…you need multiple items from the same store, but you have to break your shopping up over 2 or 3 days because you only have the energy to shop for and wait in the checkout line for three items at a time.
Now that I’ve been seeing him for a year, things between me and the pain doctor have shaken down to a place where we get along well even though each of us is convinced that the other one is
mistaken being completely unreasonable wrong. So I see him or one of his PAs once a month, tell them that, yep, everything is pretty much the same, get my prescriptions, and go home.
For my latest appointment they made me come in at (in my opinion at least) an ungodly early hour, a time when I feel like a cranky, gnarled-up old bridge troll who’s been kicked in the face and then stampeded over by all the Billy Goats Gruff and their immediate families; lord knows what I actually look like.
As I sat down the medical assistant doing my intake asked, “So, are you counting down to Christmas?”
“Well, I’m not counting down, but I am feeing the Christmas spirit this year,” I told her. “I’m glad I’m not still in the funk I was in last year at this time.”
“Hm,” she said, then asked, “Have we ever screened you for depression?” I tried to interpret this as an honest attempt to help, rather than a commentary on how terrible I look at way-too-freaking-early-o’clock in the morning.
“Oh, yeah, I’m bipolar”, I replied, wondering why she was asking me this since she had my file open on the computer and I only mention this every single time I come in and every single time I ever fill out any paperwork.
She continued. “So I’m just going to ask you some questions, if that’s ok with you.”
“Sure.” Whatever got me out of there and back to my troll cave.
“Do you ever have trouble feeling interested in people or activities, or ever feel like there is just no point to anything?”
I was unsuccessful in squelching my snort. “Yeahhhhh, that’s part of bipolar.”
She immediately stiffened and said, “I’m sorry-I’m not familiar with bipolar.”
[This is me, stunned speechless.]
How can you work in a doctor’s office and “not be familiar with bipolar”? How can you work in a doctor’s office and be required to screen patients for depression, and “not be familiar with bipolar”?
In what can only be described as a superhuman act of will (cranky bridge troll, remember?) I did not say any of these things out loud; instead, I attempted to educate. “Unipolar depression is where you just feel depressed all the time, but bipolar is where you go up and down and have really awful mood swings.”
She was silent as she took this in. I really felt like we were having a moment. And then she kept asking her f’cking questions, none of which I remember because it was taking all my energy to use my Inside Voice to answer, YES, THESE THINGS, ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU ARE READING, I HAVE ALREADY TOLD YOU THAT I EXPERIENCE THEM SINCE THEY ARE ALL PART OF BEING BI-POLAR.
I don’t have a punchline for that story because…I can’t even…
So instead I’ll move onto Completely Bizarre Things I Never Expected To Learn Yesterday News, namely that
1. It is possible for humans to contract ear fungi, and
2. There is a statistically significant correlation between people who develop this affliction and people who own cats.
In Completely Unexpected News, I did NOT have to learn these particular facts as a result of contracting this illness myself, FOR A CHANGE!
However, having said that, knowing what I now know, and knowing that I’ve lived with cats for almost my whole entire life:
I CAN NOW THINK OF NOTHING ELSE.
Last Thursday, at the end of a week that included 2 chemo appointments and a consult with the nutritionist for Tigger, driving all over creation to get copies of MRIs and patient records for me, a consult with a back surgeon, and a quick trip to North Carolina, I was back at the vet for an acupuncture appointment for Tigger.
He’d responded really well to acupuncture just a couple of days earlier, so I had high hopes for a good result from this visit as well. Plus, this was the last thing I had to do before I could collapse onto the couch and not move again for many days in a row.
Unfortunately Tigger was operating under a completely different agenda, one titled, “Why no, as a matter of fact I am NOT going to relax and remain still for the next 15 minutes, good luck with that.” And thus began some of the longest minutes of my life.
