Sad News

Last Tuesday, I received a call from Dan, a friend of my brother Keith, who told me that Keith had passed away on August 8th, the day before.  It was a bit of a shock.

As I put the story together later from friends, co-workers, and the coroner, apparently Keith had been not feeling well for a very long time.  He had diabetes and high blood pressure, and didn’t take very good care of himself.  His legs had been really swollen for years.  For a long time, he didn’t have health insurance, but when he got hired at Lexus-Nexus, he did get some; it’s not clear that he’d seen a doctor regularly though.  He had stopped going out since he got back from Manila, not seeing friends very often because he was too tired, too unwell.  He smoked heavily.

His girlfriend Tracy had gone to Cleveland for the weekend, and spoke with Keith about 9 pm Sunday night.  On Monday, she texted him several times, and called with no response.  When she found out after work that he had not been to work that day, she became concerned and went over to his house, got his landlord, and found him on the floor, not breathing.  They called the police and they investigated; they determined that he’d likely had a heart attack.

Tracy got in touch with Dan, got our family numbers from Keith’s cellphone, who called us to let us know.  It must have been a horrible thing to have to do, call some stranger and tell them that their brother had died, when they were grieving themselves.  I’m very grateful that they were thoughtful enough to call.

Then I had to tell our mother.  My mom and dad were on vacation in Europe, on a river cruise.  Luckily, she had left the name of the ship with me, so I was able to track them down through the cruise line.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to call internationally, which in my muddled state I forgot, so for several hours I was unable to reach them. Finally, I reached the ship by email, had a message sent, and my mother was able to call me using one of the crew member’s phone.  Somehow, I managed to tell them through my tears.

After a day of emailing and calling and crying, my parents found a way to come home early from their trip, and we decided we’d all meet in Ohio.  I am eternally grateful (again, and again) to my asbestos friend Barbara, who gifted me the airline tickets to get there and back, or I would never have been able to go say goodbye.  Thank you, thank you thank you.  My brother, who had already planned to go camping with his family on vacation, decided to drive out, and camp in Keith’s back yard.  I stayed with Tracy, who was unbelievably kind to me, and went above and beyond the call by picking me up at the airport late at night, and even worse, waking up at 3 am to drive me to the airport on Wednesday for the flight home.  Mom and Dad got back from Europe on Thursday, left Friday morning to drive up to Ohio.  They stayed at Keith’s.  I flew out on Monday.

It was an interesting experience.  The emotional impact of Keith’s death hit me hard.  Really hard.  Sent me into a bad FM flare; on Wednesday I was a zombie.  I could barely move, and every muscle hurt individually.  My husband was amazing, as always; let me cry, waited on me, didn’t expect me to function at all.  It was a really hard day.  Thursday I was a bit better.  However, Peru was feeling bad; he thought maybe he’d been bitten by a spider.  He didn’t call the doctor though, and on Friday, he had a rash on his stomach that worried me.  Being male, he still didn’t call the doctor, and on Saturday when I looked at the rash, I thought “uh oh; that looks like shingles.”  So finally on Sunday, when he was concerned that it was spreading to under his arm and his back, we went to the ER and they confirmed that it was indeed shingles.  Got the medication, which thankfully was not horribly expensive as we feared, and it seems to have stopped the rash spreading.  Thank goodness; because the poor man was going to have to deal with a lot, and me away in Ohio.

My flight out was pretty good, actually.  I was very relieved; the last time I flew I was so uncomfortable and in pain.  I brought a cane, since I didn’t know how much walking I’d have to do, and let me tell you, that cane was a gift from heaven.  Airlines are very solicitous of the handicapped.  I got wheeled and carted and helped everywhere; people were very nice.  The sixty pounds I’ve lost helped a lot too; not enough to not need the seat belt extensions, but enough so that I was reasonably comfortable in the seat.  I packed light, and only brought one carry on bag that fit under the seat, so that made things easier too.

