Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Quality of Life Debate

I've being hearing these phrases a lot lately when it comes to my pending CI surgery:

 "What have you got to lose?"
 "Won't you definitely improve your quality of life?"

 These questions are put to anyone facing a risk in their lives, so look for a connection while debating your own risk-taking decision.

      My mental debate wants to really kick into high gear and argue that I could lose the natural hearing that I have already have with my hearing aides. But, when I really think about it, that "natural" hearing is not so much from the HAs but from my skills of reading lips and facial expressions, and guessing the overall context of what was said, filling in the blanks. My use of closed captioning is also the biggest assistance when it comes to television.  I kept thinking there might come a day when people could wear a CC device and I could read what they say.  Can you imagine the looks on people's faces when I ask them to put on such a device?
      So, there!  The HAs just made everything louder, not clearer. I'm not losing those little tricks and devices.  They will still be there.   Argument goes to the Pro's.  Next Question.

      Oh, yeah, "quality of life."

     No matter what age you are there are 4 elements to living successfully.  These are not MY words of wisdom.  They are backed up with years of scientific research in the aging process:
Stay Connected
Stay Active
Become a lifelong learner
Find purposeful activities

The CON argument: Life as I know it now.
Stay Connected -  Bluetooth isn't strong enough, so I use those T-link wires to put on my phone and hear conversations.  Hello? What? What? Wait a sec, I need to hook up. (pause, pause, rattle, clink) There now, what? eh, hello? Well, there's always email.
Stay active - I hit the gym with a 20 minute walk every day.  That's 15 laps, no ipod, single file, no talking.  Uh,  join the fundraiser committee? I'm a little under the weather right now...
Become a lifelong learner - I'm learning to use Windows 8. That may take a "lifetime,"  sitting in front of a computer for hours. My eyes are blurry. Need a nap. Or, maybe I'll watch that National Geo program.  Dang, it's not closed captioned! Nap it is. A quilting class? Uh, how many will be there?
Find purposeful activities -  I quilt, and volunteer shelving library books. 

The PRO argument: What life could be with cochlear implants (you fill-in the blank with your own dilemma)
Stay Connected - Bluetooth devices, t-mics and direct connect programs will all be available for better phone conversations. All these will help at meetings or groups, movies, plays, symphonies...
Stay Active -  Going to the gym with a MP3 or ipod  may make me stay longer.  I'm up for a lunch date, a committee meeting, or a take a road trip to Tennessee!
Become a lifelong learner - The CI technology is always changing.  I'll have to stay on my toes to learn all the programs and new products that will help me. There are Ollie classes at the community college with amazing selections, energetic discussions, and delightful connection with the learning community again!!
Find purposeful activities - I will always quilt and shelve books, but I still have so much to offer in women's organizations, church, tutoring.

I see I can "con" myself into believing that I follow all those elements of successfully living now. But, I have to go with the pro's on this one. I wish you the best in your own mental debate.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Waiting is the hardest part.

Ouch, Ouch...I had the meningitis vaccine today, but more about that later.  These posts are a little delayed, because I am still in a holding pattern waiting for the insurance moment when this will all become real.  This is what happened last week.

January 19, 2013

I have had an amazing mental/emotional aerobics week.  I have gone through just about every emotion imaginable, and instead of being completely drained, I feel refreshed, relieved, and calm about whatever is ahead of me.  I think my blood pressure is even a bit lower because of this.

To begin, a week ago, as I was still agonizing over this whole decision process, my daughter was in a road rage accident of some madwoman who didn’t like that she was driving the speed limit in morning traffic. Stephanie moved over as soon as she could to exit, the woman followed her and rammed into her at the stop sign. Wayne and I went to pick up a very frightened, but lucky young woman. The trials and tribulations of online police reports, insurance calls, estimated filtered in and out through the entire week. Staying calm for a child is a mother’s first instinct, and maybe that helped me through the week’s process.  Funny though, I usually go in a corner and have a private meltdown after these kinds of events.

My four hour meeting with the audiologist and surgeon (he was only 30 minutes of all that time, no surprise) on Monday encapsulated the major decisions.  After all that fussing about my hubby earlier, I was so surprised that he stayed all that time, asked questions, and supported me throughout the whole process.  He really is the best partner for me.  We had to learn about all the devices and their programs, make a choice, order all the accessories, and understand exactly what the surgery was like and expectations afterwards, and finally schedule the day of surgery…February 20th.  It seems so much more simple when it is just put into one sentence, but I assure you, by the time it was over, and the nurse took my BP, we all were shocked at it 201/104 reading. This was HEAVY stuff.

