Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gone for so long!

I've been gone awhile, I know.  Not the ideal way to find, get, keep and audience.  My head has been swimming for... well, I guess really I don't know when it wasn't, but this time's different. This time, there is intent, confidence, strength.  And self-empowerment, I think I'm finding that, too, learning how to do it in healthy and honest ways.  Self-empowerment will never come from self-destruction, even when it feels like it -- that's something else, I think.  In the simplest terms, a lie.
So here's been my struggle with this blog. To start with, I thought  it would give me something I could always be able to write about.  I wanted to do this as a writer, who happened to have survived something horrific, not to be categorized as a part of the disabled writer's movement. And that has kept me from writing in my blog.  I really wanted to use this as a platform for being a writer, everything I read about getting an audience stressed the topic.... it has to have some sort of demographic.  I figured being internally decapitated would get a bit of attention.  I've been regularly attending therapy lately and am using EMDR as well as talk therapy, and it's amazing.  My emotional scar tissue is shedding away, I'm learning to stop suppressing myself to accommodate others, including myself.  Especially myself. My self.  And I'm learning what I've been doing in my head and how I've been interpreting feelings (about myself and others) and relationships and what's important.... I'm learning it's time to speak my truths, what my truth really is and what I should be doing with them, how to understand them, use them to my advantage, even the sad ones.   
I spent a week at Naropa in Boulder, a school I've been dreaming of for 15 years. I finally made it, even for just a week.  That week changed my life, changed me, changed my writing and my thoughts and processes and goals and ambitions and re birthed that passion for writing poetry that's been gone for so many years.  But I don't know if I'm ready to share those intensities with you yet, if I'm ready to be that vulnerable for you yet. Maybe some day...
So, here I sit in this whirlwind of words and dreams and a little bit of vomit and spilled ashtrays and wonder what it is I should write about, what I should share with you and how.
I think this is all I need to share right now.  I hope that I can share at least once a week.  I won't guarantee that it'll always be about something medical, or that it'll be grammatically accurate or even interesting.  I definitely won't promisie that I'll go back and proofread or edit before I post because I probably wonn't. As part of my using this platform as a writer, this, for me, needs to be more of a journal --- edited in my head before I can type it in a bright white box in a blogging app. 
None the matter, I am starting anew as of this post, and we will see together (me and like the 2 of you that read here) where this blog takes me....
as always, please feel free to post comments and questions, only if they are honest and respectful.  I will only edit disrespectful comments


Friday, May 3, 2013

"healthcare" in TX is criminal....

