Monday, January 30, 2017

Mammogram Prepping Pointers

Mammogram prepping pointers: 
 
If you've yet to get your first mammogram, please don't let this post scare you off. Just follow the recommendations for a better experience. 
 
If you're not new to mammograms but think you're a unique case because you've been known to come close to passing out -- or have actually passed out -- think again. And read on.
 
I've had many mammograms, sometimes annually, and sometimes twice per year due to risk factors and anomalies. I've come close to fainting three times, and am no stranger to experiencing lightheadedness. Since the near-fainting incidents surprised the techs each time, I assumed such a reaction was rare. However, a quick search online proves differently. So I decided to do some "research" into what might be the cause.
 
Apparently, most fainting results from stimulating something called the vagus nerve. Now, I'm about as far from a medical expert as there is, but from the diagrams I'm seeing about how that nerve is positioned in the body, it seems to me that the far-from-normal positioning of your neck in the contraption that does your mammogram could somehow stimulate that nerve -- maybe not enough in and of itself, but enough so that other triggers could finish the job until your vision starts fading to black.
 
After making that discovery, I developed a list of four likely triggers and recommendations for avoiding them. Then, to make them easier to remember, I pared each down to a single word. Finally, to make the combined list easier to remember, I came up with an acronym.
 
DRAB.
 
Hmm.... Not a very good acronym. It didn't help to rearrange the letters, either. D-Bra could be catchy, but there are a whole lot more women smaller and bigger than that. "D-Bra" also brought back memories of being teased by my sisters way back when I wanted a training bra but was a long way from needing one. In their defense, it was just a matter of pronouncing my name a little differently: converting the "e" from short to long and emphasizing the first syllable rather than the second.
 
Then it struck me. My name.... 
 
Well, what do you know? I was only one letter shy of shortening my list to an acronym of my own name. That's when I realized I was missing a critical fifth recommendation -- one that started with the missing letter "e."
 
It's almost like it was meant to be! 
 
Now, allow me to present to you:  DEBRA--5 important things for you to do when preparing for your first or next mammogram.
 
1. D is for DRINK!!! Drink a bottle of water before going for your appointment to make sure you're well hydrated. It's also a good idea to bring a fresh bottle of water in with you. Why? If you don't have enough water in your bloodstream, this can lower you blood pressure. Combine this with those odd neck positions, and lightheadedness or fainting could result.
 
2. E is for EAT!!! Low blood sugar is already a trigger for lightheadedness. Added to the physical and emotional stress of mammography, lack of proper nutrients in your blood stream could certainly increase the likelihood of a fainting spell. Have a meal or a snack before your appointment. Don't arrive hungry. 
 
3. B is for BREATHE!!! Take a few deep breaths before approaching the machine. Keep focusing on breathing while they position you, and don't stop until they tell you to hold your breath. I often stop breathing as soon as they start squishing. That is the worst thing you can do, because by the time they tell you to hold your breath, your lungs are already starving! Your bloodstream needs oxygen from your lungs as much as it needs food and water. It's not easy to breathe while contorted and squished, but you're far better to take short little snippets of air than none at all. 
 
4. R is for RELAX!!!! Do whatever it takes to de-stress before your appointment. Chamomile tea. Meditative music. Chocolate. Whatever. Heck, if you can go so far as to have a spa experience before your appointment, then go for it! We all deserve to pamper ourselves once in a while. I know you might be worried or even terrified about whatever results the test might yield, but odds are truly in favor of those results being good -- either through a clear screening or early detection. Try to be optimistic and focus on the power of positive thinking. If you're not relaxed, you won't be breathing sufficiently (remember "B") and your muscles will tense up, which can make the whole process far more painful than it should be.
 
5. A is for ACETAMINOPHEN!!! Take Tylenol or generic acetaminophen along with some of that water before your appointment. Getting squished can be anything from unpleasant to painful, especially if you tend to be fibrocystic or have painful or tender breasts for any reason. As the old saying goes: a dose of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking something before pain hits can prevent it hitting at all, or at least reduce the effects if it does.
 
 
This is my plan for next year's appointment. As long as I follow these recommendations, I'm confident it will go smoothly. And all I have to do is remember my own name! 😉
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Drabble

"Don't." The word came softly, falling from his lips like the warm breeze of an early summer day. But this breeze stirred from the heart of something dark and cold.

Despite the softness, that one small word cut through the air between them with a force so strong the young woman across from him stumbled backward. One hand grasped the back of a wooden chair for support. There was nothing she could do to protect herself. Not anymore.

Swallowing what she could of the terror that had gripped her the moment she'd recognized the resolve in his eyes, she took a heavy breath for strength. And then she told him. He was too late. "It's already done."

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Massaging the written word

An edit of yesterday's writing.... fleshing out the characters a bit more....





