Posts Tagged With: walking

Diagnosis Part 5: MRI

I looked back on the last time I wrote a part of the “Diagnosis” story of my life and saw that it was on 05/17/12. It has been over a year since I wrote about the story of my diagnosis. That is how painful and hard my story is and how excruciating this next chapter is.  I had to be so ready to write it that I was bursting at the seams! Lately I have found it very challenging to come up with the words. I am a writer with too many words and no words. I truly believe there are not enough words in the English language to describe so much of what I’ve been through.

BUT IT’S TIME. IT’S TIME TO GET IT OUT. IT’S TIME TO TAKE ANOTHER STEP TO BE FREE OF THE TRAUMA.

As you can tell from the title, my focus will be the first MRI that changed my life. THE MRI.

Here goes. I know you’re all here with me so I’m going to jump in. I can already feel the adrenaline of anxiety rushing throughout my body. The emotions are rising to the top. Those really really hard emotions. I can do this.

It’s November 2002. I’m 25 at what I believe is supposed to have been the Prime of my life. Or at least I “believed” it was supposed to be. I gotta admit, if that year was the Prime of my life then I’d have nothing to hope for. That year my family had decided to have a family reunion of sorts with my Mother’s side of the family for Thanksgiving. We were all going to meet at my Grandpa’s up north in Monterey, CA and it was going to be a grand ole time! My sister had planned on visiting me in LA for the first time the week before Thanksgiving and we were supposed to hang out and cause some trouble before the family shenanigans started.

Looking back I’m not sure what I was thinking when I scheduled my first MRI to be at night on the first night my sister was visiting. I mean, I know why I scheduled it at night. I had to work during the day. My sister and I met at a small mall for lunch and she was going to hang out for awhile before I could get out of work. I was scared that day but on top of the world. I can remember feeling so proud and so “up”. My sister was visiting MY WORLD. I was going to show her MY WORLD. I had seen HER WORLD before in the past but this was mine. She’s older and I was so proud to show her LA, to show her I was “making it” out here. Still not sure what “making it” means but I digress. I can remember walking down the sidewalk at this mall and looking for her and thinking it was a pretty day and oh by the way, I had lost almost 50 pounds so I couldn’t wait for her to see that too. Weight has always been a challenge for all of us in the family so the idea that I could even lose 50 pounds was AMAZING!

Anyway, we met up, had lunch, I took her on a tour of my workplace and I was so so proud to do that. Look Lori, I work at a television station! I’m really starting to do what I came out here to do! Those were the thoughts in my head. Isn’t it weird how we can bring ourselves back to our past mindsets and know they’re familiar but almost not recognize them? That was over 10 years ago. I have been through so much since then. My mind even feels different.

I don’t remember much until I showed up at the hospital in Burbank with Corey and Lori and had to fill out the paperwork. Actually, much of that is a blur. I was so nervous. I’m sure I had decided to just have the MRI then because I had to wait weeks for my HMO at the time to process all the red tape to even approve an MRI for me so I just wanted to get it over with. Plus I had had sooooo many medical tests by then that had come up with NOTHING that I might as well get this done. If I didn’t do it then then I’d have to wait till after Thanksgiving. On a side thought, I wonder if that would’ve changed much of the course of events?

I then remember being called by a lady to “Come on in and we’ll get you started” and she lead me through white hallways. Please tell me, why must all hospital hallways be white or yellow? Why can’t they be calming colors or fun colors? And I know they’re supposed to be sterile but some decoration of some sort would be nice. And about the fluorescent lights…PLEASE GET RID OF THEM!

So the next thing I know I’m being sat down at a small table to the side in the middle of the hallway it feels like (at this point I was so not used to being in a medical fishbowl and everything felt like it had to be a secret and why were we sitting in public–even though no one was really walking by or anything) and this nice lady with long dark hair (blurred out everything else) sat me down, pulled out a pile of paperwork and a pen and proceeded to ask me questions I could not answer. That was the first day/night I ever heard about fibromyalgia. The who the what now? That was the first day/night I ever heard I could have symptoms of fatigue and that they were real. That was the first time ANYONE had ever asked me if I felt any real pain and where and did I have any other autoimmune diseases? What are those? Why was she bringing them up to me? That was the first time for so many things. I think I was a medical virgin or something. It was all so surreal.

Back then, the MRI machines (this was only 10 years ago) were very different than they are now. They were long tubes and they were dark and they were skinny. Here’s my thing. I was so much skinnier and yet I felt cramped in there. How could anyone bigger than me fit in there at all? I don’t remember much of the process just yet but I know I was hardly wearing anything. I had to take off all metal, all jewelry, my bra with the metal underwire, my pants with even a hint of a metal button (don’t think the button was metal actually). To be honest I can distinctly tell you what I was wearing that day. So weird. So much of it is a blur but what I was wearing is clear as a bell still to me. I was wearing my favorite navy blue long sleeve button down shirt that I had just bought in a size smaller due to my weight loss and I was so proud of me and of it. I was also wearing khakis that I don’t think I’d be wearing now. Not that I’d even fit in these clothes now but still. At the time I was wearing contacts so I didn’t have to worry about not seeing and feeling vulnerable that way and I had to wear a very thin white hospital gown. I felt so vulnerable and I also knew I was claustrophobic but I didn’t know how much because luckily I had never been put in that situation before.

These days I have had much better experiences with MRIs. I usually have one a year. I believe I’ve had at least 15 MRIs but if I count any that have been done in a row in the same session (meaning 4 in a row with all kinds of machinery and equipment locking me down and in and not being able to move for OVER 2 HOURS) I’d say it’s close to 20 by now. Each time they’re different. Fortunately, the technology is so much better and the MRIs I have had have been shorter, a bit wider, some of them have music and I don’t have to take off much of anything. The ONLY thing I usually have to take off is my bra still but that’s it. Why? Because they are usually only interested in my brain to see where lesions are for MS. Why did I have 4 in a row once? Well I was at USC where they have state of the art equipment and my MS Specialist Neurologist at the time wanted a whole picture of me. The technicians usually ask me if I want to take a mood enhancer drug of some sort to help me not care about the experience and I have told them No. I like being with it afterwards. Then again, if I EVER have to do such extensive MRI tests AGAIN that make me stay in one position for 2 hours then I will have to take a drug. I WILL NOT DO THAT AGAIN COMPLETELY CONSCIOUS. I was in so much pain from not moving and I was told that if I moved even a little bit then they’d have to start over. Plus it can be extremely hard to get my head out of the “tunnel mode” and back into the big wide world with no tubes enclosing me. Oh and I have had an Open MRI before but to me it was worse because there’s no tube BUT it’s like they put you inside a sandwich of a top and bottom of a machine and you can see out the sides but it’s not like you can move your head to see them and all I kept thinking about was how it was going to crush me or the machine would eat me or something. But I digress.

You know, A LOT of people knew what was going on with me at that point and a bunch of them had had MRIs before and they all had different ideas of what they were like and some told me that they were awful and some told me that they were easy and so on…However I will tell you this, if you have never had an MRI before I will not tell you what it’s like for you. I will only tell you what it was like for me if you ask. I will however tell you that I’m sorry you have to go through that and wish you all the best. My experience was different than that of anyone else who told me what their experience was like. In fact it was so unique and traumatic that it’s so hard getting over it still which is why it’s so important for me to share with all of you what happened and to get it out.

Anyway, when the paperwork was finally done and I already was so nervous my heart must’ve been beating out of my chest at that point and I was in the paper thin white gown, I was lead into the room with the MRI. I remember the room being a yucky yellow and I saw this big machine and a little circular opening into darkness was there. I knew right away this was the MRI. It’s fight or flight right? My head was running away so fast yet my body stayed put. I’m sure I tensed up all over the place. I’m sure my breathing was labored. But I toughed it out. I could do this. Oh yeah and the room was cold because the machine could overheat fast. Plus it was already so so loud in there just from the monster machine. So they had me lay down on the thin flat cold table and locked my head in telling me not to move it. They put earplugs in my ears or headphones on (don’t remember), asked me if I was OK–UM does anyone see the logic in this? I still have technicians doing that with me. They block my ears and lock my head in so I can’t turn and can barely interact and then they ask if I’m OK. WHAT????? Did you say something? My instinct is to move my head. And then panic, oh wait I can’t. GEEZUM! Someone’s gotta tell them that makes no sense. Perhaps walking us through some hand signs would be helpful or something. Eye contact with me directly over where my head is locked in would be good too.

