Thursday, January 3, 2013

# 382 - The Life-Microscope

Back in 2001, I found myself fighting for my life as I lay in a hospital, so ill that I coded. Thank God I was being monitored on the cardiac floor and had all kinds of equipment attached to me because it caught the code. The hospital floor intercom system went off, voices boomed all around, then my room filled with people as my ability to focus faded.

As you know, I made it!

Due to one fabulous doctor, I was finally diagnosed with a rare disease that had been overlooked numerous times because the test to identify it was so specialized.

But, one of the ramifications of my body coding, at the start of Fall 2001, was for me to rethink my typical New Year's resolutions. Before that life-changing phase in my life, I'd always made a yearly resolution list in detail. As an OCD person, I had three sections of goals...the first was my ten top goals for the year, the next was an updated five-year plan, lastly, I'd make a ten-year-plus (long-term) plan. Needless to say, I had been extremely goal oriented and thrived on an energy level that was sky high. I met many of my personal goals.

However, as 2001 came to an end, suddenly, my body became like a ragdoll that didn't want to cooperate with me. My yearly lists of goals were no longer feasible...heck, I couldn't even walk across the house without my body crashing due to plummeting blood pressure that the doctors found extremely difficult to stabilize, even after my diagnosis. When your blood pressure drops and continues to drop, your body cannot stay horizontal, no matter how strong your resolve. It's as if your body is deflating or melting as your brain tries to give pep talks that are unheard.

By the time New Year's Eve came around for 2001, I had battled so much to hang in this world and I had faced the fact, with rebellion against my doctors, that my condition was not something that would fade away like a bad cold. Still, I kept hoping the doctors were wrong and had misdiagnosed me or that my body would surprise everyone with some kind of miracle healing...I kept waiting and hoping.

This is about a year after I coded in the hospital. I'm able to do things
that make life more meaningful; life is full of possibilities and full
of moments to many to savor.

My day to day life changed from working approximately eight to ten hours per day, at least six days per week, to barely being able to walk. There was even a period of time when I could not sit without passing out from the lack of blood pressure and lack of blood flow to my brain. When trying to accomplish the simplest of physical tasks, my body would shake violently from extreme weakness, my heart pounded at aerobic rate, even while sleeping. With this rare disease came the fact that my body now lacked the ability to naturally control cardio-vascular functions without medication and my hard-earned dreams were slipping from my weakened grasp.

I no longer had the same fun on New Year's Eve with writing out my hyped-up, over-drive goals because I now understood that my body was trying to check out. You know...a person needs their body to be reliable and functional to do certain things, especially the things on my lists. I'd always been a hard, diligent worker, so this physical weakness took me completely off guard.

Nine years after coding in that hospital, I'm back in another for a
very serious cervical spine reconstruction following my neck
collapsing. A side-effect of the medication for my rare disease as
it tries to erode my bones. But, I fought back. Double-sided
surgery and I still keep doing.
Things were different. My typical tradition of making so many hard goals morphed into just hoping that I'd be able to fight my medical condition and remain alive to finish raising my daughters, after all, I was only 33 years old. I NEVER expected to be knocked off my feet at such a young age.

So, I sat with my journal, ready to write out my goals and I realized that I might not even make it until the next week much less the next year. The idea of making New Year's resolutions suddenly became a silly task for me to tackle because I had BIGGER concerns. My old resolutions of wanting to lose ten pounds, to expand my business, to volunteer more often, and to organize that office closet gave way to a simple, yet profound idea of just wanting to enjoy each day as it came.

My Uncle Bo, myself and my two girls...getting close to the time
when my body would be shocking me with a crash.
I could not bring myself to write anything regarding future goals; it was too psychologically painful. I had faced the prospect of immediate death on so many occasions that I no longer felt comfortable with thinking too much about tomorrow. TODAY became my focus. Actually, the hard truth is...I focused on any given 24-hour time frame in three parts...the early part of the day, the remainder of the day and making it through the night. Each time I made it through a part of the day, I had a mini celebration. Going beyond a day was no longer so important because my MOMENTS were such a struggle and triumph.

After my ten year anniversary of being diagnosed, I had been through the wringer, but I felt stronger within myself. I found, by involuntary choice, that my resolve to survive and to thrive was more than I could ever imagine it to be. Also, the amazing revelation that our bodies can indeed come back from the brink of disaster, so many times, had been an education about life that opened my eyes. Yes, some people slip away in a blink, but my body kept going through horrendous tribulations and surgeries no one would want to think about being forced to have, but, again, I made it!
Heather and Henry (my oldest daughter and son-in-law) on
their recent Honeymoon. Making this mom so proud that they are
living it up, enjoying this world to the best of their ability!
I learned the importance of making each good day count while trying to maintain your strength for days of hard battles. Often, I marveled, along with my doctors, that I was still a living, breathing, smiling human being full of MORE life! Sometimes, I even felt guilty that it seemed I had cheated death so many times. I don't know why, but I have been given many reprieves. I am thankful.