“I was in an enormous, absolutely huge garden.” Megan Caldwell, corporate lawyer, widow, mother of two college students, and closet writer, had waited nearly a full week to discuss her latest dream with the only person in the world who would listen, her friend and writing mentor, Tina DeWinter. But as she began to relive the dream, she might as well have been alone. Her gaze bore into and beyond the iron latticework on the cafe table between them. “It went on as far as I could see. Stone walkways meandered through it, with no discernible pattern. I had no sense of direction. I felt like I was in a maze. But there were no hedge walls blocking my view. I swear I could see from here to forever. And the colors….” Shaking her head, she took another sip of coffee and then, finally, remembered to look at the silver-haired woman across from her. “It was magical, like the biggest box of crayons you could imagine, or Oz on steroids.”

Tina raised a skeptical eyebrow. “I thought you said it was a bad dream. That sounds a bit like Eden, to me.” Twenty years Megan’s senior, Tina was as striking as ever, her make-up applied with artistic perfection, and her hair trailing down the back of her mock-tie-dyed dress in fine, silken strands, so contrary to Megan’s wiry, forever-blonde curls.

“I said it was sad,” Megan shot back playfully, “not bad. And if that garden was Eden, then I have a whole new respect for creationism.”

“Why?”

“Because the Eden I’ve always heard about was something we lost. This was more like … I don’t know, like maybe the garden in my dream was created to help people recover from something else that was lost, something extreme, something … profound. Not even a return to Eden could make up for it.” Megan looked deep into her friend’s hazel eyes, searching for some snippet of wisdom, or, at least, understanding.

“So your Eden was made to fill a void, but it’s too big a void to be filled, even by Eden.”

And there it was. Megan smiled. “Something like that.”

Cocking her head, Tina’s lips curled into a thin smile of her own. “Sounds to me like there’s a story in there.”

“Isn’t there always?”

“So what are you going to do about it?”

“We,” Megan countered. “What we are going to do about it is flesh that story out.”

“It’s your story, not mine.”

“Are you kidding me? What have we been doing for the past couple of decades, every single Tuesday, barring the occasional holiday, vacation, or other interfering event?”

“Meeting for lunch.”

“For you, it’s been lunch. For me,” Megan waved her fork over a half-eaten slice of chocolate pie, “it’s been the obligatory salad followed by dessert as a main course. But, seriously. You help me flesh out stories, when you’re not regaling me with tales of your exploits or we’re not looking for answers to great cosmic questions.”

“Maybe so. But sometimes it’s simply about listening. Because, Megan, sweetie,” Tina chuckled breathily, a sound that fell just short of a cough, “that’s all I can do right now. I honestly haven’t got a thing to say about your garden story.”

“It’s not my garden. Or my story.”

“It’s not?”

“No, it’s….” And then it struck her. Maybe it was hers, after all. She was the one who’d dreamed up the garden and the one who would end up writing its story down—if she could ever weave the time to do so around her busy schedule. She could make that garden into anything she wanted, just as she could make the hidden void into something of her own imagining. Only … how could she ever imagine any void to be as tragic as the one she had felt in that dream, the one that had woken her to a feeling of overwhelming despair, a feeling so intense it transcended the emptiness she’d felt every day of her life since her husband’s death, an emptiness that threatened to drop her into a void of her own making every single day.

“Megan?” Tina’s weathered hand rested atop hers, arthritic fingers curling into her palm.

She heard her name, felt the fragile, tender grip, and used the sensation in her struggle to clear her thoughts, as she’d had to do so many times over the years. She knew she must break herself free of the vivid memory—the shocking cacophony of metal crushing metal, the smell of blood, the shrill cries of her young children, and the unseeing eyes of the man who’d helped her to find her way in the world, the man who had given her confidence and courage, who had shown her she truly could make a place for herself in this big, unsympathetic world.

“Megan, sweetie? Are you all right?”

With a shaky intake of breath, Megan blinked away the water forming in her eyes and tried to focus on Tina’s warm gaze. “Sorry.” She offered up a quick smile. “I think I’ve just decided I don’t want to flesh out that particular story.”

Tina studied her for a long while, knowing eyes searching for secrets Megan kept even from herself. Then she pulled her hand back and shrugged, as though whatever secrets she’d found were insignificant. “That’s up to you. Eden is a bit overplayed in fantasy, anyway.”

No, Megan thought as she made a valiant effort to tuck into her pie. That garden hadn’t been Eden. It was a long way from Eden. And she could still smell her dream garden’s sweet, spicy, and earthy aromas, as though the flowers and greenery still surrounded her, as though she was trapped in a stone-paved maze without walls—a labyrinth every bit as confining as that which might be found in the deepest, darkest cavern.

At that moment, Megan Caldwell felt pretty confident her garden didn’t care whether she wanted to flesh it out or not.

