Friday, November 30, 2012

26 National Health Blog Post Month posts in 30 Days

The title should read "30 #NHBPM posts in 30 days." The "rules" gave me two days off, if I needed them, so that would have been 28 days. With a holiday and sickness in there, I didn't quite hit my goal, but close.



Life is like that a lot with any chronic condition. You make plans, and do your best to see them through to fruition, but you learn to yield to the demands of your body sometimes. Actually, you don't learn to yield to your health, you just sometimes have no choice in the matter. The choice comes in learning to roll with the punches and in a balanced attitude of fighting when you can and humbly accepting limitations you just can't get past.

I remember when I was trying to learn to walk again (with a cane) 9 to 10 month after strokes, crying to my husband, several months into the pursuit and telling him, "I thought for sure I would be walking by now. If it were just a matter of will power, I would have been walking again, long ago!"

The point is, positive thinking, hard pushing, our very best efforts, and we can still fall short. That's OK. The disappointment is crushing at times, but if we know we are trying our best, to the glory of God, that is all He asks. Others may be let down, or we feel we have failed, but real failure comes not through disappointing people or even failing to meet our own expectations, but through not even trying. When we try, sometimes our efforts still can surprise us, as did this blogging challenge.

I had no idea, when I started the month, exactly why I write (at least hadn't put it down in solid thought), that the story behind my purse was so interesting, that I could find so many reasons for thanks and still feel like I was just scratching the surface, that I would really tell my health what I thought, that I could offer helpful resources and gift ideas for so many different health challenges (infertility, pregnancy loss, chronic illness or stoke), that I could find so much humor in the midst of trials, that I could share advice on dealing with infertility that would draw more readers than any other post in the history of this blog, that I would never look at a Thanksgiving Day the same way, what I would learn about intentional thankfulness, or specific goals for leaving a legacy. The post that surprised me most was that I would end up sharing such personal details of one of the most amazing experiences of my life (or even that I would choose to reveal these facts about my brush with death)!  I've gotten to know my friend, Kendra, so much better through her feedback this month. Thank you WeGo Health for sponsoring this event and challenging me to explore so many areas of my life. I may not have managed 30 post in 30 days, but I am thankful for what you did coax out of my heart!


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Jennifer Saake's other books and related blogs:
First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HannahsHopeBook

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HarvestingHope

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace or look on Facebook under "Stroke of Grace by Jennifer Saake"

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GivenMeaThorn

Thursday, November 29, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Receipt

I'm sorry I missed three more days of  #NHBPM posts. I've been pretty sick, so the need for sleep often took precedence over blogging!



I'm not even checking the suggested themes for today, because I am interrupting the regularly scheduled posts with a funny from our 12-year-old son. He started the day wondering how much "True Love" spent on gifts for the Twelve Days of Christmas. So he sat down and did the math for how many of each things the song describes as given (if you were to add to each list, each day, like on the third day, given three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge with a pear tree), then did internet searches for values of each item, then totaled up the costs.

He also researched the history of the song. (We found conflicting stories. Both the traditional version, similar to the story I grew up on, and the much more skeptical Snopes one, that we felt raised some good questions, but did so rather biasedly.) A few times our son had to get creative with his searches, but he did this entirely on his own. (For "calling birds" he priced "canneries" and for "lords a leaping" he looked up "male dancer, hourly rate," and "Maids A Milking" was the hourly rate for "maid service," etc.)  Here's the bill he came up with:

12 Partridges $600.00

12 Pear Trees $239.88

22 Turtle Doves $615.78

30 French Hens $450.00

36 Calling Birds $1,800.00

40 Golden Rings $19160.00

42 Geese a Laying $8,064.00

42 Swans a Swimming $6,300.00

40 Maids a Milking $3,400.00

36 Ladies Dancing $5,040.00

30 Lords a Leaping $3,750.00

22 Pipers Piping $2,200.00

12 Drummers Drumming $339.36

Subtotal $5,1959.02

Tax 8% $4,156.73

Total $56,115.75


Thank You for Shopping With Us!

(Please don't copy without permission.)
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Today I am thankful for such blessings of fun and creative kids and the gift of laughter!
 
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Jennifer Saake's First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness


Sunday, November 25, 2012

When I Die

Today's  #NHBPM topic suggestion is “Write about what you want to happen to your blog/ community when you die."


Honestly, I realized how very little I care last year. My husband, my children (living or dead), my writing, my books, my blogs, Hannah's Prayer, none of it even remotely even crossed my mind or mattered anymore, in the moment where I actually came face to face with Eternity.

Later, my concern was for my husband, for my children, but I still don't remember much thought of any of the rest, from the hospital. From a more "grounded" perspective (as in, what mattered to me before and what matters now, from an earthly perspective), I'll try to answer this question from the light of believing how very much people matter and the resources I hope to leave available to others.

