Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wings of Hope

It's been quite awhile since I last updated my blog. This is in part because my health can make it difficult for me to write extensively or put my thoughts together into any kind of cohesive whole.  Mostly, though, I've held back on writing because I haven't had all that much to write about.  Being sick and bedridden for years on end simply doesn't inspire many riveting stories. :)

However, occasionally, things do happen that differ from the norm.  Indeed, I have had a few somewhat new (and even rather wonderful) experiences in recent months that I would love to share with you.  While many of these are small, ordinary type of events that most people tend to take for granted, they are things that I don't normally get to enjoy. Thus, they hold much more significance for me. 

One such new adventure resulted from a wheelchair ramp we recently placed in our garage. It has quite literally opened new doors for me and given me access to places that were previously out of reach. On days that I am well enough, I am now able to be wheeled outside for brief moments to look up at the gorgeous blue sky and see our beautiful view of the Rincon mountains in the distance.

A new view

Currently, I can't go beyond the garage door and venture further outdoors as I am unable to sit up for more than a few minutes and the bumpy gravel can be a difficult ride for me.  But I am not about to complain. It's been a wonderful change of scenery.  When you have been primarily confined to one or two rooms for over a decade, getting a glimpse of an alternate view for even a few minutes can feel quite liberating.

The ramp has also helped to fulfill another long-held wish of mine.  One of the innumerable things I've missed in all these years of illness is the opportunity to gaze at the night sky. I can occasionally see the moon and a few stars twinkling from beyond my bedroom window, of course, but the view is always partially obstructed by the branches of my mesquite tree.  And while I used to be a night owl prior to falling ill, my health often now forces me to end my day before the sun has even had a chance to set.

However, this winter, while the days are short and night descends over the desert a bit earlier than usual, my parents have more than once wheeled me outside to gaze up at a brilliant display of sparkling stars.  It took my breath away to see all those glittering little diamonds scattered in the darkness.  It is the first time I have been outside during evening hours in 15 years.

Looking up at the stars

I don't know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.”
-- Vincent Van Gogh

I am hopeful that, with the help of the wheelchair ramp, I can continue these new little adventures of mine on a regular basis.  Perhaps, if I am well enough, I may even be able to lie outside in my front yard sometime this spring.  It would, I believe, be a little easier for me than our backyard patio, which has some obstacles to get through that can often cause a setback.  If this new set-up works out, my fingers are crossed that it may make it possible for me to lie outdoors more often, and without as much penalty.

Something else I have missed in all these years of confinement is the wide array of colors you see in the daily experience of simply being out in the world -- in gardens and art museums and in the simple variety and vibrancy of nature.  In an effort to add some of those lively colors back into my life, my mom now makes sure that I always have flowering plants in my room to brighten my days.  I love watching them burst into form, all radiant and iridescent, as if in celebration of their own beauty.

Purple Orchids

White Orchids

Yellow Daisies

In addition to these daisies and orchids, a dear friend of mine sends me a new amaryllis plant each year for the holidays.  I have several whose bulbs are just now beginning to sprout, and I look forward to getting to see their beautiful display of blossoms in the coming weeks.

This Christmas, I was also given a few of those adult-geared coloring books that are so popular right now.  As long as I am careful to pace myself and not overdo, I find they can be a fun way to pass the time when able.  Here's a dragonfly I finished a few weeks ago that I thought came out decently, at least compared to some of the others I did. :) I clearly don't have much artistic talent, but it's nice to feel I am doing something even slightly creative.  It's another way for me to add some color to my world.

Dragonfly

As always, the birds and wildlife also bring me a little beauty each day.  While this doesn't technically count in my list of "new experiences," it wouldn't be a proper update without including a few of my favorite photos of my more recent window visitors -- from the usual finches, woodpeckers and doves to the slightly less common black-chinned hummingbird and Cooper's hawk.

