Surrender – I Hate It.

I hate words like surrender.  I hate actions like surrender.  I hate to surrender.  And what I hate I’m attempting.  And don’t like it.  It’s been two years and a few months living a jellyfish status.  A new me brought on by a total thyroidectomy February of 2015.  A self I have never known. 

Weak.

Sloppy walking. 

Buzzing head. 

Awkward.

Clumsy. 

Fumbling words. 

This past week I hit my limit.  That same day I heard a talk on the radio about a famous swimming champion Michael Phelps who kept a paper calendar.  Each day he swam, returned home and with red sharpie cut a line through the day.  He was determined to keep an unbroken chain of red marks on the calendar, and did so for many years.  His collection of medals show how effective his unbroken chain of swims had been. 

His story inspired me.  Inside I’m an athlete.  Yes, an athlete who never was, but still inside I house the drive and dreams and the planning of one who is driven by such things.  I have a hard time walking much at all these days.  Still, down in the bones I tear through brush to the top of grand mountains.  I run and run and run some more. Bike till I’m in shreds.  Swim till I’m gasping.  I want to be all that, and can’t.

And so this week, I decided to start an unbroken chain of movement.  I have moved plenty in the past 2 years, with no results.  This time I decided to take the advice of those who help people with my condition for gaining momentum.  I decided to force myself to not overdo.  What that looks like for me right now is to swim 20 minutes per day, six days a week, with one day of palates and hula and stretching, the other 6 days lap swimming.  Just 20 minutes. 

Kind of like eating 1/2 spoonful of ice-cream when my body wants the bucket.  Because although 20 minutes is all I am able to manage the first week, my core is screaming at me to swim that – times 20.  To push myself.  To count laps to a mile, two, and then three.  Kind of a strain-the-body junkie.  An acceptable addiction in this culture, but damaging, nonetheless. 

Which brings me to surrender.  Surrender what I want to do for what just might help me get my health back.  Surrender the fix for what heals.  Surrender looking lazy, old and lame for what my body needs.  I don’t care for surrender.  In fact I hate it.  Will following direction and doing what is best for me prove beneficial?  At this point, I’m 30 pounds over.  I sleep more than I would like.  Am foggy brained and weak and limited.  I’ll keep you posted as day after day my calendar takes on a sharpie mark.  I pray for an unbroken chain. For a stronger body.  And a newly discovered contrite spirit. 

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,

to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,

holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

Romans 12: 1 and 2 (a)

Mind Fog

I’ve so missed writing.  Day after day I’ve tried.  No luck.  Today I’m writing anyway.  Although I can’t think of a meaningful thing to write. Because my mind is a fog.  Sometimes folks with mind fog have some medical reason for it.  Such as untreated thyroid issues.  In my case, that’s been checked.  All is well in that department.  Mind fog can belong to ADHD.  Ya, I already know I have that but can’t treat it as the medicine can cause the heart reaction (Vtac) that sometimes happens to me.  Mind fog is sometimes caused by peri-menopause… there seems to be no solutions to that one but for the hereafter.  Stress can cause mind fog.  That goes away when one moves to a remote island at someone else’s expense and spends the rest of life sipping water from a coconut.  I haven’t found my benefactor yet, so that’s out.  So instead of hit a brick wall, I thought I’d blather on inside the mind of fog with high hopes that as the ugly thing is found out, it will scuttle away into the shadows.  If any of you have successfully corrected mind fog, I’d love to hear how you did it

Cancer is Not Cancer; The Agony of being Dependent.

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This was written when I was still quite sick a number of months ago.  I was too low at the time it was written to post it.  I’ve decided to post it now.  I  share it to truth-speak about how painful cancer can be. Sharing what it was for me, as a way of being a voice for those who have not words to share.  This rant of sorts is not an attack on any one person, but a broad-brushed painting of the reality of what it is to be sick and dependant on others.

Cancer is not cancer. It’s not breast cancer or thyroid cancer. It’s strokes, heart attack activity that isn’t, doctors treating you like a hypochondriac while functioning slips away.  It’s skin that peels, clothes that don’t fit anymore, potassium levels so low that legs throb through the night.  It’s not recognizing yourself in the mirror.  Foggy mind half the time not remembering what I’ve said, what you’ve said, what we were talking about.  It’s family sweet as can be, and condescending sometimes too.  It’s having to listen to people “Oh you look like you’re feeling better” while the entire left side of body is numbed out, can’t hear from the left ear, do laundry for five minutes before having chest pain and doctor saying “you’re heart is in great shape”.  It’s your little six year old daughter telling you that you get first place for being the meanest one in the family.  The mean mom that gets tired of the denigrating remarks when trying to get kids to do their chores, one by one the entire family decides they are going to be sicker than Mom today – until their pals come over and off they race across the yard, Nerf and laser guns a-blazing, and once again, when they return to the house, asked to pick up coat, or feed the dog, the sudden illness takes over and death is at the door. 

