One Patient's Positive Perspectives

Posts tagged ‘arthritis’

Lupus in the light of a rainbow’s promise

wp_20170123_16_24_13_proOften, many days go by when looking outside at the nearby trees is overlooked.  The cold rainy day had soaked everyone as they made their way to the office.  Lupus grumbled loudly as aching joints and stiffness responded to the damp chill penetrating the office.

The thermal glass was much too thin to block the deep chill penetrating the wall.  The storm blanketing the mountains to the north with deep layers of winter snow brought a biting chill to our arid desert valley below.  Pelting rain struck the office balcony and trees below, as the sky gave a message of promise read by everyone standing there in awe.

320px-Butterfly_sikkimDark gray clouds hung heavy in the eastern Arizona sky as a billowing contrast to the brilliant brush stroke arc of colors swept across the sky.  The southern clouds even carried a faint echoing hint of a barely perceptible second bow.  Standing where an outstretched hand could touch the drenching rain, the combination of invigorating chill and the intensely beautiful sky snapped away the lethargy of the  aching rainy day.

wp_20170123_16_23_49_proRemembering the story of the first such rainbow adorning Noah’s sky refreshed a keen awareness of God’s many promises spanning the ages: never to flood the whole earth again, His Word delivered through holy men of old, the birth of a Savior, and the cross and resurrection that promise new life to those who believe and receive Him, and even now the promise of forgiveness and mercy while adventuring toward a heavenly future home.

With a heart full of these thoughts, today’s rainy day aches of Lupus were somehow dwarfed under the shadow of grand colors of promise hung over skies of history.  A deep cleansing breath and lingering sigh were the only utterance that really described the sight.

The duties of the day soon called out the time to go back inside and into the office kitchen, where a fresh cup of hot coffee waited to warm and nudge persistently back toward the reality of waiting duties on a desk inside. The image of that gorgeous sky evoked thoughtful quietness as I sat down again to view the distractingly beautiful scene outside my office window.

Separating Systemic Lupus from Traumatic Injuries

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Separating the Injury Claims

When a lupus patient has an auto accident, work comp injury, or some other personal injury where an accident insurance claim may be involved, sorting out treatment and claims can get pretty tricky.  Personal experience with these type of insurance claims provided some perspectives about working with doctors to sort out each new injury, and distinguish it from previous injuries and chronic illness.  The most recent auto accident that happened makes dealing with several issues fresh all over again!

Years ago, two different injuries resulted in insurance claims.  First, an auto accident followed a few weeks later by a fall down stairs at work.  Communication was the key to sorting out the differences between injuries.  Now, a recent auto accident was followed by a trip and fall at the shopping mall, and the same approach is needed once again.

Granted, with auto-immune illness, there are always many days with pain and discomfort, but new injuries seem to make coping even more difficult.   Day by day it has taken patience through the recovery, meanwhile remembering to ask God for the grace to be able to refrain from too much grumbling.  This too will pass, and the Bible says that the rain falls on everyone, so the storm becomes a little personal.  The new traumas also caused lupus to flare for several weeks.

Because of ongoing medical problems from chronic disease, communication with a doctor after a traumatic injury is very important.  Providing very complete, specific, and accurate information helped doctors and employers understand new symptoms and distinguish accident-related time off work.  Although several past accident injury claims were unfortunate, a few personal kernels of reality and wisdom emerged from the experiences.  While clearly not legal advice (which would be extremely unethical for this non-lawyer to provide), these personal observations may give some helpful insight to others patients with chronic illness who are facing a similar accidental injury situation.

A doctor will finally understand it is lupus

Communicate Well with Your Doctors

Three foundational, if not simplistic, realizations:

  1. Only medical problems clearly a result of the accident injury were covered by any of the claims.
  2. Unchanged pre-existing medical problems were not part of the injury insurance claims. (Obvious but worth saying)
  3. Flares of of pre-existing medical problems clearly triggered by the injury were able to be included in the claims, but only to the degree this diagnosis was included in medical records statements that supported how the autoimmune illness had worsened after the accidents, and because of the accidents.

