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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Migraine Awareness Month - Post # 15: Sisters of the Heart

Today's blog is up to the writer.  I decided to write about -
My Heart Sisters. 
There are some people who have come into my life that are always there for me, and I am always there for them.  I am very fortunate to have many close friends who check in on me, are willing to take me to the ER, drive me to doctors' appointments, to listen to me vent, and forgive me when I cancel plans at the last minute. This blog is a homage to my girlfriends. 

It's a long list, so I will begin in the order in which I have known them.  I consider these women my "heart sisters."  Together, we laugh, cry, dance, sing, and share stories from our hearts.

My list begins with my best friend Kathy, whom I have known since age 4.  We grew up together, went to nursing school together, and stood up for each other at our weddings.  Even though we don't live nearby, we simply call each other on the phone anytime and pick up where we left off.  We have a sense of each other's history that no other friend can match. She always has my back, and I, hers. The importance of our friendship is immeasurable.  I wish everyone could have a friendship like ours.

I have a select group of friends I've stayed in contact with since high school. Susan and I were in high school choir together. We sat next to each other in the soprano section, and became close friends. I've always been able to rely on her for advice and love throughout the years. We both suffer from migraines, and have compared and shared our experiences. When we are in the same state, we always try to get together for a visit.   Willde, Debra, Ellen and I met in the 5th grade. We have always been "Christmas card friends,"  but because of Facebook, have recently re-connected.  We all have our own trials and tribulations, and get together once or twice a year to share stories, hold hands, hug, and occasionally, cry.  I love these women!

Sometimes friends come along because of our spouses. It is rare that wives of spousal friends will become girlfriends, and have as much fun as our husbands and their boyfriends.  I have acquired several heart sisters this way.

I have known Anna since I was about 22.  Her (ex)husband and my husband have been best friends since 2nd grade. I often tell people that Anna and I could have fun anywhere - even stuck in traffic!  This notion was tested just last month as we were tied up in a traffic jam while on our way to her daughter's college graduation. We were literally stuck in traffic for 90 minutes. Most of it was fun until we started to worry that we would miss the ceremony.  But we made it and all ended well. Anna's two daughters and I are very close. They call me their "Fairy Godmother,"  I title I adore. Because of my friendship with Anna, I met Jill, whom I also count as a dear friend. We travel well together.

Carol and I met when our husbands played on a summer softball league. I was about 25 at the time. We were casual friends because of softball, and partied together when the team won - which was often. Carol and I became heart sisters when I had Chronic Erythema Multiforme in 1988.  She heard I wasn't feeling well, called to ask if I needed anything at the store, and dropped it by my house. Then she saw what a mess I was.  She joined me on the sofa where we just cried and sobbed and hugged for the longest time. And the cement was set. We both love to dance and sing.  We call it "Musical Tourrette's." We will be taking a walk together, chatting away, and one of us inadvertently says a few lyrics from a popular song, and the next thing you know, we are arm in arm, walking and singing like Dorothy and the Lion down the Yellow Brick Road (BTW - I am the lion). She will always be my heart sister.

Wendy's husband was the pitcher on the same softball team.  She and I became friends right around the time her first son was born, about 24 years ago.  We met because we were both at the same professional conference as wives of the attendees, and needed some companionship while they were in their meetings.   Since then, the four of us have traveled extensively together.  My best vacation EVER as couples was a sailing trip to Bora Bora. Pure Bliss.  We all like to dive, so many of our vacations have been highlighted with a diving excursion.  We both love golden retrievers.  About a month after I began having daily head pain, I decided I needed another dog to replace one that had died 3 years earlier.  Wendy's dog had just been diagnosed with bone cancer, so going puppy shopping was probably a very difficult thing to do.  But on we went, driving hours and miles to find a puppy that would melt my wounded heart.  And we succeeded;  I found the perfect puppy.  Wendy has also suffered from migraines, so she knows what I'm going through.  She is a die-hard, loyal friend to me, offering help without being asked.  I know I could call on her day or night. 

Gayle, Judy, Deb and I became a foursome shortly after I was Gayle's student teacher in 1996.  She called me her "wife," because I got to do all her mundane dirty work.  We knew we could be friends when we discovered our propensity for color-coding things as an organizational tool. Gayle brought fun into an otherwise grueling semester.  Gayle,  Judy and Deb were a three-some because their kids were friends.  They allowed me to come into the fold.  We get together often for dinner, golf, and always have a little Christmas party with our spouses. It's the most fun ever, even though I don't drink anymore.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I am everyone's favorite designated driver. I could ask anyone of these women for the shirt off their backs and they would willingly comply (mostly because they are exhibitionists at heart).  Gayle has driven me to many appointments, and has seen me post-op, under the effects of anesthesia (or as I like to say, "truth serum"). You don't let just anybody see you in that state.

Chris came into my life in 1998 as the neighbor across the street.  She and I became walking buddies and close friends, where we shared stories we couldn't even tell our husbands.  She helped me edit many papers (starting with my masters thesis).  Shortly after I began having chronic migraine, she was diagnosed with megaloblastic leukemia, likely from her time as an Army nurse in Vietnam. She was exposed to Agent Orange and lots of radiation when she accompanied soldiers into X-ray (not enough lead aprons).  The kindest soul I've ever met.  When she got cancer, I set up a "Caring Bridge" site for her. She said something to me that sticks with me today: There is a support website for cancer, but there is not one for migraine. This is a battle I fight without a Caring Bridge. Thank God for girlfriends and my FaceBook support groups.  Sadly, Chris lost her battle with cancer, and died within 6 months of her diagnosis. I miss her every day.

Last, but certainly not least, are two people I rely upon to make me look good: My hairdresser, Pam; and my reflexologist/nail tech, Denise.  You learn a lot about a person whilst sitting in their chair for a couple of hours. Pam has been cutting my hair for over 10 years.  She's seen me go from a vibrant graduate student into my chronic migraine disease.  She has seen all the horrid side effect the medications have had on me.  She can tell at a glance if I am in a migraine when I have an appointment.  We've commiserated about our kids, our parents, our lives.  I consider her a true friend.  I found Denise on a recommendation from my friend Gayle.  She helped me through the death of my dad in 2010, but Denise and I have a special relationship because of something that happened during one of my recent reflexology sessions.  I was already in the prodrome when I came for my appointment.  Well, I went into the headache phase right there in her chair.  Tears were streaming down my face as I tried to get to my "happy place," and she was trying hard not to lose it. She switched reflexology modes from healing to calming, and the migraine started to break. Good thing, because I was ready to ask her to take me to Urgent Care.  We both made it through the migraine, and once I became well enough to make the five minute drive home,  I left her care. I found out later that after that appointment, she visited a fellow reflexologist and sobbed and cried. Sharing that much emotion is a very intimate experience, especially when it is your life's work to make people feel better. 

When I am in severe pain, I like to hole up in my bedroom, put my eye mask on, earplugs in, and try to will  the dragon away.  Not many people have seen me go through the entire migraine from prodrome to headache phase.  Most of these heart sisters have.  It is a very intimate experience for me because I really don't want people see me when I am so debilitated.  My eyes go from bright and twinkly to having the shades pulled down. This can happen in a minute or take all day.  I love these women like sisters because they understand. They are compassionate beyond words, and I wanted to tell the world how much they mean to me.

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation
The Blogger's Challenge is initiated by

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