Thursday, July 28, 2011

Unplanned Journey

"A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us." ~ John Steinbeck

I am a planner. I have been my whole life and to be honest, sometimes I border on the mildly obsessive side when it come to planning things. There are huge advantages to knowing what you are going to do and when you are going to do it, or so I have always thought. For me, being a planner has meant having control and therefore avoiding all the potential disasters that can occur. Take a trip or vacation for example. Make your reservations, get your route all mapped out, figure out what events are going to be included in your trip. Nothing can go wrong then. Yeah, right. Reservations get lost. Road construction delays your driving trip by hours. And horrors of all horrors, it rains the whole time you are on your well planned trip!

Now, my partner in life, love, and adventure (AKA boyfriend Chuck) is the antithesis of a planner. For years, I have wanted to be able to relax and not have to plan every single second of every single day and over the past two years or so, I have become more laid back. When we started dating though, I thought for sure his fly by the seat of his pants approach to many things would cause quite a stir in our relationship because of the fact that I just didn't feel comfortable going through life like that on a regular basis. See, oftentimes he can plan for really important events such as say, Christmas or my birthday, but otherwise, not so much. He approaches it more like the fact that tomorrow is not here yet so most planning does not have to be done far in advance. For example, we had a large Fourth of July cookout this month. I started making lists and organizing about two months beforehand. Extreme? Maybe. If it was up to just him, planning would have begun the day (or maybe a few days) before. And you know what? The cookout probably would have been just as successful either way. However for me, it alleviated a lot of the stress and anxiety to start planning far in advance.

However since we are both in this relationship for the long haul, compromise has to be made. He has worked on doing some planning ahead when the situation warrants it, compared to his pre-Christine days; which of course I think is never a bad thing! In return, I have been trying hard as hell to be more spontaneous. Not an easy feat, I must say! It has been quite a learning process and one that I think is helping me to grow as a person.

I realized how far I have come along in regards to this issue recently when we were planning a three day weekend to the beach in Maine. It did require a bit of forethought as we have a dog that we need to find a sitter for while we are away. So we picked out a weekend according to Chuck's work schedule and the dog sitter's schedule. We decided we were going to Old Orchard Beach in Maine. We talked about a few ideas of what each of us would like to do while we were there, but that was really only because we were so excited to go. And...that was all the planning that was done.

I suggested making a hotel reservation since it was the middle of the summer in a beach town and on a weekend to boot. Ohhh no. Chuck said he always just drives up there and finds a place to stay. I thought he'd been smoking some crack earlier that day.

"You can't do that!" I told him.

 "What if we don't find a vacancy?"

He reassured me that we would indeed find a place and the reality was, I trusted him. Something would work out. If it didn't, then I could say I told him so. Just kidding; alright maybe not. Then I started thinking about how exciting it would be to go up to Maine without having any idea of where or what kind of place we were going to stay at. We had taken a trip up to Vermont a few months ago and although we DID have reservations for that trip, we ended up making stops on the trip there that we hadn't planned on and oh, how many great things did we see! Worst case scenario would be that we would stay further on the outskirts of town or end up in New Hampshire. I could do this!

Off to Maine we went with no reservations and no day by day itinerary set. We would just go and do what the mood struck us to do. I have to say, it was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable weekends I have ever had. Shocking for me considering the complete lack of planning that went into it; according to my standards anyways. Not only did we find a vacancy on our second attempt after driving into town but we found a quaint and picturesque inn, called The Gull Inn, located right on the beach at a somewhat decent rate. We went on the beach when we wanted. We ate as early or as late as we wanted. I found myself not really caring what time it was. I realized by the end of our journey that despite not scheduling a single thing, we still got to do what each of us wanted to do which was basically be on the beach, take photographs, read, play arcade games, eat, shop, and go to an amusement park.

