Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

It’s Good To Be The Boss March 4, 2013

Filed under: It Ain't Easy Being Me,Work — Meredith @ 12:34 pm

Some people have hobbies to occupy their free time. Things like knitting, or learning karate, or dating.

I have a publishing company. Sort of the same thing, though right? It occupies the majority of my free time and it seems like every time I turn around I need to spend more money on it.

But its also fun, and lets me do some really creative and awesome things like providing the platform for the words of my friends and some talented friends of friends to be shared with the world.

Those are the days – the days when a writer sees their words in print, or their name listed on Amazon – that rock. Those are the days that make publishing feel like the best possible use of my free time.

The most recent book I published is called Sucker for Love, The Book: True Tales about Loves Found, Lost, and Imagined, and it was published in partnership with my good friends over at SpeakeasyDC.

I took ten stories that have been told at the annual Valentine’s Day show called Sucker for Love over the past 4 years and asked the storytellers to adapt them to fit the page. Which mostly meant using words to explain things that had been conveyed with tone or posture on stage.

And…I happen to be one of the stories that I included. Because what’s the point of running a publishing company and giving all your evenings and weekends over to it if you can’t publish your own work, right?  Right. Although I’m realizing its a little bit terrifying to have my words out there in the world for everyone to read and judge. I now have a renewed respect for published authors, and a great appreciation for what it takes for them to get out and sell their book. I’m still going to ask them to do it ALL THE TIME, but I have a new respect for what that takes.

But back to me. So my story is called Milestones, and it’s the story about the first time I took Chris home to meet my family. Its the same story I wrote this blog about, and while you may think its weird for me to keep the blog up (with the video of the  story) while I’m trying to sell a book with that story in it, the idea is that the two mediums are complimentary ways for people to experience storytelling, and not in competition with each other.

The book is also a fundraiser for SpeakeasyDC – 50% of all profits from the book will be donated to them, and this partnership will hopefully be a template that Possibilities Publishing can use for working with other non-profits.

So if you’d like to read the book, you can get it as an e-book OR a paperback through Amazon:

Or through Barnes & Noble

Or, if you live near me or are going to be seeing me in the near future, I have a stock of books I can give you for the “show price” of just $10 (which is a few dollars less then you’ll find it on-line).

And if you buy it through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, please leave a review! That’s the best way to help us sell more books!

 

2012: How it Went Down February 2, 2013

Remember way back last year, when 2012 was all sparkly and new and seemed like it was gonna be a lot of fun, and my friend Tara (from Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy) and I wrote New Year’s Resolutions for each other?  Then at the 6 month mark we both went through and did a progress report, and now, apparently, we have to actually be accountable for the rest of the year as well.

There’s talk of us doing this exercise again this year as well, but part of me thinks that maybe if I don’t remind her she’ll forget.

Except the whole telling HER what to do with her life part is super fun.

Maybe when she sees how badly I did with this year, she’ll let me off the hook and just let me do resolutions for her…

But if I do have new resolutions to do, now we only have 11 months left in 2013 so that’s going to be my excuse for anything I don’t accomplish this year.

Well, I’ve stalled long enough. Here they are. Don’t judge me too harshly…

Find and make a home. A real home. Whether it’s by yourself or with your man or with a cute little kitten named Rhett. Find a place you adore and want to stay in for a long time. A place that feels like yours. It has to hold all your important stuff, like your shoes and your books and your random photos. I’d really like to add a caveat about keeping it orderly and clean-ish, but I feel that might make your place less yours, which entirely defeats the purpose.

Here’s what I’ve decided on this: Home is not so much defined by the address that your bills go to, or the location of all those fancy shoes I never wear anymore anyway. Home is the place where I can let my guard down, where I feel most myself, and where I’m surrounded by people who love me. As such, I have several homes at the moment. That’s just how I roll. I’m calling this one completed.

Do not text and drive. Ever. As your mom says, you need to “concentrate”.

Totally on top of it. I exercise extreme self-control while the vehicle is in motion. If I’m going to die in a fiery car crash its going to be for a much less embarrassing reason than texting.

Continue to stay in touch with your body. Exercise, nourish, and strengthen it in the best way you know how. I want you to feel and be healthy for a very long time. It’s not impossible that we’ll be in the same nursing home someday and I want you to stay cute enough to rock a colostomy bag.

