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Your voice & what you have to say is more important than anything when it comes to your health!

Our father-daughter dance.

May is not only Better Hearing and Speech month, it’s also Brain Cancer Awareness Month. Another cause that is near and dear to my heart.  Those of you that know me, know I lost my Dad to brain cancer in 2016.  I talk about it a lot, I think about it a lot, and it has affected the way I provide treatment, A LOT.

My Dad was so many things to so many people. He was the smartest man I’ve ever known.  He had an incredible talent for teaching, even though he was a computer nerd.  I remember one year, he and my mom wanted me to be interested in science, so for Christmas they bought me a chemistry kit, an electronics kit, and a microscope.  I wasn’t very happy about it, but somehow, those gifts got me interested in science.  Back then I would have called you crazy if you’d told me I would have a Master’s of Science degree (or that I would use math everyday.)

My Dad was also a trusted advisor.  He knew a lot about a lot.  He, by trade, was a computer scientist.  He wrote code for the Kodak picture maker and he met with the higher-ups of Disney to pitch superimposing Disney characters in pictures of people for Disney cruises.  He also built houses; he and my mother built their dream home with their two hands (and some help from friends/family).  He was a financial wizard; the man loved a white board and an Excel spreadsheet… 

But, he also just knew stuff.  He, as a child, would get bored and read encyclopedias. Yep, he was a life-long learner and he imparted this on me at an early age.  If I had a quarter for every time he answered my question with, “The answer is always in the book; go look it up,”  I’d be a thousand-air. I say thousand-air because eventually I quit asking him questions and just went straight to a book.  He was the Trivial Pursuit champion of their social group.  He had an outstanding visual memory.  If he looked at it, he could remember it and that made him my person to go to for information and advice.

That famous Christmas with all the science gifts. Also, showcasing my pre-teen fashionista. I had a way of rockin’ the ugly glasses!

He suffered for years from kidney stones. So much that his doctors told him not to eat anything with calcium.  He had to stop eating leafy green veggies, peanuts, and dairy about the time I went into college.  That progressed to digestive issues, where, eventually, he wasn’t able to eat anything with fiber.  (all things that reduce acidity in our bodies)  He also complained of back pain all the time, which he blamed the hard labor of his youth.  Because of that back pain, he couldn’t really exercise and therefore he got to be a pretty large man.  When he would go to the doctor, he would tell my dad that he just needed to lose weight and take an antidepressant.  He would never take the medication.  My dad could be anti-social, sometimes came off as a conceited jerk, and he could be downright crabby.  His mind never stopped thinking, so he had trouble sleeping.  I wouldn’t classify him as depressed, though, so I don’t blame him for not going for the meds.

My dad went through several doctors and they each told him the same thing:  quit smoking (which he did), lose weight, stop stressing.  Around 2010, I remember my dad telling me he thought he had cancer, but he thought it was in his stomach, because of all his digestive issues.  But, he had the GI workup and they found he had ulcerative colitis, not cancer, and so he quit talking about that.  But his digestive issues worsened, his blood pressure began to rise, and the last Christmas we spent together, in 2015, he could barely walk 100 yards without holding his back and wincing in pain.  

My mom and I blamed it on his sedentary life and poor diet choices.  “Who need’s vegetables?  We have corn chips and salsa!” (an honest to goodness quote from my dad)  And then he got really chatty, which was very unlike my Dad.  Dad was usually quiet, but it got to the point where I couldn’t get off the phone; he just kept talking and talking…

Always there to catch me if I fall…

And then he had a massive seizure while picking my mom up at the airport.  Earlier that day he called my mom, crying, saying he felt like there was something wrong. He had been calling and leaving messages with family members trying to figure out who was in trouble.  He was hearing voices of narration as he drove the 2 hours from their home to the airport.  He was inconsolable and I thought he was having a panic attack.  “Something’s wrong, Chelle.  There’s a disturbance in the force,” he said to me on the phone.  How he made it safely to the airport, I have no idea.

But then my mom called a few hours later, from the airport, screaming, “Michelle he’s having a seizure and I don’t know what to do!”  24, sleepless hours later, I was on an airplane with my aunt to be with him and my Mom.  It was a few days later, we found out that he had a mass in his brain as well as multiple myeloma.  

That’s right, my dad had 2 types of primary cancer.  Multiple Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that eats away the calcium in the bones and causes kidney stones.  My dad had holes in his spine and ribs, which was the cause of his back pain.  Yeah, he was overweight, but his doctors NEVER EVEN CONSIDERED cancer.  He had been having kidney stones, frequently, for 15+ years.  In fact, they found a HUGE kidney stone in all those scans they did in the ED, and he had lost the ability to feel them because it happened so often.  Think about that for a minute; he stopped feeling kidney stones because he had so many!!

