Category Archives: Guest Posts

D is for Disabled

This week I’m going to step back from my role as the voice of this blog. My goal as a writer has always been to inform, inspire, and to give others a chance to tell their stories. So this week, blogger and Fibro warrior Tammie Birdwell will be your voice. I met Tammie through my husband and have been corresponding with her for a few weeks. Even though she has Fibromyalgia and not RA, I asked her to write a post for me because we share the common bond of the autoimmune disease. While I am fortunate enough to not be totally disabled, I understand all too well the struggle she describes below. So now, I’m going to pass the mic to her. I hope you enjoy her entry as much as I did.

 

I have been remiss in my writing lately.  I attend school and it has been really tough lately.  I keep telling myself it’s because the classes are more difficult (which is true) but I also know that my thinking and logic are pretty broken.  For the new people reading this; know that I write from my Fibromyalgia brain.  The sentences might run on, or not.  I may use the wrong word or seem really random.  I write for folks with Fibro so I write FOR them by not trying to have perfect structure or grammar. I type what is in my brain and that seems to work.  I want to reach a large audience and I know how difficult it is for me to read long paragraphs. I very much want to get the the point, eventually.

Today I am talking about flare ups and disability.  <— there, a thesis.  Yes, I also try for the occasional giggle.

I am writing this today for two audiences.  I am teaming up with Alyssa Pierce, a new friend that has RA.  Fibro warriors have a lot in common with people that have RA.  Hell, we have a lot in common with anyone who is in pain all the time.  No one else can understand and for that I am glad, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

Now, I also like to keep my paragraphs short and to the point, this is a Fibro thing.  So once again, structure suffers a little bit, but I want everyone who reads this to find it easy and informative read.  I wanted to start this post with some information about Fibromyalgia flares.  I know that warriors with RA also flare up.  What I don’t know is if it is like our flare ups, or if it is different.

See, last week I was having a huge flare.  I was miserable and I couldn’t think in a sentence, let alone speak in sentences.  That one is what I call my thinking flare, it is usually accompanied by some burning on my skin and a feeling like my hair is growing.

I have another flare up and this is the one I call my physical flare.  This is what I am suffering right now, since yesterday.  It took me several tries to get out of bed.  My hands feel like they are going to blow up at any second.  My head feels the same, my vision is blurry, and I am working up the energy to take a badly needed shower because, yes, I put them off because they make me so tired.

It sucks so bad to get out of bed when it hurts to move.  However, a bit of advice?  I learned that staying in bed unless I am sleeping or getting lucky is not a good idea, no matter how badly you want to stay. It is called sleep hygiene and you have to force yourself to stay out of bed.  It sounds like torture but it is not.  It takes a while, and some nights I don’t even try, but it does really work.  I break the rules at times and take a nap but only if I am falling asleep where I stand, which brings me to the third type of flare.

This flare up is so intense in involves every muscle, nerve ending, ache, pain, and a feeling like your skin is on fire.  Those flares are so intense the only thing to do is lay down, you are not capable of anything else.  Which brings me to my next topic…  disability.

I belong to a lot of groups on Facebook and every single day I see people getting really excited because they have been given disability [benefits].  I am happy for them, but I thought that I could do this.  I thought that I could accomplish something.  I wasn’t wrong, but I am disabled.

I was a heroin addict 15 years ago for about three months.  Luckily I stayed off opiates easily after that, even with Fibro.  However, I had to come out to my mom and everyone else I loved.  I had to say, “I am a heroin addict”.  I thought those would be the worst thing I would ever have to admit about myself out loud.  I was so very wrong.

Having to say yes, I am disabled, I need help.  I need some income. That was the hardest thing I have ever admitted. Saying  “I am disabled” still makes my stomach hurt.  My family has suffered greatly because I am no longer able to work.  It took 4 years to get a diagnosis.  I know that I will get disability this time.  My heart is broken.  I was a dancer, a ballerina.  I was a cheerleader in high school.  Now I can barely get into the bleachers to watch my son be the drum major.

