Monday, Monday

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I haven’t dared to turn on the TV this morning because I finally have a clear brain and don’t want it cluttered with angry political rhetoric. So instead of listening to the weather attached to “news,” I am listening to my writing music as my little dog, Foxy, sits at my feet.

In my last post I talked about having low blood pressure and as I changed my meds, my brain started to come back online.  At this point I am trying to break a few of my obsessive habits that formed when my mind wasn’t clear. One of those things is to sit in my over-stuffed rocking chair, and play games on my Kindle Fire. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a break after my writing routines. But, after my walk in the morning, I try to catch my breath. My brain is still foggy so I just reach for the Kindle and then turn on the TV. Then that is the end of my day.

So today and maybe the next month, I am breaking the habit of turning on the TV first thing in the morning.

Until I was sick the first time, I saw myself as three separate parts– body, mind, and spirit. I thought of myself as my mind. Then the first time, I was on a serious chemo drug I found that when my body wasn’t well, then my mind wasn’t well. Logically I knew this, but in my heart– I was my mind. It took me many months after I was taken off that chemo and put on a gentler drug to recuperate. It was hard for me to admit that I would never be the same.

The meds that I take to keep my immune system and kidneys under control feel like a huge bear paw that holds my mind down. When low blood pressure is in the mix, I’m amazed that I remember to walk, talk and eat.

My conclusion is that there is no separation of mind, body, and spirit. If any of these components are sick, then the whole becomes sick.

The scary thing is– if I could see when my body was sick enough to affect my mind, then I could stop it. But being the one in the middle of it, I cannot. I knew something was wrong because I couldn’t remember words. They slipped away from me into the void. I started to become disconnected.

It was so subtle.

I am grateful for a doctor that saw something not quite right. My kidneys cannot operate well if my blood pressure is too low. In my experience, if my kidneys are not working properly, then I lose my ability to reason and think.

I am grateful that she brought it to my attention so that I could fix it.

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Lethargy and slothfulness

img_0345 The last few weeks I have been in the middle of a few doctor experiments. I was pretty stable until my endocrinologist introduced me to Zetia.

Normally when you have high cholesterol, you are offered a Statin drug. About fifteen years ago, I was put on a Statin and my liver proteins went high in 30 days. Since I also have kidney problems, the doctor backed off on “how good” a Statin would be for my health.

So I am in the 1 percent of the population that can’t use Statins. The Zetia was supposed to help. It did drop my cholesterol quickly, but it also caused some digestive problems– i.e. diarrhea with constant severe stomach pain. It appears I am also in the 1 percent when it comes to Zetia.

I think– and can’t prove– but losing that much cholesterol so quickly, my blood pressure dropped. I was on two blood pressure medications that had been keeping me stable. With this change in my body structure I dropped low enough that my nephrologist, kidney doctor, was concerned. She asked if I was dizzy. I don’t get dizzy normally– but I do get headaches and brain fog.

With the low blood pressure, I was thirsty, hurt, and cramped a lot in my legs and feet. Also I was losing interesting in everything including my writing. I just couldn’t concentrate on the screen without needing to lie down.

I knew there was something wrong with my attention span. I thought it was because I was bored and wanted to do something different.

Today, I learned an important lesson. When I am losing my interest in writing or reading, then there is something very wrong with my health. In this case, I am in the process with my doctors in adjusting my blood pressure medication.

My blood pressure was still too low when I woke up this morning. However it was higher than it has been in a few days. My dog and I took our morning walk and I was singing just a little.

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.

Grace under pressure

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Since I was given my diagnosis of thyroid cancer (papillary thyroid carcinoma) on Tuesday, the stress has been building because I haven’t received any phone calls from the surgeon so that I can get an appointment. It blows my mind that the word “cancer” means something to me, but not to the doctors that should be treating me. Plus with the thyroid out-of-whack, the stress builds quicker and more forcefully.

I was thinking of how I should deal with the doctors when I remembered the few months we dealt with Otto’s diagnosis of cancer. At least in my case, we know where my cancer is located. I became more and more angry and he became more and more polite and kind to the nurses and doctors around him.

It was a scary time. I am now feeling some of the same pressures even though I have been assured by a couple of people including my primary care doctor that this is one of the most survivable cancers. It is also the easiest to treat. Except even with all this going for me, if I am not treated early, I end up like the five percent who don’t survive. What makes me anxious and ultimately angry is that I am seeing no forward momentum in eradicating this problem.

When I go to sleep at night, I feel this huge lump in my throat and I am now sleeping in a reclining position because I can’t swallow well while I am sleeping. Now that I know what is in that lump, I feel it every day. I felt it before, but I thought I could trust the doctors. If I hadn’t pitched a fit about not feeling good– and that I needed to be checked (I went to the ER, I had labs and fecal tests, and I had a sonogram). I would still have this thing in my neck, ready to spew cancer cells to other parts of my body.

It doesn’t help that my thyroid is releasing hormones erratically. It doesn’t help that I feel this lump whenever I swallow. It doesn’t help that I want to scream at someone–

So how did my late-husband stay kind under that kind of pressure. Part of it was that he really cared about my emotional state. He would diminish his pain a little so that I wouldn’t worry as much. Plus he was kind. He really was kind underneath.

