Crashing

Well, the doctor did tell me to use the walker, at least till I meet with the rehab specialist.  I rang this week and he doesn’t accept my insurance,  However, he will see me at a clinic.  Tom doesn’t like that but we are just going to have to suck it up and go.

I have been unable to go to the gym this week as Tom is on another binge.  Aside from  the fact that the gym and liquor store are in the same center, he’s been too drunk to really go out in public.  It is what it is.  So, as an alternate measure and part of my plan anyway, I have been doing the stair stepper as much as possible.  The  most I’ve reached is 6600 steps, not enough.

So, what I did on Thursday, was lock the room door.  It is the only room in the house with a door.  This allowed me to do some thinking, writing, reading and even watch programs that I like while I did the stepper. I did get a bit wobbly.  Tom spent most of the day passed out.  After 5, I unlocked the door.  Dunno why.  Just did.  And years ago, he did destroy the door so it’s not like it means anything except symbolically.

The last few weeks I have felt myself deteriorating.  Ever optimistic, I have tried to attribute it to the intense stress that I have been under as well as the lack of activity.  In order for me to take control, I took the walker out from behind the door yesterday.  I need to practice with it before I use it outside and frankly, I needed the extra support.  I almost  never use the spectral leg or cane in the house but I guess life is beginning to change.  I struggled not to weep.  How did this ever come to pass? How can I consider this a viable option?

It happens sometime after you become an    adult.  You walk down the street and see a reflection in a window.  Who is that adult that resembles you if you were grown up?  Wait a minute!  It’s you and you are grown up.  The next step is inevitable.  You catch sight of yourself and….  Yes, I see a little, fragile, misshapen old lady.  How the hell did that happen?

It’s after 5 and I felt a bit weakish.  I didn’t have the cane in my tiny room.  I went to sit down and somehow I didn’t sit on the chair correctly, lost my balance and fell.  I fall well but still make all kinds of noises along the way down.  Tom had been passed out in the other room.  He rushed in bloodshot eyes and all.  This man does not wake up well in the best of times.  I was flat on my back on the floor.  There’s an upside to everything.  Due to drunkenness, I had  a bag filled with bags of tea on the floor.  It was supposed to have been taken upstairs and out of the way.  I can no longer go upstairs without help so it was lying there.  Lucky!  My head hit tea instead of the floor.  So there I was.  I wasn’t hurt but couldn’t move.  This is a man with three sisters and I think he might have played with dolls or maybe not because he has no concept of how real limbs work.  I literally can’t sit up.  First order of business is to get me upright.  He pulled but I have no strength at all apparently in my core.  I slid back down.  It took awhile to explain I needed something to hold onto to keep me in a seated position.  We get there.  Next step is get me to stand or into a chair. Ha!  This is when I discovered my right leg  no longer works.  It cannot bend .   I cannot even cry.  Picture this.  Sometimes, I have problems getting out of the tub.  I lift my right leg with my arm.  If it doesn’t stay up, Tom comes in and lifts it for me.   I explained to Tom that we were going to have to do the same action but not in the tub.  He was still fuddled. Back to I do not have doll limbs.  The video would have gone viral.  Somehow, we got both legs bent.  Then  I flipped over like a bug.  Somehow, I managed to pull myself up onto the chair.  Tom stumbled back to bed.

This was a pretty devastating evening.  I knew I had deteriorated but not to this point.  I guess I need to buy one of those I’ve fallen and can’t get up devices.  I am so scared and frightened.  I WILL NOT BE IMMOBILE.  I WILL DANCE AGAIN.   I must be delusional.  The only thing to do is fight harder  Someone just told me today, in another matter, that my persistence paid off.  I guess I need to keep it up.  I am losing strength all around and crashing

Yet Another’s Doctor Visit – Digress and Progress

Every time I decide I am going to break up with my doctor, I fall in love with her all over again.

