Sunday, April 22, 2012

Full Circle

A little bit of an update on Janice and other things here.  Rather than post an overly long status update on facebook, I thought this makes more sense, plus there are those who don't have facebook, so...

Her Bell's Palsy is slowly improving, but is by no means done yet.  Baby steps.  A lot of the pain is gone, but, there is still pain.  And the more she talks, the more pain there is.  Half her tongue is still numb, half her face is still numb, although there is gradually feeling coming back.  When she smiles, it's half of a smile.  Her left eye stubbornly will still not close, so she has to go through the bulk of her days with tape to hold down her eyelid to keep her eye from drying out, and gauze over that to apply pressure to keep it shut.  Drinking and eating is still quite a challenge.  She's uncomfortable going out anywhere to eat, but will make the effort today for Alexandra's birthday, and go to Jungle Jim's.  Finger foods, she says, appeal to her, because there's less chance of any kind of mess when she tries to eat.  A straw fixes the drinking challenge.  Plus, I think she's a little self conscious of the eye patch.  I mean, who wouldn't be?

She's brave about all of it though.  She cracks jokes about herself, many of which I can't laugh at, but she's very light hearted about it.  However I won't take anyone else making jokes about her.  No one has yet.  I understand people will be people, but I don't want anyone staring or anything.  Something we're both very touched by is the show of support by so very many people.  There are friends of mine who she doesn't even know showing support for her.  People she hasn't heard from in a long time are stepping forward and offering their hope and prayers.  It's times like this that you have a renewed faith in humanity, oddly enough.  Janice has a lot to deal with as it is.  For those who don't know, she has psoriatic arthritis, one of the most painful and ruthless forms of the disease; fibromyalgia; hiatal hernia; high blood pressure (related to her meds); underactive thyroid disease; ocular migraines; psoriasis; and now Bell's Palsy, like she doesn't endure enough.  Her annual medication runs in the tens of thousands of dollars, but is covered thankfully by Blue Cross.  She hurts pretty much all the time, but will suck it up and get to the gym anyway, because she has use-it-or-lose-it mobility issues.  She fights weight issues because of her meds, but she doesn't give up on it.  She does not accept 'how she is' as an excuse and continues to battle everyday.  Janice can be likened to those stand-up blowup toys that kids punch and they bounce right back up.  You can knock her down for a moment, but you can even more so count on her coming right back.  Anytime I hear of someone being lazy or sick or anything, I can't help but tell them about Janice.  And then ask... so why are you complaining again?  And what's your excuse for not taking care of yourself?  WHO are you blaming?  Janice blames no one or no thing.  Rather, she just fights.

And now, onto the offspring.  As I write this, today is my daughter Alexandra's 16th birthday.  Let me tell you what I think of her.

I remember the day Janice got the pregnancy test results and told me.  I remember the night before, saying aloud in bed, "I don't want to be a father.  I CAN'T be a father."  Then Janice getting those results and telling me with fearful tears in her eyes as she looked at me, maybe fearing I would leave.  I thought to myself, it's time to be a man now.  Now, I want to be a father.  God gave her to us.  He gave her to us for a reason, and He expects us to take care of her and make her one of His own.  As the months passed, some of the hardest months of our lives because we were out of jobs with no hope on the horizon living in the basement apartment of a very understanding landlord, excitement began to build.  Distress did set in from time to time, because I'd gone to a computer college, gotten a diploma, applied to dozens of places and didn't even get an interview out of it.  Then just a couple of months before Alexandra was born, I got a job as a driver at BJ's Subs that I kept for 11 years.  When she was born, everything just started falling into place.  There were good years and bad years, but somehow, having Alexandra in our lives stabilized everything.  It made all the hard times that we endured matter, and worth it.  Life had a greater purpose than it ever did.  I wrote a song about all of it called 'Full Circle', waiting to be fleshed out, many years ago.  I just need a capable guitar guy to help me out.

