Happy New Year, On My Soapbox!, Uncategorized

Happy New Year, 2017


Dearest Readers:

Today is December 31, 2016. The last day of 2016. I would like to say Good Riddance to 2016. A year of much controversy in the USA, a dreadful year for politics, and a great year for a ‘shocking Presidential election.’ It appeared everyone was ‘shocked’ when Donald J. Trump was elected the new President. Hillary Clinton was devastated. Oh. Pooh!

Hillary Clinton lost. End of discussion! I admit, I was ready to vote for Hillary, or should I say “Billary” in 2008, until Obama was selected, and I did not vote for him. America has tolerated eight years of a close ‘dictatorship.’ Let us sweep the Obama’s out of the office and allow them to fade into the distance. After Hillary did so many illegal actions to jeopardize the USA via her e-mails…the lies she shouted and continued to feed about her actions as Secretary of State…etc…etc…ETC… I was almost ashamed that she was a woman in a powerful office. To say the least, she was an embarrassment.

But…today is the last day of 2016. Enough about politics! For this household, 2016 was a year of too much stress. After Phil had his surgery on his shoulder and recovered ever so slowly, I worried. My daily life consumed me. I went to my doctor for a check-up, only to be told my blood pressure was much too high. My doctor wanted to know exactly what I was doing to have such high blood pressure. After telling him how stressed I was, he told me IF I did not get my blood pressure under control, I could have a heart attack or a stroke.

I decided it was time to take back my life. Yes, I eat healthy, and I’m losing weight. I do Weight Watchers. Researching how to lower my blood pressure, and taking a daily medication for my blood pressure, I starting exercising again, eating healthier by including more fish, and I meditated. Three months later, my blood pressure is lower. Thank you, God.

Now, on New Years Eve, I am reflecting on 2016 and how I can tolerate the stress of 2017. Let’s just say, I am having numerous talks with God, just like Dolly Parton shared in her movie, “Circle of Love,” and “Coat of Many Colors.” Yes, I go to a window, looking up to the sky and I ask God to listen to me again – probably for the millionth time! My wonderful grandmother taught me how to pray, and I must say, praying soothes away the stress. At least for a time. This week, when my blood pressure rose again, I had another talk with God. This time, I prayed He would help me to be calmer, and not to scream when I feel life is about to knock me down again.

Last night while at karaoke, I certainly had my stress level tested and I’m happy to report, I passed with flying colors. Thank you, God.

Allow me to share the scenario. Our friends and I were sitting at our regular table before karaoke started. I was looking at the ‘only karaoke book’ to find a few new songs to sing. A few minutes later, I closed the book. An obnoxious female, a rather large woman who wears extremely short dresses, fish net stockings and heels, approached the table.

“Oh. It’s you who has the f—— book,” she said, slurring her words. The only word she could express well was the “f” bomb.

“Would you please not say that word?”

“What? F——? It’s in the f—— dictionary.”

“Only you would know that,” I smiled. “Please just take the book and leave!”

She sat down at the table, continuing to fire out the ‘f’ bomb.

“Please…just take the book and leave,” I said, motioning with my hands for her to leave our table.

She rose from the table, song book in her hand. Of course, when she left she continued saying the only word she knows in her vocabulary. Some women simply should not be considered a woman!

She struggled to walk back to her friends. A few minutes later, sitting at the bar, she knocked over several drinks. Before her friends left the bar, they gave our table four shots — one for each of us. I declined the shot since I never drink shots, and I do not accept drinks from people I do not know. By now, some people are leaving the bar, including her ‘friends.’ A couple who enjoyed hearing me sing left too, stating something about ‘too many drunks in here!’ Without a doubt, this was not a good night for some of us enjoying the evening.

The obese woman sang only one song, complete with a dialogue of ‘f’ bombs, instead of the real lyrics. I’m certain she was hoping I would approach her again about her vulgarity. I chose to kill her with kindness, by ignoring her. The disc jockey made a comment about the language, requesting singers NOT to use profanity. Ha. Ha. Sometimes it pays to be a ‘steel magnolia!’

Later, the bartenders helped her outside. I believe they called her a cab. It’s a good thing she didn’t drive. There was a safety check on the highway, stopping every car, checking to make certain people were not intoxicated. When they checked us, I was driving. I had only one drink the entire night, about two hours earlier, so I was certain I would not be asked to ‘get out of the car.’ The rest of my drinks consisted of several refills of arthur-ravenel-jr-bridgewater. The nice police officer checked my ID, license and registration and allowed us to go home. Just think — IF the rather obese woman with the short…much too short dress was driving, she would spend the night — not in her bed.

Isn’t it a shame when people allow their drinks to reveal exactly what their personality is, and isn’t it a shame how some people cannot handle alcohol. I must say, I would hate to be walking in that female’s shoes. She must have one heck of a hangover now.

No doubt, she will return to karaoke. She’s been there many times, and each time when she walks into the bar, she stumbles around. Last night, she could not handle her drinks, knocking them over while the only word she knows pours like liquor from her lips. Such a pity that a female would behave in such a manner. Even worse, such a pity that she obviously infuriated her friends who left her alone at the bar.

Did she make it home? Who knows!

Here is my wish for all of us as New Year, 2017 approaches. May we all live with respect and dignity, and may we not allow our brains to only know one word in our vocabulary — the ‘f’ bomb. We certainly hear it enough while at the movies!

Happy New Year, 2017. I’m praying for a wonderful year of good health, happiness, and dignity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship, health, Holidays, Losing Weight, Uncategorized, Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers… Building A Bridge To A New Adventure


Dearest Readers:

Today, I will share a bit of my experience and dedication to Weight Watchers. I joined Weight Watchers in March, 2011. On the day I joined, I was mortified. Afraid. Horrified I would see someone I knew and they would share with the world that “Barbie was in Weight Watchers today…”

I’m certain some of you have acquaintances who love to spread gossip…the wicked and ugly truths some women love to share! Years ago, I referred to these ‘acquaintances’ as friends…I do not anymore! Friends do not spread ugly gossip. Friends accept you for who you are. True friends embrace you with love and acceptance, even when you are down.  I’ve known and lost a few ‘friends’ since in all total honesty — they were only acquaintances. They pretended to be your friend to your face, but turn your back and you almost feel the back-stabbing and the poisonous words they spat, and so — I keep my distance!

At my first meeting at Weight Watchers, I did not know anyone. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was apprehensive about the ‘confidential weigh-ins’ too. Approaching the desk, I did not see any curtains, or a doctor’s scale. You know the type. The weight measurements slide across until balanced, and the person who balanced the scale always leaves it to the latest weight. Everyone can see the weight of the person who weighed previously, and I cringe whenever I get on them. My newest experience with Weight Watchers was a scale sitting on the floor. I was certain others could stretch their snoopy eyes over to see how much a person weighed. That didn’t happen. The scale does not show anything, with exception of the person (a receptionist or leader) standing at the desk. Only she knows what the weight of each individual is, and they do not share the number to anyone! Believe me, the confidential weigh-in does exist!

Maybe this might work this time, I thought to myself as I approached the scales. Just maybe this time I will succeed.

I imagine you are thinking — what? Does she really think Weight Watchers works?

My reply to all of you reading this is a simple, “Yes! Weight Watchers, because it works!”

