Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wasting My Time On Wastful Thoughts

My son has pinkeye - again. My son has an ear infection - again. I am back on some kick ass strong antibiotic that could still give me hives that my doctor insists I take even though my feet are sometimes itchy, which makes me wonder if my lung abscess is a lot more serious than I thought, and then I scold myself because I sound like an old person obsessed with my health. And more importantly, I sort of now understand why old people are so obsessed with their health.

The upside or so I assume is that these kick ass strong antibiotics should clear up any pinkeye I might get from my son. And then today I see some goop forming in the corners of my eye.

Despite my experiences, I managed to remain humble yet optimistic about my family's health - particularly the health of me and my son who seemed to be hit the hardest these past few months. I didn't think we could possibly get sick again anytime soon, but the sickness never seems to end.

I thought I was being punished because I took my health for granted. Maybe I am being punished in part because I took my health for granted, but I am not taking my health for granted anymore and things still aren't getting better. What gives?

Where to begin? Maybe I have struggled with a looming sense of dissatisfaction that has resulted from my combination of high expectations coupled with low fearlessness. Throughout my life I have come to points where I wish I could travel back in time and do something differently. I would even imagine my alternative life in the present time based on my different action at some point in the past. I knew the exercise was pointless. I would tell myself to just move forward making different decisions, but fear would always consume me.

The past few months, I have been so consumed by fantasies of an alternative life, and part of me enjoyed the escape. I enjoyed it, and at the same time, felt sort of silly, knowing nothing good would come of fantasy, and felt somewhat tortured realizing this fantasy couldn't become a reality - or could it?

And then I feel guilty for not appreciating what I have. I have what I always wanted, a family. I thought once I had a family, I would have everything, and for a while I felt lucky, as if I did have everything so why do I now want more?

While I love my kids, my life consists of one mundane task after the other. I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, change diapers, bath kids, and live in a small blue collar New England town. I remember the fantasies I had when I was younger, my dreams of visiting Australia, and maybe Europe, dreams I have yet to fulfill. Now I'm literally up to my elbows in sh!t, and I ask myself - is this the rest of my life?

I can't help but wonder if my bout with illnesses is somehow connected to my constant fantasies of an alternative life. Is God trying to get me to appreciate my life or maybe as that crude expression goes, "sh!t or get off the pot"? Should I decide if I am going to fearlessly pursue my dreams no matter what or just give up my dreams and lower my expectations? Is there something to be said about having low expectations?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Health and Humility

When I was 6, I had pneumonia to the point where I had to be hospitalized. I was in the hospital for 10 days. Of course this was, ahem, 30 years ago and hardly anyone is hospitalized that long for anything anymore, but my point is, I must have had a bad case of pneumonia.

After that one really bad illness, I have remained pretty healthy, maybe getting one minor cold a year at most. Until I had a c-section at 32, I had never been operated on, and my doctor was amazed at how quickly I recovered, bounding up the stairs 4 days after my operation, only to remember half-way up the stairs, I wasn't supposed to do that. When I had a repeat c-section three years later, I recovered just as quickly.

I seemed so healthy, I actually became a little bit arrogant about my health, as weird as that may sound, like I was some invincible superhuman who rarely got sick and when I did, I recovered quickly. I think God is punishing my arrogance and complacence about my health. I don't know how else to explain my bad health luck recently.

The past 3 months, between my two kids, I have been dealt with one health issue after another, ultimately with me getting sicker than I have been in a long time. Here's the timeline:

Early November: I'm horrified to learn that my 3 1/2 year old got lice. A week later, I'm even more horrified to learn that after escaping childhood lice-free, I get my first case of head lice at age 36 from my daughter. The resulted in two weeks of frustration.

Thanksgiving: My 8 month old gets his first ear infection. His cold is so bad that he has wheezing and hives, and has to be treated with a vaporizing thingy.

A week later: My son has his follow-up exam on a Friday to check his ear. The pediatrician says his ear looks fine, but that it looked like he was getting another cold and he could get another ear infection that Monday.

The following Monday: My 8 or 9 month old gets another ear infection and pinkeye.

Around Christmas time: I start to feel horrible. The day after Christmas I find out I also have pinkeye and a double ear infection. While my husband got ear infections all the time as I child, I never did. After escaping childhood ear infection-free, here I am getting my first known ear infection X2 at age 36.

A few days after that: My son's ear infection did not clear up after the first round of antibiotics and he has to go on a second round of antibiotics. My daughter gets an ear infection.

Around the same time: I seem to be getting better, and then I woke up with odd back pain, covered in sweat. I took my temperature, and it was between 99 and 100, which didn't seem too bad. Not wanting to go back to the doctor, I popped some Ibuprofen and seemed fine.

Two or three days later: The back pain seems to have gone away and I feel fine after being off medication for over 24 hours.

One day later: I wake up with pain so unbearable, I am in tears. I pop some Ibuprofen and go to the clinic. There I have an X-ray to rule out pneumonia. When the doctor said, "I have to talk to you about your X-ray," I try not to freak out. The X-ray showed some anomaly. I would have to get a CAT scan.

About a week later: The CAT scan shows some sort of abscess. I have to get a biopsy. I try not to entertain fears of cancer.

About a week later: Rob drives me through a snow storm to the city to get a biopsy. Since daycare is closed due to weather, my mother-in-law watches the kids. When we drop off the kids at the in-laws, their street hadn't even been plowed. Luckily their house is one of the first houses on the street, and Rob manages to plow through the snow, and carry the kids into their house.

The biopsy concludes I have a lung abscess.

"It's a good thing you came in today and didn't reschedule due to weather," said the surgeon who performed the biopsy. "Did you have pneumonia?"

"Yes," I said, "when I was 6."

"No, I mean more recently. It looks like you had improperly treated pneumonia."

This came as a shock. I had that same cold with pinkeye that seemingly everyone in the state got. No one I know got pneumonia from this cold. I never suspected I could have had pneumonia.

As a Mom, I was so hung up on my kids health that I neglected my own, which as a Mom, is the worst thing I could do.

As I was contemplating the possibility of cancer, I prayed, "Please God, keep me around. My kids need me."

And then I realized just how much I took my health for granted. I realized I am no superhuman. I am human. And I can't continue assuming I will remain healthy with minimal effort.

I could be on antibiotics for the next two months. After being on two different antibiotics for about 10 days, I got hives, and had to stop until they cleared up. Now I have to start one of the antibiotics again to determine which one is causing the reaction.

All of these issues caused me to reluctantly ween my son two months earlier than I planned.

I do feel optimistic, however. I don't have cancer. And I'm left with a sense of humility and recognize my own mortality.