It’s the doctors passing their job off to another doctor.  Oh it’s the endocrinologists job, no the oncologists job, no the primary care, … .on it goes, while the mystery symptoms that take away my ability to take walks, swim, drive, to care for my kids get worse.  The computerized diagnosis is last word, with physical problems all hovering in the “rare” category, no one bothering to dig deeper while symptoms hold me in place, so much piling up around me, and I must be still. 

Cancer is having all the kind persons who have pitched in to help become judgmental of the way my life looks, judgmental of what happens in this house, condescending of who I am.  It’s having to receive help from others who don’t respect me because they are incapable of helping and empathizing at the same time.  The most empathetic person is the world can flip a switch when doing another a good turn.  It’s watching them lose respect by the day – each and every act of kindness they provide decreases the peer to peer relationship – me having no alternative but to receive it. 

Cancer is not a surgery and missing body part.  It’s the loss, week by weakening week of clients, and eventually a career.  The destruction of a business.  The death of a dream.  It’s not rosy and romantic.  It’s ugly – creepy … the stopper of life.  And I’m stuck between.  Alive and not at all.  Stuck receiving support, care, favors, errands, driving kids to school, with bitterness in the doer, irritation of the helper, and shame at being the taker. 

The part of cancer I can do quite well is walk into the hell hole of the chopping block.  I can tolerate physical pain.  I can usually manage being mangled.  I can’t handle the shame I feel receiving assistance – the baring all – the inside scoop on our junk, irritably of the one doing all the favors due to their superiority and my shame. 

Cancer could be the most ideal way to go if it weren’t for all that.  Known outcomes, time frames, managed symptoms until death.  What makes it awful is loss of dignity (relationship) with people I care about most due to my neediness at the end, and their inability to give and maintain respect for the person they are giving to.  A few of us can give without shaming – most of the time, a few can receive without feeling the shame, but most can not.  We call it being “stewards” of our time and money by nosing into others lives when a need arises.  ‘If she hadn’t let herself go, he’d have never looked elsewhere.”  “There are consequences to slacking on the job”.  “Live and learn”.  We have all said things like this – or thought them.  It’s obvious it’s wrong to give cash to a meth addict.  We take this reasoning further and do harm – judge – while extending a helping hand.  I tell you from the receiving end, it helps more to not help but maintain a relationship of respect then to help with judgment.

Most of us have ZERO BUSINESS being involved in another’s crisis, because crisis is a HOLY PLACE.  It’s where God hovers.  It is SACRED.  Anytime we have all the answers, we do harm.  Anytime we can’t give without judgment, we harm.  Anytime we get inside the disaster of each other’s life and can’t set judgment aside, we hurt each other.  I’m getting to feel it, first hand.  No one means to harm.  They just want the system to work better.  Just want routines in place that make things better, but that’s not how it feels to the one is on the receiving end.  If I ever get beyond this cancer mess, I vow to God and to others that I will NEVER HELP SOMEONE UNLESS I CAN HAVE A SOLID CHECK ON MY ATTITUDE. 

Do I resent helping my kids with things they need help with? 

How does that make them feel? 

Do I resent making supper. 

Giving a gift and resenting the giving DOES HARM. 

Do I resent helping a friend, I HAVE ZERO BUSINESS HELPING UNLESS I CAN HELP FROM A PLACE OF EMPATHY. 

Cancer is not cancer. 

Cancer is everything else – but one thing. 

Cancer is not Boss, God is. 

God is the only one out there I know what manages disasters and love all at the same time. 

If i’m well enough to work again, I’m working for Him.

What Race are the Kindest of Doctors?

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I had a doctor once, slight of stature, brown kind eyes, practical wash and wear hair, nothing fancy about her, and the one who sifted through mountains of charts – two separate charts belonging to one giant medical system.  One chart spelled with an “e”, the other spelled correctly without.  Both charts mine – and she found them.  Bent over her desk.  Diligent she was. 

Discovered, out of dozens of notes that I have 2 MTHFR gene mutations.  This information was not found where one might expect.  She found it anyway, because she worked on my case.   From this information she realized I must not take Tamoxifen, a medicine used for breast cancer patients who are found to be estrogen positive.  A medicine that can cause a stroke for those with my gene mutation.  She suggested I not take it.  Diligent hunt.  Diligent follow-through. 

