Welp, I must still be jet-lagged from losing that hour of sleep earlier this month. Or maybe, like a lot of things, writing is a muscle and if you don't use it, you lose it. Either way, the words are not flowing and so, my big comeback to blogging was not the bang I'd hoped for. Pardon me while I whimper through this.
Things happen when one has been absent from the social media scene. One of those things was that I had cataract surgery. Make that plural --- surgeries. Until it happened to me, this was an ailment that fell solidly in the domain of Really Old People. I was in my early 50's when I first suspected that my vision was "off"; it was like looking through the sheerest, finest, barely-there gauze. It was especially noticeable whenever I was inside a big retail store with rows and rows of fluorescent lighting. Over time, it got to the point where I wouldn't drive at night in unfamiliar areas, and if a person was backlit by any kind of light, even a low wattage bulb, I couldn't see their features. This made lip-reading, something that is almost as necessary to me as breathing, impossible. In a social setting it meant positioning myself so that my back was always to the light.
You'd think that as soon as my optometrist officially diagnosed the cataracts that I would rush to get myself into the operating room. After all, surgery would fix two problems: hearing and vision. But I didn't. No one likes the idea of anything coming at their eyes, but that fear is exaggerated in someone, like me, whose eyes fill in for a missing sense. If the surgery is botched, I'm not just nearly deaf, I'm blind too. So, rather than get the problem fixed, I chose to ignore it, keeping the light to my back, squinting my way through my days and saying "What?" a lot.
The tipping point came in August, when I attended a board meeting of my women's philanthropy. The meeting was held at the president's house, in her den with its wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows letting in the early evening light. Despite all my careful maneuvering, I got stuck in a bad spot and literally could not see the faces of six or so ladies sitting opposite me. Of course, they would be the ones with the most to say that night, so I missed out on better than half of the conversation, and had to bring myself up to speed by reading the minutes a couple of days later.
I made an appointment for a consultation with an ophthalmologist, my mother's doctor, in fact, and suprise! I'm a candidate for cataract surgery in both eyes. After a lot of discussion, I settle on toric monofocal IOLs (intraocular lenses), the right eye powered for distance vision, the left for intermediate. This means that I will need reading glasses for near vision, but that's okay. I'd much rather be able to see clearly at a distance.
Two days prior to the first surgery on November 8, I instill the first of what will be four solid weeks of antibiotic eye drops in my right eye. The morning of the operation, once I'm settled in my little pre-op cubicle, the nurse floods my eye with more drops designed to numb it. She sets up the IV and the anesthesiologist comes in for a quick chat. Richard is with me and, bless his heart, he yanks a small business card out of his wallet and gives it to the doctor. On it is written the name of a drug, Droperidol, that was given to me more than 30 years ago, when I had abdominal surgery. This drug was part of a cocktail designed to prevent nausea and calm and relax the patient prior to surgery. In my case, it had the opposite effect: I was about to jump out of my skin from major anxiety and paranoia. It was a highly unpleasant sensation because, typically, I am next to comatose 75% of the time. Anyway, my spouse had that long-ago anesthesiologist write down the name of the drug on his business card, and then he squirreled the precious bit of information away in his wallet for "just in case". I was touched (and more than a little amused) that he had kept it; Lord knows, he'd had plenty of opportunities over the past three decades to throw it out.
I'm finally rolled into the surgical suite and another nurse sets about washing my right eye, flooding it with what seems to be about two gallons of water and something that looks suspiciously like Betadine. Now I'm worried that the eye scrubbing and the water will have diluted or washed away any numbing effect from the pre-op drops. But before I can question her about it, it's dark and there's a fantastic light show going off in my head. Colorful fireworks, white spirals and zig-zags. I can feel tugging, pressure and pulling, but no pain. I'm completely aware of what's going on in a weirdly detached way. The nurse had told me I would be conscious during the procedure, but I wouldn't give a rap. She was right. I didn't give a rap.
After a post-surgical nap at home, I try out my new eyeball. The difference between what I see with my "bad" eye and the same image with my good one is amazing. It's crystal clear and --- here was a bonus I wasn't expecting --- colors are much more vibrant, especially white. So far, so good.
