Posts Tagged With: Pain

Good Grief and other Nonsense

My internal weather.

My internal weather.

“The only education in grief that any of us ever gets is a crash course. Until Caroline had died I had belonged to that other world, the place of innocence, and linear expectations, where I thought grief was a simple, wrenching realm of sadness and longing that gradually receded. What that definition left out was the body blow that loss inflicts, as well as the temporary madness, and a range of less straightforward emotions shocking in their intensity.” ~Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home

I read this book by Gail Caldwell a while back. Before I’d met my best friend. It was an interesting read back then. I even quoted it several times in this blog post last year.

Now I’m rereading the book as a roadmap, trying to find my way out of this jungle I’m lost in.

I had no idea I’d feel this way. I thought I’d feel sad, of course, after Kathy’s Myeloma wrenched her from life. But this isn’t anything like any sadness or depression I’ve ever felt.

There’s real, tangible physical pain. No one ever told me about that. People don’t discuss grief actually, so when would I have learned this?

And I have only one channel in my head that comes in clear enough to see or hear, the Kathy Channel. Twenty-four hours a day it plays. That bluish light that a TV screen throws out haunting the recesses of my head day and night. Oh sure, I hear and see other things. I go about my day at one-quarter speed, doing dishes, moving laundry about, showing up at places I said I’d be at.

But the background buzz, hum, light, music and weather consists of Kathy. She’d find that funny and pathetic at the same time. Glad I could humor her, sorry if I’m letting her down.

I can’t find a remote to change the emotional channel I’m stuck on.  And it takes more energy than I have to look for it and figure out the buttons if I stumbled onto it.

Insert exhaustion photo here. Picture whatever fits for you, I can’t think that hard today.

I feel successful when I get dressed. When I eat. When I carry on a conversation without saying her name or referring to her somehow.

Please don’t ask me to go to the grocery store. It takes hundreds of steps to get to the dairy section, and more energy than I have to lift the gallon of milk into the cart. And then seeming miles away the produce section waits, the logic of its order lost on me. And the loudspeaker blaring, do loudspeakers do anything else but blare? Obviously the overnight restocking crew cranks the music up and no one ever turns it down. How am I supposed to think through this grocery list with so many bad songs from the eighties and nineties blasting away at my every thought? And heaven forbid I should see someone I know. I dig up my cheerful face, drag out my pretend untired voice, pull my shoulders back to give the illusion of standing up.

I attempt all the right responses.

“Fine. Great. Tough. Getting through. Life. Goes On. Thanks. Sure. Uh huh. See ya around.”

Then I cave in on myself. I want to curl up in the shopping cart and sleep, right there beside the salad dressings and croutons and bacon bits. Pull some cereal boxes over my head like a bad blanket.

But that would indicate some kind of madness or lack of sanity or a grip slipped. So instead, I stare at the grocery list and find something on it that tells me what I should do next, if I can go home yet.

All this from a mere five-year friendship.

I can’t begin to fathom a twenty-five year marriage with half of the duo gone. It’d be like a body with no skin, all raw, exposed nerves and internal parts on fire with rage, salt encrusted, oozing.

Someone should do something to fix this. This can’t be right. Aren’t there rules or laws that make this kind of pain illegal or impossible?

Categories: Cancer, Death, Mental Health, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

More Words I’d Rather Not Need to Know


Hospice (Photo credit: ellenmac11)


My sweet friend called to let me know she had begun hospice care. She sounded relieved, happy, almost excited.

I was baffled and confused.

To me that word meant end of life. Period. And a near immediate one at that. Period.  How could she be so positive about this?  I thought of hospice as a kind of throwing one’s hands up in the air, oh well, now we’re done fighting kind of attitude. That’s not typical of my friend. After all, less than a month ago she was a patient aggressively fighting a fiercely unrelenting disease.

I’ve had it all wrong for a long time now. I’m glad I looked into it more.

So what is it? Here’s a definition I found from a place called Hope Hospice.

“Hospice is not a place. It is a special kind of healthcare focused on keeping the patient comfortable once the patient and physician have decided that the underlying disease can no longer be treated or cured. Hospice helps the patient, their families, and other caregivers and hospice care can occur in a variety of settings. It neither hastens nor postpones death and is focused on the belief that quality of life is as important as length of life. Hospice staff members help manage pain and symptoms and provide emotional and spiritual support so patients can make the most of each day.”

Here’s another new word: Palliation. It means easing the severity of a pain or a disease without removing the cause.

That word helps me understand Wickipedia’s explanation of hospice.

