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The Butterfly Effect

July 28, 2014

Well, it’s back to the racing thoughts thing again. I was wide awake till after 1 AM thinking of all the things that need to be done in the next few weeks, and could barely finish each thought before the next one demanded my attention. My mind is like a butterfly, flitting from one idea to another, only alighting once in a while…..and usually on something I DON’T want to think about.

There’s just too much going on in my life right now and I’m overwhelmed. I’ve got to get a job. We’re having a garage sale this weekend to (hopefully) raise enough money to keep us afloat for a little while longer while we figure out what to do. I HATE this—my house is in utter chaos, what with all these boxes of stuff to sell, and I’m already feeling claustrophobic. I still haven’t figured out how to pay rent here and save up money for a smaller place. At this point, I think we may try to stay here a little longer and keep getting rid of stuff so we don’t have to rent a storage shed when we finally do move.

So last night, my thought processes were going something like this:

 “I wonder what we should charge for the weight bench and the double bed. What are we going to do with the stuff that doesn’t sell? I wish I could shut my brain off and go to sleep. OOF! (cat using my abdomen as a launch pad) I want to have this GYN appointment over with so I can get on with my life. I don’t want to be nervous about it but I can’t help it. Thank goodness I have an appointment with Dr. A next week. He’s really gonna love THIS tale of woe—still out of work, have to move, next to no money, and female problems. I’m so afraid this will be my last visit till I can get insurance again. I haven’t seen a bill from his office since last fall—what is up with that?? I need to pee but don’t feel like getting up. I’ll just try to settle down here. What the hell was that noise?

“My back hurts. I wonder if I should keep my mother’s dishes and the ancient set of encyclopedias. Remember, everything I save, I’ll have to lug. OUCH! (another cat ran across me) Who’s gonna help us move if Mandy and Mike move up to the mountains? Haha, how do you like that bit of alliteration? Hmmm, Will is wheezing…..must’ve stirred up a lot of dust in here when he was cleaning. I need to get back out in the garage tomorrow and go through more stuff. I’ve got to wash all those clothes I’m going to sell. Oh, shit, I forgot to do the online unemployment thingie. Better do that first thing in the morning. I’ve only got about three months left, what are we going to do if I haven’t found a job before then? I never thought I’d be unemployed this long.

“I can’t even buy a break these days. Is anything ever going to go right? I feel like I’m on the edge of depression again, but my mood chart says different. Whatever……it’s situational, there’s nothing to be done about it. You know, this whole ‘grownup’ business is highly overrated, I wish I could go back 40 years and have nothing to worry about except how my hair looks and if I can get an ‘A’ in my civics class. On second thought, no I don’t. I have to go to sleep, dammit. Shut UP, brain!!!”

And that filled up the space of a whole five minutes, if that. I was awake for a long time. You get the picture.


What A Difference A Year Makes

July 27, 2014

I’m sorry if you thought I’d dropped off the face of the earth, Constant Reader, but I’ve been “off the grid” since Friday. Our cable/Internet was out because of a snapped line, and so we’ve been living in the Stone Age for the past couple of days. What a relief to be back online!

What I was writing about at the time of the interruption was the fact that it had been exactly one year since my dear husband, Will, was diagnosed with cancer.

What a difference a year makes. Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, the doctors told us there was basically no hope. That he had, at best, six months to a year with aggressive therapy, and three to six months without. That they were so sorry, and if there was anything they could do for us, they would.

I fully expected to be a widow within a few weeks. He looked so awful and felt even worse, and at one point we called in hospice because he needed a nurse who wasn’t his wife. Then hope came in the form of an urgent call from his oncologist, who told me that if Will had to get pancreatic cancer, he’d gotten the right kind. They had medicine for that which wouldn’t cure him, but could lengthen his life by months or even years by stopping the growth of the tumors and maybe even shrinking them a little.

