MS-Mommy-Blog-Update

300th Post & Blog Update

It’s the 300th MS Mommy Blog post! I didn’t imagine ever reaching this point when I first started my blog nearly three years ago. I assumed I would lose interest. A big thank you to all my followers. I appreciate all of you. In honor of this milestone post, I wanted to provide some interesting facts about the blog and an update about the future of the MS Mommy Blog.

Interesting Facts about the Blog

These are some of the current insights I wanted to share. It’s all modest, as I am a small-time blogger with limited resources. But I am proud of it.

  • The current most popular post is “Early Childhood Education Blogs
  • The most popular post of all-time is “The First Couple of Days…” with 390 total views
  • March is always my most popular month (MS Awareness)
  • I average between 1,100-1,200 words with each post
  • I’ve re-branded the blog three times: tracking my health changes, focusing on motherhood, and finally healthy living with a chronic illness
  • The three top countries of visitors: United States, United Kingdom, and Canada

The Future of the Blog

So while a 300th post is something to celebrate, I am finding it harder to keep it up as I would like. Partially because the blog costs a lot financially, mentally, and physically for me to maintain.

I put a lot of work into writing each post. I am providing a service to people struggling with a chronic illness, specifically MS, with each post. I want people recently diagnosed to see there are options. MS and chronic disease is not a death sentence. It’s a chance to embrace resiliency and learn to adapt to a new normal.

This is a service I am providing for free. The ad revenue on my blog will not payout for years. Maybe this means that I am offering a service nobody wants, and I understand that. I still want to provide it in some capacity. But I cannot do it the way I’ve been going. 

I struggle to ask for money, and I tend to undervalue my work because of it. I know there are options for me as a blogger, but I do not have the time to pursue them. I had a Ko-Fi page at one point but never pushed it because I struggle to ask readers to help.

With that said, if the financial support of the blog does not change, I must reconsider how much time I put into the blog. With all the significant changes I’ve dealt with these past few months, I recognize that I may need to re-prioritize my time.

What this means is the frequency of my posting may go down to once or twice a week. I am hoping to maintain consistency with the content themes, though I feel like February is a little haphazard. If the blog does start to bring in more income, my posting frequency will be more consistent, reflecting demand. 

So, if you ever found my writing useful or comforting, please consider contributing a few dollars through my Ko-Fi page. If you are unable to donate, please share my blog whenever a post resonates with you to friends and family. It helps my blog grow.

All of this is a good thing. I am not sad, and I am not disappointed. I am honest with myself and with you about my capabilities. I love writing what I write, and I plan to continue to do so, it just may change over the next few months.

Thank you to everyone who’s followed my blog from the beginning and to all the supporters I’ve built along the way. I appreciate every one of you even if I don’t say it or respond to your comments. Here’s to another 300 posts (even if it takes five more years).

Attention to Chronic Illness Bloggers!

The MS Mommy Blog is looking to collaborate with other chronic illness bloggers for this year. If you have a chronic illness blog and would like an opportunity to tap into the MS Mommy Blog audience, please contact me here. I look forward to hearing from you.


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.

Featured photo credit: Canva

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a-test-in-resilience

A Test in Resilience

I am not complaining when I say it’s been a rough couple of months for me. I am just stating a fact. I lost Lytton, re-started a DMT with unexpected side effects, and recently dealt with a training setback. It’s been a test in resilience from October 2019 to February 2020. I think I am passing, but I am still in the middle of it, and I know my perspective may be wrong.

Initially, I planned to make this post about my running. I entered two marathons for 2020: one in March and November. The March marathon would be my first ever, after several years of running multiple half marathons. I made it a goal to qualify for Boston, my college hometown, despite my MS.

#GOALS

Qualifying for Boston is a multi-year goal. I am not fast enough at this point, and I am only able to get myself down to 9:15 minute miles for 3.1 miles. I need to get myself down to 8:09 or faster for 26.2 miles to qualify. The first step is to run a marathon to see if I can even run one, let alone train myself to such speeds.

Granted, training to those speeds wouldn’t be awful even if I never qualify for Boston. It’ll put me into competitive waves with local races, and gives me a healthy fitness goal. 

I chose a March marathon for my first because it’s the last of the season, locally, until the fall due to Southern temperatures. It was deeply symbolic because I ran my first half marathon at this race in 2013. It’s also a day before the 2020 Olympic trials. All signs pointed to this being a perfect test run on whether I could even finish a marathon.

But by mid-January, I recognized that I was in the middle of a massive setback, and I needed to listen to my body.

