Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“We Don’t Know What it is, but it is not Breast Cancer”

(This is just an example, not my real image)

I like to stay out of medical facilities. I think it’s better for our health. 🙂  People who go to doctors tend to be sick, and we still have a lot to learn about germs, viruses, flesh-eating diseases, and even intestinal distress, and how they all spread. I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of things you can be exposed to in hospitals and doctors’ offices that you are less likely to be exposed to elsewhere.

On the other hand, I am all for preventive medicine, and by the grace of God and my husband’s military service, and the American tax-payer, I have decent medical coverage. I see my doctor twice a year, and he reminds me if there are other things I need to do. Some, like an annual skin scan, and eye exams are easy. Mammograms, not so much. For me, it is easy to skip a mammogram for a year, or two, or three.

(Segueing into an aside – if men had to put their testicles in between two sheets of cold plastic and then have the sheets tightened by turning a knob until it was really, really uncomfortable, I am willing to bet they would find a more efficacious way to do the job.)

So it has been three years, and I scheduled, and went in for a routine mammogram. The technician was cool and I was in and out quickly; next contact should be a letter saying a radiologist has examined the photos and all is well, that’s routine.

Umm. Next, I get a call saying we need to schedule right away as there were some . . . I can’t remember the word. Sort of like ambivalencies or ambiguities in the films, and we needed to redo those on one of the breasts. And she got me in like day after tomorrow.

So we re-do the shots, and then we do them again. This is taking a long time. Then she comes back and tells me that they have an ultrasound scheduled for me just down the hall to get a better look.

I’m pretty cool. But I’m starting to get a little nervous.

The ultrasound lady is very professional, very thorough. Very thorough, and finally I glance up at the screen to see flares of blues and reds and yellows as she moves the scope around and I don’t show it but I am seriously starting to freak out.

She tells me she needs to talk with the radiologist and leaves the room and it seems like a long long time and then she comes back in and tells me the radiologist needs to talk with me. If I were the kind of woman who cries, I would cry, but I’m not, not in front of other people, so I just look cool.

The radiologist comes in and says a lot which I hear as “blah blah blah;” when I am freaking out, I have trouble understanding words strung together. I can understand each separate word, but I can’t understand them in a sentence, like “what does that mean?”

And then he says “so we know it is NOT breast cancer, but we don’t know what it is. It’s not even something we could biopsy. I’m not calling you back in six months because it isn’t something that has form or substance but be sure to come back in a year this time so we can take another look.” (I might have paraphrased everything after “We know it is not breast cancer . . .” Everything is pretty hazy except that I do NOT have breast cancer.)

Walking out of that clinic (it took hours) was like getting my life back again.

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February 12, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | 1 Comment

Life is Complicated: Maintaining Balance

It’s been an odd new year. It started with loss and grief, and quiet introspection. Once the season ended, we were caught in the whirl of daily life, amplified by our son’s need for an ACL fix, which has totally immobilized him for a couple weeks and which requires we all pitch in to help keep life going smoothly.

And, I had a major birthday.

The last major birthday I had like this one was when I turned 35 and realized that I hadn’t accomplished my major dreams. I cried all day. People kept stopping by, bringing gifts and cards, and I just kept crying That year, I started graduate school, and never looked back. I was a military wife at an overseas post, with duties to my husband, my community, my church and my job, and I piled on evening classes and all the attendant work of research and studying on top, and I had never been happier. Going back to school was like flying. I loved my studies, and on the days I felt overwhelmed, I would realize that grad school was the only thing I could resign from and I would choose to go forward. My studies were my reward for good behavior in all the other areas of my life.

“What? You didn’t love being a mother?” I hear you asking. We had an oddly shaped room in our quarters, long and narrow. My desk was at the far end, and next to it was my son’s desk. We would do homework together. I adored my son. I would take him to karate lessons, iron his acolyte robes, be there when he got home from school; he enriched my life. But what made my spirit fly was my studies.

Yesterday, things were relatively quiet and I started a project I usually start in January, cleaning out. We haven’t moved in nearly eight years. I tend to be pretty good at cleaning out and passing along or throwing out, but when you are settled, you don’t do so as conscientiously as when you live with a weight allowance. My weight allowance always heavily favored our items collected from foreign postings, and everything else was expendable. Now, the expendable is taking up space, and I want to clear out that which only burdens me and ties me down, and make way for whatever is coming.

En route, I came across a large packet of printed out letters from my earlier lives, one entry in particular, 5 pages describing our arrival in Kuwait. Oh! There are so many things I have already forgotten, so I read it through, and then passed it along to AdventureMan, and listened to him laugh as he hit the funny parts. I owe my Mother a great gratitude for having saved all those letters, for which, having gone through several computers since I wrote them, I have no records. Those were pre-FaceBook times, when we still sent out group e-mails, which then got forward on. Now, we have less time – or we take less time – to write at length about what is going on in our lives.

I made room for my growing collection of religious-oriented books. I have a shelf for them. I have my spiritual disciplines, like doing the Daily Lectionary, but for additional readings, books were scattered here and there. If I am going to get serious about reading them, I have to have them where I know where they are, and I can retrieve them easily. They don’t call it “discipline” for no reason.

When I was a nomad, life’s busier moments were balanced by the enormous quiet of being in a new location. There were the logistical challenges of deliveries, moving out / moving in, looking for the good grocery stores, the cleaners who could do your nicer clothes without ruining them, getting new visas, driver’s licenses, memberships, etc. but in general, life could be very quiet for up to six months. I always found those quiet times, before new friendships, meetings, commitments, etc. very nourishing to my spirit.

I’ve never been so settled. There are times when my spirit rebels against the sameness of it all. There are times when I miss being around people who don’t always use deodorant and who smell sweaty; it takes me back to riding the strassenbahn (street car) in high school in Heidelberg, or to Africa and our adventures there. There are times I catch a whiff of Desert Rose, and feel an urgent upwelling of nostalgia for walking down a Gulf Arab avenue, or through a mall, and how it was the men who smelled so good. There are times I would kill for real flatbread, fresh out of the oven, or for a Tunisian “brik,” done in pure olive oil, or for the simplest French dish, moules frites, mussels in a simple wine sauce with fries.

I do love Pensacola. I have friends here. I’ve always been lucky that way; people take me in and take me behind the scenes. I hear the old stories of how Pensacola used to be, and I hear the new stories, that corruption is never hidden enough to go undiscovered. People in Pensacola, like people everywhere, know things, and I am honored that they share these insights with me. I have found religious community here. I have found meaningful work.

I have a son of whom I am enormously proud. I love and admire his wife. And I have two of the smartest, funniest grand-children on earth, with whom I love spending time.

(Did you know that the use of “whom” is generational?)

It is a sodden, rainy day in Pensacola. AdventureMan is on the couch, here in my office, snoozing as I write. We are on our way to church, then I have a meeting before coming home to do my studies for my class this week. As it says in our Episcopalian Forward Day-byDay: Oh God, Give me strength to live another day. Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties: let me not lose faith in other people   . . .

On on.

February 11, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Blogging, Books, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings | Leave a comment