Archive of ‘Medical Topics’ category

Whose Body is This?

As I announced in my previous post, I am pregnant. I am 11 weeks pregnant and could not be happier with this amazing blessing. That being said, pregnancy is a bitch with claws. Yep, it’s a blessed bitch or a bitchy blessing—however you wish to look at it. As time progresses, I realize more and more that my body is no longer my own. My body is the baby’s body. I’m bloated to the point where most of my pants no longer fit. Nausea hits me at all times of the day (although I am very thankful to not be vomiting with this nausea). My boobs are bigger already and so very sore. I’m peeing almost every other hour, and I hardly sleep through the night since I require at least one nightly jaunt to the potty. I get more headaches, and the migraines I had were quickly intense. I’m tired all the time, but at night, I hardly ever sleep that well when I can actually get to sleep. And I’m more emotional than usual, which leads to weeping at movies, crying when my mother calls, becoming irate at random irritations, and laughing uncontrollably at absolutely nothing. Embarrassed yet at reading this? Don’t be. This is all absolutely normal and even banal. I just want to give a realistic picture of pregnancy. No embellishing details here. Yet despite all this discomfort, I welcome all of these because they mean a blessing is being created within me.

There are also some things happening that are simply amazing. Here’s what I mean:

1)      In 40 weeks, my uterus will expand from the size of a pear (2 ½ oz.) to the size of a small watermelon (2 lb. 4 oz.).

2)      My body is creating a new organ—the placenta—and this is the only organ that the body gets rid of after use.

3)      I will have 50% more blood by week 20, and my cardiac output will be 40% higher.

4)      My liver and heart will grow during pregnancy to meet their growing demands and will then shrink back to size after I give birth.

5)      My bones are becoming more flexible for both the pelvis for delivery and the ribcage to accommodate increased lung capacity.

6)      My smell is heightened. This is thought to have evolved to help mothers detect toxins in food and drink that may be dangerous to the baby.

(All of these facts were taken from this amazing pregnancy book that I highly recommend. It doesn’t overwhelm a first-time expectant mother, and the information is presented in both an aesthetically pleasing way and in a useful format.)

I had no idea all this stuff happened internally when a woman is pregnant. Amazing! It kind of makes sense why I’m thirsty all the time (increased blood volume), and the increased hormones to make all this awesomeness happen just add to my discomfort. However, if my body is not my own, I’m glad it’s yours, baby! Now, to the toilet I go…

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A Pregnant Pause Before An Announcement

I am pregnant. The woman who thought she may never have kids. The woman who was told it would be difficult to get pregnant even if she wanted. The woman who thought she was happy to not have children. The woman who suffered a miscarriage in June. Is pregnant. Again.

My husband and I have always talked about having children but in more of an abstract-idea way. Sure, children would be great for the most part, but we just were not there yet. That all changed, though. In December sitting in our red car outside a theater in the cold, winter air, we talked about children as a concrete possibility. I told Hans that I wanted children in my life, one way or another, and that this was a necessity rather than a desire. We broke down crying because we both had had this idea in our heads for a long time. It was the moment we decided kids would be in our future.

However, I had surgery on my foot in January and was recovering in February, so there was no conscious trying for children then. That all changed in March, though. The birth control was out of my system for a month, and we were fully prepared to try for children for a year, two years, three years as we heard and read different stories of how difficult it is to conceive. I had even been told by my gynecologist that it would be even more difficult for me to conceive than others given my weight and my body’s dislike for ovulation (too much information yet?). However, God works in mysterious ways, and within three months I was testing for pregnancy after a missed period.

This pregnancy, sadly, did not stick. When we went in for my nine-week checkup, we discovered that the baby had died somewhere in the seventh week. We induced a medical miscarriage and dealt with the emotional and physical blow of that. We were told that we’d have to wait until after my next normal cycle to try again and that it was likely it may take a while.

We didn’t have to wait long, though. Within that first month after my first normal cycle after the miscarriage, I was pregnant. The joy of seeing that positive sign on the pee stick is one I struggle to explain. It was like getting a new car from your parents at seventeen because you’ve earned it with your straight A’s. It’s like getting that admission letter to your first-pick college. It’s like being five years old and waking up to presents on Christmas day. And yet, it was something more magical than that. Some joy so inexplicable and so unlike any other I have ever experienced.

