Wednesday, February 20, 2008


D-Day. Most people think of the Battle of Normandy. Not I. Well, yeah I do. That's because I love history and ever since my Granddad let slip that he had been there I have done some major studying. But when I say D-Day I generally mean Diagnosis Day- February 24, 1999. It has become a major holiday for me. It started out as "if I made it through one year then I can manage two" and has turned into a big celebration. Every year I do something special to mark another year of being me. This is year number nine. One more year until ten...but it will be hard to beat this year's celebration. I may have mentioned it once or twice (cough) but we are going to Disneyworld.
It's funny how important it is that we take this trip. When I was thirteen I promised my little sis that I would never go to Disneyland or Disneyworld without her. We made a pact and amazingly have kept it. Both of us have had several opportunities to go to Disneyworld and both of us have passed those by. I even ate Thanksgiving dinner at the Swan and Dolphin Resort once...looking over the parks but I did not give in (It wasn't the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving either). This year we are doing it. I was afraid that maybe I have grown up too much to enjoy it. Maybe I am a little too cynical. Maybe I will hate it and my expectations are to high. I don't think so. 'Cause this year I will celebrate D-Day at Epcott. With my sis, our guys, and two of our best friends.
This trip is also important because it is the reason I got the wheelchair. Sis said it was either that or one of those electric scooters. I've used one of those and kept fearing that I would run over a little kid, run off the path, or experience some other great misfortune. Control Issues. So I started the great search for the right wheelchair for this trip. I bought Ezra in October so I could "buff" up. I only use him during shopping trips or going out to eat in crowded restaurants but I have found my new love. I love the speed. I love the danger. I love the power to roll over people's feet if they don't acknowledge my presence. And I probably would still be stumping around with my cane, wondering why I move at a drunken snail's pace, had it not been for sis (with the whole family standing behind her, nodding their heads and looking very stern). Same goes for the handicapped parking badge....very useful for when you need to extract the wheelchair from the trunk of the car.
This year I finally was able to say "Hey, I'm a crip!". What a relief. I had locked myself in a miserable hole of self doubt and longing for the good ol' days. I had tried to meet people's expectations or what I perceived those expectations to be. I had tried to ignore the MS. I knew the denial wasn't healthy. I knew that I was getting worse but man did I try to ignore it. Getting a cane was really hard. The transition to using the wheelchair has been a lot easier. Because finally I was able to see myself as a person with a disability. The disability helps makes me me. It doesn't detract from who I is who I am.

This year I have found a community of people I identify with. People who write about their frustrations, pain and simple joys with eloquence and humor. I am so grateful. More so than anybody can understand. This community is something I can't share with my family...just as my family, supportive and wonderful, can not always break through the loneliness of my chronic condition. They are always there to support me but the can't know....I have found people who know.

Last week I went out to eat with friends. We had a "girl's night out" (the guys needed an excuse to have a "macho night"). Our waiter flirted with me. I was in my chair. It was an innocent flirtation. At first I didn't recognize it because who notices the girl in the chair? But it was nice. He gave me a great gift because he viewed me as a person. In the course of conversation he revealed that he had a brother in a wheelchair- that explains a whole heck of a lot. He also got a huge tip. I had forgotten what it was like to have strangers treat me like a person. And I gained a new level of self confidence. Now I am looking forward to a full week where I spend the majority of every day rolling around. Sweet freedom.

So here's to D-Day number nine. May it be the best one yet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

tomatoes & my bête noire

So I was thinking about the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq as I took my shower this morning. See? I don't actually think about MS all of the time. Actually I think about it relatively little in comparison to other things. Like politics. I spend of my spare time thinking about international relations (when I am not busy dealing with health insurance companies here at work). This is an important election year (understatement) so I am sitting around making flow charts of various arguments, trying not to be influenced by wardrobes, and generally considering the issues important to me. I have trouble understanding why people don't have fun doing this.

So here's my really random thought for the day....governments are like tomatoes. I am a big supporter of democracy- in theory. I like the way it works. Slow, steady, representing the people and all that gobbly-gook. So take the government in Iraq. A democracy in words only. I really doubt the history books are going to say that the U.S. was the reason that Iraq became a democracy. Because it's like a hydroponically grown tomato. Sure it looks and feels like a tomato but it doesn't always have the taste of a real tomato. It is grown for one purpose. Rapid consumption- often at the wrong time of year. It will never be as good as a tomato grown at a local farm or in your own garden. It will always have that slightly pithy texture and its perfect skin, no blemishes at all, will always be slightly tougher. It's the ratty tomato plant in granddad's garden that produces the best fruit. It doesn't look perfect. But it is the real thing. And that makes it beautiful despite it's imperfections.

