Friday, January 20, 2017

A New Year, Old Pain & A New Hope

As of this writing, I have been living with non-stop, excruciating pain for 29 years, 3 months and 2 days. That's 351 months or 1,521 weeks or 10,322 days or 247,714 hours or 14,862,840 minutes. Any way you look at it, I've been dealing with pain for a very long time. Now with the 30th year of dealing with pain looming, I'm celebrating the new year of 2017 with a renewed hope. There have been some amazing results for other patients with arachnoiditis via stem cell treatment.

I'm not talking embryonic stem cells, here; I'm talking about doctors harvesting my very own stem cells and treating them so that they will repair the damage to the nerves once they're reintroduced to my body. A lady who lives within 30 miles of me had the treatments done in 2015 and she's now walking again after spending 14 years in a wheelchair.

Now, my case is somewhat different in that I'm already experiencing a miracle in that I'm not confined to a wheelchair despite having arachnoiditis in 11 nerve roots in my spine. The lady I mentioned above went into a wheelchair within 1 year of developing a single location of arachnoiditis and I've been dealing with this condition for 20+ years! But, having such widespread arachnoiditis may also make it impossible, or nearly impossible, for the stem cell treatment to work on my nerves. We just don't have much of an idea, yet, until we can find a doctor who does the stem cell treatments and he examines my case and my spine.

I've been standing here, so to speak, waiting for my miracle for so long I forgot that I AM a miracle! I receive a miracle each every time I get to my feet and take a step. Each morning when I wake up and get out of bed and walk to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee, I receive a miracle! I freely admit, however, that I want MORE! I want the miracle of living without pain every single second of every single minute of every single day, etc., et al.

Today I'm going in for my umpteenth MRI. On Monday I will have the final half of my umpteenth EMG. I'll then be sitting down with my doctor to determine the next course of action and we will begin the process of locating a stem cell specialist who will, hopefully, be willing to take my case. My doctor is also going to be contacting the utmost authority on arachnoiditis in America and see if he would be interested in working with me to improve my situation. For the first time in a very long time, I have a glimmer of hope that I will once again be able to live my life without the constant, intractible pain in my neck, back, hips, arms, legs and feet.

This is the dawning of a new day that I have longed for; my miracle is beginning to take shape and materialize before my eyes. And I am so grateful to God that He has been patient with me during my times of impatience and ungratefulness. He has truly been so good to me that words could not begin to describe. He remains my rock, my anchor and my hope.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Living, Breathing, Walking, Talking Bonafide Miracle

For several years, now, I've been telling people I am truly a "walking, talking miracle." I knew I was because my former surgeon had told me I would be in a wheelchair by the year 2000, and yet I'm still walking. Even when my former, and my current, surgeon would express dismay over how I continue to get up and walk, I just wasn't grasping the significance of their statement, or their truly complete surprise that I was not confined to a chair. Recently, over the course of just a few days, however, I learned just how truly amazing, and miraculous, it really is that I'm still walking.

I thought I knew as much as possible about the condition I have called arachnoiditis, but there are several significant facts of which I was unaware. The first being that arachnoiditis tends to put those afflicted with it in a chair, or in bed, within 6 to 12 months. And that's a single occurrence! I have been dealing with this condition for more than 20 years. My current surgeon makes the comment, "I just don't see how you are still walking," almost every single time I go into his office to see him. My standard, and almost flippant, response each time has been, "it's simple, really. I wake up in the morning and swing my legs over the side of the bed, reach up and grab God's hand and put one foot in front of the other." I call it almost flippant because I have stated that truth so often that I had almost gotten to the point of forgetting how true it is and how miraculous it is.

The other part of my recent epiphany on just how miraculous my life is came when my surgeon informed me that I do not have 4 instances of arachnoiditis, but rather around 11 nerve roots are involved; from the T7/T8 nerve root all the way to the L5/S1. Of course, learning there are 11 nerves under attack by this insipid, debilitating condition explains the extreme amount of pain I have endured over the past several years. See, arachnoiditis is when the middle layer of the meninges (the covering of the spinal cord and brain,) the arachnoid, is damaged and becomes adhesive, sticking to the top layer, the dura mater, and the bottom layer, pia mater. This causes intractable, excruciating and unceasing pain, tingling, numbness and weakness along with bizarre sensations on the skin, severe shooting pain (like electric shock,) muscle cramps, muscle spasms, bladder and bowel dysfunction and other symptoms. There is no "cure" for arachnoiditis, only treatment; and until recently, the only treatment has been pain medication.