Because we did not plan our weekend and did some exploring, we also got to experience things that we didn't anticipate. Besides finding our great little inn, we went to a larger amusement park on the trip home. We found a wonderful discount bookstore in town. I, Ms. "It Takes Me Two Straight Weeks Every Seven Years to Find a New Bathing Suit", found a wonderfully flattering bathing suit at a store. I wasn't even PLANNING on looking for a suit that weekend.

There were also other things that I did not anticipate discovering while we were flying by the seat of our pants that weekend. Such as, I don't have to try and be in control of the universe, or even myself, twenty-four hours a day. Moments are best experienced when you are fully in those moments and not thinking beyond them. I discovered that even if we had difficulty finding a place to stay, I have enough faith in Chuck and in the two of us as a couple to know that we will be alright no matter where we end up, whether it be on a trip to the beach or in the journey that we call our life together.

The kicker of the weekend came when we were driving back from Maine and decided to stop at that amusement park, Canobie Lake Park, in New Hampshire. I had not been to an amusement park in at least twelve or thirteen years. I was excited and couldn't wait to experience everything. We parked our car and got in line to buy tickets. We handed the tickets to the person working at the front gate and as we walked through through the turn sty, I picked up one of their free park maps to figure out what was there and where we wanted to go since it was my first time. Then a lightning bolt thought struck me. Looking at the map would take away from the adventure and surprise of it all. Within literally ten seconds of picking up the map, I had thrown it into a trash can, almost like it was on fire. I am not sure who was more shocked, Chuck or me. And then with a smile on my face, we took off walking aimlessly through the park, never knowing what adventure was going to be around the next corner.

Photos Courtesy of Chuck Myers

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Sickness and In Health

This week's big revelation for me: it is easier to be sick when you live alone than when you live with another person. Disagree? Many people would. They would retort that it must be a lot easier to have the support of someone living with you when the going gets tough in the medical department. I cannot really disagree with that on some levels but on others, I feel like this week I can; even when you live with the most compassionate, patient, and nurturing man God has ever put on this face of the earth.

So why would I complain? Well, I am not complaining, just stating some facts. I am also not implying that I would ever want to change my living situation, so no rumors please! When you have a chronic illness, you live in a state of constant unpredictability. As I talked about a bit in a recent blog entry entitled False Assumptions, there can be days and even weeks where life just goes along relatively smoothly. You take your medications, keep your routine appointments, and manage your chronic symptoms as best as you can. However then there are days or weeks (maybe even months) where it is one constant battle after another.

Since about May or so, I have had one new issue after another to deal with in regards to my autoimmune illness. Hearing loss, dizziness and headaches started off this episode and now I have developed issues with my salivary glands which have resulted in pain, difficulty eating, more horrendous headaches, and just general discomfort. Add in a new round of steroids which are messing with my weight and to a small extent my mood, as well as some concerns about swelling near my lymph nodes (I am also a lymphoma survivor) and it is the perfect recipe for stress and exhaustion. I am mentioning all this not as a request for a pity party from my readers, but to lay the foundation to explain why it is sometimes easier to live alone. This is the most complicated my health has been since moving in with my boyfriend six months ago. I don't just have myself to think about anymore when the going gets tough.

And that is what scares me. See, when you live with someone and are as connected to that person as I am to him, you can't hide your little medical crises that well. I know, I know, you shouldn't want to downplay that kind of thing from your significant other anyways. I can't help but think that it would be so much easier though if I could. Why would I want to? Because I don't want to bring him down. It can be exhausting to live someone who is physically struggling day after day for any period of time. Even despite my best efforts, the medical business can consume my day and our conversations. I guess it is good that I can step out of myself long enough to realize that. I know he is an adult and can take care of himself, but because I love him, I want to protect him; even if that sometimes means protecting him from me. Because when the autoimmune monster rears its ugly head, I just don't have much to offer anyone and my boyfriend deserves to have someone who is emotionally and physically available.