So what do I want to happen to your blog/ community when I die? I actually have no concern for the ongoing, long-term perpetuation of Hannah's Prayer. This ministry has far outgrown my narrow vision, long ago. God has raised up generations of faithful leadership there and I believe it may well continue well past my lifetime. I don't even have to be involved any more (I choose to because I am so very blessed by the ladies there) for one lady to reach out to the next and the cycle of blessing to keep unfolding.

I would like to think that as long as the information in it remains medically relevant (I intentionally addressed much more of the emotional and spiritual issues of infertility/loss, than the medical, in hopes of creating a more timeless resource) and/or HP continues to exist, that Hannah's Hope will remain in print. I well-remember what it was like to look for such resources and not be able to find them. I would like to think that such encouragement remains accessible for decades to come, though I know the book has already outlived the generally expected shelf-life of such a title.

Since I am currently in the process of writing 3 more books (I hope to start querying publishers for the first in December or January, though it took about 15 months for HH) I would also hope that each of these new projects have a long publication life as well. Each of their related blogs is listed below.

As for this very blog, I don't know there is much of long-term consequence here, other than one post of eternal significance that I would hope might be read at my funeral.

It is very strange writing about my own death, not having any idea if we are talking near future or many decades still away. It is kind of like a pregnancy due date, I have a general idea of what the normal expectation for my span may be, presuming all continues as anticipated, but I also know thing can happen prematurely or unexpectedly. If God wills to prolong my earthly days, I may well change perspective on some of these ideas, yet again. But no matter what happens, or when it happens, I want my loved one to rejoice with me that the only really important wish of mine has finally been fulfilled once I get to go Home. :)



Today I am thankful that this lifetime is so very insignificant in the span of Eternity!

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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness
 
 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

If I Could...

Today's  #NHBPM topic suggestion is “If I had more than 24 hours in a day… (Or unlimited spoons or funds)."

So many choices, time, energy or money. Each would be an incredible blessing. Oh, the possibilities!  I think I'm going to daydream a moment here, about funds.

If I had unlimited funds, I would take care of two big bills first. I would love to be able to pay off our house and medical bills (estimated to be between a million and a million and a half for my lifetime).

Next, I would like to replace our cars with hundreds of thousands of miles (and lots of "issues" between the two). My minivan is easier for me to climb in and out of than most other vehicles I have ridden in (because I just back up to the seat and sit, no door jam to climb over), but has more quirks than our car. We bought it, used, nearly 7 years ago, so even though the back window won't close and it leaks oil and/or other fluids regularly (transmission and air conditioning problems too - but we've done all we can there), we are thankful that it is still drivable. It will probably die first.

Rick's car is getting up there in miles too and just started leaking some sort of fluid a bit too. It hasn't had air conditioning in years (not a problem in winter, but nasty in Nevada summers) so I would love to replace this for my husband and no longer have him coming home so sweaty he's sick from heat!  But they both get us around and are paid for. Right now, that's what is important!

About $7,000 would go toward hearing aids if further testing showed any kind could improve my hearing.

And if I'm really dreaming here, I would love to own an RV so that I could travel with my family and not have to worry about special needs in a hotel room.

Another dream-list item would be a recumbent trike like Terra Trike since balancing on a regular bike is no longer in my foreseeable future.

Also I would look at several educational options for our kids, both for now and for college.

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I am thankful that God promises to supply all our needs. Maybe not every earthly wish, but I am thankful that each true need is always supplied by Him. Sometimes I get nervous or antsy and wonder why He isn't giving in my ways and according to my timetable, but He is never late and often very creative in how He answers prayer!

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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spring Cleaning this Winter

I missed posting here yesterday. Not bad as my first miss all month! I didn't get a chance to post here, but I did blog about my Thanksgiving over at Stroke of Grace if you feel blog-deprived. ;)

Today's  #NHBPM prompt is to, "Clean out your fridge or closet in written form. What’s in there? How does it reflect your personality?"

I hope to be cleaning out my real clothes closet early next year. First I want to finish re-organizing the kitchen to make it more user friendly with my new limitations (thanks Kathy and Mom!), then I want to sort through and get rid of about half of my Christmas stuff (was already a planned goal for last fall, pre-stroke - maybe I will have to bump that goal off to next year again?), then I have a two-car garage stacked full of boxes (things that were packed away while I was in the hospital) to tackle and sort as I gain the mobility to be out there more often. Oh, and very first, I need to sort through and organize my bathroom since I still can't find many of the things I'm looking for in there. Maybe by the time I ever get to my closet, I will have lost another clothing size or two and actually be able to fit into more of the clothes hanging in there!

OK, so thinking just about my closet. If you look in, the primary impression you would first get is a variation of shades of the color pink, shades of blue, green and turquoise close behind, with a few purples and a yellow or two scattered here and there. No, I'm not trying to host a baby shower in there, these just happen to be my predominant colors of preference.

