Monday, January 23, 2012

# 108 - Healing and Coping

There's an old saying, "Time Heals All Wounds." I'm sure you've heard it. Sometimes people just say, "Time Heals." To me, it's kind of a detached viewpoint or opinion to give someone, almost as if you're telling them that today is not so important because your tomorrow will be different and better.

Have I said this old saying to someone? Probably, I have, but I've learned through the years that this saying is not always the wisest thing to let come out of your mouth. I do not want to discredit what a person is going through right now because I want to convince them that time in itself will serve as a salve for everything. For some wounds, time does heal, but time is not a certain cure-all for all of life's "wounds."

Okay...time is great, but what about getting through the seconds that are ticking away on the clock at this moment? For a person who is suffering, that future date and time is often hard to conceive.

I learned, the hard way, that sometimes you must tell someone to just focus on getting through each moment, as it comes. I've been through some difficult times when I was not even able to embrace a "day-by-day" kind of focus, but instead had to figure out that I had to concentrate on intense strength needed to get through the moment at hand. There are certain kinds of suffering that can be that intensely challenging. I never would have imagined that people could live through unbelievable suffering until I'd experienced it first-hand.

I'll try to explain...

My first taste at true physical suffering on a deeply painful level did not come with Addison's disease. Yes, I deeply suffered with my prolonged diagnosis of Addison's and this disease has nearly killed me, a few times, but it doesn't necessarily cause major pain. I hadn't even been introduced to full suffering on the night I officially coded at the hospital. However, I most certainly got a big hand-shake with pain which brought a new level of suffering into my mental file cabinet after I'd gone through a cardio-thoracic surgery and found myself at home with a collapsed lung and a chest cavity filling with blood from internal bleeding.

Not only was I enduring the pain of a large incision, a drainage tube stitched in place as it came out of my shoulder after being threaded deep into my thoracic region, but I was also in great pain from my first rib being surgically removed...along with some muscles that were cut out. My arteries had clips on them - clips that are still there until this day - but something went wrong in recovery. The inside of my arteries are squeaky clean, but the tissue, muscle and bone surrounding my arteries were choking my arteries closed. Not a good dilemma; my body needed surgery to free the artery of being strangled. So, the highly skilled cardio-thoracic surgeon went into my thoracic region and began the long process of removing a few things that a normal person would not be able to imagine having removed.

A couple of days after being discharged from the hospital visit, I lay in bed at home and struggled to breathe. Breathing became hard work. Every gasp of air brought me pain like I'd didn't know could be possible. I would soon discover that over one liter of blood had flowed into my chest wall and there was so much blood that it coagulated and pressed against my lung so that it caused my lung to collapse. That, along with phrenic nerve damage caused my diaphragm to be partially paralyzed, so breathing had become a painfully maddening experience.

Each breath I struggled to take was a moment I had to get through. And breathing is something that you can't automatically put on hold, you can't avoid it, you don't want it to stop, yet each breath itself feels like it is killing you...and for was not good. Moment by moment, I battled my own body. My oxygen levels were dangerously low. Once I had been admitted back into the hospital, I soon learned to breathe deeply though the oxygen tubes sticking in my nostrils...breathe in deeply with the mouth closed and try not to move. You'd be amazed at how much oxygen it takes for us to move a little muscle.

I was in bad shape. My surgery had not been without its risks; some are like that...they aren't so routine and they come with horrendous recoveries. No frilly answer.

With my surgery and complications, I was finding myself in such pain that I floated out of the here and now. Thank God my mom had recognized that my situation seemed to be well beyond typical recovery issues...she heard my whimpers and she knew I was in serious trouble. So, the ambulance showed up and off I went back to the hospital...and to be shocked about the level of my internal bleeding and collapsed lung.

This is just one time-frame in my life that has taught me about living through each moment and figuring out how to cope so that you can have a better chance to continue living through more moments.

For those people who are trying to get through their lives, second by second, moment by moment, I am here to say that those moments right now are the best you can to get through each one. Each moment is precious. It may be true that Time Heals CERTAIN wounds, but not all wounds can be healed with time.

Some wounds and problems and pains must be lived with every moment of every day. Personally, I believe that you better learn to cope with such problems as time passes. Time does often help us to adjust and to adapt...we cope.

Another area of tremendous pain came after my cervical spine reconstruction in 2009. My cervical spine is held together by metal...the hardware cannot be removed, it is there to stay, permanently. My "healing" for my collapsed spine can only have a certain level of healing, and after that point, I have to deal with and live with the constant pain of the substantial hardware that holds my spine together. Most people seeing me in a grocery store on in the front yard would NEVER IMAGINE that I've confronted such health problems...I am good a the "fake it til you make it" facade, unless you look closely and see the scars.

However, facing the fact that the word "healing" is a relative term has been a part of my health challenge. A more appropriate word for my situation(s) and for many others is that you might not have necessarily "healed" from your situation, but you've learned to COPE with your difficulties...if they aren't going to go away or heal like a normal broken bone or cut, then you must learn to cope with the problems the ongoing issue will bring to your life.

This is when you learn to take things one moment at a time. You learn to be deeply grateful for those beautiful moments. You learn that the excruciating moments are likely to pass, even if they feel like an eternity. You eventually learn to do things that will help you LIVE with the issue. And you might even find the coping mechanisms and adaptations that will allow you to live a rich life, with the "new" you.

So, if you are struggling today, my prayer is that you take a breath and focus on each moment you get through and hopefully those moments will begin to get better and better as you adapt.

For me, I live an extremely fulfilling life. For me, having great faith in God and holding onto that faith in spite of circumstances has been my life-line during times of nearly drowning in sinking sand. Living with health issues requires action and it usually requires a different set of thinking skills. Whether you have MS, diabetes, a war injury or a funky weird, rare can move forward in a new way while focusing on the here and now.

The great thing that underlies such hurdles in life is that we humans are adaptable. We are pretty amazing creatures. I've discovered just how far our bodies and minds can stretch into the realm of adaptability. Just when we think we can't stretch any further, we do. And yes, I admit that time can help us to stretch farther, even if it won't let us heal as completely as we had expected.

For each of us, our unique situations may be easier or more difficult than the next, but each requires that we reach deep inside of ourselves and rise to the challenge of that particular moment. And you can do it.

So, if time won't necessarily heal your wounds, I hope that time will allow you to find the best ways to cope with the wounds you must carry. Take each moment as it comes and be glad for the small, yet significant triumphs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

# 107 - Taking Deep Breaths in the Country

Life is changing for me and I'm so happy because these are some good changes that are taking place. For a few years, I've sure been accustomed to changes, but usually those were on the tough end.

I have learned to adapt to changes in my body, such as ribs being removed, my spine being partially rebuilt with industrialized parts, my body being patched together with amazing animal bits, and every step along the way has been difficult. The challenges are immense and too numerous to detail. 

So, I'm ready for some changes that will be full of fun and exciting challenges. There will always be moments of hardship for us to confront, but it sure will be a bit more joyful to do it while surrounded by beauty in nature.

There have been many, many times that I've been cooped up at home. I can tell you that I'd rather be cooped up in a farm house as I sit on my expansive front porch overlooking acreage than I would being cooped up in an expensive house in the suburbs that's tightly packed in with the neighbors.

For me, I seem to absorb healing powers from nature. I can't even describe this uncanny fact, but it's been very true for me since I was a child. Each time I've confront a huge hurdle in life, I've headed for the country and its restorative powers. Being able to sit and listen to the trees rustle in the wind, the birds sing and the frogs croak appears to work wonders for my health, not to mention my psyche.

I look forward to that front porch and to having a nice deck.

Yes, it will be great to be surrounded by less concrete, fewer bricks, a bit less noise and a lot more of nature. A few more deep breaths will be possible once I'm in the country, and I'm definitely ready for some slow, relaxed, deep breathing.

For me, I feel like living in the country is kind of like being able to enjoy an extended soaker tub break or a good vacation or kind of like getting a deep tissue massage. It's always been that way for me.

And since I've been packing up as many of our belongings as possible in preparation for our move to the country, I'm ready to start taking those deep breaths about now.

Ahhhh, haaaaa.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

# 106 - Living it Up --- With a Plan

Since Addison's took up residency in my body, I've found that the little cold that had once been a pain in my rear had become a serious drag to confront, even with stress doses. It appears that it takes me longer to kick a cold and my body becomes much more run down, for a more extended period of time than it once had in my pre-Addison's days.

I am not afraid or ashamed to admit that when I get around someone with a bad cold, I instantly head the other direction. I take steps to protect myself. Of course, we can't always avoid germs, but I do my best to keep them from latching onto me. I am kind and understanding to the other person's discomfort and suffering, but I have surely learned to put my health first and this has helped me to stabilize my health to a large degree. You must be proactive and not feel bad for taking care of your health. If we're down and out, we often need the help of others, so it's better to be careful to not let yourself be exposed to too much risk.

Regardless, the past two weeks has been a tough one because I came down with a terrible cold that has been hard to shake. However, this time around, it did not develop into pneumonia. For the past few years, I have had pneumonia 1-2 times per winter season and it lasts for up to three months as we try to battle it with various strong anti-biotics.

So, I made it through 2011 without getting pneumonia, and I am throwing a little celebration party for myself at this second. Okay, I'm finished.

My long-time doctor is finding that Addison's makes it tough to combat bacteria in my body, and I will automatically need a longer anti-biotic dosing regiment. It's great that he takes careful notes and makes judicious observations on how to best treat my ailments while considering the Addison's part of the equation.

But, the worst part of being worn down physically for me is the emotional drag that comes with it. A person just can't be happy-go-lucky when they are battling an obvious sickness. It gets you down when you don't have the energy or the strength or the wellness to do the things you want to do each day. If someone disagrees, then maybe they should be a ra-ra cheerleader themselves during the flu ---  I'm talking authentic flu, not a 48-hour crude bug --- I don't think they'd do such a good job of putting on the cheer as their joints feel like they're going to explode. When you have Addison's/Adrenal Insufficiency combined with an can feel as if you are trying to pick yourself up after the Addison's-Mac-Truck has run you down and keeps backing up to make extra tire marks.

Sometimes, when I am sick, the only thing that I can do well is get lots of rest. Usually, when I'm not feeling well, I am still content because I simply spend extra time blogging here on this site and on my Farm Life lessons blog.

To be honest, I focus heavily on my other blog because it takes me away from the drudgery of having a disease that impacts all areas of my life.

For those of your who don't read my other blog, we are moving to the country. It's a huge move for us because we live in a greater metropolitan area...just outside of Houston, Texas. Our acreage is expansive, beautiful, forested and rural. We've owned it since the girls were young. We purchased it the year I became sick with Addison's disease.

Me and my two daughters on our land, at our lake.
I've had so many people in my family and so many friends tell me that they are terrified that I'm moving out there, especially with this condition. But, I do not live in fear. Also, I am usually prepared for emergencies, but living in the country will heighten my level of preparation...I plan to:

1. Personally visit the local EMS group and to discuss my rare disease and its treatment during a crisis, sort of like an introduction to the local gal on one of her good days and while she can maintain consciousness to have a decent conversation. I hope to not have to call EMS, but I need them to know my regular state of health can wildly fluctuate.

2. Tape an emergency kit with injection and instructions at the back door.

3. Keep walkie-talkie radios on us at all times as we are several acres apart during the day, we do this now during our visits to our property.

4. Keep my cell phone on me at all times and I already have 911 set on speed dial as "#1" to make it even easier to dial.

5. We plan to make our land easily accessible for emergency vehicles and direction signs for the land marked out with novelty signs so that if I am possibly at a distance from the house, they can still find me with relative ease.

6. Maintain a routine of daily check-in phone calls or texts to keep the husband's worry at bay.

Last week while on our land.
As for the EMS in the country, they are great. Here at my house, if I take an ambulance to the hospital, there are just a few hospitals that I'd allow myself to be taken due to reputation concerns that are valid. With Houston's traffic, constant intersections and construction, any ambulance ride to downtown will take at least 30 minutes. From our land to the nearest hospital that is worth visiting, it will take about 40 minutes. If I let them take me to the local hospital in Livingston, it would only take about 25 minutes.

But, my point is...the difference in the ambulance ride is not staggering. Yes, it's a few minutes, but if I address my condition with aggressive treatment at home and know when to call 911, then I should have an advantage during a crisis episode.

Most importantly, I do feel as if moving away from the chemical-laden air from the refineries surrounding our home will be healthy for me. Breathing in country air is always a delight.

And being in the country environment does miraculous wonders for my emotional and physical well-being. We will also have room to grow a massive vegetable garden, so I know that I will be eating better and better while living in the country. I plan to also learn to can our veggies and process our own be raised organically.

Regardless, there is something healing, calming, nurturing and delightful, to me, about being in the country. I adhere to the saying, "If you want to get closer to God, get closer to nature." That about sums up my feelings with country living.

My family and friends do not realize that living in the city does not lessen the dangers associated with Addison's. Day by day, it is a disease that requires personal vigilance so that I can make it to the next day and be feeling good. I won't be afraid to go on vacation or to travel here or there simply because of this disease. I am cautious. I am prepared. But, I am also enjoying and savoring every good day that comes my way.

Soon, I'll be enjoying more of those days in the country. I can't wait.

Friday, January 6, 2012

#105 - Furry Friends are Great Medicine!

There are a few things in life that make you feel better on a crummy day. The past few days, I've been battling a terrible cold. With Addison's disease and even with stress doses, my body feels worn out and it's easy to feel down in the dumps when you don't feel well.

However, my furry friends keep me company, even in my crummy state of existence. 

My doggies are so sweet. And it is not so odd to other pet owners that our dogs are often in tune to our body on an uncanny level.

If I am sitting on the sofa and being rather motionless compared to a normal day when I'm constantly moving from spot to spot, the dogs let me know that they sense that there is something wrong. They surround me and stay by my side.

And he looks at me as if to say, "What's wrong with my witty-bitty owner?"

Best of all, if I'm feeling unwell and just need some rest, the dogs pick up on this and they calm down. If I need a nap, then they lay down and take a nice rest with me.

It's nice of them to give me the gift of silence and solitude when I most need it.

But, of course, there are occasional days when the dogs are too rowdy and a royal pain in the rear, but they are still pretty darn cute.

Our still amazes me that they can sometimes be the best medicine around.