Tuesday, 4 October 2016
The pain is deep, as though my bones are knives, slicing me inside out. The emergency doctor in the hospital trauma room is urgently talking to my parents. He keeps repeating he's baffled I'm still conscious, let alone in such an extreme state, writhing in pain, screaming for mercy, begging for help. He's exhausted the legal amount of available pharmaceutical narcotics. They've IV pushed enough pain medication and ketamine into my bloodstream to put down a horse. It is 4a.m. I feel as though I've been being burnt alive for over four hours now.
What is this? What's happening to me? I was home on a pass from the hospital just tonight. I was well. A few short days from being sent home. I felt fine. Then, around ten o'clock, a fever. I started to feel really odd. Something was off. For someone who has spent decades of their life in a hospital, you would think I'd have a million words to describe feeling sick. This was different. Like nothing I'd ever felt before. It came over me, obstructing all of my other senses with a weight of pain and sharpness I couldn't shake.
A wave of nausea came over me as the room began to spin. I pressed the call button on my bedside railing to alert my nurse. The bathroom now seemed miles away and I did not feel steady or safe walking there alone.
The patient alarm rang and rang. A single red light above the doorway of room 4041 blinked off and on but the call for help remained unanswered. After twenty minutes without a response from nursing staff, I had no choice other than to make the trip to the washroom on my own. The next thing I know, my bed-ridden roommate is hollering our nurse's name at the top of her lungs, everything goes black, and I hit the floor.
I'm shaking. Wind is rushing by me. My face, neck, and arms are stinging with tightness. I'm swelling up like a balloon. All the while I hear loud screams of someone being tortured. Through the pulsating red and black fireworks in front of my eyes, I realize it's not the wind. I'm rattling on a stretcher being rushed down a never ending hallway. The agonizing screams are coming from me. Every nerve in my body feels as though it's being skinned alive.
Since then, hours have passed in this small emergency trauma room, and for hours I've suffered. I look over at my parents. The doctor is explaining to my mom the biggest concern is that my airways have swollen dangerously narrow. Between blows of pain, I hear the words 'ventilator', and 'tracheotomy'. My mother is stoic, holding it all together like she always does. Going toe to toe like a heavyweight boxer with the ER doctor ensuring he knows exactly the complicated patient history he's dealing with, making sure everything that can possibly be done is being done. My dad looks a wreck. He's aged thirty more years in this room.
Dr. Trauma leans over me. My life is in his hands and I can actually see the weight of my situation bearing down heavily on his shoulders. As he speaks he looks at me but can't quite bring himself to make eye contact. He holds on to the metal railing next to me and bows his head. They are going to rush me to the Intensive Care Unit. Gasping between tears, I plead with him to make the pain stop. He tells me he can not safely give me any more pain medication. The only way to give me any relief is to medically induce a coma.
I beg him to do it.
A commotion of doctors and nurses erupts around me. The stretcher is on the move again. A far away voice belonging to the nurse beside me says I'm going to feel a strange sensation as I'm injected with medication. She instructs me to close my eyes. Somewhere in the back of my mind, it strikes me as odd how she can be so matter of fact when I'm terrified those will be the last words I ever hear.
A dark tunnel in a kaleidoscope of colors bursts to life behind my eyelids. Traveling at warp speed, it begins to focus in on a little white light. It gets larger and larger like white paint spilling over a black floor, washing away color and darkness until all I can see is glaring brightness. Suddenly, it begins to crack and separate, like a melting iceberg and falls apart beneath me. I clasp my hand over my eyes and free-fall. Like Alice down the rabbit hole.
To Be Continued...
Sunday, 2 October 2016
Those of you who have known us longest will remember this website began as a personal blog. Jane Against The World becoming popular remains one of the best experiences in my life. I still feel so shocked and honored at the response to my writing. Many emails came from readers who feel a connection or can relate to my experiences. Garnering positive reviews from New York Times Best-Selling Author Jennifer Weiner lead to it being viewed tens of thousands of times. It still boggles my mind! I was excited to keep growing.
