Inconclusive


First they told me I had endometriosis and put me on a birth control regime to control the stabbing that paralyzed me every few weeks. The internet was new then, and the few times I signed onto the music of AOL, it was mostly because my best friend and I decided to argue with people in chat rooms. I didn’t fully understand the purpose of internet or what it had to offer. However, typing “endometriosis” into a search engine was less embarrassing than looking it up in the card catalog at the library.

I was sixteen and facing infertility for the first time in my life. I dealt with it by saying I didn’t want kids anyway. When I was 20, I had scar tissue and lesions removed from my uterus. Periods weren’t so bad after that, but I was warned that this didn’t cure me. It was a temporary solution.

A few months before turning 35, I decided it was time to find out exactly what my body already knows. I went to the nurse practitioner I’d been seeing for a year and asked for a complete blood panel. I wanted to know if I will ever have a chance of having a baby, so I can deal with whatever that answer is and know my options. I was called within a week and told to come in to discuss the results, which we all know is a sign that something isn’t right. The Nurse Practitioner came into the room and said, “Your thyroid has pooped out, so you’re going to need to be on medication for the rest of your life and have regular blood tests.” I suspected thyroid issues. It runs in the family. Plus, no matter how healthy I ate and how much I exercised, weight piled on like I was eating McDonald’s every day. I had shared my thyroid concerns with her the week before. Her answer was writing a prescription for a diet pill that would also ensure “my house, car, laundry–everything clean” after all the energy it would give me. I never filled the prescription. I never wanted it in the first place. She went on to tell me how my cholesterol was dangerously high and my Vitamin D was extremely low. Not to mention, my testosterone levels were extremely high.

“What does this mean for any chance of me having a baby?”

“We have to get your thyroid under control before we can have that conversation.”

I’d just been told, once again, that my body was fucked up. I was sixteen again and resorted to the internet for answers with a copy of my blood work by my side. I easily found that my high cholesterol and low Vitamin D were linked to my under-active thyroid. I began to wonder if I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) when reading about high testosterone in women. Our thyroids run our metabolisms. When it poops out and decides it doesn’t want to work, everything goes a little crazy. Everything I read said that one should be tested every six weeks to see if TSH levels are lowering and if the medication dosage needs to be increased. I wasn’t supposed to get blood work for three months.

I called the nurse practitioner and asked to be referred to a specialist. She never referred me. Luckily, a friend told me about an endocrinologist who would let me self-refer since I had a PPO. I waited a very long five weeks to get in to see him. He went over everything, confirmed the links of some of the test results. I’d had my second blood test by now and my testosterone dropped in half. He had no answers as to why. It wasn’t linked to the thyroid treatment. He looked at my hormones and asked what day of my cycle I’d been tested. While hormones showed within normal ranges, with the exception of the testosterone, they weren’t aligned with where they should on that particular day of my cycle. He referred me to a fertility doctor. 

“Have you ever had an ultrasound?”

“Yes, on my uterus as a teenager to see if I had cysts and a few years ago after a lump was found in my breast.”

“But not on your thyroid?”

“No.”

“We are going to do that today.”

I followed him down a short hall, and a technician came into the room. She put the cool gel on my throat and began moving the probe around. She kept going back to the left and clicking on her keyboard. 

“The doctor will be in to talk to you.” She walked out without looking at me.

The 30 seconds felt like an eternity. He came in and placed the probe on my throat. “You have a nodule. I’ll want to biopsy it to see if it’s cancer.”

I made an appointment to see if what I read online was true, to make sure I was being treated appropriately. I was walking out of his office with more blood work orders, a biopsy scheduled, and a referral to a fertility doctor.

“You have Hashimoto’s Disease from the look of your thyroid.” It was confirmed, just as with the endometriosis, my body is attacking itself. I have always been hard on myself, but this is a whole other level.

