Tuesday, August 24

I'm back...fingers crossed!

I'm inspired to write this blog entry because I've been feeling so much better lately. Additionally, I've heard from some of you and I'm particularly touched by your concerns. Some people lament that we, as a society, have lost our “sense of community,” that people are too plugged in to technology and not tuned in enough to “traditional” ways of caring about each other. I reject this outright; nothing is ever so black and white. Thanks to everyone who has reached out or just thought about me these last few months. I am left with a strong feeling of community with my fellow moto-bloggers.

I'm sorry that I've been invisible. I wouldn't wish my health challenges on anyone! For too long, I've had neither the energy nor desire to read moto blogs much less post on my own. Every time I step outside a motorcycle appears out of nowhere and zips by me as if mocking my pedestrian mode of transportation. And occasionally, it's all made be whiny, pouty and really uninterested in forcing my foggy brain—thanks to some crazy prescribed drugs—to focus on anything requiring attention. Trying to live vicariously through others' adventures was not helping. So, I apologize for neglecting the pleasure I usually experience from reading your blogs—and the fun I get from sharing my journeys (which have been few and far between). So I've laid low and tried to focus on reclaiming my former self.

What's up with me, you've asked? I have a nasty auto immune disease of the connective tissues that has brought with it a rather persistent, chronic fatigue and more than its share of itchy, hideous hives. My immune system treats my muscles and tissue cells as enemy invaders and wants to destroy both. At one point, the least bit of physical exertion was followed by what I can only describe as an acute case of lactic acid burn in every fiber of my being. For reasons unclear to me, I continue to experience incredible muscle/tissue fires inside. After a lively 5 mile walk, which used to be a skip in the park, I now (more often than not) feel a burning sensation under my skin. I will spare you the details but after more than a year of trying to get a doctor to listen to me and not dismiss this as “all in my head,” I finally have received a diagnosis that makes sense. Not good news in the end, but what a relief to know what I'm dealing with.

I've had to consume some awful drugs that have compromised me cognitively and erased my energy and only slightly eased the pain, which always leaves me asking, “What is the point?”

Through trial and error, I've learned what drug to cut out—most of the prescribed stuff—and I've started to feel considerable better—at least I have my mind back, which I know might be debatable. Still...

Currently, I'm feeling as if I'm in a healing phase (a remission of sorts). I've had a few weeks of feeling well enough to get through an entire day without several naps. Knocking on wood. Photo therapy has done wonders. I felt so well that on a Friday in July I took a ride to Milwaukee's BMW for a big, overdue service on the ST.

Other than occasionally running errands, this would be my first trip since May, when I ventured to Michigan to do some underground railroad hunting. I left for WI at 7am and already the air was hot and humid underneath an overcast sky. Milwaukee is an easy trip of about 100 miles; I arrived a few minutes before the shop opened at 10am. In the past, Dave had volunteered to ride my bike up there for me; while I appreciated his offer I could think of only a one word response: NEVER! I rested two whole days to make the trip. By the time I pulled into the large lot, I felt like a privileged six year old on Christmas morning. Three guys were waiting outside for the head guy to open the place; they watched me as I did a U-turn. Thankfully, my time off the bike, did not show. Within ten minutes my bike was checked in. I headed off to a coffee shop to get some reading and writing done. I felt tired but in a good way. Fortunately, I would have seven and a half hours to rest up before the return trip.

Throughout the day, the sky threatened rain and eventually the rain came in buckets. Didn't matter to me as the rain gear was packed. By the time I took to the rode, the rain had dwindled to a trickle—not even worth pulling out the rain gear. The return journey took 1.5 hours longer than it took to get to Milwaukee. The return dished up everything that makes riding fun and challenging. My clutch hand ached from constant use in stop and go traffic. Friday evening traffic from Milwaukee into Chicago is always an endurance test. Rarely, during the last fifty miles did the bike move beyond third gear, which actually was good as the big service on the bike made the brakes so precise that I cherished the time needed to get accustomed to the new feel. I pulled into the garage just before 9:00pm, just before the night turned the sky black. The true test would come the next day. And, it came with a vengeance that was both excruciating and instructive. I couldn't walk straight. My thighs and the muscles in my legs were aching (I would rather give birth than to feel as I did). t took two days for my muscles/tissues to cease the fire within. Still, my progress could be overlooked if I just focused on the pain that had me frantically searching my cabinets for the very drugs I had sworn off.

But here's the big lesson: It took two days to recuperate from the Milwaukee 200+ miles trip compared to the two weeks it took me to get over the 300+ miles Michigan trip I took the Saturday over the Memorial Day holiday. I'd say this is tangible evidence of progress. Why my immune system throws off histamines and sends my body into hyper drive is beyond me. Fortunately, I now have some astute docs and together we are working on solving the mystery.

This down time has been good in many ways. First, I quit my research job that would try the patience of Biblical Job. I miss ONLY the money. The number of people I miss I can count on one hand with several fingers left over. It's been a good decision that has eliminated a boat load of stress. Trying to work in that environment was like trying to fit a big triangle into a small round space. This down time is also great for unlimited reading, that is, when the drug-induced brain fog has lifted. When clear of mind, I've done some serious thinking about all the things I've yet to do in this lifetime. One major decision I've made is an unequivocal recommitment to finishing an on and off again book I've been doodling on the life and times of Bessie B. Stringfield. I've accomplished more in the last month than I have in the last seven! I'm presenting a paper on Stringfield in November to the Social Science History Association; planning a trip (via plane, unfortunately) to Florida, where she lived; and, submitting a book proposal soon. The unanticipated time off has had some nice breakthroughs.

While I don't want to announce a full return to anything just yet, (since I still can't predict with any level of accuracy when and why these annoying “flare-ups” occur), I feel, at the moment that I'm on a healing path. I plan to show up here more often. Even some recent news that I would undergo a minor surgery procedure hasn't dampened my optimism. I had that procedure and learned that I do not need the more invasive surgery. Whew!

On a recent short ride to the grocery store, I had a distinct feeling of Que sera, sera (Whatever will be, will be).

So here's to a heartfelt thanks to everyone for your patience and concern. I am looking forward to catching up with you all soon.

I had a huge boost in energy this past weekend when I met up with the Chris and his lovely wife, whom I'll refer to as "Vee" —more about that fun soon.