# FWF Gratitude, Kellie Elmore

wonderful nature have a nice weekend and a bea...

wonderful nature have a nice weekend and a beautiful 3.advent dear friends (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Listen, Love, Give Thanks

It was my birthday last month, I bought myself a small cup of creamy coffee with a crisp twenty-dollar bill and whispered to the cashier “let others use it up until it runs out” she looked at me with a blank stare. That was a birthday present to myself, the best kind. I felt happy to be able to do a small act of kindness. I walked out grinning. Giving. Joy. Love.

Today is dreary, rainy, and glum. I have turned my loud music off, there is no noise in my room except the ringing in my ears, the sound of my fingertips on the keyboard and airline jets flying overhead in the sky. I imagine they are traveling to exotic places: Bali, Greece, Japan? A couple of newlyweds are on their way to their honeymoon, holding hands and sipping champagne, kissing each others pink lips lightly. I was young once too.

The rest of the next hour is a gift. I have the luxury of peace and I relax on my bed with my sweet red dog, Lexi, wrapped around my legs. Every day has been long, arduous, bringing some medical testing, and waiting for results, a flat tire, silly and stressful things. Finally, Friday, I get results, I can give thanks that all has ended well. I send hope and light to my friend who is also facing challenges, we haven’t talked in years but now we talk daily. Support, Understanding, Old Friends.

I listen to the sound of my breathing and try to slow it down. Inhale slowly, Exhale slowly. The weather is damp and my arms ache with soreness just from raising them, my body is the barometer for all things; fellow patients with Fibromyalgia nod their heads “YES.” We understand when the weather changes before the news weather forecasters have any idea. What a waste of a job, why not just hire us at a fifth of the cost? Many pillows prop me up like a hospital patient, fully clothed, drowned in six comforters for warmth. I try to release pain and tightness from every limb, bone, muscle. I try. It doesn’t work. I’ve accepted that, there is no room in my life to fight. With age there is wisdom, I’m grateful for that.

Maybe I don’t have the highs and joy that we used to have in the past, a gratifying status of being “Mom” with sticky kisses and playing with cars or having tea parties, those days are far gone. But, I did have them once, a long time ago. It is not the good times we had in the past but also not the bad times that may await us in the future. I can’t possibly complain. Yes, my husband was laid off and I haven’t been in the best of health for the last seven years but we are dealing with the situation. A word of advice: Just count your blessings and not your sorrows. Thank G-d, Nature, or Angels, whatever you believe in, that you are alive TODAY. Enjoy today as much as you can because we cannot count on a tomorrow.

Embrace your spouse/partner or friend, child, mom, dad, grandparent and give thanks for what you do have and don’t waste a minute focusing on what you don’t have. Hug your cat or dog, Buy a present for someone you don’t like, maybe there is a reason why they are so cranky, see what happens. Everyone has a story, listen. There is always someone who has it worse than you do.We are relatively healthy, our adult children are coming home for a visit and we will have a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving. We give thanks for what we have.

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The Measure Of Time

English: Woman undergoing a mammogram of the r...

English: Woman undergoing a mammogram of the right breast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people measure how quickly time goes by with the start of a new year, January 1st, others by  their birthday, or the start of school. I measure how quickly the year goes by at my annual mammogram appointment, where I sit in that same musty, intolerable room, sweating with the other women, waiting for our names to be called.

I am not the measure of confidence, breezy, smiling with designer shoes and handbag when I go in but I admire the women who seem to be that way. Count me out. I go, this time with soft, well-worn gray pants, and a loose striped shirt, my hair in two short pig-tails to get it away from my face, my face showing fear and anxiety. The day before this I had a grueling day at The Balance Center so I thought, perhaps, I could catch a break today. Yeah, right.

They call my name rather quickly and for that I am grateful, I have a friendly technician who realizes I have lost weight, by the size of my breasts? Whatever. She finishes the films and I sit down and wait for my name to be called, imagining my relieved smile, walking out the door, perhaps celebrating with a pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks. No such luck.

After waiting another fifteen minutes, they call my name again and I proceed to the doctor but unfortunately that is not where they want me to go. Another technician tells me the doctor wants a repeat of some of the films, actually of my right breast and my heart plummets to my feet. I feel weak so I try to hang on to the bar on top of the machine and I try to ask  the technician questions but she gives me no answers. I am already trying to accept my fate and think of myself categorically planning the next step. Why me? Why not me? No one is exempt from this horrible disease, I don’t have any lucky charm or special karma, it’s really a number’s game, isn’t it?

The free pink pens and pink peppermints on the table don’t do much to help my nerves or anyone else’s, I don’t see many people taking the free samples. I take a pen and pop a peppermint in my mouth for the sugar. After another twenty minutes, yet again, a different technician calls my name and I steel myself for the news of the radiologist good or bad, I will be strong, I will cope, not that I have a choice.

Instead of seeing the radiologist, this technician whisks me into the ultra-sound room and focuses heavily on my right breast. I’m not an idiot, the doctor wanted extra pictures of my right breast and the technician is spending 80 percent of her time trying to get clear pictures of my right breast. I timidly ask politely from the technician if there is anything she can tell me. Cool as a cucumber, she says, somewhat haughtily, “the doctor will tell you the results” she looks like she’s 15 and I know it’s her job but again, patient sensitivity is sorely lacking.

She tells me NOT to get dressed (not a good sign, I think) and she will show this to the doctor. I get dressed anyway. After ten minutes she comes in and says she will take me to the doctor. I don’t remember walking there, I just remember being there. Inside a jovial sounding man who I can now image only as Owen Hunt from “Grey’s Anatomy” says “take a seat.” I remain standing because I cannot move. He said ‘you’re fine.” “What?” I ask? He repeats  in a casual, breezy tone, ” you’re fine.” I find my voice and say “what about all the extra pictures and the ultra sound and the emphasis on the right breast?” He leans back in his chair and laughs, “Oh, you have a lymph node there but you’ve had the same one for the last ten years, nothing to worry about. Come on now, not even a smile?” I just stare. Once again, he asks “can I just have one smile before you leave?” I turn my back, and walk quietly out the door.

I’m still in shock but I am grateful.

I’m On Fire In A Fibro Flare-Up

Campfire-flames

I’ve been working through the pain of Fibromyalgia for the last few months; today it caught up to me in a bad way. I couldn’t move, walk, take a baby step. Even when I sat down on my pale green modern sofa, my feet ached and throbbed and wouldn’t stop hurting. Drugs don’t seem to help me but sleep does. It’s only 7:00pm and I am forcing myself to stay awake even though I am lying down on my bed, stiff and unable to move. I need help to get out of bed, I am grateful for my husband who comes to my rescue. Very grateful.

I am yearning for sleep; to pull the extra blankets over my head and feel my body try to release its tension and pain. I’m hoping the pain will not wake me up tonight, will not tug at my shoulders or send stabbing pain up and down my legs. I need a night off from pain, just one night and then I will be ready to trudge through the pain again, like walking uphill through a windy snowstorm. It isn’t easy but if it has to be done, it’s sometimes possible.

Everything tonight is black and white, food, books, conversations, life. I am trying to relax my muscles but it is not working, maybe I am trying too hard. I am not sure I know what the word relaxation means anymore since my body feels like an overworked metal machine; I am the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, still searching for some oil.

After many years of believing in the magic oil, the magic pain relief, I have given up on believing in a possible cure. I don’t care about the naysayers either, I know what I feel, what many of my friends feel. Who wants to advertise or brag about pain? Not I.

I compliment myself on my attitude, still having a sense of humor, still looking forward to a piece of a chocolate chip loaf from a nearby restaurant. I have plans to watch Modern Family with my husband on-line to keep me up 26 minutes later before I beg for sleep. I accept what I can do and what I can’t do. There is a handicap rail for inside my new, deep bathtub. My daughter looked shocked, embarrassed: “Mom, please don’t tell me we are having handicapped bars in the upstairs bathroom.” “Yes” I said quietly but firmly. “Why?” her teenage self asked. “Because I need them, honey” I answered. She had the grace to turn away so I could not see her embarrassed and troubled blue eyes.