On the morning of my biopsy, I went to yoga. I took a Xanax because I’m not as strong as people think I am. When I sat in the waiting room of the hospital between my mom and stepdad, I began to cry. I was terrified and very few people understood or validated that fear, which made it that much worse to endure. Being my father’s daughter, I cracked jokes with the medical team about the bruising that could look like a hickey. The oncologist told me we would be taking samples to check for cancer and that if the results come back positive, that thyroid cancer is very easy to treat. 

“I’ve read it’s a nicer cancer.” I tried to joke. “You really should put some pictures on the ceiling of waterfalls or animals. Something nice to stare at.”

“You’re right. We should. We had pictures of animals on the ceiling at the children’s hospital I worked at,” he replied.

“Well, I’m just an overgrown child, so I’d appreciate that.”

“Ahhh very true. I fully embrace my inner child too. We only get one life; we must live it to the fullest,” he said.

Then he stated my name, the date and time, and that the biopsy would be to test a nodule on the left side of my thyroid.

“I’m very sorry, but this is going to be painful. Please forgive me.”

The shot to numb me hurt the most. I could still feel the needle going in a couple of times as he extracted cells, but probably not as bad as if I hadn’t been numbed. Funny that something that is supposed to make you not feel anything has to hurt so bad.

It was all over within a half hour, and now I just had to wait. I spent that night alone eating ice cream and drinking wine. Even though my throat hurt, I spent a half hour on the phone with a former student who had just learned he didn’t receive financial aid he was counting on. He had no idea what I was facing, and in all honesty it was a nice distraction since I had been sitting alone in an empty apartment.

I called after a week of not hearing anything and was told I’d have to come in for the results. The dates they wanted me to come in didn’t work because I had to train the people I just hired. So, I had to continue to wait. I tried to comfort myself by thinking if something was wrong, they would insist I come in immediately.

After weeks of waiting, I finallyI sat in the exam room, nervous, checking email, wishing there was something to keep my mind occupied like waterfalls and animals. He walked in with his chart, sat and read, while I tried not to stare and read his mind. 

“The results were benign. But inconclusive due to a small sample size.” He showed me the lab report where it read “less than optimal sample size.” My stepmom was with me and asked what will happen now. “I will want to biopsy it again. We will do another ultrasound in January.” All she heard was benign. All I heard was inconclusive and another biopsy. It has to grow because it’s very small. More waiting. I went to yoga for the first time since having the biopsy weeks before. I expected to be frustrated and weak, but I discovered I’m a lot stronger than I think I am.

I know it’s not a horrible cancer to have, if it does in fact turn out to be that. I know benign, for now, is good. But it doesn’t take away the fear. The waiting is the hardest part. Not knowing if this thing inside me is just a nuisance or something more is a bit maddening. 

I’m not asking for sympathy or even empathy in writing this. What I hope is that it’s a reminder to listen to your body. I knew something was wrong. I’ve had high cholesterol forever, even when I was 90 pounds, but I didn’t know the link to my thyroid until very recently. We live inside our bodies daily, and it’s important to listen to what is going on. A medical practitioner can start to treat everyone the same as if we are just out of a textbook. If I had continued to see the dismissive nurse practitioner who denied my request to see a specialist, I wouldn’t know that there’s this thing growing inside me that can be hazardous. I had seen her in January because I was completely weak, dizzy, and nauseous. I didn’t have a fever. She prescribed some pills to take away the nausea and told me to rest. I know now, that my TSH levels were likely extremely high and that was the cause of me feeling so awful, but she never did blood work. Couldn’t be bothered with finding the root. She only wanted to treat the symptoms.

Even if it’s benign, a growing nodule is often removed because it can interfere with things like swallowing and breathing. At the very least, I have a doctor who is being careful and taking necessary precautions. And we all deserve that. We deserve to be treated with dignity, and even if we don’t have a medical degree, we know our bodies and when something isn’t right. That should be honored. 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Counting Anyway?


How many times do you think a heart can break, grow scar tissue, and maintain the ability to open? When people say, “S/he wasn’t the one,” how many heartbreaks did they go through? How many times did you have to open the door, squinting through your hands like you’re watching a scary movie? Who’s going to walk in? The killer or the hero?

