Monday, January 29, 2007

My Everest

"Everyone has an Everest inside. It may not be a mountain peak or a raging river or a deep ocean, but we all have our challenges. It is reaching beyond our grasp, striving to go further than we ever thought we could that makes life worthwhile." ~ Unknown

For those of you who know me well, you know that I have been deeply obsessed with Mount Everest ever since I read Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine. Since then, I have read pretty much every climbing book out there that deals with Everest. I have been searching for the reason why people risk their lives to climb a mountain. Were they all just totally insane? I have found common themes in the lives of Everest climbers. They are searching for something bigger than themselves in life. Most report that the only place in the world that they feel most alive and closest to God is on the mountaintop. Even thought I haven't climbed Everest myself, I feel a kinship with those people. They all have struggles in their personal lives both physical and emotional. They push through their struggles and find out where their breaking point is and become stronger on the other side.
Chiari has become my newest Everest ~ it's large and menacing, but at the same time a part of me (affectionately known as my 'Brain tail'). I know that if I press on and keep climbing (metaphorically and physically) that I will find my breaking point. I refuse to let this stand in the way of my life, but have resolved to make it part of the journey. What doesn't kill us will only make us stronger ~ bring it on!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Where Do I Get Off This Ride?!?

They say a picture says a thousand words ~ Feeling really swirly today! What do I do?
A wise, blue tang fish once said,
"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim swim!"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wave on Wave

I knew that today was going to be a rough day when the flip top on the shampoo made such a loud noise that it almost brought me to tears. Headaches, sensitivity to sounds, loss of coordination and balance ~ those are the minimum symptoms I can expect today. The imagery of a bottle floating in the ocean comes to mind. Sometimes, it is calmly bobbing up & down on tranquil waters. Other times, like today, the bottle is caught in a torrent of crashing waves ~ wave on wave ~ each one demonstrating it's own strength! I try to take deep breaths and focus on a peaceful place that restores my soul.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Be The Coffee Bean

A good friend of mine sent me this story and it really struck home with me.

May you never look at a cup of coffee the same way again! A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word. In about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see." "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.
Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its richness and savored its aroma. The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity -- boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. "Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?" Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst; you get even better and change the situation around you.
When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy. The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can't go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches. When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying. May we all be COFFEE!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Feeling Dizzy?

"Put you feet together, hold your arms at shoulder level, clasp you hands together and close your eyes". Those were the most hopeful, beautiful words I have heard in a long time! I was at the ENT (ear nose and throat doc) today. I was hoping and praying that my doctor would listen to me, really listen to me. She went over my symptoms and appeared to be concerned. The all too familiar phrase, "GREY AREA", came into the conversation as she told me that she wants to find some concrete evidence for my symptoms. As the appointment was winding to a close, she had me stand up to do some balance tests. I have done numerous balance tests over the past four months and nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
This time was different.
As soon as I closed my eyes, I fell backwards. I almost let out a 'wooo hoo!' right there in the office. FINALLY ~ proof that something is just not right in my head. I am filled with relief and a bit of trepidation as I wait expectantly for a battery of inner ear tests next month. Baby steps, the facts will be revealed, the truth is out there.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Run Free

'RUN FREE' has been a reoccurring theme for me over the course of at least 15 years. Visions of me running at breakneck speeds with childlike abandon have reappeared over and over. Wind in my face, hair swirling around in the wind, the taste of freedom and no worries. I run without tiring. I run without a destiny in mind. I feel energized and hopeful. What does all this mean? An image with such strength and passion must have been sent for some reason.

Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy the outdoors and take great pride in keeping in shape so that I am ready to go on a hike at the drop of a hat. However, until a couple of years ago, running was not even in my vocabulary. In fact, when I was four, a doctor told me that due to hip surgeries, I would NEVER walk without a limp, much less run! Since that moment, I have made it my mission in life to prove that theory wrong.

When I began training for my first 3.5 mile race, I quickly discovered that I could run and gained a deep sense of accomplishment from reaching my goal. I'm no roadrunner on the road, but I motor along despite my height. My point, yes, I am trying to make one, bear with me ~ I have been known to ramble. Anyway, my point is that after all the literature I have read on Chiari and what can make my situation worse is running. (BTW - the Nike+ Running system has completely pushed me over the edge!) Maybe I have sped up the process by running ~ so where does this leave me today? I have run right into a paradox.

I often have episodes of extreme dizziness and loss of balance. What any sane person would do would be to find a soft, safe place to sit down and stay there. Me? What do I do? I la
ce up my running shoes and go for a run! I know, it sounds completely crazy, but somehow, running grounds me to the earth. I can feel my legs connect with the ground and I feel balanced. Maybe running takes my mind off the dizziness. Perhaps the release of endorphins restores balance. Either way, running restores my sanity.

Isaiah 40:31 "... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This Explains Everything!

My life was turned upside down with one MRI. I was having migraine headaches for two weeks and I thought that I should have my head checked out. I was feeling kind of silly for causing such a fuss over something that could be treated with powerful headache drugs. Nevertheless, there has always been this nagging feeling in the back of my mind (no pun intended) that something just wasn't right with my brain. I can hear you laughing now, I admit, I have my fair share of Lacieisms, but seriously, something just hasn't been right with me for a couple of years.

I got the call from my PCP 12 hours after the MRI was performed. She called me at work at 8am and began her sentence with, "You don't have MS or cancer... you were probably born with this Chiari Malformation...but you really should schedule an appointment with a neuro-surgeon..." My whole body went numb. I let the fear in, let it consume me. Then, I got online and started researching this thing called Chiari Malformation I. You can click on this link for more details.

The light bulb went on and I felt a wave of relief wash over me ~ migraine headaches, vertigo, memory lapses, disequilibrium, sensitivity to loud noises, insomnia, neck pain ... so there was a physical reason for all of these symptoms ~ so now what?!?

So without boring you with all the details, here I am, 3 months later and still looking for answers to lead me out of what is called the 'grey area'. My cerebellum tonsil herniation has been measured, with the aid of a MRI, at 11mm. I have had two MRIs, seen my neuro-surgeon twice and met with a neurologist. They both concur that they want to make sure that my Chiari is actually causing all of my symptoms. So, I am off to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor soon to rule out the possibility of an inner ear infection that might be causing my loss of balance.

Every day is different. Some days are good and others are down right intolerable! I try to keep myself surrounded by spiritual inspiration and a healthy dose of humor. There is no 'fix' for my Chiari other than surgery, but I am still weighing the pros and the cons. The jury is still out on this one.

One thing I am certain of is that this journey that I am on has a purpose. I am trying to embrace this time in my life as a chance to gain more character and spiritual growth.