Friday, September 23, 2011

You May Henceforth Refer to Me as Bionic Pirate Lass

Hello from San Diego! I travelled back in time this week and actually got to experience not one, but TWO Thursday's! An experience I think everyone should have at least once in their lives, Thursday is, after all, a very under appreciated day of the week. It's practically the gatekeeper of the weekend, and I for one think we should show Thursday's a little more respect, mmmmm, kay?

I left Guam in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday the 21st and hopped on a seven and a half hour flight to Honolulu. During that flight I watched several consecutive hours of House AND CSI all while sitting next to a large man who smelled as if he had bathed in a mixture of his own vomit, tequila, and possibly several of those bottles of cologne from Abercrombie. Now, you might not think this so bad, we've all been there, right? Ummmmm, speak for yourself. The combination of all the medication I'm taking plus the fact that I had forgotten to specify gluten free meals for the flight meant this girl was just. on. the. verge. of upchucking on Tequila Guy. Turbulence plus pharmaceutical cocktail plus empty stomach just isn't the party it used to be, folks.

I managed not to spew. WHEW! I had a three hour layover in Hawaii and made a BEE LINE for the Starbucks. The guy behind the counter kept giving me really strange looks because, well, I'm not sure he had ever seen a giddy female pirate before. I understand the whole eye patch thing is a lot more catchy if I scowl, but you know, just not much of a scowler. As I savored every last delicious drop of my overpriced coffee, I became somewhat of an attraction for passing children. I guess smiles and a coffee buzz make for an approachable pirate. And NO, I did not ARGH! at any of them.

After that I have only three words for you: Pulled Pork Nachos.

The flight from Honolulu to San Francisco lasted about five and a half hours and this time I sat next to ANOTHER guy who reeked of his own stew of debauchery and body odors. Maybe the meds make my sense of smell more powerful. Which, by the way, it IS a scientific fact that women DO have a better sense of smell than men. If I were a super hero my emblem could be a giant Schnoz and I could solve crimes related to which Subway employee didn't wash their hands after using the bathroom. On second thought...maybe not. All I'm saying is: GUYS! Cleanse thyselves! Especially before you know you're going to be crammed like sardines in between a bunch of strangers. Once again though, I did not puke. There were some close moments though.

The last flight from San Francisco was only an hour and I had a whole row to myself, which, it turns out, is not as comfortable as it sounds. For the first time in about 17 hours I did sleep for a few minutes. I grabbed my bag and hopped a shuttle to the rental car dealership where I quickly realized I was in NO condition to be driving. I don't know, maybe it was something to do with the combination of sleep deprivation, medicine and the lack of a use able eye, but I was all: DUDE! WHOA! Did you just see that monkey fly past us? No? Whaaaaaa?!?! So I grabbed a cup of coffee and waited for my Mom to come in on the shuttle and take over the driving duties. Really, I prefer to be driven anyway.

Before I go onto to more mildly exciting details, let me just say: I LOVE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA! I always have, I always will. OK, now that I got that out there to the faceless masses I can stop randomly hugging strangers. I think it's starting to scare them.

So after I scooped up mi Madre, although, I guess technically she scooped me up, (WHICH WAS AWESOME BY THE WAY! MY MOMMY! ALL TO MYSELF! YAY!) we went to the Naval Hospital and waited for a very. long. time. to be seen. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT complaining. I am super thankful that they were able to work an already packed patient load around so that I could be seen. It's just that we looked rather pathetic slumped into each other asleep in the waiting room while all the octogenarians practically ran circles around us. Have I mentioned before that retinal problems are usually the affliction of the aged? No? Well, they are. Consequently, I am almost always the youngest person in the waiting room. So, it kind of goes without saying that I am well versed on all the latest issues of AARP and Birds and Blooms magazines.

When it was my turn to be seen it went kind of like it always does. One doctor had a look and then he was all: Hmmmmmmmm. Which inevitably led to all the other doctors wanting to have a look, which then turned to more hmmmmmm'ing and tilting of my head and bright lights shining into the back of my eye. That was fun!

The retinal specialist was the last to have a look. He confirmed what we already knew (that this is a reactivation of an old infection) and said that basically I have "satellite" infections or scars by the old ones and that the cataract isn't surprising considering the amount of inflammation I've had in my eye in combination with the amount of steroids I've had to take. Geez, you know, I sure do wish I had some muscles to show for all this steroid use, instead all I have is a moody disposition and increased munchies. Speaking of munchies, guess what kind of prescription I've threatened to get while I'm here in CA? I'm unna do, I'm not kidding. Ok, so maybe I am.

