I Don’t Know

June 30 was the year anniversary of doing physical therapy to try to straighten my spine.

Actually, no. At that point we didn’t know how badly my spine was twisted, so I had to do physical therapy for six weeks to satisfy my insurance company’s requirements to get the MRI that would reveal the damage in my spine, hip, and pelvis. It wasn’t until after the MRI and being told what kind of physical limitations to expect that I decided to prove them all wrong. Nothing motivates me more than other people trying to tell me what I can’t do.

So, I’d been planning on making a video about what the journey this past year has been like, but in true chronic health condition fashion, my kidney decided to flare up and that killed any plans I had about anything. To be honest, that in itself conveys the the road I travel better than any video of me sweating, swearing, and crying my way through a year of physical therapy ever could. I do know that I’ve made huge strides in the past twelve months, and I’m incredibly thankful to God that He brought me further than I ever thought I could go, but I feel like a video would send the wrong message – that there is an “end” to all of this. That seems to be the consensus of opinion based on the questions I’ve been dealing with for the past few weeks regarding The Future. I feel like if I shared the details of how I built up enough muscle strength to stand straight despite my twisted frame it would only be met with a thousand comments of, “Great! Now what are you going to do with it?” And here’s the answer:

I don’t know.

“How many more hours can you work before it messes up your health insurance?”
“Not many, but I don’t know.”
“We might be able to compensate for it. What’s your medical cost?
(I wasn’t sure if this was a question regarding the cost of my health insurance, or how much it would cost if I had to take a cheap plan with a huge deductible, but it was the same answer either way.)
“I don’t know.”

“You’re feeling better and the world is opening up again, so what are we going to do this summer?”
“I’d like to go to the beach, but my heat intolerance hasn’t been tested in a while, so I don’t know.”
“You shouldn’t be out in the sun like that anyway. And you can’t ride the rides. Or eat the food, so what would you even do there?”
“I don’t know.”

“Kat, our bookkeeper is planning on retiring in the near future and we thought that you could take over for her. When do you think your health issues will be resolved enough to do that?”
(Ignoring the assumption that I even want this.)
“My health issues aren’t ever going away. They’re just coming under better control. I don’t know if I’ll continue to improve or if this is it.”
“Well, when will you know?”
“I don’t know.”

“That’s great that they finally fixed your GPA, Kat. When are you going to be done with school?”
“Well, it depends on how many classes I’m able to handle without putting myself under too much stress that I start to flare, so I don’t know.”
“Well, how much stress can you handle before that happens?”
“I don’t know.”

“We’re ordering food. Can you eat anything from Adolfo’s?”
“I’ll have to look at the menu because I don’t know.”

“The cabinet is overflowing with prescription bottles. Why doesn’t your insurance allow you to get a three month supply of your medication?”
“I don’t know.”

“You’re really thin! What size do you wear?”
“I don’t know.”

“I don’t want to waste my life with this job. I have too many other interests to explore. My dream is that you start working with me, and then I cut my hours, and then I fade away and you take over. But I don’t know what your dream is. What do you think?”
The words “I don’t know” were on the tip of my tongue. They swelled in my mouth, pushing against my teeth to get out, but I refused to say them another time. “I don’t know” became a lump in my throat that I couldn’t swallow, and still I clenched my jaw shut, choosing to choke before I’d let that bloated phrase escape from me again. I pursed my lips together, trying to hide the effort in a determined smile when I felt “I don’t know” shiver up my cheeks and into my eyes, pooling and spilling over before I could stop it. The words streamed down my face in two plaintive statements.

I don’t know. I don’t know.

I clamped my eyes shut to keep them from saying any more, but they continued to seep on both sides.

I don’t know. I don’t know.

I blinked furiously trying to bat the words away, and instead it was an arm ushering them into the world, “Ladies and gentlemen…”

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

And then people became upset because they thought I was crying when it was only “I don’t know” running down my face, collecting into a puddle of uncertainty that seeped across my notebook.

“Kat, what’s wrong? What is it?”

I don’t know.

PT Session #117

Two Pricks in Three Weeks

I’m just thinking about if I was writing a post with that title ten years ago, the innuendos would have been off the chain. I’ve matured so much since then. I legitimately stopped to think before I decided to type out that I haven’t been on a date in nine years, but, as of tomorrow, I’ll have received two pricks in three weeks, and most likely by two different people. So color me precocious. *self high-five* Actually, I’m going to give myself one of those every time I see an opportunity for an innuendo, but don’t jump on it. *self high-five*

I’ll admit I’m nervous about my second COVID-19 vaccine. As I mentioned before, I did not react during my first immunotherapy session when I restarted treatment, but I now go into anaphylactic shock every time. My immune system is like me where you can attack us once, but that’s all you’ll get. Come over again to fuck around and you will find out. So I’m nervous that my immune system is currently preparing for a viral Battle of Helm’s Deep, and is going to let loose the moment it realizes we’ve been invaded by the COVID19 DNA again. *self high-five* It’d be one thing if my immune system was rambunctious attacking the “invader”, meaning a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and all of that misery, but for fuck’s sake does it have to start attacking my organs, too? Or even worse, take down the ship to kill the alien? I feel that my antibodies really did not think their plan through when… Nope, I can’t type it without making it sound dirty, so I’m just not gonna do it, but I’m giving myself a *self high-five* for restraint. *self high-five*