It's been four months and one day since the second surgery. My distance vision is incredible; I tell people I can see into next week. My night vision has improved remarkably. The cloudiness is gone and the backlighting is a thing of the past. The only fly in the ointment is that my near vision is horrible, worse than I expected it to be, actually, so I keep reading glasses handy in different rooms. I just started experimenting with monovision, where I wear a contact lens powered for close-up vision in my left eye. It sounds weird, but after a couple of days, the brain adjusts and seamlessly shifts from eye to eye, depending on my visual needs at the moment.
A few weeks ago, Richard and I went to a college baseball tournament with some friends. It was awesome to be able to track the baseball far into the outfield and not lose sight of it. It was even awesomer, as the designated driver, to be able to get us safely home in the dark and on unfamiliar roads. It's little things like this that make me wish I hadn't waited so long, but I manned up and did it!
I also manned up and wrote this!
Smiling dog: http://dogsome.net/smiling-dogs-make-you-smile/ds86-16/
11:17 PM, TUESDAY, JUNE 4 -----
I am unable to sleep because, in precisely 1 hour and 13 minutes, I am due to take my second dose of SUPREP. SUPREP, to borrow a phrase from Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, is a nuclear laxative. This is the stuff the doctor prescribes to cleanse the bowel the day before a colonoscopy.
I took my first dose at 5:00 PM. The doctor's instructions said to prepare the SUPREP in the morning and refrigerate it because it tastes better chilled. He was wrong. There is no way this vile, nasty, disgusting stuff can taste "better" chilled, hot or any temperature in between. The best way to describe it is to think of a slightly thick, slimy, exceedingly sweet, very salty cherry Kool-Aid. With every mouthful, I groaned, gagged, cursed, shuddered and took the Lord's name in vain. Richard said he didn't remember it being that bad, but this is a guy who actually rescued a freezer-burned pot roast that was destined for the trash, cooked it on the grill --- yes, GRILL --- and pronounced it tasty.
A friend of mine, Kay, had a colonoscopy several months ago. Her doctor prescribed OTC meds for her cleanse: 4 Dulcolax tablets, a bottle of Miralax and a 64 oz. bottle of Gatorade. I'm not a fan of Gatorade, but this regimen sounds far more palatable than SUPREP. Even so, Kay swears she hasn't been able to eat or drink anything that is orange flavored since.
2:08 AM, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5 -----
Memo to self: Never, ever sneeze after downing 16 oz. of SUPREP solution, followed by a 32 oz. water chaser.
P. S. Don't blow nose, either.
5:32 AM -----
After two hours of sleep, I was up at 4:40 AM to shower and dress since I have to check in at the day surgery center by 6:00. I am moving very gingerly because of the massive amount of nitroglycerin sloshing around in my innards. I dithered for a good five minutes over what pants to wear: dark blue jeans or beige capris. The jeans would better camouflage any accidents, but they were too tight for my bloated state. The capris, on the other hand, were stretchy around the waist, but would be very unforgiving if I sneezed. I finally decided on the capris, and prayed I would make it safely to the day surgery center, even though it is only five minutes away. I told Richard to please watch for potholes and no sudden stops.
5:54 AM -----
Arrived at the day surgery without any mishaps, but I was right to be worried about the drive. Richard chose a route through a residential neighborhood that, unfortunately, is pocked with speed bumps. He swears he just forgot.
After checking in, the nurse, Jodi, took us both to the pre-op area. I chose to leave my hearing aid at home, so Richard was pressed into service as my interpreter, just in case. Despite my preoccupation with the alarming rumbles in my tummy, I managed to lip-read quite well through the medical jargon. Score!
Just before wheeling me away to the OR, Jodi informed me that my urine tested negative for pregnancy. At the age of 54 (55 in August), it was good to know I was not in the family way. Sorry kids, no baby brother or sister for you.
The OR was huge! I had it in my head that the procedure would be done in a mini-suite outfitted just for that purpose, but this room could have held an entire transplant team. I was rolled over onto my left side and another nurse injected the sedative into my IV. I don't even recall feeling drowsy...
