A new citizen’s words— So glad Kate Paulk is now an American citizen
Last week my nephrologist started to prepare me for dialysis. She said that I needed to be ready when my kidneys failed. The kidneys had lasted a very long time. They had started to slide.
Part of the preparation for dialysis would be to have a stent made. Apparently it takes one month to get the appointment for the stent, and then it takes three months for the stent to mature so it can be used.
In the beginning days of my disease, (you can find the book here), the doctor put a heart catheter into my neck. My late-hubby held my hand, while the nurse put a shot in my neck, and then the doctor slit my throat and pushed in the plastic tubing.
I don’t want to go through that again. First it was scary. Second it hurt. Third my neck rubbed raw from the tubing after over four weeks of use. My late-hubby told me he didn’t want to go through it again either. He watched the entire procedure and almost fainted. It wasn’t because of the blood, (there was very little). It was because they were cutting into his wife– me– and he was watching.
Last week I did negotiate with the nephrologist. If my kidneys didn’t stabilize, then she would order the stent in September. I know most of you know this from a post on Facebook. When I came home that day, after the news, I cried. The well-wishes and prayers were a blessing to my aching soul.
It felt like I was starting down this road again. Two years ago it was with my late hubby, and now it is the same road I started in 2003.
So I am eating more cabbage and less protein. I got rid of corn syrup, processed products, and sodas almost a decade ago. I added turmeric and more omega 3s. I am more diligent at drinking large quantities of water. Still it feels like there isn’t much I can do to stop the slide this time. There are no drastic changes to make to my eating and drinking habits. I will NOT give up coffee.
The only real change I can make is to meditate. It helps to put my mind in the present moment and not into the future of pain, kidney failure, and dialysis. Yes, I am noticing more pain. Yes, my muscles are less forgiving than they have ever been. And yes, I am cramping more.
But all of these symptoms can be caused by taking chemo. I can even blame my age.
Today I asked for health and lit a candle. For a moment my brain quit thinking and I felt peace.
The fourth of July weekend is here and if Otto was with us, he would be 69 next week. Two years ago this week, we were frantically going from doctor to doctor to find out why he didn’t feel good.The cancer word was being whispered.
Last night, I watched the clouds form. I sat in my chair, listened to the crack of thunder, watched the lightning, and counted the seconds between lightning and thunder.
I talked to him. If he were here physically we would have an upstairs apartment and he would be watching the storm. When I slipped onto the balcony with him, I would snuggle under his arm and we would watch the storm. I was safe there.
I was the gloomy one– the Eeyore. He was the one who knew how to smile at life’s idiosyncrasies. At the very least he always had a quip on his lips. I had heard most of his jokes — he cleaned them up in polite society, but when he was with his buddies, he had some of the funniest and dirtiest jokes around. I didn’t see his pranks, but I heard about some of them. Let’s say that there was a little bit of Loki in him.
He had to be more circumspect when he worked for the State– which is why I didn’t show this photo of him joking around an outhouse while he lived. Still this shows his spirit and what I loved most about him.
Funny– he had a hard start in life. He was a preemie and almost didn’t make it. He spent most of his young life in foster care. He had to learn how to take care of himself at a very young age. He was my light in a very dark world of chronic illness.
So I miss the door opening around five-ten p.m. in the evening. We also greeted each other with a kiss and a hug. I miss the smile, the jokes, and even those days when he couldn’t even muster a smile because his day had gone badly.
I miss his quizzes. He was a master at electronics and used to teach it in both the Army and the Navy. But mostly he was the one person in my life that saw me as worthwhile.
A strong man. A kind man. And sometimes a scary man.
He was a Vietnam Vet– and he did know how to protect us.
As I think of him today, I don’t want to cry and wail. I did that for months after his death. No, I want to smile. I want to remember his jokes and his joy. I want to remember that he loved me so much. I want to remember his bravery and his willingness to poke at the bear when she was grumpy–
In my twenties I was involved with a Tae Kwon Do club. It was my first time working with a group with the same goal.
Some of the things I learned helped me to be more conscious of my surroundings. It also helped me to stay away from situations that would endanger me or others. So when my doctor told me that I needed to do some light exercise– walking, etc. I was pretty sure he wasn’t referring to martial arts. So over two years ago I looked for something besides yoga (I have done some yoga, but my body just doesn’t bend that way very well) so I could keep my body limber. I found a Tai chi group– but they were into the martial arts and didn’t want to deal with someone who had multiple illnesses. So I thought that I was done.
The reason I thought of Tai chi as a light exercise was because when I was in Japan, I would see groups of elderly ladies doing exercises in the park. Some of these women were in their 80s. If they could do it, by damn I should be able to do it.
A friend, also a veteran, suggested that I go to the fitness club and inquire there about classes for people who had illnesses. I did know that in some areas there are classes for seniors and people who had problems with movement. So I did. They didn’t do Tai Chi– they did Qigong.
The instructor, an elderly man who was sprier than most sixty-year-olds I have met (he was over 70), showed me how to breath, showed me how to walk, and showed me how to move. I have a habit of holding my breath to0 long and I don’t smile. So that is my homework– breath, walk, and smile. All things that are hard for me, especially smiling.
Yes, my ribcage, back, arms, and legs are sore today. I moved in ways that I haven’t since I became ill. The important point is that I can move.
Why do I want to learn this style of exercise?
I used to run, lift weights, and do aerobic classes for years. It was the strength in my body that saved my life from dying the first time I ended up in the hospital. Plus I sit a lot when I write and craft. To do this exercise, all I need is a small room and a few minutes to do an exercise in between my writing. I can stay limber and those problems of stiffness in the mornings will become less. Plus this is good training to stay in the present moment.
