We All Have At Least One Working Body Part

Ever since I can remember, my sister Cara and I have had a pretty friendly intense rivalry about…ummm…everything.  She’s my only sibling, so with only two of us in the family there was always a clear winner and loser in every situation.

Last week I taught a Human Biology class, and Cara was my assistant.  (Just to clarify once more – I was the teacher, and she was the assistant.  See? I win that one).  We studied the respiratory system, and students did a lab where they had to hold their breath.  Cara said, “Since Ms. Hazel and I are sisters, genetically we should probably be able to hold our breath close to the same amount of time.”  She turned to me.  “Want to test it?”

I don’t think her hypothesis of a genetic connection to holding breath has any credence, but I’m not one to back down from a chance to beat my sister at something.  I said sure, and we got a student to test us.  Not only did I beat Cara, but I held my breath TWICE as long.  She didn’t stand a chance.  Once I finally had to breathe, Cara looked at my time, looked annoyed, and said, “Whatever.  You run all the time, so your lungs are super healthy.”

If I had to come up with one hundred adjectives to describe myself, “healthy” would not be on it.  “Super healthy” wouldn’t even be close.  Still, when she made that comment about my lungs, I thought for a minute that she’s right.  I DO have healthy lungs.  I AM healthy enough to run a lot.  I don’t run fast, and I don’t look good  while doing it (I look about as ridiculous as the American election season), but I can run.  I should spend a lot more time being thankful for that and a lot less time focusing on the one body part (my brain) that refuses to function properly.

To be fair to myself, the brain is a pretty bad body part to have malfunction.  BUT STILL.  I can whine and complain about that, or I can look at all of the body parts I have that do work.  Do you know how many people in wheelchairs would love to run even a few yards, let alone a few miles?  I often feel resentful about the fact that I have to run to keep my brain working properly.  I swear running helps me stay sane (which is something I discovered in college and only later figured out has scientific basis).  It’s like I’m Mario in SuperMario Brothers, and running is how I get those mushrooms that make him big or even give him an extra life.  Feeling small?  POWER UP!  GO FOR A RUN! *insert mushroom power noise here*  Instead of whining that most people don’t have to run regularly to keep themselves out of a psych hospital, I should spend time being thankful that I can run.

Everyone with health problems has at least one working body part.  They actually have quite a few.  If they didn’t, they’d be in coffins.  Take some time to be thankful for what works.  Maybe it’s your brain (lucky you).  Maybe it’s your lungs.  Maybe it’s your left pinky.  For goodness sakes, maybe it’s your butt.  My grandpa has a colostomy bag – he would love a working butt.  Feel grateful next time you poop au natural.  It makes sense to pay attention to the parts that don’t work, but take time to pay attention to the parts that do.  Maybe you can start to feel a little more healthy, which is a pretty encouraging feeling.

You might be reading this and thinking, “By George, I don’t have any body parts that don’t work.  I have a pretty run-of-the-mill, somewhat boring, healthy life.”  If so, I hope you wake up every morning PRAISING GOD for your run-of-the-mill, somewhat boring, healthy life.  Lots of people would give everything they have to be in your position.  Then go buy yourself a drink and toast to your health, because I hope you keep that health for a very long time.  It’s a pretty sucky thing to lose.

It’s almost as bad as losing to my sister.

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My Nalgene is Where I Hide My Crazy

Tomorrow I’m leaving for a camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains with a bunch of fellow teachers that I have never met (it’s kind of a long story…the teachers are not the important part).  The important part of this story is that none of them will know about all the drugs I take because I found a super-ninja-pill-disguiser that will allow me to masquerade as a normal, healthy adult.  CHECK IT OUT!

Look.  This is a normal, run-of-the-mill Nalgene water bottle, right?  It shows I’m a little hard core and like to stay hydrated.  That’s it.  Nothing to see here – move along people.

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You’re probably sitting there at your computer thinking, “Wow, what a boring water bottle.  Who writes about water bottles?  I’m clicking on a different post.”  But wait!  Watch this witchery!  Out of nowhere, BAM – there’s a false cap!  It has four pill compartments hiding in what looks like an otherwise normal lid.

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*thunderous applause, gasps, and how-did-she-do-thats*

It’s like they hired Houdini to work for Nalgene, and he made my pills disappear.  I’m so happy.

Now I’ll have my pills with me wherever I go.  This means no missing doses, no worrying about having a panic attack while I’m in the woods (or anywhere!), and no trying to hide away from people while fumbling with incriminating orange bottles.  There will be no more awkward questions!  If someone sees my false top (which, HA, would be ridiculous because it’s VIRTUALLY INVISIBLE), I can just say, “Oh, I keep vitamins and stuff in there.”  I’ll put one vitamin in so that it’s not a lie.  They don’t need to know that “and stuff” means “the cocktail of drugs that keeps my head from exploding all over this frickin forest.”

