Category Archives: Self Care

Can We Just Keep This Platonic?

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Can We Just Keep This Platonic?

Hi friends – Happy Whatever the hell you celebrate! Blanche reminded me that it’s been a while since she’s been mentioned in the blog (diva). I’ve been spending a lot of quality time in a recliner since my surgery in November. Lately I’ve had to reserve my reclining time as it has become a popular place (I’m getting to you Blanche, relax).

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Blanche being annoyed. Is it just me or does she radiate a stupid human vibe here…

I used to look at recliners and think “old people chair (ugly)”. A few years ago we got one for my Father In-law and this recliner has all the bells and whistles. Sadly my FIL passed away a couple of years ago and we hid the ugly chair in a garage until we prepared for my surgery. Then the ugly old people chair made it’s way into the family room (and our hearts).

It’s still ugly but it’s also useful and a bit decadent. It has a remote control to move the chair up and down and not just the unfolding foot section. This gal will take you up to a standing position. As if that’s not enough it also has heat and massage, a girl could get used to this (and a girl has gotten use to it).

The first few weeks of ACDF recovery I spent a lot of quality time in this chair. I slept in it the first few nights and I rested there with elevated feet and a warm backside. Blanche was respectful during this time, giving me space to heal. She was still a devoted companion and we moved her bed to be near the chair during the first couple of weeks.

Now when I sit in the chair each morning before the other humans wake, I am greeted by Blanche. My 90 pound dog has decided that it’s a 2 person – make that 1 human/1 large dog chair. I find it amazing that she waited until I was far enough in recovery to accommodate her.

Blanche: Make room I coming up.

Me: Um…, OK I wasn’t quite – OK, welcome aboard.

Blanche: Leans in to lick my face.

Me: Can we just keep this platonic?

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I wuv U.

Fed Up!

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Fed Up!

Everyone is in full on crazy mode right now. Hanukkah and Christmas are just around the corner, weather has been a complete mess for a large swath of the population and I still need to figure what to get my Brother In-law.  Since my surgery last month I have become pretty good at saying – “nope, not doing it” and Christmas is no exception.

I have gotten gifts for my kids, the hubs and my nieces and nephew…I’m just not stretching much beyond that this year. I may attempt to make biscotti, maybe not. I tried to bake something last week and it made me awful to be around. I go into a weird rage when I attempt to bake, it isn’t pretty.

Clearly I’m not the only one feeling the pressure, a local mom posted this picture in a Facebook Group –

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Sure, it’s all fun and games until little Timmy goes to school and starts discussing how Snowball landed on his dinner plate and it takes a few beats for his first grade teacher to realize that mom has probably been hitting the eggnog a little too hard this year. Or perhaps the offspring of this stressed out parent is observant and wonders why Snowball’s right leg is longer than his left (inquisitive little monster). Then dad has to come up with some convincing backstory on the fly about a sledding accident in 2004. I tend not to lie simply because it’s too exhausting.

It’s not just the holidays making me nuts, it’s the recovery from my ACDF. The other night I went to a women’s networking holiday party. It was great to get out and feel human again. Bonus I ate a meal that I didn’t shop for, cook, serve or clean up – that is always a plus. I got a bit panicked when it was time to leave because a snow squall had come through and I was afraid of slipping on ice and snow. My friend graciously walked me to my car as I held on to her arm (just in case). Then I had a white-knuckle ride home on black ice. I am usually excellent about driving in the snow – since the surgery I’m afraid of getting into a fender bender or skidding off the road. I’m sure this will calm down as I get further into recovery but right now I’m feeling fragile and it effects me in ways that never have before. I don’t like this new version of chicken-shit me, not one bit.

I went back to a modified work schedule a couple of weeks ago. The modifications mean I do not drive Rob and Laura around anymore, not for the foreseeable future. Instead I visit them at home, run solo errands and do some cooking for them. This has been working out except one day last week when Laura forgot I wasn’t driving them anymore. You haven’t lived until a 93 year old woman is pissed off because you won’t take her to the laundromat. Luckily a driver was coming the next day to tackle that task.

One of the new chores is to assist Rob with the spraying of the fruitcakes. I didn’t know this was a thing until about a month ago. Rob made 22 fruitcake loaves and one wreath back in November. Since then, he sprays the bounty every Wednesday. The loaves each get 5 sprays of brandy and then they are sealed in a Ziploc bag and placed in an airtight container. The wreath gets about a dozen sprays. I’m fairly certain the wreath is an alcoholic, it’s a broken mess. I didn’t get the specifics but I did see the results and I explained what a smash cake is to my friends. We have deemed the boozy treat a smash wreath and that should totally be a thing.

This week was special because it was time to remove the cheesecloth. Pieces of liquored up fruit were falling off like a drunken avalanche. Rob (a non-drinker) was scooping up the bits like a kid who just busted up a Pinata. I’ve never seen a 95 year old move with such cat like reflexes. After a few fistfuls his aim was off on the spraying and the right side of my body smelled like a bar at 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve. Luckily I made it home without getting pulled over. I may need to change my sobriety date.

