Bullies

I don’t know if I can really look back at this objectively, but I’m going to try.

Growing up, I had one parent out of four who really, really didn’t approve of me. I was always too fat. It made him really upset that my hair fell out in perfectly round circles – what was up with that? I must have been doing something to myself, I should just stop it! (But it was my body attacking itself.) He told me that he loved my sister more than me because she was the first born, and my brother more than me because he was the boy he always wanted.

While I was still in elementary school, we moved from a large city to a very tiny town of 300. This was right in the middle of my awkward years when I couldn’t figure out what to wear on my strange new body and my teeth were still crooked like I could eat a carrot through a fence because the dentist wanted to wait a few more years before recommending braces. Fifth grade was brutal. I had almost no friends the entire year because a girl from my class (who was tall, also awkward, with blond frizzy hair and shifty eyes) gave me a horrible nickname and meanly declared that no one could be friends with me or come near me. She got one of the boys in our class to write me love letters as a joke. He then made a big deal of “breaking up” with me, or as much as you can break up with someone after a few badly written letters, and their little group passed around what I wrote to him. (Imagine my surprise when I visited my step-cousin’s cousin’s house and it was HER house a few years later. I thought she was going to shit her pants. I had no idea where my step-aunt was taking us, I was just riding with everyone.)

I also had bullies on my bus. They didn’t just pick on me, my sister was a target too. Our bus ride was a long one, nearly an hour in the mornings and about 40 minutes in the afternoons. The worst of them was the stop immediately before ours but still quite a distance from our house because we’re talking farm country. She was MEAN. ROTTEN. The others were further along the route. One was a girl in my class who has always been very mean spirited. Her whole family has taken on the same persona as her mom; her dad busted his ass, but it seems that her mom was never happy with that and was always focused on appearances and putting her dad down. So that’s what she embraced. So I was an easy target. Fat, awkward, and crooked teeth. There was a scrawny boy, I think he may have been a year younger than me, also part of their little group, that my sister ended up punching because he lifted her skirt. It’s too bad she didn’t break his nose. And then the last regular in that group was another girl, who, again, was spiteful. She was good friends with the girl with the nasty mom and she seemed to thrive on the nastiness herself. (As a side note, I have become friends with some of these people on Facebook to see if anything has changed. It hasn’t.)

I’m just going to skip way ahead here, to the bullies online. First there’s the guys who have dating profiles on the various dating websites. After a few decades of doing online dating between being in relationships, I have decided to not use online dating anymore as a means to find connections, because it can be pretty brutal. In my 20s and into my 30s, there were times when I would take things that were said to me very personally. It was really tough to let stuff go. This was also the time when I was in the process of losing all of my hair, so I was really self-conscious of my appearance and didn’t really know how to initiate the conversation about looking like Mr. Clean to prospective dates (or guys that I had already been out with a bunch of times). But everything nasty that was said to me was excused by the guys as being in the interest of not wanting to waste time. They HAD to say it. They couldn’t wait. They couldn’t filter. I had to take it or they would move on. They had to be shitty. If I couldn’t handle it, then it was my problem and not theirs. How can you reason with that anyway?

Now of course we’re in the era of Facebook. We thought this would be a fad that lasted maybe 5 years, maybe a bit more. But they keep changing the algorithms so we stay hooked. I try to take breaks, but they usually only last 4 of my waking hours. Facebook is filled with all kinds of ills. I belong to some rare disease patient groups because I know it’s likely I will hear something I’m not aware of, and it’s also a good way for me to keep track of doctors and medications. I don’t often comment, though. I will see the same people posting – sometimes daily. I know that some people need to find any reason to connect. It drives me a little batty because sometimes they ask, “Has anyone tried ______?” and of course there was just a long discussion about it the day before. If I have something different and useful to say, I will add to the discussion.

Recently in one of the groups, a guy posted that he was taking hydroxychloroquine for our condition, the same as what “cures the virus.” That really upset me, because first of all, no one takes that medication for our condition. It’s the wrong medication. Second, that medication also does not treat COVID-19. So I posted that along with scientific journal articles, plus the CDC directive stating that that med should not be used because it has caused people to die. Suddenly 4 guys jumped on and said all kinds of personal things about me, including one who said he hoped I didn’t have children – as if that related to me correcting this misinformation that this guy put up in the first place. So a few days later he came back on and said he did indeed put the wrong medicine up, that he was actually given an antibiotic of a completely (not even close) name. No one apologized to me for being shitty to me. Then two days ago from today, a woman jumped on and was shitty to me, telling me I was off topic and I should apologize for that. I wrote back and told her that ignoring all of the other posts and focusing on me for correcting misinformation, misinformation that the original guy admitted he was responsible for, was shitty. Then she just wrote another line saying, “Well, it was off topic.” Yep, it sure was, initiated by the original guy. But I’m going to correct it with science every time if someone else is going to put the wrong info out there.

Just yesterday, I was in another patient group for another rare disease. It’s a little more difficult for me to describe everything that happened or is happening with my brain and cerebrospinal fluid in a short enough paragraph that will make sense. Part of that is conveying this understanding that my symptoms are unusual and disarming to the doctors, to say the least. A fellow patient basically called me a liar. My fuse is pretty short these days, so I tend to stomp and snort once as warning, and that’s all you get. After that I will cut a bitch. I explained how many doctors I had encountered (over 100 in 10 years) and being banned from the Mayo in writing, and added that Barrow had just told me to go to a “neighborhood neurologist” because they didn’t know who to send me to in their own organization. This other patient continued on her crusade to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and there was no way I could guess that doctors hadn’t seen my symptoms before. So I told her congratulations on deciding to be a bully to a fellow patient. In fact, all of the doctors were stumped by my symptoms, their words.

Also not too long ago was the issue with my cousin who lives on the east coast. He told me to get off my lazy ass when I became disabled after the ten failed brain surgeries (but before the issues with my vertebrae and the bones in my hands starting to fuse together). I did mention this before, but I didn’t hesitate to tell him to eat a bag of dicks. He is a drunk bully, and I just kind of feel sorry for his wife and daughters.

I’m 46 years of age now. There’s certain things you stop caring about, I suppose, but I think my thing is bullies. I mean, really, I think I’ve experienced them all. My feelings just aren’t getting hurt anymore. After the most recent exchanges, I did a temperature check and I felt nothing. That parental bullying is gone. My cousin hasn’t ever really been in my life. Elementary school is long done. I haven’t ridden a school bus since 10th grade. I’m definitely not doing online dating anymore, I think I gave that the old college try and then some. And those patient groups…well, now I can just scroll past them. Sometimes I get random comments online because of articles that have been posted that I respond to. Those are usually the lowest of the low. I think I remember one lady telling me to “get that thing in the middle of your forehead fixed.” I still have no idea what she was trying to say. It seems no one else did either because she didn’t get any responses or reactions.

