Thursday, January 31, 2008

In my time of dying

There are times when things are stable, in my case, hours or days, and hey, this isn’t going to be that bad; this could last for years, hey decades if need be. Then there are the days where everything is uphill; a brutal slog in when only fixated determination and the kind of crazy you get on the down-slope of burnout keeps you going.

This week every day there has been calls to make, and appointments and calls from the medical mafia. I was unable to get prescriptions and give info to my doctor earlier this week because the clinic was closed due excessive construction noise, and this is a clinic for homeless.

Twice I picked up the phone and was simply told a time and day and where to appear, usually within two days. Yesterday afternoon I was told that there would be a meeting in MY apartment with the VIHA nurse and the care giver manager to “determine the future of my care” and that “according to my responses would dictate what care I would receive.” No, she couldn’t say anything on the phone about the specifics of the meeting except it was the result of a group meeting of all interested parties. It was? I wasn’t there? I was told my doctor was. Well, one advantage of Cool Aid is that when you call with this particular tone in your voice and say, “I NEED to talk to my doctor”, two minutes later, you are. No, he wasn’t at the meeting, he had sent my diagnosis but this was a session cooked up at VIHA. So now, the female manager of the care giving organization who called me a liar when I complained of a home worker making fun of my speech, is coming to a meeting VIHA has called at my apartment, and if I don’t host it, my care is threatened. Can you feel the love, I can?

Yesterday, I was flagging, slur-wise, which is when I ended up spending three hours on the phone until no one, even Linda could understand what I was saying. After sleeping and a few more hours staring into space, I put the gun of the BBC to my head: I had made a promise and I WOULD make that final rewrite and edit. Writing is the last thing I have where I can make a focused and crafted effort. I was, on Tuesday for example, except for the TWO appointments, sat every minute in front of the computer, writing and rewriting. And for what? In the last three days, I have had limited to no use of my right hand on two days and couldn’t speak intelligibly on one.

Wednesday, finished my piece, posted at BBC and then just stared into space.

Today, Thursday was my “nerve conduction” test which, I kid you not, is a little taser device, they put sensors on the end of your nerves and then shock you with an ever increasing voltage. I am not sure if they want to see how much of your leg, arm, body spasms, but that is part of it. Of course, at the beginning, starting on my dead(ish) foot, I asked when they were going to begin. They already had. We’ll turn it up, she said, as she applied the taser to the bone of my ankle. Yup, they just kept turning it up. The last volt might not have twitched my foot much but had me screaming. Literally. Guess applying a taser to your ankle bone hurts. Then we moved up the leg, and then up again, and then she jammed up right under the knee. “Often people find the pressure I apply to be more painful than the voltage” is what the tech said BEFORE the test. I assume this is how she likes to calm people down. The top voltage on that one hurt so bad I was actually laughing, “Do it again!” I said, as Linda tried to hold down my shoulders because I was laughing so hard. Linda explained to the tech, “She laughs when she is in extreme pain.” I am not sure how much conduction made it down to my feet but golly, volts of electricity jammed to the under-bone of my knee cap still hurts. Should I be happy?

Then we went on to the hand, was this when I screamed again? I can’t remember. I just remember she kept saying, “We don’t have to continue.” Which was very creepy as that is the phrase torturers use. I just didn’t know what I was to confess. But, I’ve been tortured by better than her. “No,” I said, “Bring it on.” My palms were sweaty. That one thing they never tell you about torture, it is, at least for me, a sweaty business. Like, in full body torture, they have to towel you down in they want to keep their grip. My torso didn’t sweat today, but then…it doesn’t.

Anyway we finished the other leg, and Linda helped me dress. The scientist part of me was hoping they were going to use this as a baseline and repeat it since how could they know how much conductivity I had before? See, all humans have variants, even between limbs, like the way two trees grow different branches in two different ways even next to each other. The non scientist part of me wanted nothing more to do with this creepy residential house perched literally on the edge of a giant cemetery where the bottom floor had been converted to conduction tests, 20 odd miles away from town (and a hospital?)

