Category Archives: advocacy

Interview with Pat Guerre: on Kneading Hope Organization, Rare Disease Day in DC, Scleroderma, and CRPS

Hello everyone!

Today we have a special treat as Pat Guerre, co-founder of the Kneading Hope Organization has agreed to an interview. Pat recently returned from Washington DC where he spent Rare Disease Week. We at abodyofhope blog are so grateful that Pat Guerre is opening up about his Rare Disease Day experiences, his art, and non-profit work.

I was introduced to Pat through his incredible wife, Gina Raring-Guerre, who many reading may already know. She was a member of my support group Living with RSD, and she has gone on to become a strong voice in the CRPS, Scleroderma, and Rare disease community, along with her partner and husband, Pat. I can’t wait for you to hear their story!

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Hello Pat! Welcome! It’s a pleasure to have you joining us, and filling us in on your work and latest trip to Washington.


1. Firstly, what is Kneading Hope?

Pat: I suppose I should go back a bit. In 2013, my wife Gina, who suffers from both RSD/CRPS and Scleroderma was down to a weight only someone on their death bed should be, and her doctors confirmed exactly that. Being an artist, I began painting 12″ X 12″ hearts to fill her room and share my love with her. They prescribed her medications we couldn’t afford, and her insurance would not cover them. That’s when our fundraising art project was born called “10,000 Hearts for Gina”.

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In 2016, I submitted a work to Rare Disease Art and was awarded an Artistic Merit Award. I flew to Washington DC to be part of the reception, and it changed my life.

After my trip, I decided to participate in almost all of the events that the EveryLife Foundation had arranged for the week. I listened and learned about the rare disease community and all of their concerns. I still think about those who may or may not still be with us today. I remember parents so determined, yet afraid, trying to keep a brave face to hide their pain. It touched me completely. When we walked Capital Hill, a patient I was walking with started talking to me about patients like herself, the caregivers, and why we were all there together.

I got home from that trip changed.

I decided that after years of staying home and sharing my artwork with a few, I could do more. So with my wife Gina, and a few friends we started Kneading Hope to try and reach out. We don’t target the advocacy end of things, but the patients, caregivers, and families of people with rare diseases.

We have three main goals. Number one, awareness, and funding of other issues, through the 10,000 Hearts for Gina project, of RSD/CRPS and Scleroderma, as well as other rare diseases. Secondly, using art to raise awareness of all rare diseases through an online presence and art shows. And third, figuring out how to give caregivers some kind of respite.

We are new, we are learning, and we will continue, dedicated in this work. We also send parts of the 10,000 Hearts for Gina project out to patients, caregivers, and medical facilities and their staff to make people aware. Awareness is where it begins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. How did you get involved with Kneading Hope and advocacy?

I started Kneading Hope because I went to DC to show my art. There were so many people advocating and I was inspired by their dedication. I decided to go into the community based nonprofit. We didn’t start Kneading Hope as an advocacy group, we do however believe that knowing what’s happening in that realm, can only help educate, and let people know there is hope out there. 

We feel that Kneading Hope’s purpose as well as financial commitments are better served in local endeavors and supporting other groups that do the advocacy. We advocate as individuals, and that is often a difficulty financially. But, If everyone focused on advocacy and no one went out into the community, I don’t feel people would be served as they need to be, so we are looking into community-based issues such as art therapies, caregiver support issues and respite for them, as well as art as a way to focus on the diseases and the stories behind it.

3. Why did you go to Washington DC for Rare Disease Week?

As I mentioned above, it is important to be informed, so as we go out into the community, we can let people know there are folks trying to help them. The info shared, not only on the legislative side, but also the medical and research side, is often overwhelming, but also important to understand. I also find that getting together with other organizations and networking with them brings all of us closer together to share ideas and thoughts to further all of our goals.

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4. Did you meet with anyone of interest? If so, whom? 

I have to say that this is kind of a funny question to me as I grew up in Los Angeles and have met many famous people. Both in film and music, so I have been raised to just realize people are people. It takes a lot for me to consider someone a person of importance, yet this year, as well as last year, I did feel there were people of importance I met.

Last year, it was Representative Brownley of California’s 26th district. It was amazing. As we talked I learned that she had recently lost a colleague to Scleroderma. It was a very close emotional conversation and she has been a close ally to the rare disease community since being on Capital Hill. That was impactful because she understood, at least half of, what Gina and I have been through.

This year was a bit different. There were two guys there who suffer from Freidreich’s Ataxia who were involved with a bike race called The Ataxian, which we watched the documentary of. These 2 guys, Kyle Bryant and Sean Baumstark, accomplished the impossible. They, along with 2 other team mates, did the Race Across America and rode 3,000 miles in less than 9 days.

Pat pictured center with stars of “The Ataxian” documentary

Their inspiration, motivation, laughter, and caring for everyone, was the biggest interest for me. It is folks like this, that unless you are familiar with their disease, you would never know about. They, and what they are doing, is why I go to DC. There are countless others that are of interest, and inspirational, and so full of ideas, courage and hope, it makes the whole trip worthwhile.

These along with the researchers, people in academia, as well as all others, including the artists at the Rare Artists Reception, are truly the ones I am most interested in and their stories, struggles, and determination to make a change. They far outweigh any person you might think is of interest on Capital Hill.

They are what keeps me going.

 

5. What was the highlight of your DC trip?

I honestly have to say that I always walk into situations with an open mind, not knowing what to expect. I think one thing will stand out, and yet it’s always something else that gets me. This trip was no exception. There were 2 things that really grabbed me that I can say were highlights.

The first was the Conference and discussion on Genetic research and Gene therapy at the NIH (National Institute of Health). Though Gina’s diseases are considered autoimmune diseases, the topics the panels spoke on were incredible. The speed that the research is advancing in is amazing and I was happy to see that one of Gina’s diseases, RSD/CRPS, is actually being studied at the NIH. They are looking into its genetic markers. It is very upcoming research and it seems the possibilities of early detection, possible treatments, and possibly cures, are on the edge of being discovered.

The second, was after the NIH conference, walking around the mall, in the rain, and happening upon The Disabled Veterans Memorial. Though it is intended for disabled war vets, the words written on that memorial spoke volumes after such an intense week. Two of my favorite quotes I read that night were, “It’s not what you have lost that counts, it’s what you do with what’s left,” and “We start by not thinking so much anymore about what we have lost. You must think about what you have left…and what you can do with it.”

 

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Disabled Veterans Memorial Plaque

 

6. What is something you learned in Washington that will likely impact your work this year?

I remember my first conference last year in DC. We sat at a table, and a gentleman named Tony Pena, who was the Vice President of Cure AHC asked if we were new to the conference. He obviously knew we were new there, as I was like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. He so gently said that everyone would guide us through it and not to worry because they had been doing this for years, and they still didn’t know everything.

 

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That is what makes being there so important. Every year there are new issues. New legislation. New ideas. And most importantly, new people. Yet this year I learned more than anything- we can’t do this alone. We all need to work together, collaborate, support and hold each other up. I truly felt this year, that all of us are not a rare disease community, but rather a rare disease family. We all have our own issues, but together, speaking as one group, we are truly a force to be heard. Our needs are not individual, but are all important and need to be addressed as one voice because it is hard to ignore one disease or the other when we all speak as one.

 

7. In Your Opinion, what is the greatest challenge the rare disease community or patients with rare diseases face today?

I have to say that the challenges are great and cannot be addressed with one simple answer. There are over 7,000 rare diseases and over 30 million people in the US diagnosed with a rare disease. Some have large groups of people affected, still less than 200,000 (in each condition), and some with only 3 or 4 people per condition. This causes some major hurdles and challenges in the rare disease community.

The 1st thing that comes to mind for me, is diagnosis. With our country being so large, and so few experts in any one field of rare diseases, it is a critical need to get proper diagnosis. This is often the most difficult task as far as the medical end of things go. Doctors may not be aware of a disease and misdiagnose it. Patients that do have doctors who know and admit it is beyond their knowledge may recommend the closest experts, although those experts may have no idea of the disease. This can go on for years with diagnosis after diagnosis and never actually getting to the actual diagnosis.

Early diagnosis and proper treatment, if there is any, is critical for health and quality of life. One must remember that with over 7,000 rare diseases, only 5% have FDA approved drugs or treatment. With that being said, early treatment of the symptoms can help tremendously.

Next is the size of the patient pool of any 1 rare disease. It is not hard to see how breast cancer gets huge publicity and funding and something like Pemphigus or Alpha 1, or even GoodPasture Syndrome is not ever heard of in the main stream. There are hundreds if not thousands of diseases that no one has heard of. Awareness of diseases is of the utmost importance, in my opinion, because the more people that are aware of it, the more they can gain support, and those willing to fund research.

 

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8. If Someone reading would like to get involved in rare disease awareness or chronic illness advocacy, how can they get plugged in?

There are many great organizations that do advocacy. On the rare disease side, NORD (National Organization of Rare Diseases) is an amazing group. There is also Global Genes and The EveryLife Foundation that do great work. Many individual groups specific to a disease are often great resources as well. Many of the issues these groups advocate for can have incredible effects for many diseases, not just rare diseases.

I also would say that getting involved with a support group, whether online or in your community is also beneficial. I actually got involved because someone sent the info for the Rare Disease Artist’s contest which I had never heard of before. Through that interaction, I was exposed to so many amazing groups.

If you are so inclined, form your own group and research state or federal issues. Spread the word to those in your group/s. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask other groups that you may not be affiliated with. Most people are more than willing to give you info or advice. I always say that the worst info or advice is that which you are not aware of.

 

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Disabled Veteran’s Memorial

 

9. What can the average person do to help make a difference in policies effecting health?

From my own interactions with people in congress and their staff, as well as on the state level, it is actually reaching out to them. I used to think writing a letter and never getting a response meant it was forgotten, but after talking with these folks, you learn that they are dealing with hundreds of issues. You need to let them know, or remind them, as they will say, the issues are real and need to be dealt with.

I am a big proponent of the Rare Disease Legislative Caucus and would love to see every senator and congressperson in Washington become a member. Not only will it show how important the issues of the rare disease community are, it will also show how a bipartisan, bicameral committee can get together. Write a letter to your senator and congressperson and either thank them or encourage them to join the caucus. It is growing and is impressive. The link to see if your senator or congressperson is on it can be found here http://rareadvocates.org/rarecaucus/#tab-id-1.

 

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10. What is your next venture?

Since Kneading Hope is a new venture, we are looking to expand our reach and impact. For the first time, we will be showing the 10,000 Hearts for Gina project and raising funds for 2 organizations. We are also trying to start up a couple of small local programs. One will be involving art therapies, and for the other, I have started attending a caregiver support group to find out how we can offer respite to caregivers and meet caregiver’s needs. This is an important part of our work.

We also intend to work with another organization to start an online gallery, and perhaps curate art shows of work from all aspects of the rare disease community to raise awareness through stories and works, as well as raise funds through awareness and research projects.

 

11. What would you like to tell us about 10,000 Hearts for Gina?

I just want you all to know that this has been an incredible journey. I have been at it for 5 years now and could never have imagined where it has taken me. It is something I share with everyone. I really think that doing something bigger than you ever could imagine is what it is all about. Sharing the works with patients, caregivers, hospitals and doctors has been about the most emotional thing I have ever done and will continue to do through Kneading Hope.

