Monday, July 11, 2011

It's a good day for a blog post

First the good news: my diabetes has gotten even better in the last three months, despite the stress and compromised activity of pre- and post- neck surgery! I'm even going off one medicine.

The weird news is the reason I ended up at the doctor this morning. I have been swelling up like a balloon lately and last night discovered I had gained 10 pounds in a week! Every part of me is puffed up, including my sad face. You know there's something wrong, right? I went to my endocrinologist this morning, certain my kidneys are failing and it's time to fare thee well, cruel world! The nurse practitioner was a little more practical and sleuthed that it was probably one of the medications I've been taking for my neck! You know, the one that causes peripheral edema and weight gain? Yeah, the one I just started taking more of last week!
So we're going to back off on that one because my neck pain is pretty much gone anyway. I was just taking it for the associated nerve pain in my fingers, which should continue to improve as those nerves heal.

I started physical therapy today, and that has me a little jacked up, but it will get better. I also finished a job application and finished a quilt I have been working on for over a year. In the picture to the right, you can see my lap while I sewed those last few stitches. I hope it's clear why it took me so long to finish.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The crazies have set in

My first cross stitch...Image by Cassey via FlickrI've found out this week that confinement ("cabin fever") leads to some strong psychological distortions. First, let me explain my confinement. I can't drive, but I have this whole big house and the back yard to spend my time. However, I have spent 90 percent of it between the bed and the sofa next to the bed. I've read a dozen books and watched a dozen movies, and stared at the ceiling a lot. There you go.

But here is the mind-grinder that is plaguing me since yesterday: the floor between the bed and the sofa-by-the-bed really needs to be vacuumed. I can not vacuum. This is a magnifying cycle: the more devastated I am to not vacuum, the more the floor seems to need vacuuming, the more devastated I am to not vacuum, the more the floor seems to need vacuuming.

That is just an example. There is also the desperate need for mopping in the bathroom. Do you know the last time I mopped the bathroom? No, me either. Decades ago. But now that I CAN NOT mop the bathroom, and I don't have a whole lot to occupy my mind otherwise, I would almost be willing to compromise my own recovery to just mop that bathroom once. To just scrub some soapy bleachy water in all those corners. Could I tie something to my feet to do it? No, too much of a slipping risk. Could I flood the bathroom with soapy bleachy water so Nick has to mop it up if he wants to go in there? Only if I want him to kick me out on the street.

Yes, there is the theory that Nick could do these things, but he is also at work all day and not here staring at the floor like I am. It is not throbbing at the top of his priority list like it is on mine.

I clearly need more distractions. Yesterday I ordered some cross-stitch and embroidery supplies.
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Saturday, June 4, 2011

post-surgery getting by

It is a condition of my convalescence that I can not drive for six weeks, a side effect of having to wear this cervical collar ever time I leave my bed or sofa. There was another time about 15 years ago when I didn't drive for three months, spent a whole summer working around my grandmothers' houses and serving my penance in other ways. This time it is not punishment, but concern for my delicate little vertebra and their delicate little fusing process.

This time around it means any nearby person's willingness to take me out of the house is a highly enticing offer to me. I will take a shower and put on lipstick to ride with you to CVS. Otherwise I'm house-bound for another 4.5 weeks, at least.

But at home, I'm clicking along according to my little system. I'm reading, walking on the treadmill, career planning, napping, etc. All of those enjoyable activities that don't require lifting anything or bending over.
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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Heart Attack and Vine


I'll admit it, I'm a little depressed. I came home from the doctor yesterday, got in the bed, and I haven't gotten out for more than a few minutes since. It should have been a simple appointment -- a few tests to clear me for surgery. However, nothing has been simple for me lately. The EKG -- performed four times by two different nurses while I laid there getting more afraid -- was "abnormal".

"This line is supposed to go up, but yours goes down," the doctor said. I know the opposite of right is wrong, the opposite of good is bad, and the opposite of up is down. He said the abnormality could indicate I had a symptomless, "silent" heart attack. Yeah, sit with that a minute. I'm 35 years old, and I feel pretty good except for this cranky neck problem, which can be surgically repaired with a little clearance saying my heart can stand the procedure.

Maybe, the doctor said, there is another (harmless) reason for the EKG abnormality. I will have more tests next week to figure it out. Ideally, the test on Tuesday will show immediately and clearly that my heart is fine, and I will be cleared to go ahead with surgery on May 24. Put some good energy into that thought for me.

I really believe my heart is healthy and there is some explanation for this shit test. But I'm scared, still. Scared there is something wrong with my heart, some new thing to deal with. Something that will prevent getting my neck fixed. And btw, those symptoms get a little worse every few days. As of today, I can't pick a book up with my left hand. It's a little funny as I demonstrate for Nick, but it is not really funny. Not funny when I don't know if it will be fixed or how much worse it will get.

