Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I have been all over the place…the doctors, the tests. I have worried about a job, disability payments and worried over our home, food, pets, kids. I have ridden this roller coaster for seven months now, all without a single doctor willing to commit to a diagnosis. None of them want to call it, or fill out the reams of paperwork needed for a disability claim. They pass us from doctor to doctor, each one ordering more tests we can’t pay for, each one passing on making a diagnosis.

I was focused on the nuts and bolts. The finances, how to pay the bills, keep the house, make sure my mate has what he needs. Than today it settled in. I am losing my soul mate of thirty-two years. What the Hell? He is losing the ability to speak. He is losing all strength in his hands, his muscles twitch in his arms, chest, legs and face constantly. He is unable to swallow liquid without choking unless it’s thickened. He needs to hold his neck in a certain position to swallow solid food. He could be here one year, or three, five or 10 years, or he could be gone in months. This is not how I saw my old age. I planned on aging with this man holding my hand. I am lost, not sure what to do next. Life is Jane and Ray, not just Jane.

Today I am in a whole new place. My mate of thirty-two years has ALS. My vital, active mate who goes out of his way to be there for kids, rescue animals and care for me, my home and my yard, may leave me. It is not fair. I am all over the place today. I am grieving, I do NOT want to live another twenty or thirty years without this man. I do not want to deal with my pain, my disease that has already forced me to give up a career and most of my life, without him. He is the only thing that made my pain, lack of life, bearable.

I want to control my own emotions to be there for him, to make it ok for him to be sick, to possibly leave me. I want to be there for my kids and grandkids to make it ok for them.

Then, faster than you can snap your fingers, I am angry. It’s not fair! He is one of the good guys. Why take him and not some drug dealing scum who settles arguments with a gun?

A few seconds later I am terrified. We owe money on the house. How will I pay for it. What about electricity, water, gas, a phone? I will have to come up with money for the property tax and I will be left without medical insurance. I am unable to work due to a central nervous system disease and relied on my mate’s income.

Then I go back to, “I don’t care about the income, I need to keep him with me.” He is a mere fifty-six years old. There are new discoveries and treatments that can fix this disease, but they are mired in Federal guidelines and paper work. Doctors are afraid to try things for fear that the government will shut them down. We need to take the hand cuffs off our medical researchers and move things forward before more people like me have to watch a loved one die too young. One group has proven that injecting a certain protein dissolves harmful protein from brain cells, reversing ALS symptoms, another shows that long-term, high doses of certain antibiotics reverse and stem symptoms. Yet one is not able to start trials on humans for another three years (what the hell) and the other is shunned because doctors could lose their privileges if they prescribe mass doses of antibiotics for off label use. Wrong, wrong and wrong. Treat these people now! If you are wrong, and the treatment is wrong, so be it, they are going to die young any how, but it is a step in the right direction.

 

 

 

Living With ALS – New Moods

Posted: September 15, 2015 in ALS, death, Marriage, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I have written about the fear and anger of loving someone with ALS, but I never imagined the many, many moods that would attack. I went through crying, anger, grief, disbelief and denial. Now I find myself in protective mode, mama bear, wanting to make sure my man has all he needs or wants. I am taking care of legal issues, to make sure all his wishes are granted.

Bring on the legal forms, the Living Will, the Do Not resuscitate forms. No burial, no funeral, make sure he goes to the ALS society research foundation for study. (His wishes) They handle it all at no cost to us. Unpleasant, things I don’t want to think about. But my love for him pushes this to the back of my mind, I want to make sure he does not suffer, or deal with these stupid details. I want his days filled with family, good food, drink, music and the yard he loves.

How long will he be with me? No way to tell. It could be one year, or it could be three, five or ten! No matter the time, he will NEVER have to deal with the law, choices or suffer due to technicalities. I will make sure all his wishes are legally in place. I will fall back on crying and grief once I know he can live what he has left in peace. That could be tomorrow. At my age I am not prepared to lose my mate of thirty-two years, but I am damned if I will let him suffer one legal problem during the time he has left.

