Acceptance, Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Being Strong, Coping, Courage, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Laughter, Love, Passion for Living, Thankfulness, That's life, Uncategorized, Unexpected Life Events

Just Keep Going…

It’s been 130  days since my AN diagnosis.  Since then, I’ve been through loads of doctor appointments (I’ve lost count), a variety of tests, another diagnosis of an infection in my mastoid bones (behind my ears), which seems to be resistant (I’ve been on 4 different antibiotics so far), and a seizure.  I’m now on anti-seizure meds, and a few things to try to control my headaches.  This seems to be the new “normal” for me, and we just keep hoping for the best with each appointment.

I try not to miss any work.  I’ve actually only missed 3 days out of 70 so far this year, and have taken an early leave here and there for doctor appointments.  I also go in early almost every day……a habit I’ve had for a very long time.  I know if I sit at home, I would get depressed…..something that is easy to do with any illness.  I don’t want to add depression to the list of conditions and symptoms.  Besides, I love my students, and appreciate that this is probably the best class I’ve ever taught!  I guess I need them right now.  They let me know how much they love me, and how much they care about me.  They tell me constantly that they love me, they hug me, they make pictures for me, are pretty well behaved, and they understand that sometimes I can’t get up too fast!  I told them about my recent EEG, and they enjoyed imagining their silly teacher with the 25 electrodes coming off of her head.

I don’t let a lot of people see me when I’m feeling bad.  I have learned to manage that very well.  The teacher who teaches next door to me, Tamesa, has become such a great friend.  We vent, laugh, cry, and support each other every day!  She is one of the few who sees me holding my hurting head, or can tell by the look on my face that I’m in pain, and knows what is going on, without me having to say anything.  It’s nice to have a friend/co-worker like that, but she also understands my fierce independence, and knows when I just need to push through.

I have had people ask me how I do it.  How do I keep going?  The commute? Teaching 1st graders? The work load? One of my husband’s friends in New York said in his thick NY accent, “She’s a troopah!” Well, what choice do I have?  Like I said before, I don’t want to sit home and get depressed, having no interaction with anyone.  While I might need more rest now, I still believe that I can manage this more effectively by continuing to keep busy, and keep a normal schedule. And…..I don’t want to give up my way of life.  I don’t want to get old before my time.  Young at heart = hopefulness and positivity.

I have seen people with chronic illnesses give up, go on disability, stay home, and become old before their time.  If you know anything about me, you know I have a sense of adventure and fun, and a curiosity to learn about people and places.  I love travel.  I love museums.  I’m not old enough to give up that part of myself.  I might stumble a bit here and there.  I might not hear everything, especially in a noisy room.  I might be hypersensitive to loud noises.  I might have headaches.  I might feel pressure in my ear and head.  I might have vertigo that makes life feel extra wobbly.  I might have to be more aware of the signs (auras) of an impending seizure.  I might have to eventually have surgery. But my life will not stop being enjoyable because I have a chronic illness! I refuse to give in to this.  I guess this is where my stubbornness pays off!

Over the last 130 days, I have learned so much.  I’ve learned that I am much stronger and more determined than I ever realized.  I’ve learned that I keep my balance better if I give myself more time and turn on lights!  I’ve learned that my husband is a jewel (I actually already knew this, but he has just confirmed it, as he helps me up every morning so I don’t fall, reminds me to be careful, and is understanding and supportive with my fatigue and limitations).  I’ve learned who really cares about me, and who is there to support me on this journey, wherever it leads me.  Fortunately, there are a lot of people supporting me that I never knew cared so much!  I’ve learned that naps are not only enjoyable, but they really do help!  I’ve learned a lot about two illnesses that I have, that I never dreamed would affect me.  I’ve learned to really appreciate small acts of kindness, quiet moments, fresh air, a good laugh, a walk, and all of the positive things in life.  I want to be the best me I can be for my children, who I know have been worried and scared through this.  I want them to enjoy their silly mama, who loves to laugh and embarrass them in public.  I want to be the best me for my husband, who shows me his strength every day, but I know he worries and gets scared from all of this too.

