Sunday, August 30, 2015

Leaving 40...

I have never been bothered by an age as I have always felt that age is just a number, all that really matters is how you feel. I would have never in a million year imagined, dreamed or thought about the life altering changes my 40’s would hold in store. I am amazed at how much crap could happen to one person during only a 10 year time period. The person I was before is not the same person I am now.
My 13th Birthday
Cheryl, Mom and me April 1983 I was 17
August 1996- in my 30's
In my 20’s, I became a mom three times, my Daddy died, we had moved twice and I located and met my birth mother. The person I was before I became a mom changed the day Jenn was born. It was no more just about me as I would love and sacrifice everything for my daughters. When my Daddy died, I became an orphan with no family left. There was no one left on this planet that knew my past since I was an only child. Moving changes everything about a family and that person since you leave all your friends, familiar surroundings and have to put yourself out there to make your way in the new place. Finding my birth mother was not the wonderful “Oprah” moment I had imagined. I learned very quickly that I was a mistake she made in her past and she wanted nothing to do with me or my girls. I also found 5 siblings that are just as messed up as their mother. In the long run, I was thankful she had chosen to throw me away from her life and allow me to be normal. Of course the child I was in my teens had grown up, moved onto being a mother and making a household for myself. The dreams of a child had been made real and were not so nice.
April 2002- in my late 30's
Heather and me-December 2002- in my late 30's
In my 30’s, most of my days, weeks and years were spent with the girls in activities, school and AWANA. We became a homeschool family and very involved with the state level of AWANA. Our weekends were spent traveling to different portions of the state to do training or events. I think this was some of the best opportunities my girls had to learn about hard work and perseverance. It was time our family spent together that I would not trade for anything. Jenn and Heather both graduated, both learned to drive and all three got their first jobs. The girls were growing and changing and of course the person I was changed again. I had to learn to let go and let the girls make their own decision and have their own consequences.
My 40th Birthday at Mall of America September 2005 
My 41st birthday Iowa, September 2006
On my 39th birthday, I made the biggest mistake of my life in finding and speaking to my birth father. I actually called him on my birthday. There was something missing in my life and I felt that maybe my birth father might hold that key. Finding my birth mother answered a few questions but I was still searching for me. Looking back now, I was misled and fooled, which not easy to do. I let down my guard and allowed this vile, evil person into my life and into my family. I put my family in harm’s way by a very powerfully deceptive man that took us all for a ride. I flew to Iowa to spend my 40th birthday with my birth father. Again, I believed this man cared about me. We went to Knott’s Camp Snoopy and he bought me so many things. He just couldn’t seem to spend enough money on me. Of course, what child wouldn’t love to have this kind of attention? He gave me a birthday card everyday of my visit and we had the best time ever. Little did I know that he was already checking me out sexually, just waiting for the right moment to strike.
Disneyland 50th, me and Heather March, 2006 in my 40's
My family, California Adventure March 2006
I began my 40’s thinking that life was good and I was happy. Boy, was I wrong. In 2008, when I was just barely 42, a sick child rocked my world. Suddenly, I was pushing all the doctors to find out what could be wrong. I had no way of knowing that the me I knew was fixing to disappear forever and I would have to find the most courage and strength I would ever have to have. I sat in the oncologist office as I heard the words “stage 4, blood cancer, very aggressive, hospital, spinal chemo and fight for her life.” Sitting next to me Heather was sobbing, as I would need to keep my wits to hear the words being thrown at me. The person I was suddenly was no more and I changed to become the MamaBear fighting for her baby at all costs.
Soaring October 2007 me and Heather
Heather and Me Grizzly River Run October 2007
For a brief moment in time, around my 43rd birthday, life was good. Heather was in remission and I became a Mimi. We were all together for the birth of baby Violet, Snooks. I foolishly thought that I had survived the greatest storm of my life but the toughest fight was just about to begin. No one should become a Mimi and bury a daughter within 10 weeks of each other. The overwhelming joy mixed with unimaginable sadness is just not right. It was not fair to my family or me to have to leave behind the people we were to become the new ones we are now. We will never to be normal or whole again this side of heaven.
Heather and me Super Bowl party January 2009
Disneyland September 2012
Shortly, after all this happened, I learned the hard way that the man I had loved as a dad had very perverted ideas and expectations for me. It would be the ending of a relationship very abruptly and a call to the police. This was a very hard lesson for me to learn and accept. I felt violated in the worst way as I allowed this man to share my Heather and my Violet. I allowed him to join my family and share my life, which meant I trusted him. Never again would I allow myself to be taken advantage of by family, mine or Bill’s.
Margie and me August, 2033
Sandy and me May 2014
My 40’s seemed to end on a happy note as both girls are married, Snooks is thriving and we added my little Toodles, aka Ellie, right before I turned 49. I have gotten 3 tattoos, been to Alaska and the Bahamas, practically lived at Disneyland, made two visits to Walt Disney World, eaten at Club 33, bought a huge new truck, learned to shoot a handgun, remolded most all of our house, worked at Disney and Harkins and also recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness. My dear friend, of 37 years, Margie, die from cancer, but not before we were able to make a few more memories. I also made some huge memories with Sandy, my BFF for 45 years with a girl’s weekend at Disneyland. The end of my 40’s seemed to be better than the beginning, but Heather is never far from my memory. The person I was when I entered my 40’s disappeared the day Heather died, changed forever. The “Sherry” I was does not exist anymore, she died the same day.
Like fine wine I get better with age 2015

