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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On faith

It's still January, but our tulips are coming up. WTF?

I went out to mail something at the beginning of the week and right by the front door, there they were, these happy little green leaves poking their way up, fully confident that winter had ended. I hope they don't get disappointed by a sudden cold snap before spring really arrives. I know, it's not too far off -- everything greens up fairly early here. But there isn't exactly a way for these guys to retract or change course now that they've committed to putting themselves out there.

I kind of wish I could be that confident.

Monday, I went to my GI doctor for follow-up. I finally had that long-awaited blood draw last week, so the plan was for me to get my results from him and talk about the plan going forward after the developments from December.

Well, the results were so-so. One of the liver function tests actually came back with results in the normal range, which is great. The other one, however, was still outside of normal. It did come down, but not far enough. So we'll recheck those in three months.

This isn't what's making me feel a want for mettle, though.

Back in December, when Troubadour Dad decided to push for a consult from a specialist at Almost Dr. Sis's medical school, it wasn't just a "why don't you get a second opinion?" sort of conversation. Troubadour Dad is very opinionated, shall we say. My responses to his questions about what I'd had done so far in my workup were all met with some kind of editorial comment. "Those GI guys just like to do procedures," he said with a knowing nod when he found out I'd had the endoscopy. "That's all they're interested in."

"He did find some erosions in my stomach lining," I said meekly. "I mean, that's good that he caught those early --"

"Yeah, sure," Troubadour Dad said. "That's his way of justifying doing that procedure so you'll feel like it was worth it. That's where they make their money, you know."*

I didn't say anything more at that point. But the damage was done.

On Monday, my GI doctor said that the symptoms I'd been getting since December were still not indicative of something specific. "Basically, you're still an unknown," he said. "We can either let it hang for now, or if you're not totally, totally happy, my next step would be a colonoscopy."

Well, I can't say I want one of those, but before that conversation with Troubadour Dad, I wouldn't have questioned that treatment plan. Instead, I've got this little voice in my head now that keeps whispering my father's words over and over. Talk about crazy-making. Add to this my worries that my GI guy knows I've had my records sent to the other specialist -- and therefore has reason to believe I don't trust him -- and I start to wonder if he's suggesting we "let it hang" because he doesn't see a point in putting further effort into a diagnosis if someone else is going to do it.

Okay, that last idea was probably a bit nutty, but I do know that doctors aren't immune to their own egos. Troubadour Dad's a prime example of that. What intensifies that problem is the father-knows-best mentality he brings out whenever he doctors his own kids. This is why I don't talk about my health with him if I can avoid it. Unfortunately, I couldn't really give him any other explanation but the truth when I wasn't drinking over the holidays. He knows me too well to think I'd just stop because I felt like it.

Anyway, about confidence. I just want to feel that it's okay to trust whom I've chosen to trust while we're figuring out what in the world is wrong with me. It's no help at all to doubt those people. But that voice, my father's voice. It's dogged me since I was a child, has told me I'm not wise enough -- will never be wise enough -- to know what's best for me, in my health, my career, my life. Most days, I work pretty hard to ignore it. But during times like these, I just can't seem to shut it up.

* GI doctors, please don't take what Troubadour Dad says personally; he's not out to insult you alone. He's got
plenty more to say about folks in other specialties that are also not his own.

7 comments:

Good Enough Woman said...

It's so hard to be in your position when you must rely on experts, experts who often don't have the answers. And then you're supposed to decide who's right? Kind of impossible.

On another note, you could also interpret the "totally, totally happy" part as him really wanting you to feel satisfied with your treatment.

Let your gut (ha!) tell you who to trust. Also, remember that if you get an extra procedure or two, it's not a big deal, right? I mean, it might be some extra money, but you're looking for answers here. Also, it's not like you need to feel guilty of shamed about getting "duped" or something. It's not like you're a naive girl buying a car.

