Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts on 2012

Hola darlings!

Yes, I've been neglecting this blog.  I will try to do better in 2013, including trying to resurrect a form of the Goddesschess website.  Those are the plans, anyway.

As faithful fans and readers know, the year 2012, started out so wonderfully with Mr. Don and I travelling to Spain, nearly 10 years after our first visit there.  We had our obligatory fight in Madrid (LOL!) and had a marvelous time.  The weather was incredible -- well, to us, natives of Milwaukee, WI USA and Montreal, Canada -- in January we are used to temperatures well below freezing, unrelenting grey skies and snow, lots of ice and snow, and bone-chilling, teeth-rattling winds.  So, the weather in Madrid and Toledo, it was fabulous by comparison! 

We came back home and carried on as we'd been doing so since 1999 when Goddesschess first went online.  And then, Mr. Don got sick in March, with what seemed to be a lung thing that he has been prone to more and more since contracting pneumonia after our trip to Las Vegas in November, 2003.  That pneumonia hospitalized him, he nearly died!  And so, I was worried.  He didn't seem to get better.  Finally, he dragged himself to a clinic and was prescribed some drugs that only seemed to make him more ill.  Inhalers and pills and who knows what?  He wasn't able to, or refused to, describe everything that was going on to me.

I concluded he had lung cancer, and that is what I wrote to our friend, Georgia.  I thought that I must mentally prepare myself for the worst.

But he did get better, for a little while, anyway.  Warmer weather brought some relief to his condition, and toward the end of June Georgia and I chipped in and bought him two window air conditioners to use in his shot-gun style apartment (windows in the back and the front, no windows in-between), so that he would be able to spend his future summers in relative comfort of cooler, dryer air. 

It was on June 22nd, during a routine physical exam, that my doctor diagnosed me with heart arrythmia (irregular heart beat).  This was something more than the "heart murmur" that I've had for years, ever since contracting and surviving rheumatic fever as a toddler back in the 1950's.  Yeah, what you've suspected for years is true - I'm one tough bitch!

About this same time, unfortunately, it was also discovered that Mr. Don had arrythmia too!  What are the odds of both of us developing this condition?  We wrote a lot to each other during this period.

And then, my Mom got seriously ill and was hospitalized in intensive care.

And then, Mr. Don was whisked away to hospital where he had tubes put into him and all kinds of tests and procedures done, none of which he could or could be bothered with adequately explaining to me.  Here I was, sitting in Milwaukee, worrying about him, my Mom, and about me, too.  Because further testing revealed that I had a nasty disease that has no cure and is always fatal, usually in about 3 years, affecting more women than men in the USA.  It's called pulmonary arterial hypertension and it affects the arteries in the lungs, but causes severe complications in the heart that leads to heart failure in the end.

July and August were very bad months.  I had a visit to the emergency room at a local hospital one Sunday morning after I'd been bleeding pink urine for 4 days -- an overdose of blood thinner was diagnosed as the problem and I was one sick chick.  It didn't help that my only means of transportation other than my feet, begging for rides or paying for taxis, is the bus.  Yes, I took the bus to the emergency room on an early Sunday morning in late July, and it was about 100 degrees F outside.  In fact, we were breaking temperature records left and right around here the summer of 2012, and it seems I was sickest and waiting for buses in full sun and no breeze during the worst of it.  After spending half a day in the ER, I received a dose of Vitamin K to counter-act the blood thinner.  It took four long days to get back to normal.  During this time, I used up what was left of my "paid time off" at work.  All "sick days" and time taken off for medical appointments and medical procedures since then have been unpaid.  A couple hundred hours.  CHA CHING!  Thank Goddess I have pretty good health insurance through my employer.  But I am still several thousand dollars in the hole, paying for care not covered by the insurance. 

Mr. Don received at least one heart catheterization, and one, possibly two, atrial ablations, where parts of his heart tissue were "killed" with lazers to stop the erratic electric impulses causing his irregular heart beat.  My heart doctors also ordered a catheterization, the thought of which nearly terrified me to death -- I was sure I was going to die and, in fact, it was the impetus of that procedure that finally made me get serious and I put together my own estate plan -- a Will and a Trust, as well as Powers of Attorney for financial and medical affairs.

I survived my heart cath, and Mom was out of the hospital and back home again.  My siblings and I were taking turns visiting Mom to make sure she was taking decent care of herself.

Things seemed to be looking up.  Mr. Don was released from hospital near the end of July, and seemed to be recovering.  Toward the end of August, my heart cath revealed that my pulmonary arterial hypertension was not NEARLY as advanced or as bad as an echocardiogram taken on July 5th had suggested; in fact, the pressures measured inside my pulmonary arteries were normal to just slightly above normal!  All of that terror I experienced for weeks, and grapling with the thought of dying much earlier than I'd ever anticipated, and from a disease that would debilitate me, bit by bit by bit.., a slow, horrid death -- it turned out the doctors were so FUCKING WRONG! 

