Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Detour

When I first started this blog, it was supposed to be, I think, about my life in travels. Because I have always seen myself as a gypsy, because I have always lived away from people dear to me, which always required travels, because, for some reason, I have always been in love with things that are far away from where I live (England when I was in Romania, the ocean and the mountains when I lived in the foothills of North Carolina, Montana, Arizona, California and Colorado, now that I live in Utah), I pretty much knew that if I were to tell a story about my life, I would tell a story about my travels. 

I sometimes forget places I ate at, foods I had - all I remember is that they were memorable enough, so I come to the blog and re-read my posts to remind myself of what was. I always thought I'd keep this travel diary to remind my old age mind about where I have been all my life. I kind of look forward to each year's travels, in January, because I can see the new pages I'll fill up with stories, people, pictures, foods, smells, music ... 

But this year is different. This year, we'll step aside from the nice, lovely, straight road, and we'll take the grassy road that wants wear and go on to have our heart surgery next. That will be followed, if all goes well, and all should go well, by a long process of recovery and rebuilding my new body, with new heart parts in it. A new valve. A new part of my aorta. Some re-positioned blood vessels to bypass the sick ones. You know, old age "stuff". This is what this year's posts will be about, along with how I get out and see the world during it all.

I have struggled in the past few  months with the overwhelming severity of my condition, the risks, the possible complications, the strange state I live in and the scarce amount of good medical care. I have been at the very bottom of the hope bucket. I have cried, and been depressed and sad, and feared for my life. I could not bear the thought of not ever seeing my family, my husband, my life as I know today ever again. 

But knowledge is power. I talked myself into learning and researching, meeting people like me online, researching the best surgeon possible in this darn state. Love is power, too. I have been listening to people who know and love me and who pulled me back to the shore from my deep, deep waters of confusion. And you know I needed help, 'cause I can't swim. 

So today, only a bit over 12 hours before surgery starts tomorrow, I am ready. I am ready for this, as I have never thought I could be before. I don't know much about medicine and what my body will decide to do during the surgery. I don't know much about God's plans, either. I just hope He agrees with mine. But I do know that deep in my heart, I am not ready to end it here. As I have mentioned in my previous 2 posts, I got stuff to do! I am ready to start plan it, just as soon as this surgery and its recovery is over and just as soon as it's safe again to be out there. 

This is not sad, to me. I am grateful, because this condition, for now, is fixable. I am grateful that I have a surgeon who gives hugs and tells me the truth about everything, no matter how bleak, while cheering me on that I can do it. I am grateful for friends and for my rock solid husband who will not let me fail. I know this. 

I am hopeful and ready. This is my big detour. That is all. Sometimes it's necessary, you know. And as the poet knows, and we know now to be true, "that will make all the difference". 

Talk at you folks, in some time. But we will talk! 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

My Bucket List Now

(I pray that God is listening and finds me worthy of granting these wishes ...)

I don’t know many people who don’t love the movie “The Bucket List”. Even my husband, who finds it depressing, loves it. How can you not?! If we can’t make fun of our mortality, how else can we muddle through to the end, right?!

These days, I think a lot about my “bucket list”. And I am thinking that with every day, it keeps changing. As I think it should. Every day is different. Like the proverbial onion, every day peels off another mystery which triggers more opportunities to explore, learn, get involved, and grow ... There are big things on here and small things and just rightly sized things. They are my things and I treasure them as my heart children.

Here is my “bucket list” today - not in a specific order. 
Tomorrow ... well, that’s another story ...

  1. To see my nephews graduate and have families
  2. To show my nephews the world, the way I saw it, and sought it
  3. To see Australia
  4. To camp in our new camper till it falls apart and all it's good for is firewood
  5. To ride across  America in our camper
  6. To see Alaska and shoot the glaciers there and the bald eagles
  7. To move to my retirement place, wherever that is: Florida? North Carolina? Oregon? Somewhere with green lush trees,  mild temps, and clean air
  8. To see Ireland
  9. To write a book (at least one)
  10. To scan all my negatives into digital format, to leave them to my nephews
  11. To retire
  12. To go to Hawaii at least one more time
  13. To go on a cruise
  14. To see Los Angeles and walk on Venice Beach
  15. To visit Graceland (Elvis's home)
  16. To be really, really good at yoga, again
  17. To shoot Yosemite, the redwoods in California and the Grand Canyon
  18. To eat lobster in Maine while looking at whales in the Atlantic, and hike in Vermont
  19. To eat sushi in Japan
  20. To order bayou shrimp again at Village Tavern in Greensboro, NC
  21. To see The Vatican and Jesus's tomb in Israel
  22. To paint really well
  23. To celebrate at least my 25th wedding anniversary and maybe my 50th, too, with my husband right next to me
  24. To take my sister on some trips, just the two of us
  25. To win more trophies for making a difference
  26. To go to Colorado Springs, CO and hike at least a little bit of Pike's Peak
  27. To hike The Wave in Utah
  28. I want to camp in the desert, sandwiched between the starry skies and the red rocks
  29. To spend a week on the North Carolina beaches with my girlfriends one more time. And bring my sister along this time
  30. To spend many Holidays with our families, together, somewhere
  31. To take my husband to New Orleans and get lost in the French Quarter, lead only by the smell of food and the sound of zydeco music
  32. To live in a cabin in the woods
  33. To live small
  34. To speak about cholesterol and heart disease to whomever will listen
  35. And more than anything: to survive my open heart surgery with a functional life ahead to allow for all these
  36. To write a lot more lists like this, after this one is accomplished.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

