Tag Archives: scleroderma

WE ARE THE DREAMERS

I remember the exact moment I realized I had matured into a responsible adult. It was the day something didn’t go the way I wanted it to and instead of saying, “why is this happening to me”, I thought, “what did I do to create this outcome”. Somehow, life became easier after this revelation!

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle in my life I did not create and I can not fix. Scleroderma is the beast I can not outsmart or outrun. It’s there, it’ll always be there. Every once in a while, I just want to curl up in a ball and shut out the entire world. But then I get discouraged and angry that I’m wasting precious time. The older I get, the more I realize how every minute matters. I don’t want to curl up in a ball, close my eyes and wake up having missed years of my life.

The lesson I’ve learned from being chronically ill is that everything matters. My lust for normalcy is insatiable. I want to get up, shower, drink coffee, whine about going to work, drive to work while bitching about traffic, survive my day to come home, make dinner and whine about doing it all again tomorrow. But my reality leaves no time for normal things.

On top of the desire to find balance in a world made for the healthy, I also want to do everything, see everything, meet everyone, and I want to experience all of the goodness in the world. Again, my reality leaves little time for all of these things. I can not tell you how many people have told me to “just do it”, go on that trip, and do all the things my heart is set on, while I still can. But I’m here to tell you that not everyone has the financial means or the health to be that person on TikTok traveling the world crossing things off their bucket list. I’m not hating, I say do all the things if you have the means. It’s just not possible for a majority of the disabled community. Whether it be a physical or mental disability, we live day by day with constantly changing medical needs and paycheck to paycheck trying to pay for those needs. We barely have time to write a bucket list, never-mind live it!

The other side of this is the people who, with negative intentions, have told me to shrink my dreams, to accept I’ll never have a normal life and move on, to adjust my life plans, and to just give in to my new reality. I’ve even had people tell me to just stop fighting the inevitable. What the…This one is probably the most painful and infuriating. When someone says this, I hear, “You’re inconveniencing my life and I need you to just be a good little patient”.

If you get nothing else from this blog, please read this and burn it in your brain. When we dream it’s with some semblance that these things are possible. Hope gets us through our darkest days. It drives us to push & never give up. Possibilities, goals, small triumphs, and even the hard work it takes to see a dream come true, are all burned as fuel to carry on. We savor the thought that the pain may end, that tomorrow will be better, that a cure may be found, and that our dreams will come true. Please don’t take that from us.

Yes, having a permanent and incurable illness means you will have to learn to navigate all the changes and hindrances that come with the diagnosis. But it does not leave a person less intelligent, damaged, incapable, irrelevant, unable to make their own choices, less worthy of friendship or love, and they, sure as hell, are not weak. An illness doesn’t make someone less of a friend. It doesn’t make them less fun or leave them not needing fun & excitement in their life. It doesn’t make them a burden, and it is not a free pass to steal their passions, hopes, and dreams.

I will not climb into my bed and be a good little patient. Sorry if this inconveniences some people & makes “their” life more difficult. But we all have the choice to be in someone’s life or not and love should be unconditional. If you see me as a burden, find a better patient, it’s not me. Unless you have a degree and can put Dr. before your name, I am not your patient. Do not cast shade on my hope. It would be better if you just walked away. It would be your loss. Because I am a fierce & loyal friend and you will never find a more welcoming & loving group than my circle.

Lucky for me, I’m a stubborn bitch who loves learning, life & people. I will not cower, I will not succumb, I will not have my life stolen by Scleroderma. Even on a bad day, I will accomplish something. Sometimes it’s a huge thing & sometimes it’s small. But to me it’s everything. I’ll continue to visit loved ones, make people smile, create, talk, study, practice, help others, make new friends, dream, hope, love, laugh, and fight until I take my last breath. I will not let the lack of money, resources, or bad health keep me from dreaming about doing all the things I want to do in this world. Will I do it all? Probably not. Will I die trying? Absolutely! 

Here’s to the warriors and all who know your worth and willingly step out into the world and share your journey. Keep hoping, fighting, surviving, and thriving, for we are the dreamers & we will not let anyone take that from us.

