Thursday, August 30, 2012

Friends in Low Places

I’ve loved hearing about Robin’s (Julie's mother) attitude towards combating ALS.  Dealing with a neurological challenge as the diagnosed, or as a supporter, is never a welcomed challenge, but it can bring small gifts such as hope and a desire to push ourselves just a little bit harder.

Outdoor Mindset members are a tough bunch. Our group includes people with Parkinson’s who are learning to run, people with MS who will crutch for miles driven by their passion for the outdoors, people who are adjusting their love of skiing or biking by learning to use equipment that allows them to keep moving, and more. We are a group that does our best to always keep going, and encourages others to do the same. 

I can see that determination in Julie’s mom. In this next entry, as Robin rounds the kitchen island with a hero’s determination, she keeps going as best she can, in the best way she knows how- with friends, family, and laughter surrounding her.  

I can also see that determination in Julie. As she runs and writes, she opens up and develops her understanding of how her entire journey with her mother is shaping her into who she is today.

Week of August 27: 
The Baltic Sea
I'm out there running on the rim of the Baltic Sea. It's possibly the most motivating place to run. It's pretty dark and cold here in the winter so when summer comes and it's finally warm it's so freeing to be outside. It's the perfect time and place to start this running adventure of mine.

I spoke to Jan, my Outdoor Mindset running buddy. It's so nice to have support from her about what to expect on my long runs, how my body will feel and what to do about it. Today was a long one so not only did I pull from her training tips but also from her strength as a woman who has also dealt with ALS with her Mom. She's an inspiration and it just makes me want to run longer to do all I can to help.

As I run, I know my Mom is there looking down on me. That may sound weird but I do go into that sort of deep thought as to why I'm doing this while on mile six when my legs aren't loving me. She'd be the loudest screamer for me on the running path. She was my biggest fan when I was a swimmer growing up. I swam all the time; it was my passion as a kid, my sport. I wasn't the best at it but I tried to be. I still have video of my old swimming days and her in the background screaming. Kinda funny. You would think I was about to win the Olympics at how loud she could get those pipes going. But to her it was her kid about to beat another kid in a race, period. It mattered to her.

Yep - Bubble Butt!
My mom was using a walker for a long time and eventually graduated to a motorized wheel chair. Every day she would try and walk with the hope of not needing either eventually. We had this island in the middle of the kitchen and she would do “laps” around it: trying not to hold on. One day one of her friends, (we called her friends “sisters” or “circle of friends”) came over with a little bubble machine that was this funny contraption of a guy that pulled his pants down and shot bubbles out of his butt. Immature but it made us all laugh.  So, she would round the table and get back to the end where bubble butt was and laugh again at the success of her rounding the table, at bubble butt. This is a new definition of “friends in low places” thank you sisters!

So this was her exercise. Her biggest obstacle in life. Her hope. If she rounded that table without holding on somehow she thought (and therefore we all thought) perhaps this is just a funny phase in life and will pass. Perhaps it's just an ailment for this month and each day she'll round that table again and again until she's back to normal. Perhaps.

She tried each day. Each day my Dad would be grounded, positive and take it moment by moment and hope. Each day her friends showed up with a new trick up their sleeve and we laughed.  Each day they showed up with hope, ready to make her laugh, ready to listen, ready to hug away her tears and fear.

So I continue to run.  It makes me realize that I'm not sure I could live sanely without some sort of exercise in my life. It keeps me whole and centered. And wanting to help others fighting a neurological disease, get outside and benefit from that feeling.  And I'm feeling good. I think it's due to my overpriced fancy new running shoes. But they are cool. Stay tuned.....

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Staying Centered

Tonight we have another chapter from Julie during her marathon training. This entry sheds a lot of light on the challenges and importance of being a Supporter of someone with a neurological challenge. At Outdoor Mindset, we understand this important role, which is why our Membership and programs are also for Supporters. Take is away, Julie:

Week of August 20, 2012 
Last night I went out for a run after my husband got home from work. It was a beautiful night and this is the most unbelievable place to run. This little town of Djursholm. By spring and summer there are running paths by the ocean, to the golf course, around town and by winter they are cross country skiing paths.

I saw a fellow trainer wearing the I'm Running for the Stockholm Marathon shirt. I felt cool, like I was in a club and she and I for a brief second knew we were in it together as we were running on the same path deep in the wood while seeing the water peeking out from between the trees. I was running as the sun was starting its descent. I felt like the animals were watching and guiding and helping me along. Does that sound weird? I feel weird having said it, but it's the truth. Maybe Outdoor Mindset is making me more outdoorsie after all. They are, after all, the guru's in helping all those people living with neurological diseases get out there and feel life, feel the elements, feel that they are not alone. The breeze, the smells of the dirt and leaves, the little chirping and scuttling of birds and other unidentified animals were all there talking to each other guiding me and my runner friend in those woods for that one stretch of path over 5 minutes or so. I'm not so outdoorsie but I was hoping for the rain to come. That would've rounded out my experience somehow. I talk to my mom out there, in my head of course. Not out loud. I don't listen to music, I like hearing the sounds around me and then I can also think a lot more and talk to Mom. Again, weird I know, but somehow it's comforting.

