Mirrors that Define

I have lived in the Northeast and Southeast United States. I was actually born in the north and lived there for several years. I probably should remember more about those early years, but I only remember a little. I moved to the south when I still young. When asked where I am from I always say the town in the south that seemed to be my where I had more formative years. When I was almost 21 years old I moved back to the north.

I moved to the Pocono’s. I found I did not like living there. I planned to move back but met my husband and stayed. I never meant to live there as long as I did but I never thought to move. One year I had a migraine that was extremely bad and my doctor admitted me to the hospital tests and to try to get rid of the migraine. Upon testing they found something in my brain, a white spot. There was a lot more testing done after the initial finding. This was not my first go round being admitted for migraines and having tests done. That was what concerned the doctors, no previous test showed this white spot. My doctor came in on a Thursday and said he was going out of town, that I would not be leaving the hospital soon and another doctor was going to take over until Monday. The next day, a Friday the new doctor came in and told me she felt there was no need for me to be in the hospital as all IV drugs had been stopped so I could go home with the pills I was on.

This was a big mistake. I was given 4 different types of pain medication while I was in severe pain and told to stagger the medications, switching the medications every 2 hours. I was in severe pain. I would fall asleep, awaken and not know how long it had been, which medication I had last taken, but I would guess and take another pill. That I did not overdose on these medications is a miracle. I know I took too many, as I started hallucinating. My husband had gone to the store and returned to find me completely out of it and had the hospital call my doctor where ever he was. He told my husband to take me to a larger hospital, forty-five minutes away that had more resources.

At this bigger hospital more tests were done. Sometimes they would do them in the middle of the night as that was the only time the testing equipment was available. They monitored my medicine. It seemed this migraine had taken my life over and I was in constant pain, no matter what was given. After being there for another week, it was decided to send to me another hospital about 2 hours away. As they were preparing to take me to an ambulance a neurologist asked if I wanted to see what was in my brain. He then showed me this white spot and told me they had come to the conclusion it was an incurable brain tumor. It was very deep in the brain and touching the brain stem. He told me I probably had 3 to 6 months left to live. I was shocked! I did not know what they had found just that they were doing tests to figure out what they saw. I thought it was something minor. So the ride in the ambulance now became even more scary. I had time to think I was dying and it would be soon. I was always told they could not cure my migraines that if I had a brain tumor that caused the headaches, they could cure that. Now I was told even a brain tumor could not be cured.

At this new hospital, which was a university hospital all the Fellows, Interns and Doctors would come in and point and poke at me, always saying out loud how I did not have long to live. The worst part of this was they had decided that I would be taken off of all pain medication so I could live what was left of my life without being in a fog from the pain medications. I thought how crazy that was. I was not in a fog from the medications. Why not let me live my remaining days pain-free? I had no choice though, the doctors had made it for me. I was there a week, given physical therapy lessons that were supposed to help with pain. I was so glad when I was released.

After I returned home, I called around to find out who the best neurologist in the area was. There was one that came highly recommended, he only saw the most difficult to diagnose or treat patients. He agreed to see me. He was over 3 hours away. He was a nice man. He ran many tests. He also told me I was not going to die in 3 to 6 months. That though I had a white spot, it looked more like multiple sclerosis. He ran tests for it but all came back inconclusive. He told me I needed to have an MRI done every 3 months to be sure it did not change. He also put me back on pain medication. He was a humane doctor, he did not see why I should suffer in pain. He is also retired now so if I ever need a good neurologist I will have to search again as finding a good neurologist is hard.

The next few weeks I thought a lot about the misdiagnosis and how I felt. I realized how much I disliked living in the north. We vacationed in the south every spring. I told my husband before our next vacation which was soon that he needed to find a job in the south as I would not be returning to the north. I loved my husband very much, but I also knew I did not want to spend one more day in the north. Knowing I could die made me realize how much I disliked living in the north and I certainly did not want to die there. My husband to his credit, told me to send resumes to places he could work in the south. Part of our vacation was spent with him interviewing. He was offered a job at every place he interviewed. He took the job that was willing to wait while we packed and readied to move to the south.

After he was offered these jobs I had another fear. Be careful what you wish for as it might come true. What if I were wrong and it was just me not where I lived? If I made my husband change jobs and we uprooted our lives only to find out it was not what I wanted. I worried a lot as my husband had accepted the job and I was busy packing. I wondered what we would do if it turned out we did not like living here. I worried my husband, who had never understood the south, would not like living here much as I did not like the north.

