Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)

I haven’t written anything in the last year.  It’s been a rough one.
I started hemodialysis in November 2012.  It was traumatic and painful.  Try sitting in one position with your arms tied to your side for four and a half hours.  Your limbs fall asleep.  If you itch, you can’t scratch.  Sometimes the needles hurt during the entire treatment, not just at insertion and extraction.
I spent eight months in tears--frustrated and exhausted.  Hemodialysis sucked the energy out of me.
My family pulled away, acted like I no longer existed.  My mother never checked on me or asked how I was doing.
My Dad died within three years of going on dialysis, and it seemed that my family assumed that I was as good as dead.
But I am not my Dad.  My stubborn Dad who refused to follow the kidney diet, did not always take his medication properly, who had four heart attacks and by-pass surgery before he ever went on dialysis.  My Dad gave up after having a second leg amputation.  He never even considered a kidney transplant.
I am looking toward the future. I expect to have a kidney transplant, so I do everything my treatment requires.
Life is never what you expect.  My Mom expected me to die soon.  Instead, she died of an unexpected heart attack in March.
Yeah, it’s been harsh.
I decided to have the surgery to install a catheter for peritoneal dialysis (PD), which can be done at home while sleeping.  I did not tell my family before doing this.  My Dad died shortly after choosing this surgery, because of organ damage that was detected during surgery.  His surgeion did not complete the procedure.
My procedure went well.  I had been happily on PD for three weeks when something went wrong.  My catheter, instead of floating free in my abdomen, curled up and imbedded itself under my skin--a very rare complication.  It can be fixed.  The catheter must be removed and a new one inserted.  The surgeon will use a different type of catheter and position it where there is less pressure on it.
Meanwhile, I am back on hemodialysis and I am not happy about it.
That is an understatement.  I had to be sedated after the doctor gave me the news.
PD was a glimpse of a good life--no big honkin’ needles, no having to spend 18 hours a week on the process of dialysis, no exhaustion.  I got more done in those three weeks than I did in the six months before PD.  Already this week I have had to take naps every afternoon.
As I approach the new surgery, I am rejecting all of the negativity my family has projected upon me.  When I told an aunt about my surgery she asked, “Isn’t that the surgery that killed your Dad?”
I will welcome only positive feedback and encouragement.  This is a temporary setback, not a permanent problem.  I will just gut it out for the next three or four weeks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

I’m not a girl who cries--as far as anyone else sees.  I spent most of high school and significant time on one job in the women’s room where no one could see the tears.  

I spent my young years in a relationship that made me cry almost every day, but I learned that isn’t love, and I left him and the tears in a galaxy far, far away.  Then my first marriage turned abusive.  Crying and fear seemed to give the man more power, so I turned my face to stone and learned to never cry.

Usually my tears are the result of anger or frustration.  It would be preferable to simply slap the offender but that’s uncivilized and usually illegal.
One friend worried about me for years because I would just shrug and walk away when demeaned or injured.  She dragged me to tearjerker movies in the hope that I would let it all out.  But I never cried over manufactured emotion.

I once slammed my hand into a fire door--those suckers are heavy--and shed not a tear.  Hopped around on one foot repeating a particular four-letter word under my breath, but no tears.
Recently I have been undergoing a series of eye surgeries.  I do my best not to cry, even when the procedure is painful.  I am determined to allow my eyes to heal as quickly as possible.  Crying is not on the medical agenda.

This summer something shifted.  I sat watching my Facebook page change by the minute with news and photos of the Waldo Canyon fire and the destruction it left.  Friends posted their evacuation status.  I switched back and forth between my page and Colorado Springs news sources--and the tears flowed non-stop.

I grew up as an Army brat.  I attended 16 schools before graduating from Palmer High in Colorado Springs.  I lived in that city off and on since I was eight years old--third and fourth grade, half of seventh grade, high school, then college.  I moved to Denver for graduate school and did not return for 24 years.  I didn’t last long when I returned; I couldn’t find a job and finally moved to the Four Corners area for work.

