My Husband part II

The woman he fell in love with had vanished, in her place was a stranger.

Hello dear reader.

I kind of left you hanging with my last post about my husband. I told you I’d give you more of the story the next day. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I’m here now.

Refresher… Tim and I met at church and spent two years getting to know each other and building a friendship before we got together. Now I think you’re all caught up. Ready to continue? Here we go:

When we told Ali, our priest, that we we’re seeing each other she gave us an assignment. Tim had to cook for me and I had to let him. For most people, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but Ali knew it would be a challenge for us.

First of all, Tim doesn’t cook. He survived primarily off TV dinners and pizza. The first time I looked in his freezer, the only thing in it was an elk leg. Yes, you did read that right.. the leg from an elk, fur and all. One of his friends was a hunter and would save the legs for Tim’s big (100 lbs), beautiful dog, Sampson.

The other reason it was such a challenge was I love cooking and I normally would have been cooking this for him, not the other way around. I’m also just a tiny bit of a control freak in certain areas of my life, and cooking happens to be one of them.

But we did it out of love and respect for Ali. So I sat in Tim’s living room and he cooked. I was hearing things banging around and ‘not nice’ words coming from the kitchen. I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was for me not to go into that kitchen! Eventually, I was presented with a steak dinner with mashed potatoes and green beans. Surprisingly, it was good!

We decided after several months that it was insane for us to be paying rent and utilities on two places when we were together every night either at his house or mine. So we rented a very small house together. Poor Sampson had to back out of anywhere he walked. There wasn’t any room for him to turn around.

I had my first Chiari decompression surgery 9 or 10 months before we moved. I was working three jobs (the General Store/Post Office, cleaning houses, and cooking one of the community meals at the church) when we moved into our house together. Within a month, the surgery failed and I was in worse shape than before. I couldn’t function at all. A good day meant I had made it from the bed to the couch. All of a sudden it was all on Tim. I told him several times that this wasn’t what he’d signed up for and I’d understand if he wanted out. He reassured me that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Eventually (almost a year later) I had another brain surgery. This one was much more invasive. When it was all said and done, they had removed 12 cm from my skull, the C-1 and C-2 from my neck, and cauterized the back of my brain so it wasn’t pinching off my brain stem anymore. They placed a plastic mesh of some sort to hold my brain in place.

I know it sounds like I’m going of on a tangent, but I’m actually not (for a change) this time. I’m trying to express what Tim ended up dealing with very soon in our relationship.

That surgery took about two years for me to recover from. I had to re-learn so many things. But Tim was beside me holding my hand through it. It was as hard for him as it was for me. The woman he fell in love with, his friend, had vanished, in her place was a stranger. I had him to lean on. He was on his own with it.

Once again, this has gotten long very quickly. I won’t keep you waiting so long for the next part.

Until next time…

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Trying to live

So I’m not dying, but I’m not living either. I’m simply existing in a world of pain and exhaustion.

Hello dear reader.

It’s been quite a while since I posted on here. Much has happened and I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about things before I post about them on here. Months have passed and my feelings are still all jumbled. I don’t see that changing in the near future.

So you, my friends, are going to get things the way they are…confusion and all. I’ve always been honest with you and that will never change.

Here’s a quick recap of where things stand: In February I got pneumonia, which set off a whole chain of events. I wasn’t getting better no matter how many antibiotics I took. While I was finally able to get the fever down, I was not able to get my oxygen levels up. After more pictures and blood tests, my primary care doctor found a spot on one of my lungs and was very concerned it might be cancer. Next stop was a pulmonologist. He looked at the pictures and told me it wasn’t cancer. It was COPD and I was terminal. I went through the nightmare of telling my family and friends that I was dying. That was a horrible experience. 

The pulmonologist ordered more tests to give me a better idea about how long we were looking at. Those tests had some unexpected results, so he sent me for more tests. These were on my heart because he thought I might have cardio-pulmonary edema.  After everything had been looked at, I was told that I have emphysema. I was not terminal.

This was very happy and exciting news for everyone….well, almost everyone. I had finally seen a light at the end of the tunnel. There was an end in sight to all of this pain I’ve dealt with for so long. Then the tunnel got dark again.

I knew I was supposed to be happy about my wonderful news. Everyone else was thrilled. However, nothing changed. I’m still in pain 24/7. I still have no energy at all. So I’m not dying, but I’m not living either. I’m simply existing in a world of pain and exhaustion.