I worried for nothing. At first my husband had a hard time dealing with the slower pace of life. He was used to getting things done fast. It did not take long before he grew to love the slow pace of life of the south. To slow down and enjoy each moment, not going fast and planning the next movement. He told me often how he wished we had moved to the south sooner. That we wasted a lot of our lives up north rushing, running to stand still, rather than slowing down and enjoying everything life had to offer. He enjoyed every moment in the south. We were also lucky as there are several large university hospitals all within an hour drive. These hospitals are not like the one I had been in up north which had cold, uncaring doctors. These hospitals care about their patients. My husband would become a patient as time went on and we were very lucky to have the hospital and all the doctors, nurses and everyone who worked there.

I have explained where I have lived and how I felt about each. We all have our own likes and dislikes. I am sure that as much as I dislike the north there are just as many that dislike the south. But this is about how I define myself. I am a southerner. I am defined by where I live. I also let where I live define me. I am also defined by how I feel about where I live. There are many things that define me, but none are as strong as my feelings about living in the south. Some of my family that live in the north think it is stupid to let where I live define me. I do not think they understand. It is not really north vs. south. It is the way of life in the south. The acceptance of others in the south. I can hear some from the north saying they are not accepted in the south. To some extent that is true. When someone first moves to the south, we have to get to know the person. Once we do, if they are nice we like and accept them, no matter where they came from. We also accept them for who they are.

If anyone has been reading this, they know I use a lot of words to say a little. I talk a lot in person too. Up north, I am told I talk to much. Here in the south, talking a lot is what others like about me. Up north I would be told to my face I talk a lot in a negative way. In the south we do not tell people what we do not like about them. In both the north and south we are brought up if we have nothing good to say about something/someone, do not say anything at all. I wonder to myself how people in the north can be taught this yet turn around and point out what they do not like about another or that the person is different. While living in the north I saw this with others all the time. I thought it was cruel and would say so. That of course would lead to my being told I talk too much. Rude, crude and socially unacceptable is what we in the south say when someone decides to tell us what they think, if it is negative.

In this blog, I have generalized. I normally do not do that. There are many nice people who live in the north just as there are some that are not nice that live in the south. I do not like to generalize as there are always exceptions. I am simply pointing out that for whatever reason, when I glance in the mirror, I want a southerner to be what I see. As I move forward exploring what I want my life to be, when I am done, I want to remain a southerner that lives in the south. There are a lot of things I need to change as I move forward, but being a southerner is not one. This is not meant to offend anyone that lives in the north, south, east, west or even a different country, it is only my opinion about myself.

This Mirror is Trying to be Fair

I took my pet to the veterinarian two weeks ago. I would say our pet, but I am the only one here left to care for him. This is not the first time I have taken him or his brother who died in December 2013 of a form of cancer. Since my husband became sick two pets have died and are still missed. This pet is my last connection to the life my husband and I led the last three years. This may sound strange, as I have family and friends that would say they are connections. I have memories that will always connect us. This is different, the pet was here every day through every part of his illness. If I was at the hospital and came home he would be so grateful to see me. I started napping on the couch for part of my time home before returning to the hospital, as the pet was lonesome. I left the TV on for him as he was sad and lonesome when my husband and I were at the hospital or doctor visits. He watches the TV, while I do not know if he understands it, he does express when something he likes is on or at least it seems that way. At any rate it seems the TV took some of his loneliness away while we were not here.

While at the veterinarian this time I knew this was a serious matter. He is no longer young and has been showing signs of age for the past two years, but in the past month he has really started to show age. He has lost a lot of weight. He had started crying as if in pain. The noises he made to let me know he was happy had stopped, but that was addressed at a previous visit a month ago. This time the doctor wanted to use anesthesia on him so she could get a better look to see what was wrong. I was warned he might not survive the anesthesia, but I felt he needed to be checked and if died, it was meant to be. I definitely know I would not have him put down, that is a choice I could never make. He was taken to the back and I was left in a waiting room alone to wonder if he would be okay.

As I sat there worrying, I heard the veterinarians shoes walk to the door, stop and then pace back and forth. She blew her nose several times. I became more worried hearing this. I assumed he had died or a terrible diagnosis was about to come. My mind wandered in that short amount of time. I could hear the vet as she wore high heels. I thought how impractical to wear heels in her profession. I then thought of all my husbands doctors and realized many of the females doctors wore heels too. In the short time I had to think, I kept thinking how it seemed not only impractical but also unprofessional. That female doctors should be wearing more practical shoes. Not high heels. High heels seem to signal a party or somewhere other than a doctor’s office or hospital. Before I could think much more there was a knock on the door and vet entered. She apologized for taking so long and said she had been outside the door with a runny nose from allergies.