As I look back on my life, I am nowhere near the same person I was when I began my 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. My 40’s were some of the darkest, happiest and life-changing years of my life. You cannot go thru cancer of a child and then the death of a child and not be changed. I would like to go back and do some things over again. I would laugh longer and love deeper and make a few changes with people, but as for Heather, I would never change a thing. The moments she was in my world were life-altering and I would not give most of them back. The 33 days in ICU I would give back… But my life was enriched and made whole by Heather being in my world even though the time was short. As I look back I have learned so much and I have changed. As I leave my 40’s and reach for my 50’s I pray that these 10 years can know some peace. Somehow I don’t think it will as time doesn’t stand still for anyone and I know that deaths and cancer will invade my world again. I just hope this time it isn’t so close to home.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Few Sore Muscles...

FIRBOMYALGIA (FMS)-Fibromyalgia produces widespread pain, disturbed sleep, and exhaustion from head to toe. FMS means pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons—the soft fibrous tissues of the body. Although the muscles hurt everywhere, they are not the only cause of the pain. Instead, the diffuse, body-wide symptoms are greatly magnified by malfunctions in the way the nervous system processes pain. Fibromyalgia is frequently associated with stress-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress.

The symptoms of fibromyalgia are unpredictable and most patients are frustrated by their physical limitations and inability to make plans. You may feel as though you have to "push yourself" to get things done.

Fibromyalgia is described as a "central sensitization syndrome" caused by biological abnormalities in the nervous system that acts to produce pain and cognitive impairments as well as psychological problems. The term "fibromyalgia" derives from new Latin, fibro-, meaning "fibrous tissues", Greek myo-, "muscle", and Greek algos, "pain"; thus the term literally means “muscle and connective pain".

Fibromyalgia is classed as a disorder of pain processing due to abnormalities in how pain signals are processed in the central nervous system. Exercise improves fitness and sleep; and may reduce pain and fatigue in some people with FMS. In particular, there is strong evidence that cardiovascular exercise is effective for some people

Pain - Fibromyalgia pain has no boundaries. People describe the pain as deep muscular aching, throbbing, shooting, stabbing, or intense burning. Quite often, the pain and stiffness are worse in the morning, the severity of regional pains (particularly those in the head, neck, shoulders and lower back) are a strong predictor of a person's overall pain rating. The muscles in these painful areas can feel tight, knotted and rope-like.

Fatigue - This symptom can be one of the most incapacitating for people with fibromyalgia. Patients may feel as though concrete blocks weight down their arms and legs and their bodies may be so drained of energy that every task is an effort.

Memory and Concentration - Difficulty concentrating and retaining new information may seriously interfere with everyday mental tasks. This symptom is referred to as "fibro fog" and may hinder job opportunities.

Sleep Disorders - Patients report trouble falling asleep and more importantly staying asleep, but the un-refreshing quality is what makes the disorder much worse than insomnia. Repeat arousals prevent patients from reaching deep, restorative sleep. As a result, the night is spent in "quasi-sleep" and patients wake up feeling as though they have been run over by a Mack truck. Overnight sleep studies will likely show repeat arousals with bursts of awake-like brain activity occurring throughout the night, but a specific sleep disorder may not be identified.

