Life goes up, life goes down, but life can come up again!

I have relatively little family left with none living close by and can count my best friends on one hand (they are truly gifts from God). After working with the public by phone or in person throughout my entire career I’m not really one to spend much time on the telephone. So, I am alone the majority of the time, which is okay.  However, I do leave the television on a lot with no sound and when I look over from my desk it feels as though another person is in the room. 

I am considered disabled from a 2002 auto accident when I was bringing my dad home from his final cancer treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  A tractor trailer rig entered my lane of traffic on Hwy 610-East, resulting in a jolting blow to my little vehicle.  At that time my main concern was moving over to the shoulder of this multi-lane highway to check on my dad.  Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt, but I knew something was not right with me.  My vehicle and I were drivable, so we headed home.  

A week later, Daddy had a stroke and was hospitalized.  In the interim my primary physician determined that I needed to see a back specialist as a result of the accident.  With my dad having the stroke that wasn’t a possibility right then.  A week later my dad passed away while I was sitting with him at the hospital.  Several weeks later, I saw a specialist who told me I had sustained four compressed fractures in two locations in my back.  However, because of the time lapse in getting help, the orthopedic surgeon told said there was not a lot he could do.  I am very thankful to have been able to stay close to my dad during those final two weeks but 19 years later I’m still dealing with constant pain in my back and legs.  I worked for three more years before finally retiring from the police department with, at that time, 19+ years.  God blessed me with a strong constitution so I have been able to keep on keeping on. 

Since early March of this year (2021) I have developed a pinched nerve in my back and a shredded meniscus in my right knee.  As you get older these things happen, but you keep going.

Because I am alone so much and because of my law enforcement career as a patrol officer, communications operator, and crime scene technician I am a little more attuned to my surroundings. Every morning I like waking up before sunrise, opening the window and drinking coffee while listening to the choir of singing birds outside my country home. My four fur babies (two were inherited from my mom) join me in greeting the morning as they perch in their favorite spots on the window sill or cat condo. 

One recent morning as I sat reading in my chair something happened that I will always cherish and never forget. I have a Morning Glory bush outside my window that has a multitude of flowers. Each morning a hummingbird (I guess it’s the same hummer) flies around the flowering bush in search of nectar. On this particular morning, the little hummingbird chose to fly over to my window and look directly into the face of each cat and then flapped its little wings on over to the flowers.  It was such an incredibly sweet moment…I just sat back and kept saying “oh my goodness” “oh wow” at what I had just seen – a very sweet, good morning moment shared by all.

Life’s ups and downs continue …

The constant pain from my pinched nerve radiates from lower back down both upper thighs.  My pain management doctor has given me injections, but have not worked. She sent me to a neurologist to see if there was something else going on with the nerves/muscles in my leg.  During the initial visit they took 22 vials of blood followed by a physical examination. The findings were not good.  The doctor said I had nerve damage in both legs and probable muscle damage in my right leg as well.  

Next, I went to a neurosurgeon who performed biopsies of my right arm, thigh, and calf along with additional testing, including bloodwork for a genetic study. The bloodwork indicated I have monoclonal gammopathy which is the precursor to blood cancer. Muscle biopsies found that I also have mitochondrial disorder in my right thigh and some issues with my calf. 

The neurologist told me that 90% of the people who test positive for monoclonal gammopathy will take the test again in three months and the results are negative.  However, there is no cure for mitochondrial disorder. My muscles will become progressively weaker and the pain will continue.  We have no treatment plan because there are many different types of mitochondrial disorders, and I don’t know which one I have. We are waiting on a completed genetic study.  The doctor also told me it would be necessary to next do a vein biopsy. I try not to think what sort of incision this will require – veins are pretty tiny, but the after pain???

Soon after that appointment I found paperwork indicating I had previously been diagnosed with monoclonal gammopathy. My heart sank and I became nauseous.  The neurologist just told me we would need to re-test bloodwork in three months and if the results were the same my next step would be going to oncology.  

Unbeknownst to both of us– the three-month interval testing had just been done. Next came a visit to my hematologist, who I learned is also an oncologist.  I still have the pinched nerve, shredded meniscus, and my B12 is so low that it needs to be treated with injection therapy to build me back up.

I don’t know if it’s my lifecycle or being sedentary during quarantine but, whatever the reason, my life has changed drastically.

We all know the uncertainties of life surround us continually.  My trials include several health issues, but I choose to focus on the brighter side of life – enjoying beautiful mornings watching baby squirrels – sometimes busy and sometimes playing, listening to birds or watching the little hummingbird, my flowers, and appreciating all types of friends (human, as well as my four-legged fur babies who think they are human.  After all, they let me live here). 

Whatever is planned for me, all I ask is that HE guide me to handle this with strength and dignity because I know someone, somewhere will benefit from my trial.  We are all Iron Butterflies so let us help one another through these trying times of life and perhaps our efforts will end up being that one word or phrase that is needed to bring others into our world.

Kay Lynn Means Darling was born in a small town in southeast Texas where the townsfolk pretty much all knew one another. Kay Lynn’s most outstanding memories from childhood were: (1) the huge family get-togethers each Easter when relatives from all over the country would drive down for a huge barbecue that began after church services where all were wearing their “Easter best,” (for Kay Lynn that was a fancy dress, Easter bonnet, straw purse, and shoes to match). (2) being a participant in the live nativity scene each Christmas at church. It was always cold outside and each position (Wise Man, Joseph, Mary) required being completely still for 15 minutes, and when that segment was up the kids would run to the Reception Hall to get a cup of hot chocolate that would scald their tongues, but was so good. Good fellowship and good times.

Kay Lynn was on the quiet side, but still loved to joke and smile and laugh. She recalls a pleasant childhood with good friends that remain in her life to this day. From first through eighth grade, her schooling was on a standard level, but in high school, her counselor put her in the “advanced” classes. Mid-way through high school, Kay Lynn joined a group that would go to school half a day and work half a day. Ultimately, she became bored with school and left a few months shy of graduation in order to marry her sweetheart. That marriage last 1 1/2 years and the need for work led her to a secretarial position at the local police department.

Though not all with the same department, Kay Lynn worked approximately 30 years in law enforcement. She held many positions throughout her career, but was so happy to become the first female patrolman in her hometown which opened the door for many more women to follow as the years passed. Kay Lynn also became the department’s first and only Evidence Technician and set that office up for many to follow also. She worked the last 12 years in that position (as well as Telecommunications) and said this is where she found her heart. The work wasn’t easy, required seeing things most people would never encounter in their lifetime, but the teamwork it took to make a case was so unbelievably awesome.

At the time of her retirement, Kay Lynn married again and moved to the mountains of up-State New York where she and her husband remained for three or so years before they came back to Texas to settle in a small town in Deep East Texas, where as a widow she lives to this day.