Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pet Therapy

I love writing about the "magical" healing that happens in my body when I am atop my dear Icelandic horse. When I am on Fjóla, I am usually free from the pain of my Lyme disease; the second my feet hit the ground, my pain comes back. If I could live on my horse, I would!
Swimming with Fjóla
Fjóla is the most affectionate horse I've ever known. She comes galloping to the gate when she sees me, she follows me around like a puppy and she stands at the gate staring at me in disbelief when I return her to her pasture. Nothing spooks her and from the first day that I met her, when she wrapped her neck around my body in a horsey hug, I knew that she had qualities that would make her an excellent candidate for pet therapy. One day, when I am not so sick from Lyme disease, I really hope Fjóla and I can pursue that option.

For now, I get my "kicks" from following a Facebook page called Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses. Their adorable mini-horses travel to hospitals, nursing homes, etc. and the smiles on the faces of all--young and old alike--who meet their adorable horses are simply incredible. These horses bring such joy into the lives of those they come to comfort.

I, like the rest of the country, have been in anguish over the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. My heart feels like it has been ripped out of my chest and put through a shredder. I can't even begin to comprehend the grief of those in Newtown. If I could scoop up the whole town into my arms and hold them tight, I would. Like everyone else, I feel so helpless.

Two days ago, something in my newsfeed on Facebook caught my eye: It was a photo of one of the little horses from Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, and I learned that they were trying to find a way to take a team of their horses to Newtown, Connecticut. Yesterday, I learned that a group of school children and faculty in Connecticut collected a large amount of money in an effort to make that happen.

I know so many people want to help those affected by this heartbreaking tragedy, but don't know how. If you visit Gentle Carousel Mini Horses website here, there is a link where you can make a donation to help with the expenses of making this miracle happen. The thought of all of those children getting to see and hug these little horses, perhaps even in their school--a place now shrouded in anxiety--will bring such peace and joy and begin to pave the way for healing.
Magic, one of the Gentle Carousel Horses they are trying to bring to Connecticut. Please visit to meet more of their incredible horses.

The children of Newtown have had their peace of mind taken away by a human being; what better way to help them heal than through the unconditional love of animals. Any amount of money you can donate to this awesome cause helps. One little girl even donated her entire allowance--one dollar--to try to help make this miracle trip happen.

Newtown, we love you so much and our hearts are breaking for you!

 "The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse." --Ronald Reagan

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don't PICC On Me!

While most people will be kicking off the new year with high hopes and sparkly new resolutions, I will most likely be kicking off early 2013 with a PICC line in my arm. I know I need to do this, but I'm really struggling to accept getting a PICC line. Lyme disease has me in a headlock and I'm crying uncle; I know this is the next step, but, but, but...

The things that I love to do are going to be greatly hindered, if not right smack at the tippy-top of the No-No List with a PICC line: being at the barn/riding my horse, playing my drums, hula hooping. Though we don't know for sure at this point, I'm told I could possibly have my PICC line for six months. There's no way around the fact that this treatment is going to be difficult and inconvenient.

Someone once told me that I have a very creative way of solving problems. That may have been a polite way of saying that I am headstrong, stubborn and persistent. Lucky for me, in the case of chronic illness, those are pretty good traits to have! They help me to endure when life is throwing lemons (and Lyme!) at me.

If you tell me I can't play drums because I have a PICC line in my arm, I will tell you that the drummer from Def Leopard only had one arm. If he could drums with only one arm, so can I! (Apologies in advance to my neighbors!) If you tell me I can't hula hoop around my upper body, I will tell you I can hula hoop with my lower body. I've even seen people do some pretty cool hooping tricks with their feet!

I don't want to put myself in an environment where I am putting myself at a great risk for infection because of my PICC line, but if you tell me I can't be at the barn, well, my heart will break into a thousand pieces. I will probably show up at the barn anyway, maybe in a biohazard suit or perhaps with my arm wrapped in bubble wrap. If you tell me I can't ride my horse, I will tell you I can still groom my horse. And if you tell me I can't groom my horse, I will tell you I can still bring a blanket and lie in the grass next to her. I will find a way to do the things I love to do. (These same traits make me a rather difficult patient for my poor doctor, sometimes.)

Is it any wonder that today, I randomly came across this quote that I love: Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. While I haven't quite come to terms with having to get a PICC line, I am taking baby steps toward acceptance and I know that I will find a way to do the things that my heart needs to do to make it through the dark days of treatment. I will find a way. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Horse is a Horse, Of Course!

Here's an interesting lesson I learned yesterday: Don't ever ask a horse a question if you're not prepared for the answer. I had a tender heart-to-heart with my wise Icelandic horse, Fjóla, and her response to my dilemma was, um, well...quite unique. But, first, let me recap what has been going on.

I've had a very severe decline in my health, and my current treatment (intramuscular injections) for my Lyme disease is no longer working. Treating a very complicated case of Lyme disease along with multiple other tick-borne diseases is very difficult and it's common to hit a plateau (sometimes multiple times) during treatment. If one thing doesn't work anymore, then you have to try something else.

The disease is running rampant through my body and my shots are no longer helping. I'm in severe pain again and I have to push myself very hard just to function at a rather depressing level, but at this point I am still able to function and for that I am very grateful. I want to avoid at all costs going back to that very dark place where I am bed-ridden again and I feel like it's coming soon if I don't take action.

My doctor has been telling me for months that she thinks I need a PICC line, and I think I am finally coming to terms that it's coming to that. My neurological symptoms are very, very bad and sometimes I have great difficulty with my speech and I feel drunk. My memory is deteriorating rapidly and I am starting to feel like an Alzheimer's patient again.

I'm very, very, VERY scared of getting a PICC line, but right now it's one of my best options for remission. There are many serious risks involved so I have been painstakingly weighing the pros and cons, but at this point, my disease is winning and I am being robbed of the ability to function without severe pain. I am a fighter and I have not come this far to give up. I will do what it takes to get better!

This decision is not an easy one and I know that many of you will be very concerned by the risks associated with a PICC line and may not understand my decision to go this route (if I do). I still have many unanswered questions myself and much research to do before my decision is finalized, but I am leaning heavily toward this option.

Back to my experience with my horse, Fjóla  yesterday. I drug myself out to the barn hoping a little horse therapy would do me good, but by the time I got there I was so exhausted I had to lay in the car with my feet propped up before I could get out. She saw me coming and came running and calling to me, which makes me smile no matter how sick I feel! I got her out of her pasture and really wanted to ride her, but all I could do was alternate between brushing her and then resting while she grazed.

I ran out of steam pretty quickly, so I put her back in her pasture and she did what she always does, which completely melts my heart--she stayed by the gate staring at me in disbelief like, "Are you sure you're done playing with me?!" So I sat down on a big rock in her pasture and she opted to stay by my side, instead of following her horse friends to the other side of the field. She stood as close to me as possible and I swear this horse was never given the message that she is not a lap dog!

So, since she apparently wanted to help, I told her my troubles. I told her I didn't know what to do about the PICC line and I told her how I was just so damn tired of feeling so horrible day after day. I cried and she nuzzled and snuffed my face and shared some disgusting bits of pre-chewed grass. (Don't worry, I lovingly declined the gesture!)

And then I said, "Fjóla, I just don't know what to do! What do I do?!" And then? She walked to her water trough, took a huge drink of water, came back to me and suddenly released the entire contents of her unswallowed drink of water/chewed up grass all over my lap! If you didn't know, horses can hold a lot of water in their mouth...

So, yeah, ask a horse a question and it may not be the answer you're looking for. But I got the feeling that she was saying, "Pal, whatever will be, will be. I can't decide for you; I'm a horse! But whatever you decide to do, I will be here for you, because I love you."

Playing soccer on Fjóla