Thursday, May 25, 2006

It was 1985 and I had recently returned from a trip to Egypt. It was a trip to study Egyptian Village Breads and to help prepare myself for a few years of international work before I reached retirement age. All during the trip I complained to my husband that the Egyptian beds were killing my back.

The University where I worked was going through some wicked program cuts to try to survive on a very restrictive allocation of funds by the state government. Black Tuesday was the day we were all to be in our office at 2:00 PM to await the dreaded call that would tell us that our program had been cut. The preliminaries to that day had included evaluations, many hours spent in justifying our existance, back stabbing, inuendoes and a lot of fear and anxiety.

I survived Black Tuesday. I worked to get results of my Egyptian sojourn published. One of the criteria of the grant that paid for that trip was that I would be observing of cultural aspects of life as I observed the culture around the production of bread in the homes. My report was written with that in mind. The University (Ag College) would not publish the work because "it contained too much culture and anthropology".

I presented a paper on the economics of bread in Egypt at the Cereal Chemists annual meeting. I met an Egyptian man who worked at Texas A&M. He wanted samples of the breads for mineral analysis. I was delighted and so was he when I sent portions of the samples I had brought back to the US. The first paper he wrote was on the aluminum content of the breads. Later work reported on other elements.

In the meantime, my back problems escalated. My emotional state deteriorated. I took a disability retirement at age 45, twenty years before I had planned on retiring. In 1987 I had 3 spinal surgeries. Although my pain level was less than before the surgeries, I was still in extreme pain.

In order to fill my long days and nights, I took some art classes at the University and took private watercolor lessons in town. I joined the Palouse Watercolor Socius and became an active member. I painted, I learned how to frame and to cut mats. I started showing my work and even selling a bit here and there.

I learned how to make baskets with an emphasis on pine needle baskets. I made baskets from the plum suckers and climber bean vines. I sold some of those.

More back surgeries and still a degree of pain existed.

It is now 2008. I have survived 7 spinal surgeries, the illness and death of my DH, the illness and death of my siblings and of my eldest sister-in-law, and various other surgeries.

Last fall I tore my rotator cuff and had surgery. Last spring I had my seventh spinal surgery. This spring I spent a lot of time just sitting. I didn't feel like reading. I didn't feel like watching TV. I just sat. I wanted to get off of some of my medications. Arthrotec was the first chosen for discontinuing. My pain level escalated. I was put on the fentanyl patch. My very sharp NP ordered an arthritis panel. The ESR was sky high and CRP was also high. I was sent to a rheumatologist. I was diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica. I was started on prednisone. It is only in retrospect that I realize just how lousy I had been feeling. The pred nearly eliminated my pain and greatly increased my energy level. I joined the Year of Jewelry at the 3rd quarter.


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