Archive for the ‘ The Road To Recovery ’ Category

Back on Track

I haven’t driven for over two months. So it was a strange feeling yesterday when I slipped back behind the wheel of my beloved Gypsy Rose Squee and put the key in the ignition. My husband came over to kiss me goodbye for work, and I had to fumble to find the button to lower the window.

“Are you going to be okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” I said. And I mostly meant it.

As I headed on my way to work, I had to remind myself to increase my speed as 60 seemed so fast. But I didn’t want to hinder the flow of traffic. I only made one wrong turn, but I blame Siri for that. She told me to bear right and then to bear left and I couldn’t change lanes fast enough.

My whole life has been a series of changing lanes these past few months. Good things and bad things and just . . . things making each day a new adventure in failures and successes. Another birthday, a new marriage, a new job – all things to celebrate. Trips to the ER, mistakes from the past, digging through piles of paperwork and faded memories trying to find solutions. Cutting back, clearing out the closets of things we no longer needed, venturing forward to things we’ve never tried before. Trying to be a good wife, a good friend and a better person.

I know we are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Losing the ability to drive was humbling and eye-opening, to say the least. Even though the challenges were not solely of my doing, having to deal with the past and rely on others was difficult. Not being in control, and letting it be okay, and admitting I needed help – were all hard things to be humble about. Inside I was going crazy.

At one point, SH said to me, “You really don’t like to drive anyway.”

That floored me. I was always been the traveling gypsy in my mind: the one ready to take off at a whim for the beach, a cross-country move or just an adventure. I was the one who always picked everyone else up for whatever mischief we were managing. I just couldn’t imagine me not being in the driver’s seat.

But then I really thought about it. The truth is I’ve not been that person for a while. As my car and my health went in to disrepair, it was easier to sit in the passenger seat and let others take the wheel. I still got myself where I needed to go, but given the option, I was content to ride shotgun.
Now that I’m back in the driver’s seat, I’ve noticed a difference in myself. Some of it is feeling like my old self again – but a lot of it is feeling like the upgraded version. Happier, freer, more confident in what the future will be. I don’t need to be a gypsy to be happy, but I’m not afraid to move forward.

I’m back on track, and I like it.

Drawing Fat People

“Why do you always draw fat people?” Marli asked me. I looked down at my doodle, surprised. It was a few minutes before chapel at our small Christian boarding school. The girl I was sketching didn’t look fat to me – I thought she looked pretty and curvy in all the right ways. She looked like who I wanted to be, especially the curly hair.
“Let me see,” Marli demanded, and she took my pencil and notebook from me. She erased the edges of the girl’s face and drew them thinner, along with the chin. She added cheekbones and contouring. To me she looked gaunt. But Marli looked very satisfied with what she had done to my drawing and gave it back to me with a nod.

Marli and I had known each other for years. Our parents were friends, and therefore we had hung out at events and gatherings. But we weren’t exactly what I would call close, and so even though now we were assigned to sit next to each other every day for 45 minutes, I had no idea what went on her head. She had never been fat, but growing up she was a little rounder, and her mom had always been heavy, so I know she was conscious of her weight. And when she hit high school, suddenly she become less sturdy and more willowy.

I never really thought of myself as fat growing up, until other people told me I was. My mom always wanted me to go on diets with her, and I remember one of my brothers joking about the ground shaking when I walked. But when I look back at pictures from when I was a kid at those times, I don’t feel grossly obese. I look normal to me.
I did get fat. Some of it was due to diet and lifestyle, some of it was due to chemicals and surgeries, some of it was just laziness. Sometimes I think I got so used to thinking of myself as fat, that I just said to heck with it and ate what I wanted and did what I wanted and became the fat person I felt other people saw. I don’t know.

I think about that little snippet of time – that day the girl next to me told me my perception of beauty was different than hers. I often wonder which one of us had the body dysmorphia. Not that public opinion should matter, but it does. If we are honest, if I am honest, I want to be liked and thought of as beautiful.

Do you remember picture day? The lines for the photograph, the excitement about the little plastic combs, the different photo packages with the “Reflections” options and other things? I remember the third grade, when I had short hair and my mom dressed me in a pink leisure suit. I remember the buzz in the classroom when the picture envelopes were handed out and we all got to see how it came out. I looked at my portrait and was surprised. I looked like a boy, and my teeth were all crooked. I remember going to my bedroom mirror and comparing the picture I held in my hand and person I saw in the glass. I turned my head to count the freckles and brown spots on my face to see if they matched. I looked at this person every day, yet all my unique facial markers just blended in and I saw the whole, not the parts.