It was also the start of worry and doubt since I had already lost one baby. I prayed, and am still praying, for the safety and health of the child. We went into the doctor’s office yesterday for our nine-week check-up, and we got to see the baby with his/her tiny heart beating on the ultrasound. We also discovered that he/she is slightly bigger than a nine-week-old baby should be, so I was bumped up to being ten weeks along and my due date bumped from May 2nd to April 27th.

My husband and I discussed whether or not to keep it a secret until I was well within my second trimester. One of the hardest parts of miscarrying is having to tell people what happened and then their subsequent disappointment. Dealing with other people being upset and having to help them through their grief is the last thing one should deal with when grieving. It sounds cold, but it’s true. However, we decided to not keep this a secret any longer. Firstly, our joy can barely be contained even if it is tinged with a hint of worry, and secondly, we refuse to live in fear. This is something that should be celebrated, so we want to celebrate it with the people in our lives.

Pregnancy so far hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns, though. I am constantly reminded how my body is no longer mine; it is the baby’s body, the body that protects our future son or daughter. I’ve been blessed not to have vomiting, but I’m nauseated every day. I’m constantly bloated and making frequent trips to the bathroom already. I’m tired all the time to the point where I need a nap most days especially because I’m having such difficulty sleeping at night. I can cry for what seems like hours or I can laugh at absolutely nothing, thanks to the abundance of hormones. I also have constant headaches. They start in my neck and shoulders and work their way up. I have at least one a day, if not several. I’m guessing this is because of my increasing bust size pulling on my bra straps and/or the abundance of hormones having a field day. I was hoping with pregnancy that my migraines would hide out for nine months. No luck. I have had two migraines in ten days, and since I cannot take my usual Imitrex for the pain, I’m left taking an anti-nausea medicine and hydrocodone. I’m so looking forward to the second trimester with longing when hopefully a lot of these symptoms will subside. However, I will happily take the bad and uncomfortable with the enormous blessing that is growing inside of me. Praise for a second chance!

New Player Joining the Game_Test

Oh Captain! my Captain! You Are Not What They Say.

I never thought the issue of depression would be such a polarizing topic. Robin Williams’s death has proven otherwise. He hanged himself to end his suffering from the disease of depression. Along with the countless sympathetic posts and stories, I have seen some pretty disgusting ones, calling Williams a coward (Fox News) and saying that he died from a choice not a disease (Matt Walsh). These comments sadden and anger me, and as I see them popping up, I pray that Williams’s family is somehow sheltered from these hateful words. Suicide is indeed a choice, especially from the outside eye. There is the choice to do it or not do it. However, depression can drive one so far into the dark that it may seem that suicide is the only option, completely obliterating the definition of “choice” and “option.” Depression makes the choice for you. To begin to comprehend suicide, consider the following quote: “depression is like a room engulfed in flames and you can’t breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp — and suicide is deciding there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building.” Williams did not hang himself out of spite or cruelty. He got tired of living in the room engulfed in flames. He got tired of depression whispered breath in his ear. And in the end, depression won and made this choice from him.

One in four adults (approximately 57.7 million Americans) struggle with mental illness in a given year. These can include the following: “major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.” We all know someone who is struggling, whether we consciously know it or have no idea about the silent battle a person is always waging. For me, I have people in my life that have struggled or are still struggling, and I have experienced it personally. In the last years of high school and beginning of college, I was depressed. I’m not talking about being sad for long periods of time. I’m talking about room-engulfed, can’t-catch-my-breath, hysterical-outbursts depression. Freshman year of college, I sat in my bathtub with a razor blade, feeling the water turn cold to chill my skin. Depression’s dark breath worked to convince me how much easier it would be to end it. The battle didn’t seem worth it. As I thought more and more about it, I realized I couldn’t run that blade down my wrists. Cutting was nothing new to me—the pain brought relief—but the terror of what was in store for me on the other side steadied my resolve to seek help instead of end it all. It was terrifying to seek help, to admit I was not perfect. With weekly meetings with my therapist and daily medication, I got better. I’m no longer on medication, but the memory of the dark is still there. I still feel its icy death grip occasionally, and hear its chilling voice in my ear. Now, though, I am cognizant of how much the future holds for me. It is worth the fight. It is worth the struggle.

