Happy Holidays? Or Bah Humbug?

Posted last year.  I should post every year.

It’s the holiday season once again!  A joyous occasion!

Usually.

As I get older, I am more aware of the fragility of many people, both physically and mentally.  So many people have lost their partner/child, or never had one, and are facing the holidays alone, and yes, lonely.

What does lonely mean?  Google suggests the following:

lone·ly
ˈlōnlē/
adjective
  1. sad because one has no friends or company

Very different than alone.  Google suggests the following:

alone

[uhlohn

SpellSyllables

1.

separate, apart, or isolated from others:

I want to be alone.
So, you can see that there is a difference.  Some people like to be alone but most people don’t like to be lonely.
I remember visiting my mom in her final year at the nursing home.  She had Alzheimer’s and was slowly losing all functions.  She did not know what day it was, let alone if it was Christmas.  I always thought, maybe that was better.  Then she wouldn’t be lonely, per se.  Every day was a new day for her, and every visit was a new adventure, whether it was a holiday or not.
You see, I’ve been alone in a nursing home over a holiday.  I was alone, and I was lonely.  I spent almost 3 months there, alone in a room at the end of the hall, across from a very busy McDonalds.  The drive-up speaker was the voice that kept me company, until late in the night.  I could tell you what was ordered most frequently, and I could smell the french fries, which drove me crazy because I really really wanted some!  I used to pretend I could wheel my chair across a busy 4 lane highway, and roll right up to the drive-thru window, and order a cheeseburger and some fries!
I did have visitors, which I greatly appreciated!  Many people called, came to visit, sent fruit! or brought me McDonalds!  I was one of the lucky ones. There were others who had no one.    After dinner I would roll up and down the hall, and look to see if someone was alone in a room, and perhaps would like a visitor or want to chat.  There were people there in bad shape, and a kind word or two went very far.  At least I knew that MY ordeal was temporary.  Theirs, maybe not.  It just reinforced my goal of making it out of there in good shape.
So this holiday season, whether you love Christmas/Hannuaka/Kwanzaa whatever or not, please think of someone that might be lonely.  A simple hello could make someone’s day.  A card, or a visit or an invitation would send them over the moon.
I need to remember that more myself.  I need to reach out.  I need to help myself, and others not be lonely.  Sometimes you just need to make that call, grab that opportunity.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas.  Peace, Joy and Love to all.
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Still me?

alice

I saw Still Alice last night.  It was a very powerful, realistic story of a woman with early onset of Alzheimer’s, at age 50.  And not just any woman.  A woman who was extremely intelligent, and was a professor at Columbia.  Her whole persona was painted by her linguist skills, of which she was very proud.  Now, it would be taken away from her.

Obviously you can’t track the insidious path that Alzheimer’s takes in only two hours.  However, I thought the film did a great job of showing just enough snippets of how her life changed as the disease progressed.  Ironically, the disease progresses faster the more intelligent its victim.

Alice tries to plan for her future, but seems to be thwarted at every turn due to her increasing loss of memory.  Her family, while supportive, each has their own lives to live.  While I initially thought her husband was very supportive, upon further reflection I have decided he was very selfish.  He did still love her, but he was very ambitious, as she had been, and he continued on his career path at the expense of spending time with his wife, going so far as to move away from her for a new job.

The children were an eclectic mix.  There was a very self-centered over-achiever older daughter, a busy doctor son, and a starving actress youngest daughter living across the country.

The ending will surprise you, in several ways.  One in the way in which the actual movie ends, and secondly in what happens to Alice.  I do not want to spoil it for any future movie watchers, so we will leave it at that.

I was initially conflicted about seeing this movie.  My own mother died from Alzheimer’s at the age of 75.  Her sister currently has it.  Looking back, I can see her decline over about 10 years.  To me, she seemed to change the most after knee replacement surgery.  When she woke up from anesthesia, she was VERY disoriented and confused.  She really had no idea what was going on for several months.  She did get better, but she was never the same.  I firmly blame the anesthesia, for uncovering or bringing on her Alzheimer’s.  Many scientific/medical journals have debated this question for years.  Anesthesia has been linked to cognitive problems, and also postoperative delirium, that can last from days to years.

I can say this, because I am living proof.  My mother had multiple medical problems and had many surgeries in her life.  I am her clone, and unfortunately have followed her same path in many ways.  I too have had many surgeries in my life.  Recently, the past two years, I have had 9 surgical procedures in regards to my hip.  Which each one, I felt my brain getting fuzzier and fuzzier.  I grasp at words sometimes.  I forget names.  I just don’t feel like I am as “smart” as I used to be.

