It’s Not Like I Need to Breathe Anyway…

I’m just having a day ….or something…..this week.

I’ve been blue for the last 5 or 6 days. And when I say “blue” I don’t mean maybe feeling a little sad or down. I mean I am literally, actually blue.

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I’m kind of used to it. It started about 9 years ago after I had pneumonia in both lungs 9 weeks after my hip surgery. I can feel it happening, and sometimes it’s stress (I’ve actually had retired-chief look at my hands and walk away in the middle of an argument), or weather, or exhaustion. Or sometimes nothing at all.

I’ve seen more doctors than I can count about it and since these days my pulse ox seems to stay above 95%, they like to just throw it in the Raynaud’s bin and move on to stuff like me choking or the annoying tumor in my brain.

Sometimes it’s not that big of a deal, and I come up with all kinds of colors between pink (I’m pretty sure the color I’m supposed to be) and blue….or purple. The running joke in my house is that I should lay on a table outside for a Halloween “decoration” with just my blue feet sticking out and scare the crap out of people. Yes, we’re an interesting bunch.

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I’m just annoyed because I have been really, really blue for the last few days. It’s probably all the crazy weather we’ve been having and today we have thunderstorms moving in and through my area, and that’s almost a surefire way to trigger a blue episode in my hands and feet.

So between my blue fingers and the fact that FedEx lost a box I was supposed to have delivered yesterday, I’m just irritable. (The box was marked “delivered” at 6:01 pm, EDT but unless it’s invisible it’s not on my front porch.) Side note: I called the company and FedEx, got a refund, and put a trace out, but the FedEx delivery for my area are just idiots anyway.

And I’m kind of chewing on the fact that I think I might have made my mom cry yesterday but I didn’t mean to. We were talking about my tumor and I said something about how long I have left and she had to go, but I think I upset her. Because I’m an asshole even when I don’t mean to be.

And fuck cancer.

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My outfit today. Because Deadpool. And because fuck cancer.

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Aaaaaand I’m back to coughing shit up. The cough has never gone away, and my pulmonologist gave me “dysphagia, related to trigeminal shwanomma” and blew me off with “sit up when you eat and take smaller bites”. I don’t have a $200,000 medical degree but I could have told you that, so whatever.

Like I said, I’m hostile today. And this is all the noise in my head.

Anybody know what it means when you cough dark green….something up?

Side Effects

 

There are a lot of things that come with having a chronic illness. We talk about the eventual solitude because family gets tired of dealing with doctor visits or tests, and friends fall away because you can only cancel or reschedule time with them so many times before they give up, and before you know it…..it’s just kinda you and a good book or your favorite show.

Another side effect is getting smarter about your illness and/or medication(s). It may be to learn how to survive with your body doing its best to turn on you. Or it may be out of self defense because the doctors aren’t paying enough attention, and somebody has to advocate for you. So without much other support, you learn everything you can about your disorder or disease so you can defend yourself against a doctor that has you and 3 other patients in the next 15 minutes.

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Those are just some of the life side effects, then there’s the medication side effects.

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Right now I’m struggling with having gained about 15-20 pounds because of one of my meds. I’m not necessarily over weight, but I am heavier than I have been since before I had my hip replacement.

After having been diagnosed with Congenital Hip Dysplasia at 29, I worked my ass off (literally!) to get down to my lowest possible weight for my height and body type in an effort to push hip surgery off as long as possible. I ended up losing 50 pounds total. At the beginning of that journey I was overweight, so I did what I always do and dove into research and figured out what was the lowest weight that was still within a healthy BMI and I changed my diet, exercised every day (I could eventually speed-walk 4 miles in 45 minutes!) and reached my goal weight.

June 2003

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Once I reached my goal weight, I have bounced up or down a few pounds like most people do, but I pretty much stayed at the same size. And now I’m closer to the size I was before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s.

I’m not making much sense, am I? Basically I’m just saying I’m struggling with having gained enough weight to go up a dress size in the last few months. And this is one of those side effects from our meds that we may not necessarily say too much about because we’re avoiding more discussions of our illnesses and hoping no one says anything about the size of our asses. Or I am anyway.

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The fight in my head is 20 pounds versus lower pain levels, better control of my hands, and fewer migraines. So I guess I’m learning how to live with a few more pounds.