Why in the world would I spend so much time telling you about fibromyalgia when this is a blog about grieving mothers? Because I have recently been diagnosed with this chronic illness. I began by listing some of the symptoms of this syndrome but there are so many more than the small list I began here. The other idea that scientists are working on is a genetic link that this is passed from generation to generation. I have a birth mother that has chronic insomnia and a birth father with Parkinson’s and severe restless leg syndrome; both of these are neurotransmitter disorders. Actually 90% of people who have severe restless leg syndrome are diagnosed with FMS.

I have had severe insomnia for going on 13 years. It just seemed to hit out of the blue when suddenly I could not sleep. I was tired and sleepy but full restful sleep didn’t come. I went nearly 10 days with no meaningful sleep when I was finally placed on Ambein. That was a life-saver and it worked very well for me, till almost 3 years ago. I began waking up and being restless at 3AM or 4AM every night. I was not able to see my primary doctor in a timely fashion so I decided to see the assistant. (Which I have recently learned is only a nurse practitioner.) She tried to place me on antidepressants when she heard Heather died. After weeks of trying and three rounds of different types of anti depressants that also work for sleep, I demanded Lunesta. Lunesta has never worked right for me and I called and had her add Ativin with it. She wanted me to do Xanax first, so I tried it and after a few months took myself off that slowly and demanded Ativin.  

After I did not continue working at the Disney store, I went to work as an assistant manager at Harkins Theatres. I kicked it right off working over 42 hours a week. After three weeks I was not functioning and changed my hours to just over 32 hours a week. This also seemed to be too much for me as I just could not sleep and rest and I felt extreme fatigue, so I went down to about 15 hours a week. This seemed to be an okay schedule but I was having issues with “brain fog” and doing inventory. This was very hard for me as I have always been good with inventory and could not understand why I was struggling so much with this task at work.

Then came Disney weekend and the Tinkerbell 10K…and I fell like I have never recovered from that event. I was beyond exhausted and hurt all over. It seemed every muscle in my body hurt all the time. I had blood work done and it came back all messed up; so it was recommended that I take some time to focus on my health. It has taken till now to get a doctor to listen to me and then get the right blood work done to accurately diagnosis me.

I have had doctors’ misdiagnosis me because I am a grieving mother. They automatically assume that I am depressed because my daughter died and I need medical help with that. I have news for doctors, not all grieving mothers need drug intervention with grieving, and sometimes we have actual real health issues that need attention. I am very in tune with my body and what is going on so when doctor’s won’t listen I did my homework and looked things up. I knew what blood work to order and I went in strong and demanded they listen to me. Did I ask for this? NO! Can I just keep going the way I am going? NO! Will I let this define me? NO WAY!

I know that I was already predisposed to possibly have this with the insomnia and restless legs. I also have the extreme sensitivity to hot and cold. If anyone has been near me they know right after I eat I freeze even in the heat of summer. I have been known to wear a jacket while being 110 outside. Hot water can actually hurt when it hits my skin and not because I am cold, it just sends pain shooting when it hits my skin. It is also proven that a traumatic event, illness or accident can cause Fibromyalgia to begin with no warning. Do I believe that Heather’s death did this? YES, I DO!

I am working with my doctor and a pain management doctor to try to come up with a drug combo and dosage that works to control the pain, allow sleep but then also allow me to function during the day without dizziness or sleepiness. This has been quite the process. I also have been told by both doctors that my workout is the best thing I can do. The cardio and the weight strengthening I am doing are really good and I can continue to workout since I have been doing the workout for more than 3 years. Of course if I have a day that I just can’t do the workout I will go lighter or go home. I have learned the hard way that I have very different limits now and I need to listen to those limits.

Bill and I have laughed that 20 years ago we were sure that fibromyalgia was “all in the head” of pastor’s wives. This was their excuse to get out of doing things. While I still believe that some women take this too far and become debilitated of their own choice, this is a very real condition. Of course we joke that now Bill needs to become a pastor so I can have this condition. Yes, I am joking, kind of. I have limits now, but I will not allow this to define who I am. I will not be known as the lady with the chronic disease. I am hoping that after vacation I will be able to return to a limited work schedule. I miss the theatre and all the people there.