Thankful

Late October brought terrible flooding to my fair city. Many, many people from the low end of the economic spectrum to the higher end lost most, if not all of their belongings. I work in the world of planning for disasters and volunteer in the world of responding to them. I joined multiple volunteers to conduct damage assessments of houses and duplexes. It was truly mind blowing to turn onto street after street seeing nothing but front yards full of people’s personal belongings—all of them wet and dirty. Clothes, musical instruments, children’s toys, books, furniture, carpet, drywall, flooring, computers and other electronics, …the list goes on.

Person after person was found sifting through these things attempting to salvage whatever they could. Tossing things onto the beds of trucks to haul off, taking frequent breaks to sit in the midst of the rubble, wiping tears and sweat away from their faces. There were occasional smiles and random words of encouragement exchanged between friends, family members, and neighbors. Many of these people stopped to share their stories with us. Some showing us videos they took on their cell phones of the floodwater racing through their streets and into their homes at the height of the flooding. They literally had a handful of minutes to seek higher ground (a second storey if they had one or the attic, and ultimately the roof for some). I talked to one family who said they and several other neighbors in one-storey homes ran and knocked on the door of the closest neighbor with a two-storey house. They all hung out upstairs in her bedroom and the balcony off her room watching the raging waters slam into their homes and sweep up their vehicles and whatever else. Most of them had no time to grab anything.

Many people had lived there for years. They’ve seen the creek flood many times, but never to this extent. Some homes had up to 6 feet of water in them at one point. Most people went to bed the night before with the sound of the rain lulling them to sleep. Many became aware of the flooding when they got up for their normal daily routine. Several people stepped out of bed into several inches of water. Others made it all the way to their bathroom to suddenly find themselves standing in a few inches of water, not thinking it was water coming into the house, but a plumbing leak or something to that effect.

Seeing the devastating results in the front yards was depressing but walking into the scene of the crime— inside the houses—was beyond depressing. A few houses had recently been remodeled. One house had just been put on the market for sale. The sign was bowing humbly under the weight of mud out front. The house itself was a loss.

Nearly a month later, many people are still living in their front yards in borrowed or rented RVs. Some people are braving the moldy insides of their homes as they await insurance or disaster assistance. It’s been rather cold lately. Many are relying on space heaters in their uninsulated homes. Hopefully, carbon monoxide poisoning issues will not be the next disaster.

I’m really hoping they will all be resettled by Christmas.

On my way home from work today, I was sitting at an infamously long light and a panhandler was holding up a sign that simply read, “Smile. God bless you.” He appeared to be late 60s maybe early 70s. Had a prosthetic leg and signs of arthritis in his hands. Normally, I pass these people without a glance. I saw this guy a few cars up from me, making his way my way. Just out of the blue, the face of one of my dearly departed grand-uncles flashed in my mind. This man looked nothing like my uncle, but there was something in his smile and general vibe. I had two dollars to my name (literally) in my wallet. I opted to give the man one of the dollars. My uncle smiled in my mind’s eye. Perhaps he knew the man at some point when he was still around? The man was very happy and wished me a happy Thanksgiving. I did the same.

So what is all this rambling about? Thanksgiving.

I’m thankful I’m not living in my yard in an RV or in a mold-filled home with little to no insulation on these cold nights. I’m thankful that my belongings are not ruined from raging floodwaters and that my only car wasn’t swept away into the neighbor’s yard 10 houses away. I’m thankful that I do not have to figure out how to retrieve data from my computer that was under water. I’m thankful I’m not homeless and that I have both of my legs. I’m thankful I was able to show a few people that there are people, complete strangers even, who do care about their well-being and comfort. I’m thankful I had a dollar to share with someone who needed it.

When I was called by one of the volunteer coordinators to help out, I was given the option of doing assessments or helping in one of the shelters that had been set up. I’m used to working in shelters but had never done assessments outside of training. I opted to do this praying that my leg muscles—and the rest of me—would hold up.

I’m really thankful that my wobbly muscles held up during the day-long assessments and that I didn’t end up doing a face plant in someone’s muddy, debris-filled yard because my muscles gave out. I wasn’t worried about embarrassment. I was more concerned about breaking more bones! (My broken toes from May finally stopped hurting last week!)

