Ear Noise and Forgotten Birthdays

I’ve never mentioned this to anyone. Not my wife, not my doctor, not to a friend. Maybe I should have said something, especially to my doctor. But for the longest time, I didn’t know what it was. I heard this noise when I got up out of bed and went into the bathroom in the early morning. I thought it was a noise outside the house. It sounded distant. But then I’d move through the house and it would move with me. It always seemed distant, but it was there. It was like a noise I imagined a bird or a squirrel might make, a repetitive sound that didn’t change at all. Finally, about four or five months ago, I realized: I hear this noise regardless of where I am. And, increasingly, I heard this noise all through the day and night. I finally figured it out. Are you ready? I’m hearing my heart beat. Or, perhaps, I’m hearing the blood pump by or around or through or near my ears. And it’s driving me crazy. I haven’t mentioned it to my doctors. I don’t know quite how to describe it. But I guess I should say something. Especially if what I am hearing is getting louder and more pronounced and more frequent and more maddening.

It’s especially upsetting right now, with the cancer thing and so forth. But I guess I should mention it. Next time I’m in to see a doctor. If I ever get an appointment. Which will require a biopsy appointment first. Which may never happen.

On an unrelated topic, I think I had fewer birthday cards and messages this year than ever before. A card from my friend in Franklin, Tennessee. A call from my brother and my niece and her husband. And I think that’s it. No card from State Farm (a huge letdown, as that’s always been the highlight of my year). No, I did get an e-card from the clinic in Little Rock that injected my spine last year. One can never forget the spine puncturist cards. I got online birthday wishes on Facebook, too. Quite a few. But the decline in e-cards and physical cards was stunning. We don’t wish happy birthday any longer, I guess. It’s a little sad to see it go. Not terribly sad, but a little sad.

The absence of a birthday card from my oncologist was moderately depressing. I wasn’t sure whether to chalk it up to the brevity of our relationship or her assessment that there’s no return on a patient who won’t be around in a year. That is a joke, in case you were running to call the suicide hotline.

On a more serious note, I do notice of late a tendency to tear up over nothing. I wonder whether that’s related to my cancer or something else? Could be both, I guess. Whatever it is, it annoys me and makes people uncomfortable around me. That sucks. It just does. I’ve always been one to spray gallons of tears at the drop of a hat, but this is getting ugly. I can’t have this. It just won’t stand. I may have to stay indoors behind curtains. Really.

When I cast the jokes aside, I feel a little like rolling up into a ball and releasing whatever it is that’s inside. But that’s not the way I should behave, especially with my wife in close proximity. That would alarm her unnecessarily. But, then, I feel utterly exhausted, to the extent that I might need to ask her for help moving from point A to point B. Yet that’s nuts. I’m not weak yet, not by a log. I guess my imagined weakness is purely psychological.

Shit, I’m wandering all over creation here, am I not? It’s time to go to bed. Nearing midnight. Time to go to bed. I wonder if I should post this now or wait until morning when I can edit and remove the more embarrassing stuff. Probably best to release it now. When my worst warts can be seen and excised. God, I didn’t bargain for this. I didn’t know how an unconfirmed cancer diagnosis would make me feel weak and unprepared to make decisions that will impact my wife and my family from now on.

If I can focus on tonight’s wines of the world. Israel wines. Israel food. Nothing much positive to say about it. Enough. Just enough. Maybe more later.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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5 Responses to Ear Noise and Forgotten Birthdays

  1. bev wigney says:

    Oh, I know this roller coaster very well. In fact, there’s probably a special seat with my name on it for all the times I’ve ridden it. Always glad to be of help – any time. No topic too difficult to discuss with me. 🙂

  2. Thank you, Pauline. I’m teaching myself to chill. I’ve never been an especially good student in that regard, though. I’m making progress!

  3. I think your emotions are natural. I have the same problem always have but it got worse after I had the aneurysm clipped. Sort of glad I’m alive, I guess. So far as the noise you are hearing that, too, got worse while waiting to have the aneurysm clipped. May be stress related. You are going through stress… Take care and as they say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Appreciate the good life, the like of which you have, you know!!

  4. Bev, you can’t know how incredibly grateful I am to you that you take the time to actually converse with me via these comments. Your willingness to share your experiences with me and your suggestions mean a great deal. I get the distinct sense that you really understand the roller coaster I sometimes feel I’m riding. Thank you.

  5. bev wigney says:

    I wonder if you have some form of tinnitus? I have had it for years — mine sounds like the high-pitched tinkling of a glockenspiel that is in synch with my pulse. It varies in intensity — actually, by coincidence, it’s pretty loud this morning. Although I have never been diagnosed with it, I probably have Meniere’s disease, which causes various forms of tinnitus and periods of vertigo (which I occasionally experience – sometimes for days). My father was diagnosed with it in his 30s. My younger brother has a lot of tinnitus too, but without the vertigo. Anyhow, yes, it can be annoying at times. I think it’s always there with me, but at times just becomes more noticeable. When I’m feeling stressed, I find it more annoying. I notice it when I’m in very silent places in the wilderness, which is too bad as it would be nice to experience nothing but the sound of the wind – without the glockenspiel accompaniment! 🙂

    Interesting observation about birthday cards – or cards in general. I was doing some tidying up here a couple of weeks ago and popped the lid open on a metal box of cards that I’ve saved. In more recent years, the only cards I’ve received for any occasion including xmas were from my mom — and now she is gone, so I haven’t received a card in a couple of years. My mom never missed sending me a birthday card and a xmas card, so I have them going back for decades. My husband liked to give me cards too – valentines day, birthday, and just for fun – – we gave each other cards quite a bit back then — but, of course, I haven’t received any of those in a decade. Maybe cards are going the way of the dodo bird — we all just wish each other happy birthday, xmas, samhain, solstice, etc.. on facebook. I guess it doesn’t really matter that much.

    Maybe we become more emotional as we grow older and become more aware of the fragility of life, the challenges that people face, the unfairness of the world, and so on. I find myself feeling sad over many things these days.

    I don’t really think it surprising that you’re feeling like retreating (rolling up in a ball) for awhile. I’ve had serious health issues a couple of times in my life, and I occasionally had to go into retreat mode and just rest and recharge. When I was taking my mom for dialysis 3x a week last year, I found that she — and I — both needed to have some down time to just be alone with our thoughts – often to release emotion in the safety of our own space where we didn’t have to worry about being upbeat for each other. Keeping a brave face is exhausting and will wear you out after awhile, so don’t be afraid to give yourself some down time to release some angst. You’ll probably feel better for it — rejuvenated. Being stoic 24/7 takes a hell of a lot of energy. Be kind to yourself — give yourself permission to let go for awhile. That’s when your well will recharge to become ready for your next mission.

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