I have no idea how to rate myself on this one. In general, I feel like my body and I did not do well in 2012. I’d like to spend less time thinking about my body in 2013, which isn’t to say I’m going to go all “People of Wal-mart”, I plan to get my money’s worth out of my gym membership, but I’m hoping to spend a lot less time thinking and talking about my body in 2013.

Decorate your own Christmas tree. Like a real one, where you go and pick out at least 75% of the decorations and put a lopsided star on top. May I suggest candy canes as decoration?

I feel like this is part of the first one about having a home, and while I did help Chris decorate his Christmas tree this year, we just used all the same decorations as he’s used the last few years. But I don’t really mind. I find shopping for things like Christmas decorations to be somewhat overwhelming and Chris’s tree looked really nice. So this is a big fat failure but I’m kind of OK with that.

Get moving on this book we’re supposed to be writing. I look to you to be the leader on this project. Lead by writing, as I’m greatly influenced by peer pressure.

Well, while you’re off writing a book that has nothing to do with the book we were supposed to write together, I’ve been setting up a publishing company andpublishing other people’s books. And some of my writing is making its way into some books – first in the book Sucker for Love, and I’ve also been asked to contribute to another writer’s anthology but I have no idea when that’s going to be published.  So we are both producing books in one form or another, now we just need to do it together.  So, in other words, keep this on the list.

Keep your standards high when it comes to your romantic partnership. I know this whole “grown-up relationship” thing is kind of new to you, but I really think you’re getting the hang of it. I would like to shake you really hard to ensure that you learn from all of my mistakes, but I think this long, drawn-out, whiny way that I communicate about my failed relationship seems pretty effective. 

Nailed it. I’ve gotten so good at this grown up relationship thing, it’s not even funny. Mostly because Chris makes it so easy. But it still counts.

On a somewhat related note; don’t be afraid that you’re going to screw up this whole love story that you and Chris have going on. You’re not. If it gets screwed up, both of you will be able to take a bow. So just . . . be present in your relationship. Recognize where you are emotionally. And please, don’t be afraid to plan ahead for the life you want to have together.

Nailed this one too. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much of the last year obsessing about my physical issues that I didn’t have time to obsess about my relationship, but sometimes I go whole weeks without worrying that we’re going to break up. That’s called progress, baby.

Keep storytelling. It’s a gift you have and it should be shared. Most importantly, make sure to post it on youtube. If I can’t be there, then I need to be able to access it later.

I haven’t had the bug for getting up on stage lately, not sure why, but as a result I have only the one story to show from 2012. However, I’m still well ensconced in the storytelling world. And I’ll always tell stories – just not always on a stage. Or in front of a camera.

Consider getting a kitten. Like, one you’ve picked out yourself and named after some random fictional character or a TV star from an 80s sitcom.

As I said at the 6 month check in. I would LOVE to get a kitten. But now is not the time. You know the whole “many homes” thing from the first item? Well a kitten would totally slow my roll.

Self-host your blog. Get legit, girl.

Meh. I love this blog, and I wish I had more time to write on it, but one thing I’ve learned over the last year, is that for now at least, it’s always going to be at the low-end of my priority list because it exists purely for my own indulgence. If I were part of a niche, (like mommy blogging), or even if I was still a young and crazy single girl writing about my wild dating exploits, I might be able to leverage the blog to some personal or financial advantage. But as is…its just a creative writing outlet, which I TOTALLY NEED TO DO MORE OF. But paying for hosting isn’t going to make me do that. Becoming independently wealthy and having much more free time will though, so put that on the list for 2013.

Tap into your insight when it comes to your own emotions. Listen to yourself. Listen for that little tingly noise that sounds when your comfort level has been surpassed. Once you hear it, do something about it. Talk to someone, write it out, sing in the car in your loudest voice. Just don’t stuff it down until it erupts in a flood of tears and incoherence. You’ve got a bunch of people who’ve got your back but we’re only useful when you communicate, even if it’s initially in a series of bumps and false starts.

I’m getting better at this. Chris and I totally had a serious conversation that didn’t involve any crying, and then one where I only cried for a few minutes before I was able to speak. I’ll keep working on it though.

 Leave the country at least once in the year 2012. You’re the type of person who may very well get old and become a homebody who doesn’t drive and eats ¼ cup of raisins for breakfast every morning. You need to travel while you’re still spry and can figure out how to use a bidet and tolerate people with weird accents.