Anyway, I probably shouldn't say all of this since you don't need *another* voice in your head, and I don't want to disrespect Troubadour Dad or anything. And I'm not even trying to make you feel hopeless (believe it or not). I just think your uncertainty is so normal when it comes to medical stuff. And I'm trying to give you a pep talk so that you won't beat yourself up about any of it.

Can you tell it's a pep talk?

{{{{CT}}}}}

Contemporary Troubadour said...

The number of times I've thought about letting my gut be my guide, GEW, hee hee!

Seriously, though, thank you for the pep talk. I think it's not so much the uncertainty of the medical situation that's needling me; it's Troubadour Dad's ability to make me doubt that gut instinct over and over again in any situation. I may not be a naive girl buying a car, but he can reduce me to that state of mind way too easily. That's what I'd really like to change.

I'm glad that, with medical stuff, the doctors I'm choosing to trust (whether Troubadour Dad thinks I should or not) have things like board certification to back their expertise. That's all I can really cling to in the moment when he starts bashing them :P

As for incorporating other voices into my head, no worries! Yours is a helpful one :)

medieval woman said...

Ugh - this is a tough one - I'm sorry your dad's making an already tough situation tougher! I think it's never bad to get a second opinion, but I'd also have the colonoscopy - I know it's no fun (although they do anesthetize you in some way) - but I'm a procedure junky. I just think the more info they have, the better. Have you not yet seen the second dude? You can see him and see if he tells you you're an unknown!

It's all going to be all right!

((CT))

Sherlock said...

Drs haven't a clue more often than they do have a clue. So often tests are just a process of elimination -- let's check to make sure it's not this or that or whatever. They start with the most common possibilities first and either confirm or rule them out. I don't necessarily distrust docs as much I realize that they all have different opinions when it comes to treatment once a dx is made. The five-year saga of my torn rotator cuff (through four ortho surgeons) and still no surgery (my choice) is a good example. There's always going to be a difference of opinion on how to treat something and, to some extent, how to reach a diagnosis.

Good luck with getting it all figured out. Don't feel bad about trusting or not trusting any doctor -- your decision and you know what's best.

I had to laugh at your picture of the shoots coming up in January. I've got a whole flower plot full of the things out back. They're going to get 10 inches of snow dumped on them tonight and tomorrow but they'll be okay and pop up out of the snow as it melts (happened last year too).

French Fancy said...

Oh what a shame your dad has involved himself like this because it is bound to cloud your judgement.

I'm glad that one of your results is better than expected - and who knows what you should do about pursuing the tests.If you're not in excruciating pain is it viable to just leave everything alone for about six months or is that a silly thing for me to suggest?

TKW said...

Is it bad that I think I'd rather have a colonoscopy than go another three months without a cocktail?

(((hugs))) You must be rather frustrated.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

MW -- I'm of the same mind. Procedures, if they can provide helpful information, shouldn't be a bad thing here. I'm scheduled to see the second doctor in February (after about a month of interminable phone tag).

Sherlock -- yep, that's what my GI doctor has been doing, ruling things out. Yikes, FIVE YEARS figuring out the rotator cuff? Owww.

FF -- it actually is totally fine for us to watch and wait for a few months. The GI doctor here said a follow-up in April would be all right. I think Troubadour Dad is concerned that there's something bigger going on that needs to be ferreted out (the strange constellation of symptoms -- first the prediabetes, then the GI problems, then the liver enzyme issues -- raised a flag for him). My gut says he's probably right. His primary worry is that this is really abnormal for my age.

TKW -- I'm looking longingly at the wine rack on the counter, believe me. D and I have been clinking our plates at dinner instead of wine glasses (he still has his customary alcoholic beverage with the meal). I console myself with really good food. Your recipes have been helpful :)

My mother got me Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook for my birthday last year. We've been exploring ideas in there -- can't say they're ideal for SMAM, but I imagine they're pretty adaptable. Baked shrimp scampi, mmmmm ...

