Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm Doing It!

Today I met another one of my goals. My family and I rode a nine mile loop through Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. It is one of our favorite places to ride. The trail has some steep sections and I handled each and every one of them. Plus, as my husband noticed, I wasn't even limping afterwards. In fact, six hours later, I still feel fine.

I did experience a few problems today -allergies and mosquitoes. But my joints? They did such a wonderful job. I am so proud of them. There was one incline that challenged my leg muscles and my lungs due to little exercise in the last year or more but it felt so wonderful to be challenged.

Bike riding with my family is one of my very favorite activities. Thank you Enbrel. Thank you Methotrexate. Thank you healthy diet. Thank you positive thinking. Thank you joints for sticking with me with through thick and thin. We are doing it!

The Simplest Things

"I find relaxation, enjoyment, and healing in the simplest things in life."

Recently I applied for another part time adult ESL (English as a Second Language) teaching position with a local computer science college. I am in the process of collecting all the necessary paperwork needed and contacted the school district I worked for many years ago in Kansas to help. In Kansas I taught 5th grade for five years and elementary/middle school ESL for two years before we moved to Illinois and I became a full time momma.

My paperwork has been passed around to several different people and recently landed in the hands of a past colleague whose daughter was in my fifth grade class. She sent me the nicest email that has just left me beaming for days.

I don’t know if you remember my daughter XXXXXX from Horace Mann but she still contends 5th grade with Mrs. Kramer was her “best school year ever”. Thanks for getting her off to such a great start! (Her daughter is now married with kids.)

Sometimes we go through life not knowing if we are making a difference or not. It is so nice to know that we have.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Protector

Last month when the nurse was sent out to help me with my first Enbrel shot, I asked Alexander, 14, if he would sit with me while she went over the instructions. He tends to remember details a lot better than me. He was happy to do it and as always listened attentively.

Yesterday was week four of my Enbrel shots. Each week as I prepare myself for the shot, I think, "This week Alexander will probably decide that I have it down now and won't feel the need to help me." But, each week he heads up with me and reminds me to first take off the cap and make sure there isn't anything weird floating in the liquid. Then he reminds me that I have to push down before the injection will work. As soon as we hear the "click" that the shot is complete, he takes the syringe and places it in the waste container box for me while I clean up.

This has been my experience with rheumatoid arthritis since the beginning. Alexander was almost eight when I was first diagnosed and quickly took on the job as my protector. He has always been on the lookout to make sure I am safe and life is as easy as possible for me. When he was old enough to stay home alone he still wanted to go to my rheumatalogist appointments with me in case I cried. He goes shopping with me all the time so that I don't have to lift the bags alone. When it is time to leave our homeschool group on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he is by my side ready to take the lunch bags from me. When things got bad this year and I had to stop walking Izzy, he had no problem taking over that job as well as many others around the house. He has always been on the look out to protect me from any additional pain. He even has a list of my medications stored in his phone in case of an emergency.I don't know if this is a trait of most boys with their mothers but what I do know is I am one lucky momma to be watched over by Alexander! His physical help as well as his constant calm personality provide me with so much.

*Side effects: After Enbrel injections I get a light headache and my hips hurt. Anyone else? Also, last week a rash developed around the injection site. But the weirdest thing is that for several nights after taking Enbrel, I have very vivid dreams that last the entire night. I wake up tired because I was so busy dreaming. Does this happen to anyone else? These sound minor in comparison to how great I am feeling, but just thought I would mention it and see if anyone else experiences the weird dreams.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Newest Food Addiction

My sister Stacey sent this recipe to me and it has become my newest food addiction. They are easy to make, super moist and full of healthy ingredients.

Carrot Banana Muffins
These are so yummy and can double as a breakfast or dessert. Just bake and then have a grab and go meal for weeks! (Weeks? Not true in my house. They barely last a day)

• 2 cups blanched almond flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon celtic sea salt
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon
• 1 cup dates, pitted
• 3 ripe bananas
• 3 eggs
• 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
• ¼ cup coconut oil
• 1 ½ cups carrots, shredded
• ¾ cup walnuts, finely chopped

1. In a small bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon
2. In a food processor, combine dates, bananas, eggs, vinegar and oil
3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl
4. Blend dry mixture into wet until thoroughly combined
5. Fold in carrots and walnuts
6. Spoon mixture into paper lined muffin tins
7. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes
Makes 18 muffins

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Past Me" is Returning to Meet "Present Me"

Sophia recently shared a dream with me. I was in this dream. She said that whenever I am in her dreams I have long hair like I did when she was a little girl and I don't have rheumatoid arthritis. She said, "Remember before when you would run up and down the stairs cleaning and doing lots of things? You were never on the computer. You were always doing something." As she was telling me about my "past me" I remembered that person. I remember having lots of energy. Thinking of that person again made me feel happy and even a little energized.