And here we are today, 16 years later.  She's in grade 10, having perhaps her best year yet in school; working at the same place as her mother, with pride, never calling in sick unless she really was (that happened once); holding up dreams of perhaps becoming a cosmetician one day soon, and learning how to do carpentry next year in school.  She's one of the most thoughtful kids I've ever known.  She'll use her money to make people happy when Christmas or birthdays or whatever come around, thinking of herself last.  It does upset us sometimes that we see her alone fairly often.  It reminds us of our own childhoods, and how much it hurt, but Janice and me do everything with Alexandra.  You take the three of us or you don't get any of us, that's just how it is.  I see good things in her future though, with a focus on where she's going, which is something that makes any parent happy.  When I was 16, I was just living day to day without a plan.  I'm lucky to be where I am right now, having lived a life flying by the seat of my pants.  But Alexandra has a map for herself drawn out with where she's going.  That provides comfort to her mom and pop.  We are tremendously proud of our 'little girl', and today is her day.

As for me?  I'm doing fine.  I have everything.  A loving wife and daughter, two shit-disturbing loveable meatballs for cats, a house, a car, a job I like, a family to spend time with during the summer, die-hard steadfast friends... God has been good to me.  And I offer my thanks often.

And I also have friends who read my humble blogs, like you, who... if you're reading this now... I thank you for caring enough about my rumblings, whether they be good times or bad.  I'd much sooner focus on the good.  Darkness is just a speck in the light, it's been said.

Until next time, dear friends, fire up those colortinis and watch those pictures fly through the air.

Have a good week.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Facing the face

Well, it took us awhile to watch Wrestlemania 28, over three nights, but we did it.  It was pretty good this year, for sure better than last year's snorefest.  I don't understand the music acts they keep getting, though, it's always rap stuff, and the crowd always boos.  But when they get someone like Motorhead or Nickelback they go nuts.  Anyway, I'm kind of disappointed Cena lost to The Rock.  I like John Cena.  He's a great role model for kids, does a ton of work for the Children's Wish Foundation (more than any other celebrity, in fact) among other charities, and despite his detractors and he-man cat callers at wrestling shows, he never gives in to it.  CM Punk, probably my favorite wrestler, won his match-of-the-night candidate over Jericho, another one of my favorites.  Those guys know how to put on a show.  The women's match sucked, of course.  Women in the WWE aren't really allowed to go all out like the women in TNA do, probably mostly due to Linda McMahon's candidacy for a republican seat in office.  It was good to see and hear good 'ol JR, or Jim Ross, get to announce another 'slobberknocker' again too.  That poor guy gets hired and fired so much from that job because of his consistent bouts with Bell's Palsy, which paralyzes the face muscles on one side, except he's one of the unlucky ones and has it on both sides.  He's been made fun of for it a lot, which is pretty repulsive.  But he doesn't let it keep him on the sidelines.  God bless him.

What a month of March it's been weatherwise.  We had searing heat towards the last third of it, breaking records with temperatures we haven't seen since two summers ago.  If summer could be the way that part of March was, we'd have it made.  But it makes us weary of what could be in store for us this year.

Work has been fine and dandy all the way up to now, still no issues at all.  I'm lucky to have the job I've got with the bosses I've got.  Especially in a case like yesterday where I had to leave early.  About an hour and a half into my shift around 9:30am, I got the phone call from Janice telling me that one side of her face felt numb and there was a droop around her mouth.  I told her I'd be there in minutes to get her to the hospital.  Adrenaline kicked in right away and I grabbed my coat, rushed to the back to punch out and told my boss that I have to bring my wife to see about what's wrong, and he had no issues about it.  I think I made it from Riverview to Moncton, normally a 10 minute drive, in about 5 or 6 minutes.

