Thursday, September 24, 2009

The C Word

I have borrowed the title of this post from a friend who has a blog of the same name. She happens to be the sister of one of my very closest friends, Lynn, who is in the final stages of terminal cancer. So, I guess you know what the C stands for.

Lynn was diagnosed over 5 years ago and at the time her doctors told us - prepare for months, not years. Well, she proved them all wrong - she's had 5 relatively good years. Sure, she's had endless rounds of chemo and radiation plus a few experimental things. By almost anyone else's standard, her time may not have looked all that good - but she was just not ready to call it quits. Last year, she moved from NYC to Seattle, where her mom and two sister's live. She had reached the point where she could no longer manage her 4th floor walk-up. Her departure from NYC left a hole in the lives of her friends, me among them. I can only imagine what kind of hole her passing will leave.

A couple of months ago, the doctors just ran out of things to throw at this cancer. At the time, they said it would probably only be a couple of months. Once again, Lynn has her own time frame.

Anyway, her 60th birthday is next week and three of us are flying out to have a little party with her at the nursing facility. She is bedridden and can't sit up, but her mind is still sharp, in spite of the constant morphine. And, I know she is going to regale us with funny stories that will make us all laugh. And I also know that we will all shed private tears because this will be our last birthday celebration with Lynn. We have so many wonderful memories built over so many years, and this will be the final set. I can't wait to see her.

And, so that I can find some good in this, I hope that any women who read this will make a promise to get routine gynecological care. You see, my friend was diagnosed with Stage IV cervical cancer - a cancer that, if detected early, could have been cured. She was one of so many women who were "just too busy" to see the doctor each year for a PAP test. Such a simple thing, but one that can save lives. Spread the word - for my friend Lynn.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Night in The Town

So, last night was the annual "Taste of Newton" where they close the main street in the quaint little town of Newton and all of the local restaurants (25 or so) have food booths set up for tasting. They charge a fairly steep admission, but it is usually a nice evening. I haven't been for about 3 years, so Willie and I thought it would be a nice "date night".

It was a beautiful night - warm and not a drop of rain to be seen. When we arrived, the street was pretty tame, not too many people, so we just strolled, glass of wine in hand. There was a full range of food from mediocre to really good. Our favorite was a big hunk of dark chocolate with nuts from the local chocolaterie. Also some great cheeses from two local cheese makers. Yum. Willie loved the pulled pork barbeque.

Things started to take a turn a bit later, though. At mid street, a band started to play ... loudly. At the same time, the sun had set, so it was dark, other than street lights. And, it had gotten really, really crowded. All the perfect storm for the balance, sight and hearing impaired. It was actually kind of funny. I had been commenting that all my hiking lately has helped my overall stability. Ha. The combination of loud noise, darkness, and a sea of people completely messed up my poor brain and within minutes I was staggering around as if I'd drunk the whole case of wine, rather than just one glass. And, of course, every person I saw wanted to talk into my deaf ear. Oh lord. What a comical sight it must have been. We finally decided that I was probably going to hurt someone if we didn't leave (by crashing into some hapless fool with a full plate of food, no doubt).

It was really amazing how quickly my balance disintegrated under those conditions. My sense is that the swirls of moving people messed me up more than anything. I had gelled up my eye before we left so that I would not have to use drops, and my vision was very blurry. That, combined with the movement must have been more than my brain could sort out. The loud music was really the icing on the cake. Note to self: avoid this in the future.

All said, it was fun to get out and do something daring, though!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Absence of Sound

It has been nearly 1 1/2 years since I woke up in the hospital, deaf in one ear, and you'd think I would be completely used to it by now. Not so. And, while there are some aspects to being Single Side Deaf (SSD), there are other aspects that are strangely comforting. If you are reading this and are in the elite SSD "family", you may relate to some of my comments.

I've written before about some of the less "fun" parts of SSD. Probably the most enduring, for me, is the general sense of unease when I am in public places. It is that little element of tension that exists at all times when one of your senses is absent. It's this little twinge of always being aware that a predator could sneak up on you and you might not hear it coming. It manifests in weird ways - for example, the right side of my body is always a little stiff which comes from holding that side of my body in "high alert mode" at all times. I am much more jumpy now than I've ever been, which makes sense when you realize the fact that we are all fueled by a "fight or flight" instinct. Kind of interesting when you think about it.

But let's think for a minute about the strangely comforting aspects of being SSD. Lately I have been thinking about how comforting total silence can be. And, if you don't have some sort of fairly serious hearing impairment, you won't really probably fully appreciate this. Deafness is unlike any other type of silence. It is a complete absence of sound. I sleep with a temper-pedic type of pillow - very thick cushy foam. It does a great job of blocking out ambient and all other sound. The result is that when I sleep on my left side (which is my hearing side), I am pretty much completely deaf.

When I nestle my head down into that pillow, there is an absence of sound. I can actually feel my heart beating and in a weird sort of way, I think I can hear myself breathing - but it is not an external sound. It is all coming from within me. And, while I suppose it could be scary, I find it strangely comforting. Sirens and alarms could be blaring and I would hear --- nothing. I guess if I lived alone, this might be scary and even dangerous, but since I am usually tucked in with Willie, I just feel safe and peaceful.

Very curious to know if other hearing-challenged/SSD people experience this?

Just one more interesting experience in the post brain tumor journey...