This didn’t happen, due to health and financial reasons. But I did get right up against the border with Canada and looked over it and pointed at Canadian people, so I get half a point for that.

Make a three-year plan for your career. Map out something long-term and realistic, but challenging. It could be writing a novel. Officially becoming a freelancer. Searching the want ads until you find something that you’ll really love. I can’t pretend to guess what would be the absolutely perfect job for you, but I want you to focus on figuring it out. You are so talented and I would like you to be emotionally and financially satisfied by the work you do.

Done, and thy name is Possibilities Publishing Company.

Attend BlogHer’12 with me. I promise you, you will be inspired.

Not my fault. But I still like the idea…but maybe instead of traveling somewhere together and having to pay for a hotel AND conference registration fees we could just have a girls weekend away somewhere fun?

Challenge yourself physically at least once this year. Like, run a 5K. Swim across a small lake by yourself. Go camping without the benefit of an electrical hookup. Something outside of your comfort zone that requires the use of your body.

I totally did this!! I road a bike (for the first time in like 15 years) 18 miles down a mountain. I may have ridden the breaks for the first 5 miles, but after that I totally rode at a normal speed. For me, a normal speed for me, which is to say slowly. But I went over a few little jumps and totally felt like a badass several times. Not the times when then 9-year-old passed me, but plenty of other times.

Acknowledge the fact that you are not some sort of grouchy curmudgeon who believes the worst in people. Yes, you had Drew pegged long before I did. Yes, you are better than me at ejecting people from your life who are toxic. But at the end of the day, you are this loving, positive force to the people around you. Own it. Own it enough to direct it toward yourself.

First of all, 90% of people suck 90% of the time. That’s just science. So me being a grouchy curmudgeon is a normal response to life.  Also, I feel that my cynicism is a necessary balance to your endless amounts of faith in humanity (notice I didn’t call it naiveté? You’re welcome.)  You need my darkness, girl.

And lastly, I’m going to save the best for last,and quote your very words back to you. They’re brilliant. Never waste a second of your time or energy on anyone who doesn’t immediately find you hilarious, brilliant, talented, loving and perfect just the way you are.

This is just something that everyone should always do, so we should keep it on our lists forever.

 

Lady Lumps October 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meredith @ 8:22 pm

They say that it’s during times of stress that you really find out what you’re made of.

Well if that’s true, then I’m apparently made out of sugar, carbs and a bottomless hole for a stomach.

My surgery is on Thursday. As in the day after tomorrow.

I’ve been doing pretty good up until last night. Last night was when the bottomless hole opened up. I ate a larger than normal serving of one of my favorite, very Paleo dinners. And 40 minutes later felt like I’d never eaten at all.

This morning I woke up with a generalized feeling of anxiety and after confirming I hadn’t forgotten anything, wasn’t avoiding anything, and I didn’t have any unpleasant confrontations looming, I deduced that it was nerves related to my impending surgery.

.

I’ve been in a bad mood all day.

Like a look-at-me-wrong-and-I’ll-kick-you-twice- in-the-knee-and-then-spit-on-you mood. Actually, you don’t even have to look at me wrong.

But you know what helps? Food. Specifically sugary carby food. Food I haven’t eaten in this quantity since my last visit to Twig’s house.

Except then it made me go all diabeticy and cranky, and had no real advantage in my life.

This time it makes me human.

I can’t explain it, but this is what I know:

Exhibit A: Raging bitch all morning. Went to grocery store, and spent whole time imagining committing acts of unspeakable violence against every person I encountered. Bought GF cookies, chocolate muffins, bagels and cream cheese. Got in the car and ate a cookie. Before I’d even finished the cookie I’d transitioned back into a nearly human state. I even smiled at one point on the drive back to work.

Came back to the office, heated up GF chicken tenders and my favorite veggies for lunch. Veggies were gross, chicken tenders heavenly. Ditched veggies, ate chicken fingers with my fingers.

Exhibit B: Two hours pass and I feel the monster coming back. Consume entire GF chocolate muffin. I’m almost cheerful.

Which is not SO remarkable, because who isn’t happier after eating a chocolate muffin, right? The thing is, on a normal day, if I’d eaten an entire chocolate muffin, I’d have a stomach-ache, and likely a headache from the sugar. But instead, I start to resemble a human again, and then 45 minutes later, I’m hungry AGAIN, so I make a bagel and cream cheese and I retain my human form for a little while longer.

