Monday, March 29, 2010

Morbid Me


The photos in this post have nothing to do with Morbid Me. I added photos because I have a hard time writing here without them. Maybe, at the end of this post, there will be a connection with photos and words, but I’m not counting on it. I just gotta write.


Worry, worry, worry…

Hypochondriacs are sad, but so funny! I know a few and when I listen to them cry the blues, I often giggle at their traumatized faces. It's insensitive, I know.

When I was a child, I saw my East Slavic Grandma on Sundays. She was a human medical reference book who lost her husband to lung cancer when I was about a year old. From her, I learned everything there was to know about high blood pressure, diabetes, corns and bunions, varicose veins, heart palpitations, and how to order a pound of lunch meat in Ukrainian speak. The family rolled their eyes and exchanged glances at the supper table while she shared her ratings of laxatives needed for her constipation. She wore support hose like knee-high socks and only wore to-the-knee cotton dresses, year round - never trousers or slacks. Bless her heart, she laughed hard at her own jokes and when she ran out of Scotch tape she wrapped Christmas gifts with electrical tape.


New River in West Virginia soon…

She was on a first-name basis with her physician who probably owned at least a few Cadillacs, thanks to Grandma and those like her. I give her credit, not for the fact she imagined having every disease ever recorded, but for the fact she was brave enough to take control and face her own mortality. Diabetes challenged all her adult life but a stroke/heart attack took her in 1981 at the age of 83. Grandma, my Dad’s mother, didn’t have an easy life but managed to make it a long one.


Hello, backyard entertainer.
We realized Grandma needed new eyeglasses one Thanksgiving Day. Her pet parakeet, Petey, broke out of his cage, flew through the kitchen and pooped into the turkey gravy. My aunt, horrified, watched Grandma whip the poop with a wisk and blended Petey’s poop perfectly. It was great gravy and no one knew of the secret ingredient except for me and my horrified aunt who told the story after Grandma passed away. I love it! I wish I knew Grandma longer, into my adult years.


Waiting… Cherry Blossoms behind a new nectar feeder.

What happened to me about fifteen years ago, I don’t know. The thought of seeing a physician made me so sick that I kept putting it off and avoided doctors almost completely. I’m not a hypochondriac but for at least the past decade, I’ve been certain I could be terminally ill with one of those diseases that don't have any symptoms.


West Virginia mountains. This is where I broke away from the group for some quiet time. A year ago. Muddlety was magical, even in the rain.

Knowing I needed a good physical exam tormented me so. There were reasons for my delay, always intending to lose some pounds before I made an appointment for a female physical and I always wanted to quit smoking first. Fourteen months ago I struggled to breathe after a short walk downhill to the mailbox and back. That’s when I kicked the habit.


Never minded pain in the dentist’s chair but always scared to death of physicians, their tests, and the possibility of gloom and doom results. I avoided health education in any form – Dr. Oz on the Oprah Show, in particular. Hands over ears, la la la la! Change that channel!

We moved out-of-state twice in five years. Now, that’s real stress which resulted in weight gain and a list of ailments too minor to remember…


They’re coming out from hiding now. All the Ferguses.

Excuses, excuses. I have plenty of them.

Our neighbors in Delaware, Lori and Tom, were an Air Force officer family who moved around the country twelve times in fifteen years with two children, a dog, two cats, a gecko, and a birdie. They moved to Virginia in summer 2005. We moved to North Carolina a month later. Since then, they’ve moved three times. I admire the military families, their strength, the support they show for each other, and their well-rounded personalities. Living next door to that family made Delaware a great time for three years. However, gorgeous Lori, at the age of 36, developed breast cancer during that time. One spring morning we leaned on the fence and chatted about her chemo and all the stress. She, laughing and smiling, was backlit by the rising sun and I remember the horrible knot in my throat as I watched handfuls of her lovely blonde hair drift away in the breeze.


Lori had two sweet boys who mourned the death of a Red-winged Blackbird under a willow oak in their backyard, dug a grave, and sprinkled black oil sunflower seeds over it. They will be very good men.

I’m chicken shit and too afraid of death and dying. Too afraid that no one would care for me if I couldn’t take care of myself any longer.



What happened a month ago, I don’t know, but I found myself sort of trapped in an examining room with a professional slash compassionate female physician who ordered so many tests for me in one hour that I didn’t have time to think about it nor freak out. Eight or ten vials of blood I gave. She knew she’d better get it all done quickly because I might have fled at any moment, waving good-bye and looking back to the front desk from the doorway, “I’ll call and reschedule…Sorry, thank you!”


My blood pressure was elevated. That wasn’t news to me. It’s been high for years and I ignored it.

I need to work on relaxation and learn to allow someone else to drive.


