Saturday, March 12, 2016

Something Else

Sometimes it takes temporarily losing vision in one eye to realize that some of your friendships have really grown into what is more like family.  Over  this past Thanksgiving, I wasn't feeling well.  I had a blasting headache and my left eye hurt and was a little blurry.  I had convinced myself it was a sinus infection.  But, my good friend Bethel had suggested I call my doctor before the holiday in case it was something else.  I called and said I felt like maybe I had a sinus infection starting up and they told me the first opening they had was in 3 weeks.  So I continued on with holiday plans. My children were with Oz the night before Thanksgiving so I met up with friends at a local pub to see a band.  The headache persisted and the blurriness seemed worse, but I attributed it to the loud music and lights.  After a couple chocolate martinis….well the blurriness didn't seem that bad.

On Thanksgiving Day, I wore my glasses because my eye hurt too much to put my contact in.  The headache persisted, but family and friends had me laughing enough that it didn't bother me too much.

On Black Friday, the vision was noticeably blurrier.  I mentioned it to Bethel again and she convinced me to get an eye doctor to check it out since my regular doctor's office wasn't open.

I had now self-diagnosed the problem to be a sinus infection that had been aggravated by a ripped contact.

But, the eye doctor said my contact and eye were not ripped.  She said there was swelling behind my eye and she gave me steroid eye drops and said to see my regular doctor on Monday.

That Saturday, lights were bothering my eye.  I met a friend for breakfast and could barely see out of the left eye.

I felt my sinus infection getting much be worse and thought I needed an antibiotic so I went to a walk-in clinic.  The person that checked me out said my eye was definitely swollen. Continue to use the eye drops, take an antibiotic for my sinuses and see my own doctor on Monday.

By Sunday vision was now brown in the left eye and so blurry I wasn't sure I could really see out of it.

I decided if the antibiotics had not worked by Monday afternoon, I would see a doctor after work.

When Bethel heard that, she COMPLETELY advised against that idea of waiting and going to work.  She and her husband called me.  He is an APRN and he said I should go to the emergency room because blurry vision is nothing to mess with it.

I didn't want to go to the emergency room because who would watch the kids, the copay was too high, the wait would be too long and about 10 other excuses I came up with.

But, Bethel's husband had made his point clear - blurry vision is serious.  I should NOT go to work. I should call my doctor and say I need to be seen immediately.

Since everything was very brown and blurry at this point and my head was aching bad. I thought I should listen to advice of my friends and called my boss to say I would not be in for Monday.

Monday morning once I got the kids off to school I called my doctor and explained the weekend events.  They said to come in immediately.

I thought it was great because I could get a stronger antibiotic for my sinus infection.

However, when I got there ~ the doctor restated what Bethel had been saying for days...  IT WAS NOT A SINUS INFECTION!

 I sort of heard her say that and still thought I would drive myself home and schedule the MRI she suggested for some point in time.

The doctor looked at me like I had lost my mind.  Since I could barely see her, I ignored her sideways glance.  Then she spoke to me like I was an idiot and she very slowly let me know…It is NOT …a sinus infection...you are NOT driving yourself out of here…you will go right now for an MRI …I will be in touch with you as soon as I have the results.

I did NOT want to hear that. So I stayed in denial, but called my mom for a ride.
She took me to get the MRI.

The whole time I was in that Tunnel of Hell getting my brain scanned I was thinking- "I hope it really is just a sinus infection."

Because the alternatives were scary as Hell!
And… I am a single parent of 3 small children ...and I work full time…. and I have a classroom full of children that I teach. .. they need me.

I did not have time for something more.

Alas, it was something more.

 But, thank GOD it was not a tumor like I had subconsciously been fearing.  My doctor said vision loss could mean a lot of things,  and she definitely had not been smiling when she heard my father had died of Lymphoma in his brain.

So when she called to tell me to come to the Emergency Room immediately because she thought I had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) I was taken by surprise.  Because in my thoughts the MRI was supposed to rule out a tumor, not find something else.

It was supposed to be a sinus infection!

MS?!! What was that?  Shit! I had not really considered something ELSE. Something long-term else.

My friend drove me to the ER and my brother aka "Loser" and his wife met me there.    "Loser" and  our other friend "Lou" are my friends from my college years.  Once back in 1993 we saw a scene from Ace Ventura Pet Detective where Jim Cary said, "Loser" in such a funny way that we have been calling each other that for 23 years! In college, people even thought Tammy's name was really Lucy because I called her Lou. She calls me Lou too! We're a Loser Club and proud of it.

