Not even going to mince words here.

Fuck everything about this image. Fuck the message it conveys, fuck the people who made it, fuck the president of the stupid fucking website it came from.

suffering is not beautiful
suffering is not beautiful

I’ve ranted about this before. And I will again. Because every time I hear something like this, every time I see something like this, I am filled with a rage indescribable in its intensity. I am sitting here, sobbing, because I’m angry. Because I’m afraid of someone thinking they have the power to make this decision on my behalf. And because I can’t make them understand. Short of committing an act of extreme violence or wishing something horrible to happen to a loved one to present them with the opportunity to reconsider their opinion, I am completely unable to make them understand how fucking HATEFUL this is. I want you to look at a dying woman with inoperable cancer and tell her how lucky she is to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ.

In my rage, I typed, “Let me stick a knife in your guts and then while your stomach acid digests you from the inside out, you can tell me how beautiful your suffering is.”

There is no grace, no beauty, and no “opportunity” inherent in terminal disease. There is nothing beautiful about starving to death because you’re unable to eat. There’s nothing graceful about shitting your bed every day. There’s no opportunity to be found while trapped in a shell of meat you’re unable to control, no opportunity when you’re in a hospital bed wracked with pain that the strongest drugs can’t touch, no opportunity while your memories and self slip away until you’re nothing but a meat robot that looks like someone your friends and relatives used to love.

We FIND grace, beauty, and opportunity in dying because we must. Because we have no choice but to laugh at pain, to smile at death, and to accept. Because we can not fathom a world in which suffering is for nothing and pain has no reason or purpose. And when all hope for life is lost, we find a new hope in allowing an end to the torment. In accepting our own death, at last, we find grace in deciding when your limit is reached, beauty in allowing the suffering to end, and opportunity to end things on your own terms, in your own way, in your own time.

Enjoy the life you live, that you are allowed to have such a hateful opinion because you have no idea what it’s like to be close to someone who wants nothing more than a quick end to their inevitable, pointless suffering. Praise Jesus that you don’t have the opportunity to make this decision for yourself because you’ve still got a life ahead of you. And enjoy that you have the opportunity to think you are entitled to make this decision for others.

Because you don’t.

You really fucking don’t.

Spoiler Alert: #everyonedies

Today’s post comes with story time!

Story one:

I’m walking with the cane into the cafe. There’s a girl who works there that I smile and say hello to practically every day. She notices the cane, today. I don’t always bring it down when I get a drink, but today I have. I’m a little wobbly, anymore.

“OH no, did you hurt yourself?”

“No,” I shrug, “I have Lou Gehrig’s. I’ve just gotten weak enough finally that I need this a lot.”

“Oh, god, I’m sorry, I’ve heard of that. Is it painful?”

“Oh no, nothing hurts, really, but it’s just a loss of strength over time. I guess that’s a good thing, nothing hurts even if you ARE dying slowly,” I half-joke.

“Well aren’t we all,” she smiles back.

“Truth,” I tell her, and we part ways.

Story Two:

We’re walking to a restaurant, my coworkers and I. We parked kind of far away, and I’m struggling a little with my cane, to keep up with the crowd.

“Keep up,” he jokes, falling behind to walk next to me.

“I’m trying,” I tell him, grinning. “Y’all bastards walk too fast.”

“Well maybe you’re not trying hard enough to keep up,” he teases.

“Yeah sorry, everything’s slow with me. Neurons burning out, walking, you name it. I’m *sorry* I am slowly dying,” I joke.

“Well, everyone’s dying,” he shrugs.

“Some of us just take the fast track,” I tell him.

The Rant

Please, please stop saying “well technically everyone is dying”.

Please.

It’s like when the cashier is ringing up your stuff and something doesn’t scan and you snort, “well I guess it’s free.” It’s a dumb joke, everyone’s made it, she’s heard it a thousand times. And it’s already old and it wasn’t funny in the first place and you’re not that clever, just pay for your shit and leave. And you know it’s a dumb thing to say, but you said it anyway, and will say it again, but everyone politely laughs even though no one thinks it’s clever.

Only, …no. Okay. It’s not really so much like that. It’s..

It’s dismissive as FUCK is what it is. Yeah, okay I get it, everyone is dying slowly. We are all biding time until our own demise. Everyone, eventually dies. MEMENTO MORI.

When you tell me, “yeah well we’re all dying, right?” I know you’re trying to soften the blow. You’re trying to comfort me in a way, to include me with the rest of the human race, telling me that death is normal and it’s okay. To make light of the situation. And I will always, always joke back.

But I don’t want to.

What I WANT to say is “fuck you”. You’re completely dismissing my death. You’re diminishing the sadness of my struggle. You’re telling me that I’m nothing special, that my disease is no big deal. Everyone dies. So what? My disease will kill me but hey, everyone eventually dies anyway so what does it matter? What do YOU matter? What are you whining about? Everyone dies, so what.