But speaking of thinking things through, I’ve already made a plan for if I do start to react. They have an EMT in the post-shot waiting area, so if I can just calmly walk over and tell them that my immune system is trying to kill me, then maybe nobody else will realize what’s happening. This is one of the huge things that’s upsetting me. Of course I don’t want to die, but I was just thinking that if I had a reaction and people saw it, then they would tell other people, and chances are that it would make at least one person refuse the vaccine. So I’d be responsible for not only that person, but whoever else they infected with COVID19 all because my immune system is haywire and had to put on a show. *self high-five*

I did consider that I might not be able to get to an EMT before I fell into a state where people would notice that I was having a medical emergency, even if I was calm. If it starts happening too fast I’ll have my EpiPen with me, and I can just jam it through my jeans (*self high-five*) into my thigh. (FYI – This is a completely acceptable administration of an EpiPen because in an emergency you can go right through someone’s clothes rather than wrestling them off.) Those shots hurt like hell though. But I’m pretty sure I can do it without screaming. *self high-five*

You’re probably reading this and wondering if I’m experiencing a lack of oxygen right now by the way I’m rambling. I’m doing this because there are so many emotions to process with getting this second shot. I’m nervous, and I’m happy, and I’m angry, and I’m excited, and I’m scared, and I’m relieved. *self high-five* Believe me, I have another post coming where I hash these feelings out, but I don’t have time to articulate it all right now. *self high-five* It’s almost midnight and I’m tired, but I’m too keyed up to go to sleep. *self high-five* What’s also a shame is that I’ve decided to not make this post public, so I’ve spent all of this time writing something that no one will read. Maybe I’ll password protect it, though that might be awkward. I can tell people who I’m uncomfortable reading this that it’s for my Patreon – which I don’t have, but think I should since everyone is selling themselves whether it’s through Patreon or FansOnly. What happened to just giving it out for free? *self high-five* I blame slut-shaming. There’s nothing wrong with writing like a slut, though I’ll be happy when I can be paid for my writing so that at least I can say that I write like a whore instead. (No *self high-five* here since I just laid (HA!) it out.)

EPILOGUE

I survived.

I decided to make this post public to celebrate (I’m starting to feel like hell which means my immune system is responding appropriately), and also because all of the stress I went through the last two weeks made me forget that I didn’t skirt around death for the millionth time to kill myself attempting to live up to people’s expectations – which somehow included mind-reading and anticipating people’s own mistakes so that I could correct them before they happened. This is the way I write. This is who I am. When I’m scared or upset I make jokes, and all of my jokes are either inappropriate, puns, or inappropriate puns, in that order. If someone wants to take my jokes too seriously then that is a joke. I’m laughing too hard at my own stupid nonsense to hear anything anyway.

finding yourself way too hilarious

Baby Got a Frozen Back

Before I begin, here is a little back – (ha!) – ground, so that you don’t think that this is just about my booty. The lower part of my back is frozen for a number of reasons, one of which is that the damage to my spine has caused me to lose the natural s-curve of a normal back. It’s most apparent in my lumbar spine where it’s very noticeable how flat it is. (Or at least it’s very noticeable to me, and it makes me self-conscious.) Part of my physical therapy is to strengthen my core enough to keep this from becoming worse. But just “keeping it from getting worse” is not good enough for me, so even though it’s a long shot, I’m working extremely hard to make my core strong enough to pull my spine – at least somewhat – back into shape. I’ve been doing the physical therapy since July, but I started taking pictures in December to document my progress for when I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. I was comparing December’s pictures to my current ones when this conversation happened.

“Well, get ready for people to ask if you’re half reindeer,” I told my mother as she blasted past me on one of her laps around the first floor of the house to get in her steps.
“What?” she asked rounding the corner and going into the next room.
“Half reindeer,” I shouted knowing full well that she had no idea what I was talking about, but this is the kind of antagonistic shit I do.

Another bit of back – (ha!) – ground is that I have nerve damage in my spine that extends into my flanks. The right side is the worst, but the left isn’t exactly stellar either. The nerve damage made it so that I was not contracting my glutes and quads – which in turn contributed to weakness that further damaged my spine, and you can see how this is a vicious cycle… But when muscles are not contracting they start to atrophy. This is what happened to my glutes, however I need to point out that my healthy butt never actually got smaller, it just spread lower.

“Oh. Okay,” my mother answered as she turned the corner back into the kitchen where I was holding up my phone.
“Because of my ass,” I finally told her.
“There’s nothing wrong with your ass,” she said as she continued down the hall. “Would you rather have no ass? Those flat asses looks terrible.”
“That would be impossible for me, but look!” I yelled after her.
She went around the other room and came into the kitchen again.
“Look at what my ass looks like now compared to a few months ago.” I stood in her path so that she would be forced to re-examine the side by side picture I had created to compare the curvature of my spine.
“Wow,” she said taking in the picture a moment and then stepping around me to continue walking. “It’s like an Oompa Loompa,” she added over her shoulder.


“It’s like a what?” I gaped at her retreating back. My mind whirled with visions of Oompa Loompas. I could see them in their little white overalls. Did they have big booties under there? Is she saying that my ass itself looks like an Oompa Loompa? What the hell did she mean?
“An Oompa Loompa! You know,” she shouted back. And part of me wondered if this wasn’t retribution for the “half reindeer” I’d thrown at her a minute earlier except that, unlike me, my mother is not a tool.
“Yes, I know what an Oompa Loompa is,” I told her as she came back into the kitchen. “I just did not know that I had one for an ass. I gotta say that’s one I’ve never called before.”