I had time to get home, gear up and head off to Triumph, for my 2:00 meeting. Anytime a meeting starts with M, my case manager saying we needed the Triumph manager in to “clarify things” I knew that wasn’t going to be fun. This is because I noticed that on meeting two or three I was given a page which said all my information I gave at Triumph was confidential and would not be passed on to government agencies. Then I noticed, in the small top print of the 14 pages of “homework” where you put down all your medical and personal info including hobbies and interests and who knows all else, it said, “All information will be forwarded to MEIA” (the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance). I pointed out that these two statements seemed at odds in one of my first meeting with M. Today the manager came to “clarify”: that when my time with Triumph ends, my entire file, INCLUDING that homework, ALL goes to MEIA, which is subcontracting Triumph. “Ah!” I said.

“But if we don’t take notes and find out your specific needs medically and personally we can’t assist you.”


Then there was that I was looking for a government job AS WELL as working as a writer, which meant that maybe I should be kicked to some different type of Case Manager (like Job Facilitation Case Manager?), who would help me on the grant side. What? Another case manager? I pointed out I had once held five jobs WHILE I was doing my Ph.D, so doing writing and applying for a part time writing or researching job in the government didn’t seem that ODD to me. Yes, but usually they try to stop clients from pushing forward too hard and ending up putting things further back, disability wise. Me? Push too hard?

Then we get to Dragon 9. You know the whole software where I speak and it types, which considering two days with only one hand control seems useful. The problem, the tech support is a different ministry (actually paid by the secondary school system – don’t ask, it is just one of those things which happens over the years, students with disabilities go to college then the only people with tech knowledge is this sub group of the BC secondary school system), and they won’t give the software or integrate it into my machine. They WILL give me a NEW computer BUT it is a shell with MS office, Dragon and…that’s it. And I have to sign a form saying I will NOT put any other programs on this computer (and they won’t give the Dragon disc, only install it, if it crashes, I have to courier the computer to Vancouver for them to reinstall, every time). I explain that a) Any desktop is going to be my home AND work computer and have high spec requirements and programs on it for my work (like photoshop, two other photo editing programs, video editing programs, etc). B) If I can’t install dragon into my wireless laptop connected to my home router, then what use it is? When I am in a hospital bed I can speak but then I can’t do any work (no disc for dragon 9... no work)? And c) I don’t put anything on my computer (except some freeware) that I don’t have a disc of, when my computer crashes, I need it up, reinstalled and running in one day (and I pay geeks to do so).

So, they are thinking of getting Dragon Profession for me another way (as professional has all the medical speak I need for disability writing). The problem: the “official quote” they got for Dragon Professional is $1600. I was like, “What are you smoking, it is $759 on Amazon US, and with our dollar at par….?” I told them that was why I have a US PO box. Anyway, that’s as far as we got except the manager, who moved from Ontario, when I was describing some of my writing pieces and the software I use she said I reminded her of DAVE HINDSBURGER.

Talk about a freak out time, “I know Dave, he’s coming here soon.” It was small world time. What did I think of Dave, she wanted to know? I said that since he wrote recently that a piece I wrote was one of the best pieces I had ever done and my novel was a favorite of his, um, I kind liked him! She said she could see why. (hey, I’m vain, I never denied it)

Okay, you are long overdue thinking, “hey you put up, “In my Time of Dying” as a title and you are gossiping about Dave from the blog Chewing the Fat? Well, what I failed to notice when signing in was that I had very little hand control, I couldn’t sign my name in fact. Indeed, I had almost no hand control at all on either hand. Well, with the three people in one office room and my autonomic system taxed from the taser fun an hour or so before, I wheeled out, and got to the front and was going to book next appointment when my head flopped backward. Not back, but like, looking down at the pavement tipped so far backward, along with my torso and while I thought, “I probably should do something” my arms followed, tipping my chair over backward. I didn’t move my head at all, just thought as I hit, “Oh….I can close my eyes at last.”

Of course it is never that simple as that. People are shouting your name and I heard someone say, “We have to call 911!” Okay, that got my eyes open. Only I had no vocal or hand function and my frantic freaky moaning sounds sort of caused the opposite effect, they couldn’t wait to get on the phone to 911. Crap.