The next thing I know the table starts moving and I’m sent into the dark tube. The tube I could barely fit in. And they kept sending me into the darkness. Oh thank goodness the MRI machines I go in now are white and have a lot of light. I kept trying to remember what my Rheumatologist had told me. Look straight up and you’ll see a mirror that reflects the window to the room where the technicians are. Look at them if you need to. She reminded me that I’m not stuck in there. I could slide out if I wanted to. However all I could picture was panicking and trying to sit up and knocking myself out because I’d hit my head on the head cage or the tube or both. She told me I could wiggle my fingers if I crossed them on my stomach (really not too comfortable for all that time) and I could see them in the mirror so I’d be aware that I hadn’t detached from my body somehow. However, I was still sooooo scared to move. I didn’t want to have to do this over again. I just wanted it done with.

Meanwhile I’m aware that Corey and Lori are in the Waiting Room. I think it was in that dark long squished tube where I got a glimpse of how vulnerable I really was. I was locked in. I was taken away from my people. Yes I had watched too many movies, TV shows and read too many books but I’m not convinced “weird” stuff doesn’t happen. How do I know? I started thinking about how they were looking at my brain. I started thinking about how I had a brain. Hey, I really had a brain! What were Corey and Lori doing? Wow, this machine is really loud even with my ears blocked. Oh my goodness I have an itch on my nose. How much can I wiggle my fingers? Can I move my feet at all? Doesn’t any movement of my body move the rest of it? As I looked in the mirror into the other room, I wondered, how I had not seen that room when I came in? Where was it? What were they seeing? Why were there so many people in the room? Dang it! Breathe! Oh my goodness I’m in a dark long tube! How long has it been? Why aren’t they talking to me? Can they please not talk to me? Can they please not tell me how much longer? Wait why is it so silent? What do the sounds mean? What does my brain look like? Oh my goodness this tube is long. I hope there’s not a monster just waiting to grab my head in the part of the tube I didn’t enter. Why am I so far in? Didn’t Dr. S say I wouldn’t be pulled all the way in? Uh oh. Why the silence? That’s a long silence. I can do this.  Really I can. Uh huh. I got this. Soon enough it’ll be over and I’ll be on my way and Lori and I can have our visit. Why is it taking so long? Or has it been long? I’m feeling cramped. I’m so hungry! UM DID THEY FORGET ME? Why does this machine vibrate too? No one told me about that part? WHAT IF THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY WRONG WITH ME? WHAT IF I HAVE MS? The mind loop was endless and I worked so hard not to get worked up that I was so stuck in my head. Did I have a body anymore?

So then I feel the table start sliding me out. I must be done. OK. I can do this. Phew! I’m done! Wait, that long haired lady is back and she has a serious look on her face. Does she have a serious look on her face? What is she doing? Shouldn’t she be pulling me out? I’ll ask her. Where’s my voice? Why can’t I say anything? Did I forget how to talk? Can I move? AM I DONE? What is she doing with that needle? WHAT’S HAPPENING?! No. No more needles. I’ve had enough needles and blood taken from me in the past 6 months. (Little did I know it was only the BEGINNING…).

I really don’t know if she told me she was putting “Contrast/Dye” into my veins. I just remember thinking that I felt like a specimen and some kind of experiment. I must be a part of a horror movie right now. Wait! I don’t remember being told I’d have this done. Why is it happening? She asked me what arm was best for veins and I told her I wasn’t sure. So she just tried. (I now know it’s my left arm just on the outside. Otherwise, my veins hide and don’t like being bothered. They’re busy.) OW! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! The shooting pain was abominable. I was strapped down. I think I jerked and she tried to hold me down and apologized and said she had missed it and would have to try again. I asked her what she was doing anyway I think finally and she said she thinks they might have seen something (ummmm not a good idea to tell me this and aren’t they supposed to keep their mouths shut?) and so they are putting ink in my veins to find out.

FREAK OUT BUT STAY STILL!

STAY STILL?! STAY STILL?!

OH MY GOD! WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?! SOMETHING WRONG? WHAT DO I DO? I can’t have something wrong with me. My sister’s here. I’m supposed to be tough for her. I’m not supposed to show any weakness. And then she moved to the other arm. Yes, I’m still locked in. I have a ridiculous force of will to stay in one place because honestly my head had me sprinting out of there so fast and yelling and screaming down the hallways. GET ME OUT OF THERE!

And something in my head told me to try to calm down. Let’s just get this over with. It may be nothing. They had told me that before during this journey of finding out what’s wrong with me. They thought they saw something and I’d freak and worry and lose my mind and then I’d found out it was nothing or that oh so fun medical word, “inconclusive”. Oh the things I could do with that word…

So she tries my other arm and she just couldn’t get the vein. She didn’t just stab me this time but squeezed my arm so tight and had me clenching fists and FINALLY I think she got it. Meanwhile, the other arm was still screaming. She had gotten the ink in my muscle. Who knows what that did to me. I still wonder. Before she sent my head into that dark tube she asked me if I had anyone there with me  in the Waiting Room and I told her yes and who they were. She said she’d tell them it was taking longer than expected.

So she says, OK, this shouldn’t take too much longer and she sent me back into that dark tube abyss…to be in my own head…to freak out…to be so horrified and think I was living in a nightmare…Did anyone really tell Corey and Lori why it was taking so long? What did they say? Did they know more than me? A part of me knew, I KNEW, that something was really wrong with me. What it was was terrifying me. The possibilities were endless. Would I find out right away? Would I have to wait forever to find out? What now? This should be done with me! I want out! Get me out of here! I was clearly wound up with so much stress I could barely stand it. I don’t know how I did actually. I guess a survival instinct took over. I was so worried about what Corey and Lori were thinking and that this shouldn’t have had to happen while she was here and now what and my head just kept exploding with crazy thoughts.

FINALLY…

THE MRI MACHINE STOPPED…

AND I WAITED FOR-WHAT SEEMED LIKE-EVER FOR SOMEONE TO PULL ME OUT OF THAT TUBE.

I had tensed up so much I could hardly move. I was so in my head I could barely function. This time the person taking me out was a blonde older woman with curly hair and glasses and she looked directly over me where my head was and I’ll never forget her eyes and the way they looked at me and kept staring at me as she unhooked my head and loosened it all up around me.

SHE LOOKED AT ME AS IF I WAS GOING TO DIE.

DIE.

I still have those eyes of her’s so stuck in my memory that I don’t think they’ll ever come out. So as I’m still laying there and I now have my ears clear, she asks me all kinds of questions. How am I feeling? What are my symptoms? When did they start? Do I have anyone here with me now? And I can hardly talk. I try to sit up really quick and I almost fall off the table I’m so dizzy and out of it. I’m so traumatized. I’m 25. I’m invincible remember?

I also was incredibly tense with MS and didn’t know and probably lupus and didn’t know that for so many more years after that that it’s a wonder I didn’t have a major attack/exacerbation/flare right there on the table or in that room. She kept those “You are going to DIE eyes on me the whole time.” I felt violated and so alone. I just wanted to get out of there. And in that same tone with those eyes, she said, “Now I need you to call your doctor right away in the morning. It’s too late now because you’ve been in here so long.”–Oh it wasn’t just me thinking it was long? It REALLY was that long? Poor Corey and Lori! I was so used to trying to please everyone and entertain everyone that I couldn’t be anything but that strong person. How was I going to show myself? I didn’t even know what they had said to them. They must be so worried.

So I tried to sit up and that wasn’t happening very well. I almost fell off the table. I had “freaked out dark tunnel scared to death” head. Horrifying. Why didn’t I wake up yet? Worst nightmare ever. Especially those “death” eyes of her’s. She caught me as I teetered to the side and held me upright and still looked at me as if I was going to DIE right there on her. I wish I could be exaggerating here about how she was looking at me but to this day with everything else I’ve been through, I have yet to see “THOSE DEATH EYES” on anyone else. So she told me to just sit there for a bit and she’d go out into the Waiting Room and tell Corey and Lori I was done and coming out soon. She came back in and asked me if I was OK getting up.

YES! GET ME OUT OF HERE NOW!

And I jumped up. Ooops. I stumbled and almost fell. Get me away from this woman please! She’s scaring me! Where was my voice? Did I even know how to talk? I had hidden me away somewhere deep into my brain. I was protecting me. I think I was a shell at that point. So upon seeing that I’m stumbling and clearly my legs are jello she tells me I’m going to have to ride in a wheelchair out into the Waiting Room and she’d be back.

WHAT?! A WHEELCHAIR?! I’M STRONG! I CAN WALK! I’M OK! I HAVE TO SHOW EVERYONE I’M OK! I CAN’T BE WEAK! PLEASE! NO!

