Pain in the Cass comes to your EMAIL!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Letter to One of My Favorite Writers (originally posted 03-04-11)

I don't know if you guys have ever heard of him, but you should. Ashleigh Brilliant (And, yes, that is his real name). He writes sometimes in small quips called pot-shots and others called Brilliant Thoughts. In fact, here's a website if you are interested:

I don't often write to those whose work I love. This is a big mistake. You should always write and let them know. Always, always. I've only done it on three occasions - once to Dorothy Allison (author of Bastard Out of Carolina), Davy Jones (from The Monkees - I had a crush and thought our shortness made us perfect for each other. Never mind that I was 8 and he was in his 40's), and today to Mr. Brilliant.

One of the reasons I wrote today is because 5 weeks ago, a car hit Mr. Brilliant. He's now in the hospital and going through a hard time, as many of us who have had hospital stays have been through. I wrote a letter of my story and some encouragement. And then I thought I might share it with all of you. Some of you might need encouragement. Maybe not today, but maybe someday, and maybe someday soon. Save it and see if it becomes useful for you.

I also thought we all need a reminder to write to those of whom we admire, before they are gone and we miss the chance. Sure, there's a chance that on the Big Screen of Life they might see that you loved them, but why wait? Why indeed?

Enough, enough.... here's what I sent. Good luck to all of you, too.


Dear Mr. Brilliant,

I don't know if this will ever reach you. I've been a fan of your work for years by accident. I dated a boy who gave me one of your books, and because I was careless of him, I was equally careless of his gifts. Years later while packing to move to New York, I found your book and read it, and even still have it, though probably in yet another moving box.

I'm sorry for your accident. I really am. The event itself, of course, is horrible, but the after effects are sometimes even worse.

Just a few months after getting married and moving into our newly built home, I awoke one morning to what we around here now refer to as The Case of the Meat Paws. (We’ve even thought of creating our own comic book based on it. I just can’t figure out the right super powers one would get with enormously large hands. Opening jam jars?) I tried to think of what would have caused my hands to swell excessively and inexplicably. I went from doctor to doctor to find out what was going on, only to be told one thing or another, even scolded for not just believing them without questioning their findings. The swelling went away with some good steroids (we later found out this small act saved my life), but then pain started in my belly. I ended up sampling hospital food from Las Vegas to a little town near Bryce Canyon in Utah. Still nothing. Just pills.

One day when it was particularly bad, my own male form of Dorothy (this is a reference to Mr. Brilliant's wife, Dorothy), otherwise known as my husband, met me at the hospital and told the people there we weren't leaving until they figured this all out. I guess they believed him because four weeks later, as I laid out as The Case of the Curious Illness, they cut me open hoping to find a solution. Instead, they found two holes in my intestines (which they were kind enough to clean up while they were mucking about) and they removed my gall bladder because I guess they thought it was getting in the way of their Spring cleaning.

Of course, this made things worse.

My belly did not like the way they had feng shuied my insides and rejected everything. It protested in the form of a lovely and large infection - so large, in fact, it burst through my stapled little belly. The hospital staff responded by hooking me up to what they call a wound vac, which cleaned out my insides constantly and made me wish for one for my house - for the carpet, that is.

The problem, of course, was that I was limited in what I could do at this point. Not only this, no one there knew what to do next. They had prettied my insides, but they had not stopped the war inside. Though the majority of nurses were nice, there were a few who were frustrated by my situation. They wanted me to fit into a neat little package they understood. One nurse, so frustrated that I could not do what she asked, resorted to throwing a walker at/near me. My husband, in his oh-so-delicate way, explained where her services could be better used. Guam, I think he mentioned.

There were lovely, lovely nurses though. One particularly frustrating day, I was in complete tears, literally covered in blood from head to toe from all the IVs gone wrong, the injuries and cuts. This woman came in, wrapped me in a blanket, took me into the shower, got in with me - in her full uniform - and helped me to get cleaned off. She rescued my mind that day.

Anyway, after 6 weeks in one hospital, they decided they didn't have the right people to decide what was really wrong with me (I'm sure my mother would have agreed were she still alive, though I’m sure she would have had her own laundry list.) They transferred me 400 miles away to Santa Monica, CA, where I was poked and prodded every single day. MRIs, CT Scans (so many they were afraid they would cause cancer in me), a bronchoscopy (which, if it's not being done to you is actually terribly interesting), a liver biopsy (where they punch a hole in my liver to test it), a lung biopsy (where they punch a hole in my lung to get more material to test - and scare me half to death when I realized I was breathing blood into my lungs), and on and on.

One miracle day, they finally came in with an answer. They said it was Wegener's Vasculitus - a name I still struggle with spelling all this time later. It's an autoimmune disease that usually attacks your nose, mouth, and lungs. While it had a field day in my little pink lungs, it tried to confuse everyone by taking on a different playground.

It still took another 2 1/2 weeks before I could leave - mainly because I had to relearn how to walk (no one ever tells you that something as short as 7 days in bed will cause your legs to give up the memory of walking altogether.)

The return home was frightening, afraid of doing something wrong without having so many people around to watch after me. I spent months at home, weak and not being used to it; loopy from the drugs and being even less used to it.

I hated the struggle back - still do - but the other option, laying back and simply slipping away, well, I'm not really dressed for that occasion.

I'm back and work, these days. And I still struggle. Some days, even this last Monday, are worse than other days, but it's like they say - every day above ground is still pretty friggin' good.

Good luck with all this. It gets better. It might get worse for awhile, but it does get better. And I know I would hate the world without a you in it.

Your admirer,

Cass Van Gelder

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