LITTLE WIRES – A DRAMA-FREE SOLUTION

selfie in gray teeYesterday, out popped two little wires that have been working their way through the healing scar of my pacemaker.

The first time this happened, it was one wire poking through next to the much bigger scar down the middle of my sternum. I pulled it out with a pair of tweezers. Quite a long piece. Very thin. Sharp. The moment I pulled it out, it stopped bothering me. The hole closed instantly and healed up in hours. Crisis averted.

Then everyone yelled at me for doing something stupid. I tried to explain the wire was loose and came out far easier than an eyebrow hair. I didn’t have to tug, just guide it out. It wasn’t attached to anything. Just a stray wire left behind by surgeons.

Now, I had to make a choice about the new pair of wires. These were very close to the pacemaker. For obvious reasons, I didn’t want to find myself with my heart in my hand.

On the other hand, I didn’t feel like making an appointment with a surgeon — requiring Garry to defer his trip to New York — then driving 140 miles, round trip. All of this so a surgeon can take a pair of tweezers (just like mine) and pull out the wires.

Or worse, decide to open me up just to see what’s going on. I’ve had enough of that, so no, thanks.

Screw it, says I.

I picked up my trusty tweezers, grabbed the wire and gently removed it. No pressure. It was less than a quarter of an inch long. The second piece was even smaller.

My pacemaker is still in place. My heart continues to beat. Those spiky, itchy, annoying little wires are gone.

Call me stupid if you want, but I can’t bring myself to make an epic drama out of a tiny piece of wire.

I JUST WANT TO FEEL BETTER – A MANIFESTO

I visited my favorite doctor last week. She is the only one of my original set of doctors I have kept. Despite her not being covered by my current insurance. She is irreplaceable. Unlike the rest of my doctors, she “gets me.” For me to start over and try to establish this kind of relationship with a new doctor? I’m not sure I’ve got that many years left to me. Or if there is another doctor like her anywhere.

I hadn’t seen her since before all the heart surgery in March, so we had a bit of catching up to. We talked about me, her, life, getting older, Garry, drugs and how some things — like marijuana — just don’t do what they did when we were young.

And the importance of feeling better.

The garden in front of the clinic where my favorite doctor works

The garden in front of the clinic where my favorite doctor works

Anyone who has been sick for a long time knows what I mean when I say “I just want to feel better.” There comes a moment in time when whatever is wrong with you has dragged on and on. It feels like an eternity, like forever. You can’t remember what it was like to feel good. You’ve done everything you are supposed to do and still, you feel like crap. Whether it’s cancer, recovering from surgery, anxiety, bipolarity, the pain of chronic illness — or any combination of the above plus whatever I didn’t mention — one day, you just want to feel better.

You really don’t care how.

Whatever it takes, whatever drugs, surgery, therapy, whatever. Just — make me feel better. I want a day without pain, without anxiety, without nausea. I want to feel normal or at least close. Whatever normal is. Because I am not sure I remember.

The problem is, doctors don’t see medical value in feeling better.

Feeling lousy isn’t a medical condition. And feeling better is not a definable goal for medical professionals. The doctor keeps telling you you’re fine … and you don’t feel fine. You are tired, in pain, crabby, unable to sleep. Nauseated. Exasperated. Fed up with everything.

Just two doctors — out of so many in my world — believe feeling better is a legitimate goal. One is my cardiologist and the other is my shrink. Technically, she is my psycho-pharmacologist, but shrink is easier to say. Her self-assigned task in this world is to help me feel better.

“After all you’ve gone through,” she says, “It’s what I can do for you. I can help you feel more like you used to feel before all of that horrible stuff happened.”

That she understands the concept  is nothing short of a miracle. So I’m going to keep her. Despite insurance.

