Tuesday, February 19, 2013

All You Need Is A Good Book

Reading has always been a big part of my life.  I remember very early on being read to every night at bed time (The Hobbit was a favorite) and always having plenty of books.  I started reading early and I read every thing.  I read and could visit other places, see things I never could in my life (hobbits, elves and dwarves aren't exactly common in the US).  While some kids viewed reading as a punishment, if I really misbehaved I was put in time out with no books in the room.
Reading has become a huge part of coping with my disability and chronic illnesses.  When I was traveling from doctor to doctor and state to state trying to figure out what I had, I read to escape the craziness and the pain that wasn't being managed.  While I kept The Lord of The Rings trilogy, a lifelong favorite, in the rotation, I read everything.  Some days when I just wanted to get away and not think, I pulled out the Twilight series, a go-to at the time.  Those kinds of books come and go but they all play a part in taking me somewhere else, giving me a chance to live a different life for just a little while.
Today, when things are more under control, I still read.  I read to learn, especially about history (most recently about President Lincoln), I read to go somewhere else, I read to fall asleep, I read just because I love it.  My cousins, who are like younger sisters, know that while I might not buy them things, I will always buy them books if they ask.  My parents, aunts and uncles did the same for me and it left me with a love of reading and a much better imagination than I could have gotten from TV or video games (although I do admit to a love of American Horror Story and Mario games).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

First AKC Show Under Our Belt

I have a tendency to build things up in my mind in anticipation so they seem much worse than they are.  I did it with all my tattoos, which wound up being a good thing since it didn't hurt as bad as I was expecting.  I've been hearing for years that AKC shows are hard, scary things for a novice to jump in to.  That the grooming for a show poodle is nearly impossible.
So I had nerves out the wazoo when it came time for the first AKC show I was healthy enough to show Jude in.  I was pretty confident in my abilities, I'd spent weeks practicing spray-ups.  Saturday came and we were as ready as we could be.  I got there early so I could rest for a bit and Jude could get in the show routine.  I was set up with a friend we met at Jude's first show and we chatted until it was time to start getting ready.  I'm not the quickest at spraying up so it takes me at lest half an hour.  Finally we were ready and we all headed over to the ring.
Jude quickly showed that it takes a lot to phase him.  The crowd of dogs didn't bother him, he loved the people admiring him and absolutely thrived in the atmosphere.  We got in to the ring and he did beautifully.  Some dogs aren't sure about the noise and crowds but he just loves it.  He won his age group and that was all (up against mature adults) but I got tons of compliments on him.  Sunday went much the same and I was so proud of him I could bust.
I know I've picked a harder route as an owner handler but I truly enjoy showing.  There are some bad apples but that is life.  As a service dog handler I hear much worse and am treated poorly much more often.  Jude and I have a blast and that, to me, is what it is about.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More Things People Say

First, I wanted to say how much I appreciate all the comments everyone leaves me even if I don't respond.  I often plan to but forget (my memory problems have gotten worse). I do, however, read and appreciate them all.
Since I've been up out of my chair more, I've noticed a change in what people ask me or say to me.  I have less obvious indicators of my disabilities now so people often assume I'm training Cole.  I've noticed a lot more dirty looks and nasty comments about faking or taking advantage of things when I park in a handicap space or am out with Coleman.
The thing that has kind of gotten under my skin is a question: "when are you going to get a job?"  It isn't usually said with malice but there is a lack of understanding there.  Everyone assumes that because I'm up and my good days are better than before, I must be better, healed, cured.  I'm not.  Most of these people don't see me on my bad days, and if they do I'm not super "out there" with how bad I'm feeling.  Some days it is pain, some days I have to be careful standing up so I don't faint.  As I mentioned previously, I get sick at the drop of a hat.  Right now I'm recovering from an upper respiratory and ear infection that I caught from someone else.  I'm exhausted but I still have to try and keep up with life.  Even on the good days, I still have memory and speech problems.  Today I was trying to figure out lunch with my dad and I absolutely could not articulate what was in my head.  There are days where I can't remember important things, never mind the little every day things most people take for granted.  Before I got sick I had tons of medicine dosages and dosage formulas memorized. Now I only remember the Benadryl dosage.
I've considered getting a job.  I want a job.  I'd love to apply for the adoption receptionist position at a  local rescue, apprentice under a trainer or do something.  But no one wants to hire an employee that can't guarantee she will be there the next days.  It doesn't look good if I constantly stumble over my words and can't explain something to someone else.  Forgetting small things can have a huge impact in any job, especially the animal related jobs I'm educated and trained for.
It hurts to be reminded that even though I've made great progress, I won't get back to the life I had.  It feels like despite all the talking and writing I do, people don't understand that I have chronic illnesses that will never go away.  And sometimes, it feels almost accusing, like I'm sitting at home doing nothing because I want to.  Well, I'm not just sitting at home doing nothing and if I could lose my illnesses and have the life I planned for until the day I woke up with a swollen under arm, I would.  I wanted vet school, I wanted a life where I relied only on myself, I wanted full time work as a veterinary behaviorist.  It's hard to see my friends (and even family) with full time jobs, their own homes and normal lives.  So when people ask when I'm getting a job, it brings all of that back to me

