Just One Breath

An American girl in Scotland, figuring things out one step at a time

March 20, 2017
by heather
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NUME Update 1… Lady Lazarus

So the new year and my intentions started off with a bang as all new years go for those with resolutions. I have to say my resolve hasn’t faltered but my body has a bit. I am still mentally on track but working on a few injuries that need to shift so that I can make real progress. So as followthrough with my goals, one is to be held accountable for what I am doing so here is an overdue update. Feel free to tell me off or encourage me as you see fit. I am not going to touch on all the goals because really only a few matter at the moment and they are all linked heavily.

I started woking on my health goals with a vengeance. I was working out 5-6 days a week with gym and home alternating. I was doing great and I have lost several inches and a few pounds but then my arm and ankles started to tell me I was doing too much. I have been fighting tennis elbow since November and my ankles always flare up a few times a year so I wasn’t surprised. All of this takes a toll on the drive though. I still went to my classes with regularity but I was flagging at home and the scale showed. I gained a few pounds back and then lost a few and so on. I am still down but my drive is a bit all over the place. Honestly I think it is a mental thing. As my health goal is so closely linked to my MS, when I started to have to deal with that on a weekly basis it took its toll and that was all I really had time for.

I will be starting on MS medication this coming weekend. I have had what seemed like hundreds of vials of blood taken to check me for everything and have had my MRI too. I also had some very very tearful chats with Jamie, friends and my family about why going on medication seemed a hard choice. So although my fitness goals flagged my mental goals were going strong. I was building on my relationships and getting encouragement and support on this journey.

Along with trying to be bodily fit I believed that I needed to work on my mind too so I started a mindfullness course and am loving it. I honestly believe without my few weeks of training before my MRI I would not have been able to do it. I had a horrible time with my MRI in 2015. A lot of things happened to make it stressful and I barely made it through. That experience planted a huge seed of doubt and dread about any future scans.

As I drove to the hospital I couldn’t push aside the anxiety that was building up. When I put my car into park I sobbed from the stress and called my Dad. A chat and a pre-appointment prayer with him helped ease my mind and as I entered the hospital I had hope that I could handle the tube better this time. When I was asked how I was I spoke up and had plenty of time to relax unlike last time. When I entered the MRI room I was met with bright lights and a totally different feel. I did make the mistake of opening my eyes once the cage was fitted over my face, as a rule once that goes on I don’t open my eyes. If I can pretend it isn’t there then I am better off. When the bed shifted and I was going into the tube my heart sank and I began to feel a bit overwhelmed but I paused, took a few deep breathes and started doing my mindfullness counting, which is not at all dissimilar to my hypnobirthing counting, and I made it to the end. I was overjoyed and hugged the technician. My mind was on track and my body will follow.

After the MRI I was still having some lingering doubts about going on medication because see… for some reason I had it in my head that I could fight this bastard of a disease on my own. Since 99% of my issues are sensory when I have a relapse I thought keep fit, keep healthy, eat right and manage my stress and I can do it on my own. I have been doing really well for nearly 5 years and have only had one major relapse since 2012 when I was seriously struggling for sleep with a baby being transitioned into her own bed. I think about my MS daily in passing if my arm is tingling or my back is sore but I was scanned after that bad relapse and it showed I was in full remission so I thought I was doing something right. When I got upset, stressed or tired the scars on my brain and spinal cord grumbled at me and I listened. It is a good system that I have with my damaged brain. It talks, I listen and we make up so I thought that I could continue to do it alone. Even though I desperately want to be here for my children and my husband (we will talk about my babies later) I didn’t have it in my heart to understand why I needed medication.

When I spoke to anyone about going on medication I always said I was doing it for my kids and Jamie, everyone said I need to do it for myself. “I am doing it for me” including my nurse and neurologist, but I never thought of it like that, I thought I was doing everything for me but the medication was for them. I couldn’t think of it like that at all no matter how hard I tried. But then I got the push I needed to set me straight. I got the kick up the butt that I needed, the results of my MRI.

Although mostly positive I did get a reality check. I have no new lesions in two years, yay! I have an increase in size of one lesion, not a surprise since my hand and back have been bothering me a lot since October 2016 and… I am no longer in remission. I have at least one lesion that is active. Then it hit me, I can’t fight this with diet and exercise because it isn’t my body I am battling against, it is a disease destroying my BRAIN! If I had diabetes, heart problems, liver problems etc I would be on medication. This is my BRAIN!! It is a vital organ and I need to take care of it. I need to do it for ME. My dear friend hit the nail on the head when we spoke recently and she said “Heather, you haven’t lost control. You are taking control by choosing to take the pills and keeping healthy. You are doing it for your family but you are also doing it for yourself.” I loved her before this and I love her more now because that was exactly what I needed to hear that no one had put like that before. I am taking control, I am doing it and I will be here for my babies as the best possible form of me that I can be and if that is a few pounds heavier than I want to be at the moment then it doesn’t matter.

This year has begun a new chapter of my life. I won’t be thinking of my MS in passing, I will be swallowing it 2 times a day and kicking it’s ass in a new way. My relationships with friends and family are strong. My life in general is good. So in spite of outward appearances, my goals are on track in the best way that I can tackle them, my way the way that is right for me. I have risen from the ashes of the old me with new found perspective and hope for the future. I will be strong, I will be fierce and I will be doing it for me. ¬†x heather

 

February 2, 2017
by heather
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My last trip to Scotland… Getting there.

