15. Music, Music, Music 

Crank it up! Music has the ability to lift your mood like nothing else, except maybe those cute kitten Youtube videos. It can transport you into the past, to a time when you felt happiness, love, friendship, sadness (just skip those songs), etcetera. Play some old tunes from your high school years, and I guarantee you’ll instantly tap your foot and sing along! Once I learn the lyrics to a song, they seem to be permanently etched into my brain, unlike all those facts I spent so many hours trying to memorize in school.

I think I got my love of music from my grandmother because she loved to listen to everything under the sun, and I do too. I don’t fit into the target audience for Katy Perry or Awolnation, but I love their music. My kids are probably just happy I couldn’t drive them anywhere and embarrass them with my music selections.  Although, I don’t always enjoy the music they choose either.  I remember one day sitting on the porch  supervising my daughter doing yard work and I wondered how many people drove by and didn’t see her crouched down beside the car pulling weeds, and just saw me, heard her music, and thought I was the one jammin’ out to ,”You’re A Douche Bag”.

Live music is the best.  There really is nothing like a concert to make you forget about everything except the music you are listening to.  Singer/songwriter Michael Franti and his wife, Sara, know how much music can affect people in a positive way, and they created a foundation called, http://www.doitforthelove.org which gives concert tickets to anyone who is living with a serious illness.  Depending on the musician and their schedule, sometimes they can arrange for a “meet and greet” with the musician, as well as free concert tickets.  If you are able to donate to their foundation, do it!  I went to an awesome concert to see John Mellencamp last year, thanks to “Do It For The Love ” foundation.  I try catch a concert or two every summer.  This summer, I’ll see Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, and Arlo Guthrie. 

Whenever you are feeling down, give it a try. Listening to your favorite songs or finding new music is so easy now, no CD (or album or 8 track or cassette tape, depending on your age) purchase required,  Thanks to internet sites like Amazon Music, or Spotify (or many others), Just type in the name of your favorite artist or song,
and let the musical healing begin!

15. Moves Like Jagger

I got to see my rockstar urologist, Dr James Lingamen, this week.  In the world of urology, he is Mick Jagger.  For approximately the price of a concert ticket, I get a private meet and greet with him every year, also known as my yearly check up.  I didn’t know anything about him  three years ago when I picked his name out of a long list of urologists approved by my insurance company.  I didn’t know that people travel from all over the country, and even from other countries to be treated by him.  He was not my first choice by the way, but the Universe/God made sure I ended up with the best urology surgeon in the U.S., or so I was told by every person who saw his name on my hospital paperwork.  He  informed me that my golf ball sized kidney stone, and smaller stones would have to be removed surgically because they were causing infection throughout my body., and that you actually could die from a kidney stone (or rather, the infection it causes).  Even though I couldn’t move an inch on my own, and had an FVC so low that I could not be put under using anesthesia, and could not lie down flat (for a surgery usually performed with the patient lying on their stomach), Dr. Lingamen said he had performed this surgery on difficult cases before with patients using a local (patient awake).  He seemed to think it would be no problem whatsoever.  What he was actually thinking, I don’t know, but he made me feel like it was no big deal.  I got the feeling, later on after hearing comments made by others involved with the surgery, that it was indeed, quite a big deal.  I went in for surgery and found out it would have to be delayed a month due to the amount of infection throughout my system.  A stint was put in (a dreadfully unpleasant procedure) and I was given a month of strong antibiotics.  Fast forward to around a month or so later, and after two days and two surgeries, all my stones on the right side were gone.  I don’t recommend having surgery under a local and wide awake, but if that’s your only option, it’s doable.  Luckily, during my surgeries there was so much going on all at once and so many people talking, that it was hard to concentrate on any one thing, and the hours flew by.  I could definitely tell that the people in the room were used to the person on the operating table being asleep, it seemed like my feet and legs were constantly being bumped into, as if I were just a piece of furniture.  But the most important people, my surgeon and anesthesiologist, were very aware that I was awake.  They even cranked up the heat for me in the very cold operating room.  I was placed in the pulmonary wing for recovery, due to ALS related breathing issues.  Except for a couple of bad eggs, I had the most awesome nurses who worked so hard and were such a huge help.  My bed was amazingly comfortable.  I wish I had the same self adjusting mattress at home.  I ended up with a small private room, which meant quiet and I could set the heat on whatever I wanted.  My favorite nurse even brought in a roll away cot so my husband could stay with me the entire time, which he did by the way, for four days with very little break.

