Life has a real sense of humor. Sometimes it throws you a little curve ball that can be manageable albeit inconvenient, and other times it tosses you a big, fat, unexpected pile of crap without any means to remove the offending garbage that now sits at your feet. You are unable to walk around it, you can’t climb over it, but rather, the only solution is to slowly chip away at that dismal mountain, before you can walk through the pain in order to gain some sense of life again.

I didn’t intend to start my first blog article in over a year referring to “a pile of crap,” but when I tried to summarize the health issue I was suddenly confronted with over three years ago, well, the first thought that came to my mind was, “It’s been a shitty couple of years.”

Now that I have had some time to sit back and dissect exactly what happened, well, it’s hard to put a clear perspective on my illness, even to this day.

Polymyalgia Rhuematica (PMR) attacked my muscles and joints literally one evening while I slept. I went to bed feeling healthy and strong, yet woke up the next morning and struggled to move my legs without crippling pain. You know that feeling you get the morning after running a marathon? Yeah, well neither do I. So I convinced myself I must have exercised too hard the day before. But then I remembered that was impossible as well. Yet my legs felt strangely heavy and refused to cooperate with me when I attempted to get out of bed. None of this made sense. So, I put it in the back of my mind as my symptoms eased throughout the morning.

However, as the days and weeks wore on, the pain steadily spread up to my hips, arms, and finally my neck and shoulders. Walking was difficult, bending over was excruciating and lifting my arms over my head was a movement I could no longer consider. Much like the nervous anticipation you feel just before jumping in a pool of cold water, and the stunned moments immediately after you submerge yourself, was how I felt every time I needed to maneuver my legs to get into a car, to roll over in bed, to stand up from the couch, even putting on my shoes. Every movement became a painful shock to my once healthy and active body.

Because I thought it was a simple virus, because I had so much going on, BECAUSE, BECAUSE, BECAUSE, I put off going to the doctor until I simply couldn’t take it anymore. Stupid. Mistake number one. Why is it that, as mothers, we anxiously take our children to see the pediatrician the second they sneeze, but we disregard our own selves when we feel ill, tired or anything else for the matter? Apparently, I missed the lecture where you need to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help others.

Yet, I was fortunate. Unlike many patients who wait months for a proper diagnosis, my very good doctor detected my problem almost immediately. A leading arthritis specialist, who initially denied I had PMR because I was considered too young, confirmed my illness a few days later. Apparently, PMR is very common in men and women over 70. I was 49. In his 25-year career my new doctor, who would care for me for the next two years, had only seen one other person under 50 with PMR. Lucky me. I have since learned that this condition has many younger patients than I was lead to believe.

So with a prescription for prednisone, along with the comforting words that my condition could last anywhere from “two weeks to ten years,” and that I may experience weight gain, insomnia, hair loss, mood swings, and in rare cases, blindness, I was sent on my merry way to try and figure out my new normal.

No one knows what causes PMR. It’s a viral condition that physicians feel is associated with the immune system, genetic factors and stress. Okay. That last one made sense to me. Stress and I were, and continue to be, good friends. We know everything about each other. It wakes me up at night sometimes to say hi. We often walk hand in hand and call each other just to check in. And on that one August morning in 2011, my friend “Stress” decided I needed a little reminder that it wasn’t too far away.

PMR doesn’t ever really go away, but the steroids helped ease the often unbearable soreness. While the inflammation in my joints lessened, other problems occurred, such as a physical and mental fatigue so severe that having a colicky baby (which I experienced thanks to my first born) seemed like a walk in the park. I spent many days in bed when sleep was impossible the night before. Because it was extremely painful to roll over or pull up an extra blanket, there were too many evenings where I would go to bed and stay in the same position the entire night. Every little movement had to be thought out and sometimes hyperventilated over before I held my breath and finally plunged in.

After several difficult years under my doctor’s supervision, I was finally and gratefully weaned off my medication and months later declared in remission. While I do have flare-ups, and the PMR has not completely left my system, Advil has now replaced my steroid intake. I may still walk funny at times, as it takes me longer to move my legs after sitting, and I still have trouble lifting my arms over my head, but I am hopeful the worst is behind me.

During my illness, I forgot what it was like to live pain free. Even to this day, PMR crosses my mind all too frequently. I still re-think my steps, and look for elevators until I realize this is no longer required. But it wasn’t just the physical setbacks that plagued me. Ask anyone living in chronic pain and they will tell you that it affects your mental health as well. Depression and PMR go hand in hand for the vast majority of sufferers. I was no different. While mine was controllable, there were some days that stretched into several where living with PMR got the best of me – days where you lack any kind of hope that your body will repair itself. You feel old, tired and ugly when all you want to feel is healthy, active and engaged.

But today, I’m optimistic. After hard work, good doctors, a loyal and caring circle of family and friends around me including an online support group and yes, lots of faith and patience, I was able to plow a trail through that pile of crap and reach the other side.

What happens when life suddenly stands still, and you are confronted with something of which you have no control? What does one do when faced with long days sitting on a couch or lying in bed besides watching bad television? Hopefully, you learn something. And I did.

