Changes

Courtesy of Pinterest
Freya’s Tears (Golden Tears)

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about how I remember myself and my high school friends. I wonder if all people after 60 years of age begin to visit the past with some passion. I can see my high school friends as they were then and remember a specific outfit or snippet of time we were together. Emotions felt during those times flood back and it all seems like yesterday.

I used to swim every day in the summer somehow. I coached a swim team my senior year of high school with my best friend. I remember the freedom of the water and the sun. Nothing helped one sleep more than a day swimming and sunning. It was almost impossible to be unhappy! Sometimes I am transported to those days and it is difficult to come back to the reality of today.

My friends are still beautiful, but we all are suffering with our own burdens now. Illness, broken relationships; broken lives for some. We cling together to support each other through those times. Yes, there is also happiness. Successful, loving children, successful careers, beloved pets, lovely houses, and inner peace have been obtained by many. There are those who believe they have come to a place of acceptance. Perhaps they have.

For me, I am sadly nostalgic for those carefree, sun-filled days at present. I miss the youth the memories represent. I miss the opportunity to make better choices at some junctures of my life. I miss the friends I made over the years with whom I lost touch thinking we would cross paths again and never did. I miss my father who passed almost eleven years ago. I remember him so clearly and all of the times we spent in each other’s company. I appreciated him while he was alive, but now I cannot be with him I realize what a whole it left in my life when he died.

Unlike a few months ago, I am not severely depressed thinking about these things, but the memories are like old friends that keep me occupied and happy as if I am experiencing that phase of my life for brief periods of time.

Come On Surgery!

Testing out the new robotic surgery equipment

This is the machine that will actually perform my surgery. The doctor controls it from a panel away from me.

It is amazing how creative I can be when I am depressed. Poetry comes easily-though it might be dark, it is normally fairly substantive. The other end is slightly hypomanic and I normally get a lot done in that state also. At least there is some small bright spot with both abnormal states.

Within the last twelve years I have had minor mood swings. No changes in medication. Then this last year and a half, multiple health crisis hit me and my husband. I hung tough until the last episode, with more yet to come after six months of asking doctor after doctor, “What is this lump on my side?”  After experiencing multiple doctors, some more than one visit, telling me it was a side effect of my surgery, (about which I was not told prior to the surgery), that could not be fixes and with which I would have to live with it, I became severely depressed.

My husband had a lung nodule show on a CT scan. After a PET scan, he had lymph nodes and his thyroid light up. We waited for testing to progress. We waited for appointments. Finally, the testing began and fortunately, he has nothing that is to be addressed immediately. He will have to have testing routinely, but for now, nothing about which we need to be concerned. That helped some with the depression, but not enough to stop the additional medication.

So, in addition to my old medication, Lamictal, I was placed on Mirapex. I tried, I really, really tried, but could not tolerate it. Then my psychiatric FNP suggested Vraylar and I began on that medication. I gradually increased it to 3 mg a night, which is supposed to be the dosage for depression. At 3 mg a night, I began to become increasingly irritable and had to back off to 1.5 mg. All throughout these months, I could not sleep-well, around four to five hours tops. Then, I could not slow down to nap either.

Meanwhile, I had my yearly physical. My medical doctor looked at my last abdominal CT scan and thought it appeared abnormal. Now, keep in mind two different radiologists had read two different CT scans throughout a six-month period and stated there were no hernias, (plus a surgeon and an oncologist and a gastroenterologist). My doctor called the radiologist reading CTs that day and ask him to please look at my last CT scan again. Low and behold, I have a rare, fairly large hernia. Most likely this is from the lung surgery, although a doctor will always try and cover for the doctor and radiologists that missed the diagnosis completely and looked at me like I was crazy when I asked about the second head I have growing out of my side. I had several doctors tell me it was something I would just have to live with and insinuated I should just be happy to be alive.

This is my thought regarding that-and I told this to the surgeon who will have to fix this mess the other surgeon left-I was not completely sold on this lung surgery anyway. I had considered radiation treatment, which my first oncologists, (who was the wife of the lung surgeon), stated would have also been effective against my cancer. But, my lung doctor recommended this lung surgeon and  the surgeon was so confident that this surgery would be a breeze and cure me, that I signed up for the surgery and asked few questions. BIG MISTAKE. Dr. “We will take good care of you”, did not. I am all about quality of life, not life at any costs. I was lulled into thinking this surgery would cure me and be so much easier than my dad’s lung cancer surgery. I did well with the surgery as far as breathing and stopped pain medication the third day after surgery, but then I got an infection and the hernia that no one acknowledged for six months.

Lung cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to cure. It has a way into the blood stream pretty much anywhere it should crop up. Microscopic cells cannot be detected so it can spread and be undetectable for a while. My cancer was staged as an early stage squamous cell lung cancer. I know that is the best I could have hoped for with lung cancer, but I also know I am not out of the woods. There is a term for cancer patients who fear the results of their every three-month, six-month or yearly CT scans. It is “scanxiety”. Hell, I don’t even have that right now. I am pretty much miserable and would like to be happy enough about my life to dread the scan results. Sad but true. But I digress. Anyway, now I am waiting to see if the depression will return since backing down on the Vraylar. I actually slept last night. That was fantastic. But, when I woke this morning, I had a brief episode of severe depression. It did not last long but I have come to dread that feeling more than physical pain.