The vet had a possible diagnosis and a definite one. The definite: my little guy was getting older and probably has lived his full life span. His teeth though were the possible diagnosis, they might need to be ground down. I talked with her for a while, the surgery to have this done was going to be very expensive. I no longer have my husbands income and I need to start getting one of my own. I wondered how does one put a price on life. What price is too much? I know if it were my husband I would pay any price. But this is different, this is a formerly abused pet I rescued that is past his life span. I have given him a good home for over five years. I have made sure he has all the food, treats and toys a pet could want. Some say I spoil him. To me, it is not spoiling, it is trying to make his remaining days happy, make up for the abuse he suffered before he came into our lives. The vet was not sure it really was his teeth, it was just a possibility. She was not sure he would even survive the surgery. Even if he survived surgery, it might not be his teeth and he might only have days or weeks left to live with or without the surgery. I would still be responsible for paying for the surgery. My decision was a tough one. I decided not to allow her to do the surgery. I asked her to give me something for his pain so he lives out his remaining days as comfortable as possible. I see him fading each day. The medicine helps the pain, it does not stop his weight loss, growing smaller, looking older. Each morning I awaken expecting him to have died overnight and am glad when I see he is still alive. I know one morning soon I will awaken and he will be dead. Or he could die while I am holding him. Or he could die during any given moment. At any rate, I know from looking at him his time is near. I am trying to make him comfortable.

After returning home from the vet I thought of the heels. I thought again of the doctors were who treated my husband. Some wore “sensible” heels, other high heels and some wore flats or sneakers. I had never noticed, as much of the time they walked on carpet and I did not hear it. I thought to myself that they should all be wearing some type of shoe or sneaker with no heel. Then I realized that I was being unfair. That I would not expect a man to wear certain clothing or shoes. (Though I would prefer male doctors not wear ties as they can be a way to pass infection to patients, that is a health issue, not how I perceive a doctor should dress). I want people to look at me and be fair. Yet here I was passing judgement on what type of shoes a woman doctor wears. In my life with my husband I rarely noticed something as insignificant as shoes. I have never expected anything from doctors other than to treat my husband and do the best they could. While I still think comfortable shoes would be more functional for a doctor, it is not for me to say. I always have thought I was very fair in my judgements of others. I now see there are some areas that need work. Starting with accepting a doctor has every right to wear heels if she wants. If this is turns out to be my biggest problem in moving forward, I will be lucky. Until I move forward, I will not know if there are other things I am not fair about. I am still learning.

In writing this it brings up many moments of the last few years with my husband. Though his illness was not age related, he too grew weaker each day. Though the memories of my husband are mostly happy they are also sad, as the end result was the death of my husband. What I am dealing now with my pet is similar to the last week of my husband’s life which is what makes it so sad. No he cannot communicate, but in his little eyes I can see the fear of what is happening to him. I guess when we love someone or something unconditionally there will be pain when they die. For now, I will make sure my little guy has all he needs and makes sure he knows he is loved. I know when he dies it will be hard. I will truly be alone. My only true connection with my husband, even if it were only because he was here though it all, will be gone. I am not looking forward to that day, but I will know I have done all I can to try to make his last days happy ones.

Another Look at Negativity in Mirrors

If I made my husband sound negative, that is because at times his reflections were of negativity. Not always negativity, but what I perceive as negative. When we were younger he was negative more often than people noticed. He would surround himself with people, friends, places, material items, etc., to try to be happy. We threw big parties, that I did not want. This was to make him happy. I would have preferred not having the parties as they were too much work. I also am not a good hostess, though no one seemed to notice. The parties would make him happy for a short time, take away the negative. He was a good man, who worked hard. He did not always make the best decisions, but I think most of us can say that. He did not have the happy childhood I did. He had times where there was happiness, but for the most part he did not grow up with happiness around. This might be why he had the negativity. I am trying to be honest in with my feelings and how I deal with them, so for me to put a label of negativity on him when I do not want it on myself, I thought I should explain that it was just my perspective. I think he would agree with me though.

