Tag Archives: FAITH

Life in Cape

Standard
Life in Cape

The moving expedition to Cape Girardeau was crazy.  Note to self … moving on the hottest weekend of the summer is not a good idea.  However, I had no choice.  Armed with the physical and emotional help of friends, family, cold bottled water and the welcoming arms of my sister, I started a new chapter of my life.

The procession of boxes going in and out of my house seemed endless.

Almost reminds me of a procession of bridesmaids.  Except for the boxes.

The best photo-op came when my queen size box springs was taken out of the bedroom via the balcony, as it was too big to fit thru a narrow stairwell.

At the end of a very, very hot and sweaty day the crew was happy to pose for a picture.The Moving Crew

I’ve been in Cape  for a month.  Living with my sister is great.  We have established a routine of sorts, and my days are productive.  When I’m not taking care of the house, I’m busy making jewelry, which   I’m planning to exhibit my work at a local arts and crafts fair in November and am designing all sorts of fun earrings.  In a couple months I’ll host a wine and cheese “premier party” for my jewelry line, called Harmony Beads. At some point, I’ll have a Facebook page for Harmony Beads that will feature more inventory.

Designing and creating jewelry at home provides me with a creative outlet. It’s a very lupus-friendly activity. Because I have lupus, working at home lets me control my environment, especially when it comes to temperature and light.  I’m also able to take breaks when I am tired, and get up and move around when my joints get stiff.  These type of accommodations are not typically found in a traditional work setting.  In the meantime, my sister is providing me a home.  I am able to contribute somewhat with my unemployment check.  I should find out about my disability application soon.

Change is hard.  I didn’t ask to lose my job and move to another city, but I’m dealing with it. Every three weeks I return home to receive IVIG infusions and visit with friends.  I now have the opportunity to travel and visit my son in Wisconsin, my brother in Colorado, and my niece in North Carolina.  I may be unemployed and living with lupus, but I’m a tough cookie.

So many things in life are out of my control, yet I remain optimistic.  Lupus will continue to throw me some nasty curve balls, but I work hard at being thankful for the blessings and abundance in my life.

Trust The Process

Standard

There’s nothing like a enormous, old-fashioned calamity to get my creative mojo in maximum overdrive.

Last month I experienced a big one.  I lost my job of 18 years.  Holy crap!  Don’t ask me about the details.  Trust me, you don’t want to know.

I took the news on the chin, packed up my office, drove home and crawled in bed.  Then I proceeded to cry, scream and freak out in more ways than I thought humanly possible. 

Fortunately, with the support of friends, family, wine and miscellaneous drugs, I avoided a trip to the crazy farm.

Still, I was left with quite a challenge.  How is a middle aged woman with lupus, who has an extremely photosensitive skin condition, chronic joint pain, increasing cognitive dysfunction, kidney damage, central nervous system deficits, anemia and minimal physical endurance going to find a well-paying job?  How is she going to find a job that allows her to be absent from work every three weeks so she can go to the hospital for day-long infusions?  How will she pay her bills and health insurance premium?

A life of crime had too many start-up costs.  And I didn’t want to cash in my vast fortune of inherited wealth.

Instead, I decided to trust the process.

Sometimes, you just have to rely on optimism that even if your life seems like it is going down the toilet, it probably won’t. Change is hard.  Life isn’t fair.  Having lupus sucks.  Being unemployed sucks even more.   However, I firmly believe there is a process that will keep me resilient and open to all these changes, as long as I have a little faith.

I’ve spent the last six weeks spinning a lot of plates.  I filed for unemployment and got my resume updated.  If I can find a job where I can work in incandescent light, take frequent breaks to rest, accommodate a zillion doctor appointments, be relatively stress free, and make enough money to afford increasing medical expenses … great.  But I also applied for disability because my health limitations are pretty crazy and aren’t going to miraculously evaporate any time soon.  Realizing I can actually qualify for disability is hard to accept.  My doctor had a great way of explaining my stress, health and work challenges and living with lupus.  She said “just because you can drive yourself to the office doesn’t mean you can actually do your job.”  Mind you, I haven’t turned into a full-fledged nut case but check out this work-related-stress site called Cubicle Freak Out.

Trusting the process involves realizing your limitations, emotionally and physically.  And I have an ever-growing list of both.

Trusting the process also means that if you’re lucky, people will help you get through the bad times, as well as celebrate with you when life is good.

Trusting the process helps prioritize what is truly important. And I’ve come to understand that it isn’t about where I live, or what I may or may not do for a living.  It isn’t how much material stuff I have accumulated or what kind of car I drive.

Trusting the process is realizing that my overall health is my biggest priority.  I want to live long enough to enjoy my family, friends and future grandchildren.

To that end,  I will soon be moving to another city and live with my sister.  I was eight years old when she was married and left home, so this will be a new adventure.   I’m grateful and looking forward to sharing her big house, her patio, her garden and most of all, her company.  I’m hoping to devote more creative time to blogging, photography and painting, making jewelry, cooking and helping my sister manage her home.  My sister is such a blessing!

Life is not a static experience.  One day I lost my job and before I know it, I’m starting over in a new city.  And once again, living with lupus has changed the quality of my life.

Trusting the process does make a difference.  Try it.

The Circle Game

Standard

Good things never last forever.  And bad things come and go too.  I’ve had a steady uneventful four months of relatively good health in the lupus department.  So it shouldn’t come as a shock to me when I see the obvious signs of a lupus flare starting to circle back again.  First it was about the kidney problem.  The nephrologist said I had lost some kidney function, but for now we will simply monitor the situation.  That was good news.  Now, I’m accepting the fact that the vascular rash that is the primary nemesis of my particular brand of lupus has returned.  The familiar cycle of hives on my face is, well, back on my face.  The small vessel vasculitis on my legs is slowly reappearing.  My arms, torso, back and thighs are affected again.  The stinging feeling on my arms and back has returned.

I have no idea why.  It just is what it is.  And the circle game begins again.

I’m diligently taking all my medications.  I get infusions at the hospital every three weeks.  I have a very long and expensive trail of paperwork that my insurance carrier sorts through on a monthly basis.  I’m an insurance underwriter’s nightmare.

So this is when I start trying really, really hard to be Little Miss Pragmatic.  This disease comes and goes in cycles.  It will probably get worse before it gets better.  And I have faith that the vasculitis WILL improve.

One of the most frustrating things about having lupus is accepting the cycles of feeling well and feeling ill.  I’ve had this diagnosis since 1992 and I still manage to get all pissy when I develop flares.  I get all snug and cozy when I get lucky enough to enjoy a pain-free, rash-free stretch of time.  Heck, I even start to feel …. dare I say it …. relatively normal!  And then I get blindsided when my autoimmune system starts to go haywire.  Again.  And again.

*******

For now, I will start back up chanting my “coping with lupus mantra” …..

I will stay out of the sun.

I will wear long sleeves.

I will not get overheated.

I will try to avoid stress.  (However, if anybody reading this knows a sure-fire way HOW to do this, please get in touch.)

I will tell myself that even though I may not look the way I want to, I’m still the same person on the inside.

I will rely on the strength of my faith, family and friends.

I will continue to pray for a cure.

I will tell myself that I am not my disease.

I will remember that living with lupus is a circle game.

A Christmas Wish

Standard

A wish for you, dear Readers, for this Christmas and New Year.  Borrowed from John Denver with thanks and hope for a wonderful holiday … from my heart to yours.

***

The season is upon us now                                                

A time for gifts and giving.

And as the year draws to its close

I think about my living.

The Christmas time when I was young.

The magic and the wonder.

The colors dull and candles dim

And dark my standing under.

Oh little Angel shining Light

You’ve set my soul to dreaming.

You’ve given back my joy in life

And filled me with true meaning.

A Savior King was born that day.

A baby just like you were.

And as the Magi came with gifts

I come with my gift too.

That peace on earth fills up your time

And brotherhood surrounds you.

That you may know the warmth of love

And wrap it all around you.

It’s just a wish, a dream I’m told

From days when I was young.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Prayers for Sarah Jane

Standard

I’m sharing this story in the hope you will read it and find room in your heart to pray for a special little girl that needs a lot of love and support right now.

My son has a half-sister, Sarah Jane.  She is eight years old with blond hair and the longest lashes in the world that frame her pretty blue eyes.  As you will see, Sarah has an amazing smile.  She’s a sweetheart and our family loves her more than words can say.

Matt's sister Sarah Jane, age 2

Matt's sister Sarah Jane, age 2

Sarah was diagnosed with epilepsy at a very early age, after what seemed like an unrelenting round of seizures.  Despite the medication side effects and slight developmental delays, Sarah loved to play and dance and sing … all the things that little girls do.  Just before her 3rd birthday, Sarah had a very bad seizure that lasted over 5 hours.  The doctors put her in a drug-induced coma in the hope that this seizure would stop and her brain would have time to rest.

When she was physically stable long enough to wake up, Sarah was blind and could not smile.  She now had cerebral palsy.  She could not swallow and required tube feedings.  She could no longer dance or sing.

Sarah on her 3rd birthday with her mom and dad

Sarah on her 3rd birthday with her mom and dad

In 2004, we celebrated Sarah’s 3rd birthday in the pediatric intensive care unit at the hospital.  She was in a coma and intubated at the time, so we sang Happy Birthday in hushed voices at her bedside.  The day I took this picture, I held steadfast to the hope that she would have many more birthdays to celebrate, despite overwhelming odds to the contrary.

And she did.

You can read Sarah’s story here.

Sarah can’t dance, but she can ride a special bike.  She can see much better now, thanks to eye surgery and glasses.  Sarah loves to cuddle with her big brother  Matthew.  She adores music and loves to sing and laugh.  She is truly a heaven sent gift for those of us who are blessed to know her.

Napping with big brother Matt

Napping with big brother Matt

Best of all, Sarah got her smile back!

Sarah with her mom, Sandy

Sarah with her mom, Sandy

This year, just before her 8th birthday, Sarah had problems breathing and had to return to the hospital.  She has developed pneumonia and other complications that required her being placed on an oscillating ventilator to help her breathe and give her body the necessary time and energy to rest and recover.  The doctors have her on a lot of different medications.  Because she’s on a breathing machine, she has been given medication to keep her asleep and comfortable.

Sarah had her 8th birthday in the PICU.  There were balloons and signs and Happy Birthday songs for Sarah, but she wasn’t awake to hear or see the celebration.  Her big brother Matt, little brother Graham, sister-in-law Laura and Aunt Sue (me) spent Easter Sunday with her, taking turns visiting, holding her hand, and praying for a speedy recovery. The road back home for Sarah will be a long one … many weeks to come of waiting, watching, and praying.

I’m asking for prayers and good wishes for all of you who read this post.  I believe in the power of prayer and positive thinking.  Please keep Sarah and her family in your thoughts and hearts.  Pray for the amazing doctors and medical staff that are treating Sarah 24/7.  Their care and compassion is miraculous.

Thank you for taking the time to read about Sarah.

Once again, we’re waiting for Sarah’s smile to return.

Lupus Warrior

Standard

knight-4I’ve been preparing for a battle.  And I’m now ready to charge full speed into the messy underbelly of the healthcare industry.  I haven’t posted much this month but I’ve been very busy dealing with new health issues.

I’m in the process of writing directly to my insurance carrier, requesting an appeal of their decision that denied treatment for systemic lupus with intravenous immoglobulin (IVIG).  Last year, I had 3 rounds of IVIG with total remission.   This stuff is expensive (about $15,000.00 per infusion), so obviously they don’t want to shell out that kind of money on a regular basis.  Unfortunately for me, this is the only treatment option left.  All other medications have failed.

I’m sick of their bullshit denials.  This means war!

I saw my doctor a few weeks ago.  A new rash  developed on my arms, legs and chest.  It’s red, raised and bumpy on my torso, and flat on my extremities.  It’s actually layered on top of the recurrent SCLE rash that flared up in January.  The January rash was fading somewhat and then this new one took its place.  My doctor told me this new rash is small vessel vasculitis.  Currently it’s affecting my skin but he said it can progress to the kidneys, eyes and brain. I have to watch out for areas of the skin that may ulcerate.  Left untreated the skin could become gangrenous.

Fortunately it’s not summertime … yet.  Hot and humid weather makes this stuff worse.  My clothes cover most of it and even though it’s on my forearms and neck, it’s not so bad.  Makeup covers the hives on my face.  Then again, maybe I’m just used to looking at it.

The rash is everywhere on my body, but this photo pf my leg shows both types of lesions.  Some are red, flat and carpet-like.  It feels like a sunburn and is hot to the touch.

img_03912The vasculitis is small, round and dark … about the size of an eraser head.  It hurts but does not feel like a sunburn.

That’s why I’m fighting.

I’m beginning by writing the insurance company a letter.  I’m sending them photos of my skin like the one you see here, as well as others that are too gross to post.  I’m gathering published data from the National Institute of Health with evidence of  clinical trials of IVIG on patients that have systemic lupus and small vessel vasculitis and have gone into remission.  I’m also contacting the US manufacturers of IVIG.  Parmaceutical companies are interested in working with people who seek unconventional treatment (like one of their products) that has been denied by insurance carriers.  To some people, Michael Moore is a total crackpot.  When it comes to health insurance, you should watch his movie, Sicko.  His illustration of the health industry in the United States is spot on.

I’m not waiting for my kidneys to be destroyed.  I’m not waiting to go blind.  I’m not waiting to have seizures.  Nobody at the insurance company is going to cave in and give me the medical treatment I need.  I’ll have to fight for it.

Bring it on.  I’m ready.

Finding The Sweet Spot

Standard

It’s that moment when you realize the bowling ball is in the pocket.  It happens when you connect PERFECTLY with the tennis racket, baseball bat, or golf club because you can feel and hear it.  And if you’re a cat, like my Charlie (pictured above), the ultimate sweet spot is purring on a cozy blanket, facing the sunshine, and taking a 3-6 hour nap.  We all look for the sweet spot, wherever it may be.

Today I noticed that life has been rolling along smoothly for almost an entire week.  Having made that assertion,  no doubt I’m pushing my luck for a fun weekend, but what the heck.  I made plans anyway! In addition to keeping up the regular 9-5 workpace, I attended a fabulous black-tie wedding and reception on Saturday (It’s fun to get dressed up now and then!) AND a baby shower on Sunday (My friend Kathy and I went a little overboard at Babies R Us.  Everything was soooo cute!).  I went to a music rehearsal on Monday evening.  I bought groceries, put them away, cleaned the kitchen, took out the trash, and washed three loads of laundry.  No joint pain.  No steroid hot flashes!  I remembered to go to a long-overdue therapy appointment and left without using even one Kleenex!  Yeah baby …  I found The Lupus-Free Sweet Spot.

I like to celebrate the little triumphs in life.  I’m not planning to surf the perfect wave in Maui, or land a back flip on the balance beam.  I don’t have to sing Schubert’s Ave Maria and gracefully slide over the high notes.  I have faith.  Right now, it’s enough to have clear skin and walk without tripping.  That’s sweet enough for me!