How many times do you have to watch people walk away? How many times do you have to walk away, wishing that someone would run after you unable to bear the thought of losing you?

How much concealer does it take to cover the dark circles caused by tears and staring at the ceiling? How many unrequited, lost love poems have to be written? How many times does every line break in a stanza equal a heart break?

It’s not like I can just spoof up my resume and send it out in hopes that a new and better opportunity will present itself, like I do when job hunting. I can’t sign up for classes and earn a degree or certificate to make myself more appealing and qualified. It was easier to get accepted to Columbia and NYU with a schizophrenic transcript than it is to find long-lasting love with the scars of a repeatedly broken heart and eyes that have seen too many walk away.

What Would You Do?


I love John Quinones’ “What Would You Do?” segments, and I’m always impressed by people doing the right thing just because they know it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes, they put themselves in harm’s way to break up what they think is a domestic violence issue. Sometimes, they scold parents who are berating their children for being gay, fat, or in love with someone of a different race.

Yesterday, after a long day of substitute teaching (by the way, substitutes should be paid extra on holidays like Halloween), I came home to checks for worked the previous month. I noticed a check from a district I didn’t work in. I’m not going to lie, I seriously pondered depositing it. It was for $85, and that money could go a long way. After all, I only made my rent payment this month because my mom loaned me some money. But, the thing is I didn’t earn that money. It wasn’t mine, so I called the district and let them know that there was a mistake.

What would you do?

Do you think it matters whether you need the money or not? Is it ok to still a loaf of bread if you’re literally starving and have no money for food? Or, is stealing always wrong?

Sometimes people on “What Would You Do?” call the police or walk by because they fear for their own safety. They assess the situation, agree that what’s happening is wrong, but they ultimately decide what’s best for them and not the other person. So, I guess I’m wondering when it’s ok, if ever, to compromise morals. Because the truth of the matter is, sometimes doing what you feel is morally right can really wreak havoc in your life. I’m not Charlie, and Willie Wonka didn’t appear to give me his entire chocolate factory after I did the “right” thing. And I’m not trying to be sanctimonious, by any means. It doesn’t take much for me to be drowning in guilt for things, and I easily obsess and run things over in my mind like race cars in the Indy 500. But some people thought I should have cashed it, and didn’t see anything wrong with that since I’m struggling financially. So, I’m just curious. What would you do? Does it depend on the circumstances?

Astro Turf


Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,

no light and no land anywhere,

cloudcover thick. I try to stay

just above the surface, yet I’m already under

and living within the ocean.

–Rumi

You have the best life. I envy you, Amy. That’s what someone said to me Sunday afternoon over lunch. There were ten of us. Mostly couples. We were recovering from the previous evening’s wedding festivities. I had made the comment that I had decided to call some friends and stay an extra night instead of heading back to the valley that day like everyone else. I didn’t expect to be considered lucky because I had no one to go home to, no job to go home to, and no kids to pick up after being away from them for a weekend. In fact, I envied the people who had someone to sleep next to the night before and every night. The ones who hold the alias mom or dad. The ones with a job, a steady paycheck. The ones not worrying how high the minimum payment will be on the credit card bill after the added expenses from the weekend because they don’t have to live off their credit card to ensure lights stay on and food is in the fridge.

I slept on a couch that night and drove home the next morning to my tiny apartment. We know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but maybe we are fooled. Maybe the other side isn’t grass. It’s AstroTurf. But maybe the grass is greener. Sometimes I’m grateful that I’m not stressing about how to support not only myself but a family on my meager unemployment and substitute teaching checks. On the flip side, if I’m being completely honest, sometimes I just want someone to put their arms around me and let me cry, comfort me and agree that the circumstances in my situation are completely wrong and unfair. I didn’t deserve this and karma will take care of those who put me in this situation. I wish there was someone else who was also bringing in money and that our struggle was leaving with a little less, not $50 above the poverty line. I worked so hard in school and jobs that it hurts to be poor, hurts to have lost my job because someone decided to make me an example. My ego is bruised and it’s like I’m stuck running on a treadmill watching everyone run past me. They are laughing and their bellies are full while mine growls and I fight back tears.

