Seven months

SEVEN MONTHS! Seven months since my last post! I would love to say I’ve been writing a book or poetry, but until October 3rd, I wasn’t a very well chicky.

As months passed and the world turned into something we didn’t recognise, many days of mine were spent looking outside focusing on two trees, one is a beautiful Blossom Tree (which naturally lost its beauty during autumn, echoing my physical state) and a giant Pittosporum (silver screen), which provided the meditation of watching its leaves and branches sway…yes a trick from the 90’s movie Phenomenon.

As the months passed, the more days I sat in front of my desktop computer looking outside (in case or when I needed Mum suddenly). Chronic headaches from a very pissed off occipital nerve became a daily thing. I had a battery pack in my tummy that supplied electrical pulses to over-stimulate the nerve, but unfortunately, the previous batteries had six to seven-year lifespans, and this one was eight!

And then 2020 happened! Yep…My neurosurgeon ordered x-rays in March (just when the Outbreak became an issue.) So more waiting to get a damn set of x-rays. I must say, the x-ray department at the hospital was great once we bit the bullet and went in. That was May/June (it could have been earlier), then we saw my neurosurgeon in July thanks to a cancellation and the fact that the battery pack had really started hurting (it should never be painful).

I should explain since January I suffered from migraines that often made me physically ill. By August I would have these migraines twice or three times within a month. As well as the headaches and migraines, I was putting up with Mr Zappy (nerve pain in my left leg and foot) as well. Headaches and Mr Zappy played off each other especially when I had vomited. I had a surgery two years ago to put a spinal stimulator in. Unaware of what it was supposed to be like, I thought it was the norm. Boy, I was wrong.

After a little setback in August, the stars aligned on Thursday, October 3rd, 2020! The surgery took almost three hours, and I’m still healing in several sites. But I’m mostly headache and most incredibly 98% Zappy free. I’m like a different woman! Sure, I get tired still and now know my limitations, but now I don’t stare outside focusing on the trees’ movements counting to ten while deep breathing…. I look outside thanking the trees getting me through days where I had sea of nausea!

And I can eat a bit of chocolate after thirteen months of cocoa abstinence!

The Tree

Swaying in the breeze
            Providing me with focus
Watching your leaves swa
Reminding me to breathe through
            Days where I couldn’t function.


We shared two seasons together
            Where we wilted to nothing
Until we began to bloom
            In the following Spring
When your pink blossoms became to life again.

            Jacqui James
            September 2020

Silent Struggles

The other day I got in touch with one my old Tafe friends who has doing her own exhibitions of her illustrations around the state. I had intended to go to one to check her wonderful creative drawings out, but I won’t make it. So I inboxed her instead to congratulate her and told her how I’m in awe of her as she’s written children’s stories to, which has always been a dream of mine to get one or two published. This is on my “ONE DAY” list.

This gorgeous friend suggested I should submit my story to publishers on certain days where they look at unpublished authors. I thanked her, then I had to explain about my past ten years with chronic nerve pain which is under control, most days, getting off my meditations earlier this year…and now living with headaches most days and other unfolding issues we’re dealing with.

My friend soon apologised, but she didn’t know. Most people don’t know if someone is going through things if the person doesn’t announce it. There are only four people who know what’s going on with myself. My Mum, Dad, my sisters (to an extent) two workers and my good friend. I’ve been in denial a lot (which I do a lot if things are happening…

“It’s a phase” I tell myself)

So I guess people become great at hiding what’s really going on. “I’m ok thanks, just headaches…no biggie!” when deep down you know you’re not ok…you feel like shit constantly and you feel like a failure because you can’t do things like going to your nephew’s 14th birthday and writing interviews, but you don’t have the strength to do so.

I guess what I’m getting at is people are going through silent struggles all the time without the outside world not seeing it, because a lot of the time people don’t want to publise everything. So if you have an inkling that someone’s going through something, just being there (even not acknowledging your suspicions) is sometimes all what people need.

Changes

Sometimes life changes in an instant, making you really think “Life is precious”. Since June Mum and my lives have been shook upside down, but we’ve landed on our feet with Mum’s determination and my acceptance of our new situation we’ve found ourselves in. By the way, Mum is healthy. She had a fall and shattered and dislocated her elbow.   

I want to start by saying how proud of Mum I am. She was determined to get movement back into her elbow and hand. She’s back to be able to quilt, just after three months of not being able to move her elbow and most importantly being able to do fine hand motor skills. She’s now able to stick her rude finger up all the way, which is extremely important to her!