It’s not like anything bad was happening. Tigger had just been confined for a few hours getting his treatment, so he wanted to be up and around and exploring. He was feeling just fine; it was Mama who was at her wit’s end. I’d pushed myself into the muscle weakness, shakes, sweats, and weepy exhaustion phase of fibro, and I was stressed out of my mind over the fact that Tigger wouldn’t eat and was losing more and more weight, WHICH IS WHY WE WERE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE, TIGGER, SO YOU COULD FINALLY FREAKING FEEL BETTER, AND IT IS NOT GOING TO HELP EITHER ONE OF US FOR YOU RAPPEL DOWN THE FRONT OF MY SHIRT. Ahem.
But the appointment finally came to and end, with Tigger even managing to retain one or two of the needles in their proper places, and then, hallelujah, hallelujah, it was time to go home.
When I was checking out I heard the lady in the line next to me discussing the pronunciation of her last name with the vet tech behind the desk. She gave the Italian pronunciation, then said, “In English it’s pronounced ‘Ferrigno’. Like the Incredible Hulk.”
I chimed in with a bright smile, happy to chat about ANYTHING other than vet stuff and eager to bond with a fellow animal lover. “Oh-that’s just what I thought!”
“Yeah,” she replied drily, looking me up and down. “That just shows your age.”
Why thank you, kind lady. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR THAT.
Wherein I Attempt To Untangle The Mystery Of Why, Whenever I Do A Favor For This Particular Neighbor, It Ends With Me Expecting My Imminent Arrest
Normally I try to live as phone-free a life as possible, so the other day when the phone rang at 8 am I just ignored it. But the caller ID showed the name of a hospital, so thinking that it might be one of my 72,000 doctors, I answered it.
“Hey,” said the voice on the other end. Then after a pause, “Are you awake?”
I thought that was an odd way for a doctor’s office to begin a call, but then I recognized my neighbor’s voice.
“Yep,” I said, to which she replied, “I need to ask you a huge favor.”
She asked if I would let the Internet repairman into her house, so I said sure and went to get dressed. But because it was early and I hadn’t quite woken up all the way, I forgot that every time this particular neighbor asks me for a favor she always leaves out some key piece of information, creating a situation that makes it nearly impossible for me to carry out her request, and forces me into questionable actions.
Case in point: That time she asked me to pick up her son from kindergarten.
My first job out of graduate school was teaching at an elementary and middle school where, in addition to my classroom responsibilities, I ran the carpool line with four other teachers. A year of strict adherence to the approved carpool protocol drilled into me the importance of guarding students’ safety by following all the rules at all times. So I knew what a big deal it was that I was about to break the rules, and I was nervous about getting everything right.
As pickup time neared I set off, armed with my neighbor’s cell phone number, her promise to call the school and let them know I was coming, my ID, and my most innocent, endearing, I-promise-I’m-not-here-to-kidnap-anyone smile.
After getting lost twice I finally found the school, and after explaining my mission to three different people and being sequestered in the close-enough-to-be-observed-but-not-close-enough-to-harm-anyone section of the parking lot they brought out my neighbor’s son. And in a move that I still question to this day they let me drive off with him, despite the fact that 1) he had no idea who I was; 2) I wasn’t entirely sure I had the right kid since the last time I’d seen him he was 6 months old; and 3) I did not have a carseat.
But worse was yet to come, because I wasn’t bringing her son back home; instead, I had to take him to his babysitter. And there we ran into a bit of a snag because my neighbor could not tell me the babysitter’s house number, her street name, or how to get there.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know that unlike my husband, I have the innate directional sense of someone who lives in a black hole, so sending me off with your child and no directions is pretty much asking never to see your child again. (But on the bright side, if you ever marry the King of a Far-Off Land and need to get rid of your unfairly beautiful step-daughter, forget ordering one of your evil henchmen to abandon her in the middle of a dangerously enchanted forest; just stick her in a car with me and carry on.)
So I did what I always do in this kind of situation: I scraped together what wisps of information I could and then called my husband, the man who successfully navigated his way through Mexico using only a pencil, a ruler, and a satellite photo of earth. (For real.)
Guided by my husband’s unerring directional prowess and legions of guardian angels we all ended up where we needed to be, and things calmed down until the next time she asked me for a favor. Namely,
That time she asked me to pick up her boys from Vacation Bible School.