I know relationships aren’t easy. Clearly, I’m not in one because I’ve failed at every attempt and most of the time I preferred being alone anyway. But lately I wish I had someone to rely on, someone who made me a priority and said, we’ll get through this together. I’ve never dealt with being lonely before. I always valued alone time. Now, I avoid being alone with myself, facing myself, and this mess of my life. It’s all catching up to me like a lion. I’m not left with many more hiding places, and if I want to get over this fence to the other side I have to face myself first. Maybe this time the grass will be real and it will be greener on the other side. After all, I’m not even sure there’s grass on my side. It feels more like quick sand, and I’m trying not to move too fast, but just the right speed to avoid sinking.

Saying No, Saying Yes


Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.

Don’t try to see through the distances.

That’s not for human beings. Move within,

but don’t move the way fear makes you move.

        –Rumi

I crunch numbers till they bleed, robbing Peter to pay Paul, playing Russian Roulette with credit card maximum limits and due dates. For people who think that most of the people are living off unemployment are just milking the system and not wanting to get a job, I have to tell you that bringing in 60% of your already small wages is not exactly some cushion of government entitlement making me or most people not want to get a job.

In the first month after losing my job (which by the way, why do we call it losing my job? Like I don’t know where I last used or left it?), I didn’t know if my unemployment would come through considering the unethical and shady circumstances surrounding this break-up.  So, I took whatever came my way: cleaning lady, catalog candle lady, and babysitter (substitute teacher). That’s what you do, right?  You put pride aside in order to pay the bills. That’s what I learned from my parents. However, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. That after all the money and years spent busting my ass, in school and work, I found myself wiping down stations at a salon and trying to talk people into having a candle party. Then I found out that I would receive unemployment. EDD ruled in my favor. One win.  Then the substitute jobs started to come more frequently.

So, I decided to redistribute my time. It was a difficult decision because this redistribution meant bringing in less money to allow more time to pursue passions. I quit cleaning. I’ve not put much energy into candle slanging. I sub a few days a week, mostly at a continuation high school because I seem to like the schools most people avoid.  I feed people’s pets and leave my apartment empty to ensure someone’s house is occupied when they leave town. I declined a board position and resigned as co-chair from a nonprofit. I started grant writing for two non-profits, one will pay and one is volunteer. I decided to spend $4000 this next year to earn my Independent Education Consultant certification. I started to put time and efforts into being my own boss. However, I avoided one thing, one extremely important thing. I avoided sitting on my floor with my laptop on my ottoman and typing. I avoided myself. I drowned away disappointments, fears, bitterness, heartache and betrayal with beer, constant company, and running around. I said yes to every distraction that took me away from myself, my writing.  Today is the first day in a long time that I can remember hardly talking to or seeing anyone. The tv has been off since I got home from a job interview at 9:00am. (And that interview was not fun, let me tell you).

Recently, I told my friend, Heather, that I feel like a writing routine is often like a new diet or exercise routine. It’s a lifestyle change that’s great when you have the energy and motivation, but not so great when you feel like your life has fallen apart and you just want to comfort yourself with cheese, beer, ice cream and TV addictions. So, while I was doing what was right for me in certain areas, knowing that less money now means more in the long run, I didn’t invest in myself. I kept myself so busy, so distracted that I’m drained. I learned to say no, but didn’t completely perfect it.

Now, I am trying to recommit to myself, seeing if I’ll take me back. Forgive myself. Do right by my writing. Keep walking. Stop acting out of fear. The bills will get paid. I’ll keep my apartment. I may continue to miss out on fun trips with friends,, but I have faith that I’m moving in the right direction. The numbers might bleed, but I’m healing. I have faith. My fear of failure and ridicule will not drive my decision-making.

