Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I've finally forced myself to lie on the couch for a few minutes - I know I've been pushing myself WAY past my limits these past two weeks. Now things slow down for a few days, thank goodness.

Last night, we hosted our annual Cookie/Grinch party, a 20+ year tradition with our very good friends. It started back when we both lived in New Orleans and we were all young and single (and childless!) Back then, the annual showing of The Grinch was a great excuse for a party (this was in the days when it was only on TV once all holiday season!). We both later moved to Delaware and continued the tradition. After the kids arrived, we added cookie decorating to the fun. At one point, the party grew to include 3 or 4 other families with kids.

This is one of those traditions we've adapted but not given up in the face of CFS. We shrunk the party back to just our two families, sometimes it's at their house and sometimes ours, and at one point, I even stopped cooking dinner and ordered pizza instead. I also gave up on homemade cookies and just buy the premade dough now. The kids only care about the decorating anyway! I did manage to make dinner last night, an old favorite from our New Orleans days, red beans and rice, at Jamie's request. But we still gather around the table with bowls of frosting and all sorts of sprinkles and other decorating accoutrements, and we still watch The Grinch (the original TV special, now on video). It's one of our favorite holiday traditions.

Tonight we're planning to go out to dinner (no cooking and no dishes!), then to church for the candlelight Christmas Eve service. Tomorrow is my favorite time of all - just the four of us with no where to go and nothing to do but play.

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Movie Monday 12/21

We spent the weekend in Connecticut celebrating Christmas with my mom and her husband and my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew. Believe it or not, I got everything done last week without crashing (a Christmas miracle!), felt pretty well this weekend, and felt well enough today to go out (OUT!) and finish my shopping. I seem to finally be back to my own personal baseline, just in time to enjoy the holidays!

I really enjoyed spending time with my niece and nephew this weekend (and the rest of my family) and sharing our tradition of reading Christmas books at bedtime. Aren't they sweet? We made it home safely after the big Nor'easter storm, and the boys got two snow days - both today and tomorrow - so they got to start their Christmas break early! They played in the snow all day with their friends, and it was nice not to have to rein them in with worries of being OK for school tomorrow.

SO, we didn't have time for any movies this weekend, but Ken and I watched one over the course of several evenings last week (we can't stay up late enough on school/work nights to watch a whole movie!):
  • Frost Nixon, recommended in a previous Movie Monday comment by Toni. It was excellent - a fascinating story about the TV talk show host (Frost) who scored the big interview with Nixon after he resigned. Thanks for the recommendation!
We also just finished watching The Polar Express with the kids tonight. I'm generally not a big fan of full-length movies made from classic children's picture books (too much extra fluff added), but this one is pretty good and very well done. Now, I need to find time for my annual viewing of It's a Wonderful Life (makes me cry every year).

How about you? Watch any good movies this week?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Special iGive Promotion!

iGive is running a special promotion. For every person who signs up between now and noon Thursday and does just one web search, they will donate $1 to their chosen charity (plus, as always, your charity receives $0.2 per search, plus a percentage of all shopping done through iGive).

So, if you haven't already signed up, use this link to iGive, register for free, choose your favorite CFIDS cause, and do one web search. Then finish the rest of your shopping through iGive, too! That's what I plan to do after yesterday's exhausting shopping trip.

Holiday Frenzy

Whew. Yesterday was a long, exhausting day, made worse because of my holiday panic! December is always hectic, but losing a full week last week really did me in. I'm trying very hard to calm down and rest today.

I drove to New Jersey yesterday to see my Lyme doctor. I told him how badly flared up I've been all fall (CFS, not Lyme). I updated my charts before my appointment, and it was eye-opening (I keep track of how I feel each day). I was severely crashed and unable to do anything - 4 or 5 in my ratings - 30% of the time in September, 50% in October, and 30% in November. My knees have hurt a lot this past week, but I'm getting frustrated that I can't really tell whether it's Lyme or just because my CFS has been so bad. My doctor was very zen when I fretted, "How will I know when the Lyme is gone when I can't tell what's CFS and what's Lyme?" He said, "You knew when it started. You'll know when it's gone." Meanwhile, I'm still on 400 mg of doxycycline a day (16 months now) and he wants me to start on Plaquonil, which should help my knee pain and also help the antibiotics to better pentrate my cells.

After my appointment, I went shopping at Target for 90 minutes. There's a Target right next to the doctor's office, and the nearest one in Delaware is about 25 minutes away, so this has become part of my NJ routine. The store was packed with holiday shoppers, and I was trying to get as much Christmas shopping done as I could because I knew I might not be able to get out again. So, I didn't get home (a 90-minute drive) until 2:30, way past my usual nap time.

Then, we went to Craig's holiday concert last night. He plays percussion in his middle school band and did an awesome job on the bells in Carol of the Bells and in the lead role for Little Drummer Boy! As you can imagine, I was totally wiped out by the time we got home at 9 pm.

I was also mentally freaking out yesterday. There's a bunch of stuff we need done THIS week because we leave at noon on Friday to celebrate Christmas with my family this weekend. And Craig's teachers sent a note home yesterday that he needs to bring in 30 cookies for a cookie exchange on Friday! I slept horribly last night, with visions of Christmas shopping and other tasks undone dancing in my head.

I'm trying hard to calm myself down today. I'm dressed in sweats (a signal that I don't intend to leave the house or even the couch today). I can't give in and do nothing, but I'm lying on the couch with my laptop. Even though it's probably insane, I'm going to try to finish our annual year-end DVD of photos today, so I can give my family copies this weekend. I know I might not finish, and I'm resigned to that, but I know from past experience that if I don't do it before January 1, it probably won't get done.

I realized last night that there's really only 1 day all year when I really take the day off and don't worry about getting anything done - Christmas Day. On Christmas, it's just the four of us, here at home, with nothing to do but play and no where to go. I can't wait! But one day a year is really not enough, is it?

OK, it's time to stop venting. Breathing deeply...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Movie Monday 12/14

I won't have much time for blogging this week (or next) with so much to do for Christmas. In the next 3 weeks, we have holiday celebrations in Connecticut, Delaware, and Oklahoma! But it was a good movie weekend, so I wanted to at least keep up with Movie Monday!

The boys and I watched LOTS of movies last week, with all three of us crashed all week and splayed out all over the family room - Harry Potter 4 and 5, Bedtime Stories (which was better than I expected), The Last Mimzy, and whatever movie was showing on Disney at noon every day! It was a looong week. Thankfully, both boys went back to school today.

Ken and I watched more DVDs than usual, since all of our favorite TV shows are now on hiatus until 2010:
  • Lars and the Real Girl. OK, this one sounds really strange, but it was very good! It's about a lonely, extremely shy guy in a quiet northern town who orders a life-sized doll named Bianca from the internet and then treats her like she's his real girlfriend. I know, I know...Ken said to me, "Does the back of the DVD describe this one as quirky?" As a matter of fact, it does! It's funny but also surprisingly warm and sweet, with a great performance by Academy Award-winner Ryan Gosling.
  • The Great Debators. An amazing movie starring Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker based on a true story of the first African-American college debate team that competed against white colleges, including Harvard. It's set in the 1930's in Texas and is both disturbing and inspiring. It's the kind of movie that gets you cheering for the protagonists! I'd love for Jamie to watch this one, too.
  • The Kite Runner. Ken and I both read and loved the book, and the movie was just as incredible. It's a fascinating story of two boys growing up in Afghanistan before the Communists invaded. One boy, Amir, is the son of a wealthy, well-educated father, and the other, Hassan, is the son of their household servant. The boys are best friends until something terrible happens to Hassan that Amir feels guilty over for the rest of their lives. The story follows the boys as they grow into men and Amir and his father flee the country amid the terrible destruction of the invasion and subsequent wars. Although what happens to Hassan is deeply disturbing, Amir find redemption in the end, as their story comes full circle. It's a powerful and compelling movie (and book) that also gives you an inside view into the devastation Afghanistan has endured.
That's it for this week - 3 good movies out of three! Have you seen any good movies lately?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Quote It Saturday 12/12

We hit a sad milestone today. We went to the tree farm to get our Christmas tree with only three of us along. Jamie was still too badly crashed to get up off the couch. Despite our many cumulative years of dealing with CFS, this was the first time one of us missed this favorite annual tradition. Since we're running out of time, Jamie said it was OK to go without him, but our hearts were all breaking to leave him behind. We took a picture of the tree and sent it to his phone for his approval and brought him some of the yummy kettle corn we buy every year at the tree farm, and he was in good spirits when we returned home, but it was a tough day for all of us.

