I’m in Key West right now, chillin’. Yep, chillin’ in 90 degree heat. I had planned to come up the 2nd week of May, to check on the properties I manage, see about adding rentals to that corral, to chill. I had a ticket paid for and everything. Then I got kinda busy coming out of a coma and had to cancel.

DSCN2190It’s actually good I didn’t come then because Sandford, my Key West “mom” of 21 years, has since decided to have open heart surgery. She’s 85. Open heart surgery is delicada no matter what one’s age, so I cashed in my Spirit credit and came now.

Last week, I spent hanging out with Sandford, mostly at her house, although we did manage to go out for sushi once. The thing is, her heart is just not keeping up with her joie de vivre. Here’s something weird: she had pneumonia the same time I did. Do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do.


It was while she was in the hospital for pneumonia that her doctor discovered heart trouble. They tried a stent. That didn’t help. They ran a catheter thingy from her thigh to her heart. That didn’t help. The only fix left is to replace a malfunctioning valve. Or spend the rest of her life not far from bed, unable to paint or read. Painting and reading is what
Sandford does. As she said last week, more than once, “That’s no quality of life.”

So, last Thursday, she left for Miami. The operation was supposed to be Friday but it’s been postponed till Monday so they can get her hydrated and fortified. If one can survive a major operation on will alone, Sandford will be fine. She is cheery and, for the most part, immensely enjoying herself (as usual) and the attention she is getting. If there’s any anxiety on her part, I haven’t seen it. Saying a little prayer, and grateful to be on the planet with her!

While Sandford is due north, I’m hanging out with Uncle Brian and Ain’t Peg, and Penny and her family. Penny was my business partner 17 years in the fitness biz and one of my dearest friends. Irwin, her dad, is the boys’ surrogate grandfather, ordained at their adoption proceedings.

NiñosBelle is Pen’s 15yo; I was at the ultrasound when Pen found out she was pregnant. Practically siblings, the boys and Belle grew up together. For the first few years of Belle’s life, we lived next door to each other. “Good times,” as Ryan likes to say.

Tom the bike manIt’s fun being back, seeing old friends. I didn’t tell anyone but Sandford and Pen I was coming… The very first time I came back for a visit, I spent too much money and gained too much weight indulging in “catch-up” meals. Now when I come back to visit, I spend my time sneaking up on people! And getting reacquainted with the heat. Which not only feels good, it seems to be doing wonders for my vocal chords and overall health.

Speaking of which, I’m good as new with a couple of tiny exceptions.

#1 My voice has not returned. I still sound like Janis Joplin and, although it doesn’t hurt, it sounds like it does. People wince when I talk. Since my voice should have come back by now, a week before I came here, I saw an ENT doctor at CIMA. He scoped me (which was really not bad at all) and discovered granulomas on my vocal chords. I’d already seen pix of those delightful critters online so was expecting this diagnosis. Granulomas are not cancerous; they usually go away (with a little pharma help); they are caused by intubation and acid reflux.

The doc gave me Clarityn with Cortisone for a 5-day steroid treatment, plus prescribed 40mg Nexium (Nx) twice a day for two weeks, then once a day for four more. That’s 56 pills. Even in Costa Rica, each one is four bucks. Talk about a tough pill to swallow. But I did. I want my voice back. Which brings me to…

#2 My other little tiny exception to perfect health: I’m going bald. This is seriously creepy. Unnerving. I’m suspicious that Nexium is the culprit, but I don’t really know. It could be a result of stress – two friends have said this happened to them after a really stressful life event. Nx comes to mind because everything was fine until a week into Nx overload, then BAM: bald. My hair comes out in handfuls. I have bald patches. No one can see them: I still have enough hair for a natural comb-over. But they are there. I am loathe to touch my head because I don’t want to find any more. It should all grow back, so I’m trying not to seriously freak out.

By the way, if a friend shows you her newly discovered bald spots, DON’T shout, “Oh my GOD!” and step back. Really. Remember, too, that your balding friend has not gotten a good close look at her bald spots because a) that is not humanly possible for most of us, and b) she doesn’t really want to see them. Feeling them is bad enough. Just say, “Oh. Hmm. Yeah.” And leave it at that.

Between the ENT visit and discovering my bald patches, I went to see Dr. Kim, my acupuncturist. He had offered me a free treatment months ago because he’d gotten good results from his free listing on the CostaRicaBlueBook.com. I’m now so anxious to return to abundant health, I took him up on it.

He shook his head when I told him about the steroids and Nx. “Western doctors prescribe drugs, don’t want to fix problem.” Why not cure the cause, he asked, rather than change my body’s systems around to accommodate and encourage poor digestion? Which is probably the result of all the antibiotics I was on for three weeks. He ordered me to go off the Nx, to start taking pro-biotics and digestive enzymes and to change my diet to an Alkaline diet*, zero dairy.

Well, I didn’t follow his advice. I figured I’d finish the ENT regimen, hopefully getting my voice back, and take my Key West trip. How was I going to change my diet on vacation? I’d start up his regimen when I got home to Costa Rica.

Then, the day before flying to Key West, I discovered the bald patches. I had no idea why, but I was starting to have other significant Nx side effects.** I did a little research online and found some connection between hair loss and Nx, but nothing official. I stopped the Nx immediately (anyone want to buy some? I have plenty and such a deal!!!) I ran to SugarApple, Key West’s health food store, and bought pro-biotics and enzymes. I’ve changed my diet a bit, but will focus more on that once I’m home.

Happily, the side effects stopped within two days. The hair is still falling out. I try not to think about it. My voice has improved since I’ve been here. I really don’t know if it’s the moist heat or time, but it is quite a bit stronger. Still raspy, but I’m keeping the faith. Maybe I’ll start the Nx again… we’ll see.

Heck, if I have to spend the rest of my life as a bald Janis Joplin, I’ll make it work. Things could be a LOT worse. And, of course, I’ll still have my winning personality.

*This is in Spanish. There are four columns on each page. Columns one and two are name of food (column 1) and type of food (column 2). Columns three and four are a continuation. Eat 20% of your diet from page 1, 80% of your diet from page 2.

**Listed on the box. Nothing deadly but very unpleasant. Especially when traveling.

NOTE: I am sick to death of talking, thinking and fretting about my physical body, as you must be by now, too! It’s like endlessly discussing a hangnail… I write in such detail only because a) this is basically my diary and I want to remember that I lived through some creepy stuff. And b) a reader might possibly go through some of this and will find it helpful to know someone else survived.

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