Surprise Me With a Cookie Every Now and Then, PLEASE!

22 Feb

I feel like Parker Schnabel on Gold Rush digging my way through a bunch of worthless crap trying to reach the treasure I believe is under it all.  According to my calculations it ought to be ‘right here’.  The problem is the longer and harder I dig, the lower my confidence sinks.

I’m starving to death for a win!  Somebody take away this stinking plate of slop and moldy bread and give the old lady a cookie.  Please.

Putting gears in reverse, let’s back up a bit in order to see the big picture.  Last June my heart went haywire and I ended up in the hospital.  Eventually cardiologists diagnosed me with an abnormal heart rhythm; they also discovered a coronary artery was plastered nearly shut with cholesterol.  I ended up with a stent and a few medications.  A few weeks later I felt absolutely great and had the energy of a hyperactive child!  It was truly amazing!

Life goes on; in November I had a tooth extracted, and that went well until I reacted to an antibiotic the dentist prescribed.  By mid-November, I felt pretty darned crummy so I went to our family doctor who treated me with two new drugs: one, I later learned, counter-acted my cardiac medicine, and the second drug came with a whole new set of problems of its own.

A week later in spite of multiple phone conversations with the doctor who tells me all of this “is to be expected”; I’m sinking like a stone.  Rich loads my lethargic carcass into the car and takes me to the doctor who is appropriately “shocked” by my condition.  He admits me to the hospital and puts me on an IV antibiotic, saying whatever allergic reaction I had is long gone, but I’m suffering from some sort of non-specific infection based on hospital blood studies.  Long story short, the new IV drug did its best to kill me.

Enter a new doctor.  I am treated for severe allergic reactions, taken off the drug that has neutralized my heart medicine, stabilized and sent home with a minor UTI that no one wants to attempt to treat until my body “rebounds” a bit.

Time passes; I simply do not regain my strength.  Thanksgiving comes and goes.  Christmas comes and goes.  The new year, my birthday, all are miserable.  I’m nearly afraid to go to any doctor, but when I do it’s around the first of February.  He prescribes a 7 day round of a gentler, friendlier antibiotic for the miserable, relentless, merciless urinary tract infection.  I finish the prescription with no problem!  I actually feel pretty good again, not great, but good.

February 8th, I take Rich to Little Rock to a neurologist.  Over a period of 6 weeks the muscles in his left hand have begun to shrink in obvious muscle wasting and we want to know why he is dropping forks and having such a hard time writing.  It takes 6 LONG weeks of referrals and scheduling to see a neurologist.  All along, I can’t think of anything except the shocking changes in my husband’s hand.

On the way up the stairs to his appointment, I have to keep stopping to rest; my chest hurts, and it’s hard to breathe.  Rich panics, I minimalize.  The truth is I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and absolutely determined to get help for Rich.  It has taken us such a long time to reach these stairs; I damn well am going to climb them.

Over his protests, I push on.

Once inside, we are assured “most likely” Rich’s muscle wasting is the manifestation of significant peripheral neuropathies related to his 25 year battle with diabetes. To know the depth of what we are up against, and to set a proper plan of care, further tests are set for February 19th.

Riding back home to Hot Springs, I begin to relax.  While peripheral neuropathy is a very serious and progressive condition, I am relieved the doctor hadn’t taken one look at my husband’s hand and said something like, “I think this might be ALS.”

While my chest pain has subsided, I feel heavy and weak. When Rich asks how I feel, I smile and say, “Better.” We stop at Subway for takeout then go to bed early.  The next morning I call the cardiologist.  He says my experience with the stair case is pretty much like failing a stress test and fears my stent may be clogged.

Check it out.

Another heart cath.


Only not.

This time the catheter tip tears a hole in a coronary artery.  With each beat of my heart, I feel life spilling out.  I see Rich’s face, hear Father’s voice; I have missed him so much since he died 2 years ago.

I try to tell the doctors I don’t feel right, but instead say “Daddy”.

I wake in ICU.  Good news, bad.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t need emergency by-pass, but my arteries are seriously diseased.  And I’ve bled into my chest cavity and it will take a little while for the blood to be reabsorbed.

Stabilize.  Rest.  But not for long.  The next day, back to surgery for placement of a 3rd stent, without which, disaster is sure to follow.

What follows in life, what leads?  How can you tell anyway, and does it matter, does anything really matter in the end or the beginning, or all the beautiful and flawed pieces in between?

Where the hell is the pony under all of the crap? Where’s a cookie for a woman starving?  An ice cream cone for the man she loves?

My husband nearly gray with fear, his hand like a soft claw touching my steel face, his eyes semi-liquid changing like the sky, hazel, blue, gray, hazel again.  The muscles in his face too smooth, (his glucose is low), idly hang like sheets or sails waiting for the wind.  But wind doesn’t come.  Or perhaps it does.  Except this time, when it does, it’s the worst storm of our lives.

Neurological test results are back.

I’m sitting in a wheelchair on a keg of 1,000 new drugs, my heart, a waiting fuse, the doctor’s words, a reluctant yet persistent match.     Then it all explodes.  The neurologist’s eyes locked into mine.  Suddenly she is a mime full of woe; but if mimes can’t talk, why is she using words?     ‘Serious.     Urgent.     Significant Underlying neuromuscular disease.       Invasive.      Tests.   Watch for twitching.   She looks at me as if I am a widow.    itty?  itty?  Can you hear me?’

