Cautiously optimistic

https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/differences-after-ten-year-mark/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=promoted&utm_campaign=Aubagio-CAS&utm_confid=soviec04u

This article came through on my Facebook feed yesterday and I found it interesting because this week marks 10 years since my MS diagnosis. I may be off a little on the date but I’m almost certain it was early October. It was a month or so before my daughter was born, which was 11/05/09. So, close enough.

Anyway, I find it helpful sometimes to reflect on how my mindset has changed, whether it’s better or worse, or both. Most of the time these days, it’s better.

Ten years ago I saw myself certainly being wheelchair bound by now, or at least very heavily reliant on my walker. But instead I find myself fully mobile. I have stored away a walker and 3 canes that are for sure covered in dust by now. My husband and I have talked about getting rid of them altogether, because it’s been so long since I’ve needed them. I am not quite sure I’m ready to take that step.

See, if I’m being completely honest, that suggestion frightens me. Yes, I’m doing well and I’m running races, but the nerve damage is still there, and this article reminds me of that sobering fact. I can run all I want, eat all the vegetables my heart desires, but I can’t heal the scarring that has been done to my nervous system. Only God can do that.

I want to live courageously, without fear of the future, because it’s so much better than living in fear, which is where I was 10 years ago. Heck, even 6 year ago I was there, stuck in fear mode. My body and brain were shutting down on me as a coping mechanism. But that is no way to live, and I am fairly confident those days are behind me.

As I’m sitting here writing I’m gaining courage to let go, so pictured below I present to you my canes. From left to right: The gray cane is folded for easy transport, The 2nd cane was actually my first cane following diagnosis and has ladybug stickers on it that I applied myself (Bug was my nickname through high school and many years beyond), and the last cane is covered in a paisley pattern, because I love paisley. The walker is buried in the basement and not worth retrieving for this photo, but I’ll tell you I put flame auto decals on it and named it Speedy. So you know it’s cool.

I don’t know about getting rid of the walking aids. There is still a quiet voice back there whispering “what if?” and they do hold memories for me. However, they are not very joyful memories, so Marie Kondo would encourage me to let them go. Maybe I’ll just keep the paisley cane, because it’s just so pretty. It does spark a teensy bit of joy. 😁

No, I’m still undecided. I’m going to go for a quick run and see if I can make up my mind!

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Finding Contentment

I’ve been fartin’ around on Facebook all morning, and then I did some filing, put away clean dishes from the dishwasher, and now I’m letting my phone charge back up so I can go for a run this afternoon. I could really go for a nap but I pretty much always feel better after a run so I’m opting for that instead.

I’ve allowed myself to get really busy with all the commitments I took on, and I think I’m finally getting a handle on managing it without moving around like a headless chicken. I’m finding the key is to allow myself to relax from time to time, and when I say that I mean REAL relaxing, not the fake kind. I’m giving myself permission to sit with my feet up, read a book or crochet, sip some coffee, and NOT feel guilty. It’s really nice, but it’s strange how difficult it is for me sometimes. It does take some self-talking to be totally okay with it. Otherwise I’m just pretending to relax. I may be sitting, but I’m secretly mulling over all the things I “should” be doing at that moment. So the Real Relaxing is nice. Very therapeutic.

I had an interesting thought yesterday while listening to the lecture at Bible Study Fellowship. We were studying the story of the lame beggar at the temple gates in the book of Acts, and the lecturer said that when the man was healed, his life became better because his disability was removed. Something about the way she worded it struck me, and a voice in my heart was asking,

“Mindy, would your life be better if your disability was removed?”

I honestly believe the answer to that question is no. As much as I grieve what I’ve lost, I am even more grateful for what it has added to my life. It has made me a more patient and compassionate person. It has strengthened bonds between my family members and my friends. It has introduced me to new people and new ideas. It has stretched me in so many ways to move outside of my comfort zone. But the most important thing? It’s that God is glorified through all He is doing through me. Because it’s certainly not me. I’m just following His directions. That is the most valuable outcome of all this, and what I have been praying for from the beginning.