Clearly my body has decided that I’m about to enter a concentration camp and must stock up for the lean times ahead.

Also, the junk food feels like a treat to compensate for the pain and stress of the impending surgery. And thinking about everything I’m going to eat in the next few days helps to offset the anxiety.

I’ve tried to keep things in perspective by reminding myself that Chris’s surgery was a way bigger deal. That doesn’t work at all. Because even though my surgery will be about 1/10th as serious and traumatizing, and my recovery about 1/100th as taxing or long, I plan to behave as if it’s exactly the opposite.

Because I’m a gigantic baby. Seriously, when the hives started from the steri-stips after my last biopsy, I had to leave work. Because sitting at a desk with two dime sized hives on my boob was too taxing. I have no ability to judge pain on a scale of severity. You know those charts they show you to judge your pain level, where there’s a smiley face at 1 and an angry crying face at 10? Its like I have autism when I look at those charts: all the facial expressions seem to signal the exact same thing: PAIN.

Chris has no idea what he’s in for.

But there is one saving grace. Once thing that might stop me from wallowing in a puddle of cream cheese, self-pity and percocet, and that is that I have a new project.

Remember back in June when I announced that my dad and I had published a book? Well, shortly after that my Uncle Vic asked me to publish a book he’d written. And somewhere in there I realized that I really enjoyed the work. But I also realized that there was only much I could do in terms of helping them market their books as an individual. There are still a lot of doors closed to self-published authors. So I decided to set up a company so that they can say they have a publisher and have more access to reviewers and bloggers and marketing outlets. And the main way that you become a company is to have a name (Possibilities Publishing Company) a logo and a website. So I devoted several evenings and weekends (and several of Chris’s evenings and weekends) to creating those things (and filing some paperwork, but that part’s boring), and now I have a company!

Then, a friend heard what I was doing and asked if I would help her publish the digital version of her book.  Then she told one of her friends who also needed a new publisher for her e-book, and suddenly everyone has a book they want published.

So for the last month or so, this has been my all-consuming project. And at some point it became Chris’s all-consuming project too. One minute he was offering some web design advice, the next he was named Director of Technology and Design and was handed a task list.  One of his main job responsibilities is to identify ways for me to work smarter instead of harder, which most of the time blows my mind. There’s a program or an app for EVERYTHING.  Every night after dinner we sit down at his dinning room table, him on his lap top and me on mine, and we work on the company. And no matter how many times I try to convince him we should take a night off to watch TV, he never falls for it, just pulls out his computer and asks me what the “must do” project is for that night.

I know, right?

The work is interesting, challenging, satisfying and energizing. And it couldn’t have come along at a better time.

One of the side effects of these lumps and the diagnostic process is feeling endlessly out of control of my life and of my body. It’s a constant balancing act between what to tell people and what to keep to myself, between trust and skepticism, compliance and self-advocacy. Plus, I don’t know for sure how this story is going to end – the post excision biopsies could be benign, or they could be…not. Without something to occupy my mind I’d spend all my free time trying to guess what will happen based on made up clues.

But instead I think about publishing. And marketing. And mailing lists. When I can’t sleep I ponder the statistics related to book sales for Kindle versus Nook, instead of statistics related to how often my type of lump turns out to be cancer. In the shower, instead of feeling my glands to see if they are swollen, I think of marketing campaigns.

And maybe most important of all, instead of wondering how long I can drag out my recovery so I can watch marathons of bad reality TV while Chris brings me gluten free brownies, I wonder how quickly I’ll be able to get on my laptop and get back to publishing.

As far as profitability goes, it’s probably going to be years before its net worth equates to provides me with a living, but for now its making me feel like I have a life worth living, so I’ll take it.

 

Follow-Up October 2, 2012

Filed under: It Ain't Easy Being Me — Meredith @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Dear Nurse Valarie,

Hi. Remember me? I’m sure you don’t. I called a few weeks ago about the Breast MRI that you guys refused to pay for? I’m sorry, that’s probably not specific enough. I bet you decline so many claims they all start to run together after a while.

It doesn’t really matter, I just wanted to let you know how it went. I’m a big fan of giving feedback.

