L is for Laugh Like No One’s Listening

LWhen I was still living in Louisville, I looked forward to my bi-weekly yoga classes. The instructor was one of the best I’d ever had leading me through a yoga practice.

She was young and optimistic yet very spiritual and inspiring. She would begin each class telling us a story about her weekend and tie it back around to being balanced or living life with intention. Then she would lead us through a challenging practice that left me feeling drained and energized at the same time.

It was, as yoga should be, the perfect balance.

The universe, though, is tricky and likes to tip the scales a little every now and then just to make sure we’re paying attention. Such a nudge happened not long before I moved when I walked into class and found *gasp* a substitute.

I almost turned around and walked out, but I’m not normally afraid of change, so I decided to give her a try. The practice was fine–a good mix of vinyasa and warrior poses.

We were almost finished when the universe gave another nudge. I was ready to end the practice as usual with corpse pose when, instead of instructing us to lie down, the substitute told us to take a comfortable seat.

 “Let’s laugh,” she said.

The expressions on everyone’s face was a variation of, “Huh? What’d she just say?”

“Laughter is powerful,” she continued as if she hadn’t just lost everyone a second ago, “It calms us, makes us feel lighter, and restores our spirits.”

She instructed us to close our eyes and try a few, “Ha-ha’s”.  It was quiet except for her own chuckles.

“Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks,” she said. “Put a smile on your face, and laugh.”

Soon, I heard a faint giggle from the back corner, a gaffaw from somewhere to my right, and a full-on belly-laugh from the front. Within seconds the room was rumbling with laughter…deep, high, loud, soft, each laugh as different as each variation of crow pose.

What started as stilted turned to genuine, and after a full minute, the room was filled with roaring laughter. I’m sure the muscle heads in the weight room next door were complaining about the “slackers” in group exercise.

After another minute, the laughter died down, and as everyone regained their composure, I realized our sub was right. I did feel lighter and calmer and just as restored as if I’d spent the last two minutes in the ultimate relaxation pose…maybe even more so.
img_0223-2 Today, April 14, is International Moment of Laughter Day, so take a minute to laugh, even if you find nothing humorous about your circumstances, put a smile on your face, and laugh like no one’s listening.

You’ll feel better for it. I promise.

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I is for Invisible Illness

II first became invisible when I was 12 years old.

My sixth grade class was reading The Invisible Man, and our teacher had a brilliant idea to turn the tale into a feature film–sort of. She borrowed a video camera from the AV department for the project, and then explained to us how she would film us as we read the different roles.

It was a low-budget production. We didn’t have costumes or an elaborate set. We didn’t even have to memorize our lines. We just had to hold the book in front of our faces and read.

Since acting skill was not a requirement to get an actual speaking part, my teacher decided the best way to assign “actors” to roles was to pull names from a hat. Everyone waited breathless to hear whose name would be pulled for the lead role.

When my name was read, I listened to the disappointed groans echoing through the classroom.  Everyone wanted the part, and no one was thrilled that I had gotten it, except for me.  A few people tried to barter with me and offered to trade their lesser parts for my starring role.

I promptly turned them all down. I knew what I had, and I wasn’t about to trade it for a “co-star” label. I was going to be invisible! How cool was that!

On the day of the filming, I stood behind the camera and read my lines. Invisibility, apparently, is very simple to achieve.

 

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Photo Source: Wyatt Wellman (CC by 2.0)

A decade later, I learned invisibility is neither cool nor simple. It’s lonely, confusing and frightening.

When I was 20, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, one of a set of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which is characterized by chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract. This inflammation results in severe diarrhea, pain, fatigue and weight loss. IBD can be debilitating and sometimes lead to life-threatening complications.

It is also often invisible. People suffering from invisible illnesses like IBD, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and arthritis look fine on the outside, but they live with chronic pain and fatigue. Some days I wish I looked as bad as I felt just so a decline of an invitation to happy hour wouldn’t be perceived as disinterest. If I looked sick maybe I wouldn’t feel guilty taking up a seat in the doctor’s office.