APPROXIMATELY 8:10 AM -----
...and woke up in recovery. Richard was sitting next to my bed talking with the doctor. After the doctor left, I got dressed, a little shakily, and then the nurse wheeled me to the car for the trip home. I was given a red envelope with post-op instructions that basically said to take it easy, don't drive, don't operate any heavy machinery, and don't enter into any binding contracts. The envelope also contained four pictures of my insides in all its Technicolor glory. I'm not real sure what purpose is served by giving me these pictures, because I sure as hell am not going to pass them around at the next cocktail party.
For a truly hilarious take on the colonoscopy experience, please read Dave Barry's column.
I go back in five years for another screening. Hopefully, medical science will come up with a better tasting alternative to SUPREP by then.
I've mentioned in a couple of blogs that I am hearing impaired. Actually, saying I am impaired is like saying the Great Wall of China is a fence. I'm not stone deaf, but certainly the next best thing to it, not that there is anything "best" about it. I've been told my hearing loss hovers somewhere between severe and profound. Call it profoundly severe.
With my hearing aid I can hear what I'm focused on --- such as conversation, television chatter, or music --- but background sounds will go unnoticed. To understand speech, it is imperative that the speaker be facing me so I can lip-read. Lip-reading is the only way I can take sound, separate it into syllables, and then string those syllables into words. If the speaker turns away I would still hear him, but he might as well be speaking Klingon for all the sense I'd make of it. My kids learned at an early age this fact of life that comes with having me for their mother. I remember doing some ironing one afternoon and Mitch, who was five, started yammering about his day in kindergarten. I heard him, but being in the middle of a particularly intricate bit of ironing, I didn't want to look up for fear I'd run the iron over my fingers. When I finally set the iron aside, Mitch, extremely put out by now, said, "Mommy, LOOK at me when I talk to you!" I suppose I should be grateful he didn't ground me and take away my privileges for a week.
It started when I was three years old. My mother was the first to notice something was not right. I wouldn't respond when she talked to me or asked a question while my back was turned. Nor would I come running if she hollered at me from another room. She took me to a doctor and the doctor very nicely told her she was being paranoid; that it was typical for little kids to be so absorbed in whatever they were doing, they would have the world --- and mom --- shut out. Given that I was able to converse perfectly normally face to face, she decided the doctor was right.
I turned four and a few months later, it's Christmas. My parents had gone to a party and left me with the babysitter, a high school girl from down the street named Nancy Marks. I have no idea why I remember her name all these years later, and generally I am truly awful at names. Anyway, I can see it now: Nancy sitting in my dad's chair in the living room, me on the floor at her feet, and she's trying to teach me the words to Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I had the worst time understanding her. Looking back, I think the reason for that was because she was singing the words, which distorted them, and also because the melody was in a higher pitch than a normal speaking voice, and I had lost my ability to hear in that range --- not that anyone knew it at the time. Over and over, I had to ask her to repeat what she'd just said. It made an impression on my small brain, and the next day I told my mother what had happened. I can only imagine what must have gone through her mind when I innocently confirmed her fears from months ago: Paranoid, my ass!
As the story goes, I am being tested --- presumably NOT by that first doctor --- and the doctor came out and asked where I had learned to lip read. My parents said I had never been taught; shoot, they were just now finding out their one and only kid had a hearing loss, but the doctor said I was the finest little lip-reader he had ever seen. It seems that while I was losing my hearing, something I didn't know was happening until the infamous choir practice, I was subconsciously focusing on the speaker's lips and teaching myself, again subconsciously, to "read" them. Obviously, I was much smarter than I looked.
What caused it? Probably antibiotics. There are a lot of ototoxic medications out there. Even aspirin, that so-called wonder drug, can temporarily disrupt a person's hearing ability.
My first hearing aid was a body worn instrument, a box a little smaller than a deck of playing cards. I had to wear a harness around my chest and the harness had a little pocket to hold the hearing aid. The aid had a long wire that ended in an earpiece that was inserted into my left ear. My mother, always looks conscious, made me wear the harness and the aid under my clothes, but there was no covering up the cord or the weird rectangular bump sprouting in the middle of my chest.