Bird Visitors (click to enlarge)

Another recent treat was getting to have my annual (always far too brief) visit with my best friend and her two daughters over the holidays.  Due to my health, any interaction I have must regretfully be kept to a minimum (generally less than 10 minutes or so) in order to avoid a lengthy setback.  However, thanks to very careful pacing, this was one of the first years in quite some time that I wasn't crashed prior to the visit, and it was nice to be able to interact even just a tiny bit more than usual.  I especially loved getting those precious hugs from her sweet children.  Her youngest, my goddaughter, always comes back into my room for an extra hug before they leave, which never fails to make me smile.

And now for my most exciting news of all!  

I've mentioned previously that, unfortunately, my fiance also suffers with severe ME.  Jim's been sick for over 30 years and is wheelchair and mostly housebound.  Due to our health, our relationship has been forced to remain long-distance. Until this past January, it had actually been eight years since we'd been able to see each other.  However, by some small miracle (and with much help from both our families), Jim was recently able to find a way past the many obstacles to fly out and visit with me! I still can't quite believe it really happened.

Together again at last!

Always so sweet, Jim brought me a rose and some chocolates

In order to help pull this off, one of Jim's brothers kindly offered to fly out from CA to PA and join Jim in his flight here to Arizona (and then back again for the return flight home).  This assured that someone would be there to help Jim through every step of the journey in case he needed additional assistance or encountered unexpected issues.  Jim also flew first-class (and had a reclining wheelchair) so that he could lie mostly flat for the entirety of the flight.  My parents, of course, were also extremely accommodating and went out of their way in order to make the visit as easy and comfortable for both of us as possible.  In addition, Jim's parents helped tremendously by caring for him before and after the trip.

I am beyond grateful to all who so graciously offered their assistance and support to make our visit happen. I'm most especially thankful for Jim, who bravely fought through so many hurdles and risked his very health for us to be together.  I don't have the words to describe how remarkable it was to be able to see him again after so many years apart.  Despite how sick we both were, every moment we got to spend with each other was pure joy.

Of course, I miss him terribly now that he's back home, but I feel so fortunate to have such wonderful, new memories to hold on to and cherish.

My time with Jim gave me a newfound sense of hope. Admittedly, there was a part of me that wondered -- without a cure or a new potential treatment -- if I would ever see him again.  Our health has been so poor over these last many years, and research for this disease continues to be sparse and lacking in much immediate promise.  However, Jim's visit was a reminder to me that, even in the midst of unending struggle, dreams can and do still come true.  Undoubtedly, while my body remains confined by illness, my heart, mind and soul can still find ways to soar.

It is on those wings of renewed hope that I forge ahead with even greater resoluteness, knowing that, despite everything, many more moments of joy, love, beauty and wonder await me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Finding Presence Despite Absence

I recently listened to the audio version of Elisabeth Tova Bailey's The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating -- a beautiful, poignant and reflective book about surviving a debilitating illness while finding beauty and wonder in an object of nature and in quiet observation.

Bailey was an active 34-year-old woman when she was struck down with a mysterious, flu-like illness from which she never fully recovered. Suddenly bedridden and isolated from the outside world, she found solace in a rather unexpected companion: a wild snail in a pot of violets given to her by a friend. The snail was moved to a terrarium filled with woodland plants, and as Bailey began to observe, research and care for this enigmatic creature, she found parallels to her own life. She writes:

“..the snail had emerged from its shell into the alien territory of my room, with no clue as to where it was or how it had arrived; the lack of vegetation and the desert-like surroundings must have seemed strange. The snail and I were both living in altered landscapes not of our choosing; I figured we shared a sense of loss and displacement."
The snail became a source of wonder and fascination to Bailey, and as her illness forced her deeper into a secluded confinement, she found comfort in this unusual bedside companion.

 “Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail... the snail kept my spirit from evaporating.

...Watching it glide along was a welcome distraction and provided a sort of meditation; my often frantic and frustrated thoughts would gradually settle down to match its calm, smooth pace. “ 
There was so much about Bailey's story and writing that, for obvious reasons, deeply resonated with me.  I saw myself in the descriptions of the onset of her sudden illness, the isolation that the severity of her affliction thrust upon her, and the sense of peace she found in observing an object of nature.  For Bailey, it was a snail;  for me, it is the trees, the wildlife and the cactus blooms that comfort me outside my bedroom window each day.

Something else that struck a particular chord with me was Bailey's notation of her glaring absence from the world she once knew.  She writes, "From the severe onset of my illness and through its innumerable relapses, my place in the world has been documented more by my absence than by my presence."

This sense of absence is something I've grown more acutely aware of in recent years.  I've always been conscious of it on some level, of course, but it seems to stand out to me more and more as the years pass and I watch time and the lives of others slip by without my presence.

 
The degree of isolation that is brought upon those who suffer with this disease, especially in its severest form, is at times rather shocking.  These patients are isolated not only from the outside world, but often also within the confines of their own home. Some must live in total darkness and silence virtually 24 hours a day, unable to tolerate even the slightest hint of light or sound. As a result, they are also unable to fully interact with the very people who live with and provide them with care.

In my own case, I currently reside with my parents; yet, I rarely see them for more than about an hour scattered in small moments throughout each day. Due to severe difficulties with speaking above a whisper, as well as the problems I face with sensory overload, I find that more than a few minutes of interaction can be incredibly taxing. I struggle with the influx of information (both visual and auditory), keeping my eyes focused on whoever is speaking, quickly finding the right words to say in response, and then getting those few words out clearly enough to be heard.  Sometimes, if my reply is more than I can say out loud, I have to write it down on a piece of paper instead. Thus, even minimal interaction can be deeply draining and, if it goes on too long, has the potential of causing a setback that can last for weeks or even months.

It's difficult to see how much my parents (my mother, in particular) must do for me on a regular basis, and yet, I cannot really give them anything in return.  They are each in their mid-70s now, and I worry about the fact that, were they to become ill themselves, I could not be there for them in any kind of real, tangible way.  It's something I do not let myself think about often. For now, I'm ever grateful they are each still in my life, and that they are both healthy and strong.


Of course, my limits in interaction are not discriminatory; they apply to anyone who comes into my room.  When my brother and his family visit for a week each spring, I barely get to see them beyond giving everyone a hug each morning, exchanging a few words about what they've been up to, telling them that I love them, and perhaps taking a few pictures of us all together on their last day. While I cherish each and every one of these moments, I long to participate as they go on their daily sight-seeing adventures, or simply to hang out with my niece and nephew in my bed and play games or listen to all of their many stories.  Sometimes, instead, I will listen to them from afar, my eyes closed, as they play or chat in another room.  

Friends, too, have inevitably been distanced as a result of my illness. In fact, it's been 14 years since I've seen virtually anyone outside of family, helpers and a few doctors.  The only real exception is my best friend from college.  We studied a semester abroad together, backpacked through Europe and spent two months after college traveling throughout the U.S.   She is like a sister to me and, prior to my becoming ill, we used to speak on an almost daily basis.   Now I see her for a few minutes once a year when she comes to AZ with her family for Christmas. She and her children give me hugs and gifts, tell me of their latest news and, sometimes, her daughters will sing a song or two for me. Her husband often simply greets and waves to me from the hallway.  Regretfully, that's the extent of her visit each year, as it is the most that my health can withstand.

My own fiance and I have not seen each other since his proposal in 2008, as we are both now far too sick to travel such distances (Jim lives about 2,000 miles away).  We still write every single day, often several times a day, and not a moment goes by where I don't feel infinitely grateful for his presence in my life.  But I miss him terribly and wish so much that I could see him again.

As someone who used to be highly social and active prior to getting ill, these challenges in communicating with and being present to those I love are unbelievably frustrating and, at times, heartbreaking to me.  There's been an immeasurable amount of lost time, and of irretrievable moments never fully experienced.   I've missed out on countless milestone birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, parties, recitals, plays, concerts and even just the daily everyday type of things like casual dinners, going to the movies and chatting for hours on the phone. As much as we all work around my circumstances as best we can, I'm simply not able to be an active participant in the lives of my friends and family in the way that I so yearn. 

Fortunately, the rise of social media in recent years has helped a bit in reestablishing my connection to the outside world.  Facebook, for example, has allowed me to reunite with many friends I had not seen or spoken to in years.  Though I am unable to spend much time online, I can generally check my newsfeed for a few moments each morning, where I get to see lots of photos of all the many faces I miss, and hear about everyone's daily activities and adventures --  without having to write long emails, which can also be quite difficult for me.  