At my sickest, people often complimented me on my thin physique. “You’re so skinny,” they would say, or “You look great! What are you doing to lose weight?” I didn’t think telling them, “Eating makes me feel like I’m digesting glass,” was appropriate, so I just smiled politely and kept the secret to myself.

I once had a manager who was skeptical I had a disease at all. I felt like I was begging when I asked if I could call into a meeting because I was too exhausted to drive five hours to be there in person. He grudgingly agreed and then cut me from the agenda all together and took credit for my work. Another time, after emailing to say I would be working from home because I had to take a narcotic pain killer just to get out of bed, he called me and kept me on the phone for hours grilling me on the work he didn’t think I was doing. I actually felt vindicated the day I told him my doctor was recommending major abdominal surgery.

Invisibility is definitely not the glamorous life it was back in the sixth grade. I wonder if I could get any of my classmates to trade with me now?

 

D is for Deployment Diversions and Making a Difference #atozchallenge

DMy first-born heads out for his first deployment today.

*sigh*

When he started his basic training at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the summer of 2011, I answered my friends’ concerned questions with, “Of course I worry about what’s going on in the world, but I’m proud he’s chosen to serve his country during a time of war. Plus, between school and military training, we have at least five years before he could possibly be sent somewhere. Surely we’ll bring our troops home by then.”

Now, that five-year mark has arrived. He’s graduated from West Point and completed his military training schools. He’s now a hard-working second lieutenant in the United States Army, which is still sending men and women to the Middle East on a regular basis. Add Islamic fundamentalists and unpredictable Russians to the mix, and the world could quite possibly be an even scarier place than it was back then.

The Older One tries to assuage my concern by telling me, “It’s just a training deployment, Momma. I’m only going to Germany.”

“Yes, my dear,” I respond patiently, “but the problem is, you say ‘Germany’, and I hear, ‘ISIS’.”

Such is the life of an Army Mom. I knew what I was signing up for when I encouraged him to play with GI Joe and fill out the West Point application. (Note: The first happened many years before the second.) As deployments go, I know six months in Europe is not the worst news an Army Mom (or any Military Mom) can hear.

I will be Army Strong. I will bake cookies and send care packages, and I will carry my phone with me every waking and non-waking moment until he comes home.

Which brings me to how I’m going to make a difference with a deployment diversion.

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Just one of many signs telling me to get a move on.

 

As many long-time readers know, I work for a company that is invested in my wellness. We have treadmill desks on every floor and signs on every wall encouraging us to move. We also have the 100 Day Dash—an annual challenge to walk as much as possible for 100 days straight.

The Dash kicked off yesterday with an added feature for the 2016 edition. The great minds behind the Dash have partnered with Charity Miles, a free iPhone and Android app that enables people to earn corporate sponsorships for charity while walking, running or biking. Just download the app, enable GPS and motion detection on your phone, select one of 30 charities and start moving. The sponsors of the app will donate up to $0.25 for each mile to the chosen charity.

It’s a great addition to an already fun program that lets me get fit, raise money for one of my favorite charities (The Crohn’s & Colits Foundation of America), and gives me a diversion for at least the first half of deployment.

My goal is to average at least 10,000 per day. It’s my goal any other day of the year too, but during the Dash, if I’m successful, I’ll be able to earn cool prizes like a shapeless t-shirt and a cute graphic to add to my email signature. Those are awesome for the moments when I just can’t help but brag about my physical prowess, but this year, meeting my goal also means I will have walked at least 500 miles, which equates to $125 for CCFA. That may not seem like a lot, but I’m optimistic enough to believe my $125 might mean my son’s children could one day have the cure I don’t have today.

The added bonus is that for this grand plan to work, I’ll have to carry my phone with me everywhere I go, which coincidentally, is rule number one in the Army Mom’s guide to surviving deployment. You can’t get a call from your soldier if you leave your phone on the kitchen counter when you go out to get the mail. I can’t log steps or earn donations if I do that either. Win. Win.

