Hello 911? I have no pants on …

Every since I was a fat girl crying all over myself in the office of a primary doctor in 2014, I have seen all of the same doctors. Recently I have been feeling like I wanted to change them up, but it’s really hard to find new ones and I am pretty comfortable with this lot since they have seen me for years and witness my blood pressure and weight go down, biopsied a nodule on my thyroid, removed excess skin, swabbed throats and lady parts, ya know, witnessed my whole transformation into this person, and I don’t know if I want to do all that again. So I’m slowly exploring and as things frustrate or disappoint me with one, I look a little harder.

In the meantime, a few months ago it’s time for one of the yearly visits with my gynecologist. I schedule the appointment, and a few days before they call to say she has to cancel because she’ll be in the hospital with a patient. A baby takes priority over a swab, understandable. We find a day and time that she’s available that also fits in between my internship, school work and my part time gig  during the week.

All set.

The day before?

They call to cancel and we reschedule for the following week. Another bout of moving and squeezing in and we’re good.

Then, you guessed it, that gets cancelled too.

The woman who calls about the appointment says that my usual doctor is just too busy but I could see the nurse practitioner. The woman pushes “everyone likes the nurse practitioner, she’s really nice” – I say I’m sure she is but I am just a little attached to the set of cold hands that I normally see there and I don’t want to. I mean, I don’t care, but I see this doctor once a year I feel like I should be able to see her, so I decline and reschedule again.

I’ve had to ask for two prescription refills because this is over the course of a few months. I’m finally going to my appointment the next morning, and that evening, after hours I get a call from “Unknown” and it’s a voicemail about having to CANCEL MY APPOINTMENT the next morning. It was a good thing it was after hours because I was so infuriated I just called the next morning and said I would take the next appointment with the nurse practitioner, but please call in my refill because you guys keep cancelling and I take a chemotherapy drug and I cannot get pregnant.

Appointment set, don’t worry they’ll put the refill in, see ya in a week.

Later that week I get a call from the office letting me know that my refill was called in but they won’t be able to do it again without an office visit, ‘SINCE YOU’VE CANCELED YOUR LAST FOUR APPOINTMENTS’ ………….. Woah, nope. I let her know the whole timeline of events and decide, now that I have been reprimanded (for a thing I didn’t even do) I’m going to let them call in the refill and once it’s in my hands I’m going to find a new office.

I forgot to.

The appointment was this morning so I decided to just go and get it over with, get my year of refills and get on with my life. Nurse practitioner, as expected, is very nice. She assured me there would be no more hiccups, and I almost might prefer her to my usual doctor. We chit chat a bit, she updates my history, does a little exam and then we’re gonna get the awkward part out of the way and I’ll see her in a year.

I’ll spare ya the details but just know she’s rubber glovin’ it and I’m half way into a backward roll when she says “scoot all the way down to me” and someone knocks on the door. I only hear a little of what is said and she comes back laughing and says “Uhhhh apparently someone smelled gas in the building so they called the fire department and they’re on their way”…

I laugh because she is and say okay and she continues “They said to evacuate…

…. immediately”

“Immediately?”

I look down at myself wearing only an ill fitting backward robe gown thing made of paper.

“Is there time to put on my pants?!”

“Yea, but really fast, because they’re on their way in”

ONLY ME.

I shimmy into my pants, adjusting them as I walk out with my shoes in my hand and my wallet in the other. After ten minutes of standing outside the building, half dressed in a crowd of people with two fire trucks, about seven firefighters come out and give us the all clear. Inside, I get myself  up on the table again and she says “All right, let me jump back in” … silence … laughter …I guess I’ll keep her.

40.5, RA

Just over six months ago I turned 40. I was temporarily unemployed, buried in coursework and trying to secure an internship but feeling mostly optimistic about life. My parents had surprised me with a long weekend visit and treated us to meals and snacks and great company. I had no major life complaints. I mean, I couldn’t open the resealable Sargento cheese packaging without a struggle and I suddenly needed Steve to open what seemed like every jar or can, but mostly happy and complaint free.