I was lucky. Some people are not able to win the battle so easily. This is not a reflection on the person but on the disease. For some, the claws are dug down deeper. I have someone very dear to me that took a gun to his head, and with shaky hands, he put it down. I had another dear someone take the gun and pull the trigger…twice. Both were spiritual persons. Perhaps the only difference is that one sought help, or perhaps the length of the suffering played a part. Either way, both were courageous men to face what they faced in their lives. They were no cowards. I hope these people who are talking so negatively about Robin Williams never have suicide touch their lives, and I hope they do not learn what that room feels like as it’s engulfed in flames.

In many recent articles, blogs, and news reports, writers have asserted that Robin Williams died from a choice rather than a disease. I pose the question; did he not die from both? He chose to end his suffering after battling this disease for most of his life. I’m certain it was not a fleeting choice perpetrated on the spur of the moment. It was the only option he felt he had, and no one knows how many times he had wrapped that belt around his neck and decided not to do it before the final day. He could have continued the struggle, reaching out for help. One would think he had already done numerous times after coming out publicly about his fight with depression and drugs. Matt Walsh, a popular blogger, wrote the following: “To act like death by suicide is exactly analogous to death by malaria or heart failure is to steal hope from the suicidal person. We think we are comforting him, but in fact we are convincing him that he is powerless. We are giving him a way out, an excuse.” However, depression is a disease similar to malaria or heart failure. It does not always result in death, but it can. There are treatment methods. The only difference is that depression manifests internally. It is not like a pox that is evident to the naked eye splayed across the skin. It is a silent disease. Like alcoholism, it is a disease that will always be present. Some days it may be easier to not take that drink, but others are full of unquenchable desire. Some reach the point where they are tired of the treatment and reaching out and tired of not being able to take that drink. They decide to be vanquished because depression has made this choice for them. Is this the right choice? I don’t believe death is ever the right choice, but I also know one must be in a place of endless darkness to actually tie that rope and jump. Suicide is similar to someone succumbing to leukemia. It is a direct result of the disease of depression. Yet when someone refuses treatment for leukemia, we do not shame them. We do not shame someone who dies from almost any other disease. Why then do people feel the need to shame Robin Williams or anyone else who dies by his own hand?

Many of these writers, and even one news anchor, have said that Robin Williams is a coward, and one of the reasons is for leaving his family and friends to deal with his suicide. Walsh was disturbed by Williams’s “willingness to saddle [his] family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.” It is indeed extremely difficult for those left behind. There are questions that will forever go unanswered, and a hole in one’s heart that will never again be filled by that person. However, from what I’ve read and know from my own experiences with the disease, these people do think of their families. There reaches a point where the grief their suicide will cause seems little to the burden they are currently saddling their loved ones with. They start to believe that they are acting in their loved ones’ best interest mainly because they are not worthy of their love. This is not true. No matter what loved ones are dealing with while a person with depression is alive, it does not compare to the grief and pain they are shackled with after that person’s passing. The disease of depression twists this fact, though.

Matt Walsh suggests that joy and love are the only things that defeat depression, not medication or therapy. He writes, “We can debate medication dosages and psychotherapy treatments, but, in the end, joy is the only thing that defeats depression. No depressed person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of despair and at the heights of joy at the same time. The two cannot coexist. Joy is light, depression is darkness. When we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it. I know that in my worst times, at my lowest points, it’s not that I don’t see the joy in creation, it’s just that I think myself too awful and sinful a man to share in it.” What Walsh does not understand is that true depression robs people of their ability to feel joy. They may observe it, but they have forgotten how to obtain it for themselves. Yes, they feel unworthy, awful, and sinful. However, it’s not a choice they make to not feel joy; depression withholds it from its sufferers.. Medication and psychotherapy help build a bridge back to joy. (Read more on depression and its treatments.) Perhaps what Mr. Walsh has experienced in his lowest points is what we all struggle with at some point—the very meaning of our existence. We have all felt at some point that we are unworthy, that we are awful, and that we are sinful or immoral. This is part of life. This is why we do things of worth, of use, and of grace. These feelings are normal, especially when we can still see joy and experience it. It is when joy is just a distant memory that can no longer be obtained when we have to worry. Again, it is not a choice to turn away from joy when saddled with depression.