In addition, I've been able to meet new people I'd otherwise never have met, and some of these new friends have become very dear to me over the years.  It's been wonderful to have this outlet, and I am so grateful to now have that kind of connection.

At the same time, seeing and hearing about everyone's exciting lives on a day-to-day basis can also be a stark reminder of just how much I am missing out on, and of how absent I really am from each of my many friends' lives.


Despite my circumstances, however, I cannot truly say that I am lonely.  Distanced as I may be, I still have the love and support of dear friends and family, some of whom do their utmost to care for and include me in their lives on a regular basis.  My absence is felt on their end as well as on mine, and I am reminded often that I have not been forgotten.

Most especially, I have the love and support of my fiance who, every day, affirms how important I am in his life, as he is in mine.  It is that love which holds me up and carries me through.

I also know that, unfortunately, there are many others like me out there, fighting this disease in their own forced isolation every single day, and we are each united in our shared stories.  
   
Finally, much like Elisabeth Tova Bailey's wild snail, I have the wildlife, blooms and butterflies outside my window.  They remind me that there is a kind of beauty and simplicity in merely existing and being open to each moment.    

And, in this moment, my presence in this world -- though slowed, distant and contrary to my wishes --  has not been fully silenced.  It makes itself known through the words I write, through small gestures, through memories and through the hearts of the people I love.  In this way, it battles on and continues forward. And it will never cease striving for its long-awaited moment of release.

 Meanwhile, from my window, a little bit of grace:



Female Lesser Goldfinch


Male House Finch


Female House Finch at Sunset



Female House Finch


Antelope Squirrel Waves Hello for a Picture


Baby Bunny


Roadrunner


Desert Cardinal (Pyrrhuloxia)


Coopers Hawk


Deer


Mourning Doves in Love


Mourning Doves Kiss


Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker and Saguaro Cactus Blooms


Bee and Saguaro Cactus Bloom


Bee and Saguaro Cactus Bloom


Staghorn Cactus Buds


Cactus Bloom


Prickly Pear Cactus Blooms


Amaryllis after Rain


Orchids

More photos can be found on my Flickr account

"Survival often depends on a specific focus: A relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility. Or something more ephemeral: the way the sun passes through the hard seemingly impenetrable glass of a window and warms the blanket, or how the wind, invisible but for its wake, is so loud one can hear it through the insulated walls of a house."
 ― Elisabeth Tova Bailey, The Sound of A Wild Snail Eating

"Wherever you are, be there totally." 
 ― Eckhart Tolle

Monday, May 11, 2015

Help Fund Research for Awareness Day

May 12th is myalgic encephalomyellitis (ME) awareness day.  ME is a very serious and complex neuro-immune disease which afflicts as many as 17 million people world-wide.  

One way to raise awareness is to help fund research that could lead to a definitive biomarker and a better understanding of the disease, as well as to potential treatments or even a cure.   If you are able, please consider donating to the Open Medicine Foundation's End ME/CFS Project, which aims to conduct the first comprehensive study on those like me who are severely afflicted with the disease and are bedridden and/or housebound.  It has been estimated that we comprise about 25% of the patient population, and yet, we have never been fully studied as a whole.  This new study is therefore very important in terms of understanding the disease and finding answers that could lead to treatment. 

The  Open Medicine Foundation (OMF) states: 
"As part of our End ME/CFS Project, this study will conduct a comprehensive, “Big Data,” analysis on severely ill ME/CFS patients with the goal of finding sensitive  and distinctive molecular biomarker(s). The molecular biomarkers that reflect the symptom mechanism are expected to be strongest in the approximately 25% of ME/CFS patients who have a severe form of the disease and are home-bound or bedbound.
...In addition to increasing the accuracy of diagnosing ME/CFS, a distinctive biomarker that correlates with symptom severity could reveal the disease structure or mechanism."  

The OMF's End ME/CFS Project donation page can be found by clicking the image below:

Donation Page


Another noteworthy fund raising effort has been set up by Tom Whittingham, brother of severely afflicted ME patient and advocate Naomi Whittingham.  Tom has created a beautiful and powerful video (posted below) to help raise awareness about ME, and to appeal for more research funding.  He will be running in the Edinburgh marathon to raise money for ME Research UK.    Please watch and share his video widely.   To visit Tom's JustGiving donation page, click here.




 
Even if you are unable to donate, you can still help!   Please consider signing this important petition asking that the NIH increase funding for ME and CFS research.  Despite the disease's severity and high prevalence, as well as an estimated economic burden of $20 billion per year, ME/CFS remains among the least funded of all illnesses in the U.S.   The NIH spends only 5 to 6 million dollars each year on the disease, and that amount is estimated to remain the same through 2016.  More money is actually spent studying hay fever each year. Increased funding means more research, more answers, and the possibility of finding a treatment or even a cure.   It will only take a second of your time to sign.    Thank you!

NOTE: An additional, similar petition has just been created by ME Action and can be found here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

18 Years and 18 Wishes

It was December 31st of 1996 when I first fell suddenly ill with mononucleosis.   I never recovered, and was later diagnosed with the neuro-immune disease myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

Over time, in large part due to the lack of appropriate medical advice I received those first few years, the illness grew in severity until I collapsed and became mostly bedridden -- so sick that I still can barely speak more than a few words at a time in a voice just slightly above a whisper. 

As this anniversary approaches and I reflect on so much time lost to this disease, I find myself experiencing a sense of grief over a life not fully lived.  Generally, I don't dwell on such things as it is just too overwhelming.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, in order to cope with such a degree of  loss, I've had to learn to shift my thinking and focus on what things I can accomplish each day, rather than on what I cannotLiving in the moment is the only way to maintain a sense of normalcy, and to find joy in what gifts still remain.

But 18 years is a long time to be this sick.  It's an entire childhood lived into adulthood.  It's nearly two decades of potential life adventures and wonderful memories never experienced and irrevocably lost.

Recently, I stumbled upon a blog written by a young woman with severe ME who has spent much of her youth confined to her bed.  She was about to celebrate her 30th birthday and she had 30 wishes she wanted her readers to help her fulfill.  Most were not wishes she wanted granted for herself, but for others.  She wanted you to join the bone marrow register on her behalf, to donate blood, to give to a charity, to sew a blanket for others who are bedbound. 

As my 18th "sickiversary" approaches this year, I have decided to compile a similar list of my own.  They are 18 wishes of sorts.  More specifically, they are 18 things I desperately wish I could do, but can't. And while I continue to maintain hope of someday regaining my health and being able to do all the many things I've so longed to do, that day has unfortunately not yet come.   

So, today, I ask you, if able, to choose just one item from the list and do it for me, as well as for all the others like me who have been bedridden and/or housebound with this disease for far too long.   In doing so, you will give this anniversary more meaning, and you will help transform it into a day of wishes fulfilled rather than of wishes lost.  It would be an immeasurable gift to me to know even one person had a small moment in their day that was just a little more fulfilling than it might otherwise have been.

So, if you are healthy and able, and you have time in your busy day, please try to do just one of the following:

1.  When you wake in the morning, take a moment to fully savor the feeling of good health.   Breathe it in and let yourself feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the amazing gift you have been given.

2.  When you get up and out of bed, take a moment to marvel at the fact that you can even stand up; that you can walk and freely move your body in whatever ways you wish.

3.  Revel in a long, hot shower or bubble bath.

4. Call an old friend on the phone you haven't talked to in awhile and spend some time to catch up on each other's lives.  If you don't have time for a long chat, call someone simply to tell them you were thinking of them, and that you love them.

5. Hug a child.  If you have children of your own, be sure to take a moment out of your day to hold them close, tell them how much they mean to you, and wonder at the tremendous miracle with which you have been so blessed. If you already do this every day, or even several times a day, do it just once more.

6.  Plan a romantic dinner with your significant other. Wear your fanciest dress or favorite outfit for the occasion -- if only because it's fun, and you can.

7.  Go for a walk.  It could be a stroll in a park, along a beach, in a garden, around your backyard, or even just down the driveway to the mailbox.  While doing so, take in the beauty of nature that surrounds you -- the brilliant blue sky, the abundance of trees and the sounds of birds chirping in the air.  

8.  Exercise. People with ME are unable to do so, often even minimally, without severe repercussions because our bodies simply don't respond appropriately.   So, for the millions of us worldwide with this disease who can't do so themselves -- join a gym, ride a bike, head out for a run, go swimming, climb a mountain or do something you love doing that energizes your body, and feel how amazing that sensation can be.

9. Do something from your bucket list; something you've always wanted to do, but have never done before.

10. Sing a song out loud from beginning to end with full gusto, even if you sound horrible.  Be grateful you have a voice.

11. Plan an exotic vacation or go on a road trip.

12.  Read a book cover-to-cover, watch a movie marathon or go to a theater/concert to see a professional performance.

13.  Do something artistic.  Paint, draw, sew, dance, write a poem or create something beautiful with your hands.  

14.  If you have been putting off a doctor's appointment, don't delay any further. Call to have that routine physical, a mammogram or any other test you know needs done, but that you haven't gotten around to yet.  

15. Cook a meal for or plan a night out with friends.  

16.  Simply go to work and be grateful that you can.

17.  Do something kind for someone today.  This is something I can still do myself, of course, but not to the degree I would like.  So, if you can, go out of your way to help make someone's day extra special. It could be a simple random act of kindness, donating to a charity or something more involved like volunteering at a hospital, church or shelter.  It doesn't take much to make someone smile and let them know they matter and that their life has value. 

18.  Try not to complain about the little things.  It can be easy to get caught up in the bustle of everyday activity and lose sight of all the amazing things you have right in front of you.   If you are in good health, are able to get out of bed each morning, go for a walk, go to school or work, engage with friends and family and the people who love you dearly -- these are the things that matter.  If you find yourself agitated or annoyed about something today, remember to take a moment to gain perspective and realize just how fortunate you truly are.  Soak in all the goodness in your life and appreciate every precious moment.  So much can be lost in an instant, and you won't want to have missed a  single second.



Friday, May 30, 2014

Spring and New Things

"I am thankful that in a troubled world no calamity can prevent the return of spring." -- Helen Keller

I have always loved the shift of seasons.  Autumn used to be my favorite; however, since becoming ill, I find I much prefer spring -- the season of hope, renewal and rebirth.  As new buds grow on what were once barren trees, I am reminded that change is inevitable, and that winters -- no matter how long -- do not last forever.

This spring has brought with it a few changes for me. They are nothing of major significance, but so rarely does anything happen in my world that even the slightest activity or modification seems noteworthy.

Earlier this year, my parents bought a new reclining lounge chair to put by the window in the spare bedroom.   So far,  I've been able to sit in it with some regularity, and it's been wonderful.  It feels so good to be in an actual chair rather than a bed, even if I'm still lying down.  There's also something more freeing about being right by a window rather than looking through it at a distance.  I can see more of the bright, blue sky and feel the warm sun as it shines on my face. 


The spare room is adjacent to my own bedroom, so the view is similar.  Still, I get to see my mesquite tree (and all the wildlife that visit) at a slightly different angle, with a better view of the Rincon mountains behind it.  One of these days, I'd love to sit there in the early morning, just before sunrise, so that I can look up at the night sky (something I rarely get to see) and watch the sun come up over the mountains.

I received a new camera over the holidays, which means I've been taking even more photos of the birds and wildlife outside my bedroom window.  The camera has better zoom, allowing for clearer pictures.  Here are a few of my favorite shots from the last few months (click to enlarge):

Hawk (possibly a juvenile Cooper's Hawk)

Lesser Goldfinch

Lizard

Mourning Dove

Male House Finch Feeding His Girlfriend

More Finch Feedings

Two Female House Finches

Curve-billed Thrasher

Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel Munching on a Snack

Quail


Deer


(If interested, more photos can be found on my new Flickr account).

