Where I’ve Been, What’s Up with this Blog, and Other Misc Questions You May Be Asking

Greetings!!! WordPress tells me that it’s been eight months since I’ve posted to this blog. That’s a long time not to write. Maybe you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to. Maybe you’ve forgotten that I’ve existed. Either way, here’s a quick synopsis of where I’ve been, the new directions my life has taken, and where I see this blog moving.


What I’ve been up to:

Once I got that faculty job in Fall 2014, I stopped writing as frequently on the blog. Why? Blogging for me was always an outlet to figure out my journey with chronic illness. It was a way for me to chronicle how I felt and where I saw myself going. It was a place where I could write down memories I knew I would forget, and a place for me to return to whenever I needed to look at the past and try to ascertain progress. It also served as an amazing way to answer the question of how I got to where I am today. Once I started working that faculty job, things changed for me. Life got a whole lot busier because I was doing a whole lot better. Things were still weird with family, but I had found a good rhythm. Besides, I was working three jobs — teaching, retail, and tutoring — and those took a lot of time and energy.

Then in Fall 2015, I returned to graduate school and moved back to Beaverville. Life was a bit simpler except for the fact that I was trying to cram two semesters into one, including such herculean tasks as reading 60 books in one term, passing comprehensive exams, teaching, and taking three classes. Somehow I survived. And passed all the exams and the classes.

Enter Spring 2016: I was planning to defend my dissertation proposal, which by now was less amorphous than previously. However, life (or the universe) had other plans it seemed. First, my paternal grandmother got diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and given only weeks to live. I spent a lot of time on the road and visiting her, particularly because she kept telling people that she used to know me and I was someone special who lived far away but still took the time to come visit her. She passed away in early March which was really rough for me but probably good timing for her.

At the same time as her diagnosis, my new adviser suggested that I take a completely different angle on my dissertation project. He said that it would simply be a reorientation on my existing project. I knew that it would be a completely different project. At first, I was mad, but then I realized that he had identified a very finite, concrete project that I actually understood and knew how to accomplish. Plus I could get more training from him and could finish sooner. So I set aside my first proposal (maybe a second book?) and took on this topic. By now I have a working proposal that I’m planning to defend in the early fall, after I complete several months of research. (It’s a bit out of order, but nothing in this grad program has followed the beaten path, so what’s one more detour?)

Literally a few days before my grandmother passed away, someone new entered my life. The timing, as you could imagine, was not my idea of ideal. However, we started talking online, and he was genuinely supportive of me as I tried to navigate writing an obituary and helping my dad decide whether we were going to have a funeral or a graveside service and cleaning out all my grandmother’s possessions. Shortly after I got back to Beaverville, we had our first in-person conversation. And we’ve been talking (online and on the phone) and taking walks around the neighborhood ever since.

At this point, I’m not really sure what his role in my life will be long-term. I’m still pretty confused about where the Lord is leading me and why He arranged for all these things to happen at the same time. Some of the fellowship I’ve gotten is to just be open to the possibility that this is the Lord’s perfect arrangement even though I know in my head that there are too many things going on all at the same time. In the mean time, I’m praying and trying to just take things one day at a time.

Which brings me to the next point: where this blog is going now. I realized that one way I’ve worked things out in my life before has been to write on this blog. It was a good way to preserve memories without dwelling on them. I’ve been considering it for a while, but I’ve decided that this blog can become a place where I can write about “the boy” (that’s what I’ve decided to call him on the blog), the things that we’ve done, the emotions that I’m feeling, and the crossroads that we’ve come to. Some of the posts will be password protected. At some point, some of those posts may become public; or perhaps, they will only exist for me. Either way, I want a record for myself of how I’m feeling and the situations I’ve run into. Mostly so that I don’t have to hang on to the past and can live in the present. If at some point in the future I need to revisit the past, it will be there. And if life takes yet another turn and I don’t need a written diary any more, I’ll probably disappear again.

Also, dealing with all of these new changes has coincided with some health issues flaring up again. Which, if not anything else, means more scenes playing out in doctor’s offices. So don’t be all that surprised if you see some of those again.

Thanks for tagging along for the ride. Feel free to read selectively. I may post some retroactive posts before this one just to keep things in order (since I am a historian after all.)

See you around,
Abigail Cashelle

Was there any warning?

It was just another Lord’s Day morning meeting. Well, maybe not just any meeting. I have to admit, I was sort of having a panic attack again. So during the sharing, I wasn’t really paying attention. Until Grandpa stood up to share. He got really excited. He had different sections stand up and repeat what he was saying. It was all really exciting… until he fell over onto the floor. Yeah. Dramatic.


