On Love and Loss

“The Anatomy Bequest Program at the University of Minnesota is is a whole body donation program.” As my family found out on Tuesday night, it is also the largest in the world of its kind. http://www.med.umn.edu/research/anatomy-bequest-program

I have always grappled with organ donation – but only because I’m not able to, ever. I want to. But thanks to all of this autoimmune stuff swimming around in me, and my eyes being damaged from the pressure being placed on my brain from this mystery disease, there isn’t any part of me that is safe to transplant into another person. This anatomy bequest program seems like the next best option. I envision baffling some of the medical students with my weird disease – or maybe they open me up and immediately figure out what the problem was, and it was nothing that could have been detected with scans. My brain will be sliced and sectioned and labeled for its “A-ha” moment, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

I sat with my sister and her little family, and we knew our brother-in-law and another family member were somewhere in the audience. We were in an auditorium on the U of MN campus to watch a show put on by students and staff as a thank you to the family members of the people who had passed and donated their bodies at death. I knew it was going to be a tough night. I could feel the sadness rolling off of the people around me and I immediately started choking up. I had tears during the first performance, a pianist playing a Debussy piece. A little of the tension was relieved when it was announced that a trio was going to perform a Lynyrd Skynyrd song and an old hippie in the section next to me let out a gruff and enthusiastic “All right!”

The performers took a break and a slide show began. Each donor was being shown in pictures chosen by their spouses or families, with Joni Mitchell’s version of “Both Sides Now” playing. I knew our sister was going to be there on the screen very early on alphabetically and the tears came again. After her time in front of the crowd, I just closed my eyes for a while. People around me were sobbing quietly. I have no idea how recent their loss was, but it really doesn’t matter, because we were all there for the same reason. We loved our people.

The performances continued after the slides made it through the L’s; one poetry reader encouraged us to hold hands with the people next to us while she read her poem about hands. I could feel my older sister and I freeze at the same time, uncomfortable with the suggestion. I leaned over to my sister and whispered, “I’m good.” We weren’t the hand-holding types.

After more performances, the slides continued with the rest of the donors. I’m not sure when it started, but as each picture was displayed, these little groups of people would clap when their person was shown. Some whooped a little; one woman yelled out, “We love you, mom!” There was more sniffling and sobbing, more tears. My sister and I were surprised to see a former classmate’s picture at one point – she had died only about 2.5 months prior from breast cancer. I imagined that her parents were somewhere in the mass of people, also proud and incredibly sad.

It turns out that our brother-in-law was just in the next section and so after the auditorium started emptying, he came over to us. He has always been a jokester, so it was especially heartbreaking to see him openly crying. He apologized when he hugged me, which is what we all do when we think we have to hide our pain. He is the one I worry about the most. He is now alone in his big house, a home that has so much of our sister still in it. She had MS and was confined to a wheelchair for most of their marriage, and the house was modified to accommodate a wheelchair and scooter. He cared for her, turned her, carried her when she needed help getting to the bathroom. They were each others’ best friends. He couldn’t even take much time off from work to mourn her because he had used up all of his allotted time to make sure she was comfortable in her last two months while cancer took over.

I know our brother-in-law mourns deeply. I am having a hard time finishing this post because the grief keeps crashing into me in waves, and I have no doubt that he feels it more than any of us. My singular wish for him is that he will be able to find someone to love again when the time is right. I don’t like the idea of him holding onto the memory of our sister for the rest of his life and turning away from another great love, and I don’t think that is what she would want for him either.

I am grateful to the U of MN for having this program that allowed us to come together and celebrate the giving and joyful heart of our oldest sister.

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Paper Doll

Warning: Read at your own risk. Adult situations discussed.

Okay, so we know about Mr. Friday Night and his toe and pantyhose fetish. I did him a solid and dressed up and painted my toenails to his specifications. It wasn’t that big of a deal as far as fetishes go – not like he asked me to shear a sheep so we could screw on some real lambswool.

Another guy on OKCupid caught my eye. I was actually looking forward to chatting with him because according to the algorithm, we answered over 90% of our questions the same (or similar enough). His profile had enough funny stuff to show that he had a good sense of humor, and we had a love of the arts, board games and museums in common. Pretty promising, right? So I struck up a conversation with him, and during the course of chatting, I discovered he was a brass player. I’m going to christen him Gabriel.

Gabriel wasn’t very forthcoming with info about himself when I would ask him open-ended questions. He would give me one or two-word answers, or it would take him a long time to answer. Then he started dipping his toe into the sex pond, and he couldn’t stop talking.

At first Gabriel wanted to know if I liked to cuddle, and I answered yes. Then he started asking me about my favorite sexual acts. I informed him that I had a FetLife page and he revealed to me that he did as well, so we checked out each others’ pages. Gabriel then confessed to me that he wasn’t really single, like his profile said – he was separated, and he claimed that he was living with his parents and his wife and kids were living in the house. However, he assured me that there was no going back and that divorce was a sure thing. We talked more about our likes and dislikes, and Gabriel admitted that he had only been intimate with three women. My number is nowhere near his – I mean, I have never been married, and for the majority of my adulthood I haven’t been in a relationship. We had a chat about STDs.

