Category Archives: Hope

The Morning After

I used the bio-mat last night. Dreamy. Slept well.

But here’s the kicker. My little guy heard me laughing in the kitchen. The teenager was IN THE SAME ROOM with me.

Direct quote: “You don’t laugh, mom. And you NEVER laugh when you are in the same room with HIM.”

And then, I started singing songs from A Chorus Line.

I’m going to say yes to the bio-mat.

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How Would I Help A Friend?

For a brief period of time, after I did a radio show with my dear friend, Ellen, I started blogging about how to support chronically ill people.  Ellen and I both dreamed of a world where support came easier and more often.  I held Ellen’s hand through the final days of her life, and want so much for the dreams and wishes to come true.  That when an illness becomes chronic, community STAYS.  Doesn’t run, doesn’t ignore, doesn’t avoid.  That’s what I still want.

 

So, I’m going to post those blog posts here over the next week or two.

I hope they help one person gain the courage to reach out.

Originally posted February 5, 2011

I was told yesterday, by an amazing, yet chronically ill writer friend that I had amazing ideas.  It made me smile.  I just wish I had the well body to make them happen.

I’m hanging from a very thin thread today.  I worked my emergency plan by sending out an email to my Lotsa Helping Hands site.  Asking for people to give up part of their weekend to sit with me.  Be with me.  Keep me from eating my young and screaming at my partner.  And I have some people coming over.  I’m very grateful.

If I were the well friend, instead of the friend in need though, this is what I would do.  I would call that friend, or email and ask if we could set up a potluck/movie night/clothing exchange/salon/eveing of drinking games at her house, to help her get through this time.

Help her feel support.  Feel like she has a team behind her, not just a bunch of disparate friends that steal time from their active lives to babysit the crazy woman.  Not that that situation is bad, I just want more of the whole “Thirty Something,” or some sitcom I can’t remember well enough to reference.  The friend is in need, and the group of moms/friends/neighbors lend a hand.

I was at the house of a friend, today, whose husband struggles with Chronic Depression.  She told me that a friend had arranged a group cleaning session.  Grabbed a couple of moms and had a window cleaning party.  Good old fashion barn raising.

That’s what I would do.  I would arrange something that gets her social.  Helps her feel supported.  And maybe even gets some work done for her.

Sure, it might be exhausting, but most chronically ill people are pretty darn lonely and would welcome the change to have people over.  Just don’t leave a mess.  : ) 

Grief

Having Sensory Neuropathy is a wonky experience. Really wonky. Sensations to your nerves and brain are wonked out. Bad. So, last night, when I fell on the ice, it hurt. And then, later, I lost any semblance of balance I hold together on an average day.

Let’s just say “a little bit off balance” is my baseline. But this was like the earth’s driver had a penchant for the quick stop.

Then, the pain started. And it was bad. Heavy. Sharp. Nearly unbearable. Definitely non-weight bearing.

Fast forward 24 hours and I was in hell. Xrays showed nothing. Ice. Heat. Arnica cream.

Ouch.

Blog This SH*#$

Thanks to a dear friend and fellow blogger, I’ve got my fingers on the keys, again. Not that the nudge will get me back to blogging regularly, but today, I will. And maybe tomorrow. Facebook and twitter just seem so much easier. So much faster. But I miss blogging. So here goes.

My sons were never vaccinated. I get grief about it from people quite often. But never from doctors. With the history in my extended family and with my kids living on the edge, it’s just a good thing that I didn’t do it.

But, the whole PANDAS diagnosis/research seems to volley around the issue of vaccines. What does an unvaccinated kid who gets a “strep on steroids” infection look like? How do we treat him?

The answer so far? We don’t know.

So, yesterday, I packed a rental car full of things to do and food to eat and went to see a doctor that seems to get both Lyme and PANDAS, at least a little bit.

