That was quick!

If we ever get the answers to the questions why, why me, or why not then we will truly have arrived in a place of peace. Will it ever be this side of heaven?

This side of heaven, life moves quite quickly. The agonizing wait for a package to arrive, bringing the compounded, whizbang elizir to remedy some malady, can be mind-numbing. It’s all you can think about. Then before you know it, you are opening the package and quickly moving on with the other tasks of the day. If only this would apply to a workup to rule out cancer . . .

My days are blurry now yet not without a moment of reflection: largely on how the year we just finished has actually prepared me for the lump that is on my plate right now. Or more accurately, 7 lumps. Ruling out autoimmune disease, being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism then switching back to hypothyroidism, placating the diagnosis of Functional Movement Disorder, ruling out hyperparathyroidism, and narrowly escaping a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with surveillance puts 2019 on the map for me, so to speak. Every step of the way, my main concern was beyond the testing and treatments glaring on the surface; I was asking if this or that could be a cause of the more important strife in my life: daily convulsive episodes, my worst symptom.

Autoimmunie disease = Episodic Ataxia? Nope.

Hyperthyroidism = Seizure disorder of organic origin? Nope.

Functional Movement Disorder = Rehabilitation to resolve? Nope.

Hyperparathyroidism = calcium trafficking issues? Nope.

Pancreatic mass = insulinoma and blood sugar dysregulation that triggers seizures? Nope.

WTF is it then? Excuse my French and excessive use of metaphors. I am about to go mad and cannot use direct language anymore. How many near-misses can there be? The answer: at least one more.

A thyroid ultrasound just 8 months after one earlier in 2019 found SIX NEW NODULES with suspicious characteristics. Then there’s the hard one in my neck that didn’t go away with the common cold after Christmas. How can this be? Labs don’t lie but they certainly don’t explain this new, worrisome finding. It’s all I can do right now to keep from screaming while I research the good, bad, and ugly possibilities. Looks like at the very least, another Fine Needle Aspiration is indicated and will be completed under conscious sedation due to the seizure attacks that come with needle sticks. My only saving grace in this hot mess is that at least I don’t need to be awake this time when someone in a white coat puts a very long needle in my neck. UBER-EWWWWWWWW!

Someday to preserve the remainder of my sanity, I will list all the treatments, dietary habits, rehabilitation strategies, lifestyle changes, mold avoidance, and medical management that I do because some professional said it would help me. The list is burdensome. And expensive. But nothing compares to this. I have never had major surgery before let alone a bonified diagnosis of cancer. My heart races with the potential implications, my mind numbs the rest of the way after pressing on to complete some volunteer work on the computer, and of course I am hungry . . . again! If only I had taken that walk with the pup when she was whining so loudly this afternoon. I really should have, even in the freezing temps looming out the front door.

I talk to the Lord all the time now. It’s like breathing a prayer all day long. He’s here with me alone at this computer, this I know. Graciously, my beloved is more tender and sweet of late than any day prior in this almost 9 years of battling serious illness. I am so glad for Steve. Life’s skirmishes over here are about to escalate to battle and war. We both can feel it with the data on the ultrasound reports.

My, how quickly things changed. But like Barry Manilow once sang, could this be the magic at last?

When you search no more

Google and Google Scholar have gotten way too much traffic from me these past 8 years of battling serious illness. It’s time to spend less time there and more time dwelling in the presence of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

And so I shall.

Facebook has been my link to the world outside the comforting yet speechless walls of our home when there were no more folks to call on the phone. A recent relapse in convulsive episodes brings a state of mental fog afterwards. While not a true “post ictal” phase of an epileptic seizure, it is still a time when goal-directed activity (as I used to call it when working in my profession of occupational therapy) simply does not occur. Reading short phrases while lying in a passive state is about the best I can do. Well, except when my beloved is nearby and comforts me dearly. But I follow way too many disease-oriented groups on Facebook so spending time there is not really a break from life, a connection to the living, or even as entertaining as it once was. It’s time to spend less time there and more time dwelling in the presence of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

And so I shall.

Endless planning in my mind or on the calendar on my smart phone has increasingly become a source of frustration rather than relief or even hope. Focusing too much on the future brings tomorrow along too soon, robbing me of the gifts all around me in today. I simply don’t know when-or-if I will be a candidate for parathyroid surgery now that I have a diagnosis that explains so very much of what is wrong with my health. I simply have to wait for others to review my case and call me. Steve and I will adjust our schedules and lives accordingly. It’s time to spend less time there and more time dwelling in the presence of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

And so I shall.