Eventually we worked out a date night. At first it was on the premise of cuddling and a movie. Then it evolved into him asking if we could do certain things. Gabriel also specified what he would like me to wear – which included a skirt, pantyhose and heels. Luckily for him I had gotten two pairs of pantyhose because of Mr. Friday Night, so I could accommodate that request. I told Gabriel that if his penis was going anywhere near me, he had to tell me his last name.

The first time we got together was very nice. We did cuddle, and we both got some action. He reminded me a lot of the guy who plays Kelly Severide on the show “Chicago Fire,” though a bit beefier. When we were done messing around, we laid in bed and laughed and talked, and Gabriel did his impression of Christopher Cross/Michael McDonald/Peter Cetera, which he admitted sounded like the same guy. We discussed his frustration at not being able to find a job that matched his degree, and I offered to put some feelers out with my friends. It’s just the sort of exchange you’d expect with friends with benefits, which is what I assumed this would be, since I couldn’t go on real dates with him.

The second time he came over, Gabriel asked if I could do some very specific things he wanted to try that he had listed on his Fet page. I will just be clear and say that it was stuff he wanted me to do to him, not with him. Gabriel also asked me if I could wear a specific undergarment, and since I had it in my possession already, I obliged. He asked me if I would ever try some of the things that he wanted to, including three-or-moresomes and anal sex, and I told him I had tried them – many times – and I wouldn’t do them anymore. First, I’m not attracted to women. Second, my health problems extend to my bowels and anal sex is painful. So keep in mind that this conversation about my hard limits happened face to face. Gabriel left after what he wanted to happen happened. I gave him a smooch and told him it was okay, he’d get me the next time.

Between the second and third dates, we chatted via text a few times, but it was only late at night, and he would only talk about sex. Gabriel would ask things like, “Do you ever just walk around your apartment naked for no reason?” I told him no, it was never for no reason – usually I was changing clothes or hopping in the shower. Then he would ask me if I was playing with myself. I get weary of being asked the same questions every time a guy talks to me, so I stopped playing along – I didn’t pretend that I was doing that just to make him happy. I even reminded him a couple of times that I was a whole person, not just interested in sexual acts. I mean, for Pete’s sake, we had a lot of common interests.

For our third get-together I didn’t have to wear any specific clothing, thank goodness. We messed around (no p-in-the-v, but honestly, that’s not the only sex act as far as I am concerned), and had another talk about my hard limits. Gabriel said that the next time he came over, he thought it would be nice to just watch a movie, and I agreed.

Gabriel’s texts became further spaced out; sometimes I would send him a quick note to joke about something that popped up in the news that we had discussed. He would only text me to ask me if I was playing with myself. Then he started only asking me one word at a time: “Anal?” “FFM?” “Swallow?” My tolerance level is pretty low, especially if I have to repeat myself. I know what guys think, which is that if they ask the same question enough times, eventually they will wear us women down into agreeing to do stuff. After I said no, Gabriel had the balls to tell me that maybe I would like that stuff if I tried it – as if our numbers were reversed and I had had three partners, and he had…not three.

I finally texted him back to say, “Look, I have tried what you have listed, and I’m not going to do it.” Then I told him, “I feel like we get along well enough, but now you’re listing stuff that we have talked about that I’ve already told you that I am not interested in revisiting. I don’t want to hold you back if you want to find someone to help you check these things off your list.” Gabriel hates anything that is not “Minnesota Nice,” meaning he would have preferred me to agree to do these things to fulfill his porn-driven fantasies, or to lie to him and tell him that I would do them eventually. So Gabriel has cut off all communication to me.

My prediction for Gabriel: He and his wife are going to resume their marriage “for the sake of the kids” after he has checked everything off his list. And they’re going to hate each other.

I have been chatting with another guy from OKCupid who had actually hit me up on FetLife first. Here’s the kicker: he has a foot fetish too. So one of the first things he asked me to wear if we met is a skirt, pantyhose and heels.

My only conclusion I can come to is the reason these poor, deprived men in Minnesota crave heels and pantyhose is because it’s thirty below zero all of the time and it’s not safe to walk in heels in snow and ice. Snow boots are decidedly less sexy.

Please enjoy this song by one of my favorite singers, Rachael Yamagata. Every time a man asks me to dress up to his specifications, I feel like a paper doll.

Netflix ‘n Chill

Minnesota is a pretty great state to live in right now. There’s lots of resources – especially in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area – and a push towards smarter and greener living. Unemployment is super low. I have forgotten what it’s like to be around nicer people (rather than worrying about being shanked), so I find myself thinking often, “Wow, that person is so nice!” Don’t worry, I know about “Minnesota Nice” – but usually I’m on the giving end of it, not the receiving end. On paper, it would appear that I wouldn’t have any trouble at all finding a match, because there are a good number of people with shared values.

However, I’m that person. I can’t go out on dates. I can’t join someone for a bike ride and a hike. I can’t say that I have to work until 6 pm, and then can we meet up for dinner later? I can’t go out on multiple dates with someone and then decide he’s not a match for me, and never have him know where I’m living in case he turns out to be stranger danger.

