I’ve always been a Clodhopper. Clodhop here, clodhop there. At least, that’s what I was called by my sister. She even gave me the pet name “Sasquatch”. Being from the Pacific Northwest, we knew what that was before we even knew what the boogie man was. I called her “Hamburger Head”, so I guess we were even.
I have always had a problem with my balance, and always have been a “rocker”. Even a friend of mine wrote about me in her biography, Angels and Pawprints: A Lifetime of Love, Laughter, and Tears. Her son was a “rocker”, too. When I sit, I rock back and forth, and when I stand I rock back and forth. Kids would call me “duck”, or say that I had a “rocking chair in my head”, or that I was a “penguin”. Now that makes for a nice self-image. As if being shy wasn’t bad enough…
I also had some embarrassing moments, which I now think are funny. When I was older I would ride the bus to work, and one day had to carry a few things under my arms. I pulled the bell to stop the bus, and got up before the bus was actually stopped, like you’re supposed to do. I was trying to be so very assured of myself, but for the life of me when that bus came to a stop, I kept moving — but not forward. I fell to left of me and landed on some lady’s lap. I was looking right up into her face and said sheepishly, “Sorrr-yyyy”. I got off feeling like such a Clodhopper.
When I would be walking and someone yelled at me from somewhere, I would stumble. One day, in college, I was trying to stay composed while walking into the cafeteria to get seconds of stew. I LOVE stew. As I stepped over into the mess hall, my feet went out from under me and I fell at the feet of a dude I kinda had a sorta crush on at the time. He said, “So, you’re falling for me, eh?” Can you say “RED FACE?” Or even better, “MY FACE IS GROWING BIGGER AT THE MOMENT!” After composing myself, getting back to my table and finishing my stew, I was taking the tray back to where you take the trays back, someone said my name, and guess what? I went down again. Yes. Clodhopper R Us. Well…ME. What’s WRONG with me??!!
I was always falling and spraining my ankles. I have even broken my left leg two times because I was just walking down a couple of measly hills and lost my balance. One break was a compound fracture that was so awful that it almost sent the friend who was caring for me over the bridge we were on.
Even when I would perform in front of people singing, I would wonder why I would have to THINK about standing there or I would fall down. I often have to THINK about even just walking. What’s WRONG with my BRAIN??? Yes, I am a Clodhopper.
For the last couple of years I had been experiencing a series of dizziness spells that I couldn’t explain. I would get so dizzy that I would actually get nauseous, and I couldn’t explain why. When I was driving I would sometimes get dizzy and have to pull over the car. WEIRD. Then, one day, while making candy with J-GQ, I felt my eyes go CRAZY! They were actually rolling around in my head and I knew I was experiencing true vertigo. I turned away from J-GQ and hung on to the sink, because I didn’t want him to look at his mom morphing into a monster. Plus, I needed to hold on to something or I would fall down. I called for My Boyfriend, and he took me to the ER. Nothing wrong.
However, I kept experiencing this dizziness, and finally went back to the ENT. I had been there in the past, but he didn’t really take me seriously. He might as well have shrugged me off by telling me I just had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I’d heard that one too many times before.
But, I went back to his partner, and told him my story, and told him that his buddy in the other room really didn’t do too much to help me the last time. So, to satisfy and humor me, he decided to schedule me for a test which determined balance function in the ears and also an MRI.
I went in for the balance test and they had kept telling me that I would need someone to drive me home because I would feel extra dizzy and sick to my stomach after the test was complete. Well, after the test was complete I felt nothing, so I told My Boyfriend, “Well, that was a waste of time”, because I obviously had nothing wrong with me there. Then I went into my MRI.
When I went back to the ENT to get the test results, I knew what he was going to say — it was nothing and I was probably just experiencing IBS. However, what he said was actually quite a shock, and I had to ask him to repeat it. He said, “Well, you have NO balance function in your left ear and very limited function in your right ear. In addition, you have a 3 inch cyst on your brain, so I would like you to see a neurologist.” Excuse me??? What?!!! Come to find out, the cyst was an arachnoid cyst, was benign, and had been there since birth, and the balance function had also most likely occurred when I was a small child.
So, he sent me on my way and hooked me up with the neurologist and also the physical therapist. The neuro said that the cyst was a factor in my balance and showed me how it was impeding into my brain. He said they typically don’t grown, but he HAD seen them grow, so would like to do follow-up MRI’S. This was the strangest thing I had ever heard! And, the physical therapist said she said she was surprised that I was even able to stand up and asked if I slept a lot. I said, “YEAAAAAH” She said that people who love people with balance issues cannot understand why they sleep so much — it’s because much of their effort is being put into just staying upright. I could relate. My Boyfriend could never understand why I slept so much.
I was FREEEEEEE! I finally had an answer to my CLODHOPPER-ness! I had an answer as to why I rocked — I am trying to equalize myself! I had an answer as to why, if my hair gets in my eyes I cannot move. I had an answer as to why I cannot walk up bleachers, walk down the stairs at a movie theater without holding onto a handrail, why I have to think about walking, why I get overwhelmed in grocery stores or with crowds of people, or why I stopped offering to help people in their kitchen after dinner because I didn’t want to break something.
So, now, I have an excuse. I try not to use it too often, but if you ask me to come help you clean up your house, I might say….”Sorry, I have a cyst on my brain.” And I won’t be lying.