I got into her store where she works and bolted to the back where her post office is.  Her co-worker Darlene is the one who convinced her to call me to come get her and bring her to outpatients, so Darlene and myself both badgered her to sign out and get ready to leave.  After a bit of this and that, we finally left and headed to outpatients, and I dropped her off there and looked for parking.  Of course, the newly renovated portion of the hospital didn't take into account that parking was still inadequate, so I had to navigate from the full lot to the regular parking across the street.  I wound up in a lineup of cars waiting to get into this parking lot, in the middle of the road, for at least five minutes before I decided no one was going to move, and I opted for the hospitals new underground parking garage over on the other side of the building.  After dropping the car off there, I hastily made my way for outpatients where Janice was, which was a room crammed with people all waiting mostly for hours to be seen.  It's scenes like this that Americans are scared shitless of if they get universal health care, and while I wouldn't trade it for anything, there's just got to be a solution to this bullshit with wait times.  They spent millions on this new department that's supposed to make wait time shorter, and it would seem it's worse than ever.  Anyway...

We got to the triage and found out by an older gentleman that we had to take a seat and wait to be seen.  So Janice took a seat, and I was told I couldn't sit with her because it's only for patients, and I'd have to sit at the back of the room.  I was puzzled and irritated at this.  Meanwhile, Janice would sit down in one of the eight seats provided for such patients, only to be shuffled around every time someone new would come in to get bumped up in priority.  (The 'take a number' system?  What's that?  Let's play musical chairs minus the music.)  This made no sense to us, or anyone, whatsoever and just served to irritate everybody.

About a half hour after getting to that point, we got to see the triage nurse, who took Janice's vitals and blood pressure and asked all the usual questions.  Her b/p was kind of high and her pulse was 97, which I found alarming, but apparently he didn't.  Neither was it alarming to him that her face was droopy on one side and she had a headache, and took a lot of blood thinners that obviously would make one think she's at risk of a stroke when something like this happens.  We registered after that and took a seat among the multitudes.

It's a nice waiting room, I'll give it that.  There are three 42 inch high def TV's, two of which were working, but there was something playing on it from the Discovery Channel that was a bit ... inappropriate I guess is the best word for the hospital emergency room.  Plane crashes were being shown over and over again, people getting killed, etc.  Yup... let's keep that level of optimism at a premium, folks.  Welcome to the ER, you're gonna DIIIIEEE!!!

Janice and me are doing our best to make our time there pass, as it looked like we weren't going to be getting seen at anytime soon, so I hoped to God it wasn't anything serious.  We kept the mood light.  After waiting about two hours, I kind of determined that maybe it wasn't going to get much worse, and so I told Janice I'd go out to the Pantry canteen in the Professional Arts Building and get some snacks for us.  I came back with a cinnamon bun, an oatmeal apple cake and a Diet Pepsi for us to share.  She picked the cinnamon bun.  There were a group of elderly ladies across from us that were there before we were, and one of them remarked, "you've got a darling husband!" to Janice.  I'll take that.  "He is!"  Janice replied.  "He spoils me."  I don't, really.  I'd say she spoils me, but not really the other way around.

I took a moment to answer a text that Alexandra had sent to me, telling me she got accepted into a construction course at her high school. which was a bright spot in this otherwise murky day.  I replied to her that we were at the hospital as Mom is having problems with the left side of her face droopy, but that she'd be okay.  I guess that made her worry a bit, but I assured her that she's being taken care of.  She checked in from time to time via text to see about our progress.

As we waited, Janice and me discussed what we thought it could be.  I told her, "you know what the first thing that crossed my mind was?  Slobberknocker-itis."  She immediately knew what I was saying, knowing what old Jim Ross's condition was from WWE.  She got quite a kick out of my definition, as did Alexandra, which lightened things up a bit.  But I said that JR suffers from a rather extreme case of Bell's Palsy that affects nearly his whole face, where it normally only affects one side.  "Oh wonderful," she said.  "Just add that to the list of illnesses I've got."  It wasn't a whole lot of comfort, but at least some, when I told her that if that's what it is, it wouldn't affect her health otherwise.  In a way, I was hoping BP is all it was, but the alternatives were alarming.  In any case, it needed to be addressed immediately.  But Janice was still in no pain and not really suffering at all.

