Sunday, 6 August 2017

Drag lift

This was how I started my morning today. Back to our old ways with just a few bits of equipment added into the mix. Melissa and I used to get up, in the stupid o'clock hours of the morning, and go for a run. I'd meet her in town and we'd head out into the darkness - snow, rain, fog - no matter the weather. Today we re-started that tradition and it was so very satisfying. Even though we met at 7:30 instead of 5:30, it still felt early. I've been needing so much more rest these days that getting up at 7 is early. The other obvious difference was the speed we were travelling. Going downhill Melissa can't keep up with me; going up hill she could crabwalk backwards and still keep up.

My equipment add-ons help. I have my freewheel attached to the front, take off my backpack (too heavy) and my armrests (they get in the way) and add in my ski poles with road tips. I can steer (while pushing) using the poles, but I still have to slow down using my hands on the push rims. It was a good workout for me, and we learned as we went which roads in Blyth need new pavement!

So I was all pumped up when I got home. I'm on my own for the day and was set to drink my coffee, eat breakfast and get some writing done. I've not been particularly happy working at the kitchen table so I decided that first I needed to rearrange some furniture. I wanted to be able to look out the window; I can't sit outside on account of the mosquitoes.

Perhaps you know what is coming? On my own, moving furniture, left my phone on the kitchen table, sliding this table down the ramp into the family room, all on my own? Right. Fell backwards out of my chair. This time I didn't hit my head - hooray for that. It really is amazing how much of a problem solver you become when you are sitting on your bony bum 22" from the seat of your wheelchair.

After a dozen different attempts at lifting myself up I made it back up onto my plynth (with some ingenuity and many little naps in between). I then napped for half an hour and got back into my chair. Yes, I should have had my phone. Yes, I could have gotten to it by sliding up the ramp into the kitchen. Yes, I could have reached the landline by sliding across the carpet (and loosing my pants in the process). But I knew I could do it, and I wanted to try. I think I have some bruises from dragging my hips up onto the plynth but otherwise am no worse for wear. Now that it's noon, and having had my second workout, I can start my day.

Friday, 4 August 2017


I found myself in a bit of a time warp yesterday. It was a Parkwood physio day so I was walking in the Exoskeleton around the gym. A woman in the tilt-bed (helps retrain the circulatory system) caught my eye. I had not remembered seeing her before - I pay attention to things like that - she was obviously an inpatient. I have a presence in that gym when I am up and walking. People stop and look, often in wonder, and have a "wow" type of reaction.

After a while I stopped for a water break right where she was sitting in her wheelchair, waiting to go back up to her room. She asked me if it was my first time using the Exo, so I explained that I had been walking in it for just about two years. She asked me how my accident happened and as I proceeded to tell her, her eyes got bigger and she whispered "same as me".

I'll call her Joy. Joy was hit by a car while she was riding her bike. Her's was a much more traumatic collision than mine though, more damage to her body, higher injury level, paralyzed one side of her vocal cords and it all happened while she was in the U.S., on her dream holiday, post retirement. Why does life have to suck like that?

I asked Joy if she would like me to come upstairs and have lunch with her and she said that would be nice. Then she told me what room number she was in. It was my old room, my old bed. So I prepared myself, in my head, about what it would be like to go up there and see that space again. It hadn't changed. She, like me, was the youngest in the room. That's hard because it is so helpful to have someone to talk to, someone who is in the same situation as you.

So we ate our lunches together and shared our stories. "It get's better" I told her. Because it does, but I remember very well the three months that I spent in that room, in that bed, looking out the window. Time just crawling by. I excused myself when her daughter came to visit.

Remember, Joy, it only gets better.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

It's a pity you are handicapped.

It's not hard to recognize certain facial expressions. One of those is pity. I was at the market in Goderich yesterday morning (somehow managed to get there between bouts of pouring down rain) and was just heading back to my car - lap full of goods - when it started to rain again. When I left the house on my own this morning I knew full well that I might get wet - but so what? It's just water, and aside from a wasted bit of blow drying, what was the big deal? I wouldn't get cold and eventually I would get dry. I had arranged my produce (peaches, blueberries, strawberries, beets and cantaloupe) overtop of the three loaves of bread (yes, a full load) so they would not get wet and had one more stop to make that was right where I had parked. I was counting on the last vendor to just put my two cauliflowers and tomatoes right into the car - it's nice to know the farmers.

