loracs: (fingers)
 Twenty years ago today, I sat in a nicely decorated doctor's office on Pill Hill. A large, dark wood desk sat between myself and Dr. D, a neurologist. He was a tall, wide man. The body said he might have played football in high school, but his manner told me he most likely never went to a game. I was there to get test results.

I'd only had health insurance for about a year. The years I'd spent without health insurance, made me do my research before I'd spend my meager dollars on an office visit. This was before you could google any subject in the comfort of your home. I would go to a medical library in San Francisco that catered to non-medical people. It was called PlaneTree Health Library. I'd have a medical terminology dictionary under one hand, while I flipped through articles and books describing whatever symptom I was experiencing, with my other hand. Without a primary care doctor, I had to do my own referral. Once I determined what type of doctor I needed to see, I'd start the rounds of phone calls to find one that would see me without insurance. And to get the all important cost of one visit.

Luckily, I had insurance by the time I start having some strange sensation changes in my legs. Since I was use to doing my own research, by the time I had my first meeting with the Dr. D, I had a couple of possible diagnoses. He took my full medical history in his office. Then we moved to an exam room, where he proceeded to do all those neurological "follow my finger", "close your eyes and touch your nose" and the metal hammer taps on nerves close to the surface that would make your leg jump. After he finished, I told him about my research and I wondered if it could be pernicious anemia or multiple sclerosis.

I fulled expected him to dismiss my amateur doctoring. After all my education ended with a Bachelor of Science degree in Photography and Anthropology. Dr. D had all those years of study, ending in a PhD in Medicine, specializing in neurology. 
 When he said "Well, let's set up some tests for those." my jaw hit the floor. My research told me pernicious anemia was completely controlled with B12 shots or pills. MS was a completely different animal. It's an auto immune disease that is like rolling dice, a complete crap shoot on what, when and where your body will attack the myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves. There wasn't (and still isn't) a cure for it, only a bunch of disease modifying drugs.

As I sat across from him on Feb. 14, 1997, prepared to hear the test results, my brain went blank. He fidgeted with some papers, before he took a breath and said "The test came back positive for MS. I'm sorry." I know he talked about the three drugs approved at that time for MS. I didn't process any of the information. He gave me pamphlets on each drug. Asked me if I had any questions. I had a million questions, but I knew they were not ones he could answer.

The rest of the day was a blur. I had to drive to San Jose to pick Guy up at a convention. I didn't cry much that day. Even driving home, telling Guy what the doctor said, I didn't cry. The fear held the tears in check, until the next morning. I found myself crying in the shower. It was a long shower and a longer cry.

For many years, the only people who knew were my sisters and a few friends. I didn't tell my mom. She was 79 years old and not in very good health. I didn't want to worry her. I didn't tell anyone at my job. The future was a big question mark. Of course, the future always has an unknowable side, but now I felt like each day was a giant question mark. Would I wake up one morning and be unable to hear, or see, or walk? These are all possible MS outcomes, sometimes they are temporary and sometimes they are permanent.

It took a while to breath freely without the specter of MS invading my every thought. I don't know exactly when it happened, but eventually the fear lessened and I found life just going on as it always had. I've been very lucky and have had only one major attack and a few minor ones. I have fatigue and some brain fog, but I've learned to manage it. Overall, I think these last 20 years have played out about the same way they would have had I not been diagnosed with MS. The future is funny that way, and I hope it continues to be this "funny".

loracs: (fingers)
Trying very hard to keep my feeling of impending doom from getting out of control.  I will wake up on Jan. 21st and the world will still be here, right?  Right?  RIGHT?
loracs: (Default)
 First, we are fine. It's always best to start out any story with that sentence, rather than "I had to call 911 last night."

I had to call 911 last night. We were going to bed at an unusual early time for us, about 11 pm. As I was moving Guy around the end of the bed using the Hoyer lift, he started to fall. The first minute was full of reality bending, the lift is a stable device, in all 34 years together, one had never failed while we were using it, failed in a way that left Guy falling through space and me trying to stop him. We have had operator error issues, when I hit the valve and he dropped too quickly, but nothing like this. The lift was on its side, his butt was on the floor and his legs were in a painful position. He seemed to be sort of stable, so I grabbed a couple of towels to roll up and put under his legs to get him out of the immediate pain. Next, I grabbed by phone, as I walked the dogs to the back door and locked them in the laundry room. Dialing 911, I next went to the front door, opened it wide and turned on the porch light. Not that they could miss our house with all the xmas lights on.