At first glance the odds seemed to be stacked in my favor this time since the church is literally around the corner and down the street from my house, and we were coming right back home.
Unfortunately, my optimism crashed headlong into the rock of reality once I reached the church.
“Hi,” I said, smiling extra-warmly at the teacher manning the front door. “I’m here to pick up James and John Smith (not their real names).”
“Who?” she asked, reading down the list of names in her hand.
“James and John Smith? Their mom should have called to let you know I’d be coming to get them?”
She read the names again, my optimism draining away with each furrow that formed on her brow.
“Why don’t you come inside?”
So I did, relief flooding through me as I spotted the boys in the very first pew. “See, ” I pointed, “James and John”.
“Oh,” she said, “you mean Shimbleshanks and Griddlebone”, which are obviously not their names either, but that’s what it sounded like to me because apparently the names I’d seen on every birthday invitation, the names they used at our front door when collecting for their various school fundraisers, the names painted on the basketball hoop in their driveway, in short, the only names I’d ever heard their parents use in the 8 years we’d been neighbors? NOT THEIR NAMES. Or, not their “formal, what-we-use-to-register-for-official-things” names, which would’ve been really helpful information to have in my attempt to come off like someone who should totally be entrusted with the welfare of two small children.
Luckily the teachers were all very trusting, and even more luckily, the boys waited until we were in the parking lot and out of earshot of all the adults before asking me who I was. After that it was just a matter of making sure no one was killed during their full-contact, death-cage, trampoline soccer match, and convincing them to wait to “play boxing” until their mom got home.
A few years have passed since then, with her boys growing, and my dealing with my illness, and all of us settling into our comfortable routines. Then we arrived at last week, or,
That time the Internet repairman and I bonded over the possibility of jail.
In what can only be described as the triumph of hope over experience I figured this favor would be easy-peasy, only slightly more difficult than falling off a log (which is my baseline measurement for “as easy as is humanly possible”). I fully expected the most difficult part of this favor to be the fact that I had to wear clothes. But clearly I should read my own blog more often, because of course that was not at all how things panned out.
At first it was easy, once I dug deep and overcame the mental barrier of having to pick out and put on clothing (I kid; but only a little). Because there was a chance that the problem could be fixed by rejiggering something outside, meaning that my participation would be limited to standing in my doorway and thanking the repairman for his time.
But of course, and here I’m quoting the universe, “BWA HA HA HA HA HA!”
First of all, before we even got to the problem of getting inside the house, I had to deal with the problem of getting across the lawn. Now, their backyard is beautiful; they’ve spent years aerating, and seeding, and fertilizing, and planting, and building decks and gazebos, and basically crafting a gorgeous retreat where normal people would love to hang out.
But I am pathologically neurotic about walking in places where I can’t see my feet, ever
terrified and unable to breathe on the verge of a nervous breakdown alert to the possibility of snakes. So the effort it takes for me to let grass touch my skin without descending into hysteria means I’m pretty much trashed by the time I reach wherever it is I was going.
However there’s only so much craziness I’m willing to let other people see, so we did eventually make it inside. I breathed in the sweet feeling of relief that the worst was over, which lasted right up until the moment the repairman cocked his head and asked, “Do you hear that?”
There’s a special kind of bond that forms when you and your companion are waiting for the police to come and question you as suspects in a possible home invasion. It’s born the moment you look deeply into each other’s eyes and yell, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” as the burglar alarm your neighbor neglected to mention shrieks its way down your spine and into your nervous system.
I’m happy to report that we were able to get the alarm code before the situation required the presence of armed law enforcement officers, and as an added bonus my partner-in-crime was able to fix the problem with the internet.
So now I’m off to ponder the problem of how I get myself into these situations in the first place. Because on one hand, yay for blog material gold; but on the other hand, boo for police. It’s a hard choice to make sometimes.
I wonder if this is what they mean when they talk about suffering for one’s art.
Yesterday Tigger had an ultrasound to see if he’d improved after the first round of treatment, and he’s doing great!
The masses in his intestines and in one kidney are gone, his lymph nodes are back to normal, and his other kidney is showing improvement. I feel like I can breathe again for the first time in two months.
