A Four Letter Word

Cancer is a four letter word. More specifically, a five letter word, but now we are just splitting hairs, aren’t we?

I debated for a month about sharing this, and finally decided I needed an outlet to rant. I am so frustrated trying to work with the VA to get the care I need. I am so frustrated with the fact that it took a month after I had 2 surgeries within 7 days of each other for the doctors to figure out I had nerve damage from the surgery and the pain pills they were throwing at me weren’t doing any good. I’m so frustrated with medical records going from one place to another, and no one claiming to have them. I’m so frustrated with the slow-turning wheels of the VA, and my fear that their failure to start chemo will result in this shit killing me. I’m so frustrated with the family members who I thought would stand behind me, texting behind my back and telling everyone I was faking my pain. I am so frustrated with being able to work only an hour at a time without having to take a two hour nap. I’m so frustrated that I worked so hard last year to get healthy, and get off 5 meds, and lose a metric butt ton of weight, to only be slapped in the face with cancer, this year.

I thought I was a tough chick. I have been stabbed, and shot, all in the Marines. I thought I was a prickly and hard-to-eradicate old bird. I HAVE NOT GIVEN CANCER PERMISSION TO EVEN BE IN MY BODY, MUCH LESS KICK MY ASS!

Cancer is a bitch.

This Woman…

I see this woman, every week, usually on Tuesdays, at the Veteran’s Hospital.

She’s usually dressed mid-professional, clean-cut, jeans are ironed, and whatnot.

I am pretty certain she is a veteran. She doesn’t have a hospital badge, I’ve seen her with the elastic around her arm, like they give when you’ve had your blood drawn, and she carries herself like a Marine, in charge of her destiny or her troops…most of the time.

Twice, I have seen her recoil from loud, startling noises, and hit the deck. Once, I asked her if she was OK, and she replied, in a voice that probably didn’t sound like her own, “Don’t touch me!”

I want to tell her, it will get better. It’s slow as hell, but it will get better. I want to tell her, “I’ve been there, still, more often than I have the courage to admit.” I want to tell her it will be OK.

But how do I start this conversation with a practical stranger? I wouldn’t be comfortable if someone I didn’t know said this to me–it even sounds a bit condescending as I type it.

There is a huge need in this country, and probably in others, to have a conversation about how to interact with returning soldiers suffering from PTSD. It’s high time it wasn’t the elephant in the room.

How do I reach out to this woman, this perfect stranger?

Happy New Years, ehhh…

New Year’s finds me in a cranky mood. I am down with “borderline pneumonia” again, and my doc has put me on bed rest, until my follow-up appointment, because this is the 3rd time in 3 months (and 4th time this year) I have had more-serious-than-I-would-like-to-admit bronchial issues. Do I need to mention I asked for the pneumonia vaccine when I was well, and the VA refused to give it to me (after my first round of pneumonia, back in April), because I wasn’t 65? I have 17 days to “take it easy.” I am less than 24 hours in, and I am already going stir-crazy. Fortunately, we got a lot of our furniture moved into the new house 2 days before I got sick, and I spent the day before I got sick, cleaning everything and moving furniture into the appropriate places, so the house would be comfortable for my significant others’ sons’ 1 week visit. I got sick the first day he was here. Needless to say, I am not much fun right now. The significant other is even sleeping on the couch.

So, I am thinking about what I can do to while away the time between now and January 15th, without totally breaking the doctor’s orders.

I’ve decided getting up and sewing on the machine is probably pushing things right now. I am a little surprised at my lack of energy, despite my insomnia.

Princess Chaos’ blanket will not be done in time for her Christmas celebration on January 7th. (She’s with her Nana in Texas, until then.) Which is actually OK, because I can’t travel at that time, so she is going to have Christmas with me, here, the 1st weekend of February. Lucky girl gets 3 Christmas times this year-1 with Nana, 1 with Mom and Dad, and 1 with Oma (because we now all live in different states). So, I have an extra 2 weeks to work on that, once I get well. Plenty of time to finish, because I am almost done, anyway. I’ve sewn all the individual squares into strips, and just need to sew the strips into the full blanket and put on the backing. There’s 9 strips, so that’s less than a days work.

So, back to what to do, in the meantime. I recently signed up for the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA’s) Arts and Science’s 50th Anniversary Challenge. http://artsandsciences50.org/ 
Fortunately, I joined SCA well after the challenge started, so every bit of garb I have created qualifies for the challenge. A lot of that garb needs to be re-worked, and most of that re-working needs to be done by hand-sewing and a few black work embroidery projects–something I could easily do in bed. Part of the challenge involves also documenting the historical accuracy of each piece, so I can catch all of that up (I should think), while on bed rest, as well. Hopefully, (and I haven’t tried this yet), I can set up a 2nd page to this blog, and use it to document my challenge pieces. I haven’t tried doing a 2nd page on WordPress yet, so wish me luck that I can get the results I want out of it. Otherwise, I will just have to create a separate category for the Challenge. However, it’s 6 am, and probably not an appropriate time to start digging around in my sewing room for stuff to work on, with my honey asleep in the living room and his son tucked in his bedroom, next to my sewing room. Perhaps a nap is in order, but I’m not feeling it, even with classical music on in the background. What I wouldn’t give to actually sleep for more than an hour at a time.

Thank You

So, today I was at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and feeling a little sorry for myself. I had been there most of the day. To get from one area of the hospital (like Primary Care, vs. the labs/xray/pharmacy) you have to go through a long weird tunnel that seems to be a mile long, and over the course of the day, either by virtue of doc deciding I needed more tests or making a mistake in putting in my prescriptions, I wound up making that journey four round trips. By the last trip, in my mind I was thinking, “stupid VA. Can’t get anything right! I’ve got stinking pneumonia again and they keep causing me to repeat this trip? Really?”

And then, I saw Him.

He must have come out of a different elevator a little further down from where I had entered the tunnel. That’s the only explanation for how he just appeared in front of me. He was an older gentleman, maybe a Korea or Vietnam era veteran. I saw the walker first. Then I noticed he had two prosthetic legs, both starting at the knees. He was also pushing an IV pole with what appeared to be blood hooked up. He was trudging the same tunnel I was. Suddenly, I felt very guilty for feeling sorry for myself. As I passed, I said, “Afternoon, Sir.” He answered with a bright smile and said, “Well, hello, Missy, how are you this lovely day?” I couldn’t help but smile. He could have been your or my grandfather, and his spirit lifted mine. I wouldn’t swear he wasn’t just the angel I needed. I find myself just a little teary writing this.

I’ve always had a great deal of respect for any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who came before me–especially those folks who served during combat. Today, seeing that gentleman in front of me, that respect re-doubled. May I always strive to show the grace he showed me.

If you’ve read this, and haven’t thanked a vet, today, please, do. If you have, maybe think about volunteering at your local VA? Who knows, maybe you’ll run into your angel in a lonely hallway, too?