I JUST WANT TO FEEL BETTER – A PERSONAL MANIFESTO – Weekly Writing Challenge

READING THE BOOK OF ALL-ANSWERS

Not Lemonade – When life gives you lemons… make something else. Tell us about a time you used an object or resolved a tricky situation in an unorthodox way.


The implications of this prompt are so far-reaching it boggles my mind. You mean there is an orthodox method for doing … everything? Is this written somewhere? I mean … you know … is there a book? Or maybe even a checklist? Does this require church membership and/or attendance?

In all my years on earth, I never heard about this and it perturbs me. Something so important, knowing that all things can be resolved by following some structured, orthodox rules … well … where were these rules when I needed them?

It reminds me of all the times in my life when I have found myself in one of those messes life tends to dump on me from time to time. No work, no money, no hope and oh, yeah, I’m dying. And there I am, without a clue as to what I’m supposed to do about all of it. Finding myself thinking and rethinking ways to save my home, my brain, my life … then eventually, sometimes through sheer serendipity (there’s that word again), discovering a way out.

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Never once did it occur to me I had done something unorthodox. Clever maybe. But unorthodox? As far as I could tell, what I mainly did was not give up.

I’ve done a lot of stuff other people thought was stupid, brave, or weird. They condemned me, admired me, envied me, and hated or loved me according to their natures. Never once did anyone imply there had been an alternative solution had I but followed the path of orthodoxy. Typically, most everyone was surprised I found a solution at all. I was usually as surprised as they were.

If you don’t believe in coincidence, my life won’t make sense to you. Not that it makes sense to me.

Here’s how it goes. There’s this guy. He knows a guy, who knows about a procedure. Which leads to a doctor, who has a lot of influence at a major hospital and finds my case interesting. So he invents a surgery, gets the hospital to do the whole thing for no money because naturally I have no medical insurance and am destitute. Donates not only his services but those of two other surgical teams … and I get fixed. I don’t die. I live so I can have yet another crisis. So far, so good.

I don’t know when I have used an unorthodox solution because I don’t know what an orthodox solution might be. If someone will send me the book, I promise I’ll get around to reading it, eventually. Maybe I’ll review it on Serendipity. Something this important shouldn’t be a secret!

 

NO PRANCING FOR ME

I went to the doctor today. I made a list of the things I needed to talk about, among them trying to get some Prednisone or something to make me able to actually enjoy my vacation in Maine in October. I just want a week off of the whole pain and misery thing. I checked with my cardiologist and he seemed to think a week of Prednisone would be fine, at least for my heart.

I know Prednisone is evil and will — with prolonged use — melt my bones. But really, I’m not asking for a long-term run. Just a week. One lousy week of living without pain.

Dr. Marc Jacobs filterHe said (really, no kidding, he said this), “I don’t want you prancing around like a 20-year old, hiking all over Maine.”

Prancing? Like a 20-year-old? When I was 20, I was wrapped in plaster from my rib cage to my knees following a spinal fusion and laminectomy. I can’t remember ever doing any prancing even when I was a kid. But hey, he doesn’t know me yet. If we had a longer relationship, he would realize what an absurd statement that is.

Not only am I not doing any prancing, but we’re sharing our vacation with our best friends. He will be one month past knee replacement surgery. She’s almost as arthritic as me and she is way past prancing. Garry is in better shape, but he’s not bouncing around either.

I pointed out I was unlikely to take up bungee jumping or mountain climbing, but the doc was convinced I would do something stupid and potentially damaging to what we humorously call my body.

“You’re 67 years old. You’re recovering from massive and extremely serious surgery. That’s reality. You aren’t healed yet.”

“When,” I asked, “Is yet?”

“Six months.”

“Six months,” I repeated. And I sighed.

I should be used to it. Maybe I am, but I don’t like it. Not at all. I just wanted a week off. One week, so I could walk, take pictures. Enjoy myself and not be in pain. Go out, find a moose unaware, take great wildlife pictures. In the wild, not in a zoo. But no. I have to be sensible. Bah.