Walking back to the bedroom, I was now speaking to the 911 operator. I spoke clearly and emphasized that we lived in San Leandro, because there is a street by the same name in Berkeley and once they contacted a fire department for that area and it slowed down their arrival. We went through all the questions they have to ask and then they assured me help was on the way. He was still uncomfortable and I tried to make it better, but instead the t-bar that was resting on the bed, moved and he was going fall backwards, which I knew would put him in more pain, plus, there was a part of the lift that I saw moving in a way that would have pressed into his thigh, possibly piercing the skin. I did the only thing I could, I grabbed the chain from the top part of the t-bar and held it in place to keep him in the same uncomfortable, but not painful or dangerous position.

The dogs are barking, while we strained our ears to hear if the EMTs had arrived. My position is such that my butt is up in the air, as I bend over part of the bed, holding the chain. My back is straining and my hands hurt. I readjust as much as I can, each time scaring Guy, because he thinks he's going down. Finally, I think I hear people on the porch and call out to them to come in. So, that is the tableau they find us in. A naked Guy in a strange sitting position, surrounded by the harness and the mess of the metal Hoyer lift on its side. I'm dressed in a house dress with my butt in the air. Dogs barking with the urgent insistence that they need to get into the house because . . . well . . . people are here!

It took a little figuring and Guy explaining his needs, but eventually they were able to get him in the bed. We thanked them for listening to him, rather than just moving him, which some people have done in previous emergencies. He was cold and little in shock, but there was no broken bones, no twisted soft tissue, no blood. I was with him from the moment it started and every step of the way as he was moved about and I knew he didn't hit his head. He didn't want to go to the hospital, and I agreed. It has taken me about as long to write this, as it did from the movement he fell to the exit of the EMTs.

Writing this, I sound so calm, which I mostly am DURING the actually emergency, but about 30 minutes after the EMTs left, I was in the bathroom ugly crying, as the "what ifs" go through my head. My body is doing its thing and the tears had to come and the adrenaline had to go.

The cause of all this excitement: one of the wheel stems broke off. Funny thing, Guy had started the process to get a replacement, because we knew it was getting old (at least 12 or more years) and they only give you used ones to begin with. Thanks to our wonderful home care person, Stacey, we were able to rent one from a previous client of her's. She saw it in the house for years, but it was used as a coat rack. We've rented it for 2 weeks (they don't want to sell) and are looking into buying our own, rather than go through the process with Medicare.

FYI: I called Apria this morning for an update on his request for a new lift. They told me they had received the doctor's prescription, but it was denied by Medicare, because Apria no longer holds the contract with them for our area. I wonder when (or if) they were going to call and let us know this bit of news. We're not willing to go through the process of finding who the provider would be, getting a prescription and then still waiting for all the approvals and delivery. We have a little breathing room to source a local one or get a new one, depending on the cost.

2016 is ending on a bang! Hey, any year you can walk away from, is a good year. Not sure how mobile we will be at the end of 2017, the year of tRump.

loracs: (Default)
Today I am 59 years, 7 months and 3 days old.  Betty died when she was 59 years, 7 months and 3 days old.  Tomorrow, I will have lived one day longer than she did.  Betty had 4 years, 7 months and 3 days of retirement, but the last few years were filled many days of doctor’s appointments, cancer treatments, hospital and skilled nursing stays.  That time was also filled with laughter turning to tears and tears turning to laughter.  Sometimes just laughter, sometimes just tears.  Hours of sitting quietly watching “Frasier”, while waiting for her to fall asleep.  Other hours filled with shouting out answers on “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune”.  More hours of watching “Rachel Maddow” and discussing the issues of the day.  And, of course, the hours she spent online, especially when I was at work.  