Out of respect for the patient involved and his family, I'm going to keep things anonymous for now. This is not only to help maintain his dignity, but also to ensure he doesn't start getting worse care or even kicked out of the facility he's in. So, I'll call the patient, Bert. And, Bert lives in a Dallas suburb, is a senior citizen, and has been fighting cancer for some time now. This is his second bout with cancer, but it is a different kind -- apparently once you've beaten cancer once, you're more likely to "catch" it again, even if the original body part/organ is no longer there.
Following this section, you can read the basics of this story, but I want to make sure you don't stop reading before you hear what kind of hell Dallas, TX is for anyone with an illness or disability. This is the thing -- this isn't my first observation of Dallas healthcare being incompetent, uncaring, and inhumane. And none of those three words are exaggerations by any means.... So, Bert was released form the hospital into the care of a rehabilitation hospital. His floor seems to be filled with transplant patients, transplants of some sort or another. This place is as fabulous as a state run nursing home (something else I know enough about), and there's nothing fabulous about that. In fact, we walked by a woman begging for help, quietly, but begging. We saw several nurses, aides, whatever walk past her and ignore her, pleading to be immediately taken to the bathroom. We had to ask someone to help her.
Bert was dropped off the other day. He didn't see a nurse, admissions person, dr, or any other employee of the "care" facility for over 2 hours. He has specific dietary needs and it took them over 24 hours to get the dietician to him. He didn't see the doctor for over 24 hours after being admitted. I watched a nurse flip her hair and take her sweet little time, as Bert was begging for help to the bathroom. A blood tech came in to take blood, we informed him Bert had a port, and he said that a nurse had to do it, walked out, never came back and we never saw a nurse to pull blood before we left. Today, his catheter got pulled or something during his physical therapy (PT), started bleeding and leaking, and 3 hours later it hasn't been dealt with.
This is sick. I've been in the hospital several times, had 20+ surgeries, and been in several hospitals in 2 states. I got nurses fired in Lincoln for mistreating me. Now, if these people are treating patients that can speak up this way, how the hell are they treating the people that can't communicate? Is this how they would care for their mother, father or child? I think not.
In fact, one of my experiences in Dallas: the same ortho that saw Bert in the hospital saw me a couple years ago, after I found out I needed another fusion. He left me waiting for 3 hours past my appointment time, walked in, looked at me and told me that he doesn't do that surgery. Two days later, his nurse called to schedule it. I said, "Dr. Guess told me he doesn't do that surgery!" She said, "oh, he does it all the time, what do you mean?"
So, in Denver, CO the squeaky wheel gets the grease, in Dallas, the patients, scared, mistreated, and sick, are treated even worse if they alert anyone to the fact that the entire facility should be sued for malpractice....
OK, so, here are the basics of this story. Bert was diagnosed with cancer by chance -- he bent over to pick something up and had severe pain in his chest. Luckily he was already at the hospital, as a visitor, and the nurse brought him a wheelchair and they took him to the ER. Over the course of the next few days, things were a mess -- first, the ER doc diagnosed cancer. Then, the orthopedic doc said, no way, it's not cancer. Then the oncologist said, it's definitely cancer. Then, the ortho came in the room and argued with the Onco about whether or not it was cancer -yes, in front of us. Eventually, I don't know how many days later, the ortho backed down and the Onco won, it was cancer. Between the arguing doctors and the battling diagnoses, we had little time to think and even less time to act -- this was serious. We agreed, with the doctors in the hospital, that Bert would not be leaving the hospital (a famous hospital in Dallas which I'd like to refrain from naming at this time) until we a) had a firm and definite diagnosis and 2) had a solid, set-in-stone treatment plan. We had all those things before we left the hospital. We knew treatment would start with some chemo and/or radiation at a specific cancer clinic, and that after some chemo they would grow stem cells for him, from him, and then implant them. That step would involve a 2-4 weeks hospital stay, some time at a rehab hospital, then homebound for at least 6 months. Then, the medical professionals started changing appointments, claiming they had other patients worse off that needed to get in first.... When we left the hospital in July, the stem cell implant was going to be in January. He just had them done the beginning of April.
Now, let's talk