So the last 130 days of knowing what is wrong with me has been an emotional and physical roller coaster, but I appreciate what it has given me.  Things can always be worse!  I can do this…..with a few adjustments and a lot of support from those who love me.  I’m not ready to give up anything yet…..and I won’t.

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Anxiety, Be Kind, Being Strong, Change, Compassion, Courage, Empowerment, Insensitivity, Manners, Respect, Sexual Harassment, Support, Uncategorized, Understanding

A New Tomorrow

It seems that every day we are hearing of another famous person (man) being fired and/or accused of inappropriate behavior in the workplace.  Men disrespecting women in the workplace and other areas of life has been happening since the beginning of time, and happens worldwide.  Different countries and cultures have placed women in submissive roles for a very long time.  Thank goodness the tide is turning, and women are finally beginning to have the support to stand up for themselves, and hold these slime ball men accountable for their actions!  But we need to be careful, and make sure to look at each case individually.  This is where things could get cloudy and confusing.

I’m so proud of these women who are able to gather the strength for this battle.  I have been harassed in the work place and other places.  Like these victims, I was afraid to stand up.  I felt embarrassment, shame, and guilt.  Was it something I invited?  I’ve also had co-workers who have acknowledged a nice outfit I’m wearing, or have given me a compliment that I look nice.  I have taken it as just that.  A compliment…..and who doesn’t need a compliment every now and then?  Being able to tell the difference is key, but where do we draw that line?  How do we keep the violators from using that as a defense?  I realize that sexual assault and comments made about anatomy are different than compliments, but some may not as we face this new era of empowerment.  I’ve complimented the appearance of my colleagues.  I work with a friend who has GREAT legs, and looks fantastic in a dress.  I compliment her every time she’s in a dress, because I would love to have her killer legs!  I know she takes it as a compliment, but it would be inappropriate for a man to say the same things I have said.  I know she won’t accuse me of sexual harassment.  She knows that isn’t my intent, and she is level headed enough to know the difference.  Not everyone would get that.

My daughter worked in an environment with a lot of homosexual men for a few years.  A few of them made inappropriate sexual jokes and innuendos made in her presence that made her uncomfortable.  These things weren’t directed at her, but sex talk in the work place is inappropriate.  She was very upset a few times about how they laughed at her when it was brought to the attention of management.  After all, she couldn’t claim they were hitting on her, but she was uncomfortable.  I’m sure she would have had a legal case against them, but didn’t want to lose her job, which is exactly what would have happened.  With all of the awareness and training about sexual harassment in the workplace, they should have known better, even if they weren’t hitting on her.

I live in the South, where calling someone, “Honey,” “Sweetheart,” or “Baby,” isn’t meant in a condescending way.  These are terms of endearment.  They let someone know that they care about you.  Said in another part of the country, however, it could be taken in a completely different way.

I despise what these men have done, and how they have used their power to humiliate and abuse their victims.  My heart aches for the victims, who have had had to endure years of pain and suffering, sometimes sacrificing their careers or personal happiness because of these arrogant birdbrains.  However, I’m also afraid that a few women are going to take it too far, and try to ruin someone over something innocent.  This is the cloudy area I referred to earlier.

We are on a new horizon with all of this.  We don’t really know what to expect, except change.  This is GOOD! However, with change, we need to have guidelines, and use good judgement on all sides.  We all need to mind ourselves and speak and act carefully.  What is funny and acceptable to some may not be funny and acceptable to all.  It comes back to that word I’ve written about quite often……respect.  Respect and understanding for all should always be taken into consideration.  Then……..we may just make it through this.

Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Crying, Emotions, Family, Kindness, Laughter, Love, Mother, Passion for Living, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

My Mama

Eighty-six years ago, my grandmother was escorted to a hospital in Peiping, China (now Beijing) in an ambulance, by a military escort because the city was under martial law. No one was allowed to be on the streets because of fighting with the Japanese. She gave birth to my mother, Mary Joan Slater (Mary Jo) shortly after.  Yes, my mother was born in China.  My grandparents were medical missionaries in China in the 1930’s.  My mother’s first language was Chinese.  Her first “family” were the other missionaries and the Chinese people they knew.  Her first school was in Nantung.  Her first HOME was China.