In the second grade, I got to ditch the box and the scratchy harness for a behind-the-ear (BTE) model that was much less conspicuous. Except for a period in the 90's when I gave in to vanity and wore an in-the-ear version --- a big mistake that was --- I have always worn a BTE aid.
Several years ago the ear drum in my "good" ear, which is like saying a D- is a good grade, ruptured. I don't know how it happened, except I woke up early one morning with severe ear pain. My ENT diagnosed the problem and said it would take several weeks for it to heal. During that time, I was really and truly deaf. I couldn't even hear the clanging of a metal spoon against a metal pan, even with my hearing aid turned up as far as it would go. My hearing did gradually come back, but there was some additional permanent loss as a result of that mysterious rupture.
When he married me, my husband never dreamed his vow to love, honor and cherish would include "...and call her gynecologist for her yearly Pap smear." Not surprisingly, Alexander Graham Bell's invention and I do not get along. I honestly can't recall the last time I picked up a receiver and said "hello" into it. Thankfully, email and texting are wonderful boons, and Skype has potential if they can ever synchronize the audio with the video. But for some things, like doctor appointments, I have to depend on Richard to make the occasional phone call. He's come a long ways from those first stammered medical conversations:
Nurse: Dr. Soandso's office! May I help you?
Richard: Ummm...I need to make an appointment for my wife.
Nurse: Certainly, sir. What does she need to see the doctor for?
Richard: Ummm...it's for a...(aside)...what do you call it?
Me (in background): Pap smear!
Richard: Pap schmear.
Suddenly, I feel like having a bagel.
Cat and friend: icanhascheezburger.com
That awkward moment: 9GAG.com
Zenith hearing aid: http://newgenerationhearing.wordpress.com/tag/digital-hearing-aids/
Man with "hearing aid": http://michiganhearingaidcenter.com/services
We have really bad vision in my family. I was reminded of this recently, not that I need any reminders, while shredding some old files for my mother.
To support this statement, I offer the above two exhibits. On the left, Exhibit A, is a list of all the bills my parents paid in January, 2003. Exhibit B, on the right, is another list of bills paid in January, 2004, exactly one year later. That is my mother's handwriting you see on both pages and, despite what it looks like, I can assure you she was not several sheets to the wind while she was writing the second one.
I remember, as a kid, squinting at my mother's cursive writing and trying my darnedest to decipher it. It looked nothing like the loopy Palmer Method script I was taught in third grade. Her handwriting was distinctive; so much so, that I blame it for the reason I quit believing in Santa Claus. One Christmas morning, when I was seven or thereabouts, it suddenly occurred to me that Santa's writing on his thank-you note for his annual Christmas Eve treat of cookies and Diet Rite cola looked suspiciously like my mother's. Ditto the writing on the gift tags attached to the presents that were supposed to be from the jolly fat man. Now that I think on it, the diet soda was another dead giveaway.
Anyway, I'm digressing. The cause of Mom's sudden poor eyesight was age related macular degeneration (AMD). The macula is the part of the eye responsible for close-up or central vision; the kind of vision we use to read, drive, pick the pretzels out of the Chex Mix, type blogs, and so forth. There are two types of AMD. The "dry" version is caused by an accumulation of deposits called drusen in the macula. In the "wet" version, the most severe form, blood vessels grow and leak. People with AMD have their peripheral vision, so they are not completely blind, but their central vision is obscured.
My father was the first to be diagnosed with AMD. His disease progressed very slowly, so slowly in fact, that he was able to read, drive, and spelunk through the Chex Mix for years with little or no trouble. My mother's AMD, as evidenced by the Exhibits above, hit her like the proverbial sledgehammer. AMD is believed to have a strong hereditary component and this must be true, because my father's sister and brother were both diagnosed with it. To add insult to injury, my MIL also had AMD. If the geneticists are right, this means my kids and I should be eating truckloads of carrots every week.
