PILLOW TALK: Don't Worry, Be Happy (Deborah Goodwin)
Most of the bad things you worry about will never happen. Most of the bad things that do happen will never have crossed your worried mind. --Shari
Jan. 24, 2012 (ShapeShiftas) -- My friend Shari posted this status on Facebook three days after enduring surgery to remove a brain tumor.
Two weeks ago, she was taken by ambulance to Dartmouth-Hitchcock (or, as I always call it, Alfred Hitchcock) after a long-needed MRI revealed this brain tumor that likely had been there for a decade or so. She had been complaining of symptoms for at least the past year -- pain and stiffness in her left shoulder and neck that got so bad she stopped coming to yoga. Really bad headaches, couldn't hold a pen sometimes lost her balance.
They did an MRI of her neck and sent her to physical therapy, but she got worse. Nothing was working, and she kept telling people "something's wrong!" Finally, her doctor agreed to send her to a neurologist, who examines her, also thinks it's a pinched nerve or something, but Shari convinces him and he orders an MRI.
I think the horror of her diagnosis was slightly offset by the I-told-you-so of finally knowing what was wrong.
You really have to be your own advocate when it comes to medical care. I don't think that Shari could have functioned much longer without someone figuring out what was wrong, but she had to convince the doctor to order the test. It's not that doctors are oblivious or incompetent, but that they are beholden to the insurance companies that decide what they will or will not pay for.
Doctors get in trouble for ordering "Unnecessary Tests." Plus, in the big medical centers anyway, doctors are scheduled in 20-minute blocks. My own primary care doctor at Alfred Hitchcock is nearly impossible to get an appointment with, she is so rigidly scheduled. I basically see her once a year and am not 100% sure she remembers who I am. There's a lot to cover in my 20-minute yearly checkup, especially for a slight hypochondriac like me. I'm sure it's annoying to her when I try to diagnose myself, but isn't that what Web MD is for?
Just like expectant fathers who gain 20 lbs., Shari's "worry wart" occupied my brain, too. Especially last week, I was unfocused and anxious, unable to complete tasks or concentrate on work.
I started a few different blog posts, took a few pictures of my pillows against the new Green Screen, but I just couldn't seem to finish anything. I did learn an awful lot about brain tumors, and of course I said some prayers. I took her a Zeebra pillow to hug (that's me, hugging you back) and my Tibetan fur healing hat, in case they cut off her hair. Mostly, I worried.
The Zeebra pillow is shaped for hugging
I remember when I was a new mother, I would worry about the most improbable things, like, when sitting in our favorite little park, Ratland, on the East River, I would think: "Now, what if a huge gust of wind comes and blows the stroller over the railing and into the water?"
I spent most of my years in New York worried about something -- paying rent, making payroll, terrorists. Most of the bad things you worry about will never happen. I sometimes worry a little less since I moved to Vermont, though it's every parent's nature to worry, and then there was Irene. The bad things that do happen will never have crossed your worried mind.
The special-edition Eye of the Hurricane pillow
Shari came home the other day, the tumor was benign and is gone, and her symptoms are remarkably and tangibly disappearing by the hour. She has handled the ordeal with bravery and grace.
She and her family have kept a blog, which has been great for all the friends and relatives who are so concerned. They posted pictures of Shari being wheeled in to surgery, wearing her Viking helmet and, amazingly, a smile.
And I realized that what was paralyzing me these last 10 days, or 10 or 20 years, has been worry. I doubt that I can totally stop, but at least I can recognize when it is getting in the way. Thank you, Shari, for teaching me that lesson.