So what? Yes, everyone dies. But YOUR book has a billion potential endings. Boating accident! Heart attack! Cancer! Pneumonia! Peacefully in your sleep with your loved one by your side! Gun accident~! You could die of ANYTHING! You could die during sex! You could die from mountain climbing and being exposed to the elements! You could join an international drug cartel and be gunned down on the private air strip in Boca Raton when Louie rats you out! You NEVER should have trusted Louie! You could fall on the sidewalk and hit your head JUST SO and become brain dead until your tearful mother signs the paperwork and they pull your plug. Choose Your Own Adventure Death! If you would like to die of accidental CO2 poisoning, turn to page 56!

My Choose Your Own Adventure book has three possible endings. A long, lingering loss of ability and strength, humiliation, frustration, and fear that ends in…..

OPTION ONE! Sudden accident. I mean, anyone can get hit by a car, randomly, or some freak accident, lightning strike, store robbery gone wrong. Anything could unexpectedly kill me. We’re even on that front.

OPTION TWO! Suffocation! I choke on my own spit, unable to breathe because my muscles have all atrophied and I can’t swallow or take a breath and eventually I choke to death. Drowned in my own spit.

OPTION THREE! Suicide! I decide somewhere along the story that I’ve had JUST ABOUT ENOUGH, thank you, and take some pills if I can still swallow, or push the meds into my guts via feeding tube.

THAT’S IT. Those are my options. Your roadmap to life has a lot of lingering little trails and you never know where they’re going to take you. You might decide to become a mountain climber at 60, you might die tonight, you might waste your life away at some meaningless job until you have a heart attack at your desk. Your maps are open and wide and the ends aren’t known but the possibilities are endless. My map branches three ways, and there are many many stops along the way. Loss of walking. That cuts off a thousand roads. Loss of hand/arm movement. Well there’s a ton of other destinations crossed off my map. Unable to eat. Well that’s a lot of stuff closed off to me, what with the wheelchair and the feeding tube and hell, you need a special van to travel now, you can’t just pick up and go. So my destinations are the trauma ward, a palliative care hospital bed, or a dose of pentobarbital in a place of my choice.

We’re all dying. Some of us have our stories written, and the endings are not happy. There is no happy ending for ALS. And when you compare your unwritten book to my Cliff Notes, it’s insulting.

Your story probably does not have chapters in it about falling for absolutely no reason and getting a really horrible looking scratch out of it but not allowing yourself to show pain because the people you’re with are freaking out that you fell and you have to assure them you’re okay. It probably does not feature you cleaning out a cat box and breaking out in a sweat over that small, stupid effort. It probably does not feature a feeding tube or respirator as a given course. It likely does not have six introspective chapters, each titled some variation of HOLY SHIT I AM GOING TO DIE IN A REALLY FUCKED UP NIGHTMARE WAY AND I KNOW IT’S COMING. Your story might have a little chapter about being embarrassed in front of someone when screwing up something you were trying to say, but I doubt it has six paragraphs afterwards wondering if that was a one time fluke or is it a sign your tongue is starting to atrophy too? Did I enunciate when I was on the call with my manager earlier? Is this guy saying ‘what’ because he didn’t quite catch what I said or because I have lost the ability to speak and he literally has no idea what I just said? Your book has going to work and going shopping, but does it have a pre-chapter about managing a ride that isn’t going to be too hard for you, or not purchasing #thing because you’re not sure you can lift it up in the cupboard where you’d like it to go? Your story’s ending is unwritten. Mine is written in stone, carved by hands that no longer have the power to pick up a chisel.

Telling me “everyone dies” is the same as co-opting #blacklivesmatter into #alllivesematter. You’re technically correct AND YOU ARE COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT. And diluting the original message with your vapid need to be included. Of COURSE everyone dies. Of COURSE all lives matter. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW. You are dismissing the message and selfishly, HORRIBLY, turning the story about you. In telling you that I am dying, I am not saying no one else dies and no one else has to mourn. I am not dismissing the value of your mortality. I’m not denying your story has an end. I’m telling you mine is brief. As someone put it, by saying “save the rainforests” I am not saying “fuck all the other kinds of forests, they’re deserving of destruction”. By saying black lives matter, it’s not to say others DON’T. To say that I’m dying is not to say that you aren’t.

It’s the same, also, as when you tell a friend your woes and s/he says, “That’s okay, I lost my job today.” IT IS NOT OKAY. YOUR PAIN DOES NOT DIMINISH MINE. You have a right to your suffering, and it does not trump or cancel out anyone else’s. People will often try to one-up your sadness, and I’m guilty of doing this too, sometimes, and it’s a horrible, horrible thing to do. I don’t understand what the point of it is. I see your suffering and raise you “my keys got locked in my car”. Your pain doesn’t matter, because I have a completely unrelated circumstance that I somehow have determined is more impactful than yours and therefor I am suffering worse and I WIN at the FML game! And LOSE at Friendship and Human Interactions! And I leave with a parting gift of making your situation worse by dumping all over you when you wanted comfort from me! I’m going to put that statement again in its own line, because it’s important.

YOUR PAIN DOES NOT DIMINISH MINE.

We are all dying. Some of us just know the way. And if you don’t, then I’m happy for you. Seriously. I rejoice with you in not knowing your end. It’s an amazing, free world of possibilities and I’m delighted you get to dance in that sunshine. I will read my own story, and dance as long as I can, while the rain comes, before I’m washed away. Both of our stories are fantastic pieces of literature, but because I got a sneak peak into the last chapter, it doesn’t make my book any less worth reading. Your book’s unknown end chapter doesn’t make your book better than mine, or different. And when I tell you the plot, you don’t have to tell me that EVERYONE’S story finishes. Because of course it does. I was just trying to tell you about mine for a second.

And I joke about it, because it’s a sad thing and I try to keep things light; but I want you to know that it’s crushing when you dismiss me like that. Everyone dies. Yes. This is an unfortunate fact. A fact that does not change that I have a terrible disease and I’d like to be able to talk about it without it being diminished to a non-problem by the words “everyone dies”. You don’t need to one-up this. You don’t WANT to one-up this. It’s okay. Just say ‘sorry’ or shrug and agree, or laugh with me about it, or tell me to man the fuck up, tell me anything but that I am insignificant because of course everyone dies. And none of this matters. Because I fucking matter. If I didn’t, you wouldn’t be wasting your breath to piss me off with those words.

Everyone dies.

Some of us have a story they’d like to tell, before that happens. Not because they think it’s the best book. Not because they don’t think you have one, too. But because they think it’s worth reading. So, thank you for reading mine, so far. I hope it’s been worth it.

Everyone dies, but I guess not everyone gets to blog about it, yeah?

Controversy and Community

I attended a symposium on ALS research today. As a result, my brain’s kinda full. Full of information, full of renewed energy to be a part of the solution, full of the obligatory introspection.

Oh, introspection. The knee-jerk “how does this all affect me” reaction to Serious Things.

So I apologize if this point is disjointed. My brain is random today and I’d really like to write up a full thing about the symposium and everything involved with it, I know that I probably won’t be arsed to do it. So instead, I’ma just barftype what’s on my mind. You’re warned. Two things come to mind, though, two main ideas that went through my brain repeatedly as I listened to three very, very smart people talk about advocacy, research, and a promising drug therapy, in their turns.

One? Thank god for science. Jeebus Christmastime flapjacks. The third speaker, specially, spoke about laboratory mice and their contributions, and the second spoke about stem cell therapy involving foetal spinal stem cells. Both highly controversial. Live animals, dead babies. Dead *potential* babies, I suppose, depending on your beliefs and politics. I don’t care to get into that. What I DO care about is how fucking USEFUL these research methods are, how sometimes really horrible things produce really amazing and life changing things, and how every day those decisions must be reevaluated. “Sacrifices must be made” is such simplistic bullshit, but I can not fathom how we’d get on without some of the amazing research and therapies and information that comes out of doing things not everyone agrees with.

I firmly believe that even the most staunch OMG DED BABIZ U MURDRER SINETISTS BASTURDS protester, if diagnosed with fast progressing ALS and told “there is promising research that may lead to a halt or reversal in your symptoms” will probably suddenly think that well, okay, maybe just ONE dead baby. That would be okay. One dozen babies in my spine to keep me walking and alive suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, I mean…Just as “NO YOU MUST LIVE WITH WHAT GOD GAVE TO YOU” might think differently about assisted dying. Until you are personally affected, until the decision could conceivably have some import to you personally, your opinion doesn’t carry much weight. You really, really don’t know, CAN’T know, what you really believe until it’s challenged and you face some really fucked up choices. While you’re safe from the consequences of that decision, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions for people who ARE affected. I’m looking at you, old white guys making reproductive rights decisions for women. And you, PETA person. If your kid had cancer, and I told you that 2000 mice have to die in order to give your kid a chance to live? I bet you’d be suddenly less enamored of mousey rights. Maybe skip the hypotheticals and ask people who actually DEAL with the consequence.

*stepping off the soap box*

Oh, idea one point five – saint preserve us from everyone who has “read an article”. Especially off of the internet. You guys pipe down, too. The three panelists do this for a living. They’ve probably read that article. There’s a reason it’s not called out in the slides.

Point two, and the main one, is amazement at the sense of community with ALS peeps. I have met, and kept in touch with, and care about, people I’d never in my life have met otherwise. I’m antisocial (despite what Danielle says (or at least highly socially avoidant)) and it was a bit weird to come to the symposium today and know some of the people there. Simply because we’ve been similarly touched by a disease. Nothing else in common. Just..yeah, I have this disease too, ain’t it shit? Diagnosis comes with an education, and ALS particularly comes with a community. People I see so infrequently, and yet we have something that connects us on a level that no one else could possibly share.