During the years I lived in Denver I traveled.  People would ask where I was from and I would respond that I lived in Denver.
“But where are you from?” they would ask.  And I would have to explain growing up Army.  Many military kids don’t have a sense of hometown.  I moved so often that sometimes my only bit of stability was the bed pillow I insisted on carrying everywhere.  That pillow was re-covered and re-stuffed so many times that it wasn’t the same pillow with which I started.  It was only last year that I threw it away.

Moving meant leaving behind clothing, toys and anything deemed unnecessary.  When I left Colorado Springs I took only what was necessary, but kept my memories.
Our house in Colorado Springs was near the top of a hill on the west side.  A short walk up the hill gave us a spectacular view of the Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak and the horrid strip-mining scar on the mountain.  We walked around Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs.  We used Highway 24 to Woodland Park to practice snow driving.  We went to the Flying W Ranch to sing with the cowboys because it was hokey and fun.  Whenever I returned to visit family, those same landmarks of my childhood were there.

I watched on-line as those landmarks changed or were destroyed.  And I cried until my eyes swelled because I realized that I do have a hometown and it is Colorado Springs.

My heart is with those who have lost their homes and the playgrounds I enjoyed in my youth.  They are my family.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Can See Clearly Now

Well, not really. But I can see much better than I have in the last three months. I had my second laser surgery last week to clear up my diabetes related vision problems. I still use the magnifier on the computer and need to use a magnifying glass to read, but I can see to walk and drive now.

I should probably just get used to using large print from here on out. No need to strain these eyes any more. It’s scary to think that I can never practice law or be a librarian again because of the vision limitations.

I am just grateful to see more than shapes and colors. And happy to get healthier every day.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Doctor, My Eyes

The past month has not been fun. On Friday December 9, as I left a holiday party, the vision in my left eye went out. It looked like someone drew black lines on my glasses and then smeared mayonnaise on them.

On Monday, the vision in the right eye blew out.

I was virtually blind. I could see shapes and colors, but could not see the detail in a face.

After arguing with the eye clinic and having the insurance company affirm my coverage I was able to see the doctor on Tuesday. The diagnosis was diabetic related bleed in both eyes. I have had a few floaters in the past year, but nothing like this. I suppose that after 26 years of being diabetic, I am fortunate that this did not happen long ago.

I was told to sleep sitting up--a true pain in the back and hips. I stopped my daily 81 mg aspirin and avoided shaking my head.

The first few days were scary. I made coffee by feel. Once when making iced tea, I poured the Stevia on the counter. I gave up and just slept a lot for a few days.

But I had a column deadline for the Denver Post on December 16 and I needed to quit feeling sorry for myself. I was able to meet deadline by typing the thing with a 48 point bold font, and with the assistance of my husband, an excellent proofreader.

Christmas shopping had to be completed on-line, with the zoom set at 4x. I could not read on websites that used light gray or blue print, no matter how much I blew it up. I had to give up my addiction to advice columns for a couple of weeks.

The worst thing was that I could not go anywhere.

I have always been independent, and depending on my husband to get me to doctors’ appointments was difficult. He was kind and concerned--much more patient than usual. I jokingly called him my ‘seeing-eye-husband.’ But in truth, that was exactly what he was. I could not see well enough to keep my balance, so I clung to him. He verbalized the curbs and other obstacles in my path.

He did forget once and at the butcher counter asked me to take a look at a roast. “Just sling it onto the counter,” I snarled, “I’ll give it a feel.” Later we could laugh at that.

Our friend Lynn stepped in and made the Christmas dinner for me. I still made my trademark Sachertorte. I expected it to be funny looking, as the frosting is difficult anyway. but I did it and it was great.

Slowly my vision began to return.

Then one night I was listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer on a PBS show about excuses. His last suggestion was that instead of spending the five minutes before falling asleep fretting about the day’s mistakes, we should think about how great we will feel when things go our way. So I tried it.

I thought about how great I was going to feel when I finished my article with an upcoming deadline. I thought about how great I will feel about being able to drive again when my vision returned.