Even so, after that first year of falling so ill for an extended period of time, to the point of being a Code Blue woman, I still felt the need to discard any ideas about the old tradition of making new year resolutions. Surprisingly, I felt pretty happy about letting it go. I no longer had unfulfilled New Year resolutions to look back upon with disappointment, especially as those mounting pounds stayed with me! This doesn't mean that I didn't strive for the best I could give every day, it just meant that I quit dangling ridiculous demands over my day to day existence, demands that really didn't add substance to my life. Living day-by-day became my priority.

For a few years, a small part of me wanted to make a list of resolutions, but I began to feel as if making that list would jinx my coming days. So far, my chosen path of abandoning the tradition has been working for me; I didn't want to rock the boat. Even so, I eventually began to set achievable short-term goals for myself and those goals are in constant revision; however, I don't really do an official New Year's resolutions. Finally, I allowed myself to start making more long-term plans, but it's still hard for me to do because I know, on a highly personal level from traumatic experiences, that our tomorrows are not guaranteed. Things can change. I learned this at a fairly young age and the experiences I had will never leave me.

That being said, there is a sense of renewal that comes with a new year. Of course, my body is more medically stable, so it is easier to think about the past year and to consider any changes that I might want to incorporate. And, it's nice to be well enough to again be physically able to be more proactive with my future. I do expect to have a great future.

Me and Stefie during a midnight trip to Walmart.
Mother and daughter silliness with bicycle helmets.

So, I decided this year to make some plans. On New Year's Eve, I made quite a few plans and set a few goals, all with flexibility, unlike my younger days of cracking the whip round on myself. I plan to continue with my avid readership, at least one book per week. Part of that goal is to also read books out of my comfort zones so I can expand my knowledge and break out of any genre that feels like "home." Additionally, I've really enjoyed watching many great movies this past year, so I am adding the goal of watching three movies per week and those will include new and old movies alike, again, all genres...sci-fi, romance, action, name it.

Books from my grandmother and from Half Price Books.
All kinds of books, for the young and old, no particular genre.

There's no doubt that this year will be a life-alteration for me. I am ready. Beginning New Year's Eve, I allowed myself to take an especially microscopic inventory of my personal circumstances and I studied the existence of certain events and people in my life while it dawned on me that I need to take some more of those little steps to lead me away from an unhealthy environment. My life is definitely headed in another direction, and I feel at peace. I feel determined, even if nervous about the unknown future; it's perhaps even a bit thrilling. I guess it depends on your perspective. For me, I need the shift in direction; I've needed it for far too long.

So, the start of this New Year could have been better, but I took what I had been given and made some hard decisions based on my circumstances. I guess the unfortunate circumstances helped to serve as a rocket booster, launching me out of the status quo and into another state of mind so that I can follow through with what I've long known needs to be done. The difference now is that I am getting it done. Re-shaping my future is scary, but not impossible; it's a challenge, but one that I now welcome whole-heartily. So, this New Year has great purpose for's the first phase of my changing life.

I'll always remember this New Year's Eve of 2013, even if I don't have detailed lists to check off all year long, I do have more important things to focus on, such as living well and being the BEST person I can be as I move forward into unknown territory. It's a big world out there and I'm glad to savor my part of it.

I have a feeling that things will initially be difficult, eventually it will be awesome ---- I am focused on that day in the near future when I will find myself more vibrant than ever because I will be out of an oppressive environment. I can't wait!


The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

Very inspirational!!!

LindaG said...

That's what I was thinking. You're here to be an inspiration to others.
God bless, Lana. *hugs* ♥

Anonymous said...

Well young lady , you have surprised me once again.
Maybe you have come to realize
you are the one who has to take care of YOU. Life isn't about just existing, it is about living and loving and being happy.
Godspeed on your future.

Rae said...

Best wishes to you in the new year! I've been MIA for the last few months, but have vowed in 2013 to follow my favorite people's blogs more closely. If you're ever up the Pacific NW way, you've got a friend in Oregon. :) said...

The Kelly's Adventures in KY - Thank you sweetie! I am lagging behind in my reading already!!

Linda --- Again, thank you. I don't really feel like an inspiration, but I have learned to keep going in spite of huge hurdles while also accepting that there are days when I am kaput. Acceptance can be a great gift to ourselves. Acceptance, yet still being determined is good.

Beth --- You've been with me in this long trip I've been taking with blogging and you've seen my best and my worst. I'm a stubborn one, but I've definitely learned a lesson this past year...that it's okay to also think of myself and it is NOT selfish to want better. I'm grateful for my change in attitude toward myself.

Rae --- I keep checking in with you! I kept myself from making repeated comments on the same blog posts to purposefully nag you into writing about what is going on. I'm also trying to catch up with my writing/blogging. As for Oregon, I have a cousin up there who LOVES LOVES LOVES it! You always have a good buddy down here in Texas as well and don't forget it!