I think one of the truest tests was after an exchange with complete strangers in a comment section, a stranger sent me a message that said, “Have you been drinking? You must be lol” and I was thinking, wow, he came all the way over here just to say that. No imagination. He’s the laziest bully ever.

It’s Hard Out Here For A Crip

[This isn’t a plea for more help. I try to spread my requests out, because everyone has their own lives. I have actually had certain friends get mad at me because I asked for help more than once in a year. So in the spirit of friendship no, I don’t need anyone to get my groceries or prescriptions.]

Facebook is great until it’s not. Just hang with me as I explain this.

I’ve got so many medical conditions, allergies, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements that I have everything alphabetized on a sheet that I keep updating and printing every time I go to appointments. I can’t remember everything. I’ve got two injections that I give myself every week in my stomach and thighs, and it’s possible I’ll be getting a third. One of them really hurts and it takes a long time to push the syringe down; my hands cramp up and a few times I didn’t go long enough and have shot the solution all over myself when I pulled the needle out. (I hate wasting that precious medication.)

Nothing is simple with my healthcare. I just got done coordinating a treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa, which means I have to fly to Minnesota for two different lasers and get Pronox gas since Lidocaine doesn’t work on me topically. One of the issues we had to figure out was what to do about me breathing back OUT into the air – what if I was breathing out contaminated microbes and spreading COVID-19? So the office had to track down a device to add to the machine. It took me a week and a half to put everything together and find flights/hotel that I could afford that would also work with the office’s schedule.

At the same time, I was also scheduling surgery for some scarred areas with the hidradenitis suppurativa. Again, since I don’t get numb from Lidocaine, I have to be put under completely to get the spots removed. They are not going to be closed up but rather left open because of the nature of the condition; it’s better not to make a tunnel, that would just encourage the disease to start again in those spots. So now I have to also reschedule other doctor appointments because I will be uncomfortable for a couple of weeks, especially since I can’t take pain medications because of mast cell activation syndrome.

I met with a new cardiologist because I’ve been having major problems with pitting edema, despite being on a very high dose of spironolactone. He put me through a very thorough ECG and ultrasound of my heart and carotid artery, and wants me to have a tilt table test performed. I have a resting heart rate of 110+ now but a very normal blood pressure which sometimes dips low and have had the diagnosis of POTS since 2017 (but symptoms since 2000), but he wants to be sure that that is what I’m still dealing with. When it gets into the summer months here in Phoenix, it gets a lot harder for me to deal with the heat, and I get closer to blacking out frequently, even in my apartment with air conditioning.

I saw my OB/GYN because I still have cysts in my breasts. I get checked every six months. So far they haven’t changed in size, so I might be able to go once a year.

I was being lectured by my primary care doctor and rheumatologist about being on steroids long term for ankylosing spondylitis. I told them that going off for even a day is very impactful, but of course, they didn’t believe me, so I had to demonstrate it. I went off for 7 days and then went in to my rheumatologist’s nurse practitioner. She saw my hands twisted, red and inflamed to three times the size of what is normal, and also observed the spasms in my back that also severely affected my breathing. I’m allergic to all NSAIDs including ibuprofin and naproxen sodium because of mast cell activation syndrome, so I’m not able to take anything besides Tylenol at this point, which is absolutely unhelpful. After seeing for herself, she agreed to continue the steroids. (Side note: the cardiologist told me that I obviously gained weight on the steroids because I was eating more. Wrong. I eat about 1,000-1,2000 calories a day. Doctors love to shame women. One of my fellow patients was told to lose weight when she only weighed 95 pounds at 5’4″.)

I went back in to Barrow to follow up on an EEG. I had reacted to the strobe light even though it hadn’t been noted on the report and the tech saw it happening and kept asking if I was okay. I also have been having issues with my tongue and mouth going numb, and my left arm has been having spasms. I know that my brain has had changes that are different from the last two MRIs. This appointment was set up with a nurse practitioner because the neurologist I previously had left Barrow (yes!!! he was horrible), so we had never met. It seemed like she understood what I was explaining about my history. She left the room, came back, and said, “We’re really specific here, and no one knows what to do with you. Can you just go to a neighborhood neurologist? Maybe they will know what to do with you.” Seriously. When I go to a neurologist who is outside of a big organization like Barrow, they throw up their hands and say, “But I’m just a neighborhood neurologist!! What do you want from me?” The NP gave me two names as a suggestion, but since I saw a different doctor in the same office already, I can’t see anyone else.

My thyroid stopped working at optimal, which explains why I was feeling extra tired and achy, and looking even more like a defensive tackle. Whenever that happens my cholesterol also goes through the roof. So I had to adjust all those meds again.

I’m being monitored for clotting by an oncologist/hematologist, so I had to go in for more tests. Right now it looks like my factor IV and fibrinogen are high. The fibrinogen makes sense because of what has happened to all of my shunts.

I need to have a laser treatment on my gums and one of my molars pulled but that has to be put off indefinitely because of the current situation. These are complications in my mouth because of mast cell activation syndrome. I can’t ever get dental implants, also because of mast cell activation syndrome – I’m allergic to metal, cement and glue/bonding.

Throughout all of this, I’m also trying to coordinate all of my meds. Some are traditional meds that I can get through a place like Walgreen’s. However, I’ve encountered some shortages. So it’s been left up to me to follow up to try to figure out how to get them. One of my meds I couldn’t get for FOUR months. Some of my medications have to be compounded because they aren’t available in the form I need to take them on the regular market. For instance, one is available as an eye drop, but I need to be able to take it as a pill. But the prescribing doctor is in Minnesota, and I’m overdue to see him, and he can’t do a televisit because I’m not physically in MN. None of my other doctors will write the script. See how this shit gets complicated? Besides that, I also had to go through the approval process multiple times for the shots because I failed out of multiple medications. I talked, I faxed, I talked some more, I faxed some more, I scanned, I talked, I waited on hold, I faxed, I scanned, I faxed…you get the idea. Oh, and they also ran credit checks on me. That’s something new all of them are doing. They are saying it’s because they want to make sure I’m getting all the benefits I can get, but obviously that’s a big fat lie. I’m wondering who they are withholding medication from. Drug manufacturers have a lot of power.