When the Dash is over in mid-July, I’ll be on the back side of deployment with only two more care packages to send and a homecoming to plan. Those diversions combined with lots of prayers and support from my Army Mom network will get me through deployment.

Please keep all of our soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Their mommas will thank you for it.

2014…The Year Everything Happened for a Reason

Last year at this time, I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to the old, tarnished 2013 and hello to the shiny new year that was to be 2014. Its predecessor was unlucky from day one and just kept battering me as if it was fighting to live up to its name.

2014 dawned bright and clear, though, and helped reinforce my belief that everything happens for a reason. In the final months of 2013, I underwent not one, but two surgeries with a job layoff sandwiched in between. In hindsight, that pseudo-job relocation that forced me into unemployment actually helped me rehab and take back my power.

Everything happens for a reason.

IBDMy former boss didn’t understand my IBD and the conflicting nature of the invisible illness that is Crohn’s Disease. Every request for a day off was met with skepticism and silent accusations of “liar”.

I know I would have put off that second surgery if I had still been working in that environment. As it turns out, Employer X did me a favor and paid me to take four months off. I was able to focus on my physical and emotional health and find the place I am meant to be.  In mid-March 2014, I received my final severance check from Employer X on the same day I pocketed my first pay check from my new employer–a top-rated healthcare company that puts value on its employees’ physical and mental health.

Everything happens for a reason.

Bsnowmanefore going back to work, however, I had to endure 2014’s winter weather complete with record low temperatures, repeated ice storms and enough snow to build not just a snowman, but an entire Frosty family and village complete with snow fort and bobsled trail.

Had I been working during those bleak months, I would have had to ask for yet more time away from the office to accommodate the record number of school closings. The MIL would have also had to risk her health and well-being to collect the mail or the newspaper and to let the dogs out to do necessary doggie things. Instead, I had the privilege of walking the dogs in single digit temperatures and sporting fur-lined snow boots to chip ice from our sidewalks.

Everything happens for a reason.

KeyboardIn between sub-zero walks around the block with my favorite four-footers, I discovered the enjoyment of sitting by the fire and keeping my fingers warm with furious typing. Stiletto Momma (the blog, that is) grew by over 70 posts in 2014.  Most of those posts were penned between the months of January and March and my longest blogging streak in November as I completed my first NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month).

Everything happens for a reason.

2013 might have been one of the worst years I’ve experienced, but I truly think it needed to be so trying, so I could see the value of the lessons learned in 2014. This year was not without challenges, but with a little perspective and understanding even the tarnished spots can be rubbed to look shiny and new.

Here’s hoping 2015 brings more of the same!

For a closer look at all the great things that happened on Stiletto Momma this year, check out this awesome infographic my friends at WordPress put together just for me!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,200 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

100 Day Dash

On August 18, I decided to take a walk. I laced on my shoes, stretched a little, and set out to see how far I could go.  First I walked one block, then another and another. Pretty soon, I had trekked an entire mile, then another and another.

100DayDash3On and on I went. I had a goal, but I wasn’t quite sure I could make it. I would have to be dedicated if I wanted to succeed. I would have to make this my number one priority if I wanted to count myself among the best.

For the next 100 days, I would have to take an average of 10,000 steps every day because I intended to walk 1,000,000 steps as part of my employer’s annual 100 Day Dash fitness challenge.

I work for a healthcare company that is committed to having not only healthy customers, but healthy employees as well. As part of that commitment, it encourages employees to get moving and stay moving through healthy lifestyle programs like the 100 Day Dash.

Soon after the event kicked off in August, pedometers became a fashion statement. Throughout the office, I could see everything from bulky step trackers on belts to sleek wearable fitness devices wrapped around wrists.

Fitbit

My Fitbit Flex is the height of fashion these days!

Watching someone make laps through the office suite while on a conference call (thanks to wireless technology) turned into a common occurrence. Fitness bikes with a laptop attachment were also installed, so multi-taskers can pedal and type at the same time. The stairwell is now almost more well-traveled than the elevator.

