Saturday, November 15, 2014

It’s about being there

As a father, I want to be supportive of my children.  Because I love them, I want to celebrate their lives, take part in their interests and be there for them in any way I can.  This often translates into attending recitals, coaching basketball teams and watching a lot of soccer games – it’s the price I pay for having active (and talented) kids.

However, try as I might to support their every endeavor, there are times when parenting from a wheelchair makes it difficult for me to do so – like when Isabelle’s soccer team played through a rain storm and I missed her game.

Well, today was such a day.

Every year around Thanksgiving time, the girls run in a school-sponsored race called the “Gobbler Gallop.”  And every year I get up early to freeze my tookus off and cheer them on.  Unfortunately, today, the elements (and my sleepiness) conspired against me.

I woke up at 7:00am to find it was below freezing.  That, combined with a breeze, my inability to generate body heat and my deep desire to avoid frost bite led to one inevitable conclusion: The girls would be galloping without me this year.

Knowing I wouldn’t be there to cheer them on in person, Sammy looked at me and said: “But I can’t run without you there Daddy.”  Who knew she needed her wheelchair daddy to get those legs moving?

Then I huddled them up by my bed for a quick pep talk.  When we were done, their instructions were clear, “run hard.

Thirty minutes later, my cell phone rang.  Two exhausted voices were on the line:

“We did it daddy!”
“Did you run hard?”
“Yes, but we didn’t win.”
“If you raced hard, then you won.  Got it?”
“Got it.”

I smiled.  Mission accomplished.

The fact is that whether you’re disabled or not, it’s impossible to physically be there for your kids every step of the way.  That said, you can encourage, inspire and lead from anywhere, even a chair with wheels.

***Side note:  It helps a lot when you’ve got an angel by your side.  Thanks love!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Finding the light

I'm still here!

It’s been just over three months since I’ve posted anything new on this blog.  In that time, I’ve received numerous texts, emails, phone calls and private messages from concerned readers asking if I am OK and wondering why I have stopped posting.  Though I have expressed gratitude for those inquiries, I have largely neglected to answer the questions they posed – until now.

Prior to my last post on July 15, I had started feeling “off.”  I wasn’t real sick, but I certainly wasn’t well.  However, following that post, things went from bad to worse for me and I began experiencing debilitating hot flashes that were so bad I was afraid to leave the house for fear I would faint on the street.  I began feeling dizzy, tired and achy.

Recognizing that I needed medical attention, I underwent a battery of tests on my heart, lungs, liver, hormone levels, etc., which eventually led to a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue.  My doctors believe the condition was caused by my prolonged use of a prescribed appetite stimulant, which, in addition to shutting down my adrenal gland, also masked my symptoms until they became severe.  I was taken off of the stimulant and given new medicine to treat my condition.  Unfortunately, without the stimulant to mask my symptoms, the full weight of my illness came upon me.

It was a misery unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

Almost immediately, I was spending day after day battling an incapacitating nausea that wouldn’t subside.  I was constantly dry heaving, was forcing myself to eat and was experiencing new symptoms like anxiety.  I lacked the strength to maintain even basic conversations and only found relief during my few short hours of sleep.

I tried to put on a brave face for the girls, but they saw right through me.  The low point came when, while alone in the car with Casey, Isabelle broke down into inconsolable tears and asked: “Mommy, is Daddy going to die?”

It took me holding her close for several minutes when they got back for her to calm down.

And while I told her I wasn’t going to die, secretly I wasn't so sure.  Indeed my friends, sometimes after a lifetime of physical hardship, a few added months of what feels like endless agony, can take you to dark places.

Then came the questions from readers: “When are you coming back, we miss your positivity?”  I wanted to answer, but all the gas in my tank was gone.  There was nothing left to give.  No way to explain what was going on and almost no hope that a new day would come.  I could hardly face another moment, let alone blog about it.

And then God stepped in.

One day I awoke and didn’t feel as sick as I had the day before, didn’t dry-heave as much, wasn’t quite as dizzy, tired or sore.  I was a far cry from being me again, but I was one step removed from the darkness that had completely engulfed me.

And, just like that, I slowly (very slowly) began to improve.

I still feel a little nauseous and I dry-heaved once today, but it’s not at all bad – or even in the same universe of bad – compared to what it was.  Plus, last week I got to take Casey and the girls out to a movie and lunch – something that until very recently was an impossibility.

I’m still a little tired and maybe a little wounded, but I’m seeing more and more of my actual self every day.  And guess what?  I’m pretty good-looking!

I mentioned God earlier and I want to circle back to that.

During the worst of my suffering, and in the midst of my darkness, there was, to my everlasting gratitude, still one ray of light.  It was through that ray that I felt the loving arms of my darling angel Casey wrapped around me in love, concern and support.  It was in that light that I felt her worried tears of kindness stream down our cheeks as we held each other in the hope that this too would pass.

And in her love, and through that light, I came to know God in a deeper and more tangible way than ever before.

And maybe, just maybe, that makes this entire ordeal worth it.

I pray you’ll never have to go through what I did, but no matter what difficult situations you may be going through, I hope you’ll stop and find the light in your own life.  And maybe then you’ll see your way through it too.