When Mom told us about her AMD, Richard and I immediately encouraged my parents to move to Dallas. They knew it was the right thing to do, but they resisted for a number of reasons: they didn't want to be a burden (as if dropping everything to make unscheduled trips to Houston to help them wasn't a burden), they didn't want to leave their home, they didn't want to leave their friends (who they hardly ever saw anymore due to their increasing isolation), and they just couldn't face the stress of a major move. It was an accident that finally forced their hand. My father ran a red light, one he did not see because of his poor vision, and hit a family, including a pregnant woman, riding in a pickup truck. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it scared the bejabbers out of my parents, as it should have.
When my MIL was alive, she would compensate for her bad sight by stepping into my personal space, that area we humans psychologically claim as ours. I would take a corresponding step backwards to reclaim my territory, and she, of course, would march right back into it. One evening, about ten minutes into this weird little tango, it dawned on me why she was doing this. She's trying to see my face! D'oh! Thereafter, for her sake, I would hold my ground, but it was an uncomfortable business sometimes. My MIL would be yakking away on some topic, oblivious of my discomfort, and it would take everything I had in me not to run screaming in the other direction. I liked my MIL just fine, and we got along well; I just don't care for conversation at such close range I can count the fillings in the other person's mouth.
We have a family card game, a variation of gin rummy, aptly called "Frustration". Every kid born on my side of the family tree is taught to play as soon as he or she is sick of Old Maid or Go Fish. My dad loved this game, and he never let his blindness get in the way of an evening spent playing cards. We used two special card decks we ordered from an on-line low vision store and those, coupled with a fantastic memory, kept him beating the rest of us game after game. I often thought if Daddy had applied himself, he could have done well counting cards at blackjack, back when he could see, of course, but he never did care to gamble.
These days, Mom and I --- her faithful seeing eye dog --- have fallen into a weekly routine. I take her to her doctor appointments, of which there are many. Help her with her grocery shopping, drop her off at the beauty salon, the nail salon, pay her bills, handle her correspondence, take her to lunch or dinner occasionally, and patiently listen to her reminisce about how much better things were in the good old days. I feel desperately sorry for her and wish there was something that could be done to improve her vision, even just a little bit, but she is far beyond any of the available treatments.
Given my age and the lousy gene pool I'm swimming in (my kids are young enough that they are just dipping their toes), I hope that someone, somewhere is able to come up with a cure soon or, if not that, at least better treatments. Honestly, I worry about this more than I worry about getting cancer, and for good reason: I am very nearly stone deaf. Believe me, I would not make a very inspiring 21st century version of Helen Keller.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has gotten a lot of airplay on the telly lately. Monk, the show about a San Francisco detective with OCD, won Tony Shalhoub, who played the title character, a bunch of Emmys and a Golden Globe. There was also a show called Obsessed on A&E that profiled real people struggling with OCD, phobias and anxiety disorders. Another A&E show that we watch from time to time is Hoarders, which can be really hard to take with its scenes of rotting food, waist-high garbage, scurrying cockroaches, squirmy maggots, animal poop, and squished kitty cats. For some reason, it's always cats, those supposedly agile creatures, that fall victim to the mounds of trash.
Personally, I think most folks suffer from varying degrees of OCD in one form or another. My mother was (and still is) a packrat. Moving my parents to Dallas six years ago meant downsizing them from a two-story house to a two-bedroom apartment, and the process was especially painful for my mother. The move was a huge physical and emotional wrench, and I tried very hard to be considerate and understanding, but my patience wore thin. We were on a tight schedule and falling so far behind, because my mother kept shilly-shallying over this pot or that picture, that I finally started throwing things into boxes just to get it done, thinking we'd deal with it once we got to Dallas and the pressure of the actual move was behind us. Despite the roadblocks, we managed to throw out an unholy amount of junk. Six years later, the junk we took with us is still with us, moldering in her garage. Occasionally, Mom will insist we go out there and sort through it. We'll spend 20 or 30 minutes pushing things around and then back in their boxes it all goes.
