Terror, love, and perspective

About seven months ago I told you about my husband saving me from a giant monster in our bathroom.

Well, tonight, as my husband flew over the Pacific Ocean, I ran out of children’s fever reducing medicine, and our boy had a fever that woke him up. I put out a call and a couple messages–ended up with one friend driving out to a store in the middle of the night for me, only to meet up in my driveway with a neighbor who had also responded to my plea having just returned home from work, medicine in hand. I am a lucky person.

I gave our son some medicine, and he wanted to bunk with me. He climbed into bed, but then decided to go to the bathroom. I took him, and saw a large… I mean Large, really large, bug on the bathroom wall. I escorted him out and said lightly, “let me just get that bug.”

(I said this, even though I am ashamed to admit I thought about calling my next door neighbor who had just been to my house… She had come by last year to find a snake near our pool. She fears nothing… But I am proud to say I let that impulse pass.)

I left the room and came back with three sheets of paper towel and a plastic bag. I attacked the bug and believed I had it in the bagged paper towels. My son watched me crush the bag and take it to the kitchen trash. I returned, he headed to the bathroom, but we both saw the bug. I missed him.

“Mommy there’s a lizard in there. It just went behind the toilet.” THAT’s how big the bug was, he thought it was a lizard.

Well. I got the nearest poisonous spraying substance nearby: kitchen cleanser with bleach. I re-entered the bathroom, and aimed and sprayed, repeatedly, until that thing could neither hide nor crawl nor move. It was stuck to our wicker trash can. Hmm.

I got a kitchen garbage bag and put the whole thing in there and took it out to the garage. Came back, smiled at my son, and told him the bathroom was ready.

He said, “you’re just like me with ladybugs.” (A few weeks ago a ladybug landed on him and tickled him, startling him enough that it scared him. He’s a boy that will pick up lizards and frogs and dead worms, but a fluttery ladybug scared him silly.)

“Well, we’re all scared of something. But I forgot to be scared because you were here. You made me brave.”

He smiled.

And now, finally, at 1:14 am, I will sleep, peacefully.

trust, fear, and being right

I learned today that somebody I know contracted pertussis, or whooping cough, from a coworker, and then passed it on to her unvaccinated children. She and her children have been ill for weeks, and the bacterial infection was diagnosed and treatment was begun three days ago. Her children will return to school and daycare on Monday. She, however, is not well enough to return to work. (Pertussis, if not treated early, will hit an adult hard.)

I could go on for days about my feelings about the choice not to vaccinate oneself or one’s children. (Weeks, even.) It’s perhaps enough to say that I find that choice to be one that is not the most informed, and one that is based on a highly questionable risk assessment. But that’s just my opinion. As my husband said, “I can understand why somebody would come to the decision to vaccinate. I can understand why somebody would decide against it.”

I guess I can, too. It all depends on who and what you trust. One might not take much stock in what the medical community does, or recommends. One might not hold much faith in the pharmaceutical industry, or, especially now, the compounding pharmacy industry.

There are risks we face, every day. We weigh odds, we make decisions, and we have to deal with whatever that yields.

Six years ago, for example, I ignored a 5cm tumor in my neck–visible to anybody even five feet away. Inexplicably, I simply couldn’t see it. My husband could see it. My mother-in-law, who visited at the time, could see it. My former boss could see it. They told me what they saw. I thought, “Nah, I’m fine.” I weighed some sort of risk in my mind. I decided, for some reason, that they were incorrect to have concern. They tend to worry about a lot of things, anyway, I thought.

Why did I dismiss them? Looking back, I think I was scared. I did not want to have a problem. I do not like problems, as I rarely can control them. So, I convinced myself there was no problem, and if there was, it wasn’t the same one they were concerned about; my big old neck would return to its normal size at some point. Plus, how could they know more than me?

Over a year later, soon after the birth of our son, the obstetrician who ended up delivering him, who had never seen me during prenatal visits, examined my neck at my follow-up appointment post-delivery, and told me to get an ultrasound. I listened to the doctor. I didn’t listen to my husband, mother-in-law, or former boss. But I listened to the doctor. I had delivered a baby before (our daughter), and the obstetrician then did not examine my neck (no need to). This one, though, did. He broke a pattern in my mind. It woke me up.

I had an ultrasound. I remember reading the imaging report and the word “neoplasm” jumped out at me. I think it even had its own shocking “dunh dunh DUNH” sound–in my mind, at least (by the way, it’s a horrible word to google at any point, but especially after giving birth to a child). Due to its size and location (within the right half of my thyroid gland) a biopsy was done. The biopsy results were “benign.” Really? I thought. I had done a lot of reading on the subject. It didn’t seem possible.