I was thinking things weren't so bad!  A few days later, Mom was rushed back to the hospital and was once again in intensive care, for a different problem.  And Mr. Don wasn't up to trying to get Goddesschess back online, which technical problems he kept experiencing with our web host, 3iX, had led him to take the website offline in June.  We were both taking hiatus time.  I was trying to get a certain measurement of blood thinness at an even level for three straight weeks, so that I could have a heart procedure called "cardioversion" -- where the heart is stopped and then shocked back to life (one hopes), in the hope that when the heart re-starts the beat will be regular instead of the crazy irregular one I was experiencing.  To entertain myself, I planned and suggested to Mr. Don a couple of different fun vacations but, much to my surprise (and secret chagrin), he shot them down.

It took more than two months for me to get that certain blood measurement to a decent level for three straight weeks, after which I could schedule my cardioversion which would, it was hoped, put my heart back into a normal rhythm.  Finally, the procedure was set for November 6.

Mr. Don had gotten sick again. The last communication I had from him, on October 11, he wrote that had contracted some kind of nasty "bug" that he said was going around Montreal, and it had knocked him for a loop.  It was affecting his lungs. I  could tell that he felt very sick, and tired.  He had also been potentially diagnosed with gallbladder problems and was scheduled for some further tests in November.

But he never got the chance.  The day after that last email from him, he died, evidently in his sleep, on October 12, 2012.

I learned about Mr. Don's death the next day, from his twin sister, Anne.  That night, when I laid down to go to sleep on the sofa in the living room -- I just could not bring myself to go to my bed -- I thought that I might die that night and I wanted to be found on the sofa, not in bed.

But I didn't die.  I thought, if I was going to die any time soon, that would be when it happened.  That's when I wanted it to happen.  I prayed for it to happen, actually.  Because my heart was broken.  Mr. Don and me, we've been together since 1999, through thick and thin, ups and downs, some fights, some break-ups and even a broken engagement, but mostly really wonderful times together.  And he was the mechanic that kept the technical heart of Goddesschess beating smoothly, day after day.  Until technical problems happened that he couldn't deal with -- well, he was sick, too.

I didn't die.  My 85 year old Mom came home from the hospital for the second time.  I had my cardioversion on November 6th, which was successful.  I am now on some kind of super-scary heart medication, along with still being on blood thinner, which I loathe and detest because eating just a little bit too much green lettuce at lunch can send that certain "thinnesss" level the heart doctors want dropping too low, and drinking an extra glass of wine can send it soaring too high.  My credo now is - eat tons of green lettuce and drink gallons of cheap wine, and as for the doctors -- well, I'm pretty sure they know what I think...

Now, I am in mourning.  The old-fashioned kind of mourning, except I didn't cut off my hair with scissors because it's already short enough and I don't constantly wear black (only several times a week), and I do not roll about in ashes or walk about incessantly beating my breast and wailing, even though sometimes I think maybe that would help. This is the kind of mourning where one does not pretend that everything is all light and sunshine, like nothing tragic happened, stiff upper lip and all that.  Like it's not a 48-hours news story and then everyone "moves on" until the next salacious scandal.  My family thinks I'm crazy.  After all, Mr. Don and I weren't MARRIED.  Of course, they've pretty much thought I'm out of my mind for the past 30 years. 

My now properly beating heart feels heavy.  I'm sad.  Every day when I roll over in bed and wake up, and stare up at my beautiful canopy above my bed during those first few seconds of waking awareness, I smile.  And then the sadness comes with awareness, just as the light coming into my room through the curtains continues to get lighter and lighter; fittingl, these days, it varying shades of gloom and grey.  How does one survive this?  And yet I keep waking up each day.

During this time, I also had major issues at the office with which I was trying to deal.  Suffice to say that no good deed goes unpunished; in twists and turns worthy of an epic novel, I agreed to take on a difficult position in order to save a job for another person, who ended up leaving the firm for greener pastures and there I was left, holding the bag. Fortunately - thus far - things have turned out far better than I could have dreamed. 

So, that is what happened during 2012, a true Year from Hell for me.  I missed the End of the World on December 21st, too.  Geez. 

So you know what - I give a flying fuck about the so-called stupidly named "Fiscal Cliff" and press that thinks it is more important to report on Kardashian and her has-been boyfriend (I mean - REALLY?) than how many women are killed every year in the United States by spouses, ex-spouses and boyfriends and ex-boyfriends every year with guns, knives and fists.  This year, I have lost so much that has been precious to me, and I am struggling with wondering whether it's even worth it to try and go on, and not just leave it up to the Goddess of Fate. 

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