Hospice care is a type and philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill or seriously ill patient’s pain and symptoms, and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs. The concept of hospice has been evolving since the 11th century. Then, and for centuries thereafter, hospices were places of hospitality for the sick, wounded, or dying, as well as those for travelers and pilgrims. The modern concept of hospice includes palliative care for the incurably ill given in such institutions as hospitals or nursing homes, but also care provided to those who would rather spend their last months and days of life in their own homes.”

No more visits to a clinic or hospital sounds wonderful to someone who has spent the past five years staying in or visiting both on a daily, biweekly or weekly basis. To be cared for in one’s own home by nurses and healthcare providers relieves anxiety and frustration and improves communication. Increasing pain gets addressed quickly, logistics and questions receive almost immediate action, concern for all involved increases.

To work with professionals trained specifically for treating those with less than six months life expectancy changes the focus to comfort and communication and caring.

hospice spiralI get it now. I understand why she feels relieved and happy about being in hospice care.

She isn’t dying so much as she is living. Now that she’s isn’t battling the effects of the chemotherapy and other treatments along with the myeloma, she has an opportunity to spend better quality time with her family, make a few more wonderful memories, cherish every minute.

She’d love to take her kids to a hockey game, go to a symphony with her husband, see a few plays, spend time with extended family, eat well, laugh as much as possible, and live as long as she can. Anything anyone can do to help make any of that happen is welcome to extend a helping hand.

My hand will be held out to her as long as she needs it. And then some. I’m glad so many other hands have now joined in her care.

Categories: Death, Love | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Not my “A” Game

Do I have to show up with my A game?

Or can I just show up?

How about if I show up in my pajamas?

My A game is definitely down today. Might be best not to show up at all, even in pajamas.  Does anyone have the number for calling in sick to life?

Open bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol and Ext...

Sore throat, earache, head ache, me ache. Sleep remains elusive and fickle. The doctor and I get to chat today. With any luck I’ll leave with a prescription or two or five that will a.) help me sleep; b.) take away some of this dumb pain; and c.) cure whatever this is that’s ailing me. Maybe he can even write one up for d.) an attitude adjustment that minimizes whininess and self-pity.

It’s probably a virus. That’s why I’ve waited this long to visit with the doc. When I go to the doctor only a few days into an illness, I’m told it’s a virus, or it’s what’s going around, and I should drink lots of fluids, get rest and (ha) take it easy.

Somehow my body isn’t getting the message that this is “just” anything and that it should heal itself.

I feel so whiny and wimpy when I think of how my best buddy has suffered through five flipping years of pain, chemo and crap. And she’s done it with less whining in five years than I’ve produced in the past week. You’d think I’d have learned something from her amazing example of perseverance and perkihood and optimism.

I have.

I’ve learned that she’s exceptional and strong and gutsy. I’ve learned that she’s kept her focus on her family. Her priorities have been on three things: 1.) doing what’s essential for her own spiritual well-being; 2.) doing what she can that’s necessary in caring for her family; and with any remaining energy 3.) she does some nice stuff that brings variety and beauty and enjoyment into her life.

That order of priorities has kept her focused and hopeful and happy, in spite of the pain and loss and sickness.

So maybe I can’t bring my A game today. But maybe I can muster my B game and stop being whiny. I could do that.

Right after a nap and some Tylenol.

Categories: Family, People | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My Cousin is only Half Crazy

My cousin ran in the Phoenix Half-Marathon today. She had planned to do so last year, but a broken something in her ankle during a training run sidelined last year’s plans. 2 hours 27 minutes was all it took her to run 13.1 miles. Is that amazing or what? It is to me. She’s my hero and I’m dang proud of her today.

Phoenix Marathon 2013 t-shirt

Phoenix Marathon 2013 t-shirt

Since she’s from out-of-state, and I’m the local, I got to do the driving. I also got to do the cheering. I made a double-sided sign to encourage her along the road a few times.

One side of the sign said, “YOU CAN DO IT!” in big block letters, each colored a different bright shade of marker.

The other side of the sign said, “GO KETTIE GO!” and “YAY” along with her race number. I highlighted her name in shiny sparkles, each letter a different shade of bling. This is funny because she is the least blingy person I know.

What she did today was all BLING in my eyes.

I came prepared to cheer. I’d read up on what you should and shouldn’t say to runners to encourage them. I’d looked up funny sayings for signs. I found some suggestions for good places to set up your cheering station. I had my driving route planned to avoid traffic.  I also had brought a camp chair, a book, a drink, some snacks and a warm blanket.

