Archive for February, 2009

The Diagnosis


“Do you think I’ll ever run again?”

“I Hope so.”

Hope is never want you want to hear from a doctor. I want to hear, “Yes, absolutely, of course, you bet.”

Never being much of a glass-half-full kind-of-gal, I take “I hope so” to really mean “No, but I don’t want you to start crying again in my office because I’m barely out of medical school and you’re scaring me with your legal pad of questions.”

Diagnosis: Fibromyalgia. No cure. No specific cause. Some get better, most learn to live with it.

It’s been five months since the pain started. I can no longer blame it on my laptop since it’s now moved beyond my back, neck and shoulders and spread to my hips and legs. I’ve had blood tests; I’ve had an MRI on my brain. So far I am in excellent health except that every day I wake up feeling like a wild animal caged in my own body. In a body that has betrayed me and decided to teach me a lesson about having something to really complain about.

Who knew I’d be 43 and looking back on 42 as cherished days? Days when I didn’t know I would be gripped with horrific pain every day for what looks like, the REST OF MY LIFE. I never thought that “live each day like it’s your last” business would apply to me. I guess no one does. That’s why people whose lives have taken bad turns are always warning the rest of us.

So now I’ve got to pull Lance Armstrong out of my ass and get all full of gratitude and cheesy self-affirmations. I’ve got to not be afraid of searing pain, throbbing headaches. I’ve got to stop crying because apparently it only makes it worse. I’ve got to get excited about going to a therapy pool and doing water aerobics with the elderly because that’s apparently the type of exercise I “should” be doing. I’ve got to consider medication that makes you fat, drowsy, and unable to concentrate. I’ve got to keep saying I’ll get better even though I’m terrified.

I can’t even look at my running shoes without crying. They sit quietly wearing the dried mud of last fall, waiting for action. Apparently it will be a while. At least, the doctor “hopes so.”

I’ve got to find someone who has coped with this, beaten it back. The sad, desperate people who post their horror stories online are not helping. Neither is the woeful Wikipedia. Who writes such medically grim, disorganized crap?

So pardon my self-indulgence and self-pity. I just needed to get this off my chest. I can’t write little stories about the twisted perfection of my small town right now. That was before. How I miss the before.


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“Mommy wake up, something is wrong with my loose tooth.”

I squinted from a dead sleep to see her little mouth, opened wide, inches away from my face. Blinking for focus, I noticed her front tooth was twisted completely sideways, perpendicular to the rest of her teeth. My stomach lurched. It was hideous.

I calmed myself, “Honey, looks like it’s ready to come out. Let’s try to pull it.”


She went on to spent the whole day scaring everyone with her sideways tooth. She’d grin and people would shield their eyes and gasp. She’d giggle. “It’s just my loose tooth!” she would sing out.

The next morning she woke me up again.

“Mommy my tooth fell out! I woke up and felt something in my mouth. At first I thought it was a chocolate chip, but then I realized it was my tooth.”

I paused to contemplate a world where you wake up with chocolate chips in your mouth.

“This is great news. Tonight we can put in under your pillow for the tooth fairy.”

She skipped around all day, proud of her prize tooth in a ziploc bag. That night we made a big deal out of the tooth fairy ritual. With her little tooth wedged securely under her pillow we kissed her good night and turned out the light.

Hours later when my husband and I went to make the exchange, we couldn’t find the tooth anywhere. We swept our hands under the pillow. No tooth. We lifted her head and pulled the pillow up. No tooth. We slid our hands all around her, looked under the bed and lifted her covers. Still no tooth.

It was late and we had a decision to make. She had been looking forward to the tooth fairy’s visit, better to not disappoint her. I’ll find the tooth in the morning when I’m making her bed, I thought. We slid $4.00 under her pillow.

The next morning I woke up to her wailing hysterically. I ran into her room and found her sobbing, the dollar bills scattered in her lap.

“Honey, what’s wrong??”

“I want my tooth back!!

“But you got four dollars from the tooth fairy – hey, wow!!”

“I don’t want this money, I want my tooth. Ohhhh, my tooth. I miss my tooth.”

“But I thought you wanted the tooth fairy to come.”

“I did, but then I changed my mind and I hid my tooth in a drawer in the table next to your bed. When I looked this morning it was gone. Ohhh, my tooth, I miss my tooth!!!”

“Wait, why do you miss your tooth so much? It’s just a tooth.”

“Yes, but it was a special tooth, and I didn’t get to spend much time with it.”

Okay, I thought. The tooth must still be there. She must not have seen it in her hysteria. I could still find it and make a swap.

“Honey, tonight we can put the money under your pillow and ask the tooth fairy to bring back your tooth.”

After much cajoling that the tooth fairy would, of course, know which tooth was hers, she agreed to the plan. Later, however, when I went to get the tooth, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I searched all the drawers in my nightstand. I searched the floor. I searched under my bed. No tooth. Now what?

I came downstairs and found her sitting on the floor cross-legged jamming four dollar bills into her red plastic purse. The zilpoc bag with her tooth lay on the floor next to her. She looked up at me and grinned.

“Look Mommy, the tooth fairy didn’t take my tooth after all. And she still gave me money.”

“Yeah, but don’t you think you better give the money back?”


“Because she didn’t take your tooth.”

“So, she still gave me the money anyway.”

She had me there. I had no argument. She threw her plastic purse over her shoulder and brushed past me. I watched her go — happily toting her money, her tooth and most importantly, her version of the world…a world where fairies grant special dispensations and it’s possible to wake up with a mouth full of chocolate.

And that alone is worth four bucks.

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