Achievment Attained: Zombie

New Orleans City Park the day prior to the Zombie Run 5K
New Orleans City Park the day prior to the Zombie Run 5K

As those of you who’ve been with me longest know, my interests lean toward the macabre. I’ve been interested in horror films, books, and culture for as long as I can remember. My mother even tells stories of my napping in my toy box as a kid and pretending it was my coffin (because I was a vampire, of course). It probably goes without saying that many of my friends share my interests. Like most nerds belonging to any genre, we would have lengthy discussions about certain things in movies and what not, and one of those things we’d discuss in-depth was the matter of zombie-ism. These were days long before the zombie culture was accepted in the mainstream-or maybe it’s just that more of us have crawled from our crypts to claim our rightful place among everyone else. During these discussions, I’d always declare that in the case of a zombie invasion (this was before the term “zombie apocalypse” was even widely used or even coined, possibly), I would want to be a zombie. I’d rather be one than be eaten by one, you see. Because zombies scare THE EVER LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME! I won’t lie. If I watch a zombie movie, I WILL without doubt have nightmares. I’ve had many detailed nightmares about zombies, and I will probably have nightmares tonight just writing about zombies right now. I love to watch zombie/horror movies and read scary stories (and write them!), but in real life, I am a big old ‘fraidy cat once the sun goes down. I was, until very recently, terrified of the dark. When I used to work dayshift, and I had to leave early in the morning while everything was quiet and everyone was still asleep, I would get into my car with a quickness as I would terrify myself with the thought of a Dawn of the Dead scenario. The problem with zombies is that they’re like cockroaches. If you see one, you know there are more.

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For some reason which I can’t pinpoint, over the last several years zombie culture has become quite popular. Not only with horror fans, but with people who wouldn’t normally be into “that kind of thing.” I don’t know why this happened, but as you can all imagine after having read my first paragraph that my brain constantly being bombarded with zombie related information caused me some unease. It did in the beginning, then like most things, I became immune to the constant bombardment, and the nightmares stopped-mostly. I would like to note that in my nightmares, I have always been the victor. There hasn’t been one yet in which I was the victim of a zombie bite, although in one my husband was bitten, and it ended with us shutting out the zombie hoards and my looking at him with the knowledge that I would have to kill him. I mean. It’s the only way. Also, I was once a zombie crime scene investigator who had to eat the remains of the victims of crimes in order to discover their means of death and catch their killers. Or maybe I was just hungry. I dunno. Analyze that, okay.

La moi
La moi

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in late 2012, and after battling pediatric brain cancer alongside my son for nearly ten months, I was almost totally unable to do more than move around a little and then lie back down again. I was fatigued beyond explanation, and I was in pain. Lots of it. I decided it was time to get serious about my health. I knew I wouldn’t be able to care for my son otherwise. My body was in a very bad state then, physically, mentally, emotionally. My rheumatologist prescribed me medicine to help control the fibro. I started doing yoga again. I started eating well again. Eventually, and slowly with time, I was able to do more than yoga (and am doing much better with my yoga poses now). I’ve lost a significant amount of weight.

Somewhere in last few months information came across my Facebook feed about a 5K zombie run. I’d never done a 5k, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to really run a 5K (not yet, anyway). Even though I am getting into much better shape, I have to be realistic about my limitations. I decided, though, there was no better opportunity for me to be a zombie and set a goal for myself. After all, folks with fibromyalgia feel like their stricken with rigor mortis most of the time, anyway. I know I do. I am fortunate in that although I do suffer from fibromyalgia, I don’t suffer from some other-and far more detrimental-ailments that people with fibromyalgia can have. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are just two of those. I do have osteoarthritis, early onset of osteoporosis, and mild scoliosis. But, they’re not going to be crippling in the way rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of rheumatic diseases are. Fibromyalgia, for what it’s worth, doesn’t get worse over time. This keeps me positive that I can give myself a better quality of life by taking care of myself-eating right, exercising, sleeping. I stopped drinking (sad face), but it really is for the best, and as the bottle of Amaretto in my pantry whispers my name, I remind it that not only have I stopped drinking but I’ve also given up eating or drinking anything with a lot of carbs after a certain time in the day. (Bad Amaretto! Bad! Bad!) I digress.

Pre-zombie. We had to arrive at 5am for our transformation, so I had to leave home at 3:30am. Yes, I did this willingly.
Pre-zombie. We had to arrive at 5am for our transformation, so I had to leave home at 3:30am. Yes, I did this willingly.

