Sunday, July 29, 2018

Make An Effort

Published in the Miami News-Record July 27, 2018

Mom and I have had the conversation on several occasions, but this week I have thought about it a lot. Anyone who knows me or reads my blog or this here column knows that family is utmost for me. Without my family I’d be so very lost. The tragedy that happened in Branson was devastating on so many levels, but the woman who lost her entire family just keeps staying in the forefront of my mind these days. Kady and I were talking about it a day or two after it happened and how the woman was brave and composed enough to give a television interview. I told Kady there’s no way I could’ve been so brave and I’d just be curled up in a ball wondering how I would go on. And Kady’s reply brought tears to my eyes: “Mom, I’d be dead. There is no way I could survive without you guys. I literally would not be able to go on. My heart would be so broken.” I’m so glad I’ve instilled this family connection in my childrenalthough her answer crushed me. Those are the things we just don’t like to think about. And for one family last week, it became a sad, stark reality. 

I had the opportunity to visit with a cousin last Saturday and as he hugged me so tight he asked, “What happened to our family? Why aren’t we close anymore?” And the best thing I could come up with was: “We let it happen.” When you’re little you have gatherings and holidays at your grandparents’ house with your many, many cousins (first, second, third, removed, step, whatever) and life is good. Then you start growing up and becoming a parent and sadly, grandparents start passing and the whole family dynamic starts to shift. Suddenly your parent is the grandparent everyone gathers with and cousins do the same with their parents and well….it just kind of fizzles out. Sure, you still love them and when you do see them the stories are recounted and laughter abounds, but it’s all just different now. 

Most families aren’t perfect. If yours is, well, I hope you’re not too bored. Because my crazy, imperfect, dysfunctional family is what keeps me going. Whether it’s phone calls where you and your sister laugh so hard your husband has to turn up the TV, text conversations where your mother repeatedly falls prey to autocorrect and you screenshot everything because you know you’ll go back to it and laugh again later when you’re having a bad day, or the wild, loud dinners and game nights that mean you *will* go home with a laugh headache and no mascara left and oh, the memories – those are the things that make a family close. But those things don’t happen if you don’t put forth the effort. If you sit around and wait for the next funeral for all the cousins to gather, number one, I personally always feel sorta guilty for laughing so much with all the cousins in the midst of sadness (although in my family, usually the deceased would probably appreciate a good round of laughter and togetherness even at their expense), and number two, you shouldn’t really just sit round and wait for a funeral to happen. Just saying. That’s kind of weird, dude.

So yes, it requires you making a few phone calls and a few plans, maybe rearranging your calendar a little bit, but maybe it’s time to call up a cousin or seven and tell stories about your great-grandma’s love of tea tree oil, listen to the recording of her voice telling the bear story, whip of a batch of your Nana’s homemade noodles and drink Coke in wine glasses for old time’s sake. And most importantly, embrace the wonderful, the related, the skeletons, the bruises, bumps, and scratches and just do what families are supposed to do: love each other.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Liberating Plankton, part 1

So I'm 45. I haven't dyed or bleached my hair in years and have fully embraced being silver-haired. I have wrinkles - more so now that I've lost 75 pounds - and my boobs are definitely slacking these days. I am well-versed in crossing my legs to avoid the dreaded Sneeze Pee and I also think 9:00pm is a perfectly acceptable bedtime.

I've been doing an intricate and somewhat emotionally hot-flash-punctuated dance with perimenopause for the last six or seven years now. Both of my grandmothers and my mother had hysterectomies and I was determined to be the first to just fade out into an estrogen-less wasteland somewhere in my 50's. My periods had gotten angrier in the last year, but again, I wrote it off as age. Then about six months ago the proverbial shit hit the fan. In six months I had 10 periods. All lasting 10 days or more. All painful. All horrible. I was getting maybe one good week a month if I was lucky - one week where I didn't cry all the time, spend it in bed with a heating pad against my gut, or just plain feeling like I was going to bleed to death. One of my best friends and I would send secret coded texts to each other every time we were on the ledge contemplating a self-directed hysterectomy with a serving spoon. We nicknamed our uteruses (uteri?) Plankton. Yes, like the evil single-cell organism on SpongeBob.

At my regular six-month checkup with my PCP I mentioned all of this. She said it could be age, but it could also be a fibroid. She sent me straight to radiology where they did an ultrasound. And sure enough, a week or so later the radiologist confirmed there was a fibroid.

Because I use Indian Health Services for most of my healthcare, they said they wanted to send me for a surgical consult in Claremore. Claremore Indian Hospital is not where I wanted to have surgery, so since I have insurance, I asked if they could just send the referral to the doctor of my choice outside of the Tribal Health System. The choice was immediate: Dr. Billings. I work for his in-laws, Kady nannies for his kids, he delivered Petal. I trust him.

On June 12th I saw him in office. He looked over my ultrasound and agreed there was a fibroid and my uterus was very large and "not normal." He gave me options, all of which sounded like bandaids to fix an organ I no longer had any use for. Trust me when I say, ol' Plankton and I were no longer friends. He agreed that given my age and the quality of life (or lack thereof), a hysterectomy was a valid choice. He did some endometrial biopsies in office that day. He made sure my mammogram was up to date. He said my ovaries looked perfectly healthy and he'd like to leave them for hormone regulation. (Mind you, radiologist who read the ultrasound also concurred the ovaries were healthy. I'll come back to this.) I was in agreement. He said as long as the biopsies came back normal I could schedule the surgery with his nurse. She said she had an opening on July 3rd. If I were physically capable of doing a cartwheel, I'd have done one right there with my paper drape a flappin' in the breeze. As it was, I politely and maturely agreed.

That gave me three weeks to get my house cleaned, my family prepared, tie up loose ends at work, and probably have another period. But oh well. I was *this close* to freedom. I felt like I could safely stop googling "How to remove an angry uterus at home" at this point. be continued...

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...