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

On faith

It's still January, but our tulips are coming up. WTF?

I went out to mail something at the beginning of the week and right by the front door, there they were, these happy little green leaves poking their way up, fully confident that winter had ended. I hope they don't get disappointed by a sudden cold snap before spring really arrives. I know, it's not too far off -- everything greens up fairly early here. But there isn't exactly a way for these guys to retract or change course now that they've committed to putting themselves out there.

I kind of wish I could be that confident.

Monday, I went to my GI doctor for follow-up. I finally had that long-awaited blood draw last week, so the plan was for me to get my results from him and talk about the plan going forward after the developments from December.

Well, the results were so-so. One of the liver function tests actually came back with results in the normal range, which is great. The other one, however, was still outside of normal. It did come down, but not far enough. So we'll recheck those in three months.

This isn't what's making me feel a want for mettle, though.

Back in December, when Troubadour Dad decided to push for a consult from a specialist at Almost Dr. Sis's medical school, it wasn't just a "why don't you get a second opinion?" sort of conversation. Troubadour Dad is very opinionated, shall we say. My responses to his questions about what I'd had done so far in my workup were all met with some kind of editorial comment. "Those GI guys just like to do procedures," he said with a knowing nod when he found out I'd had the endoscopy. "That's all they're interested in."

"He did find some erosions in my stomach lining," I said meekly. "I mean, that's good that he caught those early --"

"Yeah, sure," Troubadour Dad said. "That's his way of justifying doing that procedure so you'll feel like it was worth it. That's where they make their money, you know."*

I didn't say anything more at that point. But the damage was done.

On Monday, my GI doctor said that the symptoms I'd been getting since December were still not indicative of something specific. "Basically, you're still an unknown," he said. "We can either let it hang for now, or if you're not totally, totally happy, my next step would be a colonoscopy."

Well, I can't say I want one of those, but before that conversation with Troubadour Dad, I wouldn't have questioned that treatment plan. Instead, I've got this little voice in my head now that keeps whispering my father's words over and over. Talk about crazy-making. Add to this my worries that my GI guy knows I've had my records sent to the other specialist -- and therefore has reason to believe I don't trust him -- and I start to wonder if he's suggesting we "let it hang" because he doesn't see a point in putting further effort into a diagnosis if someone else is going to do it.

Okay, that last idea was probably a bit nutty, but I do know that doctors aren't immune to their own egos. Troubadour Dad's a prime example of that. What intensifies that problem is the father-knows-best mentality he brings out whenever he doctors his own kids. This is why I don't talk about my health with him if I can avoid it. Unfortunately, I couldn't really give him any other explanation but the truth when I wasn't drinking over the holidays. He knows me too well to think I'd just stop because I felt like it.

Anyway, about confidence. I just want to feel that it's okay to trust whom I've chosen to trust while we're figuring out what in the world is wrong with me. It's no help at all to doubt those people. But that voice, my father's voice. It's dogged me since I was a child, has told me I'm not wise enough -- will never be wise enough -- to know what's best for me, in my health, my career, my life. Most days, I work pretty hard to ignore it. But during times like these, I just can't seem to shut it up.

* GI doctors, please don't take what Troubadour Dad says personally; he's not out to insult you alone. He's got
plenty more to say about folks in other specialties that are also not his own.

7 comments:

Good Enough Woman said...

It's so hard to be in your position when you must rely on experts, experts who often don't have the answers. And then you're supposed to decide who's right? Kind of impossible.

On another note, you could also interpret the "totally, totally happy" part as him really wanting you to feel satisfied with your treatment.

Let your gut (ha!) tell you who to trust. Also, remember that if you get an extra procedure or two, it's not a big deal, right? I mean, it might be some extra money, but you're looking for answers here. Also, it's not like you need to feel guilty of shamed about getting "duped" or something. It's not like you're a naive girl buying a car.