Today, I do truly realize what an awesome, amazing gift I've been given in the miraculous state of my condition. I am no longer flippant about the fact that I wake up each morning and take hold of God's hand in order to put one foot in front of the other and walk out of my bedroom. I do not take for granted that I will be able to do so tomorrow morning after experiencing paralysis in my left leg a couple weeks ago that lasted more than 2 hours. I know how precious and how tenuous my ability to stand and walk truly is and I'm so grateful to God, and my doctors, for helping me each and every day to get out of bed and stand on my own two feet.

While arachnoiditis has most definitely brought a severe restricting to my opportunities to do things like social outings, it has not robbed me of my ability to get up and move each and every day. And I will continue to fight with every fiber of my being to stay out of that wheelchair for as long as possible. Yes, I have arachnoiditis, but arachnoiditis does not have me, nor will it ever!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

We Are Too Social to Be Social

The introduction of the fast food industry will be traced back as the first step in the eventual downfall of human civilization. We have become a people who want everything served up hot, fresh, cheap and FAST!

Call someone on the phone these days and they simply do not have time to chat with you; they would rather you send them a message via Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat or one of the other "social" media apps. Kids today would rather text one another than call one another on their smartphones. The actual phone part of that device is the least used of the available functions for most people, today.

I once asked a friend if I could get a copy of a photo in which I was one of the subjects, but she objected to my asking for such as she was just too busy to look for said photo. She was also too busy to listen to a couple songs I had written/recorded a few years back, as well. She, herself, is a singer/songwriter, but she's become so busy doing "good" that she's no good to anyone who might really need her to talk to them when they're facing a battle.

I have another friend who dropped by to visit, but the entire time she was at my house, she had her smartphone up to her face, thumbs blazing across the keyboard as she updated her facebook status (stating that she was at my house to visit with me) and checking eMail.

We've become people who don't look one another in the eye and converse, anymore. Don't even think about inviting someone to dinner at your home and expect them to turn their phones off. They would have an anxiety attack before they got through the salad if they were disconnected from their digital umbilical cord.

As for me, I truly miss my friends and family, but since I have stopped visiting my facebook page, I rarely hear from anyone. If I should happen to call someone to check in, they're quick to tell me that I'd be more informed about their condition and schedule if I sign on to facebook. Then, of course, they have to get off the phone quickly so they can get back to being social behind the anonymity of their computer screen.

I suppose I'm showing my age when I say I miss the days when there were no smartphones, no tablets, no laptops. Sure, I had fewer long distance friends, but the friends I did have were ones I spent time with and talked to. I would see those friends at least once or twice a week, and we really knew what was going on in the other's life because we conversed. These days, you might get a tweet or a facebook update from someone multiple times per day, but you don't really know what's going on in their life because it's too complicated to try and give an accurate accounting when you have just 136 characters in which to inform others how you're doing.

We truly are a society that is too social via our digital life support system to be really social with one another.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The State of Christianity Today

As I read my Bible, I continually grow dismayed and disheartened at the state of Christianity in these last days. So much of what I see happening in the church today can be read in the pages of the Gospels, we simply have to look at the descriptions of the Pharisees, scribes and lawyers. We, today, have become those hypocrites of Jesus' earthly time.

I read the headlines that Christianity is the largest "religion" on earth, today, and I'm reminded of Jesus' words in Luke 13; "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Or in Matthew 7; "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven...Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Also in Luke 11; "And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness."

How does all of this reconcile with the church today? We have so many who call themselves "christian" and they so completely look the part. They have tidied up their outward appearance, and their superficial acts make them appear to be on the right, narrow path, but if you look closely, you don't see the fruits Jesus said would come from the trees of the faithful. When was the last time they gave food to the poor? When have they taken clothing from their closet and wrapped a naked man with them? When was the last time they gave shelter to the homeless? And, I'm not talking about giving money to their local church so the church can do these things to the community at large. I have yet to read where Jesus told us to give all our stuff to the local church so they could do these types of ministering; He commanded that each and every one of us, as individuals do these things.

Luke 3 reads, "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him who has none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." We are the wealthiest people in the world, in the United States of America, yet we hoard all these treasures while others, even in this country, are going to bed hungry, naked and homeless. It's no wonder that Jesus will say to many on the day of Judgement, "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not....Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."

In pulpit after pulpit we're not hearing love preached, but hate. I am ashamed when I hear from the pulpit, "if a man doesn't work, he doesn't eat" to justify not helping someone who is poor, hungry and homeless. Yes, Paul wrote those words, but if you look at the context of that statement, he was talking about someone who was in the local church but wasn't working to build that church, but instead only showed up to eat when they prepared a meal. He wasn't talking about the poor in the community, he was talking about in the context of building the physical building of the church.

