Archive for July, 2009

Time in a Bottle
July 24, 2009

 LB-CSGUW[1]

Time is a Great Healer, but not a Great Beautician…

– Sign at Gorman’s Cleaners, Houston 

 It’s not often that Joel and I “retire” at the same time, and so I usually have the bathroom to myself to render my ablutions for the evening. But this week, he saw fit to head for bed at a decent hour (i.e. my bedtime), and so there we were in the bathroom at the same time. 

I couldn’t help but compare our evening rituals, and I must say that if we were keeping score, then I would definitely win the contest. What contest, you may ask? Why, the “let’s see how many beauty products we can use” contest! 

Here’s the scorecard: 

Joel uses dental floss, toothpaste and “soap”. Score: 3 

Carol uses floss, toothpaste, eye makeup remover, face cleanser, “relaxing tonic”, listerine, hydra-firming cream, micro-derm eye excel, and last night, the teeth bleaching mold and gel. Score: 10 

I win! Or I lose, depending on how you look at such things. The list is even worse in the morning. Add shaving cream to his list and countless more items to mine, including sunscreen, concealer, makeup, etc. 

The Baby Boomers are famous for their vanity, we who were once invincible in every way. But time does march on, and now we are the next generation to step up and become the elder one. Many women I know are kicking and screaming all the way. 

But recently, it seems like there’s been a backlash about the artificial prolonging of youth by my generation; I think it’s mostly a function of the fact that we’re now too old to even pretend anymore. Certainly I’m facing my own health issues that may render me “old”. 

There’s a certain line that one crosses when it becomes apparent that the jig is up; I know I’m not young anymore. I do believe I’ve now come to that point, but my boomer vanity still makes me keep trying to stave off the inevitable. 

There will be no artificial, surgical means of doing so, I can guarantee that! But bring on the beauty products! I will always win that contest at my house…

And She Lived to Tell About It
July 18, 2009

mri

…God will never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.   – 1 Corinthians 10:13 

On the morning of the dreaded MRI day, I opened up my e-mail to find the above scripture in my daily e-devotional. I thought it was a good omen, and I memorized it to take with me, if and when I might need some inspiration. 

After I checked in and got acquainted with the tech who would walk me through the procedure, she dropped the bombshell that yes, I would have to go all the way into the tube, despite what my doctor had said. This was a sobering moment for me, because I wasn’t sure I could manage this, given my claustrophobic nature and horror of being confined. 

(I’m not sure when I developed this phobia, but I tell you what, there was a “Twilight Zone” episode years ago where the evil woman in prison wheedled the shop worker trusty who built coffins for deceased prisoners to let her sneak into one to make her escape outside the walls the next time a prisoner died. The shop worker agreed to come rescue her out in the cemetery afterwards. Well. You can guess the rest of the story…. ) 

The one thing that made me think that I might be able to do this was the fact that she said I’d be on my stomach with my head on a pillow (as opposed to lying flat on my back, which is very unnatural to me). She assured me that if I had any problems, they’d bring me out, so I agreed to give it a try. Yes, I know I could have opted for a sedative, but I had driven myself there, so that was out of the question. 

So, armed with the above scripture and knowing I had the prayers of many friends to help me through this, I tried to get comfortable as they wrapped my hands, taped them together and put them in a box to immobilize them. With them stretched out over my head as if I were about to take a dive, and with my eyes squinched shut, into the tube I went! 

That was absolutely the longest hour of my life; the worst part, of course, was being totally immobilized and unable to move. The second worst was not having any idea of the passage of time. I’d find myself getting panicky, and I’d have to breathe deeply and concentrate really hard on my scripture. I’d will myself to not think about my hands  (which both fell asleep and tingled), my feet, the fact that my nose itched or that I was drooling into the pillow- oh well!), and just absolutely prayed my way through. 

Another thing I kept trying to dwell upon was the privilege I was “enjoying”. By that I mean that I honestly have no idea how much such a test costs; I just had it done because my insurance will pick up the lion’s share of the cost. Sure, we do pay a rather large monthly sum for our insurance, but it’s less than if I had to add up all these recent doctor bills. Which is why we have insurance, of course. And so I was grateful for that fact while trying to keep myself from thinking about my hands, nose, feet, etc. 

The funny part was beforehand when the tech asked me what kind of music I’d like to listen to. I said “choral or classical” and she went to look to see if she could find some. She came back and asked if “choral” was the name of a band, and I said, no, it’s singing by a chorus of voices. Still she couldn’t find it… because she was spelling it “coral”.  I had to spell it for her. 

But she did find it, and in between all the clanking, roaring and thumping, I think I was hearing The Tallis Scholars, or some other such group, singing early music… the only pleasant part of the experience. 

I was ecstatic when it was all over. I had done it! But I know I had not done it alone, because later on, I heard from friends who wanted to know how I’d fared, and who reported that they had been praying for me. One dear friend, Lynnda, actually wrote me a note of encouragement as she prayed for me while I was in the middle of the procedure. I really do believe that their prayers helped me to keep focused, and I am so grateful for them. 

Results? They show I do have inflamed tendons in my hands, so the next step is to go back to the rheumatologist to plot a course of medications that will hopefully halt the progress of RA and just let me live with it comfortably. 

Prayers have held me up, and prayers will keep me going! I do so appreciate all of you…

Dem Bones
July 10, 2009

hands

Come blessed peace, we once again implore,  And let our pains be less, or power more.

Alexander Brome (1661)

 A few weeks back I recounted my experience with a hand injury that led me to a doctorly  relay race, with myself as the baton, going from one to the other as scheduled. I thought there was going to be a happy ending to my story in which I would have nothing more than some age related aches and pains that I would be able to alleviate with non-prescription supplements. 

