Chapters Twelve + Thirteen

When I asked if she was okay, she said, “yeah, I’m good — I just kind of saw you as a woman for the first time, and it was really nice.”

Cholinergic: Accelerating the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Anticholinergic: Inhibiting the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and the impulses of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Cholinergic Anti-Inflammatory Pathway: the neural circuit responsible for modulating activity between the mind and body via the vagus nerve. See: The Inflammatory Reflex.

Lab Notes:

When acetylcholine is inhibited due to anticholinergic neurons, it can lead to systemic inflammation.

The efferent fibers of the vagus nerve make up the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway.

Cholinergic neurons contain acetylcholine and are anti-inflammatory. Stimulating the vagus nerve increases the vagal tone, decreases inflammatory cytokines, and increases anti-inflammatory cytokines.


Thoughts Prayers and Panic

In those first few months of 2015, hours turned into days that flowed into nights that never ended, holding onto the sink throwing up bile that burned every part of me, praying to a God that I do not believe in. I held onto the sink with all my might, hoping the tighter that I gripped, that I'd somehow snap out of it and find myself waking up from a nightmare in the comfort of my bed.

On March 3, I was able to fly up from Hawaii to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Sean and I talked about him coming with me, but between work and school, it made more sense for me to fly up on my own and meet my mom there for the appointments. The journey up there was a long one — my first connection was in Dallas, and then onward to Chicago (where I met my mom who flew from Jersey) and then onward to Rochester. The journey was made longer, however, by a crazy blizzard that hit Chicago that night and grounded hundreds of flights. My mom and I walked around the airport, grabbed a bite, and nervously awaited the news to find out whether we’d make it out on time for me to get to my appointments at Mayo the very next morning at 7:30 AM.

Around 8 PM, we were sitting at the gate, talking about this complicated turn of events, when a woman sitting nearby chimed in and said that she was headed to Mayo as well. She was going for an experimental treatment for a rare condition and was used to a long journey that she took from her home in Massachusetts to Minnesota every four weeks. She was set on the next flight to Rochester that was leaving shortly, and we anxiously awaited on standby to see if there was room for us to go. I was still in bad shape, having only gotten out of the hospital several days before. There was a chance that there’d only be one open seat, and that is exactly what happened. I took the open seat, and my mom stayed behind, waiting for the next flight.

Our new friend, Karen, took me under her wing — she helped me onto to flight, off the flight in Rochester, helped me at baggage claim, shared a cab with me, and then it turned out we were at the same hotel — and she showed me around the underground tunnels that connect the hospital to, well, pretty much everything. I was grateful to not have to endure Rochester in March other than to go from the airport to the hotel — everything we had to do and everywhere we had to go was connected by those tunnels. Karen took me out to dinner and then got me settled into my room, left, and I fell asleep for about a half-hour before I shot up in bed with that all-too-familiar prednisone anxiety attack.

My mom had still not arrived, and I had no idea where she was — I knew that she had caught a flight from Chicago to Minneapolis, but that was up to a two-hour drive, but that was all I knew. I called Sean and he talked me through my panic by talking about anything else, distracting me as much as possible to keep me from wanting to jump out of my own skin. After about an hour, he was headed into class and passed the baton to Mike, who called me and stayed on the phone with me for another hour. Finally able to settle down enough, we hung up and I watched TV, staying awake until my mom arrived sometime around 2 AM. It turns out that when she landed in Minneapolis, she was on the phone with my grandmother, telling her how she was going to find a taxi to take her the rest of the way when a family traveling from Jordan to Mayo for their father’s cancer treatment overheard her conversation. Only the one daughter spoke English and could hear my mom on the phone, leaned into her parents to say something, and they all nodded with approval. The daughter then said to my mom, “Hi, we are going to Mayo too, and we already have a taxi, you can come with us.”

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