After everyone had a look, we discussed some possible treatment options. The retinal doctor added a couple more medications to my already impressive stash and said we needed to give it all a few months to work on the inflammation, because as I already know, that is a slow healing process. He told me that yes, surgery is an option later if the debris in the back of my eye doesn't clear up. A surgery to remove the cataract is also an option, but that would be a separate procedure since they are both pretty serious operations. We talked about our family's desire to have more children and the likelihood of that situation bringing on more infections. He told me that we could seek prophylactic treatment preemptively. And even though I know what the word prophylactic means, I couldn't help but giggle to myself as I pictured my eye with a giant condom dangling from it while I waddled around pregnant. People would be all: WHAT THE?!?! And I'd say: Just providing my eye some "protection" people, nothing to see here. He felt confident that, under normal circumstances, I could be treated in Guam with the standard course of meds in the event I have another reactivation. I guess at this point I'm OK with that as LONG as there WILL be a doctor there who can treat me.

So now he wants me to give the medication a few days to take effect (providing nothing new happens) and see me again on Monday. Which means: LORI AND JILL EAT, I MEAN TAKE SAN DIEGO! We will have three beautiful days to spend together, just my mom and myself (which hasn't happened in I can't even tell you how long). I miss my husband and my kids terribly, that separation, that very far separation is by far the most difficult part of this whole journey. But...this glass IS half full, as a matter of fact, this glass runneth over. And I am happy. Nothing can steal my joy. Because it isn't dependent upon my circumstances; it comes from a deep well within my soul. One that never runs dry. And that's all I got to say about that.

Thank you everyone for all the kindness and love and support over the last few days. I have the greatest friends and family, and I am thankful for ALL of you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons

Well, truth be told, I had really wanted my first post from our new digs to be about things other than this. But, as it often does, life had other plans.

Saturday night when I washed my face and got ready for bed, I noticed that my right eye seemed awfully red. I've had a head cold and headaches that I had attributed to the cold for the past few days and because of its history of illness, that eye is easily affected by those types of things or allergens in the air. I chalked it up to that and went to bed. When I woke up (WAY too early...THANKS A LOT ELLIE!) the next morning and stumbled sleepily from my dark bedroom into the bathroom; I noticed that everything was very dark and foggy on my right side. I quickly covered my left eye and held up a shampoo bottle to the right side to see if I could read anything. I could barely make out a few letters. Warning bells started going off in my head right away.

I called my friend whose husband is a doctor in the ICU at the Naval hospital here. After I explained to her what was going on I asked her if she would mind describing to her husband (who happened to be at work) what was going on and ask his opinion on whether I should go to the ER. It was Sunday after all and I knew from past experience that going to the ER on a weekend, or any time for that matter, would probably mean that the majority of my day was shot. My friend texted me back quickly and said that both her and her husband thought I should go to the hospital.

I made up excuses in my mind why I shouldn't. It's just the debris in the back of your eye. It's shifted again and that's why you can't see. But it's THE WEEKEND! It's your last day to have your husband around to help you unpack! sigh...not again.

My gut said I'd better go, and so for the third time in three years I grabbed my purse and file full of information on my medical history with Toxoplasmosis and drove myself to the ER. When I walked in, the nice but daft young man at the front desk asked what I was there for. "To check myself in," I replied.

"But, look at you, you're fiiiiiiiiine"

Boy, you better hold up 'fore I take off my shoe and whack you upside the head with it!

But instead I gave him a brief description of my medical history and told him they might want to go ahead and page the Opthamologist on call. They did not.

So, I sat and I waited and I waited and I sat, praying that the debris had just shifted. Finally, it was my turn and I was taken to a room where I waited to see the doctor. When he saw me, we went through my symptoms and he looked at my eye. "I'm going to page the Opthamologist on call, I'll be right back," He said. Yeah, I could've told you that. So I waited in blissful silence under a blanket that came out of a heated cabinet (LUXURIOUS!) and I actually even slept for a few minutes before they came and told me that I could walk upstairs to meet the eye doctor.

It's a strange and guilt-ridden feeling to be in a mostly empty hospital and meet a doctor who looks like you've just pulled him from a beach barbecue where he had been surfing. I sat in the chair that I have grown very familiar with over the last few years and we talked a little bit about my history and my eye. (For those of you who may be new to this here lil blog, you can read about it here and here.) He dilated my eyes and we went through the whole rigmarole of looking into the back of my eye.

He looked into my left eye and quickly said look up, look up and right, look right, look down and right, look down, look down and left until my eye had made a complete circle. Then he moved onto the right eye.
Look up....hmmmmmm
look up and right...long silence and my eye burned from the light he was shining into it.
Look right...more silence

I already know what he's seeing because this scene is all too familiar. It's something most of them read about in textbooks but never actually get to see live and in person. I remember sitting in Bethesda and all of doctors and teachers and parasite textbook writers hovering over me as I cradled a tiny Ari in my lap, waiting for their turn to have a look. I'll never forget one of them said in a thick accent, " It's really quite beautiful...if it wasn't so terrible."