As I now embark on an epic journey of catching up I will just jump in where we left off. Hang in there… we are getting to the good stuff. ūüėČ

As I prepared for my trip to Scotland the East Coast of America was hit with a horrific Snowstorm. Go ahead and google this bad boy,¬†December 2010 North American blizzard. A¬†Nor’easter lead to hurricanes, high wind and then a ton of snow. The end of 2010 was a mess. Fortunately and Unfortunately I was working in the travel business at the time. I was privy to airport closures, flight cancellations and a whole host of other things that could ruin my trip to see Jamie in January. I watched and waited for the snow to end and it just wouldn’t go. At work I sat on the phone for hours with desperate customers who just wanted to be with family over the holidays and whose plans were getting smashed to pieces, and my heart sank. Would my trip to Scotland have to be postponed? I hoped and prayed it wouldn’t. Jamie and I had worked too hard to get to this point, it would be a cruel twist of fate to keep us apart now.

Finally Jan 11th, 2011 came. I was counting down the days until my trip with my lovely colleagues who were freaking out for me, an X on every day of my work calendar brought me closer to Jamie. I think I made it through those wintery weeks by sheer luck and their unwavering enthusiasm for what was to come. I was all packed and ready to head to the airport and of course, it was snowing, but the flight was still a go. The roads were wet and the grass was white as we drove along to Newark for my flight. I got flight status updates from friends at the office so I knew we were still good to go. Once we got to the airport getting checked in was a breeze and I was feeling really good. When I sat down to have a coffee it suddenly wasn’t relaxing like it should have been, it felt like purgatory. I was in limbo. I didn’t have a signal on my iPad and couldn’t go online easily to check weather or mail Jamie but my stress was just beginning. After about 20 minutes of sitting at my gate I suddenly noticed I was not at the right gate anymore. Had I missed an announcement? I ran to the board to check and my gate had indeed changed. In total my flight changed gates 3 times and I kept having to pick up my stuff and rush to the new gate. I didn’t know why and the snow was beginning to come down harder.

When I was finally able to sit down at the final gate I called my Mom. As I watched the snow swirling outside through the huge, impossible to ignore windows my stomach dropped. I was scared my flight was going to be cancelled. The gate change wasn’t the only thing worrying me, my departure time was as well. Boarding was delayed for almost an hour and a half. I was beginning to panic and I wanted to just melt into a puddle of tears on the floor. My Mom did a good job talking to me through it all. Then¬†finally¬†after waiting for what seemed like days, boarding was called and with an I love you I hung up and started for the gate.

Once we boarded the plane and were all buckled in the captain came on the speaker and said he apologised for the delay and there would be a little longer to wait as we were in a queue to the runway. I wanted to cry again. I felt like I was going to vomit but I was on the plane and this was a step in the right direction, right? After several minutes the captain came on the speaker again and said don’t be alarmed folks, we are going to get a little shower to make sure the plane is de-iced for departure. The word “de-iced” scared the hell out of me but I felt again this was a positive, we were going to leave, they needed to de-ice us, they wouldn’t do that if we were going to stay.

After several minutes of waiting the plane was de-iced again. My brain was in over drive, “Would we get moving soon? What is happening? How much longer? Will Jamie know I am this late? Will he think I am not coming? Did my Mom get in touch with him?” I rubbed the little Guardian Angel that was attached to my jean pocket like it was going to magically spread its wings and fly me away. My Dad had given me the angel in 1997 when I went to Scotland for my study abroad, that angel has been on every single flight I have been on since and I always felt safe with it on. Like I was attached to my Dad and he would be with me no matter what. After rubbing my Dad’s angel and taking several deep breaths I was beginning to calm until… we were de-iced AGAIN!!!! “For goodness sake! Why? Pilot please talk to us!!!” And like as if he heard my internal screams he came on the speaker and said “Sorry again folks we are going to head off now. Mother Nature has been causing some delays but we are about to go now and I will do my best to make up the time we have lost.” I felt overwhelmed as plane did its little lurch forward and I quietly sobbed into my pillow. My neighbour in the seat to my right said “Excuse me. Are you alright hen?” He was Scottish! God that accent was sent from Heaven to calm my soul. I told him I was going to Glasgow to be with my boyfriend and he was going to possibly propose to me. He congratulated me as we took off. I almost missed it. We had a nice chat for the first part of the flight until the lights went out and it was time to vegetate to a movie. I was on my way to Jamie… finally I was on my way. x heather

January 12, 2017
by heather
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NUME

So over the past few years A LOT has changed, I will get into that later, but I wanted this year to be a little more about me. I have willingly and happily given so much so 2017 needs to be a little bit about finding what I want and need for myself now. It isn’t a selfish thing as I first felt it was, it is more about being the best version of myself that I can be.

So what does this coming year look like? That is a good question and an ever evolving one. It isn’t like “Let’s make New Years Resolutions.” It is about life changes that I have been working on but need to complete. I am going to put them all out there so that I have more than my “Team Me” to be held accountable too.

1) Health/Weight

Goal number 1… Achieve my health/weight goals. I am not talking about “I want a nice butt” although I do miss my bum so that would be a nice bonus, I am thinking bigger goals. Yes I have a weight goal but it isn’t a vanity weight goal it is an “I feel most comfortable at this size” goal. I have had my body rocked by 2 pregnancies and have bounced back pretty well but I am not where I want to be yet. I need to be as fit and healthy as I can be to carry on with my life from here forward. I have a huge health challenge coming up in the near future. I will be going on medication for my MS. I have not been on any DMD (disease modifying drugs) since my diagnosis in 2012. I have combatted MS with a healthy diet, exercise and pregnancy. Yes you read that right. Pregnancy has a huge bonus, besides a wonderful baby, it makes MS go dormant almost. Your immune system, that is wrecking your myelin, doesn’t want to kill the baby so it chills out a but. It is nice. I am choosing to go on medication for my family. I always say it is for my family even when people yell at me that it is for myself too but my family is my life and I would do anything for them so… this step it about them. It is about being there for them in the form of my best self.