Thursday, May 2, 2013

It's been so long since I've blogged... not because I don't have anything to write about, quite the opposite. Actually, I've been having a bit of a struggle concerning my blog. I'm not quite sure that I reached a solid decision. I'm really struggling with how personal I want to get, how much I want to share, and what is inappropriate to share. I mean, some things have legal implications. Some, some things are just humiliating. Some things may be news to even my closest of friends and family, and some may be socially taboo. Some things may sound passive aggressive, and some things are just me venting, like a normal person, just venting.
There have been a lot of topics in the last month that I really wish I'd have written about here. My only real reason for not is, as I said above, I'm not sure how well I want you to know me, and I'm not sure how well I want to know me. But that's the path I'm on right now, learning about me again. I'm a much different person than I was before I lost my head. But not different enough, and not happy enough. Ultimately, not me enough. I'm rid of the hardcore and vicious vices of the days past, but I still hold on to some of those behaviors that come along for the ride. I don't care if you know what I'm talking about or not, I know.
I guess since it's been awhile since I've posted, I'll write something nice and positive. Actually, I really need to write about the following since it's still just a few days ago -- a week I guess.
So, I live in Denver. I am a CO resident, and I have the legal documentation allowing me to walk in to a specialty store, browse the flavors of the day, and walk out with up to 2 ounces of medical marijuana or candies/baked goods/other edible foods made with cannibis infused butter/oil. We call it the red card, a paycheck sized piece of paper with red ink, stating your name and other pertinent information necessary to legally purchase high grade marijuana grown to help people more easily handle the symptoms of many, many illnesses, diseases, and their treatments. I'm not using this post as a platform, however, for legalizing marijuana; I live in a state where it's already been accepted as medical treatment by the voters. For the record, I voted no last year on legalizing marijuana for all adults over 21.
No, the reason I'm writing this is because of the doctor that writes my annual prescription for my red card, Dr. Alan Shackelford.
Every dispensary owner in CO should know who he is. He's assisted in writing the laws. He's fought diligently for patient rights and medical regulation for patients. He's published, he's acted, and he saved my life.
My injury happened during a car accident outside of Lincoln, NE. I was in the hospital in Lincoln for about 5 weeks, at which point they released me and I came home to Denver with my mom. Though the hospital staff had made the doctor appointments required before my discharge, but they forgot the alert them to the fact that I had no insurance and no money. I was literally turned away from several doctors' offices, in a wheelchair, a halo, a CAM boot and with crossed eyes, because I couldn't pay. This was really the reason I had to hire an attorney -- I couldn't get medical care. I'd have to go to Denver General clinic and wait for hours in pain for pain medication because the hospital only gave me 3 days worth when I was released and no doctor in denver would let me thru the doors! So, the first thing my attorneys did for me was find me a doctor who would care for me on a lien -- when I received money from the insurance company the monies owed to them would be paid out before I was.
My first couple appointments I had a pretty cool, very capable doctor who recommended medical marijuana. This was before we had dispensaries, and I hated the idea of being a pothead so I said no fuckin' way!
After my first few visits (I think I went more than once a week back then), I walked in to a new doctor. I was pissed. I had finally learned to trust the other dr and he disappeared without warning or reason, but now, I had to learn to trust Dr. Shackelford.
I quickly trusted him and had great faith in all he said. He was smart, intuitive, and non-judgmental. And, he was cool! He listened, he cared, he inspired. He saw many, many landmarks in my recovery, and is personally responsible for my mental state and my growth back to being a pseudo-functional person. Dr. Shackelford made great recommendations, but I don't think he ever suggested #MMJ (medical marijuana). What he did do, is he saved my life. Not from some near fatal injury or chronic pain, which of course his treatments and RXs helped with. But he really saved me from myself and my own worst enemy, my thoughts. He was kind, not cold like most of the other doctors I had been treated by at that point. (We're talking, Dr. Shack was treating me starting around the month of April, 2007, just 3 months after the accident and the hospital and the 13 surgeries, so he saw me at my post-ICU worst.) My appearance didn't phase him, not like it did my friends, most of whom couldn't handle seeing me after the first time, not until I was "whole" again, or at least looked closer to the pre-accident Shannon. And everyone, dr's and not, was easily taken aback by my appearance. I mean, at all times, one eye was almost completely white, I had a cage on my head and walked like the Bride of Frankenstein. But Shack just looked at me the same way he does today (or did last week when I saw him!). He was relentless, researching and brainstorming anything and everything that may help me become close to "normal" again -- healed! He was amazing, he was always so encouraging, often spending so much time consoling and helping me that I would leave him several patients behind for the rest of the day, but he'd do it again the next appointment. His only concern, when I was in his exam room, was me. Not just my pain level or if I was constipated, but how I was feeling -- was I sad, what did I think about, was my family being supportive and was there anything he could do for them, what were my fears, what made me cry, what made me laugh, what was important to ME, not as a case # but a fellow human being.
Since then, I've found that bedside manner is the thing missing from the abilities of most doctors now. And not just with me, but my in-laws all have medical issues with many dr's involved and most of them are big ol' DBs!
No Shack -- he's the raddest!
So, when I finally decided that I didn't want to be on so many narcotics --that I didn't like drooling on myself all day and falling asleep in the middle of sentences or having NO memory of anything that happened because I was so loaded and lethargic from all the pain meds -- I found that Dr. Shackelford had left the lien practice he was employed at and opened his own practice, writing RXs for medical marijuana. It's pretty easy to get your red card. I believe that anxiety is an acceptable condition, along with insomnia, chronic pain, depression, cancer, nausea, IBS, migraines, HIV, AIDS.... I mean, it's not hard, it's a cure-all! (Let me just say here, that there are claims from more than one dr that when certain cancer cells - including brain, breast, leukemia, and prostate -- are injected with THC they die.... yes, pot cures cancer. Don't yell at me, your God put it here for our use, and you can use marijuana for just about anything, from medication to making paper, cloth, lotion, food, fuel.... and the big three?
and I digress....
my real point of this post is about this amazing doctor. I've dealt with so many asshole, egotistical and uncaring doctors who treat me like a cardboard cutout. So, when I find a doctor that super rad AND has been instrumental in getting me to where I am today, it's a big deal. Then, to lost that doctor is a big deal. But, to find him again and have the opportunity to see him at least once a year? Dr. Shackelford is so good, that my annual 30 minute appointment to catch up becomes more of an inspirational talk than anything. I'm so stoked to have this guy in my corner
For anyone interested in talking to a doctor to see if this treatment is right for you, Dr Shackelford is a real doctor, not just a lazy guy with lots of school and a license too lazy to do anything other than fill out an application and sign their name. A lot of these doctors are legitimate, but for the true patient you need a doctor that is really behind MMJ and it's medical potential, one that is so knowledgable about this area of the medical field that he's consulted many, many people in the MMJ industry, including Montel Williams. If you think that MMJ may help you or someone you know, please, please call Dr Shackelford for true medical assistance and the appropriate knowledge about MMJ for your specific condition. check him out at
this is the place to go for any info you are looking for regarding MMJ, and if you are totally against it, don't you dare comment here without researching first. I'm not writing this to promote marijuana by any means. If it didn't help me with: chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, depression, motivation, headaches, nerve pain, muscle spasms, insomnia, I wouldn't use it. I quit smoking pot in 1994. I started medicating with marijuana, edibles, and concentrates 4 years ago, and went from 17 different daily medications to 5 total. I guess this post serves more than my original purpose. Actually, I don't think I achieved my original goal for this post and it totally turned into some article for NORML, Culture Magazine, or The Rooster. Be what it may, I wasn't looking for a debate but I'm ready if you got one comin'!