And so I happily went to my follow up visit with the rheumatologist this week to show her how much I’d improved after taking the supplements she’d recommended. She sat me down and told me the bad news, that my blood tests indicated that I did indeed have Rheumatoid Arthritis, an auto-immune disease for which there is no cure, only management with a lifelong course of treatment involving drugs and therapy. 

She was positive, though, saying we’d caught this early on and that there were some wonderful drugs that worked well and would probably allow me to lead a full and active life. I guess I was so surprised that I didn’t know what questions to ask, but I do recall saying to her that in the big picture, I’d rather have this diagnosis than another one with more dire consequences. 

I’ve always been SO healthy; I am simply never sick. People all around me can pass around colds or other viruses, and they seem to bounce off me. But because of my overall excellent health, I’ve often had a premonition that someday, something big and scary was going to hit me. I guess this is the day. Still, if I had to rate RA on a list of ten bad diseases (with one being the worst), I’d probably stick it up there at number 8 or so. I’m a strong person, I can deal with this! 

I said this with all the confidence in the world, and then I made the mistake of looking up RA on the internet. Yikes! It lists all the terrible things that may happen, which isn’t pretty. Worst case is total disability with a shortened lifespan. I’ll just have to have faith that I won’t be a worst case.

Hmmm. Here’s my favorite part of the internet article. It says, “Frequent rest periods between activities, as well as 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, are recommended.” Yes! I can do this!!

So the next step in my RA journey is an MRI on Wednesday. I’ve never had one, and I’m certainly not looking forward to it! I don’t think I have to go in all the way, though, so I’m hopeful it won’t be so bad.

You know, I’ve never been one to solicit prayers on my own behalf, thinking that surely God has other more important issues that require his benevolence. But just this once, dear reader, would you remember me in your prayers? The RA won’t go away, but my wish is that it be an easily managed mild case. That, and that I am strong and have courage when the time comes! I am ever so grateful.

The Shadow of Shadow
July 3, 2009

bailey_shadow

When you are old and grey and full of sleep, And nodding by the fire, take down this book  And slowly read and dream of the soft look Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.       

 – W.B. Yeats (1893)

Shadow is ever so slowly diminishing. Now that he has passed the 13 year milestone, who can predict how much longer we’ll have him with us? He seems to feel fine; sometimes he’s even a little frisky… but mostly he sleeps all day now, and drinks an awful lot of water all the time. It could be the heat, but I’m wondering if his kidneys are beginning to fail him. Sometimes he seems confused; I know he can’t hear very well, and will startle awake if one of us happens upon him. 

Can he see ok? I think he’s getting cataracts, and it makes me wonder if he’s unsure of getting around. I know he can’t see very well when he goes from a lighted room into a darkened one. When that happens, I usually help him out, like any good “seeing eye person” would. 

Then one recent morning, he didn’t eat all of his breakfast. The next day, he ate less and then finally on the following day, he turned his nose up at it completely. This is totally unlike him… the dog who lives to eat! My solution was to pick his bowl up and let it sit awhile, then at lunch, drizzle some water from the tuna can over the leftovers (a favorite “treat”… tuna flavored water!). He’d usually finish it off after that. 

But not today. He wouldn’t even eat one bite of the tuna enhanced concoction. This really concerned me, so while I was at the grocery store later, I took a look at the dog food options and purchased some different packets of moist food to try to entice him to eat.

 At home, I opened one, put it in his bowl and stirred it up with a spoon. He was lying there regally, watching me the whole time. I brought his bowl to him, sat on the floor and then spoon fed him this new stuff. Praise be, he ate it! I was so relieved, I thought to myself, “If this is what it takes to get this precious dog to eat from now on, I’ll be glad to do it!”

Shadow is so wily and smart that I think he is probably working the system to his favor and will happily eat whatever I hand feed him. As you might predict, Bailey was apoplectic with envy, because of course, he doesn’t realize that Shadow didn’t eat any of his breakfast, and thought he was getting a special treat. 

It’s hard to have multiple dogs and treat them equally; while some people may roll their eyes at such a concept, those who have more than one dog know what I’m talking about. When we had that little foundling puppy with us for a few days (see Puppy Love, June 12), it was REALLY hard. Three dogs, two hands. It doesn’t work very well. 

Come to think of it, I now wonder if Shadow’s recent decision to refuse his usual food has to do with the fact that I fed that puppy a different brand that was more tempting to him? Perhaps a light bulb went off in his brilliant brain… “hey! There’s better grub out there than what I’m getting, so I think I’ll hold out for it!” I wouldn’t put it past him… 

The next few years will be hard on us as Shadow gets progressively more needy of care. My goal is to keep him as comfortable as I can and love him through whatever may come. Hard decisions will eventually have to be made, I know, and I am dreading them. 

But in the meantime, I shall shower him with all the love such a “perfect dog” deserves. If there ever were a more perfect dog than he (beautiful, affectionate, patient, calm, obedient, quiet, sweet, smart!!!, and capable of soothing both aggressive dogs and frightened children into becoming his friends), I’d like to know of him. 

Shadow sets the bar pretty high! Bailey is a terrific dog, but has a totally different personality. Funny how that works within the same breed, but in this case, it’s true. As hard as the coming years will be for me, they will be equally hard for Bailey, who thinks Shadow hung the moon. I guess we’ll just travel this journey together and cross the bridges as we encounter them. In the meantime, I will spoil our elder dog in every way I can, to make sure he knows he is well loved.