My only option left, really, is to tell dates they can come over to my place to, you know, watch Netflix and chill. Except every one of them thinks that I want to bang. I don’t!! It looks bad, I know. My apartment is a studio so the couch I have for visitors is in very close proximity to my queen-sized bed, so even if I told a date that I didn’t want to have sex, THERE IS MY BED, calling like a siren song.

I want to go out with men who are active and enjoy movies, wine tastings, art festivals, live theater and traveling, but those are the ones that do a crab crawl backwards away from me. Instead, I get messages on OKCupid from guys like Alex (age 28), who wrote two sentences to me, didn’t answer any of my questions, and then a week later said, “Hey, how about after work we have a lazy evening on the couch and watch shows?” I said, “You mean, ‘Netflix and chill?'” He said, “Does it sound better if I say that?” and I said, “No. I’m not interested in sextracurricular activities.”

On the flip side, someone whose junk has been up close and personal texted me a hello and asked what I was up to, then said that watching a movie sounded really nice. I asked if that was code for Netflix ‘n chill, and he said, no, he really did want to veg out and watch a movie. See? Sometimes men can act like normal human beings and not try to hump everything in sight. I’m guessing we have to put you on a 60+-hour-workweek first, though.

So, anyone wanna come over for Netflix ‘n chill, but not?

How Now, Brown Cow?

I saw my 42nd doctor today. I always start my introduction off the same way for everyone: “So, are you up for a challenge?” I get the same reaction every time, like there is no way I have something they haven’t seen yet. I feel their need to pat me on the head and tell me I’m being cute, and they’re waiting to smirk and say, “Oh, it’s just a migraine, sweetie.” But then they start to sputter, or stutter, or ask me the same question six or seven times. Then they leave the room. Then they come back in (as if they haven’t just gone into their office and said “Fuck” a few times, noiselessly, before putting on their game face and walking purposefully back into the exam room). This doctor was no different.

He said, “I just don’t know what you have. I have never seen this before, but you know, I’m just a neurologist. I wouldn’t know what to do with you.” I said, “Study me.” He said, “I wouldn’t know what to study.” I said, “But these are neurological issues. Someone has to be willing to think outside of the box, like keeping me upright for scans instead of laying down.” He said, “But I don’t know how to help you. I think you should go back to the neurosurgeons.” I said, “Okay, can you talk the neurosurgeons at the U of M into taking my case?” (He is, after all, a University of Minnesota neurologist.)

He said, “I’ll just send them a referral like normal.” But this isn’t normal. None of this is normal. I wish that I could make my surprised face now (even if it’s an act), but, you know, my face is half paralyzed. I really had to fight the urge to have my medical transport person make a pit stop at a bakery so I can buy a chocolate cake to put my whole face into in the privacy of my apartment. I’m past crying about it. It’s just exhausting. How am I supposed to carry on without even a small glimmer of hope? The doctors tell me not to give up. That means “fight,” right? But they don’t want me to fight with them, just the ever-elusive “someone else.” I often wonder what they would do if they were me.

Today wasn’t a total loss, though. My sister and I went to see a dermatologist at the same time early in the morning and then made a pit stop at her place to pick up her two dogs before she went to work, and as usual, the smaller female managed to get loose and run free. She’s some sort of terrier mix with short, wiry hair and sweet brown eyes that my sister and her husband got the day I moved to Minnesota. The male is some crazy mix of beagle and who knows what else- maybe Saint Bernard? – he’s got kind of a big body but pretty short, stubby legs, and the saddest face ever. The male also does not move fast for anything. When he sees me, he knows I’m going to rub his belly, so he doesn’t even bother coming over to me first. He just throws himself on the floor and raises his front paws, like it would be way too much effort to walk a few steps, and I definitely should not miss out on scratching his armpits. So while my sister was trying to lure the female back with treats and we saw her bounding through some brush like a jackrabbit, the male saw me from about 50 feet away and launched himself towards me near the parking area. I swear to you I have never seen him move like that with his ears flapping in the wind before, and I probably never will again. The female heard me calling for her and she buzzed right past my sister and threw herself down for a belly rub too. I really wish I could have pets. I’m lucky my sister works across the street and I can go get some fur therapy when I have a crappy day. They were both rescue dogs, so it warms my heart that they love me enough to come to me too.

Today my sister drove my car so that I could clean it out a bit before listing it for sale. Let’s be clear, here: I don’t want to. I love my car. I did a lot of research before I bought it, and it has all of the features I wanted and nothing I didn’t. I had planned on keeping it for at least a dozen years and so made sure it had the best possible engine for its price point. I got a platinum extended warranty. It fits in every parking space. It’s a hatchback, so even though it’s in the car category, it sits up higher like a small pickup – that means it’s super easy to get in and out of. I could go on and on. Cross your fingers for me for a quick and successful sale, because girlfriend’s gotta live off that money for the next twelve months, know what I’m sayin’?.

Front

What’s Going On With Your Face?