Gardening has become both a hobby and source of identity when my role as an Occupational Therapist went away. I am grateful that a couple of months of better health in the spring allowed me to largely finish a rain garden project in my community as a Master Gardener. My volunteer work continues as the Assistant Editor of the quarterly publication, Canoe News (of the United States Canoe Association), and Editor of the monthly newsletter, Across the Fence (of the Master Gardeners of Purdue Extension, Allen County). Often these are difficult to get done; somehow with the Lord’s grace we do. But I am struggling to keep up with our own landscape that requires daily maintenance and some brute strength that is tough for me to do these days. The degenerative changes in my spine are not going to go away so what will I/we do about all of those flower and fruit and vegetable beds out there? Keep watering for now, pray about it, and realize that it’s probably time to spend less time there and more time dwelling in the presence of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

And so I shall.

Gee, suddenly I feel less stressed about things. Thank you Jesus. You care about these issues in my life and in those of the Gentle Readers out there too, holding every one in the palm of your hand, the love in your heart, with the promise of your return. Things will work out according to Your Divine plan for our lives. In this we can rest tonight.

And so we shall, eh?

The liver that got away

Roger looked more like a tall, lanky college student than a young adult with schizophrenia.  He was also smart:  well-studied as if to be a medical school student long before the days where WebMD could make the rest of us stand out from our peers on a particular topic of interest.  There was one problem with Roger’s course of study, however.  I met him shortly after what could have been his second fatal mistake.

Roger believed that removal of his liver would cure his schizophrenia.  Yes, truly, and he would talk about it with a straight face in earnest to his psychiatrist.  Roger had poured over medical books, secured all the tools and supplies of a typical surgical suite, and attempted a procedure at home in the past.  When he could not control the bleeding at some point during the procedure he called the paramedics and was rushed to a local hospital.  They patched him up and transferred him to the mental health unit where he stayed until his psychiatric medication could be “adjusted.”

Within a short time after discharge Roger re-doubled his efforts.  He gathered more supplies for a second attempt at a total liver resection.  Somehow he never read that the liver is a vital organ and that he would die if he ever succeeded.  And who knows where he found sterile drapings, forceps, lancets, and such in the days long before Amazon and Medline?  What he did not expect the second time was the intolerable pain he would experience as he got deeper into his surgery.  He was alone and got scared.  Again he called the paramedics, was hospitalized, and landed on the mental health unit.

I worked as an occupational therapist on that unit with the even lower functioning clients than Roger.  While he was not one of my patients, his notoriety was the talk of the nursing station.  What incredible bravery it would take to operate on oneself with what, a handheld mirror?  I mean, how exactly did he do it?  I think I recall that he was discharged to a residential facility after his hospital stay in an effort to preserve his life lest he make a third attempt.  The delusion that excision of his liver could cure his mental illness was simply too strong to believe that he would ever give up his theory until he died trying to make it so.

And so here I find myself four days before my own surgical procedure, banking on a theory that excision of two teeth will save my own life.  Have I too succumbed to the “Roger effect?”  When contrasted to sick thinking, we all like to think that ours is different.  After all, I have done my research and can find clinical and anecdotal evidence that what I have asked an oral surgeon to do will cure the worst of my ills.  Dr. R doesn’t agree with my suppositions (a biologic dentist did!) yet is willing to proceed to diminish years of dental pain AND after having required extraordinary precautionary measures!  Lord willing all will be completed on Thursday, March 26th:  my spirit will no longer be crushed with the virtual hell that has left me bedridden most days.  (See this blog for details: https://justjuliewrites.com/2015/03/01/only-my-potato-chips-remain-crushed-today/)

Looking back to my days working in mental health I realized that I have come a long way in my view of the world.  Today I am more willing to ask the tough questions of life than in the past.  I see that I am not so different from many of the patients who landed in a “psych ward.”  By the grace of God I did not have to be admitted or committed when my despair exceeded my ability to cope.  Somehow the Lord provided the hope, the help, the peace to carry on until the day when the pain was no longer unbearable.  Gratefully, much emotional pain has left my life for good.  Much joy has taken it’s place even in the face of this horrible illness.  My internal joy is no longer measured by my circumstances; He has allowed me to overcome immeasurable desperation.  I believe that things will begin to turnaround this week.  This week people!

If he is still alive today, I do hope that Roger has found some peace with his struggles.  Wherever you are today dear one, I pray these words from the Lord for you and your loved ones.  Sometimes letting go of that one thing that got away in our lives is the very thing that brings us to all that we seek:  the joy that passes all understanding.

John 16:33 (NIV)

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16.33