On the plus side, I still have my sense of humor and luckily I’m not the only one….this gem popped up on Facebook the other day. I like this an unreasonable amount. Happy-whatever-you-celebrate! 80406706_1768755406589367_978716565929197568_n.jpg

 

Schadenfreude

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Schadenfreude

Hello friends not sure what part of the world you’re in…this week in America people are freaking out over a Peloton ad. For those not in the know, Peloton is a luxury brand of an in home stationary bicycle which has a strong community of enthusiasts. I don’t own one and I don’t want one, I have friends that have made this their religion. Whatever makes you happy.

Here’s a link to the ad in case you missed it –

Peloton Ad

Clearly the husband is an asshole. He is berating his wife and fat shaming her with the $2K dollar gift which is just a smack in the face. This woman obviously suffers from some type of body dysmorphia disorder and her husband is fanning the flames with this so called present. Thanks for the eating disorder babe, perhaps you can gift me with a new neurosis for Mother’s Day.

Oh but wait, none of that actually happens in the ad. Nope, not a speck of it. The husband gives the wife a Peloton for Christmas. She is equal parts excited and nervous about it and spoiler – she loves it. WTAF people?

I guess people are projecting their own feelings about exercise and gift giving onto the world. Do the pissed off people exercise at all, why so many assumptions? The husband says maybe five words in this ad and none of them are related to weight loss or misogyny. I know this is mind blowing for some…(lean in) people don’t just exercise to lose weight. I have exercised consistently for 30 years, weight loss has never been the primary goal.

For me, exercise has been as much for my mental health as my physical well being. Sure I would love to drop a few pounds, exercise alone won’t likely do that. I know that if I want to lose weight the best way to do that is to tweak my nutrition. Move more (always good) and eat less (less junk). One of the most difficult aspects of recovering from my ACDF surgery has been the activity restrictions. I miss the camaraderie of fitness classes. For the next few months I’m limited to walking and a stationary bike (still not gonna happen Peloton).

Here’s 5 things that piss me off way more than that Peloton ad:

1) Health Care in America, it’s a f*cking mess.

2) An ineffective and inequitable judicial system where minorities do hard time for possession of weed, while rich dudes commit “white collar” crimes and pay off lawyers to the tune of 6 or 7 figures to avoid jail time.

3) Immigrant kids dying in detention centers and the entire separation of families bullshit that is happening.

4) Gun violence.

5) Ninja chin hairs (ladies over 40 know what I’m talking about).

In other news…I got a parking ticket last week. I took my son into town to have breakfast and came out to a ticket on my windshield. Our town is notorious for handing out parking tickets so I wasn’t surprised. I tried to pay when we parked but the kiosk wasn’t working. I took a picture of the machine display which announced it’s “malfunction”, I thought I’d be covered.

I called the phone number on the ticket, it seemed promising at first. “Sure – send us an email, we’ll look it over.” A few hours later I did that, here’s how that went:

Me: Hello – I called earlier to discuss a parking ticket I got this morning. The kiosk behind the pizza shop isn’t working, I’ve attached a photo of the display stating a malfunction. I made a good faith effort to pay for parking, it was not possible. Please waive the parking violation. Thank you for your consideration.

PVD (Perfectly Vindictive Dicks – oops my bad….Parking Violations Department): Did you try another kiosk? Your ticket remains open.

Me: I didn’t know I could pay at another kiosk, I thought they were assigned specific zones. Your kind consideration is much appreciated. Have a fabulous holiday. Namaste (Pssst…when I use the term Namaste it’s my polite way of saying f*ck all the way off.)

PVD: I am not going to waive this ticket. There are numerous kiosks. Sorry I can’t void this.

Me: Yeah, I know. I was trying for kindness-guilt-sarcastic Jedi mind trick, it seldom works.

PVD:                   SILENCE

Later that day I took an informal poll on Facebook to identify the best way to pay this fine. The options were – 1) go to town hall with a clear plastic bag full of pennies, Werther’s candies & crumpled up tissues and count it out at the counter or 2) write “schadenfreude” in the memo section of the check.

Ultimately I decided to go with option 2 because the person that gets stuck counting the pennies doesn’t likely have the authority to void my ticket. I tried to lighten the mood by using a Scooby-Doo stamp. I thought of using the upside down flag stamp as a sign of protest but that seemed like too much.

For those that are not familiar with the term schadenfreude, here’s an explanation –

Schadenfreude is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another. Wikipedia

 

A Tale of Two Turkeys

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A Tale of Two Turkeys

Happy almost American Turkey Day. I guess we can still call it Thanksgiving though my childhood version of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a farm to table style of meal has been destroyed by, I supposed some level of…what’s the word, awareness. Yes we are colonizers, land grabbers, murderers, rapists and pillagers or at least most of our ancestors were to some degree. If you can put that in a dark corner, lock the door, anoint your feet and pray for forgiveness….then follow me toward a new version of Thanksgiving.

