The Winds of Change

Yesterday, I went for my first appointment to be cleared for surgery.  They took some blood (no small task with my invisible veins,) gave me an EKG, and then a chest x-ray.  Then, this morning, they called to tell me I have to come back in because they didn’t get enough blood.  Shocking, I tell you.

Next up is my Covid test in about a week and a half, followed by a check-in with my primary physician to make sure I’m good to go the day before.  Then, April 29th, the big day!  Followed by a month of recovery that will surely drive me crazy…but hasn’t my gastroparesis been driving me crazy all this time, anyway?

Then, the great change…the one I hope for: that I will be able to eat something that I want to eat without fear of losing it later on.  It seems so small and simple, unless you are living with gastric issues.  Then, it is a challenge; a hill you climb several times a day.  So, what seems like a small change to some is a very big one to me.

Change is in the air.  I have written about how stagnant I have felt during the winter and how that feeling is now melting away, and I am glad to see it go. I am noticing change in other people in my life as well.  Like my sister moving into her first apartment, or Sahar adopting a dog, or Mark having a job interview.  I have one friend, Carey, who has, in the past year, completely changed her life around, despite massive roadblocks thrown in her way.  I think about who she was a year ago and who she is now and I am awed by her strength.  I think to myself, I can’t be that strong. 

But I’m wrong.

I know I can be that strong because I have been before.  I have been physically torn apart, ravaged by the side effects of diabetes, which I have had now for over two decades.  I have been emotionally crippled by childhood and young adult traumas that still bite at my feet.  I am stronger than I give myself credit for.

As a child, I feared change.  I remember the first big change in my life, and that was the morning we moved from our home in Buffalo to one in Kenmore.  I like the idea of the new house, and particularly that it had a pool in the yard, but I had just started making friends and getting old enough to explore the neighborhood (or so I thought.  Truth is, Gramma made the decision to move shortly after a gang shootout on the baseball diamond across the street.)  I was very sad that morning, and did not want to say goodbye to my house or my new friends.  I tried to focus on the good things though, like the pool…even though it was only December.

When I got older, change got even harder.  In high school, there was a brief scare during which my father thought he might have to take a job in Rochester, which would pull me out of my school, which would have been unacceptable.  I raged against this for what seems like weeks until finally it was decided that no, we weren’t going anywhere.  I feared the idea of new territory, of a new city, and of a new school, especially.  I felt it again when I went to college.  And then, pretty much regularly ever since.

You can’t escape change; nothing lasts forever.

But you can be strong.  You can be a warrior, like my friends…like the one who saw what she wanted and went out and got it and changed her life.  You can make a decision in the middle of the night to drive to Missouri to pick up your new pup. You can call back that hiring agency and set up an interview. You can move into your friends apartment and out of your parent’s back room.

What can I do?  I can give up my time and my blood and get all my scary testing done so that I can get my scary surgery done for my scary disorder.  Then maybe, things will change, and it won’t all be so scary anymore.

Just gotta be strong.

Defrosted

Remember that day in school, when the teacher would finally open the windows while you were at lunch and you came back to the classroom to fresh warm air billowing in and it smelled like springtime and freedom?  Then you spent the whole afternoon staring out the window, just waiting for the bell to ring so you could run outside and play with your friends?  That is how today feels.

I am writing this blog, then doing some cleaning, and the truth is I just want to play hooky and go outside and play. 

I want to play in my garden.  I situated my indoor garden last week, and a couple of the friends in there need to head on out to the porch, which I intend to put together this weekend.  I also am in process of murdering some weeds in my front garden while waiting for my perennials to sprout. 

I want to go fishing.  I have been several times this year already but haven’t caught anything.  I want to go down to my favorite spot and plant my chair and cast my new pole and see if some little fishy is venturing up towards the sunlight, like me.

I want to go camping.  I am making that a reality this year.  I want it to be my birthday so we can roll off to the woods for the weekend and spend our time celebrating with family and friends.  I want to go hiking and cook my food on a campfire and lay down under the stars.

I want to have a barbeque.  This is always one of the first true signs of warmer days for me.  I want to get hot dogs and hamburgers and fire up the grill and have a cold beer.

I want to be outside.

Today it is supposed to get to a record 80 degrees here in Buffalo, and I just want to run outside and play. 

So yeah…short blog.  Go play.

