Saturday, November 26, 2011

Maybe I'll Get a Top Hat...

  Wednesday, November 21st. started like any normal day before Thanksgiving: NO SCHOOL! This meant I could do WHATEVER I wanted to do to prepare for my ONE dish, sweet potato souffle, for our family Thanksgiving feast. The grueling preparation took the following steps: sleep late....mosey around in my jammies for awhile....get ready around lunch....take my time in doing so....head out the door around 2:00 to Hobby Lobby and the mall.....come home......and think about making that fabulous souffle.......tomorrow. I had a few loose ends to tie up for my FBC Ladies' Christmas Brunch table decor, and I'd planned to paint all day and clean up my tornado of a house later in the afternoon. This would be the day I would finally be able to pull myself out of the pleurisy rut I'd been in for over a week.......again.
   Last year's bout of "side pleurisy," as my Nana calls, was literally a burning pit of hell in my left lung for 16 oh-so-glorious days. Pleurisy is basically this: inflammation of the lining around the lungs. It's incredibly painful and makes breathing difficult as well as singing and talking. How did I get this old timey sickness? Oh, just my friend MS the autoimmune disease. I had it shortly after Christmas last year and didn't know it; I thought I had a sinus infection that was causing a cough. I went sledding in the snow and played out all day with my family in that magical wintery weather which only made my condition worsen. After a night of excruciating pain and short, rapid breathing, Jordan rushed me to the emergency room where they found that I clearly had the Old English ailment. I was in bed for the next week and a half. Ugh. This year, however, I read the telltale signs early (three days in) and ran to the doc with a diagnosis, making her job easier. "Write me a scrip, Maggie. I know what this is, so let's get the road on the show." She ran the appropriate tests to cover her bases: listened to my lungs, did some blood work, and ran an x-ray as well as a CT scan. All was clear with the exception of what she heard which is about all a doc gets when searching for pleurisy.
   I wasn't about to sit around in pain for two weeks, doped up and vomiting pain pills for days. Yes, this is how it works with MS. Nothing jihas with MS or Avonex. NOTHING. Seems like any narcotic type pain meds throw me over the moon and back again and not in the fun way. They make my head spin, make me paranoid and itchy, over-the-top emotional, and make me barf........like a linebacker with a state championship party hangover. It's not very attractive and chartreuse is not my color. A quick diagnosis to pleurisy is the best kind; since there's no definitive test for it other than symptoms, there's not really a process for getting over it either. However, the faster one gets on an antibiotic to cushion the already compromised immune system, the better. My doc gave me a Z-Pack, 'round the clock double strength ibuprofen for pain, and orders for rest....LOTS of rest, as this is about the only thing one can really do to get over pleurisy quickly. It runs for a good two weeks before a patient can get back on her feet.
  Pleurisy makes me think of Doc Holiday. I know, that was TB (tuberculosis), totally different, but I'd like to think that with my heating pad, pain pills, swollen chest, and hacking cough, I look as cool as Val Kilmer did in Tombstone. He totally made pale the new "hot," and even though it's not in my blonde color wheel, perhaps I could match it up with some pastel PJ's on sale at the WalMart. There is a light at the end of every sweaty tunnel, ya know. It's called the MAC Counter.
  After the pleurisy cleared up last year, I got a new visitor: BLIP. It was a very stressful 16 days so it was no surprise to my family and me. However, it was a surprise when after a month this blip was still going strong. It had also made its way to my leg and I found myself cane-bound. In true Barbie fashion, albeit on the third attempt at buying one, I found myself a pretty pink cane. I brought it home and bejeweled it. Hey, if I've gotta carry that hideous thing around it needs to be cute. And pink. On March 16 my blip finally ended and Candy the Cane has been collecting dust ever since...........until now.
   I've stayed as stress free as I possibly can this year, especially because of school. I'm a full-time college student now and have 13 hours worth of classes this semester. I've kept my grades up and my stress level down by making sure I don't overload and wait until the last minute on assignments. Jordan and Lilli have been a huge support and have helped me in any way they can to make sure I achieve my dream of becoming Dr. Brandi Griffin, English/music teacher/writer extraordinaire. I'm doing well, if I say so myself. With Jesus leading the way, I'll be finished in 3.5 years.....then I'll have more to go for a Master's degree and a doctorate. I'm going to die a professional student, but my tombstone will say DOCTOR. I want it. Something fierce. Getting on meds and resting with the pleurisy this time has also helped; my teachers, my choir directors, my friends, and my family have all helped me tremendously. I figured I was pretty much in the clear.