I got a second opinion, from my former boss’ colleague (an endocrinologist): “I don’t care what the results say. That growth is too big and they only took three samples of tissue. They should have taken seven. If you were my daughter I’d recommend surgery.” He confirmed what I had read (quite literally, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Medical Guidelines for Clinical Practice).

So I did, now having fully converted from an “I’m fine” nonchalance to an “I’m going to die” doom spiral.

Still unconscious on the table, they conducted a freeze pathology of the half-thyroid they removed, and found cancer. They removed the other half of my thyroid. I was home the next day, nursing our six-month-old son, feeling irresponsible and stupid for not having had my neck checked out sooner.

There was a bright side during my season of denial. We brought our son into the world. Had I weighed risks differently, he would have never been born. (Surgery and subsequent radio-iodine treatment would have precluded pregnancy for six to 12 months. Perhaps another child would have been born at a later time, but not him.) It’s a very glorious, blindingly bright side.

Back to my friend and her children with whooping cough. A few weeks before that surgery I had, she had told me of a friend of hers who had a growth on his neck, but he simply changed his diet and engaged in some meditation and the growth went away. At the time–in my “I’m going to die” doom spiral–I had taken great offense, as if she were a) suggesting I brought the treatment on myself by eating something untoward,  and/or b) questioning my decision to seek surgical intervention.

But now, I wonder if perhaps she was just scared, on my behalf. And I wonder now, if after enduring a severe illness and unwittingly passing it on to her children, she will enjoy some kind of bright side. Not necessarily the kind where you end up with a new baby, but another kind that I have also enjoyed.

The kind where you are more discriminating in whom you trust, where you fear things in order of their priority, and where you are less sure of being right.

I hope she does.

terror and love

My husband turned in before me last night; today he had meetings pretty much all day long and they were the kind of meetings that required a weekend’s worth of extra preparation. He was beat. About 45 minutes later, I walked across the house only to see what can quaintly be described as a “Palmetto Bug.” These horrifying things are also known as “giant flying cockroaches.” We’ve had a lot of rain, and when that happens, one of these monsters can find its way into our home. (It happens maybe once a year.)

I did what was unfortunately very natural to me, and called out to my husband. He shot out of bed, opened the bedroom door, and the monster crawled right into our room, past my husband’s feet and under our bed. I exclaimed:

“It’s big, it’s huge, the bug! It’s under our bed, ummmm…” My exhausted and now irritated spouse looked around, couldn’t see it and said:

“Well, I don’t know what I can do. I’m going to bed.”

He closed the door, and went to bed with the monster in our room.

I froze. I needed to brush my teeth and take out my disposable contact lenses that last for two weeks, but I actually considered opening up one of the kids’ spare toothbrushes in their bathroom, throwing out the contacts a week early, and sleeping in the guest room myself. But then, in the morning, my husband would leave early and I’d still need to go into our room and what would I do then?

Minutes went by. My heart was racing and I felt like I had tunnel vision. Fight or flight.

(Yes: this is horribly embarrassing.)

I grabbed my phone (to use as a flash light) and went into our room. I had the light on outside our room too, which shined right into my husband’s face. I crept in and he asked what I was doing. I kept repeating, over and over, “It’s really big. It’s in here. I… I know, I’m insane. I’m sorry. I just can’t….” I don’t really even know what I was saying.

My seriously annoyed husband got out of bed and told me he’d sleep in the guest room, leaving me there, alone with the monster. I crept toward our bathroom. There it was! On the ceiling near the shower. It flew down and into a corner by the toilet. I screamed and ran to the other side of the room.

(Yes, I screamed, at 11:30 at night, because that’s absolutely helpful in a situation like this.)

I called out, woefully, “Honey? It’s in the bathroom….”

And my hero, he returned. He brought with him a roll of paper towel. He went into the bathroom, looked around, couldn’t see it. He reminded me, “I need to get to sleep.” 

I sweetly suggested that he look behind the toilet. (I can’t believe myself, I know, I know…)

It was no where to be found. He almost gave up. But then, there it was, on the ceiling again. He reached for it, it flew at him, and he ushered it into the toilet and flushed.

“There. It went down the drain.”

He got into bed. I flushed the toilet again. And again.

And we went to sleep.

I’m an excellent wife, and utterly useless in certain situations. This guy I’m married to? I just barely deserve him.