My mom immediately scheduled me for “make-up photo day” and in the next picture my short hair was now a more becoming Dorothy Hamill bob, with a very flowery blouse and burgundy jumper with her favorite rose necklace around my neck. No one was going to think I was a boy this time. Except of course, in the class picture, where I was standing oblivious in the back row, happy and laughing.

So who are we really? Which view is right? Should we go off of what we see in the mirror? What we see in print? What other people tell us? From a mathematical perspective, we might seek the average or the median perception – not as good as we think we are, not as bad as others do. But I’m not really sure I agree with that either. Even if someone else’s opinion is 100% wrong, than the average would make them up to 50% right, wouldn’t it?

And does it matter? Does it matter how others see us or just how we see ourselves? You can comment and tell me that it doesn’t matter what others say – but then when you try to tell someone their perception is wrong, does your statement matter? Because you are not them, are you?
So then, I wonder, do we just strip out the adjectives? Are only nouns truth? That day in chapel, I wasn’t drawing a fat girl, or a skinny girl. I was drawing a girl. But if I can’t use an adjective, I can’t tell you she was a happy girl with curly hair. I can just say she was a girl with hair. So adjectives matter, opinions matter. Good gracious, how do we figure this out?

There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. We may never know – it’s like being a ship adrift on the sea of other people’s opinions. Having your face judged on Facebook. I’m sitting here, a thousand thoughts running through my head. There’s no pithy solution. No trope to draw this whole thing to a fitting conclusion.

I do think, however, that just like Marli and I saw 2 different things when we looked at my drawing, so do we all see different things when we look at each situation. We ask other people if what they see is the same thing, and if enough people seem to agree, we assume this means we are right. Is the dress blue or gold, though? Does majority win? What if all we are looking at, and agree upon, is nothing more than the Emperor’s new clothes? What if we have been told it is so, and rather than fight the tide, we all just agree to see what we think we should.
Ultimately, it becomes a philosophical vs. factual debate in my head. Either way, I would rather see a happy girl with curly hair vs. a fat girl who needs to lose weight.

So maybe when she asked me “Why do you always draw fat people?” I should have asked “Why do the people I draw look fat to you?”

Renewal

So, as you may have noticed, I’m relaunching the website. Part of this is because many of the things that I used to write about just aren’t part of my day-to-day life. They say that writing is cathartic, and indeed it is. Without my friends and my various outlets, I know that I wouldn’t be at the good place in my life that I find myself now.

The beginning of this year was just a crazy blur. I changed jobs, got engaged, then Shorty Hulk got a new job, then we moved, and there were changes in so many things. There was a flood and fury of emotions and anxiety and concerns and excitement and just . . . things.

But all that has passed and now we are on a new phase of our journey. Our new home is great, and we’ve been decorating it with gusto. The home is definitely “ours” – not “his” or “mine.” We’ve had fun filming little videos and photos of our latest finds. Shorty Hulk is great at giving tours to our guests – he’s even invited in the pizza delivery guys and random neighbors! 🙂

The changes, although not without stress, have been very cathartic. The move has allowed us to switch gears and make changes. I’ve found myself letting go of situations and relationships that just weren’t worth the effort anymore. I’ve taken the time to embrace those who accept me as I am, not who they think I should be. The other day we had over a group of friends and we were sitting at the table playing a game and I looked around the room as everyone at the table was laughing and smiling and just having a good time – and I thought, “this – this is what I want.”

Along with the release has been renewal. I’m cooking more, I’m making changes to some of my bad habits, I’m trying to start some new ones. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be. But I’m happy about a lot of the things that have happened in the last several months, and I’m very excited about the things to come.

The Tragedy of Happiness

“I miss your posts.” a friend told me recently. “You just don’t seem to post so much.”

It’s true. I think as a rule it was easier to think of things to say and lessons learned when life was full of awkward online dating stories, sorrowful recalling of past relationship wrongs, and hopeful beginnings.

I’m happy to report that SH and I are now at our 9 month mark with no end in sight. Our life together includes more good things than I dreamed possible – and any challenges tend to be outside of the relationship, things that we handle together.

It’s wonderfully tragic to be too happy to write. Of course, it then means I need to rethink this blog and what I do with it.

Of course, discussing real life challenges as they happen presents problems. You don’t always want to show your hand before things are more solidified – you never know who is reading and how things can be misconstrued. And I for one don’t like to jinx anything.

I’ll still be answering some of the questions I get from others – you will probably see a lot more of those than before.

And I’ll also talk about some other lessons Ive learned – recipes I’ve tried – new goals I’m making. My life is about to take some very positive changes, and I hope you will tag along for the ride. In the meantime, thanks for your support to get to where we are now. I wouldn’t be who I am without you.