We typically host Thanksgiving dinner because we have the big dinning room table (seats 10). My husband helps to clean the house but most of the cooking, shopping, cleaning and planning falls on my shoulders. NBD I’ve cooked at least 30 Thanksgiving birds in my tenure – I’ve tried them all from Butterball to heirloom organic and all the Tom’s in-between. I’m a tad tired of it at this point. The idea of having my hand up inside some still ice coated underbelly of a 16 pound bird mid morning the last Thursday of November is no longer appealing. You guys, I get a pass this year!

I’m just shy of three weeks post OP from my ACDF surgery and therefore I still have activity restrictions (THANK YOU sweet Geezus, thank you) – translation – I can’t handle the bird duties this year. Whoot! Whoot! and hells yes! We are still hosting (big table) but my hubs is making the bird. I will make a vegetable, soup and cranberry sauce – everything else will be purchased pre-made or brought by guests. What’s that smell – pumpkin pie??? No friends that is the smell of kitchen liberation!

Now you may recall that the hubs is an Engineer…that basically means he has an innate need to over analyze, speculate, theorize and generally drive himself crazy trying to determine the best course of action in any given situation. Don’t get me wrong, these traits have made him a very successful business man (hence the big table) and have provided us with a really nice lifestyle…it’s also a tad amusing.

The hubs has been studying everything turkey related – brine, dry rub, defrosting, infusion, best cooking methods, pans, racks, twine, spatchcock, voodoo and Reiki. I’m kidding about the spatchcock – I’m afraid to send him down that rabbit hole. OK I just whispered spatchcock with no explanation and now we wait…

He purchased the first turkey last Friday. It was frozen from the upscale market that we prefer to go to for meats and Brooklyn bread. Here’s a bio –

Chad – 1st Turkey

Born May 2, 2019, Lancaster, PA

Parents – Fred & Ethel

Siblings – Chelsea, Carlie, Christopher, Chet, Charlie, Chickie, Charlotte, Chuck & Zoe

Hobbies – Clucking, chasing breezes, looking for Da Vinci code clues under pebbles, Scrabble

Weight: 14.46 pounds

We have 13 people expected for Thanksgiving Dinner so it’s a little small but we can make it work. Chad was the largest organic bird in the bin.

Three days and 17 hours of additional turkey studies later….

The hubs decided yesterday that there needed to be another turkey option and he went to the even more upscale Italian market. Second turkey bio –

Antonio – 2nd Turkey

Born – June 1, 2019, Brooklyn, NY

Parents – Tony & Maria

Siblings – Little Tony, Anthony, Ant, Tina, Marie, Guido, Giovanni (Gio), Angela & Joey

Hobbies: Stick ball, poker, making pasta with Nonna and frequenting the Bada Bing Club!

Weight: 12.67 pounds

I’m going to be honest and say I have no idea why a second turkey was required. Antonio is currently in the freezer and he’s not talking. For the record I have my own idea of the ideal turkey (one that comes prepared). Ideal turkey bio –

Nick – Ideal Bird

Born – January 20, 2019

Parents – Tom & Sheila, Backyard in Philly

Siblings – Carson, Donovan, Randall, Michael, Vick & Jim

Hobbies: Cheese steak connoisseur, E-A-G-L-E-S!!! fan, fly fishing, snorts butter by the pound and deals hardcore whoop ass in bar brawls on South Street.

Weight: 16.43 pounds

Whatever you celebrate may it be happy, with plenty of reasons to be thankful.

Vigilance, My Constant Companion

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Vigilance, My Constant Companion

Well hello blog friends. I’ve been pretty quiet since I got back from the hospital 12 days ago. Don’t let that fool you, my thoughts have taken on a squirrelish  pattern, darting between cars on a 6 lane highway during rush hour.

Hard to know how successful the surgery was at this point. The surgeon proclaimed it “perfect” so I’m counting on that to be accurate. My zombie arm has improved greatly – now I’m afraid of accidentally undoing all the good the surgery did. Plus I have weird sensations in other areas. Hoping it’s just my nerves coming down from some fairly traumatic events.

Recovery from surgery is a strange place to be in mentally. I expected the physical pitfalls – pain, medication issues, potential blood clots, physical restrictions, general discomfort and overall ickiness. I was not fully prepared for the anxiety, mood swings and FFS tears (who am I).

Before I give you a glimpse into my particular rabbit hole of recovery I need to first state the obvious…I’m very fortunate. I am relatively young and healthy. My recovery is projected to be months and isn’t terminal. The surgery I had was to correct a problem and prevent further damage. It was to relieve the chronic, relatively short term pain (months, not years) I experienced and hopefully prevent further damage.