I went into NYC  Friday morning for a belated visit.  Originally, she wanted  to see me in June before my infusion therapy.  It didn’t happen.  Then came summer with the anticipated railroad problems leading us to September.  I cancelled last Monday because it was mid day, bad weather and the UN Assembly was in session.  Glorious cool weather Friday.  I wore my macrame type sandals.  It was a bit cool but they are comfortable plus I knew they wouldn’t fall off if I had to go up or downstairs.  I was walking for crap.  We got into Penn shortly after  7:30 a.m. so it wasn’t horrifically busy.  I was frightened.  If I hadn’t been holding onto Tom, I would have been  knocked over or fallen.  He had my back for the escalators which have become another ring of Hell for me.  It’s one thing getting on.  It’s a whole other thing getting off.  Then we had to cross 7th Avenue.  Yes, I was already shot before I reached the bus.  I started to become agitated and weepy as it was clear to me that NYC is gone for me.  This is where I worked.  This is where I can make real money and do something that I like.  And it’s more than that.  It’s the stimulation of the city – the clothes, the food, the lights, the culture.  It’s closed to me.  I can no longer do this.  I struggle onto the bus. Tom has to lift my left leg to get me on  The bus driver is awesome.  She asks where I am getting off so she can make sure she pulls all the way in.  I take a disabled seat.  Somewhere in the 40’s, 50’s a sandwich delivery guy sits next to me with huge delivery bags. Uh, how am I going to manage getting out?  Just breathe! Then in the 60’s a man with a scooter prepares to get on.  My bus driver ejects the delivery fellow and the older lady across from me.  “You stay”  I am amazed when someone tries to push past him as he is leaving.

I am the first appointment at the doctor’s which is good.  She calls out to me as she is coming in with her coffee.  She spends nearly an hour with me.  Sometimes, I am techy and sometimes I am so not.  I recently figured out how to make Notes on the phone.  So, I’ve been collecting all my concerns in a format that is accessible and legible.

First off, we admire my sandals as I tell her that I need a new spectral leg.  She is referring me to a rehabilitation specialist.  He will look at cane, spectral leg aka brace, physical therapy and the way I actually walk.  This is good.

Bad, she thinks I should use the walker.  The  one that has been sitting behind the door, bought with an Amazon freebie.

She tells me how I am always so well put together and how important it is for my health.  I have on the beaded and embroidered 3/4 length pants that the orthopedist thought when the beads showed up on the scan, that he had discovered a whole new syndrome.  My therapist also says I am always put together  and it’s good for my health.  I miss getting dressed for work.  I open my closet and mourn.

I have low blood pressure.  My  late former in laws used to marvel how low it was without medication.  Due to Tom’s recent cardiac adventures  and his obsessive nature, blood pressure is taken all the time.  We even checked his machine against his surgeon’s and it’s fairly accurate.  Mine is way, way low.  Doctor says, “Are you dizzy or faint”  No, that is my old stress reaction.  I turn grey and my eyeballs roll up in my head.  Doctor says, “What we say about people like you around here is that you are going to live forever.  You are good.”

We talked about my drugs.  Yes, she wants me to stay with the alpha-lipoic and the Biotin.  Okay, as I have said before I have issues around my nails.  They were bitten and ripped to the quick for years.  A few years ago I decided  enough and grew them.  They have been  long and hard since then.  Last October I had to go to the salon to have them cut.  This year, they are snapping like crazy and my hair is visibly thinning. Salon’s verdict on the nails – maybe they are too hard.  Doctor’s question – what are you eating? Ah, here we go – not enough protein.  This has always been challenging for me.  I am so not a meat eater.

Now, I find this talk of food extremely interesting.  When this journey started, I asked her boss about food and he pooh-poohed me.  I took myself and my money to a nutritionist and she gave me what I thought    was an insane diet and other doctors subsequently agreed.  If she had only said, “This is the Swank Diet and it’s been used since the 1950’s.” I would have signed up.  As things progressed, I discovered a  bunch of different ways to eat that can address this.  Two years ago, I stopped gluten for months and noticed the difference.  Alas, I’ve fallen off the wagon.  Recently, I saw that the institution that treats me has done food studies.  In case you haven’t guessed it does make a difference.