I have always hated the idea of "spreading freedom" and "liberating the people." I have no problem when the military partakes in peace keeping efforts to stop genocide and loss of human life but I have major issues with "liberating the people and forcing them to accept our form of government." It may seem a little naive but isn't this something people have to decide for themselves? Rebellion and changes in government happen naturally. Sometimes our government likes what happens and sometimes....Hamas in the Gaza strip. And when there is a leader who tightly controls everything (usually called a dictator) we have someone to hate. It doesn't work that way in a democracy. Technically we should dislike everyone when a policy we disagree with is made...voice of the people and all. I think this may be why US citizens are generally despised (among other things). After all, we don't always act like team players (understatement).

So back to the tomato gave me some hope. I am not going to claim to know how to "fix" the unrest in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don't know if we can. But I do know that we've helped mess things up. When you think of war you always think of bad guys and good guys. We have been hearing about the "bad guys" for a long time. A lot since 9/11. But I no longer believe in bad guys and good guys because I think everyone believes they are the good guys. We believe we are in the right as does the other side. So that means that sometimes I have to stop and say "I am one of the bad guys." I am not advocating on the side of terrorism. I hate violence. I know that sometimes it seems unavoidable. I know that in the case of Iraq diplomacy was a no go. (did we try diplomacy?) So back to the tomato.... If you take same plant that is in the greenhouse and put it outside eventually it will grow real tomatoes. Not force grown tomatoes. They are not going to look like the tomatoes your neighbor grows. You will use different fertilizer, different soil and in the end it will be a completely different plant. It might take a couple tries. You might have to change a few things- shade, surrounding plants, the depth of mulch etc. but when you finally manage to grow your own natural plant you feel good. The fruit tastes that much better. And you can always improve on what you know to be good.

So that's what I thought about in the shower. Scott asked "what thought came first...the tomato or Iraq?" I honestly don't know but it sure beat thinking about ....

My bête noire. Health Insurance. I hate health insurance. I hate the system that commercializes human life like we are automobiles. I hate the idea that you make a living on betting whether or not people will be healthy. I hate the idea that some person sitting at a desk somewhere will decide whether or not my condition will get treated. I hate watching people make the choice: Do I live and go into bankruptcy or do I accept this as fate and all my family has to worry about is the funeral expenses. I hate dealing with insurance companies. I hate my health insurance company. I hate that I have to think about it.

When I was a freshman in high school I joined the debate team. The national topic that year was health insurance. I had never really had to think about health insurance before. So my debate partner and I championed the cause of HMO's (hey the point was to win the debate...not believe in what you were debating). After out first win I knew that HMO's were not the answer. After our first few debates I knew that there didn't seem to be a clear answer and in that rather teenage self centered way I was not thinking it wouldn't work for humanitarian reasons - I just knew the whole system is flawed. I wasn't going to win the debate. The nation wasn't winning the debate.

People break. We wear down and develop strange illnesses and conditions. We get sick and we reproduce. We are in accidents and we fight in wars where the whole point is to maximize damage done to other humans. We abuse our bodies. We push ourselves so far that out bodies can't keep up. We sometimes need medical attention. Why? Because we are human! Because we are living organisms and not machines made of metal and fiberglass. So creating a whole commercial business that gambles on whether or not people will get sick is bloody stupid. And then prices go up because insurance companies are having to raise premiums because they aren't making a profit. Because they have to pay doctors. Because people do need medical attention or doctors would not exist in the first place.

If debating the merits of certain insurance plans did not convince me that I hate medical insurance getting my diagnosis sure did. I was in college and still on my parents health care plan. Thank goodness. But the question was what to do after college? Prior to the MS I was strongly considering the military (kinda glad that didn't work out- thanks to the dx- tomatoes and all that). Now I was faced with a disability that was not severe enough to be counted as a disability but needed medical attention. I was graduating with a degree but no money. I had to get a job with health benefits. Because if I had a month lapse in coverage between commercial group coverage programs then I would fall into that "pre-existing condition" category. They wouldn't pay for anything related to my MS for six months to a year depending on the plan. Experience had already taught me that everything is related to MS. You have female problems-must be the MS. You have sprained your ankle-the MS caused you to fall. You have floaters in your eyes causing intense headaches-MS You have a cavity in the tooth?-MS Plantars warts? Athletes foot? a busted appendix?- MS (In truth I have never had a problem with my appendix but I am waiting and it will all be the fault of MS). My whole life would become a pre-existing condition. Hey! It's life. It is a pre-existing condition from the moment you pop out of mommy's womb till the moment you kick the bucket.

