Monday, November 14, 2011

The Waiting Pain

The journey, any hero's journey, is going to have bumps along the way. When we're writing a story these bumps are what strengthen the hero's will to overcome her own bad habit or flaw finally because she sees that she cannot have her desire without change. A hero's journey implies change from the get go, even if that change is simply self-acceptance. When a hero makes the necessary change the world comes back into a new balance that ensures thriving for least until the next hero's journey. When a hero cannot make the change, then the story is a tragedy, and the rest of the world makes a change, but the hero is left in the dust, and there is no guarantee that thriving will happen for anyone.

The bumps along the way are what I like to call "villain voodoo". They cause a great deal of discomfort and even pain for the hero. This villain voodoo causes the hero to undergo training, to make better plans, to understand the rules better, to figure out what her values are going to be finally. Sometimes a hero cannot pin her torture on one particular person, a villain. Sometimes it seems as if the voodoo is coming from every direction, and usually that means that the voodoo is self-perpetuating, and she's got to stop hurting herself or suffer the consequences. (Yes, I'm using a gender-neutral "hero" by the way.)

I've been writing about my brain tumor surgery from a hero's point of view because right away I saw that, of course, this is just that sort of journey. And, like any hero would, I entered the process naively and hopeful that it would be easy and straightforward, bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-boom. And, of course, like any hero's journey the bumps and voodoo have been cropping up steadily in every direction. So, let me tell you about my voodoo in the hopes that it will help other hero's be informed, know they're not alone, and make better plans.

I have always had bizarre health problems with few clear cut answers from Western Medicine. More on the chronic side than on the acute, these problems, I discovered when I was in my 20s, were better addressed holistically. For years, beginning when I was 23 and going until I was just hitting my 40s, acupuncturists, chiropractors, cranial-massage therapists, naturopaths, osteopaths, and healers of half a dozen other modalities were the most regular people in my life. I tried everything to rid myself of chronic uticaria, hives by another name, headaches, muscle pain, to increase my energy for living, to cope with my home life problems, to increase my ability to digest, to understand my life. I came to understand that they were a crutch to me, now and then, and would pull back, only to become so sick that I had to return again.

Occasionally, I went to Western Medicine and occasionally I got a clear answer -- like "Hashimoto's Thyroiditis," but for the most part I got crazy suggestions from Doctors with Doctoral Degrees! For instance, one doctor took a look at my body covered head-to-toe with hives, and suggested that I needed to get pregnant. I was only 22 years old, not yet married, and it wasn't helpful. I'm not sure he was really thinking about my hives as he had a peculiar bulge in his pants, but it was voodoo enough for me to switch doctors. That's how voodoo works, if you pay attention.

I tell you all of this only to point out, that I have worked both sides of the fence for health - holistic medicine and Western medicine, and have come to the conclusion that holistic medicine is very helpful for chronic conditions mostly and Western medicine is very helpful in a crisis, and sometimes that isn't true. For instance, I assumed when this brain tumor was diagnosed six weeks ago that it was an acute crisis. I didn't understand that it was a chronic one. Even though I've probably had this thing for nearly 20 years, it hadn't been the obvious cause of my health problems...or had it?

What I thought was that it was acute enough that the doctor would rush me into surgery in a short time and then I'd be out and fixed. I had full confidence when this thing started that it was a mechanical issue, and that it was fixable. I forgot years and years of training that indicated that if you pull a string in a sweater, it can unravel, and before that it can pull the entire sweater out of whack. I know all that, and I just blanked it out. It did not occur to me that the doctor did not view this egg in my head as a problem of enough magnitude that he had to rush.

It never occurred to me that the medications they were putting me on to prepare for surgery would break down my confidence and remind me that Western medicine is not always the best route. I thought this is a foreign body that must be removed. Would you think any differently? But, this being a hero's journey, it could not be that simple. It had to remind me of who I am, and what I've learned in my life, and demand that I retrain, make better plans and strain to get a better understanding of the rules I'm engaging in to have this thing taken care of and get myself on the road to recovery.

I feel a bit like I've been whacked on the back of my head! I've had a fever of over 100 for three days, have intense muscle pain the minute the Tylenol has reached its 4-hour zone, and am covered with a rash head to toe which feels like hot pin pricks, and looks like I've been nude sunbathing I'm so pink. I can't sleep more than a few hours, and when I wake up I am drenched. VOODOO! This is the third anti-seizure medication that they've tried for me. The neurosurgeon's nurse said, "I don't know what we're going to do with you, Amanda." That always builds confidence.

Truly, I have been resisting not having this work as I wanted it to work out. We are not wealthy people, and I know from experience how much multiple weekly visits to various holistic health care professionals costs. Whereas all of the Western medicine that is torturing me is paid for by insurance, the holistic care that I need is uncovered. I am being forced to up my engagement in this process just when all I want to do is lie abed and be soothed. That's how a hero's journey goes every time.

Lavinia Weissman, of The Story Of Meaningful Use, a health intuitive, has been advising me for weeks as to what alternatives are available to me, and I have been immovable in my stubbornness to let Western medicine do its job of healing. Har. A lot of heroes are stubborn about hanging onto their flaws. I just wanted that journey to be over, but now I see that it is simply my journey and the longer I resist it the worse all of these reactions are going to get. I get it. Sigh. Grr. I'm angry about it still. I don't understand why it is my destiny to have to seek alternative paths, but I accept it. I'm not even sure that I'll be able to change course in a meaningful way soon enough to be able to have my surgery as scheduled this Friday which just is so messed up, I can't tell you. I've already lost my Thanksgiving break with my kids, and I don't have the energy to take it back even if I can, because I'm not having surgery because I'm having terrible reactions to the medication I need to have this surgery. Sigh.

Yes, I'm a bit grumpy about this turn of events, but in retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised. This is a journey I've been on my entire adult life, and I'm still trying to get to the point of thriving and balance. I am also laughing at myself in wonder. How can it be that I thought I was finished? I am still alive.

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