While he was in the hospital, he had a craniotomy; it was supposed to last 6-8 hours, the doctors came out after 3.  We knew it wasn’t good news.  Dad had a glioblastoma in his left frontal lobe.  But, it was wrapped around a major artery, so it was inoperable.  

I would like to say that was the saddest day of my life, but it wasn’t.  The next 6 months were the most horrible, stressful, heart-wrenching, life-changing days of my life.

I tell you all this story because what happened to my Dad changed the way I see healthcare.  It changed how I practice in my profession.  Losing my dad changed my entire life; personally & professionally.  

His doctors wouldn’t listen to him.  They wrote him off as being lazy and depressed and that was NOT the case.  His doctor wouldn’t take the time to investigate further.

I wonder how different life would be if his healthcare “team” had listened to him, had cared enough to ask the question, “why is this man having SO many kidney stones, even after he has changed his diet completely?”  I wonder if he would be here to help me with my business if someone had taken the time to actually listen to my dad.  Dang, I could really use his Excel expertise right about now.

After his passing, I wasn’t sure how to live in a world where my Dad didn’t exist.  I used to talk to him several times a week.  He was my first call anytime I had a question about anything related to adulting.  He was my first call when I needed a reality check.  He was my first call when I needed guidance.  And after he died, I needed a lot of those things listed above.  I was floundering without him. 

His last days on this Earth were extraordinarily traumatic.  I promised him I wouldn’t let him suffer, and yet he suffered and there was not one single thing I could do. Months after he passed away, I just couldn’t stop crying; from the moment I woke up, all the way to work- It was as if I was reliving the same nightmare every single day.  One day my friend said, “Michelle, I think you have PTSD!”  She was right.  Between her & my husband, they got me to go to specialized therapy for PTSD and I was able to stop reliving the worst days of my life. 

I tell you that story to say this:  During that very dark period, one of the very few things that got me to stop crying was working with my patients.  At that time, I had quit my full time job and was working on an as-needed basis in a few rehab and assisted living facilities.  I would cry all the way to work, stop crying while I was working, and then as soon as I would get back into the car, I would start crying again.  Looking back on it now, I can see that as a sign of what really makes me happy.  

Helping other people makes me REALLY happy.  It truly is something I feel into my soul.  I was put here to do this.  I had to go through all of that, so I would be driven to provide better healthcare for other people.  

And those are the reasons I started Resurgence Neuro Rehab.  

I am disgusted by the current healthcare system.  It isn’t people driven; it’s money driven.  It is’t preventative medicine; it’s prescription medicine.  It isn’t an integrative approach, it’s an every-practitioner-for-themselves approach.  Who does that benefit?

It sure didn’t benefit my Dad.  Or me.  Or any of the patients I’ve had over my 10 year career.  

I have made it my mission to provide a different kind of health care.  I am not a doctor; believe me, I’m well aware.  But, I can be the first person to notice signs of neurological disease.  And I can- and have- worked in tandem with other healthcare professionals to improve my patient’s quality of life.  The services I provide have the ability to help, not just the patient, but the caregivers and the family members.  

I have stood in the middle of a hospital parking lot, explaining to multiple family members why a feeding tube might not be the miracle that was explained it to be, for their 90+ year old mother with dementia.  I have held the hands of wives who don’t know what to do with their wandering husbands with dementia.  I have cried with frustrated patients, who don’t understand why they cannot speak anymore.  I have handed out lists & recipes for mechanical soft foods.  I have advocated for specialist appointments to primary care doctors.  I have rocked many-a-healthcare boat for the sole purpose of improving my patient’s life and/or the lives of their caregivers.  Upper-level management didn’t like me much, but that’s ok.

I’ll keep doing it.

You pay a LOT for healthcare.  You should be getting the very best.  You should have a provider that LISTENS to you- and I mean truly listen to what you’re saying.  You should have a provider who will ask hard questions to find answers.  You should have a healthcare provider who will work with your other providers as part of YOUR team.  You don’t have a lot of time in this life; nobody should spend it waiting for their healthcare providers to communicate.

That’s where I come in.  This is where Resurgence Neuro Rehab comes into play; the practice exists to work for the patient, in a timely fashion, with educated information, with a teamwork attitude, and state-of-the-art diagnostics to get to the root of the problem in order to speed up your recovery.

I want YOU to get back to your life, with your family, doing what you want to do, thinking what you want to think, saying what you want to say, eating what you want to eat, and drinking what you want to drink.  

Life is too short. 

When I think that I don’t have my Dad’s guidance anymore, I pause for a second and realize; he’s right here guiding me every single day, just not in the same way he used to.

Cheers to my Dad,

Michelle Hill MS CCC-SLP is a speech language pathologist and Owner/Founder/CEO of Resurgence Neuro Rehab.

Great news! Resurgence patients can now manage appointments & billing online 24/7.