I wanted to register for the zombie run because it seemed like fun and I got to set a goal for myself and I got to be a zombie. Win. Win. Win. During the months leading up to the Zombie Run, I trained hard. I knew if I didn’t work hard that I wouldn’t even be able to endure the heat and running after the, well, runners. (Honestly, I let a lot of them go because really, they were in great shape. I told one guy, “I’m not out-running you. Go ahead.” He had like 2% body fat and looked like he ran everywhere just for fun. Free pass from this zombie.) And although I sprained my ankle during that time, I noticed that it became easier for me to lift my son and that I was in less pain after moving him and his equipment around. My fatigue has all but diminished, and I really only sleep in the day when I don’t get enough sleep the night before. (The CPAP machine helps a lot, although it’s left a bald spot on my baldness. In other words, the strap that goes across the top of my head has rubbed some of the hair completely away. I sleep with a handkerchief between it and my scalp now, but it might be too late for that one spot.)

My bald is bald. It's not too bad, but it is noticeable and I can feel the difference when I touch my head. It's like a big divot. On my head.
My bald is bald. It’s not too bad, but it is noticeable, and I can feel the difference when I touch my head. It’s like a big divot. On my head.

Zombie Run day came, and I was up with the vampires at 3am since we had to arrive at City Park at 5am. I live a good ninety minutes away. I drank a protein shake with some yogurt and did some yoga and went on my way. My friend, with whom I’d have the zombie discussions years ago, and her stepson joined me for the race. We didn’t really know what all to expect, but we knew some stuff. Like we got professional zombie make-overs from some of the best make-up artists in the area.

makeup
Me getting airbrushed
I gave the artist complete creative freedom. I told her she could do something on my head. She was all about it.
I gave the artist complete creative freedom. I told her she could do something on my head. She was all about it.
Look out for those fat zombies. They really like a lot of braaaaaaiiiinnnnsss.
Look out for those fat zombies. They really like a lot of braaaaaaiiiinnnnsss.
xie&masonzombies
Xie & Mason zombies

The artist who did my make-up works at the 13th Gate, a haunted house attraction located in Baton Rouge.

She did a pretty awesome job, I'd say!
She did a pretty awesome job, I’d say!
zombieface2
Post-race. My shirt was white. As you can see, it’s a little bloody.

There were also members from the House of Shock involved in our zombie training and blood spattering. When I was up to be spattered, they said no one wanted to roll around in the blood on the big blue tarp that was catching the burgundy puddles. So, of course, I said I would. Then my friend’s stepson did it, too. Because we’re cool like that. It was fun, but I had fake blood squishing in places that were bordering on unsanitary. Still totally worth it.

Blood spattering station
Blood spattering station

While we knew we wouldn’t be running the entire 5K behind the runners, we didn’t know where we’d be or that we’d be set in a cordoned off area and not allowed to leave our assigned zombie stations. We got onto a bus and were sent to a part of the park that is just an open field, and it made for some really good chases. I did a lot more running and with not as much effort as I thought I would. I survived the heat and the physical activity, although after a few hours we’d transformed from Dawn of the Dead super-bath salts-zombies to straggling, moaning, slow-moving zombies. All in all, I was very proud of myself for being able to actually chase and keep up with some people. I felt bad going for the kids, so I just hung back and some people were visibly exhausted so I told them to hide behind a tree because I might be an undead brain eating abomination, but I’m still sympathetic.

walkingzombie2walkingzombieIt’s suffice to say we had a great time. We were too tired and hungry to stay around for the after race activities, so we went out to eat where we freaked out no more than everyone. (One lady thought we’d been in a bad accident. I guess she feels the Golden Corral’s breakfast buffet is just that good, and it’s on the way to the hospital anyways?) It was my first time doing anything that physical, at least since I was a kid when I ran around for the hell of it all the time just because, and I was famished beyond words. I was glad the breakfast buffet had two types of bacon (yes TWO types). I was a good girl, though, and my second plate consisted mainly of fruit, even though I was eyeing that chocolate fountain pretty hard.

I just look like I still have zombie make-up on because I was awake for like 20 hours.
I just look like I still have zombie make-up on because I was awake for like 20 hours.

I definitely plan to attend next year if there is another Zombie Run. As a zombie, of course. I’m also pretty interested in another 5K that is taking place just two days before my birthday, and it looks pretty intense. The Nola Zombi  run is set-up with a military style obstacle course. I haven’t registered, yet. Yet. According to their website, I still have 84 days 1 hour 58 minutes and 51 seconds.

allthreezombies
Zombies do to where sunglasses. A lady tried to steal mine. After I left them in the grass on accident after someone took our photo, my friend spotted them on the lady’s head. She was a real life zombie it seemed, because she was zoned out on something. I got the sunglasses back though. Because they were $4, and zombie don’t play that.