It has been an honor to be able to share some love, light, and hope through the work. Sometimes it is painstakingly difficult as every work brings thoughts of those suffering, those lost, and those who haven’t been diagnosed, but it is all of them, and their strength, that keeps me going. It truly is their project, whether they know it or not.

 

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Would you like to leave us with anything else?

I just want to tell everyone that you matter. Your voice matters, so never be afraid to speak up. Kneading Hope is dedicated to doing what we can for as many people as we can so please reach out to us if you have any requests or ideas. We are building this organization and want your feedback. Also, if you know someone who is down and out and could use a little light, love, and hope, don’t be afraid to ask us to send them a heart. We will try and get out as many as we can under our circumstances. Sometimes it might just change someone’s outlook and let them know they are not alone in their struggles.

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Please support Pat and Gina Raring-Guerre by following and liking their pages, and thank you for sharing to help them spread the word!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KneadHope/ 

Instagram: @KneadingHope1

website: kneadinghope.org 

email: info@kneadinghope.org

Donate to Kneading Hope 

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“Shape me Yet Anew” Poem by Mary Jane Gonzales

SHAPE ME YET ANEW
Father God, I pray
That you would shape me yet anew,
As this pot is cracked and broken
And un-beautiful to you.
Lord, I feel as if you’ve started
With a fresh supply of clay
And I’m spinning on the wheel
And my life’s begun to sway.
When you’ve shaped me in your image
And you put me in the kiln,
In the furnace of affliction
To be set and processed still,
Let the outcome be for glory,
Let on-lookers stop and gasp.
“How did He make this from nothing?”
Let the people stop and ask.
Let the beauty draw attention
To the artist and His work.
Give me beauty and a purpose, Lord,
Of which I would not shirk.
As it is with real life pottery,
A pitcher or a vase,
Make me useful to the Master
In the setting where I’m placed.

-Mary Jane Gonzales

 

JEREMIAH 18:4 (NIV)
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

 

This is from Mary Jane Gonzales’s book, Poetic Devotions for Those in Pain. I absolutely love this book of hers. The words are simple, but each poem has a profound message.
She told me that her poems are actually her prayers. After her chronic pain began, she could no longer pray as she had before… her emotional and physical pain were far too burdensome and overwhelming. 
Then she started speaking her prayers to the Lord through song and verse; that’s how she began writing books. Ten in full!
It’s incredibly intimate that she shares them with us. I find it so powerful being allowed to read one’s inner most private prayers to our Heavenly Father. It’s such a privilege. It feels as though she wrote the words written on my own heart. 
Her permission was given to share any of her poetry here, and today as her family holds a Celebration of her Life, I’ll be sharing some of her beautiful poetry with you to celebrate her life and work.  Please join me in praying for Jane’s family as they say goodbye, and I pray we as the chronic illness community can honor her legacy and continue her incredible work as the strong advocate she was. 
Purchase her ebooks here on her book page. If you can’t afford it at this time but would still love to read one of her books, please email me, and I’ll be happy to gift you a free book. abodyofhope@mail.com

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Mary Jane Gonzales

Mary Jane Gonzales, one of the greatest voices for CRPS/RSD and chronic pain awareness has passed away after battling Complex Regional Pain Syndrome for over 25 years.

She passed away on January 21st, 2018 from complications of chronic illness. She turned 70 this past year.

Jane authored several inspiring books (linked below), her Facebook page Poetic Hearts remains open, and her blog, http://LifethroughPoetryandProse.simplesite.com has an abundance of Jane’s articles on Chronic Pain. You can leave a comment on her blog or her Facebook Timeline for her family if you’d like.

She was a poet, an artist, mother, grandmother, and one of my closest friends.
I’m not exactly sure how to proceed, or how to honor her memory properly yet.
But, I want to invite you, if you have a personal story about Jane, a memory, artwork, a poem, etc. Please email it to me at abodyofhope@mail.com
I need your help. I’m organizing a month-long tribute to share her life, and your messages will be at the center.
Maximum 800 words, no minimum

She will be missed by so many. But she left so much behind for us all to remember her and what she stood for.

If you have followed this blog, you’ll already be familiar with Mary Jane Gonzales. Read more about her and her books below, an article I wrote about her 2 years ago as a surprise for her when her 10th book was released.

She touched so many lives, and she will be missed by all of us.

She is no longer suffering. She is finally free. She’s walking in the sunshine with her best friend and Savior, Jesus. I look forward to telling you more about her and her life in the coming days. Take heart knowing that she is where her soul has longed to be. She ran the race.

DisabledandDivorced

life beyond pain 

When it feels like life is breaking apart around us, we must go out of our way to pour light and wisdom back into our lives. I wanted to share the books of Mary Jane Gonzales here because self care during a separation or divorce is so crucial! This author, poet, mother, and chronic pain survivor knows a thing or two about caring for her own body and spirit. 

She just released her 10th book, A Voice Unheard, which is unlike any of her previous books. Her compassion and inside knowledge for the current issues those with chronic illness live with silently, makes this book a must read for patients, family of anyone diagnosed with a chronic disease, and health care professionals.

a voice unheardGonzales utilizes the patient advocacy work she has done over the years to speak out on behalf of those marginalized on account of being disabled or chronically ill…

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The HIV/AIDS Crisis changes Healthcare for Chronic Illness Patients

World Aids Day 2017

So much progress has been made for a killer autoimmune disease/infection/virus that was once surrounded by so much prejudice and misinformation.

Healthcare was far out of reach. Doctors did not seem to understand. The public turned their backs. 

Meanwhile men, women, children, and infants were infected, without care, suffering and passing away. 

So much has changed in a relatively short period of time. Still, there’s a long way to go, especially internationally.

Maybe you have a chronic pain condition and feel as though doctors, society, and family have singled you out as a drug addict. Maybe you’re being denied treatment. We continue seeing our own friends in pain pass away due to lack of care… Or if you’re a rare disease survivor and are feeling hopeless about the healthcare situation at hand, please keep this hope in front of you.