I recognize it has taken me five years to lose 35 pounds. And, in the past year, I have bounced back and forth, just like a yo-yo. Undoubtedly, 2016 has been one of the most stressful years of my life. In February, we had the roof to our home completely replaced. After that accomplishment, we searched for over two months to hire a general contractor to do the inside repairs on ceilings, walls and other areas due to the torrential rains we had in October 2015. On May 28, 2016, the repairs were completed. My husband had reverse shoulder replacement surgery on May 31. His recovery was a whirlwind of ups-and-downs. The summer of 2016 was so stressful, I found myself slipping away from Weight Watchers and everything I loved. No walking. No exercising. No writing. No dancing…No music or singing…Nothing!

Since the summer, I’ve found myself giving in to weaknesses. After all, it didn’t matter IF I gained weight. I’m happy to report, I did not put those lost 35 pounds back on; however, I have not met goal. I don’t even have a clue what my goal should be!

Today, while sitting at my meeting, I glanced around the room. Like most Weight Watchers meetings during the holidays, we had only a small group, including a 93-year-old woman and two men. Every time I see this precious, sweet and beautiful 93-year-old woman I am inspired. Many people would say, ‘at her age, why should she be so worried at her weight?’ I say, I think she is an inspiration to all of us. Yes, she uses a walker and maybe her shoulders slump a bit, but she is still full of life. To her, her weight is important. Today, she was furious with herself. She was baking cookies with her son this week, and that is why she gained a pound. Sitting in front of me, I tapped her on the shoulders. “Just look at how blessed you are to be baking cookies with your son.”

I’m so envious. During the Christmas holidays I do not see my son, even though he lives less than 30 miles from me. How I would love the opportunity to make Christmas cookies with him again. I suppose a mother can dream.

Every year since joining Weight Watchers, I tell myself the new year will be my year. I will break this plateau and achieve goal. No, I haven’t achieved my goal yet. At least I haven’t gained the weight back!

Not only have I kept the weight off, I have gained in confidence and self-worth, much to the credit of two wonderful friends I’ve made, thanks to Weight Watchers. Since I am a writer, my life is a bit isolated. I find myself spending too much time keeping to myself. Last year, before the torrential rain storms, and the storms brewing inside my home, I kept to myself. I quit walking. Now that I think about it, I realize those walks I took with my friends energized me by encouraging me to continue. Feeling the fresh air on my face, walking the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, and enjoying the views, birds, flowers and freedom of walking, I found myself inspired. Refreshed. Now, I realize, I need to take a first step again to walk, to find that inspiration and motivation. Tomorrow morning, I plan to take that first step!

Today, at Weight Watchers, I gained. Big deal! I’ll get those two pounds off again. As for 2017, I will go on record to say, my journey and adventures with Weight Watchers will continue. I will walk. I will fill my body and my mind with new energy while telling myself:

THIS I DO FOR ME!

Although 2017 is only a few days and steps away, I will not fail. After all, You only fail in life when you stop believing…and trying…and moving.

I plan to continue my journeys, along with Weight Watchers! Tomorrow is a new day and I will embrace it!

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caregiving, Uncategorized

Dearest Caregiver…Becoming the Parent to A Parent…


Dearest Caregiver:
My heart breaks for you as you so suddenly see yourself walking in the shoes of a caregiver. Sometimes, these shoes are high heels. You go to work as a professional. You work all day while wondering ‘how is my mother or my father doing today?’ Maybe the shoes you walk in as a caregiver are flats, or comfortable sneakers. It doesn’t matter what you wear on your feet, your ache is a recurring ache your feet and body do not understand.
You wonder — just HOW did this happen? Maybe you didn’t understand your parent was ill. I didn’t in 1997. Yes, my dad had lost weight. Foolishly, I took it that since he lived on a fixed income, perhaps he could not afford to eat as healthy as he should. At Thanksgiving, I asked him how he was feeling. Mr. Independent, an affectionate description I called him sometimes, was much too independent and proud to ask me for help, and so I took his response of “I’m fine,” as the truth. Three days later, he phoned me after work, telling me he thought he had cancer. He needed to go to the doctor.
We rushed to ER. After seven hours of diagnostic testing, the ER professionals suggested my dad needed to see a gastroenterologist. Two days later, I screamed when the doctors told me my dad had esophageal cancer.
“How can this be?” I asked. “How can my dad be sick?”
My dad lived in an affordable retirement community. He had many friends there. Sitting down to grasp the heartbreaking news, I recognized I was so wrapped up in my professional life, I did not recognize my dad needed me. He was 84-years-old. Living alone, he walked all over the sidewalks and streets of historical Charleston, SC. Never did he ask for money, or anything from me. He excused my busy life. He was proud of me since I worked in the educational field. He understood I didn’t have time for him. He understood that not only did I work ’40-hours weekly’ my weekends were devoted to recruiting students for the university almost every weekend.
I heard myself whispering as I wiped tears from my face. “Dear God, I’ve been such a fool. My dad needs me. He NEEDS ME.”
I took a leave of absence from work. An endoscopy was performed on Dad. He had a tumor on his esophagus. A tumor that was too difficult to remove.
I met with an oncologist. He suggested Dad needed chemo/radiation therapy and a feeding tube. He could not keep food down. He was choking and extremely weak. Dad weighed 130 pounds. Previously, he tipped the scales at 175. The oncologist wanted to know what I wanted them to do. He stressed Dad needed the feeding tube since he was malnourished. If he didn’t get some form of food intake, he would probably die within two weeks. I looked up, tears still gushing down my face and I said, “My dad is an independent man. He needs to make that decision.”
Dad fought to live from December, 1997 until his death on July 6, 1999. During that time, my focus was my dad. When it was suggested that he needed ‘skilled care,’ I inquired as to what the definition of skilled care was. Suddenly, I was learning a lot about serving as a caregiver. I was the “Parent to my Parent.” I made decisions about his care. I found ways to jump through the hoops to get him the care he needed and deserved. I learned a lot about diplomacy, refusing to take “no” as an answer. My dad and I became closer than ever. I visited him daily regardless of where he was. He moved from hospital to nursing home. Back and forth again and again as he weakened and I found ways to save his nursing home room and roommate. Never did I let Dad know the hoops I jumped through, just to get him the care he deserved. I met with nursing staff. I found an Ombudsman, a young and caring medical professional who shared her knowledge with me so I could get my dad the medical care he deserved.
I am hopeful things have improved since 1999. After Dad’s death, I wrote “Condition of Limbo,” describing in detail what it was like to serve as a caregiver in a community that appeared to be ever so negligent where caregiving was concerned, along with the medical care.
Now, I have several friends who are becoming the “parent to a parent,” and they ask me what they should do to make certain their mother or father is cared for properly. After listening to their story, I’ve decided it might be easier to share my experience on my blog:
I continue praying for your family, your mother/father and you, hoping each day will be a better day for all of you. Many times, it isn’t. What I share at that time is for you to fight and pray…to believe that tomorrow will be a better day. Yes, clichés. Clichés helping us to see the sunshine while the pain you are feeling is almost indescribable. It is true you should take care of yourself; nevertheless, right now, you probably are losing sleep. You are too afraid to give in to sleep, in the event ‘something happens to Mom or Dad.’
As I’ve stated previously, I walked in similar shoes when my dad became terminally ill with esophageal cancer. I blinked my eyes as I realized I was now the ‘parent to my parent.’ Suddenly I was making decisions my father was much too ill to make. You wonder – how do I do this? How do I make decisions HE/SHE should be making?
All I can suggest for you is to take each day “one day at a time.” When meeting with medical professionals for “skilled care” — a description they do not identify or describe. Skilled care means 24-hour nursing care…make certain you document the dates/times, names, titles, and most important, document what they say. Save these notes. They might become important at a later date — according to the Medicare and Insurance regulations.
How I wish I could be there with you. While I do not proclaim to be a professional regarding ‘caregiving’ walking in those shoes in 1999 was a wakeup call for me. Please get some rest. Ask if the hospital has an atrium, or a chapel. Step inside and let the tears flow. That is what I did one afternoon at Roper Hospital in Downtown Charleston. Their Atrium was newly built. I found a balcony, and there, I cried. I screamed and I shouted for God to listen to me. No one but God could hear me when the rushing traffic congestion drowned out my heartbreak.
I’m sending virtual hugs to you, and I am praying, repeatedly. God is there. This too shall pass. Praying for your mother or father to become strong enough to get to the rehab center, and I am praying for you to rest and get additional emotional strength.
You might ask yourself: “What do I do if my parent comes home. Is he or she able to care for themselves? Do I hire a nurse, or do I move in?”
In a perfect world, you might ask other family members to help. Unfortunately, I did not have that luxury. I was estranged from family members at the time. Fortunately, I swallowed every ounce of pride I had to find my family and to let them know our father was terminally ill. I am happy to report, I have one sister I stay in contact with now and we are closer than ever.
Walking through life when you become the parent to your parent makes one stronger. I would like to say it is a wakeup call to the importance of family remaining close; however, life does have a way of changing us and at times, the true character of a family member can be revealed. Sometimes good, but most of the time – bad. While my dad battled cancer and grew weaker, I actually had one sister write Dad a letter — stating something to the effect of: “I’m sorry you’re so sick, but I have to work so I can’t come to see you.” Her next statement in the letter was: “So tell me Dad…am I STILL in your Will?”
Thank God she lived eight hours away. I wanted to strangle her.
Watching my dad slowly melting away from life taught me to take each day one day at a time, and to slow down to appreciate the little things in life. I visited him in the nursing home daily, unless my bronchial asthma kicked in. On one occasion, Dad was reading his Holy Bible. When he saw me entering his room he screamed at me. “You get out of here,” he shouted. “I want to read my Bible.”
I felt rejected. How could he speak to me in such a manner? Didn’t he know I loved him and wanted to be with him?
After researching caregiving, I realized my dad was detaching from me. He did not want me to see his pain, or to watch his body slowly fading away. On the day of his death, I had a dream/vision in the early morning. I phoned the nursing home at 3:45am, inquiring how he was doing. They checked on him, reporting he was sleeping soundly. That afternoon, after a stressful day of working later than I planned, I entered the nursing home at 5:45pm. I ran into a nurse pushing an oxygen tank. She looked away from me, moving next to me.
“Ooh…that isn’t a good sign,” I said. She nodded. When she placed her hand on the doorway of my dad’s room, I screamed. I knew what was happening. The nurse pushed my hand away from the door. “You stay here,” she said.
Someone moved me to a couch. I sat down, tears pouring like an endless waterfall from my eyes and I sobbed uncontrollably. I knew the day of dad’s departure from me was here. I also knew I had to let him go.
After his death, my independence kicked in. I managed to plan the funeral. I moved like a zombie, without emotion or pain. I prayed for God to give me strength. Now 17 years after his death, I still miss him. There are days when I feel totally empty of emotions, and I have days where he is tucked safely inside my heart. I do not regret serving as his caregiver and I am proud we became closer and closer as he slowly melted away from me. Today, I am proud to say I was his daughter and I am pleased to share my experience with others who unexpectedly become:
THE PARENT TO A PARENT.
If you walk in similar shoes, I would love to read your experience and I am praying Medicare changed many of the regulations after 1999. If you are a caregiver, may God bless you as you care for a parent who taught you how to walk, how to talk and how to become a strong, independent and proud adult. Once my dad pushed me in a stroller. When he became so ill with cancer, I helped guide him with his walker, and later I pushed him in a wheelchair. But only once! He hated a wheelchair, refusing to sit in it again.
Yep. That was my dad. A proud, tall, striving to be independent 84-years-old man. Never did I see his elderly age. All I saw was — my father…My Dad! How I miss him!
Charleston, Hurricanes, On My Soapbox!, rain, Uncategorized

When and If Hurricane Matthew Comes to the Lowcountry…


Dearest Readers:
Within 24-36 hours, we, in the low country, will know what our chance of meeting Hurricane Matthew is. Here’s what I predict. As most of you know, Charleston, SC is the ‘number one city in the world.’ No doubt, a Chamber of Commerce statement. Yes, it is a beautiful city. Antiquated!!! And I’m not certain IF the city has decided to get with the program and join the 21-first century!
If the hurricane is predicted to hit our coast, I imagine a ‘mandatory evacuation’ will finally be whispered. Remember — we have ’42 families moving into the low country daily.’ Well…we’ve had growth. Amazing, nightmarish growth…New construction is built almost everywhere – however, only roads leading into the subdivisions are made. Our dignitaries cannot make decisions about building additional roads. Their comments are “No money. And If we built new roads, where would we put them? Good question. Excellent observation…but why can’t they make a decision about I-526, or additional roads? Demolishing trees certainly isn’t hard since they completely destroy most of the trees in every new subdivision now. When I moved to Charleston, I was impressed how trees were saved. Not anymore!
If we use Highway 41 to evacuate — we will be parked right on the road when Matthew arrives. I’ve had that happen before in 1999. During that ‘mandatory evacuation’ we moved 57 miles in nine hours! Can you imagine holding your bladder for nine hours? I saw men walking into the woods of Highway 41. I wasn’t about to do that! And, I doubt if men could walk into the woods now – due to the area now filled with new subdivisions, shopping, and other suburban developments. Incidentally, I should mention when my husband was released from work to evacuate – so was every employee in Charleston. I suppose you’ve never read about these nightmares in infamous Charleston, SC — have you? Yes, a beautiful city – unable to handle the traffic hurricanes create when we are finally told ‘this is a mandatory evacuation.’ Yeah. Right. Charleston, what orbit are you on? Face reality! Mandatory evacuation is not possible!
If we have a ‘mandatory evacuation,’ we will not join that parking lot! We will gather our things. Our friends – the best four-legged kind – and we will stay in the hallway of our home. Reportedly, if it hits the coast of the low country, it will be only a category 2 storm. We’ve been here at home for those before. Remember last October?  We had the ‘hundred-year-storm,’ as the dignitaries called it.
arthur-ravenel-jr-bridge
View of the Charleston Harbor and Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge
In reality, it was a tropical storm/mini-hurricane.’ Not my definition of it, but one of the appraisers when I filed a claim and was told “You are not covered!”
Yes, I cancelled that policy and all the policies I had with that insurance company. Never again…Lesson Learned – the expensive way!
So, I am here to let you know – IF Hurricane Matthew comes to town in the low country, we will remain here in our home. Yes. The power will probably be cut off, just like Hurricane Hugo. I will go to the grocery store to get a few non-perishable items we can eat, along with our precious family friends, and we will be fine.
I’m praying my home will be fine. It took us four months to get our beautiful roof replaced in February, 2016. Interior construction from the damage we had during that storm wasn’t completed until May 28, 2016. On May 31, Phil had reverse shoulder replacement – which created another storm I never want to experience again. A physical, emotional roller coaster ride for both of us.
I am staying tuned in to the Weather Channel, and local weather reports, praying this storm will die down for our world. I’m beginning to hate hurricanes. The lightning. Winds. Rain…RAIN…AND MORE RAIN…create only one thing – a time to appreciate life and be thankful for the little things in life.
Hurricane Matthew we do not want you to be another traveling companion or tourist in the low country. Why don’t you move out to sea and disappear! You are not welcome here!
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Cypress Gardens Still Closed Due to The ‘Hundred Year Storm.’
entertainment, Music Notes, Uncategorized, Workout

The Top 10 Workout Songs for July 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The Top 10 Workout Songs for July 2016

Fort Wayne, IN – July 10, 2016 – The artists behind this month’s top workout tunes could easily pass for the lineup of a great, summer music festival. Kicking off the day, you’d find upstarts like Shawn Mendes and crossover favorites like Tegan & Sara. Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood could headline the country stage. Meanwhile, club acts like Sigala and The Chainsmokers supply beats in the dance tent.

Other noteworthy tracks this month include a Coldplay remix from Seeb (who turned Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” into an unlikely hit). Adele makes an appearance with any unusually jaunty cut from her most recent album. Finally, Elle King turns up with a track from the Ghostbusters reboot. If any of these options strikes your fancy, here’s the full top 10 list—according to the votes logged on workout music site Run Hundred.

Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood – The Fighter – 132 BPM

Shawn Mendes – Treat You Better – 83 BPM

Tegan& Sara – Stop Desire – 159 BPM

Adele – Send My Love (To Your New Lover) – 82 BPM

Pitbull& Enrique Iglesias – Messin’ Around – 80 BPM

Sigala, John Newman & Nile Rodgers – Give Me Your Love (Cedric Gervais Remix) – 126 BPM

Coldplay – Hymn for the Weekend (Seeb Remix) – 102 BPM

Elle King – Good Girls – 88 BPM

The Chainsmokers & Daya – Don’t Let Me Down (Hardwell & Sephyx) – 151 BPM

Selena Gomez – Kill Em With Kindness – 119 BPM


To find more workout songs, folks can check out the free database at RunHundred.com. Visitors can browse the song selections there by genre, tempo, and era—to find the music that best fits with their particular workout routine.

Contact:
Chris Lawhorn
Run Hundred
Email: mail@runhundred.com
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ARTICLES, health, Uncategorized

Hello Four Walls – I’ve Been Kidnapped ByThe Noro Virus Kidnapped Me


Dearest Readers:

I planned to share this story about three or four days ago; however, this noro virus had other ideas.

Saturday, April 16, 2016 began as a beautiful, sunshiny day. One of the beauties of living in South Carolina I appreciate the scenes, beaches, scents and flowers, especially at spring time. I rushed around the house in anticipation of a shopping trip with new friends. While riding in the back seat of their spacious truck, I commented about what a beautiful day it was to spend time with new friends. Little did I know how quickly things can change.

Walking around the shopping center, I walked into a shoe store. Phil found a gorgeous pair of sandals for me. He wanted me to try them on, I declined. My forehead was dripping with beats of sweat, or as I like to say, “my glitter is showing.”

“I feel strange,” I whispered to him. “I think I’ll go outside and sit down at one of those benches.”

Ever so slowly I made my way and sat down. Now, my entire face was covered with sweat, along with my neck. Phil commented while touching my forehead. I tried to laugh, mentioning something about maybe I’m having those ‘hot flashes’ now that all my friends complain about.

I’ve never had a hot flash. My friends describe them as a quick, burning flash of heat that rises from your toenails to your head. The only place I was hot was my forehead, covered with beads of perspiration, or as I like to say, ‘I do not sweat, I glisten with sparkles.’ Today, I could not joke or make silliness about how ‘strange’ I felt. The beads of ‘sparkles’ continued to soak my forehead. My hair was soaked, along with my neckline. My fingers were shivering. One moment – my body felt as if I was standing in a sauna. The next moment, I was standing inside an igloo. Just what was this feeling? I was sitting on a bench in the bright sunshine. Temperatures outside were warm but not hot enough to make me dripping with my little sparkles.

Our friends saw me sitting at the bench with Phil. They suggested we might find a restaurant, eat an early lunch and I would probably feel better. I agreed.

Sitting down at the restaurant, my body was shivering now. I read the menu, ordered coffee and a salad and waited to feel better; nevertheless, the strange sensation overwhelmed me.

Moments later, my stomach regurgitated. I projectile vomited everything that was inside of my stomach. At least I thought. Phil wiped my blouse, placed a napkin on my forehead and I attempted to stand up, to get to the restroom. Fortunately, I made it to the restroom before my entire stomach exploded. I breathed deeply…Inhaled…Breathed again…

What is wrong with me? My hands were shaking. My legs felt like spaghetti. This was not going to be a good day for me.

I flushed my face with cold water, noticing how pale and deathly I looked. I sat down in a chair at the ladies restroom and waited for the color to return, or to see if I was swimming in a sea of nausea again.

Returning to the table, my stomach regurgitated once again. I was mortified. In my entire life I have never thrown up in public. Deciding that I was much too weak to shop, I suggested going to the car and resting while everyone shopped. How I wanted to slip under the table and crawl under the floor so nobody could see me. Phil got our friend’s car key and walked with me. The walk to the car, usually an easy and short journey for me appeared to be miles away.

“I can’t make it to the car. Find me a wheelchair, please.” Phil sat me down at a bench. Moments later, he returned with a wheelchair. A $10.00 fee at the shopping center, even with an emergency. I fell into the wheelchair and off we went. Riding in the wheelchair reminded me of my ride in a pace car at Bristol race track. G-force of nausea captured me again, although this time, I kept everything down. I had a nasty taste of stale coffee in my mouth. Phil offered me a mint. I sucked on it, hoping to feel better.

Slipping into the truck, Phil rolled the windows down so I would feel a breeze. I was shivering still. He took the key, locked the car and off he went. My stomach gurgled, so I opened the door to the truck. The burglar alarm screamed. Now, if I did regurgitate in the parking area, everyone would see. Phil returned, wanting to know why I opened the door.

“If I throw up again, I do not want to do it all over his new, beautiful vehicle.”

Phil apologized, leaving the key with me! Thank goodness. If I had to make a spectacle of myself, I wanted it to be when EMS came to get me, in the event I needed to go to the hospital. Today was not the day I wanted to enter a place and be remembered. I simply wanted to crawl through the woodwork and die, if today was the day I left this earth.

What was to be a splendid day of shopping was one of the sickest days of my entire life. I thought it was related to a migraine headache, but this was much worse.

Cutting our plans short, we got home before dark. I apologized to our friends, hoping they would understand I was really sick and not faking this dreadful illness. I remember bathing and crawling my way to bed. About 8:45 pm, stomach cramps and a gurgling stomach awoke me. I rushed to the bathroom, only this time I was not nauseated. I was suffering from some of the worst diarrhea a human could endure. The constant waves of diarrhea reminded me of a riptide, washing over me keeping me awake all night long. I battled with this manic stomach illness until 8:15 the next morning, a total of 12 long, painful and weak hours. The riptide of diarrhea forced me to take three additional baths before the sickness eased. I kept asking my body how it could explode with such illness when nothing was inside of my stomach.

Today is Friday, April 22. Still, I feel incredibly weak. Phil got sick on Tuesday at work, arriving home before lunchtime. Every morning I told myself I could do the laundry…Or, I could cook a meal…If I tried, I could vacuum. Once, I attempted to get the vacuum cleaner, only to decide I was much too weak – still. I managed to wash the clothes that I wore when I was so sick on Saturday, washing them twice just to make certain the fabrics were clean and sanitized.

No, I haven’t exactly tracked my food intake since I’m a member of Weight Watchers. This week I’ve eaten only small bites of food, or a small can of soup. Our Friday night date – let’s just say, it was postponed! Every doctor’s appointment had to be postponed, along with my weekly weigh-in at Weight Watchers. I was contagious. I would not share this illness with anyone!

When Phil arrived home on Tuesday, I noticed how white his face was. Neither of us wanted food or liquids. We placed our pups in the breakfast room and away we went, to separate bedrooms to ease the illness. For two days, both of us camped out in the den, moving only when Mother Nature called. I suppose we were quite a silly pair together. Neither of us feeling strong enough to care for the other.

My head continues to spin and hurt from this virus. The noro virus whips all of the strength a body has. No appetite. No strength to walk or care for yourself. I Googled stomach virus, discovering norovirus.

The symptoms of Norovirus include:

Nausea & Vomiting – my vomiting felt like I was projectile vomiting my entire stomach.

 

Fever & Chills – one moment my head is covered with sweat. The next moment, I shivered.

 Migraines – Daily I’ve awoken with a bad headache.

 Stomach Cramps – reminding me of the severe cramps I suffered before menopause.

 Sore Muscles – my husband suffered with sore muscles. The only sore muscles I have are in my throat and stomach.

 Urine Changes – surprisingly, my urine was a bright yellow. Normally, clear, that is how I knew I was dehydrated.

 Dry, Parched Mouth – I still have chapped lips and a dry mouth. To resolve this, I am drinking more Gator Ade.

 Increased Heart Rate – I didn’t notice this. What I have felt is the inability to walk well. I have clung to the walls in my home whenever I feel “strange” again. Suddenly the lyrics of “Hello Walls” are changing and my weakened body is saying: “Hello walls. Thank God you’re here today…Just to hold me and keep my feet from falling from all this pain….”

 Several of my friends suggested I should get to the doctor immediately. Just how does one get to a doctor’s office when she is so ill? Friends suggested they would take me. I declined. I did not want to contaminate anyone! No doubt this norovirus could result in someone losing friendships. I cherish my friends, so I refused to let them do anything for me.

 Today I do feel better and I am hopeful I can style my hair and wear makeup today. To those who know me, they realize I am never seen in public without makeup. Not so this week. I haven’t left my house at all, until Friday. My face is naked now, but I feel confident after writing this, I will smile again and attempt makeup. Who knows If I will succeed. I suppose you will just have to wait to read my next post – that is WHEN I am well. This virus kidnapped me, only no one would pay the ransom. Another side effect I’ve had – a lack of cognitive abilities. Attempting to answer a question on the phone, or to discuss how I really feel…let’s just say – I’ve struggled to speak with intelligence. Let’s don’t even discuss my keyboarding skills now. I keep telling myself this too shall pass.

 UPDATE: Sunday, April 24, 2016, I wore makeup yesterday and today. Happy Days are here again…I have no idea when I will be able to sing again!

 Yes…This Too Shall Pass…I’ll be so happy when I can be well and strong enough to get myself to the beach. Weather forecast say it has been a beautiful, picture perfect beach week, but don’t ask me. All I’ve seen is people walking by the side of the road and four walls. Lots of walls! I did manage to clip roses from my rose bush. They are helping me to see that life is out there and soon, I will be strong again. I hope!

 This

Too

Shall

Pass!

 

health, sunshine, Uncategorized

Have You Ever Had An — ENDOSCOPY???


Dearest Readers:

Today, I would like to share a medical procedure I had just after New Year’s Day. January 19, 2016 – to be exact.

A few years ago, I started having a bit of difficulty when swallowing. Suddenly, my throat would tighten; I could feel a bit of a spasm. I slowed down the eating process, hoping my husband would not notice. He did.

One afternoon while we were eating at a restaurant, the spasm returned. I attempted swallowing a bit. I could not. I got the hiccups – something I never get. I cleared my throat only to realize I needed to rush to the ladies room. I covered my mouth with my hands in hopes nothing regurgitated. I’m pleased to report; I made it to the ladies room. About ten minutes later, I returned to the table, requesting a ‘doggie bag’ for my salad.

My mind drifted to my father. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December 1997. I lost him from that dreadful, debilitating disease on July 6, 1999. I knew the symptoms of this cancer well:

  • Inability to swallow without regurgitating
  • Coughing
  • Hiccups
  • Weight loss, due to the inability to eat food
  • Reflux
  • Pain or burning in the throat
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting
  • Choking while eating

Of these symptoms, I experienced five. I procrastinated, hoping and praying that I was simply overreacting, or maybe my mind was imagining them because I was still grieving over the loss of my father. I kept telling myself that “this too shall pass,” and I refused to go to the doctor.

Since I’ve increased my exercise routines, power walking and the treadmill, I noticed at times I would get an upset stomach, resulting in a quick rush to the restrooms during my exercise. This was quite embarrassing to me. Later, I would taste a strange bitterness in my mouth and throat. Researching, as I always do, I discovered I was suffering with some ‘GI issues.’ I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist, Dr. Jeffrey R. Joyner, http://www.lowcountrygi.com/ since he is such a respected gastroenterologist; I had to wait two months to see him even though he was the doctor performing another procedure a few years ago. When I visited his office, I shared what was happening inside of my body. He made a few suggestions, and I am happy to say, his suggestions worked. I needed to take a daily dosage of Fiber Con, and I needed to make certain I ate something before exercising.

Since I was at the office, I cleared my throat and whispered, “I am having a problem with swallowing sometimes.” I paused. “Let me explain. I lost my dad in 1999 due to esophageal cancer. I think I might have it.”

I really thought I was under control with these grief emotions, especially after 16 years, but I wasn’t. Tears rushed down my face. I apologized. Dr. Joyner handed me a tissue.

“You have no reason to apologize. Grief is a difficult emotion. Incidentally, I do not believe you have esophageal cancer.”

“But – I have the same symptoms.”

“Let’s not worry about that now. I am almost positive you do not have esophageal cancer, but I would like to schedule an endoscopy.” He asked me additional questions.

My response to each was a soft, emotional “No.”

I wiped tears, cleared my throat and attempted to smile.

The endoscopy was scheduled. I was sad that it couldn’t be done before the holidays and then I remembered the holidays of 1997 – early July 1999. Maybe I didn’t want to go through the holidays knowing something was wrong.

Arriving home, I researched endoscopy again. According to the Mayo Clinic, “upper endoscopy is a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system with a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube. A specialist in diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist) uses an endoscopy to diagnose and, sometimes, treat conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum). http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/endoscopy/basics/definition/PRC-20020363

 

So, during the Christmas holidays of 2015, I kept myself busy. My sister and other family members were coming for Thanksgiving this year. I was certain I could manage a smile while knowing and appreciating the little things in life. I didn’t mention how frightened I was. I did not want sympathy or pity from anyone.

Nevertheless, when I was alone, I found myself worrying. While eating tilapia and yellow rice, I choked and then I remembered, almost every time I ate rice, I would choke. No more rice for me!

Thanksgiving and Christmas slowly passed by. I counted the days until my endoscopy and I prayed. And prayed…AND PRAYED. “Please God. Please don’t let me have esophageal cancer.”

The morning of Tuesday, January 19 arrived. My procedure was scheduled for 8 am. We arrived at 7:20.

By 7:30 I was in the procedure room, ready to get this procedure over. I slid on the bed, curious and anxious to get this morning going. I said another prayer while speculating if God ever got tired from hearing my prayers. Maybe I needed to pray in a different manner. Dr. Joyner came to see me, telling me everything would be fine and for me not to worry. Easier said than done.

Just what would I do IF I did have esophageal cancer? What would I say to my husband? Who would take care of me?

I admit it. I never had these discussions with Phil. I was hopeful he would be my rock – again.

The anesthesiologist welcomed me, telling me I needed to lie on the left side of my body. She told me I would be given the drugs so I could be asleep during the procedure. In a few minutes, she returned. She smiled. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. This takes maybe 20 seconds. You’ll be asleep soon.”

I remember counting. One…two…three… I don’t remember four!

I was out, almost as quickly as turning a light off.

When I awoke, I heard music. The nurse welcomed me.

“I heard music. Did the song – for the life of me I cannot recall the title – play?”

“You heard it?” The nurse said.

“Yes. I am a music person and a singer.”

“What would you like to drink? Dr. Joyner will be here in a few minutes.”

And that is when I looked at her, asking her the dreaded question “Do I have esophageal cancer?”

“No.” She said. “You are fine.”

Dr. Joyner entered the room. “I understand you were a bit worried,” he said.

“Do I have esophageal cancer?” I repeated. Tears filled my eyes.

“No. You have a hiatal hernia. Nothing more. No cancer and no pre cancer cells. I did a biopsy just to be sure.”

I sighed, wiping my tears.

I looked up at the ceiling. Thank you, God.

Before I had the endoscopy, I knew what to expect from it. I was prepared, or as prepared as one can be, for the dreaded six letter word – cancer.

My husband entered the room. I reached for his hand. “No cancer,” I said.

“Thank God,” he said, kissing my hand. “When you’re dressed we can go home.”

“Good,” I said. “My fresh pot of coffee awaits and you can go to work.”

“Only if you promise to rest the rest of the day.”

I crossed my hands over my chest. “Scouts Honor,” I said.

“Yeah, and you were not a girl scout.”

“I was a den mother for the Cub Scouts. That should count.”

Phil tossed his head back and forth, rolling his eyes at me. His body language says so much! The nurse arrived with a wheelchair.

“Ah..I don’t need that. I can walk.”

“Not today,” she smiled. I hopped into the wheelchair and slid in the car. It was 8:15 am. “In and out surgery, just like drive thru windows for fast food,” I said. The nurse laughed and wished me a good day.

I return to the doctor in March. Since the procedure I haven’t had any symptoms, or difficulty swallowing. I think I have God, my family and friends and the doctor to thank. Looks like 2016 will be a good year.

 

Losing Weight, Weight Watchers

“WEIGHT GAIN IS NOT A PERMANENT CONDITION!’


Dearest Readers:

Today is my day to face the music…stop beating myself up…and move on with life! Why? Simple. Today is my weigh-in day at Weight Watchers. Early this morning, I felt nervous. Embarrassed…All of those negative feelings we all feel whenever we gain weight.

I confess – I have used my ‘get out of jail free’ card several times lately at Weight Watchers. You know the card – if you are a member of Weight Watchers. The infamous “No Weigh In” card. Effective today, I am not using it; after all, it isn’t helping me.

Today, when I walked into the meeting, I dreaded facing the music. After the weigh-in, the wonderful receptionist who always shares encouragement with all of us said to me — It’s OK. “Weight gain is NOT a permanent condition.”

How true! She reminded me of the weight I have lost, along with all of the inches that appear to be falling off from my body and I smiled.

“You’re so right,” I smiled. “That’s a wonderful quote you’ve shared and I shall use it wisely, reminding me that my joining Weight Watchers was a lifetime, and lifestyle, change for me.

Last weekend I was bad. Very BAD! At a graduation, I reminded myself to eat wisely and carefully — and then — I committed the ultimate Weight Watchers sin. I ate cake. I could not resist it. I requested a large piece of cake. I ate every bite. Later, I went back for a second piece. I did not work out. I did not climb my friends upstairs stairs like I promised myself I would. I did not work out at all before going to bed. As I stated, I was bad.

On the way home, you guessed it — we stopped at fast food restaurants – and I was bad again. That night after arriving home, my husband and I went out for pizza. I ate every bite. I realized my life was spinning out of control. I watched an episode of “My 600 Pound Life,” http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/my-600-lb-life/ recognizing  I would never allow myself to become one of those reality show participants. At first, I wanted to write ‘reality show freaks’ – but I am trying to be positive here. I am trying to be happy and stop beating myself up.

Why Do We Beat Ourselves Up?

My actions got me thinking… If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know my life as a child was filled with unhappiness. When I graduated from high school, my parents were divorced – sitting as far away from each other as they possibly could. When my name was called – no one cheered. After the graduation ceremony, I came home with my diploma. My mother never said she was proud of me. There wasn’t a celebration. No cake. No gifts – with the exception of a few relatives who gave me graduation gifts. While watching the pride and love in my friend’s eyes when she spoke of her daughter at graduation and at the graduation party, my mind rushed back to my childhood and how different I wish it was.

So today is a wake-up call for me. A day for me to graduate from my childhood and to move forward with my life. Today is a new day. A great day to strive for happiness, instead of sadness. After all, negative thoughts only feed negativity. Positive thoughts teach us happiness, renewal, and motivation. Today is my day to move forward — to STOP beating myself up and to track all of my food intake – just like Weight Watchers teaches us.

And now, I must take that first step to have a good day. Thank you, Weight Watchers. Today is a new day. “Weight gain is NOT a permanent condition!”

 

 

Chattahoochee Child, Family, Free Writing

Chattahoochee Child – Walking Into the Fears of Cancer…


Dearest Readers:

Periodically, I post a few stories from the book, “Chattahoochee Child” — my latest work-in-progress. Hope you enjoy!

 

The morning my father and I learned to forgive each other started like most mornings in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Resting motionless in bed, he reminded me of a frail injured bird with crippled wings. His body was thin. His skin the color of mustard. Peach fuzz of a cotton soft beard kissed his face. My heart broke for him. My arms ached to reach inside his weakened body to pull the cells of cancer away.

Dad was rebelling after the diagnosis, stating in a firm voice that he would not shave his face UNTIL he was given the freedom and luxury of eating food. Meanwhile, the beard continued growing.

Although it was the holiday season of 1997, I could find no happiness or excitement in decking the halls or decorating a Christmas tree. The patriarch of my family tree was terminally ill, destroying my belief in the humanity and meaning of life. Why was it always the good people who suffer the most? Life just wasn’t fair.

During that Christmas holiday spent inside four cold walls of a hospital room, I remember staring outside, watching cars speeding by, ignoring traffic lights. I glanced at Christmas lights blinking off and on, counting the precious moments of life we, as adults, get locked into believing will be forever.

“How much longer do we have?” Suddenly, I shared an unspoken conversation with God as I looked up into the skyline asking why this had to be.

On that particular morning, Dad’s forehead was hot to the touch. I took his temperature. 103.  Sighing, I reached for the phone near his bed. “I’ll get the nurse to check your temp,” I said.

He watched every move I made. “You’re a good daughter,” he said. “I love you.”

I stopped dialing the phone. “I love you too,” I said, realizing he had never expressed those words before. His generation did not believe in showing affections and I was moved to the point of tears.

“Barbara,” he said his voice only a whisper. “I’m sorry for everything.”

I bathed his forehead with a cooling wash cloth, “No need to be sorry for the past,” I said. “You were the parent. I was the bratty, rebellious teenager.”

Dad’s facial muscles struggled to smile. “You always were stubborn and persnickety,” he said as he coughed.

“Just like my father,” I teased. “You rest. We can talk later when you’re stronger.”

“I’m glad you’re here. I can always count on you, even when things are difficult.”

“All of that’s in the past,” I said, brushing a blonde strand of hair from my face with an apricot manicured nail. “The past is history. The future a mystery. This moment is a gift, and that’s why we call it the present.”

Dad’s eyes fluttered. “I’m tired and sleepy.” He said.

“You close your eyes and sleep. I’ll be here when you awaken.”

November, 1997 until July,1999, were years of change, heartache and indescribable fear as I slowly watched my dad melting away from me from the effects of esophageal cancer, the Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy [PEG tube], commonly referred to as a feeding tube and chemotherapy radiation. I watched his tall, sturdy frame slowly bending into an emaciated body that could no longer fight or walk without assistance. It was truly the most painful time of my life.

After the week of Thanksgiving, 1997 my dad phoned, telling me he was a bit nauseated and thought he had cancer. I snickered. My dad did not have cancer. He was the picture of health. He took care of himself, walking daily, eating healthy foods and he lived a good life. Never drinking or smoking. No, Dad doesn’t have cancer. Not my Dad.

The next morning I took Dad to the Emergency Room at Roper Hospital in Charleston. For over eight hours, we sat while medical professionals took blood samples, x-rays and scratched their heads. Deciding to refer Dad to a gastroenterologist, we left the hospital, got a bit of dinner and I drove him back to his apartment. During dinner, he struggled to swallow his food. He apologized for taking so long to eat. When finished, over half of his meal remained on his plate. He did not request a take-out box. I suppose I knew something was wrong, I just did not want to admit that my dad was getting older and weaker each day.

In early December, Dad and I met with the gastroenterologist. An endoscopy was scheduled for the next morning. I phoned my boss letting her know I would not be at the office the next morning. I detected a bit of disappointment with her but remained firm. After all, my dad needed a test. All of my interviews and presentations could wait. Corporate America simply had to understand. My family was important to me.

The next morning, feeling confident Dad’s tests would be negative, I sat alone in the waiting room of the hospital, watching people passing by in a rush, reading newspapers and magazines, and sitting. How I wish I had remembered to pack a book or magazine. I watched the clock tick away. One hour. Two hours. My stomach growled. I hadn’t eaten anything and it was almost lunch time. My cell phone rang, but I couldn’t answer it since the hospital did not permit them to be used while waiting. And so I waited and waited.

Moments seemed like hours. I glanced up at the clock again, stopping to notice my dad’s doctor was approaching. His eyes did not look at me. He held his head down. He sat down by me.

“We found the problem.”

“Oh. He’s just not eating properly? Isn’t that his problem?”

“No. Your dad has cancer. Cancer of the esophagus. Terminal cancer. I’m sorry to say it, but he probably has less than six months to live. He needs a PEG tube so we can get nourishment into him again.”

I sat motionless. Nothing was fazing me. My mouth flew open and I felt dizzy.

“Are you all right?”

“My dad has cancer. You’re saying my dad is dying? My Dad? This can’t be. He’s taken such good care of himself. You must be mistaken.”

“Have you noticed how thin he is?”

“Yes, I suppose. I did notice he didn’t eat much at Thanksgiving. I’ve been so busy at work. I guess I just didn’t pay enough attention.”

I knew my speech wasn’t making sense. People were passing by me, and all I could think of was the dreaded word – cancer.

I thanked the doctor. When he left, I turned my phone on and called my husband.

“Can you…can you please come to the hospital? Please?”

Garrett knew me well. When he arrived at the hospital, I fell limp in his arms. The tears I refused to cry suddenly poured out of me and I screamed. People stared at me, but I didn’t care. My dad was dying. Cancer. Cancer. CANCER.

The next few days were a blur to me. I returned to work, although my heart wasn’t there. All I could think about was my dad and the approaching Christmas holiday season. How could I possibly celebrate Christmas while knowing my dad is battling cancer? What if he chose not to fight cancer?

My prayers were answered one afternoon after a stressful day at work. I walked into my dad’s hospital room. He was resting while watching TV. An intravenous solution was attached to his arm. I touched his cold, resting arm while watching the IV solution of chemotherapy slowly dripping into his body. An amber colored bag covered the solution as it dripped…dripped…dripped ever so slowly into the veins of my father.

His eyes opened slowly. “Chemotherapy,” he said. “The doctors think it might help me live longer.”

My hand squeezed his and I felt his icy cold skin. “Are you warm enough?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m fine. You stop worrying about me.”

I squeezed his hand again. Tears were dancing in my eyes and I turned away. I did not want my father to see me crying. On that day, I recognized a new closeness and bonding between us. Gone was the angry, bitter-tongued father of my youth, replaced by a kinder and caring man who trusted me.

“We’ll fight this together, Dad.” I said, looking deeply into his eyes. “Together. I will be here for you every day. I love you, Dad. Together we will fight.”

Dad squeezed my hand. “You’re a good daughter,” he said. A tear fell down his face. “Will you wipe my eyes with a tissue. They’re watering.”

Still the tower of strength emotionally, Dad would not admit he was crying. I wiped his eyes and kissed his forehead. “I love you, Dad. Together we will beat this monster of cancer.”

During the holidays of 1997, I watched my dad battle chemotherapy radiation with courage and faith. I visited him daily and with each visit, we bonded. Before leaving at night, I would bend over to kiss his forehead. He whispered, “I love you.” Something he never did before cancer knocked on his door.

Cancer changes people. Suddenly life appears to fall into place. The little things in life become important again. No rushing around. No deadlines to battle. No appointments to break, or arguments to tolerate. All that is important is that one special, precious moment of life. Even when Dad had a rough day, we made the best of it. We strove to see the sunshine and sunrise. Life appeared to be simpler, with one exception. Daily I prayed for God to give Dad and me just one more day. One more day to touch his hand, one more day to kiss his forehead and to whisper three simple, caring words that gave me strength. “I love you.” Eight precious letters of the alphabet that guided me in the mornings, during the unexpected stress of each day, and covered me with a blanket of warmth at night. “I love you.” We expressed those words daily. Every day and moment we shared was precious.

After three chemotherapy treatments Dad was so weak, his blood counts so low, the doctors decided his body did not have the strength necessary to receive additional chemotherapy or radiation treatments. His throat was extremely sore, creating more difficulty with swallowing. The medical terminology I was learning educated me about esophageal cancer and other words I hadn’t learned before cancer knocked at our doors. Dysphagia, the inability to swallow. Skilled medical care – meaning 24-hour medical care and, of course, the detested PEG tube. What Dad and I described as an umbilical cord. Since he had a PEG tube, we decided it was necessary for him to reside at a convalescent center. He made friends at the nursing home and adjusted well. I visited him daily, praying for a miracle.

Our miracle granted him additional time with us although his quality of life weakened. He could not swallow food without regurgitating it, so the PEG tube was used, against his wishes. Slowly every quality of his life ended. The ability to enjoy food. The strength to take daily strolls without the assistance of a walker. The independence to live alone, without the assistance of skilled medical care. Father Time was slowly ticking his life away. Tick. Tock. Tick Tock, until he was almost a vegetable lying in his hospital bed.

On July 6, 1999, I arrived at the nursing home thrilled that I had his checkbook in my handbag. Dad kept close tabs on his checkbook and always asked about it. I was pleased that I had balanced his checkbook, and paid the nursing home for another month of nursing care. I was confident he would be pleased that he did not have to ask for his checkbook this month. I was prepared. Approaching his room, I turned my head, acknowledging a nurse. She was pushing a portable oxygen machine. “Oh, that isn’t a good sign,” I said to her. She did not acknowledge me, but followed next to me. Placing our hands on the door of my father’s room, I exhaled. The nurse suggested I wait outside. I was told I could not enter. I knew the time had arrived, and although I had prepared for this moment, his loss tore into my heart and soul. A woman I had never seen before took my hand, moving me to a chair. I was hysterical. She sat next to me, holding my hand until my husband arrived. I have no idea how he knew that Dad was dying. Someone had called him. Much to my surprise, that someone was me, although I do not remember making a phone call. All I can retrieve from that ‘moment’ was the strange, kind woman holding my hand, whispering words of encouragement to me.

The next morning, I drove to the beach, before sunrise. Standing along the shore, I knew Dad was at peace, and in time, I would be thankful that he had the final say. Walking along the shore, I noticed a sandpiper, appearing to follow me. Was this a sign? I would like to believe it was. The tiny sandpiper running next to me was a symbol that Dad and his spirit were now united with his twin brother and his family. Truly, it was a beautiful sunrise on that morning, July 7, 1999. The first morning of my new life as an orphan.Never would my dad and I harmonize a gospel song. Never would we spell vocabulary words, or whisper ‘I Love You.’  A fresh new morning of life for me, although inside, I felt nothing except a deep, debilitating grief.

 

 

Uncategorized

Health Care 101…


Dearest Readers:

Saturday, I received a bill for a mammogram. Opening the envelope, I was curious why I received a bill for my annual mammogram performed in November, 2014. Wasn’t it just a bit late for them to send me a bill? And — why did the invoice state I was ‘uninsured?’ Was this the new/improved (???) OBAMACARE? Are mammograms no longer paid for by medical insurance? I’ve heard many stories about dear ole’ “Obamacare.” To be totally honest, I have no interest in fighting for medical rights — like I did in 1998-1999.

Readers – you will love the scenario I am about to share! Listen carefully! In February, 1998 – exactly at the same time my father is hospitalized with esophageal cancer, chemo/radiation therapy and a blood transfusion, my husband was rushed to the same hospital. Two days later, it was determined that he needed a quadruple heart bypass. Now, the two most important men in my life were fighting for survival. Yes, I did wonder how God had me pulled in two directions — actually it was three directions. The first my beloved father. Second – my husband. He knew he was second place now since my father was terminal and diagnosed not to live more than six months. Third place was my job at a college. I was told I (and I quote the exact words) — “I needed to get my priorities in order.” After all, it was almost March…a time to give speeches, tours and a time to meet the demands of a demanding career. “Get a life…My priorities ARE in order. My family comes first!”

I do recall rushing from one hospital wing to the cardiac wing to make certain all was AOK. But — ALL WAS NOT OK! While my father rested in bed, strapped to IV’s, oxygen and blood transfusions, I sat with my husband — striving to be strong. I was determined not to cry in front of either of them. Desperately afraid to show my fears, I recall rushing to the Atrium at Roper Hospital. There in that peaceful room filled with comfortable sofas, chairs and a small balcony, I found my peace standing on the balcony. Watching traffic rushing by, horns blowing from drivers who were rushing in a rage to their destinations, I wondered just how many would be admitted soon — from heart attacks, stress, accidents and attempted suicides. “Life is short,” I recall shouting, only no one could hear me. I looked up to the beautiful blue sky, the sunshine shining brightly, almost blinding me from the radiance of it. I prayed…and prayed…and PRAYED some more. Then, wiping my eyes — I screamed. After all, due to the hustle bustle of the rushing traffic congestion in downtown Charleston, SC, no one would hear my screams.

Leaving the Atrium, I walked to the elevator. My shoulders drooped. Head hanging as I wiped tears. Looking into a mirror, I noticed my mascara was smeared. I found a restroom, grabbing my makeup I attempted to hide the raccoon eyes staring back at me. I reached for my Jackie Onassis style sunglasses. Just how I would survive this true test of life was unknown. Somehow I found the strength to be there for my husband at night and on the day of his heart surgery. I visited my dad. He kissed me, telling me to go back to my husband. I felt as if my body was rubber, or some stretching fabric and all I had to do was ask two people to pull my arms so I could stretch from one wing of the hospital to the other. My dad lived until July of 1999. My husband’s heart surgery went well…Seventeen years later, I still can say, Yes, my husband has a heart after all. Believe me, due to his PTSD as a Vietnam Veteran, I have often wondered if he really had a heart!

Readers, by now you may be curious why I regressed with those stories, but today when I phoned the medical facility that sent me the bill, I remember how thankful I was that I learned to document so much when my dad was ill, and when my husband was ill. My dad was admitted to Roper Hospital so many times, I made extra copies of all of his medical cards, Social Security Number and his ID, just so every time I could get him admitted. Yes, according to Obama Care medical treatments are supposedly more efficient now — due to technology. Let us hope so! When I served as the caregiver to my dad, I learned to carry a notebook, write questions and answers down…date and time stamp everything.

After my dad passed away, I sent letters to every hospital, doctor, insurance company…etc…etc…reminding them they needed to finalize additional bills to my attention. Exactly 16 months after my dad’s death, I received a bill – totaling over $1600. I phoned the company. Someone from billing reminded me I needed to pay the bill. “My father died 16 months ago and now you are saying I must pay $1600 due? I don’t think so.” Of course, the billing supervisor placed me on hold. When she returned, I reminded her the company was attempting to collect money from someone deceased.

Placed on HOLD once again, she returned. “We’ve decided to write this bill off,” she replied.

“Good,” I said. Documenting her name, the time of the conversation and date, I am pleased to say, I never heard another word from them.

I have a laundry list of scenarios I could share, including how it took me fighting with medical professionals for over another 16 months (is there something strange about this??) to get my husband’s medical bills paid. Both of us had medical insurance…both were with BCBS…and ALL were a hassle just to get paid. Nevertheless, let’s just say, I can be most persuasive when I need to be. After all — there are two B’s in my name. Do you dare to ask why? One = Blonde. The other — perhaps you should decide! Many of my friends tell me I have the style and demeanor of Julia Sugarbaker, and that’s on my good days! Nevertheless, I got those issues resolved!

Today, while speaking to BCBS and the medical facility, let’s just say, I do not owe the $69 dollars for the mammogram! This truly set the wheels turning for me.

*How many people receiving such invoices — four months later — just how many would assume the amount due WAS their responsibility and not the responsibility of the insurance company? *How many people would simply PAY the bill owed?

Since 1998, I suppose I have become extremely educated and pro-active where medical bills and the proper way to file them are concerned. Yes, advocate is another way to describe me!

SUGGESTIONS

I would like to suggest to ALL of my readers, please be pro-active. Become an advocate to fight for your rights.
Be diplomatic. Phone the company to inquire about how the bill was processed.
Phone your health insurance company. When speaking with these professionals –have paper and pen ready to document the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW to resolve these issues.
Yes, it is time consuming.
Yes, it is stressful, but the end result could be you do not owe this bill.
Don’t assume the bill will be resolved. Request follow up and a paid-in-full statement!

I wish you the best! We must all be pro-active and not assuming that this new health care known as ObamaCare is improved. Personally, I doubt it!