At this point some off duty military officer came in and took over and was the only one who recognized my gesture of putting two fingers toward the nose. “She wants oxygen.” He found my tank and got me on oxygen and got a bunch of people to put me upright so by the time ambulance arrived I was upright and able to make a cross with my two arms and a hissing sound. Well long story short: after extended time, I got some distorted speech back (enough to make the EMT’s think Triumph was a “speech therapy center” – ha!). I authorized Triumph to give the EMT’s my doctor’s summery. And they gave me cold packs and I cooled my core, which helped the blood to my brain, so I could speak. However, they keep trying to open my packs and really resisted the way I do it (I grip sides with non-functioning hands and use my teeth to pull the zipper). Anyway, I said, I am sorry, about 40 times. My God, would you want to go thinking, “I’ll get some work to get off depression” and see the entire lobby of Triumph filled up with EMT’s, gurneys and a woman slurring and drooling on herself? No, thought not!

Of course my heart felt like it was trying to implode or explode, and to every question from the EMT’s I would smile (the side of my face that did) and go, “O…KAY!” in slur speak. Like they ask, “You sure are clutching those cold packs tight, does your chest hurt?” “O…kay!” Like I am going to say my chest hurts to an EMT. I kept offering them cold packs from my chest and they kept saying, “Uh….no, I’m married.”

I got out of there and military guy walked me home (he didn’t push, I did I myself). And I pulled myself into the hospital bed and slept and slept and peed and slept and then I woke up and couldn’t move my right side again. Linda had to help me out of bed and move. My diastolic was back up at 110 (oh great, another problem) and thanks to the electricity today my resting heart rate has been 108-110. Which I think is high, but the EMT’s didn’t. 110? RESTING heart rate? Am I doing cocaine?

But the fact is I am propped up in front of the computer and it is just TOO MANY days in a row of losing speech function and hand function and body function and my vitals and to hell and gone and I am fucking exhausted. Even though I slept many, many hours as Linda says, “Well any time the EMT’s come means it is going to be a day you crash.” But didn’t I crash yesterday too? And don’t I have two MORE meetings tomorrow?

So this is what having a fairly probable terminal diagnosis is like: there are days and hours and if you are lucky weeks when you are like, “Oh, the doctors are wrong, I’m going to last for years.” And then there are days and weeks when you feel the pain and it is kinda stable and there is like one emergency a week and you think, “I could hang on a few years this way.” But in the back of your head you are thinking, “Maybe I don’t have the terminal bit and they will find a pill and this is really as bad as it will get.”

But then there are the times your system crashes not once but two or more times a day. And yeah, you use the chair and you can’t grip normal utensils but also you use more oxygen in two days than you did in two weeks and every day it is just worse and worse and you lose more and more function. You are spending more and more time in the bed and are becoming too weak to get out or in it yourself. And when you overhear the EMT’s talking about they saw a case like this on TV last week and how tragic it is, and they look at you and you try to pretend you didn’t eavesdrop and smile (only half of your face doesn’t go up). Then they get the freaky misty eyed, “plucky little trooper’ look. And at home your partner tells you than she has been so burned out from seeing how bad you are and doing care-giving this week and how she told someone she really doesn’t like at work how I was terminal just because he was standing there. And you can’t sit upright, and you just got up from many, many hours of sleep but are SO tired. That is when you feel it in your bones. I’m dying.


cheryl g. said...

Ah hell Sis... wish there was something more I could do for you both.

I still reel from the fact that all these agencies and entities can't seem to grasp being disabled means they need to set up or re-schedule meetings to accomodate you. Bah, bureaucracy!

FridaWrites said...

I'm sorry things have been so difficult and that others (the whole bureaucracy) are making them more difficult rather than easier.

em said...

Well, shit. I strongly wish it was different for you. But what if those bastards officially leave you alone with their medical experiments? I endorse your telling them to fuck off.

Plus, I'm thinking about Linda a lot. I'm worried that she needs a support group.

Veralidaine said...

I think you should borrow one of those taser things, Cuz, and zap the person who called you a liar with it, along with all the people who think having meetings about you without telling you and without your doctor in attendance is a good thing, and along with all the people who think scheduling meetings with none of your input is a good thing.

Maybe you could get some data on the effect of "asshole" on convulsiveness, Dr. McClung!

Lene Andersen said...

I keep thinking you need an advocate to take care of the coordination, etc. Someone who can fight VIHA, because they don't seem to listen to you (all interested parties, except you and your doctor? Really??). I know you can handle it yourself, but the beauty of having an advocate is that then you wouldn't have to waste energy on the calls and coordination of meetings, etc.

