Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Non-Random Act of Kindness

KeeshaA truly amazing woman who is both a friend and an inspiration to me needs help. Keesha T., who is a fellow moderator (and one heck of an advocate) on the www.asap.org web site is in the hospital AGAIN and struggling to pay the bills.

As some of you may know, Keesha and her family are already drowning under medical debt because she's undergone 14 major operations, many of them invasive brain surgeries, in the last three and a half years. Unable to work and now newly diagnosed with a severe seizure disorder, Keesha was admitted to the hospital the night before Mothers' Day -- and just one day after winning a Mothers' Day Makeover from a local news station. The makeover was the first haircut she has had since having her head shaved for surgery 19 months ago, when haircuts became a luxury her family could no longer afford. She's so strapped with medical debt that she's even taken out her own stitches after shoulder surgery because they just didn't have the money to pay for an office visit to the doctor.

Keesha has given so much to so many, and now those whose lives she has touched want to help her. Our goal is to raise $1000 to pay the Medicare deductible for this latest round in the hospital.

If you can help, please do. Friends, this is one of those, "there but for the grace of the gods go I" situations. Keesha shares many of the same medical conditions I struggle with, and I could easily find myself in the same situation with my next major hospital stay.

To help Keesha out, just click the PayPal DONATE button below. (You do NOT need to have a PayPal account to make a contribution.) All donations will be deposited directly into Keesha's account. Every little bit will make a big difference in the life of this amazing woman -- please give what you can and let others know that they, too, can make a difference.

If you'd like to add the DONATE button to your web site or blog, let me know how to send you the code! It's a very simply cut and paste operation.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Another Decline?

I’m afraid my body is going through another period of decline. There’s been too many of these coming too fast over the last few years, and it scares me -- a lot. Most I have been able to handle or compensate for, but this most recent one -- if it really is a permanent decline -- won’t be so easy to work around.

Over the past few months, my arms have gotten weaker. I am no longer able to press up using the arms of my wheelchair as high or for as long as I used to, not am I able to maneuver my body around the bed (to get in or out) as easily as I once could. Some days, when I am really tired or having a lot of pain in my left shoulder, I cannot move myself any real distance at all. It’s frustrating and depressing, as it means I am one step closer to becoming totally reliant on others to do that I need to do.

I’ve known for ages that this may happen -- okay, I’ve been told to expect this may happen -- but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to accept that the time in which it occurs may be here. There’s always going to be a small part of my spirit that refuses to believe that what the doctors predict for me (total quadriplegia) is really going to happen. After all, I’ve defied a lot of predictions in my life, and I think I’ve become a little bit cocky about being able to do it again.

There’s something about this particular loss of ability that’s more frightening to me than the others I’ve gone through. Throughout everything, my arms have always worked pretty well -- they became my legs when I needed them to on that first day I sat down in a wheelchair, and they have gotten me to where I needed to go ever since. They are the reason I have any freedom and autonomy at all, and the fear of losing that chills me to the bone in a way that mere words cannot explain.

The truly good news is that this may not be permanent. (Fingers and other body parts crossed for luck.) This decline in arm strength correlates almost perfectly with the timetable for damaging my right rotator cuff and breaking my leg.

Since those two things occurred, I’ve been babying my upper body. This is partially by choice -- in the hope that my damaged shoulder will heal on its own -- and partially of necessity because I just couldn’t get around on my own the same way I had before now that I had to drag along a leg encased in a fiberglass cast. During the period I had my cast on, I relied heavily on the HipHubby to help me transfer in and out of my wheelchair, which gave my upper body a long respite period from having to move my full weight around. Now that I need it to maneuver me about again, it’s not been able to respond in the same way it did when it was being used all the time.

I’m rather hoping that this little vacation from being the workhorse can be reversed. This week, I’ll hopefully be starting physical therapy to help repair the damage to my rotator cuff. Once I feel more confident that bearing my full weight on my right arm won’t mess my shoulder up any worse than it already is, I’ll be able to start swimming again. It shouldn’t take long after that to determine if the loss is temporary and can be regained through training, or more permanent in nature, the result of my nerve damage. Even if I cannot regain my full strength, I should be able to tone myself up through the PT and exercise programs, which will hopefully delay the progression of the nerve damage for as long as possible.

These periods of decline are getting harder and harder to handle mentally. Thank goodness there’s reason to believe that this one may not be anything more than just slacking off (okay, so having a broken leg isn’t really slacking off.) Wish me luck that with a little hard work in PT and a lot of laps in the pool I can get back to be the buffest HipCrip possible.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Birthdays and Bonus Time

I can’t believe another birthday snuck up on me. Okay, snuck up is totally the wrong term -- leapt out from hiding and pounced on me is a more accurate description! What happened to shift the passage of time that now makes birthdays and new years come at you at lightening speed, when it used to be that, as a kid, time absolutely stood still when you were expecting a special day like a birthday?

Anyway, last Monday, I turned 45, and I couldn’t be happier! It wasn’t because I got the greatest birthday present I could ask for (the cast on my broken leg came off that day -- woo hoo!) -- although that didn’t do anything to hurt my mood, either -- it’s because for me, even more so than most, being here to celebrate another year is truly a blessing of the highest order.

You see, I never expected to live this long.

When I was 14, I was diagnosed with a kind of cancer that kills 95 percent of the people who get it within five years of diagnosis. With those kinds of odds, I really never expected to live past 30, let alone make it into my mid 40’s. But I did!

I’m here, and even though my body feels like it’s 145 instead of 45, and my brain feels like I’m still 25, I AM HERE! Every day that I can still say that is truly a gift of bonus time, to be savored like rich chocolate, and to never be taken for granted.

In many ways, getting that diagnosis was a gift. It taught me early on that life is too short to be taken for granted -- every bit of it needs to be feasted upon instead of allowed to pass by, un-tasted. Very few people are able reach that realization before it’s almost too late to do them any good. But I was lucky, I learned it early, and have done all I can to practice it every minute of every day.

And on my birthday, I savored it all! After getting the cast off, the HipHubby and I went out to play and enjoy our time together. We headed over to the Casino to collect my complementary birthday T-shirt and rack up some of the double reward points offered for gambling on your special day. The gods of good fortune must have been on alert that we were coming -- they sent us home with $100 more than we started out with. While the money was a nice surprise, it wasn’t what made the night a winner -- we had a wonderful time just being together, laughing and sharing our experiences, and that is, by far, the most valuable prize we take away from any casino visit.

When we were done playing, we enjoyed dinner on the beach at night, listening to the waves lap on the shore and watching the stars come out. After dinner, it was a scenic drive along the shore and under the night stars back to the house, where I savored my first shower without the cast, then slipped into a bed made up with crisp, clean, ultra soft sheets. I can’t imagine the better birthday than that.

And that, my friends, was a perfect celebration of my special day. But the real gift to me is not the activities in which we engaged, although I am so very grateful that we have the resources and stamina to do them. My gift was, and is, the time that I have been given here. No matter how trying life can get, no matter how draining and frustrating my medical conditions can be, I AM HERE with the people and animals I love. Good days or bad days, it’s all bonus time, and I cherish every minute that I have.