I really did try to get a job with health insurance right off but we had just elected a new president and had rather large national disaster and our economy was tanking. Parents could keep me on their plan as long as I was not entirely independent. I found a job that offered health benefits after three months. I became an accountant to a very small law firm. I was not pursuing the job of my dreams or even something I had training in. I was in the pursuit of health insurance- not happiness. And after three months my boss refused to give it to me because I would raise premium costs for every employee. I know that I could have taken legal action. I know I should have raised a stink. I know I still had no money and had nowhere to go if I got fired. I felt trapped. I thought if I just held on he would relent. I was so completely wrong. So after nine months of misery I called my boyfriend (now my hubby) and said " come get me and move me to TN."

I went through a couple more jobs...all with the same insurance problem -as in it was not offered. It was not an option. I was willing to do anything just to get insurance. Clean toilets. Work at a gas station. Wear high heels every freaking impossible day. The problem was I needed money to live so if I got a job I had to take it. The next problem was that even though the job might be "good" it didn't come with benefits. And I looked and searched insurance. The day finally came when my parents said "ok...they are kicking you off the insurance" No duh. It probably should have happened several years before. And I said "uh-oh."

I could have moved back home to live with them. I lived with Scott at the time and we were managing...barely. He had a job that provided insurance. Good insurance We love each other very much and intend to spend the rest of our lives together. So we got married. Just like that- 2 weeks notice. It pissed a lot of people off. It wasn't that getting married was a bad was fabulous. I love being married. It was a timing issue. It was like having a shot gun wedding because I was....disabled. And the thought going through everyones head was "is she marrying him for his insurance?" No! and yet yes. Damn. Our relationship means so much more than the insurance. We got married then so we could stay together. It was, at the time, the only option. I think the family has forgiven us. They have seen that I am not using him to get at his benefits but why do we live in a country where such a thought would even cross their minds? It wasn't fair. And it isn't just me. Lot's of couple's have to make this choice. And let's not even talk about the couples who should be able to make this choice and aren't allowed to. The couples that are not recognized or given full rights....err, blood pressure just hit a new high.

The thing is.....why are we having to base our life choices around access to a basic human right? "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25., Section 1). Ha!!!

The truth is now I have a happy marriage, a job I like (but it doesn't have benefits because they can't afford to provide them-- and its a doctor's office- and they really really honestly can't afford to offer health insurance because health insurance companies are not paying as well as the used to), and a pretty good life all around but....

I work for a doctor calling insurance companies and getting surgeries pre-certified so the good doc gets paid. I spend all day on hold so I can convince some minion that the doctor knows what he is doing. I have to go though lists of multiple question surveys to fulfill requirements for surgery approval. He's a doctor for heavens sake...he knows what he is doing. He knows if it needs to be done. He does not perform surgery just because he like cutting people and seeing the blood squirt. And sometimes I have to lie to convince Mr. Insurance guy that the surgery needs to be done. I hate this. Why can't they just trust the doctor's years of medical school? And sometimes I have to schedule surgery for someone who does not have insurance Our doctor does it at a huge discount if not for free but the hospital does not! No, our portion is $300 for the doc and $7,000 for the hospital. And that's not cool. I see the patients eyes glass over as they contemplate trying to raise the money....I see them wondering if it is worth it. Do they really need that tumor in their neck removed....wouldn't it be easier just to ignore it? I see that look and a little part of me dies. I know that since we have diagnosed them they will never be able to get health insurance..they are uninsurable because they are sick and we are trying to save their life. Trying to save their life so they can face a future of economic difficulty and a future of no health insurance, I see that look and know it is hopelessness and defeat. Some overcome it...some don't. I can help find programs to pay. I can sweet talk the people at the hospital into providing discounts. I can talk to them and tell them its not fair. I can try to convince them it's all worth it. Most of all I can stay mad, send off my letters to politicians, and curse this stupid system that says a healthy person is worth more than a sick one. I hate health insurance It has been my enemy for so long I don't know what I am ever going to do if they can fix the system. It is my job. It is my future. It has dictated life choices. And I am sick of it....our system is sick.

Well there's a couple of rants. I have some insurence companies to call.....

Thursday, February 7, 2008

forced Relaxation and issues with illness

I hate being ill. I know I have a chronic illness that I live with but I hate being ill. As in sore throats, stomach yuckies, the flu and headaches. I turn into a complete whiny wuss at the first sign of illness. Then I stoically try to act as if nothing is wrong while I wander around with a pained expression on my face...hoping someone will ask me what is wrong so I have an opportunity to complain. I know that I am being stupid. I know this drives other people crazy and all I can say is I'm working on it. Maybe it was because being diagnosed as psychosomatic (a misdiagnosis but still...) at an early age- I am afraid I am making it happen and it isn't real until someone else says it is. So when I get sick I am pretty miserable. I don't really count my MS as an illness. Illnesses can be cured, or go away, or can be MS is my chronically different condition. It's not an illness.