2) Read more books

This goal ties in with goal number 5 and is a step toward getting rid of my brain fog.¬†I have read 1 book since 2013. Yes, I know, I have read countless articles, cookbooks, blogs and other sources on how to not kill your baby, how to combat sleep regression, how to feed your baby, breastfeeding help, poop help, cloth nappies/diapers, baby wearing and craft ideas but I have not read any books for me. I have 6 books that I have started but only one that I managed to finish while sitting on the train platform waiting as¬†my small person slept in her pram. So… goal number 2… finish 10 books or more in 2017.

3) Write blog

This is where you come in. I have had so many friends and readers ask when I will start writing again and I always say, “When I have time.” Well the time is now. I will make time to get writing done. It is cathartic for me and I love it. I almost always have a¬†good cry during writing and that is good for me mentally and physically. I love to write and I love that I can make people feel happy, not alone or whatever it is that brings people back to reading the things that I write. So goal number 3… I will write.

4) Work on Marital/Friendship Relationships

This is probably one of the most important goals that I have. I feel like as a parent everything comes second to a child and that isn’t necessarily the way it should be but it is the way it is. I still will put my children before everything else but the neglect that I feel I have committed towards my amazing husband (who is making silly noises and playing with the baby as I type) and my friends will stop here. I will write emails, make phone calls, cuddle on the couch, make dates with them that we keep because marriages and friendships that are like that last. I don’t want fleeting friendships anymore, I want lasting ones. I will say, let’s do this again soon and make a date to do it not let 7 months pass before one of us does something about it. ¬†So goal number 4… I will be a better partner and friend.

5) Take a course in something to either enrich myself or prepare for return to work

I want to go back to work eventually and I want to be prepared to do this. I have already learned that my Masters Degree is worth toilet paper over here so, I will get ready to do something else. I want to be a financial contributor to my family as well as a homemaker. I have been blessed to be able to be a Mom but I miss working. I have worked since I was 14 and it has been hard to not be able to help with bills. I want to earn money to¬†ease the pressure on my husband as sole breadwinner. Having said that I truly am blessed that I have been able to be home but I feel totally out of the loop. I want to take a course that is relevant to the office environment I may find myself in. So goal number 5… I will take a course in something to further my knowledge or just to enhance my mind/spirit for a peaceful return to work.

It may all seem a tall order but I am hoping with the help of my Team Me, my friends, husband and healthcare providers I will achieve my goals and find my best self along the way. x heather

 

 

September 23, 2013
by heather
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Decisions Decisions

Like all good epic stories, a pause to digest what has happened thus far and to build excitement for what is to come can often be useful. Although not my intention, it can be seen as fitting. Picking up where we left off is a little harder than watching Gandolf take on the Balrog of Morgoth for the second time but let me refresh your memory of where we were… my Hollywood scream and dramatic run down the street in Boston to hug and kiss Jamie one more time before we went our separate ways in October of 2010. I needed him to KNOW I loved him, truly loved him.

When Jamie left in the airport shuttle van a part of me broke. Thank God I was in Boston traffic and I needed to focus or I would have cried for hours. By the time I got out of the city and onto a road I could relax on, the shock of being so abruptly separated from him had passed and plans for what was to come next took over.

The Plan

The next time we spoke we could tell things were different. We were finally going to be together, after 15 years as best friends, through 1000 ups and downs and broken hearts we were going to get this right and that was all there was to it. We easily and quickly decided that I was the one that needed to make the big move. Jamie had a much better job than I did and we wouldn’t have to worry about Healthcare if I moved to Scotland. Done!

We began to look into the quickest way to get me to Scotland. What Visa could I get so that we could finally begin our relationship on the same soil? I looked into a Work Visa and even with a B.A. and an M.S. I was 5 points shy of qualifying for this. I would have to look for a job and then hope for them to sponsor my move… that would take too long and could possibly not happen at all. Not the right Visa.

If I went over on a Holiday Visa I wasn’t allowed to get a job, go to school or… get Engaged! Weird that this was one of the stipulations. I would have a year to be with Jamie but we wouldn’t really be free to live life without worries. He would be supporting me and I would have nothing to do. Again, not the one for us.

The final option was the Fianc√©¬†Visa. This would give us 6 months after I moved to Scotland to get married. This sounded terrifying… for about 5 seconds. We looked at each other over the computer and agreed that we were going to be together no matter what so what did it matter if it happened in 6 months or in 2 years. We had spent so many years loving and supporting one another that there wasn’t anything that we found scary or unexpected, we just needed to live together and see if we could manage without killing each other. So our decision was made, we would get engaged and then apply for the Fianc√© Visa… When? We couldn’t fathom being apart for long. We wanted to be together now if not sooner.

January 2011 looked to be good time for me to visit him in Glasgow and it wasn’t too far off. It was a few months away but that would give us time to really talk. We had always been brutally honest when we were writing but this Skype thing was still new. We could laugh together, cry together, reminisce about the past, plan the future (as if we hadn’t done this hundreds of times already) and think about a ring… The Ring!!!

The Ring

I wanted the ring to be Jamie’s choice but this was a hard pill for him to swallow. We had always picked out anything he bought for me together. He waited for the moment that I had that look on my face that said I loved something and that was the moment he wanted.

