As I slowly improved over the summer months, my husband and I set our sights on a 2 1/2 week driving trip to Minnesota in September. We even had a few “practice” trips to make sure I could handle the car ride, and still be able to function when we arrived at our destination. Our generous friends offered up their cabins in Northern Arizona to us, so with three short trips under our belts, we were ready. Or so we thought…
On September 1st, we packed up the car, which included John’s golf clubs, 4 of my clubs and a pair of golf shoes (ever the optimist), a cooler, some magazines, canvases, art supplies and many cute outfits for all the fun things we were going to do when we got there. Oh, I also had a Tempurpedic pillow and a full-size body pillow because my naps are still a must. It was like having a third person in the car, but it sure helped me get comfy enough to sleep. John would just shake his head every time I lugged the body pillow from the back seat to the front, but he knew a rested wife, was a happy wife.
From Fountain Hills to Albuquerque, and on to Colorado Springs and Lincoln, NE, we drove. Well, John drove, and I rested. We chatted, took in the beautiful landscape, listened to great music and late in the afternoon would look for the next Hampton Inn to rest our heads. One of the highlights was coming across the incredible Russell’s Travel Center in the middle of Northern New Mexico. Our gas tank was on empty and they had everything one might need on a trip across America. Seriously!
We arrived in Woodbury, MN on September 4th, and moved into our dear friend Sharon’s beautiful and comfortable lower level. I was feeling tired, but after one of John’s delicious homemade dinners and a great nights sleep, I was ready to enjoy our friends and family on some beautiful Fall days in Minnesota.
The next morning, Sharon and I headed out for our long awaited walk. It was longer and hotter than either of us had planned, but we are tough, right?! After a quick hello from my dear friend Karla, and a nice lunch, I headed down for a nap. Upon rising, my energy had fallen and my body, for WHATEVER reason, decided it needed 11 more days of rest! Day after day, I would awaken optimistic, and day after day, found myself with almost no energy.
ARGH! No gatherings, no lunches, no nice dinners out. No trips to the golf course, no Project Runway with Karla and the kids, no dinners with friends and family, and no more long walks. And all my cute outfits that had travelled 1,700 miles were left sadly hanging in the closet.
I became so shocked and numb that the whole time feels quite surreal. How embarrassing to be able to drive all the way from Arizona to Minnesota and not have enough energy to drive 30 minutes to Minneapolis or Hastings. How and why did this happen?
It has taken me this long to publish this post because I was really hoping to find the answers to the how and why. Not that I didn’t try, but those are the ever unanswerable questions when it comes to recovering from Valley Fever. And those are the questions that truly drive me crazy.
So, once again, I am forced to practice letting go. (Can you say slow learner?)
And, once again, I am forced to listen to my body ever so carefully.
And, once again, I am forced to slow down and look inward.
And, once again, I am encouraged to look for what is right in my life. And there is SO much right!
And, once again, I am strongly encouraged to listen to that still, small, wise voice within.
And it all helps me to, once again, gently settle into and accept how life is. (Let gO Or be dragged, Sweetie!)
So on day 11, John packed up the car and we headed back to Arizona. No stop in the Colorado mountains, the Utah canyon lands, or Kansas City. Just the quickest way home – Wichita to Albuquerque to Fountain Hills.
> Moving back to the Midwest will not cure my Valley Fever (sorry Mom).
> Planning ahead is for the birds (just so you know, the Canadian geese have safely arrived in Arizona for the winter).
> And, as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t travel well.
Upon arriving home, we cancelled our trip to Oregon for John’s nieces wedding (so sad), enjoyed being greeted by the first ever bloom on our San Pedro cactus, and settled back into our beautiful Arizona home. I’m once again slowly rebuilding my physical body, resetting my expectations and learning new ways to care for myself. I even committed to a 10-day Sugar Detox with Lacy Young which began October 1st. The experience so far has been enlightening, empowering and freeing.