I started out life as a poet. I wrote my first poem at 9 years old. It was later as I got older and realized that I tapped into someplace other than my conscious mind that I began these little rituals to focus my mind on writing.
People outside the field of writing like to call these rituals –superstitions. However, writers are not the only ones who have rituals. You see it in sports and other endeavors that take the person past the normal world.
So I used to turn on some music, light a candle, place my favorite pen next to the computer, and then write. These little actions would tell my mind that it was time to dip into the subconscious and write poetry or tell stories.
Each time I did this, the ritual would help my mind to open wider. Since I have written regularly, I quit this ritual or maybe it slipped back into my subconscious. There are so many things in the “real” world that distract–illness, daily chores, and even electronic devices. I have to admit that the internet and TV are two of my main time wasters when it comes to writing. So lately, as I hit a very dry spell in my writing, I knew that I needed to resurrect my ritual.
In the background I hear “Carry on my Wayward Son” by Kansas. I carved a few symbols on my white candle and lit it. My favorite pen is near my elbow. I am now ready to write.
Just gazing into the candle, I go to another place.
Foxy has decided that part of her daily duties is to wake me when the first light shines through the window shades. She climbs onto the middle of my chest and flaps those long ears of hers. My first instinct when I hear her flapping her ears is to duck. She sounds like a small bird ready to dive-bomb me.
Of course when she sees me duck, she lies her whole body across my neck and licks my ears and cheek. I am fully awake then. But by this time she has pinned me to the bed and I can’t move.
Since she began to feel better, (Foxy had pancreatitis), this morning greeting has become a regular occurrence. It takes a little coaxing to get her off my chest so I can sit up. Once I am sitting the antics stop and she waits patiently for me to put on clothes and shoes. She knows that as soon as I am dressed we will go for our morning walk.
Yes, I am usually half asleep during the first half of the walk. She bounces down the sidewalk with her tail waving back and forth. This morning as soon as the other dogs barked at her, her tail went up.
Living with a dog has been an adventure. She gets me up in the morning and she makes me exercise. Before Foxy I would procrastinate my walks. With my four conditions, it is amazing that I can walk in the first place. Sometimes when I get up out of bed, I am stiff for several minutes. I roll back and forth from foot to foot with a hand balancing me against the wall. The walks with Foxy have increased my balance and my strength.
I have not always been like this. I used to walk two to three miles every other day, plus lift weights, and on the weekends I would hike to castles with my late-hubby. In my twenties I was involved in Tae Kwon Do. My body still remembers how to protect me. I used to run– I was never a sprinter when I was in school. I am the one that continues running long distances. I haven’t been able to do that since I became ill and had to take chemo.
So my body misses these things. I have had dreams where I ran for long distances. My heart would pump, I would breath evenly, and I would feel the high after the first mile or two. I have dreamed that I used my training to fight dream monsters who feed on the unsuspecting. I have dreamed that my body and spirit never tired as I protected those around me. In those dreams, Foxy in a much larger dog form is with me, fighting monsters with teeth and claw as I use a long sword.
Recently I listened to an Art Bell program on You-tube with a couple of doctors who work with people who have nightmares and night terrors. It was interesting because I have had night terrors and nightmares since I was three years old. Normally children quit having night terrors when they become fully immersed in this reality. I never quit.
I still wake up with my heart pounding and nasty sweat on my body. I still wake up and listen for what is out there. Foxy turns over and huffs which calms me down.
These doctors believe that when we sleep and dream that we go to other dimensions. Some of us are just better at describing and remembering what we experience there. It does have a ring of truth to me– although there may be more to it or less. I don’t know.
I do know that I get my stories from somewhere. That in my dreams I am a hunter, fighter, and warrior depending on what I need to do. Foxy is by my side in her spirit form. She is magnificent.
It was a hot day yesterday about 115 degrees and I was invited to sit in a friend’s pool for a few hours. Yes, I accepted.
The sun baked down on our heads and the only reason I didn’t get a sunburn–I have that light light skin– was because I was in the water and under a tree. It has been a long time since I have sat in a cool pool of water and watched the wasps land to take a drink. My late hubby and I would sit in my brother’s pool many years ago when I was half out of my mind after taking some serious prednisone and chemotherapy. There is something calming about sitting in the water, feeling it lap on your skin, while the air is as hot as an oven. The only thing better is a slight breeze to whip up once in awhile to cool your wet hair.
So we sat in the pool and swapped stories. New friends and old stories. When I was a young girl, my father had a friend who would come every summer to visit us with his family for a couple of days as the sun began to heat up the high desert. We didn’t have a computer or even a TV in the house. So when his friend came, we would sit around a round table, drinking lemonade and eating crackers, and my dad and his friend would swap stories.
Before my father became a hermit, he was in the Navy and was also a door-to-door salesman. I had heard most of my father’s stories. Because we had to make our own entertainment, we would tell or read stories to each other on Sunday evenings. However, his friend had other stories that were more colorful and were not quite fit for children’s ears.
When he would start on the stories, my parents would send us out to play. I would sit quietly in the corner so that they would forget I was there and I would listen. It was then that I gained a yearning to travel and see new places.
I miss the stories. Today, we have so many electronic toys and gadgets. So many of our stories are processed through the same clearing house. We don’t talk to each other any more. We don’t tell each other stories.
There is this push to read to the children. It is a good goal. Maybe a better goal would be to take a night a week and tell stories to your children of your lives and the lives of your parents.
We are all made of stories.