And here is where I would like to pause and just throw it out there how much I take exception to all of the women who are now doing workouts to grow their booties after the hell they put me and my friends through for having an ass back in the day. All you Beckys can just sit down on your Spongebob asses and have a seat.

My mother paused in her stride and gave me a completely affronted look.
“I did not say that your ass looked like an Oompa Loompa,” she insisted. “What I meant was it looked like an Oompa Loompa should appear because of the way it blew up!”
I was dumbstruck.
“You know how they appear and sing a song after Violet blows up? Well it looks like they should be here to do that with how fast your butt blew up.” She didn’t wait for a reply, continuing her walk down the hall.

And that’s when I went rolling across the floor.

via Gfycat

And since it’s mostly just friends (Hi Joann!) that come on here now, I’ll even share the incriminating photo. And yeah, I’ll admit that, even though it wasn’t a goal, my booty does look better, but the reason that I made this side by side has to do with the doorknob behind me. The doorknob is the frame of reference I use to measure the curve of my back, and though it’s difficult to see…

My back is curving slightly more into place than it did three months ago.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

~fin~

If you want to read more ridiculous conversations I’ve had with my mother, you can click the My Family is Crazier Than Yours category. This will bring up stories with all of the characters in the asylum, or you can just jump to everyone’s favorite story about my mother, “When Mothers Yell to Bite Them“.

Fisticuffs with Ana Phylaxsis

The first thing I noticed was the pounding in my ears.

panic Pete, anaphylaxis

It wasn’t the dull throb of blood pumping into your brain like when you’re nervous or excited. I’ve experienced that pounding, and as deafening as it seemed at the time, it was nothing compared to the subwoofer that had been cranked up in my skull. I felt like one of those plastic dolls where you squeeze it to make its eyes and ears bug out.

I’m going to burst a vessel in my brain, I thought calmly. I think maybe all of the blood vessels in my brain are going to burst. I’ll have a stroke. I’ll be dead and they’ll say how I went just like my grandmother.

I was about twenty minutes into my second session of intravenous immunotherapy treatment when this started happening.

I think I’m having a reaction to something, I continued thinking.

No shit, dumbass.

But reacting to what?

Maybe the medication being pumped into your vein?

‘No, it can’t be my medication because I was fine for my last treatment two weeks ago. Maybe it was the peanut bar I’d just finished eating. It was probably that. Oh shit, I’m not going to be able to eat peanuts anymore. This sucks! I love peanut butter!’ I went to take a deep breath to sigh but found it difficult to accomplish this – which annoyed me. Scowling in concentration, I managed to suck a breath of oxygen into my protesting lungs.

I tried to say, “Ha!”, but all that came out in my exhalation was a cacophony of wheezing and whistling that sounded like a broken accordion. I registered this with surprise that I could still hear anything over the thundering in my ears, though it did make one thing apparent to me.

Well, ain’t this some shit, I thought. I’m pretty sure I’m going into anaphylactic shock. Great. I’m going to be the girl who had anaphylaxis. This is so embarrassing! Hmm. Maybe no one will notice.

I glanced around. Unlike my first visit two weeks ago, when nearly every chair had been filled with a person attached to an IV line, there were only about six other patients, and I was the only person in my row. None of the other patients were paying me any attention, and the lone nurse on duty was busying folding towels.

having anaphylaxis
Taking selfies while literally dying.
Bonus: swollen eyes.

Good! I can bluff my way through this. If I don’t, then they’ll blame the medication and stop treatment. I heaved another painful breath into my lungs to sigh with relief except this time I had as much trouble getting the air out of my lungs as I did getting it into them.

Wait, am I still going to have a stroke? Can anaphylaxis give you a stroke? I noticed that the pounding in my ears was beginning to fade. I don’t think I’m going to have a stroke. If I can just breathe, then no one will ever know.

I arched my back in an effort to manually expand my lungs that were not cooperating at all.

“Are you okay?” The nurse was holding a towel up in mid-fold and staring at me.

Oh fuck! She noticed! Now she’ll tell everyone I had anaphylaxis. I’m going to be that anaphylactic chick. I’ll be that anaphylac-chick unless I think of something. Think, stupid!

“I think…I…just…need my…inhaler.” My tongue felt too thick around the words, so I clawed at my backpack and managed to pull out my inhaler to show the nurse what I meant.

“I think that’s a good idea,” the nurse told me as she dropped the towel and ran over to me.

Now if I can just get this in me, I looked at my inhaler, then she’ll think I just had an asthma attack. I leaned my head back, compressed the inhaler chamber, and breathed as hard as I could. A trickle of air managed to make it down my throat.

To my dismay, I watched as the nurse cut the IV line to my medication. I wanted to tell her to leave it run, that this was just an asthma attack, but I felt too tired to bother – and there she was already injecting my saline with something anyway. I fumbled to put my face mask back on to hide my irritation.

“No, leave that off,” the nurse told me putting an oxygen mask on my face instead. She wrapped a BP cuff around my arm and clipped a pulse ox to my finger. The reading flickered across the screen: 80.

