Bruising for a Cruising

Okay, I have to tell you about this stupid thing that happened, because then I can focus on the good parts, and also tell you something good that came of it all.

TL;DR: ALS RUINS EVERYTHING EXCEPT MAYBE DRAMATIC ENTRANCES.

So, I went on a cruise. I’d arbitrarily decided I wanted to do that, last year, as a bucket list thing. Cruises seemed cool, and at the time I was envisioning myself spending a week on the ocean, cruising to Alaska, taking the time to mentally collect myself and write all of my goodbye letters and look at the water. My friend Beth has been trying to get me to go on this one geeky cruise, but it was in Mexico and I’m not a tropical person. At all. And then, well, my hands stopped working so well, so it was less important that I have all the alone time, and then the geek cruise announced that Zoe Keating was going to be one of the performers and suddenly I am going on that fucking cruise, you’d better believe it.

It’s this one: https://jococruise.com/

One week of music and comedy and geekery. Puce, Lance, and Tam came with me, and we were gonna have a hell of a time and I was going to work up the nerve to say hello and thank you to Zoe Keating, and I was going to look at the water for hours and maybe have a cocktail and perhaps see a whale. And I did all those things and so so so many more. It was incredible.

…Except for this one thing.

From the start, I had concerns about accessibility. I can’t do without the walker, these days. I use a cane to get from the car to the grocery store where I can use a cart to lean on, or I’m using my walker. I wasn’t terribly concerned about the ship itself, though, I mean, these things are practically built for old people, right? I had a quick look at the cabin floor plan and realized with one week to go until the cruise that the bathroom was not even a little bit accessible. I sent a very apologetic and frantic email to the amazing planner people, who totally came through and switched me to an accessible cabin with grab bars and everything and it was all saved and glorious! (HOORAY FOR THO) ..Except for the shore excursions, I was still wary of them. Now, I realize fully well that the A in ADA is for Americans, and the rest of the world is not exactly accessible, which is why I’ve become reluctant to do a lot of traveling. But I completely intended to make do, so long as they could get me to shore, which they promised they could. And I tentatively believed them and didn’t worry about it at all until the day before the first one.

We were going to stop for the most of a day in Cabo. Unfortunately, there was a thing on the ship I wanted to do, right in the middle of the day, so we stopped by the front desk to ask how the disembarking would go down, to see if the hassle was going to be worth it for just a couple of hours. The town was too small to dock in, so they were offloading people by tender, which is a small boat, the woman with a delightful German accent explained. There wasn’t a rail, and there was a small gap between the ship and the tender that would wobble with the waves. Due to liability issues, they could not carry me in, but there were people on both sides to give me a hand. She assured me it would probably be fine. I had my doubts.

We skipped Cabo, and the event I wanted to go to was postponed til Friday, so I wound up spending the whole day on the ship, drinking fake mojitos and staring at the water and having a nap. SO HORRIBLE, YOU GUYS, SUCH MISERY WOW. CRUISES ARE THE WORST. The next day was Loreto, though, and not only a local food festival but an all night concert (Ted Leo will indeed rock your face off, so there was no way I was missing that). I vowed to get my ass ashore and do some sightseeing come Hell or high water – and yes the irony of that is not at all lost on me. The morning came, and so did my apprehension. Again, too small to dock so we were using tenders to get ashore. Lance went to the launch site to see how hard it would be to get me on the boat, and he assured me that it was a little gap, the water was calm, easy-peasy. They’d be there the whole time to help, and I knew they absolutely would. It wound up truly not being that difficult, even though I can’t step up a curb anymore, just a little gap and a lot of helping hands. HOORAY FOR THAT.

The ride to the port was nausea inducing, and the dock we wound up in was basically a narrow-ass pier maybe five feet wide, and then a steep as shit ramp to get up to the port. We had to step down from the tender using two wooden boxes made into stairs and yeah, you THINK you already know where this is going, but NO. I made it down the steps just fine with a lot of help from the crew and my friends, and walked across the narrow pier with no problems, and up the steep ramp without falling. You doubters. We made it to the city and looked around; it took forever for me because hey! No proper sidewalks and steep hills and cobblestone streets! Lance and Tam split off from Puce and I to do some shopping, while we looked at an ancient mission church and its museum of artifacts.

And then shit went sideways…literally. Without going into detail, I fell out of the walker and skinned the bejeesus out of my knees. As usual, the worst part was the strangers. It was right in the middle of the road, in front of a restaurant, so everybody and their mother pretended not to be watching but still managed to stare as we tried to get me up. A well meaning couple helped Puce out, and then overstayed their thanks by over-analyzing why I fell and how to prevent it from ever happening again while Puce and I both repeated YES THANK YOU and tried to move the fuck on with our lives. We limped to an ice cream shop, where I ate delicious ice cream from my childhood while trying to forget that it happened. Remarkably, my tights weren’t ruined, it turned out. Hooray! The day was not completely obliterated, but we agreed it should probably be a short day.

We did the food festival, delicious! and then stayed for the first act when the concert started. We decided to head back to the ship while there was still light to see. I was pretty wiped out by this point, but luckily there were taxis provided by the cruise organizers to get me back to the pier. And….again, I know what ADA stands for, but the van that showed up had a wheelchair symbol on it and yet was the most un-accessible van ever. He helpfully provided a little stepstool for me to get up into the seat with…which was a complete waste of effort because I don’t have the strength to lift my foot up that high to get ON the stool, much less step up with it into the the van. I managed, but it was not pretty and my tights were falling off by the time I was onboard. I discreetly hitched them back up when we got to the dock, I walked so, so carefully down that steep-ass ramp, navigated the narrow pier to the boat…

..and swore a lot because I’d completely forgotten about the fucking steps up to the boat.

Now, I can do a couple of steps if there is a sold handrail, because it’s basically using my arms to haul myself up. Without a hand rail, though, it’s fucking impossible. I quailed, but Puce assured me we would get this done. The diminutive crew took my walker on board, and then I slung my arm over Puce’s shoulder to try the steps. It failed instantly, and completely. I couldn’t help him get me up at all; I couldn’t lift my foot even, on to the first step. The crew tried to help, but they were small Asiatic men trying to assist a fat American giantess, and they were completely ineffective beside grabbing me under my arms and trying to put my feet on the stairs as though the only problem was getting my foot to touch the step. I asked to be allowed to sit for a moment, to catch my breath and rethink the problem. It took them all too much time to understand, this isn’t working, let me go.

I looked around, trying to think of a plan, and not allow myself to become a quivering, humiliated mass of tears. I noticed a line of people behind us and tried not to look at their faces. I noticed a cute girl with pink hair watching, similarly trying to think how to help. And then I noticed Anne Wheaton, one of the cruise’s celebrity guests. You probably would know her best as Wil Wheaton(the kid from Star Trek)’s wife, but she’s a geek in her own right and a fellow believer in the amazing power of googly eyes (for real though, google VandalEyes; the woman is one of my heroes) and was on the cruise doing a reading from her upcoming book. And she was watching me struggle with these ghetto-ass stairs on this unstable-ass boat and these little dudes hurting me while trying to help and I really, truly, just wanted to slip into the water and never come up. But that wasn’t an option.

I had just decided that the easiest thing would be to haul myself on to the boat and crawl over to the bench on my skinned knees like a fucking animal because surely my dignity could only suffer more if I managed to piss myself as well. That’s when the pink haired woman stood up and offered to help, assuring me that she was quite strong. I waved her off once, announcing that it was probably easier if I just crawled, but she repeated her claim of strength and voluntold another man to help her and Puce pick me up. I accepted with as much grace as I could pretend to have. Carrying 230 pounds of dead weight up what are effectively rickety fruit crates and on to a narrow moving boat is not an easy task. I think 8 people at one time were helping me, swiveling me successfully into a bench, and I tried to crawl inside my own skin as everyone else filed on board. Puce was amazingly supportive as always, and silently offered support while we rode back to the ship as I silently prayed for everyone to please forget this whole thing, and did my best to not completely lose my shit until I was alone. The pink haired cutie stayed behind to make sure I was able to get off the tender okay, and of course I could as there were no stairs involved. I thanked her a dozen times, we got back to our cabin, and I cried a lot.

I spent the rest of the cruise fervently pretending that the whole thing hadn’t happened. I had bruises under both my arms, my ego was shattered, but goddammit I had a good time for the rest of the trip pretending I hadn’t made a complete spectacle of myself in front of a boat full of strangers and Anne Wheaton. I mentally chalked it up as a lame-ass claim to fame and joked internally that she’d probably never forget the trip, for damn sure. And managed to forget it, mostly, specially when I got home. I knew I’d probably blog about it, but hopefully in a not-depressing way and try to find some positive angle on the whole ordeal, cause that’s how I fucking roll.

I’m off work for sabbatical now, so I slept late Monday. When I woke up, Puce asked me if I’d been on Facebook yet. That’s…never a good sign. I told him no, mentally wondering who died. He said I should check, and I got nervous and asked what was up. He asked if I wanted to find out myself, or should he tell me, and I didn’t feel like sorting through a time bomb of a timeline, and maybe Facebook’s stupid algorithms wouldn’t even decide to show me what he was talking about at all, anyway. I told him to tell me.

“So…………Will Wheaton’s wife posted to the JoCo Sea Monkey 2017 group about your…incident. It’s very nice, and sweet, and depressing…but she still posted about it, basically to give you support.”

FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCK.

“Then Beth went and tagged you in comments.”

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

OK. Breathe. It’s cool. No big deal. It’s cool. Public humiliation part two. OH MY GOD THIS IS NEVER GOING TO GO AWAY IS IT. I braced myself for the worst and checked the group. And the post was obvious.