Next, you would discover quite a range in sizes, from my big clothes to sentimental ones that were hopelessly (even pre-stroke) too small to ever dream of ever wearing again. You would find a few formals that were hand-sewn in the 1930-1950s and worn by my grandmother (I have re-worn most of them, to special occasions) and a few cotton dresses and blouses, hand-embroidered, and worn by my own mother in her teens and 20s, a couple from her high school years in Spain. You would find a couple outfits from our honeymoon years and LOTS of great thrift store and yard sale (many with designer labels) or Khol's/ Walmart / Target finds, purchased by me for pennies on the dollar. And you would find my hat collection, ranging from vintage, internet orders to modern day pricier gifts that have been given to me.

And you would find about 20 pair of shoes, only one pair I can really wear now and a couple of others I could possibly wear with great caution. I have a feeling this will be my most emotional cleaning project as I admit my limitations and say a permanent farewell to styles I will likely never safely wear again.

My side of the closet is also home to gifts we are collecting to give at Christmas and birthdays. So with this growing pile, I know I can't get in there and do a decent sorting until well into next year anyway.

The things I'm most ready to get rid of are the dozen undershirts I had to wear the first several months home from the hospital, when I could not properly dress myself. I will be thrilled to see those gone and never need to look at them again!

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Today I am thankful for both abundance and simplicity! "Stuff" is overwhelming. The number of things I plan to get rid of as I sort through what I really need and can care for or use, I am embarrassed to think that my trash would be another's treasure. Many people, around the world, don't even own the types or amount of things I hope to get rid of as my "extras." I am blessed, indeed.

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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Intentional Thankfulness

Today's  #NHBPM prompt is to, "write about mental health." I've already talked about depression quite extensively on my other blogs, and my own current mental state concerning Thanksgiving recently, so today I would rather talk about intentional thanksgiving.

This month I've been trying to practice something I call "intentional thankfulness," meaning that I find something I don't feel remotely thankful about, and ask God to show me something to be thankful for in that situation (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Like with my short hair I really am saddened by it because it is an ongoing reminder of countless stroke losses. So last week my husband and I talked about I can be thankful for short hair in this season of life because I can now wash it myself, something I would not be able to manage if it were longer. My husband's point was that as it slowly is growing out, my left hand is strengthen at about the same rate, so it is possible I will have the capability to care for longer locks as I get there.


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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Alternative Opinions

I laughed out loud when I read today's  #NHBPM prompt, to "Write about alternative treatments / regimens / medicine. What do you support? What is crazy?" Why laugh, because I have some very strong opinions that I'm not sure anyone really wants to hear (but I am going to try to share, gracefully, anyway).


My plan is to basically stick to two categories, the "good" and (what I personally consider to be) the "bad." I'll spare you "the ugly" details for today (though a few of you already know enough about my life that you may read into some of what I'm not ready to say here). Edited to finally add link.

I have not always gotten very good results with tradition medical care, what we might term, "western medicine," until recent years. I have often been quite happy to pursue alternative treatments, usually something under the "eastern medicine" umbrella, when such treatments were actually providing results that western practices were not.

A few years ago I was very blessed to find a primary care physician, trained in western medicine, but also open to and trained in many eastern methods as well. She is of a whole-body mindset, big on nutritional and herbal and homeopathic methods, but never afraid to write a prescription for antibiotics, when warranted, either! I feel I am now receiving the best possible care, a wonderful marriage of the best of all philosophies.

One area where she has been overseeing my health care is in the area of PCO or polycystic ovaries. I have take the diabetic drug, Metformin, with great results in the past, but the long-term concerns over taking this medication offer some real concerns. So, with my doctor's approval, I am now trying to gain similar results through more natural means, the medicinal use of cinnamon to address IR (insulin resistance is strongly linked to many cases of PCO). Because I am now on blood thinners (due to the stents placed after my strokes), I am on the kind without blood thinning concerns, Ceylon Cinnamon (something anyone on medicinal levels of this spice should be informed about)!

So, that's the very best alternative suggestion I can give you. And now for the worst,without offering further commentary, I will let the following video speak for themselves. I thing the key quote here (first video) is that I'm not against chiropractic therapy all together, but if you are going to pursue chiropractic adjustment, "never let them work on your neck!" This is why, while I used to be open to chiropractic care, I do not even consider it to be a viable option anymore.



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Today I am thankful for many different medical options, that when one thing doesn't work, I often can try another.

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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Monday, November 19, 2012

Surgeies on Thankgiving

Today's  #NHBPM suggestions are either, “Questions I have for for other patients" OR "Write about: Life and Death." I feel like I have already pretty well covered both topics this past week (since most questions I have for other patients, I actually ask on a number of great forums/ message boards, and I just posted my views on life and death three days ago)!