My last post dealt with my husband getting tagged with ALS. I was all over the place with my emotions. Grief, anger, pain, back to anger. He is a GOOD man who never caused harm and he does NOT deserve to be taken out this way. Then today, like a tidal wave, thoughts of what was to come slammed me against the rocks.

I haven’t worked outside the home since 1992! I have CMP, bulging discs and degenerative disc disease. I live with chronic pain, weakness, fatigue, numbness and mental fog. My hubby and I worked out a life that fit us. I shop, cook and take care of the kids schooling, paperwork for their medical care, their social life, our social life and more. He, works for a wage, services the car, pumps the gas, cuts the grass, fixes leaky pipes and deals with the cable company. Put aside the mechanics of life and there is more. He is the first to take my hand when I walk. He is the one who sees if I am upset, sad or in pain. He gives hugs, he makes it ok on days I can’t get out of my chair to cook. He pushes me to listen to music or watch a favorite movie to take me away from the pain. He reads me, he gets me, I get him. We can summon each other to hand out a napkin at dinner with a hand gesture lol. Drives the kids nuts that we talk without words. Thirty-two years together!

What the hell am I going to do if he leaves me?  How will I take the pain out of his leaving from his shoulders? I don’t want him feeling guilt for leaving me. Yet I am in a panic over his leaving.

He will lose his job, hence our medical insurance, income. We owe on the house. I can’t lose the house. I can live anywhere but I am raising grandkids, still in school who need the stability. I can’t cut the grass with a push mower! If a pipe breaks I know how to fix it, but I am physically unable to do so anymore. Hell, my car is twenty years old, if it dies, I can’t buy a new one without his income. I can’t take kids to band practice, they may have to give up band and I won’t be able to pay for uniforms etc.

In full flop sweat here, when I should be focusing on how to be there for my mate. I will be there for him. I guess I can panic all I want, but I will be damned if any of this will taint the time he has left. I will deal with it later. Just another rant from someone dealing with the monster that is ALS.

 

 

ALS – Arrival

Posted: September 5, 2015 in ALS, Lou Gherig, Support, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

What a great day. We sat in the yard, drank our morning drinks, fed the dogs, watched the birds at the feeders and enjoyed each other’s company. Fast forward a few hours and you will find my husband, home after a visit with his doctor. My mate and best friend of thirty-two years telling me the doctor said he thinks his has ALS.

Not a shock mind you, as this is what took his mother, and we sort of waited, and feared this day for the past twenty years. But a shock non the less. The signs were there. He choked when he drank or ate. His throat refused liquid or food from time to time. He went for tests, they told him he had too much stomach acid and that was eroding his throat. We took that diagnosis, clung to it and gave him a pill to help.

A month or so later a co-worker took him to the ER because he was slurring his words so bad they feared he was having a stroke. Cue the endless rounds of medical tests and doctor bills. He still works, he feels great. But he is no longer willing to eat in public because it is embarrassed when his throat won’t accept liquid and it rolls down his chin, or he chokes when trying to swallow solid food.

His upper arms twitch and tremble and he can’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time.

The vital man, who spoils me, pumps my gas, pays the bills, wakes me with a drink and tells me how smart I am daily is struggling. It is wrong. He is a good man who works any hours needed, covers for co-workers, drives the kids to appointments and practices and refuses to let me carry groceries is failing. I read a study once where most married couple only communicate, personally and face to face fifteen minutes a day. We shattered that study! We spend hours together with our animals, talking or just sitting together listening to music. We make plans, design new gardens, gifts for the kids or talk about politics. Now he struggles to speak clearly and I must make him repeat himself often. It sucks.

This is a man who backs me all the way. He is there for all my kids in any way possible. He loses sleep to drive them places, attends marching band events, takes our boy to air shows and funds them in any way that will secure their future. He has given the kids gifts of time, money and caring that they may never appreciate. But he did it.

Now, I am faced with losing this man, our whole family is faced with losing him. What will we do? Why are human trials for ALS treatments taking so long to pass the FDA? I am angry, scared, stressed, sad. I am all over the place emotionally. I find myself worrying about how to pay for the house. What will I do when I lose health insurance. Then I am mad at myself for worrying about finances when he can no longer work.

