On Tuesday, Bob and I spent the greater part of the day at OHSU (aka Oregon Health & Science University). OHSU also houses two hospitals, and my surgery will take place at one of them (OHSU Hospital) on Wednesday.
Tuesday’s schedule contained three appointments, each of which included questions and answers, tests and more tests, and an introduction to a research study I’m participating in. At the time, my head was swimming until we got a stretch near mid-day for lunch and taking a breath.
Everything went well. All of our questions were answered. We also received a detailed description of my surgeon’s plan. The end result came at the hands and compassion of medical staff at the Spine Center.
In the midst of all the negativity around us by the government, protesters, the news media, and more, it was a delight to meet people who were actually soothing souls. Not one negative attitude during the entire day. Not one person who came across as an ego-loaded jerk. Not one shrug or smirk at any of my questions.
These soothing souls provided me with the sense of calm and peace I’ve been seeking as I head into the most complex of the spine surgeries I’ve had to date. Prayers from friends and family helped me along. Coming home felt almost unbelievable when compared to how I’d felt that morning heading out.
Gratitude is lifted to God for the gift of these people committed to working in the field of medicine spreading calmness and peace.
Beginning March 6, 2019, the blog will go dark for a while as I take a medical hiatus. After a long wait, insurance has finally approved the surgery recommended by my spine surgeon. This will entail the repair of a failed fusion from 2011 as well as stabilizing a couple of other areas.
As I come closer to the surgery date, I’m finding that the words don’t come easily these days. Whether or not I post anything else before March 6th is still a question unanswered. However, I didn’t want to go marching off for the hospital gown and socks uniform without letting you know I’d be away.
According to everything I’ve been given to read, recovery will require three to four days in the hospital with six to eight weeks following that at home.
Those who believe in prayer are welcome to offer up prayers for calm hands and minds for my surgeon and his team, for peace and calm for me as I prepare for my surgery, and for a solid recovery.
If you want to be in touch during recovery, you can always use my Contact page to send a note. I’d love to have “mail” to read.
Have you ever noticed it doesn’t matter to a cat where it rests or naps? Or when or on what piece of furniture? Or in what position–belly up, draping its legs this way and that? Oh, to be so relaxed that it doesn’t matter.
We humans live under too much stress to act like a cat. Yet, I’m going to try. I managed to do it once before and then lost it.
In 2005, I enjoyed a three-month sabbatical with my last employer. Obviously, it was to my credit that my temperament improved from the law firm and its lawyers. At the end of my time off, my husband announced he had enjoyed my time at home with him. So much so, he had decided it was time for me to retire.
In a few months, I retired.
I haven’t looked back with any regrets. With one exception, retirement has been everything I hoped for. However, I tend to take on too much too often to enjoy any time for me. I’m learning to say the word “no” more often, but not yet well-practiced at saying the word “yes” to myself.
I’ve enjoyed the time to write, but life has gotten in the way of publishing my memoir. And I’m growing tired of blogging and social media. I don’t find joy in any of them at the moment.
That’s why it’s time to pause. Like a cat–right now–today.
November 15th is the beginning of personal time for a while.
I will not be posting to the blog for approximately six weeks. There won’t be a quarterly newsletter until after the first of 2019. I will not be on social media for reasons other than family and keeping up with church and volunteer activities.
I am hoping to get some work done on my manuscript, but I’ll also be preparing myself for a third spine surgery. I want to be in the best physical state possible as I want this surgery to work in easing my pain to some degree and to experience a good recovery.
Thanksgiving and Christmas
To each one of you, I send Thanksgiving and Christmas greetings. I hope the season of gratitude and the season of His birth bring hope, joy, and love in abundance to you and yours.
Today’s post brings to a close this series. The first and second posts on chronic illness and the writer can be found here and here. The five remaining tips for coping with chronic illness and/or pain are shared below. As stated before, I’m not qualified to say these will work for everyone. I share them because, on occasion, they have worked for me. You know your body better than anyone and your illness as well. Let no one tell you what will work best for you. Decide for yourself.
Tips for the not so good days.
If you need a refresher of the first five tips, take a moment to go back and review those in this post.
6. Practice Acceptance.
We all have dreams. Some come true. Some don’t. The part of my dream that came true is the publishing of several essays for inclusion in anthologies. So far my bestseller hasn’t seen publication.