I set my goal of one million steps and started walking. I parked at the back of the parking lot. I took the long way to the fitness center at lunch time, and I devoted my workout to cardio exercise. I walked the pups more often than usual and on those nights when the Young One had soccer and field hockey practice, I chose to walk the perimeter of the field instead of sitting idle in my folding chair.

Last weekend, I am happy to say I hit my goal, and I kept right on going. As of today, I have taken 1,050,892 steps. That’s approximately 525 miles.

Tomorrow is Day 100, but I don’t think I’ll rest now that the challenge is nearing its end. I like knowing I am more active than not. I like making the choice to take the stairs. I like being active and knowing that my legs are strong enough to take me any place I want to go.

How do you stay motivated to keep moving?

Flu Shot! Flu Shot!

NaBloPoMoGimme an “F”!…”F”!

Gimme an “L”!…”L”!

Gimme a “U”!…”U”!

Gimme an “S”!…”S”!

Gimme an “H”!…”H”!

Gimme an “O”!…”O”!

Gimme a “T”!…”T”!

What’s that spell?

FLU SHOT!!!!  Whoo Hoo!

We have all officially been immunized against the dreaded influenza here in Stiletto Momma World, and I couldn’t be happier.

Last year, I forgot to get the Young One her shot. Yes, you read that right. I FORGOT! I admit it. I never even thought about it until sometime in February.

Normally, I schedule our shots at the same time, so no one gets left behind. Last year, however, the nurses conveniently shot me up while I was in the hospital recovering from surgery.

I almost forgot I had gotten the shot, let alone scheduled appointments for everyone else. By the time I remembered, we were deep in the middle of the Polar Vortex, and I figured not even the flu bugs were venturing out in the sub-zero weather to wreak havoc.

Once upon a time, the Older One actually got the flu, and that is a week of temperature taking and hardcore mothering I do not care to repeat. So, I worried about that lack of live virus working on the front lines of the Young One’s immune system until about May. Then I heaved a sigh of relief and scheduled reminders on every device I own to guarantee that misstep would not happen again.

Today, she bravely rolled up her sleeve and sucked in a big breath when the nurse jabbed that big needle into her little arm. She didn’t cry, and she walked away with a Ninja Turtle Band-Aid and a red lollipop.

psl

Behind that mermaid is a steaming cup of yumminess!

I got my shot last week. I didn’t cry either, and I declared that the big girl’s equivalent of a red lollipop is a Pumpkin Spice Latte (skinny, no whip, no foam, extra hot, please).

The Hubs got stuck a few weeks ago. He’s not saying if he cried or not, but I haven’t seen any lollipop wrappers or Starbuck’s cups in his vicinity.

As for the Older One, he has vivid memories of that one week when he swore his mother was torturing him with cold baths and choking him with Tylenol. He never misses a flu shot, and he never cries.

We are safe now, and with any luck, we will make it through another year flu-free!

Did you get your flu shot?

 

(Re) Defining Myself

cc_week_iconI have lived more than half my life with illness.

I have had seven surgeries to treat my disease, and the eighth is scheduled for later this month.

I no longer have a colon. Twice in my life, I have endured the challenges and embraced the freedom of an ostomy.

I know more about the inner workings of a hospital, the intricacies of medical insurance and the art of medication pronunciation than I care to.

I am one of 1.4 million Americans with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)–a classification of autoimmune diseases characterized by severe abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea.  I have been diagnosed with both forms of IBD–Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.  Although I was originally diagnosed with UC (the form of IBD that attacks only the large intestine), once my colon had been removed and examined, my doctors reluctantly changed the diagnosis to CD (the form of IBD that can attack any part of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus.)

I used to say, “I don’t let IBD define me.” I didn’t want to be the sick person everyone felt sorry for, and I had a strict don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. I talked about my IBD on a need-to-know basis. Doctors needed to know, and that was about it. Neighbors? No. Co-workers? No.

Who would want to know anyway? The symptoms and challenges of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colits are not exactly polite dinner conversation. They are uncomfortable to talk about, and they are hard to hear. I kept it all to myself….until one night a few years ago when the Hubs and I went to a New Year’s Eve party.

