Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Monday's Mayhem

As my treatments for Lyme go on, I was given a book to record my symptoms, thoughts, or I'm guessing, anything else I care to write down about my life in general.  I sat and looked at the little booklet and for a moment was a bit uncertain of what to write.  For one thing, there weren't enough pages to hold all the thoughts whirling through my head.  

One thing I'm taking as a good sign that the treatments are working is the fact I often feel worse afterward for a few days.  This disease is sneaky; the bacteria is camouflaged from my immune system and when there is a die-off due to the treatments my body is telling me in no uncertain terms that something is going on.  In other words, hold the line, the good guys are coming to the rescue.  Don't abandon ship. 

I found posts in support groups from other sufferers who have written their thoughts detailing what I'm going through and though it was hard to read sometimes, it has also been very helpful. I'm not alone.  

However, the endless migraines, joint aches, heart palpitations and now the latest malady, interstitial cystitis have taken their toll. Sometimes when the pain is so bad it's hard to think straight and I get caught up in a quagmire of endless circular mental debates, "Am I doing the right thing, or throwing good money after bad?  Should I keep going forward with what I'm doing, or just admit defeat?" In short, woe is me, pity-pot thinking.  And I do a lot of pity-pot thinking lately because my irritated bladder never ceases to ache.

I've also noticed a return to being unable to contain my tears which, in retrospect, is probably a good thing.  Take Monday, for instance:

Mom hasn't been feeling well again; she's not interested in eating and has vague symptoms of diarrhea and stomach upset.  When I bring her medication in the morning, I try to sit with her for a few hours to visit and observe how she's doing.  She's never used the restroom when I'm there, so I'm hoping her case is not severe. 

 Caring for Mom has been a roller coaster, especially now that I'm not feeling well at all.  I don't want to alarm her because in her current state of mind she's easily worried, so I try to put on a good front.  Her short-term memory is not great, so she often asks me the same questions many times over which can be tiring, but she's such a sweetheart.  I find myself blinking back tears of regret when I catch myself being short with her.  She cannot help it.

Since her health is precarious and I am solely responsible for her, when she told me she wanted to go the doctor on Friday, I took heed.  She never wants to go the doctor otherwise, so she must be feeling poorly.  

I called the clinic, but by 11PM there were no appointments available; I was told I could take her to an Urgent Care clinic in Green Bay, or to an ER if need be.  Otherwise, the earliest appointment was 9AM Monday which I took.  I made her promise to call me day or night if she was feeling worse, and kept a close eye on the cameras installed in her house.  She didn't seem any worse or better over the weekend.  

When Carl and I arrived to give her medication on Sunday night after roofing David's garage, she was confused.  "Why am I taking these pills again when I just took them this morning?"

Carl said cheerfully, "Oh, it's nothing new, you know I come see you every night."  She looked at him skeptically, but took the pills.

 I sat down at the table and asked her how she was feeling. 

"I'm ok, but my stomach is off."

"Well, tomorrow morning we have a doctor appointment at 9AM, ok?"

"Who does?"

"You do."


"Because your stomach is off," I said.  

Mom looked at me with a bit of disdain, one eyebrow raised.

"How do you know?"

"You just told me."

"Well, ok, I guess, if you want to go the doctor tomorrow, we'll go.  I don't know what good it will do."

Carl glanced at me across the table and I sighed and got to my feet.  I planted a kiss on her silver hair (which also needs a perm and a cut) and said, "Ok, have a good night, I'll see you tomorrow morning."

"Why?  Are we going somewhere?"

Carl had Mom write down the appointment in her notebook which is a good idea; it helps her keep track of her days.  We bid her a good night and went home for a hot shower and bed.
Thank goodness for the cameras; I'd had a rough night of tossing and turning and woke up on Monday morning at 8:20AM. I checked the camera immediately and saw that she, too, was still in bed.  I called her and we both made hurried preparations in our own homes to get ready to go.

I walked the quarter mile to her house, unlocked the door, trudged up the steps to her kitchen and made my usual route to the refrigerator for her tall glass of water.  She automatically opened her palm for the five pills as I tipped them out of the daily pill planner.  I watched to make sure she swallowed them; she's been good about it lately.