That sums up everything I have been dealing with for the past couple of months.

I’m on Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), which means I worked before I became disabled. In fact, the judge that decided my case said I truly worked as much as I possibly could before I really couldn’t work anymore. I now fall into the category of having a very low income, but it’s not low enough to receive any additional help. I don’t get any assistance with housing/rent, food, utilities or transportation. Some people get discounts but I don’t. The last time I had this income was 1993.

With this income, I have to pay for my monthly medical premiums. The premiums alone add up to $438.20. One of the plans I have isn’t from the state I live in. The state of Arizona doesn’t believe that someone could exist who is below the age of 65 and receives income above poverty level, who is also disabled. That’s me. They don’t have any policies for anyone under 65 who isn’t poverty. The craziest thing happened, though. I was actually living in another state when my case was decided, and the state had one – only ONE – policy that I could buy that could travel to any of the other 49 states no matter where I lived. I just can’t miss a payment for the next 22 years, ever. If I do it could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra costs for me because of all of my crazy health stuff. This dollar amount does not include the money I spend on prescriptions, OTC meds or supplements. The supplements are absolutely necessary because they help to treat mast cell activation syndrome.

I spend something in the neighborhood of $100-150 on transportation a month because of having to go to doctor appointments, labs, scans and to the pharmacy. For about a month and a half Medicare was allowing our medications to be delivered, but they stopped allowing that, so I have to go and get my meds now. We can’t do mailing here in AZ because the heat degrades medications. (There have been a few times when the ice packs have been barely cold on my shots that have been delivered to me.)

I am signed up on two different transportation programs for disability, and I’m supposed to wait outside and be visible to the drivers. This is fucking hell in AZ in the summer. My heart condition makes it so much harder for me to be up and out in the heat.

So let’s talk masks, and COVID-19.

I have 8 masks now, with vents. My very first mask a few years ago was a Vogmask. I started wearing it on flights because I wanted to avoid breathing in the shit everyone was passing around in the cabin, because I was sure to catch whatever they were dishing out. So far it’s worked. And let me tell you, those vents make all the difference. Right now I’m on a list for the backordered masks from England for the fanciest of fancy vented Cambridge masks; I’m in for 2.

I’m up on COVID-19. I’m comfortable with the science, been correcting misinformation. One of my drivers tried to tell me the 19 stood for it being the 19th version of the virus. Ha. Ha. Nope. I think the people who walk around saying their freedom is being taken away are complete assholes and deserve what they get. I think the people who say they will make themselves sick with bronchitis or other lung infections by wearing a mask are assholes.

So when I’m going around to all of these appointments, seeing my doctors, getting labs and scans done, I have my mask on. There have been a few times where there blackness has been closing in on me because transportation has insisted I be outside in 100+ heat, my wig is dripping hot, I’m gasping for air, and I have to pull the mask off because I can tell my pulse is through the roof and my BP is dropping.  It will happen at the grocery store too. I’ll be walking around and suddenly my body will just crash. I have to take the mask off for a few so I don’t end up on the floor. I do my best to stay masked up unless my body rebels. When the episode is done, the mask goes back on.

Last night, a friend posted on Facebook that if someone didn’t mask up, he was going to cut that person or people off (with an exception for some medical situations). I saw some people posting, including comments about how there was no way there should even be exceptions for medical. So I raised my hand and said hey wait a second, there has to be exceptions, and we still need to go out. And one guy lectured me about how I needed to have my groceries and prescriptions delivered and my doctor visits should be telemed. I told him to fuck off.

I don’t know this guy. He doesn’t know my shit. But groceries cost me at least $30 extra delivered because of the delivery fee and tip, and they NEVER get what I need and they never do substitutions when I ask for them, which would result in another run to the grocery store. Do I have tons of extra money to spend? Do I have $30, or $60, or $120 a month to throw away on delivery fees? Prescriptions were only allowed to be delivered by Medicare for a short amount of time. Now I have to go and get them again. As far as the doctor visits go, my shit is so complicated that I am required to go in. The docs don’t give me a choice.

This guy’s response was that he thought I would want to not spread the virus and be responsible, and if I didn’t wear a mask, I should just at least pull my shirt up over my mouth and nose. So I told him that I’m not a bottomless pit of wealth, and he’s telling someone who uses a cane and two arm braces and whose face is also partially paralyzed to walk and pull her shirt up. He then offered to “get my groceries” and I told him to stop talking. His response was “Damn.” A particularly dumb broad piped in about how rude I was to refuse his help by telling him to fuck off.

Being a disabled, middle-aged, single, adult female is a fucking challenge. There was that time when a complete stranger grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into an elevator because I was waiting for someone to turn around their power scooter and he assumed I couldn’t handle the elevator on my own. So here’s this guy on Facebook telling me that I have to pay for delivery and get only half of what I need, get my prescriptions delivered (even though Medicare doesn’t allow it) and just see my doctors on video (even though they won’t allow it). Yes, I’m going to tell him to fuck off. He offered to get my groceries AFTER I told him to fuck off. He wanted to feel better about being an asshole and making HUGE assumptions. I would never, ever, ever let someone near my groceries, my medications or my living space who would try to ridicule me like that and then try to strap on the hero cape. “No, really, I’m a good guy.” Don’t ever trust a guy who tells you he’s a good guy right after he does something shitty. And I’m still masking up.

 

 

We’re Not Friends

I’m here in Arizona now. This is the most disjointed move I’ve ever done. The movers came to pick up all of my boxes (and very small amount of furniture – two little filing cabinets, two compact bedside tables and my super ugly but very functional hospital bed) on June 27th. I flew out to Phoenix from St. Paul on June 29th on the hottest and most humid day in Minnesota – 100 degrees. I was giving away some drawer units to my parents for their newly-constructed garage, and we had to tear them down completely to fit them in their trunk as well as my suitcases, my parents, my nephews and I for our detour to drop me at the airport. It feels like ages ago.

Thank goodness my old landlord left the little air conditioning unit that I had previously installed that a prior tenant had left behind, or we would have been in big trouble, because that apartment didn’t come with air conditioning. I had a POTS episode from being outside in the heat and humidity and trying to help Dad with loading the car. When I came back in for the final run, I was shaking badly and was nauseated, and couldn’t really answer my mom when she asked if I was okay. I had to get going though because Dad was still waiting outside for us, so I took a few seconds to change shirts and wipe the sweat off of my head and wig and reassemble myself, and away we went.