Through the years he had a little of being positive and negative in him. When he came ill he had every right to feel negative. It was a terrible illness that encompassed his entire body and mind. The doctors were always trying to stay one step ahead. He had a long road ahead if he were going to live and recover. The operations or as the doctors called them “procedures” he had to have, needed a positive attitude to come out alive. While his attitude through these were positive, it was after each one that he would become negative. Not wondering why me? It was more, why bother, I will probably die anyway. He would stop eating, refuse to sit, types of things that to me, are negative. I slept many nights in a chair that reclined into a bed in his hospital room. I was afraid he would die, he was afraid he would die, we wanted to be together. The nights I drove home so I could sleep for one night in my own bed, I would return the next morning to a doctor waiting to see me. Most times, I was told if my husband did not start eating, drinking fluids, sit, start physical therapy, etc. he was going to die. The death would be sooner rather than later, as he had grown so weak. I would go into his room and tell him I did not come that far to have him die because he did not want to eat, etc. I would try to force him to eat, drink, sit, all things we take for granted. He would eat a little, drink a little and sometimes sit. It was hard on him, having once been so strong to suddenly have to face the ordeal he was going through. Also to have to depend on myself and others must have been hard, he was used to being the one who gave orders, not the one having to take the orders.

I mentioned his family did not visit nor offer to, that was fine with both of us, we wanted to be together, alone. If I made it sound as though they did not care, that was not the intent. I will not go through everything, some things are not for me to tell, I will just try to put some insight into what I was dealing with as my husband was so ill. They could be extremely kind, the first time they heard I was sleeping at the hospital or of my driving back and forth, they offered to pay for me to stay in a hotel that was close to the hospital that had a shuttle service. I did not accept their offer. Throughout his illness there were many signs of kindness. But there was also stress put on me from them. I am able to listen to the doctor, get the information I need without writing it down and remember. I remember the things that are of importance to my husband and myself. There was a phone call that I think everyone on the hospital floor probably heard. I was being yelled at by his family because I did not take notes, as well as not asking certain questions that to me were of no significance. A doctor heard the conversation, both parts as he walked into the room. He could hear them because they were yelling. He could see my distress. My husband was asleep, drugged up, he did not hear the conversation. He did hear the doctor tell me to give whomever I was talking to his phone number to call him and hang up on them. This was a doctor that takes no phone calls from anyone. He had to call the switchboard to tell them to put the call through. He left the room to take the call. I guess whatever he said to them shed a little light on how serious things were and how it was a wonder I was able to deal with it all. I say this, as after he talked with them, they called to say I was doing a good job. I do not expect them to read this as they do not know of it, nor would they bother, so I am not trying to point out their better points for their benefit, nor am I pointing out the negative for my benefit. I am trying to be honest with myself.

My family was a different matter, they would constantly ask to visit. Neither of our families live close so it would have meant my family staying with me. It would have been inconvenient. I was using every bit of energy I had to do what I was doing, I had none left for others. I would not allow my family to visit. While I think they understand now why I would not allow their visits, at the time they did not. I think they were angry with me. There were phone calls between my family that ended badly. In one I was even called cruel, which I was not, but I was not going to bother to defend what they perceived as cruel, when I had more important things to do. I could yell at my family if I felt like it. I know that no matter what, in the end, we are still family and will always forgive each other. It is the type of family we are. We are all pretty positive, we had great examples growing up. I will point out that my family is unaware of my writings, though they would want to read them, I would prefer they did not. This is me baring my inner self and how I am trying to regain my life. I think that they are under the impression I have my life back. I would like it to stay that way.

While I mentioned some of what my husband had gone through and how he reacted, I do not think I really gave him enough credit for the positivity he did show. To be honest some of it probably was not there, but with my constant nagging, he probably did what I said to shut me up. I took on all of his worries about his health. He told me he wanted to know nothing until he needed to. There were times he wanted to know a few things, but for the most part he knew very little. I have said I am strong and controlling, so these things he did not want to be involved with, I did. He began to become positive again once the weight of having to deal with his own health was in my hands. We trusted each other. He knew I would do what was best. Would he have found the positive attitude without me? I do not know. I only know what I felt and what his eyes reflected to me.

I am not negative. I may say negative things, but it does not make me negative. I do not want to be perceived as negative. It hurts me to think that I am thought of as negative, though I would never say it or show it. I say I do not care what others think of me. Yet sometimes, with some things I am beginning to. I think this is why the label of negativity hurts so much. I did so much to keep my husband alive and positive, all the while staying positive myself. Some that know what I went through tell me that another woman would have left him or put him in a home where others would care for him. I am not stupid, I know that. That is not me. I loved my husband. I refused to think that his death was a certainty, positive he would recover. Though in the end he lost his battle, he was positive through it. So I will remain positive, it is the only thing I know. When I am ready to look in the mirror I want my reflection to be one of positivity.