One day in early spring, I was lying in bed with my eyes closed, soaking in some music.  When I opened my eyes, I was surprised by the sight outside my window.  At first, all I saw was a splash of white and black striped fur, and it took me a moment to realize it was a bobcat.  He was actually lying down with his belly up and his legs in the air while he scratched his back in repeated motions on the surface of the ground.  I was stunned!  He was like a big house cat playing in the dirt. I quickly went to grab my camera, but by the time I could snap a photo, he was already standing back up and was on his way out.  Still, it was quite the sight to see!

Bobcat after a Back Scratch

In April, my brother and his family came out for their annual visit.  It's always such a joy to see the sweet, smiling faces of my niece and nephew each morning.  My limitations in interaction and speech allow me little more than a hug and a few whispers of "I love you" every day, which always breaks my heart.  But I'm grateful even for those short, precious moments with them.  They had grown so much since I last saw them. Here's a photo that my father took of them enjoying the view on top of Mt. Lemmon.

On Top of the World

It had been a very long wait, but this past May, for the first time in almost a year, I was twice able to lie outside in the patio lounge chair on our deck.  It was pure bliss.  Each time, the sky was a deep cerulean blue with little brushstrokes of wispy, white clouds.  At one point, I saw a group of  Harris' hawks flying overhead, gracefully encircling each other as they worked together in search of food.  On desert grounds, the cacti were just starting to burst open with colorful blooms, and I saw a white-winged dove feed on a saguaro cactus blossom nearby.  Further below,  I could see lizards, gophers, squirrels, butterflies and bunnies all scurrying about, looking for nourishment.  I savored every minute of it.

Bougainvillea


Soaptree Yucca

White Winged Dove on Saguaro Cactus

White Winged Dove Feeding on Blooms

 Dove on Cactus Blooms

Prickly Pear Cactus Bloom


Turkey Vulture Flying Over Mountains


Bunny


Beautiful View

I've mentioned in previous posts that, as a result of cognitive issues stemming from ME, I have not been able to watch TV or movies in over a decade.  I actually have a drape over my television set so that I can listen to news and a few other shows without being tempted to peek at the screen.  I am generally okay with short clips (such as on YouTube) if there is relative stillness and not much rapid movement. However, viewing repetitive screen changes for even a couple seconds often causes an instant, debilitating crash/setback.

I used to be a big film lover, so it's been hard to have missed out on so many great movies over the years.  Recently, I tried listening to a couple films to see if I could follow along without actually watching, and I was surprised by how well it worked.  As long as the movie is heavy in dialogue, I'm able to visualize it and follow along with relative ease.  I've enjoyed listening to several movies and some documentaries as well.  It's opened the door to a new activity beyond just listening to audiobooks all day long, so I'm grateful for that.

On another note, I decided awhile ago to take a huge step back from advocacy and awareness efforts.  Actually, it wasn't a decision as much as a necessity. The energy expended just isn't worth the potential toll on my health, especially with so few positive results.  However, I continue to sign petitions, donate to causes/research, use Twitter and post to my blog's Facebook page when able.  Of course, I also strongly support and greatly appreciate the ongoing work of other advocates who are still pushing forward to create change, and I do what I can to assist in those efforts.  It is so important that our voices continue to be heard.  For the time being, I just personally need to move away from large scale efforts (such as videos and testimonies) and focus more fully on my health.

And that is one thing that regretfully has not changed.  My health remains the same.  I continue to experiment with various treatment options but, so far, without much success.  I have been taking MAF probiotic 878 for almost two years now, and for awhile, it did seem to help to some degree -- most specifically with cognition.  The improvement was mild, but it was enough for me to take notice and appreciate.  It was the first time in 17 years that anything really seemed to help me, even if only slightly.  It's not clear that the supplement is still providing any benefit, but I continue to take it even if mostly out of hope.

In the meantime, other than my new lounge chair, I generally remain confined to my bed, unable to stand or walk.  I still can't speak more than a few words above a whisper.  I continue to suffer setbacks, sometimes severe, from even the mildest of exertion.  But, for now, I try to take things moment to moment and make the best of what is while continuing to look for solutions. And, of course, most importantly, I remain determined to persevere.  I still have hope that, someday, my own personal spring will finally come. I am so ready for it.