Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Feeling Thankful For PFAM

Depression is a common side effect of chronic illness, and when you're tired and in pain all (or most) of the time, it's easy to focus on the negatives: All the things you can't do anymore, all the money being spent on medicine and doctor visits, the isolation, and so forth.

A book I was reading recently cited a study that concluded that personality dictates whether someone is pessimistic or optimistic more than the circumstances of their life. So, for example, people who were happy-go-lucky types before suffering an injury that left them paralyzed were less likely to get depressed and feel pessimistic about their future than people who already tended towards the Eeyore, glass-is-half-empty point of view. 

While I don't think I'm a gloomy sort of person, I definitely am a worrier and tend towards dwelling on things that can or have go wrong. That's why I think it's so important to remember to count my blessings and look for silver linings, even in the dark cloud of my health issues.

In that vein, welcome to the latest edition of Patients For A Moment, the patient-centered blog carnival. Many thanks to everyone who participated, and I hope everyone enjoys checking out all the posts!

From the mundane to the romantic, there's clearly plenty to be thankful for no matter what the chronic illness. 

My non-blogging mother, who was diagnosed in 1989 with myasthenia gravis after what was probably years of fatigue and other symptoms, chimed in to say she was thankful when she finally had a name to tell people that explained her activity level other than being accused of being lazy. Yes, even 20 years ago it sucked to be a medical mystery; I guess I should be thankful to have a parent who can identify with my journey!

Kathy at FibroDAZE (whose quote at the top of her blog made me giggle: "Some days even my lucky rocketship underpants won't help" -- Calvin & Hobbes) counted Canada's universal healthcare among her blessings in It's Great To Be Grateful. Be sure to check out the lovely photos she included too!

One of the many people I'm thankful for is Duncan Cross, the founder of this blog carnival, who, coincidentally, writes about being thankful for the blogosphere's ability to combat the isolation caused by chronic illness in his post Grateful For This.

Leslie, PFAM's current organizer, at Getting Closer To Myself quotes Rob Thomas' song Her Diamonds (written about watching his wife's pain caused by an autoimmune disease and not being able to do anything about it) in writing a beautiful post about finding someone who loves her regardless of her illnesses and the impact they have on her (and therefore their) life. My favorite line in I Love You, Don't Touch Me is "even the worst days are made just a little bit easier because he’s there." Everyone needs someone like that in their life, whether they're sick or healthy, and I'm so happy Leslie has found him! 

Nessie at lipstick, perfume and too many pills (possibly the best blog name ever!) submitted her post an attitude of gratitude, but I'd also like to suggest you read the previous post on her blog, at least i'm not as sad (as i used to be), which may have been written as part of Invisible Illness Week but also has a theme of being thankful, whether it's that having an invisible illness means everyone doesn't have to know when you're having a bad day or the recognition that life is hard for everyone, whether they're sick or healthy. 

Tonja (and Luka, her service dog) writes a very thoughtful post at Pink Doberman about silver linings and the fact that even though a 2004 auto accident changed her life forever, she is able to redefine her life through sheer force of will. And family and good friends are a big help too. 

The next edition of Patients For A Moment will be hosted Oct. 13 by Selena at Oh My Aches & Pains. Be sure to go over there ahead of time to find out the topic so you can submit an entry for it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Calling For PFAM Contributions: What Are You Grateful For?

As autumn begins, all kinds of traditions stem from celebrating the harvest, starting with Sukkot next week and ending with the American Thanksgiving in late November, and plenty of other traditions in between.

In that light, and in an effort to count our blessings, my family recently started making a point of sharing something we're grateful for at each meal we eat together. (Ellie is often grateful for things like "princesses," "pink" and/or "fairies." :-)

It's easy to find things I'm grateful for, ranging from my husband and daughter to the home I live in to the good food we eat and even the fact that even with my medical expenses, we're managing. 

But it's harder to find a silver lining in my debilitating chronic illness, that has affected every aspect of my life and my family's life. 

