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Incurable Hope

It has been a long six years trying to find a diagnosis. Based on my symptoms and the way they have progressively worsened, we’ve known it was some kind of degenerative neuromuscular disease, but we haven’t quite known the prognosis. Early on it was thought to be MS, and I was able to work through it, making some modifications to how I did things, but vastly able to continue life as normal. Things continued to decline though, and I found myself losing the strength and endurance I needed to continue working as a paramedic. This is when I cut back to part time paramedic, and also took an office job in organ donation. As fulfilling as that was, I eventually found myself no longer to make the drive, or even remain upright for the hours that it required. Eventually I had to face that I could no longer safely work in any job, and I needed to save what little energy I had for my family and friends.

It’s been a frightening journey at times, especially with the unknowns, but we are beginning to have some clarity. A recent brain MRI showed significant damage to my brain stem, which is responsible for many of the automatic functions of the body. This information shed light on why I was having symptoms related to that area of the brain, like trouble regulating my breathing. All of these pieces started to fit together and pointed to Multiple System Atrophy. In some ways this was a relief, as the contenders like ALS have a very short length of survivability. MSA comes with its own fatal prognosis though, typically within 5-15 years. Being at year six, I already feel blessed for the time I’ve had and continue to enjoy. I’ve tried to stay in the moment and be continually grateful, although I’ll admit that sometimes my attitude stinks and I fall into a grumpy state of forgetting the gifts I’ve been given.

I know that God knows my heart and hears my prayers, and those of so many who love me. I know that He can take this from me if He chooses to. But even if He doesn’t, I will still choose hope and thank Him for every moment He allows me to have here.

I hope you’ll help me, dear readers, to continue to find Hope and Grace in the day to day. I know that it’s there, and sometimes I just need help to lift my eyes up for it. Please don’t treat me differently; let’s laugh and dance and do big and small things without fear of the future. I’m ready for today, how about you?

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Leaving Winter

Recovering from brain surgery is no joke. It’s been a lot tougher than I expected. I’ve not much made it out of bed over the past few weeks that I’ve been home. It’s easy for things to get dark when that’s the case, and add on this pandemic and the quarantine we are under, it doesn’t take long for things to feel like they’re closing in around me.

Today I managed to get up and go outside for a few minutes. My goal was simply to refill the birdseed at my window. The birds that come sit and peck at my window are such a beautiful source of joy to me. As I made my way through the backyard though, I noticed something. All around me, little colorful buds were standing proud on the trees and poking up from the leftover scraps of last year’s leaves. It took me by surprise. I guess in my sickness and discouragement, I forgot that Spring was coming. But just like the fluff starting to grow on the bald half of my head, new sprouts could be seen almost everywhere I looked!

I know a lot of people are feeling sad and scared and overwhelmed right now, so maybe that’s what we all need a reminder of. After Winter, Spring always comes. No matter how cold or how dark, those beautiful buds find their way back to meet days filled with sunshine. We may not know how long this hard time will last, but don’t forget the new beauty that is coming. It will be here. The hard Winter always forges the toughest stems and most beautiful blooms. Don’t forget to look for them.

New hair sprouts!

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Quiet & Brain Surgery

Thank you to the many of you who have reached out to check on me over the last weeks. My silence prompted care and concern, and my people reaching out to me has been heart nourishing when I simply haven’t known what to say. I am wrestling through a new season; one of discouragement and questioning, and it’s often left me grasping so desperately for my own hope strings, I haven’t felt anything left to offer.

As the days are growing longer and the tips of new blooms are beginning to push into view, I am in the quiet of home with my closest people letting this new season of hope-finding be one of rest and healing. Not so much of my own choice, but my recent battles have forced me into a time of convalescence.

I am recently home from a 35 day stay in the hospital two hours from home. It started as a cerebral spinal fluid leak because of the medication pump in my spine. Three spinal surgeries and one brain surgery later, I was finally stable enough to come home. Flu precautions kept my little people from being allowed to visit, which made the days exceptionally long.

My sweet friends and family loved on me as best they could from a distance, and when my stay kept getting extended, my fire partner from Colorado flew out to spend a few days at my bedside. Much of it is blurry, as I was medicated and exhausted, and more than a few people got text messages from me that were impossible to decipher.

I’m thankful to have been carried through on the prayers of so many, as my own strength and determination has been quite sapped for awhile now. Getting a shower is the triumph of my days right now, and the remainder consists of lots of sleep, fluids, and trying to figure out how to style half of a shaved head. My littles have just begun their Spring Break, and I’m snagging them to snuggle as often as they’ll allow.

Thank you for your loving care during this time. Surely when I find my bootstraps I will grasp them once more, and challenge my days with more adventure and sass. For now I’m here resting, healing, thankful for each of your kind messages, and looking forward to sharing life’s next adventures.

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Empty Stockings

I opened Facebook this week, and it didn’t take but a couple of swipes to see a pattern. 

The Christmas season is upon us, and with the joy and anticipation, there are many people feeling heavier emotions as the day of wonder draws near.  There are people having their first Christmas since the death of someone they love, and there are people who years later are still feeling the sting of someone’s absence.