Like mother, like daughter, but for me, it's the garage door, for some bizarre reason. Since I'm usually the last to go to bed, it falls to me to turn the house down for the night, turning off lights, checking that the doors are locked, the cats are accounted for, etc. I will peek into the garage to make sure the door is down and then a few minutes later, will have to check it once more, just to be sure. I don't double-check anything else, just the garage door. Whenever I leave the house, I make sure the door goes down all the way as I back out of the drive and into the alley. Then, when I'm out in the street, I'll glance to my right through a gap between houses, where I can see my garage door once more and make sure it didn't sneak up while my back was turned. If I'm preoccupied and forget to make that important secondary glance, I'll hang a u-turn and go back. (Bet you didn't know that, did you, honey?)
In the interest of fair play, I think it's time I gave equal space to my 88-year-old father-in-law. He's a widower, having recently lost his wife of 65 years. Harry is in remarkable health for a man his age. Never had a cavity. Uses glasses for reading only. Has had one surgery in his life and that was for a hip replacement in his 70's. My husband jokes that his dad will probably outlive us all, but unfortunately, his mind is not doing so well.
The first time I ever met my future in-laws, in October '78, they arranged a cookout during my visit. Back in the day, Harry enjoyed grilling and he was quite good at it, a technique my husband has never mastered, darn it. Anyway, the food was served and my steak was delicious. In fact, I think it was the first time I'd ever tasted a steak that wasn't cremated into something with the texture of roofing shingles --- my mother cooked all our beef well done --- and this one was a nice medium. But I had a hard time enjoying the meal with the chef hovering over and around me, anxious to the point of panic that everything be perfect. It was a constant barrage of "Is your steak okay?" "I can put it back on the grill." "It's no trouble to cook it a little longer." "That looks a shade too red, are you sure it's okay?" My future MIL finally took pity on me and told him to back off and leave me alone. We are just now realizing how grounded Anna kept him all the years they were married, and now that she is gone, his OCD/anxiety is in overdrive.
Last week, my husband and his siblings bullied their dad into seeing a neurologist. He was not happy about this, but they were concerned on a number of fronts: some significant memory lapses, falls, and an occasional inability to string words and sentences together. They did an MRI and the doctor said she would call with the results today. Instead, it was my husband who got the call --- from a harried nurse pleading with him to please ask his father to quit clogging up their phone lines; he had called no less than twelve times. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the MRI did not show anything remarkable other than some slight brain atrophy that is very common in elderly people.
My husband and I are definitely members of the Sandwich Generation: still raising kids (or at least funding them) and looking after our elderly parents. It's not a fun spot to be in, but we've managed to keep a sense of humor through it all. I do know this --- when my turn comes, my kids will be fighting over me, and not in a good way, either. "I had her at my house the last two Christmases, now it's your turn to have the old bat!"
Since we moved my parents from Houston to the Dallas area six years ago, I have spent a lot of time cooling my heels --- along with other body parts --- in doctors' waiting rooms. Medical offices are set at temps cold enough to freeze the youknowwhats off a brass monkey. So are emergency rooms, hospital rooms, intensive care wards, and day surgeries. They claim that the cold inhibits germy growth. Personally, I'd rather take my chances with a bug than freeze to death, but that is not the point of this blog.
As anyone who's been to a doctor knows, the first visit requires a lot of paperwork: name, address, phone, insurance information, emergency contacts, and then it segues into the all-important patient history. Being both blind and hard-of-hearing, my parents depended on me to fill out their forms. I quickly discovered that Dante missed a tenth circle of hell, and that particular circle is found only in subarctic waiting rooms. It is impossible to be discreet while taking a patient history from an elderly parent who compensates for bad hearing by ratcheting up the volume. The following, or something close to it, happened not once, but, God help me, several times:
ME (leaning in, looking around furtively): When was the last time you had a bowel movement?
ME (leaning closer): A bowel movement? When was the last time you had one?
DADDY: YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO SPEAK UP!
ME (sighing): When was the last time you had a bowel movement?
DADDY (to my mother): WHAT'S SHE SAYING?
MOM: WHEN DID YOU LAST HAVE A BOWEL MOVEMENT?
ME: Can you keep it down? Geez...