This isn’t terminal cancer or some chronic debilitating disease that I have to manage for however much time I have left on this planet. I am mindful of this and deeply grateful. I also recognize that the fickle finger of fate has the option to change her mind at any point, even the best strategic plans and intentions can implode at any moment. I’m aware of the transient nature of life and my blessings are abundant.

Some things I have observed about myself…

I’m pretty much a rule player. Sure I may wax poetic about what a rebel I am but when the rubber meets the road, I’m a by the book gal. I want to follow discharge directions to the letter, sadly the letter is fuzzy.

Having more questions and curiosity than the discharge papers accounted for, I took to Google to quench my thirst for knowledge. Probably not ideal. There is a wide range of opposing opinions by medical professionals in regard to Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion.

To brace or not to brace? Collar or no collar? Movement or none? When can I drive? When can I safely load the bottom rack of the dishwasher or put a fitted sheet on the bed? I feel safe pouring dry kibble into the dog food bowl but filling the water bowl seems like risky business. These are the activities that stump me daily.

I’ve already contacted the surgeon’s office about a potential blood clot and difficulty swallowing (which to be fair, are valid concerns and warranted calls) I draw the line when asking about specific mundane household chores. I see the surgeon next week for my first follow up visit since my surgery, I’m making a list.

I’m afraid of breaking myself. My biggest hurdle right now is the mental bandwidth I’ve handed over to fear of botching this surgery. Some is valid, some is unlikely. I find myself in a place of fear more often than I anticipated. It takes months, perhaps up to a year for bones to fuse. During this time of healing I will need to be mindful of what I do and do not do physically. Which activities are considered high risk and should be avoided? Vigilance will be my constant companion for the foreseeable future.

Some people don’t appreciate gruesome neck scars. I was able to drive yesterday for the first time since the surgery. My first errands out included dropping the kids off at school and getting some thank you gifts for my friends. My scar is supposed to air out so I didn’t cover it. There was a definite look of disgust on one clerks face when I came back into the store to borrow a pen. Her exact words were – “Take this pen, we have 100 of them. Now get out.”

Do you have a surgical recovery story? Any pro tips? Feel free to comment with your words of wisdom.

 

 

Fixed It

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Fixed It

Well hello my blogging friends. I am happy to report that I got through my ACDF with all parts in tact and a few extra…two discs replaced using a combo of my bone and donor bone and a nifty titanium plate with 6 or 8 screws. I feel frickan’ fantastic and I’m not high right now. Got out of surgery a little over 24 hours ago and I am amazed at how good I feel. I suspect there will be some pitfalls along the way but wow what a difference. My right arm is my arm again, not some alien appendage that causes me pain 24/7. I forgot how good it feels to not feel bad all the time. It’s like a rebirth. Anyway, that stuff is nice but boring so let’s get on to the funny stuff before I go night-night.

The hubs and I got caught in traffic on the way to the surgery check in. The traffic was so bad I grabbed my backpack and walked the remaining 4 blocks. I did that to get there on time only to encounter an empty desk upon arrival. That was unsettling but I had faith in the surgeon so I didn’t walk out the door. The vacancy lasted long enough for me to call a general service number to confirm the room number, yup I was at the right place. So much for my efforts for being on time. I just got seated in registration when the hubs came through the door.

After about half an hour I was sent to hospital purgatory. It’s a holding pen before you get to the specialized OR area. This was a fun place. It was set up like an ER with curtains for privacy between beds. The first lady took basic information when she asked me my weight I told the hubs to cover his ears. She said I could whisper it to her, so I did. He said she’s probably lying and sonofabee I was but only by like 2 or 3 pounds and I rounded down so shoot me.

Anyway, I happened to get my period that morning because WTF not. I am 51 years old folks this should be in the rear view mirror and yet here we are…I mention this to another nurse who had the task of rubbing me down with antiseptic cloths (this would be the worst porn scene ever). Anyway I mentioned the menses to my new friend and she gave me mesh underwear and a sanitary pad that could double as a mattress. It was YUGE. I kind of felt bad for the pad, there was no way it was going to live up to it’s potential. I’m at the trickle stage this pad was worthy of postpartum tide. Oh and on one trip to the bathroom part of my gown went into the bowl so I had to explain that mess and get a new gown, at least I entertained the staff.

It was clear that I had at least an hour to go or so in purgatory so I encouraged the hubs to go get something to eat. He was already on Yelp looking for options, he didn’t fight me when I made the suggestion. Mind you it was noon and I didn’t  have anything to eat or drink since Midnight. I would have given my still tingling zombie arm for a coffee at that point. Half an hour after the hubs leaves…

Me: If you send me food pics I will cut you.

Hubs: I literally had my finger on the send button,

Me: Get yo fine azz back here…it’s moving day.

Half an hour later I was sent to OR prep and he was sent somewhere else, a waiting room.

