Starting up a brand new year

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Because this blog is a personal one that spells out my internal thoughts at whim, its readers endure pathological randomness.  Amidst the miscellany, there have been precious few consistent traditions, one of which is to reflect back upon the culminating year with the ringing in of a new one.  Depending on which end of the shit-hits-the-fan timetable you upon which you hang your hat, there’s a very real possibility that this may be the last time I can partake in this tradition.  Or, maybe (and hopefully) not – there’s an equally real possibility that the internet kill switch won’t have been thrown and I can chronicle another year online for all to see.

On that sobering thought, there’s a lot to say about 2013, so let’s get down to white-collar business, shall we?  Here’s the conspiracy theory that was 2013, as seen through the eyes of the Kitty you love to love…

This year can be summed up as a year of bipolarity–periods of ecstatic highs followed by debilitating lows and back again.  Ironically, despite my long history of bipolar tendencies, I remained on a relatively stable, even keel throughout the whole thing (pats my own back).  Several sub-themes emerged to illustrate further…

The year started off with a hypomanic bang as my “cool aunt” (lol) came to visit for about 3 months.  We had a suspicious amount of fun, shopping, reinventing, road-tripping, and just about anything else.  I call it “bliss”.

Just about as that experience came to a close, a devastating theme emerged: death from cancer.  We lost two precious souls: my partner’s best friend and our little fur-daughter.  Both leap-frogged each other in their downward spiral, taking turns in our spotlight of concerned attention.  First, Maddie suddenly lost her appetite.  Then Curt went into the hospital with debilitating chest pain.  Maddie lost weight; Curt got x-rayed.  Maddie had an ultrasound.  Curt got his cancer diagnosis.  Maddie’s ultrasound was initially inconclusive.  Curt started chemo.  We started treating Maddie for Irritable/Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  Curt passed away suddenly.  Maddie got a biopsy.  It came back malignant.  We were faxed Curt’s lab work to look over.  Maddie passed away.  Both were way too young and their deaths had been completely unforeseen as little as 4 months prior.  By the middle of the summer, we were sick of burying loved ones.  And we were thoroughly sick of the word “cancer”.

I also went through a surprise grieving of a different sort: this was my parents’ first year in well-deserved and much-needed retirement, which meant that for the first time ever, I could not live vicariously through my family as they relayed their fairground adventures to us in play-by-play style.  This chapter is now closed, and will remain that way forever; there’s no going back.  This affected me in a way I did not expect.

By mid-summer, I began to resurrect some of my energy again, but it lacked a focal lens; it was scattered in every direction imaginable.  My partner resolved that with a handful of acupuncture treatments and within a few weeks, I focused like a laser beam, starting an educational handout for patients that would ultimately become a book.

That was paused suddenly as our practice hit its busy peak, during which lab tests were coming back and I was preparing to embark on the professional post-doctoral training I’d been pining for (and drooling over) for over 3 years.  That training involved a trip to the very city that my extended mom lives in, which meant another opportunity to see her.  That initiated another “high”.

That “high” was brought to an abrupt halt during my last few days there in which the same Cool Aunt was handed down the news that the results of a skin evaluation turned out abnormal, and the word “cancer” came barging back into my life.  I eeked out a panicked existence, walking on eggshells, knowing that my most recent experiences with death involved losing loved ones in sets of 3’s, and usually within 6 months.  I am simply not ready to live in a world without this person yet.  In fact, I am not ready to weather the loss of any one else close to me.  We’d suffered enough already.

Luckily, that one has a cautiously happy ending, in which the issue has been resolved, at least for the time being, and this person has a second (or third) chance at life.  She now has a an educated advocate on her side, who can serve as a guide down a better therapeutic path.  For once, she has a chance at true healing.

Then we come to find out that our fur-son, Murphy, has an overactive thyroid gland.  In the feline world, this usually means a productive (hormone-producing) tumor of the thyroid gland cells.  Luckily again, the vast majority of these are benign.  Again, we walk on eggshells.  We cross our fingers.  The thyroid-suppressing medication will be lifelong, but it continues to work, with no other perceivable issues.  Did I mention that we are so ready to be done with cancer (and any type of abnormal tissue growth, for that matter)?

One theme that became starkly apparent this year is the feeling of being enveloped in the eye of a hurricane in which the winds are calm in the tunnel, but they are swirling all around me, devastating those I love and care about.  For several times, I looked over my shoulder, checking for shadows that jinxed me.  I didn’t see any, but I certainly felt them at times.  Deaths from cancer.  Other cancer scares.  Friends miscarried.  Dad received several diagnoses.  Mom suffered with him.  Friends endured the deaths of their loved ones.  And so on.

It has also been a year of travel.  We’ve gone places near and far, whether it’s a day trip on the road or a flight for a 9-day stay, and just about everything in between.  We’ve gone to the TX-Mexico border, the edge of the earth that is known as Louisiana, the Great White North (several times), all throughout the Texas Hill Country, and, un-excitingly, North Texas.

It’s been a year of professional growth as well.  We pulled back severely on our advertising budget, and didn’t notice any drop in new-patient traffic.  People found us anyway.  The Holy Grail of post-doctoral training was an exhilarating week that essentially transformed practically every element of my side of the practice, marking the biggest changes to the way I practice in a couple years.

It also kicked off an entire wave of informational discovery, which I call “panning for gold”, in which the gleaned nuggets can be used to help my patients in pivotal ways, setting their outcomes–and my reputation–apart from all the rest.  I’m also becoming more seasoned and more comfortable in my skin.  Often, I don’t know all the answers.  No doctor ever does, no matter how they may appear to act the contrary.  I guess that’s why they call it “practice”.