The other point is that when you live alone and are dealing with an onslaught of medical issues, you can hide. Just pull up the covers and let yourself wallow in self-pity. Shut down from the world. To be honest, I don't do that too often but when I do, I go all out. I put a special blanket on the bed for the dog so we can snuggle, grab my books, laptop, and TV remote to make sure they are not more than an arm reach away. I don't answer the phone. It usually only lasts for a day or so, but I think that it can be necessary to give in and let myself emotionally (and physically) recharge. That day or so is actually a self-imposed time limit whether I am ready to face the world again or not. I know from firsthand experience that falling into a depression is only a few extra self-pity days away.

Here's the thing though. I don't want somebody else to actually witness me doing that! Oh no; I am a strong and courageous autoimmune-fighting warrior. I cannot let someone see me vulnerable! I have to protect the world! Yes, I do realize what bullshit that is now but like with everything else, figuring this out is a work in progress. More accurately, US figuring it out is a work in progress. We talked about all of this quite recently and here is what I (we) figured out:

~ It is not always my job to protect people that I love when I can barely take care of myself.

~ Trying to down play how lousy I am feeling or how scared I am with the person I live with serves only to alienate him, therefore making me kind of an idiot. We are only as strong as our communication with each other.

~ I am not sick three hundred and sixty five days a year. My turn will come to be there for him if I haven't done so already. Now that I think about it, I have; he's not always good at doing dishes before going to bed!

~He has some pretty strong views about not letting me wallow in any form of self-pity for ANY period of time. I think that is a very good thing in many aspects but I also sometimes think it's necessary as I explained above. We will have to find middle ground on that one unless I make myself limit it to the span of his workday...ha!

I would love some input on this issue from those of you with medical issues who cohabitate with someone or live with someone who has their own medical issues. Be honest because chances are, you are not alone...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Value of a Name

"My name may have buoyancy enough to float upon the sea of time."
~ Richard Watson Gilder

My name is Christine Molloy.

A basic yet powerful statement.
One that I have been thinking a lot about lately.
It is my identity.
It is my connection with this world.
It is my legacy.

I was watching an ABC news special one evening last week about Jaycee Dugard. She was the eleven year old girl who was abducted in 1991 at a bus stop by Philip Craig Garrido and held captive for eighteen years. She suffered an unimaginable amount of physical, mental, sexual and emotional abuse by this deranged member of our society. During the interview, she recounted many of the horrific events that happened to her in those eighteen years of captivity, but one thing struck me most significantly. She was forbidden by Garrido to ever speak her name for the eighteen years he held her captive. On August 26, 2009, when law enforcement officials interviewed her (not knowing that she was an abduction victim), one of the first things she did was claim her real name back. She had to write it down for the law enforcement officials as she had not uttered her name in eighteen years. It was the point that she reclaimed herself, both to herself and to the world.

Our names are usually not something we choose for ourselves yet through the years, they start to define who we are, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Oftentimes, we take them for granted as we go through our day to day lives and it is not until we change our name or it is taken away from us, that we realize its importance. We use our names to identify ourselves as professionals. We use them to demonstrate how we are connected to our spouses, children, and other family members. We use them to make our mark in the world.

When I got engaged and subsequently married in 2000, I had a very difficult time deciding about whether to change my last name or not. I loved being a Molloy. On the one hand, I felt that by changing my name to my future husband's name, it would unite us as a family, especially with the prospect of having children someday. However I loved my name; it was who I was for twenty-nine years at that point. Why would I want to change how I identified myself?  I did have the option to hyphenate my maiden name with my new husband's name. Problem was though, I was signing my name anywhere up to about twenty-five times a day on the shifts that I worked as a nurse. Hyphenating it would just make that process that much more tedious. In the end, I did decide to change my name, mostly because the argument about starting a family under one last name seemed to win out. I have to say, it just never felt quite right. 

