Monday, March 19, 2012

"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."

During this emotional wave that I'm struggling to stay on the surfboard, there are a lot of tools that I take advantage to help myself.  Friends and family are very supportive, and I know I couldn't do it without them, especially ones who have been there throughout other tough moments in my life, or who had been in the same boat as I, in their own time. Let me share some moments with you to demonstrate how much they influence me during the storm, even now.

After seeing the doctor who gave me the news that I cannot have children, and that the uterus will need to be removed, I flew to see my family in Kansas City the next day. The doctor told my uncle at my request, before my flight. Now, keep in mind that I am deaf, the only deaf among the hearing family.  I saw my uncle at the airport, and at eye contact, I was ready to cry.  He rained empathy and love upon me.  During the silent drive to his home, he seized my hand and held it while driving.  I wasn't ready to talk, and he knew that.  I needed touch, and he gave it without question.  Throughout the visit, he made sure there was a lot of touches, kisses on cheek, bear hugs, gentle smiles, side hugs, and even space when I seeked it.  And you know what?  I needed all that over talk- I needed to be reminded that I'm human with emotions, than just a body with a medical condition.   One don't need words to voice love and support.

 I still chuckle thinking about the moment in pre-surgery preparations at the hospital  that February morning, when the nurse asked me, "Do you need anything to help you stay calm?" and I swear I could hear Tryst's exclamation, "Ask for an Xanax!" in my mind.  I giggled at the visualization, and told the nurse, with a smile, "no thanks, I'm fine."  Tryst was in Texas at that moment, yet  I also could see her at the corner of my eye, as an illusion. She was glaring at the nurse, while staying close to me, just like a mother lioness.  I knew then that there was nothing for me to worry about.  She was there in spirit, and that helped me stay calm for the surgery.

While home after being discharged from the hospital, a guy friend sent me a private message, out of the blue.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear from him. We had known each other since college, and so we keep in touch by Facebook. Despite that, we don't talk with each other that much. It would be months or even  a year or so before we'd check in with each other. He has his life and so do I.  He had learned about my medical condition, and he chose to disclose that he cannot have children either.  What struck me strongly about this is that not many men are willing to admit they are infertile.  There are female friends who have been through similar situations (childless not by choice, or struggling) so I'm not lonely among that type of company. Nevertheless, he was telling me in other words, to let me know he shares my grief in a different way, nevertheless  he is there with me.

Mom was there for almost four weeks.  I did worry about whether I'd have to focus on her, instead of my recovery.  You know how mothers are.  To my pleasant surprise, she went out of her way to let me be who I needed to be. If I needed to be left alone, she left me alone.  I needed company, we played domino's and canasta with the neighbors.  When I needed to be out of the house, we went shopping.  She made some of my favorite dishes, rack of lamb with mint jelly, meatloaf, and chicken pot pie from scratch.  She walked the dogs while I was in the hospital for almost a week.  Even now, she had ensured that I got my books that I had left behind at her home, through my aunt K. She didn't have to do all this, but she did.   I needed Mom at her best, and that's what I got.  I'm grateful for her support, even when we often have differences of opinions. She was there for me.

A friend, HL, lives quite a distance away and she is always busy.  I knew that, and I didn't bother to ask her if she'd visit me while I was staying home, recovering from surgery.  Several days later, I got a text message from her, "I'm here in town, can I see you?" I was stunned and then happy to tell her to come up.   We had  a wonderful talk, with tears and laughter.  She left leaving me with comfort and relief from grief for a brief moment (and yes, I just realized the rhyme- I didn't intend that.)  I needed to talk with someone that day, not about me, or grief, just someone to talk to give me a break from everything. *Pop*, she's there.  Sometimes things do fall into your lap without you expecting it.

Rarely, but it does happen, something inside you knows what you need without you knowing it.  I didn't plan on it, but one morning, I silently went into the guest bedroom where my mom was staying in during my recovery, to fetch the art supplies and an art canvas.  I was in a trance as I drew a Chartre labyrinth pattern on the canvas.  Without thinking, I chose the colors, rich sky blue and gold. Basically I wouldn't choose those colors together, but that day, the soul within me knew what I needed.  I painted the sky as it should be, and the gold paint upon the labyrinth.  It came out breath-taking, very spiritual, and I knew then that my guardian spirits were telling me I'm not alone.  They are there with me now, as they had been there at other traumatic moments and struggles in my life.

A friend basically told me if I needed her, she will be there.  I asked her, and she bought airfare promptly that same day.  After three weeks from the surgery, Roni came.  She did not push me, she did not judge me,  although she did scold me now and then about not taking advantage of her visit, to do things, with a smile.  I was worried about the issue of controlling/taking advantage in a negative way; she insisted to stop worrying about that.  We went out; parks, restaurants and sights were checked off the list.  We stayed in, watching movies, chatting and sampling food were simple but enjoyable in her company.  There were tears, heart-wrenching.  There was laughter, soul-freeing.  Grief and love came together hand-in-hand, and Roni held me together through that.   At the airport, going to catch a plane home,  she looked at me and reminded me, " Remember, I'm there for you.  Now, when should I see you again?" with a smile.