Obviously, Mum hasn’t been able to lift me and never will be able to again, so we’ve got three lovely workers coming everyday morning and night, seven days a week. It’s set times at the moment (it’s still cold at night so I don’t mind getting into bed by 8pm every night), we had a public holiday last Friday thanks to Melbourne’s obsession of AFL so we had no-one coming in, hence I had a sleep in and that night stayed up until 9:30!

The change of lifting using a ceiling hoist and sling took a few months to get my body used to – even now some days are good, other days through no fault to the workers, I injure my neck, shoulder and lower back. Due to my severe scoliosis and luque rods, I can’t physically bend in the middle, so all the pressure goes on my neck and lower back – my two weakest points. No, before you ask, I don’t do physio or any therapy as it causes more pain. Our family (apart from my brother) believes exercise is a dirty word!

Sadly, on June 1, we lost our girl Roxy. That’s what kinda begun our bad luck. On that weekend I made the tough decision; Mum and I had spoken about it since February, but Roxy kept bouncing back. But in her final week she had trouble getting into her bed and wasn’t her tap-dancing self, so on one Friday night I made that merciful decision and cried, and cried some more telling Mum and our dear friends who were staying with us that it was time, so Monday Mum, Danielle and Destiny (who was Roxy’s previous owner) surrounded Our Girl with love as she took her last breath. (yes, I’m tearing up while I write this part). We think she’s still hanging around because occasionally we hear her tap-dancing on the floor and sometimes, I feel something under the kitchen table where she sat for me to give her footpats. I’m grateful for seven years of her unconditional love and protection (she only growled when Mum was out and someone was at the door, then she started. Haha)

Looking forward, Mum and I are planning our first holiday since last June! We’re hoping to get away in March. Our good friend suggested a fully accessible apartment with a hoist and large bathroom. Yeah baby! We don’t know if we’ll fly or drive. It’s in the hands of NDIS! (my companion airfares aren’t covered, and Qantas is the only airline that can cope with my chair).

Professionally, I’m taking regular breaks from doing Gigs ‘n Interviews. I was really honoured to interview Busby Marou and Vanessa Amorosi, and I had a couple of interviews lined-up after those, but I postponed them due to headaches and other pain. Rob Thomas is still my ultimate interview but 2019 won’t be the year. I think sometimes I want to prove to myself and others I’m doing SOMETHING other than watching Netflix or listening to audiobooks. But if people think I’m lazy, that’s their opinion.

You Can’t Get What You Want, But You Always Get What You Need

Last month was a difficult month.  A friendship broke down (I don’t know why to this day, I haven’t even told Mum what went down because I would cry but I think she’s aware because mums know everything), then Roxy our dog gave us a big scare but thankfully she’s healthy for her age! Later in the month my Lil bro, partner and their gorgeous eight month daughter visited from Queensland for a long weekend which made me appreciate what I do have in my life. Elsie, my little niece from Queensland’s has a great grip and when she was in her pram, I put my hand down so she could grab it.  She also enjoyed crawling next to me and looking up with her big blue eyes along with her eyelashes!

The gorgeous Elsie James Rogers

Last night The Stones song You Can’t Get What You Want entered my head without hearing it. I was introduced to this song in 2004 when I befriended a Melbourne singer-songwriter (well he really was the one who befriended me over chips with my parma!) who played this song at his gigs.  Then of course the bold TV series Californication used this song in one of its episodes (it may have been the season finale).  So I love this song as it provokes so many memories, mostly good.  Last night as this tune entered my mind, I thought “appreciate what you have, try not to grieve over someone who tossed our friendship away.” I know I have a loving family and friends who love me.  But it’s funny how one person can make you doubt yourself and cause you to think “Am I a crap friend?  Are my circumstances the reason why some people let go?  Could I do more?” Self-doubt crept in and for a while I found myself crying at night because I didn’t know the answers to these questions.

I’m finally getting out of this headspace and trying to move forward without this person in my life.  I’ve started interviewing again, so keep an eye out on gigsninterviews.com. AND I’m so determined to interview Rob Thomas this year seeing his third solo album Chip Tooth Smile is released next month.  Rob has right at the top of my interview wish-list since I began interviewing in 2010 and every time he has toured Australia, I have come closer to getting through to the relevant people who could make an interview possible for me! So that’s my goal for 2019!

I’m also trying to think of a way to make a little bit of cash to put towards a Queensland holiday. I enjoy working on websites and designing things (on the computer of course 😉) So if you have any ideas, please let me know. 