  After four days, I went home.  I really wouldn’t want to do it all again, but I did it! And now I have a great story I can tell, although I rarely bring it up in conversation.  Usually it’s my husband who recounts the story of my courageous surgery.  This week, before I talked to my doctor, I met with a Fellow working with him.  As we talked about my surgery, he said he wished he could take me around to talk with some of the whining patients who need simpler procedures but complain about how hard it will be for them and how long it will take.  I think my lack of complaining about it all and what some people would view as brave or courageous simply comes from having no other choice.  When you know you only have one option, the choice is easy to make.  As with ALS, when the doctor says you have no options, you have no choice but to just keep going the best you can, for as long as you can. You may not feel particularly strong, but that’s how you end up being viewed by others.  When something minor happens, I think we all complain a little too much sometimes.  But when it comes to the big stuff, most of us are stronger than we feel, and braver than we think.

14. Thank God For Shonda Rhimes  

Find something to look forward to, a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  It can be literally anything.  It can be easier to keep yourself going through the hard days if you have something to look forward to, something you want to do or see.  Something you don’t want to miss out on. 

For me, the biggest thing has been my kids. When a doctor told me I had only a few years left to be with my family, I said, no (in my mind).  I didn’t want to miss out on seeing my kids grow up.  I just kept planning and looking forward to our lives like usual, only more so.

But it’s not just the big things that keep you going, it’s the little things too.  Like planning on taking a vacation.  Or maybe something as small as a new coffee frappuccino coming out at Starbucks next month.  Something to actively plan for and look forward to.  

My daughter got me to read one of the Harry Potter books, and that instantly gave me another thing to look forward to.  I couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series, and the next, and the next, until I had read them all.  And then there were the films based on the books to see and to look forward to.  My ALS just had to slow down because I wasn’t going anywhere until I had seen all of the Harry Potter movies!  I saw them all.  That’s when the Powers That Be/God, lead me to Shonda Rhimes.  Also known as the creator of some of the best shows on TV, and you guessed it, another reason for me to hang in there for one more season of, “How To Get Away With Murder “, “Scandal “, and “Grey’s Anatomy”.  I’m not gonna miss out on what happens with Merideth Grey because of ALS!  Ok, I am not saying that all you have to do to keep going when dealing with a serious illness is to find something to look forward to …but, focusing on something besides your illness is a huge piece in the puzzle.  I am looking forward to seeing  Alice Cooper in concert this summer, I don’t want to miss that.  And on and on it goes.  I am just going to keep on keeping on, and finding new things, both big and small, to look forward to for as long as I possibly can.  

13. Forget About It

Forget about it! Said in your best mobster (think Tony Soprano or Mickey Blue Eyes ) voice.  We live in a world where the things you focus on are the things that manifest in your life. Did you ever notice when you try and try to save up money for something you really want, how hard it can be? Your thoughts migrate towards your lack of money. Your focus on your lack of money continues to bring about a shortage of funds.

Have you heard the saying, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. While it’s just a saying, there may be some truth to it. It is, after all, very difficult to think about anything other than your absence of money, when money is what you really need. It is much easier to envision always having enough money when you already possess money. Likewise with your health, and everything else in your life. The more you concentrate on something, the more you receive exactly
what you are concentrating on. So, if you are sick, the more you talk and think about your illness, the more it clings to you. If you no longer want to be struggling with something, forget about what you don’t have, and focus on how great you will feel when you have what you want. I know, that’s easier said than done, especially with health issues. You still have to deal with doctors, tests, treatments and medications probably on a daily basis. so your illness is on your mind often.

My favorite author, Pam Grout, offers a series of simple experiments to help us understand just how the universe works, in her book, E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality https://www.amazon.com/dp/1401938906/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_EHtwzbKFXBYSC

 She does a much better job of explaining things than I could, so I suggest you read her book.  But, the gist of it is that God (or whatever you prefer …Mother Earth, the Great Spirit, etc) is always listening and gives you what you are focused on in life.  So, we need to focus on what we want and forget about what we don’t want, i.e. probably your current situation.  Like I said, she does a much better job of explaining it. But I think she is spot on!  I have done most of her experiments, and have received everything from a bright blue butterfly to a seahorse, to a surprise credit of $24.85, to a write off of a student loan (a total surprise)!  

I don’t have this all figured out, I do, after all, still have ALS.  But, I try not to focus on that, and instead, focus on all the awesomeness in life and expect more amazing things to come my way.

12. Just Do It 

Sometimes, the longer you stay in your house because you don’t feel well, the easier it becomes to never go out.  I don’t think you can really understand that unless you’ve lived with a long term illness.  I remember a life, long ago, when I was always on the go.  Both before and after their were kids to take up my time, I was always busy, probably too busy.  I can remember a time when I owned a computer, but rarely had the time to use it.  My computer and IPhone are now what link me to the world outside my house. 

When you have a serious illness, you may find yourself leaving your house less and less, the longer you are sick.  I was just too tired to go out much at first.  Then everything became so hard, and took so much longer than it used to, it hardly seemed worth the effort required to go anywhere.  Add to that, pain, if it’s below 50 degrees.  Having a comfortable chair at home with warm blankets in the winter, a nice breeze (or air conditioning) in the summertime, all add up to staying home.  A lot.  In the winter, I don’t go anywhere for weeks, sometimes (depending on the weather) months at a time.  When warmer weather arrives, I get out more often.  Sometimes you have to force yourself to go out into the world.  Just do it.  No matter how uncomfortable you may be, physically and mentally, don’t let yourself go all Grey Gardens.  Just do it.  I always feel better after getting out of the house for a bit, even if I don’t really go anywhere, or if my outing doesn’t go smoothly.  I went out one day earlier this year, and practically knocked myself out (I had a little accidental help) hitting my head as I got into the car.  That being said, even with the slight concussion (I’m guessing), I was glad I went out for a few hours.

I remember being out one day, many years ago.  We had eaten dinner at Applebee’s, and were leaving our table, when a man sitting at a nearby table looked at us and said, “Good for you , going out! It might be hard, but you keep going out!”  I have no idea who he was, or why he said that, but he was right.  No matter how hard it is, you have to get out and get a little vitamin D.  Even if you don’t go any further than out the front door.  Just do it.  I guarantee (mostly) you’ll be glad you did.

11. It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, And I Feel Fine 

A popular (well, popular back in the day) song by R.E.M., it describes how I feel when I watch or read the news. If I don’t let all that bad news stress me out, that is. Watch any news program, and after five or ten minutes you will start to believe that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket! Apparently bad news is more interesting than good news,at least that’s what we have been conditioned to believe. With the news reporting much, much more bad news than good, is it any wonder people struggle with depression and live in fear of the world around them? The evening news reports on as many bad things as they can squeeze into their allotted amount of time, adds in a weather report, and sports , and throws in just one good story before the news ends. Which never really happens, does it? The news ending, I mean. I remember , back in the old days, if you wanted to catch up on the news you read the daily newspaper or watched the news at noon,5:00, or 11:00. Only.  Now, we have access to bad news 24 hours a day. And, thanks to technology and social media, we are bombarded with negative news.

I am convinced that there aren’t any more bad things happening in the world than there always have been. We just hear about them more than ever before. I also believe that the good things that happen far outweigh the bad. We just don’t hear about them nearly enough. Take a minute or two each day to look through Facebook or Instagram, or whatever site you like, and look at all the good things happening ( good things only) in the lives of your family and friends. Think about the good things in your life, and the good will begin to outweigh the bad.  Then, even when the news is filled with stories that are bleek and depressing, you will know that those are not the only stories to be told, and you’ feel fine.

8. Always Look On The Bright Side 

If you are living with a disease like ALS, MS, or any other illness which affects your muscles, you may, like me, at some point end up using a wheelchair. You also may not have use of your arms. Sure, it sucks, but why dwell on it? Look on the bright side of life (said in your best Monty Python British accent). 

If you are stuck in a wheelchair you can stroll through the mall shopping for hours without getting tired of walking. And, if your arms are weak, no more clapping required, no matter what event you are attending. Or maybe technically you could clap, but you are just too tired to make the effort. That’s okay, don’t do it. And, no more shaking hands with everyone. Think of all the germs you will avoid!  Don’t worry about explaining  why you aren’t shaking someone’s hand when they offer their hand to greet you,  just smile and let them figure out what to do! I know, it’s a bit rude, but if you are like me, and your  voice is weak, it’s really too hard to explain anyway.

Sometimes your predicament will allow for some really awesome treatment. Like your semi crappy concert tickets may be exchanged for some really awesome front row seats. And, meet and greet tickets may be thrown in for you to meet one of your favorite musicians. Or, upon seeing the disregard shown to you in a wheelchair at a concert, a security guard may make it his duty to keep you close to the stage, and other concert goers far from you and whoever you are with. A certain Mr. Rick Springfield may get up close to you, even standing on the arms of your wheelchair as he sings! But, I digress. 

The point is, remember to see the good and not just the bad in what you are going through. Always look on the bright side of life, and don’t forget the Monty Python British  accent.

4. Cake Or Death 

The comedian Eddie Izzard does a hilarious bit about The Church of England offering it’s parishioners a choice of either cake or death (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNjcuZ-LiSY). Not such a tough choice, as it turns out. With ALS, you have a choice of either drunk or angry. Not much of a choice, as it turns out. And really not a choice at all, it’s more the luck of the draw as to which you end up with. Either you find your speech slurring when you try to talk, and you sound drunk all the time, or  you can’t take in enough air to get your words to come out without great effort, making you sound angry when you try to talk. Either way you end up really pissing people off. Even those closest to you who you think should understand your struggle. I’m not sure why they seem to forget that, just like every other muscle in your body, you may have little to no control over your voice. But, it happens. People will get frustrated and forget. Just like we PALS (person with ALS) sometimes forget that we aren’t the only ones who get frustrated when dealing with this disease day in and day out. I don’t know why we seem to forget that we don’t hold the copyright on frustration. But, it happens. Just remember when this happens, to give each other a break, and maybe share some cake.