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A return to Trusgard's story? Maybe, with a total character revamp......


“I was in a garden. It was … enormous. It went on as far as I could see. Stone walkways wove through it without giving me any sense of direction—like I was in a maze, only there were no hedge walls blocking my view. I swear I could see from here to forever.” Megan Caldwell, corporate lawyer, single mother of two college students, and closet writer, had waited nearly a full week to share her dream with the only person in the world who would listen; but at that moment, she couldn’t even see her friend’s patient eyes. Her own gaze instead bore through the iron lacework on the table between them, into a far different setting.  “And the colors….” Shaking her head, she took another sip of coffee and then, finally, looked at the silver-haired woman across from her. “It was magical, like the biggest box of crayons you could imagine, or Oz on steroids.”

Tina DeWinter raised a skeptical eyebrow. “I thought you said it was a bad dream. That sounds a bit like Eden, to me.” At seventy, Tina was as striking as ever, her make-up applied with artistic perfection, and her hair trailing down the back of her mock-tie-dyed dress in fine, silken strands, so contrary to Megan’s wiry, forever-blonde curls.

“I said it was sad,” Megan shot back playfully, “not bad. And if that garden was Eden, then I have a whole new respect for creationism.”

“Why?”

“Because the Eden I’ve always heard about was something we lost; but I think maybe the garden in my dream was created to help people recover from something else that was lost, something extreme, something … profound. Not even a return to Eden could make up for it.” Megan looked deep into her friend’s emerald green eyes, searching for some snippet of wisdom, or, at least, understanding.

“So your Eden was made to fill a void, but it’s too big a void to be filled, even by Eden.”

And there it was. Megan smiled. “Something like that.”

Cocking her head, Tina’s lips curled into a thin smile of her own. “Sounds to me like there’s a story in there.”

“Isn’t there always?”

“So what are you going to do about it?”

“We,” Megan countered. “What we are going to do about it is flesh that story out.”

“It’s your story, not mine.”

“Are you kidding me? What have we been doing for nearly twenty years now, every single Tuesday, barring the occasional holiday, vacation, or other interfering event?”

“Meeting for lunch.”

“For you, it’s been lunch. For me,” Megan waved her fork over a half-eaten slice of chocolate pie, “it’s been the obligatory salad followed by dessert as a main course. But, seriously. You help me flesh out stories, when you’re not regaling me with tales of your exploits or we’re not looking for answers to great cosmic questions.”

“And sometimes it’s just about listening. Because, Megan, sweetie,” Tina chuckled breathily, a sound that fell just short of a cough, “I haven’t got a thing to say about your garden story.”

“It’s not my garden. Or my story.”

“It’s not?”

“No, it’s….” And then it struck her. Maybe it was hers, after all. She was the one who’d dreamed up the garden and the one who would end up writing its story down—if she could ever weave the time to do so around her busy schedule. She could make that garden into anything she wanted, just as she could make the hidden void into something of her own imagining. Only … how could she ever imagine any void to be as tragic as the one she had felt in that dream, the one that had woken her to a feeling of overwhelming despair? Perhaps more importantly, why would she want to?

"Megan?” Tina’s weathered hand rested atop hers, arthritic fingers curling into her palm.
Trying to shake her thoughts clear, Megan offered up a quick smile. “Sorry.” Then, sighing, she added, “I think I’ve just decided I don’t want to flesh out that particular story.”
Tina pulled her hand back and shrugged. “That’s up to you. Eden is a bit overplayed in fantasy, anyway.”
But it wasn’t Eden. No, it was a long way from Eden. And as she tucked into her pie, she could still smell her dream garden’s sweet, spicy, and earthy aromas. It was as though that garden still surrounded her, as though she was trapped in its stone-paved maze.
Whether she wanted to flesh it out or not, Megan Caldwell felt pretty confident that garden was not going to leave her alone.
tbc?? 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fog

Fog.

It rolls thick and deep
filling dreams
with vague portents
visions clouded
with the noise of
forgetting
willing into truth
the dragon's horde of lies
tarnished ribbons
unspent coins
cheapened by apathy

Monday, March 28, 2016

Breaking Mirrors or Inviting Darkness

Breaking Mirrors or Inviting Darkness
 
I don’t recall breaking a mirror, but something seemed to have ushered in a seven-year period of bad luck for me.  During the timeframe roughly between 2006 and 2013, my soul took a journey into darkness. Bad tidings led me to adopt an over-riding sense of negativity. I lost faith.
 
In myself.
 
In the world around me.
 
And in my lifelong perception that people are generally good.
 
I lost my way.
 
Always an avid reader, I could no longer read any book through to the end. Fiction could no longer provide an escape from a reality that grew increasingly uncomfortable...unacceptable...unlivable. Nonfiction -- self-help, theology, philosophy -- failed to fill the ever-widening hole opening up at my feet.
 