This morning I woke up and said to myself, “I’m going to urgent care.” Not for fun, mind you – I have been having horrendous heel pain in my right foot and haven’t been able to bear weight on it; I couldn’t even stand to rest it on top of my covers to sleep at night. Nothing has helped either, including ice and ibuprofin. Getting my shoes on took seven tries and a few tears.

I also had conversations I’ve had many, many times. The first was with the nurse. As we were talking about my meds and allergies, she said I was lucky to have a cane handy to help me with walking through this problem, and I told her I use one anyway because of vertigo, and warned her that I could feel the CSF pooling and starting to press on my nerves. I had been laying down until right before the cab picked me up, so I looked normal when I first hobbled through the door. She was watching my face as it became paralyzed and asked, “So you have Bell’s palsy, right?” I answered, “No, it’s not that, and it’s not Myasthenia Gravis or anything else you’ve heard of. It’s a rare condition without a name and I can’t get a diagnosis. But that’s okay, I really want to find out what’s happening with my foot right now, I don’t want to unload all of the stuff about my CSF issues on you.” We finished up with the vitals and she left to get the doctor.

He came in, introduced himself, and said, “I understand you’re here for foot pain. My nurse filled me in with that and gave me background on your really big issue. What’s going on with your face?” I explained briefly that it is yet undiagnosed, and that the latest of a series of rejections from the Mayo Clinic to see me came from a neurologist and a neurosurgeon stating that what I had is so rare that they wouldn’t be able to diagnose me or treat me. But then I said again, “It’s okay, I don’t expect you to do anything about that. I would really like to try to figure out what is wrong with my foot.”

I went through a couple of cab rides for nothing, it turns out. The x-ray didn’t show anything wrong with the bones and that’s as far as they could go with imaging. The doctor offered me a walking boot, but I declined – I don’t want to set my foot down at all because of the pain, it’s not a stability issue. Well, okay, that’s a problem too because of my vertigo and penchant for leaning to the right because of my imbalance, but we’re not trying to stabilize the bones. He also offered me some opioid painkillers but I declined those as well. His conclusion: it’s a nerve problem. Unless there’s something wrong with the soft tissue, which can only be checked by MRI. Either way, I have to wait until Monday to see what the next neurologist says.

For the entire time that I was dealing with that, I was getting bombarded by texts from a guy I met on OKCupid. He is an H1B transplant from India whom I will call Quiz Master. Quiz Master is quite a bit younger than me – 28 years old. At first when he approached me online, I was extremely cautious because I am not attracted to younger men at all. He seemed okay, though, because he was actually asking thoughtful and non-standard questions, and he wasn’t trying to get in my pants or show me his penis. Still, though, I knew that culturally we would be very different.

Quiz Master would ask me questions, sometimes four or five in a row, and I would try to answer as quickly as I could, but I’d only be able to type up one answer and he would throw another five at me. He would then say, “But what was the answer to the question I asked you before?” I’d have to scroll through a bunch of stuff to figure out what he was talking about. It was very tedious. And then he’d say, “Now you have to ask me something,” while I was still trying to answer his questions that he insisted that I answer. Sometimes he would message me days later and say something like, “I’m still waiting for your answer.” A couple of times I had to tell him I had no idea at that point what he had asked because we had moved forward with the conversation.

Against my better judgment, I agreed to give him my cell number, because, again, he wasn’t trying to get in my pants. Quiz Master asked if we could meet, so I told him why I wouldn’t be able to go out on a traditional date, though that would be my preference (as opposed to having a parade of stranger dangers through my apartment). Quiz Master first told me that if I went to bed that night, every day that I got up I would feel better and better until I’m cured. I told him that applies to things like having a cold, but has absolutely nothing to do with what I have going on. Then he told me that I had to be positive and that if I keep up my hope, I would be fine. Rather than telling him to screw himself, I told him that he should try that experiment, but that his mission was to make his eyes turn from brown to blue. If he didn’t succeed, then it would be his fault for not hoping hard enough.

So Quiz Master said fine, let’s not talk about that anymore, and then he proceeded to bombard me with questions again. I think he was really embracing his role as an enthusiastic questioner way too much, because he would ask things like, “Are you different from when you were little? Why and in what way? Do you think growing up made you think of things different? How do you think you think different?” (I’m slightly improving the grammar he used – you get the picture.) I finally asked for a break because I really don’t like to text. Quiz Master said, “Oh, but we’re getting to know each other. You are doing fine.” That really grated on my nerves because I wasn’t asking for his approval on my texting skills, I just wanted to take a break from the hundreds of questions he was insisting I answer.

Since Quiz Master also found out that I don’t work, he started texting me all day, every day, for about five days. If I didn’t respond right away, he would send me repeated messages saying, “What are you doing right now?” I started avoiding reading his messages for a few hours so he couldn’t see the “read” stamp. It was taking just way too much effort – he would hound me if I answered, and he would hound me if I didn’t. Then Quiz Master started asking if he could come over. Actually, he was asking if I could ask my parents if he could come over. I was starting to lose my cool. I said, “I don’t live with my parents and I never said that I live with my parents. Why do I have to ask my parents if it’s okay for you to visit?” Quiz Master said that he just assumed that I did because I’m single. <insert eye roll> Huge cultural gap right there.

