Visibility Disability

I have always been visible.   Part of it from an early age has been because of being interracial.  Especially when I was a child, people look at you and your parents.  I come from a strong maternal line.  My cousins and I range from blonde to deep brown.   We have the same face.  On the rare occasions when we were together as teens, people would do double takes.  The eyes processed what the brain could not.reima-1959-grandma-made-the-dress

My mother, being a colonial of a certain age, brought me up with certain attitudes and expectations.  A lady did not leave the house without hat or gloves.  So yeah, there I was in NYC, in the summer, in the subway, with gloves.  And a hat.  Actually, not such a bad thing.  I have to tell you though those gloves were a bitch to keep clean!  The hats.  I love hats and used to look really good in them.  My mum wore them, too.  So, we could be out, at the grocery or mall, hatless and someone would walk up to us and say “oh, you’re the ladies (girl) with the hats.

Fashion has been my life and consuming interest. I used to work in it and have been privileged to attend pret a porter.  Can I tell you, I was noticed there, too?  Very proud of that one.  I used to go to Europe regularly for a job.  I went after losing it and had a call when I returned home from a former colleague ” You were in Spain and Italy a few weeks ago”  Yes, I was noticed.

Another thing I am known for is my smile.  I like to share my joy.  When I returned to another job  I  was approached numerous times because my smile was missed.

So yes, I am used to being noticed but now is different. Now, I am noticed because of the cane  ( I hate that word) and the spectral leg.  That has become what makes me stand out.

When I was still working,  I worked in a JP Morgan Chase building.  The security guards watched out for me.  One used to see me walking in the morning and help me cross the street.  It made me feel like a fragile little old lady which I am so not, at least in my mind.  If I went out to lunch at the rear of the building, he’d make sure I got on the escalator safely then run down the stairs to help me when I came off.  Another one, a woman, who went to another building, would see me crossing and yell at cars and people and help me.  One that saw me in the building  always worried  when I was on vacation or out for a few days.   She too, would help me up the stairs.

I have been out of work in NYC for over a year.  As I said, the newspaper hawker was glad to see me a few weeks ago.  In December and January, I had to go in and take the same bus and train that I used to.  My husband was overwhelmed by the people who came up and spoke to me and were glad to see me.

I don’t like being visible in this way. To me, It’s not positive. I don’t like being recognized for disability; I’d rather be known for my smile or my style.  I understand that people respect and admire my grit and determination.  This too, is hard for me.  I am just living my life the only I know how to and the only way I can.  It’s not inspirational; it’s just life.  My issues are visible.  Others confront much worse things just not as publicly.

I guess I need to continue because I demonstrate the possible.  I can be a voice and a face against discrimination.  I hate when people speak loudly to me.  I want to say, “It’s my legs, stupid.  There’s nothing wrong with my brain.”  I suppose if my visibility with disability helps others, it’s worth it. Visibility is here to stay.

Doctor’s Visit

I bit my nails until a few years ago.  I mean chewed them.   I used to commute with my mother and she used to smack me when I bit them.  This was odd because not only was I an adult but we were different colors.  A few years ago I just made up my mind and let them grow. It was the look my mother had always wanted to see – long thin painted fingers.  She had passed away by the time I accomplished this.  It has become part of who I am.  At the salon, they told  me my nails were very strong .  Apparently, this is the case for former biters.

This past summer in August , my youngest stepson was married and I had them done.  They were perfect, no cracks.  They kept on growing.  I had talons.  They were uncomfortable.  We couldn’t cut them at all they were that hard. So, back to the salon.

What does this have to do with my condition? Well, almost three months ago I started megadoses of  biotin.  Biotin is used to strengthen your nails and hair. Also. maybe myelin repair.   Guess what?  My nails are snapping like crazy.  They are back to short.  My thought,  if this is happening to my nails, what about my bones?   My hands don’t look like me, along with others parts of me that are changing.  This was a little vanity for me.  The doctor said it wasn’t the biotin but the steroids still in my body from the Rituxin.  Guess that’s the little weight I’ve gained.

