11 Times Friends Nailed What It's Like to Live With Chronic Illness

I used to be quite the runner. 3 miles one day, 6 miles the next. Even after diagnosis, running helped me clear my mind and maintain a strong body. Then I came off of my biologic due to infection(s). After doing so, I adjusted to new life as a college student, underwent hip/ankle surgery, and entered the recovery period. Between schoolwork, nannying, and maintaining a social life...running got put on the back burner.

That being said, I had big plans for this summer regarding running. I mean HUGE. Without schoolwork to worry about and my best friends scattered all across the country, I wanted to start training for the half marathon I've always wanted to run. I wanted to feel good in my skin again. Then the summer actually arrived. So far, it has been filled with mysterious new symptoms and unrelenting pain. In other words...not running. Sigh. 

I did start Methotrexate injections last Friday and am looking forward to seeing how/if they help me! The injection itself did not burn whatsoever which was pleasantly surprising! Following that injection, my rheumatologist's PA decided to go ahead and give me cortisone injections in both shoulders. I was stiff and sore for most of the weekend but things are feeling pretty good now...again, pleasantly surprising!

Anyway, while I may not be in any place to get my running goals underway + accomplished, I can certainly do other things...like walk on the treadmill in my room and binge watch Friends. ;) Not all is lost!

Today, in honor of nearly wrapping up the 10th and final season (thanks, Netflix), I present to you "11 Times Friends Nailed What It's Like to Live With Chronic Illness."

1.) When someone asks how you're doing and you don't have time/it's not the place to go into actual detail...

2.) When someone says (for the 6 billionth time) "get well soon!" or asks, "so, when are you going to be...erm...like...better?"

3.) When brain fog messes with your memory and you realize you've forgotten to do something (it's usually of great importance)...

4.) When you go in for a routine check up and walk out with a new diagnosis...

5.) When you FINALLY give into those Prednisone cravings...

6.) How Prednisone makes you feel after giving into said cravings... #wired #fat

7.) When you first wake up and think it's going to be a good day, but the second your feet hit the floor your body says otherwise...

8.) When you're trying to function normally in society but it's not working because NOT. ENOUGH. SPOONS...

9.) When you accidentally spend more spoons than you had in the first place and your body begins reacting adversely...

10.) When the Methotrexate, Enbrel, Humira, Orencia, etc. hangover gives you the ability to fall asleep absolutely ANYWHERE the day following...

11.) How you feel after a high pain day + full day of work, school, etc. surrounded by people who don't "get it..."

Because otherwise...

Maybe all we need to navigate this crazy chronic life is a good sense of humor and Friends (the show + real ones, of course)! Or maybe that's the pain meds talking...either way, I hope this post brings a smile to your face and reminds you that someone gets it! Happy Wednesday. :)


Sunday Content

Yesterday was Sunday...my favorite day of the week every week. I don't know if it's the focus on rest and recuperation or if it's the gentle productivity in preparation for the week ahead, but there's just something about a Sunday that makes me feel content.

I spent most of yesterday fiddling around with this little blog layout and updating the about me page. (HUGE thanks to Ashley for another perfect revamp and design...she's amazing!) I was forcing myself to walk on the treadmill while doing so because otherwise I would've just laid in bed doing the same thing...and that's not how Fitbit step goals get reached! ;)

Anyhow, some time between the fiddling and the walking and the blaring of the Dixie Chicks Pandora station, I got all nostalgic in a real Sunday content sort of way. Before I knew it, I was flipping through old photos and grinning ear to ear as I remembered the stories those photos told.

I came across one of my older sister and I eating Snack Pack Pudding cups and sipping on Hi-C juice boxes on the front sidewalk of our old home. A Sunday tradition. Our little blonde heads are ratted messes and our clothes are a special kind of mismatched mayhem. There's a tree in the background that I don't remember ever being that small.