Joy is hard to find when you live with chronic pain, but today, no longer tied to my bed or hobbling around like a woman twice my age, I now take extreme happiness in a lifestyle I once took for granted. What I considered important before my diagnosis is no longer. Material possessions mean very little. My new saying is: “Stuff is stuff and more to dust.” Most of what we gather has absolutely no bearing on who we are. Kind words, good deeds, a warm smile, meaningful conversations and experiences leave a bigger and lasting impression than anything you buy at the mall.

And while this has taken longer to embrace, I am learning to simply let go. Yes, as I mentioned, “Stress” and I are still in touch, but I try to remember that worrying is nothing more than a waste of time and a lack of faith. My life can no longer be focused on the “what if’s” or the anxiety I feel when I am not in control. When my children can’t (or won’t) answer a text within five minutes, I try not to imagine them in a ditch. If clients ask me to revise an article, I’m not going to assume they will write me a bad review. Worry never solves anything, and when encouraged, it spawns a life of its own.  I dwell on the present, because we are not promised anything other than today.






Thanks and Giving

by Julie on November 8, 2013

Scary Mommy Nation


Thanksgiving is by far my most favorite holiday.  You won’t catch me desperately wrapping a last minute gift with newspaper and masking tape nor dealing with frantic children who decide to change their Christmas list on December 24th.  Instead, we celebrate gratitude.  And while everyone has a story to tell about their crazy cousin, the overcooked turkey or Grandma’s traditional, yet infamous, fruit cocktail and green Jell-O salad, by and large it’s a day to surround yourself with those that mean the most to you while overindulging in an abundance of food.

But for too many families, Thanksgiving is not a day for celebrating, but rather surviving. Currently there are over 16 million children in America that live in food insecure households, homes that do not have consistent access to food.  In my day our parents would tell us to clean our plates because “There are starving children in China!”  Today, that hungry child could be sitting next to your son or daughter in class.  You want to know what is scary?  A recent survey said that 73 percent of our teachers regularly see students that “are too hungry to learn,” and this is posing a “serious issue” to our classrooms.

A blog I occasionally read, Scary Mommy, has created a way to help those struggling parents provide their children with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  The details are all available at the site, but through November 15, you can sponsor a family this holiday so one less child goes hungry.  All proceeds, 100 percent, go to a deserving family so they may also have a day where a meal can be enjoyed and savored.

As a parent, I can think of nothing more horrifying than being unable to feed my children. But too many parents, particularly single mothers, struggle with this daily.  With all the excess we have in this country, hunger should never be the growing problem that it is now.



Choosing Joy

November 5, 2013

Sometimes life’s most important and significant lessons gently tap you on the shoulder when you least expect it, but need it the most.  I think about this today especially, because ready or not, holidays and resolutions are just around the corner. Meet Virginia.  Her family recently hired me to write her memoirs.  She is a […]

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Just For Today

November 16, 2012

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJ7Onxi-uA4 Just for today…. I want to stay in bed, watch Diane Keaton movies, play Angry Bird over and over, and start one of the many books I can never find time to read.  I want to nap when the mood strikes and not have anyone call my name, wonder where I am or shout […]

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Because Everyone Deserves A Eulogy

October 31, 2012

My mother-in-law passed away in July.  While she had been ill, her death was shocking and unexpected.  At her request, she wanted no funeral or services so we carried on, handling her affairs and moving forward, just as she would have wanted.  And while we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, my mother-in-law and I had a […]

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Here We Go Again

September 25, 2012

You know, life can be cruel.  You spend the last 19 years giving birth to a child, providing endless feedings and then later countless back scratches and lullabies, vaccinations, happy meals, gymnastic, piano, dance and whatever else lessons, because naturally every mom thinks they have a prodigy on their hands. You cheer at every sports […]

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It Really Is The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year…..

September 7, 2012

For those of you that love summer, that are energized by having your children around 24/7, that thrive on your refrigerator being cleaned out twenty minutes after you return from the grocery and live for sleepovers with a dozen of  your child’s closest friends then this blog is not for you.  If you bask in […]

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Fifty Shades of Red.

July 21, 2012

    Because my millions and billions of subscribers count on me to update them regarding the latest trends and fads, I felt it was my duty to read “50 Shades of Grey.”  All three books.  Twice. You are welcome. So I’m ready to share my thoughts and give a complete and thorough evaluation of […]

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My Thoughts At This Very Moment

July 14, 2012

  I really don’t want another dog.  I wasn’t even crazy about the one I had. A margarita tastes like summer. Which is why I drink them year round. No matter how cool you think you look, no teenager likes to see their parent dance. A smile does go a very long way. It is […]

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Real Life

July 1, 2012

Sometimes, real life just gets in the way.  It’s been several weeks since I last wrote on my blog, but in that time I’ve dealt with graduations, job proposals and deadlines, broken bones (not mine), out of town visitors, some bad luck, some good luck, too many soccer tournaments and who knows what else.  It’s […]

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