Ahhh! So, That’s What’s Wrong With Me

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Hauntings, Mom, No Whining

I realized the day after writing my last post, WTF is up with me?, exactly what was wrong with me: it’s January.

Over the years, it has become a month full of emotional landmines, one right after the other. My son LT has flown back to his father’s, the 5th is the anniversary of the death of a dear friend and also the birthday of Chooch’s deceased brother, the anniversary of my mother’s death from breast cancer, and my son’s 15th birthday (won’t get to celebrate with him this year either, thanks to finances) is in a week.

It was six years ago, also a Friday the 13th, that my brother called me and said the words I had feared hearing since her first occurrence of breast cancer in 1991.

I was fresh from the shower, rushing around and getting dressed to stay with my Mom so my brother could go home and sleep after spending the night with her. We knew she was near the end of her life and in clear moments she knew it and was scared. We never left her alone. It was bittersweet that she spent less and less time clear of mind as the cancer had spread into her skull and brain.

I was half-dressed and rushing to the kitchen to make a PB&J to eat in the car on the way to the hospital. I didn’t have a scheduled time to get there, in fact, in hindsight I’m no even sure I was expected that morning. I just felt an urgency to get to her as quickly as I could, waking hours before my alarm was set and bolting out of bed.

The phone rang and I immediately collapsed to my knees mid-stride and started crying and praying. My husband woke up instantly, which never happens, and answered the phone. He then came to find me and wrapped his arms around me on the dining room floor, telling me that she was gone, crying just as hard as I was. (I now have a begrudging smile, because I again recognize that there are no two other arms on this planet that she would want comforting me more than my husband’s. She adored him on sight.)

I knew what the call was (why else would the phone ring at 6:30 am) and immediately went from praying for her release from the horror of her life to begging for her to come back because I wasn’t ready to be without her. I needed her to teach me more, to make me a stronger woman. The kind of woman that could lift a burden from the heart of my children the way she could do for mine. Tirelessly and full of unconditional love. And I mean unconditional, because I was not an easy person to parent. I frequently rebelled, still do, even against myself. But I still needed her and suddenly was unable to imagine life without her presence.

Shortly thereafter, I reflected that to be in the room where your Mother is and know that this body, the one that you had been pampering, comforting and consoling, is no longer your Mother… well, it is the strangest bit of surrealism that I have ever experienced. My Mother was literally 2 feet away from me, but she was no where to be found. Still, I couldn’t help tucking the blankets around her feet as I always did, because they were always cold. I felt a fool when I realized what I was doing, but no one mocked me. Hell, wrapped as deep as they were in their own grief, they probably didn’t even notice.

So the subconscious knowledge that this day was coming, along with all the other anniversaries, good and bad, are what I believe to be my huge sense of being swallowed in negativity. In talking with my therapist about the dates mentioned above, the excruciating negotiation process in selling our home, an devastating ongoing family crisis that I am not free to discuss here (we are fine), frantically packing and selling everything we own without sentimental value in preparation for downsizing to a smaller living space, having a near-death experience with Kaylee and missing another birthday of my son’s – these have all managed to make this a real crapper of a month to get through after the stress of Christmas.

Happily, we have no fewer than four loved ones born in January to celebrate. And we got to ring in the New Year with people that rejuvenate us. Moving forward we also have the unexpected joy of taking part in the daily lives of powerfully close friends, and by extension, two beautiful young girls. This includes watching a dance recital for 3 and 4 year olds that was so magically rejuvenating that I could feel the weight of sadness falling off of me in chunks as we giggled and cheered their performances. I told their father that I wished for a pill that could impart what we were feeling as we watched these vibrant little spirits dance and twirl in front of us. Nearly all of the adults to a one were shiny-eyed watching not only their child, but also being charmed by the other girls, all of them working so hard to be brave with such nervousness and barely controlled frenetic energy. I found that it filled my heart containers to over-flowing and used the memory of the two sisters dancing together to pull me out of a panic attack the next day. The memory is truly powerful and medicinal to this old girl.

The highs and lows of this month, in addition to new health issues for myself and for my husband (we’re fine), have me both hiding and clinging to the people that give me strength, whether we talk about the hard things or the good things going on in each other’s lives. It’s just the being with them, the contact with them, that soothes.

I will go to Arlington Cemetery to take my Mom flowers and will return home to work on the book I am creating in her honor. I will survive the emotional landmines of January as the tough chick she raised me to be. And I will take time to revel in the joyful moments that occur along the way, exactly as she raised me to do.

I will love you forever, Pocket Mom!