First of all, I think its important that you understand that every medical person I’ve interacted with thinks you suck.  (I know you personally didn’t decline the order for an MRI, you just read me the notes in my file. But you’ve heard of shooting the messenger? Yeah, well that’s what’s happening here. I’m pissed off and its much more satisfying to be pissed at  person than a faceless company.) I’m sure you understand, right, Nurse Val? Can I call you Val? I feel like we can use nicknames since you claim to know so much about my boobs and what I should do with them.

So anyway, pretty much everyone thinks you were really stupid for refusing the MRI. And mean. Well, I guess I’m probably the only who actually used the word “mean”, since I’m the one who had to have the stereotactic biopsy. You know, the one you so calmly identified as a reasonable alternative to the MRI? Remember?

As I was laying on my stomach on that hard table, with my boob so inelegantly stuffed through a hole, my body contorted unnaturally to support the effort, I wondered if you’d ever had a procedure like this, or even seen one done, and I came to the conclusion that you had not. Because if you had, if you had any grasp of how humiliating it felt to be raised up on a table so the doctors and nurses could work under me – not unlike a car at a mechanic’s; if you knew about the pain and dehumanization that results from having a nurse sit under you and pull at your breast like she was milking a cow because the lump is so close to your chest wall that she needs every inch of tissue to get it in the target of the mammogram rays; if you had any idea of how, after being squished in a mammogram for 30 minutes while they stuck needles in you, it would hurt to even breath for the next 12 hours, if you had any idea at all about any of that, you would at least have had the decency to sound human when you told me that was my only option. Instead you sounded like a condescending corporate drone scolding a child who was trying to take a short cut around something obvious and easy.

But let’s get back to how everyone thinks you suck. So first, there was my surgeon, who as you can tell by her title is smarter than you and more qualified to make health care related decisions than you. When I told her what you’d said about the MRI, she rolled her eyes, and said among other things, “Are. You. Kidding me? That’s absurd. She’s an idiot.” (Ok, she said “they’re idiots” because she didn’t know about you, but I know she meant you.) I’m not sorry to say, I readily agreed. We brainstormed a few ideas for trying to change your mind, but ultimately decided I could very well die of a cancer I didn’t yet have faster than we could convince you to change your mind.

Next was Nurse Annie at the radiology center who assisted during my stereotactic biopsy. The one who held my hand and rubbed my back while the first needles were inserted so that I wouldn’t flinch at the burning sensation of the numbing agent and mess up the alignment of the biopsy needle. The one who reminded me of my mom in her build and the way her hand felt in mine. As I was waiting for my incision to clot, she asked what the results of my MRI had been. When I explained about your refusal, she started to call you some choice names before she caught herself. Then she too rolled her eyes and said “It is so asinine that they develop these technologies that are better and quicker and easier to use, but then won’t let us have access to them. How does that make sense?” I didn’t have an answer for her Nurse Val, do you? Now, I know, she’s a nurse, you’re a nurse, so it seems like her opinion doesn’t out weigh yours in the same way the surgeon’s does. But I think she’s a much smarter and better nurse than you are Val, I mean look at the facts: she assists doctors in a radiology department of a breast diagnostic center. You sit in an office somewhere, answering phones, doing an insurance company’s bidding. I mean, you see what I’m saying, right Val?

I have hope that as years go by, MRI technology will be refined and made cheaper so that it can be more accessible. I also have hope that some day, insurance companies will consider the invasiveness and physical toll of a procedure along with the bottom line. I’m not holding my breath, but a girl can hope.

I want to tell you that I hope one day you get to experience what I’m going through – the indignities, pain, and fear that accompany all the tests and all the waiting (waiting that was extended because of you). But I’d be lying if I said that. It’s too awful a thing to wish on any woman, even you, Nurse Val. So you just keep sitting there in your nice office building, playing ruler of the world, secure in the knowledge that you’ll never have to be the one holding the hand of a scared and suffering young woman, or that you won’t ever have to look into the eyes of a woman as she climbs down from a procedure table, her whole body sore, her spirit dampened, knowing that there was another option.

I know this little missive isn’t going to create any major changes. I’m not that naive. I have only one hope for this feedback, Nurse Val. I’m asking, woman to woman, that next time you have to tell a woman she has to have a stereotactic biopsy, try to sound a little sympathetic. Or at least human. Or at the very least not condescending. If you can manage it.

Sincerely,

Case number 732-78-641 (aka Meredith)

 

Taking Charge September 17, 2012

Get it? This is Charles, from “Charles in Charge”? High five for the awesome 80’s reference!

