FIRMLY UNRESOLVED

To Be Resolved — We’re entering the final days of 2014 — how did you do on your New Year’s resolutions these past 11.75 months? Is there any leftover item to be carried over to 2015?


I have stuck to the letter, comma, and sub-clause of my 2014 resolution, which was to not make any resolutions. Despite that, I promised myself I would make every effort to live through the year. I would not give up.

We can’t control the outcome of multiple heart surgeries. Nor can we control the rate at which bones knit — or fail to knit. We can control some of the variables. Make sure we take medications, eat sensibly, get to appointments. Do what is within our power to help the body recover from the assault on it. But after that?

The rest is in the hands of destiny. God, if you believe in that. My job, for all of 2014, was to nudge destiny in my preferred direction, which is to say, keeping alive.

December 22, 2014. I am not where I hoped to be, but not so bad. My heart is doing pretty well. The new valve works. The redesign of the left ventricle and the arterial valve were successful. The pacemaker is pacing, My blood pressure is sometimes weird, but more or less normal.

My cut-in-half breast bone has not knitted. It grinds and grates. I can hear it when I move. It’s particularly unsettling at night as I shift in bed. The grinding of bone-on-bone is an ugly sound. I’m amazed at how many different activities affect ones breastbone. Who’d have guessed?

No one can predict when my chest will heal. The answer is “In its own good time.” Not very doctorly. In the movies and on TV, doctors have answers. They know. In the real world, doctors have a pretty good idea, based on experience, how a procedure, surgery, or treatment will play out. But patients are individuals, so while a doctor’s best estimate could be accurate for 70% of his or her patients, that leaves a lot of wild cards. Of which I am one.

At this time last year, I was not sure I’d be here to celebrate Christmas. I was facing a terrifying surgery that turned out to be four terrifying surgeries and a couple of other procedures … much more than even the surgeon expected.

As to the million dollar question. “Do you feel better than you did before all that surgery?”

That’s a hard one. Though I was kind of dying, I didn’t know it. I attributed breathing issues to asthma and mobility problems to progressive, crippling arthritis. I’m lucky I can walk. As soon as the calendar flips over, I’m off to get shots to see if the pain can be better controlled. From my perspective (as opposed to a doctor’s viewpoint) my main issue is finding ways to control pain.

The answer to “Do you feel better?” is — “Define better.” I don’t feel better, but I am better.

I breathe better, but don’t walk better. I hurt more than last year, but the internal workings are in better shape. The surgery didn’t address the stuff which was bothering me most.

My spine can’t be fixed.

My best choice is to learn to accommodate. Anyone with chronic, disabling medical problems knows what I mean. There’s no enemy to battle and conquer. Direct confrontation will not win the day. It will just leave me exhausted and defeated. I need to be cunning, wily, and sneaky. I have to stay patient, adaptable. Be creative. There might yet be a breakthrough in pain control.

I live in hope.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

34 thoughts on “FIRMLY UNRESOLVED”

  1. Am a little speechless. So much fiddling around with the internal body functions is not exactly ideal. You have a lot to deal with, but you are now the bionic woman, although you probably do not feel like it. I only have a bit of steel in my arm, but you are superwoman. I hope that the breast knits together and no longer creaks, and I think I have problems with my creaking hips. You are a stainless steel, perfect golden oldie and I admire your perseverance and determination.

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    1. As we point out to each other — what other choice is there? You either cope or you lay down and don’t get up. Since I find lying down uncomfortable and boring, I guess I’ll just stumble on. I assure you, NO ONE had less desire to go through all that surgery than I did. But the alternative was death. Since I prefer life, I went with door number two.

      We are all bionic these days. My husband has eye implants and hearing aids, you have a steel arm, I have a pig valve and a pacemaker and silicon breasts. And a few other things. My main problem is I’ve run out of spare parts. I sure hope I never need more renovation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My dad got a pacemaker this year and he is 99, so there is always hope. At the moment I seem to have an attachment to my bed, especially after my golden oldie midday sleep. I do not want to leave it, but must, the daily prompt calls. Mr. Swiss lives in fear that I fall down. Last week I did, not so bad, but I could not get up again. He sort of lifted me and I managed. This old age thing does have a few surprises.

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        1. I’ve gotten a lot of “helpers” to keep me upright. An adjustable bed (REALLY HELPS A LOT). Special seats for the toilets that let me get up more easily. A shower stool so if I’m feeling unbalanced, I can sit safely. I live in terror of falling. I did fall about a week ago and had to figure out how to get back up. It was complicated, even with Garry’s help. Fortunately, I had furniture nearby on which I could hike myself up. You are right. This getting older thing has more than a few surprises and most of them, not so much fun.