Liked the military officer. Seemed to be one of the few who 'get it" - most people would've pushed you home. A little bit of dignity among the humiliation. Makes it better.

Wish I could be there to give you a hug. Wish you didn't have to go through this. Wish you and Linda had some help. Aw, crap.

Gaina said...

What possible constructive insight were they hoping to gain by tasering you!?

Seriously, these doctors let their curiosity take over and they can forget they are dealing with a human being, not a bunch of symptoms. If they can't assure you that all these tests will be used to improve your functionality and comfort that I'm with Em 100% and strongly encourage you to tell them all to fuck off!

Like I said a few weeks ago, making your remaining time the most comfortable, pleasent time possible is ALL that matters, to hell with their research and their beurocracy.

You want me to come over there and lay it on 'em Midget Style? ;-P

Wheelchair Dancer said...

damn. damn. damn. and other swear words. This is absurd. And I wish things could b different for ou on a lot of fronts.

I love the idea that you and Dave are creating hell!

That's the best.


cheryl g. said...

OK, here's a plan... I have a lot of personal time off available so if you need to have someone around to deal with meetings, phone calls and forms give me enough notice to put in for the leave with my boss. I know you can handle it, I'll just be there to hiss at them and go postal in Linda's stead if necessary. Oh, and to keep the blockheads from calling the EMT's.

Have you heard anything about Ocean Island Backpackers Inn Hostel?

and one more thing... I know that your condition is terminal, I understand that you're dying... but for purely selfish reasons I would like your death to not be anytime soon. I want the chance to get to know you better.

saraarts said...

More squishy, potentially suffocating hugs (but NO "freaky misty eyed, 'plucky little trooper' look"; never that). Sorry, but the hugs are all I've got for this.

And what is it about decrees like this --

"...I was told that there would be a meeting in MY apartment with the VIHA nurse and the care giver manager to 'determine the future of my care' and that 'according to my responses would dictate what care I would receive.'"

-- that just turns my gut to ice? It's along the lines of "Could you step in here for a moment? There's something we need to discuss." or "The principal says you are to go to his office at once, and bring your books." Only of course this is way, way scarier.

Hope it doesn't suck too much and that they actually make a plan to help you. Wish your doctor could be present, too.

(Insert more useless hugging here.)

Elizabeth McClung said...

Cheryl part I: Yeah, but on the one hand they did come to MY home to threaten me instead of me going there. haha!

Friday - isn't that the purpose of bureaucracy - now the the USSR is down, Canada must fill the role as the most paper pushing country in existance.

Em: I wish I could, I read about people like Badger just NOT GOING to a specialist meeting - I think you might be put in a gulag or something for doing that here, it is just so..., yeah, where did the assertive me go?

I keep telling Linda that too - there ARE support groups for people whose spouses are dying (not though for those who ARE dying) and she should go I think, and vent!

Veralidaiane: The worst one I think was the high charge to my funny bone to determine how much flow was getting to my pinkie - it seemed sort of well, "Hey, I am going to zap your funny bone, it might hurt" - YOU THINK!? Yeah, well at the meeting today the VIHA nurse was trying to tell me the 'instructions' the GP gave her concerning getting pills from workers which I talked to him twice about yesterday (which is, he didn't remember us having a conversation so he sent no information at all) - which was translated to "Your GP has instructed us not to use home care people to feed you pills if you cannot self direct them to your mouth." - wow, for a guy on vacation and out of the city, he has pretty good telepathy powers if that is what she is getting.

Lene: well, now there is a total of ONE care agency in the city and VIHA - and so I think it is you rub my back I scratch yours in a big way.

I liked the military officer too mostly because he was amazed that I knew all these obscure military facts (Because I sold military books) and gave me a problem regarding a ship taking on two L-class subs, so I gave him an answer he said was "Brilliant" - so yeah, vain, I like him.

Gaina: I think it wasn't about pain at the taser point but how much pain made it through to the feet and hands. Maybe they will Cane me next, who knows. Yeah, I don't want a repeat of this week, comfort would be good.

Wheelchair Dancer: Yeah, well, I am not giving up, I don't give up, I am just lying down and staying very still in hopes that better times walk by and I can black bag abduct them.

