Thursday, March 20, 2014

I am my father's daughter...

After my father passed away, if I was telling someone a story about him and tried to describe him, I would often say, "if he walked through the door right now, you'd know he was my father."  I have his height, his fair complexion, and his hair.  If you've been reading my previous posts, you know that my father died of various medical and psychological complications - becoming insulin dependent and battling high blood pressure were just a couple of his chronic battles.  As I got older and slightly wiser through my own recovery process, I tried to be mindful of my own genetic risks when it came to diabetes and high blood pressure.  I generally did pretty well when it came to glucose tests.  I was super proud of myself when I passed the 1 hour and 3 hour gestational diabetes tests when I was pregnant with both kids.  I remember drinking those hideously sweet orange glucose test drinks and thinking about dad, almost angry at him for the traits he may or may not have passed on to me.  It's funny how I was always focused on the diabetes because it was such an overt, chronic disease in that I watched him check his blood sugar and give himself insulin shots.  But, it's so true about high blood pressure - it is the silent killer.

Even though I have been on a roller coaster ride of anxiety and depression for many years, surprisingly, my blood pressure has always been normal, even a little below normal.  Well, I'm in for a new fight that I was in no way prepared for -- my blood pressure readings have been consistently in pre-hypertension and stage 1 high blood pressure for a month now.  I'm trying to be realistic in that this has been an unprecedented month for me because of my neurosurgery, anyone would be stressed, right?  But, I can't stop thinking about my father and wonder if this just good old-fashioned genetic code at work.  Of course, all this wondering and worrying certainly won't make that blood pressure monitor read any different!  On this first day of spring, even if the weather isn't ready to make some changes, I think I might be.  I think I might just have to be.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

"No One Can Ever Take That Away From You"

That's me in 1973, in my dad's arms with my beaming sister, Mary Susan nearby.  My sister and I had a father who worked extra hard to make sure we felt loved.  My dad's father died when he was 14, his mother eventually became institutionalized due to mental illness, and his older brother committed suicide - in today's time, his suicide would have been attributed to PTSD due to serving in the war.  I don't think my dad ever fully grieved his losses - it certainly would explain his own troubles with addition.  I am my father's daughter and I often wonder if I've been carrying that guilt and grief around too (both his and mine).  He did have his flaws, but he was my dad and he had such a gift for making everyone around him feel special; I really miss watching the Southern Gentleman work a room.

My dad was a proud Veteran and often had little sayings related to his military service.  Whenever we accomplished something, he would say to us that we've earned a badge and "no one can ever take that away from you." I had been having lots of mixed emotions about my recent neurosurgery and I had been thinking a lot about my dad, wondering what he would have thought about all my medical struggles over the years.  I just needed that boost that only Garland Clement Bounds could give me.

When I arrived for my pre-op a few days before surgery, I really connected with the Nurse Practitioner who was ensuring all my tests were complete and everything was set for my surgery.  We had shared a couple of stories, she told me her brother-in-law had just had the same procedure and was doing great, she made me feel at ease and I could feel my tension easing up.  At the end of our appointment, she said, "You are in good hands, you will do fine, getting this osteoma out will be like a badge, a badge of courage."  I couldn't believe it - I remember feeling my whole body slip down a bit on the exam table, like some kind of comedic pratfall. I walked out of the examination room and said quietly to myself, "Thanks for coming with me, Dad, I really needed that."