This is living with ALS. It is ugly, it is relentless, it strangles whole families. It forces you to think about living wills, DNR documents and property wills. All things you do NOT want to think about when dealing with a sick spouse. My soul mate it fifty-six years old. One neurologist sent him for more tests, he tossed us a small kernel of hope, saying he was looking for something else.I grabbed that kernel and held on to it like it was life itself. Deep down inside, I feel that is just that, hope. Waiting for the good doc to have time in his busy schedule to tell us results. God forbid he tells us ASAP or via telephone. We have to wait two weeks. Do they know what this wait does to families?

I am just writing this all down as a way to cope with it, get it out. How do you prepare for the possibility of living without your soul mate for thirty or more years?

 

 

 

Due to some discussion about race issues in my family, I am putting up our family credo touching on who we let into our circle.
Whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Germans, Swedes, Scots, Irish…get the point?
My family is (proven blood only, there may be others) Scottish, Yugoslavian, English, German. My father was the second child born in this country after his mother fled Yugoslavia when WWII was brewing. Some of my family came here earlier, during the time of slavery and revolution. Who’s to say I don’t have African-American blood due to a slave owner raping one of his charges? I think a huge amount of white Americans would be shocked to find out they have black ancestors.
My family also welcomes gays, bisexual, lesbian and transgender people. If God didn’t want them, why would he make so many of them?
Last but not least, I embrace all beliefs and love learning and talking to people about theirs. I respect all and take a little of each one for myself. Catholics, Muslims, Baptists, agnostics, Wiccans and others.
I take you at face value. If you are a good person and do good things I am with you even if you perform customs or rituals I don’t understand, eat food I know nothing about, read a book I don’t know or dress a certain way. A good person is a good person. A bad person is a bad person no matter what their belief. You were welcome in my circle until you prove you don’t belong here.

I was eight on the rainy April day that Grandma died. She woke, served up Grandpa’s usual breakfast, fed the cat and went to the porch for the morning paper. She didn’t return. Grandpa found her reaching for the door, sharing her love for him with her eyes as she took her final breath. I knew something was wrong the minute my mother answered the phone and fell into a chair with my little brother clinging to her leg. I remember dad taking the phone from her hand but the rest of the day was a blur of hospitals, family and men in suits shoving endless forms at Grandpa. Mom put on a brave face, but cried when she thought she was alone. She wasn’t ready to lose her mom. A funeral was arranged and family gathered. All I remember after that is how sad and alone Grandpa looked.
After the funeral things went back to normal, my brother and I went to school and dad went to work. The only thing different was my mom spending her days with her father, going through legal papers and personal items. She looked tired and sad at the end of the day and I didn’t know how to make things better. Three days after the funeral I came home from school, dropped my backpack on the floor and headed to the fridge. I grabbed a soda and pudding snack before settling at the table. The house was still quiet, dad was at work, my little brother was with a sitter and mom was with her dad. I listened to the old mantle clock tick off the minutes as I mindlessly shoveled in the pudding, wondering if life would ever be normal again. Mom hadn’t even opened the mail, there was a pile at least two inches thick sitting on the table. Sliding the pile closer I picked up envelope after envelope. Credit card offer, electric bill, cable bill, val-pak coupons, sale flyers, insurance bill, nothing special. Then I saw it, the bright red envelope with my name scrolled across the front.
She remembered her heart skipping a beat as she pulled it from the pile, looking it over before she got the nerve to slide her thumb under the flap. She had never received real mail before and wanted to do it right. Proud that she had barely frayed the glued flap she slowly pulled out the contents. It  was a card. On the front was a cartoon woman with gray hair,  her freakishly long arms wrapped around a large family of children and adults, pulling them close to her. With trembling fingers she opened the card, it read “Happy Birthday! You are loved today and always.” It was simply signed “your family,” but she recognized the handwriting, it was Grandma’s. Picking up the envelope she noticed that the return address was that of her grandma’s house. Pulling the card to her chest she let herself cry for the first time since she died. It was a long, hard cry that left her drained, but the card had felt like Grandma reached out with one last hug. The rest of her family came  home, they ate dinner and she went to bed, but not before securing the card, in the envelope in her diary.
Summer came and went that year and life was a new normal. It wasn’t until fall that my mom looked sad again. When I asked her why, she said that her mom’s birthday was coming up and she didn’t know how to handle things with her dad. I thought about that a lot at school and at home. Grandpa had looked so lost lately I wanted to do something to make him feel better. Then I remembered the card. it made me feel better, maybe it would make him feel better. I raced home after school, dug out the card and put it envelope and all in a new envelope, carefully wrote out his address and took a stamp from mom’s desk. My little brother followed me to the porch.
“Where ya going?” He asked.
“To the mailbox.”
“Why?”
“To mail a letter?” I snapped.
“To who? What kind of letter?” He persisted.
“None of your business squirt!” I shouted, running the last few feet.
I remember feeling a bit bad over snapping at my brother and taking his hand on the walk home. He seemed to accept that as an apology. Days passed as I wondered if my gesture would make grandpa feel worse instead of better. Then one Saturday morning the doorbell rang, I heard Grandpa ask to see me. I entered the hall and he pulled me into his strong arms and whispered “thank you” in my ear. He said it felt like grandma had come for a visit.
That was ten long years ago, I’m nineteen years old and a lot of life had passed under the bridge since then. Family gatherings stopped, no more Christmas Eve dinners at Grandma’s, no more forced Sunday dinners, no more summer camping trips arranged by Grandma. Grandpa died two years back, I missed the funeral. My parents live their life and have all but given up on me. My little brother, set to graduate high school this year, is a computer nerd devoted to technology, there is little room for humans in his world. And me? I have a life, not the life my parents planned. I work various bar jobs, pole dance when Moe needs a fill in dancer and am not above a good night of drinking. I may or may not, use my own money to pay bills, but if a customer is dumb enough to leave  his wallet on the bar while he attends a lap dance, is that my fault?
I served another round to table four, slapped away Dwayne’s hands at table two and made my way to the kitchen. My shift was over, all I wanted to do was gather my tips, get a few drinks and head home. A few drinks turned into ten and getting home was a bit tougher that I thought. I tossed my heels into my locker, fell into my sneakers, tied what I thought was a passable bow and slapped the back door open, stumbling into the alley. I crawled to my feet as the scenery spun around. I focused on the neon drug store sign as I knew that was the direction I need to take. I stumbled down the walk, feeling good, sure I was looking normal. Sure, I bounced off the wall a few times, and into a gentleman who called me a drunk as he put me back on my feet, but I was doing ok. I went another block and found myself on my knees, my forehead on a fire hydrant. Phew, if I had fallen a second later, that could have hurt! Back on my feet I gripped the smooth window of the diner until I felt the rough brick, then turned right. Only twenty feet more and I would be home. The cement block felt rough under my fingers as I used it to guide my way. Soon I felt the splintered wood frame around my door. Diving into my pocket I fumbled my way through lip gloss, bent lottery tickets and old receipts until I found my keys. It took a few tries, but I got that sucker in the slot and the lock clicked open. I clung to the wall as I made my way up the stairs. I remember trying to put the key in the upstairs lock, but I must have failed.
A ray of morning sun, creeping through a badly cracked window cruelly pried my eyes open. I wiped the spit drying at the corner of my mouth and rolled to my side, realizing that I was on the filthy tile outside my apartment door. Rolling on my back I started to rise, stopping when I saw the flash of red. Sitting up I moved back to rest on the door as I inspected the envelope. I tore it open just as carefully as i had the first time. It was a card, with an elderly woman with long arms embracing her family. Inside it said, “Happy Birthday! You are loved today and always.” It was simply signed “your family,”
Pulling out my phone, I checked the calendar, it was indeed my birthday. Grandma had reached out again. Putting the card in  her pocket she entered the apartment, packed her meager belongings and bought a bus ticket home.