Then he switched up his questions, saying that he wanted to play a “game” with me: we could say an actor’s name, and see if the other person is familiar with the actor and if they like them or not. I only tolerated about three actors from Quiz Master and then said I don’t like texting all day, every day, and that I wanted to take a break. Again, he told me I was doing “fine.” Finally, I told him that I don’t like to constantly text anyone for hours, and that I wanted to not text with him for a few days. Quiz Master said he wanted to call me then. I told him no, that I didn’t want to talk at that point either, and that I really wanted to get some stuff done.

Quiz Master waited all of twelve hours to start hounding me again. Did I get done what I wanted to do? What was I doing right then? How about a few minutes later? Why wasn’t I answering him???? He’s JUST TRYING TO GET TO KNOW ME. I’M DOING FINE. DID I FEEL BETTER? I MUST BE FEELING BETTER BECAUSE I WENT TO SLEEP. I HAVE TO TALK TO HIM. He was getting really, really demanding.

I started getting a feeling like I couldn’t shrug his arm off from around my shoulders, weighing me down like a yoke. I couldn’t breathe. In fact, I was suspicious that he somehow got lodged UP. MY. ASS. And I just do not enjoy that at all.

Quiz Master bombarded me with texts the next morning again, asking me exactly where I was and what I was doing. I told him that I was at a doctor’s appointment. He offered to pick me up so we could meet and visit. I told him no, I was exhausted and uncomfortable, and did not feel that it was the best time to meet. He told me that it would be a good time to meet. I told him no, I didn’t want to. Then he started asking me the stupid actors’ questions again and insisting that I ask him more questions. I told him that I needed to rest and I didn’t want to text anymore. Quiz Master gave me six hours, then started in again. I seriously wanted to kick him across a field like a football.

This morning, when I got the now-familiar text telling me to tell him exactly what I was doing, I responded by telling him that I no longer wished to pursue any relationship with him, and that I wished him well. Quiz Master then sent me 16 texts about how he was respecting my space but I had to answer him, and we were just getting to know each other, and he still wanted to come over – oh, and, did I think he was trying to have sex with me? I simply wrote back, “Knock it off.” His last two messages to me were that he was assured that he didn’t do anything wrong, and that he wished me a good day.

Obsessed much, Quiz Master? I suppose I’ll have to be looking over my shoulder for a while. Good thing I don’t have a pet rabbit for him to surprise cook for me.

Dating Whitecoats

Trying to find a doctor is a lot like dating. I’ve gone on a hell of a lot blind dates, and I’ve gone to a hell of a lot of doctors. I no longer get butterflies for either. I no longer have a feeling before I meet them of, “Maybe this will be the one.” Nearly all of them have broken my heart.

This week started off with a trip to a new rheumatologist. He was recommended to me by a friend whose mom had seen him, and he managed to treat her for much longer that she would have survived in the hands of another doctor before she succumbed to scleroderma. I read up on him and checked out reviews, and it seemed like he would be interested in solving mysteries. He was a tall, older gentleman with silver hair and a stern face, all business. After we began talking and I produced document after document for him, he began to get quieter, except for repeatedly shaking his head and sighing. I answered all of his questions from memory including lab results. Then he started stuttering. “What – what – what about your MRIs?” I told him the problem was that I had to lay down for them, and the fluid drains off almost immediately, so I don’t feel that they are getting a true picture of what’s happening when I’m upright. Then he started the, “Gosh, I Don’t Know” song.

He finally dropped his pen, turned to me and put his hands on his knees and said, “Has anyone seen anything like this before?” I told him no, and that I had seen a lot of doctors. (My count is 40 to date, including all of the ER doctors that have examined me.) He said it was obvious. Then he asked if I had tried the Mayo. I told him I had been turned down five times including the most recent try on October 2nd. He said, “What in the hell is wrong with them? They’re supposed to be number one in the nation for rare stuff like this.” I told him that I was going to try other avenues, including Johns Hopkins and going to the media to try to get my story out there with the hope that someone would be willing to take my case.

We went through the obligatory motions of the rest of the exam, where I put on a gown and he prodded my joints. I laid down for part of it and he watched my eyes open, and when I sat back up he saw the effects of the CSF pooling and forcing my eyes to droop shut again. I asked him if I could continue coming to his office, even if I saw another doctor, so that I could at least get care for my fibromyalgia because I didn’t especially care for the rheumatologist I had originally seen. He didn’t say anything.

When I got dressed again, he came back in and said, “I don’t have any answers for you. Try Johns Hopkins and see if they will take you on as a charity case since you have no income and medical assistance will only cover the state of Minnesota. I can’t help you.” He wasn’t unkind and I have heard that response many, many times. As I shuffled nearly blind down the hallway, I kept thinking, “This was just another waste of time. Waste of time. Waste. Waste. Waste.” I have gotten better about not crying after every unsuccessful attempt.