On December 26, 1940, the family was evacuated on the last ship out of China, after the Japanese warned that if they did not leave, they would become prisoners of war.  It was hard to leave everything they knew and loved there, but the Slaters (now with my Uncle Bill and Aunt Joy added to the family) left for the United States.  My mother was painfully shy, and was so afraid to move not only to a new school, but to a new country.  My grandpa enlisted in the Army, and was gone for a few years, which was very hard on them, but so typical of a lot of families during WWII.

Meeting and marrying my father in college was the best decision she ever made.  She was barely 19, and they eloped because her parents wanted her to finish college first.  Fortunately, it all worked out, and my parents were married for 52 years before her death in 2002. I’m pretty sure both sides of the family were in a state of shock, but they soon realized the union was a perfect match.  Both sets of grandparents were very good to each of my parents.

Mama was the perfect minister’s wife.  She was so kind, sweet, smart, honest, and compassionate.  She truly was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known….even through my horrible teenage years, where we didn’t see eye to eye!  She was silly, a little spacey….I know where I get it…….and so much fun to be around.  She was always willing to let down her guard to have a good time, especially as she got older.  Tea parties and pretending with the grandchildren, “antiquing” and going out for tea with her five daughters, and playing with her dolls and her beautiful dollhouse (built by my Grandpa Penry and my father).  I’ve never known anyone who could claim “cleaning” as a hobby, but she could! Her younger brothers, Butch and Chuck, could talk her into anything, even though it was rarely in her best interest!  Rides on the back of motorcycles, and going down my grandparents’ driveway on a homemade go-cart (made from an old ironing board) were just two of the things they talked her into, and she regretted later.  On a few other occasions, she made crazy decisions all on her own……swinging on a vine or a tire swing, and jumping on a trampoline when she was well into her 60’s……..as embarrassed as she was later about these things, she always had the childlike innocence to look for fun.  As mature and composed as she usually was, she still had the ability and desire to look for fun.

My mother was also very strong.  She had to go to work after being a stay at home mom for years.  My father had been sick, and my sisters needed glasses and braces.  Bills were accumulating.  She learned to drive at the same time as my 16 year old sister.  Right after getting her drivers’ license (at the age of 38), she went to work as a social worker, where she had to commute (not easy for someone who had just learned to drive!).  Social work is a tough job, but she did it for a lot of years! She lost both of her parents and a younger brother, and even though she couldn’t talk about them without crying, she kept going, showing her love for them through her memories of them…..and her tears.

Being a minister’s wife was not always easy either, but she loved and supported Daddy through every difficult situation (including the Civil Rights Movement in Arkansas in the 1960’s). She always taught Sunday School, and I know she impacted hundreds of young lives through her own ministry.  She and Daddy were definitely each other’s biggest supporter and the best of friends.  They made a great team!

So Mama has been gone for nearly 15 years now, and today would have been her 86th birthday.  It’s not easy for me, but I always celebrate her birthday by eating Chinese food, and usually go to an antique store and drink a cup of tea.  Tonight, Al came home with roses for me, in Mama’s honor……..

I know I will never be as good as she was, but I can always strive to be better than I am.  She had a way of saying my name, or giving me a look, or poking her finger in my side to get me to behave! Sometimes I swear I can feel that same poke, or hear her say my name…….you know, when your middle name gets tacked on the end when you’re in trouble…..”Lauri Ann!”  I know I inherited her sense of fun, and I am grateful to her for that, along with so many other things.  I know when I do something that seems a bit….airheaded……it’s her way of getting back at me for laughing at her for doing similar things!  My sisters and I refer to these times as “Mary Jo moments.”

My mama was a pretty special lady.  She led a fascinating life from her beginnings in China to her years as a minister’s wife, a mother, and a grandmother.  I miss her every day.  But today, I celebrate her, and the time I had with her.  I’m very lucky.  I love you, Mama.

 

Acceptance, Anger, Anxiety, Be Happy, Being Strong, Crying, Emotions, Happiness, Laughter, Uncategorized

Healthy Crying

I’m a crier.  I cry when I’m happy.  I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m tired.  I cry when I’m in pain. I cry when I worry.  I cry when I’m angry.  I cry when I miss someone.  I cry when I feel sentimental.  I can’t help it.  Sometimes it makes me mad!  I wish I could control it better, especially when I’m angry.  It can get embarrassing at times, but when I’m mad, it really just makes it even worse!  My mother was a crier, and my sisters and I used to tease her about it, or get embarrassed.  I’m convinced I jinxed myself because I’m 1000 times worse than she was (I think).

