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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Don't Judge, Fear, Fort Scott, Kansas, Friday the 13th, Ghosts, Halloween, Hotel del Coronado, Just Breathe, October, Pensacola Lighthouse Museum, Spirits, Spooky Places, Supernatural, The French Quarter, The Unexpected, travel, Travel Channel, Travel Woes, Uncategorized, Whaley House

Friday, the 13th……

I am taking a much needed day off work today.  After another trip to the doctor earlier this week, 3 more needles, a change of meds, and orders to rest, I decided to obey doctor’s orders (finally), after pushing myself at work to get things finished for the end of the first 9 weeks of school.  With all of the medical tests, I’ve sort of been feeling like a science experiment lately, and a bit like the Bride of Frankenstein……not that Al is Frankenstein!  I just feel like the female version of the experimental monster. With this being October, and today happens to be Friday the 13th, I wondered about the timing of all of these health struggles!  I also started thinking about all of the spooky, supernatural things that are so prevalent this time of year.

Some people choose not to celebrate Halloween, and that’s okay.  This is America, after all.  We are free to do what we want, right?  I happen to enjoy Halloween.  As a child, I never considered it to be demonic, or filled with anything satanic.  My family celebrated it as a time for children to use their imaginations in pretending, playing dress up, and getting candy!  I did the same thing for my own children.  There have always been the scary movies, which have become more terrifying in recent years, and I haven’t really enjoyed those.  I prefer the suspense of Hitchcock over the slasher or demonic movies. But there are also stories of supernatural, which are year round, but more front and center this time of year.

Do you believe in spirits, hauntings, or souls that might be caught in limbo?  Some people don’t….a lot of times that is because of religious reasons, but these same people believe in angels, which non-religious people don’t believe in.  Others do believe in this type of activity.  I believe that sometimes a spirit may linger, especially if there was something unpleasant about their lives or deaths, such as violence or murder. I also believe a loved one may be able to make themselves known to his or her family, in a way to comfort them.  If I hadn’t had my own personal experiences with this, I probably wouldn’t believe it either.  I have a memory of my grandfather talking to me when I was about 3 years old.  For years, I thought it was a memory from when he was alive. After discussing it with my mother, I realized the time line didn’t work out, and it would have had to be after he died, because he died when I was 2 years old……on Friday, October 13th……..fifty years ago today.  I wasn’t afraid at all, and I think he was probably just checking on his family, since my mother, aunt, and grandmother were all in the room at the same time of this occurrence, and weren’t acknowledging him in any way.  I know I didn’t understand why they weren’t talking to him!

Over the years, I’ve had uncomfortable feelings in places, where I feel like I’m being watched, or that maybe something really bad had happened there.  One of these places was at the old fort in the small town where I grew up in Kansas.  I had strange feelings there on two separate occasions.  One of those times was with my youngest daughter, Grace.  She was about 10 at the time.  We used to love going to the fort and touring the old buildings.  We were alone (so we thought) in one of the buildings, and I noticed that Grace kept looking behind her, and seemed uncomfortable and jumpy.  I also felt cold, and uncomfortable.  I thought someone was in the room with us.  I turned around to see no one, but I still felt the need to leave the building.  I asked Grace if she wanted to leave, and she responded with an enthusiastic, “YES!”  We both felt it.  We haven’t been back in that building!

I have watched the Travel Channel’s, “Most Terrifying Places in America,” many times. One of the places they have talked about is the Whaley House in San Diego.  I made a point to tour it (by myself) a few years ago.  Other than it being cold and a little creepy, I didn’t see anything, or really feel anything unusual or uncomfortable.  Maybe I would feel differently if I worked there, or spent more time there.  I also stayed at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, which is supposedly haunted by a young woman named Kate Morgan who died there in 1892.  While I didn’t get a bad feeling about her, I did feel uncomfortable one night, like someone was playing with my feet while I tried to sleep.  I asked my ex-husband, and he swore it wasn’t him.  It didn’t really scare me, but it was annoying.  For some reason, I didn’t feel like it was her though, but maybe some other type of mischievous spirit.

While in New Orleans, I got a few funny feelings at places in the French Quarter. Nothing terrifying…….but uncomfortable, and like maybe I wasn’t alone.  The Lighthouse Museum in Pensacola really gave me the creeps.  Sometimes I can’t really put my finger on it, but it’s just a weird feeling.  I’ve had odd feelings in a lot of places….even in one particular building in Stockholm last summer.

I think some people are more in tune to some of these things, whether they want to be or not.  Sometimes you hear of people who don’t believe in the supernatural, but yet, they may encounter someone who isn’t really there, and are then confused by the encounter. I do think some people see what they want to see, and get a little carried away with the whole phenomenon, either for attention, or for monetary gain.

One thing is for sure…..there are a LOT of stories out there of similar experiences in places all over the world.  I don’t believe that millions of people just have over active imaginations.  Not everyone has to believe, but sometimes there just aren’t logical, scientific explanations for everything.  So, on this Friday the 13th, during this spooky/fun month of October, watch out for the ghosts and goblins!

 

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!

Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Fear isn't weakness, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Loyalty, Support, Uncategorized

It’s Okay To Be Weak

Have you ever known someone who is very good about keeping composed, and holding everything together?  Some people always seem to be the strong presence in difficult situations.  You wonder how they manage at times.  I have been this person most of my adult life.  I don’t let on that I am struggling.  I make a joke to try to lighten their mood (or mine).  When my mother died, I showed very little emotion outside of the funeral. At the time, my ex husband was living in New Mexico, and I was alone with 3 children in Kansas.  Our family dog had died the previous day, and it was also the week of Thanksgiving.  It was a really crappy week!  After the funeral, I had to be the strong one for my kids, and hold it together.  I didn’t want them to be afraid if their mama was upset.  I didn’t feel that I could let my children or my co-workers know how much I was hurting. In fact, the day after my mother died, I went to work, and only told two people what had happened!  I just didn’t want to let on to anyone that I was hurting or afraid, and I taught my class that day without ever letting on that anything was wrong.  I couldn’t fall apart.

I’ve been there to support friends, co-workers, and a few family members if they’ve needed me.  Or, I’ve been supportive of them in their goals, dreams, educations, careers, relationships, raising kids, etc……just being there……being a friend.  One thing I’m not good at though, is asking for help or support when I need it.  It’s very hard. It makes me feel selfish.  It embarrasses me.

This week, I had a moment that I’ve always considered “weak” for me.  I was in my classroom with a colleague after school, talking about school things.  The conversation turned to something personal, and I fell apart!  I burst into tears.  I sobbed.  I think my friend/colleague was surprised because she hadn’t seen me that upset before.  Everything I’ve been dealing with caught up with me, and no matter how many positive posts I put on social media to try to keep my spirits up, I just couldn’t hold it together at that moment.  I was tired.  I was hurting.  I was tired of being strong.  During the conversation, another friend came in, and they sat there with me, letting me vent and cry, while they hugged me, and told me it was okay to lean on them, and that everyone needs to feel safe enough to do that sometimes.  Things have been very hard for me lately, and I guess my emotions were like a pressure cooker.  While I have the best husband/friend in the world, I guess I needed to know that I can also lean on someone else for support sometimes.  Al is still, and always will be my ROCK.

Of course, at the end of the conversation, my friends and I hugged again, and being me, I had to make a silly joke to make everyone laugh!  One of the friends said that it never fails….Lauri will always try to cheer someone up, even through her own tears.  She said it was a “gift.”  I have never thought of it like that.  I do believe that the cure to a lot of painful situations is laughter, but I never realized that my sarcasm or self deprecating humor was a gift.  That was nice to hear.

I have learned that it’s okay to lean on others.  I will still struggle with it, because it’s just not like me to show that type of emotion very often, but I know it’s okay, and no one will think I’m weak for doing so.  I’ve also learned through this health issue who really cares about me (for those who know the specifics….for others, I am not really ready to talk about it much yet, but I will at some point). Phone calls, texts, emails, prayers, good vibes………it’s meant the world to me.  It’s been a huge struggle for me, and it’s nice to know that I don’t always have to be the strong one all the time.  I have people in my life who love me, and really do care.  They’ve shown me.

So even though sadness is a part of life, it can be a positive experience in that you learn who you can trust, and who truly cares and will be there for you. They make you realize you aren’t alone. They make it okay to not always be the strong one for everyone else’s sake.  They make it okay to be “weak” sometimes.

Coping, Just Breathe, Uncategorized, Unexpected Life Events

The Unexpected

Unexpected occurrences can leave us feeling happy, excited, frustrated, scared, sad, mad, or maybe even lonely.  There aren’t a lot of true surprises in life anymore.  One of the real surprises in life is when you find out what gender your newborn child will be.  I never wanted to know because I wanted to be surprised.  I’m still glad I waited on that one. Things happen that we don’t expect, though.  Life doesn’t always happen the way we want or expect. That’s okay. They say it’s all about the journey, right?

The last few years, I’ve had some unexpected things happen.  I went back to teaching after a brief hiatus from the profession…..I had a really bad experience with dishonest people in a private school.  I published my first book about the crazy things my students have said and done.  I married my best friend, and found happiness I never thought was meant for me.  I’ve had one financial set back after another, which has left me afraid and questioning why greed and dishonesty seem to pay.  I’ve had a couple of serious health issues that were just the luck of the draw, and not caused by heredity or anything I did wrong. With each situation, I’ve kept focusing on the positive, trying to stay upbeat, and it isn’t always easy.  Surprises. Unexpected events.  Life.

Like I said, it’s all about the journey.  As I’m typing this, my sweet husband is on his way home from spending a few days in New York with his family.  His flight was delayed due to weather, which is causing him to miss his connecting flight, making it a long stressful day for him, not knowing what to expect, or what time he’ll get home.  It happens when you fly, but still unexpected and frustrating.

Being prepared for the unexpected is almost impossible, no matter how much we tell ourselves the opposite.  We are taught to be kind and respectful (most of us), but sometimes that isn’t enough to get along with everyone.  We are taught to be responsible with money (most of us), but things happen to put a kink in our finances, and can put us in desperate situations.  We are taught to take care of our bodies by eating right and exercising, but sometimes things happen that are out of our control.

Dealing with unexpected events can be hard, especially if you feel alone.  We can pray, sing, breathe, meditate, scream, throw things, go for a walk, work out, read, write, cry, etc. Having someone to help you through helps too….a friend or spouse to provide a hug and a shoulder to lean on….a support group….a counselor.  Whatever helps someone cope is okay, as long as it isn’t drugs or alcohol.  Don’t go down that road to cope with your struggles.  That might make things worse.  There isn’t one solution for every unexpected event for every person.  As I’ve said before, our differences make this world a beautiful place, so dealing with personal setbacks, or surprises, isn’t one size fits all.  Patience is essential in every situation.

Surprises.  Unexpected events.  The journey of life.  Hold on.  Breathe.  Be patient.