For those who have lost a loved one, the celebration of Christmas will always have painful spaces that are difficult to fill.  There will be an empty stocking, a missing ornament, a lonely heart.  Please don’t ignore what is all around you; you can help make the holidays more bearable for grieving hearts.  Help them remember, say their names, do something to let them know their loved ones are not forgotten. 

We are all trying to find ways to include our people, even when they’re no longer here. Knowing that our family and friends remember our loss is a healing part of moving through grief. 

Take the time to think through your friend list today, see who you can reach out to with a bit of encouragement as you remind them that you see their grief, remember their loved ones, and choose to help fill those empty spaces during this time of year.

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Running

There are many things I miss about being able-bodied, and one of the big ones is being able to be active. Working out or going for a hike or a run has always been one of the best coping skills and stress reliefs for me, and I struggle with not having a comparable activity now that I’m not able to do those things.

Though I usually ran just for fun, I had set a goal for myself once of running a race someday. I figured even if I did just a 5k one day, I could knock it off my list and enjoy the experience. Well I sat on that goal for too long, and it never came to be.

Fast forward to today… I came the closest I will to meeting that goal! My friend and fire partner, Michael, who has a lot of miles under his running shoes, teamed up with me to do a 5k together. We chose a virtual 5k that fit our friendship perfectly, mapped out a course, and he pounded the pavement while pushing me in my wheelchair. It was glorious! When I closed my eyes and listened to the rhythm of his feet against the ground, with the fresh air tossing back my hair, it almost felt like I was running.

I know it wasn’t easy; he had to navigate getting my wheels across places with no pavement, bump me up and down a few curbs, and push me up some ginormous hills.

He never complained, and just chugged along like a freight train. It was such a special day of fun and friendship, and I’m so thankful for Michael going above and beyond to help me accomplish something in the best way I could.

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New Wheels!

The past few weeks have brought me a fancy new wheelchair and an incredible mobility van to travel around in! I am still waiting for my headrest, but everything else is so wonderful and supports my body in a comfort I’ve not had in a long time. I am so blessed that insurance worked with us on this, and now Mark doesn’t have to push me around everywhere we go!

I know there are many people with the same needs as I have who aren’t as fortunate to have a nice chair to use, or even a vehicle to get the chair around. It is not lost on me how richly blessed I am. I’m so thankful to have these needs met in such amazing ways, and I hope to use them to bring more love and light to the world.

Here’s to more adventures in the fast lane!

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Life Expectancy

My 6 year old climbed into bed with me and let out a deep sigh as he laid his head on my shoulder.  His babyish fingers fiddled with the green beads on the bracelet I had given him when he asked for something to “remember me.” When I asked him what he was thinking about, the fears came spilling out.  “I don’t want to miss you mama, I want you to stay.” He echoed what my heart whispers every time I look into the eyes of my little people.  We all want more time.

My condition has a life expectancy of 5-15 years.  My symptoms started 6 years ago. I guess many would say I’m living on borrowed time.  It’s a heavy thought when you think of it that way. That’s the thing though; every one of my days  are already perfectly appointed, however many that may be.

It’s easy to get caught up in fear when you have something that has put an expiration date over your head.  I’m not going to lie and say my mind doesn’t wander there, wondering sometimes over how long I have.  The more I have moved and leaned into this season though, the more I am filled with an overwhelming peace that I will be here the perfect number of days.  It’s a painful belief we have that people are taken from us too soon.  “She was too young.” “He died too soon.” “She was taken from us much too early.”  Can any of us point to someone who died right on time?  I choose to believe that God allows each of us to die at the perfect time, regardless of the circumstances.  This gives me so much freedom.

Instead of focusing on my life expectancy, I’m choosing to live expectantly; expecting joy, daily graces, and the perfect number of days to do life here with my people.  I’m soaking up the snuggles, rolling with the grumpy mornings, and pledging to be present for the big and small moments of every day without fear over my future. What if you decided to believe that everyone is here for the perfect number of days? Who would you be?

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In the Waiting

I spent the morning with my little on our knees in the dirt, carefully setting tulip bulbs in the ground as the bite of the brisk air nipped at our coats. He excitedly flung dirt with a small trowel, and counted out the bulbs, mixing the colors and nestling them tips-up into each hole. As we carefully patted the dirt down, covering the evidence of what lays below, I was struck with the symbolism of it all.

These bulbs, cold and papery, don’t look like much right now. They are carefully keeping a beautiful secret which won’t be seen until Spring, after the Winter storms and bitter cold have faded. How true this is of our lives. You may be in the middle of a hard season, worn by the beating of the storms and weary from the gray that stretches on for days. In these hard moments though there is planting; the lessons you are learning, the faith you are growing, the hope you are clinging to… these beautiful treasures seemingly lost in the bitter winter of what you’re going through will bring eye-catching wonder on the other side. Don’t despair; keep sowing in the cold ground, even though you can’t see it now, something beautiful will come of what you’re going through. Let’s wait expectantly together for Spring!

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!