Category Archives: Health

Cubby Holes

I’m sitting here, staring at the cluttered computer screen, as a project awaits completion. I feel like I’m letting down the people to whom I owe this project. I’ve been struggling with it. Normally, it’s not that hard to complete, but for some reason, this month has had its challenges. Personal issues have gotten in the way. I’m not someone who can compartmentalize easily. I wish I was. I’d like to just stick whatever’s bothering me into a cubby hole and let it rot there. Unfortunately, any cubby holes that I have in my brain are more hole than cubby. If I do manage to put a problem in a compartment, it falls right through the hole in the bottom, tripping me whenever I “take a stroll down memory lane.” In other words, I can’t keep things compartmentalized. They stay in my mind, no matter what I’m doing.

Right now, the thing that is stuck there is my mother. I love my mom, but I also live almost 700 miles away from her. I don’t see her much, even though we talk on the phone when she’s feeling up to it. Even if I did make the trip back, there’s simply no place for me to stay at her small house. If she were healthy, I’d either be able to stay on an air mattress in the living room or in her bed with her since my daddy has passed. However, healthy she is not. She has a hospital bed set up in the living room. A good bit of her living room furniture is now in her bedroom on the bed. There is, quite frankly, no room for me at her house.

In some metaphoric way, there’s no room for me in her life anymore, and that about kills me.  She loves me and I love her, but she is no longer concerned about me. Her life revolves around the nurses and care workers from Hospice that come in. I listen patiently. But only on a good day, do I get to share with her what is happening in my life. Am I selfish to want this again? Maybe. Am I realistic enough to know that, for the most part, those days of happy conversations are gone? Yes. Mentally, she is all there, but her world is small now, and I’m on the periphery. Perhaps I’ve started grieving already.

I’ve caught grief from people who see her once and think that they have a handle on the situation. Because I’m not there, I guess in their eyes that makes me not a good daughter, doesn’t it? They don’t understand that I’m well aware of what is happening with her. I’m in frequent contact with my brother, who is her main caregiver. While I get conflicting reports, depending on whether I’m talking to him or my mother, I know and care deeply about her condition and about her. She was the best mother a girl could have. We have always been close.

Perhaps that why this hurts so much. She had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I found out only recently that this was THE diagnosis. I had heard it bandied around for a while, but my brother confirmed it this week. It makes sense. This diagnosis answers a lot of questions, but it also presents a new dilemma for me. How do I keep it in its place without obsessing?

If you ask my mother, she doesn’t believe it. According to her, she will walk again, drive again and resume her normal life after she gets over this little hiccup in her life. Parkinson’s took my wonderful father-in-law. I’ve seen what it can do. I don’t have her optimism, as misguided as it may be, but I can’t take away her vision of her future either. I’m not that cruel to say, “Sorry, Mum, it’s not going to happen,” when maybe it’s that very thought of a normal future that makes her okay with how she is living. So I have to wonder why I’m obsessing over things I can’t change. I do know that I’m not good at hurting; I bleed all over my cubby holes.

I guess it’s time to clean up the mess and get back to work on today’s project. I can at least do something about what’s in front of me, even when I’m feeling so helpless about my mother. I’m having to relearn some lessons from the past about how to deal with this. It’s taken me a while to get there, but thank God for God and keeping my problems where they belong. I’m better for now, at least until the next refresher course.


Dear Head Cold

Dear Head Cold,

I was reading a blog recently that talked about being able to take constructive criticism and the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Head cold, I immediately thought of you.

Since you have taken up residence in my head, I have noticed a bit of slacking off on your part. Now I’m not saying that you’re doing a bad job as far as head colds go, but frankly, the Head Cold of 2009 was head and shoulders (get it?) above you. It had all the elements of the Perfect Illness. Fever, chills, cough, clogged passageways. Even the phlegm was of a consistency that wowed the doctors.

Current head cold (Note the lack of capitalization. You have to earn it, and you simply haven’t.), to put it bluntly, I can still breathe through one nostril. Now, I’m not calling you a failure; I hope you understand that. I know you’re trying, but in the interest of constructive criticism, your actions fail. Granted, the stuffiness in the nostril switches from left to right at different times, but the Head Cold of 2009 did not play around like that. My nostrils were blocked solid in a mucous coup d’état that lasted for ten days and nights. Remember the Alamo? The French Revolution? Yeah, it was like that. No escape.