Friday, March 29, 2013

asked and answered, a poem

one of my dedicated followers has been asking me to post some of my poetry.... this is a first draft, and not one of my best, but it is one of the poems that I've written that falls into the newly named genre of disability poetry.  It's always been really hard for me to go back and edit my poetry, for me poetry is my emotion, even if my poems lack feeling words.  In my head I always think that I'll never find that exact emotion over that exact stimuli again, so editing to me, in the past, has seemed superficial and created a disconnect from the original words and the edit.  I've learned that this isn't true, but I still have not gone back to edit this piece... maybe it'll happen as I type it here for you, but maybe  not.  I, just like all art, am a work in progress.  Before I started this blog, I had daily ideas for topics and what I wanted to say. Since I started this blog, I've gotten more into my writing -- spending hours a day working as a writer, either writing, researching or reading.  Since I have started a Twitter account for myself, my writer-self, I keep thinking that I want to start a blog that is just my writing... so many fears, though... how much easier it is for someone to steal my work, my words, my feelings?  I am hoping that I get to workshop with Thurston Moore (founder of Sonic Youth, y'all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder this summer -- I missed him last year, and I can't risk missing him forever at Naropa as I did Allen Ginsberg (a founder of the school and one of my first favorite poets), not finding out about this school until Mr. Ginsberg sadly passed away.  Anyway, I think I'm stalling because I really may think this poem is a piece of shit, and I'm not saying that to get compliments.... Please read my "editorial" after the poem regarding comments.  Without further procrastination, I present:

a brutal overload of screws and rods
in such beautiful colors
you'd never know
from far away
these pieces had shred marks,
until you see them up close
and recognize remnants
of skull and bone
   maybe even skin and other soft tissue
   or dried up fluids
   in hidden places the autoclave missed

they held a girl's head on
straight but crooked
for the last six fucking years --
these "pretty pieces"
of metal
caused sickening pain and
dreams of death,

and now
I hold those loose screws
in my hands,
new hardware resides in my neck
my skull,
and the commercial on TV says
it may cause trouble swallowing or nerve damage
but i had all that before,
after the first time they put Humpty Dumpty
back together again