So I'm going off topic once again, and instead will share some thoughts that are at the forefront of my mind, some memories and reflections I'm hoping to get off my chest so they won't continue to be such a focus this week. I'm having a harder time with the coming of Thanksgiving even more than I had with my recent one-year stroke-a-versary.

This time, a year ago, I was in the rehab hospital, on strict bedrest due to wild, involuntary head bobbing. Troy (my CNA) had been coming to my room to feed me at each meal over the weekend, because my head was so wild, I couldn't manage to get food to my own mouth. We had been hoping I was just having a reaction to one of my medications, so I was being weaned of several things, but symptoms weren't resolving.

The previous Friday evening, I had been sent over to the main hospital for another MRI. Sammy (my regular special needs shuttle driver at the time) drove the shuttle van and a new nurse was assigned me accompany me for the five minute drive. When she saw my movements, she asked, "And you can't control that AT ALL?" When I confirmed that I could not, she replied, "Gosh!" She was stunned and had never witnessed anything quite like it before.

When I got wheeled into the MRI room, the tech asked me if I had been in a car accident. He had only seen that severe of erratic movement a few times in his career, always with serious car accidents. I said no and that I had had three strokes, but I was back here from the rehab hospital to try to figure out my newest symptom.

Early Monday morning, doctors began to gather back in my room. The MRI results had come in over the weekend, confirming three new strokes (for a total of six) and I was to be sent back over to the main hospital, this time via ambulance rather than shuttle.

When the EMTs brought the gurney into my room and began to strap me in, one EMT asked me, in surprise, the head shaking isn't a per-existing condition? He couldn't comprehend that he was witnessing such severe stroke damage and was thinking I was exhibiting a genetic condition as result of a birth injury or something like that.  He seemed amazed that this is why I was being transported to the hospital.

Because I was already relatively immobile from the first three strokes, and because I had been on bedrest (we briefly tried a neck brace to see if it would still my head enough for me to continue therapy, but I freaked out my therapists enough that my doctor ordered me fully to bed) since the head bobbing was first reported, it took some time to realize I had pretty fully lost the use of my left arm with these second three strokes. (I just woke up with new symptoms one morning, so we speculate I had stroked sometime overnight.) I spent from Monday-Wednesday in the hospital, trying to figure out our next step. The possibility of transporting me to Stanford or U.C. Davis, or another medical center was seriously discussed, though there was significant concern over my medical stability to even be able to endure such an attempted transport..

It became clear that my behavior was not a medication reaction (as had been hoped), but directly related to the strokes. And with the number of strokes I had continued to experience, even though the size of consecutive strokes seemed progressively somewhat smaller, it was determined that I was the 1 in 10 who couldn't heal a dissected artery in my neck without surgery, so would just continue to stroke without surgical intervention. Only one surgeon in the area even had the skill or training to conduct the delicate micro-surgery I would need (and he typically only visited the area once or twice a month, practicing at larger hospitals over in the Bay are the rest of each month), and he happened to be scheduled in the area for the Thanksgiving weekend, so semi-emergency surgery was scheduled for early the next morning. (This was the first of several specific God-provisions that we could clearly see over that weekend.)

So I spent Thanksgiving morning in surgery, and Rick and my parents spent the anxious morning in the surgery waiting room. I was into my new room in the ICU by about noon. (I think we started around 5am), having undergone two surgeries that morning - after the first (that went very well) the arterial shredding was extensive enough that they had to go in for a second surgery to complete the repair that had begun with the first surgey, so I wouldn't have yet ANOTHER stroke after the first surgery!

I was pretty groggy, so don't remember much of Thanksgiving day other than a horrid, itchy reaction to my pain killers. And that night, though they had started a fresh IV line in my arm after I got to ICU, somehow my orders fell through the cracks due to the long holiday weekend and even though I begged my night nurse to either give me a drink (I was on NBM or "nothing by mouth" orders - on Thanksgiving Day!) or to turn on the IV drip since the bag was hanging right there and the needle was already in my arm, she could not. I was miserable and dehydrated by the time my mom got back to the hospital to sit with me on Friday morning. The ICU was the worst part of the whole return to the main hospital.

After five more days of post-surgical hospital bedrest, I went back to the rehab hospital for further therapy. This is my latest memory of Thanksgiving week.

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Today I am thankful that this year, as far as I know, my whole family will be home, together, for a Thanksgiving meal. :) Praying that we start new traditions (within my new limitations) and make wonderful, new memories!

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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I'm a Person!

