I did not fall off the edge of the earth (although, it kind of feels like it sometimes). I have not been trapped under a heavy object, and to the best of my knowledge, I do not have a debilitating disease.

So… where have I been?

Loaded question. I guess the short story would be that I hit a wall. And not the brick variety that genealogists run into more often than we like. I’m talking about the type of real life wall that smacks you down, mentally and physically. You know… just when you think things are moving along nicely, and then… POW! Actually, it was not really an all-at-once wall; more like a few bricks here, a few bricks there. Pretty soon, you’re covered in bricks, thinking, “What the h*ll happened?”

You can skip this part if you don’t want me to bore you with the rambly details and lady part stuff.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I do remember the first event that winded me. I had written a rather glib post about getting your annual mammogram, casually mentioning that I had been blowing mine off since 1998. I mean, no one in my family had ever had breast cancer (that I knew of), so I had nothing to fear, right? You can imagine my surprise when I opened my mailbox and found The Letter. The Letter said that my results were “inconclusive,” and that I needed to come back for a repeat mammogram and an ultrasound. To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. Did I mention that no one in my family had ever had breast cancer? And I had my DNA health results from 23andMe, and they said I did not have the BRCA gene. So I was fine. Right?

As the tech doing my follow-up mammogram said, “That just means you’ll be more surprised if you have it.” She really wasn’t being rude, but she sounded as if she’d heard excuses like mine dozens of times before.

Apparently nothing seriously ugly showed up in either test, and they just wanted to be thorough and check out “a suspicious-looking spot.” (insert temporary sigh of relief here)

So next came The Vicious Cycle of Infections: cold – sinus infection – cold – sinus infection – ear infection – cold – sinus infection – double ear infection – bronchitis… you get the picture. At one point, I had an acute sinus infection, two ear infections, and walking pneumonia. And it’s really hard to think – much less write – with a head full of puss. Anyway, the doctor threatened to put me in the hospital, but I refused. Thankfully my stubbornness didn’t kill me, and I eventually got myself to an ENT who has helped me break the Vicious Cycle: Almost 1 year infection free!

But what is most bizarre about all of this is that all those crazy infections may have saved my life. Every visit to the doctor always started in the same way (“I’m back! Did you miss me?”). The nurse would take my blood pressure. Now, I’ve never paid much attention to this procedure, since my blood pressure has always been about as low as a dead person’s. But at every visit, it was a little bit higher, and a little bit higher, until finally the nurse got a scared look on her face and stammered that she was sure the machine had malfunctioned. She took it again, this time with a straight face, but didn’t say much. The doctor came in a few minutes later and said we needed to have The Talk. I agreed that yes, I realized that I needed to take action about all these sinus infections. No, he said. He meant about my blood pressure.

(Insert bricks here)

My mother had been diagnosed with malignant hypertension many years earlier, and we had made lots and lots visits to the ER where doctors tried desperately to get her blood pressure down to a non-walking-stroke level. Her father also had HBP, and died at the ripe, young age of 38. But that could never happen to me, right?


I was told to immediately start on HBP meds, start exercising, and lose 30 pounds. Ok, and if I did all this, could I go eventually off the meds?

Probably not. “You’ve got bad genes,” the doctor informed me.

He doesn’t know the half of it.

The moral of this story…

I’m not sure if there really is a moral, or even a point, to be honest. But I’m down 25 lbs, taking my meds like a good girl, and possibly training for an upcoming breast cancer walk (still deciding on that one). I’m in better shape than I’ve been in in about a decade, and I feel like I can finally think straight again. Oh, and I’m taking a ballet class, which I haven’t done in 30-cough-cough years. :-)

I’ll talk about genealogy next time, I promise.

So… long time no chat. How YOU doin’?

Image from Meme Something.

Elizabeth is a professional genealogist and California native living in the Santa Barbara area. She has been researching her own family for almost three decades, and providing research services to others for about 8 years.

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