So, what’s next? Well, I’ve got to find a rheumatologist who will at least treat the fibromyalgia and not be a jerk. And I have to try to get my stories on local news stations and national talk shows. Everyone keeps saying, “Ellen! Try Ellen! She’s the best!” And I agree that that’s true and her show gives me lots of laughs and smiles, but I’m not sure she is even interested in taking me on, because I don’t have a happy ending. I have sent in a few submissions already. Thanks to the help of my former flame, I’m learning to navigate Twitter and have been trying to get the attention of neurosurgeons and neurologists around the U.S. I have also been tagging the Mayo in tweets about how they determined I’m “too rare” to examine and would anyone else like to take a shot? I’ve started following neurosurgeons and TV stations. I’ve tweeted Johns Hopkins repeatedly. They have a remote referral option that I have to pay for out of pocket, but honestly, I want them to be interested in my case, not just look at me as another number and dismiss me.

I’ve also started following groups that support rare diseases, either with research, treatment or resources. I managed to catch the attention of two of them and they will be publishing my submissions within the next few weeks.

After the unsuccessful visit with the rhuematologist, I sent a message to the neurosurgeon in St. Paul who told me, “Don’t give up. I know it’s been a long time and someone will be able to help you,” asking him if he could refer me to the University of Minnesota to see if I could be studied there. I was told that my case would be sent to the complex specialty care unit; yesterday I received a call and they stated that they wanted to get me in on Monday. I was surprised because I’ve never been able to get in with a specialist without having to wait 2-3 months, but of course I said yes. So I have another “date” Monday.

I also had to talk to my case worker for my disability appeal. I told her that she wasn’t going to see anything new from the rheumatologist, and that I was trying to get into the U of MN in the neurology/neurosurgery unit so I could be studied. She has been super nice to me, but it’s still her job to turn me down for disability. I know I’m going to get another call from Maryland telling me that my case is being rejected again because I don’t have a diagnosis – but it sure as hell isn’t for lack of trying. I’m trying! Seriously, slip into my body for a few weeks, or even a few hours, and you’d cry for your mommy and then tell me to take all my disability pay plus a little extra for having such a hard-ass time.

Finally, I’d like to say in closing: Screw you, Mayo Clinic. I realize that I’m not a wealthy billionaire and I’m not the Dali Lama, but you should take my case and figure out what in the hell is going on. As far as I’m concerned, you reputation for being the best for neurology/neurosurgery is completely undeserved. You just made my life 1,000 times harder. You were my worst no-show.

The Weirdness Of You

Let your freak flag fly.

The hardest thing to do is to find someone who loves your weirdness.

This week I initiated another person into FetLife. My Friday date has a pantyhose and toe fetish and before coming over, he put in very specific requests for dark red toenail polish and nude pantyhose/stockings. I asked him if he had a profile on Fet. He had to look it up! I would not be surprised if he suddenly appeared. However, his fetish does not seem to be hardcore – he enjoys other acts as well, thank goodness. Main reason: I’m not a foot model. In fact, some have called my feet “Flintstone feet,” not exactly drool-worthy. All of this week I have been soaking, scrubbing and grinding away calluses because I was very aware that these toes could end up in his mouth – and they did.

As far as fetishes go, his is pretty harmless. However, I still had to accommodate him and find pantyhose and nail polish. I didn’t give him a list of anything that I required. But so far, he has won points with me because he isn’t telling me that I’m not doing “enough” to get better, or making me feel like a loser for not being able to work or really, just leave the apartment for more than 30 minutes. He also didn’t freak out when I told him that I had to wear wigs. That one is a big one! The real test will be to see if he sticks around and/or comes back again in the near future.

Something strange is happening with my body. I’ve been dealing with these crazy symptoms since my shunt failed on April 10th, but for the past three days without changing my medications, diet or supplements, I have been able to be upright for hours. HOURS. Like a normal person. I’m still having some issues with vertigo, but the pressure isn’t so strong on my brain that my face becomes paralyzed like it usually does when I’ve been upright for 30 minutes.

I honestly don’t know if the change is because it’s not terribly hot or cold. I don’t know if it’s because the humidity is relatively low for this part of the country at this time. I don’t know if it’s because the air pressure is at a certain level and is holding steady. I don’t have a clue.

But because I don’t feel like I’m dying, I suddenly have energy – at least, I’m back at fibromyalgia-style energy. I feel guilty for not getting in my car, which is currently being stored at my sister’s house and being prepared to be sold, to go to a concert, or the library, or the grocery store. I want to go out on dates like a real person! I have even thought about working because when I have this energy zinging through me, I hate to be idle. (Honestly, that’s what gets me into trouble. I either get really vocal on Facebook or I chat up a bunch of men on OKCupid.) But I don’t know why this is happening, and I don’t know how long it’s going to last.

My reminder of that is the notice I got from Metro Mobility letting me know I am eligible to use it until May of 2019. It’s a service set up through the bus system in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for people with disabilities who can’t use regular buses. Normally I can only take the bus if my aunt rides with me and takes care of the fare as well as keeping an eye out for our stop because I can’t see well enough. I have to ride the short bus now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for this service. I just really like my independence and, you know, being able to see, and using this emphasizes just how handicapped I am and what I have had to give up.