Walsh further explains his belief that depression is not only a chemical imbalance, stating that it’s not clinical but rather spiritual. He elucidates, “But I don’t understand how theists, who acknowledge the existence of the soul, think they can draw some clear line of distinction between the body and the soul, and declare unequivocally that depression is rooted in one but not the other. This is a radically materialist view now shared by millions of spiritualist people.” He is attempting to persuade that depression is as much a spiritual ailment as a bodily ailment. Something is dark within the spirit to cause such darkness in the body. Walsh says that he is not saying depressed people lack religiosity or are automatically atheist; based on his rhetoric, he is saying that although you may be a spiritual person depression indicates that there is something wrong in your soul. Fix that, and you fix the depression. Let’s backtrack for a minute. When someone is sick with any disease, whether it’s depression, heart disease, leukemia, etc., it does impact the soul. The body and the soul are intertwined. The disease works on the soul as well. However, that someone has not done anything to bring on the disease. The effect that the disease is having on them physically, emotionally, and spiritually is not their fault. There is no deficiency within the soul to bring on the disease of depression. It is indeed a chemical imbalance of the body which, if you are a religious person, may affect the health of your soul solely because any battle weighs on the soul. It is NOT a deficiency of the soul that then causes the chemical imbalance within the body.

Walsh also wrote in his recent blog that worse than believing Williams died from a disease is the “fact that we seem to approach it with an attitude that nearly resembles admiration.” He explains that the language with which we are talking about his death resembles admiration. The Academy of Motion Pictures tweeted “Genie, you’re free,” and many others have said that now he is in a better place. Walsh asserts, however, that using rhetoric like this is as good as giving a suicidal person a gun. I do not agree. Firstly, this “glowing” rhetoric we are using regarding the death of Robin Williams is not for the dead. It is for the living. It consoles us. It’s an attempt to make the incomprehensible understandable. We are paying tribute to a man who touched our lives in so many ways and mourning not just his death but a world without him. We know he is free from his suffering with his disease. We also know that he made this last act absolute. No one knows with 100% certainty what the great beyond holds for us. One would have to be suffering unimaginably to choose this because uncertainty is terrifying. Would one turn to nothingness or even a white hot netherworld if suffering was endurable? Williams starred in What Dreams May Come. He contemplated the after-ness. Secondly, we are not admiring suicide or even the disease of depression. We may say “you are free” because scientifically we understand the suffering. By explaining suicide through the scientific terms of depression, we are simply explaining. We are not downplaying suicide; there are real reasons that lead to suicide. By talking about these we are hoping to encourage people to get help rather than turn to the ultimate absolute. It is not a hopeless disease that leaves one completely powerless. Doctors understand it now. There is treatment. There is help. Some people reach a point where suicide is the only option. We hope to reach people before they reach this point.

What it all comes down to is this. Suicide is tragic. It is a tragedy NOT a choice. There are ways to prevent it. There is help out there. But for those left behind after a suicide, do not let your words become daggers that stab an already wounded heart. Do not call their loved one a coward that made a choice instead of a person who suffered from a disease. The people left behind were loved and appreciated. The person who took his life knew he was loved. Depression won this battle, though.

For Robin Williams, you are already missed in our household. I grew up watching Mrs. Doubtfire every time I would visit my grandparents in Omaha. My brother’s first trip to the movie theater was to see Aladdin. My brother and I would pretend to fly after every viewing of Hook, and we bought the game Jumanji to try to act out the movie. I’ve seen Dead Poet’s Society numerous times and have shared it with countless students. I will cherish every laugh he gave and every time he lifted the spirits within our household.

O Captain! my Captain! your fearful trip is done.
After every heart who watched your art, is now forever won.

If you’re suffering with depression, don’t keep silent. Reach out. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and visit this website.

Pulling Feathers from Hope

Tuesday, June 24th was the worst day of my life. I try not to quantify days too often, especially because they then live in infamy within my mind, but I can say, without a doubt and considering all the events that have happened thus far, it was the worst. This isn’t to downplay other horrible events, like the passing of a loved one. However, the pain I felt both physically and emotionally had not been experienced by me thus far. I didn’t plan on telling everyone. However, secrets never stay secret the moment you tell someone. I didn’t want everyone to know, including even all our family, because it was my news to keep, my news to share, and my news to grieve. Since word has spread, though, I feel like I must explain. I had a medical miscarriage almost two weeks ago.

