Saturday, February 18, 2017

And Just Where the Heck Have I Been?

In January I signed up for a 5k walk, the Chocoholic Frolic.  5 kilometers is a little more than three miles, and after pushing myself through all the cancer and surgeries and other events over the past three years, I felt that a little challenge was in order.  I signed up, got a friend to join me, and even bought a new pair of walking shoes for the event.  I felt very good about the whole thing.  Yay me. 

The second day of February, my throat hurt.  I went to the doctor for a strep test, and walked out with antibiotics and a steroid shot.  Usually, the medicine works, and I'm back on my feet again after a couple of days.  This time, I started feeling worse, but it wasn't in my throat, it was now in my chest. I used my inhaler often, but I was still having trouble breathing.  I also had no appetite, which should have been a huge red flag for me.  I dropped ten pounds in two weeks, and not in a good way.  No eating meant no energy to do all the things I missed out on while I had cancer.

Larry was very firm:  I was not doing the 5k, he insisted.  I was sick.  He, of course, forgot about the huge amount of stubbornness in my DNA. Nobody can tell me that I can't do something! I was on a mission, to prove that I could do this one thing.  It took on mythical significance in my mind.  If I didn't do the 5k, that meant that I had given up. That was my perspective

I did the 5k.  I woke up that morning, did not have a fever, and felt that I could complete the walk.  So I did.  I showed up, walked very slowly, and finished.  I consider this to be a great accomplishment for me, a generally sedentary soul.  Larry said he was proud of me, but he also yelled a little at me for being so stubborn.  I didn't argue with him. I felt too horrible. 

There were consequences, in the form of bronchitis. I felt as bad as I did when I was on chemo!  I ended up with more antibiotics, more steroids.  They helped a little.  Then came a sinus infection and VERTIGO.  Yes, vertigo. I didn't even know that was still a thing.  If you've never had vertigo, it's like you spun yourself around and around until you make yourself dizzy, but your brain never returns to normal.  I couldn't turn my head without nausea, the bane of my existence.  I will do just about anything to avoid throwing up.

My body had had enough.  I simply had to rest, whether I wanted to or not.  It's no use trying to push yourself when you end up worse off. That sort of defeats the purpose of a challenge, burning yourself out like that.   I took a couple of days and just slept.  I took the third round of antibiotics and the drug for vertigo and I slept like my life depended on it, which it probably did.  I also ate, even if I wasn't hungry.  Taking care of myself became a priority this week. 

And today, I feel relatively normal.  I'm not dizzy, I'm breathing okay, and I'm awake.  I think I've learned a lesson--that I don't have to push myself so hard. I can still do the things I did before cancer.  I just have to take care of myself differently, and do what my body tells me. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jury Duty is Stressful

I started off 2017 being selected for jury duty.  Not the normal, local, jury duty, where you spend a day downtown reading or playing on your phone until they tell you to go home.  That stuff is easy; I get to enjoy having quiet time to read and people watch. Also, San Fernando Cathedral is right across the street from the courthouse. I like to go sit in the pews and contemplate the cosmos during the lunch break.

Mind you, I would love to serve on a jury.  I've seen the shows, I know what to do.  I even bring a pad of paper with me, in case I need to take NOTES!  I'm determined to be a great juror, to do my utmost civic duty. I've never been picked, for some reason.  Probably my education level.  Or my profession; my job title has psychologist in it, and nothing makes lawyers cringe more.  Who knows with lawyers?

But this time  I got selected for FEDERAL jury duty. I was astounded. I've never been selected for FEDERAL jury duty before.  It's quite a bit more pressure.  Instead of just a single day, FEDERAL jury duty lasts for a month.  Thirty days.  Every Sunday after 6pm, I have to dial a special number and enter my designated JUROR number.  Then I wait, until the recording tells me whether or not I have to show up the next day.  The Western District Court even calls me on Fridays, to remind me to call on Sunday.  The first Sunday I was good.  I called at exactly 6:05pm, anxious to find out whether I'd be heading downtown the next day.  The recording said I had not been selected to appear.  I breathed a sigh of relief, hung up the phone, and went about my business. 

After that? 

My brain has been very quick to forget all about that Sunday phone call. I would get wrapped up in laundry, or work, or just life, and forget all about my federal jury duty.  I put my summons on the fridge.  I taped it to the banister.  To no avail--it disappeared, and I have no idea where it is. I just have the copy I scanned for work. I have hot pink Post-It notes all over the place. I have written the word "CALL" on my hand.  Don't judge.

I still forget. Sheer panic when I do remember, and I rush to find my phone.  Because what if I do forget?  Will the feds show up and arrest me?  Can I plead chemo brain if I get arrested?  Don't these people know that I forget my own name at least weekly? Do they know that I thought today was the 25th?  Is this some sort of a test? Am I passing?  If I don't get selected, does that mean I failed? 

I have one more week left.  I hope I make it. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

MLK and Mindfulness

Back in the 1980s, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, there was no day honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King was a Civil Rights leader, an icon, but there was no national celebration until then. I was in high school, and Stevie Wonder came to our school, played the piano and sang.  The next thing we all knew was that MLK(and how many people out there are so very important that they can be identified by just their initials?) had his day.  Federal holidays aren't just handed out all willy-nilly; so this was a big deal.  Since I was a teenager, my excitement was more about having a day off from school, but I'm older now.  I wasn't alive back in 1963, but I wish I had been there.

I don't know what MLK would think about what's happening right now, what he would say.  He wasn't perfect, but he wasn't walking blind.  He must have had a very specific road that he was following toward equal rights when he was murdered.  We know that he had an amazing dream, one that started to change the world.  He spoke about transforming the "jangling discords" of America into a beautiful symphony; our nation seems even more stridently disharmonious today. 


Most of us, when we have a dream and we talk about it, use the past tense.  We're awake, so the dream is over.  It's done.  But Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't say that he had a dream.  He didn't use the past tense.  For him the dream wasn't over.  Instead, he said, quite clearly: "I have a dream."  Present tense.   Here it is, more than a half century later, and we are still in the midst of Dr. King's "fierce urgency of now".  The mindfulness currently being preached about on the internet wasn't a thing back in 1963, but MLK was already there.  Dr. King told us, "I have a dream", and by sharing his moment of mindfulness with the world, he gave us something very special. Our country changed for the better as a result of that dream.  It's difficult to remember that sometimes, with all the idiocy, ignorance, and hatred swirling around.  

The dream is still happening.