Posts Tagged ‘health’

A visit to the doctor

To read my full surgery story, go here and here.

Scene:  April 6, 2016, Doctor’s Office at a Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The office is pleasant in its own way, especially for a doctor’s office waiting room that’s located within a large hospital.  There is a table with coffee and tea.  There are magazines on tables between rows of chairs.

I take a deep breath, pushing away thoughts that I don’t need to be there.  I’m here for a followup, for a past issue.  I walk to the front.  The woman there apologizes to me and says that they are running behind, the doctor experienced complications during a surgery she performed earlier that day and now all appointments are running late.  I take the clipboard with the new patient forms, start filling out the front page.  She asks for my insurance cards and ID, and to take my picture.

Then I find a seat and fill out the rest of the forms.

I rarely count how many other people are in a room unless it’s immediately relevant to my experience.  The room isn’t full by any means, but there are enough people and there’s a steady trickle in and out while I’m there.  I hear an older woman talking to another woman.  Talking about grief, sadness edging her voice as she mentions her husband’s recent death.  “Does it get easier?” she asks.  She mentions her cancer is in remission.

With this exchange, I’m reminded of where I am:  an OB-GYN oncology office.  I feel out of place.  My ovarian tumor was borderline.  Somewhere in between.  Something that did not need chemo or radiation, but needed surgery and removal and regular followup.  I recognize the other women sitting in the waiting room may have very different stories.  An uncertain but hopeful prognosis definitely has a lighter tone than a potentially fatal one.

I wait, breathing in and out.  I grab a magazine with cover stories that catch my eye and then realize that it has those perfume samples that set me on edge.  I put the magazine down, looking messages on my phone. It might have been good to bring a book, but I don’t think I would have read much of it.  My attention is scattered.

Finally, minutes – almost an hour – pass, and they call me back.  More waiting, pauses in between a nurse taking my vitals and going to the wait in the doctor’s main office for a consultation.  Her office…looks like a regular office.  It could be the office of a CEO, or anyone of importance in an office-based environment.  It reminds me of offices in TV shows where people go when doctors deliver bad news about illnesses, in that there is an element of comfort about it:  photographs, artwork on the walls, a sense of homeyness. The environment puts me at ease, and I imagine that could be intentional. I look at the large mixed media art piece on the wall and find a place to focus on – my mindfulness skills come in handy in situations like this.  It has a quote from a Rumi poem written in pencil across the top.

mixed media piece in doctor's office

The doctor’s assistant, a young woman, comes in, asks me more questions.  When she asks me my marital status, I say partnered, engaged.  “That’s exciting,” she says, and her eyes find my ring.  “I like your ring,” she says, asking to see it up close.  “It’s aquamarine,” I say of the stone.  “That’s very unique,” she says, “There aren’t many rings out there like it.  I’ve seen about 10 people with my ring.  I can’t blame my husband, because I picked it out.”  She smiles, pauses, and then continues down the line of questions.  When she asks what I do, I say I’m an artist.  She looks back at the piece on the wall and says, “That’s cool.  Another one of her patient’s was as an artist.”
I’m struck by the word “was” here, realizing that could mean a number of things:  Someone who is no longer a patient.  Someone who is no longer an artist.  Or someone who is no longer alive.

The PA finishes her questions and leaves, saying the doctor will be there in a few minutes.  And she – the head of the practice – comes, wearing a dress and high heeled boots. Her demeanor is matter of fact, straight forward; generally kind but not too soft. She looks at my records, realizes that she doesn’t have my surgical records and will have to request them, putting call in to my primary care doctor.  She asks me how I’m feeling, and I answer that I’m doing well.  No bloating, no pain, my periods are regular.
She tells me that she’ll do a physical exam and answers my main question about the frequency of followups: I’ll need to get an ultrasound, bloodwork, and a followup appointment every six months for up to 5 years post surgery (I’m at about 2.5 years at this point), then once a year after that. I nod, saying I wasn’t sure – my main surgeon wasn’t an oncologist (although I did have oncologists participate in my surgery and the biopsy of the tumor) and had recommended annual followups.  She agrees that having more regular appointments is better:  “You’re young,” the doctor says, “And borderline tumors can come back.”  It’s better to be certain, cautious, safe.

