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Archive for November, 2014

May you live in interesting times, and come to the notice of high officials…”

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Most of you have probably heard one version or another of the above quote. It is purportedly an old Chinese curse, though it’s actually neither very old nor Chinese. [1] But it is most definitely a curse, and one that has rampaged through my life these last few years like a Pamplona bull chasing tourists. I’d list all the bullshit that’s happened (yes, pun intended), but you guys are probably depressed enough after the dismal US midterm election results, so just suffice it to say there is a very wide definition for “interesting.” Most of which isn’t all that positive.

Back at the beginning of October my husband and I were off to one of our weeklong historical camping events. I, of course, suffered from my usual lack of preparation and didn’t get a blog entry out that week. Too busy packing for the event. No big deal, right? My readers get a break from my whining and then I’m back in the saddle and all is right with the world. Well, obviously, things didn’t go as (sort of) planned.

I’m very near-sighted. VERY near-sighted. As in couldn’t read a book without my glasses if my nose were any longer near-sighted. One of the annoying side affects is a constant crop of “floaters” in my eyes. I’ve dealt with them since childhood and for the most part they’ve been only a minor annoyance. A couple years ago I developed one in my left eye so large it was interfering with my vision. Anytime my eye moved, it swished across in the other direction like a windshield wiper. That’s when I learned just how much our eyes move in any given day. And also when I learned there wasn’t much medical science could do about floaters. The ophthalmologist said the only possible course of action was laser surgery to “remove” (read: zap the shit out of it), and that surgery would GUARANTEE the formation of a significant cataract in that eye within the next few years. Not to mention all the other risks that go along with that sort of thing. So he didn’t recommend it. And, oh, by the way, you have the beginnings of cataracts in both your eyes already, anyway. Come back in a year for another check up. Have a great weekend!

So on the Saturday of the event, (October 11th), when I notice some sort of spot in my vision at the far right corner of my left eye, I don’t give it much thought. Probably just another floater. Went about my business, visiting friends, playing with string, dealing with unseasonably hot weather, and playing dress up. Sunday evening, my husband and I are packing up the merchanting[2] part of our encampment. It’s dark and we’re both wearing headlamps to help light things up. I’m sitting and rolling up ropes when my husband turns to ask me a question. I look up, directly into his light, and that’s when I see nearly half the vision in my left eye is in total eclipse. Not just a big ass floater, but a half moon of darkness covering the right side of my field of vision.

Oh, holy crapazoid. And we’re a four-hour drive, at best, from home. After a quick internal inspection to make sure nothing else weird was going on in my body, I opt to not say anything to my husband at that time. We’re both dead-ass tired already, still have a full period encampment to pack up, and we’re leaving tomorrow anyway. If I had said anything then, he would have insisted on throwing everything in the truck immediately and driving straight home via the ER. I deemed it far too dangerous, given our level of tired, and also given that I obviously wasn’t going to be able to spell him at the wheel. He’s the morning person, I’m the night person. Having the morning person drive at night doesn’t usually end well.

We pack out the next day and head home. I tell him about the eye as we’re pulling off site because he needs to know why I can’t play relief driver. He is, understandably, perturbed, and wholly unconvinced by my logic for not telling him. Despite admitting that he, yes, would have indeed shoved everything into the truck and bailed Sunday night had he known. While vision is very important, life is much more so, and I told him that as we wound our way back to our home regions.

Tuesday morning I call my ophthalmologist, tell the scheduling clerk my symptoms and she gives me a same day appointment. The doctor gives me a good look-see, gets a detailed scan on a fancy new piece of equipment they have and then proceeds to chastise me for not getting in at the first sign of the problem. I let him know the circumstances and he says I should have gone straight to the nearest ER at that time. Why? Well, because you have a detached retina, that’s why. And the longer you wait, the more vision you WILL lose.

Okay, now I’m really scared. My eyes certainly aren’t the best on the planet, but they’re mine and I use them for all sorts of creative stuff that wouldn’t happen otherwise. Reading, writing, needlework, weaving, painting miniatures, playing music, etc. And then there’s the normal everyday stuff, like driving, watching Sunday football, drooling over the latest calendar from the Warwick Rowers, and so on. I know there are plenty of people in far worse circumstances who do just fine, but it’s hard to think of them when you’ve just been hit with your own little crisis. We humans are very self-centered that way. Excuse me while I put that on my calendar to worry about later.

And just how the hell did the thing get detached? There was no traumatic injury, or gut-busting activity, or even a little whimper of a bumpy road. I was spending a week sitting and playing with string and chatting with friends. Then – BOOM! Eye drama. Doc says in my case it’s a combination of my severe myopia – it stretches the retina and can cause it to thin and then tear in places – and my age. Welcome to the Over-The-Hill-Club, where Shit Happens.

So off to the retina specialist we go, still on Tuesday. Nice, affable guy who gives things a thorough look and confirms that, yes, indeed, a good chunk of the retina is detached and how does Thursday sound for surgery? After my initial mumblings of “Huh?” or something thereabouts, he breaks out the diagrams and walks me through the procedure: pars plana vitrectomy by laser with gas. Then he gives me the usual warnings about the side affects of any surgery, with the added joy that my vision will likely never be as good (being a relative term) as before, and, yes, there will be cataracts in a few years. The alternative is to be blind in that eye right now. Thursday it is.

