Category Archives: Grief

Your Friend Just Got Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. What the Heck?

 

First of all, what is Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)?

Wait, how do you even pronounce it?

Ankylosing Spondylitis (An-kee-low-sing Spon-dih-ly-tuss) is a disease that causes inflammation throughout the body, especially in the spine and low back, and can cause bone spurs to fuse joints together, typically in the spine. As you can imagine, extra bone growing in your body that’s not supposed to be there can be quite painful. Additionally, since AS is systemic it can also damage organs including the eyes, liver, lungs, and more.

AS is generally treated by a specialist doctor called a rheumatologist. The clinical treatment recommended to slow down the progression of AS, as stated in the 2015 AS treatment guidelines published by the American College of Rheumatology, is a biologic drug if non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs fail (my understanding is that a combination of therapies is common, both pharmacological and complementary). A biologic is a specialty drug made from living cells (biologically, rather than chemically) that, in short, suppresses the immune system. In ankylosing spondylitis, the body constantly attacks itself, seemingly without a real danger present, which causes inflammation and damage. The biologic drugs slow that reaction but in doing so also decrease the body’s ability to fight infection. You can read more about how autoimmune vs auto-inflammatory diseases work here (hint: AS isn’t proven to be autoimmune).

So now that you know a teeny bit more about AS imagine you are the one who was just diagnosed with it.

Scary, huh?


Congratulations are in order simply because you are reading this blog post. It’s difficult to believe, but I often hear from people whose family and friends shun them for “faking being sick.” These same family and friends often don’t make an effort to learn what their loved one is actually experiencing. So thank goodness you believe your friend and want to learn more.

Continue reading Your Friend Just Got Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. What the Heck?

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I’m Still Proud

I’m still proud.

…Of being a Democrat. Because we try to put in place policies that protect and assist the poor, the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the needy…people who are less-than by no fault of their own. I’m proud of being a Democrat because we don’t expect everyone has the ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps but we do want everyone to flourish as best they can with the same or similar opportunities. I’m proud because we reach across the aisle even when our hands are slapped over and over, we accept defeat graciously and we continue our work even if we can’t have the title ‘President’ or ‘Senator’ on our lapel pins. Continue reading I’m Still Proud

Orlando Happens Every Day

We say it would never happen here. It could never happen to me.

But it did happen. It happened to us. It happens every day, on street corners, in homes, at workplaces, on Facebook. Hatred isn’t always seen. Homophobia isn’t always obvious. But they’re always intrusive and divisive.

We on the receiving end are accustomed to being wary of holding hands or kissing in public because we know someone could be watching and choose to target us. Fear builds. And builds. And builds until we hide our identities, even from ourselves, when we leave the safety of our homes or keyboards. Some of us can’t hide (or pass) because we look too masculine to be a woman, too feminine to be a man, too gay to be straight – too much “them” to be “us.”

Queer love and existence has always been more private out of necessity and out of fear. We are keenly aware and constantly reminded that there are people who hate us for who we love or how we identify. It could be anyone, so we tread lightly in public, many of us. And now we are pushed even further back into our homes, our bedrooms, our closets…because maybe these are the places we’ll be safe. The only places we can be safe, maybe.

We don’t want to hide. Continue reading Orlando Happens Every Day

What Mom Thinks About Me Being Sick

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Mother, Caroline, and Daughter, Charis, at Meredith College circa 1989. Charis is wearing the first dress she ever picked out.

I have ankylosing spondylitis and several mental health issues. I asked my mother some questions about them impacting my life. Here’s what she had to say:

What was I like as a child?

