Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Open Letter to Doctors

"You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions."
~Denis Waitley

In response to the visit I had today at the Cleveland Clinic and the doctor who dismissed me.  Here are some notes I wish every doctor would read.
1) Please listen to me.  

I know my body.  I know my capabilities.  I have googled every symptom and read every test result to the point I could probably do your job with my eyes closed.  I know there is something wrong.  Please don't blow me off.  If I say there is something wrong, there is something wrong.  I don't want meds.  I actually avoid them at all costs.  So don't assume I am coming into your office after already seeing 4 other doctors because I want you to give me drugs or I just want to miss work.  

I worked 13 hours yesterday to make up the time I was going to miss by going to this appointment.  My kids had cereal for dinner.  I didn't even have time to eat.  What time did you get home from the office?

2) Do not waste my time with extra appointments and more tests.  I paid a $50 copay for 5 minutes with a cardiologist today.  And I'm sure you will bill me extra for the EKG you ran even though I had one done 2 weeks ago with the same results.  Instead of doing the recommended ECG test while I was already in your office and took time out of work, you are making me come back in a week to pay another $50 copay and lose more time at work that I will have to make up.

$100 might not seem like so much to you.  But do you know what I can do with $100?

- Buy groceries for a week for my family of 4
- Buy school supplies for my kids
- Buy all 3 of my kids very needed tennis shoes for school
- Get new brake pads on my truck since that I've needed for over a month

What will you do with that $100?  Take a few colleagues out for dinner? I'm a single mom.  I don't have that luxury.  I don't mind paying my part between insurance and copays for necessary tests, but you guys are just shooting in the dark and scheduling appointment after appointment just so you can charge that insurance a little more money to pay off that beemer in the parking lot.

3) Don't assume.  I walk into your office and you see a middle-aged women that is overweight.  You naturally expect that whatever my symptoms are have been caused by the extra pounds I carry like a scarlet letter stitched upon my clothing.  You only give my records a cursory glance and barely listen to my responses.  

Yes, I am obese by your standards.  

Yes, I know this is not the healthiest I can be.

Yes, I also know that this is the healthiest and fittest I've been my entire life; extra weight and all.  I eat 80% clean.  How many of your patients can say that?  I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  I run.  I did a half marathon 3 months ago.  And I can't walk up a flight of stairs now. 

Guess what, Doc?  I was just as heavy 3 months ago.  Nothing has changed except now I am sick so it must be the weight.

Do NOT assume that a person is unhealthy because they are fat.  

Do NOT assume a person is healthy because they are skinny.  

You have to look at the whole picture.  And a 5 minute consultation is not going to give you that.  I spent $50.  The least you can do is spend 15 minutes with me to find out a little bit more about me before you make a diagnosis.

4) Heal me.  Don't pacify me.  Heal my body and help find the root cause.  Teach me from your vast knowledge what I can do to heal myself.  Don't fill my body with poisons that will just give me more symptoms.  

5)  I am not just a medical record.  

Please - see me as a person.  

I am an Engineer.  

I am a single mom with 3 beautiful children that depend on her. 

I am a runner.

I am a mixed martial artist.

I am a human being.  

And I need to know what is wrong with me so I can get back to doing all of the above instead of sleeping most of the night on the couch because I am so exhausted from whatever this is. 

Please help me be human again.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Not In My Backyard

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." ~Barack Obama

Three minutes.  That's all the separated us and the gunshots.  I can't remember how many there were.  I want to say it was six.  Amidst all the chaos and kids scattering, time managed to stop.  We had nowhere to go.  

We were headed to the Sacred Heart Festival - a small Catholic school hometown festival.  My friend only lived two blocks from the school and it was a beautiful summer night, so it only made sense to walk.  We had decided to cross at a different light and cut through an alleyway behind the small stores lining the main road because of the huge crowds gathering on the next corner.  

As we made it to the other side of the street, we see a group of at least 30 kids coming our way.  "They're just teenagers," I thought.  "They won't hurt us.  Besides, I have a black belt and I can use it if necessary."  Then I heard the noise.  That noise you know is not firecrackers only if you went to war or grew up in the hood.  I've never been to war.  It was a sound I heard many hot summer nights followed by the sounds of sirens or helicopters.  