Waves of green, health masks, and clueless people

I’m recovering from some icky stomach bug that hit me Tuesday. There’s nothing like waking up at 2 in the morning with a hideous headache and that “wonderful” rising wave of nausea emerging from just below your diaphragm. Camp Porcelain Throne here I come! 😦

The remainder of the night and morning and afternoon and evening maintained various shades of green punctuated by dark daggers of cramping. I want to punch in the face the lovely person who shared this with me. If I ever find you …

This is the first bug that has hit my very suppressed immune system since I started taking azathioprine/Imuran. I’m still weaning off of prednisone but in the world of suppressed immune systems, I don’t think it’ll matter. My last trips to my neurologist and pulmonologist reminded me that I should be wearing one of those lovely health/medical masks. My neurologist told me it was important that I start wearing one given that I’m around a lot of people all the time and I just can’t afford to catch anything that could land me in the hospital. Well, I’ve stated this before, I’ll have to be half dead and passed out before I ever go to a hospital again after the hell I endured earlier this year. Someone will have to find me and drag me unconscious to the emergency room. I’ll never go voluntarily again unless I have an appendage hanging off…maybe.

I gave in to wearing a health/medical mask for the first time today. My new fashion piece received mixed reviews at work. One person was genuinely concerned about me. The others were curious. There are a few people at the office who have no clue I’ve been ill and dealing with myasthenia gravis for more than a year. After all, a lot of us with this disease and many other “invisible” illnesses just don’t look sick. Then there was the person who thanked me for protecting her and other coworkers from whatever bug I had. Hmmm, ok. You’re welcome? I commented that I was still recovering from the stomach bug I had but I was primarily trying to protect myself from her and everyone else in the office and outside world. She has a sweet little germ factory at home so I’m very aware of the things that could jump on her and come into the office.

So many people just don’t understand how germs travel. This time of the year is just hideously full of all sorts of weird germs and many of my coworkers have no freakin’ clue that their precious germs can fly all over the office when they cough and sneeze without covering up. I personally think it’s easier to control surface germs than airborne ones. I clean my space all the time and clean my hands all the time. I’m not like the TV character Monk when it comes to germs, but I’ll admit to being borderline OCD about cleanliness.

I would love to make it through this winter season without the annual respiratory infection. The last one I had was rough and that was before being on an immunosuppressant. An infection on top of the crazy amount of stress I deal with on a daily basis now would probably wipe me off the face of the Earth. (I am seriously looking for a new job that is more peaceful and nowhere near as neurotic.)

Thank you MG and your stupid immunosuppressant friends for wrecking my system and forcing me to stand out like a sore thumb in this clueless and insensitive world. I must punch you in the face and kick you in the groin! Grrr!

41

Two weeks ago I celebrated my 41st year on Earth. A lot of people tend to see their birthdays as just another day. I personally see the day as a sign of having survived another year of chaos and mayhem and not ending up locked away in some facility (prison or a mental ward). Year 40 was full of all sorts of “fun.”

Here’s a brief recap:

Myasthenia gravis (MG) diagnosis, all sorts of painful tests, two luxurious hospital stays—one of which involved a horrible spinal tap failure and a blood transfusion—iron infusions, IVIG treatment failure, depression, enduring prednisone hell (gained 60 pounds on it), breaking toes (thank you prednisone for making my bones so fragile), fighting with doctors, finding myself on chemotherapy (don’t let anyone tell you that low-dose chemo is any better than regular chemo—it isn’t), the depletion of my entire savings account (I still have 91 cents), the maxing out of my only two credit cards and loans taken out to help cover medical and general living expenses (thank you Mr. Bossman who makes five times as much as I make for not seeing any of us fit for a raise unless we are promoted—there’s nothing to be promoted to at my fair place of employment and I’m $10K in medical debt on top of other debts, Mr. Bossman!@#$@) …the list goes on.

My 41st birthday celebration lasted a full week. Birthday lunches and dinners and a few sweet gifts including a gift card from a few “angels” who have no idea that it provided funding for groceries this month since my entire paycheck went to other expenses. I’m still $500 in the hole this month thanks to medical fun.

My 41st birthday also brought more medical news I really don’t need or want. I tested positive for lupus and found out I have three large fibroids. Hoping the lupus is drug induced and not systemic. Systemic lupus took one of my aunts out two years ago. I’m waiting to have follow-up blood work in a few weeks to see where it stands. If it’s drug induced, it’s likely from darling prednisone. I’m still tapering off of it. Once it’s out of my system, things should return to a pre-lupus state leaving me to continue the battle against MG. If it is systemic, it will likely be treated by what I’m currently taking for MG—Imuran (aka Azathioprine). Not sure if the dose will change or not. I’ll be on Imuran for life it seems. It’s sad seeing so many strands of hair still leaving my head every day.

With the rocky start to 41, I’ve made a decision to get back into the game of looking for another job while still working on plans to be my own boss again someday. I have to improve my finances by some means.

I forgot to mention that I wore my favorite necklace on my birthday. It’s a cool marble that my brother gave me for my birthday in 1996 the year before he died. I smile when I see it. He knew I was slowly losing my marbles while he was still around. He gave me one to hold on to when all the others have rolled away. My last remaining marble—I must guard it with my life.

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Let’s see what else 41 is going to bring. 42 is my next goal.