I’ll deal with it. But I really wanted that week. One week without the pain. I guess it is too much to ask.

WHICH NUMBER IS AGE?

Age Old Question — “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?


Are you serious or just young? Because no one over 65 would posit a question like this without also laughing hysterically, possibly falling down and breaking a hip.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

Age it isn’t a number, per se. But it’s a number which will tell you when you can stop pulling the plow and collect your pension. Otherwise, it’s more like an ache in your back, a bag full of medications, and more doctor appointments on the calendar than parties.

It’s being tired, but never sleeping soundly but getting to stay up as late as you want and sleeping in. Every day, if you choose.

It’s discovering you can’t do “that” — whatever that is — anymore. Your brain is fine, but your body persists in arguing about everything and worst of all, winning most of the battles. It’s finally having plenty of time, but being always short of money. Lots of time to travel, but not much motivation to tackle airports and long car trips. It’s also discovering the joys of being home. Of having a home.

It’s realizing you’re smarter, wiser, more experienced than the kids and grandkids, but they don’t want to know about it. So you get to watch them make exactly the same mistakes you made. If they are of a creative bent, you can watch them make a whole bunch of unique (and sometimes weird) mistakes you never imagined and which, if they weren’t so destructive (or it were some other kids about whom you didn’t care) you’d find hilarious.

And with an inevitability like day following night, after using their creativity to shoot themselves in both feet … they will ask to borrow money. (Note: Loans to children and grand-children are not loans. They are permanent grants-in-aid.) Or perhaps move into your guest room. Or leave their dog/cat/guinea pigs with you “just until they get their lives sorted out.”

Life does not prepare you for getting older. Nothing prepares you for getting older. No matter how smart you are, it always takes you by surprise.

The best part of oldness? Not caring what the younger ones think. And, if you are lucky, you get to say (or just think) “Ha! You’ll see! Your time will come.” If they are lucky.

WHAT EMPOWERS YOU?

From the Top – Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.


What empowers you?

When you’re worried, frightened. When you’ve lost your way and have no idea what to do, what’s your game changer?

Is it a hug from a loved one? Encouragement from peers or colleagues? A visit to the doctor where he or she assures you that all is well, not to worry?

Information empowers me. Knowledge. You can hug me, praise me, love me, talk to me, but if I don’t understand what’s going on, I’m lost and miserable. You cannot comfort me unless I have information to process. For me, the head rules and always has. It is how I have survived and how I continue to live in a world full of danger.

Despite recent visits to doctors, something is happening. I do not understand. On my most recent trip to the cardiologist I learned that the painful lump under my right used-to-be-a-breast-but-is now an implant is actually a lump of twisted steel wire. No one told me after taking me apart in March, they wired me back together with steel, knotted the ends. Sometimes those wiry lumps saw right through skin on the chest.

I pulled one long wire out months ago. With a tweezers. It had poked through. In my defense, I didn’t know what it was. No one had told me I was wired. Or a few odds and ends may have been left lying around in my chest.

What empowers you? Are you satisfied with “Everything looks great” without details? I should have asked more questions.

pacemakerThe pacemaker guy tuned up my pacemaker. My heartbeat should never drop below 72. My pre-surgery heart rate was slow, around 50. Apparently 72 is the gold standard. Thursday, at the oncologist, my heart rate was 62.

I explained the pacemaker guy said it shouldn’t be so slow. They remeasured twice. It was up to 69 the final time. I decided not to worry. I can’t worry about everything; I’ll collapse from exhaustion.

My oncologist said (“Oh my God, that’s a lot of surgery!” ) heart surgery, there must have been CT scans plus other imaging of my chest. No one mentioned anything unusual — e.g. lung cancer. I agreed though I don’t remember. I was semi-conscious, unconscious, or in so much pain I didn’t know what was going on through much of my hospital stay. They could have done anything. I wouldn’t remember it.

