Looking Back

I’ve been doing some serious reflecting as I’m looking toward the future, and I’ve realized that I’ve come a really long way in the last 24 months. Reading through old emails and paging through my planner, I notice that I was juggling so many things and struggling with managing my healthcare all the time. Now it’s something that I only think about sometimes. Sure, some days I’m really exhausted and only feel like lying in bed all day. But still. It’s nothing like the way that things were before. And, I’m so much happier.

I’m so grateful for the opportunities and blessings that medication has brought me. Taking low doses of the muscle relaxant tizanidine has definitely changed my life. I’m also very thankful for the people that God has placed in my life who have been so generous and patient and encouraging throughout this journey. There’s been the doctors, of course, but also several therapists and my boss at my retail job and my boss at my school. I still wish that my family would be more supportive or even more aware of my existence, but I think my expectations are realistically lower.

Just thinking out loud,
Abigail

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To the New Year

…for new challenges
…for new adventures
…for new diagnoses and new treatments
…for new friends and new partners
…for new occupations and new places
and
…for solid friends
…for stable beliefs and values
…for strong grounding
…for enduring strength
…for eternal merit
…for dependence on the One who is unchanging

abigail

Favorite Patient Syndrome

The past few weeks, I’ve been saying goodbye to a lot of people. It’s been hard. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to admit that my life is going to change. And it’s hard to keep track of all the things people want me to remember and to try.

It turns out that I have pretty good intuition, I just need to trust it more.

just special, or favorite?

I figured out pretty early on that Drs. Samuel & Leo had taken me on as a special patient, someone they were each invested in for their own reasons. It makes sense. They’re both research clinicians or physicians that mainly spend a lot of time doing research. (Not sure what the technical name for it is.) Anyhow, it makes sense that if they are successful in managing my case, they could turn it into a paper, and it would advance their career.

But there always seemed to more than that. Dr. Leo talked to the ravenous lion. And wrote letters to the lion’s colleagues. He even read/skimmed my dissertation proposal. Who does that?? That’s more than a research paper in the works. Plus, he spend hours of time on the phone with me, trying to understand not only my medical symptoms but also my life, my activities, my interests. Of course, all of this blends into how he thinks about my case & treatment for it. But it also helped me a lot because my health has become so much a part of my life and my friendships and even my career. It helped me conceptualize things and not to become robotic when it comes to medicine. It also meant that I was extremely comfortable talking to him about hard things that were happening in my life, which he probably ought to know about… like the fact that my sister was having severe depression and didn’t want anyone to know about it and I ended up being the one called upon to stage an intervention.

we will miss you; bee back soonI wrote earlier about Dr. Samuel and saying goodbye. My last visit with Dr. Leo was even more interesting. Our discussion was fairly complex. But he wound up saying, I can still by your physician from afar. We have email and the phone. Plus, you said before that you might drive up here anyways.

There’s an aspect where it’s not clear that I’ll have another gastroenterologist right away. There are parts of my illness that are clearly digestive related. But, in another sense, Dr. Leo pointed out that a rheumatologist would likely manage my case similarly to the one he would look at my case. (And I have a rheumatologist in mind in my hometown.)

Transitioning medical care is going to be interesting. Dr. Leo says that the key will be finding a Dr. Mark equivalent, someone who can oversee my case at large and who I’m comfortable working with. The rest will fall into place eventually.

But in the mean time, I think I might have a case of “favorite patient syndrome”. Not only are these doctors intellectually invested in my case, but over the past two years they have also become emotionally invested in me. They’ve come to know me, which means that they have been amazing physicians who have helped me to grow as a person and to learn to live well with my illness. It means that they have had unique insights into my conditions and have been able to guide me through some very difficult medication trials and diagnostic tests. It also means that it’s hard for all of us to let go. Drs. Leo & Samuel will always be big (positive) players in my time spent here. The fact that they care so much about me means that they like me as a person (despite my awful & challenging illness) and that they believe that things will turn around or that I won’t always be weighed down by this. (Who wants to follow a tragedy?) And it means they’re truly human. My sense of what made them good doctors for me was right. It just makes saying goodbye hard.

Until next time,

Abigail

it helped my neighbor’s godfather’s cousin’s dog’s sister’s owner’s mother (and other trite comments)

I have a new pet peeve. It might have something to do with the fact that a lot of things are going on in my life right now. And I feel like I have no control over them. It might also have to do with the fact that this is supposed to be a period of healing and things are actually {gasp} getting worse!!

I (sometimes) have the patience of a saint, but when things get really hard, it seems that people say more and more unhelpful things and it gets harder and harder to just smile and nod.

Here are some of the trite comments I’ve already heard:

  • Have you tried _____? Because it helped my neighbor’s godfather’s cousin’s dog’s sister’s owner’s mother. (Ummm, okay.)
  • Your life seems really exciting. (Actually I wish it was boring.)
  • Have you thought about writing a book? (Yes, and I would rather my life be boring.)
  • Maybe you need to stop sleeping and start doing things. (Ummmm, yeah, that’s how I got here.)
  • Have you considered volunteering? For example, if you walked someone’s dog every day, you might feel better. (Ummmm, no.)
  • Maybe you’re bored. (Yes, because there is nothing I’d rather do than be sick.)
  • Do you go out looking for trouble? (No. I have too much of it as it is.)
  • Can you please tell me what your plan is? Or when you’re moving? Or what it is you want to do with my life? (How about I introduce you to my grandchildren? I think that might be easier.)
  • You just need to get along with people. (Ummm, doesn’t that take two people? I mean, if it takes two people to have an argument, it ought to take two people to have cooperation.)

Sigh. Hopefully, things will be looking up soon.

Abigail

News

A short update because some of you expressed concern after my last post. (Thank you.)

So, I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket or count my chickens before they hatch, but here are a few things I’m at peace about putting out in public:

  • I (temporarily) am back at my apartment. After breaking down in Mr. Eric‘s office, I concluded that not being in the house was more pertinent than I had thought. I’m just back for the weekend and then will figure things out from there.
  • I made some phone calls and started praying about moving back to my hometown.
  • I made definite plans to visit a good friend and her husband for a week in early July. In a totally different town.
  • I talked to Grace about what had happened and about the things that stressed me out about the community. She said, Us too. Her week has also been exceptionally stressful… but she said that the silver lining is that I may be able to move into her house immediately. And she said that it would help her a lot to have me closer to her.
  • A couple employers called me to discuss potential jobs, here, there, and everywhere (aka remote employment).
  • I have appointments/conversations scheduled with Drs. Leo  & Samuel this coming week where we intend to discuss plan of care for the next six months and what to do if I stay or go.

A lot is up in the air. I am kind of confused as to what God’s doing and preparing in my life. But I’m trying to remain open to what He has in store. And keep praying.

Someone shared with me this week that FAITH stands for Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him. I’m trying to remember that. It’s better than swearing. Or pacing. Or wringing my hands. Plus, I’ve finally found some peace to sleep and heal.

Please pray. Pray for clarity. Pray for wisdom. Pray that the enemy would be bound. Pray that the right housing and employment opportunity would open up. And pray for conversations with the doctors, with Aaron and Timothy & Grace, and with friends. (I’m not sure what the secular equivalent is to praying, but as long as it doesn’t involve black magic, I appreciate all good thoughts and support and well wishes and whatever else seems appropriate.)

Growing in faith through faith in Christ,
Abigail Cashelle

Burnout

I think I’m really burned out. I’ve noticed that I’ve been extremely mopey lately. And I’ve started swearing a lot. Which is extremely unusual. Usually I’m allergic to swearing.

Anyhow, I’ve determined that while living with Aaron and Timothy & Grace’s friends is quite an opportunity, I think it’s stressing me out more than it’s helping. I don’t really know the people that I live with. The community is also incredibly unpredictable. Most of the time I’m one of the only people home, but sometimes (and with almost no notice) someone(s) will just show up and be there to stay. Last night, after a terrible, terrible day, I came home to just rest and chill and try to forget everything that happened. But, lo and behold, a bunch of people showed up at the house for dinner. Which I’m all about dinner and fellowship and community. But really? When I wandered out (in my pajamas) to figure out why there was so much noise, I didn’t expect 20 people in my living room and a toddler running around the whole house. As the night wore on, it just got to be too much.

I love the ministry. I love what they’re doing here. But it’s times like these that I really miss Timothy & Grace (because they don’t come to these impromptu shin-digs. They retreat to the serenity of their house.)

I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole point of being here is to rest and recover. It’s hard to heal and think if I’m always stressed out and can’t hear the sound of my own voice.

