Thursday, February 25, 2010

Found Recollections

So today I was searching my flash drive for some class activities that I want to work on and found a brief journal entry from a couple of years ago. This is what I wrote then:

Today I helped an old lady into her wheelchair. Her daughter (I assume it was her daughter) was trying to get her into the hospital for an infusion for her anemia. It was clear to see the older woman was fragile, weak. Her daughter got a wheelchair and was struggling with it, getting tangled in her poncho and getting frustrated. I helped, not because it was the “right” thing to do, or because I felt my conscience tugging at me, but because I could see the daughter was scared and frustrated with more than just the chair. I know how it feels to be scared and frustrated with an overwhelming and overwhelmed system. As I looked around the registration area of the hospital I remembered bringing my father to the same hospital for his radiation treatments. We were scared. I was scared. Underneath, I knew he was dying even though he was responding well to the radiation. I tried so hard to keep my attitude positive and I held out hope for a very long time, but it was futile. So I recognized the fear in the daughter’s eyes as she fought with the wheelchair mostly because at that moment, I felt it too. Once you feel a feeling, it’s easy to recapture it. And I’d felt it twice. People who haven’t had a loved one with a terminal illness have never felt that fear, but those of us who have will never forget it.

As I read this, the day came back to me quite clearly. I was in the lobby of Community Memorial Hospital in Toms River, awaiting an appointment with a dietician to draw up my diabetes meal plan, and I saw this little scene play out in front of me. I still can recall not only that daughter's frustration, but my own reaction to it. Tragedy makes brothers and sisters of us all.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Harder Fight

Almost 8 years ago, I began my battle with cancer. I had just buried my father, who died of lung cancer, and my mom had been gone for almost 20 years, also from cancer. I was scared when I got my diagnosis, but also determined to fight. We'd found it early and things looked good. I thought that once I had beaten cancer, I could kick anything. I was wrong.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes. No big deal, we'd control it with diet and exercise, and once I lost the weight it would be gone. Wrong. Turns out that, comparatively speaking, fighting diabetes is SO much harder than fighting cancer was. Oh, granted, for the cancer fight there was surgery and radiation to contend with, but with those, all I had to do was, basically, show up. The doctors and technicians did the rest and here I am, 8 years later, still cancer-free. (I hope...still have my annual check up next month.) But with diabetes, it's really all up to me. It's figuring out what to eat, and when. How many carbs can I have at each meal, what kinds of carbs can I have, when can I eat them and how much exercise do I have to do. It's a daily battle for the rest of my life. Sometimes, it takes me an hour to plan out a few days worth of meals for myself and my husband. Oh, and that's the other thing...the stuff I'm supposed to be eating is stuff he can't. He's got a blood clotting disorder and will spend the rest of his life on blood thinners, so figuring out the dietary requirements for both of us is sometimes a monumental task. Sometimes I want to just forget it all and order a pizza. But I can't.

My last A1C (the blood glucose test that shows you how you've managed your sugar for the last three months) was 10.1. Normal is about 5; 6.5 would be optimal for me. That scared me. It's now not just an issue of being overweight and not looking good. Now it's, "Will I go blind?" or, "Will I need to have my feet amputated?" or even worse, "Will I die?" And it's not something I do just until I kick this disease, like radiation treatments were just till I kicked cancer. No, this is every day for the next however many years I have left on this earth.

I used to complain about tracking for Weight Watchers. I hated it. I felt it put too much emphasis on food, having to think about it so much. Had I done the Weight Watchers tracking, I might not be in this predicament. Now, the tracking for diabetes is far more involved, and much more time consuming, and yet, I must do it, every day. EVERY DAY. Sometimes that bothers me, so I've done something to keep that in perspective. I've posted my last bloodwork results right on the refrigerator. Some people put pictures of bikinis, or of a dress they want, or, heaven forbid, a "fat" picture of themselves. That just didn't work for me. No, my A1C results reside right there on my fridge--I should put a copy in the pantry too.

So now I have this second fight on my hands, literally. All the doctor can do is scold me if I don't do what I'm supposed to; he can't do it for me. No one can, and I've determined that I want to live. And not just exist, but really live. I don't want to be an "old" lady just because I get older. I want to be able to enjoy my life-take a walk when I want to, feel good and have fun. So now I will remind myself every day...yes, EVERY day...that it's all up to me. And with that, I will end this and get on my stationary bike, as much as I hate it, because that is part of today's battle.

Cancer was easy. Diabetes is hard.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


So we had these blizzards…

In February of 2010, Mother Nature got pissed at something…maybe our total disregard for the environment, maybe our total disregard for each other…something. On Friday 2/5 into late Saturday 2/6, we had a blizzard. Got about two feet of snow, more or less. The drifts were up to my hips and digging out was arduous. Still, we got through it and made it to work on Monday. Not too bad. Until Tuesday night. The snow started around 7:30 or so, but they said more would be coming. Much more. Well, for a while, it looked iffy…we got a few inches Tuesday night and school was closed for Wednesday. I could deal. My husband and I went out and shoveled the slush, and boy was it heavy. We were glad it was only a couple of inches. Snow had changed to rain and we thought we were good for tomorrow. Then the snow came back…in spades. The changeover was around 3 pm, but this time it wasn’t the pretty, fluffy snow of the weekend. This was heavy, wet snow. It weighed down the tree branches…it broke wires….it blew transformers all over Bricktown.