It is interesting; on my paperwork for disability they asked me where I hurt.  I laughed and laughed.  Everywhere, I answered.  Then it asked me several more times, in different ways, and every single answer was everywhere and always.  So, I even got to laugh a bit while I was filling it out.  Knowing though, owning, the title of disabled is a crushing blow.  I know that I am.  I knew that I was a drug addict.  This does not make it easier to say.

I used to work at the PA Renaissance faire putting women into corsets.  I loved it.  I loved making women beautiful.  I also had to quit there.  I want to go and see all my friends that still work there and I am wondering if one can rent a HoverRound.  I couldn’t even make it to the front gate without needing to rest.

These things could all bring me down.  These things could all make me want to quit, to give up. However, these things only make me want to work harder.  No one, and I mean NO ONE and NOTHING, can change the way that I live, but I am the only one in charge of my brain.

I choose happiness over misery.  I choose to laugh when I know I need to.  I choose life, no matter that I have to crawl sometimes.  I choose to live my best life.  I also choose to be happy.  You have the power, in your brain, to control your own destiny.  It isn’t gone, nothing important is gone.  It’s simply different and we just have to learn to love ourselves when our settings are on “different”.

It is so damn hard to try and explain what it is like when your brain and mouth refuse to work together.  I have worked for years to make my sons and my husband understand.  They finally do.  Want to know how I made that miracle happen?  I stopped trying to explain myself.

I didn’t hide anything (except the pain, we all do that) I just existed.  I stopped trying to make them understand and I started to live my best life in a whole new way.  I interacted with them and if I struggled to find words, I didn’t explain, I just make up words.  They will eventually learn your language. This new method, the one where we exist and let them watch, works.  It takes a lot of patience and a long time, but you will get there.  If I can do it anyone can.

For my words, when I lose them, conversation goes something like this :”Are we going to the field thingy to watch Rudolpho Hans play running ball?”  Which translates to, “Are we going to the stadium to watch the Saints play football?”  I know that first one was mostly inane gibberish.  However, I got A sentence out.  They will start to learn your language, I promise.

This just happened…  an example of my speech issues: in a text to my husband, “Except smokes.  The shenanigans cigs.  No… Monrovia..  dammit.. Morgan…  Fuck it.  Those cheap ones” That was my text to my husband.

I know that I should quit…  that isn’t why I shared this.  I shared this because it is real life..  My life…  Maybe yours too.  The cigs are Mavericks, I finally thought of it.  I really have to laugh..  this is funny.  I should write children’s books, I am excellent at coming up with fun, meaningless, quirky words.  They are easier than regular language most people use to communicate.

Warriors and new friends with RA, it has been a pleasure to write some words for you all, maybe I can help a couple people.  Remember, always, LIVE, LOVE, and FIGHT.  We got this.

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Guest Blogging- RheumatoidArthritis.com

A few months ago, I received an email from the people behind RheumatoidArthritis.com asking me if I’d like to be a guest blogger. They apparently found this lovely little blog and liked what they saw. So, I did it. This is the story that went live earlier this week.

I’m truly humbled. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a blog about my achy joints would become anything more than a place where I could post my grievances. Yet I’m constantly getting comments and emails from readers telling me how much my posts have been helping them (I know I’ve said this before. It just still hasn’t fully sunk in).

Anyway, let me know what you think about my guest post. I’m going to go enjoy the rest of my holiday break now.


In This Together: The Bond Found in Chronic Illness

This blog has become a far greater project than I ever thought possible. I began writing here during a very difficult point in my life. I’ve written about my ups and downs, successes and failures, and general musings about life with the honest belief that no one would ever care to read what I had to say, but that I had to try to reach out to others anyway.

Then I started receiving emails from people telling me how much I’ve affected them with my writing. What many of them don’t realize is that their emails affect me too, and the last such email I received is the reason for this post.

Cameron first emailed me back in late August and shared his wife Heather’s story with me. Heather is a Mesothelioma survivor, which I’ve since learned is a rare title to have. She was diagnosed just months after giving birth to their daughter, Lilly. Cameron and Heather have a mission similar to mine: spread awareness about a seriously misunderstood disease.

Heather and I have very different diseases, but there is still a sense of solidarity. Much of the advice Heather gives to those with cancer is helpful for those with RA. So today, on Mesothelioma Awareness Day, I wanted to show my support of Heather and everyone else battling Mesothelioma by giving her (and Cameron!) a voice in this community.

 

A: I guess we’ll start with the obvious: What is Mesothelioma?

H: Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the organs. There are three main types: Pleural, which is the lining of the lung, peritoneal, which is the lining of the abdomen, and pericardial, which is the lining of the heart.

A: Did you know something was wrong long before being diagnosed?

When I had Lily, 3 1/2 months prior to my diagnosis, they told me when I was in the hospital that I was anemic.. this was the first clue something was amiss, however, just having had a c- section, it didn’t seem like a big deal.. they told me to just be aware and perhaps eat more red meat. Then a couple of months later is when I knew it was more than just post partum symptoms. I was tired all the time, and extremely short of breath.. this is what made me go to the doctor.

A: I can only imagine how terrifying a cancer diagnosis is. How did you cope with all of the emotions you most likely felt after your diagnosis?


H: After the shock wore off,  I guess I would say a quiet determination set in. I had a tentative treatment plan laid out before me, and I just concentrated on getting through one day at a time. I took a leave of absence from my job, so I could spend as much time with my daughter as possible. I sought out my pastor, and went to him for prayer once a week, as well as keeping busy. I didn’t let my mind go to the negative.. I would beat this.. I had to.

A: Lots of people want to know how they can best support their ill spouse. Was there anything in particular that Cameron did for you that helped make the treatment process easier?

H: At first he was so angry.. it was hard.. we weren’t really talking much about it because he would just get so mad. Then all of the sudden, he made a turn around and he was my rock. I’m fiercely independent, and like to have control over certain things, and at a time when everything else was so out of control, I had to the over the travel arrangements and appointments. He let me do what I needed to do. He didn’t try to take over, he didn’t treat me like I was helpless or useless, quite the opposite, he stood by me, and encouraged me. He kicked me in the butt when I started getting down, he kept me smiling and laughing..And as far as parenting Lily, he was such an amazing help.. I don’t know how I would have done this without him.

A: Cameron, how did you cope with your wife’s cancer and your new role as her caregiver?

C: I was so angry. I have to say I didn’t handle her diagnose very well.  This is not what I signed up for when I got married and wanted to be a dad. I was faced with the possibility of raising Lily alone, and I was not ready. Once the anger subsided, and I realized people really wanted to help,I did everything I could to make this easier on Heather.

A: When I was initially diagnosed with RA, I turned to my writing in order to find strength. What was your outlet?

H: I felt like such crap for a year, that it took all I had just to be a mom. I didn’t really have or need an outlet. I simply didn’t have the energy for it. As time went on, and  started feeling better, I did a lot of things with my daughter.. just lately has writing become something I use, as well as drawing.

A: One thing I realized right away is that the RA community is very tight-knit. In a matter of a few clicks, I was able to connect with thousands of people just like me with a ton of tips and information. Did Mesothelioma patients have this kind of support system before you launched your blog and website?

H: When I was first diagnosed,  I felt utterly alone and disconnected.. No one had heard of mesothelioma, and when I did finally meet people who had it, they were much older men.. It took 4 years for me to connect with the meso community through the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (www.curemeso.org) I went to their annual symposium, and met other survivors.. WOMEN survivors, my age! It was like a whole new world opened up to me.  I knew I had a lot to give and that is why I started the blog.. I didn’t want someone newly diagnosed feeling like I did..I want to communicate with people and connect them to all the resources available.  They can connect and find my story at www.mesothelioma.com/heather

A: If you could only give one piece of advice to someone battling an incurable/chronic illness, what would it be?

H: Find a specialist. Don’t be satisfied with what your family doctor says. Had I listened, I would not be here today.  Finding someone who knows your illness and knows what to look for makes all the difference in the world.


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