Both of us were sitting there in outpatients dressed in our SDM uniforms, so that had to have looked a wee bit odd.  Every so often we're mistaken for brother and sister, and here we are there holding hands and wearing the same outfits.  But our rings I'm sure set people straight.  Several asked why Janice was there, some recognizing her from her post office outlet she manages, and she explained to them.  Many were coming into the ER after us and getting seen before us, and leaving, which really made me hope it wasn't anything serious or that it would get worse.  We made small talk with some people around us, many of whom sympathized with Janice.  Some were even alarmed that she hadn't been taken in yet.

Five hours later (!), Janice's name was called, and this was a first:  People around us actually applauded that she was finally being summoned.  How bad is it in an ER where the people around you actually cheer for the hospital for actually doing something that made sense?  It was funny and sad at the same time.  Janice waved at her 'fans' triumphantly as we walked through the green doors to be seen by a doctor.  "Good luck!" they offered.

We approached the nurses' station and were directed to a room to be seen by a nurse and then a doctor.  Janice would lie on the bed while the nurse would test her b/p again and her extremities, temperature, etc., and would ask Janice to change into one of those backside barers while she waited for the doc to come around.  This was a good opportunity for us to let go of some serious canned heat.  The farts building up inside us was pretty intense and we were just about on the verge of exploding, so we took turns.  BWUP.  wwwEEERRpp.  PPFFfff. Ahhh, it might've killed any insects in the room that might've been there at the time, but we finally got some relief!

The doc came around pretty quickly actually, there was virtually no waiting once we got through the green doors.  After asking many questions to Janice, he told her what he thought.  "I think you might have a condition called Bell's Palsy."  I should've been a doctor, eh?  "Bell's Palsy is a condition that's usually only temporary, except very few cases where it recurs.  It could last eight weeks, it could last eighteen months... there are steroids that we can give you for that, but I see that you're on methotrexate, and... what..."  He glanced at his papers, and Janice recited off the big 8 that she takes.  "See," he continued, "I'm very, very hesitant to give you steroids to try to treat this, because with the arthritis you have, as soon as they get a taste of the steroids, it could be all that works for you from there on.  And you don't want that."  "No she doesn't," I piped in, so did she though.  What she's taking for her psoriatic arthritis, a rare form of the disease, is working and shouldn't be screwed with, especially with steroids.  So the doc expressly advised against her going that route, which she fully agreed with, as did I.

He ordered up some blood tests and a brain scan to rule everything else out, to be sure he was on the right track.  A nurse came back in with the needles for the bloodwork on the opposite side of the bed I was sitting on, and she proceeded to poke Janice.  With no success.  Janice was making faces with the half of her face that was still working.  No dice, so over to the other side and the other arm she goes, and I've got a front row seat.  I'm pretty good about the needle thing these days, but I hadn't ever witnessed somebody actually poking someone and moving the damn needle around to get the vein.  I sat there was my jaw agape feeling a bit green around the gills all of a sudden, and there Janice was making her half-faces.  "Oh man!"  I said out loud.  "Squeamish with needles are we?"  The nurse said.  "Maybe today."  Anyway, she got the red gold and took off, and Janice got dressed and we headed out through the new section of the hospital for her CT scan.  That got done relatively quick too.  We headed back to the nurse's station, and were directed back to the waiting room area until the results would come back, within 45 minutes we were told.

We walked back through the green doors and the same people that were there awhile ago are still there.  They asked Janice how things went, and she told them.  Many of them were afraid for her, but some knew of Bell's Palsy and offered that it's nothing permanent.  She told them we just had to wait for tests now.  There was more small talk and discussion with some kind folks, and then, about 40 minutes later, her name was called again.  Back through the green doors we go.

As we approached the desk, there the doc was holding up the chart with the results:  Normal.  The brain scan came back a-okay, and the bloodwork was good, as the doc wanted to also rule out diabetes, which was the case.  He advised Janice on how to take care of her left eye, which he warned was going to be affected by BP, as she won't be able to fully close it within the 48 hours of onset.  He demonstrated with some gauze and tape how she will have to force her eye closed every night with the gauze patch, with some lubricant to keep her eye moistened, as well as using that during the day.  All I could think of was, why her?  Why Janice?  Another damned thing she has to deal with, as though she doesn't have enough.  But it could have been far, far worse.  I feared much worse when I left work that morning.