The journey was worthwhile, as always. I made him laugh. The little guy made him laugh. He made me cry. All in a day’s work for a mom parenting kids who live on the edge. And he told me that you usually see a connection between a PANDAS diagnosis and vaccines. Not in my world. So it seems more complex, again.

Sometimes I forget how sick my kids are. Especially the little one. I just keep keeping on, and the doctor visits are highlighted with all the good. The “upward spiral” and the “good grades”. And other days, we look at the shadow. The under belly. The sh#%(.

My kid is sick. Some days, I just don’t even want to talk about or think about how complex his issues are. The hardest part is that so far, I haven’t been able to find anyone who really gets what’s going on with him. If I were a different kind of parent, I might just look at him, ignore the dark circles under the eyes and just keep keeping on. But I don’t. I push for answers. I push for him to get well. I hope that the teenagers frankenstein-looking lymph nodes doesn’t mean another flare is on its way, or that I’m too busy helping one kid that I’m playing ostrich with the life of the other. I search for treatments, money, the next great hope for a cure. Heading down to the lab to get some subclass deficiency and immune issue tests. But waiting until AFTER Valentines Day. Blood draws WIPE this kid out.

It’s not one thing. That, I know. If it were, I’d be selling some sort of MLM product that had cured us all. Instead, I’m back to the Rubik’s cube. Or just STILL HERE.

 

Persistent vs. Chronic

I don’t like the word, “chronic” applied to my daily struggle. It sucks the hope right out of me. I don’t want to be chronically ill. Years ago, when I was around a whole lot of people doing spiritual work, a woman told me that she always wrote, “Healing,” when a form or an application asked for current employment or position.

I am healing. I am healing from persistent infections that have taken me down over the past 27 or so years. I am healing from persistent infections that very few people are researching a cure for. I have treated for a considerable amount of time, and yes, all of these infections are so incredibly persistent. Some days, I feel better, but overall, I don’t often feel like I’m winning my fight.

I want to be one of those people in the 10% that are on their way to beating or have beaten this illness. I don’t want to be in the 90% that appear to be chronic.

So, how do I go from one group to the other? Attitude is everything, or so “they” say. I think they are wrong. I think the recipe is 1 part attitude, 3 parts passion for life, 5 parts finding the right doctor or practitioner to guide your journey. Throw in thousands of dollars to be able to treat. Add a little luck for the right social security attorney and judge. Extra bonus for an organization like Pathways. Then subtract the number of people in your family infected, after you multiply that number by 10. Finally, take the number of great friends and family (and in my case my current and former student family) that stick by you through everything and multiply that with enormous love.

That’s where you get your answer. And that answer can only be hope.

That’s the recipe that I believe to be true. I’m missing a few things, so I have to keep making shifts. I move things around and do what I can to solve the equation.

It’s persistent. And difficult. But I need to hold on to hope.

Everything is Coming to a Grinding Halt


Remember that song?

I got a comment that made me pause. In fact, it brought me to a grinding halt. I was forced to remember what my values have always been.

The comment was really hard for me to read. The author of the comment was clearly someone that knows me, has helped me frequently and feels used because our relationship isn’t a two-way street.

I stopped blogging. I got swallowed by shame. I wanted to know who it was, and how I could make it up to them and I felt like a selfish pig. I thought I needed to stop asking for help completely. I was trying to convince myself that I don’t have needs.

But I didn’t quit blogging. I didn’t let myself fall into a deep despair because I don’t have the energy for that. If can’t even walk up a flight of stairs because my heart is not operating correctly, I can’t let myself be pulled down by someone’s belief that somehow I am not enough or that I don’t do the relationship correctly.

Good deeds can never be reciprocal. They are circular in nature. You are always paying it forward in life. I set up a soup train for a family dealing with depression. Kitty and Fun came over and spent the whole day cooking prepared meals.

I had lost my appetite and stopped eating. Their love and good food filled me up and made me want to eat again. I set up an auction for a friend who needed financial help. She can now afford to continue treatment. I give. You give. We just don’t always need to give in a “two way street” pattern.