It’s like I’m crazy, but I’m secretly crazy.  I’m very excited about this water bottle.  It’s so amazing that I feel I should make a speech in honor of this marvelous invention.  I know!   Let’s toast to it.  Are you holding a beverage?  Find a beverage.  Please hold it up to your screen in a toasting fashion.  I’m holding up my water bottle to you, dear reader.  Let’s toast to secrets being kept for as long as we want them kept secrets, and to places (like the mountains) that make life infinitely more worth living.

*long drink*

The Most Romantic Thing Anyone Has Ever Done for Me

It’s weird to think that the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me went largely unnoticed until this past weekend.  I realized it while standing in a hotel suite, wearing a long cotton-candy pink chiffon dress, and putting on some lip gloss.

I was getting ready for a wedding I was in, and I’d gotten to know a few of the bridesmaids pretty well over this whole wedding-planning week (because we were dealing with things such as trying to support the bride when she found out her mother-in-law was going to wear a long white crop-top dress to the wedding. Oy.)

While putting on our makeup, one bridesmaid saw a pill bottle on the counter and said, “What’s this?”  I’d set it there while digging through my make-up bag for mascara earlier, and I’d forgotten to put it back.  I guess she didn’t know whose it was (there were a lot of us going in and out of that bathroom), or she was just being super nosy.  Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and call it the former.  I hadn’t even noticed the bottle because pill bottles are such a non-noticeable part of my life.  It would be like someone coming up to you, looking at your hand, and saying, “Look! A fingernail!”  You’d be all, “Oh yeah, fingernails.  I forgot about those because they’re always with me.”  That’s me and pill bottles.

“Oh, that’s mine,” I said, grabbing the pill bottle and putting it back in my bag.  She looked at me questioningly, because I guess not everyone sees pill bottles as such a common commodity.  I was afraid she was going to burn her hair off with the curling iron while she stood there waiting for me to answer her questioning look.  I’m bad at lying and also pretty bad at saying, “None of your business,” so I said, “It’s no big deal…I have this tiiiny brain tumor that seems pretty bent on ruining my life, but I’m on it.  It won’t kill me.  I just take a crap ton of pills.”  I threw the pill bottle back in my bag and started putting on blush.  At that moment, my face was a bit red without it.

“Wait, whaaaat?”  The bridesmaid (thankfully) uncurled her curl and stood there with one piece of hair curled and pupils about as wide as her open mouth.  I hate this reaction, which is the one I get every time someone finds out about my health problems.  At least she didn’t say one of my least favorite lines, which is “but you look so healthy!”  Like I should apologize for not looking sick enough to have a tumor or bipolar disorder or any of the other issues I have.  SORRY FOR TRYING TO HAVE A NORMAL LIFE.  MY BAD.

I shrugged it off, because usually when I pretend like something is no big deal then people tend to roll with it.  She picked up another piece of hair to curl.  I dug around for my lip gloss.  Finally she said, “Wait…I know Elle said you had health problems in college…was this it?”

“Yep.”  I was still trying to avoid this conversation.  She didn’t catch it or didn’t care.

“Wait, so…you’ve been with your husband since you were seventeen….he’s been with you for this entire time?”

“Yep, since day 1.  I got the call the day after I moved into college.”

“Wow, that’s so romantic.”  She shook her head and unrolled the hair she was curling.  I stopped halfway through applying lip gloss, my lips in a perfect “O” of surprise even though I hadn’t been surprised until that moment.  I stopped and stood up, lips halfway glossed, and looked at myself in the mirror.  I had never heard my story called “romantic” before.  There’s nothing romantic about MRIs.  There’s nothing romantic about blood test after blood test after blood test.  There’s nothing romantic about countless doctors with countless treatment plans, most of which don’t work.  There’s nothing romantic about panic attacks or delusions where I think people are trying to kill me.  There’s nothing romantic about the extraordinary amount of drugs I’ve had to be on.  Nothing, I tell you.  Nothing.

Except…

Maybe there is something romantic about a guy who is willing to stand next to me through all of that.  It’s romantic that he is willing to take me to appointments so I won’t be alone. It’s romantic that he will bring me water and hold me when I’ve been so terrified that I cried until I threw up.  It’s romantic that he has never once complained about how difficult it is to be with me, even though I know it has a specific and difficult set of challenges.  There is something wildly romantic about that, and I’d never put that word to it until that moment.

It’s far more romantic than the fresh roses currently sitting on my dining room table.  It’s better than the cute notes he leaves in my bags when I travel.  I’d take that over any line from any movie or any surprise date he has ever planned.  It’s the most romantic thing that’s ever happened to me, and I didn’t even know it.

While watching the bride and groom take their vows, I thought back to mine.  I thought about how when Andy said, “in sickness and in health,” he meant it.  I thought of how he’s made good on that promise again and again and again, far and above what should be asked of any man.  Then I cried.

Too bad about all of that makeup I put on.

My Sad Attempt at Dark Poetry

I follow a few bloggers who are very good at writing poetry.  I love following your blogs, and some of you access deep emotions that I am not able to verbally express nearly as well as you.  I was wondering why this is so hard for me, and then I realized it’s because this is what would happen if I tried to write a deeply sad poem:

MY SAD POEM

The rain drips

Down the windows of my dark life

But I see a puppy outside

EXCUSE ME, WHY IS THERE A PUPPY IN THIS POEM?  THIS IS A SAD POEM.

