Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Dream Deferred

Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

For a long time, the idea of me feeling normal again was a distant dream. I had gotten so used to the aches, pains, fatigue, and other symptoms that came along with my disease and subsequent treatment. Through the chemotherapy, which wreaked havoc on my entire body, inside and out to radiation which was very tolerable until the end, I have experienced a wide range of conditions and variety of symptoms.

I was never as glad as I was when I had taken my last treatment and felt overly-excited about returning to my 'normal' self again. Now, I heard from other survivors stories about how you never fully recuperate and how the smallest illness , like a cold, could wipe you out for weeks. I would especially hear of these tales when I would mention how tired I often was. Well, my last treatment had come and gone and I was anxiously awaiting my 'normal' feeling to return. It never did. I still woke up with horrible headaches, felt tired to the point of distraction, and still held onto the occasional body ache. Trying to sustain energy and focus for my classroom full of twenty-three rambunctious first and second-graders was almost impossible, to say the least.

As the days went by, my fatigue became markedly increased, to the point where if I sat still for any length of time I would nod. Now, when I say nod, I don't mean the slow blinks that precede a slight bobbing of the head. A nod for me was a sudden neck spasm that marked me waking up and not even realizing I had fallen asleep. Unfortunately, I most often noticed this on my rides to and from work...and it was SCARY!

I began to think that maybe what others, mainly my treatment nurses who often witnessed my sleeping habits while in their care, were saying about the possibility of me having sleep apnea wasn't as far fetched as I had originally thought. In my quest to find out what was wrong with me I scheduled a sleep study. After I arrived at the hospital to be wired and tested the technician explained the process. It was a two-part study. The first night you would be wired up and monitored in an effort to see if and how often your breathing was disrupted during the night and to also monitor the oxygen levels in your body during sleep. If it was discovered you had sleep apnea then you would come back a second night and get wired up and hooked to a breathing machine to determine how your body would respond to the treatment.

Now that you know how it's supposed to go, let me tell you how my sleep study went! Everything began exactly the way it should have. I got comfortable, put my PJs on, and the technician came in and wired me up. This process took about 30 minutes and let me tell you I looked ridiculously hilarious once it was over. Despite all that, I settled in to bed watched some TV and read a couple of magazines before drifting off at about 11:00pm. At approximately 1:00am I felt the technician gently waking me up so he could slip a mask over my head. Being that I was so groggy and into my sleep, I just let him do it then I rolled on over and went back to sleep.

The next morning I was awakened at about six thirty to be unhooked and released. While he unhooked the thousands of wires I asked how many times I had stopped breathing. He responded, "Well, by the time I came in an put you on the c-pap machine you had already stopped breathing 98 times. Your blood oxygen levels were down to 65%.
<insert blank stare here>
Needless to say, I do not have to return for part two of the study and a machine has already been ordered for me. Hopefully, it will be delivered by the end of the week.

For me this diagnosis is a RELIEF!! Finally, I understand why I feel the way I do and can do something about it. For those of you who don't know, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, fatigue, headaches, slowed metabolism and may also contribute to the development and/or progression of diabetes. Check. Check. Check. Check. and Check. I have already been diagnosed with five out of six of those conditions. Sleep apnea is also hereditary.

I was excited to know there is something legitimately wrong with me and these feelings aren't just figments of my imagination. Now I just have to wait. I'm sitting on pins and needles hoping this machine is delivered sooner than later. However, until then my dreams will have to be 'deferred'.

My message here is to always be pro-active when it comes to your health. Once it's gone you truly have nothing left. And ladies, if you haven't done it lately, PLEASE FEEL YOUR BOOBIES!!

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