If the HIV/AIDS community could create a revolution for themselves in the midst of such a horrific crisis, please keep hope alive that we can also. But we can only do change the system if we stay united.

#worldaidsday #hivawarenessday #raredisease #rarediseaseday #sicklivesmatter

#yourstoryisnotoveryet 

A Voice Unheard: Author Interview with Chronic Pain advocate, Jane Gonzales

I am so happy to welcome, author, poet, blogger, and advocate for the chronic pain community, Mary Jane Gonzales!

I was given the great honor of being asked to contribute a piece for her book, A Voice Unheard. After reading it in its entirety, I immediately asked Ms. Gonzales for an interview! I know it will impact every reader, disabled and abled alike.

Congratulations on publishing your 10th book, A Voice Unheard  

You have very generously allowed your powerful poetry to be shared here on a Body of Hope in the past, but this is your first interview here. I’m excited! Shall we begin? 

 

1. Did you do anything special to celebrate your 10th book release? or Do you have a traditional book completion ritual?

Well, it’s funny you would ask, because you had asked me that previously and my answer was no (I wasn’t planning anything special). But it started me thinking that this is a special time that will never come again. So, with your inspiration, I decided to have an event on Facebook. As to a “traditional book completion ritual”, my response would be “breathe”! 

2. How long have you been living with chronic illness? Would you mind sharing a little about your diagnosis?

This summer will be thirty-one years that I’ve had RSD, but it was undiagnosed for eighteen years.

 

 

 

3. Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

My pastimes would be reading, writing and crafting (especially, card making and scrap booking).

 

4. It’s clear you have a talent for soul stirring, magnetic writing, but why are you passionate to write for the chronic illness audience?

Because that’s where I live; in a community with others like me, who understand me and don’t see me as “different” or “weird”. Plus, I want them/ others to know they are not alone and they are not crazy, which is how this syndrome can make you feel.

 

5. How was compiling A Voice Unheard different from writing a book like In the Blink of an Eye?

Well In the Blink of An Eye was a personal memoir written about me, and A Voice Unheard was written about  a community/ involving members of  the community. I found that to be a bit scary, actually.

Another difference between the two is that, when I wrote In the Blink of An Eye, I had already dealt with the issues and was reconciled to the situation. But that was not the case for where I was at when I wrote A Voice Unheard. And, for that reason, I couldn’t do it justice. I had the inspiration but I couldn’t write it in a way that would honor God. Therefore, it took me a year to write it, which is ironic because it’s one of my shortest books. Compiling the stories was easy and exciting because every story fit perfectly with what I myself had written. When that happens, you know it was meant to be!

Another difference would be that every book I had written prior had the stories first; then, the chapter titles later. With A Voice Unheard, all the chapter titles were inspired first and the stories came later.

  

6. How would you describe your personal writing process?

(For example, are you research driven, logistic, intuitive, spiritually moved, or other. Please explain.)

I think I’m all of these things to a degree, but, above all, spiritually moved. I can’t just pick a topic to write about. I have to be inspired, in order to write.


7. What is your favorite part of being an author?

My favorite part of being an author is the feeling I get when the inspiration is flowing. I also enjoy editing, which is probably an understatement, since I’m drawn/gravitate to it.

What is your least favorite part of being an author? 

My least favorite part is marketing i.e. self promotion.

8. In your new book, you described the world we live in today as “a microwave society.” This is a great terminology! For those who haven’t yet read your book, can you explain your meaning, and how this current mentality effects chronic illness survivors and our loved ones?

What I meant was, in our society, we want everything quick. We don’t want to wait for anything. So if someone gets sick or injured, and it continues, there’s no patience or tolerance for a lack of healing.

9. In A Voice Unheard, you share very personal accounts from fellow chronic illness sufferers. Why did you go out of your way to bring these stories into the light?

Because they need to be told!

 

10. In your new book, you cover practical but serious topics such as the importance of quality care giving, which you are always a strong advocate for, and you discuss hot-button subjects like pain management. Why did you feel this book was important to write now?

Because I feel the issues are critical and what’s happening is wrong. It’s one thing to have a problem, it’s another thing to have no voice, no say in the situation.

I wrote it now because I couldn’t be silent anymore.

11. Other than those who live with chronic pain and chronic illness, who else do you hope reads A Voice Unheard, and why?

I hope it is read by all. The disabled, to feel supported. The abled, to be made aware. Ultimately, to make a difference.

A Voice Unheard is available for your Nook, tablet, or download as PDF ebook at Smashwords.  



Interview was first published April, 2016

Going Dim by Cammie LaValle, Part 1

 

Going Dim

Part I of II – By guestwriter Cammie LaValle

(trigger warning)
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Picture of Cammie taken on the same day.

 

Remember that light inside of you that used to shine?  We reminisce about it in our heads; to that person we used to be.  That silent yet screaming conversation in our minds we have on a daily basis.  For some, it’s the majority of the actual conversing we do and sadly, it’s only with ourselves.  We are feeling ourselves; our internal light; the fire that once helped us accomplish so many things in life, be reduced to less than a flame; more like a sad, almost non-existent spark which could barely keep a match lit.

 

Sure, there are flickers of hope and tiny little fires at times; but personally, they are getting few and far between.  I have not given up all hope, but I am struggling to keep the grasp.

 

One of my motto’s is “Let Your Soul Shine” taken from a song.   How hypocritical of me to tell others to do just that when I am watching, feeling and experiencing my own go darker and darker every day.  I don’t mean dark as in evil, although I will admit I’ve had some pretty evil scenarios which I wish would play out in the lives of some of the doctors I have encountered in the last few years.   No, I would not harm anyone; but as you read that, I am certain you can recall one of those thoughts that has played out in your mind so detailed as though you were actually plotting a dismemberment.  I for one thought a log-splitter would suffice.

