Thursday, 29 September 2011

News Worthy

Mike received a phone call the day before yesterday from a reporter from the Maple Ridge News. Robert had seen my blog and was interested in meeting us. Mike told him to come on over and after he hung up, he asked me what I thought he might want. I told Mike he probably wants to do a story. Mike was a little confused and said, "I have ALS, but I don`t think it's news worthy."  Robert came over yesterday and he was younger and less serious than I thought he would be for an award winning journalist. After he introduced himself, he asked if I was George`s daughter. He said he had done a number of articles on my mom and dad and their adventures in Africa drilling wells and taking care of orphans. He took his shoes off before I could tell him not to, and had a seat. Robert became a friend right away. It didn`t seem like he was doing a job, it felt like we already knew him and he was just dropping by to say, "Hey, how`s it going?" He said he had read some of our posts and wanted to know what inspired me to start the blog. I told him I wanted friends and family to be able to know how Mike is doing. I told Robert that Mike`s family live in Toronto and that maybe a blog would be a good way for them to stay connected to the son and brother they adore. I also said that Mike has such a positive attitude and a great sense of humour that if I could inspire or encourage some people by writing about Mike, then that would be great. Robert suggested that perhaps someone recently diagnosed with ALS would benefit from reading our blog as well. I said yes, I sure  hope so. I also told him that Mike is looking a little different…the illness is showing, but he is the same guy on the inside and giving people the opportunity to take a peek into our lives every other day or so and hear from Mike himself, hopefully brings a little comfort to those who are concerned. Robert asked lots of questions. He asked Mike about his work and Mike liked that. Robert wanted to know why Mike became a nurse and asked if Mike felt nursing was a rewarding job and if he enjoyed it. Without any hesitation, Mike said YES, absolutely and he explained how nursing was a 'calling'. He wanted to know about our travels to Africa with Project Wellness, our family's charitable organization. He wanted to know about Mike's biking and inquired about the few accidents he read about in my blog. He asked about our children and how we are all handling the situation. We told him we have our moments of course, but we keep looking up. Toward the end of our visit, Mike shared how he is surprised that he isn't as sad as he thinks he should be after receiving such horrible news. He thinks it has something to do with the comfort of knowing there is something better to come.
In my favourite book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chamber writes on March 7 (the day Mike was diagnosed with ALS), titled: The Source of Abundant Joy – The underlying foundation of the Christian faith is the underserved, limitless miracle of the love of God that was exhibited on the Cross of Calvary; a love that is not earned and never can be…And the experiences of life, whether they are everyday events or terrifying ones, are powerless to "separate us from the love of God."
Romans 8:28,29 says: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Separation Anxiety

Our two year old dog, Molly was acting kind of weird a couple of weeks ago. She seemed a little sad…she just wasn’t herself. I found her lying in the front yard, holding Madison’s shoe in her paw, the way a small child sleeping on her tummy would hold her favourite teddy bear. I told Mike about it and he said that Molly was probably chewing on her shoe. Madison and I had both left a pair of running shoes on the front porch to dry out after a day of river rafting with Madison’s hockey team. Molly thinks that shoes left outside are free game. She leaves the ones inside alone, but has destroyed most of those that have been left outside. I took another look to make sure Molly wasn’t eating Madison’s shoe. I saw her holding it, rubbing her head against it, sticking her nose in it and laying her cheek on it…she definitely wasn’t chewing it. I’m not an animal psychologist, but I’m pretty sure Molly was experiencing separation anxiety. Madison had just gone back to school and Molly was having some difficulty adjusting to Madison’s new schedule.
I think I have been experiencing separation anxiety as well. I’m not rubbing my face up against Mike’s shoes, but I do find I become anxious when apart from him. Eight months ago, Mike was working full time at Riverview Hospital in Port Coquitlam and part time at Sunrise in Abbotsford. They were short staffed at Sunrise, so he was picking up extra shifts to help out. Needless to say he wasn’t home very much and when he did come home, it wasn’t for long. Apart from doing his laundry, I didn’t have to worry much about him. He ate at work and mostly fended for himself.  Now, Mike is home full time and dealing with some limitations. With my part time job and a few other commitments, I have to go out without Mike almost every day. I find I worry a little after an hour and a half or two hours go by. What if he needs me to fix him a snack, or help him put on a shirt, or scratch his back or open a can of spaghetti sauce? What if he loses his footing and slips on the stairs, or trips over the shoe Molly dropped in the middle of the living room floor? Mike says he is fine…not to worry, but adjusting to my ‘half handicapped’ husband’s new limitations is challenging and sometimes a little stressful. ('Half Handicapped' - see last blog)
I am happy to report, Molly is doing much better. She waits patiently for Madison to come home from school now that she knows Madison will be back soon. I am doing okay as well…Mike waited patiently for me today to come home so I could open a can of spaghetti sauce. He had the noodles cooked and the beef browned and a big smile on his face. He assured me he didn’t mind waiting…he knew I’d be back soon.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Half Handicapped - by Mike Sands