We froze.  The group of kids were running in every direction; many of them towards us and up the alley.  Was the gunman with them?  Were they running from the shots?  If we went the wrong way, we could be running right into more gunfire and not away from it.  My damned black belt wasn't going to do a thing to defend myself from a bullet.  I wish I could say my street smarts kicked in, but I have lived a sheltered life for too long and they have been significantly weakened.  So I prayed.

The screeching tires and sirens from a bunch of police cars flooded the air.  The teens had all scattered over fences and into the neighborhood backyards.  We decided the best thing to do was to head into the festival and be surrounded by people.  As we did, we passed three teens with their faces shoved into the asphalt being handcuffed.  Patrol cars were speeding down the alleys and side streets looking for more hooligans.  

Once inside the school grounds, we knew we were safe.  But that on-edge feeling didn't go away for me for the rest of the night.  I closely watched every person that walked past to see if they were up to no good, especially if it happened to be a larger group of kids.  My maternal, "grew up in the hood and needs to always be on alert" instincts had kicked in and couldn't be shut off so easily now.

As I watched the teens walk back and forth through the festival, I noticed how different it was from when I was a kid.  Yes - I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.  But there was an innocence that had been long-lost on these kids.  They way they dressed and strutted through showed that they garnered their sense of value from a completely different place than we did.  

Or maybe it was that they didn't feel valuable at all.  Maybe they have long since lost a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.  I don't know how these kids have grown up.  The surroundings aren't that much different than where I did.  But life - somehow perhaps life just didn't give them a glimpse of hope of getting out like mine did.

As I reading newspaper articles on this event, I saw many people say stuff like this is why they didn't go to that side of town anymore.  Mind you - where this happened is still a beautiful suburb with amazing residents in it.  But our city is one of "white-flight", and many have moved further away from downtown to avoid the riff-raff.  These "kids" - about 100 of them - had hopped a bus and rode over to start trouble.  What people don't realize - although this didn't happen in our town, it did happen in our backyard.  It was simply one more bus ride from "our" festivals.  One more car ride to "our" malls.  10 more minutes for a drive-by to happen at "our" house or "our" schools.

Moving further away is NOT going to solve the problem.  It is not going to keep our kids safe.  It is ever so much closer than everyone realizes.  And it's not a race issue.  It's not a status issue.  It's a societial issue.  We're all affected.  We don't even realize it.  Our habits and traditions have changed because of this shift in a sense of purpose.  We've stopped going to places and stay home more.  We avoid driving through certain parts of town.  We don't let our kids go out and play by themselves, let alone ride their bikes to the corner store.  This is our backyard people!

If we want to stop running, WE need to be the change.  We need to be the ones to start making a difference, not only in our own lives, but in our neighborhoods and the ones that we've been avoiding.  We need these kids to see that there is so much more out there than what you are wearing today and who you can pop a cap into.  That life, even from inside the hood, can be beautiful.  That the world is so much bigger than it looks from the city boundaries and so much smaller than it seems from the streets.  That these teenage years - as important as they seem - are just a blip in the timeline of our lives.  That is - if they make it past them.

So, do something today to initiate change even if it is just sharing this post with others.  Pay it forward.  A random act of kindness.  Cover someone's bill when they don't have enough money.  Serve a meal at a soup kitchen.  Teach a person to read.  I know there are a lot of people that need help outside of this country, but there are so many people living just minutes away from our homes that need help too.  Make a difference in one person's life.    Show the future that our generation is the one to say "we no longer accept this as our reality!" Be the change.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Broken Together

"Let your tears touch to the ground, lay your shattered pieces down. And be amazed by how grace can take a broken girl, and put her back together again." ~Matthew West

Broken.  Fractured, smashed, splintered. Imperfect.  Interrupted.  Incomplete.   It's a word that has nothing but negative connotations tied to it.  We don't keep broken things.  We throw them away and buy something new and pristine to replace it. 

When it's a person, people don't know what to do.  It scares them when you tell them you're broken.  They'll tell you you're not broken, you're just bent.  You're strong.  You'll get through it.  God never gives you more than you can handle.

But, He does.  Sometimes he gives you so much that you bend until you can't bend any more.  Then you break.  And sometimes when you are exceptionally stubborn like me, he breaks you again.  Shatters you.  So you don't look like you any more. 

