Wednesday, December 09, 2015

May I Have More Spoons, Please?

A little over a year ago, I started having severe back pain. It would be so bad that I would wake up screaming in my sleep. To a lesser degree, I was also having pretty bad pain in my hips and lower back, but I had gotten used to this as it had been happening off and on for several years. I had been to doctor after doctor, and been told it was basically because I was fat. Funny thing was, even when I lost weight, the pain never got better.

But this back pain was different. Steal-your-breath-away, whole-body-electrified, different. So, I started making the rounds of doctors again. Test after test, the humiliation of being told I was fat, insisting that it had to be more than that, finally finding a Primary Care doctor who would listen. (Coincidence or not, this doctor is a woman. All the previous doctors who told me everything was in my head or was just because I was fat were men.) She sent me off for blood work, CAT scans, MRIs. She argued with the insurance companies. She fought for me. I'm so glad she did.

Soon, she was telling me I needed to see a pain management doctor because the MRI and CAT scans were showing lots of degeneration in my spine.  From there, the pain doctor could refer me to a rheumatologist to get more tests done.

Through the pain management doctor (whom I have since stopped seeing for reasons I don't want to get into here), I was referred to a rheumatologist who was finally able to give me a diagnosis. Apparently, all those years of pain I had been having in my hips and lower back were early signs that I had psoriatic arthritis. I have the "fun" kind that likes to chew the bones of my spine and hips. Since the previous rheumatologists I had consulted (male) pretty much patted me on the head and didn't do any real tests, it went undetected. My current rheumatologist (again, female) did tons of blood work, ordered more x-rays, and another MRI and basically spent over an hour in an examination room with me going over my medical history with a fine tooth comb. She's also the one with the eagle eye who diagnosed the psoriasis on my elbows and scalp, which is what led her to my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease where your body's immune system attacks the skin. Psoriatic arthritis is where the immune system attacks the bone. I have the kind that attacks the spine and hips. It also attacks the tendon connection points, mostly in my feet and knees, making walking even more difficult on some days - especially in the mornings.

So, now I'm receiving treatment to try to slow down the disease, but there's no cure.  I will be in pain for the rest of my life.  Some days are bearable - kind of like having a horrible headache in your back and hips. But other days...other days are excruciating.  I have days where if I move wrong, I scream.  Days where I cannot walk.  And even on days when I'm not in horrible pain, I'm so exhausted from constantly having SOME level of pain, that I'm just too dang tired to think about even getting ready to leave the house, much less actually going somewhere.

So what does all this have to do with my title?  When I first got diagnosed and realized that I've got a chronic illness, I started researching other people with chronic illnesses. I wanted to know how they cope with everything. A lot of people started talking about something called the "Spoon Theory." So, I researched that. The Spoon Theory was created by Christine Miserandino to help explain to people what it's like to have Lupus, another autoimmune disease. Basically, it says that on any given day, you wake up with only a certain number of spoons. These spoons represent the amount of energy you have. Some days, you wake up with 20 spoons, plenty to do everything you need to do. But maybe the next day you only wake up with 2 spoons. And you never know how many spoons you will have on a given day.  Each task you have to do in a day costs a different number of spoons.  Maybe getting out of bed costs you 3 spoons if that is when you hurt more.  Maybe fixing breakfast only takes 1 spoon. But you have to ration your spoons. Here lately, I have only had 3-5 spoons to spend each day, prompting my question, may I have more spoons, please?

I am currently on medical leave from work. I applied for pay through the sick leave bank at work, but I won't know if it has been approved or not until after I return to work in January. Which means my December paycheck is going to be about  $600 - $1,000 short. If my application for sick leave bank days is denied (their definition of what constitutes a "real" reason to be out of work, even with documentation from your rheumatologist, is ridiculous), I will not receive a paycheck at all in January (since we are paid a month behind). I have a Union representative working with me on it, but I still worry.

I also worry if I will be ABLE to go back to teaching. Maybe it's time to move on. Just the thought of going back is exhausting. But I don't know what else I can do and make the same salary. If you are the praying sort, I would appreciate prayers. If not, I also would appreciate positive thoughts, good energy, or whatever you are inclined to send out into the universe on my behalf. I'm worried about how I'm going to take care of my boy.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

I've Started a Kickstarter Campaign

For a long time, there's been this book inside my head. 

No, not one of the one with all those made up people in it. (Although there are crazy, made up people in my head, too.)

The real one, the tough one, the one I'm still writing and will probably never stop writing until I breathe my last breath.

It's the book that celebrates my mother, God rest her soul. On the day she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, I started writing to her. Not on paper; at least, not at first - that would be nuts! No, I started in my mind, telling her how awed I was by her calmness, by her acceptance, by her love for all those around her - even for those who had hurt her. But I didn't tell her about the letters, because I was afraid I would hurt her.