Anyway, that ER visit began a 3 day hospital stay that included bloodwork, MRIs, and Lumbar Punctures to rule out MS.

Or as it turns out…rule it in.

My diagnosis was Optic Neuristis caused by MS.  As months have gone by I have started to learn what the Hell that is and what it means. I learned it's manageable and treatment exists and my nerves calmed. It's not that bad. It could have been so much worse.

But during that 3 days in the hospital and days following, I realized I have the most amazing friends and family and that I am so very blessed!

As soon as the doctor said I would have to be admitted, Loser disappeared for a few minutes.  When he came back I asked what he had been doing. I thought maybe he was getting ready to go home. But, he said he had been ensuring that I would have a private room and he asked for a cot to be brought in so he could set up camp to keep me company.  I didn't want him to be inconvenienced.  But, he insisted he was staying.

I have to admit I was so relieved! I didn't realize until that minute how scared I felt.  A million thoughts were racing through my mind and so many unknowns and all I could think was, "OMG, I am completely alone in this world. Who will take care of me and the kids if there is something wrong?"

I have always felt like getting divorced is like free falling off a cliff without a parachute and you just never know if you will land in one piece.  Having something wrong with my health while raising 3 kids on my own was one of my worst fears.

But, I should have known better. My family and friends rallied and I was FAR from alone!

When I was transferred from the ER to a regular room, Loser already had a cot set up. And about 5 minutes after settling in my mother and 2 aunts came in.  It was 10:30 pm and they were dressed in cute, comfy clothes with scarves and their purses. I couldn't help cracking up! My favorite ladies were there to rescue me! I had tried to avoid inconveniencing my mom or anyone, but they were there because they wanted to be.  I was so grateful to see them!

Loser stayed over and we talked and talked until we finally slept.  We always laugh in any situation so it was great and took my mind off of everything. We met in college while Loser was on the "Student Patrol." He was wearing his fluorescent security jacket and telling people what to do. At first I thought he was bossy and opinionated.  When I go tho know him I realized, he IS bossy and opinionated AND one the most loving and generous human being on the planet! He is loyal and dependable and has never, ever let me down.  My family loves too, so much in fact that they adopted him a few years ago.  Now I have 2 amazing and crazy brothers.

The next morning, Lou showed and camped out for the day.  I couldn't believe it!  I had met Lou my first day of freshman year in college.  She walked into my dorm room and saw me sitting alone and said, "Hi, do you want to be my friend?"  I am always thankful I said yes!! She is my BFF and has stood by me for life.

A little while later, Bethel showed up! I met Bethel my first weekend at college also.  We became instant friends and eventually roommates.  We have always had a ton in common and have not run out of things to talk about yet in 23 years! We spend hours on the phone and quite frankly Bethel has saved my sanity on more than one occasion over the years! She is an incredible friend and if  she was charging by the hour, I would owe her about a zillion dollars for therapy.

It was like a mini-reunion! My Soul Sisters stayed with me throughout the day of testing and bloodwork and made the day entertaining.   Loser checked in and out on us all day and had us laughing.  He even stopped by while I was in the MRI and the x-ray teach told me how lucky I was to have such a protective brother! SO true.

Throughout those days in the hospital and then while recovering at home, I had much to be thankful for!  My eyesight came back 100%!! And my "Big, Fat Italian Family" and so many friends rallied around me.

For only the third time in my 41 years of life, my mother was scheduled to go away on a trip.   I wanted her to go. She needed a vacation. I was really fine. But, she as worried.

Fortunately, she works in the hospital and Loser, Lou and Bethel stopped to see her and reassured her that I would be fine and they would stand by me and take care of me.  With their encouragement she felt comfortable keeping her plans.

And my friends kept their word!

Many others helped out too.  My cousin stayed at my house to take care of the kids overnight for days, my coworkers called, stopped by to visit and took great care of my kids and students
at school.  Another one of my cousins visited and checked on me each day and my other brother stopped by to  keep me company.  Even neighbors reached out. I  had so many phone calls, texts, emails and get well cards! People dropped off food, drove me to doctor appointments and even helped me administer meds I needed at home.  Oz jumped in to help to by staying with the kids and helping me get adjusted.

MS is a thing I will figure out about as I go. It's treatable.  I'm sure there will be some learning curves ahead. But, now I know I will be ok no matter what because my kids and I have our "Village."  Our family. Our friends that have become family over the years too. The way it all works out is really something else!