I finished the article two days early. And the vision has improved enough for me to drive safely.

I am scheduled for laser surgery to correct the problem on Tuesday January 10. And it’s going to be great to fully recover my vision and not worry about losing it again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hot Stuff

I do like to play with my food. I like the recipes I grew uo with, but sometimes you just have to switch things around.

I have created types of tamales that are not your normal pork or beef. I add different things to the lasagna all the time. My Texas Chili has lima beans in it. I just cannot help myself. These things just fall out of my kitchen.

This week I took an old standard and decided that it needed a little change. The hubby loved it! And it was so easy.

Shrimp & Sausage Stuffed Peppers

1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice

1 cup water

1/2 pound shrimp, cooked, peeled and rough chopped

1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, cooked and sliced into thin rings

1 large tomato, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

paprika to taste

salt and pepper to taste

4 bell peppers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 20 minutes. (I use a rice steamer and follow those directions. At high altitude it takes about a 1/4 cup more water.)

Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers. Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides up.

In a bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Spoon an equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper.

Optional: Pour marinara sauce over the stuffed peppers.

Bake 1 hour in a covered baking dish, until the peppers are tender. Check occasionally to be sure peppers do not dry out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Name Game

I would like to know why it is so hard to say or spell my name correctly.

My name is Jo Ann. Two words, no e. No, there is not an e anywhere in my name, unless you count my confirmation name.

I was named after my dad and his mother. His name was Joe. His mother’s name was Viola Antonia.

Mine name came out Jo Ann Viola.

That’s VI-ola, like the flower, not VEE-ola like the instrument.

I once worked for a man who introduced me as VEE-ola. No matter how many times I asked him to pronounce it correctly, he would grin and pronounce it wrong. This did not win respect for him. And what a silly thing to carry power over.

I go to the doctor’s office and I get called Joan, Joanie, Jane or Diane. I worked for a judge who persisted in calling me Maria. Don’t ask me what that was all about. I got called Maria for five years, even though I never responded to the name.

I don’t answer to Jo. My Dad was Joe, my brother, three uncles and a cousin were all Joes. I have two nephews named Joe. My name is not Joe.

My husband is the only other person who spells my name correctly. It’s probably one of the reasons I married him.

My siblings spell it Joann, JoAnn, Joanne or any variation of that. Gmail and Facebook insist that I spell it JoAnn; neither will allow for the space.

My alma mater’s computerized system threw me out because of the space in my name. For more than a year the registrar told prospective employers that I did not graduate from that fine institution. I’m still mad about that. So now I’m in there, but my name is misspelled. I’d send them a contribution, but I can’t spell my name on a check.

Last week I was spelling my name in an office and the receptionist actually argued with me about the spelling of my name. She said it could not be Jo Ann without an e.

And I just noticed the other day that my name is spelled wrong on my driver’s license. How and when did that happen?!

I’m not winning this argument.

Even my mother calls me Joy-Cin-Ann-- oh heck, she yells, you know who you are!

Yeah. Apparently, I’m the only one who does.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

San Francisco

I came home from our San Francisco vacation needing a vacation.

I had walked my legs off, and on the way home caught some kind of 48-hour bug that gave me a fever so bad that I just sat and shivered.

We got home, looked at each other and said-- see ya in a couple of days.

As sick as I was, my husband did not want to be around me long enough to catch whatever it was and I do not blame him. It has taken me more than a week to get back to normal.

We had a good time though. We stayed in Oakland and took the ferry into the city-- much more civilized than BART and just as fast. Subways are a great thing, but they tend to attract the strangest people. Plus there was the added anxiety about possible protesters at the stations. We’re just tourists; we just want to get from here to there, safely and efficiently.

The show we were supposed to see in Berkeley cancelled; Rita Moreno was sick. But we went up the street to a lovely little French bistro and had the most delectable lunch.

We walked Chinatown. We met friends at Pier 39 the next day, wandered about and laughed at the sea lions.

A couple of times we just sat in Jack London Square, held hands and watched the water and the birds.

I think I liked that best.