I’d been in medicine for years, and I knew that number was a trip to the hospital if I didn’t do something…I just couldn’t remember what. Then I flashed to a memory of when my brother had anesthesia for the first time and his oxygen was fluctuating in recovery. “I know you’re woozy, brother, but take a deep breath or they’ll never let you out of here,” I’d told him. That’s when I remembered I just had to get in one good breath and they’ll let me go home.

I clenched my fists onto the arms of the chair and exerted everything I had to pull air into my chest. It burned like hell, and my lungs screamed at me stop torturing them but I kept inhaling until I thought I’d explode. Finally, I let it go and dropped forward as the rasping breath raced away from me. The pulse ox on my finger jumped to 90.

“I’m fine now,” I wheezed.

“If that number hadn’t just jumped up you wouldn’t have been fine,” the nurse told me. “You’re having anaphylaxis.”

“Yeah,” I gasped as I fell back into the chair. “She’s a real bitch.”

She’s also really fast. The time between the pounding starting to my chest constricting was about 90 seconds. I’m extremely thankful that the nurse wasn’t at her station like she usually was because if she hadn’t been on the floor and seen that I was going into shock, I’d most likely be dead.

As you probably guessed, I did react to my medication. Due to COVID-19 I had paused my treatment, and my body had used that time to make friggin’ antibodies to the medication. It’s not unheard of, in fact, at my first therapy session when I’d resumed treatment, they started giving me a histamine blocker before running my medication line in case this happened. I was fine at that first session, but at some point in the two weeks that followed, my body realized what was happening and went all not-in-my-house-mother-fucker at the next “invasion”.

My immune system is not backing down either because, despite increased measures to prevent it, I’ve gone into anaphylaxis during my immunotherapy ever since, because yes, I’m stupid to keep putting myself through this. And my doctor is fucked up enough to allow me to do it, but he’s a whole other ball of wax.

My family and friends are not enthusiastic about my decision, as I mentioned in my previous entry. A few of them have had a brush with anaphylaxis themselves and cannot understand why I’d put myself through such a terrifying experience, though as you can tell from my writing, I wasn’t scared at all. I don’t know if it was the lack of oxygen to my brain or if I’m just that cavalier about death anymore, but I was more annoyed than anything. To be honest though, I don’t have much choice. My treatment options are very limited due to my insurance, so it’s either suck it up or get sicker. It’s ironic, but in order to live I need to nearly kill myself every six weeks.

Yay, private healthcare.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow aka Thanks Again 2020!

I knew that the week of January 17th was going to be insane. I had immunotherapy on Monday, and then classes started on Wednesday, which was the same day as the inauguration – and I know I wasn’t the only one who was stressed about that. Given all of this, and the fact that the first two weeks of January had been insane, I said that I didn’t consider 2021 starting until after Biden became president. Well, that was a mistake because 2020 saw that it had extra time to do something shitty, and so it did.

On Sunday of that week I had my cousin* trim my “pandemic hair” because, even though I was growing it out, it was looking really ragged after not being cut for over a year. After my cousin trimmed about four inches of ratty ends off of my hair, I decided to cover my silver while I was at it since I was also going to be adding another year to my age that week too. After doing that I was too busy to pay any attention to my hair again until the end of the week when the dye had set enough to wash it. It wasn’t until I went to pull my hair back into a ponytail the morning after I had washed it that I noticed there was a lot less hair to gather than before.

“What the fuck?” I muttered as my hair band wrapped around my ponytail several more times than was required before to hold my hair in place.

Unfortunately I had been getting ready for a Zoom class at work and this was the moment that my professor decided to let me into the meeting and, though my video was off, my microphone was on. It was enough to take my mind off of my hair for about five minutes because throughout the entire session my hand kept reaching back to grip my thin ponytail, hoping it would magically feel normal. When class finally ended I ran into the hall to look at my hair in the mirror there, and it only took a glance to tell that something bad had happened to it.

In the midst of this crisis my phone was blowing up – because this happened to be on my birthday – and I could feel my abdomen beginning to cramp as I tried to field well wishes through my rising panic over my follicular situation, which meant the stress of everything was sending me into a flare.

A few hours later I was able to go home and show my mother my ponytail to get her opinion. I really, really wanted her to say that it looked fine, but she was honest and agreed that my hair looked a lot thinner. 

“Is it the way that it’s cut?” she asked.
“No, she literally just did a plain blunt cut to remove the dead ends,” I told her. “Nothing like layering that would change the way it looked.”
“Do you think it was from your immunotherapy?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve had enough times, and never noticed any hair loss before.”
“But you’ve been having reactions during your treatment. What if it’s from that?” she asked.

My mind was racing as I tried to think of all of the things that might have caused my hair to suddenly disappear. Was it because I was underweight? Or because I’d been very anemic since Christmas? I did notice that I’d been shedding a little more hair than usual, but this was so dramatic it didn’t seem likely. Was it the hair dye? It was the same one I’ve used for several years, though in a darker color, so I didn’t think it could be that.

“I don’t think you shouldn’t continue the immunotherapy anyway,“ my mother pressed on. “There has to be another treatment that won’t give you anaphylaxis.”