I need to use handicapped rails sometimes, like I also need tea with milk and honey in the winter and bright yellow daffodils in the springtime. All of these parts represent me, not just one. Like I need my morning coffee, now known as “a red-eye” a strong cup of coffee with a shot of espresso, it doesn’t define me but it is part of my routine in the morning. Fibromyalgia and my autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are just parts of me; the parts of me that suffers with chronic physical pain. I have to accept that but I do not have to let them define me.

The Measure Of Time

Hour Glass

When I was twelve I measured time in two-week increments. Every other Wednesday night my friend Brian and I would have to go to our orthodontist appointment. One of our dad’s always drove us.  I renamed the orthodontist “Dr. Tuna Fish Hands” since he apparently had tuna salad for dinner, twice a month, right before we came. It took years for me to ever eat tuna again.

Now, I measure time in annual mammograms. It seems like just when I thought I was in the clear for another year, it’s October again and I am sitting with other anxious women, draped in thin navy blue robes. no deodorant or powder allowed. I feel the same dread every year; I feel nauseous and anxious and scared. If I get cleared I then worry about my mother and my sister.

I woke up at five in the morning, last week, a little early for my 8 am appointment. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I took my dog out for a walk in the early morning darkness. After that, I huddled in Starbucks to drink a very strong cup of coffee for much-needed energy. I then drove to the lab at the medical center and at 7:45 I wrote my name down on the appointment list. Twenty minutes later, they called my name, a couple of other women were called too.

We all had to change and then we sat together in a tiny corner of the room. My neighbor’s foot shook, the woman across from me was sighing heavily, I did both. I couldn’t concentrate on reading even though I brought a book. I seem to do that every year and I never get past the first two sentences.  Finally, they called my name to go into the Mammography room. I don’t care about the physical discomfort at all, just the results. I went back to the room and waited for the results. My name was not called. I saw a new batch of women come and go with relieved smiles happily clutching their piece of paper which basically says “No Change, See You In A Year.”

I waited and waited some more. Two more groups of anxious looking women came in and left and I was still sitting there focusing on accepting my fate and concentrating on breathing deeply. Finally, after an hour and a half, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I asked the nurse if I could speak to the radiologist. She rolled her eyes and said “We don’t do it that way, you have to wait.” I had had it by then so I said politely, “I would like to see him, please, for just for a second.” She wasn’t happy; she rolled her eyes up inside her head, sighed and slammed the office door but she did come back to get me a minute later.

The doctor sat leaning back on his chair as if he was sunbathing in Honolulu. I didn’t even have to speak when he offhandedly said “Oh, everything is just fine, it’s exactly like last year’s.”  Um, what?  I was too stunned to feel relieved but finally mustered up the courage to ask why I had to wait an hour and a half for the news? “You are scheduled for an ultra-sound soon, he droned, so I thought we would wait to see the whole picture.” In a nice tone of voice I said, “I’ve been coming here for fifteen years and the doctor has always seen me in-between the tests and told me the results.” His answer? “NO, we never do it that way.” “Are you kidding me” I wanted to yell? I KNOW they do it like this, I’ve had it done for the past fifteen years.” He shook his head no. Apparently, either the rules changed or he didn’t want to take the extra step. I couldn’t fight the system any longer. I was sent back to wait for my ultra-sound.

The ultra-sound took another forty minutes and I didn’t utter a sound. I understand that even if it feels like they have been over the same spot a thousand times, it is their job to be thorough. I took some more deep breaths even though I lay tilted on the side of the examining table, close to the edge. I felt if I had to move another inch I would land on the floor, breaking ribs and fracturing an ankle or two.

Finally, the ultra-sound was complete. I was sent back to the jolly radiologist, now with a Pina Colada in his hand (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and he said “everything is perfect”  and bid me adieu. It had been over two and a half hours, dozens of women had come and gone. I walked to the changing room to retrieve my clothing; I was so tired and spent, it was hard to accept the happiness. As I walked through the bright red exit door sign, I paused and gave my personal thanks for this year’s reprieve and then limped to my car. Time of appointment 8AM, time I left 11:00 AM but I’m not complaining, I can’t. Because between my shaking fingers, I too clutched a piece of paper that said “See you next year.”