We’ve Not Reached a Stalemate

“All the world’s a stage, and I’ve been given the part of Job.” – Me to one of my friends yesterday after sharing the results of a recent opthamologist’s appointment.

It all started in September or October 2009, near the end of my pregnancy. I started noticing an odd problem I’d not previously experienced, double vision. Not only was there double vision, my eyes were visibly turning inward, and I had no control over my eyes’ movement.

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1/31/13 at the opthamologist’s office, after my eyes were dilated. I couldn’t see anything I was doing. Surprised I actually got the pic.

I told my OB/GYN, and we hoped it was a temporary problem that would correct itself, like so many other strange conditions that occur during pregnancy. For the rest of my pregnancy, I tolerated the double vision. After RB was born, I experienced severe carpal tunnel syndrome and swelling in my hands and wrists, so severe that I could hardly bend my fingers. I used most of my Rx pain meds for the pain in my hands more than the pain from childbirth. The eye condition continued, and I lived with it, assuming it would go away eventually like the hand swelling and other transient effects of bearing a child.

By summer of 2010, the ailment hadn’t improved. Driving at night was becoming impossible, and I kept one eye closed or covered most of the time. With the urging of many friends and family members, I made an appointment with an opthamologist. I wanted to see the surgeon who’d performed my Lasik surgery in 2005, but he didn’t have any appointments available. I went to one of his associates. She examined my eyes and explained the condition is more commonly a pediatric malady, for which I’d have to see a pediatric opthamologist.

It was my first visit to CHNOLA, long before RB’s intrusive alien interloper took up residence in his brain. The doctor I saw explained my ailment as intermittent esotropia (AAPOS http://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/48).

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Photo c/o The Eye Specialists Center (http://eyespecialistscenter.com/detection-treatments/strabismus-amblyopia/esotropia.html)

What the diagnosis basically means is that my eyes turn inward because of a weakness in the muscles that control my eyes. For good measure, a CT scan was conducted and showed only a small polyp in my sinus cavity. Hoping treating the polyp would help resolve the esotropia, the sinus problem was treated. And, in a week or so, the esotropia disappeared. Yay! Thank goodness that was all over. . .

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Marty Feldman, Igor, in Mel Brooks’s classic Young Frankenstein. I’ve been likened to Igor, lovingly, over the past few years.

 Unfortunately, it wasn’t all over. Only a day after my follow-up appointment with the opthamologist at CHNOLA, the esotropia returned. Well, it isn’t that bad, I thought. I can live with it. I have more important things to worry about. Besides, there were two solutions to the esotropia problem: 1) Prism glasses which cost $500+ and are not covered by my insurance or 2) Surgery.

I ignored the problem. I drove with one eye closed. I watched TV with one eye closed. I did just about everything with one eye closed. I stopped making eye contact with people. But to me, my daily routine wasn’t effected that much.

Fastforward to late 2011, RB starts getting sick all the time. Here’s a brief rundown for those of you who are just joining us. (You can read more about Robot Boy  here.)We’re at his pediatrician’s office once a week. He’s admitted for pneumonia in December. By January 2012, he stops walking and starts suffering dizzy spells that cause him to fall down. We’re still at the pediatrician weekly. March 3 2012, he isn’t breathing. We come to the ER at CHNOLA.

Esotropia becomes a non-issue. We embark on an epic journey that if written could only have been penned by Homer, or perhaps more appropriately, Dante. We spend nearly a year in-patient through RB’s treatments, tests, scans, infections, and changes in feeding, fluids, and medications. (We’re still in-patient, by the way, but we do have a pending date of discharge.)

November 29 2012, I finally take the advice my aunt gave me two years prior and visit a rheumatologist. Since childhood, I’ve experienced odd symptoms and been diagnosed with everything from IBS to juvenile arthritis to osteoporosis. My body is hurting. I can barely function, and I know the time is drawing near that I will be home with my disabled son. I know I will have to be at my best to be the best caretaker for him. I make a list of diagnoses, tests and their results, and my symptoms. The doctor goes over my papers and says, “Fibromyalgia.”

I’d suspected the diagnosis, as I’m familiar with the symptoms, and I fit every damn last one. He prescribes me meds, gives me encouraging words about RB, and sends me on my way. I take the initiative to be serious about my health. I start eating better and exercising again. I start doing yoga again, every day. I take my meds, and I give up caffeine and alcohol. (Update: I had a follow up appointment with the rheumatologist last week, and he is very pleased with my progress. I feel great, and I’ve lost over 10 lbs since my first appointment with him. You can read more about my first visit here.)