Then, a few years ago, I had a critical health incident. Everything changed. I've had hundreds of health problems for decades but this infection quickly grew ugly and more terrifying than any of us could have expected. I went into septic shock followed by a cardiac arrest. Among other things, the aftermath resulted in short-term memory loss. My health deteriorated more. The months turned into years filled with lengthier hospital stays.
In April of this year yet another, trauma episode erupted. A rare, underlying illness landed me back in intensive care for a month. Slow recovery made it heart-breakingly difficult to write not only my blog but even in the solace of my daily journal, which I've written in diligently since my first heart-shaped padlock and key dollar store diary in second grade. I tried to keep a notebook within reach at all times to scribble things as fast as I could in hopes of capturing my train of thought. Most sentences began sensible enough but quickly faltered, sloppily ending with me swearing in script at myself out of frustration.
Now, the reason for this post: The Big News.
The Big News is that I finally feel like I'm both capable and ready to go back to writing on Jane Against The World!
It will have the same story entries you know and love but will also include weekly Fashion, Lifestyle & Beauty edits I highlight on www.pinterest.com/MissJaneSpring. While unable to write, Jane Spring's profile on Pinterest has grown an amazing 145k following! It will also feature product reviews, DIY and sewing projects I attempt in more detail now that I'm merging Pinterest with this blog.
I am beyond excited, nervous and overwhelmed to announce that October 4th, 2016 will be the first new post in over two years! I hope you all haven't forgotten Jane and will want to continue this journey with us!
For those of you who are visiting this blog for the first time, a link to my very first post is below. Please take a look back and get to know my stories! But first - let me introduce myself:
My Name Isn't Jane
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Monday, 23 June 2014
I don't remember an awakening. In the movies, there's a dramatic opening of the eyes and quick intake in place of bated breath of a loved one by your bedside. The first solid memory I have is day nine After The Crash. I'm playing hangman in the patient family lounge with my son, my sister-in-law and my brother. I'm happy. I'm so happy that all I can register is how swollen I am with love and pride that my eleven year old son is stumping adults three times his age with puzzles like Nelson Mandella, Shakespeare and Bruce Wayne.
Yes, I did find out later that Nelson Mandella dying around that time was all over the news and yes, I also know that Bruce Wayne is Batman but that's besides the point. The point is I remember feeling such happiness. What baffles me looking back are the things I know now but didn't question.
Why did I have a three inch scar in my chest where my portacath used to be? Why did I have a surgical central line in my neck? Why was I moved to a different room? How come people keep telling me how great I look? (Trust this: I did not look great.) Why are there so many Christmas decorations? Why - WHY?! - does everyone keep looking at me like I should get a gold medal for getting out of bed in the morning?
A lot of my factual questions have been answered, but most of the important ones haven't. I was released home after two months only to be readmitted a month later. That was fifteen weeks ago and I am just now finally allowed to go home. It's been forever since I've written. I don't know how but somehow I became accustomed to the constant yearning to write everything down. I filled the void with over-priced jellybeans and boxed it away with my longing to be home. Now that I am home, and truly at home feeling better, there are a million things I want to do but only one real thing I need. Only one question I need to find an answer to.
After being dead for twenty-three minutes can a person really come back to life?
I guess I'm going to find out.
Sunday, 27 October 2013
While at the pharmacy to pick up some of my medication, my son picks up a stick of men's deodorant. He tells me that the teacher at school explained to them about their bodies changing and how to take care of their new bodies by staying clean to keep pimples away, wearing deodorant, etc. Knowing that my boy isn't anywhere close to needing these things yet, I buy it for him anyway. What's the harm? I'll tell you what the harm is in buying a ten year old deodorant - a mother FREAKING OUT!!!
I cringe at the thought that in a few short years he will be a teenager. I want to freeze him at this age, before his voice starts to change, and he starts to get all tall and lanky. We all fumble through adolescence. Unfortunately, where girls go through it we get bigger boobs and start to shave our legs, the boys - they get tall, awkward, pimply and ever changing squeaky voice.
I shove that image to the back of my head and bury it deep. I'm totally happy to look at him now in complete denial that he will stay just as he is forever. I thank the Lord again - for the billionth time - that he gave me a son and not a daughter. When I was pregnant my mantra was 'Please let it be a boy. Give me a boy.' My mother said I was terrible for saying that. Obviously, I would have loved any baby the same whether it were a boy or a girl.
