RDP #23 – I HAVE A HEART — Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #23 –  HEART

I have a heart.

Everyone (living) has one. These days, the issue is whether or not it works like it ought to. You know, compassion. Caring, love, concern. That stuff.

Mine is a little more complicated. I have two replaced heart valves – mitral and aortic. I also had a myocardectomy involving removing an oversized muscle in the left ventricle which had grown exponentially because the mitral valve wasn’t working. There was also a bypass and implanting a pacemaker.

A fantastic amazing wonderful heart surgeon.

After they opened my chest, it never properly healed. This has made full-scale recovery difficult. There’s nothing that can make the chest heal if it doesn’t want to.

Sometimes, injuries don’t heal. They should, but for some reason, don’t. The medical team will tell you it will, but it depends on your body’s ability to recreate cartilage. Your chest isn’t solid. It’s a mobile design so you can breathe.

Until my chest didn’t heal, I had no idea how many different parts of my body were connected to my chest.

I didn’t know there was anything wrong with my heart except for that annoying murmur I’d had since I was a child. I knew I was out of breath often, but I was still recovering from a recent bi-lateral mastectomy (cancer), so I wasn’t at my peak. Whatever my peak might be. I’m not sure I’ve been at a peak for years. Like maybe 15? Or maybe never?

Note the dog hair. It makes it “smell right” …

Anyway, they told me that after all this repair work was done, I would feel MUCH better. Except my heart wasn’t bothering me. It’s my back that really kills me.

Four years later, I feel better. I’m 7 years past cancer and almost four years post heart surgery and I’m gradually becoming human. Unfortunately, I’m also 7 years older which, at my age, is a not an inconsiderable difference. You don’t bounce back from surgery the way you did when you were younger.

Nonetheless, I am better. I haven’t been sick except for a cold and a stomach virus and they only lasted a few days. What’s left is a woman with a badly damaged spine, a seriously screwed up digestive system, two fake breasts, and a redesigned heart.

As for the digestion, acid reflux, left untended for a lifetime, can make a mess of your innards. If you have a reflux problem, you might want to deal with it before it deals with you.

Now, speaking of my heart, I have one. No small miracle, that. My pacemaker is metal, so I can’t have an MRI … which for some reason the medical staff of my local hospital refuses to believe, even though it’s not as if I have a reason to lie about it.

Also, to go with the spine, I have fibromyalgia. Spinal arthritis (there was a surgery involved there, too) is bad and fibromyalgia goes with serious arthritis like the horse goes before the cart.  I deal with it. I deal with everything. There’s so much to deal with sometimes, I wonder how I find time to deal with anything else.

Weirdly, you get used to it. Impossible though it seems, you learn when you are going to have a bad day. On those days, you rest. Listen to audiobooks or read. Process photographs. You do not go for long walks or explore the wilds.

I also understand that even had I not had such a long run of ill-health, I would be getting on in years, so I’d be dealing with something. It’s just one of those things. A few people enjoy brilliant health from birth to the end. Others of us? Not so much.

For all that, I do feel better. I can walk. I have some kind of MS that mostly affects my eyes but is in remission. I don’t seem to have any sign of renewed cancer. I had it twice so I’m hoping that was all of it.

There’s not much more they can do to my heart except change the battery in the pacemaker and no surgeon wants to do anything to my back. As long as I can walk, no one will touch it.

I have a heart. It works. It’s extraordinary what they can do to fix us these days.

Absolutely astonishing.

The Nightmare Videos Of Children’s YouTube — And What’s Wrong With The Internet Today

Orwell is rolling in his grave.


In a dark, strange corner of the internet, an unknown group of people on YouTube is wilfully hacking young brains in return for advertising revenue. In this TED Talk, writer and artist James Bridle uncovers truth about pointless, mind-numbing videos such as “surprise egg” reveals and the “Finger Family Song” and those algorithmically created mashups of familiar cartoon characters in violent situations.