I CHOOSE

My body has spent the last 2 decades trying to break me. Every day it takes something else away. I didn’t think there was much left to take away. I was wrong.

My job is to stay alive until the medicine & research catch up.

I put in a lot of effort to live. I know that sounds foreign to anyone healthy, but it’s true. Every day with a chronic illness is spent staying alive. My body throws one obstacle after another in my path. In November, I learned that it will take multiple procedures to save my teeth & jaw. It’s been difficult to process this & gather the strength to face it head-on. Then Covid hit me like the sky was falling. I was so sick and my first oral surgery had to be canceled.

At the same time, my meds & treatments caught up to me & I started losing my hair. Within a very short time, we had to cut it, & eventually shave it completely. I know it’ll grow back, but damn, enough is enough. It’s not vanity that leads someone to the breaking point when they lose their hair. It’s another choice stolen, by illness. It may seem silly but yes, losing the ability to choose your hairstyle is a big deal. I was still very sick at this point, with Covid & we ended up postponing our holiday festivities. Losing my hair at the same time was extra cruel. It was one more kick in the gut from an ugly disease. 

A few days later, my quarantine ended and I went for my routine labs. My rheumatologist called later in the day, to tell me that I needed to stop one of my medications immediately. I was on the verge of liver failure. What are the chances that out of all my medications & treatments, I’d need to stop the one medication that made a huge difference in my quality of life? I reluctantly stopped it after speaking to my doctor. In just a few weeks, I’ve noticed negative changes in my body. I’m hoping my labs improve and I can resume the medication soon. 

So here I am my teeth & jaw at risk, with a bald head, and on the verge of liver failure, still trying to schedule time with family for Christmas. Yet, I am still not letting my physical problems terrorize my peace. I was feeling pretty positive earlier this week when I went for my normal urology tests and follow-up. Easy peasy routine visit. I should’ve known better. If you follow my blog you know that my urologist has wanted to put in a permanent catheter port for my bladder. I fought it as long as I could. Last year I agreed to do it, but I never scheduled the surgery. Now I have no choice it has to be done soon. I will have my mic-key port in my stomach & now I’ll have a catheter port in my bladder. Having one of these ports is difficult, but two ports on top of everything else is overwhelming.

I’m not sure how anyone else would handle all of this, but it pisses me off. I refuse to give in to my body. Unfortunately, my body continues to fight back. One would think this would break me, but they’d be wrong. I get frustrated and angry, then I fight even harder. I refuse to feel defeated. I get one damn life, this is it, I have to live with what I’ve been given! When you’re living with an incurable disease your only goal is to stop progression & maintain your quality of life. Just because your disease can’t be cured doesn’t mean you can’t live a full life. I focus on the things I love, the joy in the world & the positive possibilities of what the future might bring. I want a long happy life just like everyone else. None of us know when death will take us. That is a fact we all live with until our last breath.

I’m nothing special. I don’t do all these things because I’m strong or courageous. I do these things because I HAVE NO CHOICE. I do them or I die. I’m not alone in this lifestyle. It is with mixed emotions I watch several people close to me go through similar trials. It’s heartbreaking to know they’re suffering, but there’s something comforting in knowing I’m not alone. Someone else gets “it”. 

If you’re in a health battle my advice is to build your team, your circle, your tribe whatever you choose to call it, a strong support system is imperative. I’m so grateful to have family, friends & a medical team who are there working side by side with me. They carry me when I haven’t the energy, they push me when I’m unsure I can give anymore, & they let me be when I need time to process all of it, they are never out of reach. My tribe doesn’t judge me, I can laugh or cry and they’ll be there. They aren’t afraid to give me a kick in the ass when I need a reality check or if my pity party has gone on too long. 

I know my body will continue to fight me with every minute of my life. It better be prepared because I do not back down, I do not give up & no matter how many battles I lose, I will continue to fight. I will fight for every minute I can get. I’m always saying, I’m going to live to be 124yo. Stay tuned to see how close I get 😉

Despite it all, I refuse to bow out, give in, or become miserable. As my good friend TC says, “I choose awesome!”