My husband and I went in to have the first ultrasound for our baby at nine weeks full of feathery hope, and the ultrasound specialist discovered he was too tiny for how many weeks I was and had no heartbeat. We could see him on the screen, but there was nothing to hear. Our hope had suddenly been plucked of all its feathers. We then had to wait over fifteen minutes for the midwife to explain the situation. No matter how much reassurance that it was nothing Hans or I did, it is impossible not to feel responsible for that little heart no longer beating. No matter how many times the midwife or others tell me that I can get pregnant again (and I, too, have told myself this plenty of times since this happened), I can’t stop thinking about the baby that won’t be.

As my husband and I were getting assaulted by information and papers, we were told that I would have to induce the miscarriage since my body had not done this on its own. I could wait longer to see if my body eventually got with the program, but if we waited much longer and nothing happened, I would have to have surgery (D&C) to clean everything out. We opted for the pills over waiting or surgery. While I still think this was the best option, those eight little white pills led to what made the day that much worse.

When the first four pills are put inside, they induce a type of labor to abort everything within the uterus. In twelve hours, I was to put the last four inside as well to make sure everything was cleaned out. The midwife warned that I would have “labor-type” pains and possible diarrhea and vomiting. And I did. For four hours, I suffered from pains that I can only believe are just like labor. I took codeine that didn’t even touch the pain and that wouldn’t have even mattered since they came back up thirty minutes later. The pains were so bad that I was writhing in pain either in the bed or in the bathroom and could only pray for it to be over quickly. These were much worse than even my worst migraine, and days afterward I still felt sore and achy from them. They finally ended after four short hours, though. I started to only have cramps like a difficult period instead of horrific, “labor-type” pains and just had to suffer everything coming out for the next few hours. The midwife explained that I would bleed for a few days and then spot for two weeks afterwards, which has thus far been true. I also experienced some difficult cramping four and five days after the initial experience. What made this even worse was that every time I went to the restroom I was reminded of what was no longer inside of me. I am still having trouble sleeping and even resting. I cannot concentrate on reading. I burst into spontaneous sobs. The physical pain is just a mere annoyance now, so the emotional pain is hitting me hard.

Since Tuesday, June 24th, I have yet to talk to God unless pleading with Him to take away my physical pain. I usually talk to Him daily, but I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m hurt. And like with most things, I need something or someone at which to point my finger. How could He let this happen? How could He grow my hopes in something so precious and then so callously take it away, leaving behind a gaping wound? I have temporarily lost my island in the raging seas, and I’m not even trying to find it right now. But He is still there. He has remained unchanged through all this, and despite my wavering feelings, He is still persistently loving and constantly reaching for me. He has even blessed my husband with a positive career change amidst all this turmoil. Perhaps the knowledge that He is still pursuing me will be enough to help me reach out when I am ready.

I talked a little about this is my previous “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” post, but now that it’s in context, perhaps this will make a bit more sense. On this worst day ever, my husband and I decided to stop by a favorite breakfast spot on the way home. He was doing his best to make me smile, and with what we knew was in our future with the medical miscarriage, we decided I really needed a good meal before starting the pills. It struck me as our waitress waited on us that people never know what’s going on under the surface of the people they encounter every day. Our waitress was just doing a friendly job to a couple who were eating breakfast, but we had just heard the most hurtful news just a mere hour before. I looked around the restaurant and wondered what others may have been dealing with, what secrets they were keeping. It was one of those moments where the world suddenly got bigger than just my own small life.

After getting through the initial, horrific physical pain, I went on Facebook just for something to do as I lay in bed. I was accosted by a post about the dangers of allowing abortion in our country, yet another post about how a man at Cumberland Mall may have intended to leave his toddler in the car for eight hours, and numerous posts about how certain people were just having such a rotten day because of the weather, someone didn’t call, etc. To say the least, I was disgusted. My goodwill towards humanity had run dry during my pains. It wasn’t the fault of the people posting on social media. If anything it was my fault for looking when I was already emotionally raw. It was just poorly timed on my part to visit the dark void that can sometimes be Facebook. It was like the poorly timed showing of Harold and Maude in my college “Movies in the Classroom” course when I had just returned from a funeral after my uncle’s suicide. I should have just said no to watching the movie. I should have just said no to looking on Facebook.