If only it was as easy as the push of a button...
I remember when she was sick I would go to the gym all the time. It was the way I let out energy and kept centered throughout her illness.  So, several years later, when I found Outdoor Mindset, I realized that they were in the process of creating something important; a community of people encouraging each other to use exercise to cope with the stress and the grief of caring for a friend or a loved one with a neurological disorder.  I saw immediately that OM was so aligned with my belief in exercise as an important coping tool; that their programs could be valuable tools for those fighting neurological disorders as well as those working through their grief.  So I decided to contact them and they matched me with a partner (across the globe, but close in life experience), encouraged me to find an outlet that was the most aligned with my needs (raising awareness and funding for ALS research) and continue to support me as I work towards my goals.

So, I run another day for you Mom, for me, for our family.  I run for all those living with a neurological disorder.  I'm thankful that Outdoor Mindset is out there with the hope of helping all of you affected by a neurological something.

Until next time,


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Trying to Find the Silver Lining

So I'm not going to lie - when I sat down to put together tonight's blog (which is the second entry from Julie, our OM Member in Sweden who is training for a half marathon while matched up with another OM Member in CO also training for a race) I had a hard time seeing the silver lining in the reality of Julie's latest post. After reading and re-reading her powerful words, I came to the realization that the 'positive, smiley face, encouraging' silver lining of her story (which I always try to find) is that she's doing something about the horrible disease of ALS by raising awareness. And while she supported her mother in her years of ALS, she also did all she could, by finding hope. 

The other thing going through my mind as I write this tonight is the importance of Outdoor Mindset in connecting people affected by neurological challenges like ALS - to connect people affected by these tough experiences so that they can gain even more hope, solace, and understanding in what they are going through, or what they have gone through, or what they are about to go through. And while the advice may not always be easy or sugar-coated, there is a power in numbers and in connections for both awareness and for hope. 

You can donate to Julie's project here

Is that a silver lining I see on that cloud?
Here's Julie's second post on her half-marathon training: 

I'm out there running and the first thing I do is swallow a team of bugs... then I trip. Honestly. And this was going to be my first big run outside. An hour long run. What a way to start. The woosie in me wanted to forget it this time, turn around and drink a glass of wine outside on our new picnic table with my husband who just sat down to a lovely meal. The motivated me with my Mom's voice said, "don't be a woosie". So, continue I did. Must. Raise. Awareness.

Can you imagine walking into a Doctor's office not knowing what is wrong with your legs and why they don't seem to be working exactly right? Knowing that something is just a little bit off and then walking out knowing you are on a downhill slide with no cure? No, I can't either. That's why I'm dedicated to raising awareness in order to help find a cure for ALS and put an end to this awful neurological disease.  

Mom was diagnosed with ALS early on but we didn't believe it. At all. We kept hope alive. My Mom and Dad saw multiple other doctors and finally found one that did have hope, which was rare. Looking back now it's clear to me that there seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to doctors and ALS. 

School of thought #1: This Dr will just diagnose it as they see it, it's matter of fact for them. They are Doctors and their purpose is to tell you what is ailing you. I guess there's nothing wrong with that. I'm sure there are ethical reasons behind a lot of it and sometimes those mega braniac Doctors just don't know how else to go about it. They just tell you the facts, tell you as it is, done. 

School of thought #2: This is the Doctor who is, as I like to call them, 'Humane Doctors', at least when it comes to ALS. They see the disease from a mile away but it doesn't benefit the patient if they know what it is and how their body will eventually start to go down a downward spiral - especially if it's early on. So this type of Doctor rules everything else out. They keep searching and testing for different treatment paths for the patient to take. They give you hope. 

So we found a nice, wicked smart, humane Doctor that likely knew it was ALS but did try and rule it out anyway. He was cutting edge, he knew his stuff, he had access to info, he was willing to spend time with us and just chat. He gave us hope and that we desperately needed and wanted. And when it's ALS you've got to want someone to convince you it's not. This was our guy. He's an MS specialist, but it's all in the head, right? Thank you Dr. Sadiq, for your hope, care and compassion.

We all knew deep down what it was. We finally resorted to admitting it and then the process began of letting that info sink in. Mom, you were superhuman. I remember she looked me in the eye as she was taking her electric wheelchair into the elevator and I was going towards the stairs and said, "Are you going to be ok with this?" My response was with as sturdy and strong a response as it could be and an utter lie so she didn't have to worry, "Yes". She entered the elevator and after the doors closed, I broke down in tears until I met her at the bottom of the elevator with a smile again. She was amazing. I put myself in her position now, at least I try mentally. I will forever learn from and admire her strength in all situations and especially her last test, ALS.

Thank you for reading again.