Quote It Saturday is a feature borrowed from my book blog where I quote from a book that somehow reminds me of life with chronic illness. In honor of Jamie's condition and sacrifice, today's quote is a very direct one about living with CFS from the wonderful memoir, Encounters with the Invisible by Dorothy Wall. If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend it. Here, Wall considers how much more difficult it is to give in rather than to fight:

Yield. This is my lesson, too. Stop relying on strength. It feels strange to me, foreign, to bend to an opposing force rather than pushing against it. This is a different kind of determination, one that lets the opposing force pass through and, by leaving you intact rather than shattered, able to gather strength rather than dissipate it. This kind of determination can feel invisible and insubstantial, not as trustworthy or evident as that push-ahead, active, muscled determination. Our culture hasn't taught us about this second kind, has treated it as even less than a poor step-cousin, as something that doesn't exist. Our positive-thinking gurus allow no room for that tentative voice "but maybe Ineed to accept..." In chronic illness, the "myth of a cure," writes psychiatrist Arthur Kleinman, must be replaced by a "pragmatic notion of illness maintenance and disability reduction." Rather than being a sign of defeatism, he says, this shift in attitude can increase feelings of mastery and contribute to an increased sense of well-being that in turn helps healing.
- Encounter with the Invisible by Dorothy Wall

Hope you're all enjoying your weekend.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Long Week

Is it really Friday? We've had a horizontal week here.

Jamie and Craig and I have all been severely crashed since Monday. There must be a viral trigger behind this for it to have hit all three of us at once. Jamie has been completely flat the whole time - totally exhausted and unable to do anything at all. He's had some congestion but otherwise "just" severe CFS symptoms.

Craig - who rarely crashes for more than a day at a time - barely moved for three days then improved enough to return to school on Thursday, just in time for a field trip to The Franklin Institute (science museum) in Philadelphia, which knocked him back out again. He woke up this morning with all his symptoms flared up again, though he's starting to perk up now. That's his usual pattern - crashed in the morning after exertion, then feeling better by afternoon. He just told me he's bored - a very good sign!

As for me, I've had my ups and downs this week but not a single day alone in a quiet house! I hit bottom last night, after an active morning picking up the house so our cleaners could find the floor. By dinnertime, I had a terrible sore throat and awful aches. Ken brought take-out home for dinner, but I burst into tears at 8 pm when it was time to get the kids to bed - I just felt so bad!

Well, things could certainly be worse. Jamie's best friend had swine flu and now has a bad case of pneumonia. Poor kid has been out of school for two weeks. That's one good thing about this particular year - so many kids have been out sick for extended periods that the teachers are getting used to it. They were all very understanding today when I e-mailed.

Speaking of swine flu, the UK's ME Association has posted guidelines on CFS and swine flu, as well as an update including responses from 38 people with CFS/ME who got the swine flu vaccine - very interesting feedback.

Hope everyone's staying healthy. I have no idea when I'll finally be able to get some Christmas shopping done. We're supposed to get our tree tomorrow, but I don't know if we'll all be up to it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Help CFS Research While You Shop

Are you doing a lot of your holiday shopping online, like I am? Don't forget you can contribute to CFS research while you shop. I've used both of these sites:
  • iGive - the classic. Choose your charity and choose from hundreds of online stores. I have mine set to donate to the CFIDS Association of America. iGive also sends you updates of how much you've earned for your charity.
  • GoodShop - same sort of thing - choose your store and choose your charity. I just tried it out yesterday: shopped at Lands' End and donated to the Whittemore Peterson Institute.
Both sites also feature coupon codes (I got 25% off and free shipping yesterday at Lands' End!); the amount donated varies by store - usually between 1-5% of your purchase.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Movie Monday 12/7

We had a nice quiet weekend at home and enjoyed some good movies. We brought our box of Christmas videos up from the basement and started watching some of our old favorites with the kids. Even though they're 11 and 15 now, they still love this holiday tradition. This weekend, we watched an old Muppets Christmas Special (circa 1996?) that always cracks us up and Frosty the Snowman.

In the evenings, Ken and I watched a couple of good movies:
  • Freedomland with Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore is the story of a woman who shows up in the ER, her hands covered in blood, crying that her car was stolen with her young son inside. Samuel L. Jackson is the detective assigned to the case, which sets off violence and suspicion in the local housing project. It's a dark, somewhat disturbing movie but well-done and suspenseful.
  • Feast of Love with Greg Kinnear and Morgan Freeman was a much more uplifting movie, though it had its sad moments. I mentioned before that I love Morgan Freeman in anything, and this movie is no exception. Kinnear plays a hopeless romantic whose relationships keep crashing and burning, while everyone around him struggles with their own relationships. This funny, sexy, warm movie is about life and love in all its crazy variations.
And right now, the boys and I are watching an oldy but a goody, The Muppet Movie, one of my all-time favorites (and best soundtrack ever)! Both boys are home sick today - I'm hoping it's "just" a crash and not something worse. There are so many nasty bugs going around. Back to Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Quote It Saturday 12/5

It's time again for Quote It Saturday, a feature borrowed from my book blog, where I share quotes from a book that somehow felt relevant to me, as someone living with chronic illness. I usually choose different quotes to share on my book blog and here, but this week, I'm using the same quotes for both because these were quotes that I liked generally but that also spoke to me specifically as someone with CFS.

I just finished and reviewed Olive Kitteridge this week, a unique Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Elizabeth Strout that tells the story of one character and a small town through thirteen separate but interrelated short stories, each about various people who live in the town. I mentioned in my review that parts of the book were a bit depressing, but these quotes feature a couple of the sections that emphasize joy and optimism instead. Both of these quotes really spoke to me and reflect my own feelings.

The first is about small moments of joy in life, as Olive recalls watching her son's soccer games when he was younger:

There was beauty to that autumn air, and the sweaty young bodies that had mud on their legs, strong young men who would throw themselves forward to have the ball smack against their foreheads; the cheering when a goal was scored, the goalie sinking to his knees. There were days - she could remember this - when Henry would hold her hand as they walked home, middle-aged people, in their prime. Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it. But she had that memory now, of something healthy and pure.

Having spent many, many similar hours on soccer fields watching my own two sons play, I know just what she means. I think Olive is right - that most people don't recognize these small moments of joy as they're happening - but I also think that is one of the few positive outcomes of living with a chronic illness. I do often feel a sense of joy during small moments in my life because I know what it's like to miss those moments or to feel too sick to enjoy them. It's a gift that CFS has given me, this heightened sense of perspective.

And, speaking of gifts, here's another quote from another chapter, where Jane and Bob Houlton, an older married couple, drive through town looking at Christmas lights on all the houses:

And she was happy right now, it was true. Jane Houlton, shifting slightly inside her nice black coat, was thinking that, after all, life was a gift - that one of those things about getting older was knowing that so many moments weren't just moments, they were gifts. And how nice, really, that people should celebrate with such earnestness this time of year. No matter what people's lives might hold (some of these houses they were passing would have to hold some woeful tribulations, Janie knew), still and all, people were compelled to celebrate because they knew somehow, in their different ways, that life was a thing to celebrate.

Here, obviously, we are one of those houses Jane is thinking about, where we have certainly had our share of tribulations. And she's right, isn't she, that no matter what is going on, we take time out at this time of year to celebrate. Even in the midst of serious illness, we still hang decorations, eat special foods, perhaps gather with family or friends if we are able to. It's a nice reminder that, no matter what else is happening in our lives, life is a thing to celebrate.

And now I will return to our own holiday preparations. It is actually snowing here in Delaware, and the boys are thrilled beyond belief! Kids definitely know how to appreciate the small moments of joy in life.

Hope you're enjoying your weekend.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dr. Oz Redeems Himself!

I just finished watching the new CFS segment on the Dr. Oz Show, featuring Dr. Donnica Moore. Hurray! They finally got it right (mostly). He started with an in-depth look at the newly discovered XMRV virus - I even learned a few things! Then, he interviewed Dr. Donnica (as she's known) with in-depth questions about CFS symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment which she answered perfectly. Besides being a women's health expert, Dr. Donnica has a son Jamie's age with CFS, so she understands it first-hand.

My one concern with the show was Dr. Oz's parting words (which Dr. Donnica didn't have a chance to respond to). He ended the segment by saying how important it is for people with CFS to exercise, even if they feel like they can't! I was yelling at the TV, "No! No! Let Donnica talk!" Oh, well. It was one minor complaint in an otherwise perfect segment. Dr. Oz even had another guest on, a woman with severe CFS who tested positive for XMRV in the initial study, providing a personal view of what it's like to live with CFS and to have doctors doubt you. Also, Dr. Donnica made sure to explain the difference between CFS and chronic fatigue, which was one of the key problems with his last segment.

All in all, it was great coverage of CFS. Even better, he has posted a 2-page article by Dr. Donnica on his website that provides explicit, accurate details on diagnosing and treating CFS - including proper guidance on MILD exercise.

On an amusing note, the CFS segment was followed by a segment on "kicking the salt habit," of which, of course, people with CFS need LOTS! Let's hope everyone with CFS turned the TV off after the CFS segment!

It looks like Dr. Oz listened to the letters we sent on his last CFS segment! If you'd like to tell him he got it right this time and thank him (positive reinforcement!), you can use this contact form on the Dr. Oz website. I'm going to go do this now.

P.S. Things are looking up here at our house. Jamie went back to school today. I made it to my book group last night AND out to dinner with a good friend. I'm a bit worn out today but not too bad - trying to take it easy and rest.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

New CFS Segment on Dr. Oz Show Tomorrow

Guess what? All of our letter writing paid off!

Dr. Oz taped a NEW segment on CFS, including the latest research on XMRV, with a well-respected CFS expert, Dr. Donnica Moore, that will air tomorrow, December 3. Dr. Moore has a son - same age as Jamie - with CFS and has previously appeared on two different CFS segments on Good Morning, America. She did a great job both times, so I think this new Dr. Oz segment will be much more accurate than the last one. Check the Dr. Oz website for the time and channel in your local area for tomorrow's show (click on "Local Listings").

Also, if you're in or near western New York, Dr. Bell is giving a public lecture on the XMRV research this Sunday, December 6. Too bad we just left Rochester - I'd like to go to this.

As for us, Jamie is still badly crashed and missed his special trip to Washington, DC, yesterday. He was chosen, along with 24 classmates, out of his class of 300 to attend this special briefing and meeting with our Senators and Representative, so he was pretty disappointed to miss it.

I felt OK both Monday and Tuesday morning, then terrible by dinnertime both days, so I'm taking today OFF. This posting is all my work for today. I'm going to try to rest and recover and finish my book so I can make it to my book group tonight. Too bad Jamie's on the couch...

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Holiday Marathon

Whew, what a weekend. We drove to Rochester, NY, on Wednesday to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my extended family. And I do mean extended - my mother's family is there, my father's family, my mother's husband's family - lots of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. So, our visits there are always packed full. I have backed off a bit on the agenda since getting CFS. We used to go to 3 different houses a day! It's still hectic, though, with lots of large gatherings. In fact, I have lots of friends from both high school and college in the area that I never have time to see because we have so many family members to visit.

We had a good time and enjoyed seeing everyone, but it was exhausting. I thought I was doing OK this morning, until about 10 am when I suddenly felt so tired! I'm not really badly crashed, just very, very tired.

At one point this weekend, I said to Ken, "I know I haven't done anything physical all weekend, but just sitting in a big group of people talking totally wipes me out." He said, "It wears ME out, and I don't have CFS!" The kids had a blast playing with all their different groups of cousins all week, but that was a LOT of physical activity for them. Craig was fine this morning, but Jamie is exhausted and said he woke up about 10 times last night - and that's with his sleep medications. I hope he rebounds quickly - he has an all-day trip to Washington, DC, tomorrow morning, leaving school at 5 am!

And now, tomorrow is December already! Christmas is only three and a half weeks away. Yikes! I haven't even begun to think about Christmas shopping. So much to do in such a short time. How does everyone else manage the holiday marathon?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Movie Monday 11/23

I had a weekend of highs and lows - the high of going hiking with my family on Saturday...and the low of thinking I had managed it OK, then crashing on Sunday afternoon. At least, I suspect it's from the hike, but who knows? Still in bad shape today and feeling a little down (and very worried about the rest of our week, traveling to see family for the holiday weekend). I have been looking forward to Movie Monday, though!

We watched two movies this weekend:
  • Million Dollar Baby I put off seeing this Academy award-winning movie for quite a while, in spite of its glowing reviews, because I really detest boxing, but I saw it on the shelf at the library Friday and decided to give it a try. I still think that boxing is brutal and cruel and shouldn't be considered a sport (I covered my eyes for most of the fighting scenes!), but there is no question that this is an excellent film. The story itself is both triumphant and sad, and the acting is superb. Hilary Swank is great in the title role, Clint Eastwood plays a perfect gruff old man, and I love Morgan Freeman in every role he plays! I have to warn you, though, that this is a tough movie to watch and not just because of the boxing scenes. So, you should probably stay away from this one if you don't like sad movies, but, if you feel as I do - that any movie(or book) that can make you feel something is worth seeing (or reading) - then you should give it a try.
  • Snow Falling on Cedars OK, this is a funny one - not the movie but the story of us watching it! I saw it at the library and thought, "Oh, I've always wanted to see this." So, I put the DVD in that evening and 5 minutes into it, Ken says, "Haven't we seen this before?" I told him I know I didn't see it. Another 10 minutes and he says, "I'm sure we've seen this before," and I keep insisting we haven't. At some point midway through, we finally decide we did see it. I asked Ken, "Do you remember how it ends?" Nope, me either. So, we watched it again! As for the movie, it's an excellent one, a mystery that ties into the prejudices against Japanese-Americans after World War II. Very well-done. As for the two of us, well, let's just say this isn't an isolated incident! Ken said to me, "At least you have CFIDS! What's my excuse??"
Hope you had a fun weekend and enjoyed some good movies, too!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quote It Saturday 11/21

I've borrowed a weekly feature from my book blog, where I share quotes from favorite books that spoke to me, as someone living with chronic illness.

This week's three quotes are from the novel The Tenth Circle by one of my favorite novelists, Jodi Picoult. The Tenth Circle uses parallels with Dante's The Inferno to help tell the story of a teen girl who encounters a terrible situation. These quotes are from the girl's mother, and her thoughts on dealing with her challenges and sorrow are remarkably appropriate to those of us living with chronic illness:

God, according to Dante, was all about motion and energy, so the ultimate punishment for Lucifer is to not be able to move at all. At the very bottom of hell, there's no fire, no brimstone, just the utter inability to take action.

...That weekend, Laura learned that there are no cosmic referees. Time-outs do not get called, not even when your world has taken a blow that renders you senseless. The dishwasher still needs to be emptied and the hamper overflows with dirty clothes and the high school buddy you haven't spoken to in six months calls to catch up, not realizing that you cannot tell her what's been going on in your life without breaking down.

...It was a catch-22: If you didn't put the trauma behind you, you couldn't move on. But if you did put the trauma behind you, you willingly gave up your claim to the person you were before it happened.

- The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

She really hits the mark, doesn't she? I could relate strongly to all three of these quotes.

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Cost of an Onion

I read something yesterday that affected me profoundly. It was a post originally written in the Forums at Phoenix Rising. I read it at Cort Johnson's blog (the founder of Phoenix Rising). You should follow this link and read it for yourself because it's beautifully written, but essentially, the writer talks about how 31-day months, like October, are extra-hard when you're on disability because it's so difficult to figure out how to feed yourself for an extra day. She writes of wanting to buy a small onion so she could make a stew and not being able to afford it.

Lately, I have been constantly worried about our finances and how to pay our ever-rising medical costs. Ken and I talk about it all the time. In the midst of worrying about our own problems, though, I see now that I have lost my sense of perspective. I may not be able to earn much these days, but Ken has a good-paying job with excellent (though expensive!) health insurance. We live in a very nice home in a great neighborhood. Although I am careful at the grocery store - comparing prices, buying the store brand, using coupons - I have never, ever worried about any of us going hungry. We pretty much eat what we want to eat (I hear Craig opening the fridge again now!). I haven't been seeing the bigger picture. We are very, very fortunate.

Here's a cool website recommended by a CFS friend, Global Rich List. Go to the site, plug in your annual income, and see how your family compares to the rest of the world. It's pretty eye-opening.

So, while we're worried about paying for plane fare to see Ken's parents, Craig's braces, and our increasing health insurance costs next year, there are plenty of other people with CFS worried about how to pay for a single onion. They're not worried about paying for expensive medicines and specialists because they can't afford any medical care. Maybe some of you reading this are in that position.

I need to remember this when I think things are tough and try to keep a sense of perspective, as well as helping other whenever I can.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I need to remember all that we have to be grateful for.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Movie Monday 11/16

I decided to start a new weekly feature: Movie Mondays! Ken and I almost always watch DVDs on Friday and Saturday nights, and I thought it might be fun to share my thoughts on the movies we've watched. I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommendations, too!

We really enjoy our movie nights on the weekends. Not only is it far cheaper (free, most of the time, since I borrow DVDs from the library) than going to the theater, but I can lie on the couch - and Ken in his beloved recliner - sip my tea, and just press pause whenever I need a bathroom break or a snack! Plus, it's something we can enjoy together no matter how sick I am.

So, this weekend, we watched:
  • Mamma Mia! I requested the movie version as soon as I got home from seeing the live show on Broadway because I enjoyed it so much. Of course, the DVD couldn't quite compare with seeing it live, but it was still a lot of fun. Ken and I thought the lead roles were sort of odd choices - Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan for singing roles - but it was enjoyable. I might even consider buying this one (a rarity for me) because I think it would be a good pick-me-up/feel-good movie to watch when I'm feeling bad. You just can't help but sing along and smile!
  • Slumdog Millionaire We just might be the last people in the universe to see this movie, but it was well worth the wait. Wow. What an amazing and powerful story of an orphan from the slums becoming an overnight millionaire and national hero. The conditions he and his brother and friend lived in and the things they endured as children were sometimes hard to watch, but it is the ultimate rags to riches story. The scenes of the slums of Mumbai at the beginning reminded me of a wonderful novel I read, The Space Between Us, about two women in India, a middle-class woman and her servant.
Have you seen any good movies lately?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Quote It Saturday 11/14

I've adopted a weekly feature from my book blog for my CFS blog, featuring book quotes that speak to our challenges in living with chronic illness.

Today's quote is from Christopher Reeve's amazing memoir, Still Me. I'm not normally into celebrity memoirs, but this one is unique. Reeve's strength and courage in the face of his complete paralysis is inspiring and awesome. I also highly recommend his follow-up memoir, Nothing Is Impossible. The things that he managed to accomplish while unable to move were incredible. Of course, vast wealth does help, but his positive attitude and personal strength in the face of such huge physical challenges is still awe-inspiring, as shown here:

If someone were to ask me what is the most difficult lesson I've learned from all this, I'm very clear about it: I know I have to give when sometimes I really want to take. I've realized instinctively that it's part of my job as a father now not to cause Will to worry about me. If I were to give in to self-pity or express my anger in front of him, it would place an unfair burden on this carefree five-year old. If I were to turn inward and spend my time mourning the past, I couldn't be as close to Matthew and Alexandria [his kids from his first marriage]...And what kind of life would it be for Dana if I let myself go and became a depressed hulk in a wheelchair? All of this takes effort on my part, because it's still very difficult to accept the turn my life has taken...
- Still Me, Christopher Reeve

See what I mean about his strength?

Hope you're all having a restful and enjoyable weekend!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Life Returning to Normal

Several times in the past six weeks, I've written that I was back to normal, then crashed again the next day, so this time I waited to be sure.

I've still got a bit of lingering chest congestion/cough, but I have been improving a little bit each day this week. No more fever, sore throat, or those terrible aches that went on for weeks. Our house is clean (no thanks to me - our cleaning service came this morning!), I got groceries, and Ken came home from his 9-day trip last night at midnight. Life really does feel like it is returning to normal, and, somehow, my own limited "normal" seems wonderful to me now!

Even better news is that Jamie only missed one day of school after his crash last weekend, then felt good the rest of the week. He and Craig had a blast on their day off Wednesday, running around with friends, and both of them still felt well enough for school on Thursday. We had friends over Tuesday evening for soup and fun (the kids played flashlight tag and my friend and I watched a girly movie - The Secret Life of Bees - loved it!).

Tonight, I'm making New Mexican Pork Chili for dinner with homemade cornbread. I'm thrilled to be able to cook again after being so sick for so long! Jamie is supposed to play in his last soccer game tomorrow morning, but it's still supposed to be raining (it started on Wednesday), so we'll see. The poor kid has missed most of his soccer games this season due to either illness or rain. I was really hoping to take the camper out for one last short camping overnight on Saturday, but I don't know if the weather will cooperate or if I'll be able to convince Ken to leave after 9 days away from home!

Whatever happens, it feels great to feel like myself again. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Monday, November 09, 2009

XMRV News and Updates

I've been collecting links to some very informative updates on the XMRV news but was too sick to tackle a link-heavy post last week! I'm still very congested (and now Jamie is home sick, too), but my energy is very slowly returning. I'm actually sitting up in the recliner this morning instead of lying flat on the couch (good thing because now Jamie had claimed the couch) - progress!

So, here's the scoop...
Things are happening! The testimony and attendance at last week's CFSAC meeting were truly remarkable, and the NIH seems to be finally taking notice of CFS (it's about time!). This is a very exciting time. Let's hope the momentum continues!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Quote It Saturday 11/7

Believe it or not, I have finally caught a virus, maybe the one the rest of my family had two weeks ago or maybe a new one (Jamie's starting to get congested again now). Although I've spent another week flat on my back, it's almost a relief to have "normal" symptoms like other people! For days, I've had a fever (a real fever!) and congestion. Who knows - maybe this virus will finally knock down my hyped-up immune system so I can get back to "normal." My spirits have been good, in part because of my nice weekend last week and in part thanks to some perspective gained from reading a wonderful memoir earlier this week.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominque Bauby is the memoir of a man who was editor-in-chief of the French Elle magazine until a massive stroke left him with locked-in syndrome. He is paralyzed and can only move his neck and one eye. He communicates (and wrote his book) by blinking his eye. Kind of puts CFS into perspective, doesn't it? His book is uplifting and inspiring; his attitude is amazingly positive. You can read my full review at my book blog.

Here are a few brief quotes that I could relate to as someone living with an isolating chronic illness (while clearly recognizing the differences!)...

The doctors brought him a wheelchair, which made him realize that his situation was permanent and not improving, and caused him to move toward acceptance and consider the effect on friends and family:

Oddly enough, the shock of the wheelchair was helpful. Things became clearer. I gave up my grandiose plans, and the friends who had built a barrier of affection around me since my catastrophe were able to talk freely. With the subject no longer taboo, we began to discuss locked-in syndrome.

I think this is similar to what happens when someone with CFS is finally diagnosed, and I love the phrase "a barrier of affection." What a perfect description!

While someone wheels his chair outdoors along the shore, he spots a lighthouse:

I placed myself at once under the protection of this brotherly symbol, guardian not just of sailors but of the sick - those castaways on the shores of loneliness.

"Castaways on the shores of loneliness' - what a beautiful and fitting phrase!

And, finally, considering the difference between his old life and his new:

I am fading away. Slowly but surely. Like the sailor who watches the home shore gradually disappear, I watch my past recede. My old life still burns within me, but more and more of it is reduced to the ashes of memories.

I would highly recommend this book (and I've heard the movie made from it is also excellent), especially on a day when you're struggling with self-pity. Bauby's words are honest and inspiring.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, so I'd like to dedicate today's post to my husband, Ken, and all the other spouses/parents/partners out there who tirelessly help to take care of those of us who are chronically ill (and/or who care for aging parents - Ken's out in Oklahoma right now helping his parents). Most caregivers work hard every day with little recognition of their role and effort. People who don't live with these challenges (work colleagues, friends, even family) have no idea what caregivers' lives are like and how much extra effort they put forth every day.

Caring for someone chronically ill (young or old) requires hard work, patience, and often putting someone else's needs before your own. These caregivers are the heroes in our lives, but their challenges and needs are often overlooked. Some resources for caregivers:

Ken and I have read two excellent memoirs written by caregivers. Mainstay: For the Well Spouse of the Chronically Ill by Maggie Strong is written by a woman whose husband has MS. Maggie alternates chapters telling their own personal story with chapters filled with facts, expert advice, and guidance for well spouses. Her book resulted in the creation of the Well Spouse Association, listed above.

Beyond Chaos: One Man's Journey Alongside His Chronically Ill Wife by Gregg Piburn is written from the perspective of a well husband caring for an ill wife. Gregg's wife, Sherrie, has CFS, fibromyalgia, and has undergone multiple surgeries for various sources of chronic pain. Gregg is a management consultant, so he uses a model of group dynamics to apply to families of the chronically ill, using his own experience as an example, with advice on how to move toward healthier relationships in a caregiving situation.

(Both of these books are now out of print, though used copies are still available - see below. Other books are available at the Well Spouse Website).

I also recently read a memoir, In My Heart by Ursula Hanks, written by a woman caring for her aging parents that I'd recommend to people in a similar situation.

So, take some time today to thank the person or people who help care for you and to let them know how much you appreciate all the things they do. And if you're a caregiver reading this, take some time today to do something just for yourself - you deserve it!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Payback Time

Well, I didn't think I'd get to spend a whole day in NYC walking around and skipping my nap without consequences, did I? No, but a girl can always hope, can't she?

I only felt a little crashed on Monday, and pretty good (not great) on Tuesday. I've been couch-bound for so long, though, that I took advantage of yesterday's pretty good day to get groceries, deposit a stack of health insurance checks, and pay the library fines that piled up this past month. By Tuesday afternoon, I was starting to feel worse, and I woke up this morning back to truly horrible - a burning sore throat and aches so severe that I've spent most of the day in bed (bed days are much worse than couch days).

I'm not entirely sure whether this is a delayed response to Sunday's freedom, a sign that my stamina is so bad right now that the grocery store did me in, or yet another viral trigger messing with my immune system. Does it really matter?

Ken left this afternoon for nine days away, and we're both worried about how I'll manage. He stayed home from work this morning to get some stuff done around the house, which I really appreciated, and I'm glad I went to the grocery store yesterday to stock up, despite the fall-out. He usually tries to limit his time away, but he really needed to get out to Oklahoma to visit his parents, and it's a lot more affordable for us when combined with his business trip to Louisiana (yes, he's visiting our old home without me!).

Lots of good ideas for blog posts, but any more creative writing will have to wait for another day.

Monday, November 02, 2009


I did it - I survived and, yes, even enjoyed my big weekend!

I was still severely ill on Thursday and Friday, with horrible aches, so I spent most of Friday in bed, took two long naps, and started to finally perk up a bit Friday evening, in time to supervise pumpkin carving.

I was able to watch Jamie's soccer game Saturday morning, then came home to rest up for Halloween night. Remember how upset I was that I hadn't been able to work on costumes? Well, Jamie came through with a very creative idea, and Ken and my mom shopped for supplies. We dressed up as the characters from the Where's Waldo? books! Jamie was Waldo, I was Wenda, Ken was Odlaw, and Craig - who likes to do his own thing - came up with an awesome old man costume. My mom and her husband dressed up as Indians. I even managed to go to a few houses on our cul-de-sac with my family and the boys' friends before heading back home to hand out candy.

Jamie and his friend rushed back to the house, showered, changed into dress clothes, and went to their Homecoming Dance! They had a great time and are looking so grown-up now.

On Sunday, the boys in the family headed to NJ for a Jets game, and my mom and I went to New York. Ironically, yesterday was the New York City Marathon, and I ran my own CFS-style marathon in New York! My mom and I went to see Mamma Mia! on Broadway. What a fabulous, happy, upbeat show! Everything about it was wonderful - the cast, the music, the dancing, the costumes, the storyline. And we also enjoyed some excellent food. We had lunch at a little French bistro called Tout Va Bien, and I finally got to try the homemade table-side created guacamole at Rosa Mexicano for dinner. When I finally got on my (late) train to head home, I was stuffed and exhausted - I really did feel as if I'd run a marathon. A couple days ago, I was really sick of lying in bed, but it felt like heaven last night!

I'm back on the couch today, but I feel like I earned it this time. My mom was so worried about me last night - we ended up walking more then we intended because a lot of roads were closed for the marathon, so cabs weren't always possible. But I explained to her that this was a choice I had made, that I knew it would likely result in feeling bad the next day, but the joy and wonderful escape she gave me were well worth it.

Amazingly, Jamie and Craig both made it through their own marathon weekends and are at school today. All in all, a wonderful, victorious weekend!

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Day

Courage doesn't always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,
"I will try again tomorrow."

I thought I should counter yesterday's depressing quote with a more inspiring one. I have no idea where this originally came from; I read it on a plaque in a catalog, cut out the picture, and keep it in my bathroom. I very often look at it and repeat it to myself before bed when I've had a rough day (like yesterday). It's a nice reminder that no matter how bad things seem, there's always tomorrow - a fresh start, a new chance.

I'm still feeling crummy - definitely didn't sleep long enough for one thing. But I have my mom and my husband to help with stuff today, so I'm going to try to rest a lot (not that I have much choice with so little energy!). Thank you so much - once again - for all the wonderful support and love. Every time I picked up my laptop and read new comments, I got teary-eyed and smiled (I'm pretty emotionally fragile right now!). You all always know just what to say, probably because you've been here yourselves.

Hope everyone has a good weekend and a very Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

So Sick of Being Sick

And when I knew I had to face another day,
Lord, it made me feel so tired.
- Aretha Franklin, "A Natural Woman"

Those lyrics were running through my head last night as I was struggling to get to sleep. My feelings of joy and freedom on Monday didn't last very long. I had about 48 hours of feeling good (better than last week!). By Tuesday morning, the aches were back, but I had to drive to NJ for my appointment with the Lyme doctor, and I stopped at Target afterward since it's right next door (will I never learn?). By Thursday afternoon after my nap, I felt horrible again and have been back on the couch ever since.

I'm just so sick of feeling this bad and being so completely useless. The rest of my family (including my visiting Mom) are at Craig's last soccer game right now. I hated to miss it, but the aches are just too awful. I don't know what else to even say anymore. I know some of you feel this bad all the time, so I don't want to complain, but I'm just so sick of this.

I just bought a train ticket for NY Sunday. My Mom got tickets to Mamma Mia! on Broadway for my birthday this summer, but there is a really good chance I won't be able to go. And Halloween? I usually have some great plan for creative costumes for all of us, but I've done nothing at all this year. At least tonight's dinner is already in the crockpot. I better put the laptop away.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Took a Walk!

I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up from a 4-week nap. It's the end of October? The leaves are already half gone from the trees? When did this happen?

I am definitely feeling much better, for the second day in a row, after a couple of days of feeling sort of so-so (a big step up from blech). After breakfast this morning, my son asked if I felt well enough to walk to the bus stop with him instead of driving, and I was so excited to be able to say, "Yes! Yes, I do feel well enough to walk!" So, we walked up the street in the cool autumn sunshine - the air smelled so good!

I also made a short trip to Trader Joe's this morning to restock since we used all our convenience foods while I was sick. I am filled with joy and such a sense of freedom! To be outdoors, to be able to walk, to go to the store when I need to! Amazing. The bad times with CFS certainly do help us to appreciate the good days. Driving with the sun coming in through the window, I was stunned by the bright paintbox colors of the trees. Beautiful.

I have a very busy week ahead, and I am acutely aware of how fragile my well-being is. We have Craig's last two soccer games, I go to NJ to see the Lyme doc tomorrow, my Mom comes to town on Wednesday for our book group, her husband joins us on Friday for Halloween weekend, and on Sunday, my Mom and I are supposed to go see a show in NYC for the day while Ken and Pop Pop and the boys go to a Jets game. Even more for Jamie, he has his homecoming dance on Saturday night.

A too-full schedule even on a very good week, so wish me luck! I will try hard to pace myself. Thanks again for all of your encouragement and well wishes during my long, severe crash - your words of support really helped me get through the dark days!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Follow-Up on Dr. Oz Show

Thanks for the great response to my Friday post about CFS on the Dr. Oz Show. Hopefully, our letters will do some good and convince Dr. Oz that CFS deserves its own coverage, not lumped in with other causes of fatigue.

I thought you'd all be interested to hear that Dr. Teitelbaum himself responded to my blog post and your comments! He explained his own comprehensive approach to treating CFS and his understanding that CFS is different from chronic fatigue; however, this doesn't change the fact that none of that came across in the TV segment. You can read his full comment and my response in the comments section of Friday's post. There is still no video clip of the CFS segment of Friday's show, but Dr. Teitelbaum's own website provides a recap of what was covered (along with a discount on his supplements!).

I also wanted to let you know that we're not the only ones who were frustrated by Dr. Oz's misleading coverage of CFS. There is a very active discussion forum on this topic at Phoenix Rising, an excellent source of information on all things related to ME/CFS. From the forums page, just click on Action Alerts and Advocacy, under the ME/CFS News heading. If you want to participate in the discussion forums, you can register (it's quick and free). The Dr. Oz/Dr. Teitelbaum discussion has garnered over 150 responses so far, so it's clear this is a topic of great interest to the CFS community. Apparently, there was also a lengthy discussion on Facebook in the CFIDS Association group (I missed that while I was sick)

Let's hope our voices will be heard in this matter!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Quote It Saturday 10/24

Slowly, gradually improving here. My energy is finally starting to come back - slowly, Craig is 100% better thanks to antibiotics, and Jamie went back to school yesterday, though he's still pretty wiped out today. Unfortunately, now my husband seems to be catching the virus that Jamie and Craig had this week, starting with some congestion and a cough, so he's running down. Thank goodness he didn't get sick last week - I don't know what we would have done with me being so incapacitated.

Today's quotes are from a novel I enjoyed, The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg:

"We're so lucky," she said, and I nodded into her shoulder. "It's kind of scary to be so lucky," she said, and I nodded again. I knew exactly what she meant. Sometimes being lucky is only waiting for a fall.

...There are random moments...when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead.

- The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg

Both of these quotes very closely mirror my own feelings about my own life, as I described in a very similar way a few years ago in my blog post, A Life of Contentment with Pockets of Despair.

Hope you're all enjoying a relaxing weekend.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Very Inaccurate Coverage of CFS on Dr. Oz

These last few weeks, we've all been reading and celebrating all the scientific, accurate news stories on CFS that have emerged since the news of XMRV in CFS. Well, I saw today that the battle is far from over. I heard that the Dr. Oz Show would be covering CFS today, so I tuned in, expecting to hear about XMRV on a popular, national medical TV show. Wow, was I disappointed! Even my 11-year old son (who's still home sick) could see immediately that Dr. Oz got it all wrong.

He started by announcing that if you are exhausted and sleep doesn't help, then you have CFS. He didn't mention a single one of the immune dysfunction symptoms or even exercise intolerance. He talked about anemia and thyroid problems. Then he explained how people with CFS could be cured (yes, cured!) with diet changes and supplements. The problem was that his CFS "expert" guest was Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum. I read Dr. Teitelbaum's book, From Fatigued to Fantastic, which focuses on chronic fatigue (the symptom) rather than CFS. He doesn't differentiate and claims to have a high cure rate for CFS based on his program of nutritional supplements (of course, that's because his patients have chronic fatigue, not CFS). His book doesn't address immune dysfunction at all. Even worse, Dr. Oz didn't even mention the XMRV research.

I would point you to a video of the CFS segment, but they chose to post a video of the G-spot story on their website instead! Dr. Oz has a huge impact on the general population because of his connection with Oprah. Please join me in telling him that his story about CFS was inaccurate and he needs to tell the REAL story. You can send a message to the show here.

Here's the text of my message:
"I was extremely disappointed in your very inaccurate coverage of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome on your October 23 show. I have read Jacob Teitelbaum's book and many of his articles. He is an expert on chronic fatigue, the general symptom, but not Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), the defined immune system disorder. CFS is far more than fatigue that is unresponsive to rest. You didn't even mention any of the symptoms of immune dysfunction that are common for CFS: sore throat and swollen glands, flu-like aches, and feeling feverish despite lower-than-normal temperature. In addition, the most unique, defining characteristic of CFS is an intolerance to exercise, where even mild exertion causes a sudden, severe worsening, whereas general fatigue is often improved by mild exercise.

On the show you talked about anemia and thyroid problems, two diagnoses that could exclude a diagnosis of CFS. For someone who actually has CFS, iron supplements, diet changes, and D-ribose would have only a very minor effect on the devastating symptoms, if any at all.

Finally, it is particularly disturbing that you presented such an inaccurate, non-scientific view of CFS at this time, after the momentous CFS research published two weeks ago in Science that connected CFS to a newly identified retrovirus, XMRV. See these websites for more information:

I hope that you will cover CFS again on your show, to provide the real facts and try to un-do some of the damage you have done to those of us suffering from this severe and debilitating disease with your very misleading and erroneous coverage today.

Sue Jackson
CFS for 7 years
Both of my sons also have CFS (yes, it also has a genetic link which has been proven in many scientific studies)"

Tell the Dr. Oz show what CFS REALLY is!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Infectious Autumn

I think I'm a little better today. I'm actually sitting up (well, reclining in a lounge chair) and am outside on the deck. It's a beautiful fall day. I feel like I've missed the whole month of October, which happens to be one of my favorites!

Unfortunately, both of my sons are home sick today. I did manage to take them both to the doctor's office and pharmacy, so that was a big achievement for me! It's a lot harder to rest with them home, though. We need more couches.

Craig has bronchitis and started on antibiotics. Jamie sounded like he was heading to bronchitis yesterday, but his congestion actually got much better overnight, so he has a prescription to hang onto just in case. I think maybe that revved-up immune system did him some good and he plowed through whatever this virus is in just a few days. He's still feeling wiped out, but that could just be CFS.

As I've said many times before here, I am hugely grateful for our wonderful pediatrician (see A Doctor Who Gets It...Priceless). I told her about the latest news linking CFS with the XMRV retrovirus, and she was very excited. She said she's seen two teen girls recently (I think they're the two we sent to her!) who have very severe OI but don't exactly meet the criteria for CFS, and she'd love to have a diagnostic test available to help.

The doctor said she can't remember a season as bad as this one for viruses - not just H1N1 (though there's already lots of that around here), but all sorts of infections. Craig said 37 of the 100 6th graders at his school were absent on Wednesday, and the school nurse at Jamie's high school says she's sending home 20 students every day with high fevers (and those are just the ones who go to the nurse's office!). My kids have done remarkably well so far. We're now considering whether Craig should get the H1N1 vaccine when it's available. His immune system is actually much closer to normal than mine or Jamie's, and he does sometimes catch viruses. I shared Dr. Lapp's advice with our pediatrician, but she's not exactly sure what to do either. It's a tough call.

I'm hoping my heavy doses of doxycycline for Lyme will protect me from the bronchitis. Well, that's probably enough computer time for today - I'm going through major withdrawal! I must be doing a little better because I've progressed to feeling a bit restless and unproductive. That's a step up from just feeling too sick to care!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Has the Other Shoe Dropped?

I am still severely crashed, still stuck lying on the couch with a terribly sore throat and severe aches all over. It's been more than three weeks of this now, when my crashes typically only last a day or two. I am forced to consider the unthinkable: could this be my "new normal"?

Ever since the boys and I improved to the point of being able to function somewhat normally (they with Florinef and salt for OI; me with OI treatment, antivirals, and low-dose naltrexone), a part of me has been waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am not normally a worrier. I try hard to stay positive, to focus on today, and to be grateful for what we have. But there's always a little bit of anxiety hiding behind the surface, feeling like all three of us are time-bombs waiting to go off.

That part of me has been worried - more about the boys than myself - that one of us will be exposed to one of CFS's trigger infections that will cause a long-term worsening. Both of my boys still test negative for Epstein-Barr Virus, so I mostly live in fear of one of them getting mono, a well-known CFS trigger. I've certainly read plenty of stories of others with CFS who suddenly and inexplicably worsened. So, after almost a month of feeling awful, I have to wonder - is that what's happened to me now?

Fear not, though. While I recognize that my fears could turn out to be valid, I am trying not to let them overwhelm me. I reminded myself last night of the lessons I learned years ago about hope and control, namely that I do have some control over my circumstances and that I am not entirely at the mercy of forces outside myself.

So, I am doing what I can to try to promote recovery - mainly what I like to call Aggressive Resting (a wonderful oxymoron). This is very hard for me! I realized this weekend that I definitely get worse after sitting at the computer or cooking dinner,and I get a little better after lying down for several hours. So, I am newly dedicated to REST...lying down as much as possible, letting Ken handle cooking, even - gasp! - limiting my time on the laptop (this is it, I swear...). Even harder, I think I need to stay home this afternoon and miss Craig's soccer game. I've been dragging myself to the games twice a week, and I always feel worse afterward. This morning, I even turned off the tv, put down the books and magazines, closed my eyes and meditated (twice). I am a multi-tasker at heart, so it is real work for me to truly slow down like this, but I am trying.

And in that spirit, it's time for a quick lunch and a long nap.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Quote It Saturday 10/17

October 17? Seriously? I feel like my life is passing me by as I lie on the couch. Doing a little better today and trying not to overdo.

I've been borrowing a weekly theme from my book blog and posting a book quote each Saturday. I'm kind of cheating on today's quote because I haven't actually read the book, but we did watch the movie with the kids last night, and the movie is based on a book, so that counts, right?

Be the hero of your own life story.
- Nim's Island by Wendy Orr

This line was repeated often in the movie (and, I assume, in the book), and it really resonated with me. It encourages you to take responsibility for your own life, challenges and all, and reject a victim mentality. I think this is my new personal motto.

There's another movie I want to share with you - not actually a quote but more of a concept. After the kids went to bed, Ken and I watched the movie Blindness (also based on a book!). Have you seen it? Basically, a strange epidemic hits where people suddenly go blind. It's obvious right away that it's highly contagious, so widespread panic ensues. The government's response is to round up everyone who's gone blind and put them in prison-like detention centers, where they're pretty much forgotten as the outside world freaks out. There's so much effort put into quarantining the blind people that there seems to be no effort at all to examine them or investigate to find the cause of the epidemic. The detention center at the heart of this story ends up going a little Lord of the Flies as food becomes scarce.

So, partway through this movie, I said to Ken, "It's a pretty pessimistic view of humanity and the government, isn't it?" (that's me, the eternal optimist).

Ken said, "Really? You can sit there with CFS and say that? Isn't this exactly what the CDC has done with CFIDS for 20 years?"

"Wow, I guess you're right. We've just been set aside and ignored haven't we? Do you think now that there's some indication there might be an infectious component to it, they'll stick us in detention centers?"

I just thought the parallels were interesting and ironic. It was a good movie, though parts were pretty disturbing. Hope I won't be seeing some of you in an abandoned psych ward anytime soon!

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Infrormation on XMRV Virus and CFS

Information continues to pour out regarding the new study showing a relationship between the XMRV retrovirus and CFS:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We Are Everywhere

There are good reasons why Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia are known as Invisible Illnesses. First, there's the fact that most of us look "normal" to people who don't know us. Strangers or casual acquaintances who see us out have no idea how much we're suffering or what a huge effort it's taking for us just to be present. Second, stuck in our houses for most of our lives, we feel isolated and invisible to the world outside.

I was feeling my invisibility acutely yesterday at Craig's soccer game. I'm still very badly crashed, but I dragged myself to the game and was sitting there, wrapped in a blanket and huddled in my beach chair (close to the ground to minimize the effects of OI), aching all over and probably feeling a little sorry for myself. All around me, I could see and hear the other parents, standing on the sidelines, talking animatedly to each other. It was obvious they all knew each other from school functions and other community activities that I usually miss out on.

Then, I struck up a conversation with the mom sitting next to me, wrapped in her own blanket and also sitting in a beach chair. Her older daughter had gone to middle school with Jamie, and her youngest daughter was on the opposing soccer team. Jamie was sitting next to me, also aching, in his own beach chair, and this mom asked him if he played soccer for his school, too. Jamie said to her, "No, I, uh, have some medical problems, so I don't have the stamina to play for the school team."

The other mom was immediately interested (unusual in itself) and asked what kind of medical problems. I explained that Jamie and Craig and I all have an immune system disorder (standard explanation), and she asked, "Which immune system disorder?" I didn't even finish getting the words "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" out of my mouth before she excitedly replied, "I have fibromyalgia! And my middle daughter also has fibromyalgia plus lupus." And just like that, a bond was formed - we had each found someone else who gets it!

She and I talked non-stop through the rest of the game, practically finishing each other's sentences...

She: Did you hear the news about the new virus last week?
Me: Yes! wasn't that great?

She: There's this medication that works well for any immune system disorders. It's called low-dose naltrexone...
Me: I take low-dose naltrexone!

She: My daughter's knees have been really hurting lately. I'm worried she might have Lyme.
Jamie: I've had Lyme twice.
Me: I got Lyme last summer, and I'm still being treated for it.

She: Has this fall been bad for you? I've had terrible aches...
Jamie and I together: Yes! Terrible aches!

Immediately, she and I both knew we had found someone who understood, someone for whom we were not invisible, someone who really "got it." It reminded me of the way it feels when I discover a new friend through blogs or other communities on the internet who instantly understands me because he or she is living the very same life.

Something similar happened to me in June, when we attended a graduation party for a close family friend and two - yes, two - other moms there sought me out and asked me all about CFS because both of their daughters had undiagnosed mystery illnesses (both quite likely CFS).

We are not nearly as alone as we feel. It is estimated that there are over a million adults with CFS in the US (plus unknown numbers of kids and teens) and many more worldwide. I'm no expert on fibromyalgia, but I think the estimate for that illness is several million in the US alone. Next time you're out, look around. Chances are pretty good that someone else you see has been affected by CFS or FM, either in themselves or in a friend or family member.

We are your neighbors and friends. We are the parents of your kids' friends. We are the people you see in the doctor's office or (more rarely) in the grocery store. We are everywhere.

We are not alone, and we are not invisible.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New York Times Article

Remember I recently posted about author Anne Ursu? Well, she was quoted in a New York Times article yesterday about the new CFS research. It's a great article, except for the inane comments from Reeves at the CDC - makes me want to reach through the computer and strangle him!

Jamie went back to school this morning, in time for his PSAT - hurray! Craig was starting to feel bad last night, but then I discovered he skipped all his meds yesterday (I slept in because I was so sick). Hopefully, he'll be OK now. I'm a little better - still very low stamina but anything is better than yesterday.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Things are looking pretty grim at our house this week.

Jamie was severely crashed all weekend and is still home from school. He's spent 4 full days lying on the couch reading. Thank goodness for reading! I think he's on his fourth book since Saturday.

I felt much better Saturday, but it only lasted about 36 hours, then I went into yet another bad crash. This is now 4 weeks in a row for me. I'm grateful that I, so I''ve had a few breaks on the weekends, but I'm getting pretty sick of this. I woke up this morning worse than ever, with my throat so sore I could barely speak and every inch of my body aching horribly. Jamie's on the couch, so I've set myself up lying across a couple of beanbag chairs on the floor. I hope Jamie gets better soon - he has his PSAT exam tomorrow and a full-day field trip to the Renaissance Faire on Thursday.

After all the excitement over last week's CFS news, I allowed myself to daydream a little this weekend...what would happen if this new finding actually leads to a cure? But today I feel like it's back to reality.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Quote It Saturday 10/10

I skipped last week because we were out of town but wanted to get back to my new weekend feature, Quote It Saturdays, started by fellow book blogger, That Chick That Reads. I enjoy posting this weekly feature on my book blog and thought I'd try it on the CFS blog as well, with book quotes that especially spoke to me as someone living with chronic illness.

This week's quote is from a book of essays, Above Us Only Sky, by one of my favorite writers, Marion Winik:

Instead of burning my candle at both ends, I learned to light it only for special occasions.
Marion was writing about plain-old modern life, with all its crazy stresses, but doesn't this perfectly express how we've had to change our lives for CFS?

Hope you're enjoying a relaxing weekend!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Big News in the CFS World

You've probably already heard about this, but just in case...

Yesterday, the results of a recent CFS study were announced that found a certain virus in 67% of 101 CFS patients tested (and less than 4% of controls). This is good news and could potentially lead to some breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment.

Whether this research leads to anything useful or not, though, the announcement itself was very beneficial - it was covered by all the major news media - big-time coverage proclaiming that CFS has an infectious link and is a real, serious disease! It was covered by NPR (twice - on All Things Considered last night and again on Morning Edition today), by the New York Times, Nature magazine, Science magazine, and many more. Here's the CFIDS Association's take on it. We can use all the good, validating PR we can get!

Coincidentally, the CFIDS Association kicked off a new PR campaign this week called Solve CFS, with some very cool features, including a campaign to raise $1 million for CFS research by 12/21/09. Check out the moving story posted by fellow blogger Jennie Spotilla in this month's CFIDS Chronicle.

I think we're making progress!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Flat Again

Well, I did make it to the beach this weekend, and we had a wonderful, relaxing time. The condo our neighbors loaned to us was perfect - we wanted to move in! And for the first time in weeks, I was able to walk, through the quiet beach town and along the shore. I love the ocean.

But now, here I am, flat on my back again, worse than I was all last week. I had about 3 good days then woke up this morning feeling awful again. I burst into tears several times today - not because I was depressed or melting down but just because everything hurt so much. My throat feels like it's on fire, and every inch of my body aches. I think I may have a fever, too, because Ken came home and closed the sliding glass door in the kitchen, and I said, "Keep it open - it's so hot in here!" He and the boys looked at me like I was insane and said, "We're freezing. It's only 60 degrees out."

A crash this sudden and severe can only mean another viral trigger. The boys say that everyone at school is sick. And Jamie is feeling crummy tonight, too. In fact, I need to turn my laptop over to him so he can struggle through a little homework; he's too wiped out to sit at the desktop computer. I shouldn't be typing anyway - just wanted a little company. This looks like it could be another rough week.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Swine Flu Advice for People with CFS or FM

Came across an excellent article by Dr. Lapp (one of the world's foremost experts on CFS) regarding swine flu advice for people with CFS (aka H1N1).

This pretty much echoes my own approach and what our doctors have supported here. I would add to Dr. Lapp's advice that it makes sense for non-CFS sufferers in the household to get flu shots, just to avoid bringing the virus into the home (we find that even though we don't often catch viruses, being exposed can trigger a crash from the over-stimulated immune system response - probably what's going on with me this week).

I'm still feeling awful, but Jamie went back to school today. I had a little mental breakdown last night sobbing on the couch (sometimes you just have to, you know?), but my wonderful husband talked me down and cheered me up. Trying to rest today so I won't be totally flat for our little getaway tomorrow.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

School = Viruses

Too sick to write much today. I've been badly crashed all week - sore throat, severe aches, the works. Craig was home sick on Tuesday (thank goodness he bounces back so fast!), and Jamie hit the wall last night and is home today. When all three of us crash at the same time (and I haven't been very active at all), it usually means there's some sort of viral trigger lurking around. The boys have been telling me that LOTS of kids at school are sick. Lots of kids absent but, even worse, lots of kids coming to school sneezing and coughing. Haven't their parents been reading the news this season??

I hope Jamie and I recover in time for the weekend. Yesterday was Ken and my 20th anniversary, and we're planning to go to the beach this weekend for a brief get-away. Gramie and Pop Pop are coming to stay with the kids, and our wonderful neighbors are lending us their condo in Stone Harbor, NJ. We so rarely get any time alone together...I really hope I'm not crashed for it!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great Books From a CFS Author

I just reviewed a wonderful trilogy for middle-grade and teen readers at my Great Books for Kids and Teens blog, and I wanted to share with you the author's convoluted history with CFS.

Anne Ursu is the author of The Cronus Chronicles, an exciting and suspenseful series about a couple of ordinary thirteen-year old cousins who end up battling real-life Greek gods. Anne's writing is clever and imaginative, with a nice dose of humor, and I highly recommend her books to any pre-teen and teen readers (and grown-ups, too!).

I first heard of Anne several years ago when I came across a newspaper story when the first book of the trilogy, The Shadow Thieves, was released; the story mentioned that she had CFS. I e-mailed Anne to ask for a review copy of her book and to share my own CFS story. In a strange twist of fate, Anne found my blog and e-mailed me recently, not realizing I was the same person who had contacted her years before.

Anne's CFS story is a fascinating one. When I first contacted her, she had had the relapsing-remitting type of CFS for many years but considered herself lucky that it was relatively mild. She had long periods of good health in between crashes. By the time Anne e-mailed me earlier this year, she considered herself recovered from CFS, as she hadn't had a crash episode in a long time, but her husband had recently gotten mono and developed post-viral CFS. Today, her husband is undergoing IV anti-viral therapy and seeing some improvement. Anne still does not have the classic immune-dysfunction symptoms of CFS, but she has developed fairly severe Orthostatic Intolerance and is trying various treatments for that.

Now, here's the really cool part...Anne worked CFS into the plot of The Shadow Thieves (I told you she was clever!). The book opens with a strange illness affecting young teens, an illness that makes them feel so exhausted and sick that they can barely get out of bed. Sound familiar? Cousins Charlotte and Zee are determined to find out what is making their friends sick and set off on a quest which leads them to the Underworld. They battle against Greek gods in the Underworld and eventually make their friends well again...too bad it isn't that easy in real life, huh? Jamie and I read The Shadow Thieves several years ago when we were both much sicker with CFS, and we loved seeing this illness get vanquished by the book's hero and heroine!

In addition to The Cronus Chronicles, Anne has also written two grown-up novels, Spilling Clarence and The Disapparation of James. I haven't read the first, but I loved The Disapparation of James and passed it along to friends and family who also enjoyed it. Check out Anne's website for more information on her books.

NOTE: Another excellent novel by an author with CFS is The State of ME by Nasim Marie Jafry - the novel is about a woman with CFS, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.