And yet, there are things I'm grateful for:
  • We've had some amazing babysitters come into our lives. Until I got sick, we didn't know anyone who would/could babysit for us. We got our first babysitter thanks to a woman in my MOMS Club chapter who called churches and high schools until she found someone willing to come babysit weekly to give Scott a break. Two others are the daughters of men Scott works/worked with, who knew we needed help and offered it up.
  • Ellie spent just over two years at an amazing preschool that, before my illness, we thought was out of reach financially. Funny how you sometimes find money you didn't realize you had when you have no choice! (And that's something else I'm grateful for -- that we've always lived within our means and without debt beyond our mortgage, which meant when push came to shove, it was possible to cut back and stay out of debt despite medical bills and related expenses, like full-time daycare.) The school was amazing with a PE program, Spanish class with a native Spanish speaker, good teachers with long tenure, a hot lunch included in tuition, and an extended day program.
  • I've found some good friends thanks to the online chronic illness community, and reconnected with old friends via social media like Facebook. 
  • I found the fabulous outlet of blogging, and reading other people's blogs (although there's never enough time to keep up with all the blogs I want to, especially the prolific writers!).
So what silver linings have you found in or despite your chronic illness? Share your experiences with me and other blog readers in the upcoming edition of the Patients For A Moment blog carnival, which I am delighted to be hosting right here next week for the first time ever! (Thank you, Leslie, for allowing me this honor!)

Maybe it's a person or people, or your chronic illness's effect on your ability to work full-time inspired you to create your dream job working from home. Maybe, like me, you appreciate extra time to read books and magazines, or like my daughter Ellie, you're grateful for magical things.  Maybe there's something totally unrelated to your health issues that is the biggest blessing you feel grateful for. Or maybe you're a medical professional who's grateful for a certain type of patient. Whatever it is, please share it with all of us!

To submit your post, simply e-mail the information below to me at
  • Your name (as you would like it to appear)
  • Your blog’s name
  • Your post’s title
  • Your post’s URL
Please be sure to put “PFAM” in the subject line.
All submissions wishing to be considered need to be received no later than 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 19.  (Ok, really they just need to be here when I wake up and start working on the blog carnival sometime on Sept. 20. But the midnight Sunday deadline is a Sure Thing.)

And please come back on Wednesday, September 22, to see what other people find to be grateful for, from the silly, inconsequential stuff to the big stuff.

Thanks, everyone!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Lost Summer

If my brain worked better, I'd have titled that last post "Change You Can Believe In." :-) Ah well -- hindsight and all that. It's always easier to think of witty headlines *after* the post has been published!

So I keep thinking of this past summer as my Lost Summer, admittedly because I think that sounds better than "Summer of My Gallbladder" or some such.

The good news is I'm fairly confident I'm over my gallbladder surgery and issues. I still have some GI issues that don't feel fully "normal" to me, but considering I started out the year back in January with a trip to the ER for intense intestinal cramping, I'm no longer entirely sure what my normal is.

So I'm somewhat reluctantly declaring this, whatever exactly this is, to be my new normal, from which I hope I can tell whether things improve, get worse or stay the same.

And it's good to be moving forward, even if it's just an inch or two.

I think Ellie will drag me forward whether I want to be or not! She started kindergarten on Sept. 1, about a week before the local public schools start. It's funny because, even more so than in preschool, it seems like if you ask her what they talked about in class that day, she says she doesn't remember. (And unlike in preschool, where the teachers posted a daily note so you could get a brief idea what they focused on that day, we are clueless other than what comes home in her backpack.)

And yet, little things come out in conversation, or even just her knowing the answer to something she didn't used to. Pretty cool. In less than a week, she learned how to swing by herself, about Rosh Hashana, and at least half a dozen Hebrew vocabulary words and phrases. Today, I learned that at some point she learned how to introduce herself in Hebrew. (She couldn't have learned it today because her school was closed yesterday and today for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.) She also has learned the Hebrew for the blessings over various types of food.

But, if you ask her, she hasn't really learned anything and they don't talk about anything in her classes. :-)

Between the start of school, something I never stopped calibrating my life by even though I haven't been a fulltime student since 1989, and Rosh Hashana, it feels like a good time to be leaving my GI stuff behind and moving forward.

After all, I have a kindergartner to try to keep up with!

L'shana tovah everyone! Whether you celebrate Rosh Hashana or not, I wish for all of you a good (or improved) health, much joy, and prosperity in the year ahead.