As usual, the guys were sucked into the man-cave and the women drifted to the kitchen. I joined a group of women at the island and listened to another momma talking with deep concern about her 20-something son. His stomach was…”bothering” him, she said, searching for the most delicate word she could find for his ailments. “And,” she whispered, “he’s been passing blood.”

I saw the fear on her face and the horror on those of the other women listening. Some even started to drift away. I flashed back to the time not long after my twentieth birthday with I first saw blood in my stool. I remembered how scared I was and how I didn’t know what was happening. I remembered how I ignored it for months, thinking it would just go away as quickly as it started.

But it didn’t. It only got worse, and finally I found the courage to tell my own mother that something wasn’t right. She immediately called our family doctor, and by the end of the day, I was admitted to the hospital, starting my journey to an IBD diagnosis.

Now in this kitchen with this other momma scared for her son who was only a few years older than my own, I knew what she needed to do. She was afraid for her baby, but she didn’t know what to do or how to talk about the problems.

I waited until she was alone, then I quietly approached her. “I know what your son is going through,” I told her. “I have Crohn’s Disease. If you need the name of a good gastroenterologist or if you have any questions, please let me know.”

She hugged me and thanked me and then declared, “I never knew.” I had worked in the same building with this woman for years, and she never knew I was sick. Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are invisible diseases. When some of the worst symptoms are managed by medications like mine are, I don’t look sick. Inside, I might feel like I’ve swallowed glass, but on the outside, I look like everyone else. If I had been more open about CD, maybe she would have known, and maybe she would have found an excuse to stop me in the hall or knock on my office door. Maybe she wouldn’t have needed to be as frightened for her son.

Since then, I have been more open about my disease, and most of the time when I mention my CD, I hear, “Oh, my husband’s assistant has that,” or “My brother-in-law has something like that,” or “I wonder if my friend’s daughter has that.”

I no longer say that Crohn’s does not define me. By my very existence it does define me. It makes me the strong woman I am today. It makes me the caring momma I am. It makes me the hard worker I am. I have accomplished everything I have in spite of, and therefore because of, Crohn’s Disease.

This week is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week. Do you know someone with Inflammatory Bowel Disease? With more than 1.4 million of us in this country, chances are you do. Learn more about the diseases at ccfa.org, and look for more posts on living with IBD from your favorite stiletto wearing blogger this week.

G.I. Jell-o to the Rescue

Today I fast. Tomorrow I swallow a camera.

No, I won’t be gnawing on my Canon Rebel out of desperation. I won’t be staving off starvation with my smartphone either.

These are the very (un)fashionable accessories I get to wear for my capsule endoscopy. The belt transmits the pictures. It malfunctioned last time.

These are the very (un)fashionable accessories I get to wear for my capsule endoscopy. The belt transmits the pictures. It malfunctioned last time.

I am suffering through a liquid diet today because tomorrow morning I will swallow a multi-vitamin-sized wireless camera during a capsule endoscopy. I won’t go into all the gory details, but my surgeon (part of my IBD medical team) needs to get a close-up view of my small intestines. Traditional endoscopies and x-rays cannot provide an adequate picture for her, so I will swallow this relatively small camera. It will take thousands of pictures as it navigates the twisty turning loopdiloop of my digestive system.

Unlike most endoscopic procedures, it does not require anesthetic and is completely painless.  Unless, of course, it gets stuck in the labyrinth of my small bowel.

The technology of it is fascinating.  The prep?  Not so much. I will endure a full day on a liquid diet followed by a giant bottle (a whole 16 ounces!) of magnesium citrate. Trust me when I say this isn’t the kind of beverage you pop the top off voluntarily.

I’ve done this twice before, most recently about 10 days ago. I fasted. I stressed about that whole getting-stuck thing. I gagged down the mag citrate. I gulped the capsule…and everything went smoothly from there. At least I thought so, until three days ago when the nurse from the endoscopy unit called to meekly inform me the equipment that records the images malfunctioned.

