7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 19)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

—1—

I’m sorry for throwing that brain cyst thing at you and then walking away for two weeks.

I didn’t mean to be absent for so long. And I certainly didn’t mean to worry any of my loved ones who have been stopping by the blog looking for an update.

It’s just that following up on all those medical questions takes a lot of work. In the past two weeks I have met with a dermatologist, a cardiologist, an Ear Nose Throat doctor, a neurosurgeon, and an obstetrician. And I’ve had an echocardiogram. That’s six separate medical appointments. Plus I attended a board meeting and I helped out at my older son’s preschool, leaving my younger boy at home. That’s a lot of looking for sitters.

So as you might expect, I’m tired. And my mind has been rather too occupied with pondering illness and trial and the small, beautiful things in life to generate an actual, ready-for-public-consumption, finished product. Also, I’ve had to be brutal in distinguishing between the have-to-do’s and the want-to-do’s. My attention has gone to my boys and to stacks of medical forms. (And laundry when I have absolutely nothing left to dress the boys in.) Most other things (ahem, cooking and dishes) have been left by the wayside. Thus too went the blog.

—2—

I remembered (too late) last week that it’s probably never a good idea to say to oneself before bed, “I am so tired. I’m really looking forward to a good, solid night’s sleep tonight because ohmygosh I need it so badly.” You know what happens when you say such things, don’t you? The small children on the other side of your house hear you and collude to disrupt your oh-so-badly-needed sleep. They wake up multiple times per night. They may even end up in bed with you, together, fidgeting and giggling away your hoped-for last precious hour of would-be sleep.

(Co-sleepers, I really, truly do not know how you do it. Anytime we’ve had the boys in our bed, they get little sleep and we get less. And we all suffer accordingly.)

—3—

That said, I actually had two solid, interruption-free, 8-hour nights of sleep last weekend. After the second, I couldn’t believe how alert and energetic I felt in the morning. “This is what it feels like to be well-rested!” I thought to myself. “This is marvelous!” and “I should do this more often!” and “I’m never going to make sleep a low priority again!”

I don’t even need to tell you what happened next, do I? Because you know: schedules, commitments, medical forms, boys’ nightmares… Lack Of Sleep.

—4—

Okay, enough with the sleep stuff. It’s about time I gave you a little update on all those doctors’ visits, isn’t it? Here’s the deal in a nutshell:

  • Dermatologist: “No problem! Don’t worry!”
  • ENT and cardiologist: “We don’t think there’s a problem, but we need a bit more information before we can be sure.”
  • Neurosurgeon: “You have two potentially serious problems. But don’t go getting yourself all worried about them, because (1) due to the pregnancy, we’re not going to know anything more about them for at least a year and (2) there’s really no rush anyway, because both problems are years away from becoming truly problematic.
  • Obstetrician: “Baby looks good! Let’s just keep tabs on everything else.”

—5—

As I indicated above, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about trials in life and how we react to them. Personally, I tend to be a positive, glass-is-half-full, optimistic kind of person. So when these thoughts started running through my head two weeks ago, all I could think of was how comically, joyfully absurd my old stories of misfortune seemed to me now. I wrote a light-hearted piece on the subject… and then I didn’t post it.

I’d already felt a little silly to be extolling the “don’t let things get to you!” mindset when my own personal trials didn’t seem all that serious to me. I thought of people who’d been through much more serious ordeals and who (understandably) couldn’t move on. But then I happened to hear a few stories of people who lived through the most sobering and serious of trials, and still preferred to find the positive in their experiences. I was awed, and humbled, and taken down a few notches from my “delight in absurdity!” perch.

And then a few days ago the neurosurgeon told me that I might have a couple of my own serious trials ahead. He expects that the spine situation (herniated disc; vertebrae situated how they shouldn’t be) will get worse. Ultimately, he expects that I’ll need spinal surgery. (Remember that the problematic part of the spine is in my neck. For some reason, the prospect of spinal surgery in my neck is so much scarier to me than if it were my back.) Less certain, but perhaps more scary, is the (remote) chance that the brain cyst could impact my ocular nerve and cause me to go blind. There is only a small chance that this will happen, so I’m not panicking. I am, however, saddened at the thought that sometime in the future, I might lose my ability to see my family… and sunsets… and autumn leaves… and the written word.