 

As I am writing this, I have backspaced hundreds of times thinking what I have to say or what I feel is not ready to be heard or will be perceived as seeking pity, over reacting, not being thankful for what I do have or God forbid, the “It could be worse” reaction we often get.  Yes, we all comprehend that, but more often than not, it is far from a supportive statement as we perceive it.  Minimizing our hell is what most of us feel; even though we know most of you mean well when it’s said.  But I realized the words I put down, if were written by someone else and read by me, are exactly the words I would need to hear; and yearn to hear.   So without a hesitant mind, and the pain jolting through my body and hands, I shall spill the complete ugly truth that I am not shining by any means.  I’ve gone dim.   This is not news to some; as they know me too well to believe the crap that spews out of my mouth when I say “I’m fine.”

 

I ask myself daily, how much more can I handle?  Do I even want to for that matter?  Yes, those thoughts are there when in my dimmest hours.  Will I say it out loud?  Probably not.  Will I say it here, when I know others just like me are reading this; yes, yes I will.  I can’t say I am proud of my thoughts, but I can say I am not about to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass; especially knowing the people reading this are struggling right along with me.   That’s not what we need and I may very well do it to others so they don’t have to worry about me, but I will not do it to you.  I know that sounds terrible as I have more than likely never met or ever will meet 99.999 % of you.  Why be truthful to people I don’t know and hide and lie to my own family and friends?  I have no clue the rationale behind this and won’t pretend I do either.  What I do know is that there is a greater chance those reading this, understand it to their core and need no explanation of the words, the thoughts, the expressions, the pain, the isolation, the self-doubt, and the meaning behind “Going Dim”.  I fully understand all humans go through struggles in life and I am not discounting any of that; anyone or any struggle of any kind.  I am addressing our struggle.

I am opening up my broken spirit and soul, my tired mind, and using my pain riddled body, to let YOU know, you are far from alone in this battle.  And I may be writing what you can’t dare to say out loud, but feel it as if it has taken over your entire being.  I know I have read some stories which after the first sentence I felt the lump in my throat.  I certainly am not sharing to cause distress or any tears, but if anyone reading this has that lump, let yourself feel the emotion and release some of that internal pain that is eating you alive and has taken over a portion of your soul.

 

More than likely you have caught on that I have not begun to describe the pain.  If you are reading this, you already know how it will read.  However, for those friends or family that are reading this who have a loved one suffering, I will follow this with a brutal truth that the one you know, who is  suffering, is too damn scared to tell you.  Whether it be pride, or wanting the world to believe we can handle this, or the complete farce we muster up in order to appear stronger than we actually feel.    Your loved one has gone dim.  And you might have as well; attempting to care for them.   Addressing the other side of this is just as important as addressing ourselves.

The ME I once was, is still seen by my husband and some family and friends; however, I don’t see her.  I feel as if she’s gone for good.  I talk with her in my mind and actually pray she will come back, somehow, some way.  She could light up a room (from what I was told).  She was vibrant, funny, witty, intelligent, strong, hard-working, worthy, helpful, selfless, and although some deep down pain existed as we all have and hide; she was happy.   She helped raise 2 children, who she loves.  She was a good wife, a good friend, a reliable sister and had worked since a very young age; worked her ass off.  Now, the relentless quest for her to return has come up empty.  She was me.  I was her.  We’ve both gone dim.

 

Where did she go?  CRPS (full body), Fibromyalgia in addition about a dozen other health issues; some quite severe, has held her captive and the ransom demand at this time cannot be met.  The hope and flicker of light is diminishing.  Sure, I say I am hopeful and staying positive, but who am I kidding?  It’s gradually becoming such a farce, I can barely hold back the tears when I say I am still positive.  It’s a blatant lie.  I feel as if I am getting a very real glimpse of Hell.

 

Ice pick, razor blade, vice, hammer, pins, needles, knife, match, truck, salt, gasoline, fire, electric shock and flames; all of which I feel has been used during this captivity.  A scene from a mysterious attempted murder movie in which we wait in the trunk to be rescued.  Someone on the outside may not comprehend that comparison, but I, along with so many others; truly feel this.  And the trunk is our lives at times.  That dim, cold, dark, isolated place, we don’t willingly go to, but find ourselves there, stuck; more often than not.  The tools used is what we compare our pain to; as CRPS/RSD plays out such a brutal attack on our bodies daily.  As we wait for the ransom, which in our lives is a doctor, a treatment, a cure, we succumb to this attack and 24/7 try to prepare ourselves for the next dreadful blow.  I try to hold it in as to not be a burden; not wanting people to see how bad it is.  There are times it just comes out, screaming, howling, paralyzing pain to the point I can barely breathe.  Arms, legs, feet, back, hips, face, ears, chest pain where it feels like I am having a heart attack, but I know I am not.  Then I think, what if I do have a heart attack?  If I feel like that daily, if I have one, will I even know?  And my hypertension gets so out of control, my neck feels like I am being stabbed, my vision gets blurry, I lose minutes and have lost recollection of hours of time.  I get scared to be alone in my own home.  This scares the sh*t out of me!  On nights the blood pressure is too high and the chest pain is severe, I am too damn scared to go to sleep as I honestly wonder if I will wake up.  Yes, that is how my mind works.  I pray I wake up.  I won’t go into the thoughts and prayers that go on, when I honestly question if my life, as I know it, is actually ending that evening.   This is brutally honest and I know it sounds far-fetched to some.  But, many reading this feel the same way or have felt the same way.  I am saying it now, to give you some peace of mind that you are far from alone.   It is not by any means a healthy way of thinking, but it is where one’s mind tends to go at times.  I am not proud of these thoughts, but they are true.