“To the young Sea Monkey who was using a walker on the cruise-”

Wincing, I read her account of the incident, mortified that my emotions were so transparent and I was completely casting a shadow on what should have been an awesome night. I hate that my disease is depressing as hell to everyone around me. I try to keep my shit in check for this reason alone. “What I wanted to do was get up and come over to you to tell you not to feel stupid for your body failing you, but it’s not my place to tell you how to feel,” she wrote.

..Holy fuck, this woman gets it, I thought in surprise. Being told not to feel dumb or weak or sad is never helpful. It makes me angry, if anything. And she understood, and elected not to intrude on my struggle like some Feel Good Fairy Godmother with useless words of non-comfort. I wanted to hug her for that. She continued to tell me that she noticed that not one person behind us waiting to get on the boat was irritated or impatient, just standing by not knowing how to help. And..I was relieved. And instantly didn’t mind at all that she posted this story semi-publicly. Was grateful, even. Because of course my brain told me that everyone was watching, feeling sorry or being mad that I was Officially Ruining Everything. She understood how I felt enough to make a point to tell me this. Which was amazing. She gracefully relieved me of any obligation to respond or identify myself, and concluded:

“Just remember, you are not your body. You are an incredible human being facing a really shitty situation who chose to go on a cruise and live life to the fullest. You are an example of perseverance we should all be so lucky to witness.”

I’m…not entirely sure that’s so, of course. I’m just some dumb girl with a fucking ridiculous disease that ruins everything. I didn’t really decide to go despite my disease. Zoe was gonna be there and thus, so was I. The end. But Anne’s words were amazing and timely as shit and I felt immediately better about the whole thing, and I replied with a simple thanks on the post but sent her a more detailed reply in a Facebook message, including a request to pass my thanks to her pink-haired rescue goddess friend who was indeed super strong. She told me why it hit her so hard, and hoped I’d be back next year. I told her I’d like that, but maybe I’d skip the port of call next time (heh), and asked if I could use her words when I inevitably posted about this whole thing. She said okay and she’d be sure to pass on my regards.

And now I have. So, a super shitty thing happened, but as usual, there was a moment of grace in it that gives the incident some worth. I’m only sorry I didn’t get to hear this from her in person so I could hug her. And then show her the googly eyes on my JoCo badge.

I’m still alive.

I have a lot to say, but not a lot of it is good, so I tend to not want to talk about it. Some days just suck. I’ve been in a state of..depression is not quite right, more like barely contained terrified panic, since the election. It just keeps getting worse. Thank you, everyone who voted Republican, for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so I’m not entirely certain I’m going to have medical coverage when I’m forced to leave my job, because I have one hell of a pre-existing condition.

I had clinic recently, not much to report. Same decline, my hands are getting worse, swallowing and breathing are still normal.

My 23 year old cat is dying, and I feel like I want to, too, when I think about it. I’ve known him for more than half my life.

Christmas was…good and bad. I’ve had more falls lately.

That’s the baby update. There will be more; I have a lot to say and I promise to say it soon.

Dealing with (cat) Shit

I suck at asking for help.

I know, you all are alerting the media right now. OH MY GOD REALLY!? DID YOU ALSO KNOW THAT WATER IS WET? IT IS TRUE!!

I’m getting better at it I swear. I will give the soda bottle one good try and then hand it over to someone for opening. I allowed friends to help with cleaning my apartment. I’ve brought jewelry out to the car on our way somewhere, for J to help me put it on rather than just not wearing it. I trust folks to help me up a curb without feeling like I’m going to pull us both down to the ground. It’s hard, and it’s definitely going to be a continuous work in progress until I no longer have the OPTION but to let people help, but there are definitely areas that I have a harder time with than others.

Like the cat box.

I don’t know why that’s such a trigger. Because it’s gross? Because my cats are not technically part of ME and so admitting I need help caring for them when they are not a medical necessity seems …frivolous? Even though I would literally rather die in a house full of shit than live without them? Because my cat Parmesan is 22 years old and shits wherever he wants and right now my front room is so absolutely goddamned GROSS that I am mortified at the thought of someone else having to deal with it?

But I have to.

I got a notice of inspection when I came home Tuesday; they’re coming in to check the fire alarms. No big deal. But yesterday I had to clean the cat box area, because that’s the first thing you see (and smell) when you come in to my apartment, and it needed doing. I’ve got puppy pads spread out all over my dining area, because Parmesan does what he wants and I can’t stop him and I love him enough that it’s a price I will pay for his company. The carpet is …unhappy with its lot in life, at this point. And that’s a fair part of why I had laminate floors in my house, because once a cat pees on something it is RUINED FOREVER. AND EVER. Cat owners know this. No amount of Nature’s Miracle will ever completely get rid of the smell. And so I just lay out the puppy pads so that hopefully Parm pees on them and then Ianto will NOT try to bury it and drag them all over the place trying to scratch over it, exposing the carpet where Parm will inevitably pee again. J steam cleaned the carpet not long ago, but it needs doing again. Until then, the spotbot and puppy pads will have to do. It’s not easy for me to do this, because I can’t just bend down to pick up the soiled pads, and crouch down to scoop the box. I have to get on the floor, which is less like “getting down on the floor” and more like “a controlled fall”. Then, pulling out the tray from the litter robot (SERIOUSLY BEST THING EVER), replacing the bag, collect all the pads, put out new ones, scoop out the other box, somehow get up off the floor, heft the heavy bag of used litter into the trash can, and then put it outside.

It didn’t used to be a huge production. Twenty minutes, tops.

Last night demonstrated that I can’t do this anymore. I couldn’t carry the water tanks for the spotbot without dropping them. I couldn’t effectively scoop out the boxes. I had the worst time opening and levering a box of cat litter to refresh the boxes. My hands wouldn’t uncurl after grasping the puppy pads. I had to use two hands to spread them out instead of the casual flick it used to take. I almost was unable to get off the floor when I was done, and I was out of breath and dripping sweat.

I can’t do this anymore.

I had a really, really hard time telling myself this last night, as I cleaned myself up and waited to stop sweating. And I don’t know why I’m so stubborn about this, but it seemed like it was the end of all things. I know it’s not. I’ve had friends volunteer, cheerfully, to come over and help with the cat boxes. It just seems like a special brand of failure, to no longer be able to do this. When I adopted my cats, I promised to love them for all time, and to be responsible for their care. I feel like I’m failing them at it. I am losing the ability to give them head skritches, to play with them, and to give them a sanitary place to do their thing. And it’s the worst. I am failing at Cat Mom, and it bothers the fuck out of me.

I’m not dealing gracefully with this at all.

The Week in ALS…

This should probably be a vlog post, but I don’t feel like putting on makeup and sitting in my hot office to record one, so you get a micropost update.

So to sum up:

1) The orthotics appointment for testing various knee braces was stressful and awful. Traffic was horrifying – it took us literally an hour and fifteen minutes to drive a 35 minute distance. When I called to give them a heads-up, she was AWFUL and rude to me, “Well HOW late.” “I don’t really know, maybe five to ten minutes?” “Well where ARE you.” “Two exits away, but traffic is unpredictable.” “I’m going to check with the doctor and make sure that he even has time for you.” I was literally ON the exit when she came back and told me I’d have to reschedule because they really needed EVERY MINUTE of my appointment time to work with me. “How about this. I’m on my way in RIGHT NOW. If I show up too late, I’ll reschedule in person.” When I showed up seven minutes late, they cheerfully had me fill out the paperwork and wait in the office lobby for five minutes. So I guess I’m not allowed to be late, but they can delay all they want.

And then, they had me try on a brace that didn’t help at all, made walking even NOISIER, and when I tried to take them off, I had to shove the velcro between my palms and push them hard together while I pulled at the strap in order to get them unhooked, because my hand strength wasn’t enough. And then they told me that anything sturdier would make sitting and standing nearly impossible, so they have nothing that can help me.

2) Dr. Goslin called and then emailed me yesterday (because I didn’t answer the phone) to tell me that I was disqualified for the new research trial. I did not take it very well; about as hard as I took the initial diagnosis, actually, because it felt like hope for SOME good to come out of this had been pulled out from under me. Again. I spent the entire day sleeping.

3) I woke up this morning still in a funk, and while getting ready for work, I had a fall. Just, knees gave out while I was coming out of the bathroom, and I landed very solidly on the linoleum on my knees like I’d just had a religious revelation. It hurt a LOT, and I resisted crying, but let myself just lay in the bathroom doorway for a little bit while Ianto very nervously sniffed me. Falling and getting up while wearing my braces makes everything suck worse, because it holds my ankles in a fixed and uncomfortable angle while I’m crawling. Usually when I fall at home, the first thing I do is yank my boots off if I’m wearing them, to make getting up easier. But I was already running late.

So, it’s been a terrible week on the ALS front. This is not to say the week has been terrible; I saw my favorite radio play live, with some of my very favorite people, had an awesome Saturday showing off Portland to a friend I hardly ever get to see because she lives far away, and my elderly cat is actually recovering quite well from his sickness. So yay for all those things. Yay.

And now you are updated!

Too private.

“I tend to be pretty private,” she told me, as we talked of grief.

“I keep that close to my chest, usually, too,” I agreed.

“But you’re pretty open, usually? You have that blog.”

“I post a lot of things people would consider private and personal, sure. But when I get really sad about my own situation, I tend to shut up and not post for awhile.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So I haven’t posted for awhile. Not that things haven’t been happening. Things being thought, that I ought to write down. Feelings to document, frustrations to record. Things. But it’s hard to write, when you feel bad. There’s a bullshit self-imposed rule of “if you can’t say anything nice”, when the whole POINT of this was to record the good and bad. The funny among the fucked up, the grace between the grief, the other alliterative things that mean shit happens and sometimes it sucks and it’s all valid and okay.