I’m sad that a “friend” wouldn’t come to me and tell me I was neglecting her, and that she was offended by my “all me, all the time” energy of my blog.

Hmmm. . .what’s a blog for? It’s about me. My story. My experience. My needs. I am so grateful that I am strong enough to ask for help. When I ask people for help on any level, I believe that I am full of gratitude. When my friend Carrie comes over to help, I ask about her husband and daughter and her work and her dog. I don’t always call and check in with her (well, there is that issue that I HATE the phone), and I don’t always email her to ask her about her teaching.

I try SO hard when people visit to make it about her/him just as much as it is me. I try to make sure it is about community, not about me, me, me. I’m not in the world every day to see people. I’m caught up in my own life. And it is full.

And I have very limited energy. I am in a constant push/pull against what I want to accomplish on a daily business. I have shoulders that can’t get to 90 degrees. I can’t unload my dishwasher or dress myself. Sometimes I can’t take care of my sick children, and no amount of money in the world will give me healthy children or a husband that is well. This is my life. It isn’t bigger or better or hard than yours. The events and needs in my life don’t matter more than my neighbor’s life. My difficulties do not trump the young woman on the East Coast, a dancer since the age of 3, who just gained the ability to walk this week after two years of not being able to. I am not better off nor am I worse off. There is no hierarchy of pain, grief, despair, illness. There isn’t. Your brain tumor is not more valuable than the stage 4 Ovarian cancer. A job loss or longtime unemployment is not more or less difficult for you than anything anyone else is going through. Different. Just different. And hard. All hard.

No matter what our struggle, we need to maintain the courage to ask for help. It’s been a very difficult life experience for me to be so vulnerable. But I encourage everyone in need to try it on for size.

When you hurt, tell people. When you need, ask. You can’t worry about the outcome, even if your friends start feeling used and hurt. If you are feeling used and hurt you can step forward in courage and talk to your friend. Holler, “I NEED YOU.” Be honest.

Every time YOU ask, every time I ask, every time YOU help, every time I help, We send that strength and courage into the world.

What’s my alternative to asking? I can’t do this alone. None of us can through our troubles alone, and if we try to, we will just end up feeling hurt and lonely.

I have been grateful for every single person who has donated time, energy, love, or money to our family. Every dollar. Every moment. I may not express my gratitude as much as people would like. I may not return it in an equal value, but I’m doing the best I can. Just doing the best I can.

I’m back to blogging. No more music by The Cure as my daily theme song.
Because out of my “All me, all the time,” blog, I know I’ve touched the lives of people that live in overwhelm and Moms that live in fear for the lives of their kids. I know it. And I’ve saved at least one life.

What’s The Big Deal About Lyme Disease, Anyway?

This is a repost from last year sometime.  Thought it might be a good one for Lyme Disease Awareness Month.  Please share the link on your facebook wall.  Anyone can get lyme.  You don’t have to love the woods, you don’t have to own a dog, you don’t even need to leave the city to get it.  So learn about it.  And do your friends a favor by sharing information about it.

I’m thinking there are a whole lot of people who would like to ask a whole lot of questions of me, directly related to my illness. But I don’t know. Part of me thinks my house could be on fire and no one would notice. Everyone is busy. Life is full. Most people keep their drapes drawn and hope that the sick family is okay. Maybe they think we should be well. . and think we must be crazy since we aren’t well.

I start to wonder what people might ask if they didn’t feel like they were being petty or judgmental. So, I’m going to imagine this little question and answer, all the while, wishing people might just ask us for the answers. If people were asking these questions about our illness we might feel a little less isolated.

Question: Why aren’t you well yet? The IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America) says you should be well with 4 weeks of treatment. It has been more than a year since your diagnosis. What gives?

Answer: Lyme Disease is a complex disease that rarely involves just one infectious disease. Ticks are cesspools of bacteria, parasites and viruses and when they yack into a human (or animal) body, you get it all. Even the IDSA agrees that you need 6 weeks of treatment for Babesiosis. I was never tested for Lyme, for Babesiosis or any other co-infection. So, in 1985, when I got the rash and got sick, I had 10 days of antibiotics. Because of the manipulative power of the bacteria/parasites, my illness went into my nervous system, did all kinds of hiding, and I had beautiful remissions when I was pregnant. So, these little critters have been fruitful and multiplying in every part of my body for 25 years. It is a wonder I am alive.

Question: Why do you say your kids have CONGENITAL Lyme Disease? How can a tick bite be congenital?

Answer: Well, I had the bite and was only partially treated in 1985. Chances are that the infamous bite of 1985 was NOT the first time I had been infected with these diseases. I grew up having imbedded ticks and we traveled often to the East Coast. Both of my parents had obvious symptoms of Bartonella, including difficulty making decisions and society anxiety. When did it enter my system for sure? Nobody knows. But all the infections crossed the placenta, and/or entered the babies during gestation or breast-feeding. When? I know for our little guy, Ezra, it likely crossed in the second trimester, when he died.

Question: Why aren’t your kids well now that they’ve been treated for over a year?

Answer: Well, Lyme and co-infections set the terrain of the body to allow all kinds of viral and parasitic opportunistic infections into the body. My kids were born with chronic lyme. There is no definitive cure. Yet. I hope my kids get well. All I can do is help them change the terrain of the body to better handle the infections and parasites within.

Question: I hope you guys are doing okay over there. I think about you often.

Answer: Okay, so this isn’t a question. If you are THINKING about someone with a serious chronic illness, if you are sending them love and light, if you are hoping for the best, you could be doing something practical for them. They are have issues with memory, often have issues with executive function like returning emails, phone calls, or responding to requests for help, and are most likely extremely isolated as they fight for their health and for the health of their children. They might be depressed. They might spend their evenings surfing craigslist for pets they want to rescue but could never take care of.

Show up on their doorstep, just like the Mormons do and start doing something. Don’t try to plan it, or ask them if you could help, just show up. Do the dishes. Throw in a load of laundry. Organize something like a meal making night, a laundry fest, a cleaning day, or just take the dog for a walk.

Isolation is a nightmare. Anything helps. A simple thing is NOT too little.

Question: So, when is your treatment going to end? Well. . probably never. Will we get better? We hope so. I’ve been sick for 25 years. My kids were born in the chronic phase of the illness. Their immune systems are compromised and they are pretty darn fragile. There is no protocol for Lyme Disease. Every doctor does it a different way, and most doctors do it differently for every patients. And every treatment plan is a crap shoot.

Question: So, here is what I don’t get. You complain about your “herxing”, you talk about how crappy you feel, you say that your kids live on the edge. Why the heck do none of you look sick?

So, my challenge to this question is this, “what does SICK look like”?

Does it look like somebody who only has the energy to bathe once a week?
Does it look like someone who hasn’t had the energy to get a haircut in close to 6 months?
Does it look like someone who can’t push her 4 year old in the swings at the park because she gets out of breath?
How ’bout someone whose kids look like little rag-a-muffins?

That’s what sick looks like. No chemo scarf. No bags under my eyes. To be told I look great though, is to deny how shitty I feel. I joke with my friend Ellen, “you look great, but I bet you feel like shit”. That’s the best thing to say. Acknowledge my illness. Having my struggle ignored makes me feel even more isolated. I feel isolated even when I’m not.

Question: So, what about Lyme rage? Didn’t that chimp have Lyme?

Answer: Yep, the chimp that ripped the woman’s face off was being treated for Lyme. I’m not going to kid you about Lyme and Bartonella. Some people don’t have mood issues with either. Some have anxiety. I have that. And I get confused and lost and sometimes my brain feels like I’m trapped in a Steven King novel. That is why I need so much help. I’m trying to parent children while I have a horror movie going on in my head. It isn’t always there. But when it is, it is really hard. Really scary.

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