I went to the ER to keep his wife company. I guess I feel pretty comfortable in medical settings these days, and I figured that it can be helpful to have someone young there who can get food from the vending machine or track down a cup of water, etc. Mostly I just didn’t want her to be alone. I know that sitting in an exam room waiting for things to happen is the loneliest feeling.

At one point, an ER doctor came by and asked Grandpa if there was any warning sign that he was going to pass out. His wife said, well, she heard the defibrillator kick in at the same time that he passed out. (He has an implanted one. It probably saved his life.) And Grandpa said, No. One second he was talking in church, and the next second he was on the ground.

No one asked me anything, but I couldn’t help but add to the conversation. Actually, there was about five seconds notice. He put his hand on Joseph’s shoulder. And then he fell. Backwards. Everyone looked at me and suddenly remembered that that had happened.

Which meant that he felt lightheaded. Which means that he passed out because his heart rate went to zero (not because he became too agitated.) That one little piece of information gave the doctor enough data to check a few additional things. And later when a resident read the data off the defibrillator, it confirmed my observation.

The boy says that I have a knack for observing small details. Perhaps I do. I like to think that that’s what a historian does all day — make sense out of nonsense by keeping track of details and optimizing them. But I think part of it is also those days and years spent in doctor’s offices. That gave me the courage to speak out. Just in case that additional information mattered. Because every piece of data is important… even something contributed by the designated “silent” friend in the room.

So grateful that my patient experiences are being put to good use and that Grandpa is going to be okay,
Abigail Cashelle

I Hear Hope

It was another visit with Dr. Mark. That pesky breast inflammation had come back to haunt me. It was so painful that I was desperate for a solution, not so much for the pain, but for the fact that the inflammation was getting out of control. I also wanted to make sure that my heart was doing okay.

We had the typical exam and talked about options. What about this medication for pain? no. What about exploring an anti-inflammatory medication? maybe. What about something topical for pain? no.

Finally, I asked him. I know you listened to my heart with a stethoscope. Did it sound healthy? I don’t think I’ll forget what he said:

Dr. Mark: Abigail, your heart sounds happy. And… what’s the word? Hopeful.

Abigail: You can hear hope with your stethoscope?

Dr. Mark: I don’t need my stethoscope for that. I can hear hope in your voice.

And that’s a moment I never want to forget. Even though my life is more crazy than I would prefer, I am hopeful, and he heard it.

It’ll Make a Great Story Some Day

It’ll make a great story some day. One of my professors mentioned that I seem to be juggling a lot this semester. That’s how I responded to him. Well, at least that was the conclusion. Allow me to elaborate.


Setting: Professor’s Office. Abigail and Professor are talking. Context has already been established that Abigail is trying to reach ABD status by the end of the term and that includes mastering sixty books. At the moment, this meeting is about the final paper due at the end of the term for the professor’s class, which Abigail is trying to figure out how to fit into her schedule.

Abigail: Yes, definitely. This conversation helps me a lot to figure out what it is that I’m trying to do. At least how I can meet your expectations while also accomplishing something helpful.

Professor: Yes, well, that’s the goal. It’s good to get started now.

A: Yes, well, you see, I wasn’t planning to come back to school. So I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that I’m here. Now I’m right in the middle of all of this.

Prof: Wow. You certainly have a lot of things that you’re trying to accomplish in one semester.

A: (thinks about trying to learn a language, take this class outside her field, read 60 boxes, and TA a class) Yes, well, it’s certainly a lot. It’s going to a whirlwind and a LOT of work, but I’ll get through it. And then, it’ll make a great story!

Prof: Uhhh, yeah, I suppose that it will.

A: Oh, it most definitely will.

Curtain


Yeah, so it is a ridiculous amount of work. And I’m already behind. But I’m happy (when I’m not overwhelmed). And it’s going to be a great story. Not just because I can finally laugh at the ravenous lion. But because it will be my story. And showcase who I’m becoming. And that, dear reader, is exciting!!

Abigail

What Doesn’t Kill You

You know that thing that people often say to those of us with chronic illnesses??

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?

I hate that expression. Why can’t we just accept that this is a terrible set of circumstances that are sent our way? Of course,

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

is certainly always an option. But I’d just as soon throw them back.

This article looked like the typical treatment of the same idea that is needlessly repeated ad nauseam. But I liked the ending. The grandmother encourages her to be like the coffee bean. She endures the boiling water and becomes something beautiful and fragrant, adding value to the world. But that’s not the point. The point is that she changed the water into something life-giving. It’s not just that she emerged different, but that the situation was altered because of her. It mattered that she was there. The world, as it were, will never be the same.