The World is a Little Emptier…

The dictionary defines grief as: “Keen mental suffering or distress over affliction of loss; sharp sorrow, painful regret.” As surgeons, as scientists, we’re taught to learn from and rely on books, on definitions, on definitives but in life, strict definitions rarely apply. In life, grief can look like a lot of things that bare little resemblance to sharp sorrow. ~ Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy

My world feels a little quieter, a little emptier…..there’s something missing. Johnna‘s quick, slightly snarky challenging of the CDC on Facebook with her #DearCDC, pictures of ducks on her walks in New Mexico, her pictures of butter and chocolate cake. I didn’t ever meet her in person, but I feel her absence. It’s funny how our little blog family exists. It’s the kind of support that is absent for most of us in an everyday place, but it’s something very real even if we can’t touch it.

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I usually just call them my blog buddies, but they’re close friends….some of them a branch of my family.

I’m probably not making a lot of sense to the people that didn’t spend today watching the video from Johnna’s sister or sharing memories in comments, but every time I think I can take a deep breath and set it down, I get a lump in my throat. I miss her. I remember we knew… I knew, and I’m reading that I wasn’t the only one.

Nobody heard from her after noon on January 24th,and only now are we sharing a memorial. I close my eyes, and I tell her I hope you know you were not alone, you were never alone.

We all made it through 2016, some just barely, and I feel like I’m just now catching my breath from Brenda’s loss. I feel this loss too. This hurts.

Grief sucks.

(I guess that’s the anger part of the 5 stages?)

Johnna Stahl’s Blog Memorial

An amazing woman with a strong spirit. She will be missed. Please consider donating to help with her final expenses.
https://www.gofundme.com/johnnas-final-expenses

Life of an El Paso Woman

Hi everyone. Today we celebrate our fellow blogger and friend Johnna Stahl’s life. Johnna’s loved ones held a memorial for her Friday in Houston. Johnna’s sister, Mary shared this beautiful video of Johnna’s photography and memorial with me. She asked me to share it with the blogging community. Please feel free to share any memories you have of Johnna aka painkills2 from the All Things Chronic blog in the comments. Feel free to also share poems, quotes, music and/or general comments. Johnna will be missed by many.

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I’m so glad I had the pleasure of meeting her last July in Albuquerque. She was very nice and fun to talk to in person and via e-mail. Johnna was a huge supporter of my blog and writing career. She encouraged me to start writing my book and continue freelance writing after a five-year break. Although I haven’t finished the book yet, I intend to finish it later this year or in early…

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The Why

I saw a lot of support for International Women’s Day yesterday, but there was also some really ugly closed minded responses (here’s to the “real women” that didn’t “strike” today). Did you know that *every* March 8th is Women’s Day? And November 19th is Men’s Day? And yes, this year Women’s Day held some extra weight. Because of the events of the past….6 months? (give or take) women are marching, speaking out, striking, 10 Actions in 100 Days.

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I personally lean pro-life, but I’m standing up to make sure Roe V Wade isn’t overturned. I personally lean more hetero feminine female, but I’m standing up for people to have the right to be who they are. I personally am married to a man in a traditional marriage, but I’m standing up to make sure Same Sex Marriage is not overturned in any of the 50 states that it’s now legal in.

I have a mother, and a grandmother, and 2 daughters. I stand up for them. For me. For women that can’t. For my friends, and family, and all of the women in my life that I love. And for all the women before me, after me, and the women that inspire me.  It doesn’t cost you anything to be compassionate and supportive, but it means everything to the peoples that need it now, and in our future generations.

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Chronic illness doesn’t take a day off, chronic pain doesn’t take a day off, life doesn’t take a day off, but I did post a strike notice yesterday on my blog. No, I didn’t march on Washington or lay on my couch and check out for the day. But I spoke out and I supported the women that were doing the marching and the protesting. Because I have daughters. Because I know what it’s like to be a woman in this county, in this time period, in this world.

Why did we speak out on International Women’s Day this year especially?
Because being a woman means….