When I’m mad and crying, the person I’m angry with either thinks it’s funny, or feels superior, as if they’ve conquered me, and that I’m weak.  Of course, those types of people are really just bullies, and their motives are to make people feel weak and helpless.  I am not weak and helpless.  In fact, I”m a pretty strong woman, as was my mother.  I have learned that tears are not a sign of weakness.  Tears are merely a sign of being able to feel completely.  To be able to shut that off would have helped me in a lot of situations, but it also would be the end of me being able to feel every emotion as intensely as I do.  I’m not sure I want that.  If I stopped crying when I’m angry, I may not laugh as heartily, with my silly snorts and not being able to catch my breath.  If I didn’t cry when I’m angry, I may not feel the same compassion I feel now for others.  Or, I may have a cold personality, and not be able to express myself with any warmth at all.

People who antagonize someone, or try to push someone to the point of being angry are nothing but bullies…..or assholes……take your pick!  They find it fun to upset someone, and make them feel embarrassed when they start to cry, or attempt to fight back tears.  Yes, they are bullies, and have no feelings or compassion for anyone else.  I’ve been in that situation a few times.  It’s hard, and my voice shakes, and I cry. I’m not afraid…..I’m just feeling that emotion with great intensity! It isn’t easy at all to deal with, but I feel sorry for them in that they don’t really feel anything at all.  How can they enjoy or appreciate life?

Tears and emotions are okay.  It is sometimes embarrassing, and we end up spending a lot of money on tissues!  When I laugh so hard I cry (and snort), it’s a wonderful feeling!  My kids will make me laugh at something, and I laugh harder and harder…..becoming  silent, to where I can’t catch my breath.  Then they say, “Oh no!  She’s going to snort!” And sure enough, I always do!  Through my tears, I snort like a pig, which makes everyone laugh harder!  That’s embarrassing too, but at least I get a good belly laugh!

I have decided that I will not feel ashamed of this trait I inherited.  It’s me.  It’s real.  It’s sincere.  It’s who I am.  I feel with great intensity, and I’m thankful for that.  Life is too short to have to try to hide who we really are.  I should feel thankful that my mother and father taught me how to express emotions, and communicate my feelings in a healthy way.

Tears are okay.  Tears are not a sign of weakness.  Tears are a sign of a healthy spirit.  Criers unite!  Stand up to jerks who see you as weak, with your healthy tears.  Have a good healthy cry today!  And those of you who may look at us as though we are too emotional or weak……I’m sorry you see us that way, and if it makes you feel superior to us, you are wrong.  I’m sorry you are not able to feel as deeply as some of the rest of us.

 

Acceptance, Anxiety, Bad Attitudes, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Don't Judge, Doormat, Happiness, Kindness, Manners, Rejection, Relationships, Respect, Self respect, Support, Uncategorized

Acceptance vs. Rejection

Acceptance.  We all want/need/crave it throughout our lives.  We first need it from our parents, siblings, and extended family.  Some people aren’t fortunate enough to ever feel that.  Then we need acceptance from friends, teachers, and coaches, employers, co-workers, our adult peers, and even our spouses and own children.

Why do we need acceptance?  Why is it so important for us to feel loved?  Besides the basic needs of life…..food/water, shelter, and warmth, we also NEED love and acceptance. Humans are socially wired, and need each other.  I know there are some people who really don’t care if they are accepted or liked, and I will admit, that I don’t care if I am liked by certain people.  Life is too short to waste our time on negativity or hate. However, if you’ve done your best to be kind, considerate, honest, generous, helpful, and truly nice to someone, why wouldn’t they like or accept you?  Why would they reject your sincere efforts to be a good person?  Rejection is painful.