Then, when Mom passed away, I kept writing because it made me feel like she wasn't really gone. Jamie would do something silly, or funny, or exasperating, and I SWEAR I could hear her laughing and telling me that he was payback for all the times I had  misbehaved. Like the time he put the vacuum cleaner attachment through the TV. Mom laughed long and loud over that one.

I want the world to celebrate with me what a wonderful, giving, beautiful person my mother way. But they can't do that as efficiently if I don't publish my book of letters to her. For that, I need your help. Please visit my Kickstarter page and pledge to help me get this book off the ground. I hope others going through the same thing will find some comfort from it, and that others will learn to hug their loved ones a little tighter for a little longer, because you never know how fleeting that precious time is.

Please help me introduce Shirley Gregory to the rest of the world.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Battling Inherent Prejudices at the Middle School Level

Sometimes I get so frustrated in my job. I have been trying to teach my students not just how to be better readers, but how to be better humans. Yes, I know, that's not really in my job description - but it should be. I try to instill life lessons in my reading lessons; read with more fluency, comprehend the deeper meaning, eradicate hatred and ignorance, celebrate our shared experiences, read on grade level, recognize that our differences are what make us beautiful, make connections across texts.

But I am working against more than a decade of distrust, hatred, and intolerance that their little bodies have soaked up from their families, their peers, and society itself. Sometimes I want to scream because I feel I am fighting a losing battle.

Today, I showed my students a powerful video of spoken word poetry. The author is a slightly built, short haired woman who speaks about heritage, who speaks out against prejudice, who talks about the very things I want my students to understand. Did my students pick up any of her nuggets of wisdom? Oh, no. All they could ask me, all frackin' day long, "Miss, is that a guy or a girl?" My response, "Does it matter?" Inevitably, a student would point out that the video title had a woman's name in it, so the poet must be a woman.

The ignorance and hatred I heard coming out of my students' mouths today is sickening. The fact that they didn't even know what they were really saying, they were just repeating what they had heard others say, makes it even more sad. A huge part of me wants to walk away from teaching middle school for this very reason. I don't know if I can teach in an environment where there is so much hatred and the kids don't even know WHAT they are hating. But if I walk away, don't I become part of the problem, because I didn't stick around to open their eyes? Or can their eyes even be opened at this age? I just know by the end of the day I was ready to cry, and felt physically sick, from some of the things I heard my students say. Can I teach in an environment where there is so little respect for all the differences that make the human race beautiful and amazing? Can I teach where I am expected to denounce some forms of discrimination, but keep my mouth shut about others? I already know the answer to that.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I Have Been Away Too Long

I have been gone for a really long time. For that, I am sorry. First, I was too busy. A lot has happened since I received my M.A.T. back in December 2012. I worked as a temp in education research. Then I got a job as a Reading Interventionist. Not knowing diddly-squat about RTI, I had to do some major research, so that took my time. Then Jamie got very sick, was in the hospital all summer, and almost died. It was the worst summer of my life, one I hope never to repeat again. But all this drama, these crises, they took my words. I drew in upon myself and hid from the world while I lived day after day, just putting one foot in front of the other.

Things are better now. Jamie is almost 100% again. I am emerging from the dark place I hid for several months. I am still a Reading Interventionist, and I am also taking on leadership roles on my campus.

I'll tell you about all of it sometime, once I find all my words. For now, I just wanted my non-Facebook friends to know I am still alive, as is Jamie (thank you, Lord).

In the meantime, please accept this proof that Jamie is alive and well (and growing!). Last month, Jamie and his friend Cait went to his JROTC Military Ball on one of the bases down here. In case you weren't aware, this was shortly after his 16th birthday. He is growing up so fast!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

But He Needs All the Wisdom He Can Get!

Tonight, we went to the store and stocked up on soft foods - yogurt, ice cream, cans of pinto beans (to be smashed with a fork), eggs for scrambling, broth, soups, bananas to be smushed, anything I could think of that would be squishy or could be made squishy. Tomorrow morning at 8:15, Stinkbumps will be having oral surgery to have all his wisdom teeth removed. My child is a bit above the curve in dental age. He was born with a tooth, so I really shouldn't be surprised that he is cutting his wisdom teeth three years earlier than most people. Jamie's oral surgeon joked that he should use that against me next time I say he's immature.

I know this is a pretty routine surgery and thousands go through it a day. But I still fret a bit because of his tendency to have allergic reactions to things and his asthma. This particular doctor likes to put young patients completely under for this kind of procedure - he says it is less traumatic for them and easier on him. I understand his reasoning.... but still. If he has a reaction, because of the asthma it will be just that much more severe.

I don't think I will breathe easy until I get him home and all the anesthesia has completely worn off.

Think of him tomorrow, would you?