All that was left was to get insurance approval, and I have spent the last 3 days in agony with the what if’s.  I even tried calling my insurance company to at least get some sort of answer.  Beyond my understanding, they could not even tell me it was a covered benefit to my policy until they get the pre-authorization from the surgeon. The surgeon would not send it until it was 30 days until date of surgery.  What a silly ping pong match.  I was left with the agony of just waiting, and worrying.  Second-guessing starts to roll in. Maybe I should get a second opinion. But, what would that really do? I get an agreeing answer, no change.  I get an opposing answer, more decisions.  I get, it’s up to you, well, I just wasted my time.

Then in what only I can call a real epiphany,  a favorite Joseph Campbell quote which I have “preached” to others for years whispered to my mind’s ear.

You have to let go of the life you planned to embrace the life in front of you.

 I had planned to spend the rest of my life accepting the slow gradual loss of hearing and stoically trudging on.  The biggest worry I had about this surgery was that I still function (albeit very, very basic functioning) with the little bit of hearing that I have.  It sounds “natural” beefed up with the old hearing aids. With cochlear implants I will lose ALL my hearing and I would no longer be able to use hearing aids if for any reason the CIs don’t work.  The likelihood of that happening is less than 1%, but it is there.  CIs will give me what an amputee has with a prosthetic leg, not the same, but it works better than crutches. 

For whatever logic battle my brain was having, it suddenly made sense to let go of the essence of natural hearing (which is really only 10% of what you hear) to embrace a new way of hearing at 85% or better.  The voices may sound like Mickey Mouse and it will take a lot brain training to re-learn sounds and voices, but I am ready to embrace that challenge. And IF things turn south, and I am left completely deaf… I will embrace that too…. And maybe get a service dog.

Thursday, January 24, 2013



Whatever is inside us continuously flows outward to help form, or deform the world – and whatever is outside us continually flows inward o help form, or deform our lives  ~ Parker Palmer

And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.   ~ T.S. Eliot

You know that cool little anomaly when you take a strip of paper, bring the two ends together, but twist one end before taping the ends together. When you draw a pencil line through the middle of the whole strip the front and back sides become one continuous line.


When I read these quotes, they really hit a nerve. That same nerve that has been plaguing me all week and continues to throb incessantly like my back molar and the soft tissue underneath slowly swelling and causing more pain than I want to acknowledge.

But the emotional nerve is a new row with a loved one.  As much as I feel that she is the one who needs to read , understand, and relate to these sayings, my little back tooth is chanting, “Look only at yourself, look only at yourself…”

I've always quoted my dad whenever some adversity is haunting me with there are always two sides to every story. "You can’t have a piece of bread sliced so thin that there aren’t two sides to it."  Well, if the Mobius strip effect comes into play, this can’t be true. Both sides are one in the same.  A creation of reality are one in the same. But what is reality except perception?  (One man’s truth is another man’s lie.) Definitely a challenge to know which truth is right: the Mobius, or is it toast?

Look at me not her, look at me not her, lookatmenother…

We have endured a long journey together. No matter how much I want to scream out her injustice to me, to speak my truth, to get her to own up to the hurt she caused, I keep arriving at the same answer. We are back where we started. Yes, 2 sides are alike, but keep in mind to believe in the Mobius strip, you have to be just a little twisted.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Successful life...because?

Imagine yourself 90 years old, sitting comfortably on a porch with a refreshing drink in your hand visiting with someone and you start out saying, “My life has been so successful because….

I really believe I have to give credit to my success in life to the fact that I never stopped learning.  Learning has allowed me to forge through problems, challenge myself, and question my beliefs as well as others.  Looking back at those low points in my life, they were the times when I was stuck in an old belief or habit and refused to see the situation differently.  Whether it was a tragic loss, financial setback, or a physical disability, I failed (or wasn’t successful) when I couldn’t see it as a time to learn something new.

What more important element could there be to success than the ability to learn?  One thing is for sure, failure in a project, relationship, or any endeavor can still be successful if you’ve learned something from it. How cool – I was successful even when I failed. What a safety net!

In my life of ninety years (of course I can only remember the first 60 years of it) I have learned that...

  • the loss of my parents in my 20's didn't mean I quit learning from them.

  • losing a child (although everyone believes that will be the end of them, too) can make you live your life to its fullest a the strongest tribute to his memory.

  • choosing to let go of a tiny piece of myself does not change who I am but gives me the opportunity to let myself grow a different way.  I may had to let go of what was left of my residual hearing when I received these cochlear implants, but it opened doors for me to communicate more with those around me.

  • whatever decisions I've had to make in life, I found new pathways that allowed me to learn more.

At ninety years old, whether I have 10 years or one day, I’m going to learn something everyday.  I recently read a now to be a forever favorite quote…”We meet everyone in our lives for a reason. You are either a blessing or a lesson.”   What will you be, dearie?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A New Call to Adventure

January 4, 2013

After toying with the idea of having cochlear implants (CI), I am now taking the steps to make this a reality. Some of the fears about just having it done are tabled, and I am just taking it one day at a time…my self-preservation tactic to avoid any kind of sucker punch that may halt the process.