1. Carrying your keys between your fingers as a “weapon” when walking alone at night.
2. Turning your headphones off (or way, way down) to make sure you’re not being followed.
3. Mastering the “I’m walking quickly but not so quick you’ll know I’m afraid” when someone is behind you.
4. Calling friends when alone in a taxi/Uber/Lyft/walking from the Metro to your car in order to feel safe.
5. Texting your bestie/boyfriend/parents/brother your driver’s details “just in case”.
6. Messaging them when you get home to let them know you’re okay.
7. Sitting near other women on public transport to minimise the risk of being harassed.
8. Pretending to be on the phone in any number of situations to avoid harassment.
9. Giving men fake names/numbers rather than risking them lashing out at being told “no, thank you”.
10. Staying silent when being verbally harassed out of fear if you say something it’ll turn violent.
11. Keeping your drink covered with your hand/ getting your friend to watch it if you need to go to the bathroom/having to throw it out & get a new one if it was unattended at a bar so you don’t risk getting drugged.
12. Making sure someone always knows where you are if you’re going on a first date with a stranger.
13. Toning down statements with words like “just” and “sorry” to avoid being perceived as pushy or aggressive or bitchy.
14. Faking being happy even when you don’t feel like it to avoid being seen as a bitch.
15. Not being TOO perky so that people don’t think you’re stupid.
16. Pretending to be patient when you’re interrupted/talked over repeatedly by men.
17. Spending money each month on period products, which are still considered a “luxury” by men/governments.
18. Hiding said products up sleeves/in pockets when going to the bathroom in public places, because there’s still a stigma around periods.
19. Wearing makeup because you’re conditioned to believe your bare face isn’t good enough
or heck, just because you like it – and being told you’re fake/called false advertising.
20. Or not wearing makeup because you don’t want to & being told you look tired/sick/”you’d be so pretty with just a little make-up”.
21. Debating whether the tweet or Facebook status you’re about to post will result in being harassed,& having to make the decision about whether it’s worth it.
22. Answering/deflecting personal questions about your relationship status/fertility/home life from friends/coworkers, potential bosses, current bosses, or random strangers.
23. Dealing with birth control/side effects if you have sex with men & want to avoid getting pregnant because there’s still no male equivalent available.
24. Fighting with the knowledge that the government (dominated by men) has the power to legislate against your body, and standing up to make sure they don’t.
25. And, finally; dealing with people telling you your concerns aren’t valid, you should stop complaining because “women are equal”. (Also known as the “what rights DON’T women have?!” argument.)

March 8, 2017

The owner of this site is female and on strike in solidarity with The Women’s March and International Women’s Day.

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“We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.” ~ Susan B. Anthony

Journaling, Grief, Life….

Fair warning, this one’s been kicking around in my head for a while, so I decided to go with the brutally honest approach. Not something we humans do often or well…..so look away if that’s too much. I hope you won’t because I think we all could use a little introspection sometimes. I know I can. And maybe you’ll learn something, or ….well, I dunno something good.

Oh, but first updates:
Dr Lungs has given up on me. I got the results of my PFT (“normal” or whatever that means), and got told “dysphasia patients have this issue sometimes. The coughing, the breathlessness, the productive cough; it comes with the swallowing dysfunction. Your next step would be a speech therapist for occupational therapies. Good luck.”
Yeah, same to you too buddy. So, this is how it ends. I guess I choke on a spoonful of frosting or fall down the stairs. (Or both! I’m an overachiever!)

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Appointment with pain doc next month, appointment back to neuro in May to keep an eye on the tumor. And now it’s time to go bug my PCM because 2 of my other docs have told me I quite possiblely have EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome). It fits. With my prior dislocations and hypermobility (I can cross the bones in my forearm), it’s a distinct possibility I’d finally have some answers.

Now on to the harder stuff to write about and the reason for the title. In the cold light of day, I’d pull my sleeves down, look at the floor, and mumble “I’m fine.” I’m a solitary person, terribly introverted, and unusually prone to stoicism.

But in the quiet dark, late at night, away from too many questions and judgements, I am self destructive. My arms bear the scars of me trying to take my pain out on myself. Those scars are from many, many years ago but when I am overcome with grief and pain I hear the girl responsible for them whispering to me.

Last week I put out a post that was password protected because I needed to get pain out and away. But I wasn’t sure I wanted those words just out in the public eye. And the next day, the cold light of day spoke up, and I deleted it. I guess you could say this is the follow up.

Because I have been chewing on, pondering, turning it over and over in my head, contemplating grief and mourning.

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Thirteen months ago, on January 20th, I got the phone call telling me we had lost my sister in law Brenda. But what I would come to learn by the end of that day is that I had lost 2 people.

Brenda died, and someone I love very much walked out of my life….threw me out of his life, without a discussion, or an explanation, or a chance to apologize. He was angry, he still is angry, and for the last 13 months I have staggered through denial, and bargaining….pleading with him to talk to me, along with depression weaving its way through the days and weeks and months. Bouncing back and forth between 3 of the 5 stages of grief. Mourning a loss because of a change, not a death.

I have spent 13+ months now turning the whole thing over and over and inside out, trying to understand. Patiently waiting for a chance to talk, to straighten it all out, to apologize. I’m trying to understand.