My reasons for wanting a son versus wanting a daughter are quite simple:
a) I only want to have one penis in this world to worry about. Instead of frantically pushing away the boys who fall to her feet because, naturally, she's gorgeous like me. (*wink*) Bullet, dodged.
b) Every teenage girl hates there mother at some point.
I know that seems really harsh to say, but think about it - when you were sixteen you believed that there was absolutely nothing your mother knew what being a teenager is like. My mother and I fought like blazing wildfire. We were so different. We crashed and burned our way through every argument.
Now, I know it was my teenage angst and logic that had me hell bent that at her age she would never understand what I'm feeling. I mean, she was in her late forties - did she even remember being a teenager? And us teenagers, we thought we were so much more grown up. We were so steadfast, holding firm in the belief that our generation was superior somehow. We were smarter, more mature, we could take care of ourselves. We didn't need anybody. Yeah, right.
I recently read a beautiful memoir about two sisters being raised by a mother with schizophrenia. In one scene, their mother smashes a bottle and holds it to her daughter's neck because she believes the man coming to take her on a date was a nazi trying to steal her womb.This mother had become so dangerous, the women made the difficult choice to separate themselves from her by changing their names and moved away. They shared nothing with their mother except a P.O. Box where they could send and receive letters. The mother was in and out of institutes and homeless for the next seventeen years. Not a day went by without the daughter remembering those minuscule moments in her childhood when her real mother would shine through.When they travel home to be with their dying mother for the first time in almost two decades, they learned in the end they needed her as much as she needed them. To be whole.Now, I know I need my mother. She is my rock. She is the pillar that holds me up when I can't stand. She is my advocate and my voice when I am too sick or scared to ask the hard questions. She is the angel who uprooted her life to save mine, moving five hours away from her home and family to help me take care of my son and get me on my feet. Without my mother I never would have been able to raise my son in a beautiful home.
She is as much of an amazing person as she is a mother. Earlier this year she was nominated for an Outstanding Professional Fundraiser of the year award. When I became sick as a child, my mother put so much passion into raising money for the local children's hospital. She was such a stellar ambassador, the hospital offered her a great job at the main foundation. She loves her job, and you can tell. Mother is so connected to the cause and believes in it so much that she won that award. I never doubted it for a second. She believes in me too. Without my mother by my side being strong for me, I shiver to think of the dark places my mind would have wandered to in the lonely abyss of my disease.
We all carry pieces of our mothers with us. Whether it be in our features or DNA. No matter how much time has past or how many bad words are said. We inherit them through ourselves. My mother is not only the reason I have beautiful things around me, she's also the reason I'm beautiful on the inside.
Friday, 3 May 2013
I stare out the wooden slats of my window blinds that leave long lit wedges of streetlamp light across my crisp duvet. Turning onto my side, I edge away from the watermarks splashed like scars across my pillowcase. The evidence of tears disappears easily enough, but this bed was once it’s own world. Our love foraged a universe that encased us in these sheets. Where everything was ours and nothing could touch us.
If I look close enough, would the memory foam mattress form fossils in the shapes of the beginning, when we were entwined lovers, never wanting to be apart... Or are the only imprints the bed could reveal now of feeling heavy with weight along it’s edges, vast cold empty sheets and unspoken words stretched across the distance between our two backs.
Sometimes I feel like knowing you was the dream. Each day it gets harder for me to remember. Morning comes and the reality of our existence seems more like a story I've read years ago, or a movie made about tragic lovers. Every day I scramble to catch the wisps and fragments of you. The feelings and the words and the touch that was you and me
and in that flash of the certainty of our love, life, and time together time seemed to fill up all space and conquer all things. I lay here trying to grasp the memory of your voice, your smile, your touch. It's always present here, lingering, waiting for me to reach out and take hold of the pieces. The ghosts never come close enough; will never be real enough, for me to hold again.