ME (giving up): WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR LAST BOWEL MOVEMENT?
DADDY: THAT'S THE PROBLEM, I'M CONSTIPATED!
MOM: I THINK IT WAS WEDNESDAY MORNING.
DADDY: YOU SURE?
ME (to self): Shoot me. Now.
Then there was the first time I had to list my father's surgical history on a patient form. I managed to get through the tonsillectomy and the appendectomy and the dental surgeries without flinching, but when we got to the prostate surgery, I was in waiting room hell again. I thought he had it removed. No, it was reamed out, or as Daddy described the procedure for me and everyone else in two counties to hear, "THEY PUT A ROTO-ROOTER UP THE PENIS AND REAM THE THING OUT!" I swear on my life, those were his exact words. I don't know which made me wince more: the visual or the audio at full bawl.
Thankfully, my mother is long past menopause and sex. I can whip right through that minefield labeled "For Ladies Only". Are you pregnant? (Not bloody likely.) When was the date of your last menstrual period? (Around the time of the Nixon administration.) Do you have painful intercourse? (At 86, everything is painful.)
After the Roto-rooter episode, I typed up both parents' surgical histories and made copies for distribution. Ditto their medication. When there's a new doctor to see, I'll ask if they will mail the paperwork to me so I can fill it out ahead of time. These pre-emptive strikes have done wonders for my blood pressure. Now if only I could do something about the frostbite.
I can't believe it's been well over two months since my last blog. The costochondritis I complained about in a blog in July bloomed into a major ordeal that lasted for weeks, and sent me scurrying to specialists when something "funny" showed up on an x-ray. I'm doing much better, but still not 100%.
Despite feeling pretty crappy for a large part of that time, life went on. Our two younger kids are ensconced in college, our older son has moved out --- permanently, we hope --- and my husband and I are adjusting to having an empty nest.
The best part of the year, fall, is here. Cooler weather (we had a heck of a hailstorm Saturday night), college football, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and as I write this, the Texas Rangers are one game away from winning the World Series.
It's good to be back.
I've been a little under the weather for the past couple of days with costochondritis. Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the breastbone. This connective tissue is what gives the rib cage its ability to expand and contract. When the cartilage is inflamed, the chest wall hurts, sometimes so severely it's difficult to breathe properly.
I get these attacks three or four times a year and they last a couple of days. Generally, it's just an irritant on the order of a minor sore throat. It's there, it hurts a little, but it doesn't stop me from going about my business. But this latest episode poleaxed me. The tiniest upper body movement was painful, breathing was limited to very shallow breaths, and forget trying to sleep. It hurt the least if I stayed upright, and sleeping upright is not a talent I ever mastered, so I dozed in fits and starts. After a couple of lousy days, I woke up this morning feeling much better and able to breathe normally. I just have that wiped out feeling similar to what one gets after recovering from a bout of the flu.
In the middle of this attack, I took my mother to meet my aunt and cousin for lunch. My husband thought I was crazy and told me to stay home, but that would mean admitting to my mother I was not feeling well, and she's the type to go off the deep end if anyone in the family gets so much as a paper cut. It was easier to suck it up than deal with her drama. Besides, the lunch date had already been postponed twice.
I really don't know how I got through those two hours. I was forced to move very slowly, but my mother moves slower, and because she has to hang onto me when walking, my own ambulatory problems were, fortunately, masked by hers. I just wish she didn't hold my hand in such a death grip. Then, because I had no appetite, I was going to order tortilla soup, but realized I would have to assume that hunched over posture people use when slurping soup, and that would pile on more pain. I finally settled on quesadillas. After lunch, we walked, or rather my aunt and cousin walked, my mother and I shuffled, over to a little gift shop owned by a friend that I thought my relatives would enjoy browsing through. By the time we left the shop, said our good-byes, and shuffled back to the car, I was trying to figure out how I could get my hands on my mother's hydrocodone stash without her knowing about it.
At any rate, I'm feeling much better and hope I don't have another costochondritis attack like this last one.
P.S. In case you are wondering, no federal laws regarding the proper dispensing of prescription drugs were broken.
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