Christmas is risky business

One month before Christmas, a time when panic buying starts and we are liable to forget what it’s all about. Are you wondering what is it friends/family want? How about a dose of love and care?

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My family are well and healthy. They’re all safe warm and while there are some financial restraints, they’re in good form. But I’m checking and have decided that everyday for December I’m going to ‘Check-In’ with a friend or family member (watch out folks :) ). Perhaps even those people where relationships were strained.

Last weekend there was a school reunion for my class. It was an informal event, we gathered around a table in a local pub and talked and laughed and teased and giggled and *WHOOPPED* all night long . We had shared six years living together (mixed boarding school) going through many ‘firsts’ together at such a formative time- puberty- and figuring ourselves out. We were so young…

We’ve all changed and life has taken its toll. But it has also allowed a blossoming of creativity, of their individual spirit. People left behind childish things and got on with living life. There’s something so very liberating about being an adult, designing a good life.

There’s something about this time of year whether it is the joyful memories I have of Christmas as a child, relatives coming home for the holiday or just ‘that’ atmosphere. This year I’m taking risks, reaching out to those people who’ve been important to me at one stage or another. I want to find out how they are, how life is for them, are they happy, loved? It may have been twenty years but they’re the ones who have been part of our journey. Without their contribution, we wouldn’t be at this place in our life.

We never know the day or the hour so pick up the phone, send an email or Tweet, even Facebook. Sometimes it is worth stepping out of your comfort zone to reach someone you care about. It’s Christmas, take the risk.

 

 

© Emma Rogan 2014

If you want to quote or use this material, please reference me, Emma Rogan as author.

The will to try is greater than any feeling of defeat

There’s been a big change in the last week. In Ireland we’ve put our clocks back one hour which means brighter mornings (yey!) but darkness falls from 16:30. It is a time when everything slows down and as winter closes in, there’s more time for reflection,

Last time I wrote about the Brussels Half-Marathon. My plan was to use that run as part of my training for the Dublin City Marathon, held last Monday, 27th October. But it wasn’t to be. Since that day in Brussels there have been more unexpected events. Firstly, it took ages for my body to get back to normal- I walked, jogged, rubbed the achey muscles and slowly got back to normal. Secondly, I’m discovering my new normal. Just like all of us, my normal is different to yours, more so when living with multiple sclerosis. And, just like yours, my ordinary life is full of surprises.

Training has been discontinued. I’ve been out along my usual tracks but the thrill has gone, for now. These dark evenings aren’t great for road running (excuse) but to tell you the truth, I’m afraid of tripping up. But I’m missing the buzz, the clean breathing, the deep sense of connection with the present time, the into-body-experience that comes from exercise. I’m conflicted- there’s the thrill of running, moving along the path, making my way to my favourite bit of earth and then there’s the sensation of falling over and hitting the unforgiving ground.

The only thing harder than training for the Dublin City Marathon has not being able to train for the marathon. I’m an ordinary woman who trained and trained with a marathon in mind, with a vision of what it would be like to run one mile, two miles, three miles… all the way to the 26.2 finish line. But then, Brussels happened.

I’ve not listened, I’ve felt the pain and I’ve taken this body of mine for granted. If I were stronger, if I didn’t have scars, if I ran faster, trained harder would I have made it? Has it has all been for nothing??

A wise woman (my physio) reminded me that having the goal of running the marathon has made me stronger than before, I’ve better muscle tone and am fitter. I also know that my will to try is greater than any feeling of defeat. Feelings pass while my personal will stays with me. I did finish the Brussels run and for now, I will focus on the prize- a healthy body and mind and be grateful what I have.

 

© Emma Rogan 2014

If you want to quote or use this material, please reference me, Emma Rogan as author. Get in contact with me if you want to chat :) 

Brussels, The City of Angels

Why do we keep going, focused only on the finish line or doing a good job? What is it in you that drives you on? I made it to the finish line of the Brussels Half-Marathon but not before a difficult walk.

The race started at 10:30 am. The EMSP Run for MS Team met at Schuman, to meet one another, take some photos and go together to the starting line. I’d trained, was feeling really good, had my lucky pink shorts on and was all set for a gentle pace along the course. Into the middle of the pack I went and, as any runner will tell you, we slowly shuffled in the crowd until the road opened up.

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And I was off! A good pace, not pushing things yet getting good coverage. At the first kilometre there is a hill where we see the brilliant sight of runners stretched out before you, multi-coloured warriors claiming the streets for a short time. Then we ran through an older part of the city with cobble-stoned streets and gorgeous squares. I was a little nervous with the uneven surface but it was going well. Maybe a little niggle so I eased off as we went down and up through the tunnels.

Then it started. My foot wasn’t landing like it should and I started stumbling, almost falling at times. I slowed to a walk, drank water even poured it over my head and started off again. I nearly tripped. I couldn’t run. The muscles in my leg just weren’t working. I was starting to limp and still had 15 km to go….

