Howdy Hydrocephalus

Understanding my unique gyroscope

The Summer of Milestones

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This summer has been amazing. Because I have been on my pituitary meds and energy medicine for almost a year, I have gained ten pounds, built a little muscle and endurance back.  Because of this I pushed the physical side more than I have since my brain surgery five years ago. 

Last summer I started with some easy flat hikes; paddle boarding more  and just flat easy biking. This year we have not hiked much but instead took to my old passion mountain biking. It was a spur of the moment when I bought my new to me Marin at a local bike swap. We went there to get the Wy, D & Mr. C new to them bikes.  We started the boys on flat trails, then logging roads and then to some trail riding. Well it was a test on my patience because every ride there would be one frustrated boy in tears because he fell one too many times or sacked themselves from not listening to me about riding the trail off their seats. Being the mean mom I am, I would say falling is apart of the experience. The bruises and cuts are stories to tell. I would say they are building balance and muscles that will help for hockey. We did 20km flat rides but shorter trail rides but often there teary statements of “I am never riding a bike again” to only ask to go biking the next day. Wy gave me the best compliment the other day. He called me a ” mountain bike expert”. I laughed and said “I am far from an expert. The last 50km ride I did was a long long time ago.” But It made my day and said “thanks”.

The biggest milestone took place when my brother, R-man and his two kidlets, C & M visited.  When I lived in the Kootenays many moons ago I spent a winter travelling 50km each way to learn how to kayak in the Nelson, BC swimming pool at night. I kayaked until I moved to Manning, Alberta. Six years ago, I bought a white water kayak again. I think I only used a few times before I was too sick to. Then the spring after my surgery I liquidated all my fun stuff I couldn’t do anymore; camera, studio equipment, kayak, TKD equipment, running shoes, cruise vest, soil probe, and identification books for work. I kept my Giant & golf clubs.

 Last summer we wanted to go white water rafting but we ran out of time. So after we were all together I called Canyon Raft Company located in Fernie, BC. I booked us all. I showed the kids pics and when I saw the looks of terror on two of their faces, I said that the pics were taken at higher water levels. We were rafting at low water levels knowing that I was telling a small fib. 

So we drive to Fernie Alpine Resort where we are picked up on the bus. The driver, who is one of the two owners, let us know about some Great Lakes nearby and hiking. In Elko, we got to see where there is a 40ft waterfall where some very experienced kayakers like to drop off of only at low water because even then it is dangerous. It was beautiful. We then drove to our starting point.

But before we got into the rafts, we got our gear on, wetsuit, helmet & paddle for most but not for someone like me that has body regulation issues. When I get cold my fingers and toes can turn white or purple. But I was prepared. I brought my swimsuit, on top of that I had my thin one piece thin outfit for paddle boarding, next the wetsuit, then water socks, I also grabbed a spray jacket and eye Glass band. We received a lecture about the gear and our hike down to the boats.

The hike down was beautiful. Sport sandals or shoes that can get wet mandatory!!!

At the bottom we met all the guides and the photographer. We received a very thorough safety briefing and then were broken into our groups for the paddle. Our guide has been in Canada six years. She left Melbourne for the mountains – water in summer and powder in winter. Along with us is the owner of the company and the seven of us. M is too nervous to paddle so she rides the trip but gives us all the best facial expressions that we see in later photographs. I am grateful to have an extra adult because I am not too sure how the three boys in the back are going to do….mmm…slack it and watch the adults work…I am almost 100% sure. R-man and me are in the front. With Mr. C behind me.  Once settled with the group photo taken we are off first down the river.  Whoa…hold it….we are the last boat in the line. I picked it because I thought we would be last….oh but no..here we go with the first two sets of Rapids back to back. All I remember is one is called something about marbles.

It is a weird feeling. Trying to coordinate paddling with R-man while trying to keep an eye ahead and listen to our guide’s directions. All I could think of was am I dong this right, trying to have myself breathe to calm down and not get overwhelmed and not to get distracted by the scenery or water.  Around the bend we go and wow the adrenaline is kicking. Once we finished we relax and wait for the other three boats. We have two fall out from one of the three boats but everyone is safe and put back in. During our waiting my right side is going all twitchy and my right arm feels weak. The thoughts that go through my head are “oh no…am I done. We just started. Can I paddle the entire  What is going on. Am I dehydrated?” I have some water and it was the right thing to have. Then we forward paddle into our third rapid…something about a shoe. 

 Here we are heading into the third set. We hit a rock with a jar and all stay in.  I go ass over tea kettle after we hit a second rock right when I am leaning out to paddle a wave. My paddle stays with me in a death grip. Mr. C see me go in and reaches for me and he goes in. When I fell out I couldn’t see a thing. I wanted to swim to boat but then was told to put feet up and cruise and that is what I did. I flew. It was awesome, you can see they had to throw the rope float bag at me. While Mr. C got to hang onto the outside of boat. I grabbed C’s paddle as it floated by me. When I get in, we are all laughing. Wy said he flew into C, C lost a paddle and D was flying and was heading for the water but was saved by our amazing guides. What a rush!!!Mr. C goes up front for the rest of the trip and we go have more rafting fun….brrrr. I am working so hard that I am still keeping warm. Win for me!!!

We make it through the rapids to an amazing float section with pristine coloured water. Then we have lunch. After lunch before we hit the canyon we get to try our hand at cliff jumping. There are three choices low, medium and high jumps. Of course Wy & C start the trend with the medium jump.  Mr. C does the large jump, I do the medium jump & M does the small jump.