***Ok,  so.... as far as comments on this piece:  First of all, it's a totally different piece than what I was typing from; this isn't the end, it's just where I had to stop right now to figure out where to go from here; if you'd like to leave a comment, workshop style (that is, critiquing my poem), please be constructive, and realize this is a work in progress; this piece is a total mess, but it is the only thing I have at the moment that relates to my blog (that I can find), also please be nice, I was completely whacked on morphine at the time I began this piece and I'm working on it....
I'll post a good one in a different post

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Life is a game and I'm finally ready to play...

My mantra for the week has been: I'm not fuckin' around anymore!
I have been out of the house every day for 3 weeks, I've been on time for appointments and plans, I've gotten on the treadmill, I've been doing my physical therapy exercises, I've been talking to people, reading emphatically, writing, trying to get organized.... In the words of Penny Lane, "It's all happening..."
I've been a procrastinator, lazy, gluttonous. I've been self-righteous and self-hating (don't they always go together?).... 3 weeks ago, my normal day involved dragging my ass out of bed around 12-2 and pretty much laying around watching tv all day. Yes, I admit that it's nice to not have to go to work but it also allows for a lot of waste -- body and mind. I'll never be strong or consistent enough in my body to be able to have a "normal" job, and by that I mean this: I don't know how I will wake up feeling from day to day - I could be ok, or maybe I can't get out of bed or walk. Somedays I can't breathe as well, somedays I almost pass out in the shower from lack of oxygen. I can't promise an employer that I will be able to sit, stand, lift, or even speak. I also can't promise them that I will be at work. My issue isn't not being able to find a job, I truly can't work in the traditional sense of the word. The real issue is what happens when I don't have anywhere I have to be, really no one to answer to...
The last couple weeks have really taught me that I am responsible for everything. If I'm not happy, it's my responsibility to get happy. I can put in place certain rules for myself, wake up by x:xx, shower, be on time, whatever, but NO ONE holds me to any of it but me. Everyone in my life is so used to me missing appointments, bailing out of plans, sleeping all day, avoiding society because it hurts, etc.
Of course it hurts, it's life, and "life is trauma." (Jeanette Winterson)