For me, this threw me into a major depression - and guess what? I didn't believe in depression.  I thought it was just weak people that needed to suck it up.  Get back on their feet.  Now I know better.  I know it's a painfully physical and chemical response that you can't get out of on your own.  You don't want to get out of.  You can go on - you just don't want to.  It skews your viewpoint.  You can't feel the warmth of the sun on your face or the hug of a child.  It's darkness embodied.

When you're shattered, it gives you the opportunity for God to fill in the empty spaces.  It allows His grace to flood into you where once you might have blocked it's way.  It lets new experiences to mold you into a different creature.  One that looks more like what God wants you to look like and less like what you want.

And you're never quite the same.  You look like the same person you were.  People will say that they're glad you are back to your old self.  You're not.  You never will be.  Some just can't deal with this and walk away.  Others come into your life and stay for good.  

So, yeah guys, I'm broken.  But I want to make a new definition for this condition.  Restored.  Filled with grace.  Open to new possibilities.  Empathatic.  Resilient. Different yet still beautiful, possibly more so.  Letting the light shine through the cracks that weren't there before.  Ready to see what God was preparing me for and completely willing to embrace the brokenness that is me.  Broken; not bent.  Are you broken too?  Let's be broken together.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

That Time I Tried to Kill Myself (By Becoming Healthy)

"While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die." ~Leonardo da Vinci 
Here I am a year after life began again and what do I do?  I try to die.  And all I really want to do is live life to the fullest.  All because I forgot that my body still doesn't know that I am a superhero.

Because I forgot I'm not entirely healthy.  I'm not normal - y'all knew that.  But I'm not talking mentally.  I'm talking physically.  I have PCOS, which from what I can tell means that my hormones are screwed up and don't process the same way everyone else does.  For me this means I don't have enough progesterone.  At my age this can be a good thing guys.  It means I am extremely even-tempered most of the time and have a very healthy sex drive.  Who cares if I need to be best friends with a pair of tweezers because of the stray hairs that pop up from the extra testosterone?  But it also means that my iron can drop significantly and therefore so does my red blood cell count.  

What does that mean as far as my health?  Well, running a half-marathon is not an easy feat for anyone, and especially not for someone overweight and with minimal training.  But I did it.  Got my medal.  Felt like crap for a few weeks but then felt invincible after all the swelling and pain disappeared.  Still wasn't very motivated to work out and even had this discussion several times with my health coach.  We attributed it to my just being busy and distracted.

Then about a month later I took one of my crazy trips - worked all day, drove 15 hours to Tulsa, slept a few hours, conference all day and karaoke at night, a few more hours of sleep, all day conference, a 15-hour ride back, a quick shower and wardrobe change and then to a wedding.  Yes - I'm insane.  Felt tired for a few days and by Tuesday my iron totally took a nose dive.  I just didn't realize it yet until I watched the video of me speaking at the conference.  I was completely out of breath.  It hit my like a Mack truck.  It wasn't exhaustion that was causing my fatigue - it was the fact that my body couldn't process oxygen.  I was suffocating by just walking around.  After a year of trying to remember how to breathe my body just couldn't do what it was supposed to do.

Basically, I fried my adrenal glands.  There was simply more healing going on then they were able to handle.  What seemed to work before didn't work this time because I piled on thing after thing after thing.  There was no time for recovery.  And since my body doesn't work like other people's, they simply gave out for a while.

So, we're getting things back on track now.  My doctor is taking a very aggressive treatment plan.  I have absolutely no intention of dying any time soon - I have waaaaay to much to live for now.  Getting healthy has an entirely different look to it for the moment.  It's not about pounds or inches or cardio or miles.  It's about breaths.  It's about those little moments in between one breath and the next.  But really - isn't that what life is about anyways?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What's up, Chuck?

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." ~Lao Tzu
Second date.  I made it to a second date.  This one was going to include meeting the kids.  Which I had a firm and fast rule about - it wasn't going to happen.  Not for a while anyways.  For a multitude of reasons:  the pain, the confusion, the unknown.  And, well, because it's three kids.  And the chaos that ensues from that tornado will usually run a guy off faster than a hot knife through butter.  (BTW, if you are bored and want a good laugh, check out Funny Southern Sayings here).

Well, that being said, I broke a few rules.  Plus he had a million kids (10 but that's a story for another day).  He had already pulled the kid card on me by introducing me to his youngest daughters (and they are so amazingly awesome).  So I gave in.  It was a moment of weakness - a temporarily lapse of insanity.  I said yes to dinner with the kids.  My kids.  All three of them.  I mean - what could possibly go wrong?

