Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is It Good If Your Brain MRI Shows "Nothing"??

For those of you who read my blog, follow me on Facebook or happen to find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being backed against the wall when I'm rambling non-stop, you may know that since our vacation in July of this year, Chuck has had some dizziness issues. The first episode was a full-blown vertigo attack on St. George Island, FL which resulted in him being transported by ambulance to the tiniest hospital in North America in Apalachicola and put out of his misery. With Phenergan - they didn't shoot him, although I doubt he would have minded. (The photo above was taken an hour or two before his collapse. Didn't see it coming.) The doctors chalked it up to Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, which, loosely translated, means "We have no fucking clue why you're dizzy but it makes us sound smart." He went to a specialist back in Little Rock, who said, "You'll be fine. Probably just need to go on some long walks and look up and around while you're walking." Clearly it was a doctor who isn't aware of my husband's clumsy gene & wasn't here when Chuck attempted to walk down the two steps to our tiny den BEFORE he was stricken with this condition to show our neighbor a family photo. He fell FLAT on his ass right in front of her, for NO apparent reason. The man can't walk looking straight ahead. Let alone outside near moving cars & skateboarding youngsters. Uh, no. New solution, please.

It went away for a while, for no obvious reason. And then near Halloween, he came down with strep and a sinus infection and it reared it's ugly head. Not nearly as bad, mind you. No hospital visits, vomiting or the inability to even lift his head. Just some dizziness. Pretty severe, but not vertigo. Back to the specialist who decides a battery of tests are now in order. He passed 'em with flying colors. Basically, "If you didn't have a problem with these tests, you are normal. Go on more long walks. No need for brain scan. Pffft! Pay me your co-pay so I can head to the Caymans and you go live your life." And this is where I lost it. I insisted he go back to his family doctor and demand a scan of his head/brain. I mean SOMETHING has to be causing him to be dizzy, right? Other than my raving beauty, long legs & ability to cook good food. This doesn't just happen for no reason. Right?

So, the MRI is scheduled. Of course not for a week or so, which gives me time to Google (I know! I know! SHUT UP!) things like:
*terminal illnesses with dizziness as symptom
*symptoms of brain tumors
*glioma, adenoma, medulloblastoma
*symptoms of deadly brain diseases
*diseases that sneak up & strike you dead
*what could possibly be causing dizziness in a hot, middle-aged consultant?
*images of Tom Brady

Ok, that last one was an attempt to distract myself from my fears that were sort of consuming me.

Every time I looked at Chuck, I thought:
*A year.... at most we have a year...or two if we're lucky.
*How will I raise the kids alone?
*I can't drive to two practices in one night.
*He's going to suffer & I'd rather it be me & I can't handle this.
*Hell, I can't handle Sonic forgetting my pickles...

Hey, guys, let's play "You name a doomsday scenario - I'll paint you a picture!" And Chuck, always calm & RATIONAL, would just say, "I have good life insurance, honey." WTF? Who cares about that? I mean it's smart & nice to have but I want YOU! What fun is a pool without you in it?

Cut to the MRI. I go with him for no other reason than to be with him every step of this long, painful, journey that I'm convinced is going to start here & end with a casket spray of lilies & some band playing a bluegrass tune about heaven or angels or something equally depressing. Chuck, however, never gets upset about much. Or I should say, he's the type of guy who will completely lose his SHIT over a light being left on in an empty room or the dishes not being loaded PROPERLY but not, let's say, the possibility of imminent death. That's just him. So we're sitting there filling out the paper work & he's joking about everything being asked of him on the medical history.

HIM: Difficulty urinating?
ME: No. It takes 2 additional hours to get to Florida just adding in your bathroom stops. And costs us an additional $125 in snack food for me & the kids from the convenience stores we stop at while waiting for you. Often? Yes. Difficulty? I'd say no, but why are you asking me?
HIM: Gastrointestinal issues?
ME: 3 big tacos, cheese dip and a couple of Coronas is NOT what they're referring to. You're fine there too.
HIM: Blood pressure?
ME: Usually normal when you're not around me. Then it tends to rise.
HIM: Am I allergic to latex? I have no clue. How would I know?
ME: Well, I realize it's been a while, but have you ever broken out after wearing a condom?
HIM: Well, a few times.
HIM: Well, yeah, you know that.
ME: I did NOT know that. Never saw it. When???
HIM: You did too. You were scared you were pregnant!
ME: Broken out in a RASH silly, not had the condom BREAK. What would that prove?
HIM: Oh, NO! I haven't! No rashes! Ever!
ME: Then you're probably not allergic to latex.