It also made me realize that Sophia and I are both seeing "past me" return. As of Thursday I have had three Enbrel injections. There hasn't been this earthshaking turn of events but with each day I feel a little more like the "past me". A friend said, "Your sarcasm and smile have returned." I feel more playful. I feel like smiling again. It is almost like the pain in my body was taking too much energy before and now it has the energy to do these other simple acts.

Yesterday was an example of how my energy is returning and the desire to get out and do things is also returning. I took the kids to the beach. We have tried as a family three other times (twice with my sister) but were rained out each time. Yesterday with the heat index at 105, it was the right time.

As I walked through the hot sand, I realized that a few months ago I would not have been able to do this walk. It would have been too much of a challenge to walk through the sand. But yesterday, I was able to grab hold of the kids as needed and enjoyed feeling my muscles working once again.

Yesterday was one of those days that you allow yourself to totally soak up the moment and let everything else go. I told the kids, "I am glad we didn't invite anyone to join us. I like having the two of you to myself." It's true. We laughed, we had running races in the water, we sat and talked, I listened as they ran off together to play and we laughed some more. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. Yesterday I didn't want to be on the sidelines as I have been for over two years. I wanted to be a part of the fun and I was!

We walked a ways in the heat to get to the beach but once we saw the water, the walk was worth it.

I love that they both still love to play! I hope they never outgrow that.

Sophia wanted to get a shot of my feet while I was balancing simply because "you can do it now".
On the way home Sophia asked why I like being with them so much. It is hard to explain but their voices and laughter fill me with energy. I never get tired of being with these two people.

A few other bragging moments from the last week:
~Steve and I got up early last Saturday and went for a seven mile bike ride. The trail was easy. We planned it that way. I needed to see how my body would handle a simple ride. It did okay. While riding my hips hurt which they still do at night and my shoulders were stiff for a few minutes after getting off the bike but that was it! I did it! Hopefully next weekend we can try a more challenging ride with all four of us.

~My wedding ring fits my finger....again. Last summer I was able to get it on for a while but I haven't worn it for quite a while now.

~When I wake up in the morning, I haven't had to think about how I am going to get out of bed.

~Here is the biggie~ I SAT ON THE FLOOR. AND, I GOT UP WITHOUT ANY HELP!!!! I haven't been able to do that every day since but it happened. Actually, I didn't really think about it but I was up and down all day yesterday at the beach and didn't feel like a granny trying to get up.

I still have a ways to go and Sophia reminded me the other day when I tried to do an arm workout (not as successfully as I had hoped) that I don't have to do everything right away. But I feel I must celebrate each and every little step I make towards being the "past me". The cool thing is that the "past me" will be even better because the "present me" has grown so much as a person due to my experiences with rheumatoid arthritis.

Sending healing thoughts to each of you today!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Calm and Relaxed

My sister Stacey left on Sunday morning. It was difficult for me to motivate myself to get out and walk Izzy by myself after 11 days of having a human walking partner. Her visit was wonderful and exactly what I needed in a vacation at home. We talked about my rheumatoid arthritis, but it wasn't the main topic of conversation as it often is when we get together on the telephone or in person. Why? One reason is overall I feel better. Second reason and most importantly to me is that after six and a half years of feeling uneasy about having rheumatoid arthritis and especially about the treatments available, I feel calm. I feel like I have explored a lot of different avenues and although there are tons more to explore, I have worked hard and now it is time to relax and not worry so much. Having finally come to this point with RA I didn't feel the need to talk nonstop about my feelings, fears, or next brilliant idea of calming my body. I feel calm and comfortable.

Highlights of our visit together:

I am absolutely in love with my two nephews.

Levi, 9, wearing the duct tape hat Alexander made for his birthday. Levi loved the idea of duct tape art and made purses for Stacey, Sophia and I, pen holders for Steve and David and a wizard hat for Alexander. I love how excited kids get about learning new things.

Leo, almost 7, at Legoland. Stacey and family did this one on their own.

After my appointment with the rheumatologist, Steve and I met Stacey, David, Leo, Levi, Alexander and Sophia in Chicago. They spent the day at John Hancock and The Cheesecake Factory with my nephew Joe.

Together we all took a sunset boat tour. It has been years since we have taken this ride and it was gorgeous.

The boys spent lots of time laughing and bonding while playing XBOX.

We went to the Taste of Lincoln Park since the beaches were closed after heavy rainfall.

We visited Starved Rock State Park for the first time.

Of course we had to take Izzy. She had a great time! She came home and was ready to play ball. She doesn't tire easily.

Also, thanks to my mom who sent the olive green fondue pot we grew up with (full of chocolate!) to enjoy after a long day. So many happy memories were enjoyed around it growing up and were shared at my home last week.