 

 

Soundtrack For My Revolution or 33


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A happy accident occurred while building a soundtrack for my revolution. I realized I was approaching 33 songs, and I’m turning 33 next week. Maybe one day I’ll rearrange the list to make the song’s position mean something in regards to the year. For now, here’s my 33 songs for my revolution and the evolution I’m undergoing. Here’s to 33 baby.

1. Hate on Me by Jill Scott

2. Hot Night by Me’shell Ngdeocello

3. Not Ready to Make Nice by Dixie Chicks

4. Born This Way by Lady GaGa

5. Listen by Beyonce

6. Powerless by Nelly Furtado

7. Take Me As I Am by Mary J. Blige

8. Keep Ya Head up by Tupac

9. Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine

10. Break the Chain by Lupe Fiasco

11. Talkin’ About A Revolution by Tracy Chapman

12. Propaganda by Dead Prez

13. Glitches (The Skin You’re In) by Arrieux & The Roots

14. Time to Build by Beastie Boys

15. People Lead by Ben Harper

16. Warrior Song by Nas

17. Get Up Stand Up by Bob Marley

18. For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

19. Happiness by Dead Prez

20. Can’t Hold Us Down by Christina Aguilera

21. Hope by Faith Evans & Twista

22. The River by Garth Brooks

23. Hands by Jewel

24. What They Do by The Roots

25. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye

26. Heal the World by Michael Jackson

27. Love by Mos Def

28. Hometown Glory by Adele

29. Soldier of Love by Sade

30. Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder

31. Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston

32. Recycle Hate to Love by Teena Marie

33. Stand to the Side by Talib Kweli

Sugar vs Vinegar


“You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” my mom always said each time I got in trouble at school for talking back and speaking out. Number one, why the hell do I want flies anyway? They disgust and annoy me. I pretty much hate them as much as I hate cockroaches. Second of all, vinegar is nature’s miracle substance.

Things you can do with vinegar:

  1. Clean windows
  2. Remove stains
  3. Dye eggs
  4. Sanitize the washing machine
  5. Treat sunburn
  6. Remove buildup in hair
  7. Detox your body
  8. Deodorize foul odors
  9. Treat arthritis
  10. Clean produce of pesticides
  11. Unclog drains

My poor mom. She wanted a sweet little girl who was all bows and Emily Post. Well, she got Joan of Arc meets Bette Davis meets Jane Adams meets Lucille Ball. Maybe that’s giving myself too much credit, but at this moment it feels right.

I spent many days in the Principal’s office because of my mouth, and my parents warned me that this would lead to trouble as an adult when I entered the workforce. They were right. I mean, I’m not the girl who just goes off for no reason. My impatience and temper can definitely reveal themselves in an unproductive way when I’m fed up, and I don’t always like that, but for the most part, I found that this mouth of mine is quite useful in speaking out against injustice. Most of my life, I’ve tried to control my mouth. I’ve been told to keep silent. When the silence has built up like lava, I end up exploding. With all the injustices in the world, how am I supposed to be sweet and quiet? How do I turn the other cheek while people are hurt, taken advantage of, devalued and scammed?

My mouth still gets me in trouble. It’s true. However, I very rarely regret speaking out. I welcome this trouble because I know that I’m speaking with good intent to make things better.

Recently, this instinct to speak out against injustice, to advocate for those absent or too afraid to speak has changed my life dramatically. Many people can’t handle the truth even when they ask for it, when they promise your truth will be honored in safe space. While I’m hurt, frustrated, and a little scared about surviving, I know I’ll thrive. I know that using my voice was the right thing to do. Right isn’t always popular. It’s vinegar. It intimidates those who insist on living in sugary lies with flies. It scares people. It attracts bullets. It’s powerful and beautiful.

As I approach my 33rd birthday in thirteen days, I intend to fully embrace my voice, my vinegar, my multipurpose natural miracle. I’m an advocate for social justice. I’m a writer. It’s time to step into that light instead of skirting on the edges. I will always speak and write for what is right and fair for others and myself. This fight isn’t over. It’s just the beginning. Good thing I have plenty of vinegar.