I know my culpability in the whole situation. I would be the first one to tell you how profoundly flawed I am. The mistakes I have made stay with me, the times I made the wrong call, the moments in time I wish i could go back to and make it right, make it better. I know I am flawed. I know when I’m wrong.

But I also know that when I know better, I try to do better and be better. I learn. I work at it. I try. I hope. And I love completely and unconditionally. I am not perfect, but I am real, and I am honest, and the mistakes I made were never deliberate, never meant to hurt someone, never meant to hurt him.

I spent a long time angry at my mother for my childhood. But as I grew up and went on to have kids of my own, I realized in the process of letting go and forgiving her that 1)when she knew better, she did better. No one can fault someone for not knowing better. and 2) I wasn’t exactly the easiest kid in the world to raise. My mom did what she could with what she had.

I got caught up in the searing pain in my chest as I heard the words that my son didn’t want anything else to do with me. The agony of watching him “block” me on all social media, refuse any contact, or allow me any part in his life. I got lost in denial, bargaining, and depression swirling around me and through me.

The pain, the hurt, the visceral agony in my chest gave way to disbelief, bargaining, pleading, hoping, writing to him, apologizing. Months rolled on, I survived 2016 (mostly), another holiday season…a little more rejection.

The anniversary of Bren’s death reminded me I had lost him too.
And oh Gawd! this hurts.
The clock marches on, the sun rises and sets, another cycle of the moon, I keep thinking.

After 13 months I move forward, just a little bit. baby steps.
I forgave my mother. I own that I was not the easiest damn kid to raise. I forgave my father for walking out and choosing over and over to stay gone. When he died, I was at peace, because I had forgiven him.

My husband cannot seem to get his relationship with his mother to move forward at all. She can’t or won’t grow or try. She won’t apologize. They can’t connect.

I am living with an inoperable brain tumor, but that’s not what drives me to try to learn to be a better mother. I try to learn how to relate to my kids as they get older and my role changes. I apologize when I’m wrong. I try. I hope.

I know I have made mistakes. I know I made the wrong call sometimes. I know I am nothing close to a perfect woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, or friend. I do know that.

And I guess embracing that means I move just a little bit further as I grieve a change. Is it anger? I’m not sure. What I do know is I have reached a place that tells me, that even with all of my mistakes and imperfections, there are some things I don’t deserve.

I don’t believe that I deserve the way I have been treated. That’s not an easy sentence for me to type and put out there. But it is the truth.

The Trouble With Breathing

It’s the easiest thing in the world, right? Just inhale and exhale. Take a breath. Coming up from underwater, you break the surface and take a breath, filling your lungs again. Close your eyes and sleep, all the while breathing without thinking about it.

Breathing is one of those voluntary/involuntary actions we have. We can choose to fill our lungs, or blow out as much air as we can. We watch a movie, laughing or crying, and still breath without thinking about it. Diving under the water, we close our windpipes, holding our breath, and then pulling air back into our lungs as we break the surface.

I have spent almost a year now (yet again…..long story, I’ll share that one in a separate blog) just trying to breathe. I thought it started with choking on chocolate milk  and the subsequent MRSA infection in my lungs and my throat, but since I have had a cough for almost a year and I’m still coughing up green……yuckshitohmygodyuck… and they can’t find evidence of a persistent group of staph that may or may not have set up a new village, we’re still playing the “Do Xunnie’s Lungs Exist?” game. (Or maybe there’s a tree in Xunnie’s lungs?)

Today’s adventures were going back to the pulmonologist for a lung function test. This is the follow up to the seeing my neuro about the still coughing and occasionally choking (yes, that’s related to where my tumor is), then sent to pulmonologist because I’m still coughing, who sent me back to my neuro for a swallow test (yuck), which said yes my tumor is responsible for the dysphasia so neuro sent me back to pulmonologist (can we just call him Dr Lungs to save time?) who read my file again, made faces, and ordered my function test today. (Are you keeping up? Fortunately my neuro & Dr Lungs are across the hall from each other.)

Which brings us to right now. I’m still coughing (and coughing up green uck), so today they stuck me in a tube? chamber? thing, plugged my nose, and yelled at me to breathe really hard. Not fun. So I promptly came home and started coughing and lost my voice. Again. Time to brush up on my ASL anyway.

So we’re waiting for lung function test results. I just want to stop coughing shit up, but I’m pretty sure this is the next stage of my tumor.