 

Pain changes people.  It’s relentless.  The beast wins in those moments and all I can do is wait for it to let go of its ever so tight grip of my body.  I think to myself during these times, how the hell am I to live this way?  How is my husband to live this way, with his wife being consumed by pain, lost herself and her feeling of self-worth?  I am not the woman he married.  Far, far from it.  He is my biggest advocate and has not left my side, although I wouldn’t blame him.  His wife is gone.  The anxiety, stress and depression that goes along with this beast leads my mind to wonder “when” he will have had enough; not “if”.  For better or worse, sickness and in health, meant something to him, just as it did and does to me.  How lucky am I to have such a man who took his vows so serious, that as he watches his wife diminish and change into someone he didn’t marry, he continues to assure me we are in this together and he will never leave my side.  He is the only one who can make these demons stop in my head.  He is the only one who has seen it all and still has faith I will come out of it; come back as the woman he married; come back from “Going Dim”.

 

What has brought you to this page, is why many of you will understand what I am about to say next.  You are dim yourself from disease and pain or you are caring for someone and are desperately trying to find a way to understand and help that person; your loved one.   (For those seeking help to care for another – THANK YOU!  Sadly enough, you may be the only one doing so for that lost screaming soul).

 

Too many are left alone and instead of having support in waiting for that ransom, they remain in the trunk; dim, isolated, begging for relief, kicking and screaming to get out; get help and for someone to actually listen.  When there is never a response, those broken souls take it upon themselves to put an end to their private mysterious movie which is their life.   They don’t think they can handle the next blow, they have been disregarded by doctors, family, friends and in their mind; the world.

 

Pain messes with your mind.  Even those who truly have support; at times feel like an overwhelming burden to everyone, isolated and alone (even if the room is filled with 20 people) and misunderstood, they would rather not be on this earth for one more second of pain or one more feeling of being dismissed by a friend or loved one.  That emotional pain alone when one’s suffering is dismissed; as if we are over-reacting to a common cold; could and has triggered people in pain to start planning their demise, as it is too much for them in their broken mind and body to fight anymore.  Death, in their mind, however wrong one deems that thought process; is what they are contemplating.  If you think this is reaching; just read through posts in some of your or your loved one’s support groups.

Daily, I see people tell people they never met, that they “can’t handle it anymore”, “I just want to end it”.  Keep in mind, if you look at their FB page, or Twitter, or recall a recent phone call, most would have just said or posted on how great their day was.  “I am fine.”  It’s a farce, which most of us continue to do; as to not upset our family or friends with our true feelings and pain, or to not be honest with people we actually know because we’ve been dismissed too many times and are broken to the point that some knowingly make a decision to NEVER again speak to a loved one, hug a family member; and even their own children; as their mind has told them it’s easier to die than live.

 

How sad is that?  Are they selfish?  When people take their lives due to pain, any type of pain; they cannot comprehend the ramifications other than they no longer will have pain.  So completely torn down, the thought their child will lose their parent, is not strong enough to stop them.  How in the hell is our society missing this?  How are family and friends missing this?   How are people in pain getting to this point?  Whether it be lack of treatment, lack of cure, lack of support or the mind games played out in your head when your pain takes over your life; it must, meaning right now, start being addressed.  

Are you thinking your life is not worth it anymore?  Well, it is.  You don’t see it, but others do.  And I beg anyone reading this, to reach out to someone. I can almost guarantee these thoughts have gradually entered the minds of your loved one who experiences 24/7 pain; not remembering a day without it.  And if someone asks you, be honest.  I have uttered the words I’m fine for the majority of my life; over half of which has been in chronic pain.  I hid so many things from even my family; out of pride and factors which stem from my childhood, some of my own family do not believe I am in such a state of despair and pain; broken down with a tired soul and body that feels useless.  I hid for too long.  Yes, it’s my fault for putting on the mask.  I was and at times still very good at it.   A habit very hard to break.

It’s natural for me to pretend I am okay; for I’ve done it all my life in one way or another just like most of humanity in some aspect.  However, I am removing it now and so should you.   This does not give us the right to become an un-consolable hot mess of a person; but it does give us power to deal with what is behind the mask; our true selves.  It certainly will not be easy, but how worn out are you right now reading this?   My soul is tired and there is no amount of sleep in which can awaken it.

 

“Live without living?”  What does that mean?  If you ask that question, you have yet to comprehend how our minds work; how we feel & what this has done to us.  Or better said, what it has done with the person we once were.  The reason I; we’ve gone dim.   We strive to live better and we do anything and everything to get there.  Find relief, find a new normal, find peace, find understanding, find faith, find God, find a way; find ourselves.  I am trying and I have resorted to begging at times just to get a doctor to listen to me.   Most ignore it; but I’ve been lucky to find one that listened; one who upheld his oath.   One who has promised to help me find a way, a new normal, and a treatment in which I can maybe, just maybe, have a chance at finding myself again.  I don’t trust many, but trusted him and have for over 10 years.  Due to this trust and mutual respect between a doctor and a patient, I have a chance; a slight flicker of light in my dim world which I am grasping onto so tight, if I were to let go I feel as if I would crumble; again.

 

You see, although I’ve gone dim like many of you reading this, I also found HOPE and it was due to raising some hell and advocating for myself and not shutting up when I was told NO.  I kept going, I kept calling, I kept writing; I kept fighting.  I am still dim, but I have seen the flicker of light; that same light which could let “My Soul Shine”.  I don’t know if it will, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try.  I deserve it; as do you.

