Craving College

It’s graduation season again, which means I am once again feeling a little envious.

I have accepted that I am ill and will remain so for the rest of my life unless there is some sort of cure discovered in my lifetime. It’s okay, I can and do still have a good life for the most part. I don’t generally waste much time wondering what could have been had I not had these illnesses.

That all being said; when it is graduation season and I see photos of all my friends graduating from various prestigious colleges I do get sad and jealous. Then I feel guilty for feeling jealous.

I have never been well enough to complete any college classes. In fact, since my health first really started going downhill a decade ago there have been only two years of school that I completed without significant absences. Eighth grade and tenth grade.

I want to go to college to study Biology and specialize in Genetics. I would love to be able to contribute to the research affecting the connective tissue disorders community.

Currently I am looking at various not-for-profit online colleges. Online college still takes a lot of energy; a brain that is hard at work uses A LOT of energy points. However, at least there is not the extra energy loss from traveling to school, sitting upright in uncomfortable lecture halls and labs, florescent lighting, and traversing campus to get from class to class. Having the option to stay in your pajamas and attend class from your favorite recliner sounds good to me.

I am not enrolled anywhere yet, just looking at some options.

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Prepping for Flight

I haven’t done any airplane travel in a year and a half. I only ever fly to go visit extended family in the Midwest, and we don’t get the chance to do that super often. Well, next month I am finally going with my mom and siblings to go visit all our relatives again.

Which means it’s time to…

Plan What to Pack!

I used to try to pack as little as possible, but that was when I was a little kid with no medical supplies and even less concern for my physical appearance than I have now.

Now I need to make sure I pack all my medications, hydration mix, tube feed supplies, tape for my joints, comfy clothes, compression socks, hot/cold packs, and whatever mobility aids I deem necessary.

Haven’t decided if I want to bring my own wheelchair or not. Wanda is a pretty sweet ride, but I would worry about it getting damaged by the airline. However, I would not be able to enjoy shopping days with my aunts very much without a wheelchair.

I have almost a month to figure it all out, so it should be fine. I know the trip will be tiring, but it will be worth it to see family. I haven’t seen my grandparents in a long time, and my cousin has a six month old baby who I have not gotten to meet yet.

A Good Day

I had a good, productive day yesterday. I got out to see friends, helped out a teenager with EDS/Dysautonomia that I have been watching a few hours a week while his mom is out running errands (he is a fall risk and can’t be alone), and came up with another embroidery design to work on. Also took Ollivander to the backyard on his harness, which he thoroughly enjoyed. It was an absolutely gorgeous day out and he got to warm his fur in the sun while he watched the birds. Next time I will take pictures of the little floofball.

Doesn’t mean I wasn’t in pain, I was hurting all day, but I can have good days anyway. If I waited for a pain-free day to go out and enjoy myself I would be waiting forever. I go out anyway and enjoy the world so my mind isn’t as focused on the pain. I do reach a point where I have to stop and rest, but that is better than just staying home all the time out of fear of exerting myself.

Yes, I have been in bed for most of today, resting and recovering, but I plan on going out for at least a little bit later. It’s a balancing act. Some days I am better at it than others.

A Change in Diagnosis?

Had my yearly check up with my connective tissue disorder doctor today, just got home about an hour ago.

Good news! My aorta is still doing fine!

My doctor decided today to reclassify me as having Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Hypermobility Type) instead of Marfan Syndrome. So yay, not likely to need heart surgery in the future! We are going to keep an eye on my heart just in case, but it’s less of a concern now. EDS is still a connective tissue disorder, and still accounts for all my joint pain/hypermobility, fatigue, and coexisting conditions. I’m still likely to have increasing problems with my joints as I age. Really the only thing that has changed is that I don’t need to be so concerned about my heart.

I know Dr. L gave me reasons as to why he decided to change my diagnosis, but honestly right now I am so achy and brain-foggy that I don’t remember what the reasons were. Curse you brain fog!

He likes my way of coping with the condition (I explained to him that it is thanks to Martina Stawski) and he wants me to talk at one of the panels at this year’s Marfan Foundation Conference in July (the Foundation also deals with related disorders like EDS). I was already planning on going to the conference anyways and I would love to help spread Martina’s message to more people! I suppose I could see if Martina herself wants to speak at the conference, but she lives all the way in Japan, so I don’t know how feasible that is. I will try to email her though.

All in all I had a good day today.

Now it is time to go take a nap with my cat because I have a headache and he is a cute ball of floof.

Keep Building Those Ladders Folks! ❤

Accessibility Ignorance

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[image description: a parking space with the disabled access symbol painted on it. The space has been blocked off by fencing and is covered in construction debris]

This is what the disabled parking spaces in a shopping center near me have looked like for the past six months! There is construction being done to the facades of some of the shops, and the construction company for some reason decided that fencing off all of the disabled spaces was fine. I am not even sure if any construction is even still actively being done or if funds have run out and the project is on hold.

I realize some people out there may not understand why this matters. So let me break it down for you all:

Disabled parking spaces are positioned right at the front, which means:

  • We can expend less energy getting ourselves into the store and then back out to our car later; saving us from extra fatigue and pain.
  • Those of us using wheelchairs don’t have to navigate crowded parking lots where drivers might not see us because being seated makes us lower to the ground.
  • There is a cutout in the curb

Disabled parking spaces also have extra space around them, which means:

  • space in which to load and unload our wheelchairs/walkers/scooters/etc. from our cars
  • some disabled folks use a ramp to get in and out of their car in their wheelchair and need that space to unfold the ramp. Otherwise, they can’t get out of the car.
  • Not having to try to squeeze between two parks cars while using a wheelchair/walker/scooter/crutches/etc. in order to get to the sidewalk. We can’t always fit between two closely parked cars. Even if we can we have to worry about our mobility aid scratching the cars or getting snagged on one of the cars and breaking something off of our mobility aid.

