I miss… I’m thankful #7

I miss… sitting on the floor and being able to roll around and play with my dog. As a kid I moved around the ground floor of our home pretty swiftly on my bum. But as I’ve aged my scoliosis has become more severe, thereby affecting my balance and posture. This makes sitting anywhere that is not suitably cushioned and supported impossible these days. Sometimes I swear the dog looks at me as if questioning why I won’t get on the floor and fuss her.

I’m thankful… I still have a dog! She’s getting old but still has her moments of sprightliness. She’s 13 now which is a good age for a Labrador. I know she hasn’t long left but she’s seen me change so much over the years. She’s been here through the good days and the bad, her loyalty never faulting. When I’m ill she’s a constant presence, a source of unconditional love, comfort and companionship. I truly believe in the healing power of a beloved pet.

I miss… I’m thankful #5

I miss… midnight snacks and being able to sit myself up in my electric bed to have a drink during the night. Since starting nocturnal NIV (non invasive ventilation) this small pleasure has become practically impossible since I have a mask bound tightly to my face. Drinking is possible with a nasal mask but eating is very difficult as there is an increased risk of aspiration.

I’m thankful… I can eat whatever I want and am still able to feed myself. Unlike many with muscular dystrophy, I don’t have a PEG feeding tube and so all my calories and nutrition comes from the food I put in my mouth. Although I get very full on small quantities of food, I do like to go out for meals with family and friends.

I miss… I’m thankful #4

I miss… sitting in cars on a car seat, particularly the front seat, rather than having to travel in my wheelchair. These days I have to travel in my electric wheelchair at the rear of my Motability vehicle, as transferring is just too difficult.

I’m thankful… for my wheelchair accessible vehicle which allows me to get out and about with ease. I no longer need to be manually lifted in and out of cars. It makes life so much less stressful.

I miss… I’m thankful #3

I miss… playing my clarinet, which I can no longer play due to my declining respiratory function (I was pretty good too!)

I’m thankful… that having now sold my clarinet, someone out there is learning to play and getting as much enjoyment out of it as I did. Plus I’ll always have the knowledge of that achievement. I LOVE music and listen to some form every single day, though I’ve never been a natural musician myself. So to have learnt to play an instrument to a good standard is something I’m proud of.

I miss… I’m thankful #2

I miss bumping down the stairs on my bum as an infant. ‘Bum shuffling’ as my mom calls it kept me pretty mobile around the house as a kid.

I’m thankful… I can still sit on the sofa if I want to and don’t have to remain in my wheelchair all day. It’s good to move around in order to remain as flexible, and as comfortable as possible, even if like me it means being manually lifted.

Learn more about me…

Since I’m fairly new to the blogging scene, I thought it would be beneficial for all if you knew a little more about me and my everyday life.

As someone with a disability, the inevitable question arises now and again: how does it (in my case muscular dystrophy) affect you?

There’s no easy answer to this question, particularly since it’s a progressive condition, meaning that symptoms worsen over time. Furthermore, there are many different types of muscular dystrophy, all of which vary considerably. As in life, no two people are ever the same.

To give you some insight I have decided to offer regular snippets of my experience with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy.

I had considered writing a detailed piece about the everyday challenges I face and how I have adapted over the years. But in the end I felt that might be a little, well, boring for you guys. Plus, this open diary (if you will), can be ongoing, allowing those who are interested to see how my condition continues to develop.

Perhaps this will help others, particularly those younger than I as well as parents of children with muscular dystrophy. Perhaps…

For the first week I will upload daily to give you an idea of where I’m going with this! Thereafter, I’ll upload once a week.

So, here is the first entry…

I miss… snuggling up in bed without having to wear a mask to breathe. As anyone out there who relies on NIV will know, it’s an incredibly difficult thing to adapt to. The mask is (for me anyway) extremely uncomfortable and needs regular adjusting throughout the night to avoid sores and the escape of air. I have always struggled to get to sleep without the addition of a mask tightly strapped to my face. It is of course something I wish I didn’t have to endure but, it serves its purpose. Quite literally – adapt or die!

I’m thankful… I can still breathe well enough to manage without daytime NIV (non invasive ventilation). I sincerely hope I never come to rely on my BiPAP machine for daytime support as well as nocturnal ventilation. However, I’m realistic and so am aware this could happen in the future. Therefore, I try my best to make the most of my days as they are – mask free. As cliché as it sounds, your life really can change in a day. So make every day count!

Lost time

I’m back- finally! As you may know I was struck down with a particularly bad lower respiratory infection during the New Year period, and was consequently ill for over a month. Until a few days ago I was unable to leave my home throughout that time. So unfortunately, 2017 has not begun how I had hoped or expected.