Yesterday, the area around my pacemaker began to throb. It is Friday evening, so there’s no one to call. A sharp thing is trying to poke through next to the incision. Has a wire come loose?

There’s no one to call, no doctor to talk to. Information void. Garry asks me what I want to do. I have no idea. I don’t know if this is serious, if I’ll be dead before Monday. Or it’s nothing and I’m just making myself crazy.

What empowers me?

Information empowers me, comforts me, reassures me. The wire isn’t through my skin. Yet. I wonder if it’s a lead from my pacemaker that’s come loose, in which case is there anything preventing my heart from stopping?

What about that party this afternoon? Can I go? I’ve been looking forward to getting out, dressed up, some make-up. It’s been a long, lonely time.

What empowers you? What would you do? What should I do?

100 POUNDS LIGHTER AND SMILING

Can’t Stand Me - What do you find more unbearable: watching a video of yourself, or listening to a recording of your voice? Why?


I don’t find either unbearable. I spent a lot of years working in and around media. You get used to how you look and sound. I think most people get upset because they have an unrealistic idea of what they look like, what their voice is like. Familiarity makes it better.

superwoman-2-largerBut really, I’m just using this post to tell everyone about today’s visit to Beth Israel. This was my 3 month appointment where I got to learn how things are going with my heart and pacemaker.

EVERYTHING IS GOING GREAT!

Got that (sorry for the pun) off my chest.

It’s been a long time since I heard good news at a doctor’s office. The things I’ve been worried about turn out to be normal, bone and tissue still in the process of healing. It will take time.

The pain in my sternum will be with me for who knows how long. But the pacemaker is doing its thing. Though I suggested he turn it up so I could have a turbo-charged heart, the pacemaker guy said “Sorry, not yet. Maybe next time.”

I am  the bionic woman. Faster (not). Better (than what?). Stronger (working on that).

The new mitral valve is doing what a mitral valve ought. My previously blocked aortic valve is unblocked. Everything is good, good, good.

I feel 100 pounds lighter. Now, I can address the continuing deterioration of my spine. It can’t be fixed, I know, but there may yet be something that might lower the pain level long-term. So I can get out more. Walk a bit. I’m going to give it my best shot, anyhow. If there’s nothing more to be done, I’ll deal with it … but maybe there are options to explore.

Meantime, I am feeling as happy as I have months. Imagine. Good news at last. How amazing is that!

WHEN SH*T HAPPENS, SMILE

After major surgery, the process of healing is long and slow. Progress occurs in leaps rather than steadily. Periodically, you notice a jump in progress. Today I can stretch. Tomorrow I can pick up my dog. Next Monday, I can (slowly) navigate the stairs. Suddenly, I can drive and manage a trip to the grocery store, go out and take a few pictures. It’s all in slow motion, but it’s happening.

Surgical pain decreases. Incisions heal. Then, progress stops. That’s it. The surgical part of your resurrection is accomplished. The rest of life comes rushing back.

Speaking of back, the spine that didn’t work before still doesn’t. I can’t walk any better than I  could pre-surgery. The rest of my chronic problems are back too.

96-UP-NIK-33

While I am realizing how much my back hurts, everyone is telling me how great I look. How much better I must feel. I realize that — appearances notwithstanding — I don’t feel all that much better because what was bothering me the most wasn’t what they fixed. If I try to explain that, everyone tells me not to be so negative.

So I shut up. It’s natural, I guess. After all, I just had four different kinds of heart surgery so ergo ipso, my  heart must have been a major component in what was bothering me, right?

Wrong. My heart was failing but I didn’t notice. Impossible you say? Not really. It was a gradual thing which I attributed to asthma and other problems I’ve had for years. The bursitis in my hips bothered me most and my difficulties walking and doing stairs was less heart, more arthritis. My digestion has been a disaster for more than a decade, the result of botched surgery. That didn’t change.