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But even with this news, I felt a redoubling of my conviction that positivity in the face of trial is the way to go. There is so much we can’t control in our lives: we can’t prevent all illness, we can’t protect from all harm, we can’t stop all misfortune. But we can control our reactions. Maybe not our first reactions, but certainly our processing of the situations and the ways in which we allow them to affect our lives.

When I think about positivity in the face of adversity, I feel like I’m touching on a powerful truth, a good. I feel hopeful and at peace. How could I choose any other path?

The above thought process brought me to the realization that all of that positivity-in-the-face-of-adversity stuff is part of the same story. Finding the joyful absurdity in small trials, the admirable strength in serious ones, the quiet hopefulness in those you see coming – they are all good, and they are all connected. I think I might go ahead and post that lighthearted piece after all. And then follow it with another, more serious one. Neither part of the story is less valid than the other.

—6—

Was that heavy enough for your Friday afternoon? How about we finish off these “Quick” Takes with some sweet pictures of toddler Halloween celebrations?

At our house, we had a “Big Gween Dwagon With Fire” and a “Bwave Knight.

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Gotta love the preschool Halloween parades!

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He seems to take the knight thing very seriously.

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—7—

I don’t at all consider this to be a crafty blog, but I do enjoy being crafty when the occasion presents itself. I didn’t take a single in-process photo, but here’s how I made the boys’ costumes, in case you’re curious:

Knight:

  • I purchased a gray sweat suit, a loosely-knit gray/silver scarf scattered with a few sequins, a patterned gray/silver scarf, a loosely-knit gray/silver cap, and a child’s set of shield/swords (all from Walmart).
  • The sweat suit went on first, with no alterations.
  • The loosely-knit scarf was cut to the appropriate length (about three feet for my two-year-old), folded in half, and a head-sized slit was cut into the middle of the folded edge. It went on (just slipped over my boy’s head) after the sweat suit.
  • The other scarf was tied around his waist.
  • The tassles and pom were cut off the hat and it was set on his cute little head.
  • I handed him his shield and a sword, and we were done!

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Dragon:

  • I purchased a green sweatshirt, two pairs of green sweatpants, a loosely-knit green cap with a rim on the front, a tightly-knit green cap, and two loosely-knit (one orange, one gold) scarves (all from Walmart). I also purchased some patterned brown felt, some (red, yellow, and white) foam sheets, some batting, and some googly eyes (from Michaels).
  • I cut the brown felt to size and glued it to the front of the sweatshirt (which conveniently covered a design on the front of the shirt). I also cut two small circles (for nostrils) and two triangles (for ears) from the felt.
  • I left one pair of the sweatpants alone. With the other, I made the tail: I cut away one of the legs, leaving the waistband intact and some extra fabric at the top. I folded the extra fabric over and sewed it in place to cover the hole left at the top of the remaining leg. I then stuffed the leg with batting and sewed the bottom of the leg shut.
  • I stuffed the tightly-knit green cap with batting and sewed it shut. I then place it on top of the rim to the loosely-knit green cap and sewed it on.
  • I cut teeth and fire (in three layers) from the foam sheets. The fire was hot-glued to the rim of the loosely-knit cap (just under where the tightly-knit cap was sewn on). The teeth were glued to the underside of the tightly-knit cap. The nostrils were glued onto its top side. The ears were glued onto the top of the loosely-knit cap. The googly eyes were glued onto its front.
  • I cut each of the (orange and gold) loosely-knit scarves into three pieces. The longest was sewn down the back of the tail. The next was sewn down the back of the shirt. The shortest was sewn down the back of the hat.
  • The sweat suit went on my boy first, then the tail, then the hat.