Thanks to that great "condition" when I do get the sniffles or the local plague (you know that crud everyone gets that turns entire communities into zombie land for two weeks?) I am usually sick for about half the time everyone else is. My immune system is so kick butt they have me on two different immunosuppressants and still I continue to defy common illness. My body is nothing if not elitist when it comes to germs and little microscopic organisms. I fight off infections with zeal and then those little T-cells go on to attack my nervous system (I have some issues with my rogue white blood cells- they don't ever listen). Then I can take care of everyone else while dealing with familiar but worsening symptoms. I actually prefer it that way.

So when I got a knot the size of the International Space Station in my shoulder last Friday I chose to ignore it. I didn't totally ignore it...I tried my all active life remedies. I took 800 mg of Ibuprofen twice daily. I used the heating pad on it (yes I have heat tolerance issues but the shoulder hurt). I took a hot bath to soak it (same comment as before). I massaged it and I hate massages with a passion. I put my magic Tiger's Balm on it...about four times an hour. Yesterday I realized the pain was radiating up my neck into my jaw line. It also was radiating down my right arm. And I couldn’t turn my head. And I want to ride roller coasters in two weeks.

So I saw my doctor. (who is my boss so it doesn't seem quite as extreme as actually going to the doctor). Sure enough it was a huge knot in my shoulder that was the size of the International Space Station as well as very rapid, rather intense, muscle spasms and yes it did make me shriek when he placed his finger on my shoulder in the particular spot and applied moderate pressure.

I am on muscle relaxers for the first time in my life (honestly- other than my legs I am a pretty relaxed person- and the legs don't fall under the same category as the rest of my body). My legs, amazingly enough are feeling great. they still don't listen to me but they don't hurt. And I don't shake violently every time I stand up or change position. My neck still hurts. And I am so whining about it. It isn't fair that I have to deal with this as well as MS. It makes me very grumpy. And that it ridiculous. I am being a very silly little girl.But this has given me an opportunity to experience the future. My family drives me around. I am completely dependant on them for transportation. (muscle relaxers+ not feeling feet + not turning head = should not drive). And right now it’s not that bad. They are very good about making sure I get to where I need to go. But I have already experienced what it will be like for most my life:

Me: Sissy, will you take me home now?

Sis: And what do you plan to do when you get home?

Me: Well. Maybe a load of dishes. Feed the pups. Pay some bills. Clean off the table. And I really probably should sort the recycling. (at this point she rolls her eyes)

Sis: And do you think any of this will make your arm feel better?

Me: (honestly is always the best policy except when...)

Sis: No. Not driving you home. You can sit on my couch and watch a movie. Or take a nap. Or do nothing. Those are your choices.

Shit. So this being driven places does not mean I have the same privileges that other people with chauffeurs have. I kinda always guessed this would be the case but had to find out for myself (just for the record I know she was right- I just hate that she was right).So add this to the list of medical things I reserve the right to be a complete wuss about. Knots in my shoulders. And I'll stop whining now because in two weeks I'll be able to ride roller coasters. And I'll work on understanding that just because I have my "condition" other things can still go wrong with my body. Hard to stomach but true. And in the meantime I am really quite relaxed (and it's not a limo but works for me).

Sunday, February 3, 2008

TAG! You're it!

TAG! You're it!
Here is how you play. Once you have been tagged you have to write a blog with 10 random things about yourself: facts, goals, habits, and at the end, choose 10 people to be tagged, listing their names and why you tagged them. Don't forget to send them a comment (You're it!) and to read your blog for instructions.
Since you can't re-tag me, let me know when you've posted your tagged blog.
Ten random things about me...

1. I love Sushi. When I close my eyes and try to think of the perfect meal that's what I come up with. So simple and so filling.

2. When I was little I wanted to be the first ballet dancing astronaut. When I got a little older I changed it a ballet dancing firefighter.

3. I am a compulsive news browser. I seriously go to about 16 different news sites about 8 times a day.

4. I always buy myself flowers if I go shopping alone.

5. I have set myself on fire while boiling water, caught my hair in an electric mixer, burnt no-bake cookies, made grey instant macarony and cheese and caught my oven on fire baking brown and serve rolls. I avoid the kitchen.

6. I collect stamps. I smuggled soviet era stamps out of Russia when I was an exchange student.

7. I once wrote in a journal that I never could date someone who was primarily interested in politics and philosophy. I married a Philosophy/ International Relations double major and we spend many evenings discussing both over coffee.

8. I miss my father. It has been almost 3 years since he died peacefully in his sleep and I really miss him.

9. I still sleep with my "teddy mouse" every night. I took him to Russia with me. I took him to college with me. Now my husband sweetly consents to share our bed with Hans the mouse. I can't sleep unless I have him tucked under one arm.

10. I hate orange juice. I know it is good for me but I really can't stand it.

Here's who I'm tagging... well noone and everyone. I can't think of people to tag so I am not going to. But I would like to read about other people's randomness (what makes us an individual).