I think I mumbled to please not do that but if she heard me she ignored me. All the while those “death” eyes on me as much as possible. I’m surprised she left me alone at all.

So she helped me a little too much into the wheelchair. By that time I had more of my bearings and was entering my body a little bit more from my hiding place in my head and I gave her a look like, “I GOT IT!” and forced myself into that chair. And then horrified, I was wheeled into the very bright Waiting Room where I saw Corey and Lori. As she’s rolling me she’s on a constant loop of telling me to call my doctor and not to ignore it and it was very important and when I finally found a voice to ask her what was wrong she told me she couldn’t tell me but that it was so very important and oh my goodness.

I was mortified that Corey and Lori would see me in a wheelchair because I mean really, I had only had an MRI. I was fine. I could walk. What the heck? I couldn’t look weak. I got this. Really. So still struggling to find my words, I try to get up out of the wheelchair ASAP and that blonde woman was STILL THERE! GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE! DON’T TALK TO THEM! I HEARD YOU! I’M RIGHT HERE!

“Please make sure you talk to her doctor tomorrow OK. It’s so very important. You really need to do that. You can’t waste any time.”–as if I’m not there and I’m not understanding what she means and she gave them those same “death” eyes.

HERE’S MY QUESTION  TO HER OVER 10 YEARS LATER:

WHY DID SHE NOT MAKE SURE SOMEONE CALLED MY DOCTOR THAT NIGHT NO MATTER WHAT IF IT WAS SUCH AN EMERGENCY TO HER?! WHAT AM I MISSING?!

So she walks away and Corey and Lori are looking at me like I need to be treated with gentle hands. That’s what I felt like. Now I know they were looking at me like they were concerned and worried and they were allowed to be. They got those same EYES from that woman that I did about me. Scary! So as I start bawling and Corey’s telling me it’s OK and I can stay in the wheelchair as long as I need to and ALL I WANT TO DO IS GET THE HELL OUT OF THAT WHEELCHAIR! I CAN WALK! I CAN GET UP ON MY OWN! LET ME!

I still had a bit of a hard time talking especially with the crying and finally he understood that I wanted to get OUT OF THAT FRIGGIN’ WHEELCHAIR and into a regular chair and I wanted to throw that wheelchair as far away from me as possible. Somehow FINALLY I found my way into a regular chair and I bawled and bawled. I think I left a piece of me in that MRI room. I lost a lot of innocence that day. I found out I was mortal. I found out I wasn’t invincible.

I was human.

HUMAN.

We sat in that Waiting Room for a long time while I regathered myself a little bit more. When I look back on that night I think about how Lori was there and Corey was there. I wasn’t alone. That was no mistake. That was why I had scheduled the MRI for that night. I needed my Sister. Corey needed my Sister too I think. My Sister and I were still struggling with our relationship then and I had to be me with her the next few days. ME. And that was OK.

And one side note: I’m not surprised I couldn’t stand that wheelchair. It turns out I get very dizzy in them or I used to even up to a year and a half ago. I don’t know about now and I’m very fortunate not to know. I’m so grateful I can still walk. It’s weird. I’m OK with others in wheelchairs (well as OK as I can be considering these people are having a hard time in some way) but I felt like I couldn’t be in one. However, I now know that it’s hospital protocol. The last thing they want is me falling on their watch because uh oh I might sue. Oh poor things…

That’s it for now. I’m glad I got it out. As you can tell, I didn’t DIE. I haven’t DIED  yet. I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. I’m too busy living.

And what happened after that?

ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE! So much so that I need to recover from this post in order to write another one. I hope it doesn’t take me over a year because I think it’s ready to come out and I can tell already that I’m more healed from finally writing this.

Therapists have now told me that I am still suffering a bit from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from just that one experience and that there are separate episodes to work through too all connected with this one. I believe it. I wish there had been enough sensitivity at the time to really see what I was going through. I feel it in my heart that we all need to see Therapists at some point in our lives but when going through such trauma as medical tests and the limbo part before diagnosis and then the diagnosis of the Chronic Illness along with maintenance care throughout–we should be REQUIRED to see a Therapist. To not talk about it is poison and can only make our health worse.

Medical Journey Trauma (I think I just came up with a new term) is REAL. And we all deserve to talk about it, process it and move on with our lives.

Oh and how do I feel about MRIs these days????

THEY STILL SUCK!

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Heel 2nd Toe

Heel 2nd Toe.  Heel 2nd Toe.  Heel 2nd Toe.

That’s what I had to chant to myself (and will need to TRY to do and REMEMBER to do from now on) and guide myself to do as I did what my Chiropractor called, “drunk walking” (because it’s easy to lose my balance when it’s so new) down the street to train my body how to walk correctly and in the right alignment.  Apparently my walking alignment is way off so I get to do what feels really hard to do.  And so AWKWARD.  A friend of mine loves using the word “Awkward” so I hope she appreciated me using it here in this post.  ANYWAY–When I’m walking I’m not supposed to be using my Big Toe to guide my walking.  I’m supposed to use my 2nd Toe next to the Big Toe and also focus on my hips to guide my leg out in front of me to land on my Heel and with the foot turned in (only what it seems like to me–it’s actually not in…it’s just not too far out and walking like a duck anymore…) and that’s my newest exercise.  Weirdest part is that when I stand “right” and look in the mirror what FEELS so wrong actually does look RIGHT.

I’M RE-LEARNING HOW TO WALK AGAIN.

WEIRD.

It’s hard to train a body to move differently after it has been doing probably the same movement for almost 36 years….

So I’m trying to be patient. He had me take a walk up and down the block doing that.  I asked him if the residents on the street where his office is ever stop in and ask him what is going on in here and why are there people doing all kinds of strange movements walking down the street.  He said NO but he’s sure they talk about it amongst themselves and try to figure it out.  “Keeps their minds going…”, he chuckles.

I bet.  So I did just what he asked me to do.  Of course there were people out and about.  Don’t mind me.  Just walking totally off balance…  It was a beautiful sunny California spring day.  The birds were chirping.  There was a lovely breeze blowing through the leaves.  Flowers have been in full bloom.  I was sure EVERYONE ever was staring at me but I’m guessing they weren’t.  And if they were, I hope they had fun watching me.  I didn’t look as wobbly after awhile but I was walking really slowly almost in a walking meditation and really focusing on what I was doing.

AND YOU KNOW WHAT?

My overall body felt much better walking the “correct” way.  I was surprised.  As much as my hips started aching (who knew hips were used so much with walking?), certain muscles in my legs that I didn’t know existed started yelling at me, I kept going.  I’d let myself stop, take a break and shake it all out but I’d start up again.  It really did slow me down and it was quite relaxing at times…Definitely could be a meditation if it wasn’t so distracting at too.  Sometimes I’d be distracted too and find that I was back to my old walking so I’d start up again.  Going that slow I was able to see the colorful vibrant flowers I walked by, to see more birds flying around me because I wasn’t moving so fast, a butterfly and to REALLY HEAR the breeze. That was a gift.  I’ll take it.

I’m trying to remember this so that when I wake up tomorrow morning and wonder why on earth my legs and hips are aching so badly I’ll be reminded of the “new” walking I had been doing and will have to try to do from now on and then hopefully I’ll be reminded of how peaceful it was at times.  There were some truly quiet moments…

PRECIOUS ACTUALLY…

Otherwise, he stretched my body in ways I didn’t know it could stretch today and he also gave me even more homework to FIGURE OUT what the MAGIC word was to get my hips to RELEASE and LET GO.  He said the word RELEASE doesn’t work for my hips.  He’s even tried others (I had no idea he was doing this I was so focused on what was going on) and they didn’t work either.  Soooo, he’s asked for help in figuring out what the MAGIC WORD is for helping my hips and torso to RELEASE.

MAGIC WORD.

Silly guy.  Felt like I was back to being 6 and an adult asking me, “What’s the Magic Word?”.  The thought crossed my mind that perhaps he should say, “Pretty Please?” and then maybe my mind and my body would finally RELEASE and LET GO…

So yeah.  Good appointment.  Doing OK so far.  Feeling a bit of the walk and a bit more lightheaded as the day goes on.  So I should probably stop writing, finish up my day and get to resting.  Never know what mental and physical symptoms are going to show themselves with these treatments…

Oh and by the way, I get to stay up as long as I want if I keep getting the late night energy that tells me I don’t need to sleep.

SLEEP?  WHO CARES ABOUT SLEEP?

Me in the mornings…

BUT–That’s what my body keeps asking me late at night.  I’m becoming quite the night owl.  I’ve been concerned about this because I need my sleep but when I told him today he was excited that I was starting to get ENERGY BACK.

“Yay!”, he exclaimed as I told him.  “Take advantage of it.  Don’t suppress it.  This is actual ENERGY.  Take the time to do some sit-ups (Ha!), some push-ups (Ha!), some walking around your apartment, some dancing…something.  Find an outlet and some activities to do when this happens.  Your body is resetting it’s cycles and rhythms.  I know you need sleep.  I’m sleep’s biggest advocate.  BUT your body isn’t ready for sleep like that just yet.  At least not at night.  It’s just learning how to be again.  LET IT!  DON’T WORRY.  DON’T PUNISH YOURSELF FOR NOT SLEEPING.  USE IT!  I bet you’re not sleeping well when you have this energy right?”

I told him no.  Definitely not sleeping well.

He responded with an encouragement to use the energy so that I could sleep better and it would be able to even out eventually.

His whole point was that this is like a “RE-START BUTTON”.

My body is RE-STARTING…

RE-STARTING…

Hmm.  Cool.

I’ve been saying off and on over the years that I needed a Jump Start at times.  I guess this is my chance.

And now back to the chanting…

HEEL 2ND TOE.  HEEL 2ND TOE.  HEEL 2ND TOE.

 

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Victory!: Cambria!

We’re home.  We’re back from Cambria, CA!

We had a wonderful, peaceful, soothing, gentle and adventurous time!  It was so good to get away for a couple of days with Corey and spend some time together–just us.  It has been years since we have been able to do that and I am sooooo happy we did it.

WE REALLY DID IT!

My lupus and multiple sclerosis behaved for the most part.  I had some weird symptoms showing up here and there but for the most part I think I felt better because I was so relaxed and distracted.  My walking every day has really helped in the long run when it comes to my ability to walk around and explore new places and my ability to stand for long periods of time.  I do still get store fatigue but I could stand quite a bit and what was interesting was that the sun didn’t bother me too much until the later afternoon.  The temperature was definitely cooler than LA especially at night but even during the day the temperature might have gone to 60.  Glad I was given a chance to be in cooler temperatures because it sounds like LA is going to get hot over this next week or so.  Blech.  But first things first and one day at a time I’ll make it there.

There was a jacuzzi spa jet tub in the room so that helped my body immensely.  I think if I had one of these I could get into every day my MS and lupus would be very happy.  I’d be getting that massage I needed daily.  Oh well.  One day.  I can dream.  We were also able to get massages before we left to drive home which were lovely.  There was a boarded walkway from our hotel, through the trees and towards the beach.  Wow!  What an amazing walk and sunset that was.  I tell ya.  There’s nothing like hearing frogs and ocean waves at the same time.  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that.  And the sunset was magical.

The people there seem happy and are incredibly friendly.  We had a conversation with each local we met.  They were so welcoming.  I think perhaps it may have been partly because the economy has been way down since last November but I also really believe that this is how they are in general.

I have lots and lots of pictures to share with you soon once I get them loaded.  This trip came at THE PERFECT time…as my life is hitting the next turning point…there is no mistake we took this trip when we did.

And to finish, I’ll say that years ago we headed north from LA to San Simeon to see Hearst Castle and that was neat.  Hearst Castle is quite an experience.  What a view from up there.  That night we traveled a bit south to see what was going on in Cambria since it seemed like there was nothing happening in San Simeon.  It was dark and the businesses were only open for a few more hours.  Those few hours made a great impact on our lives and we knew we had to come back someday.  Well that someday came this past weekend and after being there for less than 48 hours I can honestly say it has now made an imprint on my soul.  May sound hokey but I believe it’s true.  Actually, I know it’s true.  What a beautiful, spiritual and peaceful place.

UH OH!  I HAVE BEEN BITTEN BY THE CAMBRIA BUG!

I can think of worse things…can’t you?

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It’s So Hard to Have Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus and…Part 3

…and BE ME…

…and HAVE LIMITS…

I mean, let’s face it.  I’m a hard person to be.  I have goals.  I have ambitions.  I am a Go-Getter.  I am a Type A Personality by Instinct. The first idea in my head is GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!!!

There’s no room for LIMITS…

Hmmmmmmm……

Welllll……

That’s really hard to deal with when I have multiple sclerosis and lupus.  I’m not even mentioning the digestive symptoms and syndromes, food allergies, environmental allergies, any infections that I might be fighting off, the fun womanly once a month irritations, sinus symptoms and issues, my crazy GOGOGOGOGOGOGO head, or even headaches that might come and go here and there.  I mean really.  I don’t get a chance to GOGOGOGOGOGO.  And if I do by chance get back into that habit, I am in TROUBLE and back on my butt FEELING AWFUL FOR SOME REASON…

UGH…

Sure that’s probably a really good thing.  Actually, it’s a blessing that I am grateful for quite often.  I’m grateful that I have to take it slower and actually see my life go by.  I don’t get a chance to be sprint through it.  I get an opportunity to get to know myself (scary sometimes yet really nice to do), to get to know others out there in the world who are cashiers and other customers for example, to smell the flowers, to really take care of my plants, to love on my dearest Cleo Kitty, to sit and just BE (so hard sometimes), to take my time, to look at the sky, to watch the world, to take a few extra breaths and maybe even DEEP BREATHS here and there…

BUT I WANT THE CHOICE to GOOOGOOOOGOOOO…or Do I?

I really have no idea.

I just don’t like having multiple sclerosis and lupus.  That’s just it.  I can’t stand them.  I want them to go away.  If I’m not careful I get sucked into a black hole of “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” and “Why won’t they just leave me alone?” and the list goes on and on…I think I could go on forever in what I call “WHOAISMS” and sometimes I believe I’m allowed to do that.  But I hope I have something to pull me out and I usually do.

So then I need to really work on spirituality whatever that means to me that day.  I could be meditating.  I could be actually letting myself sleep if my body and schedule allows.  I could be looking at the flowers.  I could be beating on my Bongos.  LOVE THAT by the way!  Seriously, if you have anger, I suggest you find something to beat on as long as it’s not yourself, or another living being, or something you’re going to damage—hmm….maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned to find just anything to beat on.  For a long time I’ve used the Hulk Hands that are out in toy stores that Corey has bought me (the first pair really was the best) that actually had Hulk’s voice and yelled, “Hulk Smash!” and would growl so when I put them on I got to laugh and feel big and strong and punch the wall.  I don’t recommend punching a wall without that kind of cushion.  PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHATEVER YOU DO.

But then now I have these Bongos and that’s great but I can’t just jump in and do a long set of banging.  I have to pace myself and only do it a few minutes at a time and build up to longer because then my hands and arms hurt.  Well, that’s just great.

So that’s what I mean, I’m always putting limits on myself and what I can do but in TRUTH: THERE REALLY ACTUALLY ARE LIMITS.  I’d like to continue to be able to use my hands and arms which are the most affected by both my lupus and MS and I’d also like to not feel the pain and throbbing from having overused them…on the bongos that I just enjoyed banging on to help me relax and calm down…

Then there’s the exercise.  Exercise is great to keep me flexible and stable.  Yay.  Go me.  Notice I’m not too excited about it.  Some days it feels like real work and like my body is complaining the ENTIRE TIME.  Then other days my body is thrilled and wants to be stretched and moved even more.  But again, there are actual limits if I want to keep functioning.  It is cumulative.  However, WALKING HAS BECOME MY THING.  I am well on my way to having walked 300 days in a row by the end of February.  AND THERE IS A LIMIT TO THAT.  I need to NOT JUDGE myself about walking and what I did that day.  I need to not push myself to walk an hour every day.  I need to be willing to only even walk a few minutes if that’s all I can do.  The TRUE BENEFIT comes out of keeping my legs and body moving and honestly, it’s helped my mind immensely too.  I have so much more confidence now than I used to in general just because of walking but they have truly loosened up and become more stable, strong and can endure more.  They DON’T complain that often anymore.  And by now it’s become such a habit to take a walk that I can’t imagine my life without it.

But then there’s trying to have a life.  I know.  Crazy.

A LIFE.

You know, that life where I can socialize with people, maybe even have some real friends out here in LA, maybe even keep in touch with the friends and family at a distance, spend more time with my husband, get out into the world and do things besides grocery shopping (although that is important too), and doctor appointments, and medical tests and be on the phone with something regarding Disability, Medical Insurance, following up with doctors, finding an attorney for a legal issue, filling out paperwork and the list goes on.  And what about being creative?  I yearn to be creative but I can’t do too much OR I have to slow down and my body asks for it.  But when will that happen?