I know the quality of my life is supposed to have improved. I know because everyone tells me so and I do mean everyone, including almost complete strangers. As far as they are concerned, the fact that I am going to (in theory) live much longer than I would have without the surgery signals a major improvement in my quality of life. Never mind that I didn’t actually know I had a problem with my heart and wasn’t concerned with it.

I was (am) more worried about a recurrence of the cancer I had 2-1/2 years ago.

75-UpBalconyNIK-35

The reality — which no one wants to hear — is life and its quality have stayed the same. Making me sometimes wonder why I bothered. I want to blame someone, but who? There are no bad guys in my scenario. I can’t even blame myself. Shit happens. A lot of it happened to me.

So I guess I have to keep searching to find the up side to all this beyond (maybe) increased longevity. I need something else. Even if that isn’t what everyone wants to hear.

YOU LOOK GREAT!

Binding Judgment

Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover — literally or metaphorically? Tell us about a time you did, and whether that was a good decision or not.


Don’t know about books. So many books don’t really have covers anymore! Houses, though … I’ve fallen in love with houses because they were beautiful only to discover they were falling to pieces underneath. Sometimes after I had already bought them, which (lemme tell ya) is a real bummer.

Home

And then — there’s me. The cover looks pretty good these days. If only the stuff underneath were half as healthy as the wrapper appears. Ah well. If one must fall apart, one might as well look good.

If you look good, you get the surprised “Wow, you look great!” from friends rather than the shocked deer-in-the-headlights face followed by a horrified “What’s the matter with you?” That can ruin your whole morning. I’ve gotten both and I prefer the first.

Now, I need coffee.

LIFE HAS SIDE EFFECTS

We say the same thing in a variety of ways:

  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Everything has consequences.
  • For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — Newton’s third law with a philosophically relevant twist.

It’s certainly true of medication. Whatever is bothering you, if you take something for it, it will do something bad while doing what you want. You may not be aware of the side effects, but that little yellow pill could be taking out your liver, kidneys or heart while getting rid of your headache.

Cracker jacks single boxMy migraine medicine makes me groggy and stoned. Time changes ones perspective. Dopiness was — in my wild and crazy youth — the prize in the Cracker Jack box. Remember Cracker Jacks? Stonedness has morphed into just another annoying side effect. I’m muzzy-headed enough without chemical assistance.

I’ve got a lot of physical issues. If I took something for each thing that bothers me, the side effects would be worse than the conditions for which I take the meds.

At a more innocent stage in my battle to continue living, I took whatever any doctor prescribed, to a point where no one could separate the cure from the side effects.

Ultimately, I became a medication minimalist, striving to take the least amount of whatever to achieve the desired result.

pills

Pain relief, controlling blood pressure and sleep are the things I take medication for — the big three in my world. I’ve got plenty of other problems, but I don’t take stuff for them — either because the side effects are worse than the problem or I can’t afford the prescription.

Allergies. Weird gastric stuff. Asthma. High cholesterol. Arthritis, rheumatoid and osteo. Tendonitis. Bursitis. Non-focusing eyes. And the potential for the return of breast cancer but in some new and terrifying permutation. There’s more, but honestly I can’t remember it all.

I was sitting here pondering what, if anything, is bothering me enough to take something for it. The headache? The dry, burning eyes? The itching dermatitis? The pain in my hips? Chest? The light and sound sensitivity that warns me my headache is heading into migraine territory?

Maybe I should just have a cup of tea. It seems to work for the British.

VITAL ORGANS WILL PLEASE REMAIN VITAL

Great Expectations - Tell us about one thing (or more) that you promised yourself you’d accomplish by the end of the year. How would you feel once you do? What if you don’t?


180-Me-5-20-14_11

I’ve promised myself to keep living right through the end of the year. I don’t know if I — myself — would be disappointed were I to fail, but I’m pretty sure at least a few folks would be a bit upset at my unfortunate demise. So I’m counting on lungs, heart and all those other vital organs (including the under-appreciated and oft ignored pancreas) to keep doing their things … so I can keep doing mine.