Yeah.  Well, dinner was good.  I was early (and by early I mean 3 minutes.  For me, that's a record).  His girls had huge smiles on when we came in and so did he.  Good sign.  We get seated and already Jacob is bouncing around and refusing to sit at our table.  Apparently he had Oreos for lunch and nothing else to eat.  Pure sugar and food coloring is running through his veins.  This bodes well for the rest of the evening...

Everyone orders and the girls are hitting it off fabulously.  Jacob sits next to Tony and proceeds to bouncing around. The girls finish their food and ask to go outside because they are cold.  I think they were wanting to give us a chance to talk.  A few minutes of nice conversation go by and out of the corner of my eye I see four bodies walking along the sidewalk above Tony's head.  It totally reminded me of the Beatles from the cover of the Abbey Road album.  I'm distracted by the movement behind my date as the girls wave hello to everyone on the main thoroughfare and Jacob catches up and starts rolling down the hill.  I make sure Tony doesn't look back - well, because I want a third date.   

After a while we walk outside to keep the kids company and they want frozen yogurt.  We walk to Menchie's as it's just down the street and it's a beautiful night.  Everyone gets some and we chill some more on the patio.  Jacob is break dancing #becauseJacob and his girls are telling stories about their dad, trying to embarrass him.  It's going well.  As well as can be expected with 5 satellites.  

I nervously excuse myself to the restroom, knowing he can handle 5 kids, but you know, and barely make it to the door when Brianna frantically runs up to me.  I figure Jacob has broken an arm or something.  In full Brianna "drama queen" style she tells me that Kiara threw up.  Yeah.  I really couldn't make this stuff up.  I go back out and apparently she had been laughing so hard, she caused all of the contents of not only desert but dinner also to spill not-so-graciously all over the ground.  I'm pretty sure at this point the date is over, as are my chances for a third.  But he took it in stride, actually laughing at how much I was squirming and the fact that every bit of blood had run out of my face.

So, he said he was going to call me later (which he did).  His girls even kidnapped one of mine for a sleepover (I think to ensure that he would have to see me again after all that had happened).  He still talked about our plans for this weekend (that's a good sign, right?).  Well, as Lao Tzu suggests, here's to spontaneity and just "letting things flow".  Because you can't always control the situation (especially when there are 5 kids in the equation) and you never know what will happen next.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Extra Mile

"All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hour's toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one... characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers." ~Henry David Thoreau
One mile.  5,280 feet. 1,760 yards. 63,360 inches.  15-20 minutes of your life.  Sounds easy enough, right?  It's far from impossible for most people. I mean, anyone can do a mile. 
Unless that mile is at the end of 12.1 others.  After already completing 63,888 steps.  Then that last mile may as well be a million.  Every footfall is an argument with yourself.  Testing your will to see if you will give up or go on.  Your will gives up long before your body ever will.  And you can even push yourself past that point and survive.  I know - I did it.
The medic van followed our group.  We were the last ones allowed to finish.  About a dozen of us that persevered and didn't give in to the temptation to just ride to the end.  It would have been so easy just to do.  The van was right there; ice cold Gatorade and a plush seat just waiting to transport me to the finish line.  I fought that urge every mile past mile 7.   Glanced at that van and just wondered, "what if?"
But I wanted that medal.  That damned medal.  It wasn't much, really.  5.9 oz of some cheap metal painted to look like cowboy boots.  But that medal was a symbol for everything I have given up on these past few years - including myself.  I couldn't stop now.  I just had to keep pressing on.  If I got on that van, I would make it to the finish but I wouldn't earn that medal.
Step after step.  Houses and buildings became a blur.  Each movement forward brought me one step closer to that finish.  My new friend Rachel and I taking turns wanting to give up.  Our bodies were well past exhaustion.  Our will power gone - thank goodness never at the same time or we might still be sitting on the side of the road.  We pushed ourselves further than we ever had.  Then we pushed some more.  Legs cramped.  Hands swelled.  Muscles twinged and gave out.  And yet we still walked.
After mile marker 10, the signs disappeared.  We wouldn't see another one until 13.  Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.  We had no way of judging exactly how far we had left.  So therefore, we had no way to know how much more sweat and soul we would have to leave on the pavement.  
At 11 1/2, someone told us we only had a mile and a half to go.  One mile and some change.  Less than 8,000 steps and we could be done.  It no longer mattered if we were the last people to cross.  It didn't matter that the water tables and musicians had long since packed up and left little behind but some trash.  The only thing that mattered to us was crossing that finish line.  
I couldn't even tell you what the scenery looked like during those last miles.  I'm still not entirely sure I walked it.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Every single movement I made was done with the intention of moving in a forwardly direction and reaching the finish line.  I took the shortest route possible.  I skipped stopping for refreshments so I wouldn't waste any precious steps.  I just kept moving.  I just did. 
So, that's how I managed to make it through that extra mile.  I never before pondered what that meant.  Now I know.  It's going when every fiber of your being screams that it's ok to stop.  And taking the next step.  And the next.  And yet another.  It's not riding the bus the last few miles to the finish line.  It's you becoming battered and bruised and still going forward.  And it's you crumbling in a puddle of tears at the end knowing that no matter how many lies you told yourself, you did it.  You finally finished.  It's sitting on the curb amongst the dirt and trash and weeds and never feeling more amazing and beautiful.  Knowing there are still many steps in front of you that you have yet to take and also knowing that there will never be any more important than the ones you just completed.  Because you finished.  Because if I ever had hope to face the rest of my future, I needed to finish.  And I did. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Lies I've Been Telling The World