Today I sent out Christmas cards.

This may not seem like a big thing to you, but to me it is monumental. There was a time in my life where I was the Queen of Christmas – where I had my Christmas letter written, printed, folded and sent by the day after Thanksgiving. My house used to be decorated from top to bottom – from Christmas bedspread and shower curtain, to everyday Christmas dishes and wall hangings and a light up Christmas village on the top of the piano. Every room in my house reflected holiday goodwill – and even though I was in an unhappy marriage – I found happiness in the lights and music of the season.

2 years ago, when I broke up with my long term boyfriend, I couldn’t even fathom decorating for Christmas. But a dear friend promised to help, and with a tank full of gas and some fresh deposited debit cards, we went on a shopping spree to deck the halls. She and her husband hung lights on the front of the house, she superglued and pasted and primped and prodded until my house reflected the good cheer my heart wasn’t quite ready to embrace yet.

Last year, I thought I was ready to reclaim Christmas for myself. I went so far as to write the Christmas letter and ask my friends and relatives for their updated addresses, but then it all fell apart. The lovely decorations my friend had bought the year before stayed in their carefully packed crates. I tried to get motivated, but I wasn’t there yet. I did get out there – my friends invited me to participate in their festivities and I gladly went along and enjoyed the good cheer with them. I even bought a small Christmas tree finally and presents for friends.

This year has been different. You won’t find a Christmas bedspread or shower curtain in my house, but the Christmas spirit started in my heart earlier. SH and I are celebrating our first Christmas together, and it has been fun. We’ve gone for fun drives to see Christmas lights throughout the neighborhoods. SH pulled out the boxes of crates, and I discovered a box from my Queen of Christmas days with enough lights to triple our power bill. At first, I was overwhelmed by the stuff I saw. However, it was easy to let go of most of it and just keep the few things that were happy memories and incorporate them with stuff my friend helped me buy 2 years ago, and new stuff SH and I bought together.

I think that has been the difference. The togetherness. As I look around my house now – it doesn’t look like Martha Stewart or HGTV. There are little touches of Christmas here and there – but more than that – everything is stuff we did together – from the hanging of the ornaments on our little Christmas tree – to the wooden and metal ornaments we hung on the big tree in the front yard – to the silly solar snowmen that blink on the front walk – and the rubber Santa duck in the bathroom – it’s not just Christmas – it’s memories of us together working on it.

The Christmas letter I wrote this year was mostly my story – next year, it will be ours. We sat in front of the TV last night, watching holiday cooking shows and folding and addressing and stamping and licking, and together we got them done. When I dropped them in to the big blue mailbox at work and saw them slide inside and heard the lid clang closed, I felt triumphant. This year the Christmas cheer I feel is not something outside seeping in – it is something inside bubbling out.

YAY!

The Verger

“Imagine what you could be, if only . . . “

When I was in junior high, we were assigned to read the short story THE VERGER by W. Somerset Maugham. You can read the full version here: http://www.sinden.org/verger.html

The shorter version:

Albert Edward Foreman was the verger (lay person) of St. Peter’s in Neville Square and had been a faithful servant for sixteen years. So imagine his surprise when he was let go by the new vicar, who didn’t like the fact that Albert couldn’t read nor write.

He went walking to clear his head, craved a cigarette, but couldn’t find a shop that sold any. So he opened his own. It did so well, he opened another. And then another. And then ten more. Until one day the banker talked to him about switching from a bank deposit to a more lucrative form of investment. When he revealed he couldn’t read, the banker exclaimed – “. . . what would you be now if you had been able to?”

To which Albert Edward Foreman replied, “I’d be verger of St. Peter’s, Neville Square.”

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot lately. If things went smoothly all the time, if we were never forced to seek a change for ourselves and our lives, think of all the opportunities we would have missed. So many disappointments in my life have ultimately led me to a place of greater happiness.

Of course, Albert didn’t wait around for his next opportunity to find him. In fact, he went out, cleared his head, found a need, and filled it. He made things happen for himself. He found a way to survive, and ultimately, to overcome.

Sometimes, when I tell parts of my life story, people say, “Oh, my goodness. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

I appreciate the kind words, but I look at where I am now, how crazy the past 4 months have been, and how they might not have happened if some of the bumps in my path had not been there. And I’m eager to say, “No – it’s okay. It’s great even. Because look where I am now. Look at the good I have now. I wouldn’t have had it if these things hadn’t happened. I wouldn’t even know how good it all could be if the yuck hadn’t been there.”

I could have been the Verger. I’m so glad I’m not.

