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I know everyone is sick of Covid.

There is nothing more tiresome than to speak of the horrible virus that has wreaked havoc on our lives for the last 2 and half years. It's ripped family members away and left others with long-haul symptoms that echo the lives of autoimmune sufferers everywhere.

At the same time I'd appreciate if you wouldn't paint me as a monster for saying there is a silver lining because for some of us there has, in fact, been a silver lining.

And when I say "us" I mean people like me, people with chronic illness, low immune systems and varies maladies that drag us down at every turn.


Covid allowed for a pause.

It allowed me personally the ability to step back, take a break and to focus squarely on my health.

It allowed me to stay home.

Notice I didn't say it forced me into my house. Quite the opposite. It boldly allowed me to opt out, skip the lines, not participate and not have to show up.

It took away the guilt I felt if I physically wasn't able to attend an event that I knew I was expected to go to. It removed the stigma of having to decline invitations.

It was a pleasure to be able to phone everything in. And I mean everything.

Kids sports and school, Virtual lessons. Family chats, Zoom me in. Writers conference, Zoom me in. Groceries, Instacart delivery. Birthday presents, the internet shops were my oyster. If it could be ordered, shipped or delivered, I did it.

I actually saw more people because I was able to show up on a screen from the ease of my home. I could wear whatever suited me in the moment and I could be sitting in my most comfortable chair that my body cried for and needed. It's been glorious.


As much as I love to travel, and we did often, Covid allowed me to avoid the airport like the plague. I was saved from every seat tray bacteria, every recirculated air virus and every armrest germ that infiltrated my system every time I flew. I skipped over every hotel room slime and car rental crud. My immune system sincerely thanks Covid for giving it a rest.


Oh, and masks. God I love masks. I can't even begin the praise of being able to go to the doctor's office behind the safety of my filtered mask. I'm aware of the arguments out there but the pandemic has normalized wearing masks enough that all my medical appointments require it and that is right inline with my comfort level. It helped me through multiple ER visits and surgery.


If you don't know what it's like to be ill the majority of the time then I can see how you'd be anxious and unhappy to be kept away from whatever you deem normal. I remember those carefree days. But now for the ones like me, it's been a dream to be able to rest more often without argument.

It was tiresome picking up whatever is "going around" every. single. time. just because your system can't fight it off. I've lost count of all the enjoyed events that turned into days of regret and pain.


I know at some point I'll probably end up with Covid.

I'm familiar with an obscene amount of people who've had it once, twice and some who've died.

In a multitude of conversations I've clearly expressed my hopes of being the literal last person on earth to catch it. Not because I'm afraid of being sick but simply because I'm already sick of being sick all the time.

Ironically, with Covid hanging around , this has been the longest amount of time I've gone without additional sickness on top of my normal autoimmune issues and I'm not looking to break my streak anytime soon.


Wish me (us) luck!



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**Trigger Warning - pictures of surgical incisions attached.


Have you ever experienced Deja Vu?

You know, the feeling that at the very moment you are mid motion, mid experience you get a tingling Spidey sense, raised neck hairs, goose bump arms telling you that you've done this exact action, or you've been to that exact place before...even though you have no recollection of date and time?


For me it doesn't happen often.

Though I have one very clear memory when my Deja vu flashed me back to medieval times for a brief second that made all too much sense of the present circumstance but, hey, that’s a weird story for some other time.


This actual Deja vu moment is not quite the textbook definition.

I've spoken in the past about my autoimmune disease and subsequent cancer diagnosis.

The details and harrowing experience are fleshed out in my upcoming memoir, but this experience is more along the lines of surgery adjacent.

You see, when I had my thyroid removed four years ago the surgery itself was met with celebration, in my mind. Regardless of the scar across my neck, the discomfort I would feel, the healing process, difficulty with my voice and swallowing food, none of that mattered because cancer was being removed.

What I thought would be a highlight and epiphany moment of my life answering age old struggles turned out to be a larger leap into a further education of our complicated medical system.

All of that aside, I had an amazing surgeon. He was highly praised for being not only extremely experienced in his field but the elite of seamstress's, one that left behind something that looked like a hint of a scar.