On Thursday last week, I sucked it up and when back to the doctor to discuss my test results, panic-stricken. Dr. Barbara and I were delighted as it appears I’m not going to die anytime soon. Other than blood pressure meds and a little diet tweaking to help with cholesterol and sugar levels, I’m very good!

Here’s a result that made me cry tears of relief in the doctor’s office, after thirty-seven years of smoking cigarettes:

Chest x-ray: Normal. Good.


I’ll visit a nutritionist next week about the belly fat and I’m certain the visit will be blog worthy, so stay tuned. I’ll have a bone density test in a few weeks. As for the colonoscopy, I can’t seem to get excited about it yet and might need a few glasses of wine before I make that call.

After seeing and hearing my results on Thursday, I felt euphoric and surreal for most of the day until the Morbid Me came back for a few minutes. Thoughts, eyes wide: What if they misread the chest x-rays or the EKG or the mammogram or the paps smear? What if Dr. Barbara withheld bad news to keep me coming back?


Oh, for crying and laughing out loud! ;-)


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

May, everyone has a hump on their back that they carry around and try to ignore. Looking in the mirror just so, I can avoid seeing mine. (Mine's not death- I've never feared it.) We'll sit down with a couple bottles of wine some day and I'll tell you the name of my hump.

I'm glad you went to the doctor.

jason said...

Marvelously delightful, Mary. What beautiful memories mixed in with your personal fears and experiences. You're not the only one who has a fear of such things. So call me morbid, too.

And I'm thrilled to hear everything turned out fine. No one is more deserving of good news and lots more time to enjoy the world!

A New England Life said...

Boy you weren't kidding, you really did need to talk!

Well first of all, you always have such damn nice photos. I know I didn't comment on your fish but, holy cow, how could we have the same camera? Seriously!

Your Grandma ... what a hoot! She was a something, wasn't she. I never had a grandmother with much spunk or personality. Guess it runs in the family ; )

I have to ask, how is Lori? I hope she is in remission, raising her boys, and doing well.

You know, you're one of those feisty people that would be difficult to hold down no matter what! I sure am glad everything is okay though. You just keep on keeping on. And go back for annual physicals!!!

Worry, worry, worry ... that would be me too. In fact it still is. My biggest fear? A root canal!

jane augenstein said...

Mary, so glad to hear that you are OK! I don't like going to doctors either but I go. I had a bone density test about 3 years ago, but don't think I need one anymore. My horse, Gilly has thrown me on the ground, a 5 foot fall from a speeding horse, several times and no broken bones...or even bruises!! LOL A slightly painful way to check your bones but it seems to work!
Love your stories...OMG I am peeing me pants laughing about the bird poop gravy!!!
Your pictures and stories are so dear to me, keep up the good work!

Murr Brewster said...

I LOVED my colonoscopy! Entertaining from start to finish. Most fears boil down to fear of death and fear of losing love. Acceptance comes down to realizing you are not in control. That's easy for me because I've been out of control for a long time.

Still, I think my doctors are quacks because they haven't found my cancer or heart disease yet. I'm sure if I spent an hour with Dr. House, he'd find something.

Murr Brewster said...

Also, thanks for Pet Parakeet Petey Poop. Belongs in Poutine, I believe.

NatureWoman said...

Ugh, Mary, I also *hate* going to the doctor because of all of their tests and drugs. Glad you made it through with flying colors.
OMG - poop in the gravy!!!
And as always, your photos are gorgeous.

Ruth said...

lol Murr!..
I had a patient admitted to our unit with a broken hip at age 88. She hadn't been to the doctor for 50 years and smoked 10 cigarettes a day. She walked downstairs to the basement 10 times a day to smoke. In her pre-surgical assessment she was given a clean bill of health. She told me she knew the minute she came near a doctor or hospital her life was over. However, she did go home again with her 90 year old husband...not sure if she is still smoking in the basement though.

Don't fret...worry causes most of our problems.

Mary said...

Sharon, I should have said that Lori is in remission, for five years! A year after the first round of chemo and radiation; however, cancer was detected in the other breast, hence another round of it all. She's good. And, by the way, a root canal ranks right up there with a colonoscopy! Not bad at all!

Ya'll are too funny!

Susan Ellis said...

I love this post Mary. My worst fear in the world was always hearing those three little words, " You have cancer". And one day (4 years and 3 months ago) after going to a doctor to have a spider bite on my clavicle checked out, those are exactly the words I heard.My doc said during the spider check...when did you last have a mammogram...lets book one, yada yada. The day I went for the breast press, the radiologist was one duty, and she spotted a tiny, teeny something. She told me about it, and while I lay there crying, she stood there saying, " Do you have any idea how lucky you are?" and went on to explain that in cancer, size does matter, so does early detection. Well I could go on and on, but I'll just say that I put my complete trust in the doctors, only looked it up once on the internet (NEVER EVER AGAIN!) and just got on with it. I've heard the worst...the rest is all gravy. Fear is the biggest enemy. Ladies everywhere, get an annual check up!

