As we walk

Every evening Foxy and I walk to the elevator past our neighbor’s apartments as the sun sinks in the West and the light goes from peach to dark blue. Since the heat in Las Vegas Nevada has dropped, one of my neighbors who is in her mid-70s keeps her front door open to let the heat out and the cool air in.

Foxy, a little chihuahua-terrier mixed dog, rushes inside to great her. My neighbor used to have dogs many years ago. Now she lives in a senior independent apartment and doesn’t have room or energy for a dog. Just for a moment she smiles and pets Foxy. Foxy’s tail wags continuously until the neighbor quits petting her.

We do this every day unless I feel sick. On those days I will get a call from my neighbor to see if I am okay. She misses Foxy and she misses our talks. We will visit and talk about family, life, and illness. We will talk mostly about experiences–like having dogs or working. My neighbor worked in a casino most of her adult life. She has severe lung problems because of it.

When I was a child, I knew a lot of families who welcomed their grandparents into their homes. We live in such a different age now where the elderly is put away where from their families. The knowledge of the elderly is lost.

I laugh because when I stop and talk to them I find out that one grandmother has cancer and goes on the bus every other day to get radiation treatment. She doesn’t tell her grandson because he is taking care of a wife who also has cancer. Just last week an man in his mid sixties died. I met him and he didn’t look sick on the outside.

Every day we see paramedics in this area. Some of the elderly come back and some don’t. I talked to a man who had just turned 84. “All of my family and friends are dead now,” he said. “I am alone.”

Sometimes I wonder why we have gone to warehousing our elderly. At one point they held the knowledge of their tribes. They still hold the knowledge of their families. Every day we lose more knowledge as they die.

Aging is not fun. Many of these folks who are living the long life are grumpy from pain and from loneliness. Some of them spend their days gossiping. They are people after all. They are also the trailblazers to what comes next.

When you stare into the void

Nasa void Sounds pretentious, right?

After the hospital stay, I re-evaluated my eating habits. I found some cookbooks with kidney friendly recipes. What I did find was that there were a lot of contradictions going on. Some writers suggested dairy and some said dairy was a big no-no.

There were other inconsistencies. Some said to use nightshade plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. I have been told to limit these vegetables because they were high in potassium.

I’ve been rubbing my forehead because after all of this research, I don’t think these “experts” really know what is good for someone with chronic kidney disease. I do know a few things about my my body. Even though I am on a low-protein diet, I do need protein to feel good enough to survive an entire day. Also nightshade vegetables give me “acid reflux.” I do enjoy my tomatoes. I could probably take them out of my diet if I could find a good substitute.

I discovered No-tomato sauce online. My objection is that it is made with beets. I can hardly stand the taste of beets. I can’t stand the smell of beets. It’s in the same category to my nose and taste buds as fecal matter. So that sauce is out. I did find that roasted red bell peppers are considered a good substitute for tomatoes in sauces.

I do like cream sauces. However, heavy cream, milk, and certain cheeses are out. I did find that ricotta cheese (considered a poor man’s cheese) can be used for creams. Even though I am on a low-dairy diet, ricotta cheese would be better than sour cream and heavy creams for my body.

After seeing the void again, I know that I have to cook more. I can’t depend on prepared food at the store. There is too much salt, too much HFCS, and too many preservatives. My kidneys cannot handle the poisons.

My personal void is kidney failure. I knew I was losing my kidneys when I was in the ICU recently. Thankfully the time-honored way of flushing the kidneys helped me this time. I can’t depend on medical intervention helping me again. The next time might be dialysis and the inevitable decline of the kidneys.

So what does it feel like when the kidneys go? When it starts there is pain in your entire body and every joint. After a while, the pain recedes and you feel like your body is stuffed with cotton. You can’t think or move. You drift. Something winks at you, and you know that you are going.

At this point I claw back to life.

 

A quick update on the health of the writer

Panama Rose
This week I saw the surgeon for a post-op appointment. He called me the patient with the small cancer.

I will admit loudly and proudly that I have a great imagination. I can imagine scenarios using full senses with a full emotional spectrum. It gets me into trouble when I am sick.

So while I was waiting impatiently for my surgery, I was imagining the cancer slyly putting tendrils throughout my thyroid and into my lymph nodes.

I had a happy shock when the cancer was confined to one nodule.