“We need to stop thinking about technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them.”


Video via – TED Talks

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My closest friend has been dealing with her mother’s recurring cancers for two years. The battle is nearing an end as her mom goes into a hospice for end-of-life care.

There is one part of this story that has affected me deeply. It has been watching middle-class people, who worked their whole lives, struggle to afford the medical care they need at the end of their lives. I knew that our healthcare system had serious problems. But I had never seen the effects of these issues, up close, on people’s lives.

My friend’s mom was a nurse and her father was an engineer. They saved some money over the years and were comfortable up until the time they got sick. The dad died a few years ago. His last illness soaked up most of the extra cash that they had put away. So when the mom got cancer, money was tight.

My friend works 60 plus hours a week as an executive at AT&T. Her sister, also local, is the mother of two teenage girls. There came a point when their mom had to go to frequent doctors appointments and chemo or radiation several times a week. The sisters had to take turns driving their mom to her appointments and staying with her through her treatments.

They couldn’t afford to pay an aide to spend several days a week doing testing and treatment runs. If the sisters hadn’t turned their lives upside down to take care of their mom, I don’t know what would have happened to her. If she didn’t have two willing daughters living near her, she would have been screwed.

This situation became a real hardship for both siblings. As time went by, the mom’s symptoms got worse and she eventually needed a feeding tube. That upped the level of care she needed exponentially. After a while, the mom couldn’t handle the feeding tube on her own. So the sisters had to get to her house several times a day to help her.

When the mom needed help getting to the bathroom, the daughters broke down and hired the most affordable aide they could find to come to the house twice a day to supplement the daughters’ visits.

Then the mom became effectively bedridden and they had to hire a full-time aide. They couldn’t afford a fully certified RN. So they found a willing woman with some healthcare experience.

But she is Russian and speaks almost no English. She could communicate with my friend with a translating program on her phone. But she could not communicate with her mom at all. Unfortunately, that’s all they could afford. They were lucky to find anyone.

It’s outrageous that families are left on their own to take care of sick relatives unless they are in the top 1% of earnings.

My friend was lucky she can work wherever she has a computer. So she could get work done at her mom’s house or at the hospital or at the treatment centers. That’s not a common situation. If she had had to show up to work at an office every day to keep her job, she’d have been unemployed long ago.

Which is the situation in which most people find themselves.

So how do average families take care of their sick? Watching my relatively well-off friends struggle, I have no clue how other less lucky workers manage.

Our health care system obviously has serious problems. I understood this intellectually. Watching my friend try to do right by her mom, I suddenly understand the flaws in the system on a more visceral level.

Affordable help should be available to everyone who needs it to care for sick family members. People should not have to suffer extreme hardships just to care for a loved one who is ill. People should not have to choose between their job and their own financial security and caring for a family member.

This situation is outrageous in as rich and sophisticated a country as America. It’s not an issue in most other democracies in the western world. Hopefully, the movement towards universal healthcare here will eventually solve this problem. If we’re all lucky, I’ll live to see enlightened healthcare for everyone in my country. If not, shame on us!


A Photo a Week Challenge: Light the Night

I love shooting at night. I don’t do it as often as I used to, probably because we don’t get out at night nearly as much as we used to. I still have a few pictures saved. Being on vacation, there are a lot of pictures I can’t access because they are on the other computer or external drives.

However, I think these will do.

The theater district, before the show

Downtown, night

Uxbridge, winter, night

Gibbous moon at night

JUNE IS SQUARE – ROOF 23 – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s that time of year again and squares are back

Antique square truck with round headlights – and a roof!

Well, the theme is ROOFS (or rooves if you prefer). Your roof can be;

A – Any type, any condition, any size, and in any location.
B – It could be a shot across rooftops, of one roof like today or even a macro
C – You might prefer to spend some time under the eaves and in the attic, or enjoy the view from above as Brian has already done today.

See you tomorrow!