When I was a teenager I wanted nothing more than to be normal; with my super short, curly, mousy coloured chemo hair I stuck out like a sore thumb. Luckily in high school everyone was so wrapped up in their own lives and drama that people barely gave me so much as a passing glance on their way to English class. And I grew comfortable in my invisibility.
I was never the best at anything. I barely scratched the surface of good most of the time. But I was good enough at a lot of things and that has served me well for most of my life.
Today’s not your day.
You’re not going anywhere!
Sit down and stay right there!
You have brains in your head.
That much is true.
But brain fog makes you doubt your IQ.
You’re on your own. Yet you need assistance.
This may be quite a sad existence.
You’ll look at Facebook posts from friends,
And see how their fun never ends
Their lives seem full of choices and opportunity
While yours is filled with immune system mutiny.
And you may not find any common ground
With people you used to hang around
Your life has been changed from the norm
It is like being altered from your original form.
But not all change is worthy of despair,
Because you have gained new insights to share.
Perspectives are altered as illnesses progress,
Managing medications and appointments in excess.
These allow you to grow in ways you couldn’t have expected,
A new experience with every hospital band collected.
And then your heart grows and grows
With each new spoonie you get to know
Ask questions and share your tale,
Of illness woes and medical fails
THE THINGS YOU’LL GAIN!
You’re on your way to chronic success!
You now have medical aids and Netflix to obsess!
You’ll join the ranks of chronic warriors
who never turn down a fight!
You won’t always enjoy this life,
You’ll cry tears of pain, exhaustion and fear..
But know you’re not alone in this battle,
Whatever you are going through, we are here.
The things you’ll miss are plenty,
From parties, concerts, and plays.
It seems unfair because it is.
But this is the chronic fighter way.
It’s not always the most fun, that’s for sure.
But what we lack in fun, we make up for in heart.
Sheer will, determination, sense of humor, and hope for a cure!
My revamped version of Dr. Seuess’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go”
My name is Courtney and I ruin parties. I don’t do it intentionally. I don’t mean to draw attention to myself when I need to move because the pain shooting down my legs is unbearable. I don’t drop my cane on purpose so people feel sorry for me. Trust me, the pity is the absolute worst. I don’t leave early to be a buzz kill, and I certainly don’t avoid social gatherings because I’m a loner or a snob. My reality is just different than yours.
I don’t want to miss your wedding or baby shower, I would love to be there to celebrate these moments.
I don’t want to miss concerts or plays, these were my favourite things in the whole world.
The truth is that it kills me that I’m not able to attend places where my walker would be an inconvenience and I hate being the girl who has to call ahead to check for accessibility. The truth is that it’s embarrassing to constantly have to alter the room set-up for optimal comfort, and even then I have to leave earlier than everyone else due to pain, discomfort, or other health related reasons.
Chronic pain and illness makes me stick out like a sore thumb as I limp around and my eyes well up with tears. This does not feel like the girl I was meant to be, but it is the girl I am. I try to make the best out of every situation, but when awkward seating at a restaurant causes me to stand to finish my meal or my legs are squished during an outing with family, I am thrust back into the harsh reality of these illnesses.
I don’t want to rush people into finishing a meal they’re enjoying, or for people to feel bad as they see the discomfort on my face. This is my reality and as much as I try to hide it and make it not so, you are part of this reality also and for that I could not be more sorry.
So if I rsvp no to a future Facebook invite or a proper mailed invitation, I am not trying to be rude, I am trying to spare you and your guests from this reality. The reality of back cushions, leg lifts, mobility aids, and a rattling pill case full purse.
I wish I could be the fun loving chick I once was who could close down a bar like a whiskey shooting bad ass, but this is no longer something I am capable of. Now my resume boasts such goodies as “Netflix Aficionado,” “Pillow Setter Up Extraordinaire,” and “Snack Queen.” If you’re down with that, I’m here for you. In a couch, bed, or otherwise properly comfortable seating situation.
Before we get started, check out today’s Song of the Week for an awesome Bon Jovi tune!
Now, where was I?
I have been having a hard time deciding what to write about. Do people really want to listen to my inner ramblings? Is my writing any good, really? Am I helping anyone at all?
Even if the answer to all of those questions is a resounding no, should I stop writing? Another giant NO!
Writing is so therapeutic, whether anybody reads it, understands it, likes it, or not.
I am not an expert at anything other than being myself, but I have stuff to stay, I have a voice to be heard, and I write words to be read. Even if I’m the only one reading them.
When I was younger I wrote poetry about loves I never experienced, heart break I never knew, and poured out feelings I could only imagine. As I grew I matured in my prose, spilling out angsty tales of my parent’s divorce and my overcoming cancer. It was real, raw, and maybe a touch pretentious. I put away my pen and paper for a decade when I became preoccupied with real romance, education, working three minimum wage jobs, and living my life slightly recklessly.
In the last couple of years, as my body has failed me yet again, I traded in my pen and doodle covered notebook for the ease of a laptop and click-clacked my feelings for hours. That is how my journey into blogging began.
I realized quickly that there was a place for me in the sea of chronically ill folk. My folk. Folks who get me.
Folk is an underrated word.
Every time I experienced a symptom or encountered an awkward situation, or felt the weight of my illnesses about to crash down on my fragile body, I just typed the letters until they became meaningful words that only my people would understand. And they did. They responded so strongly I felt, even if only for that minute, like I was less alone. And isn’t that the point of this anyway?
Isn’t the point of writing, reading, listening, being alive, to connect? To realize we’re not all walking this earth alone?
It would be a huge disservice to ourselves and each other if we seclude ourselves and muffle our voices. Because you might have a story somebody needs to hear.
You might be the answer to someone’s prayers. You might be the one who can write the words to someone else’s story. You might paint the canvas of someone else’s life. You might lend a listening ear to someone who needs to share their soul. You might be the hope for the hopeless. You might be the one to inspire the world.
And even if you’re not, isn’t it worth a try?
Before I get into it, please check out the Song of the Week page for an awesome, fighting tune!
I am sitting here with throbbing shoulders, swollen fingers, and an aching head because what I’m about to write needs to be written.
I have fibromyalgia. It is not my only diagnosis but it is the most debated of my illnesses. I’m very lucky that I have an amazing team of doctors that believe in my pain and chronic illnesses enough to diagnose and attempt to treat said conditions. That being said, I know so many friends around the world who are not so lucky.
I have rheumatoid arthritis and because of that I already had a rheumatologist to diagnose my fibromyalgia. If I did not already have a specialist I wonder how long I would have been waiting for that diagnosis. My guess is I’d still be waiting, in agony, for someone to believe in my pain and help me. For a fibromyalgia warrior, or really any person in the world, living in chronic, debilitating pain with no answers and no treatment is not only maddening, it’s downright unbearable.
What makes it worse, is people telling you your pain isn’t real, it’s all in your head, or if you just exercise more or take this magic potion everything will be better. It is real. And there is so much evidence now to back it up that your argument is not only unwarranted, it is wrong and doing far more harm than good.
I remember the day I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia like it was yesterday. I remember what I was wearing (purple shorts and a white and purple t-shirt), I remember the doctors office and the tender point test (ouch), and where I went after and spending the rest of the day in a dumbfounded haze. What did this mean? What really is fibromyalgia?
These questions I’ve had to answer myself through experience, trial and error, and several unsuccessful treatment protocols. But I am muddling my way through it, like so many other fighters out there. And we are all in this together.
One of the things I’ve learned about fibromyalgia is how it can take one good moment and turn it into days of unrelenting pain. It can take one dedicated, hardworking person and turn them into a shadow of their former self. Everything you thought to be true completely flips upside down and you feel like you’re drowning, except nobody around you can tell. It’s absolutely isolating. But thankfully, I know I am no longer alone.
On this day, May 12th, we come together to celebrate our victories over fibromyalgia (however small they may seem to the typical person, we know they are monumental for us) and fight towards awareness, acceptance, research, and treatment. Our battle is not yet over, but united we will continue to push forward!
As (mostly) usual, check out the Song of the Week page for an awesome recommendation from a lovely spoonie friend!
Dear Friend, Acquaintance, Family Member, Random Person Staring at me with my Walker, or any other person who judges me without knowing anything about me and/or my condition/s and therefore should have no opinion on my medical situation,
This letter is for you.
I usually try to steer clear of you, as negativity is not permitted in my bubble of self care, but alas, you continually attempt to pop my beautiful pink bubble.
I used to think it was easy to avoid you and others like you, but as my medical conditions make it more challenging to survive without the need of mobility or accessibility aids in public and my life revolves around the illnesses more than anything else, we seem to be at an impasse.
I have several chronic, autoimmue, life-altering illnesses, whether you believe they’re real or not. And they are, just to be clear, as years of research and medical documentation support their existence (and I’m not on all of these medications for nothing). These conditions, illnesses, horrible-things-that-have-happened-to-me are in no way fake, misleading, or caused by anything I have done. I do not choose to be ill and miss out on work, bearing children, or vacations with my husband. I do not want to use a cane or walker around the house or in public (even if they are pretty cute), because in reality, it’s all a huge inconvenience. I do not want to spend hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies, employee benefits, or disability services. I don’t want to be in agony over the sound of birds chirping, motorcycles starting, or my husband trying to hug me. This is not a fun life. But it is my life.
This is my life, and it is not yours. And just because it does not make sense to you does not make it any less legitimate. These are illnesses I didn’t even know existed until they happened to me. But now that I know they do, I am a champion for these causes and for the people’s lives they’ve affected. I do not write this letter for your benefit or mine, I write it for theirs. I write this for my friends around the globe who encounter naysayers and hurtful doubters who make their already difficult lives that much harder. Nobody chooses to live in pain, but you are actively choosing to be ignorant to it.
I’ve heard you say things like “just push through it,” or “why are you in bed still?” or “if you just keep moving,” or one of my all time favourites “if you just take this one supplement your life will be completely different” which shows me just how little you know about our illnesses. And if you know that little about them, you are in no position to comment on how we survive them. If you think that one lap around the dog park is not enough to wear us out for days, you have no idea what we’re dealing with.
I’m sorry if this is coming off harsher than I had intended, but enough is enough. If you cannot stick by us, support us, encourage us, and just generally try to understand what we’re going through, then we’re going to have to cut ties here.
Speaking for myself, I cannot push through these exchanges anymore. I am begging for compassion, and if you are unable to provide that, there is nothing left to say.
Thank you, our friends and family who have shown us unending support and love. It means more to us than we can say.
Today’s Song of the Week totally changed my attitude and mindset for the day! As I’ve mentioned before, Rob Thomas (the lead singer and writer for Matchbox 20) has a wife who lives with a lupus-like condition so he has written several songs about what it is like watching his loved one in pain. Her Diamonds is a beautifully amazing song that I posted a while back, but today’s song (Someday) is more relatable and inspiring for spoonies and non-spoonies alike! That being said, it’s time to live a life you love!
As a chronic illness warrior so many things are out of our control, including seemingly simple day-to-day tasks like bathing or even getting out of bed. We can resign ourselves to despair, because that’s the type of existence chronic illnesses expect of us, or we can fight back. Now, fighting back when you’re physically unable to get out of bed may seem ridiculous and like an outrageously tall order, but I don’t mean literally dukes-out fighting. Attitude is key here, folks.
Here is the first verse to Someday: “You can go
You can start all over again
You can try to find a way to make another day go by
You can hide
Hold all your feelings inside
You can try to carry on when all you want to do is cry”
Now if that isn’t a spoonie anthem, I’m not quite sure what is. I feel like we so often are dragged through these days and they begin to blur into one another. Endless days of pain and medications, appointments and blood draws, sleep and insomnia until we have forgotten the day or month or even year. We carry on and on and on.
Here is the chorus:
“And maybe someday
We’ll figure all this out
Try to put an end to all our doubt
Try to find a way to make things better now and
Maybe someday we’ll live our lives out loud
We’ll be better off somehow
Now, we may never figure any of this out, but we can live our lives out loud. We can make our voices heard. We can support one another and learn from one another. We will likely never understand these illnesses or be able to look into what the future holds, but we can make it through one day at a time together.
Here is the bridge:
“Cause sometimes we don’t really notice
Just how good it can get
So maybe we should start all over
Start all over again”
We get so lost in these illnesses that we can miss the real beauty in the world. Try and watch a sunset or sunrise every now and then. Try and look up at the stars in the sky. Hug someone you love. The little pleasures in life really put things into perspective, I’ve found. Michael and I grew up in the county and we love going back to see the stars at night. It changes everything, even just for a moment.
So we can start over, today. We can choose to live out loud, a life we love. And we will definitely fumble and fall and fail, but what’s important is that we get back up and try again. And keep trying until our lives are ours to love and change. We control more than we think we do. Attitude is key.
We can’t control our illnesses, but we can control how we live with them. That’s much easier to do together.