But, like all things majestic and infinite, even love gets further away over time. Deadened by the void, diluted with emptiness, masked by other lifetimes passing over. Tomorrow you will be even further. Even more impossible to reach. Like dreams on foggy mornings. Until at last, not forgotten, but tucked away, in dreams is only where I'll find you. You
and that love. The love that once filled up this place where I now lay my head down to sleep, only in search of you to hold on to. Our love. And in our short precious time together, it was majestic and infinite, above all things.
The mornings I wake up feeling peaceful and calm, I know that night as I slept my heart transcended time and space and some how, some small way I was with you...and I wake up happy.
Monday, 11 March 2013
The woman was in the mirror again. Wearing the same bulky gray sweater, her hair dishevelled. I know she is young, but her tired eyes reflect a soul much older. Letting her reading glasses slide halfway down her nose, she gives up trying to focus on her book. I close my eyes and send her away.
Ten years ago, I used to lie to her and say, “When you feel better you'll be able to go back to university.” “As soon as you recover from surgery, you will get the public relations internship you've always wanted.” “When you are in remission, you won't have to miss out on life's opportunities.” “When you are back to being yourself, he’ll remember why he fell in love with you.” The future shone so brightly with promise, even from far away. Of course, back then, I didn't know they were lies.
It used to seem like my life hung suspended. Ready and waiting for me to come grab hold of it and hit the ground running. Now each day feels like life is being sucked away. Time is whizzing by and I can't stop it. I'm trying to grasp moments to prolong them but I'm Alice falling down the rabbit hole with clocks and chairs and friends and events all a blur and then - thud! A decade of my life is gone and I'm alone on the floor with no way of climbing back up and no keys to any of the doors in front of me.
Weren't my 20s supposed to have given me something?! Adventure, culture, tortured romance, experience, an education, a flying leap into a successful career, a man-of-my-dreams turned husband? Instead, I’m trapped inside the girl in the mirror.
Life is loud, fluid, exciting, terrifying, and passionate all around me. Everyone is someone: mother, wife, sister, aunt, lover, best friend. No matter the titles I have had, it’s been tarnished with an X, and marked in bright red -‘SICK’. Not mother. Not wife. Not employee. Not friend. I want to be counted on. I want to be able to be able to support the people who never waiver the love they give or in being here for me.
Why does it hurt so much?! People all over the world wake up daily and go live their lives. Such a task is gargantuan to me. Taking a shower leaves me ragged and sweating, my knees chattering from the weakness of holding myself up. My apartment needs to be dusted. There are dishes in the sink. Why does it have to be so difficult? I tell myself it’s easy. But my muscles ache, there is a dagger in my lower abdomen searing with a pain so red and so loud I can hear it. I drift in and out of a medicated sleep but never feel rested. I’m tired. I’m tired deep down to my bones. Tired of fighting for the possession of my own body, to do with it what I please and be the person who I want to be. This is not how I want to live!
But that’s just the thing isn't it?
I’m not living at all. Not really.
Strength is a word I hear a lot. Everyone tells me over and over again, ‘You are so strong.’ I want to be strong. I want to live a success story. I want mine to be a story of triumph. It hurts more than any agony I've suffered knowing that I’m thirty and I haven’t accomplished any of the goals I planned for my life. I want so badly to be something else.
I want someone to ask me to describe myself in few words to smile and chirp the words ‘Soccer Mom!’ ‘Writer!’ ‘Sugar Addict.’
Some day, this will all be ‘an experience.’ I will be sitting in a lawn chair at my summer retreat facing the Muskoka lakes. I will share homemade ice tea with my 9 year old granddaughter and tell her how things were so different for me when I was her age. When people who rent cottages for the summer ask around the area's shops, they will say, “Does Jane Spring, the author, really have a home near here?” No one will ever ask how I’m feeling, or how this surgery went, or how long I’d been in the hospital.
I look in the mirror to the woman with her pale pallor skin sunken in and try hard to hold on to the hopes of someday. Someday when cheeks are rosy and limbs are strong. She’ll no longer have a face that causes people to take pause and ask, “Are you ok?” or “How are you feeling?”
Someday, when they see her, they won’t have a reason to ask any of those things at all.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
I am not going to think about it. I am going to enjoy my afternoon. I will not be nervous. I will not be scared.