There are those who are seated in their customary seat every time the church doors open, but they have never stepped out of their comfort zone to offer words to the lost on the streets of their community. They have never offered a meal or a helping hand to those in their cities or towns who are hungry, or given a coat to someone who is cold and they wouldn't dream of offering one of the empty beds in their homes to someone who is homeless. I've heard preachers talk about their stock portfolio but have never heard those same preachers mention their interaction with the lost and hurting of their community. And many of those same preachers are quick to speak about electing a certain political party to office, condemning the other party to be filled with the lost, the evil and the demonic. What part of "be not concerned for the things of this world," do they not get? What part of "this world is not my home" do they not understand?

And, just like the Pharisees of 2,000 ago, we work way too hard trying to make those we believe to be unsaved act as we think Christians should behave. We spend much time, effort, energy and money trying to pass legislation in this country to outlaw what we see as sin. It's just another example of our cleaning the outside of the cup while leaving the inside filthy. What do we think we're going to accomplish by forcing the non-believer to behave as we believe a person should behave? Can we seriously believe by forcing the unsaved to behave according to our moral code that we're going to save the soul of that unbeliever? Or are we just trying to do these things to cover up our lack of action on the things the Bible commands us to be doing?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Guns Do Not Kill People

The headline read, "Guns killed more people on Christmas in the US than in an entire year in these ..." Statements, and headlines, this this always rile me up. GUNS DO NOT KILL PEOPLE!! Yes, literally thousands of people are murdered each year using firearms, but the "gun" was the method of killing, they don't DO the killing; people kill people using them.

You never see headlines like, "Knife Killed Couple" or "Baseball Murders Man" or "Couple Killed by Car" -- why not? Because there are not organized groups united to stamp out knives, baseball bats or cars so they don't use emotional headlines that blame the murders using those instruments like they do when discussing firearms. To say that a "gun" killed someone is to give a piece of hardware the ability to think, make decisions and perpetrate actions that are impossible for an inanimate object to perform. So, the question becomes: why do people blame guns for killings instead of people using guns?

The answer is simple, really: there are those who are intent on removing firearms from the hands of every person on the planet. The ultimate goal is to leave the general population without means of protection so that only governments, and criminals, will be in possession of firearms, thereby giving the government the ability to enslave a population without the fear of resistance. Doing away with the 2nd Amendment in the United States will NOT, CAN NOT, remove firearms from the hands of criminals. If, by some strange happenstance, the government of the United States were to achieve the outlawing of private citizens owning firearms that would have absolutely no effect on criminals possessing them. The number one cause of violation probation reincarceration is parolees being in possession of firearms. Despite being told when they are paroled that they are not to possess firearms it is generally one of the first items a convict buys, or steals, upon their release. Background checks and laws stating they cannot possess them does absolutely nothing to deter them.

My grandfather had a saying that locks were for keeping law abiding people out of your home. A criminal couldn't care less about the locks on your doors, he finds a way to break into your house anyway. Same goes for criminals being in possession of firearms. No amount of background checks, restrictions, registrations, etc., are going to keep firearms out of the hands of the criminal element in this world. And the argument that if no one possesses a weapon legally would mean there are none for criminals to steal is ludicrous! There are more than enough firearms in the hands of the criminal element that they don't require legally owned firearms in order to be armed and commit crime using them. The only thing removing firearms from law abiding citizens will accomplish is MORE murders, robberies and other violent crimes using firearms because there would be no deterrent to criminals using firearms, such as the fear that the intended victim may well be armed. It's cliché to say it, but if guns are outlawed only the outlaws will have guns.

Returning to the headline at the beginning of this post, it should read "Murderers Killed More People on Christmas in the US Using Guns Than in An Entire Year in These...." But, that would not be nearly as emotional a headline and would do nothing to help the cause of those who are intent on depriving the ordinary citizen the right to protect and defend himself and his family.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Living With Spiritual/Emotional Pain

You'd think I'd be be accustomed to the pain and the loss that comes from being excluded, abandoned or betrayed; Lord knows I've experienced enough of it in my life. The scenario has played out so many times I've lost count where someone tells me that I cannot be in their life because someone else is in their life and there's no room for me. Or just having someone drop out of my life without explanation or reason, only refusal to speak to me or give me any indication they're aware that I'm still alive on the planet.

I've been told I get my feelings hurt too easily or that I take any kind of slight rejection completely out of proportion, but how is someone who has known complete, utter rejection by someone they love, and someone who is supposed to love them, supposed to categorize or compartmentalize rejection and abandonment? The pain of not being chosen, ever, by anyone after experiencing numerous instances of being shut out brings a pain, an emptiness and a depression that is difficult to express to someone who has never experienced a lifetime of rejection, abandonment and betrayal without ever having experienced a single instance of being chosen and loved completely without condition.

Yes, there have been instances where I thought I was loved completely and unconditionally, but eventually that person chose to exclude me from their life due to someone else. That leads to a feeling that the period of unconditional, complete acceptance wasn't truly unconditional or complete. Ultimately, I've been left all alone without explanation about why it is that no one can love me completely, unconditionally and without end. There is, apparently, something so totally flawed or broken in me that I cannot be loved the way I love, accepted the way I accept and cherished the way I cherish.

Yes, I know God loves me completely, totally, without condition and without end, but that doesn't truly take the place of having another person on this planet to do the same. No family member, whether by blood or by choosing, no soulmate, no one. Yes, I have friends who love me, but it still not the same. Being rejected by one's family and never having known the true love of a soulmate leaves a hole within the heart and the soul of a person.

Apparently it's a hole that can never truly be filled unless it is filled by the family who has rejected and abandoned you or by a soulmate that you have no hope of ever finding.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Phenomena of Attachment Disorder Among Adopted & Step-Children

The sense of abandonment and the feeling of being unlovable among adopted and step-children, especially step-children whose mother is not a part of their lives, seems to be growing in today's society. This is a phenomena I am well acquainted with, having suffered with it, myself, for most of my life.

I was recently speaking to a friend who was telling me about the experiences of her child, who was adopted. I will not be using any identifying information for the friend or her child in order to protect their anonymity. Yet, while I was speaking to my friend about the behaviors of her daughter, I realized just how many of those same behaviors I exhibited during my life, especially as I entered and lived through my teen years.

Attention seeking behavior is common, but the underlying cause of this behavior is what I call, "proving your love." The child will act out in ways that are designed to test the limits of the parent or guardian, so as to "prove" they love the child beyond all condition. If the parent or guardian "gives up" and places the child in some type of residential program, they have, in the mind of the child, proved that the child is unlovable or that they never loved the child, at all. Often, the child isn't aware of the core motivation or cannot explain why they behaved the way they did, but that is truly the underlying psychological motivation. They feel compelled to behave in the most outlandish ways in order to make the parent or guardian prove their love by continuing to accept them and keep them in their care and custody.

These behaviors can include, but are not limited to, lying, smoking, sexual behavior, breaking rules, talking back, failing grades, even mildly criminal acts such as breaking and entering and petty theft. Even while behaving in this manner, the child is miserable, argumentative, unhappy and confused. They're more likely to be unable to explain their mood and feelings because they truly don't understand why they are doing the things they do. It took many years of therapy before I began to understand why I had behaved the way I did as a pre-teen and teen.

In my own life, my Mother was absent for over 9 years, beginning at age 4. As a teen, I had no memories of living with my Mother until just after my 4th birthday, but I knew I had had no contact with her for 9 years, 2 months and 10 days, between the ages of 4 and 13. It didn't help my own situation that my step-mother treated me differently than she did her own biological child, or that she left me on the anniversary of the day she took over the care and custody of my brother and I, leaving us to be shuffled across the country for several days, unsure where we would land.

The fact that my father constantly told me I was uncontrollable and kept getting me kicked out of my living situation also compounded the feeling that no one could love me. Add in being rejected by step-mother (twice in 1 week) and my Mother rejecting my pleas to live with her while being physically abused by my father and you had the perfect recipe for a screwed up kid who was desperate to find ANYONE who would love unconditionally.

I'm not sure what the answer is for these children, other than intensive therapy and showing unconditional love while also setting boundaries for behavior. The child must be made to understand that there are limits to behavior, as well as consequences, while also being assured that they could never do anything to cause the love to come to an end. I know it's a tricky tightrope to walk to make a child understand these things, but the child must also be made to understand that the missing biological parents did not abandon the child due to anything the child did or is. The child must be made aware that the circumstances were beyond their control or influence, and if adopted, they must be made aware of the amount of love it required for their birth mother to give up custody of their own flesh and blood to ensure a good life for the child with loving, caring and responsible parents.

Above and beyond anything else that is, or can be done, the child must be made to feel the love, acceptance and concern of their parent or guardian; even in the face of behavior that makes you want to rip your hair out by the roots. And never voice to the child that you're at the end of your rope or threaten them with being sent to military school or some other residential program, as that will merely reinforce for the child what they are already feeling: that they're unlovable and that there is a limit to the love, acceptance and approval of their parent/guardian.

It's a scary, frustrating situation for the parents/guardians of this type of child, but it is equally scary, frustrating and confusing for the child. They will often complain to themselves that they don't know why they behave the way they do, and they will constantly promise themselves they will stop that type behavior, only to find themselves repeating the behaviors without thinking.

For my friend that's going through this, all I can offer is love, support, prayer and encouragement; the same things I offer her child. Hopefully with both individual and family therapy, they will get through this time and come out the other end stronger, and more bonded than ever before. That's my hope and my prayer.