We had looked at a Tiffany ring years prior to this and that same ring still looked just as beautiful but I didn’t think it was for me. Jamie was set on Tiffany due to the romantic attachment that we had with the shop, that was what he wanted to do and I understood why, so we looked at the site together. The more I looked the more I didn’t want to.

I am probably one of the only women alive that would talk her boyfriend out of buying a Tiffany engagement ring but I did. I told him I wanted him to find a store in Scotland that made rings, I didn’t want him spending so much money on a name. I thought he could get a bigger diamond or better quality and have it be more personal and original. I told him if he really wanted to get me a Tiffany ring he could buy me a little band that I saw that said “I love you”. What he knew was that I preferred white gold or platinum, not too huge and high set and a princess cut… that was all.

Jamie finally agreed that he would look in Glasgow but he still wanted that moment when he saw me fall in love with something. I suggested that in January I would go with him and pick out 3 rings and he would make the final choice… a nice middle ground. Not traditional at all but what about us had been. This made us both happy. I loved him but didn’t need him spending the earth on a Tiffany ring. Something simple, original and ours was what I wanted.

After we settled the way the ring would be chosen, we made the plans for my trip over. Feeling nervous since we had failed miserably at this years earlier, I made Jamie promise to not propose unless it felt right. We didn’t need to rush it. We could go back and forth visiting until we were sure that we were both ready to make the leap. Also, knowing Jamie is a perfectionist and would get totally nervous about a proposal, I suggested that he didn’t plan it, that he should just go for it when and if it felt right. He agreed and my trip was set, a possible engagement was on the horizon.

One night with not much time left until my visit, we were talking and he was acting weird, all silly and smiley and I knew something was up. I asked him what was going on and he said nothing, he was full of it and I knew… he had chosen without me. I asked him if he had chosen the ring and he couldn’t contain himself. He said yes he had but he wouldn’t let me know any of the details. I threw out some wild designs just to try to get a feel for what it could be, knowing I really just wanted a simple solitaire. We had a good laugh and there was something in the air, he had the ring, he knew he was going to propose and he wanted to speak to my Dad. He actually wanted to ask my father’s permission… I loved this man! My Dad of course agreed. He and my Mom loved Jamie and had hoped and prayed for years that we would be together so giving his blessing was a no brainer, even though letting his little girl go would be hard.

As the weeks turned into days and my trip drew closer, it was quite clear that I was falling even more in love with this man. More than I ever imagined was possible. I loved his face, I loved his laugh, I hated when we weren’t talking, I packed my bag a hundred times and the butterflies were always there when I looked at the Glasgow webcam during work. I couldn’t wait to be with him again, I wanted to smell him and feel his arms around me, I couldn’t wait to be engaged to him and I ached for it to be January. I just hoped that he wouldn’t feel differently when he saw me again in person. I prayed that we wouldn’t have taken a step backwards like we normally did. I was terrified that he would take my advice and wait to propose if he didn’t feel right about giving me the ring because I knew I was ready. What would that do to us? What would that do to me? Was it even possible that he wouldn’t propose? I just didn’t know… what I did know was that I loved him. I would wait for him as he had waited for me. He is my soulmate and I would love him forever with or without a ring. x heather

April 19, 2013
by heather
4 Comments

Losing the lie

Last April when I was diagnosed with MS I thought to myself “I can handle this. It could be worse. I am lucky this is as bad as it is.” I didn’t feel that I was lying or holding anything back. I genuinely was trying to be honest with myself and everyone around me. I was trying to keep positive because I knew negativity and stress would only make me worse.

The healing was a long and sometimes painful process. It was strange to me that when I had my episode I wasn’t in pain just a great amount of discomfort and confusion. As I began to heal and my body was making connections with the 98% of it that had been lost for months, the pain came. Things were so bad that the Dr’s didn’t want to take the time to figure out the exact cause so they treated the 2 things it could be. Shingles or a relapse, and this was June. I couldn’t believe it 2 months. This was supposed to be Relapsing Remitting MS not Relapsing Relapsing MS.

I was on 2 types of pain medication and antibiotics for a few months several times a day.  My hair was falling out, my gums were bleeding and I was exhausted. This was not what I had expected my life to be. I began to lose my positivity and trying to believe what I had been saying to myself and everyone else was getting harder.

The Glimmer of Hope and the Fall
During this, there came a glimmer of something better and I grabbed onto that. A new job doing something creative, writing and project managing web development projects. I felt productive again, I began to feel hope starting to come back. I took on a full-time freelance position with the web company, had colleagues I loved and a boss that believed in me… things started to feel great. I had a spring in my step… then wham! Another relapse in September.

I realised I had a bad headache for several days and my neck was killing me then on day 4 of this headache I put in my contact lenses and I was looking into a dark blurred fog. I had lost most of the vision in my left eye. I was really scared and did something I swore I would never do, I went to Google and looked up MS eye symptoms.

When I was hospitalised in April they kept checking my eyes and asking about my vision, I didn’t have any symptoms so I didin’t know what to expect. Migraines run in my family and I didn’t want to over react. But… Google gave me the answer that I had feared. I had all of the symptoms for Optic Neuritis. I had to call the Dr now. No way out of it. This was a symptom I could’t ignore.

Sure enough, I had Optic Neuritis and this episode was no doubt a relapse so, back on steroids I went. I couldn’t believe it. I was heartbroken and for the first time since all of this began I felt dispair. I felt like I was relapsing relapsing relapsing my way into stage 2 MS and a life injecting myself with poison so that I would become a cripple slower, and that was it.

I went home with my new pack of drugs to make me well and I cried. I wept for hours and still had more tears. The months of only crying about the physical pain had masked the mental pain I wasn’t willing to deal with and I felt the grief I hadn’t let myself feel before now. Gone was the tough girl and all that I wanted right then was my Dad so I called him in tears. Something I hadn’t done since I got sick.