Running as Disease-Modifying Therapy

Before I delve into the first setback, I want to talk a little bit about the importance of running to me. I mention it in passing on the blog because I am of two minds about it. On the one hand, I recognize how fortunate I am to be doing it with MS. I know not everyone has the same freedom of mobility I do. I want to be sensitive to that. On the other hand, I want to show that mobility-impairing diseases, like MS, don’t have to stop you from being physically active.

I try to walk a fine line between being sensitive and promoting healthy living. This year, I wanted to explore what running means to me as I train for a marathon and work towards a balanced life with complementary therapies.

Running is my primary form of managing my MS. It is the umbrella that all my care falls under, whether it’s eating or stress-reduction. I am chasing a goal of getting faster in my races; therefore, I make healthier eating choices to fuel my body appropriately. The act of exercising lowers my stress and gives me meditative moments when I am alone. Running helped get me to a physical space where I think Tecfidera will be more effective.

I credit running for balancing my mental health. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, so I acknowledge my privilege. But once my mental health stabilized, I was able to make other changes in my life that benefited how I managed my MS. It is a form of disease-modifying therapy for me.

And then I experienced my first setback.

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Is More Better?

I fall into the trap of thinking more, newer, shinier is better. When a new phone generation comes out, I am counting down the days when I can trade my working phone in. If I am purchasing a new product, I always check to see when the company plans to release an updated version to avoid buyer’s remorse. One thing I dislike is buying a new gadget and finding out I could have waited a week for a newer one. Buying multiple devices to do one thing in my kitchen happens. I sometimes feel more is better.

Having a child changed my perspective. When the house started to get cluttered with toys, I realized more is not better. Less really is more. 

It was at the height of the Kon-Mari craze that I realized clutter was getting in the way of my satisfaction. But it wasn’t just physical clutter; it was mental clutter as well. I spoke about this in my two-part post about toxic relationships.

Sometimes I jam up my physical and mental space with a lot of stuff to feel distracted and in control. Upon reflection, I realize I am more out of control with the more stuff I accumulate. 

The Drive For Things

It’s a much longer post to dissect the human drive for “things.” Rather than doing a deep dive into psychological research on a macro-level, I want to reflect on my own experience accumulating “stuff.”

I think I, like many other people, buy into the idea that more is better and better makes me happy. It’s necessary to make that statement in the present tense because it is something I am currently working on. For example, I am attending a wedding soon. I feel a cultural drive to go out and buy a brand new dress for the occasion. I have at least one acceptable dress, yet I still feel this strong urge to get a new one.

Why is that? I honestly can’t explain it, and in light of recent celebrity events, purchasing a new dress isn’t environmentally sustainable.

I can’t help but feel like I am committing a social faux pas if I don’t buy a new dress. The bride doesn’t care; the groom doesn’t care, and no one but myself cares over this relative trifle matter. Yet the drive for more is there.

This drive for things is standard, at least for a person living in America. Our country grounded itself in Manifest Destiny, the journey forward, and for more resources. I do not imagine a cultural push towards accumulation; it is there, telling me I am discontent with what I have. Western culture, at large, thrives on materialism. 

Each time I want a newer phone, a newer kitchen gadget, a newer dress, I am engaging in that cultural drive for more stuff. But what happens when I get what I want?

According to science, wanting is all well and good, but our reasons for wanting material goods is problematic. We want things because we think that a new item will make us happy. Often, it does not because it does not solve the core issue: what makes us discontent. My wanting a new dress is stemming from a desire to show off something new. But will that make me happy? Probably not. 

Instead, I will feel bad for wasting resources on an article of clothing that I will either wear once or rarely. 

Limited Resources

With a chronic illness, we are limited in our resources. For some, our financial resources are low due to care costs, and for most of us, our mental resources are little due to the disease. 

We do not have the space for clutter. Yet, somehow I can convince myself a second slow cooker will be helpful around the house. Granted, it was an Instant Pot, and it has been beneficial, but now my older slow cooker is taking up precious space. 

Having extra things causes me anxiety, and that’s normal. I feel anxious every time I walk into the house and see something out of place. I am not looking for pristine perfection in my house, but not feeling overwhelmed by items would be nice.

It is the same with my mental clutter. When I have too much going on in my mind, too many things “to-do,” worries about social mistakes, or just general messy thoughts, I get anxious.

I believe, for me, accumulating stuff and thoughts are ways to control the environment around me. I’ve talked about my need for control before and how illusive control is in life. If I keep buying stuff, maybe some of those items will make my life easier. Often, they end up collecting dust because I go back to my old way of doing things. I end up wasting time, money, and learn nothing about how I don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken.