I am so angry, but grateful my medical doctor persevered. I am happy that my present surgeon actually read my CT scan for herself, (although the hernia is much larger than when I had the last CT scan in January 2019), and saw this weird hernia. I am so relieved she can fix this. She said my sides should be very close to the same after the surgery and she will not need to make a huge incision to fix it. I am angry that I have suffered so long before someone cared enough to press further. I mean, the lump is the size of a grapefruit sticking out of my side and firm to examination. And, I do have nerve damage in the area per the neurologist that is trying to minimize that damage, so there is that. Thank God my pain tolerance is high so I don’t need pain medications for any of this.

The hernia easily could have cut off the blood circulation to my colon. If that had occurred, it would have been very serious. I am relieved that did not happen, although, being a nurse, I knew what to do when I had symptoms. Maybe that is why the hernia did not progress to something more serious, or maybe it would have not progressed regardless. Perhaps God or fate or whatever you wish to call it came into play.

So, here I sit awaiting surgery, which is still a month away because of the special equipment needed to perform the surgery, fighting depression, adjusting medications with side effects I hate, 15 lbs. overweight from depression and inactivity since the lung surgery and the appearance of the hernia three days after the lung surgery, feeling like shit.  I am trying to be more positive, I am, but this just sucks.

We have canceled three vacations now. We are lucky our dog sitter/boarder is a friend. Vacation one was canceled for lung surgery. Vacation two was canceled due to costly treatment needed for our dogs. Vacation three was canceled because I had to wait a month to have this surgery. I just want to run away and be myself again.

I have begun to do some of the active things I did prior to surgery and that helps me feel a little more normal. But, due to the size of the hernia and weight gain, I am wearing these loose, flowing tops I hate and continually looking for a pair of jeans that fit. As the hernia gets bigger, the more effort it takes to hide it. It is hideous and I feel hideous.

If I talk about my feelings about all of this to some of my friends, I get the “put on a happy face” talk. Well, damn it, I don’t feel happy and I will be damned if I will lie to my friends to let them off the hook of the need for them to be a friend and listen to me. It seems if they take my feelings seriously, they have to fix it for me. That, of course, is not the case. I just need someone to commiserate with me.

There is nothing happy about this shit I am experiencing. After this surgery, I promise, if all goes well, I will be happier than I am presently. It is suspiciously like the doctors who had no idea what to do so they turned it back into my problem only. If I would just be happier, I would be happy. Well, yeah, but I cannot wish myself into that happy place right now. Sorry my depression is inconvenient for you. Thank God for my husband who has been my support throughout all of this.

After my surgery, my poor sister was with me constantly for three days. She would leave at night to go back to my brother’s-who also came every day for hours to stay with me after he got off work from his grueling job. Good to have a supportive family. Both my parents are deceased so we are all we have left.

The FDA just approved ketamine nasal spray for depression, but it is not available around here. Only certain approved centers can carry the spray or administer it. After the spray is inhaled, one must stay under a doctor’s care for two hours. This is the miracle cure for resistant depression. It has few side effects, but you must fail on two medications to be eligible. I would be eligible, but just live in the wrong area. I think ketamine is given during anesthesia. The surgery may mean I get some relief from the depression as a incidental effect of the ketamine used in the anesthesia cocktail. Finally. Come on surgery!

Trust

It does not matter if you are right.

It matters that you show you are human.

It does not matter that you are wrong,

If you have shown your compassion.

It matters not your race, orientation, or religion.

And I will distance myself

If those characteristics

Matter to you.

Never believe words, parlayed around

Like racket balls,

Are unable to injure another.

Participation in such a conversation

Seems gay and harmless

Until words strike too close

To an open wound

And the game continues

As if nothing of consequence occurred

As you sit stunned

Bandaging your emotional wounds.

A breach of trust has occurred.

Trust in your fellow man,

Trust in the cardinal rule of friendship-

Do no harm.

Trust, gone in the time it took

For someone to wander into a territory

Uninformed of the subject matter

Yet forging ahead, clueless, driving a tank full of

Misused words.

The intention to expand each other’s horizons

With the gift of debate and free speech

Are squashed

Like a McDonald’s hamburger lying flattened in the parking lot

Of a convenience store

On a bright, hot July day.

Trust is earned

And easily breached.

Betrayal, much easier to commit,

Than trust is to gain

And maintain.

Loss of trust in a belief, or a person, or both

Leaves a blackness in the atmosphere

Like the scene of Passover

In a Charlton Heston movie.

It permeates one’s soul.

My mind holds a mental funeral

For lost trust

Late at night as the sorrow lies with me

And dreams of betrayal threaten to overtake me.

To forgive or forget

This is the question the sleeping mind will answer,

Sleep, my friend, sleep.

4/13/19 Toni Leedy