What’s the difference between a Scottish guy and a water fountain?  Answer:  You can get a drink out of a water fountain.  That’s a racist joke.  But I’m half Scottish, so society allows me to say it without me being considered a racist.  An episode of The Jeffersons had George Jefferson going to court to pay a speeding ticket.  When George entered the courtroom he noticed a lot of black defendants in the courtroom.  He said in a loud voice, “There’s enough niggers in here to make a Tarzan movie.”  Not only did George use the ‘n’ word, he used it on TELEVISION.  Not only would any non- black person be considered a racist if they said that word, the CRTC, the FCC, FBI, and a whole bunch of other Alphagetti Agencies would revoke the television station’s licence immediately.
     I’ve had ALS for just over a year now.  They tell me the illness starts out slowly with muscle weakness, slurred speech and muscle atrophy, all of which I have experienced.  I also have a stiff gait, and my right hand is down to about 20% usage.  It’s kind of funny watching stranger’s reaction to you when you’re progressing toward full incapacitation.  One time at the bank the teller said to me, “Oh your hand looks sore.”  Another time I accidently staggered into a guy’s car when he was at a stop sign.  He rolled the window down and stated, “What are you, drunk or something, you just bumped into my car”. (A more civilized response would have been, “are you alright’)  This is why I consider myself “Half-handicapped” because at this stage of the illness it is hard to distinguish whether I ‘m just feeling under the weather for some reason (i.e injured or intoxicated) or whether I am handicapped.  They tell me after the second year of the illness, most patients are wheelchair bound.  That means, if it goes according to their schedule, I should be in a wheelchair next summer. Before I go, I have one more joke for you.  How many handicapped people does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  I’ll tell you the punch line next summer.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Living On a Prayer

Everyone and their dog (literally) was at the dyke today. Mike and I have been riding our bikes at the dykes a lot lately to avoid the traffic and to enjoy the amazing scenery. The Golden Ears Mountains of Maple Ridge are stunning and Mount Baker in all its snowy splendour the other day was so close we could almost touch it even though it’s all the way in the U.S.A. It’s been raining on and off for the last few days and with the humidity, I keep saying I feel like I’m in the Amazon. Mike says this is the way it feels in Toronto after a rain fall. The birds were chirping and the crickets were cricketing and the bugs were sticking to our sweat…what a great day. We rode the dyke from the entrance at Laity St. to Harris Road in Pitt Meadows. We always have to touch the gate at Harris Road or Mike says you can’t say you have been all the way. Round trip from our house and back is about 19Ks. We took a little break at the gate and made fun of each other’s sweaty bug collection. Mike suggested we ride on the other side back. We have only taken that path once and it was so bumpy, I’m sure I had a concussion at the end of it…maybe just whip lash, but it wasn’t very enjoyable, so I told Mike no. Then I thought, whatever Mike wants, Mike should get. So I said, “Your wish is my command”. His one eye brow raised and with a frisky look on his face, he said “In that case, I will save my wish for tonight” wink, wink. Some things never change. So, anyway we rode back the way we came. As we started out, Mike said we are half way there. I said, “Isn’t that a song?” and he said “Yah, Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi”. As we pedaled, he thought about his wish for tonight (I could tell by the look on his face) and I thought about the goodness of God and how he hears our prayers and always answers. Sometimes His answer is ‘no’, sometimes it is ‘yes’ and sometimes it’s ‘not now’. With all the ALS discoveries and breakthroughs in the news lately, we are growing more and more excited. We are a little nervous as well…what if the cure doesn’t come soon enough? So, like the song says, we are living on a prayer and believe that God’s timing is always perfect…whatever happens.
While my sister, Elanna and I were chatting earlier today, she quoted one of my favourite Bible verses and I think it applies: Philippians 4:6,7 – Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
                                                                     The Golden Ears