Thank you for all your thoughts, and prayers, and healing vibes. Tigger purrs and kneads his paws in your direction.
“I am going to spend as much time as I can creating delightful things out of my existence, because that’s what brings me awake and that’s what brings me alive.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
And While Normally This Would COMPLETELY Gross Me Out, This Time I Didn’t Even Care (OK, I Cared A Little Bit. But Not THAT Much)
I haven’t been able to post here in a while, because I’ve been dealing with something I never wanted to face. When we were on vacation last month, two days before we were scheduled to come home our cat sitter called and said, “There’s something not right with Tigger.” Of course we came home early, and after an absolutely wretched week we learned that he had lymphoma. Tigger, my baby, has cancer.
So we were preparing ourselves to say goodbye, and then the oncologist told us about a treatment with fairly good odds of remission and extension of life that is also financially feasible. So for the past month we’ve been taking Tigger in for chemotherapy, another word I never wanted to use to talk about my kitties.
From everything we can see, he seems to be responding well to treatment, and I celebrate all the little things that seem to signal things getting back to normal. (Mostly) including this.
On Saturday morning Tigger woke me up early, asking to be fed. Normally this would really irritate me, but now I’m so relieved that he’s eating again that I’m happy to oblige.
Once he was finished eating we went back to bed where I rubbed his belly until my arm felt like it was going to fall off, and then he came and laid down on my pillow. Even after losing some weight to this illness he’s still a pretty big cat, so I pretty much only had enough room to rest the crown of my head on the pillow but figured that, one, I was glad he wanted to snuggle, and two, I was already planning to go to the chiropractor that day, so it was fine.
As I was putting on my shoes my husband came out into the living room and said, “I feel obligated to tell you that I pulled a dingleberry off of Tigger.” (And I’ll just go ahead and tell you that if you reread this story, when you get to this sentence substitute “49% Honestly Felt You Should Know/51% Hoped To Provoke You Into An Entertaining Reaction***”.)
“Hm,” I said. “That’s gross.”
“Yes,” said my husband slowly, staring at me in anticipation of a response that I clearly wasn’t providing. Finally giving up he spelled it out for me: “That means that Tigger was sleeping on your head with a dingleberry.”
“Oh well,” I replied, completely unlike my usual OCD, germaphobe, refusing to use the dish towels in the kitchen to dry my hands because I can literally FEEL the germs leaping off the towel and crawling up my arms, self. “I need to wash my hair anyway.”
Because if the worst thing I had to deal with that day was poop, something that could be fixed with soap and water and did not require me to sit in the heart-wrenching waiting room of the emergency vet and hand over my baby for a scary-sounding treatment?
Yeah-I’d take it.
***Edited To Add: Mr. Cranky Fibro Girl said the percentages are actually more like 40%/60%. Possibly even 20%/80%.***
So yesterday I had my monthly checkin with my pain doctor (Important Side Note: I know I left The Adventures At The Pain Clinic story hanging, and I am going to get back to it as soon as I can. I just have to recover from July and August’s relentless attempts to kill me.)
I’m taking a time out from epidurals and nerve burns to let my body recover a bit, and even though I already knew the answer, I asked what the non-surgical treatment options were. He ran through the usual list of diet, exercise, chiropractic and core strengthening, all of which I am currently doing.
“Yeah,” he then said, warming to his topic and pointing enthusiastically at his abdomen, “you know, if you could get a six-pack, that would really help a lot.” (Naturally he is tall and thin, with nary and iota of body fat on him.)
Luckily I found this statement funny rather than obnoxious, so I just made some sort of noncommittal noise that could have meant anything from, “Hm, I will make a note of that,” to “Sure, I’ll get right on that!”
But inside I was thinking, “A six-pack, seriously? I’d be thrilled if I could make 3/4 of a can.”
A little more on my relationship with August.
(originally published August 5, 2009)
So I’ve been thinking a lot about my body lately- and honestly, I KNOW that you’re just as tired of reading that as I am of writing it, but, oh well, that’s what’s up for me these days.
