Archive for December 2018

The Year (I was as sick as a) Dog Part 5

So as I was writing my series here, I got another indicator that my brains are still recovering a bit. See, I forgot to mention the fundraiser when I was telling my story! This was such an important thing to leave out, and something that was so important to this journey.

So, like many people, I’ve had trouble paying the costs of health insurance premiums. As a single woman with a freelance job, it doesn’t always work out for me to be able to hit them every month for a year and sure enough, this year my coverage had lapsed.

At the end of October, when my friends Laura Bealko, Jen Reilly, and Lauren McCullough realized I was doing very poorly, the three of them came to me with the idea of doing a fundraiser for enough money to cover my thyroid surgery. (Remember, this was before I found out it was my heart, not my thyroid.) I was a little reluctant. I was raised in a good old ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ type of household, and I hated the idea of asking for money from people I didn’t know. But I had to face facts. I was declining and just living was getting harder and harder every day. So I said yes, and these three angels put things together for me.

And then the proverbial heavenly choir descended. So, so many people donated, and so quickly! I was funded, and more, in less than a single day. I still don’t have words for how amazing everyone who contributed or passed on info is. I’ve spent the past 7 years serving the community to the best of my ability, trying to be a good smile and creative people connector, but this was the first time I had really seen (other than people who hire me, of course.) just how much people cared for me as a person, and the kind of impact I was able to create.

My friends, when I was a little girl, my mom died at the age of 37. When I turned 30 a few years ago, I took stock of my life and considered than in 8 years, I’d be older than my mother ever would be. That was quite sobering. Then I thought about the fact that despite how long she’s been gone (More than 30 years, she died in 1988) people still remember her, still speak well of her, talk about how much of a delight and a light she was as a person. I decided that was my life goal. Regardless of what you believe, the only real immortality we have in this world is in the memories of others. I wanted to leave memories behind like my mother did. That fundraiser was the first (and quite stunning) indication that I’d proceeded a bit of the way to my goal!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who participated in the fundraiser, and thank you to everyone who sent me a check, a paypal payment, or by whatever means. You are all angels in my eyes and although I needed it for a different reason, every penny has been more needed than I realized at the time it would be!

Thank you to my parents and brothers, for your love, hospital visits, much gas and parking and gummy bears spent upon. You were more of a comfort than you know.

And last but not least, thank you to my three archangels. You are beautiful people, and I quite literally owe you my life. Thank you for everything.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 4

Life lessons learned on the cardiology floor, continued!

Don’t take your life or health for granted. Period: This one hit me two ways. I heard so many codes called on that floor at all hours, and saw some seriously shaken nurses when someone didn’t make it. Life and death were all around me, and it’s times like that when you realize how fragile it is. The second way this one hit me was far more personal. Once I had started on my Pee Marathon, I had my eyes opened to just how sick I had been. My head was so much clearer once all the water started to come off that I realized just how much my mental function had suffered along the way and how much that had probably influenced my decision making and everything else. The truth was, I’d been slipping up on project deadlines and many other things for a long time, and it was only the kindness of others that saved me from disaster more than once. I’m going to make next year my year to work on my leg and numerous other issues!

Take Time Off: Some of us in this business are better than others and regularly schedule vacations and weekends. I’ve always tried to give myself nights and weekends off, but as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve found more than once that if I have only one task during a day, if I’m not careful I can make that task last the whoooooooole day! I (and you, yes, you) need time off to reflect, consider your business and your life, and appreciate where you are. If I could rewind, I’d’ve made myself take more than one pause, and hopefully I would have had time to realize how I was feeling, and how different it was from how I should be!

Gratitude: It’s in every silly meme on Facebook, and is touted all over the place, I know. You’re probably sick of seeing the very word. I know I am sometimes. But it’s also very true if you ignore the gnat cloud of sugary meme nonsense and think about what it really means. People will stand by you in a crisis in ways that you didn’t think were possible, and I think it’s vital to take the time to feel that presence, and what it means for your life. This can be your blood family, or the family that you make for yourself. Yes you could have more, or different, but there’s always something to be grateful for, even the tiniest of things. And when it’s a solid presence when you’re scared and alone, that’s no small thing.

Next post will be my last entry in this series, telling one more story, and shelling out some serious thank yous.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 3

So what did I learn from being in the hospital at 36 for heart failure? Plenty!