I have been retired 1 year, 9 months and 22 days.  Take away the cancer related health issues, add in a 10 day stay in the hospital last year with a leg infection, and my retirement it not unlike hers.  Most nights, Guy and I fall asleep listening to “Frasier”.  After watching “Rachel Maddow”, we switch over to “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune”.  
 
So, what does all this number crunching mean?   It’s not survivor’s guilt, or more accurately, it’s not only survivor’s guilt.   If feels like a metric of where I am (possibly) in my life span.  Barring a weird twist of fate, in a few hours, I will have lived to be older than Betty.  How much more time will there be?  The only thing I can accurately state; I have more years behind me, than in front of me.  The first time I gave serious thought to how long I would live was 16 years ago, shortly after my mom died.  I didn’t dwell on it long, my life was full with Guy, Betty (well before she was sick), a dog, a house, dancing, friends, and a job I really liked.  While it had briefly crossed my mind in the intervening years, there was no serious navel gazing on my death.  Then Betty died a little over 5 years ago.  The grief, exhaustion and putting one foot in front of the other took all my energy for a few weeks.  On the day I opened the big, manila, official envelope from the County of Alameda, holding a dozen copies of Betty’s death certificate, was day I started the countdown that ends today.  I don’t know if I will continue to track time in relationship to Betty’s age.  It’s not been a contest; just a weird combination of sadness and curiosity about how much longer I will live.  
If I do feel the need to reach for another milestone, my mom lived 82 years, 11 months and 10 days.    Let the countdown begin!   
 
loracs: (Default)
 September 25, 2000 was the last day I touched my mother.  The metric of time melts away, as I sit here today, remembering.  I can see the hospital room, I can hear the shuffle of feet in the hallway, the background smell of disinfectant, the sponges on a stick used to moisturize her lips and mouth.   The dry texture of her skin is both familiar and alien.  The cancer induced weight loss has left her skin loosely draped around her frame.  I sit next to her for hours, my freckled hand resting on her freckled arm – our shared “deformity”.  The intermittent, but necessary intrusion of the nursing staff; they don’t come often and I take this to mean she is close to dying.  Vital signs aren’t really important at this point.  They check to make sure everything is okay with her iv line – the morphine drip keeping her out of pain, or so we hope, as she mostly sleeps.  I think they also are checking on us, her watching and waiting daughters. 

While she no longer has the strength to speak, she knows we are there.  Her eyes, brown and deep set have always been framed by glasses.  I don’t remember a time when she didn’t wear them. I’ve seen pictures of when she was young and I’m always taken aback by the lack of glasses on her face.  Now she opens her eyes wide and we get very close to her, so she can see us.  As her eyes focus on our faces, she smiles weakly. I see her through teary eyes.   I hear her voice in my head, “Don’t cry”.  This is what she would say to me, whenever the subject of her death came up in our weekly phone calls.  I’d get quiet and she’d say “Are you crying?”  No, I’d say, in a voice full of tears.  In her calm Mom voice, she’d say “Don’t cry”.  It always made me cry harder, just like I am doing now. 

After days of keeping a family member in the room with 24/7, she took the 10 minutes when my sister and I stepped out to go to the cafeteria, to take her last breath.  Coincidence or did she bestow on us her last motherly protection? We have no memory of watching her take her last gasping breath.  There was no dashing into the hallway, calling for a nurse.  Did she open her eyes on last time?  Was there pain in those last seconds?  All of that has to be left to our imagination, our final memories only include the appearance of her gently sleeping.   I prefer to think of it as one last gift she gave us.      

Pip

Sep. 20th, 2016 01:49 am
loracs: (Default)

Pip took a bad fall coming up the backstairs this morning.  She would only sit by my side and moved very slowly when she did walk, so we knew something was hurting her - off to the vet we went.  After examining her and doing a lot of manipulations, they said she didn't break anything and the vet couldn't find any sensitive position.  All good news, so we came home with a pain med for her.  She is doing much better.  She is still walking more slowly, but she did jump up on the bed and walk down the stairs, neither of which she was willing to do this morning.  