I think, for my own sanity and for the sanity of those around me, I’m moving on. I don’t have a job yet. I don’t have a place to live. We still have no idea what is wrong with this most recent (and annoying) source of inflammation. But part of figuring that out will have to include transitioning out of this community, at least living here. I think part of my heart will always be here.

It was an interesting experiment. I’m really glad I did it. I’ll be here for a little while longer (and probably longer than I’ve been here already.) But I’m not going to linger here forever trying to make this work. Because all of this directly counters why I’m here in the first place. And, since I’m doing this for me, taking care of me entails doing something else.

I talked to Aaron about it already. He encouraged me to pray about it all. He also promised to pray for me. But he urged me to start looking into options to move back to where I was before I started graduate school. And we’ll touch base in a week to reassess.

Praying for clarity and for all the pieces to fall into place. Praying for strength for the next few weeks. Praying about all the conversations that will occur in the next week or so.

My life never ceases to amaze me.

Abigail

Thankful

It’s official, folks. I’ve bid goodbye to the ravenous lion. He’s going to have to find another person to feed him. I’ve got a few things left to finish out the term, but otherwise my journey through graduate school is over.

I could go on and on about it, and I might later. But in the mean time, I want to show you something. I decided to write thank you cards to all the people I encountered through the course of my program, people who took the time to help me, to listen to me, to spend with me, and to teach me. The list included classmates, professors, and church folks. It’s a good thing I decided to go card shopping. Because this is what happened:

very thankful
very thankful

I came up with a list of 23 people…. And that doesn’t even include Aaron. (I realized later that I need to go back and add him.)

Being in grad school, I’ve felt profoundly isolated. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I had any friends. But, when the rubber hits the road, I have more than I thought I did.

In fact, one of my classmates (who hasn’t even appeared on this blog yet) is hosting a going away party for me this weekend. It’s super sweet. I didn’t realize how many people are going to miss me. It’s kind of cool.

Abigail

A New Favorite Phrase

There have been a lot of changes in the air in Abigail world. It’s been a lot to think about all at the same time, and I keep thinking that I can’t wait until the day when the dust settles and I can actually hear myself think!!

Anyhow, I’ve been talking to my close friends like Grace and Bethany, Alana and Tabitha, and Aaron and Elliot and some readers actually. We’ve talked about just about every aspect of all these changes. I’ve even talked to physicians and former professors and current colleagues. There’s been one recurring phrase: I’ll be praying for you.

That’s been extremely comforting. I love the idea of being covered in the Body. And, I really do feel peace from God to transition out of certain things in my life. It seems that God’s calling for some big changes.

I’m nervous though. It looks like a lot of changes will happen very quickly. I don’t know what the future holds exactly. But, I’m extremely grateful to be held in your prayers. Because if there’s one thing for sure in this world, it’s God.

Abigail Cashelle

Better News for 2013

When I wrote last, I didn’t imagine that I’d ever be able to say this. Unless, of course, it was a different universe.

Folks: I’ve been approved to take one class (instead of three) next term and for this course load to be considered a full-time load. In other words, I’ll only be taking one class and grading one class next term. It’s a much needed reduction in work and something Dr. Leo and I have campaigning for since August at least. As Diana puts it, there is still hope for humanity.

I’m happy. The medical front is still pretty confusing. Being a grown-up is hard, and making grown-up decisions is even more tricky. But I’m looking forward to taking a break from all that to visit friends and family. And to sleep. And to heal. And maybe some Christmas wishes will come true?

Smiling,
Abigail

Discouraged

I got my grades and written feedback from this semester. Folks, to be honest, I’m discouraged. I thought I was doing much better.

The hardest class, the class that I assumed that I was going to fail, I got the highest grade in. The class that’s closest to my field: the professor only passed me so that I wouldn’t get kicked out of the program. She said that my work is not at the graduate level at all and that I should seriously reconsider whether or not graduate school is right for me. My third class, the one I enjoyed the most, I received a middling grade.

I don’t know what to think. If you take the second professor’s perspective, it’s frankly amazing that the mean professor thought my work was excellent, contributed to meaningful class discussion, and was really professional. If you take the perspective of the lion and company, this is yet another concrete piece of evidence that I’m in the wrong place. If you take the mean professor‘s perspective, I’m not sure what you get.

I don’t know what to think. I poured my heart and soul into this semester. I pushed myself harder than I feel I should have given my health. I did more than I even thought was possible.

Now what?

Genuinely discouraged & frustrated,
Abigail