However, it did lead me to think about how flippant we are when we post certain things. The person who posted about the evils of abortion was just doing so out of a political motivation. He had no way of knowing that I was, in essence, aborting my own baby. The person who posted about how she was just having the worst day because it was raining and then later on another post about her terrible day because people were not responding to her texts or calls had no way of knowing that someone in the family was actually experiencing a terrible loss. The woman who posted about it being a bad workday and to make matters worse she now had to go to the dentist had no way of knowing that I would have gone to the dentist every day for a year to avoid what I just experienced. We have no way of knowing how what we say is taken by others. We have no way of knowing how what we post may color the way others now look at us. We (including myself) post out of a selfish reason to be heard, no matter the content, and are narrowly thinking of only our small world that revolves around us. We forget about the big picture. We forget that words have power.

Am I writing about this for sympathy? No, at least not consciously, but I do suppose there is the selfish reason of writing this just to get the pain out and on paper at least for the time being. I am within my own narrow world of suffering. I suppose it’s a good thing I felt compelled to write this because it’s a topic that isn’t written about hardly ever. It is an event in at least 30% of pregnant women’s lives, and yet it is hardly ever discussed. Few people understand both the physical and emotional ramifications of a miscarriage (including myself before this happened), and yet it is something that the 30% carry with them always. It is not something that a woman gets over easily and soon forgets. What do I want the reader to take away from this post? A better understanding of what women go through during a miscarriage; sympathy towards others is hardly ever negative. A minute break from their busy lives to look around at the other people and appreciate what these people may be going through today. An understanding that what we put online affects every reader to some degree. I don’t need your sympathy. Reading this is sufficient.

If you’re interested in another’s experience with miscarriage and attempting to get pregnant, check out this link to a blog by my dear friend.

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Living life in my burrito with my own teddy bear. Thank God for summer vacation.

Migraine, Migraine, Go Away

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I had to go to the emergency room yesterday because I had a migraine that wouldn’t quit. Thank goodness for modern medicine, a husband who understands if not empathizes with my pain, great nurses and an attentive doctor, and Diluadid and Zofran. I know a few of my family members and friends know what it is to have a migraine, and my very first post on this blog had to do with migraines. A migraine is NOT just a really bad headache. Calling a really bad headache a “migraine” is like calling a bicycle a semi-truck. I’m a headache sufferer, almost on a daily basis, but I will take my headaches any day over a migraine. Not only is the pain an excruciating, insurmountable, almost tangible, white hotness in the head, but migraines are also usually accompanied (at least for me) by half-body numbness, auras that sometime make it impossible to see, and violent vomiting. Yesterday, however, I experienced none of the precursors to the pain (numbness and auras) but only had the accompanying vomiting because the pain was so intense. I woke up a little before 6:00 in full-blown pain. Here’s a poetic look into the migraine and the experience it warranted.

Ice Pick in my Head
Ice pick in my head
Slowly turning and twisting
Stabbing and then twirling
Until the prize of vomit shows up.

Burning, blistering bile
Singeing my throat and mouth
Killing taste buds as it passes
To leave an all-day sore throat.

Sweet relief from upchucked stomach contents
A juxtaposition of wanting to do it again
And wanting to avoid it at all costs
Since it means the meds are no longer in the belly.

Pain so fierce and white hot
I cannot lie still on the bed
Pondering trepanation
Pondering peeling out the eye
And hacking away the skull
To get to the pain.

A trip to the emergency room
Through rush-hour traffic
Trying to contain my remaining stomach juice
Within my body.

A nurse deftly searching for a vein
In vain
As I squirm with pain on the hospital bed
And the sweet purple relief
Of a needle going into my hand
To briefly take my mind off my searing head pain.

A body pumped full of saline
And a lovely friend called Narcotic
To cool my boiling blood.

Narcotic and I explore the reaches of bliss
Making my limbs feel like heavy logs
That somehow start to melt into the bed
Coloring the blue sheets with fleshy color.

And I am at rest
Somewhere between alertness and unconsciousness
With the pain in my head driven away
By Narcotic’s trusty gray steed.

All that’s left is a bruise behind skull
And an after-headache when I get home
That’s a sweet relief from my previous pain
Still a bright, hot memory.

Hydrocodone Haze of Mushiness

I woke up the morning of the surgery because I was dreaming one of my butterflies was trying to escape from my stomach through my back. It was just Bella’s ear tickling my back. (Bella is my dog for those who don’t know.) I figure this was a good sign, and it was. I survived the surgery. Woot woot! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The anesthesiologist gave me a relaxing concoction through an IV, so I was out the entire time or as close to it as I could be. The first thing I remember after the surgery was asking, “Where’s the cheesecake?” The nurses laughed, asking me what cheesecake I talking about. I then replied that we should all go to the factory. One nurse asked me what my favorite cheesecake was since hers is dulce de leche caramel. “The banana cheesecake is my favorite because it’s the healthiest. The bananas and all,” I explained, without missing a beat. There’s no telling if I was talking throughout the surgery, and if so, what I said. Oh boy!

