Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dodging bullets


Room with a view, and flowers from a friend
Here are some more excerpts from the journal I have been keeping since returning from the hospital after brain surgery.  Last week, I was calling my journal "Big Baby," and for good reason. This week it changed to "Dodging Bullets," which describes more of what this all feels like some days. Next week will no doubt be different again.

2/18/14. Sleep comes in longer swaths, 3-hour stretches of it last night. The in-between times of almost maddening restlessness are shorter. Dreams are spin-offs from whatever we last watched from Netflix. I still wake at dawn, ready to start the day, eager to write and read more. Part of me watches amazed as words and sentences tumble together triggered by thought and feeling. I enjoyed writing before, but never with this intensity. 

There is maybe some trauma-induced illusion at work here, but the flow of words seems to come from some bedrock deeper within. I cling to that urge and marvel at the continuing ability to make and find meaning in language. So I am up this morning when I see it’s after 5 a.m., make coffee and toast, dress in sweats, and pull out this journal to write for a while as morning sun begins to show on clouds in the eastern sky outside my window.

Most colorful mailbox found in the neighborhood
2/19/14. Two gratitudes: (1) a shampoo yesterday to wash out the bed hair that sprouts from around the incision in my head. Today I was able to brush my hair to appear like something that could be mistaken for normal, at least from a front view. From the right side, there is this imprint that looks like I was kicked in the head by a shod horse—a perfect horseshoe shape. (2) taking a 40-minute walk with my wife around the neighborhood, using the roller-walker, my first time on foot outside the house since returning from the hospital. Moving slower than my usual brisk pace, but moving—and aware now of the gravitational pull each time we head up or down hill.

2/20/14. Mid-morning, we drove over to the Cancer Center to meet the radiology-oncologist and to get set up for radiation treatments. The moment the doctor burst into the examination room, like a long-haul truck driver, I may have felt some surprise and uncertainty, but in a minute I was glad to have her on my side. All the time I sensed that she was sizing me up, calling me “buddy,” as she talked, and she did me the honor of telling a story about her father, a man she obviously loved and respected, who fell to cancer, in mid-stride apparently, after a career as a physicist. I welcomed her candor and thanked her for trusting me with her memories of him. I believe she understood how deeply I need to avoid feeling out of control—even while I practice letting a lot of things go.

Perfect morning for sitting in the patio
2/21/14. Until now I have found it hard to post much of any personal nature on my blog. The wall around myself began to crumble with the realization that I was isolated behind it with this cancer. Instinctively I began to understand that my well being depended on reaching out to others. My wife has made the same discovery as she posts updates about our progress on FB. Yesterday she read to me a heartfelt response from a FB friend she has never met F2F that moved us both to tears. For me, it is a paradox that you tap into inner reserves of strength when you ask for help. And I’m made aware how that was not what I learned from my upbringing, where turning to others for help was a sign of weakness and thus cause for shame.

2/22/14. I awake from a nap to hear my wife’s exasperated voice, talking to someone on the phone. I learn when she hangs up, with the sound of futility and resignation, that she’s been dealing with customer service reps at hospital billing and insurance providers over a claim that the insurers regard as bogus, while the hospital has paperwork with my signature agreeing to pay any charges not covered by my insurers—never mind, as one rep admitted, that I would have been denied service had I not signed. 

We, of course, are stuck in the middle of what promises to be a long siege of these bills. I get angry, partly for being preyed on by the vultures of for-profit healthcare. But I’m also thinking anger is not a healthy, life-affirming alternative for us. I need to find a way of deflecting this kind of aggravation. It will wear us down sure as anything, and we both need our strength.

Meanwhile, the daily morning routine continues as I brew a first cup of coffee in the kitchen and watch the dawn light slowly build in the windows, thankful for another day of this bittersweet thing called life.

Previously: My left hand

Coming up: Robert Mitchum, The Wonderful Country (1959)

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing these thoughts Ron. Please continue as you feel like it.

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  2. Ron, Just a word about for profit health care as opposed to 'single payer'. I am in Canada, which has had single payer for decades, and for that time, patients in Toronto and Montreal are routinely bussed to destinations over the border in the U.S. for cancer therapy and often for non-threatening things such as MRI. Please believe me, that while the world is imperfect, you are in the far better situation. Keep well.

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    1. I don't question the quality of the health care, only the tendency to tack on fees for "services" that are not medically justified.

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  3. I'm so glad to hear of the mental energies burning in you. That is wonderful news. The medical billing irritants aren't likely to go away. we are still dealing with them for Lana's treatment.

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  4. This is so beautifully written, so acutely observed and conveyed, I feel like I am just down the road. I am glad you can walk where you are-here you wouldn't be able to do this with many feet of snow on the ground. And so much nicer to walk outside than in a mall, or gym. No one recovering from an illness should have to contend with medical bills-horrible. And I am sure you are writing from a deeper place now. And perhaps even a new one.

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  5. Ron, I marvel at your zest for life and your positive attitude. I learn something new every time I read your beautiful prose. Best wishes, Ron.

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  6. Keep up those walks, Ron, and the mental workouts which come to you in dreams and upon awakening. My step-daughter has been going through this billing nightmare after her husband's open-heart surgery, but she's is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Best of luck with the radiation.

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  7. The next to last sentence should read she's or she is, but not both.

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  8. Keep on keepin' on, Ron. Your spirit and determination are admirable.

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  9. Nicely edited and shared. Like you appreciated your doctor's trust with her memories, we appreciate your trust in us. Keep going!

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  10. Great reading and great spirit behind your writing. Despite the setbacks the rolling walker and the bills its really all about what you ended with - thankful for another day of this bittersweet thing called life. Hang in there Ron

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  11. I don't know how I missed that earlier post about your surgery - probably thought it was a book review I'd return to later. Do you have the use of your left hand back? It's the right thumb that does the spacing, anyway. So glad your mental capabilities aren't impaired - you're as witty as ever. I won't stray again. Ron, you once told me that you didn't want to review my favorite western, Red River, because it's been reviewed so much. But I really would like to read your personal review. Fingers crossed - for more than just that.

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    1. Left hand still has parts on order. PT starts this week.

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    2. Ron - I first noticed your blogs a while ago and was thoroughly enjoying your reviews of books and movies, with no idea of the medical issues you were dealing with. This post moved me to tears even though we have not met "F2F" as you say. Please continue to share and I'm sure I speak for many of your readers when I say we will contine to send healing energy and prayers.

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  12. Sending you continues good thoughts and prayers!

    With sincere good wishes,
    Laura

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  13. This is amazing, Ron. And I'm so happy to see you active again here.

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