To See, Or To Heal. That is the question

I was planning on posting my second Hero Lost interview today, but I can’t sleep and need to process through something else.

Working in the veterinary field, I had this very optimistic, trusting viewpoint of medicine as a whole, human medicine included. Then I started getting old, and falling apart, and needing medical help. Instead of help, I’ve gotten derision, condescension, drugs thrown at me like candy, or mostly complete apathy. As though something about me personally renders me not worth their effort.

My veterinary bosses didn’t take lunches. They went through their files, they called and soothed worried clients, they brainstormed with us, or sought out the expertise of colleagues to find a resolution to a health issue. But the human doctors I’ve seen- who have the advantage of being able to talk directly to their patients- have been more interested in getting people in and quickly out the door. If they can’t figure it out in those 10 minutes they’re in the room with you, you are completely screwed.

My cousin thinks it’s a gender thing. She’s noticed that she is handled differently when she takes her husband to a doctor versus when she has sought help for the same issue at the same place. I read articles and that seems to be the phenomenon: That even when you see another female doctor, women who seek out medical care are instantly labeled as exaggerating hypochondriacs in need of therapeutic attention.

It’s where the word ‘hysteria’ comes from (hyster meaning womb or uterus, whereby ‘hyster-ectomy’ is the removal of the uterus). Hysteria, the belief that our uterii make us insane with false emotion. Hence the ‘delicate sex, prone to hysterics’ bullshit.

But now I see why us in the veterinary field have such problems with owners demanding just to be given drugs rather than coming in for an exam first. Veterinarians err on the side of a real diagnosis. They strive to answer the ‘why’. A growing number of doctors, I think, just want to complete the act of ‘seeing’ patients. Screw the healing portion of the title. Forget the oath or the original call to entering medicine.

Ug.

See, I’ve been having these occurrences since December where I lose sensation and mobility from my lower back down. I can barely walk, I can’t move my toes, my feet go cold, and my back is completely numb. I can’t sit, can’t stand, can’t lay down, walk, not walk. It’s been terrifying. I went to a new PCP, and she threw drugs at me that knocked me out and then started making me hallucinate. But did not help the problem.

The second time it happened, I called her up, and the nurse told me to go to the ER. They put me on prednisone. Which worked, yay, but where’s a diagnosis? I wanted someone to be concerned enough to find the reason that validates the treatment. What if there’s a tumor? What if it’s a blood clot? What if something interventional needs to happen now or it’ll get worse, or permanent? What if it’s not actually my back? I don’t know! I’m not a doctor and diagnosing myself is what I get mad at veterinary clients for. And I really don’t want to take steroids long term.

At my follow-up with my PCP, I asked for a plan. What do we do when it happens again. And she got defensive and condescending! What, do I want another prescription for more pred to just carry around with me? No! I want a plan. What could this be, and what I should do, and what she’s going to do. The appointment ended right there with nothing further. She got up, told me to come back in a couple months, and she left. By the time I exited the building, she was already halfway to her car. Well, that’s exactly how I was made to feel. That I was somehow keeping her from something much more important.

And then it happened again, and it took her five hours to have someone return my call. Five hours when someone calls and says ‘I can’t move.‘ By the time they left the message telling me to go to the ER, I’d already made the hour drive from work, been seen, gotten home, and crashed angrily on the couch with more steroids.

Turns out, that ER doesn’t do diagnostics without a PCPs order. It was a giant waste of time. It was too late by then to find and go to someone else. I had to accept the pred. Why is everyone throwing drugs at me? I saw the same woman I had seen previously, but this time when I told her that I was partially paralyzed from the waist down, she got upset and told me I couldn’t say that. Because if it’s true, that would be bad.

Uh, yea.

What?!

Lie, because being injured or sick or requiring actual help would be bad? I was so angry after that. Vented to one of my supervisors who said no, you need an MRI. I know! I so wished I could go somewhere and say: My veterinarian says I need x, y, z. So, get to it.

So I took myself to a spinal surgeon last week. Nine months is too long. I’m terrified that irreparable damage is happening. I can’t keep missing work, and this is not a fun experience. What shocked the crap out of me was that he looked at me. Not only that, but he asked pertinent questions and then actually touched my legs and had me move. And I didn’t even see the surgeon, but the physician assistant. The people I had gone to before him never looked away from their computer screens. In veterinary medicine, acute paralysis is generally regarded as an emergency. But what do I know? I just work in veterinary medicine. It was such a relief, though, that someone finally listened and took me seriously.