I learned a lot of my coping skills from him. He used to tell me that I needed to hold a good memory close so that I could remember it when I was unhappy. Plus I needed to visualize it as clearly as I could. When he was close to dying and needed help to remember his good memory–I recreated the beach for him. I told him about the water washing up onto the sand. About the colorful fishes swimming around his feet. I described the women in bikinis walking hand in hand and splashing water.

I want to borrow his “grace.”

I’m alive and kicking

I belong to the over fifty post-menopausal group, so when I started having problems of a female nature, I was scheduled for surgery. Tuesday I was in the “Same Day Surgery” at the VA Medical Center in Las Vegas. The cast was the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and his assistant, and several nurses.

I was bagged, tagged, and readied while these various characters told jokes and one said they should have a stand-up comedy day at the surgery center. The jokes were just enough to keep me from being anxious.

After I was tagged with the label “uterus,” I was wheeled into surgery for the final countdown. I had told the anesthesiologist and each of his assistants that I was an early to go under and late to come back. I was given the option to take the Valium. I refused it. I was awake as they made sure I was laid out on the table, then a mask was put over my face and nose.

“Breathe,” I was told. So I took a couple of breaths. Then I was asked my favorite vacation spot. I talked about the beach and the waves. The last words I said were, “there are colored fishes swimming around my to—-”

The next thing I heard was “CYNTHIA” and felt air on my face. I woke up and was wheeled out of surgery. I did get some good news– the surgeon didn’t see cancer. They are sending samples to the lab to make sure.

As for post-recovery, I was pretty alert, but extremely tired. Yesterday I took several naps. It seems that the anesthesia lingered until today. Now I am feeling pain almost two days later. Not bad– although I finally took a half a Tylenol.

As for the rest– well, it has been the first day since I was wheeled into surgery that I even felt clear enough to write words. I knew that I would feel this way so I wrote my weekly word quota before the surgery.

So if you ever need some same day surgery help, and are a vet, go to the VA medical center. You go in laughing– and you are in good hands.

 

Life and the usual foibles

IMG_0055 It was a rough day yesterday, Foxy was at the vet for her yearly exam. Normally I don’t worry about her except to remember that she has had pancreatitis. That was not fun.

But this time the vet wanted more of her teeth even though she is not in pain. I decided no, because I just can’t afford it now. For that matter, I haven’t been able to take care of my teeth for awhile. So we muddle along with what we have.

The other problem is that her liver is enlarged. I was assured that she she wasn’t in pain and that her liver proteins were in range. He wanted me to go get a sonogram for her. It would cost another 5-6 hundred dollars and my “plan” would not cover it. So instead I am feeding her some pills. She is too smart to gobble the peanut butter so I have to crush them. Plus I am keeping her on a liver diet. Oh yea, she needs to lose weight. I saw a really fat chihuahua yesterday and Foxy actually looks slender compared to the other dog. I think the liver diet has caused her to gain weight. So that is the pain involved in dog-keeping. Still I will do what I can with the resources I have.

On the other hand, while she was at the vet, I missed her badly. I felt her in all the rooms. Plus she is a stabilizing influence on me. She is the adult in this family.

I also have some health problems that my insurance doesn’t want to cover and to add to the grief yesterday, my internet service raised their rates.

So where is this economic recovery that we are in? Seriously when I hear that come out of certain Senators’ mouths, I wonder if they are living in the real world or an imaginary world just for them.

Now for the good news-– I am on my third WIP this year–Diamond Butterfly. This has been the best writing year …EVER.

I will be starting the second draft– for Dragon Boy — this afternoon. I am hoping to have it ready for Beta readers in March sometime. Then it will be publishing preparation time.

Thanks for listening to me… and thanks for all the fish. (Douglas Adams)

Out of the Fog and into the Light

double rainbowSo finally today, I woke up without that lingering brain fog I get when I am sick and taking meds to make the symptoms better. You know what I mean– the brain just doesn’t work well. You stare off in space or the TV and don’t know what you watched or even if you liked it.

I have experienced brain fog many times since I was diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis. When I was first ill with the disease, I was put on IV Cytoxan and very high dosage of prednisone. Both of these meds can cause brain fog so in combination the brain, in self-defense, completely quits working. I was basically a vegetable for almost six months. My late-hubby would ask me if I had taken my pills, if I were hungry, or if I needed to go to the bathroom.

I lost connection to both my short term and long term memory. It was the most frightening experience of my life. At my worst I was too fogged up to be frightened. As I was weaned off the prednisone and changed to a different chemo-therapy, my brain came back and I went through shock, grief, and worry. I still worry that I will once again lose that part of me that makes me intelligent and creative.

So staring into the void, unable to think is frightening. No wonder those folks who have severe chronic illnesses are also on anti-anxiety meds.

I can look at this bout with the flu and say, “It was hard for about three days, but not like when I was first diagnosed. I can live through it.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to write stories. I have two novels sitting there and waiting for me to come back to them. I just can’t work through brain fog. But it is lifting. Plus my brain isn’t stuttering as much.

I made a conscious decision when I put up the holly and tinsel tree this year that I need to do things that make me happy. So now that I am feeling much much better (only coughing once or twice a day now and usually in the evening), I am dancing with the doggy. I made her a red sweater for the season.

She is now sleeping at my feet as I once again start the habit of writing again.

May your Christmas, Hanukkah,  and Yule season be full of family and happiness.