We're tiny and innocent; sitting cross legged on the same pavement that skinned up our knees a time or two. Our dolls and strollers likely aren't far off and the lawn appears to be freshly mowed...something our dad always fearlessly tended to in the good 'ole humidity of a Minnesota summer afternoon. I'd be willing to bet that our mom was the one snapping the picture. It's possible she had just come from the garden with a bucket heaping full of fresh onions, radishes, and green beans. Maybe even a few cobs of corn and a zucchini to fry. The makings of a delicious summer meal.

And there we were...Megan and I...amidst it all...content as can be. Pudding cups, juice boxes, and all.

Perhaps seeing us there...perhaps that stopped our parents for a minute or two. It clearly stopped one of them long enough to wind up the old camera and capture such a simple memory. Perhaps amidst all the things they were working on and rushing to finish up they caught a glimpse of where the most mundane simplicity and the deepest sense of joy meets.

Maybe they saw it in their giggling daughters on the hot pavement with a special Sunday snack. Maybe they saw it in eachother as they worked tirelessly to maintain the home they owned together. Maybe they didn't see it at all...but I do.

I love the memory and mood this photo encapsulates. I love that it reminds me of all the other memories we created in that front yard. From plowing paths through the woods just behind us to pushing our little sister down the hill in the bike cart to teaching our little brother how to ride his two-wheeler in the snow. I love it all and I'm thankful that one of my parents captured it because through doing so they taught me.

They taught me that there is always time to slow down and soak in the Sunday content. Of course, as we grow up, that "soaking in" starts to look a bit differently than this photo of my older sister and I...but it doesn't make it any less important. It might be making a phone call to an old friend or taking the time to journal. Maybe it's flipping through old photos and tearing up at how fast life goes and changes and then goes and changes, again. Whatever it may be, let's not allow these moments...these Sunday's...to slip away without a moment of content.


Here's to Adventures...Even the Scary Ones

A year ago today I was in the midst of embarking on an adventure to Swaziland, Africa. I was a bit nervous and hurting, but I also found myself feeling confident and hopeful. I knew that God would use the trip to grow my faith and grant me some answers about my purpose in this big 'ole world. I knew that He would stretch me and change me and use me. In fact, He did those things and He did even MORE. 

He brought my special friend Nontsikelelo into my life for girl chats and giggles which have now turned into written letters and hand drawn pictures. He sent me sweet little Sisekelo for long naps/snuggles when my body needed to rest. He used my time in Swaziland to break my heart in new ways and call me to places I never thought I'd go. I know that I will return very soon and I cannot wait to experience the sheer joy of that day. Holding onto that dream alone has kept me going through all of the health trials this past year has brought me.

Today, I am embarking on another adventure...this time to spend some time at Mayo Clinic with my momma by my side. Again, I find myself a bit nervous and hurting, but still confident and hopeful that God will use this trip, too, to grow my faith and grant me some answers...this time regarding my ongoing health struggles and the debilitating pain I have been experiencing. Though it was a frustrating and exhausting process to get into the rheumatology clinic here, I can already say with certainty that it was 100% worth it. 

I am willing to do absolutely anything at this point to receive answers and experience relief. With that sort of desperation, I can only pray that the doctors I see today and in the days to come will use wisdom and their best judgement to care for me in my current condition. I can only pray that this long awaited visit will give me the bravery, assurance, and motivation needed to move us forward in terms of treatment that will help me get parts of my life back. Parts of my life that this pain has robbed from me.

photos c/o JL Stephens Couture

Endurance is a difficult skill to acquire, but I have seen God work through my pain DAILY and witnessing that has taught me much about what it means to be fully content in the midst of challenging circumstances. Those lessons are ones that I would not trade for the world. 

Today, I am not bitter...but I am prepared. I am not spiteful...but I will continue to fight. Living with chronic pain for 5+ years has been a balancing act of sorts. There is a fine, fine line between being angry enough at this disease to fight against it and do what it takes to keep it controlled while focusing on who I am aside from my health struggles and the pain I experience at the same time. I hope with my whole heart that my time here at Mayo helps me to balance those things just so.

photos c/o JL Stephens Couture

There is not always laughter and gratitude, rainbows and butterflies...but I am okay.  I am resilient. I am fighting. I am slowly but surely creating my new normal, grieving the loss of what my life and body once were, and finding ways to be me in a new light.

photos c/o JL Stephens Couture

Come what may, I am here. Living, breathing. Writing hard things. Chasing after littles who fill my heart to the brim. Enjoying community and vulnerability. Fighting.

To those encouraging and praying along with me for this weeks appointments and my time at Mayo Clinic: THANK YOU. Your support is a gift just as each day of this crazy life is. I will never, ever be able to express my gratitude fully. 

Here's to adventures -- even the scary ones -- and all the life that lies ahead. 


My Maddie

Today is July 14th. Though I have never recognized the significance of this date before, today I will acknowledge it greatly. I will reflect, I will thank God plentifully, and I will celebrate.

19 years ago today, my freshman roommate and beautiful friend Maddie was born.

There are 9 months and 25 days between Maddie's date of birth and mine. Let's lay out the facts and figures here: at 9 months and 25 days old, there is not a chance I had a clue that Maddie was being born thousands of miles away. Even further, there is not a chance I had a clue that I would meet her, experience the joy (+ insanity) of living with her, and watch her play such a crucial role in my faith journey and life as a whole. I had not a clue that I would grow up, surrender my life to Jesus, and choose to attend a Christian University. I had not a clue what my freshman year of college would consist of. Let's be real, I was clueLESS, unaware, and likely unconcerned with anything that did not involve eating, sleeping, or pooping. #babylife

Nonetheless and even still, here we are 19 years later...and I cannot stop praising God for all the "in-betweens" that led me to the here and now. I am filled with a heightened awareness and immeasurable gratitude for this one...this Maddie...my Maddie.

When I selected my dorm room through a "random" room draw last summer, I (again) had not a clue what was in store. Little did I know that in the months to come, I would experience some of the best and worst days of my life with Maddie by my side. The love, concern, compassion, comfort, and deep appreciation she has shown for getting to know me and my heart the past year has completely blown me away. 

In the short time she has been apart of my life, there have been many laughs and many tears. There has been stillness and anything but. There have been times of many words and times of silence. No matter what the circumstance was, the test revealed, or the day consisted of...Maddie was there to simply be in the midst of it with me. Looking back, I realize there never really was a "random" room draw. There was no "cluelessness" or "coincidence," there was only God perfectly carrying out His marvelous plans and proving His faithfulness to me yet again by blessing me with this dear soul and kindred spirit. He knows what we need, and my goodness, He PROVIDES.

She has taught me how to let others in. She has taught me how to think well and deeply. She has taught me how to stay up until the wee hours of the morning and still look flawless upon waking the following day. Nope, just wait...I'm still working on that one. She's got it mastered, though. ;)

Her humor is the kind that makes anyone and everyone laugh. She's not just sarcastic, she's not just filled with contagious laughter, and she's not just a creative story teller...she's all of those things and she is more. She is a writer and musician. She is kind. She is thoughtful, sensitive, and compassionate. She is witty and smart, oh, she is smart. She is wise and she has a captivating presence. Above all...she is a sister in Christ. No matter what the passing years may bring, the most beautiful thing about our friendship is knowing without a shadow of a doubt that we will be together in Heaven one day.

Last night as we were texting back and forth, you said: "there is nothing special about 19!" If only you could see what I see, my friend, because I beg to differ. Celebrating who you have become and have been to others this past year is a privilege and true JOY. I have said it once and I will say it again: thank you, Maddie, for being the answer to many of my anxious prayers and for being the beautiful woman that God has called you to be. Thank you for growing and struggling and being honest about the process. Thank you for listening, sharing, and teaching. The Lord has MUCH for you this coming year...of that I am sure! May it be one filled with hilariousness, executive decisions, and life-giving work that reminds you of the purpose you were created for. I am beyond grateful for each adventure we've shared and I look forward to all of the adventures that are to come.

Happy birthday, dear one. I love you so.