I am trying to convince myself of all these things knowing full well the impossibility of allowing myself even a few short hours of normal childhood activity. Being nourished via a nasal gastric tube for twelve hours a day means constantly having bright yellow tubing tucked behind my ear and taped to my face. From there it continues up my nose and down my throat, ending in my stomach. Bright yellow – what demon designs these things? They might as well put traffic cones around me with a big blinking highway sign saying “Social Outcast.”
I have been looking forward to - and dreading - this day for an entire month. Once a month my feeding tube needs to be removed in exchange for a new one. During these few short hours in between, I am able to have a break from the itchy tape and the never ending uncomfortable tug against my nose every time I swallow. But mostly, I spend these hours on the verge of a panic attack as the time ticks swiftly towards my mother having to put the new feeding tube in.
No matter how many times we have done it, no matter how much older I get - I cannot get used to doing this. I spend hours trying to muster up the courage to sit in the chair. I fight my mother tooth and nail trying to stave off a few extra minutes before giving in. I would take tiny steps, inching closer to the middle of the kitchen and my mother, who hates this process every bit as much as I do. It takes less than two minutes and, honestly, it doesn't really hurt. It is a much bigger monster than that. For me it represents everything that causes pain in my life - that is the true battle. Once a month having to surrender myself to my illness, admit defeat and allow it to brand me as 'sick' for the world to see.
It is Saturday afternoon and in our small town, everyone who is anyone will be at Wheelie's. I have been to Wheelie's roller rink once or twice before during the Family Skate on Sundays with my parents and little brother. Then every Monday, I sit alone at recess waiting for the bell, listening to the latest chitter-chatter about all the fun things that happened Saturday at Wheelie's. Now that I'm almost 12, my parents are finally letting me go this afternoon with my cousin Cheryl - without my tube in! No one will be staring. No one will cringe and look away when I walk near them. I won’t need to cover my nose with my hand, staring at the floor hoping no one will notice me. This afternoon, I will be just like everyone else.
I can barely contain my excitement as Cheryl and I walk through the double doors, leaving the hot sticky outdoor air behind us. Wheelie's is massive. The carpeted arcade area is bright with pin ball machines, Street Fighter and Mrs. Pac Man. Even she put her best face on today knowing she will be on display for a hundred kids. Those who are taking a break from roller skating are licking ketchup off their fingers as they eat French fries from the canteen on the benches that line the walls. We see a precious empty space near the crowded arcade and quickly lay claim on an empty length of bench. Cheryl bounds off to grab our skates while I save our seats.
The skate ring itself was easily as large as our school gym. Smooth, glossy concrete peppered with glitter under a big mural of Wheelie’s hippo mascot on the far wall. Giggling children whiz by, chasing each other under the sparkling fragmented lights from the disco ball. Teenagers from the high school couple up, putting their hands in one another's back pockets. 'November Rain' is playing loudly and I wonder how they manage kissing (with tongue!) groping each other, and still roller skate at the same time.
"Uh-oh," Cheryl nods across the graphic carpet to the skate rental counter. A group of girls from school were a mess of big hair in neon scrunchies and jean jackets reapplying lip gloss. 'The BQ Squad is here. What’s so great about them anyway? I can't even understand why they love themselves so much." The Beauty Queens walk, talk and dress as though they run the world around them. Most people are dumb enough to let them. They are the prettiest most popular girls in school. Openly, I loathe everything about them. Inwardly, and I am not proud to admit it, there is a piece of me who wants so badly for them to like me. If they liked me, maybe everyone else would give me a chance too. Maybe then I would be somebody else. Somebody who people didn't throw rocks at on the way home from school. Somebody who has lots of friends instead of lots of books. Somebody who did not need to sit alone at recess anymore.
"Let’s just ignore them! Come on and stay close – I’m not very good!" We have tightened our hot pink laces and are laughing hard. We stumble trying to balance and find our footing without falling over or taking one another down. It is not until they are standing over us that we notice Steph and her clones.
"Jane!" she gives me a thousand kilowatt smile. "Wow look at you! So pretty! No wonder Chris wants to skate a lap around with you!" They all stand there like Barbie dolls while Cheryl and I are frozen in place trying to take in the fact that they even know who we are. "He said, 'I didn’t realize she was so pretty under that …thing.' " Steph's double bubble cracks loudly. The girls behind her nod and giggle. "So you will, right?"