I’ve been trying very hard to push through it all, to get up and get something done no matter how I feel. I have to start somewhere, right? But for every two days I’m productive I spend four in bed in too much pain to move. I sleep 20 out of 24 hours. It’s two steps forward and four steps back.

I don’t know where this is going to go. I do know that I’d like to bring you along on the journey if you’d like to come. 

Until next time…

Courage

Yes, I go to a therapist. I truly think this world would be a considerably better place to live if everyone did.

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Hello dear reader.

This message literally took my breath away when I saw it. I originally looked at it because I thought it was such a beautiful picture of a lion. Anyway, I had to read what was written there several times before I really grasped it. So go ahead, read it again. Let it truly sink in. I honestly believe that this is the best and most accurate definition of the word Courage I’ve ever seen.

It’s more than a coincidence, in my opinion, that I was discussing this very concept with my therapist just last week. Yes, I go to a therapist. I truly think this world would be a considerably better place to live if everyone did. So I wasn’t saying it nearly as well as this picture does, but I was doing my best to express this sentiment. My example was that so many people are quick to say “I’d die for my (insert children, spouse, best friend, etc. here).” That’s quite a statement of devotion. But the more difficult question, in my opinion, is Would youlive for that person? The way things are right now, dying would be much easier than living is. Every morning when my consciousness returns but before my eyes are open the pain hits me. I reach for the pain meds that are on my nightstand just for this purpose and I take one. I wait about 20 minutes and decide if I should try to get out of bed yet or if I have to take another one. In the meantime my bladder has decided that I need to be in the bathroom NOW! My full bladder begins to yell at my legs, back, neck and head to get over the pain and let’s go. My legs, back, neck and head yell back to my bladder that it needs to quit yelling at them and talk to the blood stream about getting the medications to them. You get the picture. This is the very beginning of my day. It doesn’t get much better from there. It roars during every moment that I’m awake.

Here’s the flip side. I have children and a husband and incredible friends. I love all of them more than words can say. I can’t do much to show them how much I love and appreciate them. Hell, I can’t even keep my house clean. But they are the little voice at the end of the day that drowns out the roaring. I do the only thing I can do to show how powerful my love for them is. I live.

Until next time…

Strength

I believe that if you’re looking for strong people you should look for the people who see the worst of it and love you anyway.

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Hello dear reader.
I hear a lot about what a strong person I am. You have a genetic disorder? You are so strong! You’ve had five surgeries on your head? Well you look wonderful! I don’t know how anyone deals with constant pain. You are so strong! How does that make me strong?
If I have a day or two that I get really emotional and cry at the drop of a hat, is that weakness? If I have to cancel on something I promised to do or say “No” to something I really want to do because the pain won’t let me do it, does that make me weak? What if I turn off my phone and escape into a book because if I have to talk to one more doctor about one more new thing that the Chiari has caused I will scream? Does that mean I’m weak?
Personally, I don’t think any of that has anything to do with strength or weakness. I deal with the pain and all the rest of the crap because I don’t have any choice. If you know of another option, I’d dearly love to hear it! I get emotional and cry because I don’t have a choice. I hide in a book as a survival mechanism, so I can spend some time not crying. I turn off the phone to keep from losing what little bit of sanity I have left. That’s not strength or weakness. It’s survival.
I’m no stronger and no weaker than the next person. If you found yourself in the same situation that I’m in (God forbid!) you would do whatever you had to do to get through a day. You would search for anything positive you could grab hold of. You would try your best to enjoy the good days at least 10x more than you hate the bad ones. Mostly, you would handle it in whatever way works best for you.
One last thing….I believe that if you’re looking for strong people you should look for the people who see the worst of it and love you anyway. They watch someone they love going through hell and can’t fix it. They hold your hand and let you cry and keep trying to find a way to make it better. What makes them so strong? They don’t have to go through it.
I don’t have a choice about what I have to deal with, but my husband does. He still comes home to me every day, checks on me if I’m in bed too long, helplessly watches when I’m in horrible pain, and makes me laugh EVERY day. He’s the strong one, not me. Thank you Tim.
Until next time…

Focus

I’ve learned over the years that if I focus on my pain, my pain takes over my life. So I try my best to focus on positive things.

Hello dear reader,

Before I begin today I should tell you that some of the things I’m writing today may have been written before.  When I decided to begin this blog again, I cleared out all of my old posts.  There are things in them that some people may not like.  But today I restored all of them.  They’re all truth.  They’re my story and my perception.  If anyone doesn’t like what I’ve written, they don’t have to read it.  The final reason for restoring them is that, in my humble opinion, there is some good writing there. 😉  So if any of this is repetitive I apologize for that.   That being said,  let’s go!