I shook my head because we’d been through this discussion a number of times. “My insurance won’t cover another option. You know this. It’s either deal with the reaction, or rely on pills that make me feel like garbage every week when I take them. The immunotherapy is only one day of feeling sick every six weeks. And it hasn’t killed me yet.” I paused. “But if it is what’s causing me to lose hair then I might rethink it.”
My mother looked at me.
“Yes I will accept the possibility of having a lethal reaction to my treatment but I will not accept losing my hair!” I huffed, then stomped down to the bathroom and closed the door. 

It was the first time that I was alone and could really examine my hair at all angles. The mirror above the sink was long enough to see down to the tops of my legs so I twisted around to see how my hair looked down my back. I could easily see the grey of my shirt through the thin curtain of hair laying against it. And yet I still couldn’t believe I was really seeing correctly. I ran my fingers through the hair on my scalp. It didn’t seem any thinner there, but as I continued down just past my ears there was a dramatic difference in volume. It was like half of my hair broke off from there.

I took my hands out of my hair and just stared at myself. Staring back at me was a person with hollow eyes inside a gaunt face, with cheekbones that looked cadaverous, all framed by lank hair hanging in thin ropes like broken party streamers. Someone whose right hip was now noticeably higher than the other due to a crooked spine. Someone who was too skinny, and yet had an inflamed abdomen that was starting to distend like a starving child’s.

Someone who was now another year past forty.

I was too upset to even cry. I felt like all of the hard work I’d done, and all of the progress I’d made, and everything I’d been proud to have accomplished over the past six months to put myself back together, to try to be normal, was bullshit. No matter how hard I pushed myself, I was never going to be normal. I was never even going to look normal. I’d been trying so hard to become who I had been prior to my health crash, and now my long hair – one of my defining characteristics – was gone. It’d be at least a year until it would be long “enough” again. Another year to add to the nearly ten I’d already spent getting my health under something that resembled control.

But I’d never have control. And even if I’d found some way to be – or at least resemble – the person I’d been, I’d never have that time back.

I came out of the bathroom and threw myself into scouring the internet on the best ways to make hair grow faster, and though there are things I can do to facilitate its growth, the final answer was the one that I feel I’m always working against: time.

It’s been about six weeks now and I think I’m finally ready to make the jump and cut the handful of hair that did not break. (Explanation of what happened will be added separately since you’re probably already sick of hearing me whine about something so stupid as hair.) I’m not thrilled, but I’m trying to not be a big baby, and to keep it in perspective. I know it’s only hair. I know it’s ridiculous, and it’s vain. I know it’ll grow back. I know I should be thankful that I haven’t lost my hair the way that others have. I also know that I should be thankful that my hair was long when it broke because it could’ve happened right after I got sick and I would’ve had nothing. 

But it’s another aspect of myself that was taken out of my hands. And I’d been growing it out to donate, so if I’m cutting it then I’m going balls in and cutting the full 10 inches required. It’ll bring my hair up to about shoulder length which is “longish”, but shorter than I’d planned. (And then I just pray that my hair is still donatable because if it’s not then I don’t want to know.)

In a way it’ll be a relief to finally make the chop because I’ve done nothing but obsess over my hair these six weeks, and when I do that I ignore or disparage how much better I’m feeling and functioning today than I did a year ago at this time. Which horribly ungrateful of me. I’m honestly very thankful to have made it to where I am now. It’s not perfect or “normal”, but I’m blessed because I’ve come further than I thought possible. And I’m not done yet.

*Cousin is high risk, already vaccinated and I’ve lived in a bubble for a year now so we were following COVID19 safety guidelines.

Five Sentences

After talking to a friend who has, what appears to me to be, a nice, simple life – been married thirteen (?) years, has one son, one daughter, goes on vacations every year, they both have good jobs and they’re all healthy – I had a bit of a sulk where I thought that’s what I want and why couldn’t I have had that? It didn’t help that I’d had yet another disappointing appointment with a new doctor just a few hours before, but I decided that I was going to give up (again) on the road less traveled and forget all the reasons that I stopped working full-time because it’s not helped me control my health conditions any better and nothing is working out how I thought.

Then a neighbor posted in the community group that there was a baby raccoon in his driveway and what should he do about it. Most people suggested the wildlife refuge that was about thirty minutes away, but he said that he called and no one could come out for it. I asked if they would accept the baby raccoon if someone drove it there and to my surprise the guy said the refuge would if someone wanted to come over and get the baby and transport it to the facility.

So less than two hours after deciding to just trying being normal and having a normal life, I’m driving through the middle of the woods with a baby raccoon in the backseat looking for a wildlife refuge as daylight quickly fades away. Thankfully the GPS in my phone didn’t crap out – which it usually does in these cases – and I found the hospital with minimal incident. Judging by my semi-trained eyes, Baby Rocket somehow lost his mother and was suffering from dehydration and a slight eye infection, but unfortunately I won’t be able to get an update for 90 days.

I’ve had a few people ask me why the guy who found the raccoon didn’t take it to the refuge himself and to be honest I don’t know and I didn’t ask. There were two younger children in the backyard of his two story gingerbread house and maybe no one else was home to watch his kids while he drove thirty minutes into the woods with a wild animal. Or maybe he didn’t care enough. There are people who “do” and people who “do not”, and since we don’t know why people do not, it’s better to leave it alone. I told my mother – as usual she was drawn into this adventure despite my protests for her to stay home – that I felt like this baby raccoon needing help was God’s way of saying to me, Really? You want an easy, simple life? Or do you want to be a person who jumps in the car and rescues a baby raccoon on a Friday night? Of course we both already knew the answer.