He’s been on the drugs for nine months now, and not only have the tumors shrunk, he feels better now than he did for some time prior to his diagnosis. He does everything he wants to, rests when he feels the need, and generally enjoys his life. He is no longer grumpy and sour like he was before we knew he was sick; now he realizes that each day is a gift and refuses to be negative. He often meanders through the house whistling or humming…..and he is cheery when he comes to wake me up and bring me coffee in the morning, just like he used to be.

Best of all, we’ve discovered each other all over again, and it’s almost like being newlyweds…..only with the wisdom of people who have been together a very long time and know one another thoroughly. Falling in love again at this age and stage of life is amazing! We can make a trip to the grocery store fun. We act silly and laugh like idiots at each other’s dumb little jokes. And we reminisce about our early life together, raising the kids, making do and doing without, even the times when things weren’t so good between us.

Of course, with time comes a blurring of the edges and the memories of those times don’t seem as awful as they once were. That’s OK. We don’t mind.

Though the shadow of cancer still looms over us, we have both chosen to live in the moment and cherish each day together. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to anyone; what good is being afraid all the time?

As someone much wiser than I once said, a life lived in fear is a life half lived. Will refuses to do that. Here’s to life!   

Too Much Information

July 24, 2014

One of the cool things about the health system I belong to is what’s called a ‘patient portal’—a secure place online where you can access your medical records. This portal gives you the key to your lab test results, information on your meds, even what was found on imaging scans. The only downside is that you still can’t see what your doctors put in your chart, but then I don’t think I’d want to know what’s in Dr. Awesomesauce’s voluminous notes. Or my internist’s, for that matter.

So I was perusing my CT scan results the other night, and of course being as familiar with medical terminology as I am, I was able to comprehend 98% of what the radiologist was saying. This was one of those times when I almost wish I wasn’t, because the findings regarding the ovarian cysts were somewhat ominous, as was the statement “follow-up strongly recommended”. I’m already a little nervous about this as it is—the gynecologist’s office called me yesterday to see if I needed or wanted to come in sooner than the 6th—but I know I can’t sit around worrying about it because there is so much else going on in my life.

That’s what my mind says…..but the rest of me is demanding to know why the universe seems to think I need another challenge right now. Even if this one turns out to be nothing—and if you go by my history of cancer scares, the cysts are probably completely harmless—it’s going to cost more money (that I don’t have) for exams, tests, and probably surgery to remove the cysts and/or the ovaries themselves. Where do the medical bills stop? 

I also found out that I have diverticulosis, which isn’t the least bit unusual in people my age. These are little pouches that form in the intestine, which sometimes become inflamed. (That’s probably where my belly pain came from.) Additionally, I learned that I have scar tissue in the bases of both lungs, likely the result of repeated episodes of asthma and bronchitis. See what I mean about too much information? Haha!

Ah, so many diagnoses, so little time. This is not what I signed on for when I came into the world, cold and wet and undoubtedly pissed off about being ejected from my cozy little home. Some of it I can blame directly on my own bad habits, like the high blood pressure, arthritis and diabetes, but I didn’t ask for “female problems”, or asthma, or back injuries. And I sure as hell didn’t ask to be cursed/blessed with bipolar disorder. But then, my husband didn’t ask for pancreatic cancer either, and he’s continuing to live and enjoy his life despite all the stress we’re both under. I could take a few lessons from him.

Speaking of positive influences: I have an appointment with Dr. A on the 4th. I have a lot to tell him, but I’m SO much better than I was when I hit bottom about a month ago—not happy with what’s going on, that’s for sure, but I have absolutely no bipolar symptoms and I’m not freaking out. (At least not yet.) Maybe it’s because I’m too busy trying to figure out what to do next and haven’t got time for the pain. And maybe—just maybe—it’s because I’m on the right medications in the right doses. Huzzah!







Not Otherwise Specified

July 22, 2014

Well, the process of breaking down a household after 11+ years has begun. Decades’ worth of books are in boxes to be sold at our garage sale; no need to have them around since I can’t focus my attention on books anymore. Of course I’ve kept the 45-year-old encyclopedias and the books from nursing school, as outdated as they are; maybe they’ll be worth something as antiques someday. There is also a set of books on the Presidents that my mother bought me, one by one, as they came out each month at the supermarket. They only go through LBJ—that’s how old they are—but the sentimental value is such that I’ll never get rid of them. Or the books from my childhood.