So now, it’s 2:41 am Thursday morning. Of course, there’s no school again tomorrow. Good thing, because it’s going to take most of the day to shovel this snow away. There has to be another 10 inches out there, this time packing snow. I’m dreading that shoveling experience, and the only plus to it is that we already shoveled the first six inches earlier, so at least there’s that. The plows have been going down our street two at a time. This does not bode well at all. I’m most grateful that we did not lose power, as so many people in our town have this evening. Although I saw flashes of light several times tonight, our transformer held…our lights never even blinked. That may have been my use of my mother’s mojo. When we had thunderstorms, she’d always light a candle to ward off the lightning and hopefully any loss of power. It usually worked….if we lit a candle, the lights would stay on. So tonight I lit candles. I figured that if worse came to worst, at least we’d have some light if the power did go out. This time, the mojo worked.

Snow days are bad for my diet though. I have this compulsion to bake during a snow storm. Saturday it was muffins; today it was chocolate cake. At least I make the Weight Watchers versions, so that’s a bit better. I also cook—soup, stew…chili’s on deck for tomorrow, even though I have no cilantro. I’ll make do. The thing is to fill up the house with delicious smells while the wind whips around outside. There’s comfort in knowing I’m not alone in this. Maybe that explains the mad rush to buy bread, milk, and eggs when the forecasters predict snow.

Speaking of snow, the forecasters are mentioning yet another storm…I hope they’re wrong this time. My diet and my back cannot handle another blizzard.

Privacy Settings

“You should never eat alone.”

This is a lyric from an African song I overheard during a presentation at school today and it got me thinking. The lyric is about sharing, and it reminded me of a scene in Logan’s Run where the protagonist is upset that his female companion saw him eating. In that society, eating was a private thing, much like going to the bathroom, and to be seen eating was highly embarrassing. It made me wonder what makes us choose the privacy settings of our lives. It seems to me that privacy is a very subjective thing, and that modern society has changed our views of privacy. I see it in my students and the things they feel entitled to post on their Facebook and MySpace pages.

I think the erosion of privacy began with television. Having strangers come into your living room night after night (or day after day) started to ease our feelings of who is a stranger and who is not. Fans of television shows began to react to the characters as though they were real people, as evidenced by the interaction between fan and actor in real life. Many television villains have been accosted on the street and treated as though the actions they performed on last night’s show were actual things they did in their own lives. Some fans have had a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality, and the idea of what is private, for that actor, changed.

Privacy took another hit with the daytime talk show phase. Starting with Phil Donohue, through Sally Jessy Raphael, and most famously, Jerry Springer, talk show hosts have encouraged people to air their dirty laundry on nationwide television while viewers watched like ghouls at a train wreck, eager to stuff their empty lives with the scandals of others. These shows furthered the idea that interpersonal relationships were mere sideshow attractions to be gawked at by a curious public eager to see sensation over substance. These talk shows evolved (if one can call it that) into the courtroom shows, beginning with The People’s Court with the infamous Judge Wapner, and spawning a myriad of like-minded “Let’s sue em” shows like Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown and…well, you get the picture. Here come de judge, and he/she’s makin money!

More recently, we’ve seen the burgeoning “Reality TV” market. It started with Survivor and has grown exponentially until we’ve been barraged by the likes of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette (naturally), Shark Tank, and (unfortunately) Jersey Shore. Viewers become so involved in these shows that they follow the cast members as if they knew them personally. One show even mocked its own genre by calling itself “Big Brother.” 1984 is here, and privacy has never been so threatened. These shows further the idea that revelation is fun…it’s entertainment, and furthermore, it’s the fifteen minutes of fame we were all promised so long ago.

So what’s with the overlap of entertainment with reality? What’s the harm? In my mind, the harm is of great importance, because once we devalue our privacy, it’s very easy to give it up. By viewing the revelation of what should be private moments, ideas and actions, it gives permission for us to reveal our own little secrets. Because we’ve seen it so often, it becomes part of what we accept as normal. We bare our souls to total strangers on the internet and feel like we’re safe because it’s just words on a screen, but many don’t realize that those words, once they’re sent into cyberspace, can float around for a very long time indeed, and perhaps come back to haunt us. We blog; we post; we IM, but who’s really reading us? Who will read these words once I post them? And what inferences will be made about me by those who do read? These are consequences most don’t even consider, and that’s frightening to me.

What will privacy look like in 10 years? In 50? And will world events cause those who already think privacy is “no big deal” to give up privacy altogether, perhaps without even realizing it? I think that’s what scares me the most…that people won’t even realize they’ve given up their privacy because they had so little regard for it in the first place. But there’s hope. I’ve spoken to two former students who are in the process of removing pictures from their Facebook pages because they realize that prospective employers might not appreciate them; that they’ve revealed too much…and that’s a start.