I get to do it all over again, Monday! Which is really fine since I should be able to get the results by the end of the week.

But that means prep day is today.  Sunday…the day I usually spend in the kitchen cooking and baking for the week. I had planned to spend the day baking boodle for the Older One–a box of cookies and snacks meant to boost the spirits of homesick West Point cadets. (For a full definition of boodle, check out this post.) Then I would move onto a new pasta sauce recipe to finally use some of basil blossoming in the herb garden.

A liquid diet on Cook-Till-You-Drop-Day? Really?

That means no sampling the sauce and no taste-testing the Fudgey Chewy Peanut Butter Chip cookies. What if the cookies don’t have the right cocoa to peanut butter ratio? What if I over-season the sauce? What if my willpower gives out, and I can’t keep myself from licking the beaters?

But wait! Maybe I can be spared all that turmoil. Maybe a hero will save the no-solid-food day. Maybe…just maybe…

Yes! GI Jell-o to the rescue!

Long before Bill Cosby introduced the world to Jell-o Jigglers, my momma introduced me to a thick, chewy, liquid-based treat she called Finger Jell-o.  She’d mix it up on camping trips, cut it into squares, and we’d all giggle as it wiggled its way into our bellies. It’s been a special treat in my family for years. Even the pups enjoy chasing a chunk around the kitchen floor on occasion. I usually whip up a batch on fasting days because it actually involves chewing, and I can trick my brain into thinking I’m actually eating something.

A few years ago when the Older One still lived at home and enjoyed playing jokes on his poor unsuspecting momma, I had set aside a pan of our favorite gelatin snack in the refrigerator to set. The next morning, I retrieved the pan with the intent of slicing it into bite-sized pieces.  I pulled the plastic wrap off and gazed at my beautiful sparkling orange jello and a… Wait a minute.  What’s that? That can’t be a…? Yes, it is!

Jello

The original GI Jell-o.

There, suspended in orange (sugar-free) jiggliness, was a GI Joe rifle!

I promptly called for the Older One…using both his first and middle names, so he would know I was serious. He walked into the kitchen, and tried unsuccessfully to conceal his grin as he declared, “Hey! How’d that get in there?”

My anger subsided when he confirmed that he had at least washed the plastic weapon before sliding it into the pan. We cut around it and continued to enjoy the Jell-o.

Now, instead of Finger Jell-o, I make GI Jell-o as a tribute to the hero of toy departments everywhere and to my son who is growing up to become a real-life GI Joe himself.

If anyone could rescue me from a day longing for food, it would surely be GI Jell-o. Last night I used four cups of boiling water to melt three small packages of Jell-o and four packages of unflavored gelatin. I mixed it all together in an 8 X 8 inch pan. Covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to set overnight.

This afternoon as my sauce bubbled and my cookies baked and my stomach growled, I pulled the pan from the refrigerator.  I did not see any plastic play-things swimming in its depth, but I smiled nonetheless.

GI Jell-o saves the day again with some fruity chewiness and a happy memory.

What gets you through a rough day?

Be Brave

I wear the words “Be Brave” etched on stainless steel wrapped around my wrist with strips of purple leather that represent the official color of Crohn’s and Colitis awareness.

Be Brave

“You are braver than you believe…” ~Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh.

These are the  words that get me through each day as a Crohn’s Disease warrior.

When I get out of bed and my first thought is, “How much will I hurt today,” I must be brave.

Each day, I look at my calendar and weigh all the tasks on my to-do list against my level of pain.  I wonder, “How am I going to get through this day?” before I look to my wrist and read the answer–“Be Brave.”

When the Young One looks at me with sadness, and asks “When are you going to be done being sick?”, I think to myself, “Be Brave”, as I try to find a way to tell her I will always be sick, but some days will be better than others.

I think of the events on the horizon–dinner parties, birthdays, homecomings, project deadlines, and I know I can’t do it all right now. So I tell myself to “Be Brave” as I make the decision of who to disappoint today. The Hubs?  The kids? The boss? Myself?

Some days, giving in and going home is my bravest act.