Thank you to my dear friend, Stacy. Last night – even before the raccoon rescue – he encouraged me to write even five sentences a day. I gave five paragraphs this time, but yesterday was a big day. This is about the best readability you’re gonna get though.

R.I.P., sir.
Pic that was posted of Baby that started this all. Doesn’t give a good reference to his size because he’s only about as big as a large kitten.

2018 in Review Part 1: You Say Goodbye, and I Say…

I had grand plans for 2018.

You know those “On this day” memories that pop up on Facebook, Amazon Photos, ect? I really enjoy seeing them pop up, and it occurred to me last year that there were hardly any memories for the last few years. That’s when I decided that for 2018 I was going to find at least one fun thing to do every month of that year so that I could begin to change that. But then the year started with a personal struggle and I had not even reconciled myself to that when a huge bomb dropped at the company where my mother and I worked, and after that 2018 turned into a struggle to just keep my head above water, much less trying to swim around for fun.

I don’t want to say that 2018 was a “bad” year because God knows that I’ve had years that completely destroyed me, and I’m so thankful that it wasn’t one of those, but it was a very…let’s say it was a very tiring year. There were not a lot of notable events, but each one had so much impact and emotion attached to it that there was rarely a moment in the year that I did not feel completely drained. To be honest nearly every moment of 2018 deserves its own entry instead of being crammed into just one “Year in the Review” entry.

So I’m going to do two “Year in Review” entries for 2018.

HAAAA!

Okay, seriously, I will most likely elaborate on a few of these events in forthcoming entries — which is the reverse of how I used to do things back when I wrote about events and feelings at the time they occurred and then did a recap at the end of the year but you didn’t hear me say that —  but in the mean time I did my best to keep each month’s summary as succinct as possible. That said the entry was still getting too long for one post so that’s why I’m affording 2018 the dubious honor of being reviewed in two parts. Another dubious honor is that both entries talk a lot about my mundane day job, the details of which I usually keep separate from my writing world, in fact I noted this in the first Year in Review I did following my return to the medical field. Unfortunately the day job impacted everything this year, particularly my writing which I’ll get to in one of the above mentioned future entries, but in the meantime I present Part One of 2018 In Review.

January

A very dear friend lost her brother-in-law a few days after New Year’s, and because of how close she and I are it was painful for me as well, particularly since it was an unexpected passing.

Despite all my efforts to mentally prepare myself to turn forty (I started preparing on my birthday last year) I still had a difficult time accepting the reality of it and that it meant that the time when I could have carried a child was over. (This is one of those “future entry events”.)

February

I’ll do my best to keep this month’s summary as brief as possible, but this was a truly nightmarish month, and while the events were definitely “future entry” worthy, I don’t know that I want to relive them enough to write them, so I’m getting it out here. On February 13 my place of employment called nearly every department into the auditorium and told us that our manager had just been let go and our departments were being dissolved. Long story short, the third party vendor who had taken the outsourcing contract in November was now a partner in the company and they were taking over. We were assured that no one else would be losing their job, but our jobs would be changing. The department which dealt directly with patients had been divided into four teams and we could apply for which team we wanted to transition to in that department at the end of the month. Translation: The only thing that you people can do that this other company can’t is to speak to a patient with an American accent. Thus started two weeks of bullshit where everyone in my department waited to see if we really would have jobs, and if we did, then which level of Hell would we be assigned to in the patient care department. None of us wanted to be forced into handling patient calls, but the waiting and not knowing what was going to happen was worse.

On February 24 my brother’s quest to adopt a dog ended when a tiny bundle from a hoarding rescue in Texas became part of our family. Bella was understandably exhausted after her long trip, but she was also very underweight and I could see that she was not feeling well. We went back to the rescue group’s vet the next day, but we were assured that she would recover with the medication he had already given her.

On the 27th I learned that during the previous two weeks of hell and uncertainty at my job, when I thought that no one in my department knew what was going to happen, actually only half of us had been struggling in the dark. It turned out that my department was not dissolving completely and my supervisor had been allowed to pick her favorite members of the team to stay as part of it. She had informed those members before the end of the first week that they were safe from transitioning to the phones, but it was to be kept secret so that only the people she had chosen would know to apply to stay in the revenue department. The rest of the team only found out about this when we sitting at our desks and happened to noticed that half of our team had suddenly disappeared from their desks. Some people thought that they had gone to lunch but when I pointed out that three of the people missing were ones that I always went to lunch with we realized that they were all attending a meeting that we had not been privy to. I had not been surprised at my supervisor’s sneaky, shady behavior because she had always showed ridiculous favoritism, but I was extremely hurt by the people who I considered to be close friends who had not said anything at all to me. (Side note here: This is an extremely simplified version of the situation and by reading just those few sentences where I explained it, I know that I sound childish, petulant, and petty but trust me that there’s a lot I’m not detailing and I was justified for feeling as hurt and manipulated as I did.)

That same day, as I was still reeling from the turn of events at my job, I got a call from my mother that she was taking Bella to the emergency vet because she was getting worse. The only positive of this event was that it helped to give me perspective about being upset about what was happening at a job. I immediately left work and met my mother and Bella at the vet where they did an x-ray and told us what I had feared: Bella had massive double pneumonia and would need to be admitted. I was in pulmonology for years and never saw an infiltrate as bad as Bella had. It was a miracle that she was able to breath at all.