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

When Your Body Speaks, Listen. Otherwise It Might Shout

Well, I didn't intend to disappear again. November came and with it came the first round of winter sickness.  I know, with my crappy immune system, that I will catch something.  This time it was a flu-like virus that was miserable.  I didn't get to show Jude or do anything I planned around that time. Of course, since I'm stubborn, I got out of bed and back to my routine before I was totally healthy.  I had a few days of feeling decent then, right at Thanksgiving, that virus led to bronchitis.  Some steroid injections and a 5day course of high power antibiotics later and I decided to try and go again, only to have things come back worse.  Now I'm halfway through a 10 day course of steroids and an even more powerful antibiotic and I'm trying to take it slow.  I'm healing but the progress seems to be a snail's pace.
Listening to my body has never been one of my strong suits.  Even after a lifetime of severe, chronic asthma and years dealing with my other host of issues, I still have that problem.  Part of it is my personality.  Like my mom, I can't sit around doing nothing (even reading wears on me after a week) for long periods of time.  I've gotten worse since I started working on my walking.
With my pain, I've gotten better at stopping and hearing what my body is telling me when I'm pushing too far.  I have many fewer days stuck in bed, unable to get up because of the pain than I did when I first got sick.  I've learned my limits and even when they change, I don't need my body to hit me over the head with a sledgehammer for me to understand that I'm going too far.
Dysautonomia presented me with a different challenge because I often get serious brain fog when I've gone too far and don't realize how close I am to trouble.  I have some warning symptoms but I do, mostly unconsciously, ignore them when I'm doing something.  I've gotten better at stopping before I faint but not before I'm feeling terrible.  Cole has been the biggest help here.  He listens to my body much, much better than I do and will flat out refuse to do something if it might put me at risk.  I tell people we are partners because we are.  We work together and sometimes I'm not the one in control.  I listen to him because sometimes, he hears my body better than I do.
And then there are these incidental illnesses I get.  Because they aren't chronic, I can't seem to get in the habit of not pushing myself too far.  In the winter, one virus hits and it seems to spiral out of control.  This year my doctor flat out told me to avoid crowds because my already strained immune system can't fight everything people carry out with them, so I catch it all.  The more I get, the more likely I am to get something else.  When I'm feeling crappy, it's easy to stay home and in bed. But once I start to feel better, cabin fever starts to set in.  I can't force myself to read any more books, I don't want to watch another movie, I just want to do something.  So I go out and the cycle starts again.  This time it took 3 weeks to get to the point I'm really healthy enough to start going back to my version of normal.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Am I Insane?!

This is a thought I've been fighting a lot since I decided to enter the Poodle show world.  I see people say owner handlers will never be able to finish their dogs against the pros.  That finishing a dog other than black or white (Jude is blue) is doubly impossible with an owner handler. And on, and on, and on.  Then I stop and go back over those things and realize how similar they are to the doctors and people who told me my pain was all in my head, that my service dog and online friends were crutches that would forever negatively impact my life until I got rid of them, how I couldn't do what I want because of what I have and am.  It's all the same.  Different subject matter, same message. And I remember that it might take me longer, I might do things differently to accommodate my disabilities and illnesses, and I will undoubtedly encounter failure but I will get there.
When I knew I wanted to get in to the show world, I considered going with an "easier" breed. But that wasn't where my heart was.  My heart is in Poodles, especially Standards, and I love them for the challenges as well as the easy stuff.  They are my heart breed and are the best match for me and my personality and preferences.
This past weekend was Jude's first UKC show.  Friday was the United Poodle Breeds Association Poodle Specialty for which I was the trophy chairperson.  Despite me being convinced that I would make a mistake, things went of extremely well and everyone had a great time.  Jude got Best Puppy in Show and did so well!  Saturday I wasn't feeling well (I had a sinus infection) and Jude was a day short of the 6 month cut off to be able to enter the show so we spent the day enjoying time with our friends (both human and canine).  Sunday Jude was entered in both shows and got Best of Winners both days!  He did very well and I know he will continue to improve.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Dating with a Disability (and a Dog)

For about a year, I've been in a place where I felt that I was finally able to devote time and attention to a relationship.  Even with the unknowns in my illnesses, I had finally settled in to my new life and my pump was doing its job.  I quickly realized that meeting a guy while I was out wasn't so easy since many only see my disability, not me.  I joined some online dating websites, both paid and free, and put myself out there.
I did opt to explain that I use a wheelchair and am partnered with a service dog on my profile so there was no confusion.  I had less luck on the paid site:  it seemed that either the conversation fizzled out or they were many states away.  Long distance might be feasible for some but that kind of travel can be difficult for me and with Jude getting ready to be eligible for points, I'll be traveling in the nearby states to show him.
That doesn't mean my luck was all good on the free site.  I found that it seemed many guys skimmed my profile rather than read it all, even the About Me section.  We would have a great conversation going and plans to meet up when I reminded them that I do have a service dog and sometimes rely on a wheelchair.  Suddenly they disappeared, seemingly in to Internet thin air.  Ok, I knew they didn't vanish, they just blocked me.  I will admit, that irritated me.  If you aren't up for dating me when I remind you of my disability (which prominently features in the profile they claimed to have read), fine.  But at least have the balls to tell me so.
Fortunately there are guys on the other side of the fence.  They see that I have a service dog and a disability and realize that it doesn't define me.  They accept it as a part of me, accept that I have a canine partner with me and continue to learn about what else makes me tick.  I'm not currently dating anyone but things are looking up.  I plan to make this more of a continuing series so eventually there will be an update.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Drug Seeker? Have You Lost Your Mind?

I mentioned in my last post that I had an emergency room visit that went very poorly.  I slipped and injured my foot and thought it may be broken.  Now, our local ER doesn't have a great reputation but I thought for something as simple as a broken foot, they would be alright.
Checking in went well, no one made a fuss about Cole beyond the usual whispered comments.  I was triaged relatively quickly and taken back to a room.  Coleman attracted a lot of attention from the nurses but they were respectful.  Eventually a nurse came in, heard my story and took me for an x-ray.
I was taken back to my room and waited for the doctor to come.  After a while, a PA walks in to go over my results.
He said that the x-ray didn't show a break as he read my information.  When I asked what the problem was, since my foot was so swollen and painful even for me, he told me I had a hurt foot (and that is verbatim).  At this point, I saw a change in his entire demeanor.  I asked what could be done and he siad nothing.  Then I asked how long it would take to heal since I had a beach trip coming up.  He said I should probably cancel and then asked if we had already paid for our stay in a very insulting manner.  I replied that we had and asked if there was at least something I could do for the pain (I was thinking ice or a brace) and then things really went down hill.  He gave a speil about how I already had good pain meds and the ER couldn't give me any better.  I told him point blank that I wasn't trying to get narcotics, I knew I already had excellent pain management medication (although it was for my CRPS nerve pain, not the foot pain I was experiencing).  He ignored me and told the nurse to give me an ibuprofen.  At this point I was so angry I could hardly speak.  The nurse brought in my discharge papers and I left.
I understad drug seekers exist.  But if this PA had taken time to look in to my medical history a little deeper, he would have realized I show none of the signs of a drug seeker.  I've had the same PM doctor for years, I have an implanted medicine pump, I have very few emergency room visits and I had a true injury.  Instead he saw a disease with the word pain in it, one of my current medications and immediately dismissed me.  I know chronic pain sufferers get this treatment all the time but it was especially hard to take when I was in so much pain that wasn't my norm.  It is baffling to me how someone who practices medicine has no problem dismissing someone within a minute.  I suppose "first, do no harm" doesn't extend to people they deem unworthy of fair and proper treatment.
Obviously there is a need for more education about chronic pain and how to identify drug seekers in loca emergency rooms.  I'm just not sure how to go about it.  I responded to the survey sent by the hospital but never got a response from them.  I'm not sure they would even listen to a chronic pain patient anyway.  I know many groups try to do education but it either isn't reaching far enough or hospitals aren't taking it seriously.