ImageI’m so thankful that the surgery went well, but this experience has brought thankfulness to a whole new level. And this new level is for my family and friends. My husband has been my rock through this whole ordeal so far. He has even helped me in the restroom (I know, too much information), but for those out there that have loved ones that have done this or have friends that have ever held your hair back as you puked your guts out while having a severe migraine and then rushed you to the ER (ahem), you know this level of thankfulness. They can see you in your absolute most private, most base moments and still kiss your forehead or cheek, holding your hand afterwards, wiping your tears, telling you that you have nothing to apologize for because it wasn’t your fault. Everyone needs help, and they were there to offer it. No questions asked. No bargains made. Just there for you.

I have a mother that has taken off a week from work and is willing to be apart from her husband after celebrating her two-year anniversary only days ago to come take care of me when my husband goes back to work. She’s armed with movies and English meat pies to share, and she’s even ready to wash what-will-then-be my very dirty hair. I have a father who was willing to take off work and travel from Arkansas to Georgia to take care of me as well. My mother-in-law also offered to come all the way from Michigan to help me out during this time of need. Not everyone is blessed with in-laws like that, but I am. Knowing that these parents were willing to drop what they were doing to help me out made me stronger than they know.

I also have friends that invited us over for a chili dinner right before the surgery and then sent the leftovers home with us (enough for at least a meal for three). I have friends that are also offering to cook and/or come over to visit to break up the monotony of my seclusion (and probably to visit with Hans and Bella, too!). I have family and friends that have reminded me that they’re only a phone call away and are available whenever Hans or I may need them. I have a grandmother who has called multiple times to see how I am doing even though she can barely hear to talk on the phone. She’s worried, and even though my mother gives her daily updates as well, she needs to hear my voice.

It’s easy to take people for granted in the easy times, but during this time, I see how truly blessed I am by the people around me. The encouraging posts, silly comments, and likes on Facebook have not gone unnoticed and are much appreciated. The Google chats, calls and texts are brightening my day. All of these things are taking my mind off the pain and focused on the love I feel from this network of people I’m blessed to have in my life. I can keep telling myself that this too shall pass, and if I can handle horrendous migraines that require ambulance rides to emergency rooms, I can handle this. Go team healed heel!

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Heal the Heel and My Hubris While You’re At It

I’m scared. I’m afraid. I’m terrified. I am having surgery on Thursday. It’s not major surgery. The anesthesiologist isn’t even putting me under, just numbing my leg from the knee down. It doesn’t matter, though; I’m still nervous as hell. My stomach has become an atrium full of butterflies. My once restful nights are now full of twisted bed sheets and fitful nightmares. I am a mess.

Let me back up for a moment to tell you why I’m having surgery. About seven months ago, I started having trouble walking on my right foot. I thought this was because of my new exercise routine, but when I continued to have trouble with it, I decided to go to a podiatrist. I figured there’s a reason why we have the cliché, “Better safe than sorry.” After a x-ray and sonogram, the podiatrist found that I had a huge heel spur and a horrendous case of plantar fasciitis. He decided to treat these by giving me an injection into my heel on three different occasions. This would work for about a week or two, but the pain would come back like an annoying coworker, always knowing where my cubicle was and deciding to stay and visit even though it was unwelcome. I did ice rolls and stretches. I’ve worn night braces and day braces. Nothing helped.

Eventually I had a MRI on my foot, and the podiatrist found that I had scar tissue all around my tendon. Although my scar tissue will become pliant when I initially get up and as I walk 30 steps (though I have pain through this process), it will begin to harden in the near future and not allow me to walk at all. The only option at that point is surgery. I decided it was better to get the surgery over with before it got to that point. I’ve been living with the pain for too long.

