ON THE ADVICE OF MY SPIRITUAL GUIDE …

Warning: This is a rerun — with editing — but it so precisely fits the requirements of today’s Daily Prompt: Discussion Enders, I could not resists doing a little revision and posting it. I quite like this little post. It makes me laugh every time I read it so maybe you will laugh too. We all need a laugh.


As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place. I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will make movies I like, though occasionally they release something I love (like “Quartet,” a movie Dustin Hoffman directed in 2012). I’ve stopped trying to adopt new music and most new television shows.

I’ve renounced trying to figure out what’s going on with the Red Sox.

Some stuff gave me up. Some people gave up on me Other things, I gave up more or less voluntarily. In the end it works out to the same result.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was for religious reasons.

UU Steeple 4

No one ever asks me what I mean by that. But just so you know, here’s my secret … obviously a secret no more …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. No one wants to offend me by asking for the details of my religious beliefs. Who knows? They might turn out to be embarrassing or merely bizarre. Thus my all-purpose answer to everyone is “on religious grounds,” “for religious reasons,” or “my spiritual adviser required it.”

What power these words hold. They can make pretty much any conversation vanish without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!” 99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

Because I’m fine. For religious reasons.

ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS

As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place.

I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will produce movies I like, though sometimes, much to my delight and surprise, they release something I like a lot (remind me to tell you about “Quartet,” the movie Dustin Hoffman directed last year). I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows.

Some stuff gave me up. Other things I gave up voluntarily, but in the end it comes out the same.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was on religious grounds.

75-Choir_HP-23

No one has yet asked me what I mean by that. But just so you, my faithful readers, know the secret …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. Since no one wants to offend me by asking about my religious beliefs, I can make pretty much any conversation go away without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!”

99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

I’m fine. For religious reasons.

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

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.

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!