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Have a great weekend, everyone! I hope you had a fun Halloween and you’re having a happy All Saints Day today! Be sure to jump on over to Jen’s to check out the rest of the Quick Takes.

The Weirdest Of Them All

I seem to have a talent for developing/attracting weird medical issues. (A fact pointed out to me by my weirdness-weary college roommates.) I’ve had eczema cover every inch of my skin from my fingertips to my elbows. I’ve had more eczema on my foot, so bad that my doctor had it x-rayed, fearing the bone was infected. I’ve had a weirdo, hallucinating reaction to a meningitis vaccine. I’ve broken my nose (and suffered a concussion) while tickling my little cousin. I’ve almost cut off my toe. I’ve lost my voice for a month because a coughing fit injured my vocal chords.

Have I lost you yet? Seriously, I could go on.

This week, however, I received the weirdest medical news yet: I have a cyst in my brain. I also have a cyst at the base of my tongue. And a herniated disc in my neck.

(No, this isn’t a joke. And yes, the news was a surprise to me too.) I went in for an MRI on Monday, trying to get more information on a pinched nerve in my neck. The next day my doctor called me with… all of the above. In a somewhat short, forceful conversation, she told me the news and instructed me to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat doc regarding the tongue and a neurosurgeon about the spine and the brain.

I was kinda sorta left reeling, kinda sorta not believing that it had even happened, and kinda sorta thinking, “Oh my gosh, I have the weirdest things happen to me.”

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Now, perhaps you might think it’s a bit strange for me to be telling you all this, just four days since I got the news myself. I mean, I’m sure you’re all very fine people, but many of you are strangers to me.

However, the truth is, I can’t seem to move on – to write anything, to read anything, to think about anything else – until I get this off my chest. It’s my elephant in the room. Hopefully once I’ve articulated the following, I can start writing on other topics. Because for these last four days, every idea that’s crossed my mind has been met with: “Nope, not as interesting as the cyst in my brain.”

So here they are, some thoughts on this latest round of medical weirdness:

—1—

I’m a terrible procrastinator, especially when it comes to things that stress me out. Medical stuff most definitely qualifies. I’ve been putting off following through on various and sundry medical issues (including the stupid pinched-nerve-in-my-neck-causing-my-arm-to-fall-asleep thing) for years now.

With this third pregnancy, I’m trying to just bite the bullet and pursue whatever needs to be pursued. And to actually follow through on investigations I start. (A neurosurgeon confirmed my pinched nerve at the beginning of the summer and instructed me to have an MRI to see what was causing it. I promptly put it off for four months.)

—2—

Why do I do this? Why, when I experience some sort of medical symptom, do I take so long to start figuring out what causes it? Why, when faced with an actual diagnosis, do I set it aside and treat it like it doesn’t matter? Why does it take a pregnancy to get me to take my own health seriously?

It’s not that I don’t value my own health or my own life. I think it’s that it’s difficult for me to imagine anything actually threatening them. Part of this is because of the whole medical weirdness thing: whatever weird things have come my way in the past, I’ve always been fine in the end. The bigger part, though, is probably more universal: I take myself for granted. I am my own reference point for life. To myself, I am a given. And it’s difficult to accept that a “given”… isn’t.

—3—

I’m a little worried about having had an MRI while pregnant. I wasn’t worried when I scheduled the MRI: Nothing I’d read had indicated any demonstrable risk to an unborn baby from an MRI. But the radiologist’s waiver form, not to mention my own doctor’s reaction when she realized I’d waited until after I was pregnant to have the MRI, both unnerved me. To them, the bottom line seemed to be that it’s not known that the test is safe.

That said, now that I know the results of the MRI, I’m glad I had it done. I’m glad I have the information now and that I can start following through with specialists now, rather than a year from now. Because who am I kidding? If I’d waited until I was no longer pregnant to have the MRI, I would have put it off for months more.