For hours I walked the route, with police who were lining the way asking a concerned ‘Ça va?’ every kilometre or so. I said I was okay, I wasn’t injured and wanted to keep going. When I looked behind me… the white vans that were coming up the back of the pack were just a few hundred metres from me. I was almost the last person. I started to cry, overwhelmed, stumbling, it was impossible… then a man who was cycling the route started chatting with me. He was nice and cool, said he would cycle alongside me for a while. We chatted and he told me his name, Damien. I told him about Ireland and he gave me strength. It was then time for Damien to turn back; he wished me well and left me by high-fiveing me with a dose of inspiration and “You will do it, I know you will”. On another hill, when I was again doubting, a woman out walking her Schnauser offered to take me home so I could rest (!), while a bin man, clearing the streets after the run, offered me a lift on the back of his truck!

There was then the final unforgiving hill where I stopped briefly to rest and ask the Universe/God why this was happening now of all places? I nearly stopped, I was so tired. When I eventually made it through Grand Platz, close to the end, I asked someone with a medal around his neck where the finish line was? He asked if hadn’t already gotten my medal?? I shrugged and said because of my leg I was only making it there, then. He directed me “just around the corner, 70 metres”. I walked to De Boukiere and found the finish line where workers were dismantling the stage, the finish line. There were no runners left as it had closed at 14:00. It was a lonely space. Then, as I walked towards it I heard cheers. The man with the medal and his friends had followed me to the finish line to cheer me on. Surrounded by the good will of strangers, I finished what had been the toughest walk of my life.

I sat down, shaky, overwhelmed and sobbed. Another “Ça va?” as a young woman put her arm around me and asked if I was okay. I told her yes, just emotional and I had just finished the race, absolute last. With the best smile she left me with yet another gentle gift of human understanding and connection. I had walked, dragging my foot, my doubts and my fears for 10 miles and while I thought I was alone, I walked with the gentleness of strangers propping me up every step of the way.

As I write this, I don’t know why I kept going to cross the finish. I didn’t know I had this part of me, in me and there is no name for ‘It‘, but ‘It‘ is there.

Don’t ever stop doing what you love. You will always find a way. The impossible just takes a little longer (Art Berg).

© Emma Rogan 2014

If you want to quote or use this material, please reference me, Emma Rogan as author. Get in contact with me if you want to chat :) 

Edited 10th October

Foot Falls and Marathons

Less than 24-hours to go before I get to the start line of the Brussels Half-Marathon. Yippee! This is the second year a team from EMSP will take part, raising awareness about living with multiple sclerosis (you can read more about the origins here). Like all good things, the spark was lit over a a delicious lunch in the City of Creative Chat, Dublin!

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I’m optimistic about the weather- it is a fresh morning in Brussels, bright and sunny with not much change due for tomorrow. My body and mind are ready: I started slowly this year, easing my endurance and building up many, many miles on many trails/streets. I’ve brought my gear with me wherever I travelled (Brussels, Elche, Galway, Tipperary) followed the advice of many experts (John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield’s, ‘Marathon Running for Mortals‘, Stuart Mittleman’s ‘Slow Burn’). Food has been hugely important; I’ve been eating as much vegetables as possible, nuts, fish, fruit and we even started juicing in my house to get extra nutrients in. When away I even got a bright pink t-shirt that, absurdly, gives me a great sense of joy. I ran with brilliant, supportive people last year in Brussels, with thousands of others during the Samsung Night Run in Dublin last April and later this month I’m going to do the Dublin City Marathon for first time and I can’t wait!!! To top it all off, I’m getting out into the elements (rain, hot sun), into nature and wherever I am, there’s a sense of freedom that nothing else gives me.

But something has also happened that has scared me. It’s called ‘foot-drop’ and it is a bad-ass, nasty symptom of MS. Essentially, because of nerve damage, some of the muscles in my leg are weaker, not responding as well as they should (peroneal muscle weakness). When I run, my core body temperature increases, again affecting the nerves. All this causes a drag in my toes/foot which in turn has caused me to trip and tumble many times. All the training I’m doing has not caused this symptom, I checked with my neurologist and researched…lots. However, the extra training has me asking for more from my body, it is stressing it more than if I wasn’t running.

I was afraid, hiding from the changes that had me falling on my face. Thankfully, I now ‘see it'; I’ve named it and I can now deal with it. I recognise the symptoms, respected my body and now there is a plan, created by my physiotherapist. It depends on my commitment to myself and the choice to strengthen the muscles. It involves using a stretchy band, repeated exercises and funny stretches. It doesn’t mean the foot-drop will go away, but it does mean I am working on and with muscles that need attention. Someone has said I should stop running, stop trying to do too much – I have nothing to prove. But I love to run, it gives me a sense of enormous well being.

I’m optimistic about the weather and that everything will work out. But I am confident that I’ve done the work, enjoyed my body and tomorrow over the course of the 13miles/18km, I’ll relish the buzz that comes from doing something I love.