Anyway, I probably shouldn't say all of this since you don't need *another* voice in your head, and I don't want to disrespect Troubadour Dad or anything. And I'm not even trying to make you feel hopeless (believe it or not). I just think your uncertainty is so normal when it comes to medical stuff. And I'm trying to give you a pep talk so that you won't beat yourself up about any of it.

Can you tell it's a pep talk?

{{{{CT}}}}}

Contemporary Troubadour said...

The number of times I've thought about letting my gut be my guide, GEW, hee hee!

Seriously, though, thank you for the pep talk. I think it's not so much the uncertainty of the medical situation that's needling me; it's Troubadour Dad's ability to make me doubt that gut instinct over and over again in any situation. I may not be a naive girl buying a car, but he can reduce me to that state of mind way too easily. That's what I'd really like to change.

I'm glad that, with medical stuff, the doctors I'm choosing to trust (whether Troubadour Dad thinks I should or not) have things like board certification to back their expertise. That's all I can really cling to in the moment when he starts bashing them :P

As for incorporating other voices into my head, no worries! Yours is a helpful one :)

medieval woman said...

Ugh - this is a tough one - I'm sorry your dad's making an already tough situation tougher! I think it's never bad to get a second opinion, but I'd also have the colonoscopy - I know it's no fun (although they do anesthetize you in some way) - but I'm a procedure junky. I just think the more info they have, the better. Have you not yet seen the second dude? You can see him and see if he tells you you're an unknown!

It's all going to be all right!

((CT))

Sherlock said...

Drs haven't a clue more often than they do have a clue. So often tests are just a process of elimination -- let's check to make sure it's not this or that or whatever. They start with the most common possibilities first and either confirm or rule them out. I don't necessarily distrust docs as much I realize that they all have different opinions when it comes to treatment once a dx is made. The five-year saga of my torn rotator cuff (through four ortho surgeons) and still no surgery (my choice) is a good example. There's always going to be a difference of opinion on how to treat something and, to some extent, how to reach a diagnosis.

Good luck with getting it all figured out. Don't feel bad about trusting or not trusting any doctor -- your decision and you know what's best.

I had to laugh at your picture of the shoots coming up in January. I've got a whole flower plot full of the things out back. They're going to get 10 inches of snow dumped on them tonight and tomorrow but they'll be okay and pop up out of the snow as it melts (happened last year too).

French Fancy said...

Oh what a shame your dad has involved himself like this because it is bound to cloud your judgement.

I'm glad that one of your results is better than expected - and who knows what you should do about pursuing the tests.If you're not in excruciating pain is it viable to just leave everything alone for about six months or is that a silly thing for me to suggest?

TKW said...

Is it bad that I think I'd rather have a colonoscopy than go another three months without a cocktail?

(((hugs))) You must be rather frustrated.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

MW -- I'm of the same mind. Procedures, if they can provide helpful information, shouldn't be a bad thing here. I'm scheduled to see the second doctor in February (after about a month of interminable phone tag).

Sherlock -- yep, that's what my GI doctor has been doing, ruling things out. Yikes, FIVE YEARS figuring out the rotator cuff? Owww.

FF -- it actually is totally fine for us to watch and wait for a few months. The GI doctor here said a follow-up in April would be all right. I think Troubadour Dad is concerned that there's something bigger going on that needs to be ferreted out (the strange constellation of symptoms -- first the prediabetes, then the GI problems, then the liver enzyme issues -- raised a flag for him). My gut says he's probably right. His primary worry is that this is really abnormal for my age.

TKW -- I'm looking longingly at the wine rack on the counter, believe me. D and I have been clinking our plates at dinner instead of wine glasses (he still has his customary alcoholic beverage with the meal). I console myself with really good food. Your recipes have been helpful :)

My mother got me Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook for my birthday last year. We've been exploring ideas in there -- can't say they're ideal for SMAM, but I imagine they're pretty adaptable. Baked shrimp scampi, mmmmm ...