As I healed, people were in awe. My scar was a non-scar. It was nearly transparent, and people couldn't believe I had major surgery.

I smiled with pride.


And then I didn't.

Several months later a small bump appeared.

It looked like the little bump I had before the surgery, about the size of a zit. It had been nothing major in my life for a million years and I had assume, joyfully, in the process of surgery it was removed.


"The little Engine that could and did"

This little dot began to grow. It wasn't an overnight process; it was over years.

It went from being the size of a pin head to the size of a pencil eraser.

Doctors glanced at it, touched it but never suggested nor guessed at its origin.

It grew from an small eraser to a large nail head.

Still nothing from my doctors.

Over the years and its growth, it has been spoken of and labeled as "just a cyst" ... landing in an unfortunate place.


I recently visited a new Endocrinologist who attempted to touch my throat and thyroid area only to be met dead on with my cyst, that was now attempting to outsize a dime. She expressed concern and said quite frankly that I should make an appointment with my surgeon and get it looked at because it was impeding upon her ability to properly examine me.


I did as I was told and promptly called my surgeons office.

“Hey, it’s me, I know it’s been a while, but it seems that I have a large cyst growing right in the middle of my thyroid incision”

They seemed confused, maybe concerned and I was asked a million questions about pain and discomfort and then given an appointment within days.

I naively thought he would brush me off to a dermatologist or that this was something that could be done in the office. You know, like local numbing, a quick slice, a couple of stiches an sent on my way. Easy peasy.

No such luck.

The discussion went from zero to surgery within minutes.

He spoke about all the ways to remove it and from which angle. He had me stand in front of a mirror as he stood behind me describing and drawing with his fingers how he could use the incision I have by lengthening it leaving me with still one scar compared to going in just below it and leaving 2 scars, like an equal sign, or cutting down across the middle and leaving what would look like a cross or plus sign.

The complication was not that it was a cyst but where it was located.

Out of all the real estate my body has to offer my cyst picked the center of my neck amongst nerves and scar tissue.

Yippee! <eye roll>

Heavy sigh.


I scheduled the surgery.


The day before I followed all the Pre-op instructions. Shower with the special soap. Stop eating by midnight. Don’t use certain meds. Whatever the restrictions stated I followed.


The morning of surgery I was awake just after 4am. We needed to be there by 6am and the hospital is 45 minutes away.

As my husband drove the déjà vu began.

We parked in almost the same place in the parking structure.

Walked in through the doors to check in, register and wait in the same waiting room.


When the nurse came to get me and take me back for prep this was the first time I registered with high blood pressure before a procedure.

I thought I was mentally prepared for this. It’s a minor procedure. The surgery itself shouldn’t be more than 40 minutes and once awake I should be home by lunch.

I should have had a clue when my body began expressing its anxiety. I went to the bathroom five times in the span of three hours. My system was grumbly and gassy and was acting highly disturbed.

I attempted to talk myself down. Surround myself in white light. Breath.

I spoke in relaxed and friendly tones with the nurses and medical staff.

When my surgeon came in, he greeted us and proceeded to grab his sharpie to draw on my neck just as he had four years prior.

The surgery staff was not the same and my team was smaller compared to before, but one nurse came in and I recognized her name. It was a common name with an unusual spelling. She spoke and it was Déjà vu.


When the time came to roll me to the OR I told my husband that I loved him, and I would see him on the other side. One of the staff laughed and said, “You mean post-op, not like the other “other” side” We all chuckled. And I assured him that I was only here to remove a cyst and have a free nap, nothing more.


When I woke up, I asked what time it was.

I did this last time and I have no idea if this is common or not. Somewhere inside my head I need to know how much time had passed.

If you do this, let me know in the comments or drop into my social media. I’m curious.


I woke with an ice pack across my neck. Just like before.

When I was coherent enough, I was rolled into the recovery post-op. As my waking became more frequent and my dozing off became less, they called my husband back to be with me.

I was given some applesauce and a cup of ice for the ginger ale I brought from home.


If you’ve been following me, you understand I have diet restrictions. If you’re new to my blog, surprise, due to Hashimotos I have diet restrictions. I’m accustomed to bringing my own food stuff everywhere.


