Children: The Moon, The Sun And A Fibro Flare Up

Sigh. Welcome. I know you are here even if I don’t have any interest in wanting you to be here. I know you have arrived in town, I can feel the physical essence of your negative energy from the follicles on top of my aching head to the bottom of my over-extended curled toes. It would be too simple to describe how I feel as “everything hurts” or use my example “it’s like having the flu every single day without the temperature.” People try to look sympathetic while they are trying to figure out if I have lost my mind. No, sorry, we are NOT crazy.  My husband was right, my balance is really off and I should have brought my pink cane that I use, on occasion. Fibromyalgia is no one’s friend.

Moon

Moon (Photo credit: Paul Garland)

Thank goodness we have for best friends and Fibro Friends, we understand each other, we know how we feel. We don’t really need to explain. I don’t have to tell my fellow sufferers how I will feel when I have to spend over 6 hours in a car. Yep, you heard me 6 long hours to get home from visiting our amazing children and that’s with no traffic. It’s realistically more likely 6 and a half to seven hours but that burns like acid on the tip of my coated tongue.

We traveled to see our adult children at their perspective colleges and I wouldn’t trade that for anything but on the way there we stopped halfway so my pain, Fibromyalgia, would be manageable. I assumed the same thing was planned for going home. It was not. How did this happen? I have no idea except that my husband did the arranging and he probably told me what he booked but with Fibro Fog, confusion and loss of memory, it did not sink in.

In the end it didn’t even matter, we are now home, we saw our adult children and whatever physical pain I suffered was quadtrupled  every second I was with them. I might make different arrangements next time but I don’t even care. That’s what Love is. Simple, Straightforward, Us, Them, Family.

Think of me, taking whatever drugs I have, including but not limited to, Benadryl,or  Xanax that might relax my muscles enough to get me through the trip, curled on the back seat cushions, going home.

I adored seeing my son and daughter, and I would do anything for either of them. I love them so much, so very much that pain and stiffness and being out of sorts for a few days, will help remind me of why we went to visit.

Sun Rays Dancing…!!!

Sun Rays Dancing…!!! (Photo credit: Denis Collette…!!!)

We went to visit the moon and the sun. Two things I cannot live without and two things that I enjoy simply by watching. My grown-up adult kids. They are worth every darn tingle, ache, pain, IBS attack and a host of many more symptoms; so when you hear me complain, please tell me to shut-up and to remind me of how worth it, it really was. Love, family love is, what matters and pain is just a side effect. It will get better, hopefully, in a few days. Just being around them, gave my husband and myself incredible joy. It was worth every single second of this trip and many more. We have GREAT kids, each one a delightful pleasure, we’re lucky to have them in our lives. We appreciate THEM.

Thank you, kids, for having us, we loved seeing you in your home. It was great for all of us, especially me to show me how much both of you have learned and grown-up. I’m proud of you both. Really proud.

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Best Friends – Chronic Babe Style

holding hands - age 10, and age 8

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The best friends in my life have common traits: warmth, kindness and the gift of caring deeply. They are all people who I can rely on without a single doubt; that is something very important to me. Some people have a big family to fill these roles; I have my friends.

I met one friend when our children were six, they are now eighteen. Two years ago, in the dairy aisle between the orange juice and yogurt of our local store, I took a chance and impulsively asked her if she would like to go for coffee one day.  I didn’t have to worry, she said she “would absolutely love to” with a big goofy grin. Since that day we have seen each other at least once a week at our favorite diner, we talk daily and we e-mail. When she thinks I look wan and tired, she tells me to sit, when she thinks I am not feeling well enough SHE begs off and reschedules.

I’ve also had a best friend for thirty-five years, we met at work after I graduated college. We’ve been through so much together that our friendship is practically tenured. We have gone without talking for months on end, if not years because she disappears emotionally.  I tried to break up with her but when I thought of the word ‘best friend,’ I saw her sheepish face and her emotional handicaps. I don’t understand why she does it and neither does she but I accept it and we work at our friendship. No-one said friendships are always easy.