I’m going to die by choking on frosting.

The Last Time….

People always get stuck on the last thing….the last time…..the last words, when someone they care about dies. You can use all of the expressions; passed over, passing on, gone to Heaven, going home, shedding this mortal coil. But it all means the same thing. They have died. Their spirit moved on, the shell is left here. Ashes to ashes…

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What was I saying? oh, right! The last thing. We get stuck on the last thing. The last moment he/she/they were “just fine”.
“We were making _____ and then he was on the floor.” Seizure, heart attack, diabetic crisis, choking.
“I just saw him.” “I just talked to her.” The last words. The last thing, the last time you saw them.

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In the blink of an eye, they’re gone. Sometimes it’s quick and unforeseeable, accident, heart attack, suicide. Sometimes a long illness finally takes them. Even if it seems like they might survive, and then…..gone.

2016 took a hell of a lot of people. And some of the people that inspired this thought train that I’m pouring into my keyboard were included in that. But not all of them. Right now, there’s a big outpouring of grief and support for a 4-year old little boy that just died from cancer where I live. That makes 2 kids I’ve heard about in the last 6 months that cancer claimed. The other one was a 2 year old little girl.

I guess I’m just chewing on my own experience with losing people I care about. I think about the last thing I said, or the last time I saw them. For my Dad I told him how much I loved him, for Bren I messaged her “I love you”, my first step-dad I hadn’t talked to in over 2 years and I regretted that more than I can express in typed words, and an old friend died a couple of years ago and the last thing I said to him was in anger.

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The end, the unimaginable, the quiet closing of a chapter will happen. And I don’t want to make the same mistake of not saying the important stuff, or of saying something in anger again because I know how much the regret hurts.

I know the clock is ticking. I’m living with an inoperable brain tumor, and for the first time my husband wasn’t able to immediately wake me up for my morning thyroid meds (I guess I kind of freaked him out when he couldn’t wake me up, but clearly I have woken up and I’m not quite dead yet)….but it was a wake up call. So to speak.

Don’t wait. Say I love you, tell them they matter, you just never know when it could be the last thing.

 

 

Tell Me What You Can’t Remember

I’ve been pretty quiet lately. Mostly because I feel like I’m up to my eyeballs in trying to understand and survive the new version of Sims~The Insane America version. And, based on the blogs I have seen, and the spreading silence of the others, I’m guessing a lot of people are doing the same thing.

But, I saw my neurologist today, so I figured I’d post an update (and I can share the song I have had in my head for weeks now!)

So….oh, back up. Actually I have a funny story and it sort of relates to my new reality of “Is this brain tumor or not?”.

Last night I was making dinner and …..well, I had to stop for a few minutes and ended up calling hubs (who I knew was already on his way home from work) and …
ring……ring “Hey baby, what’s up?”
“Oh hey. Um, how far out are you?”
“I just pulled into the neighborhood, why?”
“Oh……I may or may not need a stitch or two…”

….”See you in a minute.”

I was slicing mushrooms and the chefs knife decided I was a mushroom too.

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Fortunately it wasn’t big or too deep, so we actually went over to urgent care. They said yes, I needed to come get checked out, but instead of 1-2 stitches, the doc elected to do surgical glue.

So I am being a little bit whiny today because I tried to chop the end of my finger off. And ow. And 1/10 do not recommend.

So, forward to today. I had a follow-up with neuro after my swallow test last month.

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Mild Dysphasia. Because of brain tumor or not? Hard to say for sure, probably yes, but stable for now. So I tell Dr Neuro I’m having more memory issues. It’s worse if I’m forgetting something and I start to get flustered or if I’m already upset. But it’s a thing, and I’m starting to write things down and back myself up with support people or apps/phone/tablet/etc. So she asks me “What don’t you remember?”

Ummmmm, I don’t know. I can’t remember. Anyway, she followed up with a memory (Alzheimer’s?) baseline test and a quick neuro exam. Declared me stable (ish) and gave me 4 months before I have to see her again, and bounced me back to pulmonology because I’m still coughing, my voice comes and goes, and occasionally I have a productive-ish cough. It’s gross and hanging around since MRSA last April.

So I go see pulmonary dude on the 16th and plead with him again to please just do the damn bronchoscopy. Please? The coughing thing is kind of a pain in the ass.

So, Xunnie and her brain tumor are mostly stable. A little chopped up, kinda whiny sometimes, still coughing, but…..stable.

And I have had this song in my head since the Women’s March.

(But I kinda love it!)