Do Me A Solid?

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Breast Health, No Whining, Soulful

So, I like boobs and I’m guessing you do, too. Because of this common bond, I’m going to ask the following favors of you:

1) Get a mammogram if advised or, if not advised (male or too young), encourage a woman that has been putting it off to get one.
2) Only buy pink crap in October if you are buying it anyways. Otherwise, donate the money directly to a worthy cause. Then 100% of your money will go to the charity, instead of 2%.
3) Do a monthly breast screening, females and males. In the shower, with soap, grope yourself. Men get it, too. And boys, check out your danglies while you’re at it!
4) Realize that you are your own hero in cancer prevention, breast or otherwise. If you see something suspicious, regardless of where it is, GET IT CHECKED OUT!

I personally thank you for following the above steps, if you choose to. ♥

Unlike my FB and G+ posts, I’m going to add an additional favor:
Please give a moment of thought as to whether or not you have anything you would like to voice in my Breast Cancer Anthology. I have a few amazing works already, and have been promised more. I would love to include more writing, however, including images. If you are afraid you will not make it into the book, write it and send it along anyways. Sometimes sending things out into the world can be very cathartic. Also, you can submit as Anonymous, although, if selected, it adds a level of complication for the compensation.

Vivid Mommy

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Chooch, Dizzy, Dizzy, Family, Friends, Mom, No Whining, Too Long For Twitter, Vestibular Migraine

Just like millions of other people, Mother’s Day is a rough one for me because my mother is deceased. I’m also a mom, which makes it a very bittersweet day. When you add that this year, for what I recall as the first time in 20 years, I won’t see any of our kids, it ensured that I’d be avoiding social media and anywhere that I’d be inundated with the message that I don’t want to be reminded of. Yep, I’m bitter. Then I realized I hadn’t checked in on friends since yesterday and decided to check Twitter and make sure all was well.

As expected, there was a deluge of Mother’s Day wishes being exchanged. One that really touched me was by friend and author Mur Lafferty: “PT has made me toast and yogurt and a can of selzer and brought it to me in bed. “i didn’t know how to make coffee.” I nearly cried.”

On the other end of the spectrum, brand new dad Cheyenne Wright posted “A bit out of sorts. This is the first chance I’ve had to celebrate a Mothers Day in 18 years.”

That one got me right in my vulnerable spot. I closed Twitter as I realized my dizziness had kicked in with an anxiety attack and now-standard accompanying trembles. It was not at all surprising if you understand my current health situation, and I cursed myself for logging in. My husband unwittingly helped my through the brunt of the symptoms (Hey Chooch, this is why I was upset earlier), but I still feel the need to share something about my Mom today. I don’t do this easily because:

  1. I’ve been told in extremely loving ways that I need to try and move on from grieving her as I do, out of concern that it may be unhealthy;
  2. I’ve been accused of talking about my Mom and/or my health issues to garner sympathy for some unknown purpose, either witnessed by me or as reported by others;
  3. I’m not entirely sure Mom would approve of what I want to share.

To those from item 1, I say a sincere thank you for your concern. But my highly remarkable Mom left a massive hole in my world, and it is simply taking a long time for me to heal. In some ways, I never will because I will always miss her. That’s simply the price of having a jewel like her for a Mom, and I’m willing to pay it. Know that I’m making progress and doing the best that I can, and you should feel free to delete any message, change the subject, or ignore any posts. I expect nothing from you when the need arises for me to talk about her.

To those from item 2, I say without hesitation ~ kiss my ass. You don’t understand me now and never did, regardless of what you may believe. Yes, yes, I know, “Never feed a troll,” as it only encourages them. But I’m tired of not defending myself when I’m being vilified and disrespected to those I care about. So I’m using this post to “balls up” and remind myself that my Mom didn’t raise me to be a doormat. In fact, she specifically counseled me on the need to stand up to some of the aforementioned “item 2” people. I feel no guilt over including this paragraph, because they will only be identified to themselves and to those that they’ve trash talked about me. It’s unlikely that most of them will ever read this, except for some that may be looking for ammunition, but this is my little corner of the internet and I’m tired of censoring myself when others won’t.

And for item 3, I mean that Mom would probably not like this picture because she’s not wearing makeup. She was intensely self-conscious and hid from cameras most of my life. I’m posting it anyways, because later in life she embraced her silly side in fantastic fashion and stopped running from cameras. Also, it’s one of my very favorite pictures of her, as it documents a very special moment in our lives.