Sometime around Halloween I experienced some aching in my wrist and hands that I attributed to more frequent driving since I had started driving for Lyft shortly before that. I used ice packs, heating pads, super duper extra strength tylenol, advil that’s generally off limits as per weight loss surgery and I got a little crabby about it. The pains and cramps came and went, sometimes I would wake up with them and they’d go away by lunch, sometimes they would linger all day, and invite my elbow or shoulder to join.

In November I clearly remember being bummed about how I felt and trying everything I could think of , including sleeping on my back so I didn’t crush my arms, or sleeping with my arms out straight when I slept on my side. Some nights Steve moved to the couch and so some mornings I felt even worse. I had definitely begun experiencing depression, which is not wholly unfamiliar to me, so one morning I got myself up and dressed and went to a nearby park. I walked about two miles around, up and down steps, listened to music, laid in a pile of leaves and confessed my depression to Instagram and felt like I was gonnna be just fine…. until 2 am when I was in excruciating pain now in my hips, legs, ankles, feet and I was home alone laying in bed crying and asking out loud what the fuck was going on and ice packing, heating padding and adviling myself back to sleep.

Before I knew it, it was December and now my feet hurt frequently, a lot like my hands. Both feet, in the heel and the ball and the arch, I was trying to figure out how to walk without putting pressure on any of those points. Well, I thought, you’re out of shape and maybe those sneakers aren’t a great fit. I tabled exercise and slowly anything that required me to exert much effort. I felt exhausted and sad and heavy and uncomfortable in my body. I started wearing the same pair of flats, to my internship interview, to Christmas with Steve’s family, to the grocery store all hoping nobody would notice how I was walking and that another advil might keep me looking normal. I’m not a hypochondriac, I truly believed whatever was going on was my doing, so I wanted to take all the steps to remedy it before I went to my doctor because there had to be something I was missing.

I put a lot of time into trying to determine what I might have done or what I was doing that was causing my body to ache and rebel in such a frustrating manner. I did a lot of reading, a lot of trying supplements and diet modifications; I gave up keeping protein bars in my bag or buying them at all, I considered going dairy-free, gluten-free, seeing how many things I could hide turmeric root in, I started drinking tart cherry juice, I read about inflammation, bought plantar fasciitis braces from an Internet ad, cried myself to sleep, took stairs one at a time at the pace of a sloth and finally, at the end of January, when I took my flats off and my ankles were swollen, and there were visible deep lines areound my foot from my shoes and my my feet were swollen and misshapen looking I called my doctor the next morning.

The appointment was three days later and I was so hopeful that he would have an answer, because after all my trying and suffering I didn’t. And I didn’t know how to explain what I felt to anyone, it was a burning, aching, sometimes restless, sometimes felt like what I imagine a broken bone felt like pain that produced anxiety in the simplest tasks – getting out of bed, getting into and out of the car, any number of steps with out without a handrail. I didn’t tell anyone really, unless they saw me and I (felt I) had to explain myself. Coworkers at my internship who would end up in the back stairwell I was trying to hide in while doing my  toddler steps up or down – and hold the door for me (so nice!) but also watch me and make me more aware that this wasn’t normal.

The upshot of the whole doctor appointment, if you read the last post was he ordered some blood and xrays and said come back in a week. They did images to check for arthritis and he said everything looked normal and he wanted to move on. I pushed for a referral; a podiatrist, a neurologist, a rheumatologist, anyone who might have a different view or specialized eye. He gave me the name and number of a rheumatologist and had me come back in 2 weeks. I made the appointment that day but they didn’t have an opening for almost 2 months, “ Have your doctor call us and we can connect him to Dr.’s secretary and maybe they can get you in sooner” so I tell my doctor this at our next meeting, and he says “You should be fine” and let me tell you, I wasn’t.

It was such a dark time in my heart and my mind and I couldn’t even talk about it. I started to question how much pain I was in, and others didn’t see it or know it because I still worked and interned and cooked and grocery shopped and wrote papers and did all the things I had to do. As my appointment got closer I started to feel hopeful and then anxious, what if he couldn’t help me, what if this wasn’t something anyone could identify? I got sad, rather than happy thinking about the summer; I can’t walk a mile on a rocky dirt road to go to the car rally we go to, I can’t sit on a plane for 5 hours to fly to Colorado, or a few hours to visit my family. I would think about going to the gym, even for the treadmill when I would feel less pained in the evening, but in the morning when I had to hoist myself out of bed with the help of my dresser and penguin walk to the bathroom, I gave up the dream on Zumba.