What do you do for that sense of freedom? Are you a runner? how do you manage your challenges? If you have some money to spare and want to support the Run for MS team/EMSP activities, please go here: http://www.ulule.com/run-for-ms/

 

© Emma Rogan 2014

If you want to quote or use this material, please reference me, Emma Rogan as author.

A Holiday from MS

Warm sunshine, pool-side and palms. It has been hiatus-time for the last few days.

Thank God for Holy-Days!

I’d forgotten the origin of the word holidays but it’s there. A time to stop the work and worship God, if you’re a believer. If not, you still get time to stop & enjoy something other than work, without bunking off!

I’m somewhere hot- it happened accidentally but it does suit me fine. This morning I ran for 1:10 minutes through Palm groves, along unfamiliar streets, passed chickens caged at the bottom of apartment blocks (!) and got lost. Cooling down was eventful – I did the #icebucketchallenge, twice. Both by my own hand, second time was much colder, bizarrely.

It has been great having time to sit and ponder or zone out. This year has worn me down; lots of travel, deadlines, projects and all sorts if wonderful things to keep me occupied. Now is time for reflection, creativity, maybe even new projects but also letting things go where they’re no longer useful.

It is possible to over-think, to criticise and get down over what has passed and mistakes made. I can get lost in my head-space, with thoughts of what went wrong swimming around or I can sit and enjoy the moments, sitting tea with my girlfriend as we sit in stillness. Do you worry unnecessarily, work yourself into a right state? Try taking a holiday from that way of thinking, put that damn burden down.

Life goes on, no matter how hard we worry. But a wise woman told me to take a holiday from worrying. So taking pleasure in the small moments, the tea from a China cup, the walk in the fields, the clean, starched sheets, call with a friend, things I forgot yet they are the things that make life worthwhile. Things I relish.

Life itself good and wonderful as it is, in the present moment. You see, that’s all I have & no amount of wishing or thinking or anxiety with change that fact.

Back to the pool, Factor 50 included

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Yabba Dabba D!! Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

The Gulf Stream keeps us warm and temperate; the rains wash the fields to keep the tales of Emerald Isle true; our friendliness to strangers remains the highlight of many a tourist’s visit and we habitually talk about the weather. However, there are things that we miss out on being located where we are (Relatively 53 degrees 00′ N and 80 degrees 00′ W, Dublin: 53° 20‘ N6° 16‘), exposure to sunshine is one of them, with lack of Vitamin D in Irish bodies being a consequence of this lack of exposure.

The Irish Weather: It does make for good conversations and fills the gap in chatter Irish people are eager to avoid (lest it lead to a moment of reflection, talk of more personal topics like how we’re really feeling or what’s really going on in our lives). Example “Hello, how are you?” the usual response of “Sure I’m grand, isn’t it a beautiful/too warm/climate change ha!/miserable/wouldn’t-put-a-dog-out day?”. This is all fine and well but while we moan about the lack of sunshine, other things are going on in our bodies. Yes, it seems like bit of a tangent to skip from the weather to epigenetics BUT without exposure to UVB rays we’re missing out on the sunshine vitamin (Vitamin D) to such an extent that all people on the island really could do with supplementing their diets with Vitamin D.

What is Vitamin D? Not really a vitamin at all but is really a hormone , it is something the body makes itself. There’s a lovely explanation here from Harvard Health Publications here. More information on Vitamin D and MS are available here from the National Institutes for Health and from Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis. Professor George Ebers has done lots of research into Vitamin D and MS and you can see him here give a great explanation about Vitamin D and MS. Expect epigenetics (how our genes are changed by environment through the generations, DNA and all sorts of lovely information!

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Vitamin D and You: We’re talking about strong bones, immune system regulation and all sorts of other things.  Please note, the frequency of MS increases the greater the distance you live from the equator. While we still don’t know what causes MS, environmental factors such as location added to poor childhood nutrition/circumstances, diet, smoking tobacco, abusing alcohol and other drugs as well as genetic contribute and combine to be a factors in the condition.

This is something I’ve been researching for a number of years and it has become part of my Management Kit for my condition. I enjoy the warmth, dry weather and the feel of the sun on my skin. Recently I had my blood levels checked my neurologist so at least I knew what I was working with. They are at the right levels for preventative health (anywhere between 90-100 nmol/L).

Get Checked: It’s worth doing some research and getting your Vitamin D levels checked and take advice from your healthcare practitioner. It has implications for you now but for women, if you’re planning on having children, take Vitamin D for foetal bone growth, physical development and other important factors.

What I say here is a reflection of what I do in my daily life and is not medical advice.  This and other things I do in my everyday life are to maintain my happiness, lives well and to manage my condition. How about you? Do you follow the Overcoming MS Recovery programme or supplement with Vitamin D? have you any tips you’d like to share? Post your comments and connect on Twitter @emmadragon for a chat.

© Emma Rogan 2014

If you want to quote or use this material, please reference.