When I talked to the surgeon, I was told that I had been very lucky. I wouldn’t need radiation or chemo. All good news because I wasn’t happy with the thought of being even more isolated for days.

One of the hardest things I have done before my illness was to become socialized. I would rather sit at home or under the stars alone. So illness has strengthened my inner tendency to leave social situations. It is one of the reasons I miss Otto terribly. He was the only one that could sit with me and watch the stars. It’s hard to describe the emotion because it is deeper than love and comfort. There is no words for this type of companionship.

Last night I watched “No Batteries included.” Otto introduced me to that movie. I see myself in the little old lady who lost her mind through dementia. When I was extremely ill one year, Otto watched me like the old man watched his wife in the movie. I would wander off.

The movie hit so many buttons for me.

Still I can see that Otto socialized me to companionship. I was a bitter young woman. It wasn’t meeting Otto that was so pivotal to my life now. No, it was when I decided he was the man for me. It was another twist that brought me a good twenty-two years. He made me a better person and grounded my wild imagination.

So I noticed one thing about the surgery. My emotional instability stopped. That little cancer had been causing my emotions to swing from one extreme to another. It is such a relief to be able to think and feel on a normal level again. One nodule. One cancer.

There will be other challenges. I wouldn’t be this person without them. I’m hoping that the drama will be less though.

Also I will have to pull myself out of this self-imposed shell. It is time for me to be social again. I feel excited and scared all at once.

Last night I dreamt of Manderley again

Last night I dreamed of sitting at a table in a dining area. We were sitting close together once again and I felt him beside me. His presence is huge and undeniable. I could close my eyes and feel him when he was alive.

We sat like we have done for so many years. My shoulder against his. We were one again.

I can’t describe that feeling. It is safety, love, and loyalty. It is comfort. We had the ability to communicate without talking. He saw me. I think I was there for hours and then he said, “It’s time to go.”

I had to check out in this hotel lobby. No one would check me out and the line kept moving. Just when I was getting frustrated, a guide came for me–an older woman that reminded me of my great grandmother Jane. She was very business like and expected me to follow her as we rushed through several rooms and hallways. “You don’t want to be late.”

Of course the dream degenerated to looking for a bathroom. That need was the reason I woke up.

Since I started on this new journey of thyroid cancer, I’ve been dreaming of him and even seeing him in my daily life. Sometimes the people around me will use one of his mannerisms. I will do a double-take and realize it is not him.

The last time I was really sick, I quit dreaming. I think the dreams are a good sign. To me it means that it will be hard, but I will survive.

I have been on the brink of death before. The last time it was a slow descent into sleep. I clawed out of that hole until some doctor could help me to survive. I did it for Otto then. I do it for him now. On his deathbed he needed to hear the promise that I would stay alive until my natural end.

So I accept his comfort in my dreams. It is a precious gift that I dreamt of Otto again.

A time for headaches

img_0111 “For everything there is a season” and since my last post, it has been the a time for headaches–literally and figuratively.

If you have been reading my facebook page, on September 20, 2016 I was involved in a rear-end accident. I came out of it with a lump on my head, a headache, and strained neck muscles. The pressure on my head during the next few days was enough that I couldn’t thing clearly for a long time. I’m pretty sure I am still not thinking clearly, but that is another issue.

At this time, I am seeing a physical therapist. I am hoping that all the other issues will eventually resolve as I do the exercises, and have traction. Many of the issues come and go except for the headache.

So two issues– when I read for a period of time or stare at the monitor screen–for for instance when I am writing a blog post– the headache gets worse. I have problems with in close stuff which includes knitting and crocheting. Each day I feel better, but each day brings new challenges. Even though I don’t want to admit it, I am in pain. Even worse, I do this cold turkey without OTC painkillers.

The foundation of my life is crumbling again. At least it is not as bad as when I lost my late-husband. I am having problems planning for the next steps. So the cryptic note, one project, one day, one exhaustion at a time.

Life has once more landed on top of me and smashed me flat.

The one good thing this month is that my kidneys stabilized again. I am at Stage IV kidney disease and I am forever walking the line between bad and worse. Filtering my water, taking Omega 3s, and turmeric seems to be helping my kidneys. I am also eating more fish. I’m eating less beef, pork, and chicken. I would love to be a carnivore, but life has once again made me conform.

Epictetus, a former slave turned philosopher said “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”

So today I will choose to respond with patience and kindness as I traverse whatever legal, physical, or spiritual challenges in front of me.