We went back to the underground parking garage, and I told Janice she's going to get a head rush of flashbacks to our Ontario visits, when we would go to the hotels and the SkyDome (or whatever it's called these days) and use the underground garages.  We walked through and sure enough, "wow, I feel like I'm right back in Ontario!  I kind of wish!"  Maybe next summer.  But it did bring back a delightful feeling.  The dimly lit concrete with a faint smell of exhaust in the air, the cement pillars holding the ceiling up, the faint echo of our footsteps... it sounds dank, but it was the opposite.

Off to Tim Horton's we went for hot chocolate and tea.  We came home and Alexandra was here waiting for us, and quite relieved I think at seeing her mother for the first time after hearing all of this went down.  Home made Chinese food was on deck for supper, our plans for our first visit back to the Y after re-joining this week with subsidization scotched because of the events I just described, obviously.  I took to facebook to give people a hint of what had gone on.  Lots of people chiming in, some Janice or I hadn't even met yet, wishing her well and offering prayers for her recovery.  Those kind of things go much farther than you might think.  For her to know that so very many people really and truly care about her is very encouraging.  It certainly made my day brighter, too.

But at one point in the kitchen after supper, she and I were alone, and I looked at her long and held her sweet face in my hands.  "I'm so sorry this had to happen to you, honey.  I wish I could make this go away.  I was so worried..."  And then my eyes welled up like they are right now and I just held her in my arms.  "It's okay, my love.  I'm fine!  I'll get through this, it's no big deal.  It's just a pain in the ass."  "Anything you ever want from me, anything I can ever do, you better tell me."  "I'll be fine!"

She says at bedtime her face felt kind of heavy, and she had a headache, which she took Tylenol 1 for, and there was a learning curve to brushing her teeth (that's really where 'slobberknocker' comes in) and putting on the gauze on her eye for the night.  She joked that it's good she doesn't need the C-PAP machine for sleep apnea anymore, because then she'd look real cute!  We went to bed, and all seemed okay.  She even began snoring like she often does when she first falls asleep.  I just sat there at one point and looked at her.  This is my wife.  This is the woman God gave me to learn about things, and he gave me to her.  She got me through some hard times and will continue to.  I got her through some hard times, and this is another one.  And we are as strong as a married couple can be.  We are blessed.  God is good to us.

The next day, today as I type this, Janice came home from work (it was my day off), and her condition somewhat worsened.  It's supposed to reach its peak within 48 hours of its onset, which is right about now.  Her left eye is irritated, her face is a bit more swollen, and nearly the whole left side is numb.  It feels like a really solid freezing from the dentist, which absolutely sucks if you ask me.  Her tongue is numb and half her mouth doesn't work, so eating and drinking is going to be a challenge for awhile.

And my job as her guard dog is heightened.  Anyone under my watch that chooses to laugh at her or make fun of her risks getting their own case of Mike's Palsy courtesy of my trained kick to the head.  No one we know and love would, but God help anyone who chooses to be a problem.

And that's the kind of day it's been, my good friends.  Thank you to all of you for your well wishes and prayers, once again, and keep praying for her if you could.  We appreciate everyone's support for Janice.  The next little while is going to be trying, but hopefully before summer comes around, this will be behind us.  I do know one thing:  She won't let this slow her down.  She's adamant about going to the gym again, and not letting this keep her from anything.  People ask her why she won't take time off work, and she'll just tell them, "why the hell do I need to take time off for this shit?"  She's tough.  She's like no one else I've ever known.  You might slow her down, but you can't stop her.

If you're on facebook, friend her if you haven't already.  I think she'd like that.

Thanks once again, and God bless all of you reading this.  I'm grateful and humbled as always.