I’ve learned over the years that if I focus on my pain, my pain takes over my life.  So I try my best to focus on positive things.  Thankfully, I have many of them.  One of the most positive things in my life is St. George Episcopal Church.  I know I’ll forget something from the long list of things they do, so here’s a link to their website.

St. George Episcopal Church

I went to St. George over 11 years ago by accident.  Honestly, I went to the “wrong” church.  But I immediately wanted to be a part of the things they did.  All my life I had heard it preached…feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, etc.  Usually what followed that was “we need your money to do these things.”  At St. George I never once heard that preached.  I never heard demands for money.  I saw these things being DONE.  It wasn’t a spaghetti dinner once a month for the homeless.  It was a daily way of life for these people.  I actually heard that my time and energy was more important than my money!  So I jumped in with both feet.  This, just like the mountains, was where I belonged, what I had been looking for.

I began volunteering where I could, helping with the meals, putting together a cookbook to help fund our new (desperately needed) roof, crocheting things to be sold (also for the roof).  The more I got involved, the more I loved it.  I ended up on vestry (sort of the decision makers for the church) and loved that too.  Eventually I had my own day at the meals.  I cooked every Tuesday, I believe it was.

It was during this time that I was diagnosed with Chiari.  I spent three months staying with my wonderful brother (I love you Donnie) in Ohio and had the first of what would be many surgeries.  The Cleveland Clinic was wonderful.  I got a good 9 months of recovery from it.  Unfortunately, all of my symptoms returned and the pain was unbelievable.  I was told that my brain was coming out of the base of my skull.  During that period a good day was one in which I made it out of the bed and on to the couch.  People from the church would come to my house and give me communion.  One of St. George’s priest (Ali Lufkin) makes wonderful pottery and made a beautiful little cup for my communion.

Obviously I was unable to give anything to the church, I had nothing in me to give.  My husband and I (who met at St. George) had been together about three months at that point.  He was doing everything he could to keep the bills paid and help me.  I’ll never forget one day specifically.  Tim had hitch hiked over the pass to do snow and ice removal (we had 3 – 4 cars, just none that ran) and then hitch hiked home soaking wet and freezing.  When he walked in the door I told him that we would have to order pizza or something for dinner because I just couldn’t cook.  I felt terrible about it.  He sat down beside me, put his arm around me and said, “I’m so glad you got some rest today.”

If you’re new to my blog, you’ll soon discover that I sometimes get sidetracked when I’m writing.  The point to today’s post was that I cooked at the church yesterday.  I’m paying for it today, as I knew I would.  But it is one of the most positive things in my life.  I have fun and get to spend the day with around 50 wonderful people.  I absolutely love it when I can do it.  It keeps the useless feeling away.  For me, that feeling is worse than the pain.

So I got sidetracked today, but hopefully you learned a little bit more about me and how I survive Chiari.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, I gave someone a little bit of hope that this disease doesn’t have to be the focus of your life.

Until next time…..

Headaches and wedding Invitations

Hello dear reader.

Today is an awful headache day.  Well, it actually started around 11 last night when it woke me up.  I managed to fall back to sleep at around midnight, but by 2 a.m. it was a lost cause.  It’s super frustrating because I seriously don’t have time for this right now.  There is so much I need to be doing, but I can’t. 

Onto something brighter…I have to brag. Yesterday I discovered that I had made a significant mistake with the checking account and put us into a pretty bad situation. When Tim got home last night (after a 10 hour workday) I listened to him tell me about what a good day he had. You know, the first few minutes determine the mood for the rest of the evening, so positive was a good way to start. The last thing he said was, “It’s been a really good day.” I replied, “I’m so glad, but I’m about to ruin it.” I burst into tears and told him what had happened. This man…the one I get to marry in a week and a half…put his arms around me and told me it was okay. He said with so much going on it was no wonder I made a mistake…that we’d get through it and it wasn’t the end of the world. I couldn’t stop crying, but then it was out of relief.

Speaking of the wedding, a wonderful friend of ours made our wedding invitations for us. We mailed out all the ones going out of town, and the other day we got the ones to hand out locally.
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Is that not the most beautiful thing?!? The invitation is rolled up inside that beautiful tube. There is no way I can ever show or tell how much I appreciate this. It’s another amazing example of the incredible friends we have!

That’s about all the “brighter” I can do right now. My head is still hurting terribly and I’m going to lay down and try to get some rest.

Until next time…