Nine years later, when I was in the process of divorcing from my now ex-husband, there were so many issues to work out. Between selling the house, lawyer appointments, and figuring out how to start my life all over, there were more things to contend with than I could keep track of. Despite that, there was one issue that I needed to get resolved right away. I would hassle the attorney, the very nice lady at the courthouse office, and all the powers that be. About what? I wanted to know exactly when I was going to get my maiden name back; the one that I felt I probably should have kept all along. Was it going to be the date we went to court, the thirty days after when the judge signed off on it, or the four months later that it became final? I needed to know exactly when I could legally be Christine Molloy again. I missed her. Somehow in the process of those nine years, she became a lesser version of herself and now that she was back on the road to discovering herself again, she needed her name back to feel true to that process. On December 27, 2009, in the eyes of the law, she came back. It was about damn time.

In no uncertain circumstances am I against women changing their names when they get married, most women I know have done it. That being said, there is one thing I am certain of in this entire world and that is, I will never ever change my name again. Not because I had a failed marriage, but because I want to go through this life as Christine Molloy, with all of her successes, failures, aspirations, and dreams...and trust me, there is plenty of all of the above!

I would be curious to hear my reader's opinions about changing their name; the pros, cons, and everything in between. Please feel free to leave your comments below....

Photo Courtesy of Google images

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

False Assumptions

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~ Plato

"Honey, you're so lucky. You should be grateful you are so young! You don't have to take all these medications and deal with being sick all the time like the rest of us."

Oh come the hell on, are you serious? The statement was made to me recently in a doctor's office by a woman, maybe in her seventies, who is probably quite sweet normally. At that moment though, I just wanted to lunge at her and shake her incessantly. Not one of my finer moments I tell you! It was just myself and two other women sitting in a mini waiting room after our hearing tests; waiting to either see the doctor or take home the person we were responsible for driving there. I had made the mistake of looking up from my very challenging game of video poker and I guess the woman thought that was a perfect time to snag me into her "woe is me" session with the other absolute stranger.

I know, I know, the poor woman probably didn't mean anything by it. Yes, you could say because I felt down and out that maybe I was oversensitive to her comment. But I have to say, it struck a nerve because it was just another example of how easily we make assumptions about people based on how they look. My autoimmune disease is what many in the chronic illness world would consider an "invisible illness" most of the time. Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes with me knows that in the past few years, I have logged in more hours in doctor's offices and been on more medications than many people are in their entire lifetime. It is a fact I am not proud of and I can be well, a little sensitive about.

I really could have ignored the comment because reality was, my health concerns were none of her business. However I also felt strongly that I needed to speak up and educate this woman who made such a thoughtless comment to a stranger, however innocent it may have been. So in my head I quickly calculated if it was worth it to educate her about how looks can be deceiving or to just let it go because in the end, I would probably benefit the most from taking the path of least resistance. I decided to compromise. I turned to her and in the most patient voice I could muster, told her that I wished because of my youth that I was healthy and medication-free. I said to her that in actuality, I am currently taking six prescription medications, not to mention several other non-prescription ones because I have a chronic illness that has been difficult to get under control. Her response was simple. She just said "oh, I see" and then turned away to continue comparing notes with the other stranger. I could tell that I caught her off guard though as she appeared slightly embarrassed and I decided finally to just leave well enough alone.

What is the significance of this one simple interaction? Well, like I mentioned, it is a classic example of making assumptions based on what our preconceived notions are of people's god given physical appearances such as age, weight, skin color and the like. This woman assumed that because I am young, that I am healthy as well. Kind of funny if you think about it because I am young and yet was still sitting in a waiting room for people having hearing tests! In relationship to medical issues, I have found that in this society, looking well is a disadvantage. I have not only encountered it personally, but have met many people who have also faced this challenge. If you have a disease such as lupus, crohn's disease, depression, or fibromyalgia, there is usually not an outward sign of the fact that you are ill and/or have a disability. Wheelchairs are a concrete sign. So is wearing a scarf because you are losing your hair from chemotherapy. Being so fatigued that picking up three items in a grocery store makes you want to cry is not an outward sign. Crippling pain is not always an outward sign. I am in no way implying that people with no outward signs of illness have it worse or better than those that do. It does mean however that those with these invisible illnesses oftentimes have more explaining to do and well, that does seem to be a bit unfair; as well as tiresome and frustrating.