I led the way down the stairs to the garage, catching my breath when she tripped over the door sill. 

"Don't fall,"  I urged her, "You don't need a broken hip."

Mom shrugged and said, "I'll pick up my big feet."

I settled her in the car and shut the door.  She was hooking up her seatbelt as I slid behind the wheel of her Buick.

"Where are we going?" Mom asked.

"To the doctor."

"Why are we going to see him? she asked.

"Because you don't feel well," I said.

"Oh.  What is he going to do about it?"

"Well, let's hope he has a trick up his sleeve," I said.

The rest of the short trip was pleasantries about the changing fall leaves and the farm land and her usual concern about 'all the traffic on the road', "Look at all the cars!  Where are they all going do you think?"

I pulled into the clinic and since all the close stalls were taken, drove up to the covered entrance and helped her get out.  Then I went and parked the car and joined her in the building.  

She was already at the receptionist's window taking care of paying her deductible when I got there, which was impressive. Sometimes the old spark comes back and she's able to navigate the people who don't speak up enough for her to hear and their endless questions which leaves her feeling inadequate and stupid.  
The nurse took her vitals and then the doctor came in.  Dr. W is a quiet man around my age, maybe a little older.  He's been good with Mom, he has patience, and since he also has hearing problems, he understands when she asks him to repeat himself.  Mom's weight has been hovering around 96 pounds, and Dr. W jokingly told her she could be a model now.  She got a kick out of that.

"How have you been, Lucille?"

"I'm good," Mom replies.

"Why are you here today?" asks Dr. W.

At the question, my mother looks at me and shrugs.  "My daughter brought me."

"Ok.  Why did your daughter bring you?"

"Because she made an appointment."

"Ok. Why did she make the appointment?"

"I don't know, ask her."

Ha.  Well, what can you do?  Dr. W looked at me and I explained how she's been feeling and her symptoms.

"Is what your daughter saying sound about right?"

"I guess, but I can't hear everything she's saying because my hearing isn't very good," Mom said.

"It's hard when you can't hear, isn't it?" Dr. W said.  "I have hearing aids now, and I know how you feel.  You get left out of conversations because people don't realize you can't hear.  It's very lonely."

"Well, as long as people speak up, I can hear them.  But most people don't." Mom looked down at her lap.  My heart hurt.

Dr. W went on with questions and gave Mom an examination, nothing seemed amiss.  She said she wasn't in pain at the moment, so he said, "Lucille, let's do this: why don't you see how you feel in a few days?  Keep eating and drinking, it's important to eat.  And you've got your daughter to help you, let her know right away if something is wrong, ok?  If you still feel sick, you can always come back and we will do more tests.  Let's see how you do, ok?"

Mom agreed.  And then she proceeded to ask him questions about his children and his life, which he has answered before, but patiently answered again.  Bless him for taking the time for her, not many people do.

I left Mom at the door of the clinic and sprinted (as fast as my cranky bladder allowed) to the car and retrieved her.  We went to the gas station to fill up the Buick and then to the grocery store.  Mom usually doesn't like going in any more, the walk is a bit much for her, so I park her along Main Street where there's cars and people to watch while I do the shopping.  She likes to sit in the sun and watch the activity.  

It took me a little longer in the store than I'd hoped and I apologized as I put the groceries in the backseat.  

"Oh, that's all right.  It's so nice sitting here in the sunshine," Mom said.

We went for a little ride to look at pretty trees, but then I realized that I should get home and get laundry started.  I took Mom home, dealt with the groceries and then wrangled her laundry away from her; she is still not happy about our arrangement, though she doesn't argue with me as strongly as she used to.  She doesn't want to burden me.  

"C'mon, help me find your clean sheets," I said and between the two of us we had her bed remade lickety split. My mother always makes her bed first thing in the morning, I know when she doesn't feel well when the bed isn't made on my arrival. 

I gave Mom a kiss and was out the door with her laundry in a pillowcase, walking back down the road looking like a hobo.  Off to my trusty old Maytag wringer washer I went with the laundry.