By now, my esotropia is becoming a royal pain in the ass. I take to wearing a patch.

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This cool rockstar/pirate look is going to be difficult to give up.

I finally decide to make an appointment with the opthamologist, something I should have done months ago since he works here at CHNOLA, where I’ve been living for nearly a year. The diagnosis is the same, and I’m again given the options of the prism glasses or surgery. I opt for surgery. First of all, my insurance will pay for surgery but not the glasses. Secondly, I need a permanent solution that won’t put me back in glasses after I’ve already had surgery to be free of them.

I’m currently waiting for a call to schedule the procedure. It’s outpatient, but moderately invasive. I will be under general anaesthesia, and the doctor advised it will be a few days before I feel fully recovered from the anaesthesia. The pain is supposedly  minimal. Two months from the surgery date, I will have a follow-up to find out just how well my esotropia has improved, or -more hopefully – has diminished entirely.

So raise a glass for me, Old Job, as I’m sure ‘Ol Mephisto is moving his bishop. We’ve not reached a stalemate, yet, and we’re not intending on it.

Just Another 2012 Year In Review

Hello, Readers. Yes, Virginia, The Wordsmith does exist. It’s been a bit since I’ve written a blog post. I promise I’ve been working tirelessly on my novel the whole time. Really. I’m nearly almost halfway kind of completely close to being finished the first draft. My friend also recently invited me to join her writing group, for which I am glad. Because how is my novel going to become a best seller if experienced readers and writers don’t give me their input?

To all my bloggy friends, I have a backlog of your blogs to read. I swear I’m not ignoring them. Although, I might not get to everyone’s posts before the release of “Memos From Your Closet Monster 2.”
(If you haven’t read the original, give it a read. Also, I have no idea if there will be a sequel. Maybe. . . ??)

Anyhoo, since it’s nigh the end of 2012, and we’ve all apparently survived the apocalypse, I’ve decided to comprise yet another year in review.

Team AJ

Number 1: Cancer – If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up here. It looks like we might be almost closely completely finished most of RB’s treatment for now. No idea of when he’ll be discharged. It’s been a long ten months. Everyday is another battle. But, we started out 2012 with a sick child and no idea of what was causing his illness. We found out, and although it was a devastating diagnosis, RB’s been making it look like a cake walk, and for that I am very thankful. He’s recovered more than the doctors said he would, and he continues to improve all the time. That kid’s my hero.

RB Christmas 2011. Before we knew the alien was lurking in his brain.
RB Christmas 2011. Before we knew the alien was lurking in his brain.

Number 2: Related to number one. I was reminded of the kindness within my fellow humans at a time when I was certain there was no compassion left in the universe. People gave donations, time, and labor to help our family. My employer has been unbelievably considerate and understanding during this difficult time. My coworkers organized a fundraiser, as did my cousins-on both sides of the family. My mom’s coworkers organized a carwash at their store, and the Down South Rollers held a carshow benefit for RB. So many people went far beyond anything we’d ever expected, and there are probably folks I am forgetting. I sincerely apologize for that, but it only proves how many people were involved in assisting us that I can’t remember them all without a detailed list.

My friend Shannon helped organize a local Chili's Benefit for RB.
My friend Shannon helped organize a local Chili’s Benefit for RB.
Down South Rollers benefit poster
Down South Rollers benefit poster
Down South Rollers
Down South Rollers
Poster for my the carwash held at my mom's work
Poster for the carwash held at my mom’s work
Team AJ Carwash
Team AJ Carwash
Just some of my friends and coworkers who organized a softball tournament for RB. I won't give away which one is me.
Just some of my friends and coworkers who organized a softball tournament for RB. I won’t give away which one is me.
Team AJ softball tournament. Respect the 'stache.
Team AJ softball tournament. Respect the ‘stache.
A toybox for RB made by my uncle. It's gorgeous. He's very good!
A toybox for RB made by my uncle. It’s gorgeous. He’s very good!
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Carwash my cousin held to benefit Team AJ (aka Robot Boy)

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(I’m still missing some photos from one event held at Zaddie’s Tavern for RB by cousins. If any one of you have some of theses photos, please pass them along. Thank you!)

Me and Observations from an Overworked Momma back in the dizzle, yo.
Me and Observations from an Overworked Momma back in the dizzle, yo.

My very selfless friend at Observations from an Overworked Momma organized an online auction for RB. She even went so far as to acquire several children’s books, signed by author Cornell Landry even. She, along with some of our other friends, visited RB at the hospital for Christmas and brought us gifts and care packages. I love these guys, y’all.