March

On March 1st we received a call from the vet that despite antibiotics, oxygen, and nebulizer treatments he did not know if Bella would make it. I completely broke down. I can’t even go into everything I was feeling and why I was feeling it, but I did the only thing I could do which was to fall my knees and sob to God that He promised to not give us more than we could bear, and this was more than I could bear. And this is my testimony because Bella made it. That was a Thursday night and Bella came home on Sunday. She was on massive antibiotics and needed home nebulization (running the hot shower for 20 minutes twice a day), but the prayers had been answered. As tiring as 2018 was I will always be thankful it was the year God performed a miracle to keep our Bella here.

Back at work though, the overall situation was worse. I talked to my coworkers about how betrayed I felt and I tried to understand the situation from their point of view, but I couldn’t completely forgive and forget especially since I still didn’t know what was happening. I did learn that I would be transferring to the phones department along with six other members of our former team (which included my mother), but unlike those members who would be transferring immediately, myself and another team member were still needed in what was left of my old department and would transition within the next two weeks or later. Again I was left dangling, except now it was with the knowledge that I was being used for as long as it was convenient for them, and that during that time I’d be working under the supervisor who had finally revealed just how much she was running the department as if it was a high school lunchroom and resented that her favorites were friends with me, who she did not want as part of her group of “cool” kids. I immediately updated my resume and started looking for another job though it killed me a little to have to again look for a job in a field I’d come to despise. The only good news was that the stress of work eased a bit when the supervisor realized that she had showed her true self to too many people and gave her two week notice for the end of March. On the last week of the March, after six weeks of limbo hell, I was informed that my supervisor’s leaving meant that there was space for me on the new revenue team and I was offered the position to stay there. It was not an easy decision, and to be honest I’m not sure how much “choice” I truly had, but I decided to stay on the team. I figured that I would at least be doing a job I was familiar with while I looked for something else, and it also meant that I could take advantage of the overtime that was offered in the department because it was dismally behind due to losing half of the team members and the inability of the new outsourcing company to do our former jobs correctly. I worked 61 hours the last week of March.

April

My grandmother had a minor surgery on April 2 to remove a cyst from her ovary, however during the surgery the doctor decided to not remove the cyst because he thought that it might be cancerous. This was a scare that was thankfully resolved quickly because my grandmother was able to see an oncologist within days and had the second surgery exactly a week later during which the surgeon determined that it was not cancer.

On the job front things were a little better with the supervisor gone, and the sting of hurt began to subside a little, but I still wanted to leave. Unfortunately my lack of formal education had become a sticking point in the job hunt, mostly because I decided that I could not stand to continue in the medical field.

May

I had a plant sale on Mother’s Day which is the traditional start of gardening season, and despite a half-assed effort on my part to do any advertising, I sold fifteen plants — which sounds like a sad amount but this was the most plants I had ever sold so I was thrilled.

I also started the next part of the The Massive House-wide Renovation Project — which should be called The Massive Property-wide Renovation Project because the yard needed attention too — and that was removing the rotting pieces of lumber that were making a pathetic attempt at being a retaining walls in the front yard, and to replace them with retaining wall stones.

I had hoped to be gone from my job by this time, particularly since I was forced to interact with my ex-supervisor at the end of the month for a coworker’s baby shower, but the job hunt continued to produce nothing. I had even re-resigned myself to continuing in healthcare and sent resumes to jobs in that field, but none of them called me. I began to think that I might have to make a drastic move, like go back to school, if I was ever going to be considered as anything more than garbage by an employer.

June

When plans I had for the first weekend on June got cancelled, I decided to do another plant sale. I put more effort into advertising this time, though it wasn’t much more since my plans had been cancelled at the last minute so I’d only decided to have the sale the night before. I am still in of awe of this but I sold about 150 plants. Not only was it brilliant to finally see a return on my investment in the business, but it gave me a bit of hope for a direction I could take to create income. The only problem was that I had a massive Lupus flare after the sale was over. To be honest I was surprised that I hadn’t had a flare sooner considering all of the stress I had been under on top of working an average of 55 hours a week for over three months at work, but I still didn’t appreciate being out of commission for two days. I just hoped that once I left the stress of the job that my body would be able to handle more time in my plants. I had to hold on to that hope because the success of the plant sale had been the only thing to make me feel less than worthless in a long time.

End Part One

Read Part Two Here

2017: The Year in Review

The fact that this post is late* is of itself a testimony to 2017. I didn’t get to do a post sooner because I’ve been too busy, and also too tired – physically and mentally, alternating but usually concurrently – but mostly I’ve been busy. I seriously look at everything I did this year and I do not know how I did it. And I did it all in the midst of learning how much my body is falling apart and experiencing the exhausting process of “getting better”. I have to admit though, had I not been dealing with a medical battle I might not have accomplished as much as I did. There were many, many, many days that I wanted to just lie down and do nothing but groan or cry, and on some days I did, but most of time when I got that feeling ,it was immediately followed by the much stronger urge to prove that this condition wasn’t going to get me. It wasn’t going to change me, in fact it reminded me of who I am: I am a fighter. This is often (and increasingly so) a source of consternation to my worried loved ones, but I just don’t think I know how to be anything else. I think most of them have accepted it. That said, I present the 2017 Year in Review.

January

The year began by accompanying my brother to look at the first (of what would be many) houses in his search for his own abode. There’s nothing like looking at houses in the middle of winter- particularly since most of them were unoccupied which meant they were barely heated – to make you aware of how bad your Reynauld’s has become.

And then in a perfect illustration of how much my mind was spinning I chopped off about sixteen inches of my hair. I think this freaked out everyone who knows me well.

February

On February 2, while much of the United States was focused on a small town in western Pennsylvania, and whether its most famous resident was going to see his shadow or not, I saw my first Rheumatologist and got to hear, “Yeah it looks like you probably have Lupus” because delivering a diagnosis like that to someone in a flippant and nonchalant manner is what you hope to find in a physician.

March

“Your gallbladder is inflamed and needs to come out.”
“When?”
“Tomorrow.”

April

After looking at several city blocks worth of houses, my brother decided that he really wanted one of the first ones that we looked at and placed a counteroffer to the one that the seller made back in January. And because the house was empty and my brother didn’t have to worry packing up another house to move, he was able to move in by the end of the month.

My mother and I had given thought to moving ourselves, but ultimately decided that we would stay. On April 30th we ripped up the carpet in the family room and though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was the start of The Massive House-wide Renovation Project.

April was also the month when I finally convinced a doctor to change my one medication after complaining about it for five months.

May

After many months of communicating with a friend who had a friend with a Westie that needed a new home after her owners surrendered her, all of the pieces fell into place to get the Westie from Virginia up to us, and on May 8th we welcomed Spirit to the family.

The Massive House-wide Renovation Project continued with the massively messy removal of the popcorn ceiling from the family room. There was popcorn ceiling was on the entire first floor, but getting it off of the vaulted family room ceiling was a special kind of torture. My mother and I did this on the 13th which was the ten year anniversary of my dad’s passing, so it kept us from dwelling on that.

June

Wonder Woman opened. ‘Nuff said.

The renovations on the family room continued…

July

The Month of Trying New Shit!
Aerial Yoga!
Mushroom hunting!
Beach concert! (Technically not a first because I had seen KC and The Sunshine Band on the beach many years ago, but it was such a forgettable concert that I don’t count that.)

And we finished the family room! Just in time for the new Game of Thrones season, which had been my goal, but I still can’t believe that we made it considering all that had to be done. Ultimately the carpet was ripped up, the concrete underneath patched, installed hardwood laminate floor and all the mouldings around it, whitewashed the fireplace, replaced the doors and grate, put thin brick continuing up the the wall to make the fireplace look full height, stained the mantle, built built-in shelves, painted the walls, installed crown moulding and installed door casings. That list looks like a lot but that does not even begin to illustrate all the work that went into all of those things–particularly since I did not know what I was doing and was learning as I went.

August

I went to an estate sale and ended up finding a first edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I found out that it’s technically worth several thousands of dollars, but in actuality it’s just a really cool book to have in my collection.

September

A dear friend was pressured into an ill-advised trip to Puerto Rico and was there when Hurricane Maria hit. She managed to call me just before the official landfall and I can’t tell you what a horrible feeling it is to talk to a loved one as they are huddle in a hallway, completely terrified, and not be able to do a thing to help them. She, her mother, and sister thankfully survived uninjured, but were stranded there without running water or electricity for over a week.

I worked on one of my more ambitious projects which was creating five of the “ghost dresses” I had create last year. I unfortunately didn’t finish them before the end of the month, but considering that was trying to help facilitate a rescue from a decimated island in the Caribbean, I guess it was okay.

October

It was a fairly uneventful month. I didn’t get the ghost dresses out on the first, but I did get them on display by the end of the first week.

On Halloween I discovered how much stress can aggravate Lupus and managed to have the worst flare since my diagnosis.

November

My mother and I decided to tackle the popcorn ceiling in the hallway and kitchen. We figured that it wouldn’t be nearly as difficult as scraping the vaulted ceilings of the family room. Ha ha. To keep this short, the popcorn was covering a multitude of sin, not the least of which was evidence of a long running leaking pipe inside the facet over the cabinets. This turned into a massive nightmare from hell as we found that the leak was coming from the bathroom sink on the second floor and it had caused damage and mold in the bathroom wall, and also in my closet which backed up to that wall. The home owner’s repair policy managed to find three of the most incompetent plumbers in the state and send them to our house at the times which would be most inconvenient for either myself or my mother. This went on for the entire fucking month.

Of note also we had a meeting at the company where my mother and I work to announce that the third party company was supposed to be working our A/R was being replaced by a new company and would be starting immediately. (Remember this because it has a huge impact on 2018.)

December

It was the end of the first week of December and the pipe was still not fixed, so I told the insurance company that I was hiring my own plumber, would pay them myself and they would reimburse me. I repaired the facet and that was the end of the 2017 chapter of The Massive House-wide Renovation Project.

I finished my first official chicken wire commission “Pooh”. This required skipping sleep a few times, but the client was really happy with it so it was worth all of the work.

And that was 2017

I’ll add that in the midst of this I had blood drawn twelve times, five new medications, and eight dosage increases.

It was a busy year.

 

* I started this entry in mid-January and it’s now end of December that I’m finishing it after finding it in the drafts as I went to start the 2018 review.