I’d like to welcome Author Terry Palardy as my very first guest blogger. Terry has an interesting story that may help anyone struggling with or just being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I can’t wait to read her story ~ Madison Johns
I am a school teacher. Though I retired last year, I still can’t say I ‘was’ a school teacher. It defined me for the past thirty years – almost half my lifespan to date. I took it very seriously, and loved every year. My hair was long, and I most often wore it pulled back or twisted up. When, at forty, eyeglasses completed the look, friends teased me about being the stereotypical school teacher. As I liked being a teacher, that suited me just fine.
One year, I had a student skilled as a sketch artist, and she came to ask me after school if I would let her sketch me. I said yes, and as she worked, she told me that she was intrigued with my hair, twisted up and into a bun each day. She said, with the coloring of gray streaks amid brown with occasional reddish-blond strands, it reminded her of a cinnamon bun. I liked that description, and liked the sketch she finished. She liked it, too, and submitted it to the school’s monthly newspaper. I can’t put my hand on it now, but know I saved it for several years afterward, flattered that my schoolteacher stereotypical look had made an impression on a student.
The teacher across the hall from me just a few years ago was a young man, and we shared many conversations about government and politics, amazingly in sync with each other’s perspectives. People would expect that we would have disagreed, coming from different genders and generations; rather, we would share our views and have fun trying to impose today’s national challenges on our leaders from centuries before. It was my privilege to teach nineteenth century history, with all of the excitement about abolition and westward expansion, and we would discuss immigration and women’s rights today with equanimity. The little old lady with the bun in her hair and the tall handsome young man were a pair to see, heads together sharing historical pictures, and laughs that brought other heads up to see what was so funny.
As time went on, I grew more tired, and it took longer to put myself together for each school day. The bun on top of my head began gradually to hold more gray than brown and gold, though my hair remains multicolored even today. I didn’t want to think that the fatigue was due to my increasing age, but in retrospect that might have been a happier belief. Instead, with the fatigue and other issues, I went to my doctor, and she sent me on to another. It seems I was in for many medical tests, and hairpins holding a bun atop my head would have to be removed frequently.
I’ll share here an excerpt from chapter nine of the book that I’ve written about those tests and the ultimate diagnosis:
Upstairs, I turned on the tap, letting the hot water climb to the second floor bath while I pulled out towels, soap and shampoo before changing into a terry cloth robe and slippers. Adjusting the water temperature carefully to warm but not too warm, I stepped into the shower and let the water beat into my upper back … and felt the tension begin to lessen. My worry and sadness slowly began to turn to anger and resentment. I struggled to shampoo my long hair with arms that ached when lifted over my head. In the building steam of the shower my legs began to wobble and I knew I would have to rinse and step out of the shower and go into the cooler bedroom to towel off. I stumbled slightly as my vision blurred, not from tears now but from the heat of the shower. Once such a comfort, now such a challenge; I counted off another small loss in my life.
I went downstairs with the damp towels and my portable hairdryer and asked Rick to help me. We didn’t try to speak over the noise of the dryer, but when he was finished I sipped from the glass of water he’d poured. Calmer, cooler, and steadier, I began to tell him of the conversation I’d had with the neurologist…
… I got up then, and walked to the kitchen and found a pair of scissors. I went into the downstairs half-bath and stood at the sink, looking in the mirror at my now dry hair. It was limp, and multiple strands had been coming out each time I ran my hand through it for the past several months … long strands of hair no longer attached at the scalp. It went down to the middle of my back, but now it was thin, and dull. I raised the scissors and began to cut, just below my ear. I knew that I was in for yearly MRI’s, along with other tests, and that I had to pull out the hair pins and take my hair down each time I had one. And I thought about my mother in the nursing home a few years earlier, with her bright white cap of short hair that always looked so nice, and of her fellow patient who had a little tiny thin gray bun on top of her head, with wisps around her ears. And I cut the other side, just below the ear. And I thought about the underpaid health aides employed in nursing homes, and their kind efforts at trying to care for their patients’ hair. And I reached toward the back and cut further.
Eventually I had cut all the way around, and I gently gathered the thin clumps together, and thought about sending it to Locks for Love, and realized that the twelve inches of hair that I’d cut was not as thick as my index finger. And I dropped it into the waste basket under the sink. I wouldn’t have my standard trademark school teacher’s twist and bun on the top of my head any longer. And when I thought of my student of a few years ago, a young artist who was fascinated by the natural streaks of gold and brown mixing with gray in my hair, who had asked if she could sketch my hair for the school newspaper, because it reminded her of a cinnamon bun, I smiled. I shook my head side to side, something I hadn’t done in a long time … my short hair now felt so light; but the motion of shaking my head made me feel dizzy.
I asked a surprised Rick to even out the back for me, and he did, without a word of question. I knew my eyes were still rimmed with tears, but I did my best to smile at him, and he smiled back and said then that I was still his beautiful lady. And he said that whatever I decided to do, he would be with me. I gave him a kiss goodnight and went upstairs, crawled into bed, and reached for my rosary beads. I would pray to the Blessed Mother, and ask her to help me make the right decision.
So yes, my hair is still short, and I no longer look the stereotypical school teacher. But instead of correcting student essays, I now read and review books for my fellow authors. Unlike the prescribed rubrics that I used to turn my subjective responses to their papers into letter grades, I now can award five stars to a well written story. Instead of setting up my defenses to explain a less than perfect score to an unhappy student or parent, I find my reviews are well received by the authors, and the suggested changes are gracefully accepted and considered, and sometimes implemented. And if I cannot in good conscience give five stars, I don’t have to give any, which is how I would have preferred to respond to student work: “not yet” would have been a better grade for all concerned, inviting improvement and promising another look.
Multiple Sclerosis an Enigma is my latest book. It is a story of unexpected diagnosis, of resented treatment, and of an undying love shared. You can find it in print and on Kindle at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Multiple-Sclerosis-Enigma-Finding-diagnosis/dp/1466461446/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
Teaching Vol. I: Education and Academics at the Turn of the Century is my first book, and is comprised of columns I’d written on changes occurring in public education during my tenure. Many of the changes I saw and recorded (both pros and cons) have played out their time, and are now again returning in the cycle of education.
Teaching Vol. II is made up of essays and stories from the classroom. Both Teaching volumes are on Amazon in print and, inexpensively, at Kindle for $.99 each.
I’ve also written two volumes of poetry and a collection of essays about living in a small town. As an author I clearly haven’t established a “brand” of any sort, as my genres are pretty much all over the map.
I again have another different one planned for my next book, which shall remain a mystery until I am sure myself of the ending.
I invite you to follow me as I find my way into this new title, author rather than teacher. I promise it will be an interesting, entertaining journey. Here are the links to places where you will find my work:
Author page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00580PJ9Y will take you to all six books
I’d be happy to have you join me at Facebook, where I have a personal page (Terry Crawford Palardy) and two work pages, one titled Terry’s Thoughts and Threads, and one titled as my book: Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma.
Be well! ~ Terry Crawford Palardy