There’s been a vast lack of energy, both physical and spiritual, lately. I spent the entire weekend in bed. Sleeping or playing video games. Safe to say I’m in a depressive streak, and things are hard right now, but good stuff still happens. I have a lot in my brain. Work is stressful as shit, and that’s its own post, one of many that I feel I owe you, this place, this blog, my future self. One of many. It’s harder to type and that makes me not want to do it. I am tired. I am lazy. I would rather be escaping into virtual realms, the Commonwealth, the biome I call my Minecraft home, Discworld, anywhere but here. I am squandering the time I have left and the ability I have to do things with it, and I can’t bring myself to care, most days.

But I have things to tell you. And I shall. I’m sorry to myself, and to whatever audience here, and to the universe in general for not being a diligent reporter, for not allowing myself permission to post even the bad days, when the bad days aren’t funny. It’s just easier to sleep, instead.

I have things to tell you. And I shall.

Saddiversary

*cough* Hi. Um. *taps mic* is this thing still on?

Yeah. Sorry guys. It’s been very nearly a month. I haven’t had much to report, for the most part, and I FREELY admit that I was hiding from everything on April 1st. Diagnosis Day. My second Saddiversary.

Two years ago, I sat in Dr. Goslin’s office and stared at the carpet, nodding slowly, repeating the words, “definitely a motor neuron disease of some kind, and very likely ALS.”

“In a nutshell,” she’d replied.

At the time, my hands were unaffected. I could still stand up without assistance, and walk unaided. I couldn’t stand on my toes, but I could stand on one leg. My breathing was fine, speech was fine. I had periodic muscle twitches, mostly in my thighs, and sometimes harsh cramps in my calves. I could still slowly wiggle my toes, though my mutant ability to wiggle my left pinky toe was gone. I weighed 175 pounds, up from the 160 I’d finally managed to hit when all these troubles started.

I was devastated, of course. No shit, right? But I had a fierce optimism about it all. It didn’t really matter, I knew to my core that I’d be okay; it’s just that OK was going to gain a new definition. Someone else’s broken and busted is someone else’s awesome mobility day. I had amazing people at my back, I had a NAME at last for what was wrong with me,and with that name came a roadmap. As long as I have a name, I can have a loose plan. With good people on my team, and a discovery of a whole organization of people dedicated to help poor bastards like me cope as best as we can for as long as I can, I had this thing in my pocket.

Two years have come and gone, and they’ve taken my ability to stand without assistance. They took my ability to stand on my own without leaning against something. They pretty well chewed up my hands by now. I’m losing the ability to wiggle my fingers independently, which KILLS the joke when I try to make sarcastic air quotes. I no longer type as fast. I no longer fit in my cutest clothes, because I’m now 200 pounds. Still eating and breathing fine, though, so again – the things that will eventually kill me have not yet begun to kill me. They took their toll on my energy levels, which is the second worst part of all of this I think. I can cope with being able to type with difficulty, I can cope with relying on a cane to get around, but doing any of these things just completely WRECK my energy levels for the rest of the day and probably the day after. It’s getting hard to get out of bed both because my energy levels say no, and part because hauling my now 220 pound ass out of the bed is not an easy task. Specially with a cat who just will NOT GET OFF OF YOU but he’s 22 so I have to be super nice and NOT toss him across the room. I fall sometimes, occasionally because I forget I’m not a normal person and can’t multitask walking AND adjusting my backpack. My cats are three obstacle course experts, and they drag their toy obstacles in new configurations every day. To keep me on my toes. Except the little fuckers don’t seem to get that I can no longer stand on my toes, and if I fall, we are ALL gonna regret it.

Those two years have seen some relationship changes, too. Surprisingly, mostly for the better. Amazing people have come out of the woodwork to support me, I hear stories about me that I never would have known, heard the effect I’ve had on people that I never realized. That part’s been awesome. And some people have gone, for many different reasons, mostly that it’s just really fucking HARD to be around someone with a terminal disease. You know the relationship is doomed. It’s difficult to watch someone you care deeply about struggle so much. And THAT is the worst part of having ALS. Watching how it affects those I love.

I watch you watch me struggle, and I feel your helplessness coil off of you in tentacles that hover and sway as you debate coming forward to ask me to let you help. I watch panic burst from your chest like a gunshot wound when you witness me fall, and you bleed in little droplets of ‘what do I do what do I do’ while I assure you that I’m okay, and scan my surroundings for ways to get myself up. You do a little “I wanna step in and help but I don’t know how” cha cha at my side, tentatively reaching down with those useless tentacles, hands offered but of no use to me. “Unless you can deadlift 200 pounds,” I warn, “you’re not going to be any help to me.” I can’t help you help me, you see. It’s not simply a matter of grab my hands and help me to my feet; there are no longer muscles to flex and bend and counter my weight. Getting off the ground is a matter of leverage, I have to find a solid footing and something sturdy and tall like a chair that I can use to wedge my legs into straight lines, and then lift myself off of the chair. My legs are stilts, made of useless skin and fat; the muscles are out back protesting. And so here we are in an incredibly awkward situation in which not only did you have to witness gravity force itself on someone you like, being able to do nothing, but now you have to watch as I humiliate myself by exerting an insane amount of energy to belly up to the chair and lock my legs in position behind me, shakily lifting my body upright, hissing to myself “come the fuck onnnnnnnn just stand up. STAND UP.” and when I get up, swaying and panting,k we are all of us worse for the experience. My humiliation and out of breath sweating will stop, though. You, you never really stop feeling helpless. And I see that knot of internal pressure, maybe it’s rage at the unfairness of the situation, maybe it’s fear that something might happen to you. You have a lot of reasons. Just as I do, watching my friends in situations I can’t control. It’s the worst place to be, and I don’t blame people for realizing they can’t handle it and stop coming around.

Hell, I actually respect you for recognizing your limits and putting your own health and life first. I WANT that for you guys. I appreciate everything you do, and I love you for who you are, and that includes knowing your boundaries, setting them, and keeping them. It’s hard to make those decisions. And keep them.

I’ve..lost track of where this post was going. It’s been two years of actual factual ALS. Life proceeds, as it always does, and so many things have become the new OK. Humans are amazingly adaptable, and I’m still having enough good days to make sticking around worth it. Having the world’s best excuse for not getting out of bed at ALL on a Sunday, nested in cats and blankets, playing video games with no guilt. It’s a recovery day/I woke up with no mana/I just don’t want to Adult today and this “I’m Dying” card says I don’ t have to. Having amazing friends who will bring me dinner, to my bed, because I don’t want to expend the energy to dislodge the cats, pull back the fortress of blankets and pillows, wriggle out of bed, and wall surf to the front door to meet you. And I’m not even dressed.

So that’s pretty much what I did on April Fool Day. Poisson d’Avril. Diagnosis Day. Saddiversary 2: Electric Boogaloo. I hid. And I cried, and I distracted myself with cats and video games, and slept a lot. And then it was okay. I’m still figuring out the new Normal, cause that keeps changing on me.

I really am sorry about being quiet. I do still have things to tell you, and things to show you. I was just being all Emo McCryface for a little bit. I hope you guys are having great days. I love all y’all.

And then I was just…peeing.

I wanted the title to be something more…dramatic/appropriate/somber, but Jack asked if that could be the title of my autobiography and I said no, but it COULD be the title of this post. So. This is a glamorous post, sure to make you fall madly in love with me.

Wednesday my body totally betrayed me. I mean, with ALS it does that as a matter of course, at all times. There have been FAR more instances of yelling at my legs to Do The Thing (including one total failure and forced sit-down while trying to get in to a car lately), and opening string cheese is becoming less of a struggle and more of a “forget it, I’ll get sscissors”. And now that I’m posting this, I’m realizing how awkward my typing is now. But Wednesday there was an Incident.

It started with a fall. I was cleaning up puppy pads because my elderly cat can’t stop peeing everywhere, and my little brother was coming over to steam clean my carpet for me. Balancing while operating a machine is no longer possible. So while scooping up the wet pads, my knees buckled and I just sat down. Wrenched my ankle a bit, still hurts. I was upset, but not crushed or anything, it happens. Justin the Wonder Brother came over, steam cleaned the office carpets and most of the dining room, and then ran the Spot Bot when Parmesan sauntered in and peed on the still-damp clean carpet.

Asshole cat.

The rest of the night proceeded without incident until I was ready for bed. I went to the kitchen to rinse out my cup and get more juice (see, Dietician? I’m drinking juice instead of soda with my evening pills like I promised!) and as I’m standing there with the water running, I just..start peeing. And I can’t stop.

Now, with ALS I was told soooometimes there is some ‘bladder urgency’ because of muscle spasms. And I’ve definitely experienced that – just all of a sudden YOU GOTS TA GO. And there’s been a couple of times I almost didn’t make it. But this was the first time I just completely lost control. I couldn’t do anything about it but stand there, fervently wishing it would stop, just hold it, just wait, the bathroom is LITERALLY ten steps away, but there was nothing. Just grab the roll of paper towels and wait it out.

And when it was over, I cleaned up the mess, took a shower, and bawled like a broken thing. Because one of the silver linings in all of this was the solace I took in the fact that people with ALS generally maintain bowel and bladder control. If I have to be trapped in a meat shell, at least I don’t have to be a meat shell sitting in a wet diaper. But then this, and I don’t know what to think, and I hope it’s an isolated incident, but it was jarring and scary and I spent alllllllllllllll day yesterday in a terrific funk that I’ve still not entirely shaken.

And then yesterday my nephew fell asleep and peed on my couch so I guess my house is just kinda a pee zone. Hooray for that.

Sorry I’ve not got something more lighthearted for you today. Sometimes with ALS that’s how it is. But I’m still mobile, still alive, still working. Still mostly happy. Still loving all of you.

But ya ARE, Blanche! You ARE in that chair!

Me versus life, some days.