Now I am guessing that some of you are sitting there and wondering why a person with no outward signs of illness feels like they have to explain themselves anyways. Plain and simple, people just don't get it sometimes and they can be pretty vocal about that fact. Doctors who don't know much about autoimmune illnesses oftentimes don't get it.  The government who determines if I am eligible for social security disability took almost two years to get it. For the most part, I am blessed that many people in my life realize that even though I may look alright, chances may be good that I may not be. The reality is though that I do have to explain myself on a regular basis. I have to explain why after being able to go to the gym one day; I may not be able to meet for a walk with a friend the next day. I have to explain why I cannot presently work. I have to explain the fact that after doing spending several hours volunteering in some capacity, I am down and out for a full three days. I know I look well most of the time. I actually DO feel well a lot of the time but when I don't, it's significant. It's part of having a chronic illness.

While I was writing this blog entry, I thought of the quote from Plato that is used at the beginning of this entry and I decided to include it. I love it, but it's not entirely accurate in this situation though because the woman in the waiting room was not being unkind. She was making assumptions based on her own ideals and preconceived notions. I think a better rewrite of the quote, for this blog anyways, would be: "Be thoughtful and think before you speak, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Lesson here is that you don't always know exactly what battles other people are fighting, whether they be strangers or even friends/family members. I know I have made assumptions about people based on their appearance or behavior and have been dead wrong. So today I am going to try and remember to think before I speak. I encourage you to do the same....

Photo Courtesy of Chuck Myers

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Acupuncture Part Two: The Benefits

I am sitting in a comfortable reclining chair with my feet up, my eyes closed, and soft music playing in the background. It has been about ten or fifteen minutes I am guessing. I am not asleep but I am very aware of how relaxed my body has become. I am sleepy and calm. I feel no tension. The headache that has plagued me for days has disappeared. I am not in a spa or on a beach. I am at my acupuncture appointment.

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog entry entitled Acupuncture Part One: The Experience in which I discuss my first ever experience with acupuncture. It has been almost six months since that entry, which was written about two months after my very first experience with acupuncture. All this time later, I am still amazed at the various benefits I have reaped from this form of Chinese medicine. The way my acupuncturist Ben, from The People's Acupuncture Clinic, explains it is that in Western medicine (what we know as conventional health care here in the United States) it is the patient's symptoms that are treated. In Chinese medicine, it is the entire body that is treated. That makes sense to me. When I go to the doctor complaining of difficulty breathing due to asthma, I am given an inhaler to reduce inflammation and open up my lungs. When I go to the acupuncturist, I have needles inserted and/or am given herbs which although may be targeted for these particular symptoms, also restore balance to my qi. The end result is that after several sessions or sometimes after even just one session, my body goes back to a balanced state. Instead of treating just the symptoms, we are treating the cause (the body's imbalance) therefore overall restoring health.

My original purpose for starting acupuncture treatments was to help deal with symptoms related to an autoimmune disorder. Although my symptom list at that time was more extensive than most people's grocery list, my primary focus was on alleviating the joint pain, fatigue, and difficulty breathing related to my autoimmune disorder. I knew from what Ben told me and what I had read online that even though positive effects from acupuncture can occur as soon as after the first treatment, it would probably take a bit longer for me, as many as twelve to fourteen sessions. I really wanted more symptom control and was interested in avoiding as many steroids and other autoimmune drugs as possible so I was committed to the long haul. I didn't get sick overnight and I knew it might take some patience to get myself well.