Periodically assess yourself: Many of the changes in my body and health were small things that accumulated over time. In the business and rush of my daily life it was really easy to ignore just how much I had changed, how low my energy had gotten, and how much I was suffering needlessly. I needed to stop, take a long step back, and really consider just where I was and what I was doing, instead of dismissing my own instincts and the words of others. (which leads to-)

Don’t dismiss the things you don’t want to hear: More times than I would like to admit along the way friends and loved ones told me that I was in danger, that my health was starting to spiral, and I needed to take stronger action. I pushed this aside for a lot of reasons, most of them things that didn’t matter in the long run, and certainly didn’t stack up when measured against how close I was to having a far less happy ending to this health saga of mine. Listen to the people who love and know you. You don’t have to do what they say, but if they’re good people, really stop and consider their point of view whether you like it or not. If it twinges, it’s often something that’s uncomfortably true.

Fix it now, not later: This is one I struggle with and have most of my life, as much as I try to fight it. If I’d paid attention and dealt with the problem sooner, it would not have taken me quite so long to beat it, and probably would have been easier to do in the bargain. Don’t let the needed things go, if you can fix it now, do it and get it over with. I can’t tell you the number of things in my life this has applied to, work or otherwise, and I bet many of you can think of the same kind of examples.

Take risks, even at the worst times: It’s a long, complicated personal story, but during this time, I gave my trust to someone close to me who had lost it a long time ago, and was astounded to find out how much that person had matured. They were willing to put aside some things that had kept us apart, and to see and help me as a person who needed it badly. (and not just the physical help of driving places but the emotional support of holy crap hospitals are scary!)

I’ll be delving into some more lessons learned in my next post!

 

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 2

I was 36! Congestive heart failure was something that happened to old people! What on earth could be causing this?

Bewildered, but still very sick, over the next couple days I endured. The local hospital did their best to run some tests and figure out what was going on.

The real cause of my swelling, my exhaustion, and my trouble breathing, and this reality of heart trouble had nothing to do with my thyroid. It was an old, complicated medical condition I’ve had for a very long time called an Arteriovenous Malformation. (I’ve linked an article if you want to find out what it is in more detail.) My AVM is a sizeable growth on my left thigh that has been there for about 25+ years. After some searching and attempts at treatment in my mid 20’s, I had kind of given up doing anything about it, other than enduring the regular pain. My treatments hadn’t been covered, and were expensive and difficult to manage on a grocery store job insurance/paycheck.

But as the local hospital was bundling me up and sending me to the big city hospital, I was discovering that all this time, the bad connections in my growth had been putting strain on my heart, and this was what was sending me into heart failure.

I settled into my new room, with the cascade of doctors and residents that comes from being in a teaching hospital, and began the long road back to some semblance of health. The first thing I had to do was pee.

A lot.

Seriously. Apparently all this swelling on my body was not fat as I had thought, but as often goes along with heart failure, it was water. With lots of medicine, I ended up 64 pounds lighter! And at this slimmer, svelter size I was finally able to undergo the definitive testing that would allow the doctors to take measurements and do scans that would pinpoint what they needed to do and where to go next. The scans and relevant indignities undergone, they sent me home just in time for thanksgiving. (And oh was I thankful.)

But those 13 days in 2 hospitals gave me a lot of time to think, and I wanted to share some of these thoughts with my friends, colleagues, clients, and dear readers in general–you’ll find some of those in the next post!

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog

It began like any other year. 2018 was going to be another great year for my life and my business, and I had so many plans to bring forth of things I wanted to do, words I wanted to write, and conventions to sponsor and go to. I was excited to begin another year and see where it took me and my little business.

My illness didn’t start out in any big ways. Around February I noticed that I felt more tired than normal, and that my throat was kind of swollen. I went to my regular doc, and she told me that I was having thyroid troubles, that there was a growth on my throat. It was kind of an ironic diagnosis, as I have a scar along the base of my throat from a nodule removal 25 years earlier! It seemed that my thyroid had decided enough was enough, and it was time to kick it in.

Over the next few months, I struggled through a mish mash of misdiagnosis, poor choice in doctors, long waits to get in to see the right doctors, and many other errors. What I didn’t notice so much while all this was going on was my continually lowering energy level, and my continually swelling size. When I did become conscious of these things, I dismissed the tired from the thyroid, and my swelling size as being part of an unfortunate natural tendency to gain weight, since I didn’t have the energy for exercise any more either. Once I had finally seen the right doctor, I set up thyroid surgery for the source of all my problems.

Or so I thought. As the weeks went by, my body swelled further, and I began to have a continual cough and significant trouble breathing. I continued to believe it was all my thyroid, but at the urging of my friends and family, I finally went back to my regular doc to get checked out. My hope was that she would clear me for surgery. She took one look at me and sent me to the ER.

At that point, I was too tired to care. My mom drove me to the hospital where my thyroid doc had an office, and I quietly waited through the considerable waiting for anyone who doesn’t have a life threatening injury in the ER.

My initial diagnosis stunned me. Congestive heart failure.

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