The world disappears inside a microscopic black hole.  Rich and I hold hands, swirl through choking, cruel air until at last he is pushing my wheelchair back to the car that doesn’t matter anymore, to drive back to the house that isn’t home.  Home is a perfect crystal, it is the fiber of the irrefutable love that binds us together with steel and silken threads we’ve earned and created along the way.

Rich  asked me to share with readers that our lives have been challenging for a long time, but it wasn’t until the past four years, that those challenges have focused on health.  We moved to Arkansas full of hope and energy.  Three weeks after arriving, Rich had a heart attack.  One thing led to another,and in the span of four short years, we’ve both been hospitalized five times.  We don’t blame Arkansas, well, maybe a little; the reality is timing.  We are stoic people who avoid drama like the  plague.  We are quiet old folks who have a lot of fun together.  We retired to Arkansas because it is one of the most beautiful states we’ve ever seen. We assumed our health would stay strong and consistent; we believed we’d face each new challenge life threw at us the way we always have.

We’ll keep fighting, but if we have our way, it will be closer to our family.  Neither of us is a  Parker Schnabel; we’re not 19 any more with the bright shiny world beckoning.  But we know our places in it.  And we know ours hearts, as battered and bullied as they are, and we know our love is a universe of defiance and intensity, as well as a gentle cradle for holding all that is precious, and an indestructible bastion of never letting go – even past the last days of this long walk we make together.  And we take great comfort in knowing we will always walk together, never alone, through long, twisting hallways and sunny great rooms inside fortress grounds and gardens we build every day out of love.

black hole 2


21 Responses to “Surprise Me With a Cookie Every Now and Then, PLEASE!”

  1. onesinging February 22, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    My heart is with you and always will be.

    • ittymac February 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      I know. ❤️

    • ittymac February 22, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

      Thank you sweet daughter, sister, mother, friend.

  2. April February 22, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Constant struggle wears one down emotionally. I find the love you share very heartwarming, and I wish I had the perfect words to give both of you strength to deal with the constant battles you continue to fight.

    • April February 22, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

      Oh, and I would send you a dozen cookies if it will help 😊

      • ittymac February 22, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

        …and I would eat them all!

    • ittymac February 22, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

      We’re both very tired but are taking every opportunity to rest throughout the day. We moved out of our master bedroom with the king sized bed into the small guest bedroom with the little double bed. Snuggling together like sleeping children is doing wonders. We’re waking much more relaxed and happy each morning. And it’s so much easier to know if one or the other is in any distress during the night. Thanks so much for responding. Whatever happens we’ll always know how lucky we are to have had the opportunity to share our lives.

  3. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist February 25, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Itty, it is too much to take in such a short space of time and my heart goes out to you both as you proceed forward. Despite the ills you’re both suffering your love comes through as a warm, bright beacon in an otherwise bleak time. Lots of hugs to you both.

    • ittymac February 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

      Thank you, Irene. It seems we’re both pretty resilient because we’re feeling less overwhelmed as we make peace with reality. Love is an amazing bond. We’re so lucky to have each other.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist February 25, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

        You are indeed lucky, proof that “love does conquer all.”

      • ittymac February 25, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

        Thanks for supporting my work and my life.

  4. 2ndhalfolife February 27, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Itty…you continue to be in my heart through the electronic airwaves. You and Rich. Think positive thoughts, know you are loved…even from afar from the ‘stranger’ in New England! xxoo

    • ittymac February 27, 2014 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks so very much.

  5. theempathyqueen March 1, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    It is inappropriate to click “like” and yet there is no other option offered. The love that you share and describe is truly of the beautiful “The Notebook” variety except that yours is not fiction, but a real, amazing, incredible defiant love story. I read your post in terror of hearing the terminal diagnoses……. The only grace, if such a thing even applies in this type of situation, is that you have family that love you and want to help protect and care for you. Prayers….never enough but all we have.

    • ittymac March 2, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      It seems life is a series of challenges, this one is particularly frightening. Whatever comes at us, we’ll take on, but certainly not because it’s what we would choose. In spite of difficult starts, life led Rich and I to each other, and every minute together, no matter how it’s spent is amazing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words; your support makes us stronger. Love.

  6. Claudia Anderson March 3, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    Dear Itty —

    For you —


    • ittymac March 3, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      Thanks for the cookie! I Needed it!

  7. Sabrina Glidden April 24, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    I felt this with you, moved by the honesty and longing, and moments of astounding concern. This is a beautiful piece, educational even, in a sense that is telling even younger readers, this is what sharing life with someone will hold at some point. I’m touched by it, itty. Oh my . . .

    • ittymac April 24, 2014 at 8:44 am #

      Thank you for your beautiful uplifting words. Life is a series of contradictions: fragile, yet fiercely strong, tender yet grueling, blissful and tragic; but above each roller coaster emotion, life is the supreme gift which of us celebrates even as we wrestle it. I’m so glad you’re back, Sabrina. There’s such gentle peace in your face now. The victory of struggle is inner peace. ❤️

      • Sabrina Glidden April 24, 2014 at 8:52 am #

        itty, I’m sure you’ve no idea why your seeing gentle peace in my expression is so confirming to me…or perhaps you do 🙂 , from your own hard-won experiences. And I embrace your words about the contradictions of life. Such a ring of truth, so eloquent yet raw TRUTH. And at the same time I see this, I see the beauty of your love with Rich.

      • ittymac April 24, 2014 at 9:48 am #

        It always is better to be a butterfly than the dry, crusted larvae stuck on the side of any tree! But transformation never comes without the pain associated with death and rebirth. And growth and self discovery are processes, battles we wage with others as we continuously move forward within ourselves.

        Be/stay happy, Sabrina, life is short.

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