As I was making my way to the car, I caught a look. I did not know her, but being that this was Goderich, it was possible that she knew me. However, we had never met before. Although it was just a glance, I am sure that it was pity. And I am not interested in it. Say hello, give a wave and a smile, make a comment "here it comes again" or "haven't we had enough?" I was not complaining about the rain, in fact I boldly had left my raincoat in the car! It is not possible to wheel and hold an umbrella, but I left the house knowing full well that I would likely get wet. I made that choice, to challenge to myself - get to market, shop, load the car (ingenious use of my slider board here) and get on to the next thing - all on my own. And so I did, just a bit damp, no pity required.

So what then, was the word? Handicapped. Used by a man whose own father had a disability. Please, let us just let this word go. It is offensive when used as an adjective. People with disabilities who fought to control their own destiny also fought to use the word disability - rendering the word handicapped obsolete. So let's stop using it. You have to decide to make that change, just like you choose to stop swearing in front of your kids when then started saying things back to you that you didn't like to hear. The apple never falls far from the tree - ask any teacher this after parent-teacher interviews. Kids learn ignorance at home.

Language changes, there are many examples I could give, but just remember people first. I am a person who uses a wheelchair. I am not "in a chair", I use a chair. In implies that I never get out. I do; often. I sleep in a bed, drive my car, stand and swim. All without my chair. I am not disabled, I have a disability. I use a wheelchair parking pass and accessible bathrooms.

I ride a hand bike.

And I paddle a kayak.

Go ahead and apply a handicap to your golf game or your next horse race. But don't apply it to me. And save your pity, no one needs it anyway.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Sesquicentennial Celebrations

Not only are we celebrating 150 years since confederation, we are also in the 100th year since women "gained" the vote in Canada. Lisa Thompson, Huron-Bruce MPP, invited 150 women from the region to celebrate these two events at the Assembly of Remarkable Women in Huron County.
Lisa Thompson, Huron-Bruce MPP;
co-host of the dinner
Karri-Anne Cameron - Community Activist,
Chair of the Building Bridges Campaign

Debbie Green - Educator,
Principal F.E. Madill

Marion Studhalter - Role Model;
Current Queen of the Furrow - note the crown!
150 women were recognized as Mentors, Community Activists, Educators, Politicians, Authors & Publishers. I had dinner with many of my friends from education, sat across the table from the first female chair of the IMP and met a woman who herself was turning 100. It was wonderful to see so many of the "movers and shakers" from Huron in attendance, but by no means were they all there. How could you possibly find all the women in this area who have done so much for their community? Many "fly under the radar" doing good for those who don't even realize it. 

I was recognized as a community activist, but really, I am just getting started. I see making more change in my future.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

A different perspective

23 months ago a man, driving a car, caused a collision. It was just after 9am, he was returning home from dropping off a couple of videos in town and had stopped to get coffee and a sandwich. As he drove along the straight stretch of road that he had driven a thousand times before he felt and heard, more than he saw, something hit his car. He thought, at first, that a deer had come out of the ditch and ran into the side of his car. As he looked into his rearview mirror, instead of a deer what he saw was the blur of colours, a person, flying into the ditch.

He pulled over as quickly as he could and went back to see if this person was okay. As he got to her he saw she had a helmet on, still attached to her head. He looked and saw a bike, white, about 20 feet ahead. She was conscious and trying to get up, she was asking for his help. He said, "Oh my God. I'm so sorry. I didn't see you". She kept trying to get up, pushing with her arms. Blood on her face. He did his best to sooth her and told her to just lay still. Another man arrived and said he had called 911. An ambulance was on it's way. Someone else stopped and offered first-aid. Thank God.

In what seemed like an eternity, an OPP officer arrived. The ambulance came and put the lady on a stretcher, loaded her into the back of the truck and drove away with lights and siren. Now, all the attention was on him. He felt like he was going to be sick. What had happened? What did he do? What did he remember? No, he did not have his phone. Yes, he was alone. They looked at his car. There was a white streak and scratch on the front right panel and the passenger side mirror was smashed. There was a hot coffee in the cup-holder and a half-eaten sandwich on the passenger seat. No, he had not been drinking the coffee - it was too hot. Yes, he had been eating the sandwich.

He sat in the back of the cruiser while the officer spoke to him. What had just happened? How could this be? How could he have not seen this person, a woman, on a bike? He had not seen her.

After that it was all a blur. He doesn't remember how he got home, or what he told his wife and kids. Everything would be different now. He could not look people in the eye. Could not even look at himself in the mirror. He had caused irreparable harm; damage that could not be undone. He would remember this for the rest of his life. Every day he wished he had the courage to look her in the eyes and say he was sorry; longing to be forgiven.

He had not seen her.