I told him what was happening, that I had relapsed and lost most of the vision in my left eye…and I cried some more. I knew it would upset him but I also knew I couldn’t ignore this pain any more. I knew I needed to let go and be vulnerable to this change that had happened in my life. No more pretending, no more lying… only tears and honesty.

Accepting My Path
By November I began to realise I was depressed and scared. I was afraid of everything walking, exercising, cleaning, anything that could cause a relapse… in my terrified mind. I tried to be positive but it was difficult. I wanted to have a child with Jamie, I wanted a real future with him and I didn’t think some of these things would be possible.¬†I was beginning to accept that I would have to start taking shots to help reduce my risk of relapsing. I made an appointment with my MS nurse to learn about injections and to talk about what was going on in my head.

In early December Jamie and I went to meet Carly to discuss my options and every injection contraption scared me more that the last. As always, my amazing husband stepped in and said he would give me the shots if I couldn’t do it myself. He practiced with the demo shot contraption that I had tried and said he could definitely do it. Then we began to ask questions…

Would I be able to take the shots if I was pregnant?… No. I couldn’t even take the shots if I was trying to get pregnant.¬†Yay!! We were trying. A weight lifted, I didn’t have to think about the shots for another year or 2.

What was the likely hood I was going to progress to stage 2 MS?…Unlikely.¬†Really? Why? And the first tears of relief began to come.

She explained that if I did it wouldn’t be for probably 20 years. My body had a bad attack and my myelin was scarred. All of the little things that had been going on for months that I was afraid to tell anyone about were just my nerves “grumbling” not mini-relapses or signs of a relapse. I really had been doing everything right. Swimming, taking my vitamins, moderate exercise with weights and cardio and eating well. I didn’t need to be afraid if I felt good one day and my hands felt a little funny the next. It is typical. In that moment everything changed. I was alive again, I was me again. Hope was back and I wasn’t lying to myself or anyone else.

After that appointment with Carly supported by Jamie, I¬†believed¬†for the first time that I truly would be able to handle this. I wasn’t lying then and I’m not now. 4 months on I am feeling as good as ever. No MS relapses since September and not a hint of losing hope. When the day comes that I have another relapse or have to go on medication I know I will be ok. My husband, my family and my friends are there and I am actually pretty damn strong for a small girl. x heather

August 2, 2012
by heather
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The beginning of forever

The morning after the big talk session was slightly uncomfortable. It was like we didn’t know what to do with the information that had been unleashed. We got up and headed to our separate bathrooms to get ready. We only had a few days left in Boston and it was a lovely day so we decided to head out to take more pictures and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage that you get in the North East part of the States. The day was perfect. It was the first day that was not a jumble of messy thoughts crashing around in my head.

The fabulous day of pictures, squirrels eating out of my hands and laughs turned into an even better night. Jamie and I met a friend of mine from high school for dinner and drinks. Keith is just a character and we all had such a laugh. Dinner was great and then we went to Finale for dessert and drinks, that was even better because Keith continued with his stories and memories of us in high school. Jamie was at ease and we all joked and talked for hours. When I walked Keith out of the restaurant he asked me what the deal was with Jamie. I said he was my best friend but we weren’t together as a couple. He gave me a hug and said Jamie was a great guy and I could do a lot worse than him, but not much better.

That evening we were exhausted. We crashed out on my bed and had the TV on something about Gothic cathedrals. We were mostly quiet but then there was a moment when I rolled over to get something off my nightstand and Jamie stroked the small of my back. He was voluntarily touching me and this was totally new. He told me to roll over and I knew he wanted to kiss me. I was suddenly mortified! I told him no but I didn’t know why, I think I was scared. This was going to be a real kiss! After a few more times of him asking me and my refusal he just said sternly, “Heather, roll over.” I couldn’t believe my quiet Jamie, so sweet and timid, was taking charge. This was the thing that had been missing, some strength to do what he wanted to… guts to kiss me when he wanted to. I couldn’t resist. It was the first real kiss we had shared since we were kids in 1996. The kind of kiss that leaves nothing out, nothing wanting and takes your breath away.

Intimate confession coming up… Jamie and I did NOT sleep together that night. We never had in all of our years as friends and that night didn’t seem appropriate to introduce something else new. We had a perfect evening and nothing could shake that. After changing into our night clothes we went to our separate beds and I felt like something was missing. I quietly got up and went over and cuddled into him. I had not had my head on his chest in years. This was my nook… the place I belonged. I kissed him gently and fell asleep in his embrace. All worry and anxiety drained from both of us. We were together and that was all we needed.

The next morning was quiet, had we actually had that time together? Was everything alright? As we were getting ready to leave the hotel room Jamie took me into his arms and kissed me softly. It did feel strange for some reason but not wrong in any way. Maybe we both needed time to process what was finally happening between us. We decided it would be a shopping day and we were going to head back to the mall to get some shirts for Jamie and to play in Tiffany. We had a nice stroll and I felt so much better as we entered the mall this time. As we got on the escalator I turned to look back at Jamie who was on the step below me, making him even with my face, and I followed my gut urge to give him a little kiss. It felt so different. There was no garbage between us it was just a pure sweet moment. It was easy… it was right.

After that little kiss all of the awkwardness seemed to melt away. Jamie was successful in getting some new shirts and I had a great time talking to a shop girl about my friendship/relationship with Jamie. He looked great in everything he tried on. It was amazing how I was looking at him so differently, with the broad shoulders and slim physique it was like he was made to wear the clothes we had him trying on.

In Tiffany we had a great time. We were looking at the diamond rings, not for any other reason than it is fun. There was an amazing salesman, Peter, who was so fabulous and I loved him to bits. He treated us no differently than the rich people who could actually afford the $15,000 diamonds I was trying on. He even pushed me to try on more just to have fun. A time finally came when I drew the line with him though… he wanted me to try on a blue diamond worth $415,000. It was stunning but I didn’t want him go through the trouble of taking it out and having to go into a private room with it. I was completely shocked. I¬†couldn’t imagine something like that on my finger but somehow I could imagine it getting stuck if it was put there. Peter was amazing! A real customer service man. Just lovely! It was the way our Tiffany shops are supposed to be… fun and carefree.

The next few days were much of the same. Taking naps together was something new and quite possibly my favourite thing in the world. Never did our time go back to quiet moments filled with sadness, regret and longing. The quiet moments were filled with peace and happiness… bliss! The day came to say our goodbyes and the day just seemed to slip between our fingers. When we had no more time to waste we went to the valet area to get my car and pick up his van to the airport. We hugged and kissed a little while we waited but when they said it would be 10 minutes they should have said 10 seconds. Before we knew it we were being whisked off to our separate vehicles and I began to feel like I was going to burst. We barely got to say goodbye… I didn’t want to say goodbye! I realized that this was it… this was the moment I knew that I never ever wanted to be without Jamie for the rest of my life. Like some Hollywood drama queen I threw my purse into my car and ran the 100 feet that separated us screaming his name as I ran. I needed him to know… I needed him to know without a doubt that I loved him. As I threw myself into his arms I told him that I loved him and I kissed him without caring at all who saw us or what an idiot I looked like. I knew then the same as I know right this minute… that was the beginning of forever. x heather

July 27, 2012
by heather
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The straw that broke my back and changed my life

The second day in Boston, we went down to reception in our hotel and I requested a different room. I was very pleased when they agreed to give us a new room. Jamie and I don’t particularly care about great views from the room. We much preferred comfort and this new room had that. It had two bathrooms, two windows and it was overall much bigger and more comfortable. It didn’t smell old and it was a good place for a fresh start.

Over the next few days we went all around Boston proper tourist style. We jumped on and off the Old Town Trolly Tour for two days in a row, hunted down the Freedom Trail, went to the aquarium, took a harbour cruise and we enjoyed taking hundreds of pictures. Jamie really seemed at ease. He was doing what he does best, taking beautiful pictures of random things.

Jamie enjoyed showing me so many things about the Nikon D40¬†he had given me for Christmas a few years earlier, which was a HUGE surprise that year. He had promised he would teach me how to use it one day. I learned how to take better pictures but I didn’t need to make things look beautiful they already were.

A few days into being a tourist I was out of sorts because in spite of the nice time we were having, we were not really talking about anything other than the trip or our jobs. We hadn’t addressed our kiss, we hadn’t discussed so many of the things that we so easily talked about over Skype, we hadn’t talked about us… then he did it. He laid the straw that broke my back. He got me a pair of earrings at Tiffany. How did this end up being a bad thing? Well, about an hour earlier I had made a phone call to my Mom while we were waiting to get our harbour cruise and he was off taking pictures. I was bawling! It was a “blue day” and I was trying to explain to her that it was so hard to be around him now. I cared so much for him but he was still so uncomfortable it seemed. I told her I didn’t think he would ever talk to me… really talk to me. I was crushed and I didn’t know what to do about it. For some reason I was still unable to push myself to just talk to him. The kiss from a few days earlier had taken my courage.¬†So as we were standing in Tiffany looking at things I wasn’t having one of those, carefully priced in my mind, moments where he can tell this is the thing that I love. I didn’t want him to spend any money on me. I didn’t deserve it. He didn’t need to tell me he loved me with jewellery. But he did anyway. Before I could catch myself I saw a pair of earrings that I actually loved but I wasn’t looking at the price of things because I didn’t actually want anything. Jamie caught that look I must have had and before I knew it he had purchased them, my first¬†Tiffany¬†diamonds.

On our walk back to the hotel I was stewing in my own misery. I was so sad and I felt guilty for accepting something so expensive. I couldn’t take it anymore and I flipped out proper style. I had never really yelled at Jamie, but I didn’t know what to do. I told him I didn’t want the earrings.¬†I wanted to¬†talk… that is what I wanted. When he asked why I said I couldn’t accept something like that. They cost too much and I wasn’t going to just accept gifts all the time. He was so generous with everything that I liked but not what I needed. I needed to talk face to face. I told him I wasn’t going to let him do this again. I wasn’t going to let him go another trip without talking to me. He was shocked and I could see my words had hurt him but at this time I didn’t care. We had to talk! We had too much to lose. If we were not going to try this time we were never going to know about something that we had dreamed would happen for years. Then… just like that… the flood gates opened.

We couldn’t even walk any further. We sat about a half a block from the hotel in this little garden and poured out hearts out. We cried and cried while we talked about everything that we had never been able to talk about face to face. We even got out some things that we never knew the other thought about themselves. It was so painful for both of us and exactly what we needed. He finally expressed self-doubt and insecurities I never knew he had. I expressed how much I loved him and how important he was to me. He told me he never had been able to believe it before when I said it, he didn’t see how I could love him. I was reeling. How was it possible that this beautiful, talented, loving, giving man couldn’t see how amazing he was? Maybe our years of struggle hurt him as much as they had hurt me… maybe more.