Thanks for reading.  I hope you all are well and safe!

Jacqui xx

2018 That Ended A Cycle

For those who have known me for the past nineteen years, I was living in a constant, vicious circle of pain and then fatigue, then the fatigue would cause pain and so on.  All this was a result of trauma to my lower back.  I won’t say how, but it was at no fault of my own.  This experience left me with emotional fear which is still with me, after all these years.

However, after nineteen years since my back surgery in October, my thirst for life has returned.  Although I have been unwell for the past few weeks, I still can think ahead (well a bit ahead).  I can attend family events at night during the warmer months, I can go to concerts after a long day without suffering badly the day afterwards.

I have dreams that I won’t be able to fulfil still (mainly due to my age…haha… and fatigue), but I’m ok with that.  I think Russell Brand or Bruce Springsteen (good old Russell… if he wasn’t married…  I’d write something like “email me Russell!”) said, if you are contributing to society you’re doing your job…  I think that’s what he or Bruce said in their Netflix’s specials.  My memory is still crap from the drugs I’ve taken for years.  By the way, the weening off these meds is fun…  SAID NOBODY EVER! So sorry Russell and Bruce (Bruce is my idol; spiritually and for his work ethic) for not remembering who said what, but I inspire to be like those types of people.

I think I will carry my fears forever and will have panic attacks whenever I get into situations that trigger them.  I have acknowledged their causes and understanding what I can do in that moment.  It’s amazing, I still have the fight or flight instinct and luckily, I can calm down myself to turn on my chair and drive to where I feel safe in spite my disability.  But I don’t have the constant reminder of my past life anymore.  (By the way, if anyone tells you to just “let it go, move on”, they never will understand how you feel.  OR, in other words, they need a punch in the face as one of my younger sisters says!)

My gorgeous nephews and nieces make living all worth it.  My aim is to make it to each 21st, and as you can see we have two little bubby girls in the family now, so I will be hanging around for another twenty-one years!

Thanks for reading my ramblings this year! I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe 2019!

 

A Life-Changer Procedure

I’ve been quiet for a couple of months because I was gearing up for two operations and they ended up being just under a month apart. Then after the second op I got bronchitis which I’m still getting over but I’m much better than I was thanks to some superdooper antibiotics.

Thanks to my Neurologist (and pain specialist) we can manage my nerve pain after he nd him team inserted electrodes in my coccyx and under the skin in my lower back. It’s called a stimulator, I’ve had an occipital nerve stimulator to control headaches for about twelve years now and it works. My Neurologist attempted to insert electrodes into my spine about six years ago. It was extremely traumatic for him and I as I had to be awake for most of the procedure because if he was able to get in, I was to be able to tell him if the stimulation was going down my legs. Unfortunately that time wasn’t meant to be. But I’m wrapped to say this time he was successful and now we can get rid of Mr Zappy (the zapping pain that ran up my left leg), Mr Shitty (sciatica in my right leg) and lower back pain with a remote.

As my Neuro once explained it to me, if you bang your knee and then rub it, your brain will sense the rubbing sensation and forget about the pain. So my occipital nerve stimulator and now spinal stimulator sends electric pulses to the areas and my brain forgets about the pain. For five days I had zappy in one toe due to coughing (we didn’t know I had bloody bronchitis then), so I had a foot massage and until yesterday I didn’t had constant Zappy (one or two here and there but it immediately stopped). Yesterday morning was the first real test as I had two huge zaps. Mum adjusted the stimulator with the remote and I could enjoy an overdue birthday lunch with Nan.

So now we can look forward to the future with myself on less or no medications (I’ve been on a crapload for years and it has made me forgetful and dopey). I might even start interviewing artists again (I’ve had many people say I have to interview “Rob Rob” aka Rob Thomas), but I haven’t decided what’s next for me yet. I’m really interested in website design and social media marketing also. Overseas travelling is one of Mum and my goals, but you need money for that. Haha!

Looking From The Outside

If you look at me from the outside
You might assume she just sits at her computer achieving nothing,
Looking at my spamsing body
You might be fooled into assuming this,
And I don’t make a contribution to the society…
This couldn’t be further from the truth. ‘

Even though I have had more bad days than good in the past few years,
Until this February I prided myself on being a journalist,
Chasing and organising interviews was my life for over eight years,
People still say, “You have to interview Rob Rob”,
and they’re right.  I will!

I live for holidays with Mum or a friend,
Queensland is our favourite destination,
Because of my little brother and my little niece up there,
But going away with my Bestie is the best fun
He makes me forget about all of my health issues for a while.,
We get up to mischief!

Looking at me you wouldn’t know how I met a musician at one of his gigs,
I struck up Dutch courage and asked my carer to ask him over to our table,
We bonded immediately and for six years we were best mates,
We used to text everyday, sometimes he just wanted to say hi
or chat about things that made us laugh,
And even though he broke my heart in the end,
I don’t regret meeting him,
because he taught me that some people “Just see Jac”.

The Alien Stare

I have been hesitant to write this post. This morning I ran it across my good friend and he was shocked to hear what I’m about to tell you.

Two weeks ago coming back from the doctors, Mum left me in the car, while she went into the chemist. My communication device needed to be physically tapped (the specialised software sometimes gets “stuck” behind a Windows program so someone has to press on the program on the task bar for myself to gain control with the eyegaze again, so I was trying to get my hand to touch the screen, which is difficult when you have luque rods in your back).

A mother and girl who looked around ten years-old (maybe even older) came to the car parked next to us. The girl looked at me as I was an alien and stared. I’m used to some kiddies doing this (I understand, they’re curious or it’s just what some kiddies do), but what the parent did was unexcusable! The parent looked at me with disgust.

So I stared back at the parent who continued to look at me. Once the girl was in the car, her gaze was fixed on me. Finally the parent instructed the girl to stop looking at me, but whilst reversing out, the parent continued to stare. I wasn’t well, so I just stared back with a little smile (while thinking two words).

I really hate the thought of children being teased for being a little bit different. My nephew was born with clubbed feet and one working lung. You wouldn’t know this looking at him because he does everything what other kids do! However, sadly he was bullied by older kids and hadn’t said anything until recently. This broke our hearts because Mum and I know how cruel kids are. Some bullying events stay for you forever. Luckily when my sister brought it to the Vice Principal’s attention, the situation was swiftly dealt with.

So if you are a parent or guardian of children of ANY age, please make time to sit down to have a chat with them. Explain how everyone has feelings and it’s not cool to stare and tease someone who looks different.

Spontaneity And Pain

‌I gotta admit, this year hasn’t played out how I invisioned it. Sure, I’m still recovering from major surgery in August last year, and I’m still healing (probably for another six months, but in my head I knew that would be a twelve months recovery period.) However, this isn’t slowing me down… It’s my chronic nerve pain that’s interfering with our lives!

Last week after a very bad few weeks of Mr Zappy (I get zappy pain in my leg and foot, just imagine having fierce electric shocks every couple of minutes…. You get some respite from various painkillers but it only last 2-3hrs.) This has become my life this year. Some weeks, especially if Mr Zappy has hung around for weeks and weeks, I get very teary because I’m tired and just want the pain to fuck off!

Back to last week, my friend Francis and I were looking forward to seeing Logan on Friday night. Until the Thursday I had Mr Zappy but was determined to make it Friday night. Francis travelled to Fountain Gate (the closest cinema to me because travelling long or short distances, going over pot holes, speed-humps, braile bumps…you get the idea) can set off Mr Zappy. So Francis kindly did that for me – he “gets it”. So after we had dinner we went up to the cinema, Francis bought his normal – popcorn and a drink and we headed around to the ONE and ONLY lift to find out it was out of order and had been for two days. I was pissed, I’m still very pissed.

This week Mum and I sent an e-mail to Village Cinemas. They swear there was a pop-up last week warning people who clicked on the wheelchair seats about the lift. There was NO pop-up otherwise Mum wouldn’t have purchased the tickets!

In our letter we explained how people with many disabilities do not have any ‌spontaneity‌ as we have to organise workers or friends, transport and for some of us our health is extremely limiting. Earlier this year I had to stay home from my Aunty’s daughter’s 18th little get together because the next night we had Bruce Springsteen And E Street Band. Halfway through On Sunday Mum and I are seeing the gorgeous Adele at Etihad Stadium and I know I’ll probably have Mr Zappy for days after it, but I’m still looking forward to seeing Mum’s face when Adele sings her first note.

An Occupational Therapist’s Unique Story

I met Sarah Solomon through a recent session to set up Eric Toddler (a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 connected to my Intelligaze Eyegaze camera (with Grid3, which I don’t love at the moment). Anyway, Sarah and I get along very well and have been chatting on Facebook about things.

Yesterday Sarah shared with me a blog post that was published on the MND site, that other therapists, disability workers and families should read.

Sarah’s Story