If I am looking to be more efficient with something, chances are I don’t need a new item, but can be creative with what I already have. When I am more resourceful, I find pleasure in the challenge and a solution that works.

Likewise, I clutter my mind by distracting myself with reading, gaming, and wasting time online because I don’t want to be alone with some of my thoughts. Occasional distraction is good, but we’re talking about spending days trying to keep my mind so distracted to avoid dealing with an issue. 

Reflecting on Moderation

So far, the best solution I’ve found for myself is to begin stripping down my life. I realized this in December 2019, before the Christmas Holiday. A holiday that embraces material excess, I recognized the need to move things out of the house before bringing in new stuff. We never excessively celebrate Christmas, but bringing in two new items is still two new things that need space.

Ash and I started to assess what we needed and what we could live without. Unfortunately, the first section was our books. We have hundreds of books that we don’t read, but take up space. We stripped down most of our collection, and I bought a Kindle PaperWhite. Another item! However, I can access most of the books I purged and utilize the local library online. I traded hundreds of books, hundreds of pounds of items, and multiple shelf spaces for a small, lightweight gadget. 

So while I still engaged in materialism, I did so in a smarter way. Rather than buying a new book that I may not read, I can borrow it when I am ready to read it, and it remains in a digital space. Since taking this small step towards moderation, I feel more relaxed. I have more space to store other items, and I no longer feel the need to acquire more physical books. 

I am living in one extreme, with too much stuff, and I am taking small steps towards moving towards the middle. I feel more in control because of it. I think because I am decreasing my desire to chase after things and reflecting on an intelligent way to spend my money. 

Likewise, with my thoughts, I am forcing myself to confront them more often. I still distract myself, but I make an effort to tackle a “to-do” item or soothe a negative thought at least once a day. The more I do in a day, without feeling overwhelmed, the better I feel. 

I am becoming balanced because I am learning to embrace moderation and appreciate the value of “less is more.”

Attention to Chronic Illness Bloggers!

The MS Mommy Blog is looking to collaborate with other chronic illness bloggers for this year. If you have a chronic illness blog and would like an opportunity to tap into the MS Mommy Blog audience, please contact me here. I look forward to hearing from you.


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.

Featured photo credit: Canva


My Personal Goals for 2019

I originally published this post privately to my newsletter subscribers. For 2020, I wanted to share some of the posts my subscribers received in 2019.


On Wednesday, I discussed setting attainable personal goals by using the S.M.A.R.T. model for goal creation. I shared one of my small goals for the year, which was getting more organized with dinner planning, but that was just one small goal I came up for 2019. 

For 2019, I have 5 goals. My resolution lists tend to be one-goal long, but in my year of wellness, I am going to be more ambitious.

I am so ambitious because when I was fifteen I imagined where my life would be when I turned thirty-five. I had a very specific vision for myself professionally, but I also had a vision of where I would be emotionally and mentally. I always admired people who were relaxed, well-balanced, and seemed to exude positivity while not allowing negativity to cloud their behaviors.

I viewed them as healthy (physically & mentally) and well-adjusted. In my teenage mind, it was light years away from my reality and I wanted to be healthy “when I grew up.” Thirty-five was such an arbitrary age to pick at the time, but I think it gave me twenty years of experience and practice to become that ideal person. 

Last week I turned thirty-five and I realized several months ago that I was inadvertently working towards my teenage goal through the blog.  Now that thirty-five was here, I decided to make the commitment to become who I felt I was meant to be.

This desire to be my “best self” does not require me to fundamentally change who I am, I believe that anyone can be healthy & balanced emotionally & mentally, but pull out what is already there. I have had more moments of healthier behaviors since starting this journey, so this is a matter of augmenting and encouraging the healthy stuff while minimizing the negative stuff that caused me to be stuck in the past.

This isn’t a journey about perfection, but recognizing my imperfections and no longer allowing them to hold weight in my life. It is a journey about the actualization of a lifelong goal.

How I will Achieve This: the Main Goal

My ultimate goal of becoming a healthier person is rather intangible, so I have break it down into smaller, more tangible goals. As mentioned in Monday’s post, making an intangible goal like happiness or becoming a better person shouldn’t be the primary goal, but secondary to other more measurable goals.

I want one large goal that will take the entire year to achieve and four small goals that will work towards this goal in some way. Everything works together to ensure success by the end of this year.

My main goal for 2019 is to lose 10 pounds.

While this has little to do with the concept of living my best life at thirty-five, it does mean that in order to successfully achieve weight loss, I will need to make internal changes that increase my chances of success.

