Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I finally did it!  I donated ten inches of my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths a little over a week ago.

Before:

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Maya wanted me to braid my hair like Queen Elsa’s

Right before the cut, I divided my hair into four ponytails to get an even cut:

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My hair, neatly packaged for the donation:

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And right after Olga chopped it and evened it all out, she gave me a quick blow-dry:

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I feel so FREE now.  I had forgotten how swingy this cut is and how sexy and confident I feel with my hair like this.  I feel like a new woman.  There was a huge, immediate change in the way I carried myself.  I love, love, love it.  Even when I do absolutely nothing to my hair after I shower, it looks like this:

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Bad fluorescent workplace lighting, not a lick of make-up, and not a brush through my hair after my shower, but I have to admit- I look pretty good (even if I do kind of look like I walked out of the late 80s/early 90s in the above pic).  That’s what confidence does to you.  Well, that and the fact that I don’t smoke, I eat fairly healthy, exercise, drink a ton of water, and keep my alcohol to a minimum.  Anyway, after Maya was born, my pin-straight hair turned naturally wavy, so if I want a bit of curl now, I don’t have to do anything.  Crazy.

Ok, enough pictures of my mug and my cool new hair style.  I have been absent lately because I- well, we (Maya and I) have been busy little bees.  As you can see:

I miss my Joshie like crazy now that he’s living in Finland, but life is very full with a four year-old girl.  Keeps me busy.  My days are go, go, go from the moment I awake until my head hits my pillow and I instantly pass out at night.  Work (my job is just nuts right now- and not in a good way), exercise, play, write and work on my screenplay, and then repeat.  We get outdoors as much as we can right now because the heat is coming on strong- and it’s going to be a scorcher of a summer yet again.  Once the heat kicks in full-force, we have to get out before 9 am to play and then we hibernate just as other people do during the winter.  So, very (very) soon my blogging will increase once more and I’ll devote more time to my WP family, catching up with your stories and lives (which I do miss), and I’ll churn out some blogging ideas I’ve had floating around in my brain.

Until then, thank you so much for popping by to say hello!  I do appreciate your time and I’ll be back soon.

A side note: my laptop that has the oven-baked motherboard is still working.  Can you believe it?

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: A Survivor’s Story, One Year Later

The following post was written by my mother, Lorri, who survived a sudden subarachnoid hemorrhage one year ago.  I think she frequently feels alone in that she doesn’t really have anyone else to talk to about it (especially in our small town), so I suggested that she write about the experience from her perspective to see if it will resonate with any other survivors.  I am writing a follow-up post about the experience from a family member’s perspective because there isn’t a ton of information out there about SAH and how it affects all involved.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to post and I will have my mom respond.  If you are a survivor but don’t feel comfortable posting, please email me at mstodden@gmail.com and I will forward your message to her.  If these posts help even one person, then it’s worth our time.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013 will always be vivid in my mind; a beautiful sunny morning, paycheck week, and I was finally getting a tooth extracted that had bothered me for quite some time.

It was also the day I died.

My friends and I had just gone out to the parking lot behind the medical clinic where we worked, adjacent to the hospital, to have a cigarette before lunch. I knew as soon as the sun hit my neck that something was wrong. It felt like a white-hot poker was being driven up each side of my brain stem, my blood felt like it was boiling, and I felt nauseous. I asked my friends to catch my hands and they looked at me like I was stupid.

That’s the last thing I remember about that day and many to follow. Numerous friends and family have told me repeatedly (to their dismay) about my head bouncing off the concrete. My eyes rolled to the back of my head and I wasn’t breathing.

I thank God every day that Dr. Empey was in the clinic instead of in St. George awaiting the birth of his first granddaughter as his excellent military field training made all the difference. A couple of the physicians at the clinic and the ER staff at the hospital moved me onto a stretcher and rolled me directly into the emergency room not but twenty-five yards away from where I fell. Dr. Empey intubated me as the rest of the staff tried to stabilize me. They ran CT scans and sent me off to Las Vegas via Life Flight within and hour and a half to two hours after my fall.

