after you’re diagnosed with an illness: you suddenly notice it everywhere

iStock-961375112Way back in the late 1990s, when my husband and I were in fertility treatments, it seemed as though pregnant women were everywhere. In stores. On city streets. On TV and in movies. In my friend groups. At family gatherings.

When I was so craving a child — and failing to conceive one — seeing so many gestating women felt like grains of salt in an open wound. I distinctly remember trying to escape all things maternal on Mother’s Day 1997 when the angst of my infertility felt especially potent. I opted to watch NBA games. Certainly I could seek refuge from babies and all things maternal there. Wrong. Pre-recorded segments of athletes thanking their moms for all their support over the years were featured during breaks. Until I eventually became pregnant with twins, reminders of my infertility seemed painfully omnipresent.

I was reminded of those days after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014 and suddenly started paying close attention to every reference to the disease, whereas in the past, they’d whisk past me like the wind. The MS references I saw in pop culture in those early months after my diagnosis, were almost always dire and sent urgent pangs of fear about my future through my heart.

The National MS Society recently published my piece, “Fever Fatale” about this subject on its MS Connection. Here’s an excerpt:

“A fever could be life threatening.”
 
That single line from an old episode of “The West Wing” prompted me to immediately Google whether, in fact, a fever is fatal to someone with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, something with which I was diagnosed in the summer of 2014. Fresh from learning I had MS, this mere suggestion plunged me into a panic. A search of “fever and multiple sclerosis” yielded over 590,000 results.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Image credit: MS Connection.

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what’s it like to have an mri when you’re claustrophobic?

My new piece at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS Connection blog tackles the topic of what it’s like for a someone (that would be me) to have an MRI when you’re claustrophobic, particularly when your head has to be enclosed by this lovely little thing called a “face cage.”

An excerpt of the piece:

“… [A] technician beckons me into the large room where the behemoth machine resides.

This is when the fun starts. And when I say ‘fun,’ I mean the opposite of fun. I really mean ‘terror.’ I mean a trapped-inside-something-and-can’t-get-out terror. It’s at this point when, after placing my head between two hard pieces of plastic, the technician clicks a hard plastic cage over my face and into those twin pillars. There is a relatively narrow rectangular opening above my face, but there’s no avoiding the fact that I am confined. The face cage is about two inches away from the tip of my nose. Its mere presence makes me feel like I can’t breathe. Like I’m being punished. Locked up.

Did I mention that I’m claustrophobic?”

Read the full post here.

new piece: #IAmAPreExistingCondition

ms_connection_blog_0823_finalMy first post for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website, MS Connection — about when the politics of the national healthcare debate becomes personal — has been published.

It’s about when you, or someone close to you, has an illness that, should the Affordable Care Act’s protections for pre-existing conditions be repealed, could render you uninsurable, potentially putting your health and your family’s finances at risk.

The piece begins this way:

Since last summer’s failed congressional efforts to repeal many provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), the hashtag #IAmAPreExistingCondition has peppered countless social media updates.

Current and former cancer patients use it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Asthma sufferers post it, too. Ditto for people with diabetes, mental health issues and heart ailments.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Image credit: MS Connection.

‘mr. clark’s big band’ in ‘southborough living’ magazine

southborough living

Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room is featured in the second issue of the new publication Southborough Living.

The article includes a summary of the book, as well reviews of the award-winning work of creative nonfiction.

To view Southborough Living magazine, go here.

Image credit: Southborough Living.

essay: parenting in the age of school shootings

telegram_logoSomeone threatened to shoot up my son’s high school recently. Administrators alerted parents to the threat and assured us that there would be a strong police presence on the school campus.

When you are told that someone — likely an individual trying to get attention and spark a high-profile reaction — has threatened your child’s school, on a specific day, how are parents, in the age of Parkland and Newtown, supposed to react? What is a reasonable response? I wrote a piece about navigating this new terrain, “Parenting in the Age of School Shootings.”

An excerpt:

“… all I had were questions. Will there be an increased police presence at the high school because the shooting was threatened to occur tomorrow? Or will police be there just because there was a threat made? Is the high school graduation ceremony a few days from now at risk?

Facebook quickly became the virtual meeting spot for worried parents who wondered if it was safe to send kids to school the following day, for parents who said we shouldn’t live in fear, for parents who were hungry for more information, for parents who sought solace from one another because this is now the world in which we are raising our children.”

Read the whole piece at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette here.

educators’ podcast: ‘mr. clark’s big band’ teaches how to help students with loss

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The “10 Minute Teacher” podcast recently featured Mr. Clark’s Big Band, specifically how Mr. Clark and fellow educators at the Trottier Middle School in Southborough, Mass. were willing to try novel and untested means to help their students through the grief of unexpectedly losing a fellow student.

Vicki Davis — aka “Cool Cat Teacher” — conducted the brief interview with me, asking whether teachers reading the book would find strategies to help students cope with the complicated feelings they experience after a peer passes away. My response included something Mr. Clark once told me, “If you give your students what they need, you’re never going to fail.”

You can listen to the podcast by:

Image credit: Cool Cat Teacher.

essay: adventures with a dairy allergy

dairyIt was a serendipitous coincidence that my latest column for The Mighty website, “Got Milk? Adventures with a Dairy Allergy” was published as many were celebrating National Cheese Day an event in which I, sadly, did not partake.

The piece involves Thanksgiving dinner at my sister-in-law’s house, a jar of gravy, and a couple of doses of Benadryl. It starts this way:

My legs seemed to dissolve beneath me. My eyelids grew heavy as I plunged into sleep like I was falling off a cliff. Actually, it’s more accurate to describe what happened this way: I passed out in my sister-in-law’s guest bedroom, as if I’d been drugged. Blame it on the dry milk.

Read the whole essay here.

Image credit: The Mighty website via Getty Image/Baibaz.