Bottom’s Up

For this last round of tests, I had to lie bare bottom up. And as I was lying there, waiting for them to aspirate me, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” came on the radio. It’s true, I got rickrolled.

I laughed out loud in the operating room, which surprised the surgical assistant.  It also got me a shot of dilaudid to add to my xanax and morphine.  I’m not complaining.

In fact, I’m very appreciative that I’ve found humor through all of this.  I do believe laughter is the best medicine.

You know what isn’t the best medicine?  Metronidazole. That stuff is just downright nasty. The taste on your tongue could drive you to drink, but you can’t drink because it can have a disulfiram reaction aka alcohol will make you feel like you are going to die.

I was glad to see the bottom of that pill bottle, let me tell you.  Not only does it mean no more nasty nasty, it also means I might finally be recovered.  I’ll know for sure next week, after my third CT Scan. Hopefully, it will show no more post-operative complications, and allow me to get back to work.

Work would be welcome right now. I’ve been cleared to work from home for 20 hours a week.  Fortunately, my short-term disability will pick up the other 20 hours. Short-term disability is a wonderful thing, and I’m thankful for it.  But the transition from my regular paycheck to partial pay has been rough – especially since I had budgeted to be out of work for only 2 weeks, and I’m on my sixth week now.  The decreased pay and the increased co-pays and prescriptions has made things a tight squeeze.  I’ve come to my bottom dollar in more ways than one.

Yet, I’m still here.  Friends, family, unexpected windfalls, generosity and kindness has abounded beyond measure. And joy, happiness, giddiness and glee.  Legos.  Legos are awesome.  Legos that make lego people fly through the air?  More awesome.

You gotta laugh.  What’s the alternative?  Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.  Bottom’s Up, world.

Aliens, Poo and Pelvic Activity

So it has been almost a month since my alienectomy.

To say that transition from alien baby carrier (10 inch dermoid cyst firmly attached to my left ovary) to recovery patient of a hysterectomy and partial oophorectomy (left ovary removal) has been an adventure would be odd.

On the one hand, I had a month to plan.  But there are some things you just can’t plan for properly.  For example, I was aware that the surgery would mean that my stomach would hurt for a while and that I would have 3 external incision areas, and one internal incision area.

What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t be allowed to push when I had to poop.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to do that?  Let me tell you, there is only one way to poop without pushing – and that is called gravity.  I didn’t know that Gravity would win so many Oscar awards, and I certainly didn’t know that it would be my salvation for the past several weeks.

I knew that I would have lots of free time to focus on other things besides work – but I had no idea how much of my time would be spent focusing on pooping.  I took medicines, special home remedies, avoided cheese, got more advice than I knew what to do with, and then combined them all in one historic day I called “The Great Poo Day.”

But pooping has not been my only focus.  In addition to the admonitions not to poop – I was also warned repeatedly that I was to engage in absolutely no pelvic activity of any kind for the next 4-6 weeks. Sadly, I also had no pelvic activity for several months leading up to the surgery, so one would think I would be rather used to this.

What I was not used to was how much sex fills our lives every day.  Even though I have avoided pelvic activity – I can not seem to escape sex.  I can’t watch love stories, crime stories, comedy shows – I find myself hiding behind cooking shows and the Disney channel – and even those seem to work it in.  And trust me, I know Mickey Mouse’s “Hot Diggety Dog” dance way better than I should (and am a little too attracted to the way Minnie Mouse dances.)

Pooping and Pelvic Activity keep me amused and entertained – and also helped distract me from the real stuff – like the loneliness and the pain and the fear.

Let me preface by saying that I have the most amazing friends. They have surrounded me with love and caring and free slave labor. I would not survive without them.  But there is still those moments when you are lying in bed or half-naked in an exam room or even trying to wash yourself in the shower when the loneliness just hits you.  I miss cuddling – just having someone I know and trust to spoon me and stroke my hair and just breathe with me.

I’m not the only single person out there, I’m not the only one that feels this aloneness – and I acknowledge that.  But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck sometimes.

My recovery has not been as smooth as we planned.  I’ve had side effects like random bleeding that have caused me to go back for additional tests and procedures.  I found out that I had cancer after it was already gone – a circus of highs and lows, portent and relief and intimidation.  Now I’m dealing with an unknown post-operative mass that may just be blood, or could be an infection.  My diabetes adds further complications that could hinder my recovery if it is an infection.  Today I go in for another procedure to sample the mass so the doctors can figure out what we are dealing with.

So what’s a girl to do?  Face the challenges that come – try to distract myself when I can – and blog a little to let you know what is happening.