I am especially thinking about my body after last night, when my husband and I were eating pizza and bread sticks from Pizza Hut. As I was preparing to divide up the “dipping sauce”, my husband said, “Oh, you can have all of it,” and my body apparently decided to celebrate this generosity by causing me to dump half the container all over the fingers of my left hand, and, HOLY MOTHER is that stuff hot. I don’t have a history of burning myself (although I did once staple my own thumb on purpose, just out of curiosity to see what it felt like, which is really neither here nor there, but this is probably the best opportunity I will ever have to work it in in even a remotely tangential way to any story), and so this might have been the first burn I ever received in my 36 years, but from somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I remembered hearing something about putting butter on burns.
But thank goodness for Google, which I checked before I did anything, because apparently putting butter on burns is only The Worst Thing You Could Possibly Do, and Google was all, “Um, hi-welcome to the 21st century,” and I was like, “Wow-so this is what modern health care looks like!”
I feel like I’m coming out of some weird alternate universe after these past 2 years of being sick, which means I’m having to become reacquainted with my body. I don’t really know what to expect, and I also don’t really know what it can or can’t do yet. I do, however, know that the one place I am not going to for help with this situation is any kind of medical, health, or nutritional “authority”. Because all of those people so obviously go out and smoke a gigantic bowl of crack before they come back and make their “official” proclamations, which we are all then supposed to unquestioningly follow. Here’s a perfect example of what I mean.
You know that whole stupid chart doctors pull out that supposedly tell you what weight you should be according to your height? Well back when I was in high school (’86-’90) it said that a woman who was 5 ft. tall should ideally weigh 100 lbs. And then for every inch of height after that, you would add 5 lbs. So according to this plan I, as a 5’2″ female, should weigh only 110 pounds. Which will clearly only happen in the event that I suddenly become a refugee or a prisoner-of-war. Apparently the people (most likely MALE people) who compiled this chart were unaware of the fact that women are actually 3-dimensional beings.
Now we do have a friend who is only 5 ft. tall, and probably does weigh only 100 lbs., but she is definitelythe exception rather than the rule, and I’m pretty sure that’s because she was constructed using only the bones of one tiny sparrow and a few golden clouds. She is very tiny and very cute-like a miniature doll you might want to pick up and keep in your pocket. And as a matter of fact she frequently has random strange men come up to her and tell her this very thing. That is, of course, the very last thing they say, right before she kills them and feeds their bodies to sharks. Which they clearly deserve because, seriously-that’s just creepy.
Of course, if I really want to feel badly about myself, I need look no further than my grandmother, who, when in college, was featured as one of LOOK Magazine’s “Most Beautiful College Girls of 1941″. (And while we’re on the subject her husband, my grandfather,was a Double Ace in World War II, a well-known criminal attorney, and once tried a case in front of the Supreme Court.) So I guess you could say that THE BAR’S BEEN SET KIND OF HIGH IN OUR FAMILY, as far as notoriety and life achievements go. Which probably goes a long way towards explaining why it is So Very Hard for me to just rest and recover, given all these inherited genes that want to be out conquering the world. (Oh, and speaking of worlds, have I mentioned that on the other side of my family I can trace my ancestry back to the Mayflower through four separate family lines? Four separate ancestors who ACTUALLY DID go out and conquer a new world? Seriously, it is a freaking miracle that my brain has not literally exploded all over my office, which is where I spend most of my days, totally not resting.)
It’s really f*&%ing stressful that my biggest accomplishment of late is figuring out what adjustments I needed to make in my daily treatment program that would allow me to once again have normal, rather than clown-sized, hands and feet, given this whole family legacy, as well as the fact that in his current postdoc position my brother routinely solves math problems where x=The Universe and Y=The Current Vibrational Level Of Human Consciousness.
Oh well, at least I still have some things: sarcasm, crankiness, and the ability to find a way to mock just about anything. And I’m still the first person people go to for entertainment, and for sharing the wacky things they see in life. Because, as my mom says, “You are the ‘Ass Person’ in the family.” (Truly, is there a better, more multi-purpose word in the English language than ‘ass’? I think not.)
Ha-take that, Pilgrims!