Nothing would be more fulfilling than to have my memoir published alongside others in my online writing family. But it hasn’t happened for me. Soon after retirement, I began planning to my memoir, and I have a completed draft which I’ve revised again and again. What I didn’t plan for were the health issues that came galloping into my life. Continuing spine degeneration and chronic pain more or less control many of my days now. I find myself forced to accept the things I likely won’t do as a writer.
I have learned and also accepted that it takes me longer than others to complete tasks and projects. Patience isn’t one of my best traits, and learning acceptance of what isn’t going to happen is hard for me. There are days when my mental processes won’t wrap around my writing goals and projects. Some days I’m too fatigued to write. Or the pain is too much and the medications make me sleepy.
Acceptance is all I can do on those days. If you have to work through this process, please learn to practice acceptance with grace.
7. Put your health first.
This topic probably should have come earlier in the list of tips, but I think anyone with a chronic illness knows that putting your health first is important. If you have a day when nothing works to keep you comfortable other than taking a nap, take that nap. With a chronic illness or pain, your body and its systems are already compromised. Doing what your body requires will keep you feeling better in the long run.
On the “not so good” days it may be that all you feel like writing is one sentence. If that’s all you can get out, congratulate yourself. Perhaps using these days to brainstorm a new project is the best purpose you’ll find. Envision your characters and begin to structure their personalities. Another good use of down days is to read books by other authors. Learning from other writers is one of the best ways to learn how to write.
8. Seek out a support network either online or in your community.
As writers, we are encouraged to build a community of support and encouragement. As a chronically ill writer, this is even more important to your well-being and writing life.
The worst thing about a chronic illness or condition is being alone. Writers tend to work alone for the most part so it isn’t something new to those of us limited by our health issues. Yet, as you look around, you see everyone else looking healthy and energetic, having fun and being happy. And there you sit all alone taking medications and feeling sorry for yourself. Wouldn’t it be better if you had a place to go where others understand what you’re going through? After all, if they’re going through the same situation, there’ll be understanding and compassion.
One of the best ways to find such a network or supportive community is the internet. Take a look at Facebook or websites focused on your illness for recommendations. I’ve joined a couple of Facebook groups and have gotten answers to questions and found support on bad days. On good days, I can then encourage others. It’s a great way to find common ground with others in your situation.
9. Use a to-do list to reward yourself.
Rewarding yourself from time to time for even the smallest accomplishments is a great motivator. Using a to-do list not only gives you a way to track the things you want to accomplish but also a way to assign a reward of some kind when you check off an item. For example, if you write 500 words, allow yourself a certain amount of time on social media. Or let’s say I finish my book. I can buy myself that piece of exquisite pottery I’ve been wanting. This is a way to work your way through smaller amounts of the work effort and at the same time give yourself a reason to feel good about what you’re accomplishing on your good days. And sometimes even on the not so good days.
If you are looking for an app to help with tracking your tasks, look at one or more of the following: (1) Todoist (free/premium options) lets you keep track of everything in one place; (2) Wunderlist (free/premium options) tracks your tasks for home, office, school and more; (3) Microsoft To-Do (free) keeps your day in focus; (4) Ike (free) is a playful to-do list created in the spirit of President Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower; and (5) Habitica – Gamify Your Tasks (free) helps motivate you to get things done using a video game to improve your life habits. I’m not a user of any of these apps. I use Google Calendar to track things I need to accomplish–simply and easily. And free!
10. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes.
Whether it’s meeting writing goals, progress made in physical therapy or nutritional therapy, or completing an online course, celebrate your successes! Remember as you struggle with a chronic illness each day you’re up against obstacles not everyone else has to battle.
Did you get out of bed this morning despite the depression you’ve been fighting? Maybe you finished that short story and submitted it to a contest despite the fact that your fingers and hands were enveloped in pain. Or is that book on its way to the publisher? If any of these or some other accomplishment found its way into your life, celebrate the victory over your situation.
Don’t let the impossibility you feel about big goals get you down. Look at the small accomplishments you’ve already made. See how far you’ve come. Look at the number of bad days you’ve already survived. Set your modesty aside and be proud of yourself!