I finally finally got an MRI done on Friday. I won’t get results until next week. Even so, it was such a relief. I’m feeling conflicted though; first, afraid that they’ll find something. But worse, afraid that they won’t. I’m hoping they stay on the mindset of healing, and not just seeing.

 

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Ellen Jacobson, Author Interview

Today, I’m interviewing one of my co-authors from our fantasy anthology Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life, hosted from The Insecure Writers Support Group and graciously published via Dancing Lemur Press in May of this year. The theme for this year’s anthology was a lost hero, and it’s been fascinating to discover how twelve different writers approached all the many things those two words invoked.

Welcome, Ellen Jacobson, author of The Silvering.

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Hi, Ellen! What sparked your idea of a lost hero?

I woke up in the middle of the night after having a really vivid dream about a strange world where mysterious things happen to my main character, Caestu. At first, I didn’t necessarily envision Caestu as a lost hero, but as the story unfolded, it became clear that he had a tough choice to make – conform to what society expects of him or rebel against its control and oppression of others.

 

What was the hardest part to write?

The ending. I couldn’t find a satisfactory way to wrap things up, and I’m still not satisfied with the ending. I think I have a lot more of the story to tell and having to cap it at 5,000 words forced me to end it prematurely. Perhaps I’ll turn it into a novella or novel one day and give it a proper ending.

 

What is your preferred genre to write in? Why?

I started out writing a cozy mystery (which I’ve been working on for ages), but I’ve always had a ton of ideas for science fiction/fantasy stories. The Silvering was my first attempt to write in that genre and I really enjoyed it. I love the idea of not being constrained by how things are supposed to work in the real world and the freedom to imagine new worlds, cultures and peoples.

 

Is there a theme to your writing as a whole/What is your writing strong point? 

Because I’m a novice writer, I can’t say that there is a theme or strong point. I’ve only completed one thing so far – my story in the anthology. Ask me again in a few years. Hopefully, I’ll have typed “The End” on another manuscript and can maybe identify a theme or strong point.

 

What is your favorite book? Why?

I can never answer questions like this. It’s way too hard to narrow things down to just one book. What I can tell you is that there are some books that I’ve re-read, which I guess makes them favorites in a way, such as anything by Octavia Butler or Iain Banks, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers’ books are also fun to re-read.

 

Was there something about the prompt ‘Lost Hero’ that grabbed you?

I had actually started writing my story before the anthology theme was announced, so it didn’t really grab me in that sense. I do think it’s a great theme and I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s take on it.

 

If your lost hero had a theme song, what would it be?

They’re not allowed to sing in Caestu’s society, so he wouldn’t have a theme song. Actually, I don’t know if they’re allowed to sing or not, but I can see that being prohibited. This may be something I explore if I turn The Silvering into a novella or novel at some point.

 

Thanks, Ellen!

Connect with Ellen via Facebook, her blog, or Google+.

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Want to know more about Hero Lost?

Click on over to our Hero Lost homepage to get a taste of the other stories and writers.

You can then purchase via Amazon at this link.

 

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Curious about the Insecure Writers Support group?

Check out our website, Facebook Group, and Twitter.

 

 

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Please be sure to visit Dancing Lemur Press!

Soft and Broken

I woke up this morning to the weirdest sounds. Muffled and light, soft and broken and released in little batches.

Ok, it’s a bird.

Mine?

Sure enough, Phoebus, my little red god of light and singing, has found his voice and is in practice mode. I detect a bit of cardinal in his song, too. (that cardinal likes my yard and is always nearby, belting his songs out. I love cardinals, so it’s good). I had put out a large sock feeder for the finches last weekend, hoping their noise would also entice Phoebus a little (canaries are actually finches. Who knew?). He’s young and I’m not sure if they need to be taught. We play some YouTube videos here and there for him.

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It seems I’m not allowed to post video. Hmm. I swear I have in the past…. Anyway, meet Phoebus! Five months old now. I found him at a bird fair back in April. A red and black bird. Come on, I couldn’t pass him over. I wanted to name him Nightmare, but the boys vetoed me. The actual Nightmare does not sing and would not have been amused with my sense of humor. It only struck me as more hysterical. Oh well.