Recently , because of changes in insurance, it became necessary to cut  Ampyra to one time a day.  Frankly, we thought it wasn’t really working.  Well, quickly found out one a day impacted me badly.   Luckily, insurance sorted out with a day to go.  I  was so scared.

My right leg is the one with  the problem but lately my left knee has been killing me.  Did I say that I did go to an orthopedist last year for my foot – more on that below and wore beaded capris during the scans?  He was fascinated as he didn’t know what those little things were.  He couldn’t help me with the foot as he only does knees and hips.  He said the top of my knee was mildly arthritic.  Well now, somedays it is excruciating. It also  collapses unexpectedly.   My doctor says it’s not the condition.  The collapsing thing I thought was.

I did do my usual timed walk. It was AWFUL.  I really hadn’t changed my pace prior to this.  This time I walked like a toddler!  I told the doctor that and she said “But you are an adult.”  Exactly.  No comfort.  Apparently, part of the problem  is that I am hyperextending my left leg.  Her verdict I need an orthopedist.  Me – knee brace via Amazonprime.  In February 2008 I walked into that office in high heels.

More aches   and pains.  Recently and inexplicably, I have had sudden cry out loud stabbing pain.  Her verdict? Some nerve thing, you should see an orthopedist.

Next issue.  Since last winter I have experienced a burning sensation in my right foot, particularly when I wear tied shoes.  The GP suggested it was a condition thing.  I was also told it’s in my mind.  I only know that it feels like my foot is on fire and if it happens in the car I can barely drive.  Another suggestion was the spectral leg wasn’t fitting. To me, it has felt like a deep blister.  Well, I played around with corn removers and wart removers.  It’s not in my mind.  I took a picture which I will not share which is truly disgusting but shows that I have what looks like a deep bruise and bleeding.  Verdict:  Orthopedist!

One thing that I realized during this trip to the doctor is that at this point, I can no longer work in NYC.  This is devastating to me. I make more money in the city.  It’s more open.  There’s a vibrancy there.  Okay, this time I could drag myself up onto the bus without help but I couldn’t really walk by myself.  If my husband hadn’t been with me, I would have been pushed or fallen.  My world narrows.

On the upside or at least I am looking on it as an upside, the newspaper hawker called out to me.  “Good to see you again baby.”  This is the woman who picked me up off the sidewalk in front of the station about four years ago.  People recognize and support me in my struggle.

Also, on the positive side my doctor has offered to come into work early for my next exam so I lose less time at work,  See above – support in my struggle.

Old Girlfriends, Postal and Rituxan

What a difference a day makes!  An update on the postal situation from yesterday.  I placed calls to his landlord, psychologist and the VA.  The VA was helpful.  No calls from the others by 4 p.m. so I call K back.  He’s very cryptic and said the situation has been settled for $400.  He doesn’t sound right.  “Are you on drugs?”  “Of course.”  I finally am able to get his cousin’s name and phone number out of him.  Bombshell.  K has checked himself out of facility and told them and cousin that he is coming to live with me.  This is not possible on so many levels.  He appears to grasp this and states his intent is to check into one of the cheap, tawdry motels on Montauk or Sunrise.  In fact, there is one within walking distance of my house that I call the Pedophile Motel as a year or so before we moved in there were legal issues as it appeared the town and county were housing all the pedophiles there. Alright, I tell him we’ll deal and get him situated.  I tell him that I have called the landlord and will call him again.  My husband is livid over the situation and thinks the landlord has K’s belongings.  He wants to drive over, get everything before it’s tossed then drop the dime on the illegal rental.  K says don’t call him again.  He’s spoken to him today and landlord was very cold. He also tells me to say nothing of his plan to his cousin. Now whilst I am having this conversation with K on my landline, I hear other calls coming in and my cell is ringing too.  I see one call on the cell is my neurologist so husband picks that one up.