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  2. First of all, I am glad you are here. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I am in an adjusting phase as well. I got diagnosed with RA this year, painful little bugger. But…I decided to research it myself a little bit. Didn’t like the word “not curable” that much :-). Living with it, make life worth living has been a challenge, but to my surprise I succeeded so far (knock on wood). I gave the doctors the prescription back and their faces were priceless 🙂 I hope your chest will heal. I hope your will learn to cope with the rest…and if you ever want to vent come by one of my blogs…I can listen 🙂

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    1. I try not to dwell stuff I can’t fix, but I’m always looking for workarounds. I’ve been living with this since I was a teenager. I ignored it successfully for more than 30 years. Then, it stopped being ignorable. I have RA too, in addition to osteo — but my RA is mild. Except at its initial onset 40 years ago, I’ve never had to treat it. I have friends who have not been so lucky. There is RA — and then, there’s RA. For me, RA has always been a minor issue. The big one has been the spondylolithesis, stenosis, spondylosis, calcification, and bursitis mess in spine and hips.

      I have been trying to weed through all the blogs to which I have subscribed over the past couple of years to get the number a bit more under control and also to leave some time to add new ones … and write without feeling that I’m under the gun. Can you send me a link? I would like to visit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh boy. I have two blogs and please don’t feel that you have to visit or even like my blogs, just because I love yours. I just changed my blogging rules, even made a post about it http://nonsmokingladybug.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/new-blogging-rules/) that’s why you read me more. One blog is about my journey how I quit smoking and adjusted my life http://nonsmokingladybug.wordpress.com the other is about my passion cooking and trying to combine both worlds (America and Europe) in one pot tastehttp://mywitchkitchen.wordpress.com/. My RA was severe, to the point were I could not get up without pain. I couldn’t go up and down the stairs anymore. They put me on steroids (what I hated) and suggested a RA medication with a list of side effects longer than my arm. A friend of mine made me watch a movie on netflix called “fat sick and almost dying”. I was furious with the title. The movie opened my eyes a little bit and then I started researching in other countries. Italy, Scandinavia, Austria, France and my eyes popped wide open. RA and food is related. Not everybody reacts the same way. I juiced for 10 days, then for 30 and all the symptoms disappeared. No pain, no swelling, no meds :-). I added food back into my diet and could quickly tell what I reacted to. There is no cure, but you can bring it to an halt. Sorry for the novel…

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        1. RA really IS an immune system disorder. Steroids make you feel better, but they melt your bones and kill you in the long run. AND they ever further disrupt your immune system … basically exactly what you DON’T need. There’s no single approach that works and for people like you who have it bad, RA will do some damage over time, but it won’t KILL you. The steroids definitely would. I offer my profound sympathy. I don’t have any advice. You’ve already taken the biggest step, which is NOT getting onto a long term regimen of lethal drugs.

          I didn’t think they still prescribed steroids for RA. I though everyone knew better. My doctors won’t let me near them. I’m very aware that they are the last thing my body needs. And in any case, none of my doctors would give them to me anyhow.

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    1. Thanks. Back at you! Resolutions are made to be broken and/or regretted. They are also for people who believe they can control their lives. I figure I — and you — have enough on our plates just coping with the stuff life throws at us. Why add more?

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  3. I always say I want to change my body for a newer model but I know that will never happen. So I can appreciate how you feel. I have given in and got a disability mobility card for the first time. That was a big step for me. But that aside I hope you have a great holiday period and I can enjoy your blog next year. 😀

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    1. Thanks. I have a handicapped placard for our cars. I could get a scooter or a chair from Medicare. I’m qualified times two or three time over, but I’m not ready. Not yet, anyway. In any case, unless I can get the money for a chair lift for the stairs and a carrier for the car, it wouldn’t do me much good. I ‘m better off trying to stay on my feet as long as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. And we aren’t brave — what other choice do you have but to keep plugging along? To try new things like shots for pain control or a cast shoe for a recurrently broken foot? I understand the not “feeling better” but the “being” better. I mean, I feel like hell, but oh the strides that have been made. And you, even more so — you just keep sticking with it and that is admirable in and of itself, although you would again point out that you didn’t have another option. My hope is we will be sending each other (or Garry will be…LOL) Christmas cards for years to come. ❤

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    1. And your card went into the mail today. Who knows when the post office will deliver it … we got NO mail at all today … our post office obvious was AWOL!

      We do what we have to do to survive. It’s why I’m not so much warm and fuzzy as pragmatic. Sympathy is nice, but understanding is better. You understand. I understand. We push on through and somehow, we keep going. That’s no small thing. Maybe not heroic, but a lot more than nothing.

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