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In another nod to normalcy, I just got a message on OKCupid from a guy who is seven years younger than me who claims to be “long and thick just for [me].” I did specify in my profile that I didn’t want to receive any penis pictures. At least he stuck to the rules and described it instead?? I replied and told him his DNA determined his length and girth, and has nothing to do with me.

Hey, Peter Pan, I’m Going Home Now

An article was posted in a local paper about a woman, an attorney for a meat packaging plant, who was trying to adopt a teenage girl out of the foster system and provide her with a stable home and a brighter future. She had never met the girl but rather read about her, and something in her was motivated to change her life completely to give this girl something she had never had before. The woman went through parenting classes for a year in order to learn how best to help this girl who had suffered neglect and abuse. The article bemoaned the fact that though this woman had jumped through all of these hoops, the state was dragging its feet on placing the teenager with her simply because of bureaucracy and red tape.

I shouldn’t read the comments section of ANYTHING published ANYWHERE, I know. But I did, and it was just as frustrating as I expected. Instead of the commenters being outraged about this teenaged girl’s case not being accelerated to be adopted by this woman who obviously wanted to give her stability, structure and love, the majority of the commenters left nasty statements about this woman’s hair and weight. This woman, an attorney, had a bright turquoise streak of hair at the front of her otherwise “normal” brown hair, and she was overweight. I did not receive any intelligent replies to questions that I asked that were to the tune of, “What does her appearance have to do with her being able to provide a loving home to this child?” Some people told me that I was stupid if I couldn’t see it, others said she obviously lacked self control. One young woman remarked that the turquoise in her hair shouldn’t be allowed in someone her age. I have to say that that really got to me.

The first and obvious problem I have with all of these trolls is that this woman is clearly intelligent – her company is obviously not bothered to be represented by legal counsel who happens to have an unusual color in her hair – and financially stable, and strongly committed to giving this girl the best possible start to her young adult life after being mistreated and neglected for so many years. Second, why is she “too old” for something fun like putting a turquoise streak in her hair?

Over and over I’ve seen advice columns about what not to wear over ages 30/40/50. (One of the funniest items was advice not to wear “suntan” pantyhose, because no one is going to believe you have a suntan after 40.) There are some things I agree with, like it’s weird to see an middle-aged woman trounce around in sweatpants with “PINK” written on the ass. Then there’s the whole class of women who think their only value in this life is to compete with their daughters (and even their granddaughters) for the attention of men, so they dress in tank tops and short shorts that would normally show up on a 14-year-old. But a turquoise streak? Maybe it’s because my father was a hair stylist, or maybe it’s because I have always been a little rebellious, but I think the day I swear off experimenting with color in my life is the day I die. I haven’t worked up the balls to get a blue wig, but I’m getting there. And I’m 41.

So this leads me to the next question:  At what age or event did you feel as if you were truly a grownup? I posed the same question on my Facebook page and received interesting answers. Of course there were a bunch of men who declared that they still hadn’t grown up, all over the age of 40. One man said it was the day his eldest daughter was born. One woman said that her wedding day made her feel like an adult; another said it was when she gleefully anticipated canning, making bread from scratch and putting out a big spread for the holidays. One woman said, “34, maybe?” Obviously this is a small sampling, and is by no means scientific, but I think it enforces the concept that you are only as old as you feel mentally. And this attorney with the brightly colored streak in her hair obviously was not giving in to old age and mediocrity just yet.

For me, I felt like an adult at 16, because it was my first year living away from home. From that point on, I threw myself head first into the world, paying bills (on time!) and finding new places to live around the country without seeing them in person first. Creating a circle of truly close friends is a totally different playing field when you aren’t in school anymore.

Lastly, I am pondering this because I think it demonstrates the challenges of dating. I, as a 41-year-old woman who hasn’t lived at home since I was 16, have felt like an adult for that amount of time. I might want blue hair, but I think that’s a shout-out to my artistic tendencies, not my level of maturity. None of the women claimed that they still hadn’t “grown up” and the majority of the men said they were never going to “grow up.” So whose job is it to change in order to make a relationship work and endure?

(Title by Patty Griffin, first line to her song “Peter Pan”)

Would You Like Some Mayo With That?

Today I made a trip out to a new neurologist with my mom’s friend as the getaway driver. He was recommended to me by my sister’s employee because he was a great help to her family member, who was also suffering from some mysterious neurological issues (but after only 10 minutes he figured it all out). I went in with my usual folder of about 100 pages of documentation. After chatting with him for about 45 minutes and getting a brief neuro evaluation, he determined I should go to the Mayo to be seen by numerous doctors so they could try to get to the bottom of it. Those were the magic words I was waiting for. I already have my hotel picked out down there! I found out after I booked the appointment that this particular neurologist was trained at the Mayo and he still has an “in,” so they can’t turn down his referral. So I stumped another doctor but it was not a pointless visit – I am finally getting my foot in the door.

I am relieved that this particular fight to be seen by some of the world’s leading experts on issues with CSF is finally over, but I’m already looking ahead – and I know that this is the last stop for me. If they can’t figure it out, there’s no where else for me to go. Also, maybe this time someone will write me up in JAMA and put their name on this condition. I’m tired of having to explain why I have placeholders for the disease names.