Could it be coincidence?  Sure.  I am getting older, every year.  But I do think it has affected me to some degree.  I am so sure of it that I refused to have general anesthesia, and opted for a local for my last hip aspiration.  Did it hurt?  Yes.  Am I glad it hurt?  Yes.  At least I knew my brain was still functioning.

Do I worry about Alzheimer’s?  Yes.  Every day.  The stats are staggering.  I have a lot of factors against me.  I wish they would SOMETHING to help with this disease.  The Baby Boomers are a huge segment of population that tends to gets things done.  Elderly care has become a main issue because of their demands.  Many are of the Alzheimer’s age now.  I pray that the sheer number will spur more research and development of better drugs, or find a cure.

I still have guilt about my mom.  I should have been there for her more.  I tried.  I really did.  I worked full time, and there were many times I had to jump in my car and drive to her senior living apartment because she didn’t answer the phone.  Most times it was because she didn’t hang up right.  Then I found her on the floor.  Twice.  That was enough.  Her doctor recommended a nursing home, as she required 24/7 monitoring.  I knew she would hate it.  I remember checking her in, and in a moment of clarity, she looked right at me with her cloudy blue eyes and said, is this what my life has come to?  I cried all the way home, and for many days after that.  She did acclimate, and at least had more social interaction there than alone in her apartment, but I still felt guilt every time I went to visit her.  As the disease progressed, she didn’t know there was anything wrong with her, and I actually felt grateful for that.  I would like to think she died peacefully.  She did remember my name every time I saw her, and was always happy to see me.  She thought my dad, who had died more than 20 years previously, was there in the room with her, as a Scottie dog sitting in the corner.  I always said hi to him too.  I may have petted him on the way out.  It gave me comfort to think that my dad was watching over her.

Anyway, Still Alice is a GREAT movie, Julianna Moore gave an absolutely wonderful performance, and I am glad I saw it, despite my earlier conflict about it.  5 stars all the way.

Do you have any experience with Alzheimer’s?  Have you seen the movie?  I would love to hear your comments.

Count your blessings. Seriously.

thankfulI’ve been in kind of a funk lately, thanks to my hip.  It is SO hard to stay positive all the time, when you keep getting knocked down.  But that old adage?  That there is someone who is worse off than you?  It’s so true.

I know someone who had cancer, and went through a very rough year of treatment.  But she got through it.  She was so brave, so strong.  A real trooper.  We all breathed such a sigh of relief that she was on her way out the other side.  Her cancer was controlled.

But.  Always seems to be a but with cancer, right?  It came back.  With a vengeance.  In an even more difficult area to treat.  Hit her with a knock out punch, right out of the blue.  She had to make some very difficult treatment decisions, very fast.

But she did.  And if I know this woman, she will make it.  She has a long hard road in front of her, but she will persevere.

She made me feel ashamed of myself for my own self pity.  My problems pale in comparison to hers.  Yes, mine are bad.  But it’s not cancer.  It’s not life threatening.  At least not right now.  It can be eventually, but that would be my choice.

I’m not gonna lie, I did have a very bad year, actually year and a half, with this damn hip.  I have had 7 surgeries, 6 hospital stays, 2 ER visits, 3 nursing home stays that totaled 3 months.  Add in the hospital stays, and I’ve spent 4-5 months away from my home.  The worst was my 2 month stay, where I felt like I was in prison.  My free will was taken away from me.  I felt so helpless.  I could not leave, even if I wanted to.  I had all my choices taken away from me.  Even food, lol.  I had massive surgeries, horrible pain.

Luckily I came out the other side.  I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, and was SO THANKFUL, GRATEFUL, that it was done.  I could walk.  I was attached to a bed, a wheelchair, a walker, a cane.  I was FREE.  I thanked God every day, and all the prayer warriors who prayed for me.

But.  Always a but with these things, right?  It came back.  Just like before.  Almost right away.  And just like before, I am going to have to walk the same path, again.  Against my will.  I SWORE after the last time I would NEVER do this again.  Of course at the time I never expected to have to face this again.

Monday I go back to the hospital, for yet another procedure, to find out what is growing in my hip this time.  If all the planets align right and God is with me, maybe it is just inflammation from something else, maybe the blood tests are wrong.  If God is with me maybe it will be a simple fix.  I do know something is wrong.  It has felt wrong since the beginning.  Although I will say that it seems to have gotten a bit better, but more likely, I have just adjusted to this new level of pain.  I have not been pain free for a year and a half.

Most likely I will have to start from scratch again.  I know the path ahead of me.  I do not want to walk that path again.  Neither does my friend.  Sometimes, we just gotta do it, no matter what.  Or I could choose to do nothing, and let nature take its course.  I only hope I have the courage to choose the right path.  I only hope I can be as strong as her.  I only hope I can be positive.  I only hope it will get better.  And STAY better.

Thank you, my friend, for having the courage to fight your battle, and giving me the incentive to fight my mine.  My prayers are with you.

The healing powers of touch….it’s true!

massageI didn’t realize until yesterday how messed up my WHOLE BODY is from all my hip surgeries.  I went for a massage from my good friend Donna who I met through swim class at the YMCA.  She is an angel and a godsend, with magical hands.

I have been having trouble sleeping, and was walking with a limp, and stairs were killing me.  My knees hurt, my legs were still swollen, my toes felt like sausages by night fall, and I could not fall asleep due to my restless legs.  I have been walking crooked or not walking at all since a year ago May.  I am tired of being tired and in pain 24/7.

Even taking out a break in the middle of the day laying on my bed with my leg elevated didn’t help much.  I usually ended up falling asleep while reading my book, and that didn’t help the insomnia later.

So I went for my massage.  Initially I told her that my back was fine, just work on the lower body, mostly my legs and feet.  Well.  She always checks EVERYTHING out, and when she started on my back, I winced with pain with almost every move.  My neck, back and shoulders were so out of whack and painful due to all the months of hauling my ass around on the walker.  All that non-weight bearing on my hip meant more weigh bearing on my upper body.  I still have huge calluses on my hands from that damn walker.

She got to work, informing me that my hour massage will now take at least 2 hours.  I said go for it.  I was a noodle by that time.

When she was done, I could not believe how much better I felt.  So much better in fact, that I was mad.  I had just been to both my GP and my Ortho doctor last week, and they both prescribed me more pills to take to deal with my issues.  Water pills, pain pills, muscle relaxers.  I’m so tired of taking pills that don’t work.

When I was in the nursing home and on some serious pain meds and IV antibiotics and laying in bed all the time flat on my back, I used to beg the Patient Care Techs to massage my legs so they would stop hurting.  They were so swollen I felt like they would pop.  Some of them did.  Most of them didn’t.  I guess it wasn’t in their “job description”.

I think this is so ridiculous.  A little hands on therapy goes a long way.  Even when you go to Physical Therapy, they use MACHINES instead of their hands.

If insurance companies started paying for legitimate massage therapy and chiropracters and naturopaths etc, this world would be much better off.  These therapies are a lot cheaper than pills and hospital visits.  And rehab for that matter.  How many people get addicted to pain meds?  Look at all the athletes they just shoot up and medicate.  I think the athletes are finally starting to wise up.  And look how many of our wonderful acting talents have lost their lives due to drug abuse.  Being famous doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely and in pain!

So go ahead, get a massage!  Live it up!

My world in 3 feet or less

A little while ago I posted something about losing body freedom when you are sick. The worst of it is the 3 foot circumference that make up your entire world. If it is within that space, great. If it is not, it is lost to you until someone helps you.

That’s a tough pill to swallow if you are an independent woman. Through the pain and haze of surgery, you are helpless. Totally helpless. You whole existence depends upon people who will feed you, water you, change you, help you go to the bathrrom. How degrading.

After a few days you feel a little better, but you are still a prisoner in your own bed. You cannot bend, you cannot move your leg, you flop around like a fish in a drained pond. If you are cold, you stay cold. If you are hot, you stay hot. If you drop your TV remote, you watch the same channel. If you lose your bed remote, you stay in one position. And if you lose your call button, you stay this way for all eternity.

Nursing homes/rehab facilities are great. You go there to get better. And you do. However most of them are understaffed, and if you need immediate attention, you must learn patience. Sometimes it’s hard to do, if it’s an “emergency”. Other times you can wait for a half hour, no big deal. But being left on a commode for a half hour is not fun, nor is waiting for blanket or whatever. So you learn to write lists, and when you do see a nurse, you get all your needs taken care of at once. Nothing worse than pushing that call button right away again!

I am now a bit past the 3 foot phase. I am able, with help, to get out of bed and into a wheelchair. Feels like heaven. Still have a long way to go. But I’m getting there.

BUT. If this infection doesn’t go away with one round, and I have to do this all over again, all bets are off!