The surgery—the plantar fasciotomy—is just an hour long, in which the podiatrist will go in through a small incision, cut out the scar tissue, and snip some of the tendon and/or muscle (if I understand the procedure correctly). The idea of cutting me open in any capacity is daunting enough, but I’ll be in a cast for four weeks and will have to start stretching exercises the day after surgery (ouch!). I will not be able to put any pressure on my right foot during this time, will not be able to drive, and will be basically confined to the house. I’ve been practicing on my crutches for the past two days, and it’s a lot more difficult than it looks. I’ve almost fallen countless times, and I’ve found that I have the upper body strength of a ten-year-old. How am I going to dress myself? How am I going to make meals for myself? How am I even going to manage in the bathroom for at least the first few days? I’ll have to depend on others for quite a lot of things.

At this point, I believe I’m more terrified of the recovery period. I don’t do well relying on others. I’ve always been independent. I’ve always been the hostess. Maybe more importantly, and more difficult to say, I like being in control and don’t trust others to do things to my standards. I’m proud of the way I do things and the standards to which I hold myself,  including my hygiene and my household. Relinquishing my reins of control, even to the man I love most, will be a challenge. Relying on another, even if it’s the woman who gave me life, will be difficult. Admitting I need help will be something new. Perhaps through this experience not only my foot will heal, but I will also learn to give up some of my control. I can shed some of my hubris and replace it with humility. I will learn that trust is a two-way street in ALL things, not just the things I choose. And I will be thankful that this is a surgery on my foot and nothing life-threatening.

The Monkey On My Back

I have a monkey on my back. He’s called Complex Migraine. I take daily medication to stave off the effects of him and have medication for when he visits. I even have shots to give myself if CM gets to the point where the oral medication just isn’t helping. I pray every day that I won’t have a visit from CM because he renders the rest of my day useless and usually does the same to the following day. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I live in constant “fear” of him, but he is an ever-presence on my mind.

If this seems extreme to you, maybe you’re just not familiar with complex migraines. A migraine isn’t just a bad headache. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone has a bad headache and complains that she is having a “migraine.” If that’s the case, here’s some symptoms that should accompany that “migraine” that she’s having.

The first sign I’m having a migraine is that I begin to lose my vision. I begin seeing stars or pinpoints of my vision are taken away. This can be a big issue if I have to drive myself home or am already driving. Yikes! Another indicator of a migraine is that I’ll start to experience numbness. Where this numbness occurs varies. Sometimes it is only my hand, arm, foot, or leg. However, if my mouth and/or throat starts to go numb, I have had issues breathing. Not a predicament I want to repeat. After these indicators, I get the pain in my head. The unbearable, horrendous pain that makes light, sound, and even the feel of sheets against my skin feel like torture. If the pain gets too bad, I begin to vomit and can’t stop. Yeah, it’s gotten that bad before, too. In that case, I have the shot to give myself because obviously I can’t keep down the oral medication to make the migraine go away. In severe cases, I have to be rushed to the emergency room. My family and some of my friends have been witnesses to this.

I’ve written two poems about my experiences with migraines. Hopefully these will help further illustrate my ordeal with migraines.

Dark Demon
Tiny pinpoints of light
Obscuring my vision
Impossible to see the
Whole
Warning Me
Of the upcoming pain
Left fingers becoming numb
Toes aching but no feeling
Praying the numbness will not
Climb
To my tongue
Taking my voice
Or to my throat
Stealing my
Breath
Numbness on left
Pain on right
Take the pill
Hop in bed
Pray for a quick recovery
… that doesn’t come…
Pain ravages my body
The only reprieve
Vermillion vomit
But now it won’t stop
Sirens outside the window
Light, sound
Make it stop…
… Riding…
Needle in my arm
Sweet bliss as it goes in
Reprieve from the pain as
It enters
Drugs trickle in
Turning my body to
Cerulean ice
Covered with sterile blankets
Tomorrow my brain will be
Mush
Recovery will take days
But right now
I thank God for the
Drugs of the White Knight
Chasing the
Dark Demon of the
Migraine.

Bruised Banana
I’m having trouble stringing words together
On the clothesline called sentences.
I can’t seem to make a connection
Between my hand and the item I’m reaching for.
My words they come out garbled,
A ball of yarn put up messy.
The word I search for can’t be found,
A building block needed to complete the set.
I got in a fight with a foe last night called Migraine
And Lost.
He’s beaten me twice in three days
Yet I showed up today.
I’m over the pain, over the vermillion vomit.
I have my vision again, and the numbness has rescinded.
Yet my relentless foe has left his calling card—
His footprint—reminding me he won.