The cruelest trick about old age and ALS alike is that you don’t know you can’t do something anymore, until you try and your body says HAHAHAH NOPE. I have a full list of things in my head that I probably should not do anymore, and every so often I say to hell with it and try anyway, and then inevitably said thing is moved firmly to the NOPE category.

It’s hard to even complain about this stuff, too, because inevitably I will say something like, “Well I found out for sure that I can’t crawl under desks at work to recable power cords anymore, cause it’s too hard to get up off the floor” and I guarantee it will be answered with “what the hell are you doing crawling around on the floor in the first place! Find someone to help you!”

And it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s not even an “I can’t admit I need help” thing, it’s just that sometimes I feel the need to push my own limits and find out for definite certain if I can still do X. Just to see. To know if I should even bother to make the attempt, in an emergency.

To wit: twice now I have needed to move fast to save someone from harm. Over a year ago, my nephew was riding his little plastic car in my house, he knocked into a piece of furniture, and it began to topple over on to him. I couldn’t move fast enough to prevent it falling, and fortunately it wedged itself against the wall first so I had time. Last night, my cat got caught in the handle of a paper bag and startled herself, which sent her tearing around my apartment with a paper bag around her neck. This might have been funny except that she was so terrified she was peeing the whole time, and the last time I had a cat do this, he managed to rip off his entire claw in panic. I could not even get up to begin to get to her, this time, and by the time I was up, she’d wedged herself in the corner under my couch. I pulled most of the bag off of her, but didn’t get the reinforced cord strap before she dashed off again. I sat on the couch a moment, looking at the little trail of pee all over the place, and was really upset that if she’d been in actual danger of choking, she’d be dead by the time I got to her.

I cleaned up the aftermath of Idiot Pee Hundred, calmed her the hell down after I found her huddled under the covers at the foot of my bed, and resolved no more handled bags lying around on the floor, whether they’re fun toys or not. And now I know that if this happens again, there’s REALLY nothing I can do about it. Cause ALS is a bitch.

Lalochezia

There’s something magical about swearing.

Lalochezia means relieving stress or pain through swearing. La-Lo-KEE-Zee-Uh. It derives from the Greek words for ‘speech’ (lalia) and defecation (chezo). It is literally Greek for ‘talking shit’. That, too, is magical.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know it’s not just a word, it’s a way of life for me. There are times that swearing IS appropriate, thank you. I’ve always used it to promote catharsis and relief when angry, sad, or stressed out. I swear casually too, but I wish I didn’t. My casual swearing isn’t nearly as profane as my lalocheziac screeds, but I would prefer to keep the swearing to important times. Overuse of the words diminish their power – a mouthbreathing stoner kid using the word ‘fuck’ doesn’t have nearly the same punch as say, a priest using it.

I’m sure you’ve known the relief. That day everything went wrong, your alarm didn’t go off, you missed the bus, you were late to work, the coffee was cold, you realized halfway through the day your underwear was on backwards, the printer jammed, they were out of your favorite thing in the vending machines, your boss griped at you for something out of your control, it suddenly started raining when you left work and you weren’t dressed for it; just, a thousand and one small insults piled up on top of each other all day. And then you got home, kicked off your shoes, grateful to be home and safe, and banged your toe on the couch which made you drop your mail all over the floor. All of the microfrustrations of the day exploded out of you in one vocal outburst.

I bet you didn’t say “darn it”.

There are times when it just isn’t enough to say, “she wasn’t very nice”. “Mannnn, FUCK her.” It doesn’t convey enough of your frustration with the problem to tell someone, “I couldn’t get the door open to get the cat out of the room before he barfed on the carpet”, but it works perfectly when you tell them, “I couldn’t get the fucking door open in time so the cat puked on everyfuckingthing.” And many times I am betting a mental FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!!! brought you a little relief.

And it really did! Studies have proven that swearing brings pain relief. Here’s one, from Scientific American. Mythbusters proved it. And here’s an article in Time that explains why it works best if you don’t normally swear a lot.

SCIENCE IS ON MY SIDE, BITCHES.

I’ve loved that there is a word for it. It delights me when there actually is a word or a term for that thing, like ‘esprit de l’escalier’ for the devastating comeback you think of after the argument’s already over or “semantic satiation” for when you see/hear a word so often it ceases to mean anything. Language is amazing, even if it’s foul. Sometimes, ESPECIALLY when it’s foul. I found out about the Greek meaning a handful of days ago, and was delighted all over again.

I felt a connection to that word, and specifically to what this site is. ALS:FTS has brought me vast relief through swearing about the things that suck, and proclaiming the things that don’t. I get very articulate and sweary when I’m angry, and babbling incomprehensibly when I’m happy, and honestly kind of boring when I’m neither of these things. I like lalochezia as a word, as a concept, and as a therapy. On a whim yesterday, I checked to see if lalochezia.com was available. It was. I toyed briefly with the idea of moving this blog over there, but a bunch of logistical reasons made me leave this alone. Like, domain redirecting and I’ve got cards printed with this URL and all of my email addresses and then what the hell do I do with gifhy.com? I’ve already got two other domains that are just old sites parked somewhere because I can’t bear to bring them down.

And then I had a thought. (It’s rare, but it occurs.) One minor complaint I’ve had about this site is that someone couldn’t freely share it because of the swearing. And I often get people self-editing themselves when they tell me about a bad day, “I feel stupid ranting about this to you when you’ve got real problems”. And that? That is a rant on its own. Which you’ll see. Because it occurs to me that there are a million and one little complaints that we have, all the time, and we don’t feel like we’re allowed to express it properly. We have to be calm and collected instead of just screaming FUCK FUCKFUCKING FUCKER FUCKHEADS!!! at the top of our voice. This site isn’t meant to be nothing but sweary rants, but being allowed to DO that here has brought me peace and catharsis. And I think more people could use that.

I don’t know if it will be a thing people use, but I’ve registered lalochezia.com and I’ve created a safe space for us to vent. Create an account. Prove to me you’re human. And then write about what makes you angry. Use as many swears as you like. The more the better. Complain about everything. Your shitty boss. The barista that shortchanged you. Your vague sense of discomfort and displacement in a dispassionate universe. Or just write the word FUCK 270 times if that makes you feel better.

Let’s fuck shit up.

Sometimes silence seems safer.

Hey guys.

I’m doing that thing I do, which is to just not say anything if I’m having a bad time, but the point of this space is to document all of it. All of the awesome, all of the real life boring stuff, all of the hard parts, all of the ugly bits. And while I hate burdening people with my woes, it feels disingenuous to not talk about them. Here, of all places. Where I’ve purposely carved a space.

So here goes.

I had a bad weekend. It kicked off Friday, when about an hour before I was supposed to leave, I was asked to provide information in the aid of making people unhappy, basically a sort of “we have to take some toys away from our kids, which ones?” and I know that it’s just going to make things harder and everyone’s already stressed out. There is literally nothing I can do about this, and while realistically I know it’s not up to me to be the Morale Champ of our group, most of the time I feel like it is. So when things are stressful and I can’t fix it, I get unhappy. I have a very limited power, and I use that power beyond what I probably should to keep things together, but it’s worth it to me if I can help my coworkers feel less shitty about their jobs, because I like them.

I’ve been watching my job take things away and make things worse, and it’s the nature of business, I totally get that, but it is supremely frustrating to see things happen and know that it didn’t used to be like this. And so I fell in to a sort of employment despair, because I can’t see things getting any better at all. And in that dark space, I reverted back to the thought that I STILL don’t know the origin of, “one more year. You just have to put up with this for one more year.” And my brain seized on that and began planning my exit and I completely freaked out, both because massive life change and holy shit could I afford this, but also a sort of egotistical WHAT THE FUCK ARE THESE GUYS GOING TO DO WITHOUT ME. If I leave, the smallest, stupidest things will cease to be, things that don’t mean much but make their lives easier. Like a goddamned supply cabinet. We’re supposed to fill out a form on a web tool when we need office supplies, but I deemed that Way Too Fucking Stupid and spent a couple hundred bucks outfitting us with a goddamned supply cabinet so that you can get a fucking PEN when you need one instead of filling out a form and waiting for an intern to bring you one. If I leave, no one is going to maintain that cabinet.

It’s all stupid shit, but it was my first moment of “holy shit my absence is going to cause problems for someone when this disease takes over”. There’s an intellectual exercise in “what would happen if I leave” that I think everyone indulges in, and to a revengey sort of degree when it’s to do with stressful relationships or jobs and we imagine how screwed they’d be if we just walked out; but this was a for-real, scary, “I am going to be gone and my void is going to cause someone genuine discomfort.” And it hit me kind of hard. And my brain, of course, spun in to the nightmare world of trying to plan financial escapes and mentally going over all of the homework I still have to do and…..

My brain still in this space, I went to game night with some coworkers, and that was awesome! Except when filling out a character sheet, and my hands just..wouldn’t work. I have very good penmanship when I take the care to do so. I have been complimented on my ability to write legibly on white boards. I’ve noticed some decline there, but that night I could barely read my own writing. And it sat in my gut and festered, and when I got home that night, I probably should have allowed myself to cry it out, but I tried to medicate it away instead. And that led to a whole weekend of moping and sadness instead of one night of crying jag catharsis.

I laid in bed and my cats sat on me and it was hard to move them off of me, and that made me sad.

I thought about the special pen and ink I got in New Orleans to write my goodbye letters and now I’ve waited too long to do that, and that made me sad.

I looked around my kitchen and the drawers of baking things and knew I’d never bake to the level of professionalism I wanted, and that made me sad.

I read Facebook and found out that my friend with cancer is taking a downturn, and I was sad.

I watched a new series that people were excited about and I just couldn’t get into it, and that made me sad.

Fun plans were canceled for Sunday morning and I just didn’t have the energy to do something else instead, and that made me sad.

A friend with MS reached out to be in a bad space, and I provided what comfort I could, and her pain and anger made me sad.