I hang up and see the landlord has called me.  I ring back.  Wow.  K has played us all.  I worked for years on a phone so I am really good with voices and lies.  Landlord is a straight up guy.  After I saw K just before Labor Day weekend, he rapidly deteriorated and was falling several times a day.  It culminated, ironically, enough on September 11, when landlord S’s children heard yelling. K had fallen facedown for 10 hours.  K was refusing help.  S told him paramedics or police.  He was hospitalized for 5 or 6 days.  During his episode, he had crystallization of his blood.  K was released to an assisted living/rehab facility.  Ironically, my husband and I drive by there all the time.  He was there until the end of September when the insurance ran out.  The cousin P was called.  The facility told him that K could walk 160 feet with a walker.  However, he had degenerated so much during this period that he was not allowed to use the bathroom on his own.  S had looked into the apartment with a view to making it handicapped accessible.  K had lived there almost 11 years.  Apparently, he has not had control of his urine or bowel for sometime.  The apartment/room needed fumigation and a new floor.  S also determined that he could not assume the responsibility nor have his children exposed to the consequences of falling,  S drove him to the cousin P in Maryland.  He had to help him in the bathroom on the way down.

The first night at the cousin’s he fell repeatedly.  The cousin called an ambulance.

I have a call into the cousin.  The cousin takes care of his nephew who as far as I can ascertain on the phone has at minimum a significant speech impediment.  I call twice leaving messages.

In the meantime, the psychologist has left a message for me on my cell.  All three of these men know of me as an old girlfriend, not my name,  just an old girlfriend.  The psychologist, B, and I have quite the conversation.  He has treated K for years.  In fact, he has retired and is very old.  He sounds ancient on the phone.

B never knew that I knew K at the time of the original postal  incident.  I had to go into therapy because of it.  I couldn’t handle it and left K for someone else.  K stalked me and threatened me when he found out.  I know, atrocious taste in men.  At that time in the late 80’s, there wasn’t the awareness or sensitivity to domestic violence there is now.  The police told me there was nothing they could do until he actually hurt me.  Their suggestion was for me to move.  In Suffolk county at that time there was a rash of domestic killings in a few months. I know because my girl friends, their mothers and my parents all cut out the clippings for me.  And yes, I went back into therapy once his meds were stabilized and I started interacting and seeing him again.

I give B the cousin, the landlord and the facility numbers as I explain he will have more weight than I do.

 

P calls back.  “Thank G-d you called.  I have been trying to get K to give me your name, number and address!”  He told K that he wanted to talk to me before he dropped him here  today. K has even told him I have been married twice.  P questions whether my husband will accept him.  K refuses to give up my address but instead tells P how to get my house from his room.

We have a most illuminating conversation.  P also knew of me as the old girlfriend, no name.  But he knew of my diagnosis, my two marriages and that I went to Hopkins.  Unless people tick me off, I don’t usually tell them I went to Hopkins but say I went to college in Baltimore.  I did the same yesterday and all three men said “Yeah, I knew you went to Hopkins.”  P found out from me the truth of the postal incident.  No, he didn’t hit 3 -4 guys.  They did try to provoke him to do so but instead his blood pressure rose so high he nearly stroked out and was taken out by ambulance.  I thought K’s father and mother were both evil and I do not use that term lightly.  K is older than me and his teachers reported the father for child abuse.  In that era you could just about kill your kids.  There were 6 brothers.  At least two are dead and one has been institutionalized for years.  Despite this K kept in touch with his father who ended up living in an SRO.  When he died, his mother refused to have anything to do with the burial.  Only one brother came.  That’s one of my gripes against the mother.  She was a lay minister in the Catholic church and would not separate or divorce the father.  She sacrificed her sons.  I do not believe in that kind of G-d.  P told me as soon as they were old enough each son beat the father up.  K broke his jaw.  He also shared my opinion of the mother and told me more stories about her.

All three men and I shared stories of K’s increasing paranoia and remoteness. I bought a computer for K once when I had a huge bonus.  Good fortune is meant to be shared.  A few years later he returned it to me saying it was broken,  Maybe,  but apparently was truly paranoid about it.  He wouldn’t use one at the library either.  He only recently had a cellphone and I believe it was through a program.  Caller ID displayed LI Spinal Foundation.

P can’t fight him any more and told K he will take him anywhere he wants to go.  He will leave him at a motel, wait an hour and call 911.  I beg him to let me know and I will call if necessary.