"I guess sometimes you have to lie to find the truth." ~Scott Westerfeld

I've been telling lies.  Big ones.  Tall, short and plenty of grey ones.  With a lot of little white lies sprinkled in between.  I meant well, ya know.  I never meant to hurt anybody.  I think the person I hurt most of all was myself.

And my son.  Because the lies have been about him. And to him. And especially the outside world.  I thought I was helping him - protecting him from the judging looks and the well-intentioned advice.  But I did more damage than good.

You see - I've been telling everyone including me that Jacob was normal.  That he was just like every other boy but just a little more active.  I've been told since he was born that he would grow out of it.  Three, four and five passed and he still was the same.  Impulsive, hyper, angry but also the sweetest little boy. 

He was diagnosed with ADHD.  I thought that we had finally found the cause for his behavior and mood swings.  The doctor put him on meds and the teachers were happy.  The people at church were happy.  The nosy condescending women at the stores were happy.  Because he was quiet on the medication.  Calm and not the least bit impulsive.

But nighttime is hell.  When he comes down from the meds he is moody and angry.  He can't concentrate on homework.  He throws a fit if he doesn't get his way.  Not a five minute one, but for hours. He has a persistent streak a mile long.  And at the end of the night he throws his arms around me and says "I'm sorry Mommy - I love you."

The truth is - Jacob is not normal.  He is the furthest you can get from normal.  And he doesn't just have ADHD.  There is something more severe going on.  Always has been.  But because of the lies I told, I didn't push hard enough to get it checked out.  The doctors didn't dig deeper because I took the easy way out.  The teachers haven't been able to help in the most effective way because they bought into my lies.

Well, this year we were blessed with a teacher that didn't buy in completely.  She pushed me to dig.  She pushed the guidance counselor and the principal to investigate.  So I took Jacob to a neurologist to start testing for learning disabilities.  I didn't quite expect the prognosis he was given: Jacob's head size is less than 2nd percentile for his age.  He has something called microcephalis and hyperactive sensitivity. 

He's always been small.  So I believed in another lie that his head should be proportionate.  Because it was small, his brain folded over a little differently when he was growing.  So the neural pathways didn't connect in the same ways as everyone else's.  It explains the behavior. And mood swings.  And temper.  And the trouble with learning.  

We still have a lot of testing to go to determine how severe it is and how to plan for the future.  We need to figure out what learning disabilities he has and make plans to get him the extra help he needs. But it's a relief to finally be able to come out of the closet and admit that my kid isn't normal.  He's not like all the other boys and he never will be.

So, despite wanting a "normal" kid so badly that I would lie to everyone, I got a special needs kid.  He takes a lot of extra time, patience and energy to deal with every day.  He's smart as a whip when he wants to learn, but he just works on a different operating system.  He'll outrun any boy on the field and climb trees better than a monkey can.  But at the end of the day, after the tears have been dried, hugs given and prayers said, I can admit that I have a special needs child - and he's one of the most special little boys you will ever meet and I can't wait to see what God has in store for this "special" child!