Archive for June, 2011

Counting The Wrinkles And Picking Up The Pieces 5 Years Later

June 24th, 2011

Five years ago today, the unthinkable happened. I had a full-blown left-sided stroke.

It was a rather bizarre event. When the symptoms began, I was talking on the phone with a friend. My left foot had suddenly gone numb and heavy. My first thought was that I was sitting funny and it was just asleep. So in an attempt to wake it up, I changed position and tried to wriggle my toes, only to discover that I could not. Rapidly, the numbness started to spread. That is when I told my friend, “I have to go. I think I’m having a stroke.”

I can only imagine the look on the person’s face when they heard those words coming through the phone. They sputtered. The only response I can clearly remember was something about me being okay and the word stroke being echoed back. Not thinking, I repeated, “Gotta go. Having a stoke” and I hung up the phone and went to the emergency room.

What happened within the next hour was a rush of events as they tried to get a medical history from someone who could now no longer move any part of the left side of their body and had no feeling in it. I was half confused and half coherent. Time was ticking as they only had one hour to decide if it was a stroke or neuro issues as a result of my lupus. You have one hour to administer TPA if you have any hope of reversing the effects.

It felt as if days had passed but it was less than an hour before I was giving consent to one of the most dangerous procedures I had even underwent—having a hysterectomy the year before with only a sedative because of how many times I’ve been under a general anesthetic and subsequent allergy was nothing compared to the risks of TPA.

Consent was given. Loved ones were called. The TPA was administered. Then we waited to see if it would eventually do its job or would I bleed out.

The next week I spent in ICU, in isolation, undergoing more tests and the beginning of rehab. I was to stay in the hospital for months as I had to relearn how to hold objects, talk, walk, dress and bathe myself, wipe my own arse and the list goes on.

A couple days after my stroke, my body played a cruel joke on me. The physiotherapist asked me to move my toes. My brain told me that I did and I cheered, “Yes, I did it!” Grimly, the therapist looked at me and said, “No. Sorry. You didn’t.” I felt defeated.

I was 30-years-old. I had to be fed. I couldn’t pee without a tube. I couldn’t take a shit without someone putting me on a toilet and wiping my ass. I couldn’t walk, never mind crawl. It was bad enough that lupus took my uterus the year before. But I was 30 and needed to be cared for like I was an infant.

I was dehumanised.

It shouldn’t have been surprising that I had a stroke at 30. I had my first TIA (a mini-stroke) when I was 19. Up until that day, I had at least 10 TIA—could’ve been more but I stopped counting. Regardless of the history, who has a fucking stroke when they are 30?! Apparently, I do. But that is something that is difficult to accept.

I forced them to release me from the hospital 6 days after the stroke. I no longer needed to be in ICU. They didn’t have a medical bed available for me. I was only there to rehabilitate and I felt it was a waste of money as I could get the same care at home. Plus, I had promised to take my boys to see Superman that night—it was the opening night—and I’d never broken a promise to them. A pesky stroke wasn’t going to be the cause. They were already terrified that their mum was not going to leave the hospital alive. So, after much convincing and many meetings between the different doctors, they released me.

I fought with all I could to be well again. I also raged A LOT and many times, I just wanted to give up and stay in a wheelchair. It was just so bloody difficult. By September, I was mostly walking on my own. But that took me doing 4 hours of physio at home, every day, and 2 hours, twice a week, at the hospital.

Some are surprised that I’ve had a stroke. If I’m not tired or if one is only exposed to me in small bursts, they don’t see the longterm effects. My brain has problems with communication, especially type communication. I will think one thing but, many times, what greets the person reading my words is complete gibberish. Well, not gibberish per se. They are proper words. Sometimes, they are even proper sentences. But it isn’t even any where near close to what I was actually thinking.

At times, people ignorantly—not willfully ignorant, mind you—will comment on this. My first reaction is to want to yell, “I had a fucking stroke, okay?! Please forgive me if I’m not bright enough for you!” Instead, I just give myself the mental tongue-lashing, call myself a stupid twit and cry on the inside, plus mourn for the brilliant brain I once had. It isn’t until later that I remind myself what exactly it is that I have overcome and continually overcome just to be able to communicate. Considering that a lot of what I do involved typed communication, I overcome obstacles every moment of the day. But because these obstacles are invisible and I make it appear that I do things so effortless, most people don’t see the struggles and just think I’m stupid or incompetent or can’t string together a grammatically correct sentence; leaving me once again to want to scream, “I HAD A FUCKING STROKE!” But that seems a bit like victimisation to me and I’m a survivor, damn it!