After more than an hour in the garden we were all cried out and wanted to get some dinner. We went to a fondue restaurant, The Melting Pot, attached to our hotel. Over an intimate dinner I noticed the mood of being together had completely changed. I felt like I was having a date with Jamie. I felt shy and silly and I looked at him in a whole new way. I loved his face so much and the best part about it was we were talking. We had gone through an invisible, yet strong, barrier that had kept us separated for nearly 15 years and we were finally talking and that is more precious than all of the Tiffany Diamonds in the world. x heather

July 22, 2012
by heather
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Chicken Puff Tart

For several months I was cooking the same things over and over. I thought it was time to try something new but not too complicated with a lot of chopping. I wanted to keep my fingers even though I couldn’t feel them. I found this recipe, originally made with haddock, and thought I would give it a try. It was good but after a discussion with Jamie we changed it up and decided to make it with chicken. We love it! The combination of flavours taste so good, it is easy to make and can be a tag team event. So, here we go. Get ready to cook!

What you will need:

  • puff pastry (You can make this or buy some already to roll out from the store. I like Jus-Rol Puff.)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • pesto sauce
  • 125g of soft goats cheese
  • tomatoes (Take your pick here. I have used cherry tomatoes and on the vine tomatoes both work.)
  • 1 egg
  • rolling pin and baking sheet

What you need to do:

  • Preheat the oven to 220¬įC/425¬įF
  • While the oven is preheating, grill the chicken breasts and set them aside. This is where cooking becomes a tag team sport in the Boyd home. Jamie will cook the chicken while I roll out the dough and prep everything. The chicken doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through as it will be in the oven for an additional 20-25 minutes.

Perfectly grilled chicken ready to go!

  • Next, lightly flour the countertop and roll out the pastry.
  • Place the pastry on a nonstick baking tray and gently score the edges making a frame around the outside, be careful not to cut all the way through. This enables the pastry to rise nicely containing the ingredients in the middle.

Make a frame and score in criss cross pattern.

  • After the pastry is ready, spread on pesto sauce. The recipe calls for 1 tbsp of pesto but I just spread it on until it is covered and even. 1 tbsp doesn’t cut it for me. Stay inside the frame.

Spread, spread, spread.

*** The layering steps I am particular about. I like to layer evenly across the pastry so each bite will have all of the ingredients in it.

  • Time for the first layer, the chicken. Cut the chicken into slices and spread evenly on top of the pesto.

Coming along.

  • After the chicken add a layer of tomatoes and then crumble the soft goats cheese on top. Licking your fingers after this step is recommended.

Lovely layers of tomatoes and goats cheese. Yummy!

  • The last step is to egg wash the frame of the pastry.

Nearly there!

  • Once everything is on the pastry, place it in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. I usually watch the pastry as my judge on the time.

While I am waiting I prepare a simple greens salad and set out some balsamic vinegar. The flavour compliments the goats cheese and pesto very well. Time is up! Ready for dinner?

Dinner time!

Now wasn’t that easy? This usually gets divided into thirds and the 3rd piece goes to the lucky winner for lunch the next day. It reheats easily and tastes just as good the next day. Is your mouth watering? Mine is. This may need to be on the menu for the week… time to make a grocery list. Enjoy! x heather

 

July 6, 2012
by heather
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…where I am going

Since mid April there have been many ups and downs. I have been back to the gym and it proved to be more challenging then I remembered. I think the hospital stay made me finally acknowledge that there was something more wrong than a pinched nerve. I couldn’t just tough it out and pretend it would get better on it’s own. I have tried to remain positive and keep telling my family to be positive. I have been holding on for dear life that I will be ok, that the healing will be the end of it, that I can just live happily and peacefully with Jamie. I prayed, I meditated, I received Reiki and I have done everything I could to get in touch with my phantom parts. I knew they were there even if I couldn’t feel them.

I finally had my neurology appointment in May. Jamie and I met with with a great Doctor and by this time I was well on my way to healing so I was hoping for a good outcome from the visit. We were shown my brain scan and it was peppered with white blobs that were all of the damage. It was scary to see. Although Dr. Dani was very nice he had some not so nice things to tell me. I was told that I was being diagnosed with¬†“Clinically Isolated Syndrome”¬†the pre-MS diagnosis. He told me that although I present with Demyelination and many typical symptoms they can’t diagnose with MS at this time even though that is where they believe the diagnosis will lead. I didn’t know how to react. I was correct about the Relapsing Remitting MS that I had found out about, that will be the one, all I need is one more bad MRI and that will be the final piece to the puzzle. I felt stunned, MS… Wow!… Really? I thought that I was ready for this, I was wrong. When we left the hospital we had gotten about half way down the sidewalk to the bus and Jamie realized I was not quite right, he stopped me and I wept into his loving arms for a few minutes. At that moment I began telling myself to hold on to what Dr. Dani had said, live well, eat well and continue living everyday the way I have been. Don’t give up… and I wasn’t going to.

Telling my family was the hardest part. I wanted to be able to tell them something good not this. They were deeply saddened but held on to the things that I was stressing, I was getting better. Every week I was noticing a return to normal sensations throughout my body. I seemed to be healing from the feet up. I was able to tell them that I was in the rotation to see the neurologist every few months for a check up and I was being put in touch with an MS nurse to be my go to contact if something happened again. I was trying to convince them and myself that everything would be fine.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months I have had time to think about what this experience was meant to teach me. Why did this happen to me when finally things seemed to be turning around? I think I may have found the answer. I needed to live. I needed to actually live. Since I moved to Scotland to be with Jamie I have had one stress after another and many self-induced. Visas aside, I needed a job. I needed to contribute. I wasn’t actually seeing that I¬†was¬†working. I had 2 volunteer jobs for nearly a year that I was valued at and counted on by. I had just finally gotten a real part-time job. I was contributing everyday to my marriage by making a home and being supportive and loving to my husband. I may not have been bringing home a lot of money (like I am used to killing myself working way too many hours for) but our home was running smoothly because of what I was doing. I couldn’t see anything beyond getting a full-time job. I was blind by my need to earn my keep and to help financially. This illness has made me realize what I have and what I contribute. It has made me realize it is ok to slow down and just live the life that I have. I don’t need to search for more because we are fine… we are a team. I am not in anything alone.