Now here I was again, Except this time I sat alone with a doctor in a mostly empty hospital on a Sunday afternoon on a tiny island in the middle of a great big ocean. He pushed his chair back and looked at the papers on his desk. "Soooooo?" I asked

"It's definitely back, the toxo. And I can see that you have a cataract now forming from the scar tissue leftover from previous infections"

And then, despite my most courageous efforts to the contrary, I began to cry. I started to hold my breath as the edges of fat tears threatened to roll down my face, I knew he was going to want me to talk, that we needed to discuss what would happen now, but if I opened my mouth I wasn't sure what kind of sound was going to burst out of it. Slowly, I let the breath seep out from between my teeth, like a slow leak in a balloon. I filled my lungs again this time through my nose and even though I knew he was talking to me, I didn't hear a word of it.

Sometimes our first reactions are our most visceral, our most human. In those few moments after I heard the words I had dreaded and prayed against, all I could feel were waves of sadness. Why? Was it something I did? Did I not wash my hands enough? Was it all those steaks I ordered medium rare? Was it the mud pies I made when I was three? Was it the cat I had when I was eight? Was it, was it, was it? I don't know, and neither does anyone else.

And then, as I pushed the breath out through my teeth, I let it all go. All the sorrow, all the pain, all the questions, and along with them I let go of my eye. Dear God, be with me right now, I have no one here to hold my hand, so hold all of me in your arms. I'm afraid of gong blind, and I'm repulsed by cataracts in a thirty one year old eye, but... I trust you more than I'm afraid, so take all of it. The fear, the guilt, the sadness, and most importantly take the care of my eye into your hands. You can have them all, because you told me to cast all my cares upon you because you love me, and you told me to come boldly before the throne of grace, so here I am. Thanks. Invisible hugs. *Your favorite child, Jill.

And like always happens in those moments, I was given the strength to go on, but more importantly than that, I had peace in my heart. I asked the doctor what my options were and he told me that he would refer me to the retinal specialist on the island but that he was leaving the island the next day for a week and so I would have to refer to the optometrist in his office from then on. Or...there's the option of Med-evacuating you off the island to seek treatment elsewhere. The closest retinal specialist in San Diego. I then asked him if I could assume that this would continue happening to me. He said YES very matter of factly. I gulped and accepted this new reality.

I left his office armed with a handful of prescriptions, the names of which I was all too familiar. Prednisone, Sulfadiazine, Clindymiacin, and some drops for my eye (WELCOME BACK ROBOT EYE!). After we got them filled I had some blood drawn to monitor my white blood cell counts because two of the prescriptions, which they didn't have in stock in the hospital, can seriously affect my bone marrow. Jeremy came to pick me up because I couldn't see to drive from the dilating drops. I ordered him to drive directly to Yogurtland and don't even think about stopping anywhere else on the way. I then promptly filled the medium size cup (I was going to do the large, but really, why be a glutton, it's not like I have CANCER!) and put myself into a yogurt coma.

When we got home the opthamologist called to inform me that the retinal doc would be off island for one or two months but that he could still treat me when he got back, until then I could be under the care of the optometrist. It didn't take me long to reply to him with an emphatic: MED-EVAC! OK, he said, I'll start filling out the paperwork and the other doc can finish it when you come in tomorrow.

So, this morning I went back to the hospital and began the process of the Med-evac. In the meantime I was told to try and get the other two prescriptions filled somewhere else on the island. I called every. single. pharmacy. on this damn island and not one of them carries it. Can you hear me screaming now: MED-EVAC! I'm told I have a tentative appointment on Monday or Tuesday (states time) with the retinal doc, which means I will have to leave here sometime tomorrow. Jeremy is taking leave to stay with the girls and I hope they have a fun time with their daddy. Although I am leaving instructions for pizza and ice cream no more than twice a week. I have a feeling that I won't be able to get back in the house for all the empty pizza boxes when I return.

My mom is planning on meeting me in San Diego. THANKS MOM! So, that's that. I have accepted my apparent fate and I know that just like we killed it with powerful drugs last time, we'll do it again this time.

And now....a collection of photos chronicling a small portion of this crazy journey:

This is during my first round...I look pretty much the same right now, except I combed my eyebrows today. ;)

SO. SO. Pregnant. And on steroids. Who you calling a pirate?!?!

Now, if that a'int sexy, I just don't know what is. Hey Baby. How's about me, you and those chins get together sometime?

I've given a lot of thought to more children considering the fact that pregnancy seems to be a very opportunistic time for toxo. I look at pics like these and I tell you, even if I got ten cataracts and went totally blind (in ONE eye) it's totally worth it.

I mean seriously, who is this person? Someone very special, that's who!

And the rabbits were worth it and the cats were worth it and the ducks and ponies and doves and all the critters were worth it. The LOVE was worth it.

Sometimes in life (especially at Christmas) you need to just stop and eat the batter. Now just watch me go and get Salmonella, sheesh!