As a child, I was fairly well liked by my teachers.  I was quiet and did my work, so that helped.  I did have a teacher or two in high school who just really didn’t like me though. It was a miserable experience!  I hated jumping through hoops for them, only to always be shot down, or criticized, no matter what I did.  It was a hard lesson to learn about the human spirit, and how mean people can be.  My husband had the same experiences with a few coaches along the way.  No matter what type of effort he put in at practices, games, etc. the coach was never satisfied. I think everyone can relate to similar experiences.

Why?  What gives someone the satisfaction of rejecting people?  Is it a power play? Is it fun having control over someone’s future or feelings?  Or does it make them feel good to hurt someone? Are they miserable people who only feel good when they are hating and disrespecting someone else?  Does it make them happy to criticize everything someone does, even when that person is doing their best?  Is it jealousy?  Are they rejecting you for the way you look?  The way you talk?  The way you dress?  The career you chose?  Your social status?  Where you come from?  Who you marry?  Misunderstandings, miscommunication, and grudges can also be a source of contention for us…..and it’s very unhealthy spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  As a wife, mother, and educator, I can’t imagine ever treating someone so unfairly.  I want to be an example of how to treat people.

A friend recently told me about her 2 year old granddaughter getting scratched by another child. Not only was her granddaughter physically hurt, but she was confused as to why this other child would intentionally hurt her.  We do what we can to protect our loved ones, but sometimes we can’t protect them from everything and everyone. Teaching kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, and love is far better than teaching them to be jealous, spiteful, or resentful.  Teaching them to stand up for themselves and walking away from negativity and meanness is much harder.  They still need love and acceptance.

I guess this is all a part of life, and learning how to deal with difficult people. I have learned that there are people in this world who I can never make happy.  I can’t control their thoughts, their actions, or what is influencing them.  I can only continue to be myself……trying to be the best version of myself, and how my parents raised me.  I can never be cold to someone who has done nothing to hurt me.  In fact, sometimes, I find myself being nice to people who have been unkind or unfair to me, and really don’t deserve my niceness!  I get annoyed with myself for doing that at times, but I just can’t help it!  I don’t want to go through life making anyone feel rejected or hurt.  I can’t.  I have to keep telling myself though, that when I encounter rejection, especially when I have only been kind….it is not my problem.  When a person intentionally rejects you in order to hurt you, you are not the problem.  As hard and hurtful and mean as it is….as long as you continue to be the bigger person, it is not you.

Choose kindness, not hate.  Choose acceptance, not rejection.  Wouldn’t you rather be known for your kindness and acceptance instead of someone who intentionally hurt another by rejecting them?  Don’t be so caught up in yourself that you hurt someone else with rejection.  Remember…..acceptance is a human need.  Be kind.

 

Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Fear, Happiness, Kindness, Negativity, Respect, Self respect, Support, Uncategorized

Accomplishing the “Impossible”

I accomplished something yesterday that I never thought I could.  I have wanted to attempt a career in real estate for many years.  I have bought and sold my own homes, after fixing them up, several times.  Now, don’t get me wrong….teaching is where my heart is, and always will be, but teaching is just not making ends meet these days.  I have to have at least a side hustle, or a plan to supplement our income.  If it turns into something full time, that will be great!  I will keep teaching until I feel the need to walk away.

I used to toss around the idea of real estate occasionally, and was met by the same comments from negative people, or people who felt the need to make me feel like I wasn’t good enough……..”Yeah, but it’s commission only,” “The test is really hard….are you sure you’re smart enough?” “There’s a lot of realtors out there!”  “It’s not possible.  You don’t have time!”  I know it’s commission only, but with any business where you work for yourself, it’s basically based on how much you sell…..commission only!  Yet, plenty of business owners and contractors do quite well. Yes, the test is hard, and I didn’t know if I was smart enough or not, but if I didn’t try, how would I ever know?  And yes, there are a lot of realtors out there, so the competition is tough, and some people aren’t cut out for it. But again, if I didn’t try, how would I ever know?  And, it would be possible if I made the time, and that’s what I did.

I finally decided last summer to start taking a class.  It was tough!  It was online, so I had to pace myself, and be disciplined to read and study every day.  My husband was very supportive, and cheered me on, keeping my spirits up, even when I felt defeated. I spent my whole summer focused on it, and finally took the test yesterday…….