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Big Sisters

My sister Elanna called the other day to ask if we needed any cat food. She saw a great deal on ‘Friskies’ and thought of us…or, I guess she thought of our cats. My sister has been the best big sister a girl could have. She has looked out for me since day one. My parents tell me how when they brought me home from the hospital, Elanna had all the children in the neighbourhood there to welcome me. She doted on me then, and she dotes on me now. She encourages me, compliments me, brags about me, helps me, gives me things, pays for me, and so on. She is like an extension of my parents who lavish me with love and gifts and continue to take care of me even though I’m all grown up.
Mike is the youngest in his family as well. He has an older brother and three older sisters. Along with his parents, his siblings live in Toronto with their families. His sister Pat, all of eleven months older than Mike said not long ago, “Michael will always be the baby.” During a recent visit, she definitely treated him like the kid brother he has always been to her. He was well taken care of…meals and gifts including a boat load of new socks and a new electric razor. Pretty much anything he needs, she has him covered. She even chased away some bullies...or, maybe I’m getting that mixed up with Mike’s childhood memories growing up in Scarborough, Ontario in the 1960s .
Mike’s sister Aileen, made a surprise visit the weekend we participated in our first ALS walk in Abbotsford. Erin, who organized our team, (Team “I Like Mike”), tried to convince her aunt Aileen to join us in the walk, but she kept coming up with a “bunch of lame excuses” as Erin put it. Little did we know, she had booked her flight and was keeping the visit hush hush. Just before we were going to start the walk, someone passed Erin a kite and told her it was from an unexpected team member in the crowd. We looked around and there, to our surprise was Aileen…what a great surprise!
Today, Mike received a card in the mail from his oldest sister Moira. On the front of the card it said “No matter where you are…” and on the inside it said, “You are here” with a picture of a bear holding a heart in his hands up against his heart. She wrote in the card how she hopes we will come soon for a visit.
Mike has a life time supply of socks and our cats are well fed until the spring. We are so thankful for our big sisters! So, to our big sisters…No matter where you are, you are here (I am pointing to my heart).
                                                   Elanna, Leah and me - Christmas 2010

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Ride Like the Wind

Mike had another incident on his bike the other day, although concerning, it wasn’t as serious as the last one (Look Away, I’m Hideous). He had some trouble steering around a corner, over the sidewalk and into the bike lane and unfortunately, was unable to stop his bike before riding into the side of a big black truck. Thankfully, the truck was almost at a stop as it was approaching a stop sign and no one was hurt…well, physically no one was hurt, but Mike’s ego may have been a little damaged. I was with him this time and saw the whole thing happen and was frustrated for Mike as I watched him and the man driving the truck exchange a few words. Mike got upset and rightfully so. Just a few short months ago, he was working two jobs, running 10Ks, bench pressing 225lbs, and he was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and now he is trying to explain to some insensitive person in a black truck that he hasn’t been drinking. Anyway, I am now a little worried about him riding on the busy roads in our neighbourhood. He likes to ride his bike. He feels good when riding a bike. Like I mentioned before, Mike was a runner, but certain symptoms of ALS have stopped him from running, and even walking sometimes. Mike has hyper reflexes, he also experiences rigid movement, limited range of motion and muscle weakness. But on his bike, he feels great. I’m a spinning (group cycling) instructor and I can’t keep up with him. He rides like the wind. So needless to say, he is out on his bike every day. I go with him most of the time, but sometimes I can’t. Trying not to be obvious about my concern, the other day when he said he was going for a ride I insisted he wait for me, so I could go with him. He looked at me and said “You want to come with me because you are worried about me, aren’t you?” I insisted I wasn’t worried, and that I just wanted to be with him, which was true, but he was also right. Since then, we have gone for a number of bike rides, and I have made sure I’m available to go along every time. He says, “You’re just coming so you can catch me if I fall.” I want to go with him so I can save him from the evil traffic and the nasty sharp corners and the speeding cars and the drivers who aren’t paying attention. I want to warn him of any hazards and catch him if he falls. The only problem is I am totally incapable of doing all those things. Not to mention, he has always been the one who protects me, the one who saves me, the one who catches me when I fall.
Soon after his diagnosis, Mike started to thank me in advance for taking care of him. I told him he would do the same for me, that he would do anything for me and I would do anything for him, and I reminded him that we are a team. I wrote in my journal that if Mike does have this terrible disease, it would be my great honour to take care of him. Last night as I laid his leg on my lap and massaged his foot, I thought to myself that there wasn’t anything better I could do with my time. There wasn’t anything at that moment more noble that I could think of to do right then for my best friend, the love of my life, my number one team mate.
Believers look up - take COURAGE! The angels are nearer than you think. - Billy Graham