It’s been a hot week, but it rained much of yesterday, thankfully. I glanced out my patio door and found that my delphiniums had begun to bloom! I first saw these last year, I think. (It was not a gardening year, though. It was a painting year. Still haven’t finished.)

I saw them again early this year, but could not bring myself to pay $25 per gallon plant. Geeze, with as many as I want, that’s like a mortgage payment in flowers. But I found some hidden in a new nursery, $10 a gallon. Score! I didn’t know why I was so drawn to them at first. The blue-purple of the flowers were just amazing and striking. I looked them up and discovered they are my birth month’s flower. Huh. How about that?

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There’s two more waiting to be planted…but there was a forest of ferns to clear out! It’s taken a whole lot longer than I originally planned. My back has decided to do some funky-scary spasming where I go completely numb and partially paralyzed to my toes. Yea, this year has not started out very well, and six months out, hasn’t yet improved. But we’re working on it. Dr just wants me drugged without trying to figure out the whys.

Anyway, it suddenly hit me that I’m a mother of boys. And while this is in the realm of things I wouldn’t have asked them to do, I realized I had to. Accepting that you’re no longer physically able to do something you could have done easily last year is a really difficult thing to come to terms with. Anyway, they’re teenagers. Physical labor and outdoor chores are good for them. They need some muscle and character development.

They got those three large patches of ferns cleared in two days!

I’m a mother of boys. That was a pat on the back moment.

So the humming bird garden got started. The hummingbirds aren’t acknowledging my effort and continue to prefer the feeder. Oh well.

These Are Not Good Things

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After constant debate, I decided that euthanizing Daisy was the only humane decision I could make. I know that mentally, she was not ready, nor was I, which is where I struggled. But I could not do anything to keep her body in sync with her mind, and it was causing her to suffer.

So now there is none. Within three months, I’ve said goodbye to both my dog and my cat.

I came home yesterday and cleaned. Her litter boxes, her food bowls. Today I washed my sheets and finally washed our bathroom floor mats- after nearly a year in the laundry. She had started defecating on them, so I could no longer put them out.

This morning, the sound of a cat howling outside my window woke me up around 6am. This is not normal, but I refused to get out of bed and look. No. I’m not taking in anything more right now.

My son and I finally moved the 200# broken turtle tank to the garage, and as expected, it wreaked havoc on my back. I ended up sleeping for about four hours later in the afternoon. Throughout it all, I kept waking up to the feel of a cat jumping on my bed. My old cat, Sigfried. He had the mass to make that small disturbance. Daisy did not. The only time I felt her on the bed was when she started to lick my forehead. I was exhausted, yet I think in control of my capacities. It felt so real, I forced myself awake each time. What if it is a cat? Like, the boys found the one howling outside the window from this morning and brought him inside? What if it isn’t a cat, and I left the back door open, and someone’s on my bed?

I set out the bathroom floor mats when I got up. The fuzzy thick ones that feel so good on your feet, and it was not a good thing. I stared at them, turned away.

I made my bed, and after some thought, threw my pillow in the center of the bed, as she’s no longer taking up the right side. And that does not feel like a good thing. I stared, and turned away.

My clean house. No accidents to clean up after. And it does not feel like a good thing.

Yesterday was rough. All I felt was loss, and flipping through my photo albums, my sense of loss was amplified by the amount of pets that have come through my home and are no longer with me, and it struck me as a failure.

But today was better. My stepdaughter said that all those pets and animals and fosters remain a positive aspect of her childhood, and that helped enormously. So I thought of Daisy’s goofiness. Her strange, unique meow. How she liked to bite my ex-husband every morning way back then. How I found her, sitting outside her former person’s house, patiently waiting for someone to claim her again. How she always liked the warmest part of the house (on top of the lizards’ cage in our Colorado house, under the covers with my son at my mom’s house, or on the heat vents at our current house), how she still zipped around the house in a fit of play until last year. How she detested me every time I brought home a new litter of kittens. But then how instantaneously she forgave me when they went away again. How she has slept by my head for most of our 16 years together. How she use to bite me if my hand came too close during the night. Brat. Her former name was Sassy, and that she was.

She was a good thing.

L. Nahay's Blog

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