24 Days

Quick background for the new reader: I have severe gastroparesis.  This means my stomach doesn’t digest food properly.  I have been living with this disorder for about five years or so, though I’m sure I had a milder form for many years prior to my docs finally figuring it out.  Maybe around age 25 I started throwing up, usually after eating too much…even though “too much” was hardly anything.  It wasn’t until I had my gallbladder out in 2016 that things got really bad.  They thought that was the culprit; they were wrong.

Anyway, five years ago, there was one solution and it was a major surgery to put in a pacemaker and it was in Cleveland.  No, thank you.

But time went on and things got worse.  Fortunately, science also progressed, and other options became available.  Mind you, there is no cure.  There is only treatment.

The best treatment, according to my surgeon, is a gastric bypass.  However, I just don’t weigh enough.  That was a truly bittersweet appointment.  Sad because I can’t get the surgery, yet thrilled because for the first time in my life a doctor said the worlds “you don’t weigh enough.”  The pacemaker option still exists, and is now right here in town, but involves several surgeries for the rest of my life to replace the battery every few years.  So, no.  I’d rather not.

Finally, we have the pyloroplasty.  This involves the pyloric muscle at the bottom of the stomach that in is charge of opening to the intestine.  Essentially, they cut it open and make a permanent hole, so it can’t clamp shut on me and prevent stomach emptying.  These were my options, so I went with door number 3.

Doc said he would set it up for the end of March.  Well, that came and went and I called the office, and the nurse there set me up with April 29th.  So, there it is, my surgery date.

I am currently waiting as I type this for the hospital to call me back to set up both a Covid test and pre-surgery screening. 

After the surgery I will be laid up for a little bit.  I will be on a two-week liquid diet followed by a two-week soft food diet.  Then, hopefully, provided all has healed correctly, I will be able to eat regularly for the first time in years.  (Also hoping after the diets to fit into the bathing suit I bought last year that was just a size too small.)

Am I nervous?  Very much.  I don’t like the idea of surgery, even though it will be laparoscopic and probably not much worse than getting my gallbladder out.  I more so don’t like the idea of being in the hospital afterwards, especially in a time when I can’t have a bunch of visitors and such to cheer me up.  I hope everything goes smoothly and I am out of there quickly. 

Then, recovery, which is always worse than actual procedures, but hey…I’ve done worse.  When I had my left eye done, I was on my stomach for an entire week….24 hours a day.  It was agony…but I did it.  I can do this, too.

So, in closing, I finally am starting to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel.  I am going to hope and pray very hard that I do not get sick anytime in the next 24 days, either.  (Although, it would be sweet to tell the staff at Mercy about my imminent surgery.  They would be excited for me.)  I am just dragging myself to the end of April, hoping that May brings me better feelings.

I mean…it has to, right?

April Fool’s

Today is April Fool’s Day, which I always thought was a kind of fun thing when I was a kid, but became more of a pain in the butt as I grew older.  I liked the idea of pranks, but never the prank itself. Then, 25 years ago, something happened that I wouldn’t call a prank, but sort of felt like one at the time.

A couple of days beforehand, my mother told me a secret.  She took a pregnancy test, and it was positive.  We were driving to our house in Kenmore from who-knows-where and I don’t really recall my reaction.  I didn’t think much of it.  To be honest, my twelve-year-old brain went straight to “she probably is just going through menopause.”

Then, April Fool’s Day.  Mom received a call from the doctor, confirming that she was indeed pregnant.  For a second there, I was waiting for the nurse to say “Ha-ha April Fool’s!” but I later learned that would have been very unprofessional.  Mom and Dad cried and hugged and I kind of smiled and went with it because what choice did I have?

Mom told me not to tell anyone but I went bowling later that day with my friend Jill and told her immediately.  The next morning in homeroom, I told my best friend, Christina.  Her response?  “Oh my God.  Your parents still have sex??”  Thanks, Chris, for that imagery. 

On Easter, we told the family.

Now, a little background on my mom:  she was 40, and she had her tubes tied after she had me.  So, really, it’s no surprise that my aunt yelled out “Holy shit!” in the middle of church when my dad told my grandma during the Sign of Peace.  Everyone was crying, and after Mass the priest even came to ask us what had happened. 

We went to my Aunt Ellie’s after, and they called my Aunt Cathy and told her we were having a family meeting.  Well, she comes over all in a panic because we have never had a family meeting before, and she thinks grandpa’s dying or something.  Dad told her the news, and she was both overjoyed and furious with him for stressing her out.  Then, a few days later, I spent the night at my Gram’s.  I was pouring syrup on my pancakes when Aunt Mary came in the kitchen.  She wasn’t at Easter, and somehow, she hadn’t heard.  I don’t know how that’s possible given my family, but there it is.  So, Gram urged me to tell her, and I did: “Mom’s having a baby.”  Mary then proceeded to yell at me about how that wasn’t a funny joke until Gram stepped in and vouched for me.  Anyway, my family was very excited.  Which was cool, to me, because I loved my family and if they were happy, I was happy.

I spent about seven months going about my happy little day without a care in the world.  Then, mom landed in the hospital for a month.  I survived on frozen lasagnas from my aunts and spent a lot of quality time with dad, but the whole baby-arrival thing still didn’t hit me.  It didn’t even hit me on Halloween, 1996, as they wheeled my mother into the delivery room while she was wearing a headband that had wobbly bats on it.  I wish I had a picture.

When it hit me finally, she was already here.  She was in an incubator being wheeled down a hallway and she was all red and her head looked like a turnip.

I washed my hands and arms up to the elbow.  I put on a gown and a paper hat, and I went in and sat in a rocking chair.  A nurse put her in my arms.

She was so small.

I took my finger and poked at her palm, and her tiny hand curled around my fingertip. “Hello, Bernadette,” I said. “I am your sister.”

Yeah, I was a self-centered preteen at the time who really didn’t grasp the life changes a baby would bring.  And it was hard, in coming years, for me to adjust to the new situation.  But everyday I would see her, and she would need me, and then I would do anything to make her smile.  April Fool’s Day is not my sister’s birthday, but it is the start of our adventure with her, and I wouldn’t change anything. 

Except maybe they could have called on April 2nd

Me and my little monkey.

A Shot in the Dark

Today I am going for my second dose of the Covid vaccine.  I am prepared to feel crappy tomorrow, though I didn’t the first time, so who knows?  I was talking with E about shots the other day, and how she isn’t scared of needles.  She’s a brave girl.  I remembered back to how I felt about shots as a child…it wasn’t good.  There is one vaccine that I’m not 100% sure got in my system., because I refused the shot and when they gave me a liquid vaccine for it, I spit it in the doctor’s face.

My first blood draw, I was maybe 8 or 9.  I was in the hospital for the first time since my birth, and the doc needed blood to figure out what was wrong.

Mom gave me my teddy bear to hold and I tried to be brave and was even curious when the nurse said she was going to use a “butterfly needle.” But then, I panicked, and I kicked that nurse square in the chest.  They had to hold me down to get the blood.  It was not my finest hour.

Then came diabetes at 16, and with that, regular blood work and insulin injections.  If there is any silver liming to diabetes, it is that you learn not to fear needles very quickly.  Firstly, insulin needles just do not feel the way any other needle does.  It’s barely anything.  You’re injecting into fat, not muscle like you would with other shots.  This involves less nerves.  Plus, the needle is super thin, and the thinner it is the less it will hurt.  Blood draws were more painful. after a while I got used to them, and would just look the other way and take a deep breath and wait for the moment to pass.

Then, about five years ago, came gastroparesis, which meant I was getting blood draws and IVs repeatedly. Eventually, my veins blew.

Like…all of the them.

They started using my hands when the arms died.  When those blew, they started forgoing IVs and just giving me muscular shots for medication, which sting.  Then they take blood from my wrists, which hurt at first but doesn’t so much now. 

Last time I was in there, I had to have a central line put in, which is a tube that goes in your neck.  It’s as horrifying as it sounds.  First, you get a shot to numb the area, then they put the thing in, and then they stitch it up.  The whole time, you are lying on your back with plastic sheeting over your face.  That seemed to be the worst part for me though, the feeling of being trapped; of suffocation. 

They gave me my meds through it and it felt like a train hit me, and then I passed out. 

If 8- or 9-year-old me could see me now.  Voluntarily driving two hours away for the sole purpose of a jab in the arm?  Little Brigid would have none of that nonsense.  Heck, you would figure even Big Brigid wouldn’t be interested, what with all the extracurricular pokes and prods I receive.  Alas, here we are.

My parents are now fully vaccinated.  I am about to be fully vaccinated.  Many of my friends and family are in process of getting vaccinated.  Soon, hopefully, we can all breath a collective sigh of relief.

I remain hopeful.

Collector’s Edition

When I was a small child, I collected rocks.  I liked all rocks, but ones with pretty colors and shapes were my favorite, and would immediately end up in my pocket to come home to the tin can I kept them in.  I would lay them out on the floor and count and sort them, by color, by size, by type…I liked learning about different rocks.  When we went on vacations or day trips, I would buy precious rocks from stores as souvenirs.  I know I had my collection for a very long time, well into my 20s, but I have no idea now what happened to it…must’ve been lost in a move.

In middle school, I started collecting stickers.  I had a blue and purple photo album that I would stick them in.  I would then spend an hour counting them, and double checking, to see how many I had: which is a big fat OCD red flag.  I remember one in particular that was a bag of Doritos and a scratch-and-sniff, so it smelled like nacho cheese.  I don’t know what happened to them, either.

In high school, I collected cows.  Of course, not actual cows, but figurines and such.  Things with cows on them.  I liked cows-I thought of them as big dogs and they are my favorite farm animal.   People would buy me cow stuff as gifts.  When I went to Girl Scout camp, my mother made me a little cubby out of a crate, and covered it in cow print fabric.  I don’t know how many cows I had, and I am sure I counted them, but over the years many things broke or got lost, and now I have no cows, except a cow kitchen timer I got from my friend Chelsea and the cow-shaped creamer I got for Christmas from…mom?

In my 20s, I collected nothing but bad decisions.  Ha, not really.  Purses-I was big on purses, particularly Kate Spade’s. I couldn’t afford the real thing though, so I had several knockoffs.  One day I gave them away to my friend’s daughter.  I kind of wish I kept one, though, now that she is gone.  Even if it was a knockoff.  (I do have a genuine wallet, though.  That’s gonna stay with me forever.)

In my 30s I got married, and I got this curio cabinet, and had nothing to put in it.  Until one day, I received a wedding gift from my best friend from elementary school. This chick sent me all the crystal in Ireland!  A butter dish, a creamer dish, a sugar bowl, and two sets of glasses-all Irish crystal.  And, better to me than all of that, a Belleek platter.

My mother loves Belleek.  We don’t have a whole lot in common when it comes to style, but we definitely agree on this beautiful Irish china with tiny shamrocks on it.  After I got the platter, she got me a Belleek St. Brigid’s cross ornament for Christmas.  It hangs prominently on the tree every year.  Its only two pieces, but this is no rocks or stickers, mind you.  Can’t just find these for under a buck at the corner store, or under your feet on the way to school.  This is more of a lifetime collection for me, something I intend to add to a little through the years.

On the cheaper side of things, though, I have started collecting Rae Dunn pieces.  She does pottery that I like.  I never really cared about things like that, but one day Mark bought me a mug that said “Feminist” on it, by her, and I loved it.  I loved how simple it was; how imperfect it was.  I only have a few pieces, but at least with this collection I can justify the cost because pretty much everything has a purpose.  My favorite piece I have is below, my boss lady nameplate.  Boss Lady became my nickname when I went on the cruise with my sister, and since I started publishing, I have taken strength from that title.  Also pictured are my newest additions, and let me tell ya, that little honey pot might actually be beating out boss lady for favorite piece now.

Anyway.

It occurred to me the other day that I have always been a collector of things, and if I had the time and money I would collect A LOT more things.  I watch shows like American Pickers and think “now those people have the right idea.”  And yes, I am referring both to the pickers AND the hoarders.

So, I gotta watch myself so I don’t go picking up every rock I see.

It also occurred to me that collecting was a total and terrible sign of OCD for me.  Counting is and was my biggest obstacle with my disorder-I count everything.  Steps, especially, and I even got myself a Fitbit solely so that when I started counting my head, I can tell myself that I don’t have to because my watch is taking care of it.  It works, for a while.  But every time, eventually, I start counting again.  It is the one lingering symptom of my OCD that no pill can seem to fix.

However, it brings me joy.  I mean, I woke this morning and saw that little honey pot and thought “gee, that’s adorable” and it brought a smile to my face.  So, yeah, I’m going to collect things by the artist I like and let them bring me a little happiness.  And on particularly special occasions, I might even add to my Belleek collection. 

Sometimes, when we are out fishing, I will find a particularly cool rock.  I will pick it up and put it in my pocket.  Often, it disappears, but sometimes I reach into that pocket a few days later, and feel the little stone in my hand, and smile.

Also, some stickers lol.

Spring Forward

I am currently sitting in my office, my favorite room in the house, which I have just cleaned and smells like roses and peonies because I got a new candle.  The door is wide open and I can feel the sunlight on my back and the fresh air billowing in as I type.  I wonder if a poem will strike.  I don’t expect it today, you see, but soon.  Soon, they will spill forth like they always do when I have shaken off the last of the winter doldrums that I carry with me.

In winter, which I do love for its coziness and holidays and snowy mornings, I find myself unfortunately depressed, as is the case with Seasonal Affect Disorder.  I mean, that’s not a diagnosis I have, I have Major Depressive Disorder which just means I’m depressed no matter the weather.  It is, however, worse in the winter, especially in January and February.  By the middle of March, I often feel as though I am hanging on by a thread, and then-miracle of miracles-we change the clocks back.  A resounding sigh of relief echoes across America. 

Listen, my global community friends, I don’t know what to tell you.  It’s a ridiculous little old rule with no current use and we all hate it.  We are living in miserable agony as we watch 4pm sunsets.  Please bear with us.

Oh, but when we change back!  When we jump forward!

It’s been a week and my sleeping scheduled has already completely changed for the better.  I feel normal again, and it’s like I didn’t even realize it wasn’t normal before.  I feel generally more positive as I soak in as much sunshine as I can.  Today, my legs hurt, but in a good way…not in the “I’ve been on the couch for three days, oh god, I gotta get up and move” way, but in a “I walked several miles this weekend, oh god, I gotta sit down” way.  Because I could.  Because there’s no move flipping snow on the ground, and I don’t mind playing in the mud so long as the sun is out. 

We spent the weekend hitting up some of our favorite fishing spots, and that was nice even though we didn’t catch anything.  It was just good to be outdoors.

And it’s good to have doors to open, like my office door which has sunshine streaming though it right now. 

I sat down to work today for the first time in a long time because I have been so ill.  I mean, yeah, sure, first I cleaned the office because it had become a sort of staging ar4ea for other stuff in the house while I was out.  But then I sat down to type, my list of tasks for the day beside me, and I started this blog. I thought, for a moment, that I caught a whiff of a poem, so I stopped and popped over to my poetry file for a moment, but nothing came. It ebbs and flows, but I feel it rising.  I have many creative pursuits planned during my recovery time, and I hope that working on some new poems falls into that plan as well.

In the meantime, the old poems: an update.

Still out here trying to sell A Lovely Wreckage.

Furthermore, still querying (Un)Requited.  I received a LOVELY rejection the other day.  The first.  Essentially, they said it was great but didn’t fit the catalogue, which I kind of figured when I looked though their offerings.  However, chapbook presses are few and far between, so you can count on that baby ending up in your inbox at some point if you are even remotely interested in publishing chapbooks.

Meanwhile, its been “in-progress” on Submittable at another place since mid-January, so finger’s crossed.

So, good weather makes me think of poems, but apparently can’t just make me create them on the spot.  Which is fine.  I will wait.  Things are only just starting to grow, anyway.

Stimulation

One day, I accidentally left the car door unlocked and someone rifled though it in the night.  They were kind enough to take nothing, not even the pennies in the change slot or the bottle of Hawaiian Punch in the backseat.  These, of course, were the two priciest items in the car, automobile itself excluded.  I am always careful to lock the car now, but it is really a great illustration of our finances during the pandemic.

You can’t rob me, I got nothing to take.

So, when I originally thought of this blog post, I was a little wary because I had read an article online saying you shouldn’t talk about your stimulus check because people will try to rob you.  Then I remembered, oh yeah, my stimulus check is gone.

It was gone so fast my bank called to make sure I was okay.  I am not joking.  At 9am I started paying bills.  At 9:15 they called, after the third large transaction.  After explaining that yes, I was me, and yes, I was paying off a year of debt, they let me go on my way to spend further.

I know some people have fun plans for their stimmy, but we did not.  I’ll tell you my big let’s-stimulate-the-economy purchases: a box of hair dye, a pair of everyday shoes, and a purse.  Nothing fancy-the shoes are Sketchers.  The purse is by god-knows-who, it’s just the exact style I was looking for in a summer bag; something functional and midsized. Went a little silly with the hair dye and got burgundy for the first time since I was 22. Those are my wild and crazy stimmy purchases. 

Hubs went a little wilder and got a VR headset, which I knew was going to happen from the moment L came over with his, but he got it secondhand and paid about as much as I did for my items.  He is extremely excited to show it off to my dad, which I am sure I will write about at some point. 

Anyway, he got that and I got shoes and every other penny went to the bills.  And last night, I slept like a baby.

See, I wasn’t worrying about the call I got last week from National Grid, warning me that they would be doing shutoffs again.  I’d yet to hear anything from National Fuel, but that was sure to be next.  We have been miraculously able to keep up with out rent payments during this time, and I do feel that we are truly blessed there, but the money going to utilities during the pandemic had slowed to a trickle.  This affects me on a slightly personal level.  When Mark and I moved in together oh-so-long-ago, the agreement was always that he would cover rent while I covered utilities.  Of course, in a committed partnership over the years, you have to bend and sway in the breeze-sometimes one person is carrying more of the load than the other.  But to me, utilities has always been my department. So yeah, when I dropped my entire stimulus on them yesterday, I felt like a champion, and I slept like a baby.

Also, new shoes.

Here is the sad part.

The sad part is that it had to come to this.  It had to come to a check issued to me by the government that is supposed to help stimulate the economy, but for so very many of us is simply just a bailout.  A band-aid.  A temporary stopgap so that we can have one good night’s sleep before we have to get up and figure out how to keep the lights on next month.  What I would have liked to drop my money on is a camping trip.  I would have gotten a cottage for a week in Allegheny this summer, and invited all my friends and family.  That’s what I would be doing if things were different.  But, they’re not.  Instead, I am thanking God for electricity and new shoes.

Complaint Form to the Universe

I would love to update you on some thrilling adventure I have had recently, or new thing I have discovered, or adorable anecdote from the kiddos.  I would love to tell you about my writing endeavors, and my fishing encounters, and my glorious days of feeling well and wonderful.

I ain’t got any of that.

I can’t tell you how many times I was in the emergency room last week.  I don’t remember.  I know one day it was twice…so that was two craploads of drugs pumped into me that made me completely forget the following day.  And on Sunday night, I found myself trapped under plastic sheeting as they put in a central line, after two hours of trying to find a vein that hadn’t scarred over.  Yesterday I felt better, but also generally like someone hit me with a truck, and then kicked me in the chest for good measure.

I had great plans for this weekend and I was sick the whole time, which sucked because we had the girls and I promised them we would go fishing.  Instead, I was sleeping or puking.  It’s things like this that take a mental toll, too, because then you feel like a disappointment to other people.  Like, my mom made this lovely Irish breakfast for all of us Sunday morning and I immediately vomited it up, thus ending what looked like it might have been a good day.  It’s just depressing.

And then comes Monday, wherein I had plans.  I have reading to do.  I have writing to do.  I have work to do.  But I can’t do a thing.  I can’t sit at the desk long enough, or hold the mouse even, because my arms feel like they weigh 6000 pounds.  The bruises in the crooks of my elbows and on my wrists are aching with each word I type.  The only reason, and I mean the ONLY REASOIN I am even sitting here right now is because I am clinging to a tiny shred of normalcy, and in this moment, that would be my blog.

Today is the one-year anniversary of my grandfather’s death, by the way.  It was a terrible week that I wrote of in detail, and this year has somehow simultaneously flown and dragged without him.  Today we are going to the cemetery to place a wreath on his grave.  I haven’t been to it, yet.  The only grave I visit is Ka, so this is one of those milestone-style things for my anxiety.  Thing is, it doesn’t seem such a big deal to me, at least not as it was a year ago when they went to the cemetery after the services, and I went back to my Gram’s house instead. 

Because, you see, I’m stressed elsewhere.  I’m anxious in other areas.  I’m depressed in a different department.  My stupid, stupid, STUPID stomach.

But soon…soon the phone will ring and I will answer and it will be the scheduler for my surgery and they will tell me help is on the way.

Until then, I’ll dream of the things to come, like not getting sick daily or ending up in the ER monthly because they’re going to blast a hole through my stomach (I mean, that’s not the technical procedure, I just like to tell people that.)  Like the fact I’ll probably lose some weight during my subsequent liquid diet and fit into the bathing suit I bought last summer that was just slightly too small.  Ooooh!  And, of course, once it’s over and I am healed, I am GOING TO CLEVELAND TO SEE SAHAR.  That, of course, is the endgame.

So yeah, this blog entry isn’t much more than my complaint form to the universe, but in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t exactly shy away from the realities of chronic or mental illness, and the stomach issues coupled with the depression it has caused is really weighing on me right now.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend it’s all rainbows and butterflies, because it isn’t.  It never was.  But, some days, like today, are tolerable enough.

The Event of the Year

To start, I was too nervous to eat.  It wasn’t the shot, or the traveling, or the possible side effects; it was simply that I don’t like new things, people, or places…so, nouns.  I don’t like nouns.

About halfway from my home in Buffalo to the city of Rochester, where I had my appointment, we stopped to buy some cheese at Kutter’s Cheese factory in Corfu.  I ate a few curds of Buffalo wing flavored and tried to calm my nervous stomach, but it didn’t really work.  I drove the rest of the way somewhat apprehensively, hoping that there would be clear signs on the road to lead me to my destination.  As it turned out, the site was only a few minutes away from the NYS Thruway. 

I arrived at the back end of the parking lot, and was greeted by a National Guardsman.  He asked me who was getting the vaccine, and I said me, and he told me to park my car in the lot and go through the big glass doors.  So I did.

I walked into the lobby and zigzagged my way through the ropes to the registration table.  I was given a ticket and told to hang onto it, and then follow the orange cones.  At the end of the cones, there was another National Guardsman directing traffic.  He sent me to table 14.

I sat down and a woman took my health information, ID, and insurance card.  She signed my ticket, and sent me to zig-zag through another line.  It moved pretty fast, but I definitely got the feeling I was waiting in line for a rollercoaster at Six Flags.

A man approached me and escorted me to table 10.  There sat two women.  One had me check my health info and the other, a nurse, asked if I had anaphylactic allergies.  Then, she gave me the shot.  The nurse signed my ticket, told me I would have my second shot in three weeks, and sent me to another National Guardsman, who assigned me a chair to sit and wait. I was permitted to leave when the large screen on the wall read 6:16pm.  So, I played a game on my phone, texted Mark, and then got up and left out the door marked with the giant red exit sign.  The whole thing took maybe a half hour.

I went back to the car and Bernie drove home, just in case I had a sore arm or side effects.  I didn’t.  We stopped at a rest stop to use the bathroom, and I ordered a Big Mac.  Then I had a little panic attack and ran back out to the car while Bernie got the food.   In the moment, I couldn’t understand why it was happening, but I know now.  Not only did I desperately need to eat, but I had been so stressed all day, and now the thing I stressed about was over, and not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. 

I ate my Big Mac.  I felt better.  We drove home.

So, some observations… 

One, if you hate needles…you will be fine.  This hurt less than my daily insulin injections, and those barely even register to me.  I honestly didn’t even feel like something touched me, let alone pricked me.  The needle is like the width of a piece of hair, I swear.

Two, everyone I spoke to was an absolute DELIGHT.  Happy to be there, happy to help, just happy overall.  They chatted and joked and made sure everyone was comfortable at all times.  It was extremely reassuring.

Three, it is ridiculously well-organized in there.  I didn’t think it would be, because it’s a mass vaccination site and my parents had already told me how uncomfortable it was going to the drugstore for their shots.  I don’t think a single person was within six feet of me at any time.  Everyone wore masks, of course.  Everything was clean and following guidelines.  There was even an emergency services team onsite in case of allergic reactions.

Finally, the after effects.  I awoke this morning a little congested, but it’;s wearing off as the day goes on so it could just be that time of year.  Stomach is off, but that probably has nothing to do with it.  My arm is a little sore at the injection site, but really that’s the extent of the side effects, for me. 

Overall, the experience was excellent.  And more than that, more than anything, I am happy today because I feel a little safer.  I’m happy because I desperately miss people right now, and once I am vaccinated, I can reach out to them again.  I’m happy because my nightmares of being on a ventilator will likely not be realized any time soon.  I’m happy because I know I am keeping myself safe, and helping keep others safe, too. 

I hope we all feel that way someday soon.