Once I was fully awake and able to check off the boxes of acceptable actions I was discharged and sent on my way.


I rarely take photos of myself in a doctor’s office or hospital setting. So much so that I did not have one photo on my phone from my surgery four years ago. I looked for a picture of me to see if I had one mid healing or anything of my scar and couldn’t find one.

I honestly thought it was a one and done.


I think that if that cyst was anywhere else on my body, I would have been fine.

But when I look in the mirror today, I am transported back to when I had my cancer surgery.

It could be a scent, a song or simply walking the same steps over the same path to relive something you thought you put to rest.

Trauma sits within us in different ways.


For all the progress I have made over the last four years this minor surgery through me for a loop. The same hospital, with the same surgeon, with the same scar.

Déjà vu is bizarre…. And not as much fun as it used to be.





















 




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If you've been following me here, thank you.

I'm going to pick up where I left off. .. last year.


November 3, 2021.

I cried almost nonstop the whole day.

I cannot remember the last time I cried on my birthday and ironically it had nothing to do with my actual day.

Far from it.


That morning I scheduled my daughter at the orthodontist. The appointment was made a month prior and truly was supposed to be an exciting addition to my birthday. Her braces were due to be removed. She was excited, I was excited. It was going to be the icing on the cake.


We arrived on time and per the norm, she went in and I waited in the car. I had a book, texts and phone calls to reply to. A fresh cup of coffee in my travel mug. There was no shortage of things to occupy me.

I watched her walk into the office and I settled in. As I was taking a sip and dialing to return a phone message my daughter beeped in on the call waiting. I ended my outgoing call and accepted hers. "What's up?"

She blurted out how they were refusing to remove her braces because we had a balance due of $1400. She went on to explain that she told them that we dealt with this last month and it should have been taken care of. I asked who was there with her and to put them on the phone.

The man who got on the phone introduced himself as the Office Manager. This is a person I have never met and didn't exist last month. He admitted to only have started two weeks prior.


The biggest challenge I've faced over the last two years is the constant turn over of staff.

Much to my dismay, after our contract was signed and the braces put on my child's teeth, I slowly found bit by bit, month by month, just how poorly run this office is.

So new Mr. Office Manager (OM) says to me that my child's braces will not be removed until our bill is paid in full. As calmly as I could muster I explained that this account was paid in full last July. I have a receipt, an email sent to me from the practice.

I showed this paid in full letter to the desk clerk last month, who, by the way, is no longer employed there. We wouldn't have been able to make this appointment without it.

You see this was an issue last month. An issue that should have been resolved. And frankly, if it wasn't resolved why was I not called? Where was a letter, due bill or phone call to make sure it was settled before my child was standing there in front of you today?

OM didn't have much to say expect to repeat that until this account was settled my daughter's braces would stay put. I asked for his manager and when he tried to tell me "He" was the Office Manager I kindly reminded him that there is someone above him who deals with billing as well as the doctor of the practice herself.

Oh yah, them.

I told him to send my daughter out to the car.


I did a quick search through the email on my phone and found the paid in full letter and walked into the practice. I recognized no one at the front desk. The OM pointed to an office off to the side that belonged to the billing manager.

We stood there and waited. When Ms. Billing came out she was blunt. Her voice and tone accused me of being a deadbeat who doesn't pay my bills. "Your account is not fully paid". I tried to show her the "Paid in Full" receipt but she stated that wasn't good enough. She wanted me to show her every receipt of payment.

I said " So if I go home and get all of our receipts, bring them back and prove that you have all of the money we were responsible for per our contract, you'll have my daughters braces taken off?" She said yes.


On the drive home I called my husband and told him to pull all of the receipts.

At home I made a mad dash through the files, printing payments, arranging them and driving back to the Orthodontist office only to be met with yet more resistance and insults.

Ms. Billing proceeded to accuse me now of not paying my credit card bill that was used to pay the bill for the last year and a half. "Your credit card statement doesn't say Paid In Full. How do I know that your card didn't refuse a payment to us or that it's still outstanding?"

"Because it has a zero balance, which clearly shows no money is due."