Anyone with muscular dystrophy will know a cold is never just a cold for us. I dread the British winters and the circulation of unavoidable viruses it brings. For me, sneezing and a sore throat inevitably and rapidly develops into a full-blown chest infection. Bring on the 24/7 NIV (non-invasive ventilator), regular nebulisation, antibiotics and inhalers.

At times I’ve had no choice but to admit defeat and blue-light it to hospital. But stubborn as I am, if I think I can cope with the resources I have within my home, that is where I choose to remain.

I have noticed over the past few years the duration of my illnesses have become increasingly prolonged. I missed the entire summer of 2015 to a chest infection which lead to pleurisy. From the end of May to the end of July, I was stuck in my living-room, sat in the armchair night and day with my trusty vent keeping me going. Several GPs and physiotherapists attended but despite their best efforts, none could offer any productive help or advice – nothing I wasn’t doing or didn’t already know.

I was exhausted mentally and physically, but despite my ongoing struggle I couldn’t help but feel guilty for putting my parents, whom I live with, through the experience. They have no choice but to watch helplessly and with desperation as their youngest child battles with her failing body. “What can I do?”, they ask. But there’s nothing they can do. I always tell them I’ll be fine, it’s just a matter of time.

Having thoroughly depressed you with that cheery and fairly pointless update, I’ll bring this particular post to a close. Now finally on the mend, I intend to resume where I left off with the blogging. ‘Oh goodie!’, I sense you cry with enthusiasm. I realise I’m more than likely rambling away to myself here but writing serves to make me feel purposeful, perhaps even contributory in some way.

January has for me been lost forever and I can’t get that time back. It’s so frustrating being unable to do… anything! Even just going out for a ride in the car is a major highlight for me right now. When all you see day after day is the same four walls from the same seat in the corner of the room, cabin fever soon sets in.

Today, seeing the first daffodils of spring starting to emerge filled me with much needed optimism. There will doubtless be future episodes of ill health to contend with. But for now I plan to recharge, re-energise and refuel. Bring it on!

Moving forward | Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

Hey folks, I hope you’ve all had an amazing Christmas and New Year. If not merry, I hope it was at least peaceful.

I thought I’d start 2017 on a positive note by reflecting on the past year and all the things I’m thankful for. Now I’ll be honest, I’m not a naturally optimistic person. I can be a right grumpy bint at times. But I’m trying to, as they say; look on the bright side of life. After all, negativity only leads to bitterness and however wronged you may feel at times, believe me life is far too short for bitterness.

2016 has been a fairly uneventful year for me. There have been ups and downs but for the most part it’s been significantly better than previous years. It’s the little, seemingly insignificant things that I’m most grateful for.

To put it bluntly, my twisted body is a bit of a bastard and does not allow me the support I need to function fully. However, it’s dainty and lightweight, making me easy to chuck around, which I am regularly. For this I am fortunate as my petite stature allows greater and easier mobility. Had I followed my 6’4” older brother for height, life would undoubtedly have been far more difficult practically speaking.

Apart from a cold in June just before my week-long holiday to Spain, I haven’t been worryingly ill since summer 2015. During that period I spent over 8 weeks sat in an armchair in the living room, unable to go to bed or lie down due to a severe chest infection and subsequent pleurisy. I was a mess! From the beginning of May to the end of July I didn’t leave the house once, except for a trip to the hospital for tests. But let’s not dwell on that upsetting and difficult time…

The trip to Salou in Spain, was a much needed retreat from the monotony of everyday life. I holidayed with my parents, which obviously isn’t the dream, but fortunately we have a great relationship and so we muddled along nicely. It’s rare that I travel since I find it so difficult with the severity of my disability; therefore the sun, sea and sand was all the more appreciated.

Although we have our inevitable squabbles, my family are the best I could wish for. However, through talking with others in a similar position, I’m increasingly aware of those with disabilities who do not have the support of relatives. Consequently, they may feel lonely, isolated and unloved. Without family members to rely on, they are dependent on paid assistants to provide their personal care. Though I do employ two PAs myself, my parents remain for now at least my primary caregivers. A small, tight-knit family, we laugh a lot and perhaps most importantly we are comfortable in each other’s company. It’s only when I consider how different life could have been had I been born to different parents, that I realise just how lucky I am.

In spring 2016 I hired a new PA after my carer of eight years had to leave for personal reasons. As many of you will empathise, the recruitment process can be a stressful one. Adapting to yet another stranger providing your personal care is uncomfortable and unnatural but thankfully for me this particular transition was relatively trouble free. I won’t lie, it took a while to adjust and establish a new routine that worked for us both, but we get on well and she fits into our household effortlessly.