The physical exam is fairly straightforward.  I’m generally amazed that this kind of exam has become almost routine for me:  I used to dread gynecologist visits and put off making the appointment.  I used to have to soothe myself for a few hours afterward – it felt invasive.  Now, I know that that was probably mostly sensory related, with perhaps some other trauma mixed in.  But after I first found out about the tumor, I learned to soothe my body and my mind, to tell myself that I needed to do this for my health, that it was uncomfortable but necessary.  And yes, I still dread making appointments.  I still experience some after effects…but it is more like a comma in my day as opposed to a period at the end of a sentence, energetically and personal space-wise.  After going to occupational therapy and doing my sensory diet on a regular basis, I find it easier now on a tactile level, too.  Not fun by any means, but easier.

It’s over.  I put my underwear and pants back on and make appointments for my next ultrasound and doctor’s appointment, which lands right before my wedding date in October.  I wait to make sure they’ve been able to located my surgical records, then walk out.  Once I am out of the elevator and step out into the springtime afternoon air, I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s over.  I won’t have to do that for awhile.

I am continually grateful for my health, for my body, that I live in a time that I was and am able to get treatment.  That my insurance currently covers the medical bills. As much as I may wish that I didn’t have to go to the doctor as often, I also recognize that this is one way in which I take care of myself.

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Friday link roundup 3/11

On turning adversity into poetry.

A sweet story of friendship. 

A great article from Everyday Feminism about Neurodiversity.  I’m so glad there’s continuing to be more information and advocacy out there.

The title caught my eye:  How to Dig a Ditch when All You Have Is One Spoon: Finding a Path to Productivity After Falling Apart.  On self-care, healing, and small steps towards moving forward in the midst of mental illness.

Temperatures continue to rise across the globe, reaching troubling milestones.

Why Doctors Care about Happiness:  why it’s important for doctors to ask about their patients’ moods.

Tuesday was International Women’s Day.  Pictures of women protesting around the world.  Older women making statements with their hair and appearance.

Friday link roundup 3/4

These articles are about people with chronic illnesses, and I think they could apply to people with other disabilities and challenges as well:
When I hear “At Least It’s Not…”  
To Anyone Who Tells People with Chronic Illnesses to “Just Think Positively”

Reducing food waste:  in Denmark, there’s a new grocery store that sells expired food at a discount.

In May, a museum dedicated to broken relationships is opening.  You can even donate your own items from past breakups to it.  This museum is based on an original museum in Croatia.  “The idea is that couples who break up will donate to the museum the things that serve as painful reminders of their former lover instead of throwing them out or destroying them.”

Through studying DNA, scientists prove that Siberians and Native Americans are related.

From the Huffington Post:  It’s Time We Start Talking About Depression like the Common Illness That It Is.

A comic illustrates why we need Women’s History Month.

Post Nia-learning session reflections

I’m tired.

I spent two hours today in a learning session with four other Nia teachers in my community:  two Blue Belts and two Black Belts.  We’re learning a new routine together that we’ll later teach at a community dance jam in February.  We each took a song (and its choreography) to demonstrate to the others.

I spent a little time before almost frozen with anxiety, although I knew logically that there were no real threats here.  My nervous system put up an alarm, and I breathed through it, distracted myself slightly, and got myself there.

It went fairly well overall.  I lost the beat during part of my song but everyone was fairly rough in the learning process, too.  And what’s important:  I did it.  It was also sweet to watch the other teachers interact and bond, and to be part of that.

Now,

My body says:  There is some stiffness, some spots of near-soreness, but mostly there is a feeling of post-movement use and strengthening.  Eyes are a little heavy, edges of a nap still lingering. Some tightness in the forehead. I used a lot of energy.

My mind says:  How did that go?  What did I think of that?  Was that worth it?  Maybe I’m okay.  Maybe I should just hide out here for awhile.

My heart says:  I feel vulnerable.  That felt very exposing.  I hadn’t done this before, and I’ve been cautious about taking risks for awhile, especially around other people.  It’s worth it, in the midst of fears and hopes, mistakes and wins and everything…

My spirit says:  I want to continue to dance.

Friday link roundup 1/22

What is the ideal length for a nap?  This article gives suggestions based on different benefits.

For Star Wars fans:  Carrie Fisher interviews Daisy Ridley.  This interview was from the fall, and I was still excited to find it.

Doula support for pregnant women could improve care and reduce costs.

For Harry Potter and Alan Rickman fans:  someone put together the important scenes from the 8 Harry Potter films that include Professor Severus Snape.