Oh, and the call my husband answered on my cell?  It’s my doctor’s office asking me to come in today.  I have been approved for the Rituxan.  I don’t even register this or remember it till after 8 p.m.  This is huge.  This drug could literally change my life. I can’t even process this.  I keep on forgetting!

 

My husband wakes in a rage this morning.  How could anyone dump K?  I repeat our 911 plan.  Smack forehead.  Of course, the police will come before ambulance.  We anticipate his resistance and see jail in his future or else due to late father’s influence (top police lieutenant) K being able to stay in motel to die.  He was able to get out of a traffic incident this summer dropping names.

I call the VA again this morning.  They suggest the cousin drive him directly there.  He is technically homeless and they have a shelter on the property.

The Catholic hospital nearest me said if there were mental health issues, they couldn’t take him.

I call the psychologist.  He has had no luck with the cousin.  He said P was adamant K was going to New York.  He and his wife also had the same serious reservations about the 911 plan.  B then revealed that K was so paranoid that for five years he would only meet B at diners or restaurants away from where they both lived.  His opinion was that K cannot survive in a group situation. Also, none of us must have any guilt   as we all have done much more than could be expected.  We are all good people.

At ten of two this afternoon, the phone rang.  It was P.  He went to get K at 8 and asked where are we going?  K said I’ll let you know in 4 hours.  P refused.  They went to 7 -11 for an hour and a half.  For now sanity has prevailed and K has agreed to stay and sign on a contract to live there. He says he doesn’t want to die in Maryland.  The cousin says who wants to die?

We all agree that this is very sad.  It is.  I agree we all tried to do the best we could. But I am looking at it another way.  We have all known K for decades.  We knew of each other – the old girlfriend, the cousin, the shrink, the landlord.  He reduced us  all to the role he wanted us to have in his life. We all do that.  K is just more extreme about it due to his emotional issues.

Ok, not guilt but I am so questioning myself.  How did I let myself so eagerly be a part of this.  K and I never officially lived together.  I have been married twice, lived with someone and had numerous affairs.  Through all this we have been constants in each other’s lives.  We have been “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.”  I need to process what it means.  I sense that somewhere along the way, we all failed him.  And I, I failed myself.  Why can’t I let go?  Why have I maintained a relationship with a man capable of hurting me physically? All relationships involve hurt.

If this crisis had not occurred, we all would still be in our roles.  How do we as a society perpetuate these situations?  We are all so close and yet so distant.

Postal

I need to get this out.  Consider it a rant, vent and reflection.

I have been worried out of my mind about my postal worker.  We argued at the end of August about his buying a car.  Yes, ok, I get it.  I have bad taste in men.  We have been friendly since 1984.  About 15 years ago, we agreed we should have married but since we didn’t, it really did work out.

Given that , we have never really argued.  We would separate.  Well, we did have a major fight somewhere around 1986 but it sorted.  I never stood up to him until the end of August over the car. Since he has Parkinson’s and mini strokes, limited income, my feeling was that he shouldn’t drive and could use taxis.

Now, my birthday is end September and he always, always calls me, sends me a card, drops by or gives me a present whether I  have been married or living with someone else. Freaked my landlord out once when they came home and found flowers on the steps.  Maybe not on the exact date but within a week.  This time nothing but I know he’s stubborn and not well.  K is paranoid, for real.  He will not answer unless he knows who is calling.  Also, since the 80’s he always has a piece of music for voicemail.  When I left him for real in 1988,  he had Fine Young Cannibals “Good Thing”  for weeks.  There is no music and the memory is full.

We have always been there for each other.  He came over with blues CDs and Clapton when Buster the Biker dumped me (just before current husband).  And he was a drug and alcohol counselor when he was in the army so he has been very helpful to me as I have been on this journey with my husband. I have listened to him and held him as he has cried over breakups and his father’s death.

As I continued to be unable to reach him, I became increasingly upset.  This is one of the reasons I stand by my husband.  He called all the local hospitals for me last week.  No results.  We were about to do a drive by his home today and contact the police.

