Friday, July 21, 2006

My yearly reflection

I've started running again. My shoulder can finally handle the bouncing (most of the time) doesn't feel like it will dislocate. I am thinking of running a 5K in Anchorage next weekend. So as I sweat and gasp on my treadmill, my mind wanders. It wanders to back to what I used to be. I used to really be something, compared to what I am now and I miss that part of me, damn it. My birthday always stirs up musty memories that I only allow myself to think about 1 time a year, commenting about it out loud only 1 time (this is the time) and then sweep it back under the rug.

I used to rock climb. It was hard for me because I have always been afraid of heights and would get the vertigo thing happening, and because is was hard for me is why I started climbing in the 1st place. I had plans to learn to sky dive. I hiked Ressurection Pass with a pack that was almost half my body weight. I ran fast, worked hard, took care of my family and was living a strong life.

Then my body started failing. Slowly, slowly at 1st. Weird things, like my hearing started to fail. Then vertigo would hit at the most awful time, like driving down the road at 65 miles per hr. I got my ears check, turned out I had a condition called Otosclerosis which fuses the middle ear bones together so no sound is passed on to the inner ear. I started wearing hearing aids, which sucked. If I had been anywhere else but Alaska, I probably would have immediately been evaluated for surgery which replaces the stapes bone with a titanium piston and been good to go. But no, I spent 10 years going profoundly deaf without hearing aids, getting stronger and stronger aids every year until finally my audiologist, going against professional ethics or something silly, told me that there WAS help for me and told me about the House Ear Clinic in L.A. The doctors here in Alaska NEVER told me there was a fix, NEVER A WORD. They told me my only option was hearing aids. I did research then asked my Dr. about the surgery, he said he knew about it and has even participated in the surgery a "few dozen times". So why was I never told about it?? It's just not a common procedure here in Alaska was the answer. But he could do it and so we started talking about it. It would mean putting me under, take about 6 hrs, recovery time about 6 weeks, blah blah blah. At the House Ear Clinic, they pioneered this surgery, total time is about 40 minutes with laser and you can jump on a plane 48 hrs later. I elected to go to LA. When I told my Dr. he was mad and told me he will refuse me as a patient if I go down there. I told him that is no loss for me as he let me go deaf for 10 fucking years when it was not necessary and I don't have confidence in his surgical skills or that he is concerned about providing the best care for his patients. Dr. E is more ego than physican. I went to LA 3 years ago, had both ears done (not at the same time) and I can hear again, not totally normal but I'm damn happy with the results.

The other thing I think about is the day I ended up in the emergency room (07/04/95) thinking I may be having a stroke or something. I had been feeling REALLY bad, sick, dizzy, head hurting, limbs not working, weak, weak, weak. Something was not right, hadn't been for awhile but this was worse than ever. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on 07/07/95, my birthday. Turned into a semi-vegetable. Took a long time to recover. Lost myself physically, didn't even look the same, medications made me look like the Stay-Puff marshmallow guy. Husband split, couldn't handle the new, sick me. Dr's said I was weak and frail and do NOT excercise or do ANYTHING stressfull and wrote perscriptions for everything from sleeping pills, anti-depressants to pain meds to stumulants. I refused them all except for the actual medication for MS itself. Last thing I needed to be was a junkie. Started on MS med which was a low-dose cancer chemotherapy drug, made me sick EVERY DAY, hair loss, liver out of whack.

Quit that med, quit the doctors, quit the ms self help groups, quit the social security disability process, started working again, went back to school, gathered my kids close to me, reached for a little of who I used to be. Became weak and frail phycially, but strong in spirit. A different, more mature strength than I had before.

Met a guy, told him the 1st time he took me to lunch about me, laid it all out, I wasn't going to let anyone get close to me without knowing EXACTLY what I was. I will never forget the look on his face, the color drained totally out of his face, I have never seen anything like that. I said thank you for his time and lunch and walked away. But it was good, because I'm not much for bullshit and didn't have any interest in games or relationships. I had myself and my kids to take care of. I had no time for anyone else. He called me a few days later and kept on calling. I found a dr that was ok with not making me into a junkie and a MS drug that didn't make me sick. Started living again.

So my life has come in a circle, not a full circle, more of a spiral. I remember how phyically strong I used to be and I miss it. I know what I was and what I now am. I know running and biking would be a much different experience for me if I still had that physical strength. But part of the old me still remains. Like the rock climbing I used to do and the running and biking I do now, I have returned to doing things because they are hard to do...and Life Is Good.


Anonymous said...

A few comments from some readers (and novice MTBers) in Australia:

-You are a fantastic person. It would have been so easy to just quit when you had ANY of your medical problems - good on you for knowing yourself well enough to question the "quacks" and find the right treatment for you (on both counts).

-Don't be so hard on yourself! (re: the I SUCK at Mountain Biking post) - the fact that you're out there on the bike enjoying life is fantastic. MTBing isn't easy (the emergency rooms are full of examples) :-) I managed to break my shoulder (so I can sympathise with your shoulder issues) after about 3 months of riding. But I'm back on the bike and still love it (just being a little more sensible though) :-)

Wow this has turned into a rant but you are so inspiring - keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah - forgot to add - the places you go riding are so beautiful! Keep on posting pics for those of us elsewhere :-)

Michelle said...

Thanks for the encouragement. Mountain biking Down Under, now that is COOL!

I don't like bringing up the health stuff but as I work through it all and finally get to the end of this yearly comtemplation, I am fortunate to be able to say at the end of it all that I am doing better right here and now than I was 11, 5 or even 3 years ago.

I'm glad you like the pictures I post. Mountain biking has enabled me to get out into the backcountry like I have never been able to before, it's amazing all the hidden beauty out there, off the road system. If you don't hike it, ride it or float it, you miss it. I'm a wilderness girl at heart :)

BTW, I recently took a personality test and my main characteristic is that I'm hardest on myself and expect more of myself than those around me. Yeah, I agree with that, but it's all good...:)