I had 6 miscarriages before the gene mutation was looked for and identified. 

The gene mutation that caused the miscarriages. 

A number of doctors did not check, though they knew my history.

One did. 

Brown kind eyes he had, too.

Found it. 

Treated it. 

And Butterfly was born perfect and alive.

“Miscarriages are not unusual. 

They are nature’s way of discarding what is flawed”

say lazy doctors everywhere,

brown and blue eyed alike. 

Those doctors who do not see the value in learning the cause of a problem

before using one-liner’s to shush up the likes of me.

My PCP, always respectful of me, when I mentioned how heavy my sheets felt on my neck at night while laying on my back, immediately stepped out of the tiny examining room, hurried down the hall and ordered an ultrasound.  There it was, thyroid cancer. My endocrinologist who hand checked my neck each and every visit paid no attention when I told him the same story.  One doctor listened. On doctor didn’t.  Taking little stock in what the person that lives inside the body might know about herself.

After the thyroid cancer diagnosis, my husband and I asked my oncologist if thyroid cancer might have been related to the breast cancer I had months before.  She said “no”.  The next visit, the same oncologist brought in research showing us she had been wrong.  Said that it very well might have been related. 

She didn’t have to tell. 

Didn’t have to admit she had been wrong. 

There are doctors who are sloppy, lazy, don’t read the fine print. 

Make mistakes because they don’t listen,

don’t trust,

don’t respect. 

And then there are the doctor’s who do.

Thank God for the gene testing doctor’s of the world.

Doctor’s who don’t take it upon themselves to social engineer other people’s lives. 

Doctor’s who don’t minimize another person’s need when it causes them inconvenience.

For doctor’s that hunt and read and listen. 

The doctor’s who set aside ego, and act accordingly.   

I am alive because of some good ‘work hard for another’s sake’ sort-of doctor’s.

Women,

Men,

Asian,

Puerto Rican,

Jewish

Irish,

Tibetan,

Middle Eastern,

African American,

German,

a mix of them all. 

Each of these good doctors have more in common with each other than language and country of origin.  Hard-working kindness is a culture of it’s own.  A race of kind hearts, and kind eyes. 

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,

but by the content of their character.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ridge of Remembering

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To be remembered.  It feels great.  Life has been hard this past year.  If I could point to one thing thyroid cancer has done to harm me the most, it’s been to make me believe I’m not me anymore.  That the me I have come to expect is gone.  The me that most the time could think a clear thought.  The me that knew how to eat so that my pants would fit.  The me that requires a certain amount of sleep.  The me that loves to push my body, and a body that thrives on being pushed. The me that takes good care of my kids.  The me that stays in touch with others.  What I love enjoying.

It’s been such a confusing year.  Who is this person called me, and how do I function?  Not a quest to find the me I’ve never known, but rather confusion as to where I might have disappeared to.  Months on end trying to find equilibrium.  The discouragement has been thick dark.  Fog that belongs to a January.  Getting out of bed.  Moving legs of led.  When I try to move, reactive body pushes back, with enough say-so to stop me from functioning altogether.  Demanding I slow to avoid left sided jaw pain, jaw numbing, left arm throb, shoulder pain and numbing, arm and hand pain and numbing.  Sometimes movements too fast bring stroke symptoms.  The whole body goes into left sided weakness, vision foggy, one eye that won’t dilate, slurred speech, and then I’m back in the hospital for more tests. 

The throbbing leg – another screen for cancer.  The mass on my spine, watching.  Good results this time around, until the next time?  Then what.  Watching the one remaining breast.  Blood tests, over and over, till my arm looks like I stick for an addicted high.  A look at kidneys, the throbbing leg might signal a broken kidney.  Not this time, comes back within normal range.  I slump into a relaxed state.  Then the OBGYN wants to test.  About the time I recover from that test, a call comes in saying another is over-due.  Oh, and don’t forget the colon.  Labs and tests, blood and MRI’s with contrast and without (Oh dear, no contrast for you.  Allergic to gadolinium), EEGS, CAT Scans, Mammograms, I am so lonely for what my life use to look like.  Carefree. Strong.