It did work too. I started off by doing sessions almost every other day for the first ten-fourteen days, then to twice a week, and eventually to a point where I go every two weeks unless there is an acute issue. As a somewhat skeptical Western medicine health care professional myself, I was quite surprised at the results. My joint pain which I had been managing with heavy duty autoimmune drugs was improved with taking Motrin and not all that frequently even. I did still have some difficult days but found that between the acupuncture and other non-medication pain management techniques, I could get through those tough days. I was sleeping better and having an easier time of handling the autoimmune related fatigue that could cripple me for most of the afternoon. After we added some prescribed Chinese herbs to my acupuncture sessions, I had much better control over my asthma symptoms. I went from being on oral steroids, a steroid inhaler, and a frequently used rescue inhaler to just a smaller dose of the steroid inhaler and a very occasional use of my rescue inhaler. I even started singing in my church choir, something I had always wanted to do!

There was also other autoimmune symptoms that improved, some autoimmune related, some not, and some where it was anybody's best guess. Middle back pain that had plagued me on and off (mostly on!) for over a year finally went away. Some of my dryness symptoms related to the autoimmune disorder, called Sjogren's Syndrome, got better. Other issues such as seasonal allergies, sinus inflammation/infections, and an injured knee improved or even disappeared. It has gotten to the point where if I have a medical issue, I typically will actually meet with my acupuncturist first before seeking medical attention from a western medical doctor because over and over again, I see positive results without unnecessary medications, tests, and such. My biggest success was managing to stay off the steroid prednisone for almost six months after I started acupuncture treatments. Prior to that, I was on it on at least ten separate occasions, lasting anywhere from days to months, within a time span of approximately two years. I think it is important to state that I am not implying here though if I thought I was having a heart attack that I would go to my acupuncturist before heading to an emergency room. I strongly believe that there is a place, in my life at least, for some Western medicine. However, I am making a concentrated effort to reserve Western medicine for emergency type situations only, as much as I possibly can.

I have also experienced many benefits from acupuncture that do not have to do only with physical symptoms. My loved ones as well as I have noticed a significant difference in my stress level and how I cope with everyday issues, as well as crises. Now, I have also had other positive lifestyle changes which could contribute to this and I have not done an actual research analysis on myself. However since I started my treatments last November, I am much slower to anger. Things that used to frustrate the living hell out of me are no longer such a big deal. Anxiety over tests and procedures has dropped dramatically and I am much more flexible in my interactions with other people. I know some of this, if not most of it, is related to the acupuncture sessions because I can physically feel my body relax about ten minutes or so into my treatment. I have gone to sessions immediately after attending a friend's funeral or during other stressful times to find myself leaving the building in a better frame of mind and with clearer thinking. I don't need research studies to prove that!

Finally, the last benefit I would like to mention is that which is gained from working with a Chinese medicine practitioner. Ben is the only one I have ever seen so I don't have a basis for comparison. That being said, I do have a basis of comparison with western medicine practitioners. In all fairness, I have had a few really great doctors in my lifetime. I have worked with some fantastic doctors as well. However the last few years have been like a three ring circus for me in dealing with doctors. Oftentimes I am just a person taking up a ten minute slot in their exam room. I have been treated like a number with no regards to the emotional or mental impact that my illness has had on my wellbeing. Of the twenty-five or so doctors and specialists I have dealt with in the past two and a half years, not one has ever discussed the role of nutrition with me in regards to my autoimmune disorder. More often than not, I am looked at as a compilation of various anatomical systems and symptoms rather than as a whole person.
In my acupuncture clinic, I am treated holistically and with compassion. Despite the fact that it is a clinic and I may be one of seven or eight other people in the room, I never feel rushed or disrespected. I am taken seriously and just as important, I am heard. It is truly a collaboration between patient and practitioner. The success of my treatments depends on my ability to communicate what is going on with my body and Ben's ability to translate that in order to provide the best treatment. For me, that is truly the ideal environment for optimal healing and optimal health.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer of Friendship...Summer of Love

You know how you can smell a scent and it reminds you of a place, a time, or a person? Sometimes you may even smell it and not remember where you noticed it before, but you remember that the feelings you had when you last noticed it were good. I hugged my boyfriend one day recently and that happened to me. He was wearing a scent that brought back feelings of comfort and security for me. OK, and attraction too. But where had I noticed it before? So I asked him....