It is also because of the above that when I am really exhausted and ill, I don’t do type communication, or at least, I scale it back to essentials only and don’t chat with friends. You may as well be asking me to sprint to the Sun and back. It require so much effort on my part to do so.

The only noticeable longterm effect is that when I am tired, the left side of my face will droop and my left side becomes a little bit weaker.

There are times, especially when I am ill, that I think, “Why do I bother even fighting?”

There is the obvious answer that I do it for my two sons. They are my reasons. They are why I get up in the morning and am thankful for taking a breath of air, even if those breaths feel as if my lungs are being ripped to shreds… such as days like today.

Despite the fact I have moments of rage and frustration, moments where I feel life is passing me by, there are some effects that I am thankful for. These effects of signs of aging.

People are constantly telling me that I look much younger than I am. They tell me that they can’t believe that I have a 12-year-old and a near 16-year-old. I find this frustrating. Yes, I know they mean it as a compliment. But you see, I am a fighter. And, I’M ALIVE!

Each line and wrinkle, each white hair that is FINALLY beginning to crop-up, each section of skin that is becoming discoloured with age has a story. They were earned. As ridiculous as this sounds, I feel cheated that I do not have more. Because, boy, do I have stories to tell. These stories deserve to have a voice. Every fine line around my eyes is there because someone made me smile. Every deep line in my forehead is there because someone or something made me think or feel something. The fine lines around my mouth are there because I can continue to speak, laugh and smile.

I’m getting older. Lupus has not prevented this yet. My lines and wrinkles deserve a chance to share all of the stories of who I am. They too deserve a life. Hopefully, they will get their chance to really shine and be celebrated for the triumphs they are.

If you were to really look at my face, you’ll notice that I barely have any lines on the right side. However, if you look at the left side, there are now, even if really small, permanent lines around my eyes and on my cheeks. The left side of my face tells the story of how I managed to survive a stroke and 5 years later, jump over the obstacles it continues to throw at me, whilst still attempting to pick up the pieces.

There are many days where I do not feel brilliant. If I didn’t have any recollection of how truly fabulous I once was, surviving this may be easier. But I do remember and I know that it didn’t always feel like I was attempting to run with mud up to my neck when thinking. It is hard not to feel dim.

But then I look at my lines and wrinkles, they tell me the stories of my struggles and survival and I celebrate.

Five years ago I had to start over. It has been far from easy. Every day is a battle. But anything worth anything is a lot of hard work. Isn’t being alive worth the effort?

Despite having days where I feel life is passing me by, deep down I know I am living it to the fullest. I am living a fuller life than a lot of people who don’t have such struggles. Yes, I’d like just one day were I didn’t have to fight and could just enjoy it.

But holy shit, I’m alive.

Happy anniversary.

Harry Potter and Lupus

June 23rd, 2011

Another too long for Twitter thought. I have loads of these. I think they are too short for blogs. They cause me to think for a terrible split second that I should create a Tumblr account but… yeah… no.

Anyway, here are some silly and dorkish Lupus induced thoughts. Please forgive them, I’m ill and very frustrated with my illness at the moment, as I feel life is passing me by as I have to pass up another encounter with loved ones.

Lupus can go suck big, blue, hairy, sweaty, monkey balls.

Lupus is the Dementor, lurking in the shadows, slowly sucking the life, joy and happiness out of your soul, replacing it with despair and depression, leaving you with barely enough inner strength to summon your Patronus. Thankfully, I have my own set of witches and wizards in my life, ready to summon their Patronuses for me; shielding me from my inner demons which have become external; giving me enough protection to regain my strength; allowing me to fight them off, before they lay their final kiss of death upon my lips.

Told you it was silly and dorkish. I should have added stupid as well, but I need these silly and stupid and magical and hopeful childish thoughts to keep me from falling apart.

Oh yeah… tomorrow is the 5 year anniversary of my stroke. That may be adding to my mood.

Happy Anniversary?

My Dad

June 18th, 2011

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tend to come and go without mention in my house. But this year, I’m really missing my dad. I miss him often, but for some reason, he’s on my mind with greater frequency as of late. So, I thought I’d share the story of My Dad from my book. Just seems like the thing to do.

(Kid1 and Kid2’s names have been edited.)

—-

Growing up, I was different; not just different than my peers, but different than the family I was raised with. In fact, I was so different, my sister and I had many theories surrouding this. Our top three theories were: I was adopted and mum decided not to tell us but this did not make sense as my mum was adopted, she knew all of her life that she was adopted and she was proud that she was adopted, as she was picked and that made her special; I was switched at birth in some crazy hospital mix up; but the most popular and the one that made the most sense was that I was the milkman’s daughter.

