Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings how astonishing, when the lights of health go down…the undisclosed countries that are then disclosed…….
On Being Ill…..Virginia Woolf

My father died at age 89 and my mother at 96. I guess I have good genes. But this last year’s health issues have forced me to face that I’m no longer able to bounce back like I used to. After a steady stream of viral infections, colds, bronchitis and a new diagnosis of asthma, I now feel vulnerable in my 71st year. And that was only the beginning.

My MS, for years quite dormant, kicked up when activated by the anesthetic from a recent surgery. Recovering from gall bladder surgery, what’s now considered almost routine, became very complicated. The usual six week recovery time was nothing compared to months of waiting and hoping as remission took its time arriving.

Phillip Chard in a recent newspaper article talked about how chronic pain can lead to depression. What about chronic illness, I shouted at him!  Whether there is pain or not that can also lead to depression.  That constant pressure has left my psyche fragile and my soul sad.

Not only are there the physical sensations but the lack of control. There’s no predicting what will happen and no way to prevent it. Impossible to make it go away. He noted “some of the most salient features of how ongoing physical discomfort can grate on the psyche and the soul.”

Lynn, the mother of a friend, had shoulder surgery and spoke of her fear of deterioration. She commented that it’s one thing to hear that things will improve. But what if it doesn’t? Or what if it doesn’t progress as much as it was hoped for or predicted? My friend asked if I’d ever felt that way. Every day I replied. It just becomes a part of your life. It’s always with you on some level. This illness, always wanting attention. Always needing to be taken care of.

Chard talks of despair and helplessness when things persist and when anxiety affects the subjective experience of discomfort. “One tends to focus obsessively on the physical sensations, scanning for any sign that it may be getting worse which, because of the attention, it does.” That’s what I do, worry wort that I am.

I did get some good news last fall when I had three MRI’s, my first in thirteen years. They revealed that my MS is not progressing; in fact, there were no changes from the MRI of so long ago. That’s really great news but the functions I’ve lost are still gone forever. While it’s great to know things are steady, there is still no guarantee it will remain that way. I’ve become accustomed to saying that I’m doing fine today with much emphasis on today.

This conversation with my friend made me realize that what I’m most afraid of is the deterioration that Lynn also worries about. The loss of small abilities. Each time I have an attack I know I won’t get back to where I was. I know I’ll lose something. Less leg strength. Poorer balance.

I had some interesting thoughts when I heard the news of Justice Scalia’s death. My first reaction was that he was very lucky. At the age of 79, he had an active day hunting at a private ranch in the company of close friends, went to bed and didn’t wake up. How lucky, I thought, to have lived so fully right up to the end.

Though it was later revealed that he had his own list of chronic health problems. I know I’m not alone and that everyone is dealing with their own problems and adjusting as they go. Still, I have to cut myself some slack when I have a pity party bad day once in a while.

But most days, I feel lucky too. I don’t have a life-threatening illness. Just one that makes things difficult and inconvenient. That makes me feel better as I’m having to rest between trips to the grocery store and the laundry and when I have to calculate if I do this then I can’t do that. The slow creep of deterioration is a present specter every day. But it could be worse. At least it’s not cancer.


Bad Ass Socks

socks 002







Who is it that knows me so well,
To give this seventy-one year old woman
A pair of bad ass socks?

A birthday gift to treasure,
From a twenty years younger friend
Known from work and from play.

We are so familiar, so connected,
That I guessed what was in the bag:
A pair of bad ass socks.

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