My plan was to cheer for her at mile marker 4ish.  Mile marker 8ish, and for sure at the finish line.

There were police officers at the intersections near where I’d decided to set up for my first sighting of my cousin. (Boy, do they have a tough job directing traffic during an event this big.) I set up my mini temporary campsite, leaned my sign against the chair and waited for the first wave of runners.

It wasn’t long before they showed up. A small, incredibly fast foursome, a long wait, a few more, a wait, a few more and then wave after wave of people. 2500 half marathoners! I clapped, I yelled, I got off my chair and clapped some more.

Then I picked up my sign and waved and cheered. As I did so I caught the eye of a few runners as they read the words, “YOU CAN DO IT!” Some smiled, some said thanks, some did a thumbs up or cheered back.

A little while later I saw my cousin in her neon turquoise shirt and hot pink running shorts and lime green shoes. I flipped my sign over so the words, “GO KETTIE GO” were showing. I jumped and waved and screamed and high-fived her. Then I watched her run down the road and out of sight.

My cousin is on the right, in the pink shorts and turquoise shirt.

My cousin is on the right, in the pink shorts and turquoise shirt.

Time to pack up and head out to the next stop four miles away.

But then I saw the next wave of runners coming. I held up my sign for a minute more. Some had faces that said, “What did I get myself in to?” Some faces looked like pain personified. Some kept their heads down and plowed ahead. Some smiled back and said thank you.

I stood there and cheered another 20 minutes for total strangers. Every face had a story in it. Every runner was suddenly someone I wondered about, would like to talk to, hoped the best for.

I stood there so long that I missed my chance of getting to the 8 mile area I wanted to cheer at. I showed up at the 11 mile spot. I held up my sign again, saw the same red faces, the same tutus and neon socks and sweat soaked shirts.  Were they ever tired. The stories on their faces were more poignant by this time. The pain more prevalent. The wonder I had about each of them more intense.

I wanted to yell, “only 2 more miles” but there is nothing “ONLY” about 2 more miles at that point.

I saw my cousin. Switched my sign to her name. Cheered her on and saw joy and elation and energy on her face.  I couldn’t stay longer for any other runners. I hurried back to my car so I could be at the finish line.

I missed that part. Too much traffic, too big of a crowd. But that’s okay. It was her race and her personal victory. I was just a face in the crowd watching and learning and wanting to know all the stories.

The finish line is just the end of a very long chapter in a story made of many more chapters.

Last night, when I found this quote, I didn’t understand it. Now I do.

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”  Kathrine Switzer, 26.2: Marathon Stories

Putting one foot in front of the other time and again, in spite of it all, is a miracle and a wonder to me.

To all those sore-footed, blackened toenailed, achy muscled persevering half marathoners: Congratulations and Thank You.

The bumper sticker I bought for my cousin which inspired the title for this post.

The bumper sticker I bought for my cousin which inspired the title for this post. Please check out their website

Categories: Exercise, phoenix, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Moment, and Everything After

Heartbreak and Loss seldom give warning. Suddenly, they are at the door, unwelcome visitors, suitcases in hand, prepared to stay for an unrelenting visit.

At times it feels as if they’ve moved in, become part of the hum of the household, except the household no longer hums.  It jolts, and bumps, and bangs and hurts in unimaginable ways.

Fortunately, blessedly, thankfully, other visitors appear with food for the body when the soul has lost its appetite for life.

Others bring gifts of artistic wonder, of remembering, of photographs, of hugs and tears and attempts at understanding. There are those who bring laughter, some who bring laps for holding the smallest confused hearts. Some bring letters, which serve as a bulwark to support weak knees and helpless hands.

Gifts come in the form of laundered clothes, folded clean towels, floors swept, dishes done, garbage emptied, yard work finished.

Come on down and see us at the Old 193...

(Photo credit: sidehike)

Remembrances appear hanging from beautiful chains around the necks of those whose loss is unspeakable.  A photo, a talisman hanging beside the broken heart, a silver healing balm when healing seems impossible.

Music wraps itself around the injured, broken souls as a liniment, an ointment, a salve, first oil pressed from olives. The warmth of the song soothes and succors, lifts and lightens, cushions and comforts.

Love also appears at the door, and takes up residence. Love is attached to every gift, entwined in every condolence.  Love is woven in every hug. Love is wrapped among every sigh, and is the salt in every shared tear.

Love is the only real gift.

Because Love is the only solace.

Categories: Death, Love | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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