Here they are jumping.then all our guides show us how it is really done.After this we hit the canyon with a waterfall, lots of whitewater, surfing a hole…during lunch I got really cold with purple fingers. I ended up lying on warm roaches trying to stop my teeth chattering. I ended up putting on the spray jacket for rest of trip, except cliff jumping and it saved me. there was so many much action that everyone was hooting, hollering, screaming and laughing.  We had to avoid a big rock by turning and hitting a rapid. It was the best rapid of the day….okay hard to choose favourites but I think the adults in the group agreed with this.D raises his arms in glory. We missed the rock. But the best fun for Wy, D & M was….riding the bull. When we hit the landing place, I barely could get out of Raft, my coordination, balance from my whacked internal gyroscope was completely off. I was shaky and didn’t clue how dehydrated that I had become because I was cold, I didn’t drink. Mr. C helps me get dressed in dry clothes by holding up towels. I was riding on a high that I had completed this milestone. I knew that I had used up all my spoons and would need recovery time but it was so worth it. We will be doing this every year from now on.

I was not the only one beat. R-man & Mr. C were sore; the kidlets fell asleep on bus ride and in car ride to Coleman. 

Mr. C always gives me crap that I push myself too hard. I say that if I didn’t push myself as hard as I do, I would still be shuffling my right foot and having a right hand that accidentally drops or throws things. I know self care is mandatory but so is also living and having fun.

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Feel-good strategies for managing chronic conditions

I have practised the art of gratitude for a number of years now and have used affirmations since I was a late teen. I graduated from my therapy about this time last year. I have continued to learn and practice the art of being happy, being in the moment and living with mindfulness.

I tend to still do too much and get hit hard with the fatigue. With the fatigue, I feel the guilt from family and with that creates an emotional downhill spiral. The same sort of thing happens when trying new meds. You take a long time tirating up in hopes that your body responds positively. But if the drug is not the right one for you; you then have to endure the nasty side effects as you tirate down only to do it again and again in hopes that you will find the one combo of drugs that actually works for you.  If you didn’t have some strategies to make you feel good, it is easy to feel angry, bitter, depressed, helpless, inadequate, worthless and all those other negative feelings that take up a lot of time and energy that could be re-directed elsewhere in your life.

Over the last year, I have been putting a lot of strategies into practise and have noticed it paying off. For example, mindfulness slowing me down. I am actually thinking “do I really need to do this…how will it impact me…my family…etc….” I have recently began adding more creativeness in my life by trying to do art more frequently.

All these activities sound like nice frou frou fanciful recreational only type things. However for a person with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Aquired Brain Injury (ABI) these activities are crucial for developing new neural pathways for recovery. They work on both emotional and executive function areas.

I am addicted to all those affirmations that you find on Twitter, Facebook or other numerous social sites. I know that people scoff at them and find them annoying but I love them. If I read an affirmation that I like or that a friend of mine might want to read I save it on my phone. Whenever, I am feeling down, or overwhelmed, I scroll through my file folder. It doesn’t take many files before I am feeling better. This slows me down enough for me to remember to breathe, clear my head and re-direct. It allows me to pseudo-meditate as I focus on listing off in my head what I am grateful for in my life. It allows me to then see if it is worth it to spend my energy feeling the way I am. Sometimes yes & sometimes  no.

I know that some people do not believe in creative, gratitude, happiness or laughter methods. No these activities can not replace medicine for your anxiety or depression, but can be used in conjunction to help cope with stressors in a positive or proactive way. When you have a chronic condition or invisible illness you fight with negative emotions everyday that can spur from pain to not feeling included in your community. No one wants to be a perceived non-productive member, or to always be in uncomfortable or in pain or sleep deprived. We all want to be included – even in small ways. We all want that range of motion or more of those days where it doesn’t hurt physically or to have the good days outnumber the bad days. We do not want to choose between a long list of “have tos” and commitments because the tank is running on empty. Practicing gratitude, creativity, happiness and laughter methods help me to not be enveloped in a sea of black and negativeness. This is where the “fake it until you make it” can really come in handy. A change of perception can do wonders. Here are some affirmations that I have grabbed from my phone. Enjoy & hope you feel better after you read them.


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Laughter makes the house go round

Nothing makes a situation better than laughter. I have been trying to get a lot of laughter in my life. I try not to get angry or frustrated but it does seep through at times and the people who get the brunt are unfortunately family. I don’t go out much, but when I do it is usually for a few
hours where I can fake it quite well.
I am a master of disguise!
It has been amazing to see how the wonky my body has become. I have this intermittent speech thing where it can sound like stuttering, but I think it is my processor getting stuck on the words trying to come out. It occurs when someone has started a conversation and I have to answer questions or if I am stressed etc…. I can sound like a machine gun or a snake or a balloon letting out air. We laugh about it here. It really is quite funny and I should tape myself one of these days. Laughing helps bring down the stress of the situation and slows down the spastic speech.
I have been forgetting more and more where lists and Iphone are really not helping. The best incident that we laughed a lot was a missing can of paint. I painted our laundry nook and left a can a paint on the floor – or at least I thought I did. When we came back from Calgary, the damn paint was gone. We looked everywhere, in the garage, downstairs, upstairs, spare room (now temp kitchen), RV. Chris asked me if “I had put in one of the donate bags. We look – nope not there”. I swear gremlins took off with it. So we let it go. Two weeks later, I am going to go shopping and grab some re-usable bags from the hall closet. Inside was the can of paint. How the hell did that get in there…still do not have a clue. I laugh out loud and say that “this is the best dementia moment”.  I know that most of this will go away.  I am glad I can still laugh most the time.  Surreal experience that’s for sure.  Although I enjoy laughing at myself, and find it a great stress reducer,  I wouldn’t laugh at anyone else.  And if I don’t know you, don’t make fun at me, I might just bop you in the nose:)