Four conversations throughout various stages of recovery that it helped to chat with the doctor about:

  1. Asking what percent the doctor thought recovery from the first accident was reached, right after the second accident happened.  This helped establish a milestone in the treatment that we would work our way back toward during recovery from the second accident.
  2. Asking the doctor about how they thought injuries from the second accident were different than the first.  It helped when the doctor compared and contrasted between both injuries, and this gave clear information to use talking to both insurance companies.
  3. If the doctor doesn’t mention the idea, suggesting the concept to the doctor of a “window” in the recovery from the first accident while the second accident recovery was in progress.  This helped work with both insurance companies to make clear agreement about who was paying for what and when.  This helped the first insurance company know what to expect, and to realize they would be resuming responsibility for medical treatment costs after the recovery milestone was reached.
  4. Asking about total recovery in percentages after resuming the treatment just for the remaining first accident injuries, helped keep things straight with the insurance company.  Ongoing conversation about status of recovery with the doctor and claims adjuster helped keep everyone’s expectations and timelines clear.
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June 14th is Flag Day – Happy Birthday, Sis!

After having a couple of previous injuries, three serious car accidents, a work comp fall down stairs on the job, and two slip and fall injuries, personal experiences helped clarify the impact of an accident injury on overall lupus condition and general health.  It seems that if both adjusters and doctors had not been part of the conversations during recovery, proving diagnosis of increased lupus activity due to the traumatic injury would have been much harder.  It seemed better for everyone to be involved in ongoing discussion about the degree pre-accident health had be reached.

Of course, with lupus or any autoimmune disease, there is no “back to normal”, but with good communication, it can become clear when near “normal” health was regained.  Each day, no matter what it brings, is a glorious new day to be alive, what ever “normal” ends up being.

Check Your Lupus Awareness and Play the Lupus Game at Lupus.org

Know Lupus Game My Score 100 PercentPlay the Know Lupus game online… and earn donations for answering awareness questions.

Try to get through both levels with 100%  It was fun, so check it out and spread the word to others to check out this fund lupus awareness activity at the Lupus Foundation of America site.

Play:  The Lupus Game and see if you can beat the challenge!

 

Lupus and not sleeping but still singing in the rain

Rain splashing on the window

There is nothing quite so satisfying for a college student as getting the paper finished, just right, proofread and printed — ready to hand in the next day.  Pleased with self and ready to snuggle into bed for the night and sleep in the sweet peace of readiness.  All is well as evening medications are downed, slumber time routines done, and tucked into the covers.  Here in the darkness, listening to the rain pouring outside in the chilly evening just beyond the bedroom window, soothed by the quiet murmuring of rain splashing in puddles and gently sloshing against the glass.

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Living by the ocean means rain!

There’s no rational explanation for why the rain brings on such a quiet excitement, except perhaps so many childhood memories wrapped up in the blanket of glorious rainy days.  Living by the ocean will change anyone’s opinion of rain deeply, to either detest or delight.

Rain triggers the memories rushing back to the carefree, worry free days of childhood.  Skipping along in the rain, splashing in puddles, emulating Gene Kelly while he danced and sang.  Perhaps my childhood motto was “singing in the rain” since I loved the driving, pouring, pounding storms the best.  There was nothing sweeter than strolling in the rain, arm in arm with mom!  Sometimes, we would sing as we walked… precious memory.

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Over this and loving the rain!

Even so, ever so briefly my fascination with rainy days and nights was shaken, after a violent monsoon Labor Day thunderstorm storm sent a towering 80 foot Eucalyptus tree into our house a half-dozen years ago.  But, over the trauma now, trusting the rain returned.  Although briefly shaken, friendship with stormy weather is restored!  Back to lacking reason to adore inclement weather.  Why in the world is its allure so great?

It is not logical to love the rain

It really is not logical!  Lupus arthritis doesn’t like the rain.  Neither does the accumulation of osteoarthritis that accompanies a history of several joint and spine traumas.  So, on nights like this when the bed is comfy and warm, but body pains just will not permit sleep, it makes no sense to like the rain.

I curl up in the dark praying for those I love, some far away and some very near.  Trying to make good use of this time to commune with the Lord, intercede for others, and redeem some good use while being frustratingly awake.  I know He hears in the dark, and perhaps the sole reason sleep eludes is to pray for God’s help for another.  This is reason enough to rest here all night in the dark without sleep.

Finding joy in the rain!

But, still laying here in pain brought on by the barometric shift, it still seems wonderful, and the hours are occupied sleeplessly listening to rain, rain, and more rain.

Others all around earlier today grumbled as they darted from car to office.  But this silly gal’s reaction?  Loving it, senselessly, and determined to find joy in the gloriously pouring rain.

Rain, rain, don’t go away…

At last sounds of morning begin to stir in the neighborhood around the house, and out on the street early commuters start their cars and the noise of splashing traffic sends a signal to get up.  Not the first or last slumber-less night, but at least there was a symphony of showers to not fall asleep to.