The reasons why this made the most sense were: I did not physically resemble any one on my mum’s side of the family; I had nothing in common with them when it came to values;—appearances did not matter to me, money did not matter to me, differences between individuals did not matter to me, power and recognition did not matter to me, I was against anything superficial and much more—I was a geek; I was introverted; I placed others before myself; I would not sit by if I saw an injustice being done and the list goes on. I was the complete opposite of everyone I grew up around, except my grandma. On top of these differences, my mother was not exactly the most faithful of people. Growing up, she had more affairs with more men than I can count. Even so it was fun to theorise, we knew that was not the reality. Growing up, the reality was, at times, hard to admit. The reality was that I was my father’s  daughter.

My sister was my mother’s favourite because she was a carbon copy of my mother. I was not and I was repeatedly reminded of this fact. When I was two, my mother took my sister and I away from our dad.  She repeatedly moved us around, eventually moving us half way across the country, and kept our phone number unlisted so that he could not find us. She spent our entire lives trying to vilify our dad. Whenever I would do anything that would remind her of my dad, which was often, she would venomously say, “You’re just like your father!” This was not a good thing as it was no secret that she hated him.  So it is no wonder that it was difficult for me to acknowledge the truth; that I was my father’s daughter. On the other hand, I relished the thought because I did not want to be my mother’s daughter, in any way, shape or form. Growing up, I was ashamed of that side of my family.

I was very fortunate to have two things in my life that kept me proud, even when it was difficult and I was crying inside, to be my father’s daughter. They were my grandma and the odd picture of my dad and I that managed to survive the various moves. My grandma made damn sure I knew how much he loved me. She would tell me stories of how my dad and I were inseparable. How I was always on his lap. How we were always cuddling. How he would take me with him wherever he went. How I was his little princess. I also had the pictures that showed examples of how happy he was when he held me. Pictures of how much love was in his eyes when we would cuddle on the couch. Pictures of how peaceful we were sleeping together. I held on to these stories and images during the periods where I was treated as an outsider and reminded of just how different I was.

I longed for my dad. Often, I would dream of a time when we would be reunited. I would dream of a time where I finally felt I belonged in some type of family. I dreamed of a time where it made sense that I was the person that I was. Over time, those dreams began to fade as the messages I received growing up started to grow into a cancer of despair and self-loathing. When I was 16, those dreams were given a new life.

I was in foster care. It was Thanksgiving and I wanted my dad. I told this to my foster mum who told me that I should call him. The idea terrified me. What if he rejected me? What if some of the stories my mum told me about my dad not wanting me were true? What if the stories of him now having three sons and that he always wanted boys, not girls, were true? What if the stories that he has never given my sister and I second thought were true? What if all the stories my grandma told me, the pictures and what I felt in my heart to be true were just an elaborate fantasy designed to protect myself from the truth? After further urging from my foster mum and she got my dad’s phone number from information, I made the phone call. What happened next gave me a new life.

I dialed the number. A little boy answered. I asked, “Is Richard there?” He replied that he was down at the fire pit and asked who was calling. I answered, “Julia.” The four words to come out of his mouth were magic, “Are you my sister?” Tears came to my eyes as I replied, “Yes, I am.” For the first time in my life, I felt as if I belonged to a family. A real family. He fetched my dad and we proceeded to talk for hours.  It would be many years before we would talk again. We talked briefly when I got married. We talked briefly when Kid1 was born. We talked briefly when Kid2 was born. After Kid2 was born, our brief talks turned into longer talks.

A few years after Kid2 was born, the oldest of my younger brothers decided to come out to B.C. and pay my sister and I a visit. Before he came out, he decided to give my sister and I a phone call. That was even more magical. We had so much in common. In fact, it was as if we grew up in the same household. He was in the military and I had been in the military.  We had a lot of the same hobbies.  We enjoyed the same things. At one point in the conversation I had said something to which he replied, “Wow, you sound just like a Sherred.” I said, “Duh! That is because I am a Sherred.” He clarified, “No. When I talked to our sister it was like talking to a stranger. Talking to you is like talking to the family I grew up with.” I do not think I could ever truly express how wonderful that made me feel.

In 2007, I decided to make another trip back East to Ontario. That is where my dad grew up and lives. I had made previous trips but was always too afraid to meet him because there was always that stupid voice of my mother’s in the back of my head telling me he did not want me. I knew that stupid little voice was wrong and lying but sometimes all it takes is a stupid little voice to tear you down. On this trip, I had not planned to meet my dad or step-mum. I did plan on meeting my other two brothers. Meeting them was just as amazing as meeting the oldest. It was great to find out that they were each a part of me. That they were exactly the same as I am in some way.