Hubs: I miss u

Hubs: OK, just remembered u don’t have ur phone, so I’m talking to myself.

Once I got settled into my room I sent him home to be with our kids. My friend Kristy dropped by to bring them dinner – a chicken parm sub and a Brooklyn Pizza from our favorite local place.  I also got soup from Lisa, my Rocky Horror partner. And Amy just went full on ridiculous she made soup, cookies, orzo salad and salmon….oh and my friend Iris made me a spectacular chicken soup with matzo balls and magic. I am blessed beyond measure friends. I hope you all have people like this in your life.

Anyway back to the hospital stay. People joke all the time that hospitals are no place to rest and damn that is so true. I had a roommate Joan, 83 years old. She was in so much pain they had to take her for an MRI to see what was going on. Her surgery was way more complicated than mine and I felt guilty for feeling so good. We chatted a good chunk of the night because neither one of us could sleep, too much beeping, plugs coming undone, the compression sock alarm that nearly gave me a heart attack. Every time I needed to pee I had to be untethered by a nurse, it was an ordeal.

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Rare pic of me wasted.

The lab lady came in at 4am to take blood as if that’s a normal thing…we can’t wait until 8am for this? My surgeon came by for a visit at 5:57am, he must sleep 4 hours a night, max. I was glad to see him though he said the surgery went “perfect” and I believed him because my arm was feeling awesome. I got to shake his hand and thank him and ask weird questions about bone grafts. I won’t bore you with those details let’s just say I have some cadaver parts and I’m totally cool with that. I plan to donate my body to science when I die so perhaps I will be able to return the favor.

So in-between the chats with Joan, vitals being checked, alarms going off and the 4am Vampire – the man across the hall from my room threw several tantrums throughout the night. I heard him being abusive to staff, screaming without regard for any of the other patients and just all out acting like an enraged toddler, it was ridiculous. He was at least 20 years younger than Joan who was in extreme pain and was pleasant with everyone she came in contact with – this guy was the opposite. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much.

I got discharged at 11am and I walked out the door, no wheelchair. First stop was a Starbucks to supplement the tepid weak coffee I got with breakfast. There was a lot of food for breakfast, I only ate the grits (Paul I’m sure you would make better grits). Got a Chai and walked the three blocks to the car, it felt good to be outside. Things were going pretty good, until they weren’t.

About 20 minutes into a 45 minute drive I had to vomit. Told the hubs to pull over, he didn’t. Instead he handed me a Mutt Mit (dog poop bag) and I used that, tied the bag to avoid spills and repeated the process two more times. The fact that he had the foresight to think of this raised his stock considerably. We handled that like champs all the while doing 60MPH headed home like we practiced it. Now I’m waiting for my neck to be sore from that mess so tomorrow may be a rough day.

Anyway, it’s been smooth sailing since then. Fingers crossed we stay the course.

 

 

Confession

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Confession

I’m terrified. There I typed it, now maybe that useless-hell-bent-on-turning-me-into-a-raging-asshole emotion will take a respite now. I’m not terrified all the time, just when I try to sleep or allow the distractions of daily life to melt away so I can concentrate exclusively on all the shit that could possibly go wrong during my surgery. Actually it’s the post surgery chance of blood clots that gives me the willies. Blood clots are sneaky MFers and they do not discriminate. I’ve had some close calls with the bastards before so unlike the Boogeyman, I know they exist.

Obviously I haven’t shared this particular scenario with my kids because I suspect they have their own fears and I don’t need to add to that. So this is my safe space for venting the truth. My husband and I discussed it briefly, it’s amazing how much that man pretends to forget. Whenever you are asked to gather your Advanced Medical Directive, it’s a stone cold reminder of how temporary this life is for all of us. Having those reminders in my face is jarring.

It’s weird how we beat ourselves up, at least I do. I’d like to be some stoic champion that flows through life chakras all aligned and shit no matter what curve balls smack me in the face. Spoiler: I’m not that person. And while I’d like to pat myself on the back for not deep diving into a pity party about my “situation”….I know how ridiculous that is given how fortunate my life has turned out.

I do miss exercise though. I’ve been a gym rat for 30 years. My husband joked about that the other day, the monthly gym fees that have been paid – the very gym which likely exacerbated this condition. I’d still do it all over again. Exercise has been my mental health regime my entire adult life. I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs (though I am dipping into the Xanax this week so I can sleep) and I haven’t gone on a killing spree so clearly the gym was working for me. I haven’t had that since August and I can feel the depression nipping at my toes.

So I’ll walk because I can still do that. And I’ll walk after the surgery because moving is the best way to prevent blood clots. I’ll remind myself that this is temporary. An expensive (really f*cking expensive) and painful inconvenience. I’m actually grateful for the pain in my arm because it reminds me why I’m letting someone cut into my neck and replace some parts. Otherwise this whole situation would seem insane. The near constant pain in my dominate arm coupled with the knowledge that doing nothing could send me into Depends a few decades earlier than anticipated is my motivation.