My cat barfed in the hallway, and I just…couldn’t get up to deal with it that moment, and that inertia made me sad.

It’s lifting now, it’s still there around the edges, but it will fade, it always does. But I need to be honest with myself when I get sad, and I need to give myself permission to mourn, and I should probably find a space to talk about this with someone who gets it but isn’t my therapist, but all of the ALS forums are just so AWFUL, one part “MY LIFE IS THE TERRIBLEST AND YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND AND HERE IS MY LITANY OF WOES” competition and one part “We sadly announce that our member Whassisface died this morning.” Neither is helpful. Cause sometimes it ISN’T terriblest, and I’m going to die, but not today. And sometimes you just need to say “This sucks” and have someone say, “Yeah I know” who really DOES. And then lie and say it’s going to be okay, even though it isn’t.

I’m learning a lot of things. I’m learning to let myself be helped. I am training myself out of assuming that when I accept that help, it is a burden to someone else. I’m learning to let myself be weak. I’m learning to give myself permission to breathe in the in-between times without becoming a lazy depressed lump. And I’m learning to let myself grieve for myself. They’re all hard lessons, things I’ve trained myself out of over a lifetime of only ever being able to count on myself. It’s hard to be vulnerable. And it’s hard to put these things here, it’s so much easier when it’s energetic anger or joy.

But for now, I’m a bit depressed. It’s okay. It’s understandable. And allowed. But it’s hard to be. I want to be my usual bouncy optimistic self, and she’s still around here somewhere, but she’s taking her sweet time coming back around.

So, sorry it’s been so long. I’ve been quiet and I shouldn’t be.

I think of you a lot, though. And I miss you.

Moved

Last Saturday, the hottest day of the year so far, I moved from the Zombie Tramp House to my 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment. The Zombie Halfway House of Ill-Repute.*

I had a whole gaggle of people show up to help. I was as prepared (stuff-wise) as I could possibly be for the event, disease and time permitting. Though still not as prepared as I’d have liked, I’ll grant you. I have a personal pet peeve about showing up to help someone move and they’re not even ready to do this thing. Like…I’ve had to do dishes, then pack the dishes, then move the dishes. YOU KNOW THIS EVENT IS COMING UP. PUT YOUR SHIT IN BOXES. IT MAKES IT EASIER AND HELPS YOUR SHIT NOT TO GET BROKEN. Some last minute things and cleanup is inevitable, but OH MY GOD PEOPLE WHY IS YOUR CLOTHING NOT IN BOXES YET. I try really, really hard to not be that person. So not only was most of my stuff in boxes, it was pushed out in to the hallway when I could, to make maneuvering as quick as possible.

And it worked! The guys (and gal) had everything in the driveway and front room, ready to rock, by the time we got back with the truck. I had a lot of friends work hard in stupid heat, and I was done in record time. I got the truck at 10:30, it was back to the U-Haul before 3. One last round to get the cats and all my groceries, and then I was all moved! With an hour to spare to get ready to go see Eddie Izzard perform (PROTIP: GO SEE EDDIE IZZARD PERFORM. HE IS A MAGICAL HUMAN BEING MADE OF UNICORN RAINBOWS AND SARCASM).

And Sunday, I was alone in my new apartment.

…which was the problem.

I had been frantically preparing for this move for a few weeks. As much to not be that person, as to keep my brain busy. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about the house being sold. Don’t think of your dream home in someone else’s hands. Don’t think about this being the first major loss to ALS. Don’t think about the sheer magnitude of work that’s going to need doing to find the next place. Don’t think about THAT place as temporary, too. Don’t think about this being the last Saturday you will ever sleep in at the house you own. Don’t think about this being the last time you’ll have to clean your kitchen floor. Don’t think about this being the last shower in a house you own. Don’t think about it. Don’t think. Don’t.

Sunday, I crashed. Left to my own devices, and with sweltering heat besides, I slept a lot. I went out for brunch with a friend, with the intention of going out and running errands and buying things that I needed for the new space, but found myself falling asleep at the table when he went to the restroom. He brought me back to the apartment, and I slept some more. I moved some furniture around, hooked up my TV and made my bed, and slept.

I called off work Monday. “I wrecked myself,” I told my coworkers in an email, “clearly I should have chiggity-checked myself.” And then I slept. I woke around 11AM, answered an email from my realtor, rolled over, and slept. 4PM I woke, with the intention of putting my PC together, and stared at my desk for 10 minutes before just sort of…collapsing out of my chair in to a heap on the office floor and lying there for probably twenty minutes, just staring at the wall. I went back to bed. 7PM I woke up, used the bathroom, fed the cats, unpacked my socks and underwear, and went back to bed. I just had no power to do anything else.

I’m not stupid, I know what depression is. And this? This is it. After all of everything, and a REALLY shitty week last week, I finally crashed and depression grabbed me by the jugular and shook hard. And I bled out and slept.

It’s still there, very much, but I managed to get to work today and do some things. My body is so fucking TIRED but my mind is going a million miles a minute. The sale is not quite final, there’s last-minute fuckery going on. I’m not quite out of the house yet, there was still some storage stuff and a couple of fans and cleaning materials, and then I have to clean everything up to make it presentable to its new owners, just as I’d wanted it presented to me but got a filthy house full of broken and useless shit instead. So much unpacking to do before this apartment is even navigable, much less livable. And so much to do after that before it’s mine. I have medical forms to fill out and new bills to pay and addresses to change. This afternoon, sitting at my desk at work, I cried, overwhelmed at how much was left, how much I had to do, and wishing someone would just fucking DO it for me.

I got a voice mail from some inspection company to reschedule an inspection I didn’t even know was happening at my house. That I still own. They’re doing work on the Zombie House to prep it for the final sale, now, and apparently the buying broker doesn’t think it’s necessary to actually let the owner of the house know that strangers are going to be there, working. I chatted up Justin, the Wunderbruder, and asked him when he was free to help me clear out the rest of the stuff at my house, to make the last storage run. He said he’d already moved all the straggler stuff into the garage, and just needed to sweep it out.

I said he was amazing, and he said Nope. Just a crazy white guy.

I told him it sounded like he had it mostly sorted out, and asked if he needed me; he said, “My thought was to bring to your place what goes there, get the storage key and code, stop back by the old house and get the remaining stuff out of the garage.”

And just like that, my brother had already sorted my shit and had a plan and I didn’t have to do ANYTHING.

“That way,” he said, “you can focus your energy on your new place.”

And I fucking cried. Totally lost my shit at my desk in front of my Sea-Monkeys and everything. Because he was an answer to my desperate prayer. I didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t have to ask. And I can’t even tell you how much that allowed me to just…fucking…BREATHE. For a minute. For a couple of minutes.

He has my back. I never doubted this. All of my friends have my back. I have never doubted this either, though this weekend was serious and hardcore proof. But to have him here, to have him step up and just…fuck. Just. Fuck. Without even….fuck. I can’t even tell you. Grateful. SO fucking grateful. He quiets my brain and I know I’m taken care of. And every time I tell him he’s amazing, he says, “Nope.” But he lies. In my darkest moments, I know I can pull through this because of the love of the people surrounding me. I don’t know what I did to deserve this much light, and this much love, and just..fuck. Yeah. So much love. And gratitude. And just…fuck. All of it. Everything.

Sometimes angels are real. Even if they used to punch you in the head when you were kids.

*That’s from a Dresden Dolls lyric. I’m not that clever.

Complicated

“It occurred to me that at one point it was like I had two diseases – one was Alzheimer’s, and the other was knowing I had Alzheimer’s.” -Terry Pratchett

“Complicated.”

It’s become my go-to phrase when people ask how I’m doing. “Life is complicated.” Check off that box on Facebook, I am officially in a relationship with ALS and It’s Complicated.

Nothing is simple. Everything is terrible, and everything is wonderful. I am cursed and blessed. And everything is complicated. I have, as the late and very great Sir Terry Pratchett said, two diseases. Two minds. The ALS mind and the Knowing I Have ALS Mind. I call them Future and Fatality. They argue constantly over everything I do, every plan I make is scrutinized by both sides, every human interaction is watched with both minds. Future is all about the practicality of the day to day, maintaining a sense of normal through all of this chaos. Fatality is about the hard reality that my time is very much abbreviated and some allowances must be made. Future is the one saying I have to work until I can’t, so as to prolong the quality of my life and finances for as long as possible. Fatality is the one saying FUCK THIS, we are DYING, who the fuck wants to work until all quality of life is gone?! Let’s spend our money making the last days AWESOME. Future says, yeah, but we still have to go to fucking work tomorrow, you moron. Disney World souvenirs don’t buy themselves.

They’re both right.

…It’s complicated.

There is definitely some sense of maintenance of the status quo that’s necessary. Continuing to work not only provides a stronger income than I’ll get on disability, but it’s feeding me a sense of normality, and there’s a great comfort in the routine. I can handle this. Yes. I’m dying. But there’s still work to be done. The floors still need swept, the cats need feeding, and while I’d like to do nothing but sleep, that’s not going to help anything. I can continue because I must, life is moving and so I, too, have to continue to move. Acknowledge that I am not dead yet.

There are definitely concessions that need to be made. Considerations to signing a 30 year mortgage that I know goddamned well I’m not going to see the end of. Allowances to make life fun while I still have the ability to participate. Plans to make so that memories are made and things don’t get left undone. Write your fucking will. Go ahead and spend some money on stupid things because I know in my heart that it doesn’t even matter. Make myself as happy as I can, while I can. Acknowledge that I am not dead yet, but WILL be.