The problem with thinking that you are a hostage, is that you start to forget there’s any other way to be. You start to settle into the situation, despite how unpleasant it is.

After writing that blog post this weekend about being hostage to our health care system, I had fresh perspective on how ridiculous it was, and I was all “I’m breaking out of here. Hand me a shovel!”

And by “shovel” I mean my insurance card with the number of member services on it.

I’d contemplated this route a few times over the last two weeks, but each time I thought about it I pictured myself lost in a maze of menu options and terrible hold music. Instead I tried going into my profile on my health insurance website to see if there might be information there, but only found a list of all the claims that had been approved. Along with the percentage of each bill that I was responsible for. After I finished dry heaving and posting all of my belongings on Ebay, I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with sitting on hold all day.

But that was more than a week ago. Today I pulled out my insurance card and dialed before I could change my mind. Then I settled in for an afternoon of web surfing while a recorded message tells me they are experiencing a higher than normal volume of calls why don’t I try getting what I need from their website? Which is more annoying than actually being on hold, because  isn’t the internet almost everyone’s first step anyway? Does anyone choose to be on the phone when the internet is an option?

But before I could even get on Jezabel.com, I was speaking to a customer service representative. A real person who spoke clear and accurate English. It was like I was in a dream.  She explained to me that only a nurse could discuss my claim with me. She transferred me and even told me the name of the nurse I would be speaking to.

Which I immediately forgot, so when a few seconds later someone else picked up the line and asked who I was holding for I said something like “Um, a nurse…who was going to…um…tell me about my claim…or something…” The woman said “you’re holding for Valerie”, which immediately sounded familiar, but before I could agree, I was speaking with Valerie. Something feels entirely wrong with the world when the best customer service I’ve gotten this year is from a huge insurance company that is otherwise fucking up my life.

Valerie told me that I couldn’t have an MRI without a biopsy. I pointed out that I’d had a biopsy. Valerie responded that I’d only had one biopsy but the report indicates I have two lumps. Valerie informed me that I needed to biopsy the second lump before having the MRI. “But the doctor can’t see the lump very well, which is why she wants the MRI,” I explained. “There are other options you can explore, like a guided biopsy, ” Valerie said in a tone that was both condescending and bored.  Apparently she was very accustomed to us lazy people trying to get away with these willy-nilly breast MRI’s. On account of how fun it is to be topless among strangers while sticking your boob through a hole in a table before being put into a tiny enclosed space. Although it is much preferable to  being topless while strangers stick needles into your boob. Before I could respond she explained this was an inflexible policy and that the only options I had were to have my doctor appeal it, and to then appeal it myself, which would take months and probably wouldn’t work anyway.

So I hung up with Nurse Valerie and called my radiologists, who was the one pushing for the MRI, and explained the situation.

She said that she was afraid this would be the outcome and agreed it wasn’t worth wasting the time to fight it, and so we should just move ahead.

She gave me two options: 1) have a guided biopsy using mammogram technology (I’m assuming that means they squish my boobs in a mammogram machine and then shove a needle in, but I could be wrong. Hopefully I’m wrong. She started to explain the procedure but I stopped listening after “mammogram”), 2. proceed with the surgery that has already been recommended from the first biopsy (not malignant, but will just keep getting bigger and more painful) and take the second lump out at the same time and biopsy it then.

The downside to the second option, is IF, by some random and unlikely chance the second mass is malignant, then I may have to have a second surgery because the surgeon likely wouldn’t have removed enough surrounding tissue. I’d rather have another biopsy than have to have two surgeries. Also, I like the idea of the surgeon having as much information as possible before going in. So guided biopsy it is.

It’s scheduled for this Friday, and I’m sure its gonna be a hoot.

While I was doing all of this – talking to the insurance company and the radiologist – I felt super empowered and grown up and in charge of my life. It felt good getting these things sorted out.

But as soon as I hung up the phone, Stockholm Syndrome kicked in and I was all “What the hell did I just do? Now I have to actually go forward with these procedures!” and immediately became nostalgic for the frustrating yet safe feeling of captivity. Because back then it was all theoretical and my emotions were focused on the ridiculousness of the medical system and the trials of being captive. Now I have to think about what new awkward and painful things were going to be inflicted on my lady humps.