I learned today that a disease is considered “rare” if less than 200,000 Americans have it. The number thrown around for ALS is usually 30,000, but I also learned today that the ALS registry puts it at more like 12,000. That’s really not many. My employer has 17,000 employees in my area, for example. All Americans with ALS are outnumbered by people working in one metro area for one company. So when you find someone else in your area that even remotely understands, you take note of that person and make an effort to keep them around. There’s nothing like being able to share on a deep and intuitive level what you’re going through. Because even though other people might understand on a theoretical level, it’s a completely different thing to find someone that you can just make eye contact with and say, “Fucking ALS.” and they say “yeah.” and …yeah, to their very SOUL they know exactly what you mean. Because fucking ALS. And because you know how shitty it is, you feel similarly compelled to help someone else in the same position to make their situation suck less. So you stick together, and exchange ideas, and cry for each other, and celebrate the triumphs of perfect strangers with whom you only share one horrible, horrible affliction.

So I guess I have a better understanding of why Harry Potter/Supernatural crossover porn forums exist.

Password what?

Yyyyyyyyeah so that last post is locked down because it’s not really appropriate for the public.

I was/am very, very angry about A Thing, and wrote about it. I am angry about Some Things in general, and I also wrote about those because they’re related.

Those will probably get their own post because they’re not specific. The Thing was very specific and angry and name-cally and not really something I should put up here. But I WANT it here, because writing it made me feel a lot better, and I want to remember every piece of this. It borders on libel so it’s private, but it’s a piece of the map. I poured my anger into a post that belongs here, but there are definitely some things I probably shouldn’t say out loud. Which SUCKS! I’m DYING! I should be allowed to say WHATEVER I WANT!

But I realize I can’t. So when I’m gone, that post will be unlocked. <3 Just wanted you to know whyfor that last thing.

Bathroom Bitching

I promise this isn’t really TMI, but I’m gonna talk about the politics of bathroom stalls. And a personality defect of mine, it turns out.

I’m getting weaker; even if DocGos says she doesn’t notice any difference. When we first met, I used to be able to walk up the stairs with two hands full. Now I can’t; I have to have one hand free for the rail, and on no-spoon days I need both. When we first met, I could stand up on my own from sitting in a chair. I really can’t anymore.

Which means I need the handicapped stall now – I need the bars. Well, it’s like the cane – I could probably manage without? For awhile longer? But it’s so much easier with, and why make my life harder just to prove to myself that I can, that I’m still an independent woman who don’t need no man. erm. Bars. Yes. Bars. That’s what I was talking about.

And because I need the bars, I am trying really really hard to not be bitchy about it when someone who clearly does NOT need that stall is in it.

Okay – confession. I have *always* gotten a bit internally bitchy about people using the stalls when they don’t need to. It’s a serious character flaw of mine – I get bent out of shape when people don’t follow The Rules. I get irritated when someone cuts someone else off in traffic. Even if the person cut-off doesn’t even notice. I get irritated when people cut in line, even if I’m not in that line. I get mad when people at work leave their dishes in the bathroom when the stinkin’ break room is LITERALLY ten feet away. I get SO MAD when people don’t break down their fucking cardboard boxes and just leave them in the hallway. It’s because I tend to get really mad on behalf of other people, whether they even realize they’ve been wronged or not. By cutting that guy off, by sneaking in line, by not taking your dishes in, by not breaking down your cardboard and putting it in the recycle area, you are making someone else’s life more difficult because you are a selfish ASSHOLE. Even if it’s just a minor inconvenience, there was still no need for that inconvenience to exist, you just created it because you are a LAZY SELFISH DICK. And so I get mad. Because you are not following The Rules.

…Bitch.

ANYWAY. At work, we have a huge wheelchair stall, and the normal sized one next to it has bars, so it’s awesome and I use that one, because I don’t need the space, just the help up. But consistently – CONSISTENTLY – the wheelchair stall is taken up. By tiny, tiny women. Like, a regular stall would feel large to them, WHY do they need the extra extra space? It’s always been a phenomenon that made me scratch my head, but there’s actually been a couple of times that it’s made me wait. And I try not to get irritated, but seriously.

YOU ARE FIVE FEET TALL AND 80 POUNDS SOAKING WET WHY DO YOU NEED A TEN SQUARE FOOT BATHROOM STALL.

Answer: YOU DON’T.

So when I go in there, and both stalls are taken, I have a choice between using one of the other ones, and then using the freakin’ toilet paper dispenser to pull myself up and hope to GOD it doesn’t come off the wall, or wait. And if I don’t have my cane with me at the moment, then they look at me weird for waiting. But if I DO have my cane, sometimes they have the good grace to look abashed. Usually not – they’re oblivious, because people at my work are very self-involved. See: previous posts about trying to not get knocked the fuck over in the cafe and halls because they’re not paying attention.

I wonder if, when I’m in a chair, I’ll be any more irritated. Maybe I’ll do the passive aggressive thing and put a note on the door: “THERE IS SOMEONE IN THIS BUILDING WHO ACTUALLY NEEDS THIS STALL – DO YOU?!”

In Comic Sans, natch.

Realistically, I probably won’t. I’m really good at ignoring those breaking The Rules when it’s me getting shafted. Though, I did get really irritated this weekend about it – I went to Bingo at an American Legion lodge (looong story) and wound up waiting for ten minutes for the one handicapped stall. The other two were simply too wide, I wouldn’t have been able to brace myself on the walls to stand, they were just too far apart. There was a line, and I as time went by I started to say kinda loudly every time someone asked if I was in line, “Go ahead, I have to wait for the handicapped stall, I need the bars.”