   Back to November 21: After getting myself and my Lilli Bug ready, we headed out the door. In the 10 to 12 steps it took me to get from the door to the car, I felt my right leg give out. Oh, crap....not now, I thought. I shook it out and reached for the car door handle.....weakly. Okay, just hold yourself together. Deeeeeeeep breath......(iiiiiiiiinnnn......and oooouuuuut.....) I opened and closed my fist a few times, started the car, and pulled out of the driveway. I was breathing deeply and calmly, trying to clear my mind of all things negative, worrying, and most of all stressful. My phone rang and it was my mom. My parents have been dealing with some stress of their own. I'm always there for them, but this day was not the day. I could only be there for me and at that point in time, Lilli.
  About 15 minutes later we pulled into the Hobby Lobby. I stepped out of the high 4-Runner and slid down the side of my seat until my shoes hit the pavement. I could only feel my big toe on my right foot. Nice. We hobbled into the store, Lilli holding my hand and trying to steady me, my left leg carrying all of the weight it could muster. Our trip to the Christmas section was fast, for I was fading fast. We got home and I crashed on the couch, unable to keep my head up. This is how fast and sudden a flareup comes on. That night we ate dinner at my in-laws' and I helped my sis in law with some babies she was sitting for. By around 7:00 I was feeling better and no longer weak-sided, however, I don't remember much about the conversation that night and  I slept like a rock.
   The next morning, I woke up and all was well. I was spry, hyper, and ready to roll over Turkey Day with my family. We were to be at Jordan's grandmother's house at 1:00. By then I was hobbling again and so fatigued I could hardly get it together. We finally made it at 1:45. It was official. 24 hours later and my Turkey Day had brought with it a plethora of reminders of why I hate this disease so much.
  I was able to have a great week nonetheless. The weakness and numbness waxes and wanes. It's kind of a pain because it's so unpredictable. Yesterday, Black Friday, I officially broke out Candy the Cane. What a drag. (no pun intended) Again, I tackled the Hobby Lobby parking lot, and again, I tackled the Hobby Lobby Christmas section. Only this time there were five gazillion people there to take advantage of the 50% off Christmas decor. All I needed were tree lights. If I can just get those lights I can get the heck outta here.  It wasn't that easy. 
    Every which way I went in that store, every human stared in amazement. I was wearing a rose colored top with a black scarf, blue jeans, and my pink New Balance tennis shoes. My makeup was done up, as always, but nothing dramatic, and my blonde coif was curled because it's faster to roll than to blow dry it under. There was nothing abnormal about me other than that darn cane. (I would love to have written the other D word before cane, just so you know.....) People would look and smile because this is the Southern way of life. We always make eye contact and smile pleasantly. Then their eyes would follow my outfit and find my cane. Then, DUN, DUN, DUNNNNN!!!! "GASP!" And their pitiful eyes would yet again meet mine saying, "Oh, you poor dear! FOR SHAME! It's a...a...a....c-c-c-CANE!" Cue the minor chords.
   One can imagine my horror when it fell to the ground after I had leaned it up against a shelf to grab some tree lights. The woman standing next to me looked like she was watching a homeless man make his bed under a bridge. I was waiting for her to break out the anointing oil and lay hands on me while she prayed......not that I'd mind.
   Why are you telling us this, Bran? It's awful. You bet it's awful; it's downright pathetic and humiliating. I broke in the car, I'll be honest. There was only ONE person who didn't look at me funny and that was my friend Kristy, the cashier. Praise GOD for this gal! I felt like a circus sideshow all day yesterday. I literally wanted to hide, but I didn't.......because gimps have Christmas decorating to do, too. In case your momma isn't southern, and I'm going to pray that everyone in the Hobby Lobby yesterday was of yankee descent, allow me to teach you some etiquette: It's not polite to stare. (Wow, now I know why.) I ran into a lady I know from my church yesterday and she flat out asked me, "What's going on? Are you feeling okay today?" She knows about my MS and I explained to her that I felt fine I was just having a rough time getting around. She reassured me she'd be praying and encouraged me to get better then we moved on to another subject. It was nice, and I appreciated it. This is me personally: I would rather you come and ask me, "Why do you have a cane? What the heck's wrong with you? What happened? etc." than for you to just stare, pity me, and then turn to your girlfriend and shake your head like I'm a "case."  Really? People with canes or wheelchairs, walkers or crutches, are not going to eat you or hide under your bed in anticipation of stealing your feet from your body. I've gotta use a cane sometimes because I can't feel my leg or foot, or it's too weak to hold me up. It's no big deal. You can ask and I won't be offended. If you already know, don't ask because that's just annoying. And please don't treat me like I need special attention. If I need your help, I'll ask for it, don't worry. (insert cutesy wink here)
   I don't write this for my readers who know me, but for my readers who don't know me and the other MSers who often find themselves in the same predicament. However, I know there will still be those who gawk and stare, and ultimately, I guess I'll get over it. Life's too short and I don't always need Candy the Cane. It's like someone once suggested: maybe you should get a top hat. Well, maybe I will.

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