Once again shut inside dark and jarring tube, unable to move for 45 minutes, I start to dream.  I dream of a 20 mile ridge run that happens every year in Bozeman where my sister Becky lives.  Summer before, she and I spent a bit of time hiking along sides of mountains.  Another needle shoved into the vein that lies along my wrist “this is a good one!” they thread the iv in, fighting fog and throbbing pain, I dream.  I will find just the right shoes.  Re-adjusting needle, nausea rush as purple bubble balloons up onto the surface, the apologies as the white cloth mops up blood red, beads of sweat across brow I can’t wipe off, slip into the dream.  I decide through the pulsing jarring of the MRI that my clothes will be bright.  Maybe a salmon shirt, black shorts, colorful shoes, running shoes.  I will move between two sets of shoes while training.  Needle again, only this time for blood draw into vein always used, pain, I’m sick, dreaming how I will train for this run.  Big plans I have while strapped to to MRI table, blood pressure cuff right arm only, “no, you can’t use that one.  I had a mastectomy” I say.  “Oh, that’s right”, she says.  Test over, dizzy weak I make way from doctors room to a grey Seattle day, a darkened parking garage, fighting eyes that want to shut, wandering from one floor to the next, foggy minded, I eventually find the car.  Making way through traffic, I manage to get home, to lay flat, I’m out, sound asleep. 

Alarm jars me, time to get kids from school.  Fight to put feet on floor, body in deep sleep trying to wake up, I rouse my brain to images of a ridge run as a way of keeping mind awake long enough to get safely from home to school and back home only to lay down as soon as arriving, sound asleep while kids get themselves a bowl of cereal, make a burrito, in kitchen helping themselves while I sleep slumped onto brown couch cross the room.  Bed time is here when I wake up again.  Homework, has it been done?  I stumble around helping with bedtime ritual, tuck my babies in, head for bed myself, but first I stretch.  It’s the workout I can still do.  Stretch one leg, then the next, I dream of the stretch before the 20 mile run.

Will I make progress on taking off this 35 lbs. that has piled on with the removal of the thyroid?  After months of working toward a ridge run, I fb that I wished to run a 20 mile ridge in Bozeman come summertime.  One by one my cheering squad in the form of my cousins, friends and sisters tell me they will come run the ridge with me.  From this coping place a family reunion in Bozeman comes together.  Months of planning and training, stretching and trying.  But one thing missing.  The cooperation of my body.  It’s not as if I’ve never applied myself.  I biked the STP in 2007, and have pushed myself a variety of ways over the years.  This year between MRIs, EEGS, heart evals, test after test I tried to incorporate the things I know for finding my body again, to no avail.  Miles of walking, swimming, bike riding, stretching, eating mostly salads, nuts and protein.  So I’ve managed to lose about 10 lb., still 25 over, way too much extra for my body to tolerate running a ridge at 6 or 8 thousand feet let alone walk it.  The worse part, most of my muscle has wasted away, and building seems impossible. The summer arrives.  I spend a week packing for the trip, but shove aside the dream completely, ashamed I had wished for it in the first place, disgusted I had failed myself in this way.  It did not matter how hard I tried to get my health back, the sneer of thyroid cancer had all the say and I got none. 

The day before vacation a dear friend in her early 30s died of thyroid cancer.  The “best kind of cancer”  swept through her body – including her brain and lungs.  Her last fb message was “Pneumonia again and landed myself at Prov hotel.”  That was the 14th.  By the 22nd she had passed.  She didn’t expect it.  Her family didn’t expect it.  The girl we all knew was gone.

And I’m not gone.  OK, I should be thankful.  And still I have died to who I’ve always been.  So had my friend who just passed.  The same in every way, and also nothing of who she had been just years before.  I do not need to hear what I should be feeling right now.  Grateful.  Thankful.  This is the “new You”.  Underneath physical symptoms, medical tests, projections of what is coming next, am I even still here?  Although what i see in the mirror is a stranger to me, I need to know I’m still me. 

God noticed this need.  Heading up a mountain with a large group of family, we made our way to the top.  On top I realized I did not want to return through the woods.  Every nauseating needle gouging fantasy, EEG, MRI, CAT Scan, Heart Ultrasound, holter monitor, Mammogram could never came close to providing me a moment as grand as the beauty I found myself surrounded by on top that mountain.  My sister Marci said she’d go with me.  It was crazy, risky, stupid. We didn’t take water, snacks, brains.  Marci did have her phone, although weak and about to die.  The bright colored clothes were missing.  Wearing all black.  I wasn’t the fit body of solid muscle I had hoped for, rather fat and haggard and only able to run a very short distance, but on top that ridge I was reminded, covered in skin splotches, fat and awkward, legs of led, hair all a frizz, that I am still a ridge runner inside.  The external has me looking like another girl completely, but I’ll always be me, no matter the limitations.  Every hard moment this past year was noticed, and the year long dream to run a flower covered ridge.  Some say 7, others say 10.  No matter the distance, I won’t soon forget the flowers wild and bold, big sky blue, clouds slung about among the mountain tops, and a sister to experience it with.  I might have given up and pushed me aside, but Someone Else would not.