I have to be satisfied with my disease management, find inner peace, set an external goal to work towards, and work towards minimizing my stress. By doing these internal, secondary changes, my main goal shouldn’t be as big of an issue.

Think of losing 10 pounds as a red herring. Not really my main goal, but it’s what drives me to get to me where I want to be.

Don’t worry, this wellness challenge is not going to focus on weight loss, this is my own personal goal. I will not be pushing weight loss throughout the year and my discussion about weight will be at a minimum. All examples used will be more focused on chronic illness and other aspects of life.

Smaller Goals for 2019

The other four goals I have will be broken up in 3-month chunks for deadlines. While it will be good for me to be mindful of all my goals throughout the year, I staggered them apart to build on each other. 

  1. Meal Planning  – Done by April
  2. Do more yoga or cross-training during the week – Scheduled and done consistently by July
  3. Run a faster 1/2 marathon – I have a half marathon planned for November (but able to determine my speed by October)
  4. Work towards being more stress-free – End of December

As you can see, each of these goals ties in some fashion with my year-long goal. If I plan my meals better, I am more likely to eat healthier. More cross-training means I will be exercising more often. Run a faster 1/2 marathon is a measurable goal of success, and being more stress-free means less chance of emotional eating (which can put on extra weight).

Actualizing a Lifelong Goal

These goals create a situation where the secondary benefit is becoming a healthier person, emotionally and mentally. I am taking my abilities and limitations into account: I have found that with more physical activity, the more relaxed I am throughout the day. When I manage my time well, I am less likely to have a short-temper when dealing with others. When I do more yoga, I feel a deeper connection and compassion towards everyone and myself. Finally, when I work towards being less-stressed, I am more content with my life and MS diagnosis.

Through the work of these seemingly unrelated goals, I will become that healthier person I imagined for myself at fifteen.


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.


what-its-like-taking-tecfidera

What It’s Like: Taking Tecfidera

For January 2020, I committed myself to get back onto MS Disease-Modifying Therapy (DMT) or Disease-Modifying Drugs (DMD). My rationale is that while I am managing my MS well without medication, any DMT provides an insurance policy against disease progression. My healthy living changes were always with the end goal to work as a complement to my DMT. And as a blogger, I wanted to share what it’s like taking Tecfidera as a DMT.

Part of the reason why it was so quiet in January is because I focused on getting onto Tecfidera, managing my self-care, and my regular mother duties.

What follows is a brief introduction to Tecfidera, my experience getting back on it, a comparison to when I first took Tecfidera in December 2014, and my final thoughts on the whole experience.

As per my medical disclaimer, I am not a medical professional, so please take what follows as my personal experience and anecdotal, not scientific fact. If you are on Tecfidera or consider taking Tecfidera, you may find your experience varies from mine. 

The Medication

There is information on the website about Tecfidera, so if you are thinking about taking it for your MS, I recommend going directly to the source for your research. I wanted to highlight information that related to my experience.

Tecfidera is a DMT that is believed to “modulate the immune response to be less inflammatory and […] could be protective against damage to the brain and spinal cord.” It helps keep your body from inflammation, a common problem with MS exacerbations. Biogen isn’t able to pinpoint what about the drug works, just that it helps reduce the occurrence of exacerbations. In a 2-year study, 27% of the people on Tecfidera found their exacerbation cut by 47% (compared to a placebo). 

Note: Biogen only links to two two-year studies.

Some of the known side effects include flushing and stomach pain, usually within the first month of starting the therapy. Flushing can occur anywhere but typically face, chest, and hands. Stomach pain can range from mild discomfort to physical distress. Both of these side effects decrease the longer you take the medication. After a month, the stomach pains typically end, and within several months, the flushing stops. 

Tecfidera is also known to bring on Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), a disease that attacks your brain and leads to death if not treated. The JC Virus causes PML. Most adults carry the dormant JC Virus with no ill effects, but taking Tecfidera is known to reactivate the JC Virus. Unfortunately, three MS medications do this. Fortunately, getting PML is rare.

To combat this, Biogen recommends getting frequent blood tests to check for JC Virus antibodies. If you reach a specific number of antibodies in your blood, then there’s a chance you have PML and should stop your DMT immediately. If your prescribing doctor does not recommend regular blood tests, please ask for them.

There are more side effects, warnings, and suggestions related to Tecfidera, so I recommend you check that out here.

Biogen provides patients with a tapering pack when you begin the therapy. This pack includes fourteen 120-mg pills: take one 120-mg pill twice a day for seven days. It also consists of a container with 240-mg pills, which is the normal dosage: you take one 240-mg pill twice a day for the rest of the month.

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