My husband used to work at nights.  He’d wake around 11 and I’d go to bed around 9.  The last night he worked, I got up to go to the bathroom shortly before 11.  I remember feeling very hot and not so well.  The next thing was Tom shaking awake from a really great sleep.  He awoke to find my body in the hall.  We have a very tiny house.  There was blood on my head.  We never knew if I passed out and hit my head on the way down or hit my head and passed out.  Lately, I have had episodes when I experience the same kind of heat and my glasses fog briefly.  And the answer is still MENOPAUSE!   She suggests also that I drink more water.

Now all this caused me to start thinking about my period, menopause and my affliction.  People always laugh because I know the exact date it started.  Easy, because it was Halloween.  So, 40 years later in October I decided enough is enough.  I willed myself for it to stop.  Wait a minute.  That’s when I became symptomatic.  Something to ponder and research.  Not sure where it will all lead.

We are now at the 25 feet walk.  First time, when it started, I did this in heels.  I tell her I walk like a toddler.  She tells me I walk like me.  So, not a good thought.  This is the  first time I have ever done it with a cane.  I am terrible and slow.  I miss walking  I miss the speed, the breeze, the joy.  Walking was how I figured things out.  It seems like everything is being  taken away.

Now, to the inspirational part, and I hate the  inspiration part, attitude counts.  I told the doctor about the woman I had met who was diagnosed this year and appears to have given up.  She is anticipating the worse – making arrangements for ramps, etc.  Here’s a difference, I told the doctor in the last few weeks, I seem to be experiencing MS fatigue.  I used to be relatively tired all the time, waking for work in the 4  a.m. hour.  This is different.  It feels like dying, I guess.  It is the most peculiar sensation.  “Have you ever considered a nap?”   I am my mother’s daughter.  Maybe, just maybe if you have a high fever.  Though I have memories before this marriage of drifting off during a Saturday afternoon radio program.  She agrees that our mothers were the same and insists I need to nap.  Here’s the thing – if I feel like I am dying, the last thing I am doing is closing my eyes and lying down.  And my life is short and limited enough as it is.  I will not waste what’s left of it napping.  The other woman doesn’t nap.  She stays in bed all day! My doctor admits that attitude is important.  She starts to tell me about a patient group.  I cut her off.  I am so not interested in people who LOVE their scooters!  Nope, this is cool.  These ladies attend all the drug dinners for free, whether they can or cannot or want to take the drug.  They get a paid night out to hang with their friends.  This is a good idea.

I leave with recommendations  for disability, physical therapy and Ocrewhatever (there is a small risk for breast cancer and I have the dense ones.  I always picture them as saying d’uh?)  I also leave more determined than ever to beat the odds.  Why not?

 

Second Wheelchair Trip and Further Revelations

Yes, I had my first wheelchair  experience in April at Mt. Sinai

In June, I had another, also at Mt. Sinai.

I was going  in for my second round of Rituxin.  Mentally, I was in much better shape.  I knew what to expect and did not anticipate the treatment would result in death.  In fact, I was looking forward to it, as this time I had a plan.  I was working, it was summer and I was going to go to the gym and pump that stuff through my system.

I  had a later appointment but we went in earlier in the hopes I could be squeezed in early.  Despite working, I had been walking less so I was fatigued when we came off the     bus.  Plus, I was naturally nervous and that impacts my walking as well. We staggered into the hospital.  The security guard came bounding over, asking if I wanted a wheelchair.  No, they have a great ramp to the elevators.  Then we walked the labyrinth to the treatment center.  It looked different.  T went to check me in as I sank into a chair.  A male nurse came over offering a chair.  I explained I didn’t need one to stagger the last few feet to lay down for 6 hours.  I heard loud voices.  Apparently, the treatment center had moved to another location, a couple of blocks away.  T was demanding  a chair at the same time the nurse was telling me that’s what we needed.  In April, I was put in a chair for speeds sake and whisked along underground passages.  This time it was outside sidewalks in NYC.  I became this little old diminished lady in a wheelchair.  No selfies.  It was bumpy and I felt less than.  Less than the full person I believe I am.  People were looking over my head or avoiding looking at me.  Ok, maybe it was in my mind.  And yes, at that point I would really  have had to struggle.  The pavement was bumpy, tilted and crowded.

The elevator was horrible.  Again, it must have been me but people were too kind and considerate.  Everyone loomed over me and I felt tinier and tinier.