WHEN AM I DOING TOO MUCH?  WHEN IS IT WORTH IT TO PUSH IT?  WHERE IS THE LINE?

There is no pattern or predictability.

Again, the worst part about these diseases is the UNPREDICTABILITY.

For goodness sakes, if only they were PREDICTABLE.  What a different world it would be.  I might be able to make plans and keep them.  I might be able to sign up to take regular hobby classes or regular ANYTHINGS.

I mean, let’s not forget it takes me at least 4 hours to get ready in the morning if I’ve included waking up, stretching my body in bed to get it moving again (tends to get stuck and stiff from sleeping if I’ve slept that is), do more stretches to stand up, follow a spiritual way of life (numerous ways to do that and I try to be creative with that), probably go to the bathroom (I know TMI), take a few pills, feed and be with my Cleo Kitty who has health issues of her own and is desperate to eat by 7am or ELSE, try to wake up a bit more before eating and taking more meds, plan out my day, get stuff ready to go if I have a medical appointment and I usually have at least one a week (the next 3 weeks I have 2 each week–goody gumdrops for me), pull myself together meaning exercise to the best of my ability to wake up my body, take a shower which is an event in itself and can take a lot out of me, not to mention brushing my teeth (an electric toothbrush is best so I can save my hands and arms and their energy), get dressed, try to make my hair look presentable (thank goodness for purple short hair so it’s already kinda cool and easy), pet and love my Cleo Kitty who always needs extra love and well so do I, make sure I wear my hat to protect from the sun, wear my sun protective jacket or at least a shirt with longer sleeves, get Cleo ready for me to be gone, make some sort of business calls if I have the chance, try to sit and rest here and there because it’s a lot to ask my body since so much activity has already happened, try to maybe wash the dishes or at least some of them, sort through any weird symptoms I’m having and do my best to take care of them, and the list can still go on.

THAT’S JUST THE MORNING EVENTS…no matter what even if I’m feeling crazy fatigue–I may go back to bed but what if I can’t because I have an appointment?  I’ve gotta get through it.  I’m so exhausted from thinking about my morning and writing about it that I haven’t even written the next parts of the day where I have to keep myself in check and have all my meds sorted out to take and make sure I take them on time and have meals at good times or I end up feeling worse.

And there’s always laundry to be done.  Can I do it today?  Should it wait?  What if we need underwear?  (Hey, I’m being honest).  And what about groceries?  What about the “What abouts”?

What’s the real priority?  There’s always some sort of life that needs to get done and if I let it go it’s still there tomorrow and I have to try to be ok with not getting it done YET.  I’ll admit, that is one of my biggest struggles.  LETTING SOMETHING GO UNTIL TOMORROW…OR ANOTHER DAY…OR ANOTHER DAY…

YET SOME THINGS CAN’T WAIT…

I’VE LEARNED TO LET GO OF A LOT BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN I’M OK WITH IT.

So life just keeps on happening.  I keep having multiple sclerosis and lupus along with all the other syndromes and issues and the world keeps spinning.  Thank goodness for choices but it’s still so hard sometimes.  I really have eased up on so much in my life and with my expectations but it takes a strict way of thinking that I really can’t get lazy with too much (sometimes it’s a wonderful thing but I can’t let go of it too long or I lose myself again and may go back to pushing too hard)…

SO I GUESS I’M STILL LEARNING…

THESE CHRONIC ILLNESSES I TELL YA…

There is just so much I can say about them and so much I don’t have the words or energy to talk about.

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LIFE: ALWAYS IN SESSION (A BLOG POST NOVEL BY NAHLEEN BLAKE)

THIS IS MY 150TH BLOG POST!  Woo hoo!  Go me!  I think part of me was holding off posting this HUGE MIND BLOWING BLOG POST for my 150th because my goodness, it’s my 150th post!  There should be fireworks and you should all be touched FOREVER by all that I have to say. 

OK.  Well, first of all…EGO.  Yes, I have one.  It can get in the way but it helps sometimes…I suppose.  Second of all, WHAT THE HECK?  Fireworks?  Really?  I’m so weird.  I get one compliment from someone and I feel like I don’t deserve it and WOW “they really like me” and my favorite quote that Corey always teases me about, “I’m just being me” as if I’m not good enough for a compliment.  BUT THEN, I want to have words that LIVE ON FOREVER AND EVER?!

Well, no wonder no Blog was coming out.  Conflict and pressure.  Geez!

ANYWAY…

To be honest with you, I don’t know what’s going to come out of these hands as I type.  My head has been all over the place and there has been so much of life happening that I think it almost silenced me.  I know.  HA!  Yeah right!  But it kinda did.  I mean, I had to have a Blog post in order and outlined (not that I ever have…Ahem) before it had to be written.  I had to have a clear head before I wrote it.

Um, it’s the New Year.  Is anyone’s head clear right now?  Is anyone’s head EVER clear?  Really clear?  I mean, like it’s all in order.  I doubt it.

So here I am and this may be a stream of consciousness.

BUT before I go any further, I want to make sure to hit on a few things before I go off on tangents again:

1. HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013!  Turns out the world DID NOT end and we are all still here…I think.  Well as far as I know.

2. WELCOME to all my new followers.  Thank you for helping to encourage me that past posts are worth following.

3. THANK YOU to all of you for joining me on this crazy journey called life and what I like to call, “Life In Nahleen’s Head”…I hope you’re all wearing your seat belts.  My head can get crazy and I’m sharing it with you.

4. TOPIC (at least I think this is what the topic is for this Blog) “LIFE: ALWAYS IN SESSION”.

You know, the first time I heard those words from a very wise person I know, I was beside myself.  How profound that sounded.  How simple that idea is.  Life is always in session.  There’s always something going on.  There are always errands to run, people hurting, happy people, the weather continues to change, and really nothing stays the same does it?

So why is that idea so hard?  Why is it that it’s so hard to accept that life is always happening and changing?  Well, for me it’s that YET AGAIN, I gotta morph to it and be flexible.  Ew.   AND if a new event pops up in my life, that doesn’t mean the rest of life STOPS.  Wouldn’t that be great to be able to stop all of the other stuff, you know like stop time whenever we want and how we see in fantasy/sci-fi movies and they make it look so easy with their special effects, that we STOP everything else so that we can take care of this SPECIFIC thing that’s happening?

But then, if it’s something that’s really hard to deal with, then we have to be ready to deal with it.  So, then when do we stop the rest of what’s going on in our lives?  And hey, maybe we don’t want to stop that other stuff.  Maybe it’s the other stuff that helps to keep us going right?  Or maybe it isn’t. 

But the point is: LIFE IS ALWAYS IN SESSION–DANG IT!

I had to add that extra part because well, it’s how I feel most of the time even if there is more than one good thing going on, well then what comes first?  How do I prioritize?  How do I process it all in my crazy filled head?  Isn’t it already filled to the brim?  How can it take on more?  Should it take on more?  Does it need to be handled right away?  WHAT’S GOING ON?

ACK!

Then I turn into the loveable Tasmanian Devil from those wonderful Looney Tunes cartoons of the past and away I go.  But where do I go?  Usually I’m just spinning in place.  But if I’m spinning, I probably don’t have my feet firmly on the ground now do I?  I probably haven’t paused to breathe. 

AND MY HEAD JUMPS IN RIGHT NOW AND ASKS:  WHAT?  BREATHE?

What’s breathing?  Well, there’s the involuntary breathing that thank goodness our bodies are already programmed to do.  Thank goodness for that huh?  I mean, imagine if we didn’t have that involuntary process.  Hmm.  Oh how different life would be.  Would we make it as humanity?  I don’t know about you, but quite often I find myself forgetting to take those intended deep breaths that help get the oxygen into my body and brain and usually help me to relax and calm down even a teensy tiny bit.  So then I’m sort of I guess holding my breath.  Well that’s not good.  The body needs to be doing both kinds of breathing in order to survive the best way: involuntary and voluntary.

SO WHAT AM I GETTING AT HERE?

Well, somewhere along the way in late October or November (or maybe I had never REALLY found myself even a bit at all) I LOST MYSELF.  Where’d Nahleen go?  I’m sure she was there.  I speak of myself in third person on purpose.  She was out there handling the world the best way she knew how.  The holidays were coming upon us.  Cleo Kitty was going through a bit of a hard time and we had to cancel our little Wedding/Together Anniversary Trip to stay with her.  Wouldn’t have changed that for anything but I think it played a part in things.  (I haven’t had a chance to get away for over a year due to either my health or Cleo’s, both or just life reasons in general and I’m feeling it.)  But then, Cleo got so much better and we nursed her back to health, after bringing her to her wonderful new vet who was ONLY a second opinion vet for her back in February of 2012 because we thought she was dealing with cancer. 

BUT then come to find out a few weeks later with a very different care regimen for Cleo, that she was UNDIAGNOSED with cancer because it had been a year since her DIAGNOSIS OF PROBABLE CANCER (Corey and I had made the decision along with Cleo, NOT to do any invasive testing on her and to just let her be a kitty and keep her comfortable as long as she needed it) and as her new vet told us, she was showing NO SIGNS of these probable cancers and she DEFINITELY WOULD BE BY NOW–and that was in November 2012 I believe.

Well, then how AWESOME WAS THAT?!  A true MIRACLE!  I would love there to be more UNDIAGNOSES FOR ME AND ALL MY LOVED ONES AT THIS POINT.  She does however have a very sensitive immune system like I do (oh the parallels of our health together can get a bit too creepy sometimes if I think about it too much) and probably has asthma, IBD of some sort and probably chronic upper respiratory infections that will affect her off and on so we gotta find balance with that.  BUT STILL!  As Corey put it, there was no DARK LOUDLY TICKING CLOCK (Edgar Allen Poe comes to mind) HOVERING OVER OUR LIVES ABOUT how many days Cleo had left.  Sure, she’s older and has immune issues but her life is wide open.  AND YOU KNOW WHAT?  She’s doing EVEN BETTER now.  It helps to be told you don’t have cancer and to see that your people are even brighter about you now I’m sure.  I believe she’s more youthful than she’s been in a LONG TIME.

So yay about that right?  OF COURSE!  But I think it lifted me off the ground even more and it was hard to trust anything after that.  What was real?  What wasn’t real?

THEN THANKSGIVING HAPPENED.  That was a great day.  It was so nice to be of service to others.  Corey, our friend Aaron and I volunteered at a big event that welcomed ALL to come together as a COMMUNITY and cook, eat, cut hair, make crafts, have a kids carnival in the morning, dance, sing, get free check ups from doctors, get family photos, give away and pick up free clothes and the list goes on and on.  Apparently, the event was an absolute success.  I had the PRIVILEGE of being a VOLUNTEER to sit and eat with people and talk to them.  Well, that’s no problem for me now is it?  To be honest, it was a bit awkward at times.  Usually if it was a family I sat with (I think I sat with at least 4 different families as the event went on) and there were kids, it was the kids who were talking to me, not the adults.  Well, that was fine.  I love kids.  I always have and find them very easy to talk to.

MEANWHILE, as all of this was happening, I was still waiting for Social Security Disability to come through and get their payments to me correctly because it helps to have money but at the same time, I saw all of these people who had so much less and it started to not matter.  At some point along the way, I don’t even remember the day which is AMAZING, they did come through and it looks like the payments are FINALLY coming in right after 2 years of waiting for them to get it right.  Still have a few things to iron out with that but I’m ok.

I DON’T REMEMBER THE EXACT DATE THIS ALL CAME TO A HEAD, (again, Amazing that I don’t have the exact date etched in my head), BUT MY DIGESTIVE SYSTEM STARTED FLIPPING OUT AND I COULDN’T EAT ANYTHING WITHOUT FEELING LIKE MY STOMACH WAS LURCHING AND TRYING TO JUMP OUT OF MY BODY.  I’m convinced that the writers/producers of the movie “Alien” had had digestive problems of some sort because THAT IS WHAT IT FELT LIKE…I couldn’t eat a half piece of toast without feeling like my organs were trying to jump free from my torso.  SOOOO, after being on those HORRIBLE digestive antibiotics for what I’m now finding out was way too long, I found myself in the ER.  I had asked my original Gastroenterologist at the time if I should go and he told me NO.  Well, it’s a good thing I listen to my own body because I called Corey and asked him to come home from work and drive me to the ER.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  It was the day of the huge storm Sandy on the east coast.  I think my timeline is off here but oh well.  Anyway, I remember that because there was a TV in the ER Exam Room I was placed in and I got to be entertained and mortified at the same time (I’m a weather geek but I do have a heart) while I felt so horrible.  They did bunches of tests and gave me some drugs, said they didn’t see a lot but sent me on my way.  I did feel a bit better but I needed more than that.  I found a way to be referred to a second opinion gastroenterologist (was a bit roundabout because my group of doctors pretty much all know each other and are all kinda in it to help each other and I knew I wouldn’t get very far asking my Primary because he’d still stick with what the original Gastroenterologist doctor had said to do and that would’ve gotten me in more trouble) and was able to see this new second opinion specialist almost immediately.  What’s great about going to the ER is that all kinds of tests were done and having been an experienced veteran of the ER experience I was somehow with it enough to ask for all files and records of what had been done so that all of my doctors could get these answers.  So glad I did that.  I brought all the records and results to this second specialist and after a few questions (the right questions I guess) I was able to get a fresh perspective about what might be going on with me.  He is now my current Gastroenterologist.  I won’t go back to the old one.  The old one helped me so much for two years.  I need this new guy.  He’s very calm and calming, he knows exactly how to handle a crazy planning person like me, he keeps me much more present and in the moment, he is very clear about what he knows and with his help I was able to be diagnosed with IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  I’m still currently on a treatment to help get rid of the flare but if you ask me it’s been long enough.  That’s just my head.  Honestly, how cool that this is a medication that I don’t have to be on FOREVER and that my diagnosis wasn’t too hard this time.  He said EVERYTHING I’ve told him of my symptoms and feelings is sooooo common for IBS that he has no doubt.  WHAT???  I have something that was easy to diagnose.  It’s never happened that way before.  Almost felt like something wasn’t right.  With this new doctor’s help I have been feeling much better since.  The flare is not cured just yet and may never be where I want it but with his help, he has GREATLY CHANGED THE QUALITY OF MY LIFE.  I had NO IDEA how much my body was really suffering from this issue flaring up like it was.  NONE.  SO YAY ABOUT THAT.

SO AT SOME POINT THAT FIRST WEEK AFTER THANKSGIVING, a crazy switch went on in my head and I started feeling what I call HOLIDAY AFFECTIVE DISORDER.  Some call it SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER but I use Holiday instead because I start to really feel different and like the decorations have to be up, the gifts have to be bought, I need to bake, will I feel OK to do any special event and the list goes on and on and on.

SO AS MY HEAD STARTED ITS HOLIDAY CRAZINESS, the next thing I know, I FEEL AS IF THE FLOOR AND THE WORLD ARE BEING PULLED OUT FROM UNDER ME…Why you ask?  Well, the Private Long Term Disability Company that I was also getting assistance from, had been doing a two year review of my health and my case.  They bothered all of my doctors yet again with requests for records, files and very vague evaluations.  Oh and I had to fill out my own assessment form too.  My two years is actually not even up until January 29th, 2013 so isn’t that interesting.  BUT on November 21st, 2012 they decided that they would terminate my coverage and not tell me right away.  BECAUSE OF THIS LONG TERM DISABILITY COVERAGE that I had been paying for at my Old Employer for over ten years while I was still actually working, I was able to be covered by THE AWESOME HEALTHCARE PLAN of my Old Employer up to five years as long as this Disability Company said I was Disabled.  NOW THIS WAS NO SURPRISE that they terminated my Disability Coverage.  I had been warned from the beginning by the first Claim Manager I dealt with in that Company that at the two year mark it would be really hard to get coverage.  But see here’s the thing, I ONLY FOUND OUT because I got something really weird in the mail about how much they were paying me in November (it was much less) and no explanation for it.  So ME BEING ME, I called the Claim Manager to inquire about it.  THIS WAS THE LAST WEEK OF NOVEMBER 2012.  She got a bit tense and quiet and said that oh no, the mail must’ve been delayed for some reason and the two items sent in the wrong order or something but that my coverage had been terminated as of NOVEMBER 21ST.  That was the day before Thanksgiving.  I did my best to keep my cool with her on the phone and made sure she explained the Appeal Process but she really didn’t want to do that and then I got off the phone. 

I FREAKED OUT!

Well, of course I did.  First, I find out the hard way that I don’t have their coverage.  Then I KNOW THIS MEANS I’M LOSING REALLY AWESOME AND GREAT HEALTHCARE COVERAGE.  So, I called the Director of Benefits at my Old Employer and told her the situation.  I called her on NOVEMBER 28TH.  She told me she was very upset for me and for her department because this Disability Company had put US ALL in a bind.  WHY YOU ASK?  Well, ignoring the obvious reasons of this all sucked, it meant that my HEALTHCARE COVERAGE WITH MY OLD EMPLOYER WOULD HAVE TO BE TERMINATED BY THE END OF THE MONTH.  Yes, you understand.  NOVEMBER 30TH would be my last day of COVERAGE…

WHAT?!  NOW WHAT?!  FREAKAGE GALORE!  The Director of Benefits apologized to me for this situation, I told her how the Disability Company had handled it and told her some more personal things about what I was going through and she was appalled and said that she’d have to really look at their contract with this Company because there is something very wrong with the whole process…

YES, YES THERE IS…

AND YES I’M GOING TO APPEAL…when I can get myself together.

YOU SEE, here’s the thing.  This is how I know I’m being watched over by something–call it the Universe if you like.  Because Social Security had pulled their business with me together FINALLY, they had decided they would retro-cover me back to December 2010.  After two years of coverage, then I’d be eligible and automatically enrolled in MEDICARE.  So I had already received this stuff from Medicare, was having pride issues of being on Medicare at only 35 and having a hard time accepting it but during this state of panic about healthcare coverage that I can’t afford to live without due to my MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS AND LUPUS (hello, I CAN’T WORK EVEN IF I WANT TO RIGHT NOW–THEY DIDN’T JUST GET CURES AND GO AWAY), I managed to pull out the paperwork and see that I had MEDICARE COVERAGE AS OF DECEMBER 1ST for Parts A and B.  I could choose about Parts C and D.  What’s C?  I’m confused about that one and it’s not important.  What’s D?  Oh well, then funny you should ask.  That’s Prescription Coverage that I can opt into in Medicare if I decide to.

OK.  WELL THEN THAT WOULD’VE BEEN FINE AND DANDY WITH NOTICE…However, I had no notice.  Sure it was so miraculous to put it lightly that my OLD EMPLOYER HEALTHCARE COVERAGE ENDED ON NOVEMBER 30TH AND MY MEDICARE COVERAGE STARTED ON DECEMBER 1ST (no kidding there) but I had just had a conversation with the Director of Benefits at my Old Employer two weeks before (neither of us knowing my Disability Coverage would be terminated) and she told me not to worry about the Prescription Coverage Part D Part of Medicare because I could still get that coverage with the Old Employer Healthcare Coverage and all would be fine and dandy and so much cheaper and less dramatic…

BUT THEN I HAD NO HEALTHCARE COVERAGE BUT MEDICARE…

MORE FREAKAGE…I honestly could not even do ANYTHING about it all for at least a week.  I was COMPLETELY DEFLATED and at the end of my rope.  Well, sure there was rope but it was a very very thin thread and I refused to even pull at it or even grab hold.  I HAD HAD IT!

SO WHAT DID I DO YOU ASK?!  Well, I found myself suddenly making a hair appointment at a new salon that deals with curly hair (had been coloring my own hair purple for eight months at that time and hadn’t had it cut for eight months either and it needed to be taken care of badly), getting two new hair cuts (the first one didn’t fit me at all and well, I hadn’t had the coloring done just yet–only the consultation–so when I came in for the coloring appointment I had a big heart to heart with my stylist/artist about what I really needed to do with my hair for me at that time and she listened, understood and together we collaborated to cut my hair a lot shorter and get the purple I really wanted.), one of which (the final) will apparently be featured in their salon book because this Junior Stylist/Artist was being watched by the Senior Stylist/Artist and LOVED what we came up with and NEEDED TO GET A PICTURE RIGHT AWAY OF IT TO SHOW OFF TO EVERYONE AT THE SALON AND THEIR CLIENTS.  This guy also told me I was a true artist and it was so much more me.  Going through that whole experience is what I think I needed to find some of me at some point.  At least for the holidays.  I needed more oomph and acceptance of me because I felt so scared and defeated.

THEN: I GOT A CRASH COURSE IN MEDICARE–while still infuriated and hurt and disappointed and panicking about coverage.  Calls were made, notes were taken, website was looked at, advice was asked, and then an hour and a half on the phone with a company that may have handled the Prescription Coverage (the lady was so nice and patient) due to my long list of medications and BECAUSE my MS Medication is such a huge dramatic and EXPENSIVE pain in my butt and always has been in my over 10 years of diagnosis (10 years was December 2nd, 2002…so that was going through my mind too) and I’ve always had to jump through hoops to get it even with a PPO…Meanwhile, Corey was going through Open Enrollment for Benefits with his Company and he kept asking me if I wanted to be on his Plan and from what I could see, it looked and seemed to me like it would be more expensive but I guess I didn’t understand what I was looking at because at the last minute before he completed enrollment, he called me from his work and we went over every detail of the coverage if I was part of his plan and we ended up signing me up with his HEALTHCARE PLAN TOO!  SOOOO, AS OF TODAY, JANUARY 8TH, 2013 I still DON’T NEED MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION PLAN PART D yet….PHEW! 

OH AND I’M COVERED BY TWO DIFFERENT PLANS RIGHT NOW: COREY’S HEALTHCARE PLAN AND MEDICARE.  Can’t have asked for better coverage at this point.

BUT BOY WAS THE PROCESS ALL HELL.

OH AND SOMEWHERE IN THERE I started getting an upper respiratory/sinus infection and had to hurry to the doctor and be thrown on antibiotics to try to kill it right away because they don’t want to take any chances with me and my diseases and immune sensitivities so that was NO FUN.  But it made the infection go away and I’m grateful about that.

MEANWHILE, we celebrate Christmas and so Christmas was happening…Oh yeah.  That too.  I was doing pretty well at this point.  My body was handling everything very well.  I’D LIKE TO PUT A SHOUTOUT TO MY BODY AND THANK IT FOR ALL I PUT IT THROUGH FOR OVER A MONTH!  It let me do a lot of holiday things.  I even competed in a Cookie Swap Party and won 1ST PLACE with my special “Nahleen’s Special Snowball Snack Cookies” and was so touched and surprised to have won.  I’ve been making those since I was ten I think, so like twenty-five years…Crazy.  I feel old…But so cool to win.  I don’t think I’ve ever won first place for anything.  And you know what, it was a really nice Christmas.  I missed my loved ones back east big time this year but Corey, Cleo and I pulled off a pretty darn good one.  And things were starting to fall into place…

HOWEVER, THERE’S STILL SO MUCH TO DO with all this Healthcare Change stuff.  Gotta find out how to get my MS Medication (might I add that the Company who handles my MS Medication and the woman assigned to work with me to get it are absolutely WONDERFUL and I swear that woman is an Angel sent to help me–so sweet, so helpful, funny, knows more about my benefits than I do and so on) the right way although they’ve been sending it to me for no charge temporarily while it gets worked out–AMAZING!  I still need to change all my doctors over and let them know about my insurance situation.  I still need to change all my medications over to the new Prescription Plan.  It’s all new.  It’s all Change. 

CHANGE.

THEN NEW YEAR’S CAME AND HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013!  WE MADE IT! I had a great time with a friend watching Corey on Stage after he had been up for a bazillion hours because it was a One Day Play.  The writers had worked on it overnight, the actors and director showed up in the morning and they had to perform a play twice that night at 8pm and 10pm.  It was a crazy, funny play that left us all wondering what really just happened but it was great to take in the New Year with a laugh.  A friend of mine came with me and it was nice not to go alone too. 

MY BODY HUNG ON UNTIL JANUARY 2ND, 2013 and then CRASHED.

I woke up on January 2nd and my whole body felt inflamed.  It was like it was holding on for me as long as it could and when it felt safe, it let go.  I felt like I was on the verge of an MS Attack, a big Lupus Flare, and every symptom I ever felt ever was happening.  And if it didn’t happen that day it’s been making sure to still show itself today, January 8th.  I’m very fortunate to have a body that gives me lots of warning before it attacks.  If I listen to the warning and rest a lot than usually I can avoid any major action like being PUMPED WITH STEROIDS IN THE HOSPITAL FOR 3 DAYS TO TREAT AN MS ATTACK, or who knows what would happen with the LUPUS and how all that would happen.  I am grateful because not everyone with MS or lupus has that “luxury”…

During this past week I’ve been thinking I’ve wanted to FINALLY write my 150th Blog Post Finally and to get it out but it’s been locked in.  I think I’m pulling a bit into my cocoon to protect myself and because I’ve had enough.  I have to lessen the amount of activity I do and everything has really had to come to a halt or what I consider a STOP and RECOVER.  The RECOVERY to me is taking too long of course and the anger has come back up.  I keep thinking about what I “SHOULD BE” doing or what I “HAVE TO BE” doing and that gets me into trouble.

There’s still so much to handle with the Appeal and cleaning up the healthcare mess, and still having less money and with life, like laundry and grocery shopping and paperwork and managing Cleo’s health, and trying to have a life, and not being able to exercise as much and and and and and—I COULD GO ON FOREVER…

BECAUSE: LIFE IS IN SESSION.  IT IS ALWAYS IN SESSION. 

BUT I WANT TO END ON A POSITIVE NOTE:  DESPITE EVERYTHING THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON, I HAVE TAKEN A WALK FOR OVER 250 DAYS AND I KEEP ON WALKING…

GO ME!  GO ME!  GO ME!

So now it’s time for OPERATION: NURTURE NAHLEEN.

What’s that you ask?  Well it really occurred to me yesterday that I’ve learned to LOVE myself quite a bit BUT I’m not nice about it.  I’m not COMPASSIONATE, NURTURING, GENTLE, UNDERSTANDING, CONSIDERATE OR EVEN RESPECTFUL about it.  I tend to be mean about it.  Sure I’ll do what I need to do for rest and I know this is the body I have and I’m learning to LOVE IT but what about LIKING IT.  IT’S ME.  It’s part of who I am.  If it were someone else going through all of this health stuff all the time I’d tell them to be nice to themselves and take it easy, to be gentle and get some rest.  HECK, even if they have sniffles I’m telling them to take care of themselves and I’m so loving about it.  DO I DO THAT WITH ME?!  NO.

SO NOW I WILL FINALLY STOP WRITING AND GET BACK TO:

OPERATION: NURTURE NAHLEEN

It won’t be easy.  It was much easier yesterday than today.  I’ve wanted to rebel today.  But I’m determined to work on it and I know that with practice it will become easier.  That it’s not about perfection but about progress…

***And I really want to thank all of you who have supported me, talked to me, listened to me, loved me, hugged me, smiled at me, accepted me and been there for me this whole time.  No one should have to go through anything ALONE and I was never ALONE nor did I feel ALONE.  We are all in this together and I really felt ALL OF YOU holding me up and together.

THANK YOU.

 

 

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CELEBRATING 175 DAYS OF WALKING!

175 Days in a row of Walking!

Go me go!

I just keep on going and going and going–AND it’s for something healthy for me.

There’s no stopping me now!

6 months is right around the corner.

Hope you all have a great weekend! It’s been a rough long week here so I’m looking forward to it. Have a special outing planned for tomorrow. I hope I feel up to it!

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150 DAYS OF WALKING!

WOW! I have walked every day for 150 days!

AMAZING! I would never have guessed that I could do that before Physical Therapy almost 5 months ago. NEVER. And how does that saying go? “Never say never.”

Hey, if that’s true, I’ll say I’ll never lose the weight I want to lose ever. Do you think that’ll work? So I’ll be losing weight from now on right? Ha! If only. But you never know.

I am so proud of myself. I think it’s really paying off. I make it a point to take a walk. It may be 5 minutes or 30 minutes. It all depends on what I’m doing. It may be outside, inside, a walking dance meditation or I march in place. The point is, I’m doing it. That’s almost 5 months of moving my legs.

How cool is that? I have multiple sclerosis and lupus and I have been walking EVERY DAY now for months. I have walked even during this crazy hot summer, through hard times, better times, illnesses and you name it. I have WALKED.

One day at a time!

And I don’t plan on taking a day off from walking any day soon…

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WALKING AND WALKING AND WALKING

That’s me. I’m a walker.

I feel blessed to have two functioning legs that let me walk and will hopefully continue to do so.

AND thanks to Physical Therapy, a past of walking as a hobby, my journey of self care and my stubbornness:

I HAVE WALKED EVERY DAY FOR 125 DAYS!

Crazy. Can’t even believe it! I couldn’t have done it in the past. I definitely can’t plan to walk anymore days than this because when I PLAN it’s suddenly too hard and overwhelming. I would put sooooo much pressure on myself to do it and it wouldn’t happen. I also can’t tell myself how long I have to walk OR that I can only walk outside.

The trick is to take it one step at a time, one day at a time. I have walked EVEN when it’s been hot, sunny, I’ve been sick with infections, I’ve felt crappy–you name it. I still walk. I have to be creative too. I have a walking video I use inside my home. I have a walk that I do around the apartment (boy does that get old but it gets the job done). I have a walking/dancing meditation I do especially when I need to get frustration and extra pent up energy out. When I’m out at doctor appointments, I’ll make sure to take a walk around that area and around a block or two; or to a lunch spot. And of course I still take walks outside anyway. But I gotta change it up.

I WALK.

And my legs thank me for it. My body feels stronger. I’m able to stand in one place for longer periods of time. I’m able to get out a bit more and live my life. Those far away parking spaces don’t seem as far away anymore. The walk through the grocery store isn’t so tiring.

By taking off the pressure I am able to keep going. It’s not always so easy to take off the pressure and have expectations. I find I do EXPECT to walk every day and there have been a few days I’ve heavily considered taking a break and I get upset that I might miss a day. BUT then I find myself walking.

How many more days in a row can I keep on walking?

I’ll letcha know. For now I’m thrilled that I’ve made it over 4 months–

WALKING AND WALKING AND WALKING…

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101

GO ME GO!

I HAVE WALKED 101 DAYS IN A ROW!

That’s so cool. Thank goodness I had a Physical Therapist a couple of months ago who I really clicked with. She encouraged me to “Keep On Keepin’ On” no matter what. She told me the most important advice she could give me is to walk–even just a little bit–every day. Yes, EVERY DAY.

She pointed out that with lupus and multiple sclerosis WALKING is the BEST thing I can do for me. Even just a few minutes every day will help. The point is the repetition with my muscles and with my body in general. Pretty soon my mind and body will be programmed to make it a habit and it will all work out. Otherwise, the muscles are encouraged to stiffen up and in turn I will not have the flexibility, strength, stamina or endurance and it will continue that way. She understood both illnesses well enough to tell me that she knew there were days I felt like walking WAS NOT A GOOD IDEA. It kinda did feel like she was reading my mind. Perhaps I’m too tired or have too much going on or my legs just hurt so the red flag goes off in my head that I BETTER NOT WALK TODAY AND JUST LET MY LEGS REST. BUT the point is to WALK.

She also made it a point not to bite off more than I could chew right away–that it was really okay to ease myself into it and to even do a few minutes if that’s all I could do. There was no need to push too hard or walk for an hour every day or to walk too much all at once. It’s cumulative. The body will remember, the muscles and nerves will remember. Sure it might be hard at first to mentally be committed and my legs might yell at me for using them “too much” but to keep at it. Take it easy. WALK. No judging of myself.

WALK.

So while I was still in treatment with her I attempted this idea called “WALK”. Sure I did too much at first and walked too much and wore myself out. Of course I did. I’m me. She pointed out that as humans we are all programmed to think we have to take it all on. She’s worked with pretty healthy people too who also bite off jump in right away and wonder why they can’t walk the next day or a week later.

ONE STEP AT A TIME.

So that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s worked. And I can say that it has finally clicked in. I’ve heard over the years that someone with MS (specifically) should try to exercise every day and do something–whatever that is–and that walking was a great idea.

IF I CAN WALK AND HAVE THAT PRIVILEGE THEN TO WALK IS A PRIORITY…

I do have to change it up a bit. I have a fitness walking video I use at a home, sometimes I do a dance walk type thing–hey maybe I can patent it is the Nahleen Dance Walk, I walk around the apartment (so boring but gets the job done), I walk outside, I walk where I have errands, I walk the mall, I walk a park, I walk in a museum, I walk before or after a doctor appointment.

By now I know you get the point.

I WALK.

And the payoff is really great. Not only do I know I benefit from stretching every day (been doing this for years–thank goodness), BUT now I walk every day. I have always loved to walk outside. It helps to relax me to see nature with the sky and flowers and birds–you name it. There’s even some fresh air to breathe. It’s lovely. So this is all really good for me to add it to my daily routine. I’ve noticed my legs ache and are less stiff, my joints don’t hurt as much, my legs are stronger, I have more endurance and can walk more distances and a lot of times it’s not my legs that bother me much–it’s the rest of my body.

I’m so so glad I listened to this very special woman. She has really changed my life.

ONE STEP, ONE WALK AT A TIME…

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