For now my reaction is to stay in the bed. Maybe tomorrow I will try something new. Once I get really ready, I'm going gangbusters to prove I am not this sick person.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No worries.


My anxieties stand in line all day so they can pop out just when I am ready to go to sleep. Tonight the leaders are all the things the neurosurgeon said were potential risks of this spinal surgery. I don't need to list them here in bold letters, and if it weren't so dark and quiet right now I wouldn't be reminded of them.

I would rather think of the potential AWESOMES of spinal surgery: no numbness or pain! no lifting or driving for six weeks! a new short hair cut so it doesn't get tangled in my cervical collar! lots of time to read and nap!

I am scheduled to have a discectomy with fusion of two cervical vertebrae on May 24. You can see why in the handy-dandy visual aid to the left. That vertical center line is my spine and the black bulge in the middle of it is the offending disc. So far it is only bad enough to cause pain, numbness, and weakness in my neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. Unchecked, it could eventually cause loss of control of my everything. That's why we are fixing it! No worries. He says I have strong spinal ligaments and they will hold everything together for the next three weeks. I am cautioned, however, to not consult a chiropractor or lift a laundry basket, just to be safe.

Assuming surgery goes perfectly and I'm am cured, I am still anxious about recovering for six weeks. About being stuck in this house, bored, sick of looking at the cats, missing Starbucks and trips to the grocery store, turning pale and haunted, running out of things to watch on teevee. I have started a notebook to list allowed post-surgery activities. Maybe I could cross-stitch!!!!!! Just brainstorming.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dear Reader

One of the first times I ever got really excited about writing was during high school. The assignment was a research paper for English class; my topic, the relationship between beauty and mortality in John Keats’ work. I still think I’m clever. I had uncovered an interest in collecting research and synthesizing it into a composition. Research papers would continue to be fun for me throughout college, and later I found the same concept in my work as a newspaper reporter. Now, in my second tour of duty through graduate school, writing papers has been the best part, making me wish it could somehow be a career. If you change the terms a little, it is a career to many — academic researcher, freelance writer, essayist.

Oh wait, essayist is a little different. It was in the newspaper business that I discovered writing columns, a form akin to the essay. Writing about personal experiences is the most untethered of styles; research and interviews are totally optional. Of course, the tricky part is writing about something anyone else in the world would care to read. There are themes that will always hit readers — emotional struggles, health, life phases, personal epiphanies. Even with an interesting topic, the writer must find a tone that readers can relate to: connect with the subject matter, relate with the tone. I see this formula at work in popular blogs, the modern essay.

Knowing what types of writing I enjoy does not lead directly to accomplishing anything. Ego, bad habits, insecurity, and scheduling get in the way every day. For me, a road map from wishing to doing would include a lot of structure. I read about the writing habits of professional writers, and I recognize everyone has their individual method for working. Paper or digital, morning or evening, daily or intermittently — the methods vary. The common thing for all writers is they do have a method.

In my imagination, I would wake up early, do yoga or run, make coffee, and settle down in my office for a productive few hours. I would return in the afternoon for a few more productive hours. As loose as this description sounds, I would likely incorporate time goals, word goals, stretching routines, practice exercises, and many more barnacles to encrust the actual writing. After a few months of this practice, the days would begin to magically produce opportunities for Getting Paid to Write. Getting Paid to Write Is the ultimate career goal.

I have actually been Paid to Write in my career, something that has lent me very little confidence as I pursue the ambition again. Insecurity is a shadow I have to repeatedly banish by remembering I wrote professionally for several years and got lots of tiny little paychecks for it. As a newspaper reporter, I could create, on average, 1,000 words of publishable copy per day. That has stuck in my mind as an attainable goal.

What has worked for me so far is an organized approach. I pour all of my ideas or research onto the page and then outline and sort them like a puzzle. In the past this meant creating one long document of fragments, color-coding each bit, outlining, and moving text around on the page. Now I’m testing out Scrivener, a writing software which refines that process and has uninhibited the flow of my work. Using this structure to organize my document is far more efficient than scratching on printed copies with a handful of rainbow Sharpies.

The most rewarding thing about writing is getting feedback from readers. Positive feedback, that is. I can’t say I’m so evolved or mature that I relish criticism. But when a reader says, “you wrote what I felt but didn’t know how to say” or “I am going through the same struggle,” I feel a community of openness being born. I believe if I can come right out and admit the things I most want to hide, I create the opportunity for someone else to relate and decide it’s OK for us to be.

Brene Brown spoke about this very subject in a TED Talk last year. She said her research indicates vulnerability, a product of self-acceptance, supports connections among people: