Posted in Feelings, Hope & Inspiration, Living with Pain, Nature, Photography

Sunset and…

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Living in northeast Wyoming where the sky is endless, the sunsets magnificent and the air clean, I find deep peace.

Last night the western sky put on this magnificent show, so I ran out to the back yard with my camera. Taking a series of photos to capture the various hues as the sun settled, my cats wandered the yard with me (mostly between my feet). While aiming for the shot in this post, my cat Pooh launched herself up and on to my side climbing up to my shoulders. I can’t recall that she had ever done that before, so needless to say I was surprised…and a little sore from the claw marks. But I didn’t mind, she was purring and I could feel her happiness. I let her perch like a bird while taking another shot, until I needed better focus and let her back down.

Sunset is my favorite time of the day. It gives me a chance to be outdoors to breathe in the last of the day. The deer are usually grazing out in the ranch, waiting for me to go in the house so they can come in the yard looking for any scrap veggies I may have tossed out for them. I feel a quiet contentment inside, a moment of peace. It is my time of the day when I give thanks to the Universe for helping me find myself. It is my time when I have no pain. Sunset is the time of the day when I feel the most At One with the world and am grateful.

Posted in Ankylosing Spondylitis, Hope & Inspiration, Living with Pain

A Heating Pad, TENS unit and Flexeril Walk in to the bar….

Did that catch your attention? If you live with any chronic pain you likely understand my title and for that, I’m sorry. I recently went through a week of having gorilla pits because I was in so much pain I could barely clean myself in the shower, never mind pick up a razor.

It was a Wednesday morning, like many other days. I left the house for work at the last possible moment, speeding not an option because: A – I don’t speed, B – There are too many deer that randomly run across the road around here, and C – I live in a small community and work for the county government and don’t want my bosses to hear my license plate and name over the radio as the deputy calls in my information to the dispatcher. But mostly I don’t speed because I live a life now that I don’t have to.  But I digress…

By the time I pulled in my parking space, I suddenly felt that long forgotten rusty rebar spine feeling. As I looked down to unbuckle my seatbelt, hot searing pain shot down my spine. Oh holy shit….what the hell just happened??? I painfully inched my way out of the drivers seat and managed to stand upright while catching my breath. Walking like The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, I painfully and slowly navigated my way to the stairs to the front door, all while carrying on a conversation with a co-worker not letting on how much pain I was in. Fortunately she was walking just a bit in front of me and didn’t see my tin man walk or my one-step-at-a-time up the stairs. I was totally having a flash-back to the time when I lived like this 24/7 acting as though nothing were wrong. I initially thought this searing pain down my spine would go away in a few minutes, just a fluke, maybe a muscle spasm. Over the next hour it got worse, I could barely move an inch without shooting, red-hot stabbing pain running from my neck to my sacroiliac joints. WTF is going on??????? If I attempted to lower my chin to my chest 1/2 inch the pain level went from a 9 to a 900 on that pain scale with no resemblance to a happy face. I sent my husband an email at work, looking for advice. He said it sounded like a muscle spasm and to take a flexeril. I protested at first, I didn’t want to become a zombie at work. His logic was sound – he said I could be a zombie at work and not get anything done or I could sit there in utter pain and still be useless. So I might as well make an attempt at reducing the pain. I cried uncle and decided to go home 11AM, driving my car with my mom following in her car.  My pain level was so high the flexeril hadn’t affected my brain yet – so I felt safe to drive those six minutes home.

Gingerly stepping around cats who were very excited at my arrival home at an unexpected time, I worked my way to my bedroom, one hand over the other holding pressing along the wall to my bedroom whereby I carefully slid my clothes off and my sweats on. I wanted the couch….I needed the couch…I needed to close my eyes because surely the pain would be gone when I woke up. This was just a fluke I told myself.

It was not a fluke, unless you want to call it a week-long fluke. With pillow, heating pad and prayer shawl keeping me company on my couch, I visited the inside of my eyelids the rest of the day and most of that second day. My husband happen to visit the company doctor at work and mentioned how I was home with a muscle spasm. Thankfully the doctor mentioned a TENS unitDing Ding Ding – Oh Yes! I have one of those!! And even better – I know where it is! Getting the pads in just the right places, I dialed in my vibrational relief. Choosing between the various settings I was able to attack that spasm back. Add in a dose of heating pad and a flexeril and I was good to go. Until the third day. None of those three things really helped anymore…I don’t think this is a muscle spasm…hmmmmm.

It was then that I remembered…Oh yeah, I have Ankylosing Spondylitis. This is bone pain. In fact, it really felt a lot like when I had compression fractures from osteoporosis. Then the inner dialogue started….”this can’t be a flare, can it?” “if I have a fracture, how did it happen?” “could this be from my exercise last night?” finally to, “there is no way in hell I’m doing this again!” And once again, my fierce determination came out and I decided to be healed.

Breathing was a chore, and it was very shallow. But I know when you are experiencing pain the last thing you want to do is hold your breath and constrict so I forced myself constantly to observe my breath, to take slow deep breaths until I felt a stabbing pain in my vertebra. I meditated, did Reiki, and thanked my guardian angels for their help. I repeated out loud and silently “I am well.” I also gave in and got out my cane to help me walk. I felt like getting out the cane was an admission of guilt, of needing something else to help me. But I also figured the way I was walking all hobbled over was going to cause problems too, so a cane would be a good thing. Slowly as the weekend progressed, I did start to feel better – not 100%, but better.

At this point, you might be thinking that this girl is full of it….trust me, I know it sounds like a total load of crap that doing these things helped me to feel better. Seriously, talk yourself out of pain? Well in fact it is possible, because I believed it to be possible. I knew that by focusing on my connection with the Universe/God/Goddess/Gaia/Deity – (whatever you look to for a higher source) I would begin to feel better.

One of my favorite spiritual leaders in the world is Dr. Wayne Dyer. I was listening to him recently on a recording of The Aware Show with Lisa Garr. He said (I’m paraphrasing here), “Jesus said, With God – All things are Possible. It’s in the Bible – Matthew 19:26. He didn’t say Some things are possible, he said ALL things are possible. If ALL things are possible, what else is there?” So why not believe that focus and connection with the universe can help us feel better. If we solely focus on our pain, illness, injury that is what we see. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting here pain free as I write this. In fact, I’ve got some nerve pain in my rib cage that is three years old that still hits me out of no where. But my changing my focus, I change my experience.

So my challenge to you today is to try something new. Rather than focus on your pain, focus on one positive thing, one beautiful thing. Let that feeling fill up you, even if it is a distraction for just a moment – that is your moment of pain free life. When you practice this, those moments grow one by one.

I’ll leave you with this thought today from Dr. Wayne Dyer:

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change”
Posted in Ankylosing Spondylitis, Crohn's Disease, Crohns, Feelings, Hope & Inspiration, Living with Pain, Writing

Who said farts aren’t funny?

I’m at the point in my book where I’m writing about the times I nearly died from my disease. My background in the book is particularly on Inflammatory Bowel Disease; Nerve Pain; Ankylosing Spondylitis; and the depression that comes along with living with those diseases. I know, totally sounds like a bummer of a book, doesn’t it? Well, that’s just a small part of it, but necessary. The good stuff comes after that ugly stuff!  The whole point is that where I am today is because of all the shitty stuff I’ve lived through – literally! As you come to the topic of shitty stuff, inevitably it all comes back to gas. In my family, that means fart jokes.

Seriously….you can’t tell me that people in your circle of friends or family don’t make fart jokes. I mean, farts are funny after all. How in the hell does our body manage to digest our food and then squeak out gas in such a myriad of tunes? They have to be funny to enough people because you can download fart apps for your smart phone (admit it, you’ve either done it, thought about doing it, or know someone who has). You can also buy props like The Pooter.

the-pooter

 The Pooter is a handy little device you hold in the palm of your hand and at just the right moment you give it a squeeze and voila!! Fart = laughter. These items of course are all the modern day version of the whoopie cushion.  We had a lot of fun with the pooter at a convention once…we even had someone take the blame for the “fart.”

When you live with Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease or any of the other digestive disorders and diseases, farts no longer are funny. They don’t exist anymore for fun, they are just part of the disorder. As I sit here writing about the time I came very close to death because of my Crohn’s Disease I am having a difficult time focusing. So much of that time period was buried in my subconscious, layered in between copious amounts of narcotic pain medications. I’m reliving the really shitty parts of this disease, when my body seemingly turned against me. It’s not easy to think about, and definitely not easy to write about. It was two years of my life that I have varied memories, many of them humorous in spite of the awful stuff happening.  So in the midst of the ugliness that I’m writing about today, I am taking a little break to share some humor.

Remembering and sharing are ways to let others know they aren’t alone. I know I’m not the only person that has ever dealt with this, and unfortunately I won’t be the last. What I do hope is that people will learn that life is tenuous, short and full of surprises. Sometimes those surprises come in the form of a little toot from the nether-region. So next time, go ahead and laugh about it, you have my permission.  Seriously, farts are funny.

warning-you-are-entering-a-fart-zone

Posted in Living with Pain

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Just after 11:30 AM on June 2, 2013, I crossed the finish line at the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon in Deadwood, South Dakota. In 3 hours, 37 minutes & 45 seconds, my friends and I power-walked (and ran a bit) 13.1 miles through the Black Hills. Just four days prior to the marathon, we practiced a part of the walk at 7.15 miles which took us nearly 2.5 hours so I never expected to be able to complete the half marathon in under four hours – never mind just over three and a half!Image 

For the average person, participating in a marathon is a challenge for sure. It takes training, dedication (or insanity) and the heart to pull it off. As a person who has lived with Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease and Ankylosing Spondylitis my entire adult life (more years than I’d like to admit thank you very much), the idea of a marathon was quite frankly….NOT an idea! At least not in my mind. I was not the athletic kid, I was playing the piano or being the band geek. Running? Ha!! 

Once my illnesses took over my life, how my back could handle something or the worry of where the next bathroom would be found, ruled my life. So the idea of a marathon induced panic or pain just thinking about it! My fellow Crohn’s & Colitis friends know what our thoughts are: “What if I have to poop and there is no bathroom?  I SO am NOT pooping in the woods!!” Not the sexiest thing to talk about I know, but that is our reality.  

Hanging around in the freezing cold waiting for the starting gun, it was fun to see the various tee shirts of people promoting their causes. It made me wonder what other stories were out there. As Batman slid through the crowd towards the runners starting locations, it never occurred to me  that he had a story, I just figured it was something fun. I later learned in the newspaper that his name is Tim, he is 26 years old from Pennsylvania and is a Testicular Cancer survivor. Daily running is what helped him heal and as a life long fan of Batman, he thought he could lift others spirits by wearing this costume. Sunday was his first 1/2 marathon too. Gives me goosebumps, how about you?

Everyone out there on the course had their own goals I’m sure. Some were hoping to cross the finish line at a certain time. Others striving to beat last year’s marathon time. Perhaps others were hoping to have their fastest mile. For me – I just wanted to get to the finish line….in one piece….without having to be carried home…or to the hospital! 

 Keeping up a respectable pace, I was amazed when the first hour was done and we were already heading in to our fifth mile. I started sending text messages to my husband because I was worried that we were going to finish a lot sooner than projected, and he and my mom were going to miss being at the finish line when I crossed it. I imagined crossing the finish line and tears would well up in my eyes. It was particularly important for my mom to be there – to see what I accomplished. My mom has been there through all the crappy health crises (and then some). It was about time there was something REALLY good that happened with my health and my body! In my excitement about having my mom there, I exclaimed to my girlfriend in a loud voice with arms raised as though I was a preacher on a Sunday morning behind the pulpit, “She must bear Witness to my Accomplishment – Yes, She Must!!!!” LOL…..Needless to say my friend sped up a bit, so I had to jog to catch up with her. I suddenly realized, I just jogged and it didn’t hurt! 

As I crunched along the trail, I thought back to the time when I couldn’t walk because of the damage in my spine from the fistula caused by my Crohn’s and the fractures from the Osteoporosis. I remembered using my walker to take slow, painful steps from the living room to the bathroom that would bring tears to my eyes from the pain,  frustration and fear I lived with on a daily basis. I thought back to recovering from my back-to-back surgeries in 2009 and how my right hand was practically glued to my left side to provide a modicum of relief from the nerve pain from the surgical site where my kidney used to be. Every step or breathe I took was like a knife stabbing me between the ribs.  After every surgery, I slowly regained my strength. I always pushed to get back to “normal.” When I started walking to regain my strength, I never thought of those steps as a precursor to a marathon. 

Around the 7th mile, my feet really were starting to hurt. I was having some dull aching in my left side where I only have periodic nerve pain, and my hip flexors were starting to swear at me. Rather than focus on what was hurting, I changed my thought process. I brought Reiki in to my energy centers and visualized light filling my body and carrying me down the trail. I channeled Louise Hay by creating my own positive affirmation. I just repeated to myself “I am walking with ease.” I focused on anything and everything that was opposite of the pain. I brought in my lessons from one of my favorite Buddhist teachers Jack Kornfield. When my feet were sending shooting pains, I just noticed it and said “tingling….tingling….tingling….it’s just nerves tingling and it’s temporary.” I heard his voice over and over in my head, and the pain subsided.

This marathon…besides being an expression of my healing, it was an opportunity to use the many things I’ve learned over the years. That investment in my personal library of inspirational/self-help/spiritual books was totally worth it! I didn’t fall back in to my old patterns of focusing on the pain. Instead my focus was on the finish line and how I would feel when I got there. My focus was on the energy of nature and our interconnectedness. My focus was a celebration of life, of my life and the ability to not just put one foot in front of the other…but to run those last few steps across the finish line and declare my willpower the winner!