When food hurts…when another doctor’s appointment interrupts the day…when I ask for another day off…when I need another ride to the hospital…when I reach for the pain meds…when I can’t sleep at night…when I look fine on the outside, but feel like my insides are on fire…when I pray every night that I haven’t passed this horribleness to my son…when I try to find the simplest answer to a polite “How are you?”…I remind myself , “be brave”…”Be Brave”…”BE BRAVE!”

I must be brave to face the challenges of my disease. There is simply no other way to get through it.

Do you or someone you love need to be brave to fight a disease? Check out Bravelets.com to find the one that helps you fight the hardest. Bravelets will donate $10 of your purchase to the associated cause.

***Today’s post is brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the powerful word “Brave”,which, by the way, popped into my head last night as I lay sleepless once more. As I tried to find something positive to think about, my mind wondered with anticipation to what I would find in my inbox when I went searching for today’s word. I was truly shocked when I actually saw that word–my word–as the prompt for today.  I guess someone else thinks I need to write about this.  Magical things happen on Lisa Jo Baker’s site every Friday. Please join us.

Be Your Own Hero in Five Easy Steps

Today, I am raising my arm and giving myself a mighty fist pump!

I am victorious.

IBD

Go ahead…ask me.

I am my own hero, and no matter what you are fighting, I believe you have what it takes to be your own hero too. So after, much consideration, I’m sharing my five-step master plan for pushing through the rough patches and claiming your own victory, no matter what battle you are fighting.

Stiletto Momma’s Five Steps to Being Your Own Hero

1. Know Yourself. Way back in the glorious decade of the 1980s, I was fortunate enough to be a student in the coolest eighth grade teacher’s English class. All of my classmates wanted this woman to teach them the intricacies of grammar and literature. She was the kind of teacher who sat cross-legged on her desk to lecture us on Shakespeare. She chewed gum in class, and while she was probably in her late forties, to the 14-year-olds in her class, she was one of us. She also taught me what I know now to be one of the most important life lessons.

Our assignment that day was to write an autobiography, and we were encouraged to start by thinking about something for which we have expertise. My cool teacher climbed on top of her desk, curled her legs under herself and proceeded to help us brainstorm topics. Around the class we went–each person taking a turn claiming his or her expertise.

“Baseball,” one athletic boy stated with confidence.

“Shopping,” a girl proclaimed, happily.

You might be thinking that girl was the future Stiletto Momma, but while in the present, I do wield credit card and shopping bags like a champion, back then I had yet to experience the joy that comes from retail therapy. Instead I shyly stated my expertise was playing my favorite woodwind–the flute. I had been playing for a handful of years, and I was fairly confident no one else in the class could trill a high C quite like me.

After the last of my classmates had shared their expertise, that coolest of cool teachers jumped from her perched, wagged a finger at her naive pupils, and declared, “Wrong! You are all wrong.”

The class got silent. Some people turned pink from embarrassment, but the teacher continued with her point.

“Everyone here is an expert in only one thing, and everyone here is an expert on the same thing. You are all experts on yourselves. Who knows you like you do? No one. Who knows everything about you? You! You are an expert on you.”

Although, I don’t remember what I wrote in my autobiography, that lesson has stuck with me.

I am the only person who knows absolutely everything about me. I know when the fatigue is more than just the exhaustion that comes from a hard day’s work. I know when the pain isn’t my “normal” pain. I know when something is wrong.

I move on to the next step….

2. Be Persistent. I eventually graduated middle school, then high school, college, and eventually graduate school. Finally, I drafted my first resume, and set about finding a real job. I mailed that carefully embellished document to every newspaper and publication I could find. I had a few interviews, but no offers of employment. I waited and waited for the phone to ring.

One day, the Hubs asked me a very simple question. “Why don’t you call them? Remind them who you are.”

The Hubs is a smart man, and while he may not realize it, he taught me another import life lesson. Make yourself known. Tell people who you are. Tell them you are important, and don’t let them forget about you. Be persistent.