Thursday, March 14, 2013


In a cathartic moment immediately after finishing Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, by Jeanette Winterson, I realized today that there has been one consistent element missing from my writing, especially about the accident.  Except in my poetry.... there I can use imagery to bring out the feelings, the torment, the anguish, even the happiness and comfort. I had many, many self-realizations and moments of complete emotional clarity, simultaneously not feeling alone, - though I was with what some people would call just a book (there's really no such thing as "just a book") - while reading this emotional masterpiece that reads like the smoothest poetry and embedded with emotional horror and self-understanding.  JW made me see that the thing missing, and I'm sure you'll agree if you go back and read/reread previous entries, is showing my reader the emotion.  Not just saying, it was scary or I was sad, but reinventing that emotion to bring you as close to  me at that moment and humanly possible without physically being there.
I also realized that the past is the present is the future and that you can move any of those nouns to change the progression of time and the sentiment remains the same.  I've learned that we don't have a right to happiness, we have the right to the pursuit of happiness and these are by no means even close to meaning the same thing.  We believe we have this right because our forefathers said so.  Happiness, like all emotions, are fleeting and, especially good feelings, don't last long.  The pursuit of happiness is forever.  We have the right, as Americans, to pursue happiness our entire lives.
When I heard JW read in Boston Friday night, it changed my life, my self-appreciation, and hopefully my writing (for the better) and success as a human being.  She made a comment that at one point in her life she was suicidal.  It didn't work, thankfully. She decided then that she was sick of living half a life.  She also said, " is trauma..." and when I met her to sign my book I had to thank her for that.  I've been living half a life for a long time, especially the last 6 years.  I don't feel good every day.  I don't want to get out of my PJ's most days.  Most days I want to sleep, and if I can't I immediately turn on the tv and plop down on the couch.  The ass imprint where I sit is bigger than I'd like it to be, if I'm going to leave an ass imprint on anything, and it's still there when I get out of bed after 12 hours, or sometimes 3 days.  This isn't working for me.  I can't live half of a life anymore.  And I especially cannot continue to not write, not try to get published.  Maybe the talent is so much here in my blog, it'll come.  I'm a poet, and poet's are a very different breed than a literary writer (notice the stress on literary). 
I found last week that novels are probably not the way for me to go, as well.  There are so many rad short versions of writing -- I'd never considered an essay before, but I don't want to always write with a setting, developed characters, plot, climax, etc. I like to write about what's twirling around in my brain, or maybe it's my soul? There's also flash fiction and experimental, and so many other things I can write.  The intimidation of the length of a novel has steered me clear for 20 years.  Yes, 20.  I wrote my first poem at the age of like 4, and my short story won some kind of award in elementary school.  People have always told me I should write.  They're right, I should.  I just shouldn't be writing what I do (other than poetry) the way I do (even some of my poetry).
I'm dedicating this year (between now and the next AWP, March 2014, Seattle baby!) to learning about my craft, taking at least one writer's retreat, blogging here twice a week (bare with me at first, kids) and starting my writer's blog.  I do regret a bit that that changes my business plans for this year, working on designing and creating and starting a fashion biz, but writing is my first passion, the first thing I remember learning how to do is read, and I'll never be able to keep the rad phrases from popping into my head.
thanks for reading, all comments welcome

Friday, March 8, 2013

Finding inspiration, in the obvious and not...

So far, I've talked about being a survivor of traumatic body and brain injury. Did you know the reason I started this blog is because I'm a writer dying for an outlet and an audience? More than that, it gives me a consistent topic to write about and a sort of direction I find hard to find the self-discipline to maintain on my own. But, really I'm a writer. And I officially know that I don't want to be known as a disabled writer, but a writer who happens to be disabled. I don't want to be force-genre'd simply because my first recognized writing happens to be about or involves in some way someone with a disability.
Right now, I'm in Boston and an AWP conference. I'm with 12,000+ people who also call themselves writers, artists, creators. It's been a major struggle for me, physically. It sucks.
I got here Tuesday afternoon. My aunt, a published novelist and successful freelancer, Patti Frazee, met me here. Wednesday we went out sightseeing -- I've NEVER been to New England before, and I've been dying to see Boston for 20 years. Last year, the AWP conference was in Chicago, and that was the first time Patti got to introduce me to her world. Last year, we didn't have time to see the city. This year, I came Tuesday thinking the conference started Wednesday, so I was so stoked when I realized it started Thursday and we had all day Wednesday to sightsee. Patti lived in Massachusetts after college, as well as NYC, plus she's visited here in the past, so she had some ideas to build our experience together here on the east coast. I think she enjoyed the fact that it was my first time here and that she was the one that got to show me around, and to be honest, Patti is someone who I have a certain bond with, she understands me a way that others don't, she's allowed me to fuck up and make mistakes without giving up on me, she's one of few people that I know had the highest hopes, and she even maybe had faith, that I would get my shit together, clean up, and start writing or at least doing something to try to meet my potential. Last year, Patti introduced me to a friend of hers at the conference, and she mentioned that I was a poet, "a good poet, like really good." Last year, she gave me the confidence to start calling myself a writer.
Tonight, I went to a reading by Jeanette Winterson and was blown away, inspired, speachless, crying, laughing, connecting, you got it.... I may have my first writer crush! She said so many amazing things, one of them being that she didn't become a writer, or learn to write, she just was one. That's me. I'm not published, other than in social media and that doesn't count! At the same time, I'm also unsubmitted, I've never tried to get published. All of my poetry is still in journals all over the place. She made me believe that it's my everything to write, I've been writing since I was 4 years old. I'm a writer, whether you've read or heard my work or not. I'm a writer, and no one can take that away from me.