It seemed too drab. It needed a puppy.

THERE ARE NOT PUPPIES IN SAD POEMS.  FIX IT OR THIS POEM IS OVER.

I see a puppy outside…with a broken leg.  It whimpers.

BETTER.

The puppy is sad.

He has a broken leg.

He licks his leg, but it does no good.

His boy comes and picks him up.

WHY IS THE BOY WALKING IN THE RAIN?

Because his puppy is hurt!  What is wrong with you?!

THAT IS HOPEFUL!  STOP IT.

The dog knows he is about to go to the vet.

He trembles in fear.

NOW YOU’RE GETTING IT.

But the boy gives him a whole bag of treats so he feels better and then the vet fixes the puppy’s leg good as new and by the time they get home – what do you know? – it has stopped raining and there is a giant rainbow over the house.

THIS IS RIDICULOUS.  I’M LEAVING.

The end.

 

 

Now We’ve Got Bad Blood

The title of this post is an obvious reference to a Talyor Swift song, except I’m pretty sure she was writing about a guy.  I’m using the title to write about my brain tumor.  Despite that difference, Ms. Swift and I have a lot in common.  By “a lot,” I mean we both know what it’s like to get unfortunate phone calls from men.  A Jonas brother broke up with her in a twenty-seven second phone call, and I got a call from my endocrinologist last night in which he told me my blood work came back with bad news.  Her bad blood was metaphorical, but mine’s literal.  Let’s not compare our pain.

He was, after all, a Jonas brother.

The doctor called at almost ten o’clock last night, which should have tipped me off immediately that it was bad news.  Doctors never call that late.  If they do, it’s never to say something like, “Just thought I’d let you know – you’re totally and mysteriously cured!” or “I found a stray puppy and thought it might cheer you up; I’ll be dropping him off in ten minutes.”  Nope.  They always do that sigh where they  don’t want to say what they’re about to say, but they can’t pass the unpleasant task off to a lesser minion.  Then your heart sinks and you wonder, “Oh no, how bad is it this time?”

Is it bad that I am familiar with this process?  That I’ve gotten enough of these calls to know exactly how they go?  I could probably do them myself.  I should tell the doctor, “Next time just e-mail me the numbers and save us both the trouble.  I’ll call myself and break the news gently.”  I might put my husband’s lab coat and square-rimmed glasses on my dog and pretend he’s the one telling me.  Bad news would be less scary if it came from a beagle.

The bad news is that my blood results showed certain hormone levels four times above normal adult levels, which probably means that my tumor is growing.  There’s a bit of irony there: I can’t keep plants alive (at all), there’s a good shot I can’t ever get pregnant, but my body apparently does a damn good job at nurturing a tumor.  Thanks, body. You’re a gem.  I’d rather you had the ability to grow some healthy cilantro, but I don’t get to choose these things.

Anyway, the doctor’s trying to devise our next plan of attack on this little dude.  It’s not cancerous, it shouldn’t kill me, but it does a pretty fabulous job of messing up my life.  It’s like I’m in a dysfunctional relationship.  “It’s not you, tumor, it’s me.  Actually, no it’s you.  I think it’s time for us to break up.”  Then, just when I think my brain is rid of him for good, the tumor comes back and my brain is all, “Come here, ya knucklehead.  Let’s give this thing another shot.”  Because my brain is frickin crazy, that’s why.

I have to go back on a med I was on a while ago, and I need to double the dose.  I told the doctor that last time I was on that pill (taken once a week), I would be sick for the entire day after I took it.  It was pretty bad, stuck-on-the-couch-waiting-for-it-to-end sick.  I usually took the pill on Friday nights, spent my Saturday on the couch, and then recovered on Sunday to get ready for another week.  The doctor says I have to take it anyway because we want to be “aggressive” on getting my numbers back to healthy levels.  Now I’m supposed to take that same pill, and I have to take it twice a week.  I’m supposed to torch two days a week for at least the next six months?!  How am I supposed to do that?  I think I’ll torch Mondays.  Everyone hates Mondays.  Imagine a wonderful pill that lets you skip Mondays!  This is going to get complicated with work and everything, but we’ll figure that out later.  Right now I’m dreaming of a Monday-less life.  Who knows?  Maybe this drug won’t make me sick this time.  That was years ago.  I’m practically a new woman now.  Since that time in my life I’ve traveled the world,  I’ve voted for a Democrat,  I’ve learned how to make the perfect apple pie,  I’ve dyed my  hair purple, and…I’ve trained my body to better metabolize drugs?! (something like that…)

So. I’ve got bad blood results, but at least we have a plan.  I lamented to Andy last night that with all of my health issues, my life expectancy has to be quickly dropping.  I sighed and said I’m probably not going to live to see forty.  “Don’t worry about it,” he told me.  “Neither of us are even going to live to see thirty if Trump becomes president.  The rest of the world will nuke us off the map.”  And that’s why I love Andy – because he can make me laugh when I would prefer to kick a wall.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  New pills start this weekend.