As I’ve struggled over these past 6 years with my disability I’ve been trying to find a new normal or a base comfort level. What I realized yesterday is that I am finally at a place of contentment. I am finally at home again in this body and I am content to be where I am. Fully and completely. Hallelujah. Amen?

John 9:3 ESV “but that the works of God might be displayed in Him.”

2019 Capital City River Run

Welp, I did it! I ran a half marathon. All 13.1 miles with minimal walking. All of this training I’ve been doing really paid off, and I was able to run pretty much the entire way. I walked over slippery bridges and once late in the race because I was sensing some drop foot, but other than that I was good to go. I did NOT feel like I was dying, and despite how I looked to others at the finish line, I felt fabulous. I was all smiles and ready to sign up for the next one.

The Comradery: I simply could not have done this race without my friends. Alicia and Staci were with me every step of the way, guiding me away from obstacles and leading me down hills so I wouldn’t lose my balance. They even kept me from taking off in the beginning at too fast a pace, which is something I tend to do, and pay dearly for on these long runs. I happened to see a couple other running friends before the race started, and that really helped to boost my adrenaline. All the runners I have gotten to know are pretty special people. We are a diverse crowd, and yet everyone is so supportive of on another, regardless of all our differences. We are all running with the same goal, but for very different reasons, and I find that pretty awesome.

The Spectators: I had an entire team of spectators cheering me on throughout this race, and this was pretty dang awesome. My husband, my son and daughter (who had no shortage of hugs), my dad and stepmom, my sister and her boyfriend, my niece, and as a last surprise of the morning, my big brother. I was so surprised to see him there because he has been so busy working lately I just didn’t expect he would be able to make it. But he was there. They were all there, and they knew why this was such a big deal. It wasn’t just a race. This race happened almost exactly 6 years from when I lost my hearing and vision. In fact, that morning a memory came up on my husband’s Facebook feed. It was a posting he had sent out updating everyone on my long hospital stay. I was so sick and no one knew what was wrong with me, and I could not walk unassisted, among other numerous issues. So to have that come up on his feed the day I was running my first half marathon was just incredibly fitting.

The Final 5k: At 10 miles my family was there cheering us on, as they had in several other spots, and my son started jogging next to me. The excitement of the moment took over, and I invited him to run the final 3.1 miles with us. They frown on this sort of thing, I guess, but no one bothered us about it. He did a great job keeping me going and holding me steady down the hills. However, when we were nearing the finish, we were at the top of a very steep concrete ramp that feeds into the baseball stadium where the finish line was. He danced on ahead of me while Alicia and Staci took my arms to help me down. I was so embarrassed to see my husband at the bottom of the ramp, taking our picture. It looked rather pathetic, as if my legs had stopped working, but really it was just a matter of keeping my balance down the incline. When we reached flat land my son was waiting for me and we began to sprint the last stretch towards the Finish. I was so giddy I was almost in tears. And after I crossed the line I tried to stop but instead just fell to the ground. This is what seems to happen after my races and it alarms people because it looks like I’m hurt but really it’s just muscle weakness and poor balance. The motion of running keeps me on my feet somehow, so when I try to walk it never works. They brought me a chair and a woman put a medal around my neck and we all just stayed there congratulating each other and taking pictures.

It was a fantastic race and I am so glad I did it. Every time I try a longer distance I think about how far I’ve come, and I wonder how far I can go. My curiosity I think is what drives me. I just want to see how far I can go before my body says no. Yes, it tries to tell me no some days, but I’ll always try to call it’s bluff.

I am so grateful to everyone for supporting me and cheering me on. I could not have done this without you. Most of all though, I owe my gratitude to Jesus Christ. I would not have even started on this journey into running and health if it had not been for His sustaining grace and comfort. He is my constant, every day all day running partner. Hallelujah!

The Finish Line:

Living History

This story is coming a week or so late, and I do want to post about yesterday’s half marathon, but I just finished reading this book and I want to get this story posted while it’s still fresh in my mind.

After my last infusion a couple weeks ago I sat on the bench in front of the infusion center reading my latest library find, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. As I’m reading, the woman next to me asks me for the time. She too, is waiting for a ride home from our local paratransit service. I notice she has a slight accent and I ask her where she’s from. She’s from Latvia, she tells me, and asks me if I know it. I regrettable do not, as geography was never my strong subject. She proceeds to tell me all the surrounding areas, and I ask her more about her story, what brought her here to America. This opened up a big can of worms.

