Sunday, April 12, 2009

Meet Jody Wallace

Today there are many people who are celebrating Spring. Whether it is Easter or just the beauty of life or the inspiration behind the rebirth of Nature.

So I've been holding onto this interview for the perfect day to post it. A spiritual ritual deal for me, to show appreciation for what inspires me.

I don't know this woman nearly as much as I wish but I can tell you that the interactions I have had with her have always managed to inspire me towards better days. I think about what she has gone through and it makes me want to walk beside her if for no other reason than to absorb some of her strength just by sharing her space.

Life is what you make of it! Sometimes we have to fight for every scrap of happiness with the sadness pouring down on us. ...It seems impossible, but this woman is proof that it can be done.

My friends, allow me to introduce you to Jody Wallace. May you find her answers to my questions as inspiring as I.

Tell a little of your life prior to your Fibromyalgia diagnosis:

I had a great life before fibro. Pretty close to Leave it to Beaver except my Mom never wore pearls and dresses to dinner and my Dad was much more hands on and low key. Don't remember everything - lost a lot of memory from the encephalitis, but the basics. Born 1953, Milwaukee, WI 1 st child. Actually 1st grandchild too, so I was probably pretty spoiled until my brother was born in 1956.
Lived in a great home in the suburbs - lots of kids to play with a ravine and woods right in the neighborhood. We could walk to school if we wanted, although during the winter we usually caught the school bus. Grades K-8 @ Bayside School, 3.5 yrs @ Nicolet High, then a semester @ UWM(Milwaukee). 2 years @ UW Madison mostly being a hippy, not going to classes alot and finally flunking out.
Finally went back to UWM after 2 years of marriage and got a liberal arts degree in Comparative Literature. Finished 2 months before I had Jason. Lived w/then married my high school boy friend. Was verbally and physically abused by him. Had Jason 4 years later and realized as he got closer to 1 yr that I didn't want him to think that this was how woman should be treated.
[I]got some spine, called my Mom while my husband was at work and she came and got Jason and myself. We then lived my parents through the divorce (after getting a restraining order).
Met William on a blind date when Jason was 2.5 yrs old. Fell instantly and passionately in love (if he had known he would have run the other way as fast as he could).
He didn't & we got married when Jason was 5 and the 3 of us went on a 3 week honeymoon camping in various national Parks. It was the start of early trips to mountains.Activities at that time were : skiing (snow and water), hiking, swimming, reading, quilting, doing anything that was in the mountains.
During my childhood my family had gone to CO every Christmas and Easter vacations to ski. My grandmother owned a lake cottage 1/2 way between Milw. and Madison, spent a lot of time there, also at summer camps as I grew older.
BTW; I had Pre-Ecplampsia: during my pregnancy and was hospitalized for 3 weeks starting 1/20. they decided that they couldn't wait any longer and decided to induce labor on 2/9. Jason was born 2/10/79 1 full month premature, but weighing 5lbs 16 oz. so it was really good he came when he did. This could be a secondary cause for the fibro, but I really don't think so.

What event or malady led to your diagnosis:

[I] don't know how far back & detailed you want me to go, so for right now, I'll do the abbreviated version. 24 years ago, my family went to Mexico for Christmas vacation. We went with my parents, William, Jason (age 6ish). I had a bad cold on the way down. the last thing I remember is getting in a limo (my parents surprise) for the ride to Chicago. Don't remember the plane ride or anything else until I woke up in an intensive care unit at the Humana hospital in Mexico City 3 weeks later.
My family has pieced together what happened for me: We got down to Ixtapa had some fun days, then I insisted on walking into town w/Wm - about 2 miles - they believe I got sun stroke - I have no idea but, really can't imagine that...The next day, I felt lousy from the cold & stayed in bed all day. That night, Wm woke my parents up and said that he couldn't get me to wake up & he though i had a very high fever.
They did all they could cool towels and bath etc. In the am they called a Dr. Luckily there was also a Mexican Dr. staying at the complex with her (also Dr.) father. She kept coming to see me and eventually they arranged a fight for life to the Humana Hospital in Mexico City where they were on staff. The night that I arrived at the hospital, the Dr.'s told Wm & my parents that IF I lived through the night, I would most likely be a vegetable.
Anyway they finally diagnosed Viral Encephalitis and treated me accordingly. Wm barely left my bedside unless it was to spend some time w/Jason. He says that he talked and sang to me the entire time. Thank goodness my parents were there to take care of Jason.
My 1st real memory was waking up & seeing Jason being held up a the window ( My Dad was taking him back to Milw. so Dad could work and Jason go back to school). They finally moved me to a private room and about a week later they decided I was well enough to go home. 2 days later I was back in a hospital in Milw, for another 2 days probably for just being exhausted.I was home and in bed for about another 3 weeks gaining strength. I was SO skinny that everyone kept bringing me sweets - now I have the opposite problem!