The one bright side to all of this is that my husband had taken two weeks of vacation for our one-week war, so he could have some time to actually relax at home. Instead of dozing on the couch in front of the TV or playing in the garage for that second week, he got to chauffeur me around to doctors and play cheerleader. Best laid plans, as it were. He does make a pretty sexy househusband, though.

We get to the surgical center on Thursday and my blood pressure is through the roof, like stroke-worrying high. Never been that high even during a migraine. It might have something to do with being freaked out about the whole SOMEBODY’S POKING MY EYE WITH NEEDLES thing, people. There’s some debate over whether or not we can do the surgery so they have me talk to the anesthesiologist. He looks like he’s fifteen but claims to be thirty-one. He hands me a Valium and basically tells me to chill out, we got this. He’s the one that ends up putting in the IV after the nurse missed getting it done. Twice. A few minutes after that I’m floating off to Sleepy Time Land.

I start coming around toward the end of surgery. While I wasn’t under general anesthesia, just sedation, my left eye is knocked out locally. Kind of weird when I know it’s open but I’m not seeing jack. Meanwhile, my right eye is looking at the underside of the surgical drape watching something resembling the Aurora Borealis. Green surgical laser. Of course, the scientist in me starts asking questions. The doctor responds, very kindly, that he really needs to concentrate on what he’s doing. Yeah, drugs make you do stupid things sometimes.

I go home looking like this:

 IMG_1054*Tiny fly voice* Help me… Heelllppp mmmeeee

A look I get to sport every night for two weeks, while I also sleep only on my right side or keep my head down to keep the air bubble that’s now filling my eye in place against the repaired sections of the retina. Basically doing the job of a cast, but because plaster doesn’t go well with the inside of delicate organs, air is used. Over the course of the next few weeks the air will dissipate and the eye will refill with its own natural fluids. I also can’t do anything even remotely strenuous (that included a no sex proviso), lift anything heavier than ten pounds, play with string, or read. Yes, you saw that right. NO READING. Too much eye movement. Being that I am constantly reading something, besides five different emails, two Facebook pages and a blog, that order was going to be a massively tough one. The one saving grace allowed was TV watching, as long as I maintained the necessary position.

So I spent the next two weeks laying on my right side in bed watching videos on the laptop, and feeling generally miserable about my circumstances. And occasionally hopping on to check email and Facebook. But only in the most cursory of manners. A few days after surgery I get two rejections for my writing: one from a publisher on my novel and the other from an e-zine for a short story. Just fucking great. I’m laid up, not sure if I’ll ever see properly again, worried about my husband having to do everything around the house as well as go to work, and don’t even have an animal around for comfort as my desired career takes yet another shot to the nuts. What’s so fucking “interesting” about all this???

Okay, so I wallowed for a while. A good long while. I felt really alone and disheartened and lay there thinking just who am I kidding? I’m trying to start a career well into middle age that I should have been doing for thirty years already. I’m out of touch with the current writers and trends in my preferred genre, have only the barest of clues on how to deal with social media or e-publishing, and keep sabotaging my writing time with excuses about needing to do something else more. What a giant heap of wanna-be crapola I am.

But as the eye got better, so did my mood. Catching up on all the DVDs, TV shows and Hulu content I had stashed for “when I have time” gave me a nice break and plenty of time to think about things during commercials. I just simply can’t NOT write. The characters and stories just won’t stop. But what I do need to do is rethink how to get myself out there, how to promote myself and my writing into a successful career. Since I have nothing in submission and no queries outstanding right now, it’s a good time to step back and take a look at things.

And while the eye is much improved, there’s still a ways to go. The pupil was shocked into dilation by the laser and is not really focusing well. Doc says it’s a normal side affect and will return to full functioning, but could take several months. Plus the vision is just a tiny bit wavy, no straight lines, sort of like a fun house mirror where everything’s out of proportion and constantly shifting. And you can just forget depth perception all together. That makes for some gnarly eyestrain headaches because the left eye just can’t keep up with the right. My husband fashioned me a leather eye patch so I can work one-eyed without holding a constant squint, but I can still only do a couple hours at a time before the head starts complaining. Hopefully this is not the new normal, but it will be sometime after the New Year before we conclude that what sight I have at that time becomes all I have period.

That’s why it’s taken me several hours over the course of a week to knock out this (rather lengthy – sorry) entry. There’s still a ton of emotions running around inside me: fear about just how much the vision will change; anger at yet more unexpected bills that we can’t possibly pay (thank the Goddess for my husband’s insurance); depression because of the never-ending crush of crap we seem to keep getting. But this time there’s also a new one: confidence. Finally. Confidence that I really am on the right path for my life. The desire won’t go away, and all those time-wasting excuses are just that – a big, honkin’ pile of waste. You’re fired, Depression – I have shit to write.

Anything worth having is worth fighting for, and even curveballs can be turned into home runs. You just have to adjust your stance a little, and aim for the lights. Batter up!

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved

 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_you_live_in_interesting_times

[2] We hand craft historically influenced items we then sell at our events. You can visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steel-N-Strings/186013452724.

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