Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Survival of the Not-so-Fit

When you have MS, you can sometimes feel like you are struggling to survive in a world where no one understands what you are going through and negative feelings are lurking around every corner, waiting to strike.

And it is hard enough being slower than you'd like and fighting off fatigue and other symptoms on a daily basis while still doing the same things other, fitter people do - hold down a job, take care of kids, a home, etc.

My best survival strategy has been to keep the positive energy flowing in my life.

One thing I always make sure to do is to keep conversations upbeat. When talking about your condition, focus on your strengths and downplay your weaknesses - those silly falls or butterfingers. And don't let the subject of MS dominate the entire conversation. There are so many better things to talk about.

Sometimes talking about your condition with the people in your life can be like stepping in quicksand - you'll want to get out of it right away. There are the people who think they know what is best for you and try to tell you what to do, there are the people who say the wrong things. Sometimes I have had to minimize contact with certain folks - if they don't understand, are uncomfortable around you or just plain make you upset, they are not helping.

That's not to say they don't have good intentions - sometimes people may want to be supportive, but they don't really know how. And others just don't get it. Educate those you can. Join a support group. Surround yourself with positive people and positive conversation.

Other tools I always have in my survival kit:

Laughter. I say laugh as often as you can. Learn to laugh at yourself and your shortcomings. If you can make others laugh, that's even better. Spread the positive energy around.

Hope. It's always important to try to maintain a hopeful outlook. I mostly focus on the now when it comes to my MS. I just take it day to day, and when it comes to the future, I just hope for the best and that science will find a way to rescue those of us who are affected by illness.

Determination. You hear people say it all the time, "I'm not going to let this thing beat me." If I fall down, I get up. And as things have gotten harder, I keep plugging away. You have to have the will to survive.

"You cannot run away from weakness: you must some time fight it out or perish." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My "Workout" Routine

When it comes to fitness, I am not a devotee. While I am not a big fan of exercise, I have always liked walking and running. Of course I am not very good at those things anymore. Still, I think I get a pretty good amount of exercise these days.

My workout routine:

(Disclaimer: Because I am dealing with MS fatigue and stiffness, this "workout" has a higher level of difficulty for me than for someone who does not have MS - they will have to adjust as needed.)

Stretching and Bending - Get up and feed the cats first thing in the morning. Repeat throughout the day as often as cats wish to eat. One cat has hyperthyroidism and eats about ten times per day. Summer additions - picking up trash in yard and pulling weeds.

Climbing - One word - stairs.

Walking - For the summer, I've added dragging the hose around the yard to water the flowers, and walking to the door to let the cats in and out of the house as often as they wish to this part of my routine.

Walk around house to clean, walk in parking lot of doctor's office, grocery or other store, etc. (distance varies depending on whether or not handicapped parking spot can be obtained), walk through store pushing shopping cart. Occasional walking in yard or at the park. Every step is a journey! (Tee hee.)

Weightlifting - Carry grocery bags into house (usually divided into stuff that needs to come inside right away and stuff I can leave in the car and get later), clean cat litter box (as in dump out old clay litter and replace with fresh), carry cat litter bag or laundry basket up and down basement stairs (combines lifting with climbing), drag heavy trash cans to curb (combines lifting and walking).

Cardio - Um, no. Unless the seasonal tasks like leaf raking and snow shoveling count.

I don't know how many calories I burn with my workout routine, but I can say that at the end of the day, I am wiped out!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Last Summer

A few years ago, I bought a couple of scrawny dianthus flower plants and put them in the good soil right behind my house. The little guys grew big and strong and have bloomed brightly the last few summers. They are a wonderfully colorful and easy to care for perennial that I love.

Today as I was looking at their explosion of bright pink and red flowers, my thoughts drifted, as they have so much of late, to the fact that this will be my last summer at this house.

Not that I want it to be. Like many Americans, I find myself facing the loss of my home to foreclosure.

Needless to say, this is a tough time for me, and I am finding it difficult to keep a positive frame of mind. I love my home. Nine years ago, when I was looking for a house, I drove by this one every day for two weeks. I wrote down the name and phone number of the realtor from the sign on the lawn. When I finally called, I was told a sale was pending.

Well, the sale fell through I guess, because I kept driving by for a few more weeks and the realtor's sign was still there. I got in to see the house and fell in love with it. I submitted an offer through my cousin, who's a realtor, and the next thing I knew, I was a homeowner.

Wherever we live, it becomes a part of us, and we become a part of it. When we leave a home, we leave a part of our life behind.

I know that having to leave here will probably be the hardest thing I will ever have to do. I have a lot of memories here, and this house will always have my heart.

So many things happen in our lives that we don't want to happen. It makes us feel helpless and like we can't control anything. The only thing we can do is get through them and move on. That is our challenge when life deals us these blows.

I will miss the dianthus, and the day lilies I planted. I will miss my trees and shrubs and the birds and squirrels I have fed. I will miss everything about this house. But for now I will try to make the most of these days as much as I can and enjoy this place for as long as I continue to remain here.