They dropped me at the curb to check in and get my wheelchair, and my nephews, aged 12 and 9, hugged me twice and cried. Well, we all cried. Then it was time to fight my way through Friday afternoon security. They didn’t give me the option to go through in the wheelchair so I had to walk and get a full pat down because the security scanner doesn’t like spandex. I finally got settled back in my wheelchair and since I was at my gate pretty early, I decided to read through my insurance documents.

Imagine my surprise when a few hours later, I glanced up and recognized the profile of a person who approached the podium to ask if she was at the correct gate. The exchange went something like this:
Her: “Excuse me, am I at the right gate? The flight time says 6:25, but this display says 6:45, so I don’t think I’m at the right gate.”
Employee: “Yes, you’re at the right gate. It’s still the same flight number and city. We’re just delayed by 20 minutes.”
Her: “Oh, okay. I just wasn’t sure because it totally wasn’t the right time.”
Employee: “It’s still the correct flight. You’ll make up some of the delay in the air going to Phoenix.”
Her: “Okay, I just wanted to be sure.”

I recognized her profile before her voice, but those questions were definitely typical. I have wondered over the decade that we have known each other how she has managed to safely leave her house sometimes. What made me instantly freeze and try to hide my half-paralyzed face with my hair was the fact that I had told her to go fuck herself just a few months earlier. Of all of the days I could have traveled and of all of the days she could have traveled, and of all of the cities she could have flown into and out of, and out of all of the airlines to choose from, this was the day and location she picked. Jesus fucking Christ.

When I visited Phoenix last October, I had made plans months in advance to stay with her a few days (because she is one of only a few friends who doesn’t have animals). However, a month before I visited, she became sick and told me not to call or text her. So I made plans NOT to stay with her. While I was there, I offered to visit for a few hours and wear a vogmask so I didn’t catch what she had – which by the way was a very nasty pneumonia that she didn’t immediately kick – and she turned me down. Then she sent me text messages telling me that I was a horrible friend for not staying with her, and “next time” she was going to just keep her personal business to herself. (Usually she saves that last bit for when someone gossips about her. I wasn’t gossiping. I just can’t stay with her because I was born with a compromised immune system, and now I’m on weekly injections that reduce it even further. Something like that could and would kill me.)

In May, she sent me messages saying that she knew I was moving down, and she wanted to know where and when. I hadn’t told her anything. She doesn’t know any of my other friends, save one whom she hasn’t talked to in years. I don’t know where the info came from, but at this point, I don’t care. It’s manipulative and it’s something that she does to feel superior. When I told her that I didn’t want to continue staying in touch because she was so shitty to me, she claimed she didn’t remember saying anything to me. Of course, I have it all in writing, so it’s not my imagination.

That mutual friend asked if I missed being friends with her. My answer? Only when I forget how bat shit crazy she is. I don’t like being manipulated. I told her to fix herself, and I stand by that. (Not that I’m perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I also don’t claim to have never told someone not to call or text me, and then told them they are a horrible friend for not calling or texting me.)

Now that I’m in Phoenix, I’m a little nervous about being disabled and not being able to get away quickly if I do encounter someone I would rather avoid. That one is a good example. Another one is the former friend who tried to force himself on a mutual friend, and told me that I was crying about my sister and my friend dying 10 days apart just for sympathy. And oh, the ex-boyfriends. One in particular is Drummer #2, who was also controlling, manipulative and violent. I’m almost certain he still lives 2 miles down the road from where I am temporarily staying.

I think this is a good year for purging and starting new. I got rid of a lot of old furniture. I’m going to sever relationships that are unhealthy as well, as sad as that is, especially with friends who have been attached for so long.

Now if I could just solve the mystery of when the stuff I am keeping is actually going to arrive on the moving truck…

Exhaling

April 10, 2015, was the last day I commuted home from a paying job. It was the last day I was on a dreaded conference call with a bunch of frustrated staff members. It was a Friday, and only three weeks into a contracting job after being laid off from a place where I had worked for over twelve years. I was already nervous about surviving because work had been interrupted by so many shunt surgeries prior to that time, but April 10th was the final straw.

I remember driving home during rush hour and having the familiar “lights out” sensation cloud my vision. I was only working about 8 miles from home, but since it was rush hour, it would take at least 45 minutes, and the darkness squeezed in almost right after I got behind the wheel. It took all my energy to focus on my lane and not crash into anyone else. I don’t even remember how I made it to the hospital after that, which was another 7 miles in the opposite direction. But I remember having to call my boss the next day to tell him that I would never be coming back in; they wouldn’t hold a short contract position indefinitely.

I wasn’t even sure my neurosurgeon would do surgery #10 in less than 4 years at that point. He had already said after #9 back in November that if I failed again, he was not willing to operate. But he did – sort of. He only did half of the surgery. And of course it failed. And then he sent me away, telling me I had to figure out what was the source of the problem, because he wasn’t going to continue doing something that was going to keep failing. It was all being put on me.

I did figure it out. It took me from 2010 to 2017 and 65 doctors to put all of the pieces together, not to mention the fact that I am one person, not even an entire lab or radiology department. I got zero support from the NIH’s Undiagnosed Diseases Network. The Minnesota Board of Health decided not to discipline 3 doctors (among many) who falsified information to get out of treating me. The Mayo Clinic banned me so I wouldn’t hurt their success statistics and change their #1 in the nation status in 21+ areas.

I lost everything: my car, my house, my ability to earn a livable wage, my confidence, my sense of security and self-worth, friendships, independence, and every last penny of my financial reserves. Thank goodness I already lost my hair over 15 years ago because if I had to go through that right now I’d absolutely lose my shit.

After filing three years ago, I finally had my disability hearing on Wednesday the 28th of March. I didn’t know what to expect. My attorney pulled me into a small conference room prior to the hearing and prepped me, telling me that if the judge asked me questions, to not take longer than 15-20 seconds to answer, and to speak up because he was older and may be hard of hearing. I was also told it may go as long as an hour.

But five minutes, and we were done. Long enough to read my name, and say that it was obvious I was disabled and not making anything up. The letters I asked Dr. Afrin and my current immunologist write for me were key for my case and noted in the judgment. The judge also specifically said that the way I was treated by the majority of the 65 doctors was appalling.

What’s next? I have to wait for Social Security to process the judge’s ruling, and then enter my info for payment, and like the Kool-Aid man, all you’ll see is my silhouette – I’m busting outta here. I gave Minnesota a fair shake for three years, but the fact that so many doctors lied in my medical records and refused to treat me has made my decision an easy one. I’ve decided to head back to Arizona where I will pick up again with 8 of the doctors I previously had; only a few will be switched out, including getting in with a neurologist who specializes in MCAS and Ehlers-Danlos. (Minnesota is a great place to be employed as a nurse, because they are paid relatively well, but it’s a horrible place to be a patient, and I’m far from being the only person who feels this way.)