  While I was washing, I was listening to a podcast on my phone about grief and loss and right there, in the midst of wringing out Mom's sheet, I broke down sobbing.  (I'll write more about that podcast, soon, to say it touched me is an understatement.)  I don't know where the emotions came from, I was a real soggy mess, wetter than the laundry, even.  I managed to pull myself together, the sun was still shining, and I had a small window of opportunity to get the wash out on the line and hopefully dry.  

Unfortunately, most of it didn't dry, so I hauled it all back in the house again just before Carl got home from work.  Carl sat down for a snack and a glass of milk while I went around the house draping still-damp laundry on every available surface.  

We had to get back to Green Bay to work on Dave's roof because rain was forecast.   We were halfway to David's house when he called and said he was out on a service call and was still 78 miles away with the company truck.  I told him not to speed, just get home in one piece and we'll do what we can when we get there.

We fished out the ladders and the tools at Dave's house and made our way back up on the garage roof.  Amazingly, it was much easier to get off the ladder now that we've done it a few times, I was happy to see I wasn't as shaky.  We both groaned when the slant of the roof hit our sore muscles though. 

Of course, we're no more than up on the roof when we realize that we need a ruler.  I went back down and got one, and climbed back up again.  Then we needed a two-by-four for measuring.  Back down the ladder and back up again.  Ok, now we need a piece of tin.  Now what?

While we're working, the next-door neighbors are standing in their yard watching us.  It's a very uncomfortable position to be in because they aren't hostile, but they're not very friendly, either.    Let's just say we were a curiosity; two old people in straw hats working on a roof tends to draw a little attention.   Dave's garage is right on the edge of the property line, so the only way to bring a piece of tin to the side we were working on would be to cross the property line.

I told Carl, "Hand it up to me from the front of the garage."

"Can you lift it?  Can you hold onto it once you've got it up there?" he asked.

"It's not that heavy, but don't step on the pile of shingles, watch where you're stepping, there's nails all over," I cautioned.

So Carl hoisted the piece of tin up to me and with surprisingly little effort, the tin behaved and remained on the roof.  And so did I.  Phew.  Chalk one up for our team!

Carl then rejoined me on the roof and after we did some calculations and measurements, we hoped we had the tin where it needed to be.  

"I wish Dave would get here pretty soon, " Carl said, as he debated if he wanted to put the first screw in the tin. 

"I think it looks good," I encouraged, "Let's just see how it goes."

And go it did.  Soon it was time for a new piece of tin, so this time I told Carl I'd go down and hand one up to him.  The sheets aren't really very heavy, but they're awkward at 8' long and 4' wide, and you don't want to scratch or dent them.  I was so glad that we worked out a system because the days are getting shorter and we had to get something done.  

In due time we heard Dave's motorcycle coming, and with his arrival we were making much better time.  I stayed on the ground and handed sheets up to the men and did all the fetching and ground work.  I've always been a good go-fer. 

"Toss me up a ruler.  Can you find a hammer?  We need some screws."  See, I go fer stuff all the time.

Finally we were down to the last two end pieces which needed to be cut.  Carl and Dave worked out a fence for the saw as a guide to ride up against and we silenced the entire neighborhood when the saw blade hit the tin.  I was holding a trouble light on an extension cord so Carl could see what he was doing while Dave held the tin in place.  Sparks were flying and I was swatting my hair with my free hand to put it out in case it caught fire. 

Once the last pieces of tin were cut, it was time to apply the ridge cap.  I cautioned both of the men on the razor sharp edges of tin; please be careful.  

Carl stayed on the ground and Dave went up the ladder to put them in place.  It was by now fully dark and we were working by flashlights.  My treacherous bladder insisted that I head for the bathroom one more time, and I took advantage of a break in the action to obey it.

I was just coming out of the bathroom when Dave came flying up the stairs, dripping blood everywhere.  Oh no, my heart sank, what happened??  I only left for five minutes.....?

"Dave!  What's wrong?!"

"I fell off the roof," he managed to say through his clenched teeth.

He had thrust his hand into the bathroom sink and the water was running red.  He'd cut his middle finger at the knuckle joint in an L-shaped pattern and it was deep. 

