I had a horrible experience with a new-to-me specialist doctor a little over a month ago who was very rough; I actually yelled out in pain at one point. Based upon little information she told me I likely had cancer of an internal organ (I won’t get into specifics here) and ordered a series of invasive painful tests and biopsies. I immediately made an appointment with someone else to get a second opinion and can say that he is a blessing. Not only does he have decades of experience (which sadly means he will soon be retiring), he is gentle and didn’t have the same impressions as the first doctor. After a couple of painless ultrasounds he determined based upon them and my lack of symptoms that I’m all clear. The one scary growth, something the first doctor overlooked and he found on the first ultrasound actually resolved itself–it’s gone! I was so nervous all month! It was very hard for me to not let it take over my thoughts. My little field trip to Maine Wildlife Park was helpful during this time as was focusing on the beautiful simple things around me. I’m not just thankful for the diagnosis and my new doctor but also the two sonographers who were so incredibly kind, gentle and the second one, hilarious. Who would think that getting an ultrasound in an awkward place could be funny?!
Wayne and I attended a Pow Wow at the Maine Wildlife Park this summer after which we spent some time exploring and looking at the animals. Unlike a zoo that operates for profit, the animals at the park cannot survive in the wild. It’s there that they are provided a safe forever home because they were injured, orphaned, or became human dependent while being raised illegally in captivity. The park is self-sustaining and owned and operated by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife within the Division of Information and Education. Each animal becomes an ambassador for its species to help educate (and charm!) the public. It has a staff of thirty and over two hundred volunteers which includes retirees, college interns and during the off-season, inmates involved in correctional trade instruction. The inmates gain experience and can give back to the community by doing necessary tasks like painting, shoveling and maintaining wood furniture.
I contacted park Superintendent Curt Johnson about the possibility of volunteering next season. Since I’m always interested in learning more about people who work with and love wildlife I asked him after he interviewed me if I could interview him for my blog. Not only did he agree to it but he also offered me a rare opportunity to visit the park and see the animals after it had closed for the season! I felt so lucky and of course I accepted his generous offer!
Sometimes I can’t contain my joy for living in such a beautiful place, but really, why would I want to? Is it because we’re trained to think that happiness springs from ignorance, so that only simple-minded people are content? Or is informed bliss (the name of my first blog in 2001) in a world filled with sadness and tragedy along with comfort, kindness and connection a real possibility?
YES! Yes it is!
During coffee hour after church a few weeks ago I was speaking with Kate Chappell about her daughter, Sarah’s horse therapy farm in Lyman, Maine. Kate mentioned that one of the things the farm offers are programs for people with PTSD! I have often dreamed of one day operating a little animal therapy farm for traumatized youth so I was immediately fascinated. The offerings are extensive and include organizational/leadership development, team retreats, hippotherapy for people ages two and up with a diagnosed emotional, physical or cognitive disability and riding lessons to the general public.
Kate was so kind to arrange with Sarah (pictured above) an opportunity for me to visit the academy and share it with you here on my blog. My post is focused on the equine enrichment groups and working farmscape education tailored for at-risk youth and young adults, senior citizens, veterans and people in early recovery from addictions.
My experience from both sides of the “couch” has taught me that there’s nothing simple about PTSD nightmares. The things I tried in my teens and twenties–using food and alcohol to try and bury and drown them, sometimes to the point of blacking out, created new real-life nightmare scenarios. In my late twenties through my forties I was afraid to go to sleep; I averaged about five broken hours a night. When I did sleep, and the nightmares struck, I woke up extremely exhausted.
I wish I could say that I am now completely free of nightmares and experience restful sleep. The good news is that I have made incredible progress over the past couple of years. I have fewer nightmares, am not terrified of going to sleep and am making my peace with them.
My yard is full of surprises. I was deadheading roses and noticed this Wooly Bear caterpillar. On a cabbage, what looked like detritus simply hopped away. It’s this garden variety of unannounced visitors that I welcome. What was absolutely terrifying was when a mystery object came crashing down from above!
Note: I never thought I’d be sharing this publicly, but in light of a recent event, I am called to do so.
Good care, whether physical, medical, psychological or spiritual, is important for maintaining one’s well-being. Long gone are the days of the old New England doctor that knows and forms a relationship with the entire family and makes house calls. Yet medically, while we have made progress in disease recognition (but I call foul on some of those infomercials trying to sell us sickness) and management, it seems like we’re in a futuristic dark age. Between issues with for-profit health insurers, politics and a growing lack of empathy and good communications skills as a society, getting quality medical care can be really hard to find. Compounding that further, my experience has been that it’s not easy to find competent and compassionate medical care for the challenging issues women face later in life.
When I found Christine some years ago I knew I had hit the jackpot! She was the first medical professional to ask me a very important question that, in retrospect, should be asked of every woman during her annual wellness exam.
I have a genetic predisposition to being at higher risk for skin cancer, so I see a dermatologist for an annual skin exam. I had a mole on my arm that looked different from all of the others and my dermatologist had said we should keep an eye on it. About two weeks ago I noticed that it was changing: it was darker and starting to have uneven borders. What really frightened me was when I happened to notice in a photo of me from 2013 that it wasn’t even on my arm! It’s not normal to grow new moles when you’re over forty. I called her office to be seen and she agreed that it should be biopsied.
I’ve had some rough days since my last post, but I’ll start with the more upbeat stuff. The photo above is of Wayne looking rather tiny in contrast with the big colorful trees in our woods.
I’m often asked what gave me the idea to do a tour of Maine’s summer Episcopal chapels. The truth is that it just came to me, the same way the idea for my blog did during Easter Sunday while sitting in church. I love to explore new-to-me places and meet new people. The theme of renewal and strengthening my relationship with God while appreciating unique places of worship in beautiful coastal Maine settings felt like it would be Episcopal Summer Camp. And in many ways, I was right!