But the good news is that the lumps have totally shrunk back down to the size they were before. Clearly they know they’ve been put on notice.

So at least there’s that :)

 

Held Hostage September 15, 2012

I cried in the middle of CVS the other day. But what’s important is not that I cried, but that I only cried a little bit, and not for very long, and there was no screaming or throwing of products up and down the aisles.

Because given the circumstances, that’s super impressive.

Chris and I were in CVS because we were waiting for his prescription of Oxy-codone, because he’d just gotten out of the hospital after having surgery on his shoulder for the second time. Only this time, they also did a bone graft from his leg. So he has double the pain, and double the difficulty getting around. We’d arrived at the hospital the day before at 10:30am, and now at 6pm the following day, all we wanted was to get his pain meds and go home and forget the laundry list of frustrations and indignities he’d been subjected to (including waiting in pre-op for 4 hours because his surgeon was late, having a random part of his leg (not near the incision) shaved with what I can only assume was a dull butter knife, being catheterized, having to ask for hours for ice for his leg, and being forced to eat hospital food, to name only a few).

For my part, I’d been at the hospital the day before from 10:30 am until 11pm, and then gone to work the next morning and then to the hospital at 3 where I sat with him until he was discharged at 4:30. We got lost getting out of the hospital, (completely my fault. I suck at being in charge), and it meant he had to walk really far on his bad leg. Now we were at our second CVS because the first didn’t have any Oxy in stock, and now there was a problem with the DEA number on the prescription that the intern had written. We’d been in this CVS for over an hour, I was freezing, and hungry and losing patience with the entire medical system in this country. Chris’s pain was etched all over his face and for the millionth time in the last two days I had to see that and know there was nothing I could do about it.

As we stood in the middle of the store trying to find something to distract him from his pain induced nausea, I kept thinking “We’re hostages. Hostages of the medical system.”

That’s when I wanted to start screaming, like an actual hostage would, in the hope that someone would hear and be able to rescue us.

Because it wasn’t just Chris who was captured in the system and divorced from all agency and recourse. I was trapped too.

And not just because I am Chris’s partner. I have my own medical dramas going on.

See, about 6 weeks ago, I found a lump in my breast. I’d had a benign lump removed about three years ago, so I assumed it was scar tissue.

After seeing my doctor, and getting a referral to the Breast Diagnostic Center where I had my first mammogram (a story for another blog post), and an ultrasound, I was scheduled for a biopsy. And around then finally accepted that it wasn’t scar tissue.

After the biopsy, the radiologist decided I actually had two lumps, and she’d only biopsied one of them, but needed me to have a breast MRI so she could better visualize the second lump before doing another biopsy.

So I made an appointment for the MRI. All of this took place in the span of about 2.5 weeks. Everyone I interacted with from schedulers, to techs, to the doctors themselves were helpful, warm, pleasant and reassuring. I felt confident that the lumps were nothing, and that everything would be sorted out and it would all be a distant memory by Thanksgiving.  I was really calm and remarkably unstressed out. For me, anyway. I mean, I was still a gigantic baby about the biopsy and acted like I’d had a piece of my boob removed with a hunting knife, but for ME, that counts as being a trooper.

Then, the day before the MRI was scheduled, I got a call from the Breast Diagnostic Center that they had to cancel it because my insurance company declined to pay for it.

Cue screeching record sound.

There were a lot of calls and messages back and forth between me and the radiologist, the radiologist and my primary and my primary and me. At the end of the first week, the theory was that only my primary could sort it out.  I talked to her and she promised to handle it and to stay in touch and that if she didn’t follow-up, that I should call her. In the week that followed I left two more messages and she hasn’t called me back yet. Which seems out of character for her, and so my theory is that the women who answer the phones aren’t giving her the messages because they always seem super annoyed that I insist on talking directly to the doctor instead of leaving a message in the physician’s assistant’s voice mail.

The last message I left her was right after they took Chris into surgery, and I’d been waiting on pins and needles for her to call me back.  I was really  needed to have an update, some information, so I could have a sense of agency, of control,  over this one part of my life, since I had no control over anything happening to Chris.

But no. No call back. No information. No forward motion. Also, I’ve become convinced that in the downtime since the MRI was canceled the lumps have tripled in size. Like they know they’re unsupervised and are running rampant.

And there’s nothing I can do. Again. I’m a hostage of a medical system that lets insurance companies make decisions about care, and receptionists that think they know everything.