Mary said...

Susan, thanks.

Carol Michel said...

Good for you, Mary. Rid yourself of that disease called "fear", it is never easy to go to the doctor for most people, I think.

Oops, that reminds me, time for my quarterly blood work to check those cholesterol levels. Heart disease, runs in the family...

LauraHinNJ said...

I'm with you on this Mary... I'd rather not know.

Tina said...

I learned long ago that one has to be ones own mentor..that little angel that sits on your shoulder and says YOU must get your MUST get your blood work done..and I, like you, hate to make that call but somehow someway we make those calls and keep going..many are so strong, I admire that..I always wonder if I am..for me. I know I am for my hubby who has had numerous heart situations..I'm the rock..but I have to be..but am I a rock for me ??? Good ?! You did good! Smile.

Kerri Farley said...

Oh Mary....I know exactly where you are coming from. I have the fear each day of something dreadful me or to a loved one. But that is all the more reason to live each day to the fullest...which is what I have been trying to do for the past 3 years.

SOOOOOOO very glad your tests were good!!

And as always - your pics are AWESOME!!

KGMom said...

Here's how I overcame (mostly) my fear of death--an author I love to read said something that really helped.
He said--he had no awareness before he was born, no fear of what existed then, and he has no fear of what will come after death. Somehow, that was strangely comforting. Maybe it won't do anything for you, but I loved that thought.
OK--on the colonoscopy. The scopy part is a snap. It's getting the colon ready that is (ahem) less than fun.
And, while we're at it, DON'T neglect that elevated BP--that has potential health damage that can be more problem than the other stuff.
Sorry--preaching. Maybe you can tell--BP is my nemesis.

Cathy said...

Oh my gosh, Mary! Honey! I didn't think anybody was as phobic as me about these danged tests.

There is nothing sweeter than that euphoria on hearing that we've received a reprieve and despite our bad habits will get to enjoy another spring!

Jayne said...

The fear is always usually much worse than the reality. So glad everything checked out OK and that with some BP medication, you will be tip top. Quitting smoking was probably the single best thing you could have done for yourself my friend, and I applaud you mightily.

I almost spit out my coffee reading about Petey gift to the gravy!

Beth said...

Mary, I was holding my breath through this entire post, so worried that one of those damn tests was going to be bad news. Thank God you are okay and I know you are going to stay that way. Quitting smoking and those dance classes are working for you! Keep up the good work.

Balisha said...

I think we're related.

Wendy said...

I love your pics. They are so clear and pretty.
Sounds like you're doing pretty good in the health department! Especially after smoking for so long. I'm happy your chest x-ray was normal. The rest is a piece of cake (lo cal of course) LOL!

Anonymous said...

Love this post Mary!! So happy to hear that everything went well with the doctor. I still haven't seen a hummingbird yet here is South Carolina but I've had my feeder out for 2 weeks now waiting and changing the sugar water every 3 days.....

Angie in SC

Mary said...

Angie, April 9 or 10. Isn't it someone's birthday at your house?

Angie said...

You are such a talented writer, girl! You always either bring to tears--usually through laughing. :D Your photos are breathtaking!

Q said...

Always nice to get silent worry off the chest. Having a plan is the best. Birthday month for you too. Nice birthday gift.
Love your Grandmother, my kind of lady!
Sounds as if you are looking at many years of feeding the hummers.
Have a great Easter.

Anonymous said...

I'd been reluctant to ask about the smoking--I remember when you stopped, but you've had some big-time stress since then. :) Attagirl! Celebrate! The birds at WingHaven asked me to remind you they're still waiting. I'd love to meet you there.

I read a wonderful piece in today's NYT about living-and dying. It's long, but it's very special. Take it from a fellow hypochondriac.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Mary, I'm so glad everything checked out OK!

I've had a serious diet change to get my blood sugar and blood pressure under control I'm not afraid of the doctors, but I'm terrified of their "cure". I've lost 25 pounds and so far the diet is taking care of the issues. Not fun but worth it.

How in the world did you keep a straight face watching your relatives eat Grandma's gravy?!

Please continue to take good care of yourself!

RuthieJ said...

Glad you made that appointment and had those tests Mare & that the outcome was encouraging for you!
I hate the doctor's visits too and colonoscopy is on my agenda for my next annual visit. If you can do it, then I can too!

Barb said...

Hi Mary,
Just popped in to visit from the Nature Blog Network and am stunned by your photos. However, I see you're also no slouch when expressing yourself with words. Fear is a powerful thing. Sometimes it keeps us from Life. I think you're well. Stop smoking. I'll drink to that.