I want to be clear about what this disability status means for me: 1) It doesn’t change any day-to-day abilities that I have. I still have to lay down and rest for the majority of my day, about 20 hours every day. 2) The actual status of disability is not permanent; I’ll be reviewed and my medical records will be combed through every few years by Social Security to make sure my health and abilities haven’t changed. 3) I still have to take the short bus everywhere, especially now since I’ll be making “too much” to get medical assistance (which is more than $0.00). 4) I still can’t get a motorized scooter – do you really want a half-blind person driving one of those??

My prediction is that this is all going to go down by the end of May, but I’m at the mercy of Social Security.

Did I Ask You?

One of my fellow rare disease/chronic illness warriors/sufferers posted a thread on Twitter tonight. She’s quite well known because her condition is very unusual and obvious, but she doesn’t shy away from the camera or public speaking engagements. Her post tonight detailed an eye doctor visit that was made all the more difficult because 1) The eye doctor googled her condition rather than talking to her directly about it – and she is a much more knowledgeable source than Google; 2) The eye doctor left the light shining in her retina while he took a personal call, after finding out that she is extremely light sensitive because of her condition. 

Her post had to do with the appalling way that she was treated. As each of us who have chronic and rare diseases either have done or would like to do, she had some choice words for the doctors following her as pointers on how NOT to treat rare disease patients. At no point did she ever say, “Gosh, I have no idea what to do. I don’t know who to talk to about this or how to go through the proper channels [in Australia] to file a complaint.” There wouldn’t be any reason for her to do that. She’s lived with this condition all of her life and she is actually a very vocal and active advocate.

But of course, there’s some asshole who decided to announce that she should file a complaint. 

No. Shit. Since the original poster wrapped up the thread by saying that she confronted the doctor and quite forcefully said that the rare disease patient is the best source, and a light sensitive patient shouldn’t be left in front of the light scope while a personal call is taken, and she would be following up with the office, and she just looked forward to trying to relax after being in a lot of pain, I responded. I said, “It’s okay – she knows how to handle bad appointments. She’s had this condition her whole life. She’s an advocate and speaks out often.” In other words, go fuck yourself.

Also recently, a young woman ended up in respiratory failure and was in a medically induced coma and on a respirator. She lost days of her life. When I say young, I mean young. Her significant other has been updating us and has been an absolute rock, but they are both scared and worried and facing big changes. Wouldn’t you know it, in the middle of the updates, I see something about, “Can you guys not offer advice, please?” She’s also a rare disease patient with some of the same stuff I have, but some is different, and I know some asshole is telling her that she needs to do yoga or chew on bark and vitamins from the Himalayas or something. So to whomever is sending her unsolicited advice, fuck you too.

Why does this get me so worked up? I was always a sick kid who grew up to be a sick adult. I became really sick in 2010 and it has been a mystery that has been mine alone to solve; no one has traveled with me to see 65 doctors, or see me through all 10 surgeries. There have been a few people who have helped to fill in some gaps, but they have been sparse. I know what I’m doing. I am educating doctors and nurses and physical therapists as I go along. I teach people how to maneuver through insurance. I help people search for doctors – even when there’s a few thousand miles between us.

I have never said I don’t know what to do, I don’t know who to call, I don’t know where to look, I don’t know where to go, I don’t know what to eat, I don’t know what to take, I don’t know what I like, I don’t know what’s best for me. And though I am currently well below my natural quota of 8 doctors, I know how to care for myself.

The next person who says, “Oh, it must be the acidity” after I tell them I can’t eat pineapple because I’m allergic to it, I’m going to throat punch them. Fuck them too. And fuck anyone who gives me unsolicited advice. I’m so over it and you have been warned. This video is much nicer about it, of course.

Save The Date

Statistically, Minnesota is one of the worst or the worst state in the U.S. when it comes to wait times for disability processing. I didn’t know this when I relocated from Arizona to Minnesota to try to figure out what was going on with my body. This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune states the average wait time is around 570 days from filing to have a judicial review. I just got confirmation that my hearing is set for March 28th, which will put me at about 770 days of filing the appeal (and almost 3 years to the day of filing the initial claim of disability). The back log just keeps getting worse.

I’m not sure I would have done this any other way. As horrible as it has been with trying to get doctors to take care of me in Minnesota, I did finally get three diagnoses that I have been missing for years in addition to what I already knew. I forget what my count was when I entered the state, but I’ve seen 64 doctors since July of 2010. This has not been an easy process. There is no clear path.

Thankfully my allergist has already agreed to fill out paperwork for my hearing, and my counselor has as well. I will be meeting with my primary care doctor and pain doctor next month to ask the same from them. I’ve been rejected by every neurologist and neurosurgeon in the area as well as banned in writing by the Mayo, and I can’t go out of state because I’m on Medicaid so it’s not allowed, so I’m not quite sure how that is going to be looked upon by the judge. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about that.

One incredible resource I wish I had stumbled upon before I started this process but am eternally grateful for is the blog How To Get On. There are sooooooooo many links/ideas/resources/testimonials that it sometimes boggles my mind, and I really can’t imagine how many man hours it took her to put it together. It’s unfortunate that the author sometimes gets reported and blocked by Facebook for either posting “too much” (seriously??) or for questionable posts (again – say what??), so we have to keep it circulating so as many people as possible benefit from its content.

Ring Around The Rosie

I don’t know if you knew this, but the old nursery rhyme “Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!” is about the black plague.

Or, actually, it isn’t, according to Snopes.

I think about it this time of year, while I maneuver my way through hoards of people who don’t cover their mouths when they cough, or if they do, they immediately touch the door handle I was just reaching for. The Plague. Everyone is just waiting to infect me, I know it.

I’ve been having a hell of a time just getting a flu shot. Until two years ago, I never got one. Then they started making an egg-free version, meaning they didn’t grow them in an egg base as the very cheap food source. Now they also make the shot preservative free. It’s the holy grail for me since I’m allergic to raw eggs AND preservatives. However, my PCP’s office won’t order it for me. They insisted I call my insurance company, but the insurance company told me they couldn’t tell how it would be billed (as in, would there be a special code for an egg-free and preservative-free flu shot?), so I’m supposed to get the code from the doctor’s office. The PCP’s office doesn’t know how to bill for the shot unless the insurance company knows how it should be submitted, otherwise I’ll have to pay out of pocket. So…………

Scratch all that. I just talked to Walgreen’s, and they have an egg-free, preservative-free flu shot on hand, and I just have to show proof of my medical assistance. So guess who’s getting a flu shot from Walgreen’s?