I am also finally in a position where I don’t have to hang onto every toxic patient that poisons the overall morale and vibe of the office/practice, because I’m secure enough in the way I handle patients and I’ve started to see that although I’m hardly infallible, sometimes it really is them.  Sometimes their headspace is “off”, or they’re not truly ready to do what this approach requires, or they were expecting this approach to work more quickly than nature will allow.  I keep an eye on myself to be sure I’m not passing the buck of responsibility entirely onto them while missing something in my own backyard, but I’ve stopped automatically assuming that every problem is somehow something I did wrong or some shortcoming of mine.

This year was not all work with no play, however.  We’ve had plenty of themed side-projects to occupy us during our downtime (brought to me by way of setting healthy boundaries at the office).  Of course, there was the traveling – I saw Corpus Christi, Laredo, Grand Isle (LA), Baton Rouge, deep Cajun Country (I got to meet my Cajun family at this fall’s reunion, most of them for the first time!), Houston (both passing through and for gun shows), Austin, Dallas-Ft Worth, Minneapolis, and tons of neat Hill Country towns.

Aside from the traveling, there were other great pleasures that enriched our lives.  Gun shows have been very good to us, instrumental in the accumulation of a small sports/hunting/home defense arsenal.  After a Robin Cook book streak, I discovered John Grisham and devoured much of his best work.  Just when I thought I had tapped out all the music genres and there was no more music to discover, I stumbled across a wide variety of excellent work from just as wide a variety of sources, and more of it than I think I ever have before.  A “best of” list of the year’s musical highlights will need its own post.  And just when I thought there was no good TV left, I found the rest of the “Fringe” series.  I gave in and gave “Breaking Bad” a go, and also discovered “Jericho” and a few others.  It gave me hope that there were still creative, intelligent people after all.

Best of all, we adopted Vanessa, the 8-month-old pre-teen-mom cat that nagged herself into our lives until we relented, ever-glad that we did so, even if she is a little shit right now.  Hell, at least she’s a sweet little shit.  Needless to say, although my Facebook account saw plenty of activity, this year was probably the least prolific of all.

I continue to grow and change as a person as well.  No longer am I the maxed-out done-in beaten-down burned-out med school graduate and no longer am I the green, wet-behind-the-ears new doc.  Now I’m a relaxed-but-serious seasoned-but-innocent professional who looks and speaks the part.

I continue my therapy with my counselor.  We’re walking uncharted territory, making excellent strides and major breakthroughs.  It’s hard to tell how far I’ve come or how much there is left to go, but I have the feeling it’s not entirely linear anyway and besides–it can be a lifelong process.

And another aspect of my core has awakened – that of a Warrior of sorts.  Between the rifles and a burning desire to return to martial arts and become physically fit and more self-sufficient, I’ve almost morphed into a Lone Wolf that is ready and willing to do what I have to do to protect myself, my loved ones, and my property, if it ever came to that.  All emotion goes out the window when you resign to do what you have to do.  Luckily, our daily lives have never reached that point and I hope they never do.  But the warring, protective spirit lies in wait, coiled up like a snake in the corner, sleeping with one eye open, ever-vigilant and always watching…just in case.

Physically, I continue to heal.  My hearing loss is what it is.  Cerebellar autoimmunity marks a third–and hopefully final–autoimmune disorder.  The newest change to come from this is the elimination of ghee and eggs.  The fibroids are now long gone, so the anemia is just as gone.  This has been my first full calendar year without evidence of monthly female cycling.  My weight is even lower than at this time last year, knocking anywhere from 13-18 more pounds down since I came out of surgery, which makes for a 25-29-pound loss from my maximum weight in 2010 or 2011.  I am now at the bottom of the healthy BMI range, instead of being at the top.  My histamine occurrences have been at an all-time low and my sleep consistency has achieved an all-time high.  I’m even sleeping in bed on most nights, rather than the couch.  I was even able to hunt this winter, and I did a little sporadic Nia over the course of the year.  I can finally say I have much to be thankful for!

With any luck, next year won’t be quite as interesting as this one has been.  I’m gearing up to start 2014 off in a similar way, though.  And I want to travel and continue growing and expanding in the various aforementioned life areas.  I certainly do not want to lose any more loved ones.  I hope 2014 will give me a break from that.

So…New Year’s Resolutions, here I come:

  • CCN board exam?  Bueller…?
  • More post-doctoral training from the same entity I was so impressed with this year – I can afford 2 of their weekend seminars per year, if I budget well.
  • Remove more mercury fillings and resolve more abscesses.  Baby steps.
  • Find shortwave radio stations.
  • Utilize the informational resources to expand my knowledge base for my patients in practice.
  • Continue with our SHTF plan.
  • Become an excellent marksman.
  • Get back into martial arts and become physically fit.
  • Continue working with my counselor to heal at my core.
  • To read even more than I already am…if that’s possible.
  • Get my General class license in ham radio.
  • Finish my “paused” “book”.
  • Be a person of my word – to impeccably follow through with what I say I’ll do.
  • Hone my focus skills, staying on task and improving my short-term memory (which usually houses the only source of my to-do list)
  • Visit Mexico.
  • Visit El Paso.
  • And so on…

Soundtrack to follow!  This one will be fun.

And with any luck, we’ll do all this again next year…

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