This is long and if you’re still reading, let me tell you, I’m okay. The rheumatologist was the right referral; it’s nothing I did or could have prevented, it’s an auto-immune disease. He said it was a great catch by my pcp and juvenile as it may be, I had to take that credit for myself.

Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthrist, what a strange thing to feel relieved by; an incurable, degenerative auto-immune disease –  but after six months, having my pain validated and labeled, and told there was treatment was the first time I felt hopeful in months. I got three prescriptions and he told me in a a few days I would start feeling better, and that a year from now I probably wouldn’t even remember the pain from this time. I asked if he thought I would have be able to Zumba again and he said “Totally” I called bullshit in my head but was grateful, and optimistic that, if he sees Latin-inspired dance routines in my future I can definitely live a normal life.

It’s been five days and I can’t believe the relief I have already started to feel, the way my mood has elevated, the way I just feel like myself again. I didn’t care that I chipped a nail on a can of seltzer, because I opened it myself, or that the first night I experienced a little insomnia because in my awakened stated I walked to the bathroom less like a drunk penguin. Maybe I’ll give that treadmill a try soon after all.

 

 

forty.

In little more than twenty-four hours I will turn forty and I don’t give a fuck.

When I was turning twenty-five, I had only been transplanted in Wisconsin for a year or so from New Jersey and I remember panicking about that big fat scary number. I was sad about leaving my friends behind, about a new place, about everything. A few months before the big day I started seeing a therapist for the first time; I was terrified about getting older, having moved away from my then boyfriend, my parents getting older, finally finishing my undergraduate degree … I was thinking about all of us dying, about what I was doing with my life about how we even got here and everything getting scarier and closer to ending. I was a sad sack who did a lot of talking and only half the doing.

It’s laughable now because at twenty-five the worst things that had really happened in my life were some shitty friendships, less than stellar boyfriends, a series of years where I was starting college (again) and being fat.

I was almost twenty-seven when I thought I met the guy of my dreams and talked about marrying him. I was two days from twenty-seven when I drank entirely too much at a wedding after taking some pain reliever that caused a breakdown that landed me laying on the driveway, sobbing and that guy of my dreams and I breaking up on my birthday.

The rest of my twenties were only slightly tumultuous with a graduate degree, another half-assed relationship, a waitressing job I couldn’t stand but wasn’t ready to leave behind and happy hours and movies and lunch dates.

I panicked about my thirties which were kicked off with another waitressing gig, poor sleep habits, the deaths of my grandparents, the scale creeping uncomfortably over the 250 mark and plenty of other sad and anxiety producing things that I can’t even recall right now ….

because there are so many excellent things that happened ….

I reconnected with an old crush who kicks that dad jean wearing dream guy from my twenties ass, I moved (a thousand miles) away from my parents for the first time,  I had weight loss surgery and lost (& kept off!) over eighty-five pounds, I had some parts nipped and tucked, I got my shit together and applied to counseling programs like I wanted to do in my twenties, I fell in love with Vermont, I started going to rallycross events, I started buying myself flowers every week, I stopped over-explaining myself, I got over my fear of horror movies and am now obsessed with all the scary things, I learned how to make a killer latte, I embraced minimalism, I became obsessed with Zumba (I gotta go back!), I stopped saying yes to shit I don’t want to do, I went from making tacos without seasoning to having a slew of my own recipes, I started journaling, I started going for walks and hikes in the woods, I got better at following through on what I say I’m going to do, I took a week long vacation with my parents, I started this blog, I went to Colorado and cried when my plane landed and I saw the mountains (MAJESTIC!), I ate good food, I stopped apologizing, I laughed often and never passed up a craft cocktail. I learned things about myself (and others) that helped me grow and change and live what is in retrospect, definitely my best life.

I worried about all these milestone birthdays or getting older and it was for nothing. I can’t control getting older, only how I react to it, and if the next ten years are half as fulfilling as the last ten, I don’t give a fuck about turning forty.