Their key arguing lately has been about living situations. It’s amazing what will trigger me and what won’t, and unfortunately I never know until it happens. I can brace myself for things I think will be problematic, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes it’s the stupidest shit that trips me up. And it changes from day to day. Some days I think living with Danielle will be just fine, and some days I think I will do anything within my power to live alone until I absolutely can’t. It’s not about living with her, it’s about living with ANYONE. Some days I accept financial advice with grace, and some days it’s FUCK YOU I KNOW HOW TO SPEND MY FUCKING MONEY LIKE A MOTHERFUCKING ADULT. I HAVE GOTTEN THIS FAR, YOU KNOW. I AM NOT STUPID. Anger comes up unexpectedly, avoidance gets triggered, there are hurt feelings and tears and anger and misunderstandings, and later you sort through it all and you don’t know what happened, even after.

My main babe and I had a huge thing last week. I wouldn’t call it a fight. It was a..surprise boundary test that went very poorly. Plans kind of got put on hold, and I wound up making a rash concession that I had to withdraw and I feel fucking awful about it. Lines were drawn. Many many tears were shed and for a few days there, ativan was popped like candy to try to stave off the panic attacks that just kept coming. It cemented our need for couples counseling. It brought up a lot of good questions. It hurt a lot of feelings. I really, really can’t accept help gracefully and need to work on that. I need to draw lines and feel comfortable, as the center circle, maintaining them. Even if I’m wrong, I’m in charge of my own care. And even if I’m right, other peoples’ opinions are valid. Even if I choose to ignore them in favor of what I want. And a lot of times, I don’t know what the fuck I want.

It was complicated.

We’re still okay, of course, we love each other to pieces and that’s never going to change. It was a surprisingly brutal and hurtful exploration of caregiver/cared-for relationships and I did not like it one bit. And it’s going to continue to happen, and we’re both going to get stronger for it, and it’s going to fucking SUCK while it happens. I hate making her life hard. But I can’t help but do so. Fucking ALS.

I wound up looking for, and finding, an apartment of my own in the interim. My house closes on the 6th of July, but the housing market is extraordinarily chaotic right now, so finding another place to buy is impossible. Especially when I don’t even know what the fuck I’m LOOKING for, and things I am okay with on paper suddenly turn in to panic-inducing dealbreakers. So I am going to live in an apartment, and continue to be alone while I can, and get through life with my best babe and my awesome planets in orbit as best as we can manage. Looking for an apartment is always shitty, and right now rents are INSANE – I wound up accepting an apartment that is 2 bedroom and less than half the size of my house with 6 square feet of patio and a tiny kitchen for $50 less than my goddamned mortgage. And I’m having a really hard time with it. I sit here, typing this, looking out at my amazing back yard that will be someone else’s in a month’s time. I walk the floors I installed myself, I sleep in the room I had not even finished carving out for myself, I sign a lease with all of these rules and regulations that being a homeowner just didn’t have. And it’s hard. I’m glad I found a place and have a place to land, but losing this dream of mine is hard. I’m grateful the work is lessened, happy to have less space to maintain in my lesser state, but goddammit this was MY HOUSE. Future is happy that I’m being so practical about it and is planning the move, and Fatality is punching holes in things when she’s not crying her eyes out.

It’s complicated.

Yesterday we moved all of the extraneous stuff that had been taken down for staging, all of my books and DVDs and winter clothes and decorations and baking gear. We put it in storage. It was a really hot day and we all sweated a lot. The heat kept my mind from wondering if I’ll ever unpack some of these boxes. My ability is waning every day, and the longer I wait to find my proper space, the less power I will have to make it my own. I sacrifice my future nesting to further my independence today. And the weekend was a constant reminder of my lessening ability. My handwriting, as I filled out the lease paperwork, was atrocious. My hands are suffering and I am trying desperately not to just freak the fuck out all day, every day. My stupid feet grew wrong and I’ve got nasty bunions on both my feet, and because of the muscle loss, the bone is barely covered with a little bit of skin and it rubs and pinches and is excruciating no matter what shoes I wear – but the only real fix is surgery, and do I seriously want to give up even MORE mobility to get it corrected? Every movement costs more energy than ever before, and even though I wasn’t allowed to move boxes, I am physically DONE from this weekend. DONE DONE DONE. I am tired and sad and grateful – so fucking grateful – to my friends and brother for coming to my rescue on a miserable day. I put them all through a rough day, and they loved me enough to stay. And though I was grieving, I was grateful.

Future is kind of pissed off that I spent so much money for the lease and renting storage space, because that’s money we could be putting away, and it’s really impractical when I know I’m just going to have to give in eventually anyway. Fatality is flipping her the bird and patting my head and telling me it’s going to be alright even though we both know she’s lying. Usually I side with Future, but right now she can fuck off. I have to leave this house that I love, and it’s cruel that it’s so much work to make that happen. Fatality knows we have people who will help and just chill the fuck out and maybe play some video games tonight instead of worrying about it.

I guess this post kind of wandered all over the place. Sorry. My brain is full, I am mourning my loss of independence even as I struggle stupidly to hang on to a shred of it at great expense, I am obsessing over every detail even as I am actively avoiding thinking about any of it. And hopefully figure out the fine line between standing up for what I want and deciding my own fate, and being a goddamned idiot who needs to admit that she’s not as strong as she wants to be. To learn to accept help gratefully while still asserting control over what help I accept. Stubbornness versus weakness, and strength perceived as stubbornness versus self delusion perceived as assertion. And I usually can’t even tell which is which.

All my life, and now so more than ever, I am very, very complicated.

He, She, Me.

He:

A few weeks ago, a few very short weeks, a friend posted something in her facebook along the lines of “our routine doctor appointment turned into a little bit more. He’s being admitted right now, but please don’t worry!”

…and I worried.

She’s like me. Bubbly, happy, all about best possible outcomes, optimism, and smiles. She’s a joy to be around. He’s a sardonic, sarcastic, clever man who used to be my boss. You know he’s awesome if he used to be the boss of me and we STILL talk. He’s snarky and hilarious. They’re both a pair of my favorite people. Still can’t believe they hooked up, much less got married, but they’re fucking perfect for each other and I’m really glad they did. I love them to pieces.

So when she, bubbly, optimistic She, didn’t SAY what had gone awry, I knew it wasn’t good. And then I was invited to a support/information group created in facebook, to keep in touch with what was happening and how we could all help. And then, scary words eventually saw the light of day. Cancer. Stage 4. Scant months to live. Maybe more if chemo works.

And just like that, their lives were over as they knew it. And just like that, the floor dropped away from all of us who knew and loved them.

I can’t even pretend to say I know what it’s like to be told you have a short and definite lifespan. I know how it was for me, how it continues to be, but I can’t even fathom what he’s going through. His time is so much shorter than mine, his notice so much more sudden. He has a wife. And while they’re publicly taking it with grace, no one knows what’s going on inside. Some aspects I can guess at; the panic of Time suddenly a companion, yelling at you about all the things you have to do before you go. The complete bafflement of, how did this happen. Is there something I could have done? But then there’s also the chemo – unlike my timeline, there’s a chance for an extended cut, but only if you can withstand it. And now they have to decide quality of life vs. quantity. And I know that mental argument very well.

There’s absolutely nothing I can do but stand by and love them, and listen, and hold space. And when they make decisions, honor them. Be there as much as they will allow me to be. And then let him go.

It’s the only thing within my power.

She

I wrote about her awhile ago. She was suffering from bulbar onset ALS, and she gave me the chance to figure out and to talk about how I feel about assisted suicide. And she gave me the courage to tell all of you, and start that difficult conversation. It’s a really hard thing, to tell everyone that you are probably going to take your own life and they’re going to have to forgive and be okay with it. She did it with perfect grace.

She had been fighting the Boss Fight of ALS for awhile. Her decline was fast. I only knew her through facebook posts, and it seemed like daily there was another struggle, another development. But she faced it with so much fucking GRACE, and smiles, and gratitude. Her posts weren’t about how she’d never live to see her son grow up, they were about the daily joy she found in his company and the treasure trove of memories she was building for him. Her posts weren’t about her medical suffering, they were about the gratitude for the people who helped her through it all. Look for the rainbows, she says constantly.

April 4th, she had fought enough. She left a goodbye, and a video for her son, and the last words, “Enjoy. I have.”

And then she let go. And so I, too, let her go.

Me:

I’m losing strength in my hands.

I’ve been noticing maybe a month or two now, but I’ve been in complete and total denial. The mailbox lock has ALWAYS been hard, it’s just a bit more difficult to turn the key; must have frozen or something. The lid to the cup is way more difficult to pry off because it’s new. Cutting a piece of steak cramps up my hands, but hey, it’s just cramps. I had AGES before my foot strength was lost after the cramps started, right? My hands are shaking while holding my laptop because I’m just tired. The word of the day and things that I write up on my whiteboard every day just SEEM a little shakier. But I’m sure it’s nothing. Right?

Friday, April 4th, I fell. For no reason. It was the first time that happened; I wasn’t tripping on anything or trying to maneuver, I just…fell. And wrenched my ankle. And felt very sorry for myself and frustrated. And so I told Dr. Goslin this, on Thursday during my appointment. And she confirmed I’m losing strength in my hips.

…And I said I think I might be losing strength in my hands. She did the usual tests. And proved that I am.

I was absolutely right in that this? This is a trigger. This is panic and terror and the beginning of the end. And this makes everything so much worse. My timelines have shifted, and things I thought I had some time to do, I suddenly don’t. I have to write the letters while my handwriting is still stable. I have to do all the things I can’t, soon. And I’m freaking the fuck out. Because I don’t know what else to do but scream.

She asked if I’d like to borrow a motorized wheelchair to see how it works out. And internally I flipped the fuck out because I am NOT ready for that. No way no how. But outwardly I politely declined and said I’d like to wait awhile before going down that road. She agreed that I have a lot more time of mobility left, so there’s no rush. But it’s coming. Danielle suggested one of those old-people jar opening assist things. And I panicked a little but kept it in. I said maybe a walker, but not a wheelchair. Not yet. But my hands are going to have to be accommodated for.