I’ll remind myself to not worry about the things that will be out of my control like driving, getting kids out the door for school, my clients, my mother, the dog, feeding my family, weight gain, the 2020 election, the fact that my daughter has blue hair now (it’s really cute), do we have enough toilet paper… All that shit will be out of my hands starting Wednesday until I’m well enough to pick them all up again.

I did order myself some socks for the recovery…

Screenshot_2019-11-03 Amazon com Mom off Duty, Ask your Dad Funny Socks - Cool Pink Fuzzy Novelty Cupcake Packaging for Her[...]Screenshot_2019-11-03 Amazon com If You Can Read This Bring Me Coffee Socks (Coffee Black) - luxury socks for Mom, Dad, fam[...]

 

 

Fingers Crossed…

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Fingers Crossed…

Muthafuckah. Got some not great news today…for my regulars you may recall a post from last week when I waxed poetic about my crappy health insurance. I begged my doctor’s office for a script for an MRI but they declined because my insurance (sucks) needed me to go through more hoops first because they’re assholes.

I figured an x-ray would be useless because the pain I have seems nerve related. Pins and needles, like when your foot falls asleep. The foot thing usually passes after a few minutes, the situation I’m dealing with is 24/7.  The pain ranges from a 3 to an 8, it’s never gone completely. I’ve had about six weeks of this now and I’m starting to get cranky. However, the insurance company needs a checklist ticked off before it will pay for an MRI so basically we ALL work for the insurance company now – the doctors, medical billers, patients, hospitals, labs – they own us.

Anyway the planets aligned and I got the referrals, made the appointment, and saw the doctor. The appointment was with a non-surgical Orthopedic at the Rothman Institute. The office ran like a well-oiled machine. They even took an x-ray of my neck for $20. which is the best deal I’ve gotten since well, ever. My PCP wouldn’t send me for an X-Ray because she’s scared of my insurance.

The x-ray didn’t show much (shocking) so I got my script for the MRI. The RI office staff managed to get an authorization code from my cheap ass (yet freakishly expensive) insurance company so I got my MRI a few days ago. This morning I got a call around 9:15am from an unknown number so I let it go to voicemail. It was the Orthopedic doctor. Well, that was unexpected. I called the office told them I would be available after 12:30. I got another call from the doctor at 12:32, this is highly unusual. Doctors calling as soon as they get the results to discuss it with you…

Doc: Hello, I wanted to let you know I got the MRI and it isn’t terrible.

Me: (nervous laughter) Great, not terrible is good, maybe.

Doc: We compared this MRI to the one you had in 2010 and the same area is involved (cervical).

Me: I’m glad you were able to hunt that down.

Doc: I’m recommending that you see a surgeon.

Me: Oh.

Doc: There’s some compression around the spine and some fluid. (barely audible) Myelomalacia

Me: Mya-what?

Doc: Myelomalacia, don’t Google it.

Me: Of course I’m going to Google it, you just told me not to.

He then proceeded to name some doctors that are spinal surgeons. I got off the phone and promptly cried for 45 seconds. Then I started Googling, then I took a walk because I can’t do anything else. He told me to hold off on physical therapy until I see the surgeon. Oddly enough I had a physical therapy consult scheduled for this afternoon.

I talked to my husband, I talked to a friend, I talked to God and my dog. I made the appointment for Monday which is a miracle in itself. Hopefully, I’ll have more information and the start of a game plan this time next week.

I put my gym membership on hold. That was when it hit me, shit got real. Exercise has been a physical and mental release for me for 30 years. Now I have restricted exercise (walking) and constant pain, it’s not an ideal combination. I’m trying to not think about it too much until my next appointment, easier said than done. Fingers crossed…

 

Because I Can

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Because I Can

I am quietly sitting in the main level bedroom of a nicely appointed house that dates back to the 1890’s. It’s insulated well enough that air conditioning isn’t required despite the high summer temperatures outside. The windows are open and I can hear the chatter of cows from the farm that borders the back yard. I can hear those same cows from my own home which is within walking distance. Here though, I get to eavesdrop on the more nuanced conversations, beyond the distressed mooing that occasionally travels to my patio. The cows are conversing in more hushed tones.

Each room in this house has been lovingly filled with precious items.  Long ago gifts, remembrances and highly sought after antique flea market finds that probably took months, perhaps years, to procure. The individual pieces are meaningful, eclectic and likely filled with sentimental value. A lot of love went into decorating this home and perhaps a twinge of obsession, the result is a timeless casual elegance.

The items themselves are a bit worn around the edges. Faded like the lingering scent of fabulous meal after the dinner dishes have been cleared. It seems more poignant with some of the newness ebbed away by time, longevity has it’s own allure which, something shiny and new can’t quite grasp.