While we were there, the vet noticed a swollen lymph node in her neck.  And checking her teeth (which need cleaning), they found a very loose tooth that needs to be pulled.  It is on the same side of body as the swollen node, so it is most likely in response to it.  Pip does need a good teeth cleaning and probably at least one tooth pulled - it's very loose. We had them do the blood work, so we can schedule the cleaning/extraction.  It the swelling is caused by the tooth, it might take a month or so to do down.  Since the cleaning probably won't be scheduled for a couple of weeks, that means we would have to worry about the problem being more serious, i.e. cancer.  So we agreed to having it aspirated and checked.  We should know in a couple of days what's going on.  

It was only a few months ago that Jake (the Abomination) had surgery to remove a foxtail from his nose. The poor little boy would sneeze 8 and 9 times in a row several times a day.  Now Pip is on track to costing us even more than Jake.  We love our pups, even when (or in spite of) dinging our budget.  

loracs: (Default)
This is a hashtag going on around Face Book to list your first seven jobs.  I started working at 16 and I've only had 4 different employers, with 5 department changes with the City of Oakland. Longest I've been unemployed - 3 weeks. Now, I am happily working at being retired!

1. Lewis Brother's Shoe store - receptionist in children's department
2. Quality Control Enumerator - 1980 US Census
3. Sear Portrait Studio Manager/District Manager
4. City of Oakland
    a. Recreation Specialist - Studio One
    b. Administrative Assistant - Information Technology, 
        Housing and Community Development, Human Services, 
        Public Works

loracs: (Default)
We saw the new Star Trek movie today. At this point in the franchise, it's a visit with very old friends, with new faces. The story was fine, the acting was comfortable. It's pretty much what I expect and appreciate about these movies. Space scenes, kick ass fighting, enough science talk to almost make sense (to this none science person), personal quiet moments between my beloved characters - sometimes filling in back story and enough personal growth moments to give me a few minutes of the warm fuzzies.

There was a moment in this movie when I thought maybe there would be exploding heads and it cracked me up. It did not happen, but when you see the movie, you too might think such a thought.

A simple acknowledgment of the passing of Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin felt right.

loracs: (what was I thinking)
It has been so long since I posted in dw.  I do A LOT of posting on FB. I want to get back in the habit of posting here, but until I do, I'm going to paste in some of my fb posts.  Maybe that will prime the pump for original posts.  I do have some friends on both platforms, but I have at least 2 people, who I love dearly, that are not on FB.  Sorry if you see some of my posts twice, but that's when the scroll bar comes in handy.   
----------------------------------------------
The Abomination (aka Jake) periodically, will gain access to Pip's bowl when it still has some food in it. By the time I move him away, and take up the bowl, he has stuffed his mouth full. Then he moves a couple of feet away and deposits his stolen nuggets on the floor. The pile that spills out of his mouth is larger than I have any reason to believe would fit in that tiny cavity. Therefore, I have decided that Jake has a Tardis mouth - much bigger on the inside than on the out. He earns his name, The Abomination, on multiple levels.

Mom

Sep. 25th, 2015 01:18 am
loracs: (Default)
Today is the 15th anniversary of my mom’s death. 

At the moment of her death, I became acutely aware of time passage. Each hour, each day, each week, each month, I was aware I was in new territory. Territory where I continued to breathe and she did not. One and a half decades I have been breathing without her. Quickly approaching a quarter of my life has passed without hearing her voice. Without us sharing our old family stories and making new ones.  Mom loved to tell stories.

Today I want to share one of her oldest stories that involves me. I was 4 years old.  My memory of this event is completely composed of her version.  She told this one so often that I feel like it is my memory. There was a neighborhood boy about a year older than I was and he lived a couple blocks over. This was just far enough away that we didn't often play together, but when we did and something made him mad he would reach out and grab my hair and yank really hard. When I got home I would tell mom each time this happened. She was a strong believer in letting kids sort stuff out, so she never intervened by calling his mother.

One windy day she put a hat on me with a strap that went under my chin and snapped on the other side. And sent me out to play with this boy in our backyard. Mom could see us from the kitchen window. After only a few minutes of play, the boy let out a scream.  Mom looked up in time to see him reaching for my head, but with the hat there was only a couple of inches of my hair sticking out the bottom. He was screaming in frustration, because he couldn’t get a good handful of my hair and he couldn’t pull the hat off either.  Before he could move out of my reach, I grabbed a big bunch of his hair and pulled with all the strength my 4 year old self could muster. He let out a shriek that would "wake the dead" mom said, and ran home. I continued to play happily by myself.

Within minutes the phone rang. The boy's mother was very upset. She yelled at my mom. "DO YOU KNOW WHAT CAROL DID TO MY SON?" My mom calmly said she did and explained what she saw.  The woman didn’t believe that her son would ever do something like pull my hair and she blamed it all on me.  My mom didn’t accept my guilt, but pacified the woman by saying she would talk to me.  As my mom took my hat and coat off, she said I should never start a fight, but if someone else started a fight, I should defend myself and end it as quickly as possible.  The boy never came to our house again and I was never invited to his.

Over the years, mom would tell this story and she always got a little gleam in her eye and a smile in her voice when she got to the part where I pulled his hair.

Mom, I miss you having my back, no matter what. I miss your stories.  I miss you as much today, as the day you died.     

 

loracs: (Default)
 You know how you think you know someone - especially someone you've know all your life and then something pushes that image out of shape? In my clean and purge, I came across some photos and papers I didn't know I had. There are two letters of recommendation for my dad. He worked for a construction company as a foreman. He worked on the acid pipeline at an ammunition plant. They both praised his ability as a leader. At one point, he had a couple hundred construction workers under him. There was also a thank you letter from a civil engineer, who complimented my dad for leading his team in the emergency repair of 800 feet of an acid pipeline that broke. They replaced it all in less than 48 hours. This was in 1954, about a year before my dad met my mother. The man I knew was a loner, didn't have much use for most of humanity. As part of that, he owned his own business (a gas station) and usually worked it 7 days a week from open to close. Occasionally, he would pay someone to work a few hours on Sunday afternoon, so he could come home for Sunday dinner with the family.
By my teen years, I realized he was an alcoholic. Once he retired in 1979, he didn't have anything to stop him from drinking before noon. I moved to California in 1981. He made mom's life pretty miserable, chasing away most of her friends from before they were married. One day in 1996, he got sick and couldn't get out of bed for a couple of days. He went into alcohol withdraw, and when he was so disoriented my mom finally call my sister. Mom was scared to call 911, scared that when he came back to himself, he would be furious with her. My sister didn't have any such fear and off he went to the hospital. He had had a small stroke and he had memory loss from pickling his brain for so many years. He never came home again - spending the last 3 years in a nursing home, walking the locked ward among other patients. 
That's the man I knew - a loner, not a leader.
loracs: (Default)
The Baby pit bull has been adopted by someone (Robin) who had to put her pit bull down about a month ago.  She's not sure she's ready, but I saw her eyes when she first saw Baby and I have no doubt they will be together for a long time.  If for some reason she decides not to keep her, she will take her to the local shelter,  where she volunteers as a trainer and general dog "toy".  Robin will make her a "special project" adoption, which makes it much, much, much, more likely she will find a home.  Plus, Baby is just too adorable -  the right owner will come along.  Robin has my number and will let us know what happens to Baby. 
loracs: (Default)


I did a good/bad thing today.  On my drive home from work I go by the Oakland SPCA surgery center.  I saw a red car drop off a dog and then drive away.  The dog tried to run after the car - that broke my heart.  Then it was clear the pup had no idea what next to do, because she just stood in the middle of the road.  I pulled over and called to her - she came over immediately with tail wagging.  I just had to put her in the van - that's the good thing I did AND the bad thing, because it's so easy to fall in love, but we cannot keep her. 

She is a dark brindle pit bull.  I think she's about 6 or 7 months old.  Very people and dog (at least with Pip, who took to her right away) friendly.  She is not house broken.  I showed her the laundry room and opened the people size door to the back yard, but she pooped in the hallway.  She doesn't seem to know any commands and likes to jump up on you.  She managed to jump up high enough to touch Guy Thomas lip - and that's quite a distance for her current size.  I believe she will be pretty big.  She's food focused; don't know about toys because right now she and Pip is each other's toy.
Do you or do you know anyone that would be interested in this cute as a button puppy?  We live in San Leandro/Oakand area. 

I will have to take her to the SPCA this weekend.  We really cannot keep her.
 

loracs: (girl with pearl earring)
Guy is in the hospital with a respiratory infection.  I had a bad cold and he got it.  It went straight to his lungs.  Even before he had me call 911 about 4 am Sunday morning, we'd both had nights with very little sleep.  Serene went there this morning, while I got a little sleep and then I headed over around 1 pm.  She took over at 11 pm, while I came home to sleep.  I have to go to work tomorrow, because my boss will be out of the office all day in meetings.  We need to keep someone with him all the time, because he can not hit the call button.  I hope he comes home tomorrow, but only if he's well enough.  It is very scary when he feels like he's going to choke.

It is NEVER a good time for hospital stays, but I'm finding it very hard right now.  Tuesday will be 365 days since Betty died.  Calling 911, ER's, hospital rooms, worry, fear, tears, exhaustion, shots of adrenalin followed by a deeper exhaustion and dread.  All that plus a few things I don't have words for right now.
loracs: (fingers)
,
Betty Dudley would have been 60 years old today.  In honor of her, I am spending the day eating leftover t-day food, watching tv and napping as the mood hits me.  Esp. when she was still working, she loved days like this.  Except for the tears that come and go, I'm mostly enjoying it too.
loracs: (Default)

Feast is coming to us. Serene is bringing all the food and doing all the cooking. I'm providing a clean house. Thankful for this and a whole lot more. I just wish this holiday was not built on the European occupation of this land.

And there will a Mom in the house too.  [personal profile] serenejournal thinks of everything!
loracs: (Default)

Betty's memorial party is less than 2 weeks away now.  This morning I woke up from a nightmare that was clearly linked to the stress of preparation.  It started with the doorbell ringing.  It was one of Betty's co-workers coming to the memorial, but I was completely taken by surprise that she was there.  I had no food prepared.  The house was not set up for it.  At least I was dressed in regular clothes and not in the a quickly thrown on cover up.  I tell her to make herself at home and I'd be right back. 

Here's where time takes a left. All the rest of this seems to happen in the space of 30 minutes or so.

I go into the kitchen and I'm throwing stuff around at break-neck speed - cleaning and cooking all at the same time.  Except I don't have everything I need.  I jump in the car and zoom to the store.  I remember to buy the onion dip.  I wanted to buy lasagnas, but I was having trouble finding the frozen food section.  The store was all re-arraigned.  I find every other type of frozen entree, but the lasagnas.  The whole time I'm wondering why none of my friends, who were scheduled to help, have shown up.  I go back home and continue to cook.  When I start to put out the onion dip, I realize I forgot the chips.  Another jump in the car and a trip to the store.  This time I decide I'll make a big salad too, so I run to the produce section, but there are no mushrooms and I decide I can not have a salad without mushrooms, so I nix the salad.  I head back to the frozen food section and am  desperately look for something else I can throw in the oven.  I load the cart up with packages of appetizers.

By the time I get back, a few more people have shown up - again mostly Betty's co-workers. I continue to cook and host the growing number of guests.  Still none of my helpers have shown up.  Why I didn't try to call any of them, I'll never know, but then dreams are not real life - thank goodness.  Next I find myself at my desk and I look at the calendar and discover it's not the correct day for the party.  All these people showed up 2 weeks early.  That's when I wake up.

 

loracs: (Default)

29 years ago today, I signed a lease on an apartment with another person for the first time. And we're still together and I've never, for a second, regretted that decision or the multitude of decisions that has brought us to this day. Thank you [personal profile] stonebender  for all your support and love all these many years.  Love you still and always.
loracs: (Default)

I am planning Betty's Memorial/Party for Saturday, Nov. 12. If you would like to come and you are not sure I have your snail mail address, please send it to me at gillygrrrl@ hotmail.com. I hope to get the invitations out in the next week.
loracs: (what was I thinking)
Because it's [personal profile] serene 's birthday!  Hope you had a wonderful day!!!!!
love and birthday hugs

Profile

loracs: (Default)
loracs

February 2017

S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
1213 1415161718
19202122232425
262728    

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 22nd, 2017 06:39 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios