Life After Major Surgery…and it Still Continues….

I haven’t written here in over 6 months.  6 months.  It doesn’t sound like a long time; sometimes it feels like a long time.  Sometimes it feels like where did the time go?

In April this year I had back surgery.  Huge back surgery. 10 hours of back surgery.  Somehow they managed to overdose me after the surgery; but more on that later.  Back to now.

My doctor told me it would take a full year to recover and know if what he did will help.  Well, I know somethings are better, and some are worse.  My recovery speed is a bit like watching the grass grow.  Or the paint dry.

When I get up in the morning now, by the time I get out of bed, shower and get dressed, I’m ready to sit down and say, oh well, another day shot.  But I do what I need to do.  It just gets to a point where if I don’t sit down right this minute than I shall surely cave in upon myself. Because it feels like I can’t stand up straight after a certain amount of activity.  I don’t like that.  I’m a doer.  I’m a person who “self-assembles” the stuff I buy that says “some assembly required…” which usually mean, ALL assembly required.  But I do it.  And I pay for it now, in pain.  And I tell myself, see what happens when you overdo?  Yeah, yeah… I see.

So I went to a psychologist who does hypnosis for pain control.  She  made me a CD.  I started to listen to it in bed and it made me very anxious.  I have no idea why or what it was about that recording, but I didn’t like it.  So I haven’t tried it again.

Then the therapist got very sick and was out for several weeks.  She’s going to retire soon, so I found another psychologist who specializes in “health psychology.”  He doesn’t do hypnosis, and he does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

As a retired Marriage and Family Therapist who did hypnosis on others for about 15 years, I know a lot about it. And I’m not a fan of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT we call it).  But what have I got to lose?  I have no copay for now, so why not give it a try.

So anyway, I traveled to Austin, TX a week ago, to see my daughter and son in law and grandson (who is so adorable I could just eat him up….wonder where that saying came from?  Well, another blog, I guess…).  I spent a week there, then went to San Francisco to see my mom, where I slept on a pull out sofa bed, which was probably not the greatest thing for my back.  And all the travel was a bit too much.  I’m getting very tired of the flying back and forth, but it’s the only way I’m going to see my family I guess.  My daughter did come up here to visit in July with her baby.  That was nice.

I came home totally exhausted (from my recent trip).  I managed to get to physical therapy and the supermarket (as usual, there was no food in my house…) the day after I got back.  But I had to cancel an appointment I had this morning at 10:00 because I knew I’d never make it out of bed in time to get there.

I’m now pretty much a disabled person.  I can’t do a lot of time on my feet; I can’t walk much more than ½ a mile at a time.  Any kind of job I might be suited for, I don’t think I could do unless it meant sitting all day and not having to get up and down a lot.  I could go back to doing hypnosis; but I can’t do therapy because I’m not licensed in the state I now live in.  And getting a new license?  Oy vey.  Such a production!  They want information going back to my master’s degree, and I don’t have all of that anymore.  Or if I do, it’s in a box somewhere that I can’t find.  I’ve been through every box, file – everything where it may be, but I must have decided, “Oh, I won’t need this again…”

Isn’t that always the way?  You find old papers, clothes, whatever and as soon as you decide you don’t need this anymore, you need it.  I’ve looked for things over the years and I was sure where I had left them, couldn’t find them, only to come across them three months later when I didn’t need them, but thought, “I needed this; couldn’t find it; better put it in the file…”  Then I clean out my flies because, well, there’s so much there that I don’t need… for now anyway.

And there I’ve gone off on another tangent.

So I have this chronic pain, mostly from my back, but my joints hurts all over and then my brain will kick in and remind me, oh yeah – I have fibromyalgia…. forgot about that.  And some kind of undiagnosed inflammatory arthritis…All of which contributes to my fatigue, my pain, my cognitive skills – or maybe my lack of cognitive skills- and my sleep problems.  Drugs help.  Problem is:  I don’t want to take the drugs.

But here’s the thing about surgery for me, at least:  I’m alone.  I was terrified of having major surgery without a “loved one” to be here for me.  My husband died in 2010 for those of you who maybe haven’t read previous posts of mine, or didn’t know; my daughter had a new baby at that time and never expected she could come up here; my other daughter simply wouldn’t come up because he husband won’t “let” her and she won’t stand up to him (and another blog there…).

So I woke up after the surgery to hear nurses talking around me about my vitals dropping.  My temperature dropping, my blood pressure dropping, my respirations were 5 times a minute (is that even possible? I wondered).  I was laying (or is it, ‘lying?’) there, unable to speak, and thinking, can I get excited about this?  No, not really.  I could not get upset or frightened or anything. All I could think was “leave me alone; let me go. This is where Don is supposed to come, give me his hand, and say, ‘come on; it’s time to go…’ “, and my spirit or soul or whatever you want to call it would leave my body and that would be my out.  I’m still looking for a way out of this life, and into the next one – if there is, indeed, a next one.  Because I don’t know if there is or isn’t.  How do any of us know?  Even those of us who’ve had near death experiences and said they saw the light; even that little boy in that book, “Heaven is for real.”  Or was that the one by the neurologist who was so near death that he was sure he saw heaven but came back to write another book about it… Oh, Proof of Heaven.  That was the name.  I’ve read those books, but so what?

There are a lot of people where I live who go to church.  A lot less who go to temple, since we have a lot of churches but only two synagogues here.  Oh well.   A lot of people believe in life after death, and I want to because i want to believe I’ll be with Don again – someday.  I can’t kill myself, because if there is a god, and life after death, he may get mad at me and not let me go to the place where Don is.  IF there is such a place.  I have this yearning need to know, and I know I can’t know, not really, not while I’m alive.

So no out for now, I guess.  People tell me I’m still here for a reason; that I have a purpose.  I sure wish I knew what that purpose is.  My daughter and her little family live so far; I can’t be much help from here.  My other daughter, like I’ve said, won’t contact me or visit me or ask me for help (but she will ask for money….).  My mom has Alzheimer’s, she declining, but she’s in San Francisco which is about 10 – 11 hours by car (I think), so I see her ever 3 -4 months and just bite the bullet regarding airfare and other misc items, like renting a car.  But she’s my mom, and you only get one of those.

So why did I write all this?  Am I trying to send a message, or tell you something about living with pain?  I have no idea, unless maybe I really wrote it for myself – to get it out.

I will say this:  Some people have what we call “invisible diseases.”  We park in handicapped spots (with a placard or special license plate, of course) but when we get out of the car, we look normal and you wonder why we’re using a handicapped parking spot if nothing is really wrong with us. Well, I can’t walk very far.  And if I’m carrying shopping bags or something else, I really can’t walk that far.

I bought a little red wagon so I don’t have to carry my groceries from the car to the house.  It helps, but I still have to carry them inside to the kitchen and it’s not always so easy.  Then I have to put them away.  And usually by that point, I’m too wiped out to do much else except sit down and wait until I feel like I can make dinner (making dinner means reheating a frozen meal…not always the best way to eat, but at least I can eat!).

I suppose I should feel fortunate.  Fortunate I have a place to live; that I was able to afford my health insurance (barely); that I have health insurance; that I have friends who care about me (or at least are good at pretending they do); fortunate that I had a husband who believed in saving and was a genius at investing; not much life insurance, but enough to help me get by for a few years; the rest will come from my meager State Teacher’s Retirement System, and at some point, I’ll start collecting my husband’s Social Security – what he would have collected if he had lived.  But I will be penalized for my own pension income, which is not a lot. I’m luckier than a lot of other widows – if a widow can be at all lucky.  So at least I have my investments, and hopefully, I won’t out live them….

I’d give up everything I have, give it all away, if I could only have my Don back for even just a day – healthy and free of illness and disease and not in pain or suffering at all.  But that isn’t going to happen.  I used to joke with him, when he said “Well, at least I have life insurance for you if I die…” and I’d respond that “money won’t keep me warm at night…I’d rather have you any day than you life insurance.  Don’ die.”  But, well, he did.  My worst nightmare come true.

And now I’ve gone from talking about chronic pain to being a widow – something I seem to keep coming back to.  So I guess I need to write more about being alone.  Get it off my chest so to speak.  So I’ll see if I can manage to do that.  In the meantime, I’m still here, I’m still breathing and still wondering why I’m here.  I need a purpose.  I need a reason to go on beside “You have a purpose…”  yeah, right.  So what the hell is it?


To Dog or Not to Dog…

ImageI am a dog person.  I have always been a dog person.  By that I mean I have always preferred dogs over cats.  Plus I’m allergic to cats.

I have a friend whose husband is an allergist; he once told me if you live with something you’re allergic to, it’s the same as getting allergy shots because your body will build up antihistamines against the thing that produce the histamines – in my case, cats.  But I don’t know… pollen and mold still get me…

My brother said “people have dogs; cats have people…”  He probably read it somewhere, so if you’re reading this and think I stole it, I didn’t.  My brother did and I take no responsibility for his actions – or misactions, as the case may be.  (Is that even a word?  “Misactions?” My spell check is telling me it’s not… The Oxford English Dictionary just added 5 or 6 “new words;” maybe they’ll add this one… but as usual, I digress.)

So dogs.  I am fortunate enough to live in a place that overlooks two lakes and open green space (when it isn’t white from snow, it’s green….) and people walk their dogs – even in the snow.  Dogs love snow!  They bounce and run and jump… they’re like little kids playing, and it looks like they are having so much fun!  Then there are the dogs that will run into the lake – if they’re not leashed, and ever though they are supposed to be on a leash about half of the dog-walkers ignore the rules – to chase the ducks.  Personally, I wouldn’t want my dog in that that water – do you have any idea how filthy water birds are?  And geese on top of the ducks.  Yuck.

Anyway, I’m a renter.  I moved to this area just last August, and decided to rent for a year (or more) to make sure I liked it here.  And I do like it here.  I love it here.  And I finally was able to get my landlord to give me permission to get not just one small dog, but two.  I have issues leaving a dog at home alone…do if there are two of them, they aren’t alone… and it’s good for dogs to have another dog.  They actually learn from each other.  And it socializes them.

But life keeps on happening.  I have to have surgery and get my back fixed.  A whole different blog.  But, when I recover from that, I seriously want to find a dog (or two) who can have a forever home with me. But, I can’t and won’t get a dog until I’m recovered from that, and that may be a while.

Why not get a dog?  Dogs are an expense.  There is food and toys and supplies and vet bills, and dogs get sick and they throw up on the carpet and hopefully don’t pee on it when you’re out because they get mad at you for leaving them alone…

But (there’s always a “but”), when you come home they are so happy to see you and they jump in your lap and lick your face all over (not always my favorite thing…).  They are companions who love you unconditionally – you are after all, their pack leader.   They cuddle with you and make you feel loved and happy and they’re funny when they play, and dogs generally bring a person company and joy.

So I need to really weigh the pros against the cons.  See, my last three – well, actually four – dogs didn’t work out.  Just before my husband died – before we knew he was going to suddenly become terminal from cancer – we adopted a very sweet little terrier mix.  His name was Calvin (that’s his picture – how can you not fall in love with that face?).  He bonded with me first because Don wasn’t home when the rescue lady brought him to the house.  But it didn’t take him long to trust Don.  He didn’t like men generally, and we figured he was most likely abused.  But after Don died, Calvin got sick, and maybe this makes me a terrible person, but I couldn’t deal with a sick dog after losing my husband.  But my vet found him a good home.  I’ll never forget his face when I handed him over to the vet.  He broke my heart.

Then in a about year, I adopted another dog from the shelter, but she growled at my baby grandson, and snapped at his brother, so she had to go back.  Grandchild v.s. dog?  Grandchildren will win every time.

So I waited awhile, and found two dogs who had to be adopted as a pair.  A beautiful husky mix, Bella, and her little side-kick yorkie mix, Ally.  Now, Bella was beautiful.  She was smart, she was so obedient, she was protective, and she had more fur than any dog I’ve ever met.  I brushed her daily, and she liked it.  Ally was kind of annoying, and if she got away from me, she took off.  But I’d tell Bella to “get Ally!” and she did.  She thought Ally was her puppy.  They were a wonderful pair together.  But then I moved in with my mom to take care of her because she couldn’t be alone, but she wanted to stay in her own home after my dad died.  The dogs didn’t work with my mom.  She couldn’t be around them because we were afraid she’d trip on one; they didn’t like her (and I blame my brother for that but that’s a long story, too…). And there was all that fur and the dogs were indoor dogs (I won’t have a dog that can’t come in the house).

So there’s a part of me that wonders if I can even risk getting another dog because what if it doesn’t work out?  And that leads to heartbreak not only for me, but for the dog.  They attach so readily.  So I’ve been thinking of fostering a dog.  And the only problem with fostering is that what if it’s a dog who has no manners at all and isn’t house trained? Since I rent this place, I’ll have to pay for any stains on the carpet, which isn’t such a big deal – if you get to them right away before it gets into the carpet padding.  But once it soaks through, it’s almost impossible to get the smell out (please correct me if I’m wrong).

After I had to let Bella and Ally go (they found homes but not together), a lot of people told me, please don’t get another dog.  And maybe they’re right.  Maybe I need to work at the shelter for a while before I take one on to care for at home.  Maybe I need to foster a few dogs and see if it’s the right thing; if I’m really up to the task.  But I so miss having a dog; I miss the company, the companionship and the love. And I like to take my dogs with me when I go places; in the car (but I hate to leave them alone in the car… they get so upset…); even in a store. Some stores don’t make a fuss if it’s a small dog in the cart.  I’ve even seen people with dogs in baby-like carriers on their chest!

So I think about the cons – what if I’m too sick to take the dog out for a walk?  Someone still has to do that; feed him/her, play with him/her… maybe i need an older dog who is on their last chance at adoption?  Senior dogs need homes, too.

So, dear readers, I want to ask your advice.  What do you think?

And yes, I actually have thought about a cat, but aside from my allergies, my landlords will allow a dog, but no cats!  And there are good reasons to have a cat, but that, too, is another story.