After the appointment we went to the store to get some meds and some air fresheners for the empty rooms in my house that I’m clearing out for sale. And I couldn’t get the fucking tops of them off. I had to use my teeth. I still have dexterity, but my strength is going. And so, too, are all of the things I thought I could do to keep the loss of mobility tolerable. For now I can still type. I can still play video games. But I thought I had so much more time before I had to think about the end of those things. To a time when I can’t use chopsticks, to when I can’t pull myself out of bed, to when I can’t dress myself.

And it scares the motherfucking SHIT out of me.

I’ll get accustomed to the changes as they come. I’ll persevere. But I feel like this is kind of when I really start to die. No mobility? Whatever, that’s okay. Seriously. It sucks, but a wheelchair isn’t that bad. This is a hardship, but not the end. When I am no longer able to draw stupid pictures, no longer able to frost a cupcake, no longer able to chat, no longer able to launch Skyrim…that is the death of me. When I am no longer able to even fucking pet my cats. That begins the days of the useless shell that I become. I wonder if I’ll want to go get the prescription the day I drop something for no reason. I won’t use it yet, but I wonder if that’s going to be the preflight check. When I will start thinking seriously about the endgame.

And I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to let go, when all I feel like doing is trying to hold on.

And I’m really, really scared.

Gravity: It’s the Law.

I want this out here but I’m not going to say much about it because I’m trying really hard to not let it get to me so much so I’ll be quick.

I had a fall tonight. My first proper one. I was disembarking from an Amtrak train, stepping down from the train to the little foot step they have, and my leg just totally gave the fuck up and I fell. There was just nothing to catch myself on. I’m not really hurt, but there will be bruises and scrapes. Mostly I was humiliated. I was sitting on the ground trying to figure out how the hell to get back up because all I had for support was a stupid yellow footstool while total strangers were bending over me, asking am I okay, do I need help up?

“I’m fine, just really embarrassed,” I told a really concerned woman. She assured me there was nothing to be embarrassed about.

There was an Amtrak employee with the club car right there, apparently he’d been waiting for me because the conductor had told him there was a woman with a cane. The conductor had noticed me, because the train came on the opposite track that the station signage said, and everyone had to run to the opposite platform. And so I held up the whole train while I crossed under the platform and back up to the other side, and the only doors they had open were at the front, so it took me forever to hurry over. He knew damn well there was a woman with a cane on board. And that effort is probably why my legs didn’t quite have the strength to manage – I used up my fucking spoons just getting ON the damned thing, so when I got off, my leg just said “nope” and folded under me.

The driver helped me up, basically by having me wrap my arms around his neck and hauling me up. He asked a million times if I was okay. I repeated that I was, just embarrassed, and he also told me it was nothing to be embarrassed by. He just wishes he’d seen me before I tried to step down. “I’ve see perfectly healthy people WITHOUT canes fall while climbing down.” He gave me a ride through the station and out to the front, where my little brother Justin was waiting for me.

I knew my first fall would really suck, and it does, and I’m not freaking out but it’s really frustrating and sad because I know this is just the beginning. And I hate it.

The weekend was otherwise perfect, and I hate that it ended on this note. But it didn’t ruin anything by any means, and I’m going to end this before I dwell on it too much and it DOES wind up ruining it.

Legal

Man, real life is just NOT going to give me a break lately! Sorry! But it’s also awesome that I’m still able to DO so much and keep up with what I’m being asked to do. So I will take this all optimistically.

Anyway. The lawyer.

First of all, we used the Crowdrise funds to pay for it, which I felt weird about, but that’s precisely what that fund is for. So it was $650 NOT out of my pocket. Yay! Thank you everyone who donated to that. I love you. For reals. I’ve put off this legal appointment for a long time because I simply couldn’t afford it.

We were recommended to use a particular elder care lawyer, who had a lot of dealings with ALS patients. For lack of knowing what the hell we were doing anyway, we went with him. He had the stereotypical swanky corner office with floor to ceiling windows, nice couches. I was completely intimidated, I won’t lie. Everything about the place said “You can’t afford this.”

We explained what my situation was. Dying of ALS, need to get my affairs in order. We explained what we wanted. Answers on particular laws and financial advice. I’d filled out a questionnaire (why does that word have two Ns? Millionaire doesn’t. Weird.) that detailed my pathetic assets. Which basically amounted to the life insurance policy through my employer and a little bit of 401k, and my house. Which I still owe almost everything on because I’ve only lived there a year.

(Goddammit. One fucking year. FUCK!)

I told him I was planning to sell the house and buy something single-story. He looked at me like I was on drugs and told me he would absolutely not advise buying another house. I’m not going to get any financial benefit out of it, he told me. It’s going to be nothing but a money sink. Consider renting. There are laws that say landlords HAVE to let you remodel to be ADA compliant. There’s subsidized disabled housing, too, but the wait list is like 2 years and I’m not even actually disabled yet so I can’t even START that process. So why he brought it up I don’t know.

Danielle (my bestie and primary caregiver to be) and Gecko (my brother and finance manager when I die) were with me, and both had a lot of very good questions. Danielle asked about Medicare and Medicaid, what they would cover, how would we/what will be appropriate procedures to move me to assisted care living, ten fifteen twenty years down the road when I need it?

He looked genuinely surprised. “Ten years? Did the doctor give you that long?”

Um. “I have an extremely slow progression,” I told him. “Two years since I noticed a problem and I’m still walking.”

“OH. Oh okay. Okay. Buying another house is NOT so far fetched,” he told me. “Usually when people come to me, they have a small handful of years left. Three maybe. Buying a house you’re only going to have for three years is not advised, but you’ll get benefit out of it if you live there for ten.”

We talked about in-home care vs assisted living. How much worth you have and how much you have to use up before Medicaid kicks in. Living on SSI and how much money you get to keep (hint: HARDLY ANYTHING). In assisted living? It was like $20. That’s all you get. They take care of your housing and food and medical care, sure, but entertainment? Clothes? Toiletries? if you have a cat? You’d better figure it out because $20 is all you get. If you live at home you get to keep more of it, but of course you have to deal with mortgage and bills and food on your own. It’s REALLY not a lot.

So, hope you’re independently wealthy! Cause otherwise your life is going to be small and hollow. Sorry your disease sucks, but let’s make it worse by bogging you down with money woes and bureaucracy and complicated decisions! What can you afford? Nothing! A small bed in the corner of a nursing home somewhere where we’ll tuck you away there until you die.

We talked about executors of estate, who I want to have as my finance controller, who I want to be in charge of medical decisions. He gathered information and after the appointment he mailed me papers to certify all of that. He told me to get my living will in order and spread copies of that to everyone. He also said we need to draw up my will to state who gets what portion of what assets I’ll have, and I can attach a sheet later dividing up physical goods.

I kind of froze. Who gets what? I don’t fucking know. I threw out some percentiles, and Danielle insisted she did not need to be figured in there anywhere but if anyone deserves ANYTHING when I die then holy fucking SHIT is it Danielle. My brother Justin a close second. Gecko third, for being willing to deal with all my debts and shit when I’m dead.

Though I DID find out that when I die, Gecko will NOT be responsible for dealing with my debts. With very small exceptions (that I do not have), those debts get written off when I die. “I’m not suggesting you go run up your credit cards,” he cautioned with a shrug. “But.”

When we left, my brain was full of doom and money and gloom and responsibility and numbers, so many fucking numbers. What’s fair. What’s right. What’s necessary. Next steps. Long term, but not long long term because you never know. I was keenly aware of my situation. How little resources I have. How much money it’s going to take to keep me alive. How little time I have to save any of it.

I was completely overwhelmed, and really wishing I drank at all.

It’s a fucking complicated thing, dying. And it seriously is unfair that this diagnosis does not come with a lawyer, an administrative assistant, and a kitten.

Falling with Grace

I went out to get the mail yesterday after work, and waited for traffic to cross the street. My street’s the only one in the neighborhood that goes all the way through from one major road to another, so it’s busy. Coast is clear, I step off the curb, but here comes a truck. He’s waiting for me, how nice! But the other side is not clear, and it looks like there’s a few cars, so I don’t want the truck to wait for no reason. I think that I will signal to the truck driver that I intend to wait for traffic by stepping back on to the curb.

Except that doesn’t go so well.

Instead, I don’t have the strength in my legs to make that step back, and so I wind up on my ass on the curb in some very crunchy grass. My neighbors don’t water their lawn any more than I do. I’m not hurt at all, just embarrassed, and I laugh nervously, shake my head, and flash the truck driver a thumbs up. Like, hooray for that! ha ha ha I just fell that’s so funny. But I’m okay! He laughs, and drives away.

I wait for traffic to clear to try to stand up. It takes me a try or two.

And I’m not going to lie, when I got back in to the house, I cried. And felt an irrational anger at the truck driver, even though I know if he had understood why I just fell, he wouldn’t think it was funny at all. And I was laughing, too, and he has no idea that it’s a nervous habit I’ve had all my life. When I’m angry, I laugh, and then I cry. When I’m hurt, I laugh. When I’m being insulted, I smile. Until I’m alone. And then I cry. But still I’m a little angry that he didn’t understand it wasn’t my fault I fell. It wasn’t clumsiness. It wasn’t. fucking. funny.

This is the fourth fall. It’s not the worst. The worst one, thankfully, didn’t have any witnesses and was just scraped up palms. It was the day of my diagnosis and my mind was elsewhere so it’s hardly surprising I didn’t quite make the curb. They’ve all been the result of trying to step up and not quite making it, and then not having the strength to correct my balance. So I just kind of sit down. Or kneel. I’ve never been actually hurt, they’re gentle falls.

