Yet it doesn't take much to push me off track into what my friend PJ calls The Dark Side. Yesterday's trigger was a New York Times story headlined "Transplant Patients Put at Risk By a State's Financial Distress," about a new law signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer eliminating Medicaid coverage of certain kinds of transplants as a cost-cutting measure.
Not everyone in need of a life-saving organ or bone marrow transplant is entitled to government money to receive one, but this was a case of patients in line to receive transplants and then denied them. For example, one man was prepped for a liver transplant and then told that his family needed to bring $200,000 as a deposit; he was discharged, and the liver went to someone else.
Despite how you feel about where to draw the line on government spending for health care, this was a heartbreaking story. The part that got me personally came when different sides started bandying about leukemia statistics. The state Medicaid agency had presented an analysis of the transplants that were cut, saying that 13 of 14 patients who received bone marrow transplants over a two-year period died within six months.
"But outside specialists said the success rates were considerably higher, particularly for leukemia patients in their first remission," according to the story.
Statistics, except of course the really good ones, make me jittery. I know each of us is an individual, not a statistic. It was reassuring to hear specialists saying success rates are higher, but the words "particularly for leukemia patients in their first remission" made me shudder. What about patients in their third remission? The story implies success rates are lower, and I have no doubt that they are, but I don't want to hear about it.
I also started worrying about my Medicare services being cut. What if....? Everyone knows that asking "what if" gets you nowhere. But still, when you get stuck in the Dark Side, it's hard to stop.
While perusing the calendars at the Odyssey Bookshop before I read the story, I came upon a wall calendar with a few calming sentences for each month by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. They are a way to help you focus on your breath, such as "Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile." I read them on the wall calendar but didn't buy it. I have them in a book; although they are helpful, you don't even need to say them. You can just count your breaths, for example up to 10 and back.
After the Times story got me going, I couldn't remember any of the sayings. My heart racing, I thought of taking an Ativan. Instead, I sat down on the couch next to the dog and read a book.
Meanwhile, due to having two teeth pulled, I didn't do much during the week except walk Maddie. I decided to go to yoga today, but there was no class that fit my schedule (read: too early) where I usually go. So I went to another studio where I like the teacher and the space.
I came out crankier than when I went in.
A kid yoga class (read baby-sitting) was going on in a walled-off space inside the studio. You couldn't see the kids, but you could hear them. They squealed and laughed and tumbled around while their instructor had them take monkey pose and such. I got more and more annoyed. I told myself to chill out. Hey, it was the sound of children laughing, not anything terrible like bombs dropping. It didn't work.
I asked a man on our way out if the kids bothered him.
"No, I didn't hear them at all," he said.
"Bad yogini," I scolded myself.
Afterwards I took Maddie for a long walk through the woods and around a field. It was a dreary day, cold and gray. But I stopped several times on the path and looked up at the bare treetops, dark against the sky. It was quiet and soothing. I had a few words with Maddie, who insists on grabbing big sticks and staying close to me, whacking my legs along the way. I finally got her to go in front of me, and she looked so cute trotting with her over-sized stick that I had to laugh.
This post is getting too long, but I have one more thing to say.
Several of us have written lately that we are unhappy about our looks.
We are not having a contest for most messed-up face, but still, I am going to lay claim to that title. The swelling has gone down on the cheek where the teeth were pulled, but I have a big black-and-blue mark reaching under my chin and over my lip.
I am not going to post a photo.