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The "Wu Word" Blog

May 2015


“On a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst and 1 being the best, what is your level of pain?” the red-headed nurse asked the computer screen rather than the hunched over me who was on the verge of curling up into a cradled and comforting fetal position.

I tried to catch my breath and winced when the waves of nausea and sharp pains in my right upper quadrant slammed at me again.   I cannot recall that there was ever a time I declared that my pain level was 10.  I had experiences of such extreme and debilitating pain, but that often resulted in me nearly passed out, hallucinating, or not even possessing the ability to muster the words to give that high “10” number. 

I managed to weakly say to her that I was “8” or “9.”

She finally looked up and into my watery eyes and pitifully said, “Don’t worry, honey.  We’ll get you some pain meds for the nausea.”

“No, I do not want any pain meds,” I said firmly. 

Both her and the emergency doctor stared at me in shock, and asked, “What?!  Why?!”

I spoke up clearly in my voice as my body continued to throw its temper tantrum, “I want you to figure out what is causing the pain to then give me the right meds.  I don’t want you to give me pain meds now just to mask the pain and what is causing it.”

They looked at each other and then at me completely speechless and wordless.  In spite of my adamant refusal to pain meds, the nurse proceeded to stick me twice in order to find an IV line on me to give me pain meds.  When my crimson blood spilled over in droplets, I snapped at her, “You do not need to do an IV access when I am refusing pain meds.” 

She muttered, “Well, I guess it’s your choice.”

If my looks could kill, I think she would have dropped dead right in front of me.  “Yes,” I seethed.  “It is my choice.” 

As the hours ticked by, the piercing abdominal pains and nausea that had begun in the morning were, thankfully, subsiding.  I was feeling better even before an ultrasound technician came to pick me up for the test to try to determine the cause of the pains. I was so thankful that I had listened loudly to my even louder body to not take any pain medications.  At that point, I was feeling better enough to actually leave the emergency room, but the emergency room doctor and nurse had a different viewpoint for me to stay put so they could find out the root of my pains through the ultrasound being done.  I was fine with this because I was resting and nearly half asleep in a private room until one of the nurses who had not even looked me in the eyes since I arrived said that he was moving me. 

“Why?”  I sputtered.

Still without meeting my eyes and keeping busy with unlocking the gurney, he mumbled, “We have a new patient coming in who needs monitoring, and you do not need monitoring because you are not on pain meds.  We just do not have enough rooms available.”

“What?!”  I cried.

Without saying another word, he just wheeled me out into the hallway.  Not even an apology from his mouth.  Not even respect enough to look me in the eyes.  Not even a chance for me to ask to speak with a manager before I was pretty much carted out. 

I had never felt so disgusted in my life.

The hustle and bustle along with bright and blinding fluorescent lights in the hallway replaced the quiet and dimmed private room setting.  I was absolutely livid.  I requested to speak with the manager immediately who said the same thing as the nurse who was now scurrying around to avoid me and my vibrating and intense anger. 

The nurse manager apologized profusely and explained that, unfortunately, there weren't enough rooms to accommodate the number of emergency room patients coming in.  She was hoping to find a room for me soon.  My mouth hung open to try to find the words, but I was wordless for the one of the few times in my life. 

Feeling defenseless and defeated, there was nothing left for me to do but lie down and imprint the gurney with my twisted body.  I felt drained of all energy at that point.   

I shut my eyes to try to block the whirlwind chaos around me.  While my body was at its most vulnerable yet again, my mind was at its strongest as it raced and flashbacked to memories of over ten years ago of emergency room visits and the pains that were at the root of all those times. 

Not a year has gone by since I started working over ten years ago that I haven’t ended up in the emergency room due to my misbehaving body freaking out from most often backside muscle spasms that have left me bed-bound or unexplainably sharp abdominal pains.  On those days of intense pains, I can feel them when the sun rises to mark a new day. In the mornings, pains have pushed me like a towering bully.  The nights beforehand were when I imagine little pain gremlins adorned with horns and punctured fangs of teeth biting away at the body to react in pain in the mornings.

Now, you know why I’m not a morning person. *cue chuckle*

After being in my body for nearly 33 years and particularly after over ten years of dealing with painful muscle spasms, I can now proudly tell you what will be the catalysts of pain for me.  Catalysts include overdoing myself by going full speed ahead without a reprieve, wearing different shoes of a different feel to them, stress, changes, anxiety, and, basically, the power of my mind eventually affect my physical shell.  It is mainly psychosomatic.