I choose to be happy. I choose to survive.

I choose!

THEN IT HIT OUR HOUSE

I challenged myself during the Mental Health Campaign to being more honest about my health journey. I’m holding myself to this commitment.

I love the holidays. It’s the perfect time to share smiles and lift others when life is weighing heavy on them. A chance to end the year with love & hope. I’m that person who decorates right after Thanksgiving. I send out hundreds of Christmas cards. I make dozens of random personal gifts for those who make my life better, in ways they may not even comprehend. I hide gifts around town & make baskets for the fire department, town hall, post office & animal shelter, to lift our communities spirit & say thank you. I pay attention all year & try to make or purchase gifts I know people want or need. But this year is kicking my ass & although I managed to get a few things done, it’s taking all I have. Every day I get slower & struggle more to get simple things completed. Christmas will look much different this year.

It’s the little victories that make me smile.

I’ve been going through it with my Scleroderma for the last few months. It’s raging again & it’s been difficult emotionally & physically. I’m undergoing treatments that come with side effects that amplify all of the negatives that come with a chronic illness. My jaw is destabilizing again and my teeth will take a lot of work to save. I’m losing my hair from the treatments & will soon have to just shave it off. The worst is knowing my brain fog has made me forgetful & I know I’ve let people down. It’s been damn hard. It wouldn’t be half as bad if my husband wasn’t battling health issues this year, as well. His doctors don’t want him working. They tell us he’s risking major damage to his body, and that one wrong move could be catastrophic. So we are sitting in a holding pattern financially. We sit at the mercy of his doctors deciding what surgery is next. He’s doing what he can to work, despite the warnings. Bills don’t care if you’re unhealthy.

Not everyone can afford to be sick.
That is just reality in America.

It’s one thing to be chronically ill & another thing to add in financial struggles. It’s astronomical the cost of survival. I’ve said it again & again, it does not matter how much you make, save or plan, we are all one illness away from financial disaster. On top of it all, this is one of the worst years for everyone financially. Heating, electricity, food, fuel, everything is more expensive right now & increasing regularly. Despite the negatives, we are fighting to have a great holiday & to share it with all we care about. Then it hit our house, Covid.

David tested positive first and was put on Covid meds the same day. We have to be aware and cautious of any lung or breathing issues with him. For those who don’t know he had lung cancer & a bacterial infection that resulted in the partial removal of one of his lungs. Both of his lungs have damage and it would be hard for his body to fight Covid if it settles in his lungs. I believe the meds are helping control his symptoms. He seems to be in a holding pattern, with no changes for the worse or better. He’s still battling but he’s remaining stable.

I tested positive late Friday night. Leave it to me to find out on the weekend and while there’s a major storm hitting us. I managed to get a hold of my doctor’s on-call service Saturday morning. It took hours and numerous calls back and forth between me, my PCP office, my doctor’s offices in Boston & the pharmacist. Finally, they had a plan. They called in some medications, changed the dosage on a few of my medications & held some of my regular medications. It was a whole process but I started the Covid meds Saturday night. I’m miserable. I’m trying to get up and move around as much as possible. It’s been a cycle of getting up and doing one or two small tasks & then I have to lie down again. My pain is maxed out & making it difficult to do the simplest things. I have slept more in the last few days than I have in decades. My normal nausea is increased, I’m experiencing excruciating muscle cramps & I feel like I have the worst cold, I’ve ever experienced. I’m hoping today improves with the medication. The doctors warned me that the side effects may be difficult and I may need to stop the medication.

I don’t know if Covid is ready.

Still, I carry on. Friday I did get some random gifts sent out to thank people who make me smile & I know don’t always get the appreciation they deserve. It took me all day yesterday, but I did get our tiny 4’ tree up & decorated. Today I will try and work on some gifts. It’s not looking like we will be having Christmas with our families on Christmas Eve as we planned. We realize we can not financially buy gifts right now, but we will make some amazing personalized gifts & bake some family favorites as soon as we test negative. We will not skip Christmas, just delay it if necessary to keep us all safe and strong.

I’m stubborn and refuse to change how I feel about the holidays and how I reflect on the end of another year. As usual, I will use my energy to make others smile. That will fuel my healing until I can find my smile again. So although we won’t be able to do all the things we normally do this time of year, we will still create a magical Christmas.

Today I may feel awful physically & under stress trying to figure out how we will pay for basic expenses & my treatments. But I continue to look forward to a healthier & prosperous New Year for everyone. I pray that Covid will not continue to be such a destructive force in the world. I will work hard to improve myself so I can bless others. I will continue to send smile mail & volunteer when I can. I will give freely my time & energy to those I care about & those who make me smile. Although I may be down hard right now, I choose to believe this too shall pass.

Happy holidays to all, for whatever holidays you celebrate. If you choose not to celebrate then happy end of the year! Be kind to yourself & others. In the worst of times there is always hope, love hard, & pray harder. I am so grateful for you & I love you ❤️

JUST DON’T

It’s that moment in a social situation when things get awkward. When the person you’re talking to starts squirming & fumbling for words. They are struggling to keep the conversation going. That moment when people are at a loss for words. I realize my illness, my pain, my wheelchair & dozens of other chronic illness-related issues, I live with make “them” uncomfortable. If I’m being honest, saying the wrong thing happens a lot.

These are innocent, benign comments from people with no malicious intent. Many times they think it’s funny and yet they’re completely serious. Sometimes I can shrug it off or laugh it off. Other times, my bitch switch is flipped and it’s on. I’m ready to completely obliterate someone in anger and frustration. Faster than you would think, anger turns to frustration, and frustration turns to pain. Before you know it, I’m launching headfirst into the abyss that leads me down the dark road to depression.

“You’re so lucky you don’t have to work.”

“I wish I could stay home all day, like you.”

When you want to say it, just don’t.

I hear this often. Each time my mind’s eye suddenly sees my day in what it perceives, they think I do all day. There I am on a lavish sofa, the sun gleaming through the windows, making me appear like a starlet under the glow of the spotlight. I have snacks to the left of me, a controller to my right, and I’m snug in the middle with… Netflix. My dogs are at the table playing poker with their friends. My house is a magical place where dirt evaporates and items walk themselves back to where they belong. Once in a while, I glance up from the TV long enough to see my dishes take a bath and dry themselves with my self-cleaning dishcloths. All I do is think about dinner and bam! There it is, ready to serve itself when the time is right. The washing machine collects dirty laundry and bedding, proceeds to wash, dry, put it away, and make my bed. I’m like 5 episodes into my binge-watching by now. This fantasy vision is short-lived, and my brain brings me back to reality.

What they don’t think about is the fact that you can’t work because you can’t function. Your day is consumed with effort through pain, fatigue, and brain fog. There are meds to take, scripts to fill, doctor’s appointments, organizing all of this, and dozens of other equally not-fun medically related things that need to be done. They have not had to consider the implications of being unable to work for an extended period. How do you pay for your bills and healthcare, the isolation, your lack of relevancy in the world, and a multitude of other equally reasonable questions that rattle in your brain, echoing throughout your life?

I don’t work in a regular, scheduled, leave-my-home capacity because I’m unable to. I have physical limitations. I would give anything to be healthy enough to go back to work. I’m not on vacation.

The truth is, when you’re chronically ill, you spend most days just trying to stay alive. Prioritizing what has to get done & figuring out which filth you can live with for today. Because it’s not all getting cleaned. By the time most people arrive at work, your body has already begun to retaliate, to get you to retreat to your bed.

A lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that when someone living with a debilitating chronic illness shares their time with me, I must be very important to them. I know what sacrifices were made for them to give me space in their lives. Don’t depreciate their value. Appreciate every minute they give to you.

TAKE INVENTORY

I may be an enigma. If I am, I’m ok with being odd-woman out.

I do not play with drama. I will not listen to gossip. When it comes to love I’m all in. My integrity means more to me than anything. My reputation is so far down on the list of things that matter. Giving first is a compulsion. I trust until given a reason not to. I’m not afraid of confrontation. As a friend, I’m all in. I choose kindness, honesty, love, & peace.

I have a few sayings that if you know me, you’ve heard.

~“Don’t waste your minutes.” Life is short we are only given so many minutes, don’t waste them.

~“Make good choices.” We all have choices. Don’t let anyone make them for you. Remember all choices come with consequences so put thought into them. Once you’ve made a choice, own it. If it was the wrong choice, learn from it, make amends, & move on.

~“Protect your peace.” Set strong boundaries. Do not bend them for anyone. Personal peace is as vital as breathing when it comes to quality of life.

I don’t try to fix people or their problems. I support them, love them, but allow them the space to fall. All of life’s stumbles teach us how to be better. I won’t take the chances to learn away from others & I do not let them take them from me. I’ll handle my business & be grateful for loved ones support.

This time of year we all start taking inventory of our lives. Checking in with ourselves, what we like, what needs work, what we can leave behind, what we need moving forward, etc… We seek out & celebrate our blessings, reminisce about those we’ve lost, & make an effort to express our gratitude to those still here. I always try and do this all year. But life is busy & messy. I’m grateful we have this time to remind us to focus on what is important & to contemplate changes that may be needed.

Kindness doesn’t have a season. It’s so simple. Start with being kind to yourself & it’ll grow. It’s so much better than growing the gossip grapevine.

WAKE UP IN MY SHOES

Wake up in my shoes.

I slept. It wasn’t long, probably less than an hour. But I slept. As I awaken, I thank God for another day. Now comes the worst part of my entire day.

My eyes open, not fully, just enough to let a sliver of light in. My morning is seen through the sandman’s sleepy seed remains, in the corner of my eyes. I contemplate opening them further. I’m not yet ready.

I’ve talked before about that first step. It brings me excruciating pain & remains the most difficult step, I’ll take all day. I lie in my bed for a long time slowly talking myself into getting up. I’m finally ready, I’m full of dread and drag my legs to the side of the bed. I sit there and again give myself a pep talk. I set my first foot on the floor, then my second. I feel around to get my feet in my slippers. I sit awhile and then push myself up onto my feet. I’m standing. I did it.

There it is, my morning kick start…pain. It starts in my feet and crawls up my legs into my back and ends at the base of my skull. It feels like every bone, muscle, tendon, nerve, every single fiber of my existence is on fire. I’m in my head screaming, this will end, this will end, this WILL end! It takes me a minute to refocus on the task at hand & I eventually take that first step. Other steps follow and over about an hour the pain subsides.

Here’s the thing, my pain tolerance is high. I’ve endured nagging, lingering pain for over a decade with this disease. My pain level holds at around seven all day, every day. The pain of those first steps is so far beyond measurable on the pain scale, it’s impossible to convey. Starting my day is physically & mentally exhausting.

I go to bed every night knowing I will play this whole scenario out again for all of my tomorrows. Here’s the miracle in this story. Every day I’ve been lucky enough to wake up. So far I have a perfect record for taking that first step. I’ve managed to survive the pain 100% of the time. I have a full & happy life. It’s just more challenging than it used to be & some days I have to surrender & let pain win. But the next day I take that first step again.

I know that many of you can relate in some way to this post. You’re not alone, I’m proud of you & never forget the amount of strength that first step takes. You slay dragons before your feet even hit the floor & that is badass. Carry on Warrior.

THEY LOST ME AT, “WHY ARE YOU HERE”

I’ve been sitting here trying to handle everything that comes when I have multiple appointments coming up, in Massachusetts. Fuel, someone to drive & help me, do I need to spend the night, etc… It has me thinking about the first time I went, how it began & what it’s like to feel like your medical care is strung together by a thin thread that you are trying to hold together.

Continue reading THEY LOST ME AT, “WHY ARE YOU HERE”