When I went into the test center, I was very nervous.  I didn’t sleep well the night before.  I had heard that the there was about a 50/50 chance of passing it.  I went through all of the security procedures to make sure I am who I said I am, they checked my jacket pockets for cheating devices, looked at my calculator to make sure it didn’t have any way of typing letters or words, gave me the directions, took my photo, and then led me into the testing room.  As I read through the questions, I was telling myself that I should probably try to memorize a few, because I was counting on failing it.  I thought I would be back in 30 days to retake it.  That’s what happens to you when you are worn down by those who doubt you, question your character, intelligence, or motives, or are constantly pessimistic or negative.  Even though I try to always be positive and encouraging toward others, I have let those feelings of doubt and negativity wear down my own self esteem. Going through life not feeling good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough is tough.  I’ve never wanted to be the cause of making someone else feel that way……..

When I finished the test, and walked out of the testing room, the proctor smiled and said, “Congratulations!”  I was shocked!  I said, “I PASSED????”  She said I did, showed me the verification she had printed out, and asked how many times I had taken it.  I said this was the first time.  She said, “Oh baby, didn’t your instructor tell you that nobody passes it the first time?  We have people come in 4, 5, and 6 times to take it!  You did great!”  I was shaking!  All of that hard work had paid off! Here I am, at 52 years old, taking on something completely new……oh, and with a brain tumor too!  I did it!

On the drive home, I was fighting back tears, telling myself I didn’t fail, and I’m NOT a failure!  I had planned on keeping it together when I told Al, but as soon as I walked in the door, I burst into tears, saying, “I did it!  I passed!” And you know what?  He was just as happy as I was!  He was proud of me, hugging me, laughing, kissing me, telling me over and over how proud he was of me.  I haven’t had a lot of people tell me that in my life.  It means a LOT to hear it.

It may not seem like such a big endeavor for some of you, but I know of people who have completely given up on this test.  It was a huge deal for me!  I know that with determination, hard work, and a support system, I can accomplish what I want.  We all have our dreams in life.  Let’s support each other in our endeavors.  Let’s not make each other feel like we aren’t good enough…..for ANY reason.  Encouragement goes a long way.  Let’s do that for each other….in a world where negativity, jealousy, divisiveness, spite, anger, resentfulness, and hatred seem to prevail, let’s help build each other up to accomplish our dreams and goals.  It doesn’t take much to give an encouraging word………and wouldn’t you rather be spreading good cheer, and positive vibes, instead of hurting someone because of your own doubts and insecurities?

Tonight, I can finally say, “I did it!”  I accomplished something I didn’t think I could do. What is it that you want to do, and what (or who) is holding you back?  You can do this!

Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Fear, Happiness, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Passion for Living, Support, Uncategorized

Coping Through Fear and Uncertainty

The last couple of months I have been dealing with an issue that I have been afraid to write about.  Actually, up until a couple of weeks ago, every time I talked about it, I would cry, but I am learning to deal with this more comfortably, or as comfortably as possible, so maybe writing about it will be therapeutic…..I have a brain tumor.  THAT is a very difficult thing to say (or write).

After a couple of years of dealing with vertigo off and on (mostly when I was tired, or the lighting was low), headaches, tinnitus, balance issues, and noticing some hearing loss last school year, I finally have answers, following some medical tests.  Our trip to Europe seemed to intensify the symptoms…..I guess from the pressure during the flight?  I tried to pass it off as fatigue or jet lag, but deep down, I knew something wasn’t right.  I felt horrible most of the time we were there.  After we got back, the symptoms didn’t go away.  On July 25th, I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, which is a tumor on the main nerve going to my ear.  My husband was in New York visiting his family at the time of my diagnosis, so I was alone, and very afraid when I found out.  I told him over the phone……  I called my three children, and cried while I told them.  They’ve all been very sweet and understanding, very supportive, and patient with my emotions.  I emailed my four sisters, and they were very supportive. They told me not to worry because they would worry enough for me.  I texted my friends because I didn’t want to cry while telling them.  I texted my pastor.