Tell of the impact your diagnosis had on your familial and marital relationships:

This is interesting since I didn't think that the actual diagnosis, coming so long after the encephalitis made much of an impact on anyone, especially since for years it was pretty mild. So, today I asked William and my son Jason and they put me straight.
They said there isn't a day that goes by that they don't worry about me; especially days that are like today, where I am in constant & obvious pain. William being around more has a daily impact on my fibro life. He calls me several times a day especially on days he knows that I am doing something very physical, just to tell me he loves me and that if I feel up to it, he will give me a back rub or a foot rub or just hold me.
He also urges me to nap, doesn't care if the house is clean, laundry done etc. Jason, now that he has experienced the pain of major depression and attempted suicide has also become especially good about helping around the house (he and his wife are staying with us for several months until his depression is more under control).
My daughter-in-law also helps when she can and will offer to bring me tea and/or chocolate or whatever i need.My parents have worried about me non-stop since Mexico. They are always willing to go shopping for me or run whatever errands I need. My Mom also helps me get exercise, water walking in their apartment complex indoor pool. Something I probably wouldn't do if it weren't for her.So, I guess that the impact it has had on my family is much more then I recognized. Now I feel really bummed. I really thought I put on a pretty good show.

The moment you knew you hit rock bottom:

Actually the moment I hit rock bottom was in the last several months when Jason "came out of the closet" and told us about his many fights w/depression/cutting and attempted suicide. I have never been in such pain both physical and emotional. Especially now, with the 4 of us and 3 big dogs living in a space under 1200 sq. feet, things get a bit close now and then. I am in this weird netherworld of trying to be upbeat and always there for Jason and Coey (his wife).
I have taken on the extra burden of washing and organizing their clothes (we have so far brought over 20, 33 gal. trash bags full of laundry over and have not even scratched the surface of their bedroom or extra room). They are definitely stage 3 hoarders . while this is obviously not the most important thing that needs to be taken care of in their life, it needs to be addressed b4 they can move back to their own apt. Besides that I have increased many of my bills because their are now 4 people living here, constant laundry being done and they eat about 1/2 again as much as Wm & I do, so the grocery bills are more then triple what it use to be.
Of course, along with the need for extra cash, we have had a basic cut off from the largest single source of income for Wm. (He does a lot of work for Milw. County, when they run over their budget, which they did this year in early July, they don't pay their bill until after Jan. 1st. This year because they are waiting for federal $$$, they haven't even begun processing the paper work yet and can't say when checks will be going out.)Some place out there is somewhere between $25K & $35K, but we have no idea when it will be distributed. Of course since my work is tied in closely with the housing market, we've been slow too. Enter the bill collectors. What's a little more stress in the life of a Fibro sufferer.

Tell of your rise to the challenge of Fibromyalgia:

I don't honestly know that I have risen to the challenge of Fibro as much as fought it tooth and nail. I totally believe that your attitude each day drives the kind of day you will have. I have to be an optimist because if I wasn't I would never move out of bed.

Tell us of your life now with your relationship be it a good relationship with your family or romantically.

What I have every day [with William] is a total love affair. He is my best friend. Even if he doesn't understand what I'm going through, he is there beside me, helping me, encouraging me, some times laughing at me. The biggest regret I have is that the physical part of our relationship has declined so much. He is even understanding about that, and if a good night kiss is all that I can manage, then that's fine by him - at least he makes me believe it is.

I would like to thank Jody, from the bottom of my heart and all the way to the top of it, for sharing her touching...and sometimes scary...story with us.

I hope what people get from this interview is that it is possible, regardless of what is thrown at you, to survive and fight. Forget about what came before and how it went wrong, and work on what you have now, or want to have in the future.

Relationships can crumble, your health can deteriorate, but with the right kind of determination and positive outlook, you can change your world and find your personal William.

All my best to Jody and William.

I realize that I have just published some very intimate details about Jody and her circumstances and yet my own is still shrouded in shadows. My friends, I will tell you all about my journey, but today was a day for me to celebrate the life of someone who has touched mine! I hope she has done the same for you.

Here's to warm months of loving, learning, laughing, and positive thoughts!

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