100 Dates

When I moved to Phoenix in 2003, I didn’t know anyone. Not a single person. I also didn’t have a place to live or a job, but thankfully I did have some money in savings, so those two things kinda took care of themselves. Creating a new circle of friends was a huge challenge, though. The first job I landed was as a traveling trainer; I flew to cities all over the U.S. to train loan officers and processors on the new software that was being implemented for a large mortgage company. This meant that sometimes I would only be in Phoenix for 20-48 hours total before I had to fly out again – long enough to do laundry and repack. I also didn’t know my way around Phoenix at all – this was long before cell phones were able to navigate and navigational systems were hugely expensive. I thought the perfect way to juggle all of this was to go on dates.

My reasoning was this: 1) I could meet a lot of people; 2) It would force me to learn the city; 3) I wouldn’t have to buy groceries that might spoil while I’m on the road. I used LavaLife to shop for men and make plans for when I’d be back in Phoenix. I booked breakfast, lunch and dinner dates. Occasionally – rarely – some of them got second dates.

One that did was Don Juan. He was a slick Mexican guy with a BMW, and turned out to be my introduction into the world of “Netflix and chill” before it was a thing. He was soft-spoken and had the appearance of a teddy bear. Make no mistake, though – he was dirty, dirty, dirty. But it got a little old being FWB, because I wanted to get out and actually do stuff in my new city. One of the few nights we were out I was driving and flashed my lights at a driver who forgot to turn his lights on, and Don Juan yelled at me, saying “Guera (pronounced “wetta”), don’t flash your lights! Are you trying to get us killed?? That’s a gang signal!” Most of the areas in Phoenix cleaned up a lot by the time I moved there, so I didn’t immediately see why he was so freaked out. However, from that point forward, I could always hear his voice in the back of my head when I reached for my lights to flash them at another unaware driver.

Another was Earl. I had a soft spot for Earl because he was a ginger, he had a deep voice and a sarcastic sense of humor. We only went out a few times because he was another one who told me I must be a big whore because I went on lots of dates. I get a little bucky when I am accused of something like that – what’s wrong with going on dates? I didn’t even hug most of them, much less share my bed. However, I did file away his occupation in my memory bank, because a year later I got him to make a job offer to a friend.

There was one week that I had three dates with three different guys from Minnesota. The first one was a hockey player from Minnesota. You’d think that we would have a lot to talk about because of some common interests…but NO. He was not a big talker. We found out on the date that we actually had a mutual acquaintance in Phoenix, but that conversation didn’t go far either. He asked how I knew her, I asked how he knew her, and that was that. He had pretty hair and pretty eyes, and I’m thinking he was used to skating by on his looks. Ha ha – SKATING! I didn’t even mean to make that funny.

The second guy from Minnesota invited me over to his place for dinner. However, dinner was really just “Netflix and chill” while his black lab threw himself enthusiastically into the pool in the back yard over and over. (His neighbor thought that HE was doing belly flops into the pool.) There was no dinner in the deal.

The third guy from Minnesota met up with me for a date that Saturday night. This one was a good one. We met in August of 2004. He was tall, handsome, had a deep voice and was very, very calm. We entered into an arrangement where we would meet up for a dinner on a Saturday night whenever we were both home (he traveled a lot for work too), so he became Mr. Saturday Night. Though it was not a traditional love match, we kept in touch for years and would meet up every once in a while because we were so comfortable with each other. Oh, and we dearly loved to laugh! We would laugh for hours. He told me that I would always have a special place in his heart, and I told him the same. I took him to an event without knowing it would be the last time I would see him, because if I had, I would have wished him well. Mr. Saturday Night decided to let go of his past relationship with an emotionally abusive alcoholic and open himself up again to finding love. There was no space for me because I was the transitional person. I will always be grateful to him for being accepting of me, twisted wigs and twisted humor and all, especially since I have encountered so many men who have not been able to live with what was hiding under the prosthetic. I know that he was successful in finding his match because he sent me a note on Facebook telling me he was taking her to Minnesota to meet his family; I took it to mean that he was closing the door forever.

I learned many things on these 100 dates:

  1. There are a lot of McRoads in Phoenix:  McKellips, McClintock, McDowell, etc. Makes it difficult to navigate with only a paper, accordioned map.
  2. Being nervous adds no value. After going through so many first dates, it’s really tough to make me get stage fright.
  3. People from California tend to not be reliable because they make plans and break them if something better comes along or they are very late. Be prepared to hear about how great California is repeatedly.
  4. Internet dating is still blind dating. No one has screened the other person for you, though – you are on your own in that department. I’m not even certain that all of them were unmarried at that time even if they claimed it to be true.
  5. Guys who say over and over again that they are nice guys and complain about not getting any dates is a red flag; usually the guys that claim this don’t actually like women, but rather just see us as these things that can service them.
  6. “Netflix and chill” is appropriate after, say, four months together, but not four minutes or four hours. I still wanna go on real dates.