My Heart

"For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning as is refreshed." (Khalil Gibran)

I am sitting here, writing. I can almost hear my heart, almost as loud as the fridge in the kitchen. Beating. Very clearly spaced out, beat after beat, after beat.

I think this is what gave away for sure that I existed in my mom's womb - the heartbeat. My heart has since then been the rascal of my being: mom tells me all throughout her pregnancy with me, the doctor (who did not have access to an ultrasound machine back then) always heard two heartbeats in her stomach. So, he always thought she was carrying twins. She didn't. It was just my show off, loud heart.

As I grew up, I have learned I have a condition that will eventually damage my heart, as well as my brain, as well as many other vital parts of my body. But the heart was always the number one concern for all doctors - the heart goes first.

Almost all of my life, since I was 6, I have known that one day my heart would give me trouble. Well, that day has come. I am scheduled for open heart surgery in just a bit over a week.

Ever since I can remember, I have looked up to open heart surgery patients! The concept of it is no less than Frankensteinian! To crack your chest open. To stop your heart. To cut your heart. And replace parts in it ... who does this?!?! What kind of stomach does a doctor need to muster?! And then, the surviving, the moving on. The acceptance of a life on the watchout. Forever. For as long as you are lucky to breathe after that. The scare of maybe repeating the surgery, again. Oh, Lord!

Although I have known this for what seems ever to me, I am still in semi-shock. I have been lucky to have known about this for months now, and it's still hard to swallow! For 40 years, there was always "something else" they needed to try and surgery was not mandatory. There was a pill. A lifestyle change. Another test to be done. Now, there is no going around it anymore. No more delays. No avenues. No path not taken. Just a wall. A big, huge wall. A mountain to climb, and on the other side, hopefully ... life.

I pray. I beg. I cry "why me". I cry "forgive me, Lord". And I take one day at a time. And I hope. I am a big hoper these days.

I am not even in the least bit afraid of the recovery time - of all the pain, the forever meds I'll be on, the trauma, the light head, the nausea, the gore ... I am afraid of those 6 hours where my whole life, my rebel, crazy, stubborn, loud heartbeat, that first "me" of this world, will be silenced, and will only be placed solely in the hands of God and the medical staff I have only recently met. I am mortified.

I hope and pray that life will continue even better and louder than before. I hope I will meet my family, my friends, my future, on the other side. I have so much to look forward to. I miss my nephews. I miss my dad. I miss reading books I have not bought yet. I miss writing books I have not dreamed about yet. I will come back. I need to. I must.

Sick as it's been, and struggling, my heart has beaten fully, eagerly and passionately, for so many - my sister, to begin with, early on. My mom, with her blue eyes, always watching over me, beating for me, trying to make her proud of me, always. My grandma, maia, who raised me. My dad who made me tough. My aunt and all other grandparents who welcomed me, spoiled rotten, as their first born ... and not the least my husband - who keeps me together and re-stitches my broken self, daily. My cats. All the space in my heart is filled with them, overflowing.  I know all their love must keep me together because what else is there to?! So many others that never knew I cared for and about ...

I am afraid of not being the same at the end of this, the most. I am afraid that my mind will lapse and slip away, that my memory won't be all there, that my feelings will change and my outlook on life will be compromised. I am afraid of the post-op me, I guess, the most... I guess we're always afraid of what we don't know, what we don't see, and what we can't control ... but this is the ultimate in that. My dad jokingly said: "Honey, they'll pick up your heart, pull it out of your chest, wash it with some disinfectant, wipe it clean, and put it right back in". They might as well do that, or do that to my brain, and I feel just the same.

I have done some crazy stuff in my sick life. One should really not be allowed this much happiness, and gusto as I have known in my 40 years. Especially with a sick body like mine. To say that I have been blessed is to insult the word.  I have lived on impulse, spoken the truth, and never feared to look fear itself in the eye. But this time is somewhat different. Every time before, I was (although sometimes just seemingly) in control. This time, it's God and the doctors. I am just a guest at my own sorcery business.

I hope one day,  folks will remember me for one thing. And I hope that being scared out of my wits for almost the first time in my life won't be it!

I'll continue to listen to that beat. Every moment of every day. Every second. Every glimpse. For as long as God will allow. Love it and cherish it like my own first born. It needs to know it's loved and cherished. This beat needs to continue its march and stay the showoff rascal it's accustomed this world (and me) to be. I need to tell it, it's perfect just the way it is now, so it will come back promptly and carry me through many, many more winters ...