Nights were torture. I was propped up by so many pillows that I can’t even say I was lying in bed. The aches and pains that kept me awake at night made sure that I was thinking about the exquisiteness of This Head Cold of 2009. Phlegm, sneezes, coughs, aches, pains, stomach cramps all came together in a perfect alignment like the stars in the night sky, which I stared at a lot out the bedroom window since I couldn’t sleep anyway. This Head Cold did not play around. Add to the fact that I was going to be traveling by airplane soon, and a simple head cold became the Perfect Storm of Head Colds. If there were prizes for head colds, the Head Cold of 2009 would have swept the awards in a gauzy pink swan dress that would have made Bjork jealous.

You, on the other hand, head cold of 2014, are a lazy, no-account pretender (Oops! A little bit of destructive criticism slipped in there.) that has chosen to play games in my head. It’s time for you to either step it up or step off. Either lay me out flat in an epic manner that would make the parting of the Red Sea look like a scene from a travelogue or release me from your grip and let me move on with my life without your hindrance. Your choice, head cold.

It’s for your own good that I say this to you. If you’re convinced that I need to be sick, then stand by your convictions and show me what you’ve got. Otherwise, it’s time for you to blow, if you know what I mean. You will never be able to match the Head Cold of 2009, and I have better things to do with my time than honk my hooter and humidify my house just because you can’t figure out what you want to do.

I won in 2009 against the worst cold I’ve ever had in my life, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. I will win in 2014, so let me constructively say to you, to save us both some time and tissues, give up now. As long as I have hand sanitizer and chicken noodle soup, you can’t win. Speaking of chicken noodle soup, I’m off to have lunch. See? You haven’t even killed my appetite. I’m so getting over you.


The Head Honcho

It’s a Woman Thang

(Be warned: This post might cause embarrassment. If you are squeamish or a man or a squeamish man, I suggest you pass on this one. It’s a woman thang.)

The bane of every woman’s existence has got to be private part examinations. Whether it’s a pelvic exam or a mammogram, it simply isn’t a time to celebrate our womanhood with champagne and roses. It’s embarrassing, it can be painful and it’s best done and over with as quickly as possible. The only thing worse than these biannual events (according to the new guidelines for women over 50) is when I find something during self-exams and have to make an appointment sooner than I would have liked. Actually, the very worst thing is having to spend a day without deodorant or powder because the appointment is in the late afternoon and it would interfere with the test.

As I write this, a doctor is currently examining the films from a diagnostic mammogram of my right breast. Once he says, “Yep, it’s a breast,” I will move on to have an ultrasound done on the same breast. Sometimes, I curse these sensitive fingers of mine.  Why did I have to find a lump?

I was just contorted, squeezed and bent in ways a torso is not meant to bend. The machine was cold and the corner of it dug into my armpit as the tech positioned me. My breast has been touched by a woman that I have no intention of having a personal relationship with. This very same woman, who probably moonlights as a dominatrix, proceeded to lower the machine that smashed my breast between two plates flatter than a sun-dried worm, but not to worry. She wasn’t done yet. She cranked a knob that lowered the top plate even further with a relish that I can only describe as maniacal. A scene from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab comes to mind minus the lightning strikes. “She’s alive!” No, you just murdered my right breast as my left breast tries to retreat behind my back in terror.

Every woman goes through this, but knowing that doesn’t make it easier. Dignity ditched me today the moment I removed my bra and put on a fashion-challenged gown that will never see prom night. At the dominatrix’s prodding, I slip on my coat to act as a robe and follow her obediently to the ultrasound area two corridors over. Clutching my bra and blouse to my abused chest, I try to balance my purse, stuffed with my deodorant and a novel, on my shoulder while holding my coat and the open front gown closed at the same time. While there are myriad ways to tie the gown, none of them actually work.

As I wait for the ultrasound, I know that at least it won’t be painful. Slimy and cold maybe, but not painful. No need for a safe word here.


UPDATE: It’s evening now. For all the undignified poking, squishing and flattening, nothing was found. The ultrasound tech was apologetic for not finding anything. Really, I didn’t mind. I’d rather go through one hundred exams with the dominatrix that show nothing, than one exam with the gentlest person on earth that shows something. No apology needed.