It is the scent that always brings me back to last summer. The summer that was originally shaping up to be one of my worst ones and instead, ended up being one of the best ones. I don't know the name of the scent but I know he still has it and it always reminds me of him and of the summer that brought us together.

It was the last weekend in June last summer that it all kind of began, for me anyways. It was the weekend of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life and like many years previously, I was signed up to participate with a team from my church. Things had been crazy that week leading up to the relay with my health. Sure enough, the Friday of the relay, I was on my way to the emergency room just praying I would make it to Boston in one piece. I was having a difficult time with my breathing due to an autoimmune disorder. A fun six hours in a Boston emergency room resulted in a three day hospital stay. When I was discharged, things were still looking shaky. All of my immediate summer plans got cancelled and I was looking forward to at least a few weeks of extensive reading and some serious movie watching. Between that and a pretty intense round of steroids, I was not a happy camper.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, my life changed after that weekend though. It was the first time I had been hospitalized while living by myself with my dog and I had to make adjustments. I needed more help for a short while. I had to count on some people I didn't even realize I could count on, especially when it came to caring for my dog.

And then there was him, and the scent. We had one or two conversations before that weekend. I cannot lie; I had noticed him so many times before. Something about him drew me in, wanting to know him. But I was too busy being involved with the wrong man per usual and in the days following my hospitalization, that whole situation blew up and ended. When it did, I was done with men, dating, the whole nine yards. I was too sick to care and I had big plans for as soon as I felt better. I was going to start taking better care of myself, start seriously writing, and spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. Life was just too short to waste it investing my energy and time into people that were not worth it.

Best laid plans, right? All of a sudden he was there, right by my side. I had convinced myself that showering, dressing, and driving myself the two minutes to church the week after I got out of the hospital was a good idea. I barely got through the service and went to sit down to talk with a friend during lemonade hour. It was summer so it was lemonade instead of coffee! He came over to me, kneeled down, and asked me how I was. He offered to bring some of his video collection for me to church the next Sunday so I had more to keep me occupied at home. We really didn't know each other much at all; yet he extended himself to me in the most caring and compassionate way. I more than noticed him then.

Problem though: I was done with men. And to be honest, I thought he was just trying to be nice. People at our church are like that: nice, kind, and compassionate. Of course he would be no different. Plus what would he see in me? Because really, I probably never looked more pathetic or sickly at church than that first month out of the hospital. We were friends on Facebook as well so he knew my health issues. He knew my age. He knew I had been dating. He knew I liked country music. Hell, he should have been running the other way!

He did bring those movies he promised me the following Sunday though and we talked a bit more. And the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that. So it grew. As the weeks went by, our conversations by the lemonade pitcher grew longer and longer; oftentimes we closed the place down. I loved talking with him. I loved just being near him. We joke about that now, you know, the whole pheronome theory of attraction. Apparently many people around us knew what was happening before I even did. I was in self- protection mode, but yet that didn't stop me from listening for his voice every time a church usher would say good morning to my turned back. And he always smelled the same, that comforting cologne smell. The one that even now, reminds me of how I hate being away from him for too long.

As the weeks dragged by, I started to get better and he was still there. Now I had a problem though because his presence was becoming quite distracting to me at church. I remember a particular conversation with a friend from church where she mentioned something significant that was said during the service the day before. I had missed the whole thing. It was important and I felt terrible. It was his fault though. That day before, he had come and sat right next to me in church for the first time and having him so close, while smelling so good, drove me over the edge of distraction.

Labor Day weekend finally came around and after closing down the church one last time as just Sunday buddies, we somehow worked out a plan to go for a walk with my dog the next day. That, as they say, is all she wrote. Summer ended. I found my best friend. I fell in love. And even now, sitting here by myself in a cafe, I still can smell in my mind his lingering scent.