Monday, March 17, 2014

--Under Construction--

As of May 9, 2014 - my web site is under construction right now. It will be unveiled at a later date. Thank you!!!

As you may have noticed I haven't been around much. Well, my condition has made itself known the past few months and months and it has been hard to concentrate, write. Sounds silly to even say that but it's true. Sad face. Anyway. I hope it gets fixed soon.There will be at least one surgery this spring or early summer in Houston. I have an appointment with the doctor the first week of April. More to come...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Roderick's Story - A Lesson in Perseverance

World NF Awareness Day

Roderick's Story - A Lesson in Perseverance

Details: Diagnosed with a schwannoma tumor (schwannomatosis), Roderick Ball, Jr.,
and his family went to Johns Hopkins to have a tumor -that had grown through his abdomen, lower back and spinal column - treated. Treatment involved multiple surgeries with the goal of reducing the tumor, while preserving this patient's (a young boy) functions. His treatment and care was provided by a team of physicians, therapists and nurses in neurosurgery, neurology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, general surgery, and pain management.

Just remember, you can do anything you set your mind to, but it takes action, perseverance, and facing your fears. --Gillian Anderson  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Not talking Burl Ives... Just Bridger, an oddball tree and me

Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. 
-Les Brown

I remember walking my dog, Bridger, some years ago in Moscow,* the small university town where I lived and worked almost a decade. I bought a house in the historical section of town away from keg parties, boisterous yells at 2 a.m., and motorcycle revs at dawn; the streets were calm no matter night or day. 

There was a time before my condition and its repercussions took over my life and I was able to walk my dog most every day without fail - sprinkle or shine. He loved it. I knew because of the swing of his tail and the big sloppy grin on his face. I miss that big slopping grin. During our walks we passed beautiful  Dutch-colonial and Craftsman-style bungalows in sweet traditional tones with carefully manicured lawns and gardens. It was much like walking through Sunset magazine. After moving most of my childhood, I could not believe I had landed in such a serene, often tranquil place. I wanted to pinch myself. Yet like any place, the new began to wear off after several years of living there. Of course, that's another story. I always did enjoy the walks.  I could always clear my head or come up with ideas for stories. I fondly look back on those dog + mom moments with fondness; it was one of my favorite activities while living in Moscow. 

On a stroll up Sixth St. one evening, Bridger was busy sniffing flowers and grass along the sidewalk and I was daydreaming. Nearly home, I started to think about the rest of the evening and what needed to be done before work the next day. We passed the neighbor's house. 
I stopped.
Bridger slowed in his tracks, turned around to meet me.
I had never seen THAT tree before.

 I lived next door and never noticed...

Why my sudden interest in trees? Well, for those of you that don't know I do like trees. I usually don't make my dog do an acrobat in order for me to see one. Poor Bridger. He recovered fine.

This tree its limbs arched into the sky...

The trunk spotted with large, round...  Should I say, growths?

I stared at the tree from different angles.

I realized THAT VERY TREE - I don't recall the species now - was significant. The tiny round marks and the big ones scattered the length of the trunk. I knew that it looked like me on the inside. My body in pain, riddled with ... Should I say it, scars? 

A tree you pass by every day is just a tree. If you are to closely examine what a tree has and the life a tree has, even the smallest thing can withstand a curiosity, and you can examine whole worlds. --William Shatner

Tree Wisdom
Scars. I used to worry about scars. Now I concern myself with what is akin to roots of a tree: day-to-day life. It's not easy. My condition, Schwannomatosis, is a genetic malfunction of sorts. It is a rare form of Neurofibromatosis (NF) that has only recently been recognized and affects around 1:40,000 individuals. The first symptom is almost always pain, which can occur in any part of the body. It often exceeds any neurological problems. I would eventually like to kick the pain pill regime all together. I struggle with daily life now bogged down by medications yet I need something to keep the nasty pain at bay.

The sun started to set in the small north Idaho town creating a softer lens on the landscape. Thanks to the fading sun the tree had a shadow that led into the crisp mowed lawn and white gravel area where my neighbor parks her car.
I stared at the tree a moment longer. 
It was then Bridger gave me a tug. 
Time to move on. 
It was like he was saying:
"Let's go already! Enough with the tree!" 
"Let's go!" 
He put it in gear and off we went around the corner into our own yard, full of smells. I didn't see the tree from this vantage point. 
"Huh," I thought.
Bridger looked up, a keen ear to my voice.
"Good boy," I pet him on the head. A stinging pain ruptures my back, spills down my right leg.
"Owwww! Let's go in! Gotta go in!"
I am bent over yet manage to raise up.
Bridger quickly leads the way to the door, a perfect gentleman.