With the instances, you can see how one can have faith in humanity, even when you're hurting from something made you doubt your own humanity for a time.  That's when you are living in the worst moment to find the best in yourself, with the family and friends loving you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Without Answers (2 of the 4 parts)

Early November 2011, the doctor wasn't happy to hear that the ob gyn wasn't able to see me later in a month, so she arranged for an ultrasound, transvaginal and abdominal.      So I came in to this hospital.  There was supposed to be an interpreter (American Sign Language), as quoted by the doctor- but apparently,oops.. someone forgot.  *sigh*  The registration manager was flustered, when she realized that I couldn't hear, nor lip-read.  So she offered to re-schedule. Knowing it tends to take a long while before getting another appointment,  I didn't want to postpone the appointment, so I went ahead with the testing.

 The technician was very sweet, ensuring that there was paper and pen for communication- although as she scanned the area of uterus/ovaries, her face went blank-  You know, that look when someone didn't want to reveal anything, even expressive concern.

The technican discreetly moved the monitor away, to the point I couldn't see what was on the screen.  I looked away, knowing then there was something wrong.  I was hoping that it wasn't bad; perhaps something not real. 
 She finished the scanning, and then pasted a fake smile on her face.  She wrote, "We will send your doctor copies of the testing, and she will talk with you then."  I wrote, "Can you tell me what you saw?" 

"That is for the radiologist to review, and to talk with the doctor. Wait for your doctor to contact you."

  The doctor did contact me, to explain that they wasn't sure what they saw; perhaps a fibroid or tumor, which they could not identify usual characteristics of fibroids they are familiar with.  "They can't confirm it as a fibroid.  I can't rule cancer out." 

"I want to send you in for a MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)."

So here I was, back at the same hospital two weeks later, waiting.  This time, there was an American Sign Language interpreter.  Someone pleasant.  I kinda knew one of her friends, so I was polite, not open about my life.  I know interpreters have ethics including confidentiality, but still....

I was quite amused with the MRI technican who went on and on about the machine, what to expect, and all the 'rules'. "Trust me, I had been in MRI machines so often that I'm a veteran." I replied, referring to the recovery from the hit & run some years ago. He had a spark in his laughing eyes and said, "all right, here you go." 

After the testing, I didn't ask. I didn't want to hear them tell me, "talk with your doctor after the radiologist's reviewing."  The technican's face said it all, being very pleasant yet tense.  The light was gone from his eyes. 

A few days later, I got the same answer, "We still don't know.  We don't know if it's a fibroid, or cancer.  It is inside your uterus, in the lining- but what it is, the technicans aren't sure."

"We'll have to wait until you see the ob gyn. I will send her the results- hopefully, she can figure it out." 

"He who asks questions, cannot avoid the answers."
African Proverb quote.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bump (1st of 4 parts)

You know, we should have started in the beginning, just like in A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."  So come with me...

In the early fall of 2011, I was exercising yoga, specifically the sun salutation position, while watching a yoga video.  I was getting onto my stomach when thinking, "did I lay on something like a ball?" and I peered down to find nothing between my stomach and the yoga mat.  I then laid on my stomach again, and felt the bump pressure. No pain, no discomfort, nothing, just a bump.  I rolled to my back, and pushed gently on my stomach, feeling nothing.  "Hmmm, must be my imagination." 

It was two weeks later when I rolled over to my stomach while enjoying reading the paranormal romance novel in my bed.  There was a distraction of a sensation of something under the sheet beneath me.  I pulled away to look at the sheet, finding nothing. I pulled the sheet away thinking there has to be remains of a dryer sheet. Nada.  Nothing.  Curiously, I returned to my bed, intentionally laying on my stomach, when I could feel the bump.  I moved my hands to my stomach to explore; I found a hard lump.  For a second, I thought, "could I be pregnant?" before I reminded myself that I hadn't sex with anyone for a long while.  I rolled to my back, staring at the wall, and thought as if I was a deer caught in the headlights, "Can't be good." 

I set up a doctor appointment in early September.  And then I forgot.  Honestly, I forgot due to something else coming up, but I also knew that I didn't just want to know.   The appointment was rescheduled much later, while I was imagining wildly on what this lump could be, especially with looking back at my family history of cancer.   I looked up types of cancer related to stomach: gastric cancer (stomach), primary peritoneal cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, trying to figure which have the symptom of lumps this low to my pelvic. 

I kept telling myself, "Think positive- if you think negative, bad things will happen.  This might be something that can be fixed."  "STOP worrying!"     It's not easy to cease worrying, when you have the fear of unknown, that you can't see, therefore not understanding. 

I went to the doctor. I signed in, and sat in the waiting room.  I forced myself to go numb in thinking- in what I mean, numb thinking, as in going blank.  Nothing to think, but to live in the now and present. I think that was why I did not run out screaming in fear.   The doctor came out smiling and greeted me.   I got to know her, since it was the first time I met her, hence the first assessment and background information, including not being pregnant right now. 

Then she asked, "Now, can you tell me why you set up the appointment?" 