Cheryl: Don't worry, it is not at that stage yet (I hope!), it is just the wheels of the medicos crushing me up a bit. But let's spend some time together - that hostel I think is cool if you go not in July/August. And like I said, I am a firm believer in denial - except when I hurt so bad I can't anymore. So yeah, planning to stick around awhile but also not knowing how to get past this summer. Odd that.

Sara: yeah the phrasing was so twisted and it turns out that if they apply Cooled packs instead of ICE packs - then it is NOT a task two and I needed have tried for 6 months to get it made a task 2 - but since no one seemed to want to HELP, no one mentioned that. So no, not tasked two as they have determined to use cooled water types devices instead of frozen wrapped in towel devices. But also told the best solution was to apply for a grant and they would fast track it so I would NOT be under thier all!

Thanks for the hugs from Sara and everyone - I did hope there were some laughs today in the blog. Linda said how true it is that the moments you are passing out are the most peaceful and blissful of all.

kathz said...

I can't think of anything useful to say so send more best wishes and hugs.

Neil said...

Oh, Beth...

Where is the compassion in the medical profession?

The cartoon Doonesbury has shown a little of the same silliness lately: a patient being flown home from Iraq, surrounded by so much medical equipment that the doctor can't see him.

I agree with cheryl g: we're all dying, but some of us will go sooner rather than later. The world needs your warped sense of humour, though, Beth, so hang out here as long as you can please.

Yes, we're greedy. Deal with it, dear. :-)

And em's right: Linda should look into support groups *now*.

Zen hugs from Saskatchewan!

Marla said...

Hugs. I need about another hour to catch up on your posts. This one is a sad one indeed. I wish I could do something for you Eliz.

Lisa Harney said...

Many hugs for all that. :(


"...I was told that there would be a meeting in MY apartment with the VIHA nurse and the care giver manager to 'determine the future of my care' and that 'according to my responses would dictate what care I would receive.'"

-- that just turns my gut to ice? It's along the lines of "Could you step in here for a moment? There's something we need to discuss." or "The principal says you are to go to his office at once, and bring your books." Only of course this is way, way scarier.

This also reminds me of a preemptive "tone" accusation, or what Nezua calls the drowning maestro. "Your care is dependent on how well-behaved you are during this meeting." Not on needs or anything else, but on appeasing these people. :(

It just sounds really sickening to me.

Raccoon said...

health care Gestapo. You folks up there need to get some type of CDA (Canadians with Disabilities Act) passed. Or, at the very least, a Patient's Bill of Rights.

Okay, start at the local level: find an agency in a nearby city/town that will commute...

Sober @ Sundown said...

I don't have anything comforting to say about your condition. It just .... sucks.

Haven't been blogging much, but I wanted to stop by and say, Hi, and that I was thinking of you.

Lene Andersen said...

"Your care is dependent on how well-behaved you are during this meeting."

Your care and the quality of your care is dependent on how well-behaved you are period. As is any interaction with any agency designed to give you any help. The only way to get people to help you - because it's seen as "help", a privilege, not a right - is to develop niceness to the point of grovelling gratitude. If you master that, it's a little easier. Not dignified, by any means, but easier.

Donimo said...

In your time of struggling to live, to be as much as you can be, to communicate all your brilliance, why are there so many god damned unnecessary barriers? Shall we call you Tenacious E?

Like you, I've been zapped and watched my feet flip and my legs jerk. I've waited for the jolt as the technician says, "This is the spot that usually hurts people the most. Here we go..."(It was the point behind the knee.)I was very sore afterwards, but it didn't fry my body like it did yours. I don't know if they really hoped to get something useful from that test for you. Damn. Did they really have to do that?

Man, you've been through a lot. I wish things were a helluva lot easier for you (and Linda). Do take care, both of you.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Kathz: Thanks so much for the time you take to read and comment, thanks for staying with me the long hauls.

Neil: Well, I think the good ones get burned out maybe? Or the world is turned upside down, or God is a monty Python fan?

Thanks for the hugs from Sask! Thanks to some news from today, I should be able to blog from my bed on the bad days so, as long as the mind keeps spinning and I can get the words out - they will be here if people want to read them and find them useful.

Then of course, I will become a vampire and feed off the life blood of my readers! haha! I Wish!

Marla: Thanks for coming by, don't worrry and hang in there during this hard week for you and Maizie okay!

