Fortunately, I love to dance – with my husband, with my friends, and even by myself. It makes me feel happy and alive, and healthy and free. Maybe the Universe is just trying to teach me a new dance step!
I am needing every optimistic bone in my body to learn the Valley Fever Cha-Cha. My question is, “Is it still the cha-cha when it’s two steps forward and three steps back?”
Over the past 6 weeks I have had a booth at Art on the Avenue in Fountain Hills, played a few rounds of golf (hello 85 and 38 : ) and attended three gatherings. All of this happened with a lot of help, encouragement and understanding from my husband and friends – thank you, thank you! And, oh how fun it has been! Yeah for two steps forward!
At the same time, half of the days have been filled with severe fatigue, headaches and sickness. Those three steps back are getting harder and harder to manage.
But what was it that they said about Ginger Rogers?
Yeah for Brave Girls in high heels and cowboy boots!
So, on this day, I have chosen to put my brave girl boots on and begin again.
What I know works for me:
- A nice walk in the morning – even if it’s for 5 minutes,
- followed by stretching and a few yoga poses,
- followed by a short relaxing meditation,
- and finally writing my Morning Pages (The Artist’s Way).
- Breakfast comes in the form of a smoothie made with almond milk, dates, berries, baby spinach leaves, maca powder, cacao nib, chia seeds, and raw protein powder (all organic : ) I do love our Vitamix Blender!
- T H E N, let go of any expectations for the rest of the day. Enjoy what I can, rest when I need to, and choose to be kind to myself no matter what. (I’m still working on this last part.)
Healing and learning looks so different from one person to another. But, for all of us, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to continue to trust where life leads us. Many times over the past 2 years I believed this “dance lesson” was over, only to hear the music begin again as the teacher called me back into the studio. So this time, after many tears, anger and grief, I am returning to the “studio” with more willingness and love in my heart. I keep hearing:
Be. Kinder. Be. Gentler. Be. You.
So, I am choosing to leave my reluctance at the door, smile when I hear the music begin again, and willingly take to the dance floor to learn more steps of the VF Cha-Cha.
Thank you for listening, and holding my highest good
in your heart. I am doing the same for you.
On the VickiO art frOnt – If I make it back out to the Fountain Hills “Art on the Avenue” on Thursday, I will post it on Facebook. (LIKE my Facebook page here! ) I have a few new art pieces and wonderful new items to share. They would make great holiday gifts! Tote bags, calendars and iPhone 5 cases, Oh My!
And for those amazing party hosts – handcrafted wine bottle tags! Enjoy all the wonderful and loving people you have in your life. For me, they are the true gifts of the holidays!
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!
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
One year ago, on February 8, 2012, I became ill with what I thought was an average head cold. My energy was zapped and my head was stuffed up, but my grand plan was to just to keep pushing through it. I continued to play golf, plan events, and workout (Jazzercise at least 4 times per week). By February 19, 2012 I knew I was dealing with something more serious than a cold. I could no longer push myself to be active in my life and I was very sick with headaches, nausea, cough, light sensitivity, body aches, rashes, night sweats and extreme fatigue.
What began with a quick stop at the Walgreens clinic, turned into a year-long struggle for a clear diagnosis and effective treatment. As of today, I have found neither. I’ve seen seven doctors and tried every treatment that was offered to me – Amoxicillan, Doxycycline, Diflucan, Morinda Supreme, Symbicort, Cymbalta, Xango, flower essences, Oil of Oregano, Pau ‘d Arco, Multidophilus, massage, Yoga, meditation, IV vitamin treatments, herbal tinctures, adrenal support supplements, cranio-sacral bodywork and color therapy. Whew! No wonder I’m exhausted!
I wanted this first blOg pOst to be about how well I’ve handled being forced, by extreme fatigue and illness, to be housebound for the past year. I wanted to share how taking the leap of faith to begin playing with art saved my life. While that is all true, what is really present today is fear. Fear that I may never get well. Fear that I may have a chronic illness for the rest of my life. Fear that I will never get to travel or play golf or go for another hike. I love being outside and I have missed it so much. I’ve missed so many special occasions and gatherings, and that has been really hard, too.
I’ve always loved the movie Groundhog Day. It is so funny and heart-warming, and in the end, Bill Murray’s character learns the value of being honest, authentic and truly loving. What I didn’t get, until now, is the amount of courage and tenacity it takes to keep getting out of bed in the morning to do it “all over again”. That darn groundhog isn’t so cute after day 200 or day 300 or day 366!
I have been so sure that I have Valley Fever, but the truth is at this point, I’m not really sure what is making me this sick. Two doctors say Valley Fever (please read the abOut valley fever menu option for more information on this disease), one doctor says chronic fatigue, and another treated me for Lyme Disease and several other infections. Talk about feeling crazy! I’ve been on this roller coaster long enough. I’ve talked about it, painted about it, accepted it, learned from it, and even been grateful for it. And, yet, this is where I find myself. Still.
So, once again, I return to my mantra: “It Is What It Is”. In the past, those words sounded like resignation to me (and not in a good way). Because of the last year, they now bring me peace. Peace that I really have done all that I could, and that I’m not to blame. There is something oddly embarrassing about being sick for so long, with no real explanation why. My friends’ oncologist said to me last week, “Well, it’s something.” That was exactly what I needed to hear! It IS something, and I won’t give up on finding what it is, and finding something that will help me get well.
Until then, I will keep painting, and talking, and crying, and loving, and laughing, and being grateful for it all. Because the truth is, that is who I really am.
If you have favorite mantras that help you get through the really hard times, I would love to hear them. Thanks so much for listening, and sharing!