I wrote, "I felt a hard lump in my stomach and I want to see if you notice it too."  She agreed to check- and asked me to lay on the table.  She saw the raised bump, which makes me look pregnant as in the 4th month. I have that since I was in my 30's, due to having a fatty belly- "love handles" if you will, but with the bump, making my belly looking bigger.  She touched it, pushing it, sizing it, and looked at me soberly. 

"It is too low to be your stomach.  So, you need to see an ob gyn..." 

I stared at her, and wrote, "what about children?"   She said she doesn't know, and this is out of her expertise. 

With numbness filling me up, I went to the check-out to request for them to set up an ob gyn appointment soon as possible. 

"Numb is the new deep, done with the old me, and talk is the same cheap it's been."
John Mayer

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jokes, Boundaries and Grief

"You are over your grief, aren't you, since you're joking."  I had heard that quote and similar sayings from people lately, and I grit my teeth.  Seriously...    First of all, do not presume that I'm "over it."  ASK me.  I wouldn't ask a grieving spouse if she had gotten "over her husband's death" after a few weeks.  I would hope some of us would have common sense, to consider that grief can evolve, depending on support, coping skills and time.    For me, I use my sense of humor to cope with my grief now and then.  I am not yet out of the cave; I'm not ready. But I don't want to stay in the darkness forever, so to me, the sense of humor is my flashlight, in a sense.  Basically, if not for that, I'd be curling in my bed, not wanting to get out ever.  My humor is one of few coping skills that keep me hanging in there.

I still cry when I see someones posting a baby blog.  I still feel my heart breaking when I see someone sharing a sonogram on Facebook.  I still feel a whack of pain when I notice a pregnant woman.   To keep my fragile sanity, I had hidden some friends on Facebook, and I set up boundaries for myself. After all, I cannot ask those friends to hide their joy just for my sake, that would be selfish of me.  So it's MY choice on how to handle this on my own, by hiding certain people.   Mind you,  I had explained my decision to them,and most accepted that.  I am told, " It is important that you take care of yourself first.  When you are ready, I will be there."  They understand that I am not emotionally available for them during their pregnancy and for when their babies are born.  Of course, there are exceptions, and I'm not surprised.  One had insisted wanting me to be a godparent despite my refusal, insisting on sending me an invitation to a baby shower (got angry when I told her I can't attend), and then announcement of her baby's birth/photos (got upset when I asked her to stop tag me in photos).  Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for her and her baby, but I'm also jealous of what she has, that I can't experience- pregnancy and a newborn at my breast.

 That is something one have to remember, when it comes to infertile women (depending on how serious their medical condition is; in my case, uterus removed four weeks ago), we are very vulnerable to emotional triggers, including jealousy, insecurity, guilt, resentment, confusion, and oh yes...anger.   I'm angry at the gods.  I am angry that there are so many women out there that shouldn't have children, but here they are, having children in abusive families, neglect, poor parenting.  I'm angry at myself for not getting pregnant much earlier.  I'm angry at friends who experience through their pregnancies and babies.  I'm jealous of their joy with the 'baby bump' and holding a newborn in their arms.  I'm confused about my responses to stranger women carrying their babies, one moment disliking them, next moment wondering what it'd be like to hold a baby in my belly. I resent feeling people are trying to force me to accept their pregnancies, especially when some pregnant friends feel I'm playing "favorites" with them; not realizing that one may be very discreet, not being public with her pregnancy, preferring it to her friends and family off Internet (much easier for me), while one other is celebrating by talking about her pregnancy weekly in her blog, sharing photos of nursery ideas, and whatever so related to pregnancy (which is repeatedly pouring salt into my wounds- not her intentions, but that's how I FEEL.)  I experience guilt for feeling angry and jealous toward friends and family relatives who are pregnant or had babies born.  I And you know...  this is normal behavior and thinking for infertile women (and men).

This blog I found, said it much better than I could, especially in the third paragraph; "It is a very painful place for an infertile to be. There is no hope, just a great deep dark sense of despair. You feel totally alienated from the rest of the world and you are consumed by your situation. Every thing hurts, and every thing has the power to hurt you. Your world shrinks to the world of infertility and you fight tooth and nail to protect the fragile hold you have on sanity." 
How to be Good Friends with an Infertile.

 Some infertile women try to get pregnant with medical treatment, so it may be easier for some of them to handle their emotions, although not everyone can be successful getting pregnant, hence emotions can be remarkably torturing.  For me, my uterus was removed, so I did not have the chance at all to try for pregnancy, hence my grief is more painful for me.  And so, I respond in using my sense of humor; be it morbid, silly, sarcastic, funny, eye-rolling.  And it keeps me sane, and feeling very much human, which I have much need for. 

At least, I'm starting to learn my limitations, emotional-wise.  My point here is, even if I look "better", if I joke "better", it does NOT mean I am better emotionally.  It means I'm protecting myself emotionally during this hurricane-like storm, hanging on with my claws, wondering when I'd get out and see the sunshine.  At least, every time I think of that, I'm visualizing a poster of a cute kitten hanging on a branch with her front arms, and the quote "Hang in there", and thinking "would be funny if the kitten was trying to hang on a wet dog, not a branch."