OH BRAVE NEW WORLD

It’s weird how something suddenly makes me realize how much the world has changed and not in a good way. Yesterday, I went to the kitchen to cut up an orange and a grapefruit. It’s a low-calorie healthy snack, right? I cut up the orange, dumped the sliced into a bowl. Then I cut up the grapefruit and put it into a bowl with the orange slices.

Whoa! I took a second look The orange slices were bigger than the grapefruit. Not a little bit bigger. A lot bigger. When did that happen and what have they done to oranges?

75-Orange-Grapefruit_3

Last summer, the strawberries got huge. They were closer to the size of plums than berries. Surprisingly tasteless, too. Somehow, I doubt it’s a natural mutation. They are messing with the fruit.

The grapes also got enormous last season and didn’t taste right. I won’t buy them anymore. What was wrong with the old grapes? They were entirely big enough and tasted delicious.

Meanwhile, my doctor thinks I might want to smoke dope and it’s actually legal to do it.

How ironic that I am less surprised by the gradual legalization of marijuana — its morphing into an all-purpose drug along the lines of aspirin — than I am by the genetic meddling going on with the food I eat. I don’t even know what’s in my food anymore. Is it still nutritious? Or is it a lethal time bomb?

Probably I don’t want to know the answer to my questions. It would just alarm me.

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED MARIJUANA?

“Have you considered marijuana?”

My head spun. Twilight zone? No, just my doctor suggesting pot as the right drug for me. It would deal with a variety of issues. He wasn’t even suggesting “medical marijuana” because though theoretically we have it, actually we don’t. Yet.

marijuana in my dreams

“Uh, yes,” I said. “The downside, other than the price tag, is coughing. Right now, coughing is a bit rough.”

“Take in more air when you inhale,” he said. “You’ll cough less.”

Right.

I grew up in a world where getting busted for having a couple of joints in your pocket could land you in jail for a very long time. A world in which marijuana was the gateway drug to a life of dissipation and degradation. Which would end with you face down in a gutter in some part of town where even the cops won’t go.

Now I live in a world where one’s doctors recommend smoking pot.

My mother was born in 1910 and passed in 1982. Growing up, horse-drawn carts were far more common than automobiles. She was a child during World War I, a married woman and a mother in World War II. She survived — somehow — the Great Depression and marched with friends and family in a spontaneous parade of celebration when the New Deal passed. Even though the Depression didn’t really end until the war came and brought employment to everyone who wasn’t fighting.

antique car

By the time she passed, there was cable television and home computers, two cars (at least) in every driveway. One day (I was a kid) I shouted “Oh look, a horse and cart!”

She looked bemused. “When I was your age,” she said, “We used to shout “Look, a motor car!”

And today, my doctor suggested I smoke pot. What a world, eh?

ITCH!!

For everything, there is a season. This is my season to itch.

First, you wake up from surgery in screaming agony and after a while, it subsides. Little by little, it goes from agony to misery. The misery lasts months, though if you analyze how you feel, you recognize under the pain layer, you’re feeling better.

Until the itching starts.

itchingFirst, it’s a tickle. A couple of days later, the prickly feeling becomes a torrent of itching. Which you dare not scratch lest you open up one of your incisions.

I have seasonal dermatitis too. It kicks in every spring and fall. It’s not a disease, so there’s no cure and by itself it can cause frenzied itching. And hey, it’s spring, sort of. A bit cold and rainy, but according to the calendar, it is spring. So my dermatitis has clicked “on.” Add that to the healing incisions and it’s a perfect storm of sensation.

You can get drugs to dull pain. Sometimes you can get drugs to make pain go away entirely for a while.

Nothing makes itching stop.

It’s a sign of healing they say. Me? I hate it.