A candle for health

candle-1health
Last week my nephrologist started to prepare me for dialysis. She said that I needed to be ready when my kidneys failed. The kidneys had lasted a very long time. They had started to slide.

Part of the preparation for dialysis would be to have a stent made. Apparently it takes one month to get the appointment for the stent, and then it takes three months for the stent to mature so it can be used.

In the beginning days of my disease, (you can find the book here), the doctor put a heart catheter into my neck. My late-hubby held my hand, while the nurse put a shot in my neck, and then the doctor slit my throat and pushed in the plastic tubing.

I don’t want to go through that again. First it was scary. Second it hurt. Third my neck rubbed raw from the tubing after over four weeks of use. My late-hubby told me he didn’t want to go through it again either. He watched the entire procedure and almost fainted. It wasn’t because of the blood, (there was very little). It was because they were cutting into his wife– me– and he was watching.

Last week I did negotiate with the nephrologist. If my kidneys didn’t stabilize, then she would order the stent in September. I know most of you know this from a post on Facebook. When I came home that day, after the news, I cried. The well-wishes and prayers were a blessing to my aching soul.

It felt like I was starting down this road again. Two years ago it was with my late hubby, and now it is the same road I started in 2003.

So I am eating more cabbage and less protein. I got rid of corn syrup, processed products, and sodas almost a decade ago. I added turmeric and more omega 3s. I am more diligent at drinking large quantities of water. Still it feels like there isn’t much I can do to stop the slide this time. There are no drastic changes to make to my eating and drinking habits. I will NOT give up coffee.

The only real change I can make is to meditate. It helps to put my mind in the present moment and not into the future of pain, kidney failure, and dialysis. Yes, I am noticing more pain. Yes, my muscles are less forgiving than they have ever been. And yes, I am cramping more.

But all of these symptoms can be caused by taking chemo. I can even blame my age.

Today I asked for health and lit a candle. For a moment my brain quit thinking and I felt peace.

When the lines in our head crash

Are we golems? Do we following the coding in our heads (or the genetic codes in our bodies) exactly? What happens when the lines crash in our heads and we have to rewrite?

Sarah Hoyt has compared us with Terry Pratchett’s golems in that we have certain lines in our heads and in our bodies that we “must not cross.” Plus when we go through extreme physical, mental, and/or spiritual trauma, we have the chance to rewrite our lines, whether for good or ill.

It is a rare person who doesn’t go through some trauma. But, I had a small epiphany– To completely change my life track in my twenties, I had to be broken and then I had to pick up the pieces and glue myself together. It wasn’t easy. I needed help. My life view completely changed. I knew that if I wanted any bit of happiness in my life, I would have to take charge of it. I would have to be so independent that I didn’t need anyone. Glad to say that when I met my late-hubby, he caught me before the “I don’t need anyone” had completely solidified. We needed each other, but we were a complete unit.

Now I am back under the blood sun and my lines need to be re-written again. I know that I am broken because I can feel where I cracked the first time. I went to one grief group and found that the break is pretty common with those folks who have lost a vital portion of their life. (I lost a vital portion from disease and now from losing him.)

Every one knows the five stages of grief. What they don’t tell you is that you cycle through it over and over – sometimes several times a day. And that when the grief becomes easier to bear, you wonder why you were left without him. Then comes the despair.

Words are inadequate to explain how there is a real hole in your being in the center of your chest, how the pain radiates out and taints your perspective, and how the blood sun sits in your head and asks you “why are you still here? Why haven’t you committed Sati?”

Otto wouldn’t leave until I promised him that I wouldn’t follow him. I am holding on with all ten fingers–scratched, bleeding, and fighting. Without that promise, I would not have my Foxy. Without that promise, I might have walked into the blood sun.

One of the lines in my head is that I am loyal and that I would follow him and stand with him forever. That line has been obliterated.

One of the lines in my head was that I would do anything to save him and heal him. That line is obliterated.

One line that is thin and fraying is that I am a protector. I keep that one by caring for Foxy. She has saved me when the blood sun’s voice was strong.

There are other lines that are so deep that they can’t be broken even though I have done my best to bend them. Always care for your family was beaten in my head. I was able to change the meaning of family to mean those that were made-family.

There are only two roads for me… Despair and die, or live and one day be happy. Foxy makes me happy.