The woman was happy to share, not at all shy, about her experience. She lived through World War II. Her family was driven from their home in Latvia because her father owned land and the Germans wanted it. My dad tells me this was common during the war. This woman sitting next to me told me how she worked in slave camps during her teen years, until her family was able to escape to a refugee camp in Sweden. She came to America in 1950 and she’s been here ever since.

As we were talking, the paratransit van arrived and it turned out we were on the same van because we lived near each other. Our conversation continued until we arrived at her home.

It was incredible to talk with her, and I just wished we had longer together. But even in that short time we were given I learned that she is a survivor, though she was quick to deny it. She has PTSD from her experience. And because she subsisted much of that time on soy beans, she still can’t eat anything with soy. She smiles as she tells me that even soy sauce is unbearable. Those odors bring back horrific memories that she can’t bear, even all these years later. I tell her she is a survivor because she kept going when many others did not. She keeps going even now, as she suffers the residual effects of the trauma she lived through.

Her name is Mitsy. She has a precious cat who loves to greet her at the door and she looks fabulous in her big floppy red hat. Mitsy is a survivor. Living, breathing history. I thank God that I had the privilege of that brief ride home with her. It was an encounter that left an indelible mark on my heart.

Love/Hate Relationships

This is not a post about people. This is a post about food. Just a warning, that’s all.

So I’ve been becoming more and more fed up with my belly area lately. I’m trying to accept that it will always be pooched out a bit more than I would like, because I have somewhat of a swayed back. However, it bothers me that it seems to change in size on the daily. Just last weekend at the Girl Scout camp I was joking with the other moms that it was so bloated and firm it felt like I was pregnant. And while that’s funny, and we chuckled about it, it’s also rather uncomfortable. So I have been doing more research into what foods cause that type of bloating and it turns out the biggest culprits are my favorite foods. Duh, right? Coffee, breads, pastas, protein bars, raw veggies! Oh, and sugar, which is of course, in everything under the sun.

My plan of action? I’ve started by doing a better job of reading nutrition labels to look for sugar content in addition to carb and protein content. And stopping to think before I eat something, and ask myself, “is it worth the bloated belly?” Sometimes I’ve decided it is, but more times than not I’ve been able to say no, and find an alternative snack or meal. One of my favorite replacements when I’m craving chocolate (which is daily) is to drink a glass of my ItWorks chocolate greens. I had been drinking it every day and somehow got away from it, so it’s good to have that resource. It curbs my chocolate craving without the inflammatory sugar, and as a bonus it provides me with all those nutrients my body needs to work better. Win-win.

I can avoid raw veggies by roasting them instead, no problem. And I think I can find replacements for the flat-out sugary foods. Its the breads and pastas that will be tricky because boy, do I love my carbs. I’m not the greatest cook, and what I am able or familiar with cooking pretty much all involves pasta or rice. I’ve not been real impressed with substitutes like cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles. I think those are going to be flavors and textures I just may have to endure at first and hopefully I’ll grow to like them.

I am still not eating dairy, because it was causing major headaches when I ‘cheated’, and I noticed the nerve pain in my feet was starting to come back. So that’s one inflammatory food that I have already eliminated. I have put eggs and some meat back in my diet, but only in small portions. With this half-marathon training I was feeling the need to find more variety in my protein sources, and I’m not creative or kitchen savvy enough to do it the way the actual vegans do it. My husband calls me a “chea-gan”. Vegan who cheats, get it?

So, that’s where I’m at. I guess. Trying to work on the inflammation. It’s challenging saying no to the foods I love, yes, but I noticed right away that it was making a difference in how I feel, so that motivates me to keep going with it. Over time I’m sure I will find more appealing alternatives and it will become a habit, just like all the other health choices I’ve been making over the years. I’ve got to stop loving the foods that seem to hate me. It’s just dysfunctional, you know?