I will continue to embrace life the best way I know how, and trust myself to make the healthiest and most fulfilling choices for myself. I am worth it, and so are yOu!
enjOy this wOnderful change Of seasOn, treat yOurself kindly, and celebrate all the lOve in yOur life!
thank yOu sO much fOr listening : )
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”
– Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
On August 6, 2013, I began a 6-week online e-course titled Soul Restoration, offered by Brave Girls Club . The two beautiful and amazing sisters, Melody Ross and Kathy Wilkins, who founded the club, are on a mission to encourage, connect and remind all of us to live big, brave beautiful lives. It is way worth it to check them out!
As I continue to s-l-O-w-l-y recover from Valley Fever, I am gaining a new perspective on what the last year-a-half has taught me. As of today, among other things, I have learned:
- hOw to let go (well, at least to let go sooner than I normally would)
- the true meaning of the wOrds “self-care”
- slOwing dOwn and getting quiet really dOes prOvide the space necessary to hear the wisdOm Of yOur sOul
- tO knOw in my bOnes that I am enOugh
- that the universe has really been talking to me thru my art
- and, tO trust myself and knOw that I am nOt alOne.
The Other thing that this dOwn time has taught me, is that my life is preciOus. And that it is sOlely my respOnsibility tO be living the life of my dreams. nO One else knOws what is in the depths of my sOul, and if I’m nOt dedicated tO the expressiOn Of my life, then it’s all On me. I am sOlely respOnsible for the care of my life and sOul. A bit daunting, yes, but quite exciting, tOO!
I’ve alsO learned that I get tO have help, but I am the Only One that can champiOn “the herO in my sOul” and take that mOst impOrtant step tOwards my heart, and not away frOm it.
So frOm here On Out (yes, I mean the BIG Out!), I am fully committed tO the full expressiOn Of my life. This may be my Only shOt, and time is shOrt. sO whether I’m “making gOOd art”, hanging with my husband, cOnnecting with family, having cOffee with friends, napping : ), sitting in meditatiOn, or enjOying a beautiful gOlf cOurse, I will bring my whOle heart and sOul with me. dOn’t yOu think it’s abOut time?
I am grateful to the wisdom of Valley Fever, the love of my family and friends, my health care team, and all the Brave Girls out there walking this “road-less-traveled”. That is what makes this all possible and worthwhile.
turn tOwards yOur heart, find yOur truth, knOw you are wOrth it!
P.S. One mOre thank yOu tO my friends at Starbucks!
A few weeks ago, my sister Julie put one of her clients (I’ll call her Robin) in touch with me. Robin had seen a piece of my art work hanging in Julie’s studio, and wanted to commission me to do a similar piece for her.
After having a wonderful conversation with Robin to hear her preference of color and feel, I set off to my studio (currently our dining room table) to uncover some magic.
Blank, stark white canvases don’t scare me. I love the feeling of possibility, and it seems easy to trust my intuition.
The middle is where I tend to get scared. It is there where doubt, judgement and big old mean critics creep in. Actually, they usually come storming in, weapons drawn and firing. Sometimes I’m able to head them off at the pass, but when I don’t, my playful, bright and creative artist self shuts down the second she hears those demons at the door.
Somewhere in this “middle waste zone” I quiet myself long enough to hear the gentle whispers of wisdom…
There are so many wise people in the world, and thankfully they have posted their wisdom on Pinterest!
This little bit of self-lOve usually brings me back to center. I remember that my primary goal is to have fun and allow myself to explore possibilities. What’s funny is that once I embrace myself and know that I won’t abandon myself, most of the time the “middle danger zone” clears and I am able to arrive at a most wonderful result.
So the day Robin’s brave heart was complete, I lovingly boxed it up and sent it to her.
I love this part, too!
And upon receiving her Brave Heart, Robin wrote, “I love my Brave Heart art work. It is perfect! Thank you!” I am always amazed at the results when I am able to let go of the outcome. I sure don’t come by it naturally, but I’m learning it is a much gentler and peaceful way to go.