You are forgiven.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Addiction takes all forms

First physical activity I have done since Wednesday.
Also, first time with my new poles.
Today is day five of a change in medication. I was feeling at the top of my game, so I decided now was a good time to see about reducing the amount of drugs I am taking. Of course, right? Feeling great, so let's screw with things so the likely outcome is feeling crappy? Well, that is not the entire truth. You see, every day I get a bit of a foggy head in the morning between 10 and noon. It varies from day to day, but some days I just stare into space, sometimes ending up crawling back into bed. I have not been great at tracking the effects of my meds, but I think that this spacey head thing began when I started the antidepressant, and I think it got worse when I doubled it a few months back. So on the advice of my doctor, I have reduced it by half to see if those side effects will abate.

Having gone from 60mg to 30mg is not that big of a change, even though it is by half. It all depends on the dose, right? So I can only imagine what going cold turkey would feel like. I slept a full ten hours last night - felt okay this morning - so I think I am making progress, but it's not easy. By the end of the day my nerve pain is back to a 10 and I am weepy. Ella is away at camp right now, and last night I cried because I missed her. May times this week I have wondered why I am doing this, surely it is not worth it?

Knowing how physically and emotionally difficult this small of a change in medication has been for me I can only imagine what others have/are going through. The dose is the poison, right? So those on strong shit like opiates - I can only imagine. They must just make everything feel so much better, and then consequently are so incredibly difficult to control, let alone cut out.

Theo and I had a funny conversation last night. He overheard Oliver telling his friend "my Dad is addicted to World of Tanks" (which, for those of you that don't know, is a video game). This, of course, is one of those "out of the mouths' of babes" kind of thing kids say. They want to emphasize a point plus they don't really have filters. (I can only imagine what he says about me and Netflix.) Imagine this boy going home and repeating what Oliver said. Those parents may say something along the lines of Theo not having "grown up". Now, let's change the the conversation by replacing World of Tanks with a drug or alcoholic beverage of choice. What is the response? Something like, "Oh, yeah, they've had a hard time."

It has been a hard time. And there definitely have been moments (or more than moments) that I have thought "get of that *&^% computer" and I'm sure he has thought the same as me. But now I am going to try to think of it differently. It's the escape that helps to get through. And we, collectively, have to remember that we don't know what trauma/abuse/pain someone has/is dealing with. But they got there somehow. And is sure is hard to get back.

This is what double polling in a wheelchair looks like, with not a lot of practice and on a rough and sandy trail. Keep in mind that my videographer is 11.

On loathing thyself

This one was taken by a photographer hired by London Health Science Centre's Inside Magazine.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that I talk about my body. Specific parts that do not look or behave as they used to. It's was yesterday's topic of discussion at my therapy session. My belly. I know in the past I wrote about it being warm and soft, but now it's just there, sticking out in a way that is not pleasing to my eye. Body image is something that everyone struggles with at some (or many) points in time. Too fat, too thin, no butt, too big a butt, no muscles, crooked nose, dark circles, fat ankles, ugly toes, thin hair, too many freckles...pick your poison.

But here's the thing that I learned yesterday. You're going to have to live with it. Changing your body is not really an option. Well, you could go super disciplined with diet and exercise for a certain amount of time - but that is not a sustainable lifestyle choice, in my opinion. We all will give in. So what do you have to do? Give yourself a hug and say I love you just the way you are? Do you trick yourself into loving your flaws? Pretty hard. Or do you recognize the truths. Age - you only get older - cells regenerate more slowly. Work - usually sedentary - consumes more time, meaning less time for exercise. Babies - they change our bodies forever.

Then, in my case, it's physics and biology. No neuromuscular activity means no abdominal wall to support the abdominal organs. So my gut is intestines just "hanging out" instead of being tucked in, in a lovely organized fashion. My posture sucks too, which doesn't help. No muscles below my chest activating postural support without serious conscious effort means that my girls don't stand out like they should either.

So what is one to do? Positive self talk is a start. Reminding yourself about biology, you can't trick genetics, physics or time. Your 14 year old self is gone. Love the 40 year old self instead.

Or do what I did. First, go shopping. Now I am not normally one to promote consumerism, but sometimes, well, you need something new. Or eight things new. You can spend $80 on a new dress, wear it to four different events (with different people of course) and boom - it's a $20 dollar dress. Or you can spend $80 at the second hand shop and get eight new things (like on did on Saturday). Next, put on some makeup and get your hair done. Then get an awesome picture taken so that you can see past those flaws with your own eyes.

LHSC wanted to share my story with the general public, share the good work that happens there. Here is the link to the article and the video that goes along with it. LHSC Inside Magazine Summer 2017