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?