Oh, look: here is the punchbowl set I’ve had since I first moved out of my parents’ house. I still use it on occasion, so it stays. So will the dining room table and chairs, even though there’s only Will and I now and the only time people sit around the table is when the kids come over for dinner. It’s piled high now with sale items, so we can’t use it right now even if we wanted to. I also won’t be giving up the fancy glassware and dishes I still use for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the electric skillet my sister Louise got for me about 30 years ago and still works, or my mother’s turkey platter.

I AM getting rid of a batch of DVD movies and CDs, though. Most of those movies are on cable often enough that I never watch the DVD version, and of course with 2 iPods, I’m pretty much over CDs. I’m keeping some though, so at some point in life where I’m NOT running around with my hair on fire, I’ll import them to my main iPod and then get rid of them.

What I’m trying to remember, though, is that every single Item we don’t sell, give away, or pitch is an item we have to move, either to a storage facility or a house/apartment we don’t have yet. That’s why about half my wardrobe is going—if I ever reach a size 14 again in this lifetime, I’ll want new stuff anyway—and why I’m going to be tough on myself about the Christmas decorations (I have enough for a 15-room mansion). I mean, who needs THREE artificial trees?

I also have some costume jewelry that makes me wonder just what in the hell I was thinking when I bought it. I know I’ve gone through different fashion phases, and of course there’s that bipolar spending thing where I buy stuff just because I can. I’m not sure I can tell the difference when I look at the crazy earrings and choker necklaces on the table before me… fact, I have no memory of even buying most of it. That’s probably a good thing.

Then, there’s my carnival glass. This is glass that’s been made in such a way that there are iridescent streaks in it, and it’s beautiful. It’s called carnival glass because they used to give it away at carnivals way back in the 1920s and ’30s. I went through a period about 15 years ago when I collected tons of it (again with the manic shopping) and now most of it has been wrapped up in boxes out in the garage for the past decade. I know I need to get rid of it—if I haven’t used it or even displayed it in all these years, I certainly can do without it. But it won’t be easy. Maybe I’ll just sell the pieces that I’m not using and keep the ones I have out and around the house…..

It’s overwhelming, this business of moving after so many years in the same house. Everywhere I look, there’s more stuff to be gone through and either marked for sale, put away in boxes, or thrown away. I’ve found family pictures in some of the most unusual places (a hatbox, a briefcase, even among a batch of old 1040 tax forms and bankruptcy papers). Can’t get rid of those…..some of them even prove that I wasn’t always fat and middle-aged.

We needed to do this years ago. Why didn’t we? 


Sh*t Just Got Real

July 21, 2014

For someone who usually doesn’t take narcotics—even when prescribed and encouraged—I’m somewhat amazed that I’ve given myself permission to do so this time. The belly pain is still there, although it’s much better than it was and I’m sleeping great. The main problem is, I have become…..well, as your grandma would say…..bound up. It’s a common occurrence in people taking pain meds, and as indelicate as the subject is, I’m still a nurse, and nurses aren’t the least bit afraid to talk about these matters.

Not to put too fine a point on things, but doing business these days feels more like bricks making their way out sideways. Anyone who has ever experienced this phenomenon knows what it’s like to sit there for 45 minutes and sweat buckets while trying to relieve the pressure, and then when you finally do offload, the result is the size of…..a walnut. That’s it. Oh, you may THINK you need to do more, and you do, but that’s all you can manage. So you go take a swig of prune juice or Milk of Magnesia if you’ve got it, make a wry face because of the taste, and hope for the best. 

Well, the “best” hasn’t happened yet, so I’m trying to be a good sport while feeling like I’ve gained 50 pounds in two days. In the meantime, I think I’ll lay off the Vicodin and bring on the Dulcolax. I hate sitting on the throne feeling like I’m giving birth. In fact, I’d rather go through unmedicated childbirth again than deal with this… least I’d get something good out of it.