Man, I dunno WHAT she was doing in there. She took her shoes off at one point. I thought she was changing her clothes, but she came out with nothing but herself. And flushed a HOJILLION times and used up most of the toilet paper. I just…man. Yeah. She was old, there’s all kinds of stuff happening there that I don’t even know. Probably best that I don’t know. I just know I had to wait ten minutes to pee and she totally could have used the other stalls.

This is all the beginning of the inconvenience, the social stage of decline, and it will be really interesting to see how I adapt to it when it gets worse. Maybe I really WILL become the Bathroom Stall Avenger. Maybe I’ll just pull an Elsa and let it go. It will be telling, either way. Just as I’m discovering the true character of those around me, I’m discovering what I’m made of, too. I have kindness and patience I didn’t know I possessed, and intolerances I didn’t know I had in me.

I’m building my character even as my body unbuilds itself.

Assistance

(Okay, sorry, it’s been a long time but I knew this post needed to be next and it was really hard to think clearly about. For reasons that will become very clear. This post won’t be a happy one, I wager.)

There’s a chair, a table. The table has three prescription bottles on it. The chair is draped with colorful striped fabric. She enters the screen, sits calmly, and smiles warmly at the camera. She picks up one of the bottles.

“I got my prescription today, to end my life when I see fit.”

She says it with a little difficulty, but it’s ALS, not emotion, that makes it hard to talk. She’s calm. Confident that she’s made the right choice. Beautiful. She explains she’s not going to take it, not today, because life is still too good. She thanks everyone for supporting her decision to choose. She has bulbar onset ALS and while she’s lost the ability to swallow anything, she can still speak; which is good, she says, because she has a lot to say. She puts the bottle on the table, and she tells her viewers how much she loves them all.

She glances at the prescription bottle on the table, almost lovingly, and faces the camera. Her warm smile brightens her face again, she is serene. “It’s a good life,” she says. “Live it.”

______________________________________________________________________

Assisted suicide. Death with Dignity. Voluntary Euthanasia. It’s an extraordinarily controversial topic. It’s something I’ve had strong opinions on ever since I heard of Dr. Kevorkian. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot since ALS became a possibility for me, and it’s been on my mind almost every day lately thanks to Brittany Maynard.

If you’re not familiar, congratulations, you’re probably one of the five people who’ve escaped this story. You can read it here. The short version is, she was diagnosed at 29 with terminal brain cancer, was told she had months to live and an excruciating death waiting for her. So she chose to end her life under her own terms. She openly talked about how she would do it, and knew exactly when. November 1st, she took her medication and died.

It’s polarized the world it seems. Everyone has an opinion. She had the right, she did not. She was choosing to die with grace, she was a coward committing suicide. She was strong and brave, she was thwarting God’s plan for her. Opinions were very strong, debates were very heated, and theoretical relatives were killed daily in debate, by agonized suffering or suicide, and everyone thinks they know what is best. And everyone – EVERYONE – had something to say about it.

And maybe some day someone close to you will need to decide on this option. Maybe an aunt with cancer. A father who gets into a terrible accident with injuries incompatible with life. Or God help them, someone with ALS. If they live in a select handful of places, they will have this option to choose. They will have this conversation several times with a medical professional. And if they choose to die, they will pay an obscene amount of money for a prescription to die, because it is OH MY GOD EXPENSIVE and insurance will not cover it. (Which is stupid, really, you’d think the insurance company would pay YOU to stop costing them so much.) But they get the prescription, and maybe they take it, maybe they don’t. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, whatever opinion you have on the subject, allow me to make one thing abundantly clear for you.

YOU GET NO FUCKING SAY IN THIS DECISION.

Absolutely NONE.

There is no debate. You get to sit the fuck down and shut your face when that person makes that decision. If they ask you how you feel, fine, but know that you do not get ANY fucking say in what they decide. You can have all the arguments in your head that you want. But if someone makes the choice to die, and their doctor agrees? Then it’s done. You have no right to interfere with it. At all. Keep your opinions. Honor their decision. If you disagree, fine, but know that it makes LITERALLY NO DIFFERENCE.

Comfort them in their last hours, support them until their final days, and keep your goddamned opinions to yourself.

_______________________________________________________________________

I was 24 when Jack Kevorkian came into the public’s eye, when he was arrested and then later sentenced for murder because he’d helped terminally ill people to die. “Voluntary euthanasia” they called it then, in all of the court reports and news articles. Now it’s more bluntly called “assisted suicide”. They mean the same thing, but ‘assisted suicide’ has more of an accusatory feel to it and so that’s what people call it now – because Society Does Not Approve.

“It goes against God’s plan,” is the most used argument against it. “This happened for a reason and you are giving up.”

“It’s Death with Dignity,” is the most used argument for it. “It’s a humane close to an inevitable ending.”

And even then, as these two sides yelled at each other and called each other “murderer” and “sadist”, my 24 year old self thought about it with a calm heart and careful deliberation. “If I were ever in great pain and going to die eventually,” I decided, “I would want to kill myself. I think people should have the right to die on their own terms.”

And my 38 year old self thought about it with the same calm and deliberation. “If this turns out to be ALS,” I decided, “I want that option available to me.”

And my ten-days-away-from-being-39 year old self stared at the carpet for a moment, letting the diagnosis wash over me, and I thought about it with calm and deliberation. ” I’m really, really happy that I live in a state where it’s legal. I need to figure out what is my breaking point so that I can get the process started before it’s too late.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Spoiler Alert: I’m going to get that prescription. I am very probably going to take it.

And you know what? There’s not a MOTHERFUCKING THING you get to say to me about it. This is MY choice. This is a step *I* will take if I want to. I know what’s best for me. I know how much I can handle. You don’t. And you don’t get to dictate to me when I can die.

I already know how my story ends. I’ve seen the last chapter, and it’s terrible. I want to be able to close the book before it gets that far. It’s a shitty close to a pretty good story, otherwise. “Died happily, surrounded by loved ones” is a much more kickass end chapter than “died slowly, suffocating and starving, languishing in agony at not being able to interact with those she loves while watching them steadily stop coming by and trying to talk to her because it was sad and awkward”.

You DO have the right to think and feel anything that comes your way. Even if it’s the bullshit idea that “this is God’s plan” which I will NEVER, EVER ACCEPT. If it’s in God’s plan that I should die like this, then God is a jerk. I don’t believe God hates me this much; I just believe that shit happens. And this sucks. And it’s no one’s fault. And that’s okay. There doesn’t need to be a plan or a reason for this. But if you feel there’s some proper reason for this, that’s fine.

I would never dictate to you how you should feel. It’s not my right, and not my place. Your opinions and your feelings are as important to you as mine are to me. Even if you disagree with me, it is entirely your right. I might debate you on logic, but I can’t and I won’t debate you on feelings. I respect your right to disagree with my choice, but that does not give you the right to interfere with it.

I would never presume to tell you how to feel, because I can’t know. But I will tell you not to presume to know, because you can’t feel.

You’re even welcome to share your thoughts and feelings with me. Just know that it’s going to make absolutely NO fucking impact on my choice.

I don’t know what my breaking point will be. It sort of shifts around, some days I think I can live with things that I can’t fathom, other days. And it may well turn out that I don’t think it’s really all that bad, even at the end. It’s amazing what you can get used to, if the change is gradual. I may think that spending my entire life having ten minute conversations that consist of three words is okay, that being an active brain in a meat shell completely at the mercy of everyone around me is a perfectly decent way to live.

I currently think I probably want to die before it gets that far. The last thing I want to leave is an impression of being a burden. Even if it’s not true, I know that I will start to feel like people are resenting me for being useless, that they’re tired of me taking so fucking long to get anything across with my stupid little eyegaze tablet. Even if I know it’s not true – and I do, I know that I’m loved and people would happily shoulder me for as long as I need them to – I know I will feel that way. Because I know me better than anyone. And that might be harder to bear than the humiliation of having my diapers changed. That WILL be harder to bear.

Some days I think that my mind is active enough, I’m solitary enough, that I’d probably be okay to be so isolated, as long as I have a sliver of communication.

Some days I think, when I’m no longer able to eat.

Some days I think, when I can no longer breathe on my own.

Some days I don’t think about it at all.

I just know that I need to do it, if I’m going to, before I’m no longer able to do it on my own. You have to do it yourself. And even if it’s someone putting the meds in a feeding tube and putting your hand over the syringe so the weight of your hand pushes the meds into your stomach, it has to be you. Which is right and proper, because I could never ever ask someone, “Will you help kill me?” Even if I have people who love me enough to be willing to go that far to help, I would never ever ask someone to carry that burden. It has to be under my own power.

And it could very well be that I’ll get that prescription and never use it. I’ve been told that many more people get it than use it. And that’s okay. But I want the choice to be mine. And I want that option. I want that right, and that power. That decision belongs to me.

And when I die, be it by time or by chemical, you guys can do whatever you want to celebrate or mourn me; throw a party, get drunk, burn my sticker collection. My funeral will be for you – but my death is all about ME. You can decide to celebrate or curse me however you like when I’m gone, it makes no difference because I’ll be absent. And you can celebrate or curse my choice, and it makes no difference, because you’ll be absent. It’s the last and most intimate experience anyone ever has on this earth, and it’s personal and private. Sacred. No one can encroach on that space. No one should ever think they somehow get the right to think they can tell me how to die.

You only get to decide for yourself whether you take my decision on death with dignity.

INTERNET uses ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE! It’s SUPER EFFECTIVE!

(edit: Oh my dear, precious, sweet sensitive children. How ANGRY you all are. I didn’t write this in perfect seriousness, which I would HOPE was obvious (hyperbole is fun and mental! It’s fundamental!) but I also don’t expect to actually convert anyone to the cause with it. I don’t use gentle, persuasive tones in this piece because I’m not trying to be gentle or persuasive. It’s not a rally, it’s a rant.)

Seriously, world, why all the hate?

I realize that humans are hateful, spiteful creatures and will find a reason to hate on even the most innocuous things.

Awww a sweet boy-meets-girl love story! WHERE IS THE REPRESENTATION FOR THE GAY COMMUNITY!? Uh. Okay. Here’s a sweet boy-meets-boy love story then! WHY ARE YOU SO GENDER BINARIST? HUH? Okay…here’s a ..person meets person love story? WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE OF COLOR AND THE DIFFERENTLY ABLED CHARACTERS? Well I only wrote this with two people total… OH SO YOU ARE BIASED AGAINST POLYAMORY HUH? AND WHAT ABOUT THE ASEXUALS? THIS IS VERY OFFENSIVE.

Seriously, people, calm yo tits.

YOU ARE ASSUMING I AM FEMALE. I AM OFFENDED.

No I’m assuming you’re a bitch.

THAT IS INCREDIBLY SEXIST AND YOUR BLOG IS PROBLEMATIC.

Well my LIFE is problematic, fucker, so what. But while you’re here and angry, my little social justice warrior, let me explain the difference between ACTIVISM and SLACKTIVISM. And why the Ice Bucket Challenge is both, and why that’s okay. (tl;dr – IT IS OKAY BECAUSE IT IS FUCKING EFFECTIVE)

I have a deep-seated hatred for a lot of ‘awareness’ campaigns. I feel you. I cringe when I see pink ribbon bullshit on everything (SERIOUSLY SUSAN G. KOMEN IS AWFUL AND YOU SHOULD NOT GIVE THEM YOUR MONEY). I am actually ANGRY when those stupid games inevitably make their way around on Facebook again, where some girl sends a facebook message to all the other girls on her friends list asking them to post their bra color, or their handbag color, or shoe size, and not explain what that is or why. Let me run this by you:

22!

18!

10!

7!

293495!

…Are you now aware of breast cancer being a problem?

Well, yes, because EVERYONE IS AWARE OF BREAST CANCER. EVERYONE ON FACEBOOK KNOWS WHAT IT IS AND THAT IT IS TERRIBLE. But seeing a string of numbers on your friends feed does NOTHING. Except piss me off, because you’re wasting my time AND feeling smug about it.

This is slacktivism. “Post this status in honor of everyone you know who has died of cancer!” Okay, that does NOTHING. “Sign this online petition!” That does NOTHING. “Retweet this!” NOTHING. Nothing has changed because of you. When you post pictures of abused animals, you are actually HURTING your cause, because I do not like to see that and I will defriend your ass so fast you’ll see smoke.

Protip: If you are friends with the sort of people who need to be told that animal abuse is bad, YOU NEED NEW FRIENDS.

I can see why you might be tempted into Ice Bucket Challenge hate. But let’s see if I can’t calm yo tits FOR you. Hakuna your tatas, as it were:

1. “How does dumping water on your head cure a disease?” It doesn’t. Shut up. No one thinks it does.

2. “This is wasting perfectly good water.” Uh..we can’t send this one bucket of ice water to Africa. Just like the crusts from your sandwiches when you were a kid, this particular act of waste is not taking food/water directly out of the mouth of a person who needs it. If you want to be outraged about water shortages, go write a letter to Nestle and tell them to stop bottling water from drought regions and selling it.

3. “You bought that ice instead of just making some, you could have given that $2 to charity.” True. I also bought this soda, and this shirt, and my bus ticket to get to work. I have a LOT of money I could have given to charity. I didn’t. I’m just not that much of a saint. And neither are you. Until I see you selling your shoes to give the proceeds to charity, until I NEVER see you with a Starbucks in your hand or a store-bought lunch, you can shut it.

4. Most of the videos don’t explain what ALS is. No. Most of them are 7 seconds long, and it takes that fucking long to SAY Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, never mind saying what the fuck it IS.

5. “You’re dumping water on your head rather than donating money”. That’s not necessarily true. In the original bet, it was an either/or. It’s evolved into an AND situation. You don’t get visibility into the bank accounts of the people involved, so you don’t get to see that part and don’t know for a fact that they aren’t. But a lot of people ARE. See #6. Also? There are some little kids doing this. Last I checked, 6 year olds don’t have $100.

6. “This is not doing anything to raise awareness.” You, sir, are a liar. And you should feel bad. Or maybe you’re so wrapped up in your cocoon of IBC hatred that you’ve not seen anything about the RESULTS. So let me educate you:

Today, the ALS Association reported that they have received donations totaling over 22.9 million dollars.

Last year by this time, they’d received 1.9.

Let me do the math for you.

In the last two weeks, the ALS Association has received ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED PERCENT OF ITS USUAL DONATIONS.

ONE.

THOUSAND.

TWO HUNDRED.

PERCENT.

I have no statistic on how much of an increase OTHER ALS charities have seen. Oh wait, let me google that shit for you. Project ALS has raised $96,000 in a single weekend. Team Gleason isn’t reporting, but I know damned well they’ve seen a spike from co-opting this meme (bastards). The MND Association has certainly seen an upswing in donations.

The OTHER thing you don’t see?

Millions of people watching these videos, wondering what the hell ALS is, and then googling it. And learning.

THERE is your awareness, bitches. In these last two weeks, if even a THOUSAND people became aware of ALS without having been directly affected by it (because that’s cheating), then I’d consider it safe to say awareness has been raised. But tens of thousands of people now know what ALS is, when a month ago they were ignorant. And MILLIONS have heard the name.

How the fuck can you hate that?

You can’t.

Sit down. Shut up. Watch the fucking videos. Laugh. Donate some goddamn money. Lighten the fuck up.

ICE BUKKIT LOLZ

I’ve been getting OH SO MANY links to videos of people doing the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. And just as many questions about how do I feel about this?

…That’s complicated.

If you’re somehow unaware of this whole thing, the ORIGINAL idea was put forth by a guy – NOT PETE FRATES, he did NOT start this, okay? – who challenged a friend to *EITHER* donate $100 to ALS research *OR* dump a bucket of ice water on his head. Once you do it, you call out three friends to do the same.

And it’s the EITHER/OR part that gives me mixed feelings.

People have missed the original intent. It’s gone beyond – with people just…dumping a bucket of ice water on themselves. Proudly showing the world that they *won’t* donate to ALS research, I guess? In fact they would literally rather pour ice water over their heads than give money to a charity. According to the original rules.

The most amazing star power has taken this up, and I really really really hope they’ve missed the point and are doing BOTH ice dump AND donate, because if Martha fucking Stewart won’t even slide ALS research a Benjamin? Seriously fucked up. But for the most part, it’s just become this machismo WOOOO ICE BUCKET YAY LOOKIT ME egofest. I’m really happy that nearly all of the celebrities I’ve seen do this make a point of calling it the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and asked people to donate money to the ALS Association.

..except Steve Gleason. Fuck that guy. His “No White Flags” charity is a good one, but in his challenge video he’s co-opted it for his own fucking charity instead of the actual ALS Association, WHICH IS WHERE THE MONEY BELONGS. NO WHITE FLAGS, NO THUNDER STEALING, ASSHOLES.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has gathered a LOT of hate, too. “This is so fucking stupid. How does dumping ice on your head cure ALS? ”

Uh. It doesn’t. Which, No shit? No one really thinks brainfreeze will magically fix a terminal disease.

Is this promoting awareness that ALS even exists?

YES.

Holy SHIT yes. It’s completely unlike all of those stupid goddamned breast cancer awareness games on Facebook (“post the size of your shoe with a frowny face! teehee! Don’t tell anyone what it means!” HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK IS IT PROMOTING AWARENESS IF YOU ARE ACTIVELY REFUSING TO EXPLAIN WHAT YOU ARE DOING, YOU DUMB BITCHES) – promoting ‘awareness’ to something I’m pretty goddamned sure people are already aware of. Seriously. WHO HAS NOT SEEN THE MOTHERFUCKING PINK RIBBONS BEFORE. YES WE KNOW ABOUT BREAST CANCER K THX. (BTW SUSAN G. KOMEN IS A COMPLETE BULLSHIT CHARITY PLEASE STOP GIVING THEM MONEY, YOUR PRECIOUS PINK RIBBONS AREN’T HELPING DO SHIT. (Seriously Google that shit. They are terrible and have terrible policies. Don’t give your money to a ‘nonprofit’ that pays its CEO more than the motherfucking President of the United States.) )

Unlike breast cancer, ALS NEEDS an awareness campaign. I’ve often bemoaned the fact that NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THE FUCK ALS EVEN IS. Including ME before I was diagnosed. This is how it went when I told people before:

“I have ALS.”

*blank look*

*sigh* “…Lou Gehrig’s Disease?”

(half the time another blank look, but sometimes:) “I’ve…heard of that? I think? Is that bad?”

“It’s going to kill me slowly by turning me into a meat shell and then suffocating me, so yeah, it’s pretty bad.”

And now thanks to this whole ridiculous thing, I’m finding the conversation going like this:

“I have ALS.”

“Oh, shit, I’ve heard of that, that ice bucket challenge is going around. That’s pretty fucking serious, isn’t it? I’m sorry!”

It’s still not common to find someone who knows exactly what it is, but it’s a pretty good goddamned start. ALS doesn’t have a sexy celebrity spokesperson or a beloved childhood actor suffering from it, there’s no “star power” to my disease. The best we have is Stephen Hawking, and half the time people don’t even know who HE is, even after you say, “The scientist guy? In a wheelchair and talks with a robot voice? *sigh* He was on an episode of South Park?” And because human beings are FUCKING TERRIBLE ANIMALS, without ‘star power’, no one gives a shit.

Even though people have completely missed the point (except for example Jimmy Fallon, I fucking love his challenge video), it’s still getting word out that ALS is a thing. A thing that deserves attention and money and time. And thanks to this stupid meme, the ALS Association has seen a DRAMATIC upswing in donations. There’s been SUCH an upswing in donations lately, SO many people hitting the ALS wiki, that it’s goddamned inspiring.

And I just can’t hate that.

“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.