After several minutes Thelma, jumps down from the bed and visits me at my corner chair. A petite orange tabby, she sniffs my feet for a few minutes. I attempt to pet her which yields a do not touch look so I stop myself and decide to ignore her. After a few minutes she bites my knee because that’s what cats do. My involuntary jolt sent her scampering away for the remainder of my visit. Her sister, Louise, is out in the yard somewhere planning her next kill or rolling in the grass, sunny side up. I won’t hear from her unless she wants to come in which, she will announce by jumping 4 feet up, onto the screened porch door. Thelma & Louise keep things interesting around here.

During the olfactory interrogation, I can hear the Serena Williams match on the TV in the kitchen. A man’s voice is giving an unofficial commentary of the match…”Oh no, Geezus!” and “Come on Serena!” are on a repetitive loop. I’m happy that he has a distraction even if the end result isn’t what he wanted. He is passionate about something separate from the care-giving which likely consumes him. In this small way he is reclaiming something important for himself and I wish more caregivers would do that.

Before he leaves for the gym he stops by the bedroom. He tells me that they just got back from vacationing at the beach where they got married decades ago. I wonder if his wife has any recollection of that now as she lay snoring, midday, in the bed they still share. He gives her a long, gentle, emotional hug as he prepares to leave and I try to become invisible in that moment.

I see the hospital bed close by and I wonder which one of the two beds she will pass in. Probably the hospital bed, it will likely happen before the unofficial end of summer. I push against the inclination to imagine a similar scenario in my own life as I silently ask God for another 20 (pretty please make that 30) years of health and happiness with my husband. I am momentarily engulfed in the absolute knowledge that this is all temporary. I’ve seen this situation play out about 100 different ways in the ten plus years that I have been a hospice volunteer. It’s usually some diabolical form of cancer with the wife caring for the husband or the daughter caring for a parent. It always leaves a print of sadness on my soul which gets absorbed and gently tucked away.

When I prepare to leave, I notice the fireplace in the bedroom has writing on the header. “Fairy Tales Really Do Come True…” is painted in pretty cursive. A swirl of emotions courses through me. I don’t believe in fairy tales, I had to rescue myself and yet, my life is blessed beyond anything I could have imagined as a child. For the thousandth time I question why I do this…why do I place myself in the center of someone else’s heartbreak. The answer is always the same, because I can and those that can, should.

 

White Tower View

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White Tower View

When I was a teenager I spent several months living in an all female group home. The ages ranged from 15 to 65 and anyone that was within childbearing age was taken to the gynecologist and put on birth control. It was explained as a way to keep everyone on a regular cycle and minimize mood swings. I didn’t fight it and went on the pill like most of the other residents.

For the next fifteen years I took birth control pills, the lowest dose at the time (ON777). My menstrual cycle was consistent, nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Not painful like some of my friends and the pills didn’t seem to cause any side effects. When I became sexually active, I was grateful for their effectiveness. I went to Planned Parenthood for my annual exam and purchased my birth control pills through them at a discount until my late 20s.

I never had a bad experience. The place was clean, staff was professional and no one shouted “whore” as I made my way into the clinic. Never once did anyone try to sell me on an abortion, I never needed one thanks to those little pills. I had access to effective healthcare, physical and financial accessibility, without which, I could have had a different outcome.

When I got to my early 30s I was starting to get concerned about the long term effects of birth control pills. I decided to give my body a break and go off of them. I discussed this with my long term boyfriend. By this time I had a good job and I owned my own home. My guy was doing well and we were in love, 5 years into our relationship. We were pretty relaxed about the possibility of becoming pregnant and let the universe guide us. We eventually got pregnant….I say we because I don’t know any female that has gotten pregnant on her own (an immaculate conception is pretty rare). We decided it would be a good time to get married and have a kid.

We got married and the pregnancy was going well until 39 weeks in. I felt a dull ache behind my left knee. Turns out I had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which can become fatal if a blood clot breaks away and goes to your heart/lungs/brain, scary stuff. I was fortunate to be within 3 miles of a trauma center hospital. A retractable filter was inserted through my jugular vein and was placed below my heart and lungs to break up any potential killer clots. The fact that I’m typing this lets you know it worked.

It turned into a fairly dramatic birth including me being induced, 5 hours of pushing and a sideways baby that wasn’t budging (I’m happy to say he’s become much more compliant since then). Eventually it was determined that I needed to have a cesarean section. Two weeks later, the retractable filter was removed and I was put on blood thinners for 6 months. I had all kinds of terrible reactions to the medication which caused me to have numerous tests for Lupus, MS and enough blood draws to satiate an army of vampires. It was rough and we didn’t plan to have another child.

Because of the blood clot issue I could not go on BC pills or have any kind of hormone based birth control. IUDs freaked me out, I heard too many horror stories. So our options were a diaphragm, condoms or pull out. We failed at those options and I got pregnant soon after our son’s first birthday. When I told my husband I was pregnant he said – “congratulations, are you sure you want to go through with this?”