How big Spiderman’s feet would really need to be to support scaling walls and skyscrapers.

50 Revealing Questions (that aren’t too deep) that might be good to ask on a date – or for icebreaker activities – to avoid small talk.

I’ve definitely seen a meditation room in an airport, but not a yoga room.  These airports have yoga rooms.

Breaking silence and sharing my experience.

Yesterday, I posted the following on Facebook:

“This experience affected me greatly, and I recognize that I have not fully or openly acknowledged it here. So here goes:
Two years ago,
I had a serious health issue. I ended up having open abdominal surgery for what turned out to be a borderline ovarian tumor (also known as low malignancy potential – it had both both benign and malignant characteristics). In mid November, my surgery got expedited due to the tumor’s rapid growth and the possibility of cancer. I had surgery on November 25, 2013. At the time, I tried to just focus on what I needed to do. In retrospect, I recognize that the experience was draining and scary. Luckily, surgery and followups were the only treatment I needed. I still have regular screenings, and my last ultrasound showed no signs of recurring tumors.
Today, I am grateful for my health, and my body and spirit’s ability to heal.”

The post got many “likes” and several comments.  Beforehand, as I was sorting out what to post, I looked back to my posts from that time. The most I posted then was “going to the hospital for surgery” and something like, “I’m out of the hospital!”  I also had a few friends post on my wall that I made it through the surgery and was doing okay, but other than that, I didn’t describe what I actually was going through.

Last night, when I saw the number of responses, there was part of me that was like, “I denied myself the support at the time of my surgery by not sharing.”  I am deeply sad that I didn’t say more at the time.  I know why I didn’t, why I thought I couldn’t, but I no longer identify with the reasons.  I also know that it’s not something to blame myself for.  I am glad that I shared:  it breaks the wall of secrecy I held around me at the time, one I kept to follow the guidelines of a position and to protect a specific group of people.  In the end, I think my silence hurt more people than it helped or protected, including me.  Silence can create shame, and I believe that it affected my overall healing process.  I feel like I can breathe a little easier now that I’ve shared that piece.

In the future, I don’t want to compromise my values and my right to ask for what I need.  I deserve to ask for support.  I deserve to be as open as I wish about what I am experiencing.

I’m doing my best to allow myself to grieve, be grateful for the support in my life, and appreciate where I am at now.

For my surgery story in more detail, go here:

My surgery story, part 1.

My surgery story, part 2.

Vision odds and ends

My OT lent me her weighted blanket for a few weeks so I’m lying here with it draped over me.

I found out at a vision test last week that I have poor binocular coordination, which basically means my eyes don’t work well together. My occupational therapist referred me to that appointment because of how I described my experience of driving at night; and then my response to her having me follow an object with my eyes – first I stepped back, and the second time I got dizzy and had to lie down.

So I’m looking at the possibility of vision therapy. Vision therapy isn’t covered by insurance because for some reason, vision issues aren’t considered medical conditions, so it’s expensive and time-intensive and…

might be worth it.  So I have a more specific vision test on Tuesday to figure out exactly how my eyes do and do not work together, and then my OT is willing to show me some of the exercises to give me an idea of what it’s like.  Her business partner is a developmental optometrist so they work in collaboration with this type of thing.

My OT says that people with sensory processing issues may develop vision coordination issues because, in developmental stages (think baby and small child), it’s difficult to process certain sensory information with precision.  The brain adjusts, the eyes adjust, one eye becomes dominant, etc.  And this could greatly affect how I process all visual information – from words on a page to people in a crowd. That, in turn, affects the other senses as well.

The optometrist presented me with an analogy:  “When you stand on one leg with eyes open, it’s easier to balance.  When you close your eyes, you often lose your balance. Having poor binocular coordination is like having your eyes closed all the time.”
“But I do yoga and dance – I have decent balance,” I protested.  “Yes,” she said.  “But you have to work much harder at it.”

My OT asked me the question today of what if we could remove of the senses from the sensory processing difficulty equation, or at least improve it enough to make life significantly easier.  If I could possibly feel less fatigued, be able to drive at night more easily, etc…  Apparently my brain has been working harder than I ever knew.  I never knew because it’s been normal for me. I also suspect if I don’t address these vision issues, they might get more challenging as I get older.  I’ll take the next steps and weigh my options.