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Charis building muscles at a young age

You were always physically active – as a baby, stretching and leaning toward what you liked/wanted.  You enjoyed crawling, walking, later bicycling.  I enjoyed watching you do backbends and cartwheels at about ages 6-10.  You wanted to be scored – 1-10 – as though in the Olympics.  You loved kittens and puppies.  You enjoyed holding them and carrying them around.  You were inquisitive.  You were very shy as a toddler, often hiding behind my skirts or my legs so you would not have to talk to people who addressed you.  You enjoyed spending time with people of all ages as you became an older child.  You became friends with adults and enjoyed learning new things such as tennis and fishing from your grandparents.  I had come to believe that “it takes a village to raise a child”, so I encouraged your independence in going alone by bicycle into our village and forming many relationships with nurturing adults there.  I allowed and encouraged you to be outspoken to the point of some thinking you were “too sassy”, but I believed that as a female in this society, you would need to be able to speak up and take care of yourself as you grew up.  There could easily be a book about how you were as a child, so this will have to be an incomplete capsule.

Do we have any similar quirks that you have noticed/ Do you think these quirks are the result of nature or nurture? Continue reading What Mom Thinks About Me Being Sick

My Struggle With Three Simple Words

How are you?

Just three words.

Just three words silence my voice but incubate my thoughts.

The responses I wish to deliver get caught in my throat as I open my mouth to speak; I gag wordlessly without any outward signs of panic; I feel a glass wall erect itself to support and contain my stoicism while I suffocate. The words I want to use expand in my chest like air being pushed into an empty balloon, threatening to leak out of my mouth in a jumble of hot air and exhaustion.

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Usually I manage to push aside the wordlump in my throat so I can still breathe and respond in a socially acceptable way. I say polite things, or I say I’m not ok and try to change the subject. Or I stand there awkwardly, ashamed and lime-lighted, drowning in my reality until I realize someone is waiting for my next move. Continue reading My Struggle With Three Simple Words

Walmart’s Little Experiment Screwed My Hometown

 

20160202_165125In recent days headlines have announced Walmart’s decision to close their experimental neighborhood stores just a few years after the pilot program began. For many this is just another announcement of a mega-retailer changing strategy in order to improve profits. But what is a small failure to Walmart has huge, real-life impacts on the small towns where many of these neighborhood stores were built. A few examples are Oriental, NC; Redwater, TX; Chicago, IL; and Rose Hill, Kansas. People lost jobs, but not before many towns lost their locally owned, family run grocery stores and pharmacies that had adequately served the same community through thick and thin for decades.

In Oriental, Town N Country, in business over 40 years, held on as long as possible against the monopoly and sadly closed at the end of October, 2015, less than three months before news came that the Walmart neighborhood market would be closing. Oriental is a quaint fishing village with a lot of quirky retired people.  We didn’t make national news, but now we’re left with no grocery store and no pharmacy in our village of 900 people.  Our marriage with Walmart cannot be annulled and it came with no prenuptial agreements, so we are left to deal with the mess left on our doorstep. Continue reading Walmart’s Little Experiment Screwed My Hometown

One of the ‘Some Days’

Flashback: March 26, 2015

Today is one of the ‘some days’.

Some days, I wake up in a paralyzed body. Paralyzed by pain, fatigue, anger, confusion, loss.

Some days I wake with two metal rods in place of the muscles around my spine. Someone inserted them during the night and turned on the heat. I am on fire.

Some days I wake in a fog, seeing myself as an island of disease and disability. I am a spider under a lens with its body in focus while the extremities are blurred. My whole being is my lower back, with things like arms and legs tacked on as extras. I feel pain but I can’t move to make it stop. As my senses come alive I become aware of the pain radiating along my whole torso with intensity that only increases.

Some days I wake in fear. I want to move, but movement means pain, yet remaining still means pain. I am afraid of my body yet I am trapped inside it.

Some days my arms flail or just lift and fall when I try to move them – I am paralyzed.

Some days I wake with stiff muscles that spasm if touched. If I bend my knees to my chest to stretch, my body rejects the motion because of those metal rods of muscle some evil force stuck in me and my whole back spasms.

Some days I wake with anger that I am no longer the person I never imagined I could lose. I am grieving the loss of Charis. I am the remnants of Charis and I am trying to make something of what’s left.

I will never give up hope that people living with severe chronic diseases can live more normal lives without fear.

Maybe, one day, I will wake up without fear.