“I Am Not Ill”

With every day comes more good news. Yes, every day has the opposite, as well. There isn’t a day without something to view through a lens of concern, but we choose to focus instead on the positive here, and there is also always at least some of that.

Today and tomorrow may very well be the last great weather days for walking for the next few weeks (or months), so we are taking full advantage it.   Now, when we go for our walks, there are a few obstacles Jacquelynn has to negotiate which cause her some significant difficulty. First among these is the curb at the end of our driveway. It often feels like an unreasoning fear, but that’s just a judgment, which serves no one. Whatever the reason, she can be very intimidated by the curb to the point that a couple of weeks ago, she went out on her own to visit with the neighbor and her new dog. After several minutes, she came back in almost in tears, ashamed to ask for help.

I’ve tried many times to talk her through it, and even helped then, but those one-time solutions don’t stick with her. She has limited short-term recall, remember. So each time has been a challenge and a new confrontation of her fears. But now the memory of how best to negotiate the curb is beginning to stick. Up and down have both been a real challenge for her, but she’s remembering how to do it. She’ll walk up to it, place her feet carefully, and step, sometimes without breaking stride at all, which is a BIG development. As recently as last week, if I could keep her talking as we approached the curb, she would, only occasionally, just step without even thinking about it. More normally, if she should break stride and stop, that would focus her on the curb and therefore on the fear. Then it was a huge task for her to take that step. A few times, we even had to go back inside when she couldn’t get past it.   And she has always needed the moral and physical support of holding my hand in any of these scenarios.

Today, on our walks, every one of these obstacles reared their heads, and not one of them caused her the slightest pause:

First, she stopped at the top of the curb. Then she just stepped off of it and continued on her way. I immediately expressed my observation to her and, after a moment of internal review, she realized the reality of it.

I always remark on anything I see that can be labeled an improvement. I want to make damn sure that any positive progress is foremost in her mind constantly.

So we did our walk, about ¾ of a mile at a relaxed but brisk pace, and returned to the same curb. Surprising me, she shook her hand free of mine, “Let me do this,” and nimbly stepped up onto and over the curb then over a small crack in the sidewalk and then reached for my hand again, a big, bright smile on her face!

Finally, and I’ve mentioned this process before, she’s much more aware of the uneven sidewalk sections and the trip-bait ledges that rise where these sections meet. I try to make a point of pointing them out to her, and now she’s occasionally pointing them out to me.

Jacquelynn is also getting incrementally better at manipulating her silverware. There are still moments that piss her off tremendously (this happened at lunch today), but when I take a moment again to point out to her how much less frequent these are, and that now it’s a dropped spoon rather than a fork flung across the room and salad dressing splattered on the television, it takes some of the sting out of it.

Taking the pills is slowly shedding some of its drama, as well.   She’s not struggling to lift the glass far enough to drink, and while she certainly doesn’t enjoy taking so damn many pills each and every day, she’s embraced the necessity and even reminds me and asks to be sure we’ve taken them all. She really dislikes the nasal spray antibiotic (two shots in each nostril three times daily), but reminds me of it constantly.

Yes. Improvements are mostly incremental rather than dramatic. What else do we honestly expect?

But they’re still there. These improvements are important, and they’re real.

 

And they’re hers. She owns them and they are the lifeblood of her faith in her health. If you talk to her today, she’ll tell you she’s not ill.   Her health is returning as her body heals. She is not ill.

 

That gets her through every day.

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