But they’re a precursor of things to come. A sign that things are going to get worse. Hateful little reminders that my time on my own two feet is limited. The fall itself is frustrating, of course, and humiliating, but they echo of disability and impending loss. There’s no outward injury, just a cringing inside and fear and future loss.

There will be more. Worse ones, too, I wager. And in public, I’ll fall with grace and good humor, and joke about it, and feel like dying just a little, and never let on that I’m not actually okay.

“Nothing bruised but my ego,” I joke. But that bruise hurts like hell.

Most Days

It seems like every time I post/say/THINK anything remotely depressed-sounding, I am blasted to smithereens by very well-meaning people giving me encouragement and light. Like, I have to be cheered up at all costs. But I don’t need it,usually. And when I do need it, I will say so. Lest you guys get some idea of me drowning in my own misery as I die slowly, let me explain something.

Most days, I’m good. Great, even. Most days I don’t even THINK about my disease, I don’t think about the ugly implications of my staggered walk. And when I think of the future on those days, it’s not a bad place to be. I’m a naturally upbeat person, and it’s easy to be in good cheer. I take the greatest of pleasures in the stupidest things, and that keeps me going. Life is good, everything’s great.

Some days, I am aware of my illness. Maybe it’s particularly hard to walk that day. Maybe I’m suffering from an overdraft of spoons from the day before. Maybe I have a doctor appointment that day. For whatever reason, I am aware of my disease and the limitations it puts on me. But on those days, even when I am aware of this disease cutting my life short as I breathe, I’m still good. My disease is present but it’s not really a problem. I have a realistic idea of what’s coming, but I have security in the knowledge that I have the best team in the world at my back. I can handle this. I can handle everything. Life is okay. Everything’s good.

Every now and again, there’s a moment of panic. It’s usually on the tail end of circumstances conspiring against me, for whatever reasons. My defenses are low. I am a bit “squishy”, as I call it. Just ..sensitive and prone to cry and things seem a little dark, maybe. And then there’s that moment it turns, and everything collapses in on itself and I am crushed under the weight of it all. These days are very rare. But they are inevitable. I’ve got a terminal fucking disease. If I didn’t sink under the weight of how badly I’m being fucked over occasionally, it’s likely I’m just in denial.

Things have been conspiring. I lost my 19 year old cat and just turned in his unused pain medication to my vet, so that someone else who can’t afford it can give their pet some pain relief. I’ve been GO GO GO the last few days and I’m exhausted. There was a screwup with the post office which made them think my house was vacant and that really, really fucked with me because it was a reminder that I don’t get to stay here. The motherfucking shingles. NOTHING seems good when you’re in pain. I’m kind of freaking out about money; I’m about a grand in to my credit card, with a $3k property tax bill going to come due at the end of the year and then January resets my $2k deductible and I’m supposed to go to Europe and I’ve got nothing to spend and…yeah. I feel like I’m financially drowning.

And then this video was shown to me this morning:

It’s…really fucking powerful. Stay past the bikini babe. It’s worth your time. And it left me really raw. And I talked to my brother about putting in a hand rail because I’m beginning to need both hands to haul myself up the stairs, and it hurt. I thought about having to throw all of my things in boxes and maybe not having the strength to unpack them by the time I bought a new place and I panicked.

Tonight I’m tired. And in pain. And lonely. And afraid. And worried. And weak. And angry. And depressed. And really fucking unsure where it all goes from here. And tonight I know there’s not a goddamned thing I can do about any of it.

Tomorrow I will be fine, but I am having a bad night.

And nothing will fix this. No amount of being told it’s going to be alright will MAKE it alright. And nothing will help except to let myself cry.

And so I lock myself away from the world, and I cry.

“Put a Smile on It!”

“…Put a sock in it!”

I’ve been pretty damned whiny the last couple of days because I’ve developed shingles. Which, if you’ve never heard of it, is FUCKING AWFUL. It sounds all happy! SHINGLES! YAY! There’s probably confetti involved! But it’s basically a really horrible version of chicken pox, which can happen to anyone who’s had it; the virus lives on in your body and randomly it may decide to reactivate. Only instead of the red itchy bumps all over, it’s a really angry, blistery rash and searing pain in half my body, fever, nausea, and muscle aches. It’s like the worst sunburn you’ve ever had and the flu at the same time. I am the queen of high pain tolerance – I’ve had dry socket and never even winced when the dentist packed it with that nasty gasoline and cloves shit – and this has had me whimpering and writhing. I had oxycodone left over from the muscle biopsy; I took one last night just so I could get some fucking sleep.

It really fucking sucks. And I’ve NOT been shy about saying so. Because I am goddamned miserable. And while it happens completely at random, one of the things that MAY trigger it, is stress.

Okay, so ALS causes stress. But the actual disease has been the LEAST of my worries the last couple of weeks. I had to put down my cat, Midori, after living with him for 19 years. HALF OF MY LIFE. It was emotionally devastating. I adopted a new kitten, which is a happy stress, but a stress nonetheless. I gave a talk in public which triggered all KINDS of nervous stress. I attended a party full of strangers. There WAS my first Clinic session, too, and the resulting “…goddamnit” of beign assigned a cane and a breathing exercise, but seriously? ALS is the least of my concerns right now. Real life is happening.

And so today, when I posted a tongue-in-cheek: “I’ve figured it out. I have shingles because I’ve been telling people how lucky I am that ALS doesn’t hurt! hahahahhahaawww sad trombone” I didn’t really think a whole lot about it. I had just been enthusing Tuesday afternoon after the ALS talk I gave that it was AMAZING that nothing hurts and how lucky I am. The timing struck me as funny, was all.

But then I was told that I need to cheer up. If I just keep a good mental attitude, I might be able to beat ALS. Just..buck up! ALS won’t kill me if I just think happy thoughts and don’t let it!

Okay. this is important, so I’m putting it on its own line. In bold.

Positive thinking has never accomplished a documented medical result.

NEVER NEVER NEVER. It is not going to cure depression, it is not going to cure a broken leg, it is not going to fucking cure ALS. And I DO have a positive outlook, and I really DO believe things are good and somehow everything is going to be okay, somehow. ALS is not my life. I am not All Disease, All the Time. That’s just not how I work. But having a sunny disposition is NOT going to cure me. I am dying because my motor neurons are burning out. No amount of laughing is going to keep me breathing. No amount of happy thoughts are going to allow me to continue to put my face in a smile shape when my facial muscles stop working.

A positive attitude dictates HOW I have the disease. It does not dictate IF I have the disease.

A cheerful disposition means I don’t lose friends by bringing up ALS and how I’m going to DIE in every conversation and make myself miserable to be around. It means I continue going to work and don’t wallow in self pity while I cease to be able to afford my mortgage because disability is a fraction of my usual pay. It means I keep going as usual. I continue to live my life, as normal, and don’t become a burden to be around, even to myself. It means not every waking moment is filled with terror and “JFC I AM GOING TO DIE WHAT IS THE POINT OF ANY OF THIS SHIT”. It means when someone invites me to visit them in a years’ time, I say “that sounds lovely!” instead of “I don’t think I can, I’ll probably be in a wheelchair by then.” It means “I’ll try” instead of “I can’t.”

And the occasional whining is to be expected. There are aspects of ALS that fucking SUCK. That whole…”you’re gonna die sooner than you thought” is pretty shitty. No longer being able to dance, sucks. Having to take five minutes to haul your laundry up the stairs sucks. Realizing that you forgot something downstairs and having to think long and hard about whether it’s worth the effort to go back, sucks. A stress-induced searingly painful fevery rash of DOOM sucks ass.

And I am fucking allowed to complain about these things. CENTER CIRCLE, BITCHES.

It does not mean that there’s nothing more to my life. The new kitten does NOT suck (except when she jumps up on the bathroom counter and knocks over a glass that shatters allllll the fuck over my bathroom floor). The fact that I am still able to work does not suck. Birthday cake Oreo cookies do not suck. Friends who are willing to help me get wherever I need to go do not suck. The good far, far, far, FAR outweighs the bad. All the time. And always will.

But knowing this, and having a fantastic attitude towards life, the universe, and everything, is not going to save me from an early death. And that’s OKAY. I’m alright with that. It doesn’t mean there’s no point to having a good mentality, it just means it’s not a cure. You *can’t* cure this disease. All you can do is treat the symptoms. And a good goddamned attitude is an amazing restorative.

In the meantime, you’re essentially telling me to just put a superficial happy face on a horrible and serious fucking situation, and that’s selfish. All you’re really telling me is that I can’t turn to you when I’m in a low spot. You’re making me resent you because you’re negating my frustration. You’re telling me I’m not allowed to be unhappy.

You’re telling me that it’s *my own fault* I’m dying because I’m just not happy enough.

And that is COMPLETE FUCKING BULLSHIT.

Denied

Dr. Goslin’s sidekick, the amazing and trusty Donna, emailed me this morning.

“Cigna denied the prior authorization request for Athena. Dr. Goslin did a peer to peer review, and they still denied it. It is unfortunate that this got dragged out so long, only to have them deny it in the end. I am sorry.”

Athena, of course, being the company that does the genetic testing. We were going to see if I had the markers to allow me to participate in the bulk of clinical trials going on. And Cigna said no. Even after Dr. Goslin explained to their faces why it was important. And it IS important.

I feel defeated. Like…this test? And the ability to participate in the best research going on? It gave me hope that maybe my fucking disease might be USEFUL to someone. We won’t see a cure for this in my lifetime, but goddammit I wanted to be a datapoint at least in GETTING there. I want to HELP.

I don’t know how much the test costs. The last one was nearly $12,000. So yeah, I won’t be able to just DO the test on my own. I am beyond frustrated. I am angry, defeated, disappointed, crushed, depressed, all of this and everything else.

I want this fucking disease to mean SOMETHING to SOMEONE. To get SOME good out of it. To be useful.

And now instead of having the chance to be a data point, I’m relegated to be a statistic.