Today's  #NHBPM prompt is, “I want to change THIS about healthcare…”

Strange as it might sound, I wish medical care-givers treated every appointment as if you were a "special case." What I mean by that is I have seen a LOT of doctors, for some rather serious issues, over the past 20+ years. A few, plain and simple have been JERKS, but for the most part doctors have tried to be helpful but either don't know how to help, or seem to forget I am a person and that while my issue may be fairly routine (or sometimes, beyond their scope of capability) to them, it is very important in my mind, or I wouldn't bother being in their office!

I know medicine can become "just a job," and providers are overworked, but I don't like feeling like my doctor are too busy to listen to my concerns or that the are so board and disinterested that they would rather use our appointment time to be taking a nap! Fortunately, there are a few exceptions. I'm talking in broad generalizations here.

I have seen my share of extraordinary specialists through the years. I think of one who was never rude but remained rather alufe until we started on a rare form of treatment. Up until that time, perhaps most would feel our relationship had been professionally cordial, but it suddenly became much more a give-and-take of mutual respect, including more personal details from each of us. Did I receive adequate medical care prior to the relational change? Absolutely! Did I more look forward to my appointments one I was treated more as an equal? Indeed.

I guess when your life becomes defined by being a "professional patient," you just hope your doctors, who are so of the only human beings you encounter, are not only competent, but kind! You are investing your life into their care, so you hope they will invest in your life, as a person, in return.

When I went to see two different specialist earlier this year, I had been repeatedly warned about each, that while I would receive excellent medical care under their supervision, to be prepared for the reality that neither one had personality or good bedside manner. I found both to be very kind gentleman, the one with the worst reputation, while very odd an initial acquaintance, very personable and interesting as he began to understand the specifics of my case.

I came to the conclusion that the more difficult of a challenge I present to my medical caregivers, the more they invest in me as an individual. I just wish it didn't require such intensity of situation to become personally inviting to my doctors!

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Today I am thankful for modern technology, medical advancement, and the medical caregivers who do treat each patient as a real person.

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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Singing of the Son

This is my second attempt at this post. I had it all written, live on my website, then was trying to edit in additional resources. Somehow I ended up, with a single slip of the hand (surprisingly, this hasn't happened often, regardless of my single-handedness in typing) and managed to wipe the entire post out, new edits, along with what was already here.

So I apologize that this post is several hours late and that is shorter than I would like. It's this or nothing at this point!

Today's  #NHBPM post is intended as, "a playlist for [my] health community."



I'm not going to recreate a list of ever song that has been comforting to me in the past 20+ years, through so many different experiences, but one song that has been very meaningful to me this past year is Your Hands.
 
Today I'm jumping off the challenge theme suggestion and instead sharing several songs that are connected to the Heaven experience I shared yesterday.

This is the song I first used to explain what I felt when I told my mom.


Some of these specific videos aren't selected for the musical (or voice) quality or style, but for the lyrics and photography or artwork.
Heaven Came Down

Shine Jesus Shine
 
If the Son sets you Free...

I have more to add, but want to get these posted before I loose them again!

Another video and more thoughts on When I Die.

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Reformer


Hell to Pay

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Today I am thankful for freedom of (not from) religion we enjoy in this country. I am thankful to be able to make a post like this without fear of government censorship. I am glad to be able to search for, easily access, and share such things. I'm thankful for the men, women and families of our military who sacrifice to keep such freedom at my disposal!


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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Friday, November 16, 2012

What The Camera Can't Capture

Today's  #NHBPM prompt asks me to , "use a picture or video to inspire a post."




I've done this before with this post about Focus on my Given Me a Thorn blog.


Today I am thinking of the glory of sunrise, pale in comparison with the mental picture I'm about to describe, but the closest to what a camera can actually capture. My daughter asked me the other day about my favorite time of day, and I would have to say early morning now (a total reversal of the time of day I most dreaded, early in stroke recovery).

I have rarely shared the following story with anyone. Never before, online, except for in a private stroke forum, just last night. I share it now, with a measure of trepidation, for I know once my thought are "out there," there will be no way to take them back, reel them in and make them mine alone again. As I told my pastor (when I finally got brave enough to tell even him, just recently), I have been quite shy about all this for the past year.

I tried to share with a select few, early on, and I received a couple of less-than-positive receptions for my thoughts, so I felt it better to keep my experience to myself after that. I have held this knowledge close to my heart, as a personal and valued treasure, and feared other's reactions if I shared it. I feel God saying, now is the time to speak. This is not my timing (I was going to wait until the publication of my of my stroke book), but God is strongly impressing upon my heart His better plan. Since it is really much more about Him than me, I can't stay silent any longer. Today, I share with you, not in sensationalism, but in humility:

When I had my first two, most serious strokes, I could not move, speak, hear, open my eyes, or in any way communicate with the world around me. I knew I was in bad shape, had heard the beginning of the 911 call being placed before I lapsed into unconsciousness, and we have pieced together that the following experience must have taken place just after I was loaded into the ambulance, when EMTs were trying to get any response from me but I could not hear them and was unable to respond at all. (It is possible that it happened anywhere in the next 6 hours I remained unresponsive, or even in the following week when I was technically "councious" but have little to no memory, but to my mind, I place what seemed to be only a sliver of time, a moment, in the ambulance before the ride to the hospital, possibly because I have no memory of the other events. I guess it is rather impossible to place a timeless event within the context of our known limits of time and space!) My body was significantly posturing, I was not expected to make it to the hospital alive, and my situation was terribly fragile and precarious.