"How bad is it?" I asked, not wanting to look but knowing I had to.  "Are you hurt anywhere else?"

"I don't know," he said, "I haven't had time to look."  He continued letting the wound bleed out awhile longer while I inspected his feet.  Why was he barefoot?  Thank goodness there were no nails sticking out of him! 

What happened was he decided to take off his shoes so as not to mar the tin roof when he walked across what was already installed, not realizing that the dew made the tin impossibly slippery.  He lost his footing and fell face first on the pile of shingles we hadn't picked up yet, all the shingles with their nails sticking straight up.  And just as he hit the ground he heard the screw shooter (a very heavy drill) land right next to his head.  Thank God he wasn't hurt worse.  

I told him I thought his finger needed stitches, but he said he's had worse.  We disinfected the wound and wrapped him up and called it quits for the night.  We put away all the tools and I gave him a hug and warned him to stay off the roof until we are there; this isn't a job anyone should do alone.

Carl and I went home in a subdued state.  We realize how lucky we were that Dave wasn't in the hospital.  Dave's always been my bloody son; if you can find the end of the string that holds him together he'd fall apart from all the stitches he's had.  Of course, riding motorcycle is also another nightmare for us both; but he knows how I feel about that.  I can't talk, both Carl and I rode motorcycles too, back in the day.

Once we got home, the long day wasn't over even though it was 9PM.  Carl went to give Mom her medication and I went to the stove to cook supper.  Finally we sat down to eat just before ten.  It was then that I noticed little pieces of tin were stuck in everything, one fell out of my hair and landed on my supper plate.  

I broke down and shed a few more tears then; stress overcomes me at times.  I was so glad Dave hadn't broken any bones, but the shock hadn't worn off yet.  Carl didn't notice my tears because he was fast asleep with his head hanging sideways off his chair; every morning he's up at 5AM and he's exhausted.  I got over my crying jag (I truly think this is part of the Lyme thing) and shooed Carl off to the shower while I did the dishes.

Thankfully Mom seems much better today.  I'm going to brave my scaredy-cat ways and head into town to Dave's house this afternoon and see what he and I can do about picking up all the old shingles.  Now if someone could give me some hints on calming anxiety while driving in traffic, let me have 'em.  

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  I can do this.  


Wish me luck.




FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Oh my gosh dear Karen ~ What a time you are having! I am glad Dave wasn't hurt any worse than he was. How scary!

Shedding tears is good! You all are in my thoughts and prayers.

Love & hugs ~ Rainey

Alison said...

Oh Karen. Sometimes I sit reading your blog and I gasp and make other sounds, and Nigel always asks me in a concerned voice, "What's wrong?"

I'm glad your mom is feeling better but so sorry to read about David. I'm going to be blunt, his neighbors sound like jerks.

Do you take probiotics? There's a certain strain that has helped me with both my anxiety and my migraines. If your Lyme treatment involves antibiotics, they might help.

Karen said...

Rainey, thank you. Yes, I've been in a really misty mood lately, but you're right, tears are very cleansing, I do feel better afterward. (And everyone stayed on the roof in one piece last night!)

Karen said...

Alison, I'm sorry to upset Nigel! You'll have to give him a warning that you're reading my posts again and then he'll know it's nothing to worry about. :-)

Yes, Dave's neighbors are different, but we're not used to having people so close by, so it's an all-new experience for us old folks. Having an audience while you work is, well, weird.

Yes, I take a pricey probiotic (orthobiotic) for about a year now, and just recently started Mom on them (but oh, brother, she's not happy about it). I was on antibiotics from February to August; now I'm having IV blood irradiation once a week which started two weeks ago, eight more times left. We'll see how it goes. :-)

El Gaucho said...

Karen - You are truly an inspiration. The work you and Carl do in your garden and at your sons' house would be impressive enough, but doing all this with the patience of caring for your Mom at the same time...and struggling with these health issues. Any one of those things by themselves would be enough to keep a normal person stuck in bed, resting and recovering. You should know that you are an impressive and exceptional person.

Karen said...

El Gaucho, thank you for your kindness; words fail me. :-)