When we got to the right floor, T handled just about everything.  It was, as if I wasn’t competent.  I felt very, very small.

I was even wheeled to the waiting room. I hated feeling diminished.

The treatment moved forward and I was able to walk well to the bus and through the station.  I had problems and continue to do so on the station stairs.

This is not going to be one of those cheery and then I overcame or realized what a blessing.

What I realized was unless I get better that I cannot work in NYC.  This is huge as that’s where the money and the opportunity is.  I see things that I want to do and my pre-condition brain says “what fun. Let’s do that.”  And then I realize not happening!

When I was first diagnosed, for one brief moment, I thought I was going to be a poster child.  I would learn all there was to learn and just be.  First thing I received was a brochure with a woman on a scooter.  I turned off immediately.  I wanted no part and still want no part of that type of acceptance.  The spectral leg, the cane have all set me back and pained me deeply.  They are physical representations of my limitations.  I have to accept them, for now.  But now is becoming an infinity.

True confession:  I was in DollarTree last week.  It was early in the morning and I should have been at the peak of my energy level.  Plus, give me a cart and I usually rock.  This leads me to the walker that I ordered in January that stays behind the den door.  Anyhow, I was destroyed.  I could barely walk.  For a brief moment, I wanted a motorized cart.  I couldn’t believe me!

Everything is not all good all the time.

I am happy to say I am still fighting as hard as it is becoming.  Some days, it seems insurmountable.  I hate being confined to my body.  Guess, I need to work on that spirit thing.

Oh, and by the way, my doctor said she noticed a spiritual change in me.  She has me  confused with someone else.  There is nothing grateful or spiritual about this!

End of pity party, for now.

 

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.

Doctors, Drugs, Disability

Back at the doctor’s Friday.  I was hoping for her to be able to get

Ocrelizumab.  It’s not yet available.    There is a similar drug but it is not approved for my disease:

Rituximab.

It’s a 5 hour infusion and then in two weeks, another one.  Every 6 months.  So, here’s the thing, side effects.  I could get shortness of breath and they slow the drug.  I could get more colds and infections.  Long term use might lead to cancer.  And of course, death though rare.  I HATE  needles let alone I.V.s.  However, I think I am going to suck it up and try.  I looked it up and it’s chemotherapy.  Kinda  scary.  Also, it’s been around for years.  The problem is insurance may not pay as it’s off label so I may have to wait till next year for the Opera.   Has anyone used this?  What do you think?

 

The other thing is Biotin.  I had obtained it just before I was let go and at $148 a month.  It wasn’t happening.  There is a new source and it will cost $60 a month.  It’s worth a try – $2 a day. Apparently, this looks good. Anyone use it?

 

Now there’s other things going on.  I have had a hard week. I got rejected again for a job.  It’s one for which I should have been a contender.  It was exactly what I used to do.  I had to create two presentations for it.  I was notified late on Friday for Monday.  It was my birthday and New Year’s dinner, too.  I put in hours and it was good.  No go.    It was across the street from where I was and it was difficult for me to walk there.

So, at this point, it appears that I am no longer going to be able to work in corporate America again.  I have hit the trifecta – woman, older, disabled.  This is so wrong.  I can’t even begin to address this.

 

The doctor is also in NYC.  I couldn’t do it without my husband.

I have collapsed recently in the bedroom without hurting myself but scary.  My balance has also been wobbly.  The doctor says that’s due to my weakness, not the drug I take.  My fingers are weaker,  My walking has gotten worse.  My theory?  Not going out to work every day has taken its toll despite the gym.  And she agrees, stress of not having work is negatively impacting me.  She’s finally admitting stress can be a factor.  I deal with extraordinary stress.  I have just started counseling.  In terms of stress and we are only up to 2004, she thinks it’s a lot.

I asked my neurologist about going out on disability.  I expected her to pooh pooh it.  NOT!  She said who deserved it more? I have worked for decades.  I don’t want to do this. I am going to have to think about this.

On the upside, my brain is fine.  She says that will be fine and she’s never seen it change. See, when I am sitting down I feel like me.  She tells me this is me.  I think NOT!!

I need to reflect and move forward.