My healing is still in progress but I continue to hope that soon I will be back to normal. I have the most wonderful family, through birth and through marriage. I have wonderful trainers at the gym that have helped me get through this and will continue to support me. My Doctors have been so amazingly helpful and are there to offer help and advice anytime I need them. I am still working through the fear of a relapse and possible final diagnosis of Relapsing Remitting MS. Meeting with my MS Nurse was so helpful to relieve the stress of the last few questions I had. I know I can’t live in fear and now that I have gotten through this I know I will get better. I will make it through a relapse, if it happens, the way I have this… by living, by not giving up, by putting my faith in those that love me and in myself. I have my rock… God Bless my Jamie who has held me so many times when I couldn’t stand anymore. I know he will be there and if I do as the Doctors order and as I believe I can, I will live well, eat well and continue… x h

July 3, 2012
by heather
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Where I’ve been…

When I began to write this I wanted to be quick and to the point just to explain my absence but as I wrote more I realized it would not be fair to cut out what I have gone through and the things that I have learned from it. With that in mind I wanted to make this a 2 parter to make sure that things are explained well. The past few months have been the most trying and scary months of my life yet, somehow, they have been the most reaffirming. I have not been absent from here by choice… I have been unwell.

In March I went home for the first time in a year with Jamie. There was a lot going on and too many people to see and for some reason this is the time my body chose to give up, it went numb… literally. I figured I had pinched a nerve but it had to be a big pinch to cause all of what was going on. Over a few days my right foot went, then my left, the tops of my legs were hypersensitive, and my hands were a combination of numb and hypersensitive. My torso had something special planned for me… the corset treatment. I felt like my lungs were being crushed and I could barely handle clothing. Tank tops/vests had to be skin tight under my clothes so that I could be dressed. I was completely uncomfortable 24 hours a day but through all of this I just carried on.

When we got back to Glasgow I didn’t want to miss work or the gym. I finally had some stability and structure that I had been craving for the first year of being in Scotland. There was a day that really scared me, the day my face and tongue went numb. I looked at myself and I didn’t look different but I was really worried. I contemplated going to the Doctor over and over, Jamie wanted me to go also but I didn’t want to seem crazy. I could barely get my head wrapped around what was going on let alone explain it out loud to people. Well, over 3 weeks into this ordeal my trainer at the gym, Chirene, asked how I was and if there was anything new she should know… I told her jokingly that I couldn’t feel my hands. She asked more and I began to tell her, then the realization of what I was explaining started to hit us both. She immediately had me get my things and proceeded to walk me to the hospital.

One thing lead to another and after 4 days, one ER visit, one Doctor visit and 15 vials of blood taken I was admitted to the hospital. What?! That is how I felt. I thought I was going with a Doctor’s letter to get more tests, not to be admitted. I had never been in the hospital ever and I was terrified. I didn’t know what they were looking for but apparently being able to make me cry by touching my legs or torso with a tissue was worrying to the Doctor’s.

I am not going to go over the 4 day hospital stay but I do want to say it was not bad but it could have been better. Maybe a word of advice for future patients from this mouthy American… speak up when you want answers. Don’t be content to sit from 9 am to 3 pm without a word from someone. The nurses were lovely and the Doctors overworked but when I cried and couldn’t take not knowing what was going on and why I was still there, I got answers. So speak up, ask questions and don’t be afraid. I was not ignored when I was upset but the time scale was not always in the Doctor’s hands until I pushed them to push.

During my hospital stay I had a battery of tests done including an MRI. The MRI was what was holding up the show. I had to wait for it for 3 days. Skip to day¬†four, I was hoping this would be the last day. The Doctor came at around 9:30 ( a different Doctor had been in charge of my ward everyday) and she began to ask about my symptoms and I almost lost it. Day one all over again… NO WAY! I politely cut her off and asked if there had been any results sent from my MRI. She said “Oh, you have had it?” and I replied yes and then off she went to check for the results while I fumed. She came back and sat on my bed and began to explain the results. It had been found that I have “widespread demyelination in the corpus callosum and cervical spine.” That sounded bad. She explained that the causes were varied. Over the four days in the hospital I had heard several hypothesis about what could be causing my symptoms including a viral attack and¬†Guillain‚ÄďBarr√© syndrome so hearing them was nothing new but then she threw out the biggie… Multiple Sclerosis. “No! Not me. No way do I have MS.”

I was released from the hospital that evening on my word that I would take the prescribed steroids exactly as I was told and I was to await hearing about a neurologist appointment. I was so happy to be home. I was going to just relax and sleep in my husbands arms that evening and try to forget the fear I had as a result of the bad news I received. The next day I hit the ground running. I looked up the possibilities that I had been given and if, and I stress if, I had MS it was not going to be the “bad” MS, I found a type called Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS) and I figured that was the worst case scenario. This is the most common kind to get and many people have it and do not know. They may have had things happen that they thought were injuries but when, like me, they are presented with something serious they look back and think that could have been an episode. If it was RRMS I was ready for it. I was so ready to be done with this nightmare and move on. x h