Basically, this thing has probably been with me for awhile.  It’s not malignant, and it’s very slow growing. For now, it’s small (1.7 cm), and we are lucky to have caught it at this stage.  It’s obviously big enough to be causing some serious problems……….headaches, vertigo, balance, tinnitus, pressure, hearing loss, noise sensitivity, fatigue…….but we have chosen to watch it to see if it is still growing, and if so, at what pace.  If I were younger,  and if the location were different, the approach may be different.  Two of the main concerns are total hearing loss and facial paralysis (it pushes against the facial nerve), and of course, if it is left completely untreated, it can cause death.  It does not grow into the brain, as a malignant tumor would.  As it grows, it pushes against the brain and brain stem.

It’s a rare condition, but I actually have two friends who have had this same thing.  Their tumors were larger, and they were younger, and they each had different treatments. Each one was left with problems resulting from the surgery…..facial paralysis, total hearing loss, epilepsy…..and have a lot of the same symptoms that I have which surgery and/or radiation didn’t eliminate.  My doctors want to wait to see if it is growing before making the decision to go in after it.  If I can learn to manage the symptoms I have, and it isn’t growing, my symptoms may never get worse…..but they won’t get any better.  If I have surgery and/or radiation, there is a risk that these symptoms may get worse.

I have had to do some soul searching throughout this.  I was very depressed at first.  I have had to count my blessings though. There was so much uncertainty before the diagnosis.  Was it MS?  Parkinsons?  Cancer? No, no, and no, and now I have an answer, even if it is scary.  I’ve done a lot of research, talked to my doctor, and also consulted with my friends who have been through this. I’ve decided I have to accept what I have in front of me, make adjustments to my lifestyle, position myself in places where I can hear, try to avoid loud noises (my principal will give me a heads up before those screeching fire alarms go off during drills…..that feels like being stabbed in the ear drum with an ice pick!), get up more slowly, don’t turn too fast, take aspirin for my headaches, be careful while walking or standing, especially in low lighting (the vertigo and balance problems are extreme for me in low lighting), fall asleep with the television or fan on to drown out the tinnitus, get plenty of rest, do more yoga, avoid stress, etc. etc. etc. I definitely don’t have time for anything petty, negative, or dramatic.  I’ve never liked those situations anyway, but now I have a legitimate reason to avoid it and brush it aside!  My health depends on it.

I have decided that if I am to completely come to terms with this, I need to make peace with it.  This is the best way for me to stay positive and be able to face it….as I always do…..with humor. The tumor needed a name.  I thought about Tammy, but since that is one of my sisters, I knew it wouldn’t go over very well (she agreed)! So I have named her Tina, and damn it, Tina and I will be friends, whether she likes it or not!  My children and Al make fun of me for my hearing loss, but that’s okay.  What I think I hear is usually way more entertaining than what they’re saying!  For instance, today at work, they announced that the latchkey program would be meeting in the “portable.”  Well, I heard “toilet bowl.”  What I heard was a lot funnier!!!!

I am so thankful to my children, Lily,  Evan, and Grace, who check on me regularly (even when Evan is in the middle of the ocean on his ship in the Navy, he checks on his mama), keeping my spirits up.  I am thankful to my doctors and modern medicine! I am thankful to my wide circle of friends from California, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Florida Europe, and South America…….it makes me emotional thinking about how much support they’ve given me! I am thankful for my sisters, who keep me laughing with their quirky emails (I’m not the only quirky one), my cousin Danny (who happened to be the first person I told because he just happened to reach out to me after I got my diagnosis).  I’m thankful for my church family who has prayed for me, and has checked on me when we have been able to get there.  I’m thankful for my friends at work who have kept my “little” secret until I have been strong enough to talk about it, and have helped me. I’m thankful for my little dog, Andy, who snuggles with me, giving me comfort and kisses! And most of all, I am thankful for my dear sweet husband, Al.  I know that he is probably more worried and scared than he lets on.  But he is so strong for me.  I’ve lost count how many times I have fallen, and he patiently helps me back up, making sure I’m okay and steady on my feet before letting me go.  Falling like a two year old is very humbling!  Through my headaches, emotions, and all of the financial strain I’ve put on us with this…..he is my ROCK. We may have found each other late in life, but I know that I couldn’t go through this without him.  I don’t have my parents anymore, but I have some very good people in my life!  I am the luckiest girl in the world…….

Life is a party……face it head on, embrace it, and enjoy every minute of it!