Where as the oldest of the three and I share our military experience and love for the outdoors, weapons and a few other things, the middle of the three and myself share a love for the arts and the theatre, insects, as well as studying different forms of spirituality and the occult; and the youngest of the three and I are both uber geeks heavily into Star Trek, computers, science fiction, fantasy, science and technology, among other things. It was like meeting three mini-mes.  Even cooler is that Kid2 and the middle brother are spitting images of each other and the youngest brother and I are almost twins. He is also the twin of our dad. Finally, not only did I have things in common with family but also, I looked like family. This was finally confirmed in person, not just by pictures and being told by the family members I grew up with.

They asked if I was going to meet dad. I told them I did not think I was. They told me that he would love to see me and that I should go there. I said, “What am I suppose to do? Just knock on the door and say, ‘Hi! I’m here! You haven’t seen me in 29 years and you didn’t know I was coming but here I am?’” The response I got was a resounding yes! They would drive me out to Blythe from London to see him. And I was not to worry, because they would walk through the door first and would be with me the entire time. They assured me that I was more than welcomed and he would be quite upset if he found out I was so close, had met the remainder of my brothers and did not pay him a visit. So, on November 25, 2007, we drove from London, Ontario to Blythe, Ontario to meet my dad. Magic does not even begin to describe what was about to occur.

It is amazing the things you remember from as far back as when you were two. We walked through the door and my dad and I hugged. After 29 long years, I still remembered his smell. I still remembered his touch. I was once again his little princess. The evening was beyond words. My step-mum tried to cram the entire family history into one night. We poured over family album after family album. We cried as we talked about what my mother had done to separate my dad, my sister and I. We cried as we talked about how hard my dad tried to get us back but he could not as it was the 70s and dads had no rights. We cried over the lost years.

We laughed over stories about my brothers when they were younger. We laughed whenever they would tell a story of games they would play, such as war games in the back acreage, and how I would play the exact same games with my friends in the exact same fashion. We marveled over just how much I was them, even so I grew up over half a country away and with no contact. We took pictures and video. All the while, my dad happily rocked in his chair.

I got to see first hand how much I was my father’s daughter, both in character, interests and in appearance. And it was awesome. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing ever. I was home for the first time in my life and I did not want to leave. When it came time for the actual goodbye, my dad and I hugged each other very tightly and for a very long time. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and we told each other we love each other. And then he gave me a kiss on the lips just like a dad would kiss his little girl. I remembered that feeling as well from when I was two.

A few weeks later, I had the best birthday ever. It was not because of anything that I did or anything tangible that was given to me. Earlier in the day, I received a phone call from my step-mum wishing me a happy birthday from her and dad. As she had called, I thought that would be it for phone calls. Later on that day, my dad phoned to wish me a happy birthday. It was the first happy birthday I received from him in 30 years and was the best birthday present ever. Since being reunited with my dad, we keep in contact often. Having him back in my life makes me feel whole.

I am my father’s daughter. It is no longer a source of shame and self-loathing. Aside from being a mother and having two wonderful boys, I have never been more proud of anything in my life.

Because Some Stories Are A Wee Bit Too Long For Twitter

June 3rd, 2011

For approximately seven days, Kid2 has been trying to get the Spice Girl’s song ‘Wannabe’ stuck in my head. First, don’t ask me how he knows that song. I have no bloody clue. Second, he picks up too many of my evil tricks. Example: Kid2: “Do you know what I don’t get?” Me: “Quantum Physics?” Kid2: “Well, yeah… but… Damn it! You made me forget! Damn you, vile woman!”

As I recently announced on Twitter, Kid2 is terribly sunburned. He has the misunderstanding that this gives him extra room to be cheeky. He may be correct on that assumption, but we will never tell him that. I went into the kitchen to make some tea. After seeing me, he started to sing ‘Wannabe’. That is when I began to sing, “I spank your ass til it’s red. I spank your ass til it’s red. I spank your ass til it’s red”, to the tune of Willow Smith’s”Whip My Hair”.

Before I continue, let me assure you, I would never spank his ass til it’s red. I would never spank it, period. He knows this. I was giving him back some of the cheek that he was dishing out at me and I thought I’d do it at the expense of his cheeks. Let’s not turn a cute story into a discussion on spanking, joking about it, parenting styles, etc. Thank you. Now back to the story.

He looked at me, stunned, for a few moments, not sure how to respond in an equally annoying and quippy fashion. After a brief pause and moments hesitation, he said, as he was bending over, “Go for it. May as well have my ass be the same colour as the rest of my body.”

I think he gets the point for this round.