I, very vividly, consciously and lucidly, remember "waking up" and thinking through my senses one by one, looking for any response from my body or clue to what was happening to me. I could not feel, move, speak, see or hear anything. In fact, I had no sensation of being connected to my body in any way.
I was rational enough to presume I was in an ambulance, for though I could not see, and had no knowledge of the EMTs arrival (other than previously hearing that they were being called), my very first awareness was sensing (not "seeing") the shifting of light when, I presume, the ambulance door shut. I had no other connection with my body but I knew enough of what had just happened (even though I lacked explanation of what had happened and the word "stroke" wasn't even remotely on my radar at the time) to know I was physically in dire straights and that I was likely on some form of life support. 

One of the first coherent thoughts, that I would have shouted out as a statement if I could was, "Don't pull the plug! I'm still here." Before even one wave of panic could overtake me, I was filled with such profound peace! I heard music (remember, I was totally deaf, and remained so to anything happening around me) unlike anything I had ever heard before - so beautiful! And while every other memory from the next several weeks remains vague and shadowy, most have slipped away all together, this one is crystal clear and bathed in golden light.

I have always before wondered about and somewhat feared death, but after this near-death experience, I felt cheated and angry that I had survived and was suicidal for about 6 months
(I just wanted to hurry up and get to Heaven, now that I had a foretaste) until my husband challenged me that if God wasn't finished with His plan for my life here on earth yet, neither should I be. I still feel great excitement and eagerness for Eternity, but I am much more willing to bide my time here on earth now.


Anyway, after being challenged to find and fulfill God's purpose for my days on earth, it became evident to me that as wonderful as Heaven is (and I already got a sneak peak, that was so wonderful that I am ever-so anxious to find out more!) that Hell must be just as awesome in terror. I promised God that I would spend the days assigned to me to help anyone who would listen to avoid such fate, for I cannot even imagine the horror.


So with that background in mind (I know how like a lunatic my experience must sound), you can see why I'm passionate about my views.


I believe that there is only one God, Jesus Christ. That to believe Him, I must abide by what He says, namely that He alone is God and there is no other, that He is the only way to the Father and that many paths are inviting, but only one leads to eternal life.


I believe that we are all born as sinners, separated from God, and the only remedy to clear us of our guilt, is acceptance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the only sinless man ever to live.


It is not through doing enough (or any) right or good things, but by simple
faith that God is who He says He is and did what He said He did. It isn't just about believing the facts, but taking them to heart. If I tell you a chair can hold my weight, I can tell you that all day, but it really means nothing until I exercise that belief by taking my body and actually sitting in that chair to show us both that I believe what I say, that I am willing to act upon what I say is true. It is like that with God too. I can say He exists and maybe even say I'm willing to see the work of His hand in my life, but until the "good works" I do are because of my love for Him, an expression of my adoration and acknowledgement of all He has already given for me, not in effort to earn forgiveness or grace, they mean nothing. As Scripture says, such works are as useless as filthy rags!

OK, getting off my pulpit now.
;) Don't worry, I'm not likely to try and cram these beliefs down anyone's throat, but it is clear exactly where I stand now. I wish you all peace (the intense kind, like I found in that ambulance) as you explore these issues for yourselves. Feel free to leave a comment or email me - jsaake AT yaohoo DOT com - if you want to talk more specifics. I, for sure, am not an expert and don't pretend to have all the answers, but I'm happy to share what I am convinced about and explore questions to keep on learning! 

Here are a few videos I posted, mostly songs related to my thoughts surrounding this post. Here are my growing collection of images that semi-capture a tiny bit of my emotions surrounding my memories.
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Today I am thankful for the gift of this amazing experience!

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Jennifer Saake's other books and related blogs:
First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HannahsHopeBook

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HarvestingHope

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace or look on Facebook under "Stroke of Grace by Jennifer Saake"

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GivenMeaThorn

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaking News

Today's  #NHBPM post is supposed to be, "Nominate someone for a Health Activist Award & write a post about why you nominated them," but I didn't read far enough ahead and already nominated Lisa Copen back on the 6th (when I was scheduled to write a "News-style post"). I have also nominated Hannah's Prayer, but since I just wrote about them yesterday, it seems rather repetitive to say why today. So I'm going back to the topic scheduled on the 6th and attempt a News-style post.