This is the reason why not having preservatives is a big deal.

I’ve been giving myself Humira injections since August 30th to combat hidradenitis suppurativa outbreaks that I’ve been experiencing for about the last 8 years. It’s another autoimmune disease that up to around 2 years ago, not much was known about. I’m not going to spill all here, but trust me when I say that it’s super, SUPER painful. And doctors were cutting infections out of me, but because of mast cell activation syndrome, the lidocaine they were using wasn’t numbing me, so I would feel every slice. Before the HS was diagnosed, all of the doctors didn’t understand why I was getting the infections, and they thought that it was something that I was doing wrong – not bathing properly (HA!), wearing the wrong clothing (HA!), shaving inappropriately (because I don’t grow hair – ???? – HA!).

The treatments for HS include getting monthly injections of steroids in the normally infected areas – which I don’t know anyone who would go for that – or using oral and topical antibiotics, which I’m allergic to. The last resort is Humira.

The bitch of it is that I’m also allergic to the Humira shots. On August 30th I did the first loading dose of 4 shots. I didn’t have a reaction until 10 days after that, so it took me a while to catch on, and the reaction showed up only on my legs and not my stomach.

So I thought, okay, there was no reaction to the two shots in my abdomen. I’ll just get my abdomen with the next two shots. Besides, doing the injections in my legs hurt like a bitch. But then:
20170915_190958(Keep in mind I never show my stomach to anyone. The zipper scar you see running from my belly button is the extra large cut my neurosurgeon had to do on 12/21/13 when he didn’t have anyone assisting him on that surgery, which is the one where he finally saw my abdomen with his own eyes and remarked how it looked like a war zone inside and acknowledged my allergy to the shunt.)

So these two welts showed up the same day as the injection, and hung around until the Monday after – about 5 days. After the itching stops the welts turn into huge bruises.

I called the manufacturers of Humira to report my reaction. I knew immediately what the problem was before I even called. They make the shot shelf-stable for up to 14 days so that if you have to travel or lose power, you can still use it without it needing a refrigerator. Conclusion: preservatives. Specifically, there are 8 of them in the medication. When I talked to the company, they said the FDA approved them ONLY to make the formula with the 8 preservatives. It’s possible they might release a formula with only 2 preservatives in 2018, but they are still waiting for the final approval from the FDA. They cannot allow me to take another form of Humira with less preservatives because it’s only approved for use in the U.S. with the 8 preservatives.

I have to stay on it. If I go off of it, it immediately loses its effectiveness by 20-30% for the rest of my life within the first 2 weeks of discontinuing it.

Humira does lower my immune response. I’m already compromised because of my non-existent IgG3 and IgG4, so I have to be extra cautious. I’ve noticed that I’m much more fatigued than normal while I’m on this juice. The maid doesn’t get a whole lot done these days, know what I’m sayin’?

Usually my stomach doesn’t see the light of day unless it’s the surgeon operating on me (you can see another horizontal scar on the right pic above), but this is the reality of the mast cell disease. If you don’t know me and you see me clawing at my belly in public, now you understand why. I really do want to rip my skin off.

Two days ago I woke up for another appointment and my entire upper half was covered in hives. In this pic you can also see the shunt protruding because of all of the scar tissue that is growing around it. The rate it’s growing is highly unusual; the doctors are seeing in 3 weeks what they would normally see in 20 years. But I have no freaking idea why I woke up with the hives because nothing in my routine has changed as far as I know:
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One thing that ended up on my good list is that I discovered that I’m not allergic to potato chips! Some of the other MCAS patients were discussing them in a group and so I took a chance and snuck some at a party – plain, salted – and didn’t develop hives, and didn’t lose the inside lining of my mouth or develop sores. The other crazy upside is that because I have POTS, I’m also encouraged to eat higher quantities of sodium so my blood pressure doesn’t dip too low. So, people, I am rediscovering Ruffles! I haven’t had them for decades! But they have to be strictly plain/salted, no other flavors including vinegar. It’s a nice change from the 8 foods I’ve been stuck with.

Send Up The Flares

It has been a really long time since I’ve logged into my FetLife profile. I didn’t realize it, but I had three messages waiting for me – one from about two months ago, another from four months ago, and the third from a full year prior. The one from a year ago I let slide. I mean, I did put in my profile that I don’t log on and that I’m going through a health crisis, and I can’t “play” in any way, shape or form. I did make a small adjustment to my profile, which alerted my friends and RELEASED THE KRACKEN.

One former spank party friend wished me well and told me that he had heard I moved to California. I replied that that wasn’t the case, I’m actually in Minnesota, taking care of some serious stuff. Then the guy who sent me a message four months ago hit me up again, this time with his instant message name and phone number. I replied that I was not looking to do ANYTHING, but that didn’t deter him; he said he would be willing to “give me a massage if I needed it.” Um, right, do bedridden women usually fall for that?

Then another guy whom I’ve played with at spank parties in Arizona hit me up to let me know he was actually currently in my city for work, and was I interested in getting together for a session? I groaned. This guy…he’s very, very, VERY focused on his kink. I like to have fun. It’s not the be-all, end-all thing for me. He carries a backpack with all of his tools. He actually has two pictures of me (not showing my face, only my red ass) on his profile. He’s totally into role playing, having me stand in the corner, punishment, the whole bit.

So I turned him down, because there is no fucking way I can do anything, including hang upside down, or put my stomach over his knees. The thought makes me cringe. I would be walking like a cat just getting out of anesthesia. And it would be painful, and not in a good way. So he asked me if I could be his chat buddy while he’s traveling for work: talk to him about discipline, spanking, corner time, paddling, etc. I’m rolling this around in my head, and first of all, this requires research. And time. And creativity. Probably some motherfucking Skype. A hairbrush (because wouldn’t you know it, I’m bald). It’s all I can do to peel myself out of bed to make food for dinner every day, and this guy wants me to put a lot of effort into keeping him happy and satisfied.

It takes a lot of effort to turn him down and I know I’m going to have to repeat myself. It’s not my first time. And there it is: “I’m traveling a lot and I don’t get the opportunity to do what I need to do.” So I have to drive it home for him: I’ve got serious stuff going on, I’ve got scar tissue in my brain and I have to lay flat 20-22 hours every day, I’m in pain, I can’t get another operation right now. His reply: “Okay, just know that you’re missed.” BTW, he has a wife and two little children at home. She knows about his kink and his attendance at the spank parties; I don’t know what else she knows because the travel job is news to me – but then again, we were never close.