I’ll try to keep you posted – I’ll try to get back to the business of posting crazy dating stuff – but for now – thanks for reading.

 

On Pregnancy Tests

On Monday. I took my final pregnancy test.

“We’re required to do one whenever we are doing surgery”, the nurse explained.

The irony of a pregnancy test prior to a hysterectomy was not lost on me.

It just goes to show,” my friend Mombie texted, “There have been enough malpractices for performing hysterectomies on pregnant patients.”

Other than the 10cm dermoid that has attached itself to my left ovary (which I have nicknamed my alien baby) – pregnant is one of those things I have never been.

I remember buying pregnancy tests when I thought my husband and I would try for a baby. The box sat on the shelf haunting me as months went by and nothing worth testing was happening. I remember my less-than-joking conversations about him just putting some in a cup and I would use a turkey baster.

I remember discussing infertility options with my friends in couples class through our church. Our small group soon got divided as we became the haves and the have nots. Those of us who were childless started to feel like the kids who got held back and it was hard to deal with the depression of those around me who were trying so hard and yet were left without.

I knew what my problem was, as my marriage was rocky and lacked the intimacy required to even get the process started. But my heart ached for my other friends.

We looked briefly at becoming foster parents, but I realized in my heart that my husband would not be the kind of father I would want for any child – he had too many anger issues to provide a safe and stable environment. (It took me several years to realize that if the situation was not mentally healthy for a child, it was probably not healthy for me either, but I did wise up eventually.)

After my marriage ended, getting pregnant meant something different. I remember the first time that I thought I might be pregnant – the rush of emotions as I tried to figure out what I would do if I was. I had just started rebuilding my life, and the thought of being responsible for another being scared me so much.

I don’t know what it feels like to have a line turn blue, or show a plus sign, or flash “pregnant” and now I never will. I wouldn’t say I’m sad, nor would I say I’m euphoric. I’m more thoughtfully respectful that an aspect of possibility is now being laid to rest.

Phantom Loss

“I don’t need a uterus to have kids in my life,” I declared. “I’ve got 15 nieces and nephews; I’ve got a roommate that is young enough to be my son, I run a charity event for non-profit that deals with foster kids and adoption. If I decide I want a child, I think I can figure something out.”

It’s not the first time I’ve said it in the past few weeks, but this time I was saying it to my HR contact at work. I’m scheduled to have a hysterectomy at the end of the month, and am trying to work out how soon I can get back to work and off short-term disability. It’s not so much that I’m a workaholic, but I’m not really interested in dropping to 70% of my current salary.

“Don’t rush your recovery,” she cautioned. “Even if you physically recover, there is an emotional toll that overcomes you once your uterus and ovaries are removed. A lot of women don’t anticipate the grief of giving up motherhood as an option until it’s already gone.”

I understood what she was saying, but deciding whether or not to have kids was a decision I had to make back 7 years ago and I feel like I did my grieving then.

I had gone in for a routine check-up. The nurse practitioner was taking the normal vitals: height, weight, blood pressure. She took my blood pressure twice, actually, and then left the room – quickly returning with a crash cart and telling me to relax, which only made me more nervous. My blood pressure was 171/118. I looked at them confused – I felt the way I always felt. But evidently this wasn’t good.

As the nurse practitioner prescribed the much-needed medication to get it back in to the safety zone, she asked me if I wanted to have children. Because this med and pregnancy could not mix. I cried. Not that I wanted to get pregnant, but that the choice was being taken away from me. My life was in a place where nothing was certain – everything was in flux, and I just broke down for a bit there in the doctor’s office.

Yes, ma’am. I had already done my grieving. I was able to joke with the HR contact, convince her I was fine, and we got off the phone both laughing.

Later that night, a voice on the TV caught my attention. This psychologist was talking on a news show about having a mastectomy.

“My friends told me I would go through a mourning period, but I just brushed them off. My femininity was not defined by my breasts; I didn’t need them to feel empowered. I had counseled people in the past through their post-surgical depression; I knew what would happen and knew I would be fine.

And then I woke up, and my breast was gone, and I mourned.”

So now I wonder if maybe I’m wrong. I really don’t expect to be sad about it – I’ve kind of gotten a Spartan attitude about my body parts – get rid of it if it’s causing a fuss. On the other hand, not having my own children has allowed me to focus on so many other things I wouldn’t have time for: rescue dogs, charity events, The Geeks, etc.

But I don’t mean to dismiss it all so quickly. I can understand that feeling of phantom loss like when a soldier loses his leg, but still feels the pain or like the leg is still there. I just can’t focus on that. It’s counter-productive to where I’m heading.

Forward march.