I want to scream, and tear things off the shelves in this CVS, and kick and scream until someone hears. Until someone rescues us.

But really, I know that’s not going to do anything but get me arrested. And that would definitely be a step backward in this whole quest to be in control thing.

So instead I cry. (But JUST for a minute or two.) And Chris shifts into the position of caretaker, gently hugging me with his one good arm.  And I’m aware that I’m supposed to be taking care of him, not the other way around, and I start to cry more because I feel like a terrible girlfriend/person. But then I think, “Who am I kidding?” because these are the roles we’re most comfortable in anyway. Chris is a caretaker to his core, and I’m constantly in need of care, and I think this is a big part of why we work.

Once I stop crying I can tell Chris’s energy has shifted, and he’s gone from withdrawn and cranky to  cheerful (albeit forced), and when the pharmacist calls his name, he acts like a man receiving a prize as he limps up toward the counter, like he’s not at all frustrated, or in overwhelming pain, and I can’t help but smile.

So fine. I’m being held hostage.  But if I’m going go through this, at least I’m going through it with him.

 

Cross Posting August 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meredith @ 4:47 pm

This is a post I wrote for my other blog, over at SpeakeasyDC. 

I know it’s not the same as when I write posts just for you. But there are just so many hours in the day, and well…isn’t this better than nothing?

Besides, all the cool poly-bloggers (I totally just made that term up), cross-post between their blogs. It’s totally a thing. For real.

**

This post originally appeared here.

This past weekend, I attended my boyfriend Chris’s annual family reunion for the first time. Over the course of a day and a half I met more than 70 members of his extended family.

Um,  Overwhelming Anxiety, party of one, please.

As we pulled up to his Aunt’s house on Friday evening and one of his cousins came out to greet us, I experienced a level of social stage fright that I haven’t experienced since high school. See, as soon as I realized I had a proclivity toward storytelling, I used that as a way to control my natural social anxiety. Over the years I’ve honed the skill and fine tuned specific stories that now serve as my armor to protect me from any awkward or dull moments.

But those stories are just about me. And I was assuming that Chris’s family, much like my own, would have little interest in listening to the stories of this stranger. I mean, this was only my audition, they needed to decide if they even wanted to see me again before they could be expected to care about my complicated relationship with my pet fish. No matter how funny the story.

As Chris turned off the engine of the car, and I looked through the windshield at his grinning cousin, my breath caught in my throat and my stomach did an epic somersault. I briefly considered what the fallout would be if I refused to get out of the car. But then there was driveway under my feet and I found myself following Chris across the grass and into the warm embraces of his cousin, Aunt and Uncle. And when I saw the ways their eyes lit up when he introduced me, my anxiety subsided significantly.

Within a few minutes Chris and his cousin settled into the standard catch up conversation, and Chris referenced his broken collar bone from earlier this year. Immediately his cousin wanted details, and before I could even think about it, Chris and I had established a tag team storytelling routine. Chris would introduce the topic, give some detail, and then I would interject with more of a color commentary, telling funny stories about how Chris reacted to the Ambien he was given to help him sleep after the surgery, or what he was like coming out of anesthesia. And his cousin ate it up.

The next day when we were with the rest of the family, his cousin would repeatedly tee us up with great openings like ”have you heard about his guy on Ambien?” Honestly, I could not have designed a better social storytelling environment. And then after we’d told a few stories, his family would start telling their own stories – stories of Chris as a child, of past family reunions, and people who were no longer with us. They were stories that gave me new information about Chris and put him within the context of his huge, close knit family.

Sometime around dusk on Saturday night, I realized that my face hurt from laughing so much,  and I couldn’t remember the last time I had such a good social audience for my stories. That’s when a light bulb went off: We were doing more than shooting the breeze to pass the time and entertain ourselves. We were using storytelling the way it was meant to be used: to connect.

Our stories gave Chris’s family a glimpse into the life that Chris and I led away from them, revealing dimensions and elements of Chris’s personality that they wouldn’t otherwise be privy too. The stories also let them observe our relationship in an organic, yet compressed way, and they got to know important things about me as much as from how I told the stories, as from what was in the stories.

This was one of those moments where I was reminded that this is the real power of  storytelling –  providing people – whether strangers or family – connect in powerful, meaningful, and memorable ways.

 

 
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