And that is where the tension I had been feeling temporarily left my body and he again used his uncanny gift to make me die laughing about 5 minutes before the tech called him back. In fact we couldn't stop laughing. And this is why I love us.

And guess what? The MRI showed nothing but a completely normal brain. No aneurysms, clots, cysts, tumors or anything that could be causing his problems. Which is great. I went to bed very happy and content that night. Except it's still frustrating to NOT know why it's happening. But it's a huge comfort to know that as far as his brain goes, he's just fine. Lately it's only been happening here at home so I'm about to decide it's just the raving beauty & long legs ;) And I don't even charge a co-pay.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Then We'll Get Back To Happy Things....

A few months ago one of my Facebook friends posted a quote that said something to the effect of "Sometimes the people who seem the happiest of all, actually aren't." It jumped out at me because at the time I was going through a very difficult time. A very difficult time that no one but Chuck, my amazingly supportive husband, knew about. And surprisingly, that time was October - December of this year. Oh, eventually the children picked up on things because I spent nearly all of my time in my room, lying in or on the bed. But no one in the "outside world" saw anything but the hilarious chaos that comes through in my Facebook posts. My life seemed great to everyone else - I had lost weight, was running, business was going well, Chuck & I had a couple of nights away from it all, we got Apollo, etc. And that stuff did really happen. But at the time, I was doing some careful editing of what I released to my friends & followers.

After the birth of my first child (not immediately, but several months after), I experienced a case of mild depression that I attribute today to not having a clue how to adjust to motherhood. I mean, when you're pregnant, it's all rainbows & unicorns, right? Gifts and baby name books and decorating the nursery and buying tiny diapers and oh, God, do not waste your money on a freaking WIPE WARMER, people. I avoid baby showers to this day because I want to stand up and say:

"You know what? You're going to love this child more than anything in the world. You're going to kiss it and hug it and stare at every perfect little part of it. But it's going to yell at you from day one, demand things you don't know how to provide, likely pee on you, have stomach viruses, bring home head lice (not us YET, thank God), fail tests, forget to turn in homework, say "fuck" at school, spit on a girl who's been bullying him, protest eating anything but chicken & cheese, balk at going to church, balk at going anywhere, refuse to go to sleep at night, refuse to sleep ALL night, kick the backseat of your car in a temper fit, grout the tile floor with pancake syrup, throw something across the room & split his brother's forehead, wreck your car, etc. You're going to realize what unfettered craziness results when an egg and sperm unite and combine HIS genes with YOURS. Holy shit - NO ONE can prepare you for this. It can be like Pat Robertson marrying Kim Kardashian. GENES GONE WILD! You won't know how to handle it. You're going to want to take something, ANYTHING, to deal with the stress & you're going to lose your temper more times than you can count. But even though you will likely lose your temper & say mean things to them, spank them, lock them in their room, you're going to love that child through it all, savor the good times & spend his teen years planning the vacation you're going on when you drop him (or her) at college or bartending school."

Thank you. Now I'll take a piece of cake. And you better have cake dammit. (I hate those frou-frou showers where they have food and petit fours. Showers mean CAKE, people. Not TURKEY.)

But I digress. That was my first mild depression a year or so into #1. I started taking Prozac & seeing a therapist & got much, much better. My world had color again. I loved being a mom & maybe more importantly, I liked and enjoyed it. Then a few years later, I endured a crisis with my in-laws that cut to the core of who I am and left me very, very ANGRY. I was wrongly judged, disrespected & hurt. And I didn't want to be a part of that family, except for the fact that I was completely & totally in love with their son. And the end result of this was that I plummeted back to the depths of depression and even for the first time in my life began to gain weight. Eating to soothe hurt. A common symptom. Sadness. Not wanting to get out of bed. And especially this time, anger. I went back to the doctor and said, "I need to start Prozac again. NOW. Thank you." And I got better, both from the medicine and from distancing myself from the situation. Although I never got an apology from the person who hurt me the most, I've learned to live with it. I've never been a good forgetter. (Remember those genes I discussed earlier?) Bottom line: I got better. The kids survived. My marriage survived. Life went on. And then out of the blue for seemingly NO apparent reason, the Prozac decided in October of this year that it would cease to work. Overnight.