I am not a full-time wheelchair user. Sometimes I walk with a cane or a rollator. Around my own home I usually walk unaided unless I am having a really bad pain or fatigue day. I use my wheelchair (named Wanda) so I can go on longer outings. Wanda gives me the ability to stay go out and enjoy the world much more than I could if I had to try to walk everywhere.

^ Point being; I can unload my wheelchair out onto the sidewalk if I really have to, though I get a bit winded doing so. No matter whether I am walking or using my wheelchair; the further away from the store I have to park the more energy I have to expend and the more symptomatic I will get before even getting into the store. Parking up front means I am much more likely to be able to complete my errands before I get too worn out and have to go home.

I looked for a sign on the fence with the name and phone number of the construction company, but there wasn’t one. Is there somewhere else I should call about this? The city hall offices perhaps?

Couldn’t they have at least temporarily marked out the next closest set of spaces as disabled parking spaces and loading zones until the construction is finished? I feel like that would have been a reasonable solution.

Depressed? I guess?

It isn’t that stereotypical “sad and crying all the time” depressed that people without depression imagine. It’s that “emotional equivalent of watching paint dry” kind of depressed where you don’t enjoy all the things that you usually would and so you kind of just space out and go on autopilot through everything.

Doing volunteer work twice a week and exercising at the gym a few times a week had been making me really happy. It made me feel capable and like I was contributing something.

About a month ago my pain got worse and I had to take a hiatus from those activities. I was hoping I would only need to stop for a week, but it is taking longer. I am back in physical therapy and getting my joints realigned is going to make my pain worse before it can get better.

I guess it all just has me feeling despondent about the future and what kind of life I will lead if I never get to go to college or have a career due to my health. I know I will make things work no matter what, but I am feeling down about it anyways.

Probably also doesn’t help that I have my yearly Marfan Clinic heart check up coming up on March 7th. That’s the appointment where they take an echocardiogram of my heart and tell me whether or not my aorta has dilated further. So far, the past two years, it has stayed the same size; just slightly larger than normal. I take my meds and avoid lifting heavy things. However, I have been trying to be more active in the past year and I am nervous that it will have made my aorta enlarge. If it ever gets too large I will need open heart surgery. I have accepted that I might need that surgery someday. Doesn’t mean I am super stoked about it though.

I just want to get the appointment over with so that I will know how my heart is doing and if I need to change anything in regards to treatment.

So close to deleting this post before I even publish it because I hate how mopey it sounds. Only publishing the blog posts that end on an upbeat note would be censoring myself and painting an unrealistic portrait of what living with illness and disability is like; so it gets to be posted.

Ramblings/Life Update

*in radio advertiser voice* “Today’s blog is brought to you by brain fog! It’s like a Winter morning in San Francisco, but a lot less pretty…”

I’ve been in a pain flare up for the past several weeks, which hasn’t been fun, but I am coping. I started seeing a new physical therapist who is trying to get my joints back in alignment and loosen up my tight muscles.

The way she explained it is that my muscles are trying to overcompensate for my weak joints and that is why they get so cramped up. My muscles have been tight my entire life, so I don’t know what it feels like to have muscles that aren’t constantly in knots.

I wish my house had a functional bathtub that I could take epsom salt baths in when I feel like this. Unfortunately, our’s makes water drip into the foyer whenever we use it, so we use the downstairs shower. I do have a nice shower chair at least.

I could start seeing a massage therapist, but I doubt that is covered by Medicare and I don’t know if I can fit it into my budget. I will look into it though. I have a friend with Lupus who sees a massage therapist locally. She is on a fixed income like me so I can ask her how she pays for it.

I have had to take a break from my volunteer work during this pain flare up, but I hope I can return to it soon.

Still no college for me either, but I am not giving up on that dream yet. Maybe once I get a service dog it will be easier to give college another go.

I am on the wait-list with CCI for team training. When my turn comes around I will go live on a CCI campus for two weeks to get matched with a dog and train with them. It will be exhausting, but hopefully at the end of it I will have a dog that can stick by my side and help me gain a little more independence. No idea when I will get the call. Could be any time in the next year and a half. I have a feeling it will be some time in 2018, but I could be wrong.

Haven’t started archiving Dad’s photos yet, but I will once I feel a little better.

All in all I am doing okay:

  • I have great friends and family who are always there for support.
  • J is as sweet and caring as always. We’ve been together for seven and a half years and have lived together for almost a year.
  • Ollivander remains my devoted feline companion. He is snuggled up next to me now as I type.
  • I am signed up for a painting class at the local art center starting next month. It has been a long time since I have taken an art class, so I am excited for that. The teacher is an old friend of mine and I have taken classes from her before, it will be nice to see her again.
  • I have a car and wheelchair that are both 100% mine that help me to be more independent.
  • I am getting pretty good at machine sewing considering I have only really been doing it for six months!
  • Some friends of mine are getting married next month and I am going to help them make some of the decorations!

[always nice to reflect a little on things that are going right in my life. there is more to my life than my illness and when it knocks me down like this it is good to remember that I do have good days and this pain will go back down to a more manageable level eventually. it is okay to get frustrated and sulk a little sometimes, but then I have to pick myself back up.]