She refused to sit down with me to look over my receipts and insisted that I could sit in the lobby while she looked over my paperwork. Privately. Without me.

That was it. I lost it.

My voice began to raise. With each word it increased a decibel. So much that she threatened to have me removed. "This is a medical office."

"Yes, with a poor customer service"

I was then instructed to make an appointment for the following week at one of their other offices to go over my "billing issues" Nothing was going to be done today.


I have lost count how many times I have told them to call me or send me a letter regarding any kind of communication. This is literally the only medical office I have dealt with that has:

1) No voicemail, text or email appointment reminder service

2)Has no mail or email monthly billing or receipt service

3)Has no problem speaking to a 14 year old child regarding payments and billing yet refuses to contact the parent to resolve any issue.

4) Doesn't return phones calls


As a side note. I shouldn't have been surprised that their billing was completely fucked up. Truly. When we began in 2020 I walked in and paid every month in person and got a receipt. They offered autopay, so I filled out the paperwork, but for months it never took hold. After a few more staff changes they offered it again and I filled out the same paperwork. The second attempt seem to take - Yay! But guess what? Fast forward to July 2021 when my husband was looking over the bills and noticed the autopay hadn't taken a payment (checks notes)...since February. He picked up the phone and called them. The excuse was "Oops, we migrated to a new system and you must have been dropped off."

"Ok, but don't you want your money?"

"Oh no problem, we can just put the balance on the back side of the agreement and it will just take a little longer to complete it."

My husband doesn't work that way. He's a planner, a budgeter and he was over their hiccups in business. "What's the balance due on the contract? I'll pay it off today."


Back to the tears that started and wouldn't stop.


Stress is a funny thing.

You never know when you're going to break.

Hit your max.

Crumble into a teary eyed mess.


Ms. Billing had no idea that it was my birthday. She didn't know that I had been burdened with ongoing medical issues for the last 3 years and she certainly didn't know that inside of me was the weight of the world because my husband was having surgery to remove cancer the very next day.


Not many people knew but there was pressure building up inside of me.

As we prepared for his surgery and recovery I told myself "Everything will be fine". And while I whole heartly believed it I continued to exert far more energy than I had stored up. I was constantly forcing myself to function with negative spoons. I kept telling myself that all I had to do was get him home safe and sound and then I would rest. That's when I will slow down and recover.

One more task, One more thing checked off the to-do list, One more appointment....until the orthodontist office simply pushed me off the ledge I was barely hanging onto by a thread.


My daughter was concerned as I began to weep. She brought me tissues and assured me that it was ok to have her braces on a little longer. No big deal mom.

She probably thought I was overreacting just a bit since she herself wasn't wearing her disappointment for all to see. But being who I am, I pride myself on logic and understanding human behavior, so I launched into a discussion about mental health. In between tears and blowing my nose I talked about knowing your limits, balance of responsibilities, prioritizing and all of the emotional baggage that comes with being human. Adulting brings many challenges and responsibilities but mental stability in the face of high stress or adversity presents another layer.


I had hit my limit. I was fully aware that with each tear that fell that I was shedding a droplet of the stress I had been carrying around for months. The diagnosis. The follow up tests. The consultations. The impending surgery.

Reliving my diagnosis, my experience.

Trying to be strong for my husband and children.


It would be unrealistic for me to cry over a billing issue. I knew that the billing snafu would be resolved.. and it was, to the fault of the Orthodontist who's previous biller fat fingered two claims to the insurance company leaving them unpaid.


It is not unrealistic to overreact to something seemingly small when you have no room left in your cup.


There is so much talk about mental health and we all deal, balance, cope differently. Some days better than others. Some rests better, longer than the ones before.

We are never empty. Our thoughts and emotions always have something brewing, processing the incoming tasks and information.

Sometimes we get plowed over.


You are not alone. You are just human.


Plowed. by Sponge.

In a world of human wreckage

Where I'm lost and I'm found and I can't touch the ground

I'm plowed into the sound.

Say a prayer for me.


Melissa


PS: My husband came through with flying colors. He is on the mend and will not require chemo or radiation. We are beyond grateful.







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