I was two when my other friend was born and we were inseparable for the first eight years of our lives. We were childhood friends, bound together by foundation, emotional glue.  We grew apart, with different interests and different locations yet there was never a birthday when we didn’t send each other a card. I got married and had kids and lived in Boston, she had Springsteen tickets and a new boyfriend. Even though we may not see each other for years there is an emotional connection and joy built into our foundation, like red bricks for a building. If I needed her, she would be there for me in one second, no questions asked and I would do the same for her.

I have best friends on line who support me and whom I support in our chronic pain journeys; we give each other all that we can and it is always enough. Saying that you understand, you can relate, is a gift that we inherently have. Everyone is equal here and safe. There is one person I consider a ‘best friend that I have not yet met.’ I trust her advice, love her honesty, intelligence and wit not to mention our shared love of everything sweet. I have a friend on-line that I call my ‘twin’, another that I call ‘my little sister’ and one I refer to as ‘the mother hen.’ There is a friend on another coast that I would go to if she gave a seminar, not thinking twice that I had never met her in person. These friends on-line are important in my life; we send each other messages of support, and soft, gentle hugs that you feel in your heart and they cause no pain.

These women are in my home with me on my laptop, helping me when I am down, congratulating me when I feel better, always available for a question. We are a group of people with a common thread of pain, sharing support, advice and friendship. We understand what others are going through because we are there ourselves. We are not just friends; we are a circle of women, connected; another way of saying family.

The Sum Of Me

Henri Matisse, The Dance I, 1909, Museum of Mo...

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I am part of an internet group of dear friends who also have Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disease. We generally talk about the effects of this leech, this parasitic illness and how it makes us feel and how it affects our lives. It is what brings us together; and we truly care about one another. Imagine, a group of people who you have never met yet you trust them, seek out their advice. These people really do know how your pain feels.

We could discuss things we used to do but cannot do now. For me, I would talk about gardening and how I used to have a big vegetable garden many years ago when bending down to my knees and getting up was no problem. I would reminisce about the bright green English peas that grew, the fiery red cherry tomatoes that bathed in the sunlight, two kinds of lettuce and thick, orange carrots. I could also talk about the three miles I used walk in under an hour with my work friends each day, outside, around a blue-green reservoir. Maybe I would confess I was a size eight for about two minutes and twenty years ago while I was struggling with infertility issues and the deep, emotional pain of that process. “If I couldn’t have children, I was going to be skinny” was my mantra as I made myself march outside.

The summer before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and my children were at camp, I would take the train to New York City and relish being surrounded by people from all over the world, hearing them speak, watching the beautiful, colorful outfits that so many people donned in shades of rose, green, yellow, blue, shades of white and grey. Perhaps I would see a Broadway show for half price, go to a museum, or back to the Village and try to recognize it after many years. Going in to the city was like having an international picnic without even leaving the gleaming Grand Central Station.  I didn’t worry back then about getting to the city and how much walking I would have to do and whether I had to take a cab because I was so tired and drained that I couldn’t put one burning, aching, painful foot in front of the other.

Many blogs I read are about chronic pain and diseases, and I wonder at their brilliance. It’s a dilemna for me because while I do write about my chronic illness or two, I write about everything else in my life.  Am I doing myself a disservice? It could be. I write about food, depression, fun, family, television, friends, travel, grief, cheesecake, chocolate etc.  It’s a mix and mash-up of a blog, like a patchwork quilt with different patterns and colors. Do I need to define myself more clearly?  I may have just answered my own question. I am all things, not just one.

I am a patient, a parent, a friend, wife, mother, teacher and student. I love many things: reading books with beautiful covers, writing, taking photographs of children or benches or boats. I love to watch red cardinals and yellow finches at my bird feeder and butterflies winking by me. I love to eat good food, I am sweet on sweets, I dislike alcohol; coffee, orange juice, chocolate milk or Diet Coke are my beverages of choice, I drink them all at different times.

I could choose to pick one subject to write about but, it would not be my true self, of that I am sure. I am all over the place with emotions and experiences, flying, sometimes crawling, like red, yellow, blue and black kites sailing in the gusty wind, all tangled together, or in peaceful harmony, sometimes independently flying free. I am a person, with many  facets. I am as many pieces of my puzzle as I want. It’s my puzzle, I need to make the pieces fit,  for me.

The Map To Nowhere Fast

Chronic pain

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I have a weird feeling of unrest and stress, slimy blue- green and flourescent orange winding its way around my brain is how I picture it, how I feel it. No soothing colors of white and yellow and beige. Fake colors, unnatural.  I frown more than I smile and as hard as I am trying to focus on the positive it’s not easy. There is so much going on in my life that it’s hard to focus. I don’t think it’s just me though, I think it’s a lot of people.  It’s a feeling, not a good one, somewhere between the roads of anxious and depressed, stopping at weary.

There are natural disasters all over the world and I am sure we all feel, not only heartbroken for other people, but scared. There is too much sinewy stuff whirling around and no happy place to settle. What happened to my “happy place” images? Why am I only seeing the rain battering the purple flowers instead of the blooming of the flowers alone.

There is tension inside my house, we are in “the sandwich generation” that I used to read about. It isn’t fun, it’s scary. The “baby boomers” who have restless teenagers and aging parents who are alone or ill or depressed. I am that “baby boomer” now except I have the added affliction of my own “chronic pain.” Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis do not do me any favors, I walk along slowly, painfully, I stumble through different medications and expectations. Very low expectations.

I also have narrow-angled glaucoma which is a dangerous disease or as one unfriendly opthalmologist put it “you could go blind in an instant.” Quite a bedside manner, don’t you think? Needless to say, I stopped going to him. It’s funny that I barely write about this condition, maybe it’s pure, frigid fear. Maybe there is only so much pain I can handle. My brain and eyes get hammered, with laser shocks, every few months by a doctor that I once believed was very good. I don’t think so anymore. “In twenty years of practicing, I’ve never had a patient whose eyes kept closing up like yours do.”  Every time I go to the city he lasers my eyes again, because the hole he drilled into me has closed. He does this procedure either in his office or in the hospital with no pain relief; imagine barbed wire going through your eyes and brain, quickly, twenty or thirty times in a row. The eye drop he casually puts in gives me incredibly painful headaches (migraines?) I do know that the pain I feel is barbaric, no pain medications, no anesthesia, no break. Over and over again; fast and furious.

The gray, dreary day does not help me since I feel overwrought and unfocused. I am dealing with both chronic pain, (Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) and new back pain that feels like my back bent and broke itself during sleep like a twisted pretzel you find in any mall. I am trying to accept my life for what it is, both bad and good, often simultaneously. Change is in the air like a dog-sniffing a new scent, it’s just hard to predict when and where things will happen.

I read an article in the NY Times today about a young couple with a young daughter. Each parent has cancer. That, is a problem I say to myself, not the dreary workings of an often too-emotional, anxious and pain- filled mind. I am so sorry Nathan and Elisa. You and your baby have my prayers because perspective is the greatest gift of all. I will speak no more.

The Incredible Shrinking Sensa Lady

Cover to The Giving Tree, depicting the tree g...

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Every time I see the commercial for the  incredible shrinking “Sensa” lady on my computer I get agitated. I am like a 5-year-old child that wants to growl. I am Max of Where The Wild Things Are. I am a roaring lioness protecting her young. This stupid Sensa lady appears every day, first she is full-size (and there is nothing wrong with that) and then she diminishes on my computer to become a very skinny (too skinny) cartoon shadow of herself. The commercial comes on practically every time I turn on my computer and I want her to go away. Or gain weight. Or, most importantly, be happy with who she is without shrinking to a skeleton. I want to see her eating chocolate truffles, and fettuccine alfredo with garlic bread dripping with mozzarella cheese. I want to see her with a date, a lover, a friend, a husband, anyone. It’s time for “Single Shrinking Sensa Lady” to hit the road.

I googled “Sensa” and all I could find out is that it is something you sprinkle on food and, allegedly, you feel full faster, but don’t quote me. If it works for you, that’s fine. I am not judging the product because I don’t know it. (maybe I’m judging just a teeny tiny bit?) I’m sure you would get the same results without using the sprinkles and just using a smaller plate!   Brand recognition? Sensa, you win!  I recognize the product each and every time, but it doesn’t in any way make me want to buy the product, it just makes me groan out loud and roll my eyes. Wouldn’t that be negative brand recognition?

As one gets older your body changes naturally. There is not much you can do about it and really, why stress about it so  much. Try to be healthy but don’t hit yourself over the head if you have a slice of warm apple pie.  Life is short, enjoy it. As that great movie with America Ferrara says”Real Women Have Curves.” I’m happy with myself, you can be too. Feel beautiful for who you are not what you weigh. Weight gain, weight loss, isn’t it time we get over it already? Be comfortable in your own skin, be healthy, eat whatever you want in moderation and take a walk; maybe even try to walk a little more every day. Do what you can.

I am no Jillian Michaels (and  heaven forbid, I don’t want to be.) I don’t think people need abs like cement bricks nor do I think they have to be tortured if they don’t lose enough weight in a week (I know it’s a television show called The Biggest Loser, but still……)  Jillian, please stop screaming so much. People are trying as hard as they can; if I was at “The Ranch” your screaming would make me gain weight for the emotional stress you were putting me through. How about a nicer, softer Jillian..oh wait, his name is Bob. Tone it down a little, no tone it down a lot (and I don’t mean in a weight loss way).  Yell at me, bitch, just try. I am comfortable with my body and myself. I am not skinny, I’m closer to chubby, ok, full disclosure; I AM chubby and I am fine with it. Enjoy life, think things through, have dessert, have a big heart and give back to others. Read and reread The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Success is not always measured in pounds, it’s also measured in pride.

The Beauty Of My Fibromyalgia

Red berries

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My husband came home from town and told me that he heard an update about a mutual friend; that she was at the end of her life.  She has ALS, (formerly called Lou Gehrig’s disease) a horrible, disease that affects thousands of people every year. I felt terrible for her and her family and know how hard that disease is for everybody.  I pictured her in her wheelchair with her beautifully spun white hair coiled behind her in an old-fashioned bun, the bun that my grandmother in her nineties used to wear every day; held together with old-fashioned black bobby pins. There was one difference, the woman in this story is not in her nineties, not even close, she is 43.

I have Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and before you write me letters about how pain is all equal and that pain is pain and we have our right to our pain I will tell you this: the stripping of your body, one by one and of all your faculties, is something I would not trade for and neither would you. The last vestige of communication this woman, this YOUNG woman had been struggling was to try to write something with her twisted hand on a computer generated machine. Fibromyalgia pain IS pain. I know I have pain, I understand it and I can communicate it, I can’t solve it. When there is nothing that helps me feel better, at least I can verbalize this, at least I can try to focus on a pretty picture of strong red berries on a simple branch. When I clutch the banister to be able to go up and down stairs, I am mostly doing it myself. If I can’t and need a hand, I will ask for it and accept it and will be able to have the dignity to say “Thank You.” I can ask my daughter about her day or my husband’s first day of work or my son’s admission to colleges. I am able to do that and am thankful for it.

My husband, the most patient man on earth, gets irritated and annoyed with me when he asks me questions about the type of pain I am in. He is direct, like a prosecutor: “is it muscular?” is it in your joints?”  “does it stab, burn, tingle, come in waves?”  “is it sharp, is it dull, does the pain move around?” I’ve always been vague in my answers about how I feel physically because I am the type of person who can’t verbalize my symptoms well. Fibromyalgia is defined as having pain all over and that is what I have. Is it muscular? Yes, Is it your joints? Yes, It is all over and hard to differentiate from one Doctor’s appointment to another, Yes. We also have Fibro Fog, our endearing term for forgetfulness, makes us forget how things were yesterday compared with today.

Fibromyalgia changes every day, sometimes every hour; there were times when I was sure I had a really bad virus but my Doctor just told me they are “flare-ups.” My mother was concerned because I was sick so often, I never knew I had flare-ups, I didn’t know what flare-ups were; no-one ever told me.

I am not saying that your pain or her pain or his pain is any less uncomfortable because it is not life threatening. Listen to me: I am saying that pain is pain, and that it can be unbearable and it does affect your emotions and social skills. But, at least it does not deprive me, me personally, of the ability to still connect with my loved ones and friends and I am able to communicate.

There is no competition. Pain is pain is pain. My friend who is dying from cancer is fighting every day as she has for five years before her breast cancer metastized into brain cancer. This is not a game where whose pain, whose life is worse. This is MY opinion, own it or reject as you please. I do have enough pain to consider myself suffering. I may not have control over my pain but at least I still have control of all my faculties.

We are all at risk for everything, like everyone else in the world. There is so much sadness: health, terrorism, wars, economy,  that sometimes I need to focus on just by breathing, in and out, in and out.  Sometimes I need to slap myself out of my self-pity and give thanks for the things I can do and more importantly send blessings to those who are less fortunate than I am. Now.

True Friendship and Chocolate Cake

Two Rainbows at Dusk in Denmark.

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I’ve gotten notes from friends far away saying “I don’t want to read  that you are in pain” when they read SOME of my blog posts. When words strike an already high-wired nerve, I have to respond. I am a woman with Fibromyalglia; Fibromyalgia does not define me. It is part of my life and it has taken a long time for me to accept it but I do. You should too. It is only a part of my life just like food and television and good friendships and my amazing family. I write about all these things.

When I am in pain, I write out my feelings which, I think, everyone in the chronic pain community understands. To the people who read my blog and don’t share a chronic illness, let me explain: when I write these things down, I am trying to heal a little piece of myself. I do not write them for sympathy or for you to feel bad. I write about all my feelings, all the different parts of my life: like having teenagers or hiding orange cupcakes in my room or my sweet, aging dog. I’m sorry if you are feeling uncomfortable about my pain and I’m sure you wish I had less of it but that is not something I can control.

When something funny happens or I fall in love with a cooking show about “Desserts” or “Chocolate” or a delicious/horrendous meal that I have had, I write about that too. A new, dear friend I met on Facebook wrote: “you sure do like to talk about food” as we discussed dinner and I made her describe the chicken and dumplings she made in great detail (hint: buy Bisquik.) I complain about the boring lentil soup I have made and she tells me which spices to add. We both have chronic, autoimmune illnesses but we don’t focus on that. Our chronic diseases are a given. Life goes on and we with it.

I see photos of her beautiful garden with red, ripe delicious tomatoes stretching towards the sun and  bright yellow ears of corn I want to bite into. I see her huge, beaming sunflowers on the side of her house and I am in awe of nature and it’s beauty and my friend’s talent. I taunt her with my (as she calls it “disgusting”) food combinations; pizza with jelly, tuna salad sandwich combined with peanut butter and jelly ( I only did that once) and all things edible. I tease her about her “texture” issues with food, anything “squishy” is unacceptable! Once in a while I will interject a questionable squishy food into a totally unrelated conversation: “raisinettes?” “shrimp?” and she understands what I mean and we laugh.

My evenings are brighter after we talk. This is a friend that has been more protective of me and more supportive than the “best friend” I had for thirty-five years. This is a friend I have made without meeting and if I never meet her, we will still be friends. It begs to ask the question: how do you define friendship? It’s given me a lot to think about. Friendships on Facebook with a common interest are special, we bond about something we have in common and in most cases (except one horrible group I was in) without judgment. Period. We don’t care about how much money people have or what religion they are or if they have a job.  Be wary of a group that say they support everybody with pain and yet they discriminate and cause extreme pain to others who might not “fit in” to their exclusive or religious group. In the other wonderful chronic pain groups, we don’t emphasize anything except friendship and empathy, nothing else matters (if you need suggestions, write me.)

See me, please, as a whole person and if you feel uncomfortable about the days I blog about pain, please don’t tell me not to write about them; you could just say you are sorry that I am in pain and that you are thinking good thoughts for me. Our illnesses are part of our lives, but most of us try not to let them define us. It’s what we have to do.

Dedicated to Katie

The Sad Mom

wept

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I’m cold, terribly cold and I am not even outside in the twenty inches of snow we have. I’m in my bed with four comforters, a heating pad for my neck and shoulders and my feet are still freezing. I need to find those fuzzy socks that help tame the frozen beasts that are my irregular toes.

I’ve had Fibromyalgia for about five years now. In all this time I have tried many different medications and I have seen two or three Rheumatologists.  Still, no relief.  I am taking Savella and I am on the maximum dose and I swear it did work  for a while but now…..nothing. Does this happen with Fibromyalgia? I also keep getting new symptoms like my hands  and elbows and legs cramping in the middle of the night, symptoms that I was unfamiliar with but are now constant. I don’t understand this illness; perhaps nobody does.

Does Fibromyalgia encompass every symptom that has ever been heard of? Is it progressive? Why do I have more symptoms now than I did five years ago? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know which doctor to trust, if any. I also have an auto-immune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which complicates my overall condition. I’m not feeling too lucky today; I’m just feeling sad, with no hope.

I have read countless books and articles, each one of them bringing a little piece to the puzzle but none of them fitting together to make a full-fledged picture. Ask ten doctors advice, you get ten different opinions. If you are lucky to get a doctor that doesn’t roll their eyes in disbelief, you consider that a win.

I would be open to new kinds of treatment , massage? acupuncture? diet? but I am not sure where to start. Not only do I not know where to start, I can’t pay for it even if I did.  Everyone “means well” and adds their opinion:  my mother says I should “just get out of bed and exercise more” when she doesn’t realize that getting out of bed is in itself is a painful exercise. My husband thinks I should go back on auto-immune drugs but I’m the one getting all the side effects and chemicals. Nothing seems to work. Nothing.

The only people who understand me are the people I meet in Fibromyalgia/Chronic illness chat rooms. I fantasize of a cure, an Oprah A-Ha moment but know that is unrealistic. I don’t like being the mom that has to be dropped off at the door of college presentations for my son and daughter, so I can sit down. I don’t like being the mom that sleeps a lot, when I can, and groans walking up and down our staircase.

I could easily start weeping but stopping would be that much harder.

The World Just Changes A Little Bit

Burning match (cerilla ardiendo)

Image by John C. Shaw via Flickr

I just received news from my sister that her friend Allison passed away last night. I knew Allison but had only met her once or twice. She was a very warm and charming woman who was my sister’s neighbor. She leaves behind her husband and a daughter, the age of my nephew, Jon, 21. She died of breast cancer.

I have a friend that lives around the corner who is also dying of cancer. She too had breast cancer and then brain cancer. We don’t ask questions, they are a very private family. No matter what her condition is she tries to attend, her children’s basketball games or important events. She doesn’t care about being seen in a wheelchair or weighing barely 90 pounds or the fact that her mouth dragged down and over to the side, why should she? She is one of the best moms I have ever met. She will be with her three children as long as a single breath is left in her body.

Two years ago, when she was still able to walk, unassisted, my neighbor and I would each run to our windows to keep track of her. If we saw her walking alone, one of us would crush our feet into sneakers and pretend that we had walked too, and join her to keep her company. She wouldn’t ask for help, but we knew that we couldn’t let our friend walk unsteadily alone. She refused to use a cane; but she was happy for the company; we were happy to see her.

If we made “extra” food for our families, we would simply drop platters of freshly roasted chicken, baked ziti and meatballs at her door with a loaf of warm french bread or a tray of fudge brownies. When she could only drink liquids my new specialties became soup; peach soup in the summer, chicken soup in the fall. They never asked for meals but they always welcomed it. We would call before we brought a meal over and ask if it was a convenient time; sometimes we left it on the wooden bench near the door. We never saw our friend on these visits; we didn’t have to.

My best friend from high school, Paula, had breast cancer and finally now, after about 6 or more hospitalizations, a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, infections and reconstructive surgery, she is trying to heal. It has been a long road for her. Another friend, Margie, with thyroid cancer, said she doesn’t think about celebrating her five-year anniversary of being cancer free; her oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering said that “once you have cancer, you are never cancer free.” I don’t want to believe that but it is sobering.

I am sorry for my friends, I worry in advance for all the important women in my life. I am grateful for every healthy minute of our lives, and I understand how fragile and unpredictable life is. I am incredibly grateful. The world changes a bit, doesn’t it, when another person dies, when a soul leaves the body. It’s like a candle or a match, one after another, forcibly being blown out while it is still burning bright. It seems that their lives are extinguished way too early, too violently and too harshly. Snuffed, taken away, burnt, dead. “I knew she was going to die” my sister said sadly to me” but somehow it isn’t the same until it really happens.”

Dedicated to all cancer survivors and those we lost who live on in our hearts.

Fibro Frights And Fatal Fantasies

 

anxiety

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I messed up and didn’t realize that the PFAM’s ( Patients For A Moment) blog carnival deadline was by midnight tonight. The subject was fear. I’m wondering if deep inside I just didn’t feel up to writing, competing, finishing or if I was dissassocating myself from the project. I was going to talk about the web of anxiety and how it feels when it starts to swell in my stomach. It always starts in my stomach beginning with a slight twinge, quickly advancing to panic and anxiety. My arms and legs feel tingly and somehow not connected to my body, I am alternately hot and cold or both together.

The first time that queasy sensation started was the summer before my freshmen year at college.  I was eating dinner with my family in a fancy Italian restaurant in Queens, NY.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t speak, it was the first time I had ever felt anxious and I remember calling it “cold dread.” How could I explain this new, horrible feeling when I had never experienced it before? How do you name something you do not know?

Those fearful sensations in my body became like a close cousin to me. We lived as if we were conjoined; I could not separate reality from frightful fantasies. It was something that I have learned to live with and deal with.  I started with a tiny germ of truth and blew it up out of proportion. There was no stopping my obsessive worrying, nothing helped: warm milk, hot baths, reading a book, distraction.  I remember a time when I was sitting in the trolley in Boston and thought what I had whispered to my friend was overheard by someone else and I became overwhelmed and frightened. What if? What if? It became a wakeful nightmare for me.  I did a lot of catastrophizing back then and even now, once in a while, it still tries to creep into my brain. I need to forcefully push it away, as if an intruder was about to enter and I had to slam the door hard, with brute force.  Sometimes that is enough, sometimes it isn’t.

My cousin’s stomach ache could be pancreatic cancer,  my sister’s low throaty voice could mean she was manic, my narrow-angled glaucoma could make me blind in a second.  I worked with a hot-headed, explosive employee that I thought, for sure, would bring a gun to a grievance meeting and shoot us all. I remember strategically seating myself closest to the door, just in case. I lived in a world of tragedy, of horrendous outcomes, death, madness, cancer, stroke, coma, terrorist attacks, murder, mayhem and more. “Health and welfare” is what I worry about as I tried to succinctly wrap it up like an adorned Christmas present, perfect silver wrapping with a tight red bow.

The truth of the matter is that now we DO live in a fearful world and something COULD happen.  Fear perpetuates fear and even while  I am writing this down I feel the first fingers of anxiety like a gray mouse with darting eyes. I take deep cleansing breathes. I ask myself questions: “what are the odds of that happening?” The media doesn’t help: “Don’t go to public places when you are traveling in Europe” What? Of course we would go to public  places if we were in Europe. Is too much information just too much?  I refuse to watch the news on TV before I go to sleep.  The only thing we can do is try to push the worry aside and live as normally as we can; even if it takes enormous strength and effort. Carpe Diem as they said at Boston College where I worked: Seize The Day, as best as you can.