Some time later I find out that what I saw on the tree is called a burl. It is a "disfigured, bulbous growth" that occurs naturally in nearly every kind of tree, according to 
Premiere Tree Services (PTS).

PTS web site:

 "Burls are formed when the cells that make up new bud growth begin to deviate, dividing in many different directions and forming a large bump instead of a branch or root. The grain spirals, twists, and knots, as opposed to normal growth."

"The underlying cause of this benign condition is unknown: despite the popularity and high value of this gorgeous wood, nobody has been able to induce or prevent burl development."

"Attempting to remove a burl growth will most likely kill even the healthiest tree. Unless the burl reaches an incredible size or starts to deteriorate, your tree will most likely live a normal life."

'Own corner of nature'
I still think about seeing that tree. A lot, in fact. For some reason it had a profound effect on me. I guess because I am such a visual person and that one tree put my condition in perspective. I could see what I looked like without the MRI scans, CAT scans, white coats, and gurneys in an environment I felt at ease -- my 'hood. I felt a mirror before me there in my own corner of nature albeit odd and self-reflective yet realistically most of my camping trips in the woods are like that anyway. Ha!

I don't want you to think I've gone too crazy. It's just that when I saw that tree with its - let's say marks - I felt a kindred spirit of sorts. Crazy again, I know. I can't help it. It happened. It was my crazy me-moment. We ALL have 'em.* I could see my life in nature. It seems that these trees lead "normal lives*" - for the most part. One web site painted a much bleaker picture for tree burls. 

I want the normal, good life for me... and the trees. 

As for my readers, here's the takeaway: 

It's not a burl finder or a free photo of me and the tree. You can "whew!" that one! But listen... Let nature or just life in general teach you a little something. Don't be afraid to stop a moment and just look. Take in a sunset, a tree, or a flower. Watch your children play outside. Don't film it, Facebook it, or Instagram it. Watch it. It's invigorating. Look for the out-of-ordinary, the unusual, the plain and simple and everything in between. 

Step back once and awhile and see what happens. 

Magic of life. 

It makes you get bumps all over... Goose bumps! 

What's not to love about that?

 ©The Healing Redhead

*Pronunciation: Ma's-co
*Patients  develop multiple schwannomas on cranial, spinal and peripheral nerves--but they do not develop vestibular tumors and do not go deaf. They also do not develop any other kinds of tumors such as meningiomas, ependymomas or astrocytomas. Patients also do not have learning disabilities.
*I'm not talking Reese Witherspoon crazy.
*Their words, not mine. 

Photos: Microsoft clip art; Wikipedia (burl)

Friday, April 26, 2013

When you are given a chance, take it!

I will be honest, this isn't easy. I haven't talked much about Bridger since he passed away. Bridger, my Chocolate Lab, was more than a dog. He was a confidante, an alarm system, a kitchen sweeper (tail & tongue), a hiking buddy, a date detector (is a guy good enough or not?), and a great traveling friend. 

As for CONS...
He didn't care too much for poetry or... Sex and the City episodes. Whenever the show's opening music started, Bridger shuffled off the couch or got up off the hardwood floor. It's like he knew it was his time to go to the bedroom or his pet cave/man cave, the basement. Girl SHOW! I'm outta here. I even watched "chick flicks" in his presence but that one show always seemed to be just a bit too much for his delicate canine senses. HA!

Back to his favorites: Bridger loved Christmas!
That boy sniffed a present before you opened it. "For me?" If it was for him, his tail shook wildly hopefully not near the tree full of ornaments or cups of coffee on the table. For those who don't know a Lab tail, it is swift, thick, fast, and can clear coffee tables in a single swoop, flip a collection of graduate school books from a temporary nesting spot, and much more -- as you will see. His tail actually did catch fire once -just once- early on as a young pup. He didn't even yelp! Good boy! He got his tail in the flame of one of my big jar candles. I was busy with something else and saw smoke... Smoke coming from his tail.

"Oh no," I thought.
I quickly patted him with the nearest towel.
Emergency averted. 
Lab pup smiling.  As if nothing ever happened. 
Tail still right next to pumpkin candle.
I moved the candle. Happy dog mom and safe pup!
For so long that is how
 I remember him: my boy! 
Even now a year and some months later with a new pup in my life-I adore my King Charles Cav-there is still a lab-shaped hole in my life. I still cry on occasion. I'm the type of person who sleeps with her dogs, doesn't count the dog hairs-probably a MAJOR fashion faux-paw (lol)- and even on occasion gets a peck on the lips. OK, a lot of kisses! I love my dogs. I considered Bridger my son. I just called him my "boy" above. I still do. He will forever be my boy! I had wonderful memories with him. He had a rebellious, protective nature that got him into a few problematic situations over the years but overall he was a GOOD BOY. His biggest crime: being a momma's boy! 
I'm telling you all this because the other day my mom and I were in our neighborhood coming back from one of my doctor appointments (imagine that!). It has plenty of walking paths, so people often jog, speed-walk, and go for strolls with their dogs. We see all kinds of breeds from short and fluffy to long and lean. Mix breed to any regal blend you desire.Dogs too. Ha! It is always interesting to ride home around 4-7 p.m. this time of year. It's a pet magazine on display! 
So the other day we are turning into our subdivision and mom and I are talking about the doctor visit. Mom slows the car down and says suddenly, "Don't look." But I already see IT. Lately, it has been so hard to look at any kind of Chocolate Lab hence the big message, "Don't look!" Even this many months later into my grief cycle, I'd just rather not see 'em. I know for some people it sounds crazy or ridiculous but it is what I have to do to make it through. As we get closer to the pair, I see it is definitely what I thought. 

"Oh boy," I think. Memories start clicking in my mind. Polaroids of the past come flooding back: hiking in the Idaho mountains, hogging the tent, playing with mom's dogs, enjoying our own walks in the neighborhood and the adventures we found ourselves in. 
Mom slows down to make the corner toward home.
I make an unexpected statement -- even for me.
"I want to go meet him."
"He sounds great."
Mom thinks I am referring to the surgeon the podiatrist offered as a possible option in town.
"No, Mom. The dog. Right now."
I know I probably sound like a child in that moment but I don't care. 
It was about getting outside of my comfort zone. It was about meeting one of Bridger's kin --another Chocolate Lab. 
I was ready. In think I was ready.
Mom turned the car around without question and drove down another street to catch up with the dog and his walker/owner.
The worry crept in. My worry about what someone else my think.
"This is too crazy, right? Petting someone's dog out of nowhere?"
"No. Go ahead," she says pulling up the pair. "I've already turned around."
I thought about Bridger and getting to connect to a Chocolate Lab again. Plus, the dog looked eerily like him.  
I'm doing it. 
Right NOW.

The window goes down. Somehow words roll out.
"Hi, my dog passed away about a year ago and he looks just like yours. Would you mind if I pet him?" 
"Sure," the owner says.
By this time I am out of the car, tears are forming. I can truly see just how close the two dogs are: rich, velvety brown eyes; broad, thick body, and a tail that could easily clean a coffee table. 
I immediately start to sob. 
Oh no.
"His name is Harley. He loves meeting folks, don't ya buddy? "
I tell Harley hello between sobs. Barely. I touch his head and back and realize it is like touching Bridger's smooth, almost silky coat. I quickly tell the guy thank you and how much it means to me. I get back in the car and the guy jogs off with Harley, the Chocolate Lab.

I just knew Bridger's spirit was alive in those few minutes. Petting this dog allowed me to remember different details with Bridger and I was able to connect AGAIN. It was a bittersweet. At the same time, priceless. Those few moments were like a rare jewel, a drink of an exotic flavor, or the conversation you've been waiting to hear. It puts moments on a pedestal. Little moments are indeed special. Don't ignore them as insignificant. A series of little moments might put you on the path to something rather LARGE.

I mentioned earlier that I worried before meeting the guy what he might think of my request. Life is one shot. Too short, my friend! It's like that one Pinterest poster that says Life happens outside your comfort zone. That made me nervous yet I wanted to do it and I did.

To go home, we had to do a U-turn and I saw Harley and his owner again. I waved and smiled big. Right through the tears. It was a small moment with a big reward. 

Isn't that what life is all about? 

These are the memories we keep.

 ©The Healing Redhead