Breaking: 35-Year-Old Woman Has Multiple Strokes, of Unknown Origin

On April 17, 2012, Kendra was a admitted for treatment at a stroke center in Washington state. She was airlifted after sitting in an emergency room in Alaska for 13 hours, before receiving any treatment. Having suffered multiple strokes, and not expected to survive she spent over a week in ICU where she was eventually given a tracheotomy to replace her breathing tube.

Surviving all medical expectation, Kendra gradually was moved to the rehab section of the hospital and eventually was released to home care and, after three months and multiple surgeries, returned to her home in Alaska. She continues the journey to relearning to walk and talk, and already far exceeds the expectation of a massive brain stem stoke survivor.

As the homeschooling mother of four young children, Kendra is my hero! It's amazing to see God rebuilding and repairing all that was lost, though this is a painfully slow process. To get to know Kendra better, please follow her unfolding journey on her blog at Queen Of
Brussel Sprouts.

Kendra and I have been online friends (and gotten to meet in person in 2005) since long before our stoke days, having been support for one another through infertility and high risk/bedrest pregnancy as well. It is rather surreal that we are both young stroke survivors (just 5 1/2 months apart) now, for totally different reasons! Even before her strokes, Kendra was one of my most devout and faithful encouragers. That remains all-the-more true today!


P.S. Today is Kendra's 7-month stroke-a-versary.

Today I am thankful for having a friend who is going through this journey with me. Not that I would ever want precious Kendra to suffer, but it doesn't feel quite so lonely having someone to chat (email) with every day, who personally understands the challenges and the silly-sounding victories. I cannot put into words my heartbreak over our newest commonality or the level of comfort I take in sharing our journies.
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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Communities and Comments


Today's #NHBPM prompt asks me to share advice for dealing with negative feedback in my community.

 


I've been blessed by surprisingly little negative feedback over the years, so I don't know that I have much advice to offer. The one gem I can pass on, isn't even original with me. It is basically, "This is my blog, so if you don't have anything nice to say and we can't resolve legitimate concerns, I still have the power of veto here if you choose just be be ugly or unreasonable in comments." This one piece of advice has been very freeing for me, to realize that freedom of speech does not prevent me from freedom of moderation over my own comments. Censorship is still not something I take lightly or use with abandon, but if a public confrontation cannot be resolved, I'm not tied to continuing to publicly leave derogatory, attacking, or offensive replies live on my own website.

Since I don't have much else useful to offer on the topic, I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce you to some healing communities, both "mine" and others.

For infertility and loss at any time from conception through early infancy, there is a message board forum I helped launch years ago. Hannah's Prayer has far outgrown me and I can claim little ownership or input any more, but it will always hold a very special place in my heart. It is so much more than a "fertility forum" and really is the first resource I turn to for parenting after infertility resources, or just about any information in life, and really is my first source of breaking world news, shared from an international perspective. This world-wide community of Christian sisterhood is amazing and usually new posts have replies within minutes, day or night. It is well-worth you time investment of a few hours or days to get your (simple) registration approved to gain access! I feel like I need a t-shirt that reads, "Everything I've learned in life I've learned from my HP sisters."

I know it isn't exclusively infertility related ,and I haven't used the resource nearly as much as I could, but I feel I should give an "honorable mention" shout out to HysterSisters here, for women contemplating or undergoing hysterectomy. Another honorable mention is SoulCysters for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCO). Endometriosis Support should receive a shout out too. Be Not Afraid is the first place I direct parents when they face the negative prenatal diagnosis of a child. And if someone is threatening to miscarry or unsure about medical prognosis in early pregnancy, I direct them to Misdiagnosed Miscarriage for equal doses of hope and medical realism. My own book on infertility also has a blog at Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage & Adoption Loss.

For chronic pain or illness (I have yet to find a great resource specific to ME/CFS. Anyone know of one?) my go to resource is Rest Ministries. I had no hand in the formation of this organization, but see founder, Lisa Copen, as a dear friend as we have been through the growing pains of starting young internet ministries together. The primary difference is that Lisa has maintained nearly sole leadership and day-to-day management of RM, while I have been blessed to pass daily operations of HP off to a fantastic Board of Directors. I honestly don't know how Lisa does what she does, all the while battling her own physical challenges as well as family management and creating amazing ministry resources, from blog posts, to videos, to forums, to social media participation. My own offerings to this community are two manuscripts in progress, Harvesting Hope from Heartache and Given Me a Thorn.


A stroke community I have recently found to be helpful is StrokeNet. I have only been attending there a couple of weeks, so far, so I can't tell you much about history or background yet, but so far I have really appreciated the stories and understanding found there. I am also sharing my unfolding stroke journey (and hope to eventually also write a book under the same title) at Stroke of Grace.


