One of the biggest changes I have noticed since being diagnosed with my brain tumor (headaches, vision changes, and falling down the stairs 4 times so far notwithstanding) is that I have days I have trouble processing time. I can look at the clock 4 times in 5 minutes and not being able to connect what time it is.
I understand morning, afternoon, and evening but I will have whole days when I have trouble understanding the clock when I look at it. It doesn’t matter if I look at a digital clock or a traditional clock.
For example, if I have plans or an appointment at 1:30 pm and I look at my clock and see it’s 11:00 am, I know I have time before I need to go, do, meet, see, ect. But I have days that I can look at the clock 3 times in 10 minutes and not understand what 11 am means, so I do the math in my head again and know I have 2 & 1/2 hours. But it’s just on these days I keep looking at the clock and it’s just difficult for me to understand it.
I think maybe it’s because:
1) I already struggle with subjective, abstract ideas. In college, the class I had the most trouble with was Critical Thinking. I fought with my instructor because I didn’t like being graded on something subjective.
I also think the Phantom Time Theory might have something to it, and I find the whole idea that the date and time is what we say it is because we’ve set it at some specific time. Clearly I’m not a fan of daylight savings time.
2) I think maybe the part of my brain that understands abstract ideas might have been damaged by the tumor and the crazy lasers they were shooting into my brain. (okay….radiation therapy, close enough.)
According to the many, many, many scans of my brain and my tumor, the mass seems to be in the left prepontine area, right up against my left 5th cranial nerve. It’s too close to my brain stem for surgery, so it’s me and my tumor trying to figure out how to exist. So I figure out how to back myself up with notes, alarms, or timers.
I think human beings, especially Americans, struggle to process time. In America, we typically use the Gregorian calendar based on the idea that it’s 365.25 days each year, based on solar cycles. Other countries, and some businesses, use the Julian calendar. I learned that when I worked for Prudential Insurance too many years ago for me to tell you when it was.
I even understand military time and that Americans seem to write the date differently. October 15, 2017 vice 15-10-2017.
But…brain tumor or no brain tumor, what would you change about how you handle abstract ideas like time if you didn’t know what the rules were?
When I’m overwhelmed or there’s just a lot going on in my life, I tend to get really quiet. Yes, I’m aware that when it would make the most sense for me to write it out, cry out to the world, I tend to shut down. Retreat into myself. I’m aware. I still call it a survival mechanism. A leftover from a tough childhood.
The things that hurt…
…on the day my sister (in law) died, my son kicked me out of his life and it’s taken me about a year and a half to get something that almost resembles the beginnings of a start. But he’s my son, that’s my boy. I’ll take the pain. There’s no way I’m walking away.
…I miss B (my sister) all the time. I wonder if I could have done more for her. I talk to her a lot. Which sounds like I’m just a leeeetle bit crazy. But I believe she’s around. I think….I hope that we can have these conversations and she hears me and I can find bits that tell me we’re communicating.
…I miss my dad. I miss my dog. I like to think they’re off in this amazing better version of here. And together.
…And my biggest secret. My wedding anniversary is supposed to be tomorrow. I mean …it still will be. The date marking an event that happened 18 years ago will still exist. But mostly only because I’m still alive, sometimes against my will, and I’m still here. I packed up and left for about a year, 10 years ago. But all hell broke loose in my life and I got scared. I retreated back into a life that was familiar. I told myself I was happy.
Then I got sicker and sicker….
Chronic pain, complications from my hip replacement, pneumonia in both lungs with O2 stats dropping to 86%,leading to in home O2 for 3 months. More surgeries, more treatments, all while a full time college student, all while moving to and through 3 different states, all while trying to make a marriage work and take care of my kids and my family.
Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary, 18 years ago I stood at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains and recited words from an event I wrote.
Now, I don’t even know what “thing” (silver? cotton? silk?) the anniversary stands for. I don’t have a card, or a gift, or a plan. Because I am unhappy. Unhappy as in I go to sleep more nights than not hoping I don’t wake up.
I’m sorry to think that for my mom and my kids, but I just feel like my reasons, my purposes…are done. They’re over and I can go now. I mean I’ve lived through 6 surgeries, septicemia, a brain tumor, radiation, and MRSA . And 2 blood transfusions. When is enough enough?
2016 was an all out, no holds barred suckfest. Universally.
But 2017 leaves me feeling like my life is upside down. I’m unhappy. And I don’t fight…..well, with anyone anymore, but my husband in particular. And very few people know that or know why. But the fight has been chipped away, and there’s not much left.
So, yes, I am very quiet lately. I am struggling. I am unhappy. And those are the kinds of things that leave me retreating into myself.
There’s a lot going on in my life right now. My oldest is living with me for a bit and getting her classes and clinicals set up for the upcoming semester. She has all 5 of the next semesters planned out and then tah-dah!! She’s off to be a radiographer extraordinaire! And my youngest has decided to make the leap into public high school, so that’ll be the biggest change for her (and for me!) (Seriously….ahhhhhh!!!! If you want me, I’ll be in my blanket fort!!)
I’ve shared all of this before, but on the heels of all this stuff, it also be time for the yearly check up. Kid goes tomorrow, probably need a Dtap booster and we want to get the Gardasil and she’s a happy and healthy kidlet, so she’s gonna be just fine!
Me? Well I started today by getting my lazy-wanting-to-crawl-back-under-the-covers bootie up and over to the clinic so the could pull my “fasting labs” before MY yearly check up next week. So that was 7 (seven!) vials they pulled today! I’m pretty sure I should have had a cookie and some juice before I left.
But I am seriously the world’s easiest stick:
I was just surprised it was so many vials! But I’m an easy stick, no rolling veins or trouble finding one. Stick, get the blood, BOOM done!
Then after dinner, I was sharing news about my friend’s dad had a heck of a scare last week and I spent most of last week praying for her and her family and thinking “I just really don’t want you to have to join the club.” (Grey’s reference)
There’s just so many of us that have lost our dads already, and far too many of those come from cancer, and I just…..I believe in miracles and I wouldn’t want that experience for anyone.
So I have been thinking about my friend, and sending good energy out in her direction.
I’m still technically a brain cancer patient, but I’m stable right now, no changes etc. But my friend’s Dad had a really scary afternoon last week and came back from 2 (TWO!) cardiac arrests and was busting out of the hospital 4 days after and asking to go to the local VFW Friday Fish Fry. And the whole thing just sat me down.
I’m still a brain cancer patient, but I’m stable and still fighting for my independence. I’m down to 3 doctors these days and doing much better than a year ago (when I had MRSA). I just mean I understand both a patient, and as a daughter who did lose a Dad to lung cancer 5 years ago.So I’m sitting in my living room, mulling things over, and feeling like I should share and I look up….
A Sailor’s Wife on the wall, a gift from my sailor when he retired out of the Navy after 24 years. My incredibly cool cherry blossom tree card I got for Mother’s Day, Deadpool…..because Marvel, and our newest incredibly cool thing in the house: a 3D printed moon that lights up from the inside.
Sometimes I just get sat down bust by looking around, thinking about stories we share with other people, or they share with us. Seeing something you can relate to…..sometimes there just are no words.
But this week I found some perspective, something to be grateful for, a lot of hope for,a couple of tears, and a question for myself.
My friend’s Dad went into cardiac arrest twice , he got CPR and the paddles and he fought back. He came back. Could I have done the same thing in his shoes? I’d love to reply to that question with a snappy “yes!!”, but I’m not so sure.
If anything, it certainly shows that the will to fight is just as strong as any chemo, surgery, or medical intervention. Don’t get we wrong, one of the reasons he survived was because he was in a place the allowed him to be treated while they called the ambulance and got him to the hospital.
But hearing how things happened certainly gave me pause. I’m a brain cancer patient too, but I am stable and doing pretty good right now. So I send my heartfelt prayers, and love, and hope to that family. And I hope I keep in mind that the will to fight is just as important as any IV, scan, drug therapy, or surgeon.
Sometimes, the fight seems it might just be a little bit more.
There are a lot of moving pieces in my life. Like…..MY life isn’t moving, but there is a lot! of movement around me and a lot of change. And I get it. Life is change and movement, whether that might be forward, or backward, or temporary movement.
1. enrolled in the second part of her program, which means along with classes and papers, and reading, and.. and… and… (because it’s college), she’ll be starting her clinicals soon as well. She’s going through all this schooling to be a radiographer. I thought she was going for Xray tech, but this so much more. She kicking ass, so give her a thumbs up!
2. Her boyfriend of a year just dropped her without really any reason. Forget a good reason, it was shit and it was selfish and it broke her heart.
3. So on top of getting into the program, she quit her job to focus on school, and her boyfriend tells her “we’re not compatible”. W T F?!
4. And then her fish died today. She’s having a rough week.
My boy…well, not “boy”; 6 foot tall, 200 lbs (23 year old) man, but my only son and therefore still my boy is still plugging along at his training to be an electrician and he finishes in November. And he seems to like Northern California, so that’s all good stuff for him too.
But we are having a major shift in the house. My youngest has decided to go to the local public high school and get out there and meet teenagers and go do the high school experience. Which is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but she’s been homeschool since she was 6. I brought her home in 2009. We were just moving way too much at that point with the Navy closing NAS Brunswick, so I thought the better choice was to homeschool her under an accredited school to protect us, allow us to reach what she wants to learn, when she wants to learn and how she would learn. But it’s been 8 years now and she wants to start getting out into the world.
So, between random bouts of tears and panic attacks, I am getting the paperwork together to get this process started.
It just feel like a million things I’m directing traffic to, offering up time and whatever my girls need.
So if you need me, I’ll be hiding out in my blanket fort. With my tablet, my coloring book (and crayons), and maybe some snacks.
I have been pretty quiet on my blog for a bit now. Some of it because I’m going through stuff in my head, other reasons just being that I haven’t had much to report on my illness. Last year I couldn’t seem to stabilize, this year I have.
But it’s July 17. And aside from the insanity of the world and my country’s “leaders”, losses (George Romero. You will be missed.), and life, the universe, and fish; July 17, 2001 is the date my before became my after. Post part-of-my-world-didn’t-make-sense, post PTSD, post Rainbow baby, sixteen years later I am a very different person. And so I usually stop and take stock on July 17.
The stuff I’m going through in my head? I’m trying to figure out how to want to live again. This is the kind of thing I haven’t touched on in my posts about scans and tests and insane amounts of radiation. We talk about the scans, the tests, the treatments, surgeries, recoveries, and medications of chronic illness, but what about when they tell you it’s inoperable? Incurable?
I got told I have a relatively small, most-likely benign tumor in my brain *but* it is inoperable, incurable, post-treatment (radiation) stable, but I’m still a brain cancer patient. I spent two years (give or take) preparing to die.
Inoperable, chemo’s not an option, radiation means scary complications are possible, and in some cases (brain edema) expected. I fought with my oncologist and refused steroids because the patient cases I read about them scared the hell out of me. High dose radiation scared me, the specific steroids for the brain edema scared me more. So I fought with him and fought through three weeks of brain edema and a trip to the ER that required meds, fluids, and a surprisingly high dose of potassium before they would release me.
Three years later I’m pretty stable. (aside from the awesomely clumsy episode of me dropping cleaning supplies on the bridge of my nose yesterday…….frickin OW)
Last year I couldn’t seem to stabilize. I had MRSA in my lungs and throat and spent almost an entire year coughing up green yuck. Another trip down the stairs. Frontal lobe spikes on my EEG. This year, I finally got my lungs back, I’m still clumsy but the stairs and I have an understanding for now, and I can (usually) finish a sentence.
My body seems to take a year to get through something. Instead of having pneumonia, getting antibiotics, and recovering; I had pneumonia, lots of antibiotics, 3 different inhalers, and eventually in-home oxygen when my O2 levels dropped under 86% walking around my doctor’s office before, about a year later, I recovered.
Dunno why. But a lot of things take me a year.
Throw an artificial hip (10 years ago this November), a brain tumor, and crappy MRSA lungs at me and I start making peace with my the great hereafter. Or something along those lines.
We talk a lot about life with an illness or during a treatment, but we don’t mention staring into the mirror and making peace with your mortal coil. But it does happen, and we should know we’re not alone. I should know I’m not alone.
So I’m kind of, sort of, coming out the other side of that. I’m thinking this stupid thing won’t kill me. At least not yet.
So while I’m pretty quiet on my blog, my journals show I’m still thinking, writing, struggling. I’m still living.
This came through my inbox by way of another awesome chick I follow. Her take:
When I read over the healthcare bill draft released to the public last week, I couldn’t help but cry. If this bill passes Senate, I won’t live to see my 40th birthday. This isn’t a maybe, it’s an absolute fact. This is secondary to the millions of others who will be affected by this and I’m terrified for all of us.
Nikki perfectly and succinctly articulates the way many of our government officials view those with disability and hardship – that these problems are self-created by the individuals who are on these programs. Her mock obituary is a sobering view of what the passing of this bill will do to her, myself, and millions of other Americans.
Many of us in the chronic illness community are already fighting to be taken seriously, to have access to pain relief, to be seen and heard. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but no option for health care is so much worse.
My friends, my sisters, my daughter….need access to health care. Even without the challenges of an inoperable brain tumor, or a lung transplant, or kidney disease, Crohn’s Disease, or any of the myriad of autoimmune diseases, health care should not be a privilege.
Yearly preventative check-ups, well baby and child care, vaccines (don’t start with me), birth control, or emergency services for when your kid falls of their bike!! These are not unreasonable expectations for a developed society.
Please write to your representatives. Yes, again, if you have to. Stand up for those that don’t have a voice, stand up for your loved ones, stand up and tell DC this is not okay.
Source: Me Without Healthcare….
I make a fantastic villain in a lot of other people’s stories. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a redhead….or maybe because I’m a Scorpio. Or hell, it could just be because I’m an only child and it’s gift. Whatever the reason it is abundantly clear I am an awesome villain.
Need a screeching ex-wife? Call Xun! Does your day call for an asshole ex-friend? I’m available! Witchtastic daughter-in-law? Evil ex-girlfriend? Asshole you used to know? I’m your girl!
1-800-call-Xun for ALL of your villainous needs!!!
References and prior engagement details available upon request!
(Clearly I am struggling with some stuff these days, probably part of the reason I am been pretty quiet on the blog lately. But seriously, you should see some of the word art in my journals, all wrapped around the word “villain”. Perhaps that should be my next ink.)
A sampling of my word art/journaling. Clearly I’m working on something.
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.
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.
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.
My outfit today. Because Deadpool. And because fuck cancer.
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?
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.
Those are just some of the life side effects, then there’s the medication side effects.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)