This is also not the first time I’ve had to turn him down since I started having shunt failures. His kink always comes first. It’s fucking exhausting, man. But if y’all are interested in a pen pal, hit me up.

In other news, for about three weeks I’ve been dealing with persistent hives on a daily basis. I wasn’t quite sure what to do because of losing my rare disease doctor. However, I received a message from him this morning indicating that he put a script through to the compounding pharmacy for me that will (hopefully) help with my hives as a sort of last hurrah while I try to find another doctor. I also got the names of two doctors in the area who would be willing to communicate with him. The problem is that one is old as dirt and so probably won’t be practicing much longer, and the other one isn’t much younger and has a bad reputation for being a raging bitch. I need to sacrifice a chicken and do a dance around a fire or something.

Also today, I received a call back from the neurosurgeon’s office whom I originally saw two years ago when I relocated here from Phoenix. I called him as a last-ditch effort to try to be seen by him or someone else in the practice and get away from my current neurologist. She has been telling me that I don’t understand my symptoms – kind of along the same lines of telling me that even though I stubbed my toe, it’s really my nose that is hurting, ridiculous like that. So this neurosurgeon was kind enough to order a repeat lumbar puncture, which I’ve been begging for since December 2016. The lumbar puncture he ordered is “high volume,” meaning they will take at least four vials of cerebrospinal fluid. They will measure the opening pressure (like you would when you check the pressure on your vehicle’s tires) and then they will send the vials of fluid for testing of the proteins and check for bacteria. Getting this done will also relieve my symptoms for a few hours. He also agreed with me on my choice of neurologists within his group. 

My current neurologist’s justification for not ordering a current LP is this: Usually slit ventricles means that you are overdraining. I pointed out to her that my shunt failed 17 days after surgery in 2015 so I’ve got high pressure, and she witnessed my shunt opening up for about 30 seconds during my last appointment, and my paralysis went away, then came back. Then we read scientific journal articles together about adults with slit ventricles and shunt failures and symptoms. Then she said it only happened to some adults. I asked her why I couldn’t be included in that “some.” She told me it didn’t count because I wasn’t throwing up, I was only nauseated.

Fuck that. Spinal tap, here I come. 

We’re Breaking Up

“There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”

Are there, though? I want someone who really listens to me and understands where I’m coming from, who sees me for who I am and not who they think they would like me to be. I’m sure they wish I would lose a little weight, or dress a little better. Maybe they wish I would talk about something else besides always going back to my rare disease. But I can’t, because it rules my life.

I’m talking about my doctors, of course. They keep breaking up with me – or at least, it feels like it. And this is incredibly difficult as a rare disease patient.

The first one to jump ship was my primary care doctor. To be honest, I was a little relieved. I had had a difficult time landing her in the first place – other doctors writing things in my records such as “Munchausen’s” – but most recently she had told me to stop looking for a solution and to just accept it, and that there probably wasn’t anything really wrong with me. She had seen my MRI and claimed that she didn’t know enough about the brain to make a judgement call about what she was looking at, but JFC, even I could see that if all of the big, cavernous spaces are gone and the corpus callosum looks like Charlie Brown’s hair swirl, there’s a problem. Anyway, hers was the first letter to arrive on the University’s letterhead.

The second was my pain doctor. I knew about his desertion ahead of time because we talked about it during my last visit with him. He worked it out so I can remain his patient at his next office. HOORAY. I don’t have to train in another doctor. I like him. We have mutual respect. But I still got his letter on the University’s letterhead and an official-sounding offer to continue my care there with someone else, if I wanted. (No, thanks.)

The third one was my mast cell disease doctor. This one is actually extremely devastating. I felt quite lucky to have found him and to have gotten my diagnosis, and then to have been under his care for about a year. The problem with this disease is that it was only named about nine years ago, and so not much is known about it. I probably fit into a different subcategory from a lot of people because my CSF and dura have been affected.

The mast cell disease doctor is relocating from Minneapolis to New York. His goal is to further his research; he will make himself available to any doctors who reach out to him with questions. He will also see patients on a cash-only basis: $2,000 each for the first two visits, then $650 for each visit after that. 

I can understand why the mast cell disease doctor would want this type of arrangement. He would not be at the mercy of insurance companies. He could run his office and research with full autonomy and receive complete compensation for his time, rather than having to negotiate contracts. And he’s not a young guy; I’m sure he’d like to reduce his own stress in the gloaming of his years.

Specifically, these are my barriers: 1) I’m on Medicaid, so I’m unable to go outside of the state of Minnesota. I’ve tried many times, and each time, the petitions have been turned down. It doesn’t matter how rare my disease is. 2) I can’t find local doctors willing to take me as a patient. Believe me, I have tried. I’ve sent them info ahead of time (per their request), I’ve gone in without giving them any hint, I’ve brought all of my records with me, I’ve bargained with them, I’ve promised not to be a nuisance, I’ve answered all of their questions…bitch, please. Any way that you can think of to convince someone to become your partner, I’ve done it. 3) I don’t have any way to save up money. My earning power is gone – it’s not like I can go to work and take my bed with me so I can keep the pressure off of my brain. I’m using up every last bit of my savings for living expenses while I wait for my disability hearing, which I believe will be in the next six months, so that’s three years guaranteed without a cent of income.

What happens if I don’t receive care? Well, it’s going to get ugly. My chest, arms and face have been covered in hives for the past month. I was supposed to get another prescription last week, but that was abruptly dropped mid-process. This is a crazy disease. Other patients constantly go into anaphylactic shock. I haven’t gotten to that point, though I sometimes have sudden shortness of breath, or lose my voice because my throat becomes suddenly raw. Unfortunately, for me the allergies continue to get worse and stranger, also a common factor in this disease. I won’t even go into the brain stuff, except to say that I know it’s being strangled too.

I can’t adequately describe what it’s like to have a rare disease to people who don’t have one, especially when it comes to finding medical care. I’ve had a fibromyalgia diagnosis since I was 23, and those of you who have chronic illness may have an inkling, but this is a completely different ballgame. I got a diagnosis last fall but have been sick since birth (and I’m 43 now). I only figured out a month ago myself – MYSELF – why I needed 10 shunt surgeries. There are no other documented cases like mine.