IF YOU LOOK GREAT BUT FEEL LIKE CRAP, SMILE!

I decided to take a selfie this morning. I look pretty good. I walk like Quasimodo and mumble “Oy” under my breath a lot. My chest hurts … not only the new incision, but the implanted breasts my surgeon built a few years ago.

As I feared, they’ve taken a serious hit in the course of this mess. Putting on some kind of support garment helps some. Between my chest (new incisions and old incisions), my back (new damage, old damage, calcified damage) and the oh my God itching … it’s a symphony of sensation.

But I look fine. My hair hasn’t (yet) fallen out. It has thinned, but not completely disappeared and I’m glad I didn’t precipitously cut it off, though there were times in the hospital when it was stuck to everything, in my bandages, my food, my mouth … it was a very hairy world for a while. At that point, I was sure I should have gone for pixie cut, just for the ease of maintenance. And not having it adhere to absolutely everything.

selfie - marilyn - me 4-27-14

The discrepancy between how I look and how I feel is more than a bit weird. From the mirror, out peers a healthy-looking woman who can’t pick up a small dog or a frying pan and creeps around the house hunched over mumbling imprecations, mostly in Yiddish.

Garry and I have discussed this, how strange it is when you look fine but don’t feel anything like you look. How do you deal with compliments when everything hurts?

Answer: You say “Thank you! ” Then you smile, showing as many teeth as you have remaining in your mouth.

As Garry says, “It’s all packaging. As long as the package looks good, print the legend.”

UNDERNEATH THE PAIN, THERE’S ME

I had a spinal fusion and laminectomy when I was 19. For the next 45 years, I pretended I didn’t have a problem. I rode horses, climbed mountains, went sledding and skating and hiking.

Then, one day, thanks to an uninsured driver who T-boned me because she didn’t feel like waiting for a green light, everything changed. There was nothing for me to fight or overcome. There was a flapping noise and I knew my chickens were coming home to roost.

Marilyn again

There was no possible cure, no new surgery to repair me. If I didn’t take reasonable care of my damaged spine, I’d be in a wheelchair. I gave up the horses, sledding and other dangerous stuff, but kept up the walking, hiking and an occasional wild ride on a roller coaster. Until the lump of calcification on my lumbar spine grew to the size of a small soccer ball and the bursitis in my hips made everything hurt.

Still I refused to give up my feet in exchange for a chair or scooter. I’m sure if I stop walking, I’ll never start again. So I save renting an electric scooter for those rare times when we’re at a theme park or something else that requires lots of walking. I don’t have the endurance to spend a whole day on my feet and the pain would take all the fun out of it for me and my companions.

Mind you, there have been a lot of other life threatening medical events along the way. But none of the other medical problems, no matter how potentially lethal, limited my life the way the arthritis in my spine has. Apparently for the last few years, my heart has also limited my activities. I didn’t realize what was going on. I had no reason to think my heart wasn’t just fine. As far as I knew, it was okay. So I attributed all the symptoms to something else: asthma, allergies, whatever. Now, of course, I know better.

I plan to keep doing as much as I can. Right now, I can’t do much. My cracked sternum is unhealed. When it is healed — another 7 or 8 weeks from now — then I’ll see what I can do.

The pain — and there is a lot of pain — is like a separate entity, perched atop the rest of me. Underneath the pain, I think maybe I’m beginning to feel pretty good. It sounds weird, I know, but the pain is a layer — like evil frosting. Underneath, there’s the rest of me. That part feels better than it has in quite a while.

So, I have to let healing finish. There’s a lot of internal as well as external healing that has to take place and there’s nothing I can do to speed the process … but a lot I could do to slow it down!

Patience is not my strong suit as I’m sure you’ve guessed. But this time, I need to find it. I can’t hurry bone and muscle. Trying to force it is likely to prolong the problem, not shorten it.

It isn’t easy! Especially with the weather turning warm at long last.