Camp Deer Trails 2019

September is going to be a ridiculous busy month, but all for good reason. It started off with a camping trip with my daughter and her Girl Scout troop. This is an annual event that we participated in two years ago, only because last year she had only joined halfway through and was kind of on the fence about her commitment to the group. I’m happy to say she’s gotten more excited about being in Girl Scouts. We have a thriving Scout community here and I’ve made friends with many of the moms, so I’ve grown somewhat attached. Most importantly, this is a great way for her to stay active and build on her friendships with girls her age.

The first night we ate dinner as a troop at the Ponderosa on the way. Nice buffet, but kind of ridiculous expensive, if you ask me. When we arrived at camp we set up our our tents and bedding and headed down to the biggest bonfire you’ve ever seen. Go big or go home! They work very hard to make this bonfire, and the girls sing crazy silly songs while the older scouts and helpers roast marshmallows – I’m guessing at least 10 at a time – to make s’mores for everyone. It’s quite a sight to see and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed.

The second day was long and full of activity. The girls decorated an outhouse, had archery lessons, made crafts, played games, and had a costume contest. The theme this year was the Arctic so Natalie recycled her brown fox Halloween costume and renamed it an arctic fox, because apparently they aren’t always white. I am not much for costumes, so I wore a coat and winter hat. It was getting kind of chilly anyway so it made sense.

The last day was shorter but they still had time for boating and fishing. Natalie really loved both the boating and the fishing but I think the boating was her favorite. She was able to go out on the lake on a kayak (or a funyak?) and when she came back in she was ready to hop right back in another boat and go back out. She did really well with the fishing too. She’s not grossed out by the worms so she was able to bait her hook all on her own. She even caught a baby fish!

Over the course of the weekend the girls had quite a few disagreements with each other as they were often either tired or hungry. And of course they are in 5th grade so you’ve got some hormones coming into play as well. They were given a stern lecture though and they were able to straighten things out pretty quickly. My hope is that these girls all continue to build deeper and deeper friendships as the years go on. I couldn’t do life without my circle of amazing girlfriends so I know what a gift that can be.

That last day it was great coming home to a happy dog, a quiet house, and a hot shower! I had a blast but I’m ready for the next adventure. Bible Study Fellowship, here I come…

Short Runs

Post run puppy kisses

Today’s short run was fantastic! Barely had to walk at all, and foot drop feels like just a thing of the past. I can’t believe I’m calling 4 miles a short run, but I guess that just shows what progress I’ve made in this training process. What really struck me as interesting during this run is that my breathing was not labored, and I was still able to maintain a pace around 13 minutes per mile. The other exciting thing was that my feet and legs felt lighter, and my legs seemed almost like they were propelling me forward, almost wanting me to go faster. I had to fight that urge, because that’s what landed me on my face last time. The cooler weather is nice too. Overall it was just a really great run, and I feel like I’m finding my rhythm, my groove.

The thing that has me a little perplexed is Friday’s scheduled run. My plan has me running 12 miles. TWELVE MILES! Aside from that being a really freaking long distance for me to run, I don’t even know WHERE I could run from my house that could get me to 6 miles, so that running there and back would bring me to twelve. I do have a decent 8 mile route, 4 out and back, so I guess I could shorten it to 3 miles out and back and just run it twice. That’s 12, right? I’m making a huge deal about that number, but I am curious to see how my body holds up to it, since I’ll be running 13.1 in just 25 days EEK!

I don’t know if you can tell in the photo above, but Piper is wearing a hoodie. Luke has one he wears with the sleeves cut off and the kids thought it would be fun to put it on the dog. Turns out, she doesn’t hate it, and it really seems to calm her down. She’s a high anxiety dog, and when we told our vet about the sweater, she said she would really benefit from a thunder coat, which would fit her better since they are designed specifically for dogs. So we’ve looked at them and will probably buy one for her soon. In other news, I added a pet category to our monthly budget so we can stop using our food budget to buy Kong balls and dog treats. HA!

Now I’m going to let you go because I have banana bread in the oven and the heavenly smell has me wanting to snuggle up in my recliner with a cup of coffee and a good book. Have a great day, friends!

I may be deaf and half-blind, but I am and will always be… still Mindy