Yesterday, late afternoon the cellphone rang with a number in Baltimore.  Ah, another IRS scam, I thought.  Voice mail! From K.  But it’s weird.  There is someone in the background with an accent who seems to be telling him what to say and the callback number is different.  I know he has a cousin in Maryland but I begin to freak.  I rang him back. Someone else answers the phone.  It sounds like he says he is a medical resident, whatever that means.  A twisted tale.  Somehow, K  decided to live with his cousin in Baltimore but now he’s in assisted living?  I saw him at the end of August and whilst he had issues walking, he was competent and functional.  His story is garbled and makes little sense. He says he woke in his cousin’s house and crashed into things. This would be normal as he has definitive mobility issues and has been living in a room for about 10 years.  The cousin called the paramedics and he was hospitalized for 5 -6 days.  He was sent to assisted living.  He is complaining about the food.  He says that they are charging him $5500 a month. On his credit card!  Now, K  has been on postal disability since 1988.  His monthly income is much, much less than that.  We live in metro NYC area so there is no way he has that kind of savings.  He tells me that he has to charge it.  I ask him where he is.  Someone puts the brochure in front of him.  He has difficulty reading it but I get the name.  This whole conversation is a torturous process , clearly not helped by my berating him as to why he didn’t let me know he was leaving.

He is a Vietnam era vet.  He also should be a Medicaid candidate.  This whole thing smells and stinks to me.  I keep on telling him he has to get me on his HIPAA.  He is a Luddite and I get the distinct impression he does not know what I am talking about.   Even though we have been friends for over 30 years, I have no standing.  LOL, that’s the reason I married my current husband – to have standing!

I also explain I am extremely limited as to what I can do on a Sunday.  He gives me his landlord’s name and part of his phone number but also says the guy is a Jets fan and won’t pick up the phone.  I also have his psychologist’s number.  Again, no one knows me.  I knew his first psychologist.  I ask if he talks about me.  He thinks so.

So, this morning I call the VA, landlord, psychologist.  The VA can’t give me any information except to agree that it’s wrong and my best bet is to get a power of attorney.  He is in another state.  His cousin’s name is too common as are his brothers.  No callbacks  yet from landlord or psychologist. I gave them the number K gave me.  I asked K what the number is and get a garbled explanation of patching through landline.

I do know where he was living and my husband says we will go there tomorrow.  Husband is concerned about K’s stuff, too.

My college boyfriend is a public defender in MD.  I speak to him every other year or so. I call him and he calls me back immediately.  He confirms my instincts appear to be right; he knows the neighborhood where this assisted living place and confirms it’s in a bad place; and I need to get the POA to truly advocate for K.

So, here’s another thing.  The attorney and I go back over 40 years and K and I over 30.  K and I always reach out to each other in times of trouble.  The attorney called me a few years back because he could see something was wrong from my handwriting on the Christmas card.  He also was nuts after 9/11 because he couldn’t find me.  When he finally reached me several weeks later, he sobbed.  I hold my relationships.  I was surprised this morning that my husband said it’s a good thing.  He usually mocks me.  I am not sure what it means.  Ties that bind?

I believe in the divine and wonder if I am not working right now so that I can help.  Worse case scenario, we know that I’ll drive down.

I am tired of being strong and responsible.

What is love at the end of the day?

It’s not ringing right  for me.  Has anyone had a similar experience with forced assisted living? Scam? Suggestions?

Disabilities, Limitations or Issues

I am having problems with the whole disability concept.  I know I really can’t walk well anymore.  Actually, I usually forget until I try to stand or move.  I told my doctor a few weeks ago that I think and feel I am me until I try and stand.  Her response was that I am me.  No, this is so not me.

I have been out of work for a year. People have been saying to me for much longer than that, that I should go on disability.  Why?  I am not disabled. I just do not walk well or fast.  But especially now when it is clear that I have lost out on jobs because of my mobility issues, the disability question is raising its ugly little head again.

In the past when I didn’t have what I call a job-job, I temped or worked  retail.  Those avenues are closed to me now primarily due to the mobility issues.  So, I can’t supplement my lack of income.  It’s getting serious as I am living off my life savings which were not much to begin with.  Most of the time, mobility should not be a factor in what I do.  I am a technical trainer by trade.  I show people how to use technology to do their jobs.  In addition to the mobility, I am a woman of a certain age (double whammy); I was at my last position for 15 years; and I have now been without gainful employment for a year.