The tiny hair clips were part of her 60th birthday gift from me. I had gotten a basket and decorated it with silk flowers and ribbons and filled it with brightly colored hair clips, ponytail holders, barrettes, hair bands and a tiara. I wanted to celebrate that the chemo for her newly diagnosed breast cancer wouldn’t make her hair fall out like it did when she battled it in ’91, and it was insanely fun (and cathartic) to pick them out in the girl/teen accessory section.

When we realized that some of the little clips matched her vibrantly colored shirt, my sister put her hair in the little twists that my then-early-teenaged nieces were known to wear for a time, and we couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the spontaneous hairstyle and her reaction to it. A few months later her chemo was changed because it wasn’t working, and her hair promptly fell out. Two and a half years later she was gone.

But I present you with photographic evidence that my Mom was highly remarkable. Even when faced for a second time with the same life-threatening disease that she watched eat away at her mother and grandmother until there was nothing left of them, she was still able to laugh. And when presented with a gift that in hindsight may have unkindly brought the cancer back to the forefront of her mind, she giggled and was delightfully silly. As only she could be.

I won’t exaggerate and say it was Great Bravery or Courage documented in this moment, because it wasn’t. It was just a silly and spontaneous moment. And damned if it’s not one of the most treasured moments of my life. Isn’t she glorious?
Funnest Mom Evah!

This post is written to honor my Mom, Nat, Jaimie, Terry and Zach ~ five people who are no longer with us that are at the forefront of my mind. The first three I miss terribly. The fourth and fifth I never met, but because of their impact on people that I dearly love, I desperately wish I had. You are missed.

To 5k Or Not To 5k. That Is The Question.

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Exercise, Health

The vestibular rehabilitation (physical therapy for people with vestibular migraines) started the end of March, and the protocol is meant to desensitize my body to the dizziness/migraines by triggering the strongest possible symptoms and essentially acclimating myself to them. It will allow me to move around the world in a normal fashion. I hold out great hopes, since this and the medication appear to be my only options for treatment. So far, the exercises are effective in making me extremely dizzy, to the point of being nauseous and migraine-y afterward. So yay, I’m doing it right!

Sadly, after three weeks I’m not seeing much of a difference in the dizziness frequency, intensity or duration. Talking with the physical therapist on Monday, I was able to say that migraines are slightly lessened in frequency in the last week. Realistically, I’ve seen that fluctuate before and am cautiously optimistic at best. I return to the neurologist on Monday to discuss progress and possible changes to treatment.

My favorite part is that I’m moving again, and I’ve missed that more than I can express. My favorite medical related experience since this started was the cardiac treadmill stress test, where I had to work my way up to a steady run with three medical technicians mere feet from me in case I lost my balance. I was in a safe environment to run, and I ran my ass off to sheer exhilaration. It was invigorating, even though I was extremely sick the rest of the day.

Up until the vestibular migraines hit, I was training for the Thanksgiving 5k race, and was up to running for 20 minute spans without slowing my pace. I am very far from this now, but will get there again. I have to. I’ve started going with Chooch on his morning walks with Kaylee, and love it to pieces. Yes, I’m extremely dizzy after the short 1.5 or so mile walk. But I’m MOVING. And I feel safe because he’s right there with me.  I’ve taken one neighborhood walk by myself, and it was a bit longer. I don’t know if I’ll do that again until the dizziness is under better control, as I was very anxious that something would happen. And anxiety makes my symptoms much worse. See the conundrum?

I also love the walks because it’s just us. No twitter, no phone calls, no computer, and only Kaylee to distract us. *Squirrel!* Whether we talk or not, I just love it. We already do a lot together, which is normal because he’s my best friend, but I truly treasure this time with him.

I would love to be able to do my 5k route in the hopes of being able to do the upcoming Race for the Cure, but that would mean getting up even earlier since we walk before he goes to work. We haven’t registered for it yet since I’m so wobbly and never know from one day to the next what I’m physically capable of. We’ve participated in the Richmond race for the last 2 years, and I did countless races in DC in previous years (always as a walker). I really hate to miss it this year, especially since I know two people that are currently fighting for their lives from this horrific and demoralizing disease. It already took my Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother and I take it as a personal challenge to walk for all of them.

On a related note, a very dear friend today was saying that as bad as things are for him, he’s glad he doesn’t have to deal with my medical issues. I on the other hand, thank God every day that I’m not fighting for my life. I’ll take the diagnosis I was given GLADLY and with great gratitude.

I’m putting the decision on the race on hold until the weekend, when we will hopefully walk the distance to see how I do. *fingers crossed*