I have been wearing hearing aids for 30 years (actually this very year because I was fitted with my first pair while holding infant Stephanie in my lap) I was able to keep the cost of getting 2 hearing aids every 7 years or so with Voc Rehab, Flex Benefits, appealing to school principal to follow ADA requirements. The cost was usually an up-front one-time payment ranging from $1000 to $5000. After moving to Colorado and not working full time that became a future burden I didn’t want to face.

I met a new audiologist and ENT at the University of Colorado Hospital. I took the first test in 2008 and then again in 2011. I “hear” too well to qualify using my brain to fill in the pockets I don’t hear.  On Dec 31st 2012, I had failed enough to qualify, going from a speech discrimination of 67% to 28% bilaterally. My hearing loss hasn’t changed but the word clarity is in the bucket (aging process sucks)

So now the process of acceptance is in motion. A balance/gravity test VNG (Videonystagmography) and VEMP (Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential) was administered last Wednesday, January 2, 2013. This involved trying to get me dizzy by flushing warm and cold water into my ear canals and then measuring my eye movements while wearing a mask and then testing the balance organ by marking neck muscle, sternum, and ear canal electrodes. Evidently I passed that with the knowledge that my left ear is more balanced than my right by a slight margin. Still no indication that both ears could not be implanted simultaneously.

So now I wait 2 weeks until January 14th to meet with the surgeon and audiologist to decide on the right product for my lifestyle, get the info about the surgery and schedule a CT scan to check the bones. I have a library of promo material from the 2 companies and my single solo alone mind to figure out which to pick. THEN the coup de grace approval from BCBS, All of this hassle, testing, money, and false hope have to happen before I can even find out if I can have the surgery. Actually the possibility of not being approved is pretty slim, but how much out of pocket is the big roadblock and my biggest fear. I am preparing myself to hear that this will cost me my deductible ($3000). If I have to pay a 20% over that which would be close to $20,000), I have to call off the deal.  I’m not too thrilled with the $3000, but it’s kind of doable especially if I can work out a payment plan over 6 months. That is my hope. Then my little “Pollyanna Buster” voice says, “Don’t get your hopes up, sister!”

Another worry, trepidation, concern is how alone I feel in doing this. Wayne doesn’t like to talk about it. I just get, “You’ll research it and I will support you.”  Steph and Sam aren’t around and they have their own problems. Friends are too far away, Yeah, I would talk adnauseum about it if I had the chance, but it’s how I deal with the fear and try to make choices.  Actually, I know I can make the choice, it is a personal one anyway, but I also think about the day of the surgery and following.  Historically Wayne is always “busy” when I need/want him.  I feel I have to schedule around him all the time.

I just got the call that my CT scan is now scheduled for next Thursday January 10th at 8:45. So all will be in place for my pre-op appointment the following Monday.  If I put aside all my doubts, this could actually happen by Valentine’s Day.  I have a PEO program that I am supposed to give that day so, I am kind of hoping that it would work for the 15th. Of course if they could get it in sooner, I would go for it.

So now I just wait… going to purge my sewing room, now.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oh Woe! Where Did My Muse Go?

     I do believe my Muse has abandoned me for a more prolific writer!  She has been my best friend for as long as I can remember.  In grade school when I was the fledgling incompetent and unconfident writer, she would quietly sit on my shoulder whispering, "You don't have to copy that poem as yours - write your own."
     In college, I dabbled in writing short stories but the rejections from professors who "expected better" as well as magazine pink slips, prompted that sweet Muse to say, "Give it time, your writing will grow and it will become something only for you. That's your first audience anyway - you."
     When marriage, and babies, and teaching took up most of my time, that little Muse sat atop my ear chanting, " But what about writing that down?"  I ignored her mostly. I think she took up knitting, but she loyally stayed.
     Kicking into high gear with my writing and even teaching writing little Wilma Writer Muse was in her finest form. She broke out with a celebratory break dance cheering and encouraging and even crying and laughing with every stroke of my pen.  She had finally earned her Best Friend to a Writer Badge, and I was so proud to have her in my corner.  Her pushing and urging even took me to a local writer's group, online classes, journal groups, and creating this blog. Man, she was on fire!
     Then, what? What happened? Where did she go so suddenly? I've been through dry spells before, and she never gave up on me. Why now? Did I say something wrong? Ignored her one too many times?  Or has she just worn herself out? Is there a Retirement Muse Plan? Maybe she's on a Muse Cruise. Seeing the sights of the world that she  missed out on trying to get me to open my eyes all this time.  Well, she deserves it... I guess.  I was a tough client.  But now more than ever I see a need  to make sure thoughts, creations, and gifts of writing flow from my pen, but she 's not dangling on my eraser this time.  I sure hope she comes back...soon.