I distinctly remember getting out of bed one morning and thinking, "I don't want to get up today. I don't want to do anything today. Not make lunches. Not drop the kids off. Not go for a run. Nothing." We all have bad days but something in the back of my head told me this was different. I had no reason to be feeling this way. My marriage was at a peak, our sex life was great (I know - you're welcome), the kids seemed happy for the most part, my holiday sessions were booking, life was GRAND, right? Anthropologie was opening for God's sake, the holidays, that I usually LOVE, were on their way, I was turning 41 which certainly beats not having a birthday. What was wrong? I decided it was nothing that seeing Gary Allan in concert wouldn't cure so I took Ryder and a friend and we spent the weekend at my dad's and took in the concert. I will say that for that 3 hour period, I was NOT depressed at all, but in heaven. Sadly, I couldn't go on tour & had to return. Now if you know anything about Gary, you know he's had immeasurable sadness in his life with the sudden suicide of his wife. And at the end of his shows, his dog Lucy comes out and greets all the band members, sits on stage for the final number and then walks off the stage with Gary. That night I saw the total happiness that the dog seemed to bring to him (and had seen an interview previously where he talked about it) and I decided that's what I needed. A dog would make me happy. I always had dogs as a child and we had never had one despite desperate pleas from the kids. So I toyed with the idea and just as I was getting consumed with it, a friend texted me a photo of his dog dressed as a superhero. His adorable dog dressed as a SUPERHERO, people. I had to have one. So we got one. Not a puggle like "superhero puppy" but an adorable 1/2 dachsund, 1/2 pomeranian from a rescue in Missouri. (I raised the white flag in the puggle war & accepted defeat.) And I have to admit Apollo has helped me tremendously. There's something to be said for therapy dogs because when you're feeling down, there's nothing like a nap with a mutt to calm your nerves. Just the fact that he lays at my feet as I work is comforting. But unfortunately, he was not enough.

The sad thing is I don't even remember some of November. At one point all three men in the house had strep and stomach viruses within a week of each other. You've read about that several entries below. Then Chuck had another vertigo attack and have I mentioned that his fall travel schedule is insane? That didn't help. I made it through Thanksgiving but in all honesty, had to think for about 5 minutes before I remembered what we cooked this year. And through it all I was keeping up my Facebook statuses, entertaining the masses with my wit & wishing I was anywhere but where I was. And I was still thinking that THIS TIME was different because I was just struck overnight & I have this wonderful life and nothing to complain or be sad about. I was also still taking my Prozac thinking that surely it would kick in again. Then December rolled around and things got really, really dark.

Darker than I feel like sharing all the details of, actually. And you know if I'M not willing to share, it must be dark. December is my favorite winter month. I love shopping for gifts, making gifts, decorating the trees, watching Christmas movies (Olive the Other Reindeer, anyone?), getting a new Christmas CD, wrapping up my busy season, baking treats for people, celebrating my birthday......I LOVE DECEMBER. But this year was horrible. I cried often. Mostly for no apparent reason and luckily it would usually hit between 1 & 4 in the morning. Easy to escape to the shower so no kids heard. I would sit in the shower until all the hot water ran out and then sometimes get in bed and continue crying while my sweet husband just told me everything was going to be fine. It must have been terribly hard for him to understand. When I felt the crying hit during "regular business hours" or basically when the kids were around, I would just leave and go somewhere and park and cry in the truck. I faked happiness a lot. But the kids were picking up on it. Chuck put up the tree and instead of my usual bitching that it's not perfectly straight I walked in and said, "Looks fine. Whatever." (THAT was a watershed moment for sure.) Then I put lights on it, that promptly went out, started decorating it and 3 boxes into my 20 boxes of ornaments, said to myself, "I can't do this." I had intentions of finishing it later but you know what they say about good intentions. My dad and stepmom came to let us have a night in a hotel for my birthday and we attended two Christmas parties. I got dressed up & we looked like any happy couple. I had a little too much wine but we had a great time. Except at about 2:30 in the morning when I woke up crying as usual. We went out the next night to Bruno's with friends and had a great time. Another friend even stopped by the table to tell me how much she loves me and how happy my Facebook posts make her & all I could think was that my life was such a paradox at that moment. Making people happy while feeling like shit. Having fun with friends gave me hope things were getting better. But only for a short while. I let the kids down terribly at Christmas. Chuck did 95% of the shopping. I didn't get their stockings out of the attic. I never finished the tree. We didn't bake cookies for Santa. I didn't bake for anyone. I never got their Christmas Eve pajamas. They noticed. I will feel guilty for the rest of my life. It just wasn't me.

New Year's Eve was the breaking point. Chuck and I went to dinner. (It's mom's tradition to keep the boys that night ALL night. She had them and Ryder was at home getting ready for her night out.) We were at Bravo, my new favorite restaurant, and we ate and I said something about having time together, after Ryder was at her party, just the two of us & Chuck sprung on me that he had a headache and just wanted to go home and go to sleep. It seems silly now but that was my breaking point. I left Bravo in tears & cried most of the rest of the evening. After I got Ryder to her party, I came home & really lost it. (Actually I lost it in the car first. Sort of a sneak preview of things to come.) You can't know how frustrating it is to be unhappy and not know why. It must be worse for your spouse to be unhappy & you not know why. I confessed how low I had actually been. Again, nothing I want to share here, but to end this saga, the next weekday Chuck made me go to the doctor & my medication was changed to Lexapro. It's been a slow journey back. It's not an overnight cure but I'm getting there. I have good days with a low one now and then and according to the doctor (& Google) that means it's working. The low ones will become fewer and further between. I'm back to exercising, which I had really cut back on because I just didn't have the motivation to get out. I even rejoined a gym which is a huge step for me.