By 5:30pm, I was in surgery and the prognosis was grim. I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage that required immediate attention and I had another aneurysm in a different area of the brain that would need surgery at a later date when I was stronger. They told my husband to be prepared: if I lived, I might be in a coma, blind, or handicapped.

When I was finally taken back to my room after recovery, all of my loved ones were there trying to get me to awaken. I was busy with my good friend’s sister, Yvonne, who had recently died. We had been walking and she told me that I had to go back for my friend Eileen’s sake. There was no light and I didn’t see myself from above, just Yvonne telling me good bye for now. When I finally did awaken a couple of days later, my husband was telling me good night. The nurses took out the breathing tube and performed all the required neuro tests. The specialists were amazed at my recovery. I wasn’t out of the woods, but it was an excellent sign.

I don’t remember much of the next two weeks and for that, I’m very thankful. I’ve been told that I had numerous headaches and fluid on my brain that kept building up, so they had to put in a temporary shunt to help drain the fluid.

I woke up the day before the permanent shunt placement in the back of my head. I pulled through that surgery with flying colors. However, I realized that I couldn’t see out of my right eye; it looked like several hairs were covering my eye. (Consequently, I do now have peripheral vision in my right now, but can no longer read out of it.) I began rehabilitation in the hospital and I was discharged the first Friday in May.

A word of advice: you need someone to finish your buzz cut before you leave the hospital. I had longer

hair on my left side, buzzed on most of my right side, and I was totally bald where the tubes and staples were placed on the back of head. But none of that mattered- I was still here!

At first, I slept twenty out of twenty-four hours a day. Just walking or taking a shower exhausted me. When your brain says you are tired, you’d best have a comfy place to stop as you will be doing nothing until you get some rest. Also, I couldn’t remember things one day to the next, but I kept working at it and by the first of June, I was back to work for four hours a day. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and tiring all at the same time. I was unable to drive due to preventative anti-seizure medication and that simple lack of freedom increased my depression. It was difficult to see, but while I was at work I could actually focus.

When the neurosurgeon called about the second upcoming surgery, I actually thought I had a choice in the matter and hesitated. After everyone convinced me it must be done, I went in for the second coiling on August 23rd. It was a piece of cake! The neurosurgeon went up through my groin and it all went as planned. It also seemed to quell my increased crying jags.

I’m finally working seven to eight hours a day, but if I overdo it, I’m sick the next day. I’ve even had migraines, so I need to realize my limitations. My daughter gets upset with me for not realizing the severity of what happened and the fact that it’s miraculous I’m even here. I do, but it’s surreal, like a story that happened to someone else.

I always feel guilty that I don’t show appreciation more but it’s harder now. I’m not as spontaneous as I used to be and a little more timid as I’m afraid I will do or say something wrong. I don’t like to say overnight anywhere because I don’t feel secure, but I’m working on that. I will need an angiogram soon to see if coils have packed down. I was recently told I will need these procedures performed about once every five years, which was a shock to me.

For now, it’s one day at a time. I’m trying to lose the thirty pounds I’ve gained from not smoking, depression, and just from being lazy. It will take some time, but I will get it done. My strength and resolve grows more each day.

I’m so thankful for my friends and family that love me in spite of the repetitious questions, the pity parties, and the occasional rage outburst. They take it all with a grain of salt, humor, and somehow make me realize how silly I am. You can have the best physicians in the world, but without this group of loving people by your side, you have nothing.

Once the angiogram is done, I will get back with reports- hopefully all good.

Just remember to be good to yourself, take one day at a time, and act like it could be your last because it could happen at any time.

 

 

 

Movember is Not for Weenies… Well, Actually it is…

For those of you living under a rock, we are now near the tail end of Movember, the month dedicated to men’s health, moustaches, Maya’s birthday, and turkeys.

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Okay, so the last two on the list aren’t exactly a part of Movember.  However, Maya demands to be a part of everything and since I would like to see the sun rise tomorrow, I allow her to believe whatever she wishes.  Plus, she just had her birthday, so whatever.

I wish Maya and November was called Movember!

