Thursday, September 29, 2011

So, maybe I won't be failing history after all!

There is a lot going on in my life. I am still estranged from my husband. I have just taken over the apartment, and my mother is critically ill with cancer. If you have spent any time reading my blog, you know that it is usually at times like these that I get very quiet here. I'm kind of in that place now. So I'm posting about something almost meaningless compared to what is going on, but still important. The history test we had this morning.

The History of Western Civilization. Big stuff, lots of info, oodles of odd names like Octavius and Eurathothenes, and an abundance of people, places and things.

I have studied for this test. Seriously. Gone are the days when I, oblivious in my youth, waited until the last minute to study. 50 pages of notes over 4 lectures and 5 chapters of 2 books - procrastination was just not an option.

So much info, so little brain.

I just finished the dreaded test, and am happy to report that it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. In fact, I am going to be daring here and predict that I might have done quite well on it.

I am relieved. Because when there are lots of big, hard things going on, it is really nice to have some of the small things work out.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

An IC Moment

Recently I had an experience that typically signified what it is like to be an IC patient in my world. In an effort to try to elimiate some of the pain associated with my IC, I had agreed to a series of treatments that involved instilling medication directly into my bladder. I wrote about it here and here.

After the second treatment, I developed a lot of pain, more than the usual amount associated with the instillation. It was brutal. I had constant burning, and was urinating every 20 minutes with no relief, and every hour at night. Life became a blur of pain, burning, meds and drinking copious amounts of water in an effort to sooth the fire.

I assumed that I was suffering a reaction to the treatment, but had a difficult time contacting my doctor. After two weeks of trying to cope with it, I finally went in to my local medical centre to see a resident. Knowing that I would most likely be required to produce a urine sample, I drank several glasses of water before I went in to the appointment.

Halfway through my appointment with the doctor, a lovely, compassionate young woman named Dr. Nikkel, I had to go to the bathroom. Badly. By the end of the appointment, I was desperate. Knowing that I needed to hold it in at least until I got to the lab to do the urine test, I still really badly wanted to throw the whole thing to the wind and hit the can on the way out of the medical centre. At this point I was no longer able to stand upright, because of the pain.

Leaving the medical centre with Grace, who had graciously agreed to come with me, I debated driving the short distance from the medical centre door to the front door of the hospital. Unfortunately, that would have involved sitting down in the car, which I knew I would not be able to do, so I walked. Actually, shuffled would be a better word. Bent over. Wincing.

Once we got inside, we went to the front desk where the receptionist was going over a stack of files with one of the lab technicians. I limped into her office, where she looked up at me doubled over her desk and told me to take a number. Sigh. There was one other person in the waiting room, an older man sitting across from the office. I took a number and waited near her door, unable to sit down. I leaned, hunched over, against the wall. I was obviously in a lot of pain. I watched the secretary as she worked with the techician and silently willed her to move faster.

After what felt like an eternity but was probably no more that a minute or two, she finished what she was doing and called me into her office. I handed her my form and explained to her that I was there for a urine test, and was in a lot of pain. She handed me a cup and I shuffled off to the washroom.

Once the urine sample was collected, I felt 100% better. One good thing about being in such extreme pain is the almost giddy sense of relief that comes when the pain is lessened or gone. I came out of the bathroom walking upright and smiling. I dropped off the sample at the lab window and marched out into the sunshine, awash with relief.

It was only later, when Grace mentioned it, that I thought about the man sitting in the waiting room. Grace thought it was funny, that I had been in so much pain when I went into the bathroom and came out looking ready to take on the world. It occurred to me, though, to wonder if perhaps he thought I was faking the pain, maybe to get in to do my test sooner.

One of the consequences of having an invisible chronic illness is the tendency to expect people to think that I am faking. After all, it happens. Whether it is said to my face, or communicated in more covert ways, it always unnerves me. I know that I sometimes don't look sick. When I am in pain, I often just look tired or cranky.

It is entirely possible that the gentleman in the waiting room thought that I was faking. After all, who goes into a bathroom in agony and leaves looking perfectly healthy? Still, I have to allow for the possiblity that it's not even an issue. There's nothing I can do about it, either way. Except to accept the experience as a reminder to be open-minded and open-hearted when it comes to others. I am just as likely to have pre-conceived notions about others as others are to have pre-conceived notions about me. It's a lesson I need as much as anyone.

I mentioned this in my previous post about September being IC awareness month, but it bears repeating. The real challenge in our world is to allow ourselves to be others-aware.

Still, it's a challenge worth taking on, for all of us.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September is IC awareness month!

What? You didn't know that September is IC (interstitial cystitis) awareness month? Of course you didn't. Let's face it, for most of you, I am the only person you know who has IC, and some of you haven't even met me yet. How self-involved is it of me to even write a post about this? I might just have well entitled this blog post, "September is ME awareness month." Egad.

But still, IC awareness month it is, and so I have painted my toenails blue because blue is the official color of IC'ness. Yeah, I thought yellow would be a better fit too. Go figure.

For the curious, there are websites with lots of information about IC. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have some idea of what it is like to live with this chronic, painful bladder disease. Really, though, asking you to become more aware feels uncomfortably narcissistic. This really isn't about me.

I am fairly open about my experiences with IC. I know that the descriptions of the treatments, procedures and pain leave some of you squirming in your seats. Still, you listen and care. Seriously, you people rock.

Honoring something like IC awareness month, though, can also be about other-people awareness. This month, like all the other months that have illnesses, conditions and difficulties attached to them, is about being aware that other people are dealing with stuff. Hard stuff. Stuff like cancer, depression, suicide, heart disease, and intellectual handicaps. We live busy lives, and so much of the suffering that people go through is invisible to those around them. It is too easy to shrug it off, to hold up ignorance as a justification and to plow our way through life without paying attention to the people on our path.

If anything, awareness campaigns encourage us to be others-focused, no matter what issue they are dealing with. To be grateful if we are among the ones who don't need an awareness month. To be informed, for those around us who might be struggling.

One of the difficult aspects of many of these illnesses and and conditions is that patients are weakened emotionally, physically and often mentally at a time when they most need the ability to understand, ask questions, seek answers, assert themselves with health care professionals, and cope with an endless schedule of tests, appointments, medication and treatments.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't think that it is necessary to suffer illness in order to be able to understand, to relate and to help. My best friend is proof of this. Gloriously healthy herself, she is unfailingly understanding and compassionate. She "gets it". Love has a wonderful way of doing that for us. That's something we all can do for others.

So, for those of you who have asked questions, cringed in sympathy when I am flaring and taken the time to understand a bit about IC, I thank you. You bring me comfort and make this journey immeasurably easier. Your prayers, support, encouraging words and sensitivity mean so much to me. You walk this road with me patiently and compassionately, even if we do have to stop at every washroom in every rest-stop along the way. I love you.

We all know the old adage about not judging others until we have walked in their shoes. Let's allow awareness months to be a continuous reminder that there are a lot of people wearing some heavy, ill-fitting and painful shoes on some really, long, difficult journeys. We can't always tell, but we can care. And caring means everything.'s potty time...
My Zimbio