Goodnight!  Its morning!

Lupus and the adventure of finally finishing something

Senior year of high school

Finishing Something!

Finishing something

There is no feeling quite like setting out on an adventure to finish something that has been waiting a very long time to be completed. So it was this week. After a long thirty-four year interruption, there was finally enough health, time and money to return to college to finish a nearly-complete bachelors degree.  Thirty-four years was time enough to equal more than half of a life, filled with countless challenges and blessings.  Yet, this was the one undone endeavor that still carried a sting of lament.  After investing four years at two colleges, the final semester of college was never completed.

Over the intervening years, a lot of stuff happened!  Enough years had passed to,

  • Love a husband more than a third of a century
  • Work long enough in a career to earn a pension and start to think about retirement
  • Conquer great financial hardship and recover, and go on to own two homes
  • Face the threat of imminent death three times
  • Raise two children and watch them graduate from high school and college
  • Watch children marry and enjoy four grandchildren
  • Lose one parent suddenly and lose the other slowly to dementia

Why the long wait?

Paying medical bills

Paying medical bills

Why did it take so long to get to this point? In a couple of words, life and lupus got in the way!

Several times a target date was set and never worked out.  First, after taking a semester off college to get married, a baby [note, the pill does not always work!] was soon on the way and a prayerful decision reached that my husband needed to finish college first since we had started a family who needed nurturing.  We assumed my degree would quickly follow, as soon as toddlers went off to school.  But, when severe asthma shattered those plans my husband’s medical bills equaled enough to pay off a house (without ever having a house to show for it.)  Somehow we paid all the bills, but it took seven years, and thankfully, without declaring bankruptcy.  It was a small price to pay, and we were grateful, because the doctors saved his life!

Sober concerns about my husband’s long-term survival made him urge me to find a job that could support us right away as well prepare me financially for the very real possibility of losing him.  So, this meant going to work without finishing the degree.  Even then, Lupus was lurking around in the shadows, but still had not introduced itself properly.

As kids went to school, their dad was home, through kindergarten and several years along.  This meant my job was the sole support for the four of us for a while.  It was a great blessing to see God’s wonderful provision meeting our financial needs through my new career as a paralegal trainee, over the next three decades promoting through the law office ranks to government law office management.  Eventually breakthroughs in asthma medications stabilized his health, but by then our children were a little older and my career was well-established.

Trading places!

Photo Lupus Adventurer's Daughter-In-Law

Photo by Lupus Adventurer’s Daughter-In-Law

Then, we traded places.  lupus came out of hiding while he regained health and became the strong one.  As children turned into teenagers, lupus was in full flare with arthritis, fatigue, rashes, mouth ulcers and deep gnawing bone pain.  Many nights spent in a chair rocking back and forth was sometimes the only tolerable way to pass through those early morning watches.

Then, while grieving my mother’s death, opportunistic lupus rampaged through my body, targeting my central nervous system and muddying memory, coordination, speech and analytical thinking.  That was the year lupus moved in like an unwelcome intruder, threatening my career and nearly completely disabling me.  When abdominal artery ruptured, nearly taking my life, while our kids struggled with a mom who got confused, forgot things and was struggling to stay afloat.  When there wasn’t enough of mom to go around, there was also complete peace that husband and children were the priority that came first.  College was never even a consideration because of time and money.

Finding an open door

Two important questions

It did not make sense to put personal goals first unless it made sense to heart, budget and what mattered the most in the depths of my heart.  While wishing I could finish college, other commitments and priorities mattered far more. Character and patience required waiting until a right combination of physical health and strength, priorities and schedule, and financial resources and wisdom would (ever) add up an open door.  A final decision also required defensible answers to two important questions, especially this late in the game:

  • Would there be enough return on the investment to make spending the money a wise financial investment?
  • Would the degree contribute enough to reaching future goals to merit spending the necessary time and energy?

Regardless how long it took to get here, there are no complaints about the wait. It was always clear when God used events to deliver a very personal message that not all moms should be “stay home” moms, and not all moms are supposed to get their college degrees before their kids do!  Sometimes, God calls a few of us down a different, sometimes difficult path to help us understand His love and care through the struggles.  Now, it makes sense to spend the time and money on getting the degree completed. It will boost earning power and open up a wider arrange of choices for a meaningful semi-retirement second career.

Back on campus!

So, this week it was thrilling (and a little nerve rattling) to become a college student once again.  On-campus classes are held one night each week for the next eighteen months as part of the degree completion program. Someday husband, daughter and son — who all finished their college degrees (daughter has two) — will assemble to watch mom put on cap and gown and cross the stage to receive her diploma.  This is the time to make it happen, lupus and life not withstanding!

Lupus: “Dis”ability or This Ability?

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Soothing Warm Dish Water

Washing dishes can hardly be described as an especially inspiring activity, but sometimes during such mundane activities a meaningful thought or two pops up.  So, what do you think about when you are washing dishes?  A couple of mornings ago waking in the first morning light of the chilly winter morning, there was pain.  Cold tiles on the floor chilled the bones of bare feet walking through the frigid dark kitchen.

A pair of stiff, swollen hands welcomed an excuse to soak in warm sudsy water and bubbles filling the kitchen sink.  Meanwhile, my cloudy morning brain struggled to connect.  Painful wet hands drew my attention to thoughts of personally disabling aspects of lupus.

These were not exactly the most upbeat morning thoughts!

Hands slipping into warm dish water almost seemed therapeutic, but the pressure of twisting a wet dishcloth inside a glass brought a painful wince.  Next, trying in vain to grasp and remove the lids from a coffee mug and thermos, after several tries, quivering tendons and stinging knuckles announced it was just time to give up!  With futile efforts abandoned, the stubborn cup and thermos would just have to sit there beside the sink all day, waiting to be opened by the male culprit to come home who had tightened them so firmly the previous morning.

Wordle Disability or This AbilityWhile scrubbing the remaining dishes, amusing thoughts were running around in some foggy grey matter, threatening to stimulate and waken a foggy morning brain.

Disjointed thoughts formed into a series of silly word plays, tossed around during the simple kitchen chore.  Inspired without any clear reason by a glass, dishwater and lupus arthritis, these words scampered around as disjointed musings:

Glass half full or perhaps half empty,
How to be a victor not a victim?
Disability, dis-ability, dish water, dish-ability,
No!  This-ability, THIS ability!
Think instead about ability!
Now, there was a better noteworthy thought!

Even though many activities are painful for those of us with lupus arthritis, there are many activities that are nearly or completely unaffected by it.  These are what we should focus on and be thankful for.  The thought about half full and half empty glasses, and a silly dishwashing soliloquy had triggered an unexpected New Year’s resolution of sorts.

This year should victoriously focus on being thankful for “this” ability and “that” ability that I have, instead of giving the negative aspects of Lupus any undue attention. Perhaps we should be intentionally thankful while thinking of all the verbs (ACTION words) that describe many remaining abilities, such as:

  • doing
  • thinking
  • walking
  • playing
  • sitting
  • standing
  • driving
  • cycling
  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • mopping
  • sweeping
  • working
  • thinking
  • writing
  • rejoicing
  • singing
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What can you add to the list?

And yes, even washing dishes!

What are yours?  What positive actions would you add to your list?

It is resolved, then!  This is the year of this, that and every ability we have!

We can choose to celebrate the abilities we have, while striving to accept and minimize our disabilities with poise and grace.

[Note:  Paragraph two was edited after posting to correct the grossly disjointed sentence about a cloudy brain, written by a cloudy brain!]

Lupus and the Year of Unseen Adventures Ahead

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The year before us has promise and hope,
waiting outstretched just ahead,
Month after month, new choices to make,
each day as we rise out of bed.
Where will our road lead, where will we be
when a year rolls around once again?
Will there be progress, victory, growth,
or just stuck where we always have been?

Challenges, true are no easy path,
worth striving to traipse intentionally well,
In sickness and health, whichever shall come,
it’s a marriage of sorts to be ill.
Unwilling partners, my lupus and me,
but still joined at the hip and heart,
Morning by morning, reminded it’s there,
but wishing that it just would depart.

Some choices just cannot be made,
like whether to be an autoimmune me,
But others we exercise with volition and grit,
to make each day the best it can be.
By the end of this new year, we can purpose to say
that we’ve done better at last,
Taking control, living wisely and well,
making the most of the year that’s just passed.

So this day is the beginning of a fresh new walk,
through our adventures yet unseen,
Promising the mixture of challenge and joy.
When its done, what will this year have been?
Hoping, praying earnestly for myself
and for the journeying companions with me,
That God will enable us to triumphantly go,
and not under, but above our circumstances be!

By, Lupus Adventurer
© January 1, 2015

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