—4—

And the MRI experience itself? Not fun. I’d had at least one before, but this time the experience was far more intense than I’d remembered. Part of that was undoubtedly my anxiety from the doom-and-gloom pregnancy release form. But really, it’s just an inherently uncomfortable thing to do. You’re stuck in a tube for what seems an interminable length of time, you have to lie completely still, and there are big, strange clanging noises surrounding you. I had trouble breathing, not because of claustrophobia (which I’m blessed to not suffer from), but because I was worried about breathing too heavily. Breathing is one of those things that is hard to do when you’re thinking about it too much.

Anyway, as I endured the test I couldn’t help but wonder how pediatric patients do it. A couple of days later, reading about an engineer who transforms MRI machines into pirate or space adventures for children, I cried/smiled/laughed and thought, “God bless that man!”

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—5—

Let’s see, where were we? How about a brief review of what Dr. Google has to say about brain cysts?

All-in-all, the big G cautioned me not to get too worked up about the whole thing. Brain cysts are not those scary-sounding “brain tumors.” Most are benign and they generally grow slowly, if at all. Many do require surgery, but usually because a cyst is interfering with the part of the brain it resides in, causing adverse symptoms for the patient. I have no such symptoms.

As scary as the idea of brain cysts may be, now that I’ve read a bit about them and a little time has passed, I’m not all that nervous about it. (Did you hear that, family? Oh, you world-class worriers? I’m not too worried, so you shouldn’t be either.) I think it’s quite likely that I’ll go to my appointment with the neurosurgeon and he’ll say, “Yep, you have a little cyst, but it’s in a boring part of your brain and it’s obviously not doing you any harm, so we’ll just keep an eye on it.” (Okay, fine. Neurosurgeons probably don’t think any part of the brain is boring. But certainly some parts have got to be more interesting than others.)

—6—

And what about the tongue cyst and the herniated disc? I haven’t looked for, or found, as much information on them as I have the brain cyst. I do know that they’ll likely do a biopsy on the tongue cyst, which I am not looking forward to. And I read a statistic that only one in ten herniated discs require surgery. Surely I’ve got to be in that non-surgical camp, right? I mean, I move and walk around just fine. The only problem I’ve got is a sleepy/tingly arm.

Either way, I’ll get some more information soon. I’m to meet with the ENT this coming week and the neurosurgeon the following one. I’m happy to have gotten appointments so soon; I’m eager to either (a) find out that this whole thing really is no big deal or (b) start moving on whatever it is that needs to be done.

—7—

Speaking of appointments (and “biting the bullet” in number one), I’ve also been pursuing some medical issues besides the whole cyst/cyst/disc thing. Yesterday I saw a dermatologist and my-oh-my, was it a relief to hear that everything looked great. The thing about putting off medical issues is, they often become bigger and more stressful in your imagination than they need to be in real life. I drove home from the appointment with an outlook considerably lighter and brighter than it had been on my drive in. Hopefully I’ll experience the same wonderful feeling leaving next week’s ENT and cardiologist appointments and the following week’s neurosurgeon and OB appointments.

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—8—

So, if you’re anything like me and you’ve been putting off some medical issues of your own, I hope you’ll go ahead and tackle them. No time like the present, right? In all likelihood, taking care of them now will make you feel better, one way or the other: You might find that you had nothing to worry about after all. You might be set on a constructive course to improving your health. At the very least, you’ll stop feeling guilty about ignoring whatever it is and you’ll finally be doing something about it.

Whatever the case: Go you! You can do it! If little Miss Procrastination Is My Middle Name can do it, then you certainly can.

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—9—

Not to belie any of the “I’m not worried!” declarations above, but if you’re inclined to do so, I’d appreciate your prayers for my good health and the safety of my baby. Prayers are something that are always, always welcome.

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Thanks for humoring me with your attention. Hopefully now that I’ve said my piece, I can fight the impulse to walk up to complete strangers in the grocery store and say, “You know, I’ve had the weirdest thing happen to me. It turns out I have a cyst in my brain.”

After nearly four days of sitting on the issue and three drafts of writing about it, I think I’m finally starting to feel some release. Now that this post is out of the way, the floodgates (if they could ever have been called that) are re-opened. Let the regularly-scheduled blogging resume!