 

I started writing this 8 months ago.  When I started, I was in my darkest times.  I thought about deleting those parts; but that would be me lying to you, and again, as life has taught me, continue to pretend I am okay when I am not.   So I hope when you started reading, you felt you were no longer alone in the pain, the dark thoughts, the hopelessness, sadness and you knew, in your heart and soul, there are others like you.  And as you read on, you found understanding, a bond with someone you probably will never meet.  A bond due to pain, no one wants, but one everyone needs so they don’t feel alone and don’t ever think tomorrow is not worth waking up to.

******

I’m honored to share this project by chronic illness activist, guest writer Cammie LaValle, featured for CRPS/RSD Awareness Month. She’s not only a personal friend I met in the chronic pain community, but she’s a personal inspiration to me as well as so many others. She leads the charge in fighting campaigns for chronic pain and rare disease causes with the tenacity like none I’ve seen before, whilst attacking her disease with the same vigor. I’m proud to be in the same warrior club with a woman like Cammie, as I have learned much from her. Read more RSD/CRPS articles, see art projects, poems, and survival stories here.
Thank you for visiting and sharing -Mary

Second Annual Disability Pride Parade in NYC!

Today was the second annual Disability Pride parade in NYC! 

Here in this video you’ll see disabled individuals dancing together to commence the opening of the parade. This dance speaks to the nature of disability- the diverse disabilities we can see with our eyes, and those which are invisible.

As you watch the video, and think about some of the reasons for a parade like this…

Many who have declining health feel ashamed of their bodies, and in time, may also feel ashamed of themselves. Friends stop reaching out as health issues just sound like “drama” to most people who have never faced a health crisis. So many have been forced to leave behind a career, or dreams they once held dear. Although it sounds harsh, it’s not uncommon at all for family members to tease or bully as individuals change physically and/or mentally, leaving them extremely self conscious. People can be very judgmental of body shapes, walking aids, and challenges that are unfamiliar. Others are quick to call out what they see as “inconsistencies.” Even strangers in public call those in wheel chairs “liars at times when they don’t understand that paralysis isn’t the only reason one might need the aid of wheels, or that a handicapped parking spot might be needed by someone who can walk normally.

It’s no wonder that people start to lose their self worth, and isolate themselves as a disability changes them.

You know what? FORGET EVERYONE!

So, this isn’t a news flash, but people don’t get it, and they don’t get you. You, my dear, have so much to be proud of, and SO MUCH to share with the world! 

You are an over-comer, a warrior, a never-giving-up, wheel rolling, cane sporting, walker toting, re-inventing, hope finding, doing it anyway, sometimes invisible illness (but never invisible)- always working to conquer your challenges: BRAVE fighter! Heck yes you should be proud!!!

You don’t have to prove how much pain you’re in every day, how badly cancer changed your body, you don’t have to show your prosthetic, or tell anyone what your mental illness is… unless you want to. You are living proof of pure strength. You don’t have to work to be an inspiration to anyone, but hey- you already are, kiddo. You’re pretty spectacular just the way you are, in the body you have right now.

Please don’t keep your amazing self on lock down. You’re the only you this world will ever have! Heart (((hugs))) going out

What do you think of the Disability Pride Parade? How are you #DisabilityProud in your own life? 

I don’t have the Privilege of opting out

I can’t sleep. I feel so helpless and outraged over the losses and violence in the last week. I don’t want to pray about it. I don’t want to blog about it. I definitely don’t want to discuss it incessantly with others on facebook or twitter while we sit safely in our homes.

I want to do something.

I want to help.

I want kids to stop being killed on our American streets: black kids, gay kids, cops… are we at war? Because we are tearing our own people apart.

I don’t actually feel like I have a card to play. I’m a white woman in a safe neighborhood. I have plenty to eat. I am certain I’m privileged in ways that I haven’t even thought about.

Until I was in high school, I was raised in a home with bars on the windows, guns shooting every night, across the street from the projects, all the kids in the community had to be inside by dark. We were the only white family around, but our neighborhood was so diverse, that I grew up without the concept of racial divisions. But this world is going backward. My mother said yesterday that this week reminds her of the riots of 1968 as tears rolled down her face. We are going backward.

I told my sister this weekend that I’ve been having nightmares about her upcoming vacation to FL ever since 50 kids out at a gay night club were murdered. She said that she and my sister-in-law have been cautious after dark, and try to stay around areas with police even if they are out to eat after the sun goes down. They are an interracial gay couple, and theoretically this America accepts them today. But if you follow the news, you know that they BOTH remain in danger, so they show up in my bad dreams.

There’s a whole lot of sharing right now about forgiveness, unity, and praying from white people like me, but where is the outrage? Where is the responsibility to DO SOMETHING?

I might be white, but I don’t feel I have the privilege of doing nothing right now.

We are ALL responsible, don’t you see? This our world.

Use the hands and will and talents God blessed you with to rise up and help when something terrible happens in our country. Give blood, go to a peace rally, set up a GoFundMe page for one of the families involved in the shootings, organize a fundraiser in your community for an ending gun violence organization.

Instead, a lot of people are saying things like, “all lives matter” not just “black lives matter.”

Listen, it’s easy to say that when you aren’t part of a disenfranchised community who is desperate for a voice. If you have said that, remember that you have children right by you who don’t have enough to eat, young women, men and children being sold into sex slavery right in your community, and someone within walking distance is home-bound for the rest of their lives because we haven’t received competent medical care. These lives matter, and there are groups concerned to raise awareness for these victims as well.

My point is that it’s hypocritical to give children with autism a voice who need it, and also say that the black community shouldn’t raise its voice also. To have an ALL LIVES MATTER world, we have to be equals, and ALL have an equally loud voice.

You don’t have to use a hashtag or join a group of protesters to help build equality. Compassion, empathy, and action are the missing links that can help build bridges that we are craving for unity.

I pray this video from poet, author, and life force of nature, Maya Angelou is a peace to your heart, and an encouragement for you as she is for me.

I may feel helpless today, but never hopeless for change. Please be safe. God be with you.

 

 

 

Opioid Tax: Letter to my state representative

Dear State Representative,

Myself and my family are very excited about all of the things you are doing to support those with disabilities. My father heard you speak on the issues of pain medication and addiction, and trying to find common ground so both pain diseases and addiction disease can be treated simultaneously. That is a stance we in the chronic pain community are very excited to hear and support you in that!

In case you did not know about this newly proposed opioid tax, I wanted to give you a little information.
It is proposed that opioid pain medication will be taxed one cent per milligram to fund treatments for addiction.

As you can imagine, those with chronic pain diseases like Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, CRPS/RSD, Fibromyalgia, or post-cancer pain would be paying for addiction treatments while those with addiction will just buy their drugs illegally instead of paying a raised price from the pharmacy.

Because this tax proposed is “per milligram,”  those suffering with the most severe, most debilitating cases of degenerative neurological pain will likely have the most un-affordable pharmaceutical pain management care, as our doses are typically higher, as you might imagine.

As I am a newly single woman, more recently on disability,  I know that the government works hard to keep drug prices low for those with disabilities. A tax will only make pain medication more un-affordable for those who are spending all of their funds on medical care as is. If this tax is passed on pain medication, it will begin a precedent to tax other RX drugs. It’s one cent now, but it won’t stop there.

Since the CDC’s federal guidelines on opioid control, chronic pain patients are struggling to find pain management care with good pain doctors who are not afraid to treat us. Deaths and overdoses continue to rise. Deaths of people in pain, who are without treatment, and deaths from those who are addicts, continuing to overdose. The guidelines do not work! The tax will not work either.

Again, pain patients are being forced to pay for a disease (addiction) which is not our own. The tax would exclude hospice patients, but what about pain patients who are bedbound like myself? What about those of us who have tried every treatment available and medication therapy is the only option that doesn’t worsen our conditions? What about those trying to maintain a somewhat functional life through chronic pain, and to keep off of permanent disability, taking medications is the only way to continue working and participating in family life?

Medical treatments should never be a punishment. Is this a “sin” tax? Am I sinning? Why should I be ashamed of having an illness I didn’t choose? I am alive in part because of my medications, and so are many, many people! That is nothing to be ashamed of.

Will diabetic medications be taxed to help treat cancer? Maybe Methadone, Suboxone, and Narcan (addiction medications) could be taxed to pay for chronic pain treatment facilities! We are certainly in need of those.

Thank you for using your platform to speak for people like myself.

Please do write your representative today, so a ludicrous tax like this would never get passed. No time to waste!

http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/03/politics/hillary-clinton-west-virginia-opioids/

http://www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2016/6/2/senators-propose-tax-on-opioid-pain-meds

The Dream #SickLivesMatter

Sick lives matter vitals

After sharing the original Sick Lives Matter, I’ve been surprised and grateful for the response of the piece! However in response, some said, it’s too late for change. Some responded that we are too far down this path of patient neglect in healthcare, and there is no returning from it now. But I believe it is just the right time for us to rise up. I’m not alone either, with online patient forums like Patients Not Addicts gathering to influence legislation in Washington DC, advocacy groups like Give Pain a Voice, pain organizations working to change the stigma of pain patients, and so many private individuals sharing their stories wherever the universe allows, we ARE in the middle of a revolution. Are you part of it?

How can we rise up when so many of us can’t even work? How are we supposed to change policy when doctors and family don’t seem to listen? How can we make an impact on the future when many of us are struggling to care for ourselves? These are the reasons we HAVE to do something about it.

Consider cancer patients. In the last 10-15 years, the treatment of cancer has turned around because cancer patients joined together and created a movement. Everyone knows Susan G. Komen represents Breast Cancer Awareness because hard working cancer patients were able to get big organizations to stand behind their cause. Years ago, minorities with cancer were being ignored, rare cancers were going undetected, and people were terrified of finding out they could have any form of cancer because there were so few options- and you were likely too late anyway. Now, we have cancer treatment centers popping up all over the country, treatments that are actually successful at sending cancer into remission, and celebrities who bravely share their cancer experiences with the public.

Consider HIV/AIDS. As recently as 15 years ago, HIV was still a death sentence. Celebrities may have been wearing red ribbons, but people were still dying so quickly, suffering in silence, and had little recourse. Not only did society brush off the disease as a punishment- so did healthcare professionals (#STIGMA). Now, not only is there awareness, there is a culture of S.T.D. prevention and regular testing. When the worst happens, and someone is diagnosed, life is not over, people are living long lives because they have treatment and accessible management. Educated HIV doctors aren’t rare, and medication is becoming more affordable (although there is still a ways to go in regard to RX coverage).

HIV patients knew something about being brushed under the rug of society and healthcare, and paying for it with their lives. They changed the game by telling their personal stories so that those who tried could not look away! They joined together for a united cause, and chronic illness survivors can look to their bravery for inspiration.

I dream of emergency rooms where doctors and nurses treat chronic pain patient’s emergencies as high priority as everyone else’s. I see a future of chronic disease treatment centers around the country. I envision home visit physicians covered by insurance. I imagine the homebound and bedbound having access to quality patient care and mental health care from home, covered by insurance. I pray for research facilities searching for a vaccine to end degenerative neurological pain diseases. I see a world in which sudden deaths from unmanaged pain, and suicides from under-managed pain are a heartbreaking thing of the past. Is under-treated chronic illness a sign of the end times we are meant to accept with apathy, or is there something we can do from our sick beds and wheelchairs to make a change? We can be the ones who flipped the script for future chronic patients, young and old. This can be the moment you decided to take a stand. What is your dream?

Your life matters. Your story matters. Your voice matters.

#SickLivesMatter

To share your story or to learn how you can get involved in advocacy online, email abodyofhope@inbox.com

 

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