The thing that made going to Ohio so amazing was getting to meet all the people Keith cared about, and who cared about him.  I heard wonderful stories of his humor and his kindnesses, the way he helped everyone around him.  He had a lot of people that considered him a friend; I’m not sure he really understood how much he was liked.  It’s very comforting to hear those stories, get a feeling for what his life was like.  It had been a long time since I’d seen him, decades. We’d kept in touch a bit recently by Facebook, but there were many years he had pulled away from our family for many reasons; some I knew about but there were some I didn’t too.  He was a very private person.  He’d made a lot of poor choices in his life, but the last few years he’d really made a lot of changes.  He got a good job that he liked, he was repairing relationships, getting settled and stable.  It was a hard thing for him to do, and I had been so proud of him.  He’d visited my parents, and my brother, and I was next on the list, but he didn’t make it.

Keith was very into Asian culture, and had always wanted to go to Japan.  He got close; this spring he’d been sent from work to Manila for training.  He had planned to go to Japan after, then return to Manila, but unfortunately, the earthquake interfered shortly before he was to leave.  Travel bans were put into effect that prevented him from going.  So he stayed in Manila for six weeks, I think; and he had a great time.  I”m so glad he got to go on this trip.

The viewing was hard.  I’ve never seen my mother so flustered or emotional, not surprisingly.  My father and brother were just as upset.  We all cried very hard.  The people who came, more than we expected, were all so kind and had lovely stories to tell.  The funeral home had a table with little cards where people could write things, and they said that in all the years they’d done that, they’d never had so many.  Tracy’s daughter Brittany made a lovely poster board collage of pictures of Keith from work and with her family; it was very touching and sweet, and we appreciated it so much.

Margaret and Bruce were amazing; Keith’s house was rather a mess, as he’d just moved in and hadn’t even had time to unpack, and he wasn’t the best of housekeepers anyway.  Kinda like me.  While my parents were out taking care of legal business, they whipped through the house and got it presentable and safe at least.  Margaret, especially, waited on us hand and foot, taking care of meals and anything that needed doing.  Their kids, Teresa and William, were so sweet and adorable; I’m so glad I got to see them again.

It’s always so strange that good things can come out of bad.  It was so good to meet people who cared about Keith so much; it was wonderful to see the family again, and get along so well.  Why is it hard to do this in happy times?  We always wait too long. I hope we learn not to do that anymore. Life is too short.

Traveling so much in such a short time took a lot out of me.  I came home Wednesday, and today is Saturday, and I’m just starting to recover a little.  I’m exhausted and sore and sad, but so glad that I got a chance to say goodbye.  My husband has been a rock, as always, though he’s sick and has been working playing quite a few gigs this week; he still takes good care of me always.

I’m so grateful for what I have and so glad that I’m smart enough to know how good I have it, surrounded by family who love me.  I want to take care of myself, and take care of them, as much as I possibly can, so we can love each other for a very, very long time.

Watch out; another rant.

My clinic just called, to inform me that Dr. A, who I’ve been seeing for around two months, will no longer be seeing patients at this clinic, only the one in Ventura. So tomorrow’s appointment will be with the only other doctor in Ojai that takes Medicaid patients; the one who told me I should see Dr. A because he felt “incompetent to treat (my) complicated illness.” Oh joy.

I’m trying not to see this as a setback.  Failing, somewhat, but trying.  Now that I’m starting to think okay, maybe it really is FM, maybe I can work with Dr. S on Dr. A’s plan.  He was a little more amenable to suggestion than Dr. A, so we’ll see.  It’s very hard though.  I feel like I have little say in my care.  I have to fight the medical community, the financial setbacks, the loss of my mobility and strength, the pain, the guilt of not contributing to the home.  Oh yeah, and the pain and exhaustion.  And the pain.

If it doesn’t work, I guess I can always make appointments with Dr. A in Ventura, though that increases the cost of a free visit  a bit.  I’ll see how tomorrow goes first. Maybe he’ll work the Rheumatologist angle, since he was so eager to turf me before.

The Best Medicine in the World

It’s not Vicodin, it’s not Neurotonin.  It’s not the vitamins and supplements and the changes in diet trying to control this disease.

The best medicine in the world is having a spouse that loves you unconditionally, and takes the trouble to show you and tell you in so many ways every day.  Having someone that can make you laugh when you’re on the verge of crying from exhaustion and pain is a miracle.

Cymbalta may help, and Lyrica may mitigate, but only Dr. Peru makes any major difference in my health.

Thank you, my Beloved.