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Front Porch: Tightrope act tough when world is spinning

There goes my dream of being a Flying Wallenda.

While getting my hair cut and colored before spinal fusion surgery in March, I lifted my head from the sink and had a sudden “As the World Turns” experience. Everything spun, slipped and spilled, and I felt like I was in a Salvador Dali painting.

The swoopiness was completely discombobulating, and after my stylist finished my hair I couldn’t walk without nearly falling over. Richard came and picked me up, and drove me straight to Valley Hospital’s emergency room. Both of us have landed in the ER over the past couple years, and with Richard out of work since early December, I cringed at another costly jaunt.

The friendly ER staff determined that nothing dire was wrong with me. I had classic benign positional vertigo, which disturbs one’s sense of balance and orientation, causing tilt-a-whirl sensations. Or as I like to say, I got unhooked in the space/time continuum.

BPV is apparently an annoying symptom of aging. Oh goody. I have enough of those on hand already and don’t need to add lurching around and caroming off walls.

Vertigo continues to plague me, though thankfully without the nausea some experience. My doctor prescribed meclizine and suggested re-enacting any action that makes me dizzy, to “burn out the nerve.” Now when the world swings, I bounce up and down like a jack-in-the-box until it stops. It works.

Sheesh. After breast cancer, I became a curly blonde. I never expected to be a dizzy blonde.

Another of life’s surprises.

Actually, the past three years have been crammed with challenging surprises for Richard and me. Both our mothers in California died of painful disease, I went through nine months of grueling cancer treatment, and then my younger brother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Last fall, I was laid up for two months with injuries incurred by a swan dive down steep stairs, Richard lost his 28-year job in a companywide downsizing and I learned I needed back surgery. My brother began a horrible decline at Christmas and died the night before my surgery, which has engendered a lengthy recovery.

What bad fairy have we annoyed?

The good news is that Richard recently began a new job, life is calmer and things are looking up. But my stress and fatigue levels have been in the stratosphere for too long, and I’ve been unable to really recover or process any of it or consider my post-cancer future. Distressingly, my well of creativity has simply run dry. Perhaps my vertigo represents the tilt-a-whirl of my interior life that all the metaphorical meclizine and bouncing in the world can’t fix.

I need time to wind down and recharge. With the blessing of my gracious editor, I’m taking an extended break from writing Front Porch columns, though I hope to pop in once and a while. It’s a painfully hard decision, and I’m going to miss it, but I need to get my mojo back. Throughout the 14 years I’ve been writing columns, I’ve been honored to have a voice in our community. It’s an incredible, humbling privilege I’ve never taken for granted. I’ve appreciated every response from you, and some of you have become good friends. Your kindness, especially while I went through cancer, has been one of my greatest blessings.

I may never become a Flying Wallenda, but there are other ways to fly, and after a good rest, I look forward to discovering where my restored wings take me.

Because I expect to bounce back.

Again and again.

You can reach Deborah Chan at Previous columns are available at