You ever notice how your values change when you can’t “go”? I don’t CARE about the plane crash in the Ukraine or the fact that I am in desperate need of a shower. I don’t care that I just sold my seldom-used bike and made $40 that I didn’t have before. I only want to get the mail moving again.

So Will is out getting me some stool softeners while I look longingly at the Vicodin bottle, needing to take some but fearing the consequences. Hmm, maybe I’ll try some Motrin instead and see if that works. I don’t want to be in pain, but I also don’t like feeling as though I’m sitting on a bowling ball. Nor do I particularly appreciate the fact that this never used to happen to me when I was younger. In my 40s I could take Percocet for a week after a kidney stone surgery and never have a moment of trouble with my plumbing; obviously that is no longer the case. Phooey! 



NOW What??

July 19, 2014

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate…..last night I started having belly pain on the right side which did NOT go away with the morning light, so Will insisted on taking me to the ER, as did my primary care doctor.

I don’t have a gallbladder or an appendix, so that rules out any condition involving those organs. I wondered about a kidney stone (which I do have, but is not the cause of this particular pain). After being treated to the full-meal deal (IV fluids, blood work, and a CT scan with IV contrast) the ER doc said there was nothing wrong with my inner workings, except for some good-sized cysts on both my ovaries. Next thing I knew, they had made an appointment for me to visit a gynecologist in early August, and I got to go home with a nice Dilaudid/Zofran cocktail (medicine for pain and nausea) with a Vicodin chaser. It still hurt, I just didn’t give a damn anymore.

Great. I haven’t been to a GYN in years and had hoped to avoid doing so ever again. Not that I have anything against them, I simply haven’t needed one since the end of my reproductive years back in my late 40s. Now I don’t know what to think. The ER doc said it’s not the usual thing for a woman past menopause to have these things, which is the reason for the urgency, but then I had them when I was still having periods so I can’t get too excited about it.

All I know is, this was yet another expensive trip to the ER that I’ll never be able to pay off, and God only knows what lies ahead. But for now, it’s one foot in front of the other…..and if I have to spend a little time in Vicodin Land while I’m trudging along, so be it.

Bipolar Bites

July 18, 2014

…..except when it doesn’t.

God must be listening to the people who are praying for Will and me, because other than that hiccup in June, I am having NO issues with my illness. (OK, it was more than a hiccup, but it was over with pretty quickly.) It’s like it doesn’t even exist. Yes, I take a fistful of pills every morning and night to keep it in its hiding place, but with everything else I’ve got going on in my life, I am blessed indeed not to have to deal with bipolar.

Not to worry though; I am under no illusions that I’m cured or that it won’t come back to bite me in the ass again. My last hope of that was dashed when I had those back-to-back episodes last fall, and the point was reinforced when I had to go back on that second anti-psychotic in March, this time to stay. I have made up my mind that this is the way it has to be, at least as long as Dr. Awesomesauce says so, and I need to quit fighting it because it only tires me out.

I will confess that I miss my hypomania. I could use a little dose of that right now, with all that has to be accomplished in the next few weeks. Sometimes I look at the pills in my hand and think “What if I just ‘forget’ the Zyprexa or the Geodon for a week?” And then I think of what it took to get me to where I am—all the med adjustments and the blood, sweat, and tears—and I promptly drop those thoughts right into the circular file in my head. It’s SO not worth upsetting the delicate balance of chemicals to have a week or two of extra energy and fun. Besides, as we all know, it usually doesn’t stop there, and the last thing anyone needs at a time like this is me going totally ape shit. End of discussion.

This beast isn’t what it was two years ago, hell, not even one year ago. It still interferes with my life in some ways, like cutting my nursing career short and making it hard for me to stay focused. I still need to take medications and abide by my sleep routine and see Dr. A on a regular basis. But somewhere along the line, things have changed to where I see it like this: I have bipolar, but itdoesn’t have me. And that makes a HUGE difference in the way I feel about it and deal with it.

Thanks, God. :-)


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