If I can put this in perspective, imagine that your child is one in a dozen in the world who has Progeria – the disease that makes children age prematurely, so that they look elderly as infants and young children (and they come with a plethora of underlying maladies). And imagine that there is only one doctor in the world who is an expert, so every child with that disease is going to that doctor. One day, that doctor is killed in a motor vehicle accident. Then there is no one else to treat those children.

That’s what it feels like right now to have my mast cell disease doctor break up with me. The disease affects more than a dozen people, but to actually find doctors who can and will treat me is impossible. I think it would be easier to ask a man to have a baby naturally. 

Back To Life, Back To Reality

I had the pleasure of planning my arts high school’s 25th reunion for my classmates. It’s difficult to explain, but our school was unlike any other that most people have attended. It’s a public school and we came from all over the state of Minnesota, we had to audition or submit portfolios as well as letters of recommendation, we lived on campus like a college, and we created life-long friendships (most of us). I’m not saying it was without flaws. But going to college was a complete let-down because we already did it all, and our skills were senior level when we went to our respective schools post-high school.

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The reunion officially lasted nine hours. We started with performances, some dancing, I handed out random door prizes (which included ramen, Pop Tarts or macaroni and cheese plus sticks of margarine but NOT milk – because we never had milk; also Nerf guns, and cassette tapes such as Crash Test Dummies, The Sundays, REM, M.C. Hammer, Bullet Boys, anything that would have been released by 1992). Then we headed over to a pub that served microbrews and sausages where whomever couldn’t make it to the portion at school hung out with us there. We were officially done at 10 pm, but some people wanted to keep partying, so they went back to one couple’s hotel room and kept it going until 4 am. I didn’t – I was toast.

(By the way, the picture with the classmates trying to pull open the doors is something I didn’t find out about until later. They were giving themselves a tour, not realizing that they locked themselves in an area and they would have to wait for someone to randomly walk by and let them out.)

Our turnout was excellent. My classmates are literally scattered around the U.S. and the globe. I haven’t lived in Minnesota for 20 years and would have been counted as an out-of-towner if I hadn’t been forced to move back because of my circumstances. I know that I have classmates in Sweden, South Africa, the UK and France for sure, but I’m also sure that I’m missing some places. So to have this many show up is considered a small victory. And everyone was helpful, mostly sober and didn’t want to leave.

When I was attending school here, my major was theater (located directly to the right of the dancing space where everyone is slapping hands and their shoes are off). I discovered there that I had a natural affinity for organization and detail. So that was the reason that I gave everyone for wanting to organize the 25th reunion.

But I had an ulterior motive.  Two years ago, and even continuing through to today, a lot of the classmates that traveled back for the reunion (either by driving or flying) have helped me. When I relocated from Phoenix to St. Paul, they contributed to a fund. Sometimes they organize and send me gifts. A lot of them have their own hardships to worry about, so I appreciate their contributions even more for that reason. So the fact that I could work out every damn detail for them and all they had to do is show up was great – and even better that they all had a really great time and didn’t want to leave. 

Unfortunately, I did have to ask for some work from a few of them, but being the wonderful people that they are, they stepped up and said of course, and blew the rest of us away. The school was under great scrutiny and was nearly closed, and I had gone to all of the state senators and representatives, asking them to come to about an hour and a half of our reunion to meet us to see what had become of one of the first graduating classes from this school. One of the representatives, Mike Freiberg, happened to be a classically trained pianist and agreed to accompany our opera singer – and wow! It was fantastic! In all, we had two writers, a violinist, an opera singer, and a dance instructor.

Pictured below is an example of many of the lockers – students are allowed to paint them however they choose. Also, the woman in the phone booth is one of the readers from the performances. The phone booth is an infamous one; it was down the road from us and is from before the advent of cell phones, and we all used to walk down the road to use it when we wanted privacy. 


So for the week after the reunion, I stayed in bed. It was totally worth it. I love these people. Some of them I’m lucky enough to see frequently, and some I suppose I’ll have to wait another 25 years to see, but we know we had a unique experience and kinda feel sorry for people who had to drag through regular schools. We had a completely amazing experience for our junior and senior years.

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Today, I had a doctor’s appointment for an outpatient surgical procedure. I’m not going to go into detail for what it was. I was just dreading it. So I got the usual notification from the cab company that the driver was on his way, and then I got a notification that he was outside. So I went out. He wasn’t out there. Sometimes it happens that the notification comes about 60 seconds before the cab. I wasn’t alarmed.

However, after waiting for about 12 minutes, the cab still didn’t show. Today the temp was 91 degrees Farenheit, and Minnesota is humid this time of year. Also a problem: My high-rent building’s front door was vandalized, so I can’t actually get in with my key. If I want to enter the building, I have to walk around to the back, which is the equivalent of walking the length of a city block because the spaces between the buildings are fenced and locked off. I also had no idea when this cab was going to show. So I called the cab company.

They claimed he was five minutes away. I have a GPS tracking map and he hadn’t moved. I explained that the heat makes my condition worse. I also can’t go back inside because I can’t go in the front. They told me to just wait. This is what happens to me because the cerebrospinal fluid builds up in my cranium because my shunt hasn’t worked for two years:

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Many times my facial droop has been mistaken for myasthenia gravis. I can assure you that I do not have that. I can actually slosh my CSF around, and when I tilt my head parallel to the floor, the paralysis goes away within seconds. Also, my face is not swollen. The muscles on the left have relaxed because they are paralyzed.

I was actually stuck out in the heat for a total of 35 minutes. When the driver finally got there, he first tried to force me to cross the road to him. I can’t see very well like this – this is as far as my eyes will open. When he finally came to my side of the road, he parked up the street so I had to walk to him, even though there were spots open in front of me. When I got in the car, I asked him to turn on the air conditioning. He told me I had to wait until he “got going.”

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When he finally did turn on the a/c, it was at the lowest setting to spite me. I had to tip over in the back seat to take the pressure off of my head, which at that point was absolutely unbearable.

When I got to my appointment, they took me back to the exam room and got me on the table. However, I wasn’t doing so well. The nurse and the PA both said I looked grey and the PA reclined the table while the nurse ran to get me some sugary drink. I whipped off my wig and they slapped wet cloths on my neck and head. I could tell my pulse was all over the place, but I knew this wasn’t a blood sugar problem – those feel completely different to me. [I am getting checked for POTS next month.] When I got up from the table, I saw that I had completely soaked through the paper with my sweat, which was disgusting, but they said it was an obvious sign that I was in distress. We made sure everything had returned to normal and we got on with it.

I absolutely wrote up a complaint to the cab company, with details and times. They have a contract with my insurance company, and if this driver can’t handle medical rides, he shouldn’t get them. Period.