Before I end, I'd like to clarify a couple things. First, my weight loss had nothing to do with my depression. I started my fitness program back in May and if anything, gained a little back during the period of depression. I'm just glad I sought help before I ended up right back where I started fitness-wise. Secondly, I only talked to a couple people during this time about how I was feeling & if you take anything away from me sharing this, please take away that depression has NOTHING to do with what you're blessed with. You can have wonderful kids, a good marriage, a husband who provides well and has had the same job for 19 years, a job you have doing what you love, working when you want, good looks, good body (not talking about myself in all of these, folks!), supportive family members, etc. & when your serotonin &/or dopamine levels decide to plummet, it just doesn't matter. Although they CAN crash due to divorce, job loss, or death of a loved one, they can also take a dive for no apparent reason. So telling a depressed person to think of what they have to be thankful for is not a bad thing for that person to do but certainly not a cure. In any way. Third, do not be afraid to seek medical help for depression. It's the only way out. Also, to the couple of people who I did confide in besides Chuck, thank you for caring and listening & reading my long, rambling texts. You know who you are.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Grandpa Lendal (1923-2010)

Tomorrow, we'll be heading north to Missouri for the memorial service of Chuck's grandpa, Lendal Buttry. It's a sad loss for all of us because he was a wonderful dad, grandpa & fixture about the small town of Bernie for many, many years. As owner of the Western Auto store, there are very few people in the area who didn't at one time or another need a washer or a tire or a stove & come in to see Lendal & later, his son Jerry, my husband's father.

When I think of Lendal, I think of the intense sparkle he had in his eye. It was 99% happiness and 1% mischief, but whether he was entertaining grandchildren or talking about an adventure he had experienced traveling with Grandma Elsie & their Airstream trailer, the sparkle in his eye was always there. Grandpa Lendal always included everyone & made the in-laws feel welcome to be part of the family. He was a faithful Christian man & spent much of his life helping others who were less fortunate than he. Even this past Christmas as his health quickly declined, he was concerned the great-grandkids get their McDonald's cards for Christmas. Another thing that I remember about Grandpa is his "mildly-raspy-but-never-mean" voice that I never, ever heard raised. He loved catching up with the grandchildren & joking with them, the gleam ever-present in his eyes, especially if he thought he was getting one over on them. In his later years, when he found we had a mutual love of Airstream trailers, we shared a couple articles & photos about them & he donned his hat & let me photograph he and Elsie with their trailer. They're some of my favorite photos I've ever taken but they were in the days of film and I don't have one handy to scan. :-( Suffice it to say, they radiate happiness and his love for Elsie, his wife of over 65 years.

My mom pulled me aside at our wedding reception in '93 and said, "If you want to see what your husband is going to look like when you're older, look over there." She motioned to Lendal & I remember thinking "if Chuck looks like Grandpa Lendal as he ages, I will be very, very happy." I think he's off to a good start because he already has that sparkle in his eye.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ravioli & Vegetables With Pesto Cream Sauce

Prep time: 20 min.
Cook Time: 20 min. more to finish
Makes 3-4 servings


2 tsp olive oil
8 oz. fresh green beans, cut in 1 1/2" pieces
1/2 c medium yellow bell pepper, cut in 1/2" pieces
3 plum (Roma) tomatoes, diced
1/3 c olives - green, black or both
1/2 tsp salt
16 oz frozen, cheese-filled ravioli
1/2 c sour cream
3 Tbsp basil pesto (Buitoni is a good brand to use.)
1 tsp lemon juice from fresh lemon + save lemon to squeeze more juice on indiv. servings

1. Put ravioli on to boil according to package instructions.

2. In 12 in. non-stick skillet, heat oil over med-high heat. Cook green beans & bell pepper in oil about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until crisp-tender. Stir in tomatoes, olives & salt. Cook about 3 minutes.

3. In small bowl, mix sour cream, basil pesto & lemon juice.

4. Drain ravioli & return it to saucepan. Toss ravioli, vegetable mixture & sour cream mixture. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over individual servings, if desired, for final touch.

5. Serve with garlic bread & olive oil w/ dipping spices & Caesar salad.