little sister. I told pretty much everyone within earshot that Coach was my professor last semester, although I did comment to my companion that he wasn't nearly this funny in class -- he definitely brought his A game to the event.

Fellow blog-classers, you would have been proud, too. And lest you think our star has faded, when I mentioned to someone that I just met that I took a blogging class with Coach last fall, she said, "Oh yeah, I heard about that." Turns out that she had received the survey one of us sent out in connection with the final paper. So I guess we're famous, too.

The Better of Me

Okay, I'm back from a week of complete panic. Last Friday (2/3) I had an MRI of my back, because I've been having major back problems for months. My GP, who ordered the test, called and said unceremoniously, "Your back is really messed up." He then went on to tell me that I appeared to have degenerative disk disease, arthritis in my back, and would probably have to curtail a number of my favorite activities, like skiing, skating, sledding, etc. Oh, and also, the nice folks that read the MRI saw some weird stuff that they couldn't explain, so I'd have to get a bone scan to rule out a potentially life-threatening infection -- which my dr. said I definitely didn't have because I didn't have any symptoms but he still had to rule it out.

This all sent me into a tizzy. My mother is crippled with arthritis and has had two back surgeries, so one of my biggest health concerns is NOT getting arthritis. I also desparately wanted to see my orthopedic dr., whom I trust and who is familar with my back saga, because I've had issues for years. I couldn't get into see him, or to get the bone scan, until yesterday, i.e., one week late.

Now, a week may not sound like a long time, but I spent that week researching degenerative disk disease, reading about back surgery, and trying to figure out the future of arthritis treatment. I was pretty convinced that, even though I have young children, I would never be able to really PLAY with them again. I've had maternal fantasies of teaching them to ski this year, and we all love to go on our trampoline. The biggest loss to me would be that I would no longer be "Fun Mom," but would be consigned to reading books and playing cards with them -- fine activities, but not the entire range of my repetoire. With every twinge of my back, I thought, "My God, it's only going to get worse. I'm too young to feel this way for the rest of my life." I also wondered how I could possible handle recovering from back surgery with my kids -- 3 weeks at least of bed rest -- and that possible life-threatening infection, even if almost impossible, was a nag. Let's just say I didn't get a lot of sleep.

By the time Friday (yesterday) rolled around, I was a mess. It didn't help that I've been in constant pain for about 2 months to begin with. I went to see Dr. Ortho with a pit in my stomach. He walked in all business, having already reviewed my entire file and my recent MRI. He assured me that I did not have disk disease or arthritis, and while I DO have a screwed-up back, it's the same screwed up back I've had for years. It all relates to a small broken bone in my back that I've had since I was a teen-ager. It may look awful on an MRI, but with some special exercises and some good pain meds, I'd probably be fine in a couple weeks. When he told me this, I promptly burst into tears, much to his and my husband's chagrin. "But I'm so limited right now, any time I do any activity, it hurts. I can't take it." He again assured me that I would probably be okay in a few weeks, and I could do anything I wanted, even ski. Hopefully I would never need surgery. And if I did something and it hurt, I wasn't going to make my back worse. He also said that there was no sign whatsoever of any infection, so I didn't need to get a bone scan.

In retrospect, I feel like I was being silly and dramatic, thinking life as I knew it was over for me. Unfortunately, a little information got the better of me and played on my deepest fears. As I was lying there getting the MRI, I actually thought, "This is a bad idea," because that kind of scan often turns up all kinds of scary things that turn out to be nothing. I was definitely better off before I knew how awful my back looked in 3-D.

On the bright side, though, I've got some good painkillers, and I'm so busy sucking my belly button in as hard as I can during every waking moment (this is one of the key exercises I have to do), that I don't have time to worry about my back. And all that sucking-in makes my waist look smaller and my boobs look bigger. Go figure.