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A Struggle of Being Married to Someone Who is a Disabled Veteran-Part Two
Fighting Graves Disease
The health plan we were on allowed you to switch Dr., but they required you to switch at the beginning of the month. I switched. My Dr. evidently was too busy to care about whether the welfare patients were healthy or not. I wanted a Dr. that cared about his patients. We found a holistic Dr. that would take the insurance and contacted him to see if he was taking patients. He was and we made an appointment. I went in to see him and was on two pills a day to lower my thyroid level. It was so high that they had to lower it gradually or risk throwing me into shock.
The Dr. walked into the room, looking at the chart and asked without looking up, what I was in for today. Then he looked up and said, "Oh, you have Graves Disease." That was the first time I had heard that term and asked him what that was. He told me that it was a disease that affected the thyroid first, causing it to go hyperactive. If the entire thyroid was involved, which mine obviously was, it was usually Graves Disease. I told him what the previous Dr. had done so far and he had my blood tested again. He did not think that the level was going down fast enough and doubled the dose. He also added a heart pill because he did not want me to have a heart attack at 40. He said my heart was racing and that could cause me to have a heart attack.
I knew when he walked into the room and identified my problem from across the room that I had found the right Dr. He also did the examination but it just confirmed what he had already known. He referred me to a specialist to be treated. But the whole time I was going to the specialist, he also had me coming back to him so he could keep an eye on my treatment.
I saw the specialist and she doubled the dose again. I was now taking 8 pills a day to lower the hormone level. It would get to 18 before they started being lowered gradually. She recommended that I take a radioactive Iodine pill to kill my thyroid. She said it would gradually, over the course of a year or two, kill the thyroid. This gradual lowering would keep my body from going into shock. I would continue to take the pills, lowering the number as the level dictated. I needed to have a blood test every month. I hate blood tests.
The appointment was made at radiology to take the pill. They have to handle it because it is radioactive. I went in and took the pill and they informed me that if I threw up within 24 hours, not to clean it up, call them and they would travel the 60 miles to come clean it up. I was to keep anyone away from it. Strange? Definitely! Comical? Absurdly!
We Got a House
Over the course of the next few months, life settled for me a little. I needed to go to an ophthalmologist monthly and have tests done to see if my eyes were being damaged. With Graves disease, fat builds up behind the eye, causing it to bulge out, causing the bug-eye look. It also causes damage to the eye which can be mitigated if they know it is happening. The range of my field of vision was shrinking but I had always had a wide range, so it wasn't worrisome. I developed dry eye, which makes them burn and itch abominably. They gave me saline drops to apply several times a day. The drops helped.
I had to have blood tests monthly to monitor the level of my thyroid and they adjusted the pills. I hate blood tests, did I mention that?
Welfare notified me that since we were getting Families First, I had to work in the Senior Center. My Dr. said no, not in the kitchen, my balance was bad and I could fall. They had me come in when they needed clerical work done. I typed up their cookbook and put the recipes in clear folders in a binder. They were handwritten and food stained. They were difficult to read. Then the Dr. said no more, he wanted me to rest. Welfare said okay to that and didn't bother us.
We were getting Families First because our income was still below poverty level. Dennis was getting his VA non-service connected money and we got food stamps. Our medical was paid for. We decided we wanted out of the campground and wanted to see if we could find a place we could afford.
A realtor was a member of the Church we were going to. We asked him if he knew of anyplace cheap enough. He knew of a couple. One of them had a regular bedroom and a loft over the kitchen. The loft wasn't big enough for our two boys. The other was a mobile home with two good sized bedrooms. We grabbed it. Katy had a toddler bed next to ours and the boys were in the smaller bedroom. We had a home for the first time in over a year. Hallelujah!!! Isn't God great?
One of the ladies from the church we were going to, had remodeled her laundry room and had a washer that she gave us. It had a problem spinning. It would spin for a minute and then grind screeching to a halt. Saved by another lady from the church. She worked at a dry cleaners with a laundry attached. Her boss said he would take a look at it. He found a nail that had gone point down into one of the holes. It was stopping the spinning. It worked great and lasted for the next several years.
We had problems with our landlord and he assaulted my husband. We moved up to Kingman, it was cooler and bigger. They had a VA clinic and Dennis could go there. Their hospital was larger and my specialist was there. We found a Dr. for the kids and me, who we liked.
The Dr. released me to find work as my pills got fewer and fewer. I found a job working for a Flying J truck stop. I was a fuel desk clerk. I learned to weigh trucks and do cash advances. I enjoyed the work because it was with people. I like working with people. Our old van was giving up on us though. We had to figure out how to get a newer vehicle.
Tax time came before the van died and we got earned income credit. We bought a car and a few other things that we needed. Dennis decided to trade the camp trailer in for an old motor home. It was dilapidated on the inside but the outside was good and the motor was good. I made cushions for the seats, curtains for the windows and painted. A few glue and screw repairs and it looked good. We didn't ever want to be homeless and this was a good way to keep that from happening. Things were looking up.
My Dr. told me that I did not need to take the pills to lower my thyroid level anymore. My thyroid was dead. Hooray!! I also hate to take pills. I have a terrible problem remembering to take them. Dennis had to remind me constantly. But then she told me that my estrogen level was really low and she thought I should be on estrogen therapy for a year. She did not recommend longer than that but she thought it was necessary.
They put me on night shift. I went to work at 10:00 at night and got off at 6:00 in the morning. Oh well, I have always been a night person. I like to be up and running around. The problem was, how was I going to get any sleep with three kids running around the house all day. The boys were home schooled and Katy at 3, was always moving. I slept in the motor home. One of the seats folded down into a comfortable full-sized bed. I would come home from work and go straight out there to sleep. I would read for a little to unwind and just fall asleep with my book.