Lisa: I will take all Non-taser hugs right now. I seriously have to wonder about the people who come up with these tests. Yeah, I figure this is just training for when I had to deal with crime bosses - be able to stare them down with; "You don't scare me, I've dealt with VIHA - they don't even bother to hide thier bodies"

Racoon: I am so with you, one day the CDA (Canadian Disabilities Act) will leave committee where it has lingered for over 20 years. The difficulty of living on an island is that Vancouver has all thier stuff together while Victoria is retired people so I got the wrong city but hey, You make do with what you got, right?

Sober: Thank you so much for coming by, I want to make sure to visit and catch up but again, thank you for sticking by and cheering me up over the....years is it now?

Lene: well you might be able to decieve with a smile by the closest I come is I was going to off them a drink and then say that I wasn't sure if serving them a cold drink classified as a Task 2 action which I could be liable for so I would need to send that to a case manager and get back to them. I just don't really do convincing flattery unless the person does care and then I will bring gifts and be overbearingly nice but if I suspect they are just treating me like a paper to be pushed - ARG! I have many teeth GRRRR!

Domino: It does seem, after telling all my health care people that I want to write a book about the first year in the chair that instead of like, helping me get more energy, they are falling over themselves to give me a plethoria of examples of what horrid things might happen.

I am glad we joined the limb flopping club together - I do think with the autonomic system thing I am more sensative to large electric currents through the body which is essentially what the autonomic system DOES so I think it gets confused or countered or tired or something. How about I'll keep hanging on if you keep hanging on - a hanging on till it gets better club?

Denise said...

At risk of sounding overly sentimental, I must confess I got a little teary reading this post. Trust me, it is not pity, but a sinking realization of the immediacy of losing someone I feel I've gotten to know and feel a kinship with by reading your adventures here over the last 2-3 years.

I guess it's a good time to tell you I admire you for all you accomplished both before your illness jumped out of its dark closet and since, and for writing about it all with a flair for macabre humor. You are an amazingly talented, witty person, and you can really turn a phrase. Thank you for sharing.

Wishing you greater comfort and less BS,

Dawn said...

Re: "plucky little trooper" look:: -- *makes retching noises* I hate that look.

Or how about this one -- "You're such an inspiration!" *throws up*

Elizabeth McClung said...

Denise: Well, now that I am a bit better I am not sure of the word "immediacy" is one I go with but I know what you are saying (see, haven't bought a plot yet - oh yeah, the EMT's kept asking for my emergency contact details and I wrote out Ross Bay and they were "Ross Bay, where in Ross Bay do we contact?" and I finished, "Cemetery" Haha). But no worries, I am hoping like the Titanic I have a slow and graceful sinking.....oh wait, wrong ship, well I am sure there is one who sunk slow and gracefully. Sorry, I have the perverse humor on me tonight but I do appreciate that a) You read me and b) letting me know how you feel, but like I said, do not try to exit the vehicle until we have come to a full and complete stop! (I went to disneyland more than a few times).

Dawn: Oh yeah, that's the one reason I won't write for the US online disability magazine Disboom - they use "inspire" and "Inspirational" twice in thier motto. AHHHHHH!

Denise said...

Maybe "immediacy" wasn't the right word there. I am in part reflecting on the loss of several dear friends who were ill for a long time but whose deaths came suddenly and I didn't get to express to them how much I appreciated having them in my life.

There is a certain divorce from the reality of someone else's terminal illness that comes with watching their slow decline. I'm determined not to make the same mistake again, even on the internets. ;)

Lindsay said...

I'm not really sure what to say to you. But I will add to the hugging! *hugs*

You are an amazing, intelligent, kind person, and I'm really glad I get to read your writings.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Denise: I understand and I am glad you let me know how you feel and I feel the disassociation myself; last night Linda and were doing the whole, "Okay, yes, degenerated every month from October on, but maybe we could be like this for a while a bunch of years." Then the, "How am I going to make it through the summer, how will I keep breathing when the heat puts my autonomic system into TILT?" So it is like both, "IF we make it to next December, we'll celebrate" AND "Hey, why can't I last for years and years."

Lindsay: Thanks very much and thanks for the hugs and you sure know what to say (like I would ever disagree with anyone who notices I am all those good things - you are an insightful Genius!) Or I am vain.....or both!