I know my doctor has more than one patient. He’s a busy man, but I am a busy woman. I am a momma; I work a full-time job, and I have a blog I like to maintain with some regularity. I can’t do any of my jobs, if he doesn’t do his.

So I pick up the phone, and I remind him who I am. I’m the one who called yesterday,and left a message telling you that I don’t feel right. If I don’t feel right tomorrow, I’m calling back. I know myself, and I’m not going away until you help me find out what went wrong.

In the meantime, I move on to the next step….

3. Get the facts. My first journalism job was as a reporter for my hometown newspaper. I wrote for the sports section. Yes, me the girl who played in the band instead of on the team. I knew more about playing the fight song during the pep rally than scoring points in the big game, but there I was, covering girls’ high school basketball. I’d interview the coach after the game. Then call my dad to ask him what the coach meant when he gave me some complicated play terminology. I didn’t have Google back then, but I did have Daddy!

Fact-gathering, when it comes to your health, can be a little trickier these days. The Internet makes it so easy to enter all your symptoms into a search engine and find the perfect cyber-diagnosis, but read too much, and you will soon believe your common cold is a rare incurable malady.

Instead of searching my symptoms, I seached for support groups, and got my facts from people like me. People who know my pain–literally. When symptoms moved from nausea to fatigue, they told me to ask for a vitamin level check.

Now, on to step four….

4. Be Your Own Advocate. No one knows you like you do (see step one), and no one is going to stand up for you unless you stand up for yourself. I knew something was making me tired and feel so…wrong. The MIL said I needed to eat more. The Hubs said I needed to sleep more. I knew it was more than that, and my support group (aka my “Crohnies”, because we all have Crohn’s Disease) agreed.

So, back to the doctor’s office I went. “All your blood work looks fine,” my primary care doc said.

“Even my vitamin levels?” I asked.

“Well, we didn’t check those,” she admitted.

Can we check those,” I asked in my most you’re-the-doctor-but-I-think-you-missed-something voice.

She gave me a weary sigh, and said in her best I’m-humoring-my-patient voice, “I guess we could check that if you want.”

Two days later, she called to say my vitamin D was too low, and that may be why I’m so tired! Hmmm….

I was just coming off that victory when the pain started. On any given day, I have what I know to be “normal” pain, but this new pain was definitely not normal (back to step one again). I called my GI…again (see step 2). He saw me in his office, shook his head in sympathy, and said he needed to consult with someone. He’d call soon.

That was two weeks ago, so instead of waiting around to be put on hold, I escalated my complaints to my surgeon, and I didn’t stop until she worked me into her busy schedule. Then, finally, after two months of knowing something was wrong, but being told by experts that I was fine, I had confirmation. My surgeon found it within 15 minutes–an active flare of Crohn’s.

Now, take a deep breath, and move on to the final step….

Be Brave

This step is so important, I wear a reminder on my wrist.

5. Be Brave! I didn’t necessarily want to hear that my Crohn’s was back on the war path after a two year break in the action, but the diagnosis was actually a victory. I knew something was wrong with my body (See how important step one is!), I didn’t let the doctors ignore me (step two). I searched out my facts (step three), and I spoke up for myself (step four).

Now the real battle begins, and all the courage, I’ve been gathering will be put to good use. I’ve done this before. I’ll stock up on foods approved for a low residue diet (really just an excuse to eat all the carbs I want without feeling guilty). I’ll buy the industrial-size bottles of multi-vitamins (because fresh fruits and veggies are a no-no, and that I do feel guilty about).

I’ll push through the pain to play Go Fish with the Young One (because I’m sick, but she’s not), but later we’ll take a break and watch our favorite Nick at Night show, Full House (because those crazy Tanners still make for good TV 20 years after the first episode, and because I need her to know I have a boo-boo in my belly and need to get my rest).

I will be brave!

Go back to step one, and repeat as needed.

You may not have Crohn’s Disease or a chronic condition, but you probably do have something you battle on occasion. We all do, but with a little perseverance and bravery, we can all pump a fist for victory and be our own heroes.

What do you do to be your own hero?