On the topic of family, ours would not be complete without our aging black Labrador, Millie. I have never known life without a pet. At one point we had four dogs and two cats living with us. Yes it was a little chaotic at times but always the best kind of chaos. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

Millie turned thirteen on Friday 30th December and is now depicting all the signs of senescence. Currently our only pet, she has been with us from birth since her mother, a golden Labrador, also lived with us. A great comfort especially in times of distress and frustration, I will be distraught when we do lose her. I’m therefore extremely thankful that she is still with us, as she is an invaluable source of company and happiness.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge my blog. It’s a relatively new venture, having only begun in October. But to my surprise and delight, I’m already reaping so many rewards. I have been introduced to people from all over the world who empathise with my thoughts, feelings and experiences regarding life with muscular dystrophy. I have also received positive feedback from complete strangers which has thoroughly boosted my confidence and determination.

I’ll admit I was at first somewhat reluctant to attempt blogging and spent several months debating whether I should. It was only the persistent encouragement from friends that convinced me to finally give it a go. And so it is to all my friends, both old and new, that I owe my final thanks of the year. I hope these alliances will continue to strengthen throughout 2017 and that I may meet more likeminded individuals. Here’s to the New Year…

Signing off for Christmas

Hey folks,

Well, Christmas Day is now only a week away. Blimey, where has the time gone? I always think that the count down to Christmas is far more exciting than the day itself which can sometimes be a bit of an anti-climax. So this year I’m determined to savour every minute and get as much out of the festivities as I possibly can.

As always my holiday will be spent at home with family, of which there are few of us. My two older brothers will be here on Christmas Eve so I daresay most of our time will be spent watching films (The Snowman, anyone?) and making ourselves sick on Quality Street. Christmas Day will then be a small affair, just the five of us – my parents, my oldest brother, Nan and me. Oh, and the dog! These days we have dinner after the Queen’s speech (obligatory viewing for the elders) and then open our presents.

All my gifts are bought and wrapped and scattered about the house, hidden in various hiding places. All I need to do is remember where they are. 😕 Inevitably at least one stray present makes an appearance days after the event.

Our Christmas tree is up…

…and our homemade wreath adorns our front door. I hope it’s appreciated since I burnt my bloody fingers on the glue gun whilst making it. Do not underestimate the power of the glue gun, people!

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And here’s the completed wreath

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What do you reckon? Not bad for a first effort if I do say so myself. I’m just hoping we don’t have any torrential rain or high winds as I can imagine mini frosted apples and slices of orange dropping off and battering visitors in the face as they approach. Not the best festive welcome but let’s see what happens, eh.

Film recommendations: 

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There are so many great Christmas films to get you in the festive mood (there are also some pretty shocking ones out there too). But where do you start? Some people want comedy, others have kids to consider and therefore need a family friendly option. Some want tradition and then there are those who would like to see something more thoughtful and dramatic.

A few of my favourites include Home Alone (1990), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Elf (2003), and The Family Stone (2005).

I’ve tried to cater for everyone here although obviously we all have our own go-to Christmas movies. For those of you who haven’t seen any of my recommendations, maybe start with Elf which is a charming and cleverly witty family film about Buddy, an elf played by the irrepressible Will Ferrell. A good choice to keep the kids entertained now that school has ended, this non-stop comedy is both sweet and slapstick at times. I’m 28 and I still love this one!

My next choice is another hugely popular family friendly festive film about a young boy mistakenly left home alone when his family fly to Paris for the holidays. Macaulay Culkin was at his prime here, offering a highly entertaining and endearing performance that more than matched his established co-stars (Catherine O’Hara, John Heard and Goodfellas Joe Pesci). With plenty of comedy, capers and action, Home Alone will excite and enchant both young and old.

Who hasn’t seen A Muppet Christmas Carol, seriously? What is there to say about this one. Charles Dickens classic story is invigorated and enhanced by the Muppets unique blend of humour and musicality. With the addition of England’s very own Michael Caine who is perfectly cast as Ebenezer Scrooge, this is a must see come Christmas Eve.

My final suggestion is less well known though possibly my personal favourite of the four mentioned. The Family Stone is a heartfelt comedy-drama about a modern-day ecclectic American family who reunite for the festive period. One for the grown ups, Id advise settling down with a glass of wine to watch this one before bed. I’m not overly sentimental but admittedly this movie always makes me shed a few tears. But don’t be put off, there’s also plenty of laugh out loud moments throughout. The ‘Christmas message’ is, in my opinion, subtly yet effectively delivered. Frankly I could watch this at any time of year since it’s simply a good drama about the trials and tribulations of family life.


Well, that’s all for now folks. I’ll be back in the new year with part 2 of my winter edit, and for those of you who’re interested I’ll post about my experience with a suprapubic catheter (I haven’t forgotten).

Wherever you are and whatever your plans, I wish you all a very happy and healthy Christmas and New Year!