But, thanks to pain, I learned and grew to actively take care and protect my body by preventative means, including taking an extra day off from work if I was going to have an overly busy bout, regularly going to my osteopath for my body tune-ups, rubbing ointment and cream in mornings and nights, nightly heating myself up with a moist gel-pack heating pack, and, most of all, and do without overdoing.  I learned that we do have limitations and boundaries and we need to set them to preserve and endure for the long haul to savor and bask in all of the small moments that were milestones, rather than crash and burn—which I was infamous for. 

In my youth (not that I am that old chronologically, but aged mentally like fine wine), I was filled with anger and resentment at the pain gremlins, but then, over time, I learned to live in harmony with them and was even filled with gratitude to pain for teaching me the fine balancing act and art of “pacing myself.” 

Yet, here I was in the emergency room yet again. Just when I thought that I had artfully mastered my mosaic masterpiece of pains, I was back to the rough drafts.  In the days leading up to the emergency room visit, my body had talked to me, but I reverted stubbornly by not listening.  I could literally feel my body was going in overdrive and ready to crash.  I knew it was stress-induced.  I knew that I had overdone myself like an overly char coaled slab of steak.  I knew that it was only a matter of time that my body was going to misbehave.  And, misbehave, angry, and flared it did.

Unlike prior bodily disasters and ER visits, though, I was strangely calm and zen with this latest encounter.  I was no longer angry.  Heated and heavy anger took up too much energy that could be directed to moments of pure and lighthearted happiness.  It was not that I had given up on my body.  It was that I was accepting my body and any and all the unforeseen experiences that we have to let go and learn from.  I was accepting that pain is all a part of life to teach us about living and feeling.  Throughout all these years of pain, I never felt that I had suffered or was less than, but that I was at my strongest and more than with the amazing array of possibilities that only enhanced and catapulted me to make my life worth meaning and myself better than ever imaginable.  I was realizing that we are all like kaleidoscopes with our beautifully broken and shattered pieces for us to constantly work in progress to make our own personal mosaic masterpiece. 

So many people I know are absolutely petrified of pain and suffering.  So many have said to me that they would love a life without pain and to take all the pain medications in the world.  The mere idea of me NEVER feeling pain actually terrifies me more than feeling pain.  I wouldn’t have learned, gained, grew, and knew all that I would have known if it wasn’t for pain in these last over ten years.  I would have potentially hurt and harm myself even more if I had never felt the painful sensations of sharp, numb, tingling, aches, and zings. Please do not get me wrong that I am a full supporter and cheerleader of pain medications to severe pain and salute and am eternally grateful to the pharmaceutical industry and science for all the leaps and bounds that have helped so many and have even allowed my second kidney transplant to go twenty years and counting, but my utmost observations of our society has led to critical concerns that we are taking pain medications unnecessarily and even most harmfully to avoid truths and understandings that only pain can bring to us. There is also the complete opposite where people purposefully harm themselves to try to feel something from nothing, but feeling nothing is still a feeling of pain emotionally and mentally where the intention is to feel it in the physical sense—very complicated.  Nowadays, it seems to me more than ever, we try to control and manage pain by ironically and actually escaping with pain medications that hide the root of the pain rather than truly to heal from the pain. 

I ended up staying in the hallway for the remainder of my emergency room visit.  The ultrasound came out clear.  All medical professionals on that day and the days thereafter could not determine a diagnosis and what had happened with my body.  They chalked it up to abdominal pain.  I chalked it up to severe gas pains and a muscle spasm.  The body works in mysterious and monumentally amazing ways of talking loudly and then, sometimes, just healing quietly and slowly when it is ready. For me?  I was thankful to my body for speaking to me to slow down and return to my work in progress kaleidoscopic masterpiece of pacing myself. 

There is actually still not a day that goes by that I do not feel pain.  In a way, pain has become my normal.  I am accustomed to it.  And, I am eternally grateful to the great gifts of contemplation, understanding, awareness, feelings, living, and healing that pains have brought to me. 

For, if it were not for pain, I would have never gained all this and more. 

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,


I blinked my eyes more than a couple times.

Please tell me I’m seeing things, I thought.

Nope, there it was again.  The little ‘check oil’ symbol was appearing and then disappearing yet again.  I tightened my hands on the steering wheel and gritted my teeth.  I hated anything that had to do with cars because I knew just about nothing about them. 

What could possibly be wrong with Perry now?  I had changed his oil literally a month ago.  How could the ‘check oil’ symbol be blinking yet again?  The timing of Perry acting up couldn’t have been worse.  He was throwing a temper tantrum just when my life was in upheaval with work drama.  Yes, I must admit, I was just being a petty brat. 

If Perry had acted up like this about five years ago, I would have freaked out to my Dad.  Now, I bitched and moaned with a one-liner sentence and didn’t even tell my Dad when I headed to this new auto shop with a guy by the name of Frank that was a major sleazoid by calling me “sweetheart” and “honey” when he acted like he was doing me the biggest favor in the world to fill Perry up with oil yet again.   

Rather than go to Frank again to find out the root of what was causing Perry to lose oil so quickly, I went to my trusty mechanic by the name of Jim that Perry had been a frequent flyer patient of in these last couple of years with alignment, battery, tire, and a laundry list of other issues. 

Jim gave me the dreaded verdict after I prayed for a simple (aka: cheap) issue with Perry: “Your car’s engine has issues and is burning the oil out your tailpipe.  You need a new engine.”

I grilled Jim with a million questions about used engines and its parts, estimates, and logistics to bring Perry in yet again for another issue.  In the midst of harassing Jim on nearly a daily basis, it dawned on me for the first time in all the years of driving Perry and bringing him to and from garages for updated and necessary repairs that the cost of a used engine would cost even more than Perry was worth. 

Perry was worth nearly nothing in paper money at this point, but all the memories that came from my time with Perry in nearly 20 years of having him was worth everything to me.  How silly and sentimental I was to place so much human to a hunk of metal?  Not silly at all when the reality is that we put so much into our materialistic items when meaningful memories are attached to them to the point that we cannot detach. 

I have rewound many memories of my times with Perry since the news that the absolute core of him (his engine) is dying.  Perry had been my sister’s car and then given to me way back in the early 2000’s, but he was a 1998 car.  I had to sit on two pillows to see over the steering wheel.  I had a handicap sign and a lucky Chinese sign that adorned Perry’s rearview mirror on the inside and two “Donate Life” stickers sporting on the outside. 

He was my first car to cruise in on road trips with blasting music and the sun blinding me as I wore my bright purple sunglasses alongside friends as well as quiet and contemplative drives all alone at nights with a full moon as my guide.  Perry and I survived at least two car accidents and the roughest and iciest of New York winters together.  I have stuffed Perry to the brim with items of my life: organ donation and transplant goodies for advocacy events, my swim bag, my reusable bags for food shopping, and material things that have made up more memories for me.  With Perry, I received my first traffic violations for speeding (not my fault, I promise!), sang loudly to my favorite songs, cried tears when I did not want anyone to see me, went to vital medical appointments that have completely altered my life, and had long talks with loved ones.   

I keep talking about Perry in the past tense, but he is still here.  I brought Perry to Jim again to give Perry his heart/core again—aka: a used engine.  While Perry is sitting in the shop for yet again part to be removed and replaced yet again, I am bewildered as to how much I have experienced with Perry and how much that has changed in nearly 20 years of my life and living.  But, most of all, I am most awestruck at the similarities I see between Perry and human beings in the aging process. 

Perry started out as a brand new shiny car with that fresh, intoxicating car scent, automatic windows that rolled up and down, automatic locks, and material all intact.  We all start brand new in body, mind, and spirit to be fed and filled with moments and people that make us.  Over the years, Perry’s cosmetics and physical forms have deteriorated, just as us humans do.  Nothing and no one lasts forever.  We cannot escape or put a stop the aging process, which consists of our physical form and shell that takes a toll of increasing problems and deterioration, yet, as we ‘ fall apart,’ we gain all the more with our mental and emotional awareness that is often scary and invigorating.  We become all the ‘more than’ in substance when the surface is only ‘less than’ in the aging process.  The aging process is a great and challenging phenomenon and privilege filled with life experiences that gift us greatness of understanding, responsibilities, and wisdom.  Age and the aging process catches up to us and time is always ahead of us.  I see all this in my time I had with Perry, now, and what will lie ahead.

There will come a time that I will have to give up Perry.  He will no longer be here, as will many of the people I love and care for so profoundly.  There will be another new car available that will provide a ride of new memories as I get older and age.  In this ride of life and no matter it be in the literal sense with Perry or with another new car, there will be people there along with the ups and downs and twists and turns that are inevitable in life. 

But, for now, I enjoy the time I do have with what I have and who I have in my life.   And, unlike so many, the reality has hit me that it took Perry’s latest debacle  to make me understand that we are actually all embedded in the aging process as life and time continues to forge forward. 

Here is to aging and what may come and may be, will be! 

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary :-)

Pennies from Heaven

These past couple of weeks have been the worst work weeks that I have ever endured in the last nearly ten years of working.  And, this is not me being dramatic.  This is me being realistic.

I have always made huge efforts to not get caught up in the work world with the knowledge that work was not my life and the two should not intermingle.  Efforts included having hobbies, interests, and a great circle of friends outside of work so I would not become my work and would have a personal life that I was set to enjoy to the fullest. 

When I started working, I never wanted to be the kind of person who talked, complained, gossiped, or whatever else it may be that was negative when I was not actually at work.  But, sad and most ashamed to say, I became that very person that I did not want to become these past couple of weeks.

But, here’s the funny thing, in the midst of me getting lost in negativity when I complained about all the changes that were happening and that I hated at work, there were pennies from heaven that showered and shone down on me.

My first penny from heaven came when I was drowning myself in the hot and bubbly whirlpool that was massaging all the knots in my back.  I was griping about all the lack of communication and miscommunication with the change in structure and flow at my workplace with a woman who I had met a couple times in the locker room, yet felt like we were old friends.  When I paused to take a breath, she confessed to me that her husband had late stage cancer and was not doing well.  I immediately shut up.  How could I complain about work when her husband was fighting for his life?  Rather than let me fully shut down, though, this penny from heaven let me vent and carry on for a little while longer until I was wrapped up in her brightness of empathy with how trying and exhausting the work world and all its inner politics are.  She left with my business card in my hand for her to contact me for us to chat again over tea, but to solely chatter and NOT complain.  I left with her shine and sheen imprinted in me. 

My other pennies from heaven came at the 5th annual "PKD Cocktails for a Cure" event that I have attended religiously to accompany and support my kidney buddies for a great cause.  Many do not even know about PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) and how the kidneys take a massive beating with huge cysts, causing some  kidneys to balloon up from the regular fist-size to a football-size until the cysts can bleed and life-threatening fears.  In the company of familiar faces and new faces, I danced the night away in my coral dress and sparkly red glasses until I could not feel anything.  I listened to and shared stories over pumping music and icy blue cocktails with bright red cherries swimming atop.  That night, I also happened to win a beauty gift basket.  I had never won anything in my life and I said that at least five times when I went up to grab the huge basket and left clutching it protectively and proudly in my arms like I was cradling a newborn baby.

More pennies from heaven from friends who let me carry and rant on with listening ears, murmurs of agreement, and words of support.  Texts and phone calls that were perfectly timed to lift me up and shine and shower down on me when I needed this the most.  How many people can say that they have REAL friends to listen to you? 

Brighter pennies from heaven of and from friends who are struggling to just stay alive and sane with their own personal life insanities.  These pennies from heaven are the signs and reminders that there is always someone worse off than you and that work is not worth the aggravation and frustration in all the years of life and living. 

And, probably the brightest pennies from heaven were my stepmother and especially my dad who had my favorite snacks waiting for me while we watched movies and did absolutely nothing.  Not even lift one finger. 

I had always been the girl who hated change.  I was the Type A Control Freak, the predictable planner, and the routine lover.  I was the one who never believed in myself that I could be outside of myself to face and endure changes.  Yet, my relationship with change was very complex, because although I was afraid of change, I was also afraid of not changing.  But, here I am, two weeks later in complete chaos at work with changes after changes and realizing and learning in the process that I am more than capable of bending without breaking.  More than that, I’m realizing through all my pennies from heaven that, sometimes or more often than not, changes are necessary to become and grow into the person you never imagined you could be in the best of ways. 

This week will soon come to an end.  These last two weeks will be a bad memory of how terrible work can really get.  But the everlasting results have already left its effects on me about the beauty (rather than the ugly) in changes and all the pennies from heaven that have rained down on me with the riches of strength and support that I needed to keep me grounded and sane with what and who is really important in life. 

Just when you are getting caught up in another soap opera drama from someone or even a group of people and the daily grind that makes you forget the focus of what and who are important, step back and stop to think of all your ‘Pennies from Heaven’ and how far you have made it just when you thought you could not even do it—and, yet, you did it and are doing it. 

Until we meet again Keep Smilin’,
Mary ;-)
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