Regarding the turkeys:  I’ve heard through the grapevine that they are planning an uprising of their own in November.  I haven’t yet learned of their motive or why they’re so pissed, but their revolt is sure to be memorable.  And tasty, should the humans win that is.  (Update: I saw this as of today.  The revolution is upon us, people.)

So, we are all taking this month to educate ourselves about men’s health issues, right?  Right?  Hmm….  I’ve worked in healthcare for the greater part of my adult life, and this is what I’ve discovered:  most of the men I know can draw and label a random carburetor,

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but they’re not familiar with their own bodies.

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We women… Well, we get a head-start on the whole bodily-humiliation thing in our teen years when we have the joy of spreading our legs so that a strange doctor can poke around with odd tools and extract bits of our bodies for pathology.  By the time we reach the age that most men are going in for their first prostate exam, many of us women have had humiliations galore, especially through childbirth and its delightful after-effects.  We’re pros.  We’ve got this down.*  Men, we’re here to help you through this (and maybe snicker just a tad since it’s finally your turn to received a personalized glove treatment.)  Because even though there are many times we would love to throw you out the window, we do want you here with us, guys.  You are our fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, partners, and friends.  You help make our lives complete, and you fix our carburetors.

Yes, Movember is dedicated to bringing awareness to men’s health issues– specifically prostate cancertesticular cancer, and mental health, but it is much more than that: Movember is the starting point in motivating men– young and old– to take action and be proactive with regard to their health care in general.  The easiest and probably most effective change anyone can make is in their diet.

I know men have a tendency to block out voices once those voices begin their “healthy diet” and “exercise” talk, but your physical health affects not only your body but your mental health as well.  When you eat crap, you feel like crap physically and mentally.  Alright, so at first you have a major food stone going on with your fast food and buffalo chicken wings, loaded nachos, and homemade brews.  However, in the long run, you’ll start to look and feel like Jabba the Hutt and then your energy, sex drive, and mental clarity go right out the window.  Moderation reigns supreme.

If you want to start eating healthier but don’t know where to begin, ask for help.  I know I would gladly show someone the basics and give pointers on cooking healthier.  (Ahem, ahem… Hello, single men.)  Not sure how to decipher a nutritional facts label?  You’re not alone.  Check out this interactive guide from the Mayo Clinic.  Don’t even know how to cook an egg?  There are hundreds of cookbooks or an app to check out.  Try Jamie Oliver or Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-pork-chops-stuffed-with-pine-nuts-porcini-mushrooms-and-pecorino-recipes-from-the-kitchn-197095
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On to the medical bit:  Men, I know that you would rather chew a nail than get a prostate exam.  I get it.  However, like the countless paps throughout the lives of women, digital rectal exams are one of the (evil) tools physicians use for early detection of cancer in men.  You also need to have a regular physical to screen for high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes because the leading cause of death in men living in the United States is heart disease.  The greatest risk factors?  High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking.  Yes, this means someone will stick a needle in your arm, and my experience has been “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”  Unless you are a heroin addict, needles suck.  Promise yourself a milkshake or a pint after you donate your two or three ounces of blood, close your eyes, breathe in and out real easy, and get it over with.  

Lastly, but most importantly, we need to educate the young men in our lives about the importance of their physical and mental well-being.  We need to talk to them about sexual health.  We need to discuss the symptoms of testicular cancer because it is the most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35.  We must destigmatize mental health issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders, regardless of age.  We need to show that it’s okay to ask for help.  We all need to make the men in our lives feel safe to open up and not shame them for showing emotion.  It’s time to allow men to evolve beyond the stoic creatures we see in the black and white photos from the “good ol’ days.”

Movember was created to highlight men’s health issues, but it is far more than that; Movember is about everyone who wants the men in their lives to be mentally and emotionally strong, healthy, and happy.

Movember benefits all of us.

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http://us.movember.com/mospace/network/view/id/33649

*We know everything, right?

An afterthought here: sexual health is for men of ALL ages.  I wrote this about our aging baby boomers quite some time ago, and I think it applies here.