Signed by Mr. Cornell Landry
Signed by Mr. Cornell Landry
Another of Cornell Landry's books, given to us by CHNOLA's Childlife Dept.
Another of Cornell Landry’s books, given to us by CHNOLA’s Childlife Dept.

My friend about whom I’ve previously written The Otherwordly Goddess of Script got me a giftcard to Walgreens. Those of you who have been following my blog long enough know the significance of this!

I’ve made friends since RB’s admission to CHNOLA, too. We are blessed with family and friends who are always willing to help out and support us, and without these people, I wouldn’t be able to function.

Number 3: Also related to numbers one and two. Through my blog, and because of our shared hope in finding a cure, I’ve met several wonderfully inspiring people who have helped me remain positive more than they probably know. Their optimism has helped me remember that I should stay hopeful even in the face of adversity. Kudos to you The Monster in Your Closet , Pinwheels and Poppies, and The Lucky Mom. (Sorry if I left anyone out. I love you all!)

Sept Childhood Cancer

Number 4: Reading Donna’s Cancer Story and realizing there is life after cancer. Thank you for sharing your story with us Mary Tyler Mom .

FTIAT Series image via The Monster in Your Closet
FTIAT Series image via The Monster in Your Closet

Number 5: Being included in The Monster in Your Closet’s FTIAT series. Writing my entry and reading the others has helped me, again, realize although times are hard, there is always something for which to be thankful. Plus, it’s a big deal to a writer who was only published one other time this year (and rejected many times). Oh, you missed it? Well, go on and read away at The Foliate Oak Literary Journal. (Deb, I’m adding your thing on future submission letters, by the way. Just to let you know. ;})

Number 6: In fiction, there is a point where the protagonist has a major change. It’s near the climax of the story, usually. Either there is a physical battle or an emotional one; it transfigures the protagonist. Somehow, after Hurricane Katrina, I felt the change a little. I was touched by the kindness we received, but was also tarnished by the derision to which we were subjected. Things are different now, and this is my battle. I know there’s been a metamorphosis, an evolution. The snide cynic in me still exists, but she is muted by the newly emerged optimist, the person who will still fight for what’s right but is more understanding and compassionate. In the words of Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) via Pulp Fiction, “I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.”

Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

Number 7: Fibromyalgia. Yep. I was diagnosed on the 29th of November. Because why the not at this point, right? At any rate, I’ve been taking my meds like a good little girl, eating right, exercising, and treating my body a lot better. I cut caffeine almost out completely, and I quit drinking. My doctor also decided I have depression and anxiety (can’t imagine why), and since starting my medicine and resuming my daily yoga and meditation, I’ve been feeling much better. I still feel like the Tin Man when I wake up in the morning, but after forcing myself to stretch and move my stiff muscles, I start to feel much more productive. My fatigue is somewhat better, but somedays are still rough. I will see my doctor again for a follow up in January, and I’m hopeful he will be able to help me with my unresolved issues. Fibromyalgia is the perfect example of irony, because it causes stiffness and pain that makes the patient want to be still, but the pain and stiffness is only relieved by moving around. Universe. You’ve one upped me again. But, don’t worry. You’re not putting me down that easily. “So I’ll do as I please like the well-tempered breeze, blowin’ which way I see fit. I’ll grey with the clay seven days till the day when they throw me on the potter’s scrap heap. But take my advice; you’ll have to bury me twice, ’cause the first time I won’t rest easily. But don’t let me die still wondering what it was I left behind.” “Don’t Let Me Die Still Wondering” Flogging Molly

Number 8: I don’t know how many of these I should have, so I’ll just add another one. SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read the 700th and final issue of the Amazing Spider-Man, don’t read this part. Peter Parker dies in an epic battle with Doc Oc; they somehow switch bodies, and Peter Parker dies in Otto’s body. Doc Oc takes over Peter’s body and receives all of his memories, thoughts, and feelings of responsibility-supposedly. He becomes the Superior Spider-Man. WHATEVER! RIP ASM. You’ve been part of my life for many, many years. I won’t forget you, PP. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Robot Dad and I with Spidey at Universal Studios Orlando.
Robot Dad and I with Spidey at Universal Studios Orlando.
Me (yes me) Halloween circa 2002 in my black symbiote costume made by a friend much craftier than I. The frog is Rupert.
Me (yes me) Halloween circa 2002 in my black symbiote costume made by a friend much craftier than I. The frog is Rupert.

Number 9: I lost 5 pounds.

Number 10: I wrote a blog post! Finally!

Auld lang syne, and all that, folks! May you all have a wonderful 2013 filled with health, happiness, and good fortune.