So thank you, Julie, for putting your client in touch with me! I love celebrating our Brave Hearts! And please click here tO see what amazing and very cOOl things my sister, Julie Interrante, is dOing in SacramentO!
During this time of exploring what it means to be brave hearted, we in Arizona experienced a terrible tragedy. The Yarnell wildfire claimed 19 hotshot firefighters’ lives. The loss of so many brave young men reverberated through every city and left no heart untouched by sorrow.
I have cried and questioned and wondered why. I’ve felt angry at such a cruel turn of events. It is such a helpless place to be, and I can’t imagine the depth of distress in the hearts of the families and friends of these amazing men. So, we donate money, and buy raffle tickets, and hope they can feel our love from a distance.
The flags in Arizona are still flying at half mast, as they are in our hearts.
So today I honor all our Brave Hearts. It takes a Brave Heart to walk with fire, to feel loss, to get up in the morning, to take care of the kids, to protect ourselves, to protect others, to deal with illness, to face our fears, and to love.
If your doctor ever offers you Physical Therapy, say YES, YES, YES! And if you are recovering from Valley Fever, ask your doctor for a prescription for PT! I’m not saying it will absolutely help, but there is a whole lot more being offered than just a few suggested exercises. Over the past 6 weeks, my wonderful physical therapist, Barbara, has supported not only my physical being, but my emotional and mental being as well. I had no idea how skilled, creative, funny, caring and wise she would be. I hope she never doubts the difference she is making in the world!
She has even inspired some new artwork…
Ever so slowly, I am improving. It has taken 6 weeks (and 15 months!), but I am now able to drive myself to my PT appointments, take a short trip Up North (Arizona), and even attend a Diamondback baseball game with my husband. He had the hotdog and beer, and I ate all three chicken tacos!
My 2-hour afternoon naps are still very important, as is staying hydrated and eating good food. Just this morning I walked into the kitchen and found four drinking glasses lined up on the counter. I knew they had not been there when I had gone to bed, so I asked my husband if he knew what was going on. He said, “I have a new plan for you!” I smiled, and asked what it was. He said that was the number of glasses of water I needed to drink each day. Bless his heart! Funny thing – my acupuncturist told me today that I needed to drink 76 ounces of water each day. Okay, Universe, I hear you!
Another milestone for me is being able to walk all the way around Fountain Lake – 1.25 miles! Unfortunately, because of the heat, I have to do it at 5am! It is amazing how many friendly people are out at that hour. Here are a few things that made me smile this morning:
Taking my walk not only helps my physical heart, but my emotional heart as well. So does painting, and smiling at my husband, and saying the truth, and only saying yes when I really mean it. My heart will lead me to my best pOssible life. I just have to remember to listen : )
Following my (he)art, on many days, is a lot easier said than done. I continue to learn (many days kicking and screaming) that the only person I can save is myself. It is a very hard lesson for this “very good co-dependent”. But everyday I commit to myself to be as healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually as possible. And just like my art, it is prettier on some days than others.
I will leave you with a few more images that inspired me today – one from Arizona, and one from Minnesota, via my friend Frank Bell.
And one more important reminder from Barbara:
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever”
– Mahatma Gandhi
chOOse healing thOughts, embrace your feelings, tell the truth
This sounds quite harsh, but I always believed hOpe to be a weak person’s pie-in-the-sky false dream. Something that I wasn’t interested in because of my pride, and my belief that I didn’t need any help, from anyone or anything.
I am a survivor of an alcoholic / co-dependent family, religious abuse, depression, cervical cancer and alcohol addiction. Who would have thought it would be valley fever to bring me to my knees? Talk about feeling hOpe-less.
For most of my 55-years on the planet, I have relied on my sharp mind, strong will and my ability to persevere. I’ve never shied away from hard work or looking within to find answers and relief.
Luckily, I’ve worked with several really good therapists over the years, who helped me walk through many traumatic experiences and limiting beliefs. Without those gifted people, I would not have made it this far, and I definitely wouldn’t be finding my way through the challenges of valley fever.
nOte: Valley Fever cases continue to increase, and thankfully National Public Radio (NPR) recently aired a story about it. Check it out here. Also, the Denver Post published an article about thousands of people being effected by Valley Fever. (Thank you, Jill, for the heads up on both of these items!)
When I realized I couldn’t outwit or outplay valley fever, I set out to learn some things about hOpe. Yes, the “Queen of Nothing Is Too Much For Me”, admitted that I need something more. Working hard and persevering isn’t cutting it, so hOpe it is.
My Google search brought me two very important things – a very cool definition of hOpe, and one amazing poem.
Definition by Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson:
“[h]ope literally opens us up…[and] removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture [, thus allowing us to] become creative and have [b]elief in [a] better future”. Pretty beautiful, don’t you think!?
Now, on to the amazing Emily Dickinson poem:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Needless to say, I have slowly fallen in love with hOpe. I’ve also fallen in love with little birdies, and wispy clouds and the belief that I am slowly getting better. And Mother Nature keeps showing me how to hOpe-mOre. I’ve watched this cactus grow over the last month. Isn’t it amazing? I really can’t look at it without smiling.
So I will keep painting, and eating well and doing my physical therapy, and trust that hOpe will light my way. And I will gladly be hanging onto hOpe’s hand.
The Hopeful Spirit bracelet is one of Kelly Rae Roberts creations. Thank you Kelly Rae!
Over the years, I’m afraid I have left hOpe standing out in the rain all by herself many times. No more! Here is a reminder for those of us who think we need to do it all on our own:
I have fought for a long time to find a way to shine and fly in my life, and as hard as this part of the journey has been, with hOpe’s help, I have found my wings.
With all the tragedies in the world today, those of us who can, need to get up each morning with some wind beneath our wings. hOpe is that gentle breeze that brings fresh air, and lightness, and the possibility of healing and recovery. May everyone who needs to hOpe-mOre, feel the light kiss of hOpe today.
lOts Of lOve, vickiO
Life has been a lot less stressful since I was officially diagnosed with Valley Fever. My mind is no longer using energy to spin in circles trying to “figure this whole thing out”. I’ve been evaluated for physical therapy, and my insurance company has approved 8 visits. Barb will be my PT expert, and John, my husband, will drive me across town tomorrow morning for my first official visit.
I’ve even had some energy to paint these last couple of weeks. I was able to finally finish the second Starbucks “thank you” art piece, complete the latest commissioned wine labels, and reorganize my art space.
All of this is such good news, and yet I’m finding myself feeling hopeless about actually getting “well”. I’m seeing a bit of improvement, but after all my ups and downs, I just don’t trust it. And today has been a very tired day. My doctor says “have patience”, my acupuncturist says, “have patience”, and now my physical therapist is saying “have patience”. I am SO tired of being patient I could scream!
The truth is, I’m a very patient person. I pride myself on being patient. But, honestly, this has tested the limits of my patience like never before. And being a patient patient seems just about impossible today. Maybe that is why these two words look and sound the same – it requires one to be the other. I came across the following quote on Pinterest, and it really helped me get clear about the facts and where my focus needs to be. It kind of says it all…
Fact #1: I am doing everything in my power to get well.
Fact #2: This Valley Fever “down-time” has provided me some much needed soul-searching and artist exploration time (that I have used very well, by the way : )
And Fact #3: I really do have a great life.
So, I will gather myself once again, and boldly continue on this path of healing and growth and finding the magical silver linings.
This past week I planted flowers for the first time since coming to Arizona. I swore I would never do it, because “they just don’t belong here in the desert”. Well, my Midwest heart needed some potted flowers! But, did I really need to pick impatiens?!
I guess I did!
Impatiens (or impatient) in the desert sun…
Thank you for having patience with me as I heal. I know everyone is pulling for me and every kind card, thought, word, stuffed animal, phone call, email, Facebook “Like”, and prayer is gratefully cherished and accepted. To my healing team (yes, you!), “I respectfully, humbly, and gratefully accept the help you are offering.” Thank you for everything!
May all your dreams come true! Happy May Day, lOvelies!
I have never been so happy to be diagnosed with something in my life! On Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 my husband and I went to my appointment with the resident Valley Fever guru, Dr. Galgiani. He is the renowned VF expert in the country, and was my last hope for sanity. It probably was a good thing he didn’t realize how much was riding on this visit.
Dr. John Galgiani was kind, funny, thoughtful and extremely knowledgable. He was interested in hearing my story, asked questions and was genuinely interested in helping me. When he said, “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard the same things from my Valley Fever patients”, I just about burst into tears with relief!
hOly cactus blOssOm, Batman,
I really dO have Valley Fever!
Like I said, I’ve never been so happy to be diagnosed with an untreatable disease in my life! Gone forever are the crazy thoughts and questions I’ve had rolling around in my head for the last 14 months. Gone are the sleepless nights wondering why I can’t do any normal activities or even just talk on the phone. Gone are the worries about what it is that I do have, and whether I will ever get well.
I was relieved when Dr. Galgiani said I fit into one of the classic Valley Fever profiles – a very healthy, active person, with all the VF symptoms (cough, night sweats, headaches and fatigue) and fatigue being the worst lingering symptom. They don’t know why very active people get the long drawn-out version, but he has seen it many times. He confirmed that the medication doesn’t really help in cases like mine, and that here is not one part of my story that doesn’t fit for Valley Fever.
I am extremely relieved and happy to finally have a confirmation of what I have “known” all along. There are so few doctors who really know this disease, so I’m extremely grateful to be a patient of Dr. Galgiani’s. He has dedicated his career to studying, researching and treating Valley Fever in the hardest hit areas in the US. He was clearly excited to be working on it and making a difference for people who are suffering with it. Thank you, Dr. G!!
He said he has no treatment for the disease itself, but gave me a prescription for a months worth of physical therapy to slowly begin reconditioning my body. Love this! He said to let go of all the figuring out and trying things, and just let them set up a plan that fits me and my condition. I feel very supported and heard. I will go back to see him in 6 weeks – he actually wants to know how I am doing. How cool is that?! (The last 3 doctors told me to come back in 6 months or a year.) Again, thank you, Batman!
Dr. Galgiani is so sure I have Valley Fever that he asked if I would be willing to do an interview for one of the local TV stations last Monday. We were having terrible dust storms that day, and Valley Fever is always a topic of concern on those days. I readily agreed to the interview and loved being a part of educating and voicing the realities of the disease. Below is a link to the interview if you want to take a look.
Right now, this is my favorite t-shirt. I know the keep calm sayings are a bit overused, but I love The Beatles and wearing it makes me smile. So, rOck On, dear friends, rOck On!
I would love this on a t-shirt, too! But the truth is, it is Dr. Galgiani who needs this t-shirt. He really IS Batman!
The real life Batman……
I think I could save the world in these shoes! Don’t you?!
Okay, okay, I will stop myself from carrying this too far. It’s just that as a kid I loved Batman and Robin, and all their corny jokes and funny sayings. But most of all I loved them because they were out there battling evil and winning. I, too, want to be a force for good in the world and plan on continuing to fight for the underdog (oh, I loved Underdog, too).
Here is my final thought on Batman for the day. Maybe we are all being called to connect to our own inner super hero. The part of us that wants to speak up and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. I think it is really trying to encourage us all to be super heroes in our own lives. Maybe there is a Batman, or Batwoman, inside all of us. Claim your inner super hero, and go out and change your special corner of the world for the better today.
Be kind. Love gently. Live large.
Yay for the real life super heroes!
P.S. Here are a couple of very helpful links if you suspect you have Valley Fever and are looking for more information.
Tutorial for Primary Care Professionals – select this option on the page displayed for a PDF file that you can print and give to your doctors to receive the best care possible.
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
– Pablo Picasso