Katy decided one day, to come out and see me. She was not allowed out the door without someone because they knew she would be back there pounding on the motor home door. She went out the bedroom window. It was large and not far from the ground but it still scared us all. She could have gotten hurt so bad. She just wanted to cuddle with me while I slept.
My kids missed me but Katy especially. I had not worked since she was little and she missed mommy being around. One night, as I was getting ready to go to work, she said, "Mommy, can I go with you to work. I will sit in the car and be real quiet. I won't get into things and will just sit there in the car." Talk about a guilt trip. I will never forget this plea by my baby and I always feel guilty for having to leave her.
They switched me to days and one day while I was at work, Dennis and the kids took the motor home to the store. They were sitting at a stop light when it suddenly made a big bang and the motor blew. We had made a trip to see my mom and we had made various little overnight trips and had never had a problem but it decided to blow a rod through the bottom. At least they were close to home. They towed it off and we were back down to one vehicle.
We found a van that seemed to be running good and bought it. It was U-haul orange. You could see him coming for miles. It cost us $1200.
Dennis was taking many different medicines by now and a couple of them had warnings that they would make you heat sensitive. He was really suffering from the heat of Arizona in the summer, although we were in a cooler area. The political climate of the area was inflammatory also. Not good for this man with PTSD. His mom decided to give us enough money to move back to TN, where it was cooler.
We loaded up and took off for TN. We got into Oklahoma, and spent the night. The next morning we got ready to go and stopped to get gas. I went in to pay and saw the news on. I could not tell what had happened but knew it was something big. I told Dennis and we both listened to the news in the van and the car. It was big all right. The date was 9/11/2001. It was the World Trade Center. We figured no more taking it slow and exercising the kids, the gas was going to go way up like it did any time something happened. We were right, it doubled and then it tripled. We got to TN that afternoon and by dark, we were in Perry County.
Link to Parts One and Three
- A Struggle of Being Married to Someone Who is VA Disabled-Part One
This is the story of how we managed during the 17 year fight to get my husband VA disability. Plus my fight with Graves Disease.
- A Struggle of Being Married to Someone Who is VA Disabled-Part Three
This is the story of Rodger's time in the hospital and then goes into my breast cancer.
Perry County was supposed to be a nice crime free community. They apparently just didn't report it. They were busting meth labs left and right. We got tangled up with a crooked Realtor who was renting houses that were for sale. We did not know that and the out of town owners did not know that. We ended up renting one of them. How he got away with it, I do not know. I found a job at a sweat shop making auto parts. Boring, repetitive work. I hated it. I also hated the mandatory overtime. I disliked the supervisor and the feeling was mutual. I didn't even have time to look for another job. I was stuck there for two years.
I was now on thyroid replacement pills. I had a dead thyroid and would be on these pills for the rest of my life. Worse than having an under-active thyroid, I would die without them. With them, they check my blood yearly to make sure I am taking the right amount. I am normal, except I gain weight really easily. One little pill a day and Dennis still has to remind me. The job, which I hate, has caused my blood pressure to rise and I am also on pills for that. Standing on concrete 10-12 hours a day causes my feet and ankles to swell. I have to take water pills. My back is killing me, so I take pills for that. I feel like I rattle when I walk.
In May of 2003, Dennis finally got his Service Connected disability. He received the check, I received our Income tax check and Dennis had a VA appointment the same day. I had gotten off work for the day to take him to his appointment and Rodger was going to school and then home. He was 16 and could take care of himself. We took the other two with us because David would fight with Rodger and Katy was in first grade. We took Dennis' van because I had a little Dakota pick-up. It was nice, newer than anything I ever had. It was only 6 years old. No dents, ran good, and I loved it.
We went to the VA in Nashville, which was an hour forty-five minute drive each way. We usually enjoyed this trip very much and on the way back, we stopped halfway, in Dickson. We would go to a Chinese restaurant and then go to Wal-mart. There wasn't one in Perry County. I was nervous for some reason. I kept trying to call Rodger but he did not answer. We were not rich enough for cell phones then. I called his girlfriends house, no answer. I figured he was probably at a friend's. I was still nervous and kept trying to call him.
We finally left Wal-mart and headed home, Rodger still was not answering and it was 9:00. I was going to kill him for not being home. By this time, I was a nervous wreck and didn't even know why. We turned into the driveway and no lights. My pick-up is gone!!! I am now in a panic. I go in hollering for him and he doesn't answer. It is 10:30 at night. His curfew, without special permission, is 9:00. Where is he?
I picked up the phone, to get messages. There are 43 messages!!! What the heck!!! As I am listening to the messages, a picture is forming and I am telling Dennis what they are. Some from his girlfriend's mom. Some from the hospital. Some from friend's moms. Some from friends. Rodger apparently got hold of my keys, which I keep in my purse and took my pick-up for a ride. He does not yet have his license, we had not had the money to get it for him yet. Insurance was expensive. We would not have let him drive the better vehicle anyway, he might damage it.
Rodger was speeding on a country road, a very windy country road and he wrecked. This was at about the time that we got to Dickson and I was getting nervous. Now I knew why. He slid sideways, at about 100 miles per hour, into a power pole and they had to use the jaws of life to get him out. His friend and he are both at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville. This is one of the premier teaching hospitals in the country. They only send the really bad ones there. We called the hospital and talked to them. He was in surgery and the Dr. would call us as soon as he was out.
This is going to Part three. Sorry, I tried to keep it at just two.
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