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Best Medicine

Mike is on medication for ALS. Before his diagnosis, he never took anything…he didn’t have too, he never got sick. In spite of the pill bottles lined up on our counter now, we still believe that laughter is the best medicine. Proverbs 17:22 says: A merry heart is good medicine. says: How do you actually reduce the levels of chronic stress in your body and enhance your life span, boost your immune system function, protect your nervous system and your sanity and give your endocrine system a much needed rest? Let’s start with the easiest way – laughter. I love laughing and Mike likes making me laugh…he likes making everyone laugh. He is very quick witted and is always looking for a way to add humour to a serious situation. If you call our house and get the answering machine, you will hear me start laughing half way through the message…Mike made me laugh, and then wouldn’t let me change the message. He will go to great lengths to find the props needed to make a photo opportunity comical. Mike likes to get a good laugh himself. It’s pretty much routine for him to place a 10Kg bag of dog food in the middle of the isle at the grocery store and watch people manoeuvre their buggies around it. I caught him teaching my friend Carol’s two boys that trick one day when we were visiting them in Vernon. Along with the pranks at the grocery store, the ice cream fight at the Dairy Queen and peeing in the snow at Silver Star, it was a banner day for Levi and Max. Recalling the events of the day to their mom, the boys were killing themselves laughing. Carol says Mike is like a celebrity in their house.

Mike and I laugh a lot. Our daughter, Madison is forever saying “What is so funny?” Once one of us gets started, the other joins in and there is no stopping us. Laughing is fun…it feels good…it’s cleansing…What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul - Yiddish Proverb

It’s natural to become depressed after receiving bad news. Not just bad news, but very bad news…like hearing you have a terminal illness. But, after the initial shock of our bad news wore off a little, Mike was up to his old tricks. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of tears too, but the laughter far outweighs the grief.
                            The most wasted of all days is one without laughter. EE Cummings

Friday, 16 September 2011

Fried Chicken Bucket List - by Mike Sands

A blog by Mike
I always considered anyone dying before 50 as dying ‘young’.  Anyone who dies 50 or older is ’early’.  Anyone 60 and up has had a ‘good life’.  Anyone 70 and above has lived a ‘full life’.   In a few months I’ll be turning 50 and I now have a sense of relief; ‘whew’ I made it to the ‘young’ section. (Meanwhile all the other people hitting fifty are dreading it).  It’s funny how your fear of things disappears when someone tells you that you haven’t got long to live.  My fear of flying is no longer a problem.  Who needs sunscreen anymore.  Using aluminum pots may cause Alzheimer; I say bring on the scrambled eggs.   I’m the official taste tester for food that doesn’t smell or look right, as e-coli is a fear of the past.    It’s ironic that I have always kept an eye on being physically fit. I generally eat the right foods, don’t smoke and I exercise regularly; all that and I’m still left with this diagnosis.  All these years of staying healthy I could have been eating tasty fried chicken and McDonald’s every day.  I guess I have some catching up to do.
I’ve never been afraid of dying.  I’ve heard too many good stories about the afterlife.  I think we all have trepidation about dying as God puts the fear of dying in us so that we don’t jump off a cliff in our teens after getting jilted for the first time.  If we instinctively knew there was a better life waiting for us, we wouldn’t cherish and hang on to this life.  I think we’re supposed to live a good productive life while leaving your mark and making a difference in the people around you.  This can be accomplished without having to live to your 80’s; as Abe Lincoln says, “it’s not the years in life that count; it’s the life in your years.”  When I was given this terminal diagnosis, the thought raced through my head that I have to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do but not got around to.  Climb Mount Everest?  Never had the inclination.  Go to Hawaii?  Not on my bucket list.  See the Eifel tower?  A postcard will do fine.   I was at a loss to find something that was I had missed out on.  I do believe I have experienced everything that I wanted to experience; of course I would like to experience more of it, but I’m not about to pine over it.  I have to go now, my Kentucky Fried Chicken order has just arrived.  What’s this, they forgot the gravy!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Love Is Patient

The words ‘Love is patient, love is kind’ are written on our bedroom wall. The first message of the day and the last at night. We try to live by that message, but of course, we slip up from time to time. Mike and I have a good relationship. We can honestly say we are, ’happily married’. Of course it’s not perfect…no marriage is perfect. There are things that annoy me about him and I am guessing there are one or two things that annoy him about me, we have just learned to accept the imperfections over the years. I don’t like washing the cutlery when I wash the dishes, but Mike doesn’t complain, he just washes the cutlery. Mike’s table manners are terrible. He eats too fast, he is messy and he makes a lot of noise. But I knew that going in, so I try to ignore it. Sometimes I’ll nudge him under the table if we are with other people. I’m not a good cook. In fact, I have burned many meals, dish cloths, oven mitts, even a phone once. Mike says ‘’It’s okay, you can’t be good in all the rooms,’’ and happily eats whatever I serve. I will though, get ticked off when he leaves wet towels on the bed. He has a habit of drying off and dropping his towel on my side of the bed while looking in his drawer for clean socks and underwear.
After four doctors tell your husband he has ALS, you start to think maybe your time together is limited. I think differently now that there is a possibility we don’t have as much time as I assumed we had. When I was sure Mike and I were going to grow old together, I didn’t think twice about taking five or ten minutes to tell him off for leaving a wet towel on my pillow. But last night when Mike left a wet towel on my side of the bed, I started to say something, but stopped myself and realized I can’t spare 5 or 10 minutes telling him off. He turned to me and said ‘’Yes dear?’’ I had the towel in my hand and was ready to give him heck, but we both broke out in laughter instead. We spent about 5 or 10 minutes laughing and talking and then went to sleep.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
                            Mike enjoying a hot dog at the olympics in Vancouver, February 2010

Monday, 12 September 2011

Scar Face

Mike is very patient and patience is a virtue and that’s a good thing. But here is an example where his patience has gone too far. The wounds on his face from his bike accident have healed quickly. There is almost no evidence the fall ever happened, except for a couple of ugly scabs on his face that he has been walking around with for the last week. I’ve been calling him ‘scar face’ and trying to convince him he should let me take them off. “No way, I’ll be scarred for life.” He says. The scabs were the size and texture of bran flakes, so I told him to stay away from my bowl of cereal, because those scabs were hanging by a thread and I wasn’t fond of the idea of them falling into my breakfast. Mike just laughed and said it was a good way of adding protein to my meal. When the scabs turned a gross shade of green, I told him that was it, they’re coming off. He just laughed and pushed me away. The point is Mike is very patient…with scabs on his body and everything else, except when he is driving, but that’s another story.
All joking aside, Mike is incredibly patient. While out grocery shopping, I often bump into someone I know and stop to chat. Mike will wait…maybe peruse the magazine isle, but never complains. When he comes with me clothes shopping, I eye up the dressing room, and he eyes up a comfortable seat…never a complaint and always the response when I ask how something looks on me “You would look good in burlap, so it looks great.” He could be starving and wait another three hours to eat…he is good at waiting. Line ups, construction, flight delays, burnt dinners, doctor’s appointments…he’ll wait.
Mike continues to exercise a lot of patience as he adapts to the changes in his life caused by ALS. It takes more time and more effort to do the things he used to do with ease. Getting dressed, brushing his teeth, fixing a snack, taking a shower, tying his shoes. His speech is affected by the illness and so even when he is speaking, he will go slow, or repeat himself if something is unclear, or he will pause and smile while he waits for his lips and his brain to get on the same page. Most of us less patient people would become very frustrated, even angry. But as I watch Mike, I learn. His wonderful example of patience is teaching me something about being more patient and I am humbled.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Life Is Unpredictable

Life is unpredictable. We should be thankful for everyday. On March 17th, ten days after Mike was diagnosed with ALS, I recorded some of Mike's words in my journal. He said that whether he had ALS or not, his opinion of God and love for Him would not change. He told me he was so thankful for the years he has had. He said that so many people would be happy to have had the amount of time he has had...and still has to come.

We read 2 Corinthians 16-18, which says: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Narrow Gate

Today, while Mike and I were out for a bike ride, we had to go through a narrow gate to get from the road we were on to the park. Mike was ahead of me and didn’t seem to even notice the narrow gate. As I approached the gate, I became a little shaky even though I knew I could clear it no problem. I focused on looking through the gate and not at it and immediately I was fine…I sailed through with ease. In the past, I have looked at the narrow gate and have had trouble manoeuvring through it, even to the point of having to stop and put my feet on the ground and push my way through. As we cycled in the park, I pondered the narrow gate and how obstacles are a part of life. Obstacles can be discouraging and sometimes, overwhelming, but looking over, around or ‘through’ obstacles, takes away the hold they can have on us.
Mike is doing very well at looking over, around and through the obstacles ALS has presented in his life. The power of positive thinking and the power of prayer, gives him the strength and ability to ‘look through the narrow gate’ every day.
Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears. Arthur Koestler

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

'Trust' Rock

Today is September 7th. Marked on our calendar for today is an appointment with the ALS Team at GF Strong. There is a new drug for ALS that is still under trial and Mike was going to be a part of the study. We were excited about this new drug and were praying that Mike would get the real thing and not the placebo…turns out, he isn’t getting either. There were too many people signed up for the study, so some of them were scratched…Mike being one of them. Mike got the call while I was out one day last week. He told me the news without any emotion. I couldn’t believe it when he told me as we had been gearing up for this for a long time. I had to call the office myself and hear about this grave injustice with my own ears. They told me what Mike told me and said they were sorry, but the study was closed. That train left the station and we missed it. Mike said it was okay because this new drug isn’t the cure anyway and he is waiting on the cure. At that moment, I heard the Lord in His quiet voice remind me that I trust in Him…that we trust in Him and believe He is in control. We have committed our lives to Him and have put all our faith in Him, so is this news going to flip that faith on its back? No it isn’t.
I was reminded of one of my favourite Bible verses. Proverbs 3:5,6, which says: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths
I received an email from Erin last night. It was her first day at UBC. She finished her degree in December and was living at home while she waited for the teaching program to start. Mike and I moved her to Point Grey two days ago. She is going to be a French immersion teacher…we are so proud. Anyway, she relayed all the happenings of the day in her witty way, making me laugh out loud and ended the message with the following: ‘’I have science class in the morning and the teacher told us to bring something that describes science to us. I'm bringing the trust rock because I have all my trust in the scientists of today that they will find a cure. I trust that God has created a brain out there that will find it! I am praying every single day!’’ The trust rock is a rock with the word TRUST on it. 
Instead of going out to GF Strong this afternoon, Mike and I went for a bike ride. As we were getting started, I mentioned how maybe we don’t need two vehicles right now. I suggested that we leave one vehicle off the road until Mike goes back to work. He looked at me and we both smiled. He said ‘’After all I’m going to be healed, and if not, the alternative isn't so bad.’’ He meant heaven, of course.

Monday, 5 September 2011

"Look Away, I'm Hideous"

I came home from the gym the other day to find Mike on our bed with a towel over his head and blood on his knee and hands. I knew he had fallen off his bike because Madison, our youngest daughter had called Erin, our oldest daughter, who was with me at the gym to tell us the news. Mike told Madison not to call, but she was so upset she didn’t know what else to do. Erin and I hurried home. Mike was a little choked up and I could tell more damage had been done to his spirit than his body. He told me what happened - he was going too fast around a corner and put the brake on hard. He has pretty much lost the use of his right hand, so he put the brake on hard with his left hand, which is the front brake, which caused the bike to throw him over the handle bars, placing him face first on the cement.  I could hear the discouragement in his voice from under the towel. This is a man who has been an athlete all his life…someone who could, at one time run a 36 minute 10K. Who, up until a few months ago, could run a 6 minute mile, and was a strong competitor on the soccer field. I knew what Mike was thinking under that towel. He was thinking that perhaps he had pedaled his last bike ride, perhaps ALS has taken away his ability to cycle, like it’s taken away his ability to run and play soccer. I assured Mike that the accident he had on his bike could have happened to anyone. I can remember doing the same thing years ago. I can still see myself being propelled over my handle bars, landing smack dab on the side walk…not a pretty site. Mike has a way of adding humour to a serious situation. Quoting Kramer from Seinfeld, he said “Look away, I’m hideous.” He took the towel off his face and exposed the wounds. He assured me he would get back on his 'horse' tomorrow.
We watched our granddaughter, Leah that evening and the two of them compared owies on their knees. That night, when Mike and I went to bed, I put more Polysporin on his owies and he fell asleep. I couldn’t help but stare at him while he slept, he looked so peacful in spite of his wounds - a goose egg and big cut over his left eye brow, a big bump and road rash under his left eye, scratches down his nose and a fat lip with more road rash.
A few days later, when Mike’s hands felt better, he got back on his 'horse' and rode.
“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

Sunday, 4 September 2011

You Don't Know You've Got Till It's Gone

Our dear friend Karen was on my mind this morning when I woke up. Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer recently and had a mastectomy two days ago. I have a lot of very strong women in my life, and she is right up there on the list. An email from a friend said that Karen was doing well, eating cinnamon buns and cracking jokes about her hospital room mates. The email went on to say that a group of Karen’s visitors squeezed into the washroom to view the newly vacant space on Karen’s chest. One day you have two breasts and the next day, you have one. It made me think how we don’t always appreciate something until it’s taken away.
We don’t always appreciate something until it’s taken away, or there is a threat of it being taken away. It's like the song says, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." You know, "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
Two weeks after Mike’s diagnosis, I wrote in my journal as I pondered some of the things I appreciated about Mike. This is what I wrote: Mike does my income taxes…he pays the bills…he makes almost all the money…he washes the kitchen floor…and the inside of the microwave…he picks up the dog pooh in the back yard…he gets the oil changed in the car…he helps the kids with homework…he turns the hockey game so I can watch the end of Love It or List It…he holds my hand when I know he wants to let go…he makes me laugh…he makes me feel special…he tells me I’m beautiful. Mike never complains…he never puts me down…he never expects dinner, but is always happy when there is some…he never makes me feel stupid, even though he is way smarter than me…he never bats an eye when I ask him how to spell a word I’ve asked him to spell a hundred times before or when was the war of 1812. Mike is patient and forgiving. He is kind and thoughtful. I really appreciate him.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

What is ALS Anyway?

What is ALS anyway? All I know is that it is a debilitating disease that eventually takes your life. Two to five years is what they say you have from the onset of symptoms. Mike experienced his first symptom, muscle twitching, a little over a year ago. He didn’t think much of it. Working two jobs, he was a little sleep deprived to say the least….and a little de-hydrate maybe…yah, that’s probably the problem. He just brushed off the “twitch” and carried on. Not the type to worry and never a complaint…”Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work he goes.” It was when he noticed a loss of strength in his right hand and some atrophy in his hand and forearm that he became a little concerned. After some research on the internet, he realized it could be something serious…”Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the doctor he goes.” then off to the neurologist, who delivered the bad news. Mike stopped working, caught up on some much needed sleep, changed his diet and noticed an improvement. So, when he went for a second opinion, he assumed the best. This doctor surely was going to say a mistake was made and he would be fine…not. A third and fourth opinion and the same diagnosis: ALS.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. In North America it is sometimes called "Lou Gehrig's disease" after the great baseball player who had it.  The New York Yankee died of ALS in 1941 at the age of 38. ALS is a rapidly progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease that is characterized by degeneration of a select group of nerve cells and pathways (motor neurons) in the brain and spinal cord. This loss of motor neurons leads to progressive paralysis of the voluntary muscles. The cause was unknown up until just about a week ago. We were so thrilled to hear the breaking news. The cause is a build-up of protein in the nerves in the brain and spinal column…whatever that means. It doesn’t really matter if I get it or not, just as long as it expedites the process of finding a cure.
Two of the best neurologists in Vancouver and two of the best in Toronto say Mike has ALS. But Mike remained hopeful for a misdiagnosis even after seeing four different doctors. I remember him saying something about how God was practicing medicine when those guys were in diapers. Even now, HOPE is something we cling to…a misdiagnosis, a miraculous healing, a cure…any of the above will do. But even more than hope, we cling to the God who provides the hope and trust that He will decide. Romans 12:12 says: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Oswald Chambers says in his book My Utmost for His Highest: Fill your mind with the thought that God is there. And once your mind is truly filled with that thought, when you experience difficulties it will be as easy as breathing for you to remember, “My heavenly Father knows all about this!”