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Today I am thankful for the internet and the ability to connect with thousands of folks facing similar struggles, people I would never meet off line! Does anyone have a copy of the poem about "my best friends live in my computer"? I would like to post that here!

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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's Taboo!

Today's #NHBPM prompt asks me to "Write about something taboo.”

 



This prompt is custom made for this blog! What is more taboo than infertility or the death of a child? I was reminder of this just recently when a lady shared her story of stillbirth, followed by her stroke. I just had no words. It wasn't that I didn't want to hear more, I was just overwhelmed by the very knowledge of her double tragedy - either situation, alone, more grief than anyone should face in a lifetime, much less in just 24 hours!

On the topic of infertility, you would think anything would be able to be discussed in our blunt and sex-obsessed society, but when it comes to infertility, with timed intercourse, carefully monitored cycles, and excessive medical intrusion, people (especially those who have never walked the journey) tend to get squirmy with discomfort or say some really insensitive things!

One of the most common comments an IF (infertile) couple hears is "Just relax and it will happen." "Relax" is refereed to as "the R word" in IF circles. Statistically it is nearly impossible to be too stressed to prevent ovulation or conception for moths or years on end. Infertility causes extreme stress, not the other way around. The stress caused by infertility has been likened (and validated through research) as being as emotionally crippling a cancer diagnosis or treatment. It's not something that can be just thought away or taken care of by going on vacation, adopting a child (Like there isn't any stress that come with that drastic life change? And statistically, adoption actually LOWERS the odds of an infertile couple going on to conceive, but I digress...), or thinking about other things. (All variants on the "R" advice.)

A similar theme is, "It will happen in God's timing." While there is a real element of truth to the notion that pregnancy is up to God and we can't rush His plans, "leave it to God" advice both invalidates the very real grief and urgency often experienced in infertility AND it implies (especially to the ears of the couple going through this trial) that you are questioning their spiritual state or implying known, ongoing sin in their lives that is preventing God from blessing them with conception.

As for the medical side of things, if you had a heart condition, would you be content to just leave the medical situation to God, or would you use God-give wisdom in current medical research to try to battle your known medical issues to the best of your ability? Couples who seek medical intervention for infertility aren't usually "playing God" or not trusting Him enough, any more than you are when a painful tooth sends you to the dentist or an eye exam leads to a prescription for eye glasses.

On the topic of sin, the very blunt accusation of "maybe there is something standing between you and God that would prevent Him from opening your womb," is also surprisingly common. I hate to tell you, but I KNOW I sin, every day. YOU are a sinner too. I think this statement springs from the Old Testament mindset that if children are a blessing (God says so!) then infertility can only be a curse, a judgement from God, a punishment. Thankfully, that's not how I read my Bible.

I believe God is full of mercy and grace and does not treat us as our sins deserve. He delights in giving good gifts to His children. Yes, sometimes He uses life's circumstances to get our attention, but that does not equate to a clear-cut formula that infertility equals sin. If infertility were a sign of God's disfavor, why would anyone ever be blessed to bear a child? Why would drunken, unmarried, drug-abusing folks conceive children outside the bonds of marriage, as happens every day? Why would an infertile couple experience blessings in any other area of life?

The supposition that "God is closing your womb" also has Biblical foundation. In the day and time Scripture was written, there was a strong male-centered culture, so the problem was always presumed to be on the part of the woman (the rabbis said in was lawful to divorce your first wife and take a second one if your first wife failed to produce an heir) in lack of other medical understanding.

Modern-day infertility is know to be an issue with the woman's body only about 30% of the time. There is equal male prevalence at about 30%. Another 30% of cases are able to be traced back to physical issues in both the husband and wife. About 10% of cases of infertility currently have no discoverable medical cause (in part because some couples get exhausted from the medical dedication required to pinpoint the cause). Yes, God ultimately is the giver (and withholder) of life,  but from the human perspective, sometimes it only takes a simple change to restore proper reproductive function according to God's original design for mankind.

I have much more to say on this topic, as well as on pregnancy loss or infant death, but since I am getting long-winded, I will save more for another day.

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Today I am thankful that I have been blessed to be a Mommy, here on earth! I did nothing to earn this blessing and God had every right to say no.
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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

Monday, November 12, 2012

Brain Games


Today's #NHBPM prompt asks me to share "My favorite health app / device / game is…”

 



I can't say that it is my "favorite" because I haven't even had a chance to check it out yet, but in case it helps anyone else, my friend K highly recommends the mind-sharpening games at Sheppard Software.

So far, my favorite for of computer "therapy" (besides just writing) is Piano Wizard. This powerful teaching tool, set up as a video game, was already used in our house before my strokes. All three kids love it. Now I use it myself, to try to strengthen my left hand and rebuild mental connections in my brain. I'm slow, but we are only moving at speeds I can master.

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Today I am thankful for modern conveniences that past generations did not have available.
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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness