Health


Back in March, at my husband’s request, I went to see a surgeon specializing in Crohn’s related problems. This simple request set off an unexpected chain of events that have led me to where I am today.

The surgeon said I needed major, life-altering surgery, but my gastroenterologist disagreed. He believed it to be too drastic for someone as healthy as me (healthy being a relative term when you are talking about Crohn’s Disease).

So, after much discussion and emotional turmoil, I decided to see a specialist – one of the top gastroenterologists in the country specializing in Crohn’s Disease. I wanted fresh eyes and A LOT of experience looking at my situation to give me some insight on what to do next.

The specialist didn’t think surgery was appropriate, as my therapeutic options had not yet been exhausted. I was elated. But, he did send me to yet another surgeon for a second surgical opinion. Disappointingly, but no real surprise, the second surgeon echoed the opinion of the one I saw in March.

All of these consultations spanned a period from March to August, so that is five months, four doctors, two completely opposing opinions, and no real answers to show for it.

Its times like these when you really, REALLY understand what “be your own advocate” means, and it has led me to realize that there comes a point in our lives when we have to stop listening to all the noise that comes at us from all directions and figure out what’s best for ourselves.

The truth is I don’t want the surgery. Not now, not ever if I can avoid it. It’s not because I’m afraid, or even naive, it’s because I don’t believe it’s the right path for me.  

What does all this mean? Where do I go from here?

For me it means embarking on a Healthiness Project. I’m taking all the things that I’d been haphazardly trying to achieve over the last year or so and melding them together into what I now realize will be my most important project – a much healthier me.

Advertisements

2pm this afternoon…

Breathing: A natural state of being we all take for granted, until we can’t.

For years my husband has suffered from seasonal allergies that for a few weeks each year would shut down his ability to breathe without lots of OTC medical intervention. He had always dealt with the allergies and the occasional sinus infection with minimal (okay, a bit more than minimal) complaining until this past winter when he began getting sinus infections every month. Yes, infections every month, and complaining every day. That’s when we had both had enough.  A trip to the doctor and then to an ENT determined that his allergies were multiple and some actually off the charts, but his real problem was that his septum and sinuses were a mess. A really big mess.

So now my husband is in surgery and I am sitting in a freezing cold waiting room beside a giant bank of windows overlooking a parking lot, and wondering…

– will this help?

– will he be able to breathe again?

– if he can breathe again, will he be able to sleep again (finally)?

– if he can breathe again, what will he find to complain about instead?

– and finally, what will this surgery do to the endearing little curve in his nose? (A result of a fight long before I met him.)

As I wait and ponder those questions I can’t help but also consider how our roles are reversed today. Since my diagnosis with Crohn’s almost ten years ago,  it has always been me in the hospital gown and slip resistant socks with tubes in my arms while he sits wondering how long the procedure will take, and if when its all said and done, will it help, will everything be okay. Now it’s the other way around. The circle of life.

10pm this evening…

Home again.

It was a long surgery followed by a very long time in recovery. The doctor’s exact words to described my husband’s septum and sinuses was “jacked up.” Doctor speak for REALLY BAD. We left the surgery center with instructions, prescriptions, and  a bunch of gauze pads strapped to my husband’s nose with rubberbands and medical tape (an odd but very efficient system to contain bleeding).

A quick stop to pick up the baby and a surprisingly decent drive through rush hour traffic landed us at home in good spirits and hopeful for a restful evening. Instead we discovered that our air conditioning had decided to die while we were out. As it turns out, the A/C’s capacitator was “jacked up” too.

Yesterday the stress monster was closing in fast and I was in danger of cracking like an egg. Instead, I did one simple thing. I left work two hours early. That one small gift to myself changed the course of my evening, and considering the amount of calm I’ve experienced today, it has set the course for the rest of my week as well.

Too often we push ourselves harden than we should with the “I can take it” mentality. In reality, should we take it? Should we push ourselves to the brink? Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I was under the impression that we are here to enjoy life, make the most of it, do good unto others and all that jazz. I’m pretty sure dashing through life beating ourselves up along the way is not the best approach to achieving an enjoyable life.

To that end, I sifted through some of the abundant writing on stress management, and compiled my favorites into a short list of methods to defy stress and regain the calm.

1. Recognize the problem, not the symptoms. What is the root of your stress? Decide how best to alleviate it.

2. Take care of yourself first so you can take care of your life. (This includes eating right, exercise, drinking lots of fluids, and taking your vitamins and medicines as prescribed.)

3. Allow yourself extra time. Don’t overbook or underestimate how long a task will take.

4. Schedule “me time” to do the hobbies or activities that you enjoy and that refresh you.

5. Ask for help. (This is one I’m terribly bad at doing, but when I do, I’m so glad I did!)

6. Practice good time management. (Plan ahead, don’t procrastinate on nagging tasks, use technology – smart phones, etc – to your advantage.)

7. Develop and maintain personal relationships. (Whether its your spouse, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or spiritual – these are the relationships that can help you through any crisis and visa versa.)

8. Laugh. A lot. (Which makes you feel better – a rolling on the floor, tears in your eyes, belly laugh or a lot of frowning, being irritable and snapping at those around you? Enough said.)

9. Use the words “yes” and “no” to your advantage. Say “Yes!” to things that make your life better, and “NO!” to things that add to your stress. (It’s easier than you think! Give it a try.)

10. Get perspective – sometimes its just a matter of seeing our lives from the right angle. (Instead of comparing your life to someone who seems to have it so much better, try comparing it to someone who has it a million times worse. Try volunteering, helping a friend or neighbor in need, expressing gratitude, or watch the world news.)

It’s not by accident that many of my favorite methods all relate back to time. We have a limited amount of it here on earth and need to make the most of it. I don’t know of anyone who wants to get to the last days of their life, look back and say, “Wow, that really sucked.”

When I first started working as a teenager my commute to work was 8 minutes in traffic. As I moved around my hometown, my commute grew to 15 minutes, then 20, then 25 – all completely manageable and even luxurious by today’s standards.

Eleven years ago I moved to my current town and my commute to work has ranged from the 1-1/2 hours (minimum) it was a few years ago to the mere 45 minutes that it is now. My husband also commutes to work. His average commute time is right around one hour each way. On a really, really good day he can get to or from work in 30-40 minutes. However, there has been any number of days where it has taken him up to three hours to get one way.

At 45 minutes I consider myself relatively lucky for this area, but I’ve never completely adjusted to the idea of commuting. Yet, compared to the growing number of workers participating in Extreme Commuting, our commutes are a cakewalk. That realization doesn’t make it any easier to accept or appreciate the long hours spent in the car. I used to be person who loved to throw a bag in the car and hit the road on the weekend. No more. These days when the weekend comes, I don’t want to leave my driveway if I don’t have to do so. (Sometimes the thought of a trip to the grocery store five minutes away seems monumental.)

In putting together this post, I ran across a very informative article in The Washington Post that cited a litany of ill effects from commuting, many of which I recognized from personal experience. The part of the article that struck me most, however, was this sentence: “Long solo commutes are especially tough on women, Novaco said his research found. Women, he said, generally “had more responsibility for getting family up and running and were significantly more likely to report being rushed to get to work.” My life, in a nutshell.

Prior to the arrival of our daughter, Little M, my husband and I generally managed to shrug off, or at least learn to deal with, the physical, emotional, and daily life effects of commuting. However, with the entrance of Little M, that has changed considerably. It’s one thing to realize your garden is a mess because you don’t have time to weed, its an entirely different thing to realize your child is growing up way too quickly and you are missing it because your life is spent in the car.