I wasn't suicidal, but I did feel as though I'd lost my purpose. And without purpose, I couldn't help but question how I might ever find a way to, if not move forward, at least trundle on.
 
My natural inclination to believe that goodness can always triumph over evil faded by degrees, month over month, year over year. Horror became my genre of choice. I started to make headway in publishing horror-themed poetry, and to believe that I'd found a new way, a new purpose.
 
Certainly, my foray to the dark side did not cause all the dark happenings in my life over that time period. But it did invite more darkness in. Of that, I'm convinced. I could feel the darkness closing around me. It invaded my dreams, giving me nightmares that had me howling my way out of sleep. Or it had me lying awake at night, cuing in to a knocking sound under my bed, one that hadn’t always been there, but that came into being during this seven-year cycle, and then grew in persistence.
 
At first I figured the knocking was a result of movement on the mattress … air blowing from the furnace … the air conditioner. But it was consistent, summer and winter, and whether I was laying still or thrashing about.
 
My obsession with paranormal "reality" shows led me to consider the nightly knocking might be a warning, the first physical sign of demonic activity accepting my unintended invitation.
 
I put a dream catcher on one side of the bed and a rosary on the other. I started a nightly ritual of Hail Marys and general prayer. I tried to invoke the “saints” of my lifetime, John Paul II and Mother Teresa, without really knowing how to call upon any saint at all. Raised Lutheran, I’d converted to Catholicism years ago, but then lost faith in religion in general, when I’d grown unable to look past the very human flaws in religious leaders I’d been looking to for guidance.
 
Near the end of 2012, I decided the world was leaving me behind. I felt I needed to prepare to be left behind completely. And so I decided to wrap up my writings -- at least those that could be brought to closure, in two little packages: a book of general poetry and a smaller book of dark poetry. I self-published both in December of 2012, dubbing the dark book as “apocalyptic poetry" to align with the culmination of the Mayan calendar and prophecies so prevalent in popular culture at that time.
 
Just before finalizing the file and releasing it for public perusal, I added a closing poem about rising from the ashes. I suppose I was looking for a way to lift myself from the pile of ashes my life seemed to have become.
 
I stopped writing poems of horror. I focused exclusively on writing stories about family, hope, faith, and brotherhood. I'd returned to my good versus evil roots, but put the ownership of the goodness on real, non-magical, human characters. I focused on people who did not need super powers to do what had to be done. They needed only a strong sense of right and wrong.
 
The darkness didn't lift right away. I hadn’t really expected it to, though, of course, I’d hoped that it might. Nor was I discouraged by the fact that my "seven years of bad luck" culminated between 2012 and 2013, rather than being eradicated, with four deaths … four funerals … four eulogies.
 
Four goodbyes.
 
Somewhere along the way, I also said goodbye to the darkness.
 
In January of 2014, my luck began to turn. There was no dramatic shift, no grand parting of the clouds. Just a gradual lifting.
 
I found purpose again. The nightmares stopped. The knocking sounds went silent.
 
And then, in the summer of 2015, I bore witness to a miracle, when my next-door neighbor survived and subsequently recovered from a traumatic brain injury. He came out of it both physically and mentally intact, defying all medical expectations. During the darkest of nights, first when mere survival was thought to be impossible, and then when the family was told to prepare to find him to be a very different person after a long and challenging recovery, his wife never once lost her way or her faith. She never invited darkness in. She clung to the light. And her husband was returned to her, quicker than anyone could have imagined, and whole.
 
And my own, personal experiences were validated.
 
For many years I’d spoken of my own brushes with miracles, most notably the one that spared me from the toxins of a ruptured appendix … the car accident that totaled my vehicle and yet left me unharmed …, and the small group of potential witnesses who – I remain convinced – enabled me to have a chance encounter with a serial killer without falling victim to him.
 
During my seven years of bad luck, I’d let go of those stories to zero in on horror, instead.
 
Fortunately, I was not completely blinded by the dark path I’d begun following. I suppose I had not totally turned away from the light, and I allowed it to show me the way ahead, both the wrong one and the right one. And then, after stepping back onto the right path, I found validation in my neighbor’s miracle.
 
Today, my life is far from perfect. It is not all roses and sunshine, and I continue to pray for small doses of heavenly intervention. I still have my share of clouds hovering above me. But I am not blind to the sun shining through. And the more I look for that sun, the more visible it becomes. 
 
I still believe in the powers of good and evil. I am confident in the existence of angels and demons; I know they are out there, protecting us, enfolding us, and seeking to lure us to the darkness. But we are the masters of our own destinies. It is up to me to find my path, and then to stick with it, brambles and all. It is up to me to lend strength to the light. 
 
On my path, there will be no more inviting darkness.