I'm dumbfounded. Chris wants to skate a lap around the rink with me? Is this happening? I don't even remember moving but I must have given the slightest nod because Steph is grabbing my sleeve and half dragging me toward the edge of the rink. I look back at Cheryl standing alone and mouth the words 'I'm sorry' but she is just as stunned as I am. It is all happening so fast and in slow motion at the same time. I feel like there is a weight on my chest. I have lost all ability to speak. The BQs eagerly flag down Chris and his friends.
This boy has never said a word to me in my life. We've been in the same class since we were five years old and until now I would have bet he had no idea I even exist. Chris skids to a stop in his black and neon yellow roller blades. He is so close to me I can smell the Dep gel he uses to spike his hair. He holds out his arm for me to take, dimples forming as he smiles broadly at me. My eyes meet with Cheryl's from across the room. She is still watching this unfold from the sidelines, only now she looks annoyed with me. I don't blame her. I would have felt the same way if she had deserted me for a boy. She will have to forgive me. I smile back at Chris. How can I say no? This is what I wanted, right? It is happening. This was the day that people will notice me for the right reasons. The day I am just as pretty, as cool and as confident as everyone else.
Chris is moving faster than I can but I am too scared to speak. I try so hard to keep up I can barely concentrate on anything else. One of the cutest boys at school is roller skating with me! It seems too good to be true. As we glide towards the rest of the kids from school, I realize an instant too late: If something seems too good to be true - it probably is.
In slow motion I watch Steph stick her leg out to trip me. I buckle forward crashing down hard on my knees. I'm splayed out on the floor while those hateful girls are laughing like hyenas. No feeding tube at all and still every last person in the building is pointing at me and staring. Chris actually has the nerve to bend down and try to help me up. Thank god Cheryl comes out of nowhere, pushing him aside and quickly gets me on my feet.
"What's wrong Hose Nose? Did you think we would forget you were a disease?" Steph calling after us, everyone looking and laughing. "Did you actually think that a boy would think you and that noodle nose were attractive?"
Cheryl takes me into the bathroom. She makes sure I am okay and leaves to go gather our shoes. I don't remember hitting my head but there is blood coming from above my eye. I splash cold water on my face. By the time Cheryl returns I am a teary mess on the bathroom floor. She locks the door and sits down next to me. "They are assholes. Who wants friends like that anyway?" Cheryl helps me put my sneakers on the best I could over a very swollen ankle and we leave the bathroom. I am grateful to her for not being angry I had left her alone and making me feel worse than I already did.
Leaving the bathroom I start to make a bee-line for the exit but Chris is leaning on the wall and comes up to me. I push past him as quickly as I could but he jumps in front of me. "I didn't know," he said. I ask him to get out of my way but he will not move. "Listen, I was a jerk. But I didn't know this would happen. Steph said she would give me five dollars to do one skate around the rink with you. I just wanted the money - I didn't know she was going to hurt you. I swear." This time when I go to leave he gets out of my way as I limp as fast as my ankle will let me to get as far away from here as I can.
When I arrive home, I crash onto my bed. Not even my pillow can stifle the sobbing. The lump on my forehead has doubled in size. I'm unable to bend my swollen ankle at all. None of these physical pains are bad enough to compete with the pain of shame and embarrassment. Monday at recess, I will still sit alone. I wanted to be noticed but not like this. I wanted so badly to be a part of the crowd at Wheelie's and now my nightmare will spread whisper to ear through the entire school. I am so stupid for wanting to fit in so badly.
A few hours and many tears later, the time has come for my feeding tube to go back in. From now on, I will gladly take a few anxious hours at home waiting for the new one to go in over the devastation of this afternoon. I will not try to be someone I’m not. I will worry in my room with my books where it is safe. I hold a glass of water to take gulps of because it helps to guide it down. The wire inside will hurt as it passes through the back of my nose. Tonight I quietly I sit down on the chair in the middle of the kitchen bracing myself for my mother to begin. This day has left me feeling so numb, I can't even put up a fight.
What is the point of fighting against who you really are?