It was a fair question given the unexpected complications of my first pregnancy. My husband was traveling internationally on a frequent basis. Most of my pregnancy would be spent with a toddler and no local family, just a handful of friends that I made in the 6 months since we moved. I didn’t hesitate though, I wanted to go through with the pregnancy.

My gyno had become very close with me since the birth of my son. The kind of closeness that comes from a near death experience. I could see the concern on her sweet face when I went in to see her to have the pregnancy confirmed. She contacted the hematologist and gave me the name of a good perinatologist, I was going to be closely monitored.

I did the best I could to not focus on what could happen. My biggest fear was driving or being alone in the house with my son and having a pulmonary embolism or a brain aneurysm, these were not far fetched concerns. I kept thinking of Steel Magnolias when  Shelby dies while making dinner with her young son crying next to her body. The possibility was a shadow throughout my pregnancy.

Six and a half months into the pregnancy I felt that familiar dull ache behind my knee again. I called my gyno she asked me to meet her at the hospital.  Sure enough I had a clot, not a monster DVT like the first time, but a clot which could have been fatal to me or my baby girl. I was put on a heparin drip and remained inpatient for a week. When I was sent home I was given medicine that I needed to inject into my pregnant belly twice a day for the remainder of my pregnancy.

My gyno and my hematologist were getting twitchy. I could see fear in their eyes with every interaction, I was a ticking time bomb. I told my gyno that I wanted a tubal ligation after the baby was born and I could hear her exhale as she expressed gratitude over my choice. To be clear, my husband was also onboard with that and he respected the fact that ultimately it was my decision.

This time I had a planned cesarean and the now familiar retractable filter was inserted just prior to that. They decided to do a c-section at 35w6d and I got my tubal ligation immediately after. Two weeks later the retractable filter was removed followed by a year of blood thinners and more blood draws, so many blood draws. I went to a blood clinic at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey to see if there was a genetic reason for my issue. After more tests and many more blood samples it was determined to be pregnancy related and having no plans for further pregnancies, I was released from care.

I was fortunate to have two healthy babies, now teenagers. I had a caring partner with both pregnancies. I had assistance with child care when I had to go to the hospital. I had good health insurance. I had a vehicle to get myself to the necessary appointments. I had money to pay for gas, pay for a sitter, pay co-payments, I had a network of support. I also lived within reasonable proximity to excellent reproductive healthcare.

What if I couldn’t get birth control as a young woman? What if there was no clinic, no sliding-scale fee, no access? What if I was a woman of color? Would my seemingly minor medical complaints have been taken seriously? Would that dull ache get the attention it deserved? Or would I just be another sad anonymous number in a case study?

I understand how the pro-life movement can seem like the high moral ground when you are looking down from an ivory tower. You can’t see deep enough into the brush to see what is happening there so it simply blends into the background, it’s just scenery. I would ask you to take those long steps down and see what is happening outside of your limited view.

Have you ever gone with a 15 year old girl who was getting an abortion? I have, it was devastating. She made a mistake, she was so scared, just 15. I held her and cared for her and listened to her when she told me about the recurring nightmares of her unborn child. This was not an easy decision, she was gutted.

Have you ever seen the bruises of domestic violence on a pregnant woman? I have and I wanted to kill the guy. I threw a baby shower for a dear friend when we were both 20. She married her long term asshole of a boyfriend when she got pregnant. Fun fact – domestic violence often escalates during pregnancy. She got changed in front of me and her chest was covered in bruises. She and her baby eventually got out of that situation, it took a long time.

Have you known anyone who had a late term abortion? I knew someone who had a late term abortion. It was heartbreaking. A co-worker of mine found out that her fetus died in utero in her third trimester. She was given the choice to abort or wait for her body to naturally go into labor and deliver a stillborn baby. Can you imagine living with that trauma?

Do you know any females that have been raped in a manner which could have resulted in an unwanted pregnancy? I expect every hand to be raised at this one. Has the #MeToo movement taught us anything? Sexual violence and molestation is rampant – at work, in the military, college campuses, church, school, pretty much everywhere including home for some unfortunate victims. These women should go to jail if they abort an unwanted zygote? Should they be denied a morning after pill? What if the trauma has them so horrified that it takes them a few weeks to come to terms with the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy? What if the victim is also beaten badly during the rape and is in a coma – does she get a f*cking pass then?

We all have strong feelings about this topic and I’m not trying to isolate anyone, truly I am not. I’ve seen some horrible stuff up close and in person. My own personal experiences and those of people close to me have helped to form my opinions and I’m sure the same is true for you. There is a lot of gray area for me and in the end I always circle back to individual choice. I can’t know the fine print details of each individual situation. I’m not a medical professional, psychologist or social worker. I’m not pro-abortion, I’m pro-choice.