Now, I am not going down without a fight.  I have either been blessed or cursed with grit and resilience.  I consulted a career counselor and her advice was to network in my professional associations.  I might be able to find out what other factors might be impeding me from working and of course, I might be able to network myself into a job.

My doctor told me to apply for the disability. This will not pay my mortgage let alone anything else.

So, I am fighting back.

Did you know that October is Employer Disability Awareness Month?  Who knew!  Through the HR society which I recently joined, there was a session this week on Disability Etiquette.  My plan?  Hike my disabled self with seasonally coordinated cane there and interact.  What a perfect opportunity! Wrong!  The attendees definitely did not want to deal.

However, the presentation was very thorough and informative.  He raised the issue that we are people, not disabilities.  In fact, the presenter stressed that we are people that have some limitations or issues.  I love, love this way of identification.  It makes so much sense.  I do usually refer to myself as someone with mobility issues.  I have always maintained I was trendy and ahead of the curve.

I did have a conversation with someone in the elevator on the way out.  She disclosed she had RA.  She loved my positive attitude.  Being negative takes too much time and energy.

And yes, I came up with another Plan B based on this meeting.

And with that group of people, who had the limitations and/or issues?  Me? Or them?

Perceptions, Expectations and Mammos

It’s  odd the way the brain works .

I get my mammogram religiously every year.  I had my very first one when I wasn’t working and went to a mobile van parked at Pathmark.  This year I have been running late on everything.  I saw the gynecologist in June.  I usually have mammo midMarch.  Due to my unemployment, I can no longer go to the lab I have been going to for about 20 years. I have been delaying, thinking I’ll get a job and different insurance  .  I had a kick in the butt because I have to go off this medical plan and go to another for two months.  Okay, I am going to name names.  When I was in high school, my grandmother had to go to Zwanger for radiation.  At that time, it was Dr. Zwanger and not the megalith it evolved into.  My grandmother hated him which was an unusual state for her.  As a result, I have carried a bias against Zwanger.   I have had MRIs and xrays there because there was no other option.  It’s been alright. Now, as I said, I have been going to Nassau Radiologic for about 20 years.   At one time, they were just about the only game in town.  You literally had to schedule 4- 6 months in advance.

After you checked in at the main window, you waited to be called in.  Then someone came took you back and you went into a pretty bare changing room.  It had louvred doors that were not full, a wood bench and mirror, a collection of plastic bags and two trash receptacles, one for the used gowns.  Let’s use the word gown lightly. It was a cape/poncho.  I am personally comfortable with my body and have annoyed my acupuncturist and the odd gynecologist by not really using the gown.  Naked is naked, right?  Well, in this poncho/cape thing which you always had to take off anyway, I felt the “girls” were always hanging out anyway.  It used to be like a scene from a demented refugee movie.  There were all these half-dressed, frightened women (and don’t say you are not) sitting around with plastic bags waiting to be called in.  The actual technicians were always, always great.  Until three years ago, you also had to put the thing back on, carry your plastic bag out and wait to be told if you needed additional shots.  I have dense “girls”.  I picture them flopping around and going “D’uhh?!”  Usually, I had to have additional but still…

They changed three years or so back.  Instead of going to the main window, there was a little desk next to the elevator and this woman would bark at you.  Look, if you’ve been doing the same thing annually at minimum ( many of us have had more frequent visits)  your feet just do the walking.  “Stop!  Didn’t I tell you to come here!”  What also changed was waiting after the first  pictures.  You could leave the refugee area and wait at home for the all clear or have to go back in and repeat.

Yesterday at Zwanger, a real changing room and a real full length robe with a tie, one of those new reusable shopping bags and a real hamper!  The whole experience was nicer if you can describe a mammo as nice.  No waiting and I received a notification today that the “dense” girls are OK but still dense.

So here we go.  This place is less than 3 miles from my  house.  Nassau is nearly 30! I could have been going here for a decade.  I let old perceptions and expectations limit me.  My perceptions and expectations have also changed.   I need to think and see what else can and should.

And get that mammo!