Yeah, Yeah, Yeah I know it’s been awhile. September – November have seemed to fly by. I mean we are only a few days till December. Seriously? I don’t like it one bit. I want to hold on to every minute but they just slip out of my hands as fast as I catch them. Our time lately has been filled with Advocacy, Being Grateful, and Cruising for a little get-a-away.
Being handed a crappy situation can either make you go inward to deal with things in your own way and on your own time or makes you so damn mad you push things outward, kicking and screaming for someone to hear you. Guess which way we went…
Advocacy means so many things. For us, we are constantly advocating for the Big He and other disabled veterans with ALS with regard to the VA for services and equipment. Recently we were denied a program that would place someone in our home to help the Big He with making lunch and being there when he eats due to choking concerns. With one program, the VA did not even submit a referral for a particular homemaker/caregiver program. Keep in mind, I am lumping these scenarios as “The VA” but in truth, it is the individuals we are working with. For the most part, once you get to a decision-making level, individuals seem to make better decisions regarding how to handle situations. One of the most frustrating part with working with some at the VA is the inability to identify solutions be it other programs or even suggesting taking it to management to get their input. I have heard some refer to this as the difference between old VA and new VA. It’s a culture of status quo or a “that’s not my job” attitude. At a time when the VA is getting hammered for so many things, you would think that management would be encouraging solution oriented approaches. I have also observed that the old VA approach to things is intimidation with requests. Questioning some at the VA regarding how decisions are made are not met kindly. Lucky for us, the Big He and I have both been government employee’s and that way of thinking does not phase us. We clearly understand the hierarchy in government offices and how to get resolution to our problems. We also understand that most of the time you need to take a bottom up approach but there are those times that dictate a top down approach. Needless to say getting denied did not go over very well with me especially when the VA uses portions of their policy to deny us but leave out the portions that would apply. I am happy to report that after a meeting with decision making individuals at our VA, there was a solution to our problem and the Big He will be getting someone to help him with lunch time routine to begin with.
Advocacy for us has also has been raising awareness for Alpha Lima Sierra. We do this constantly. There are many people that are unaware of what ALS really is or that there is a veteran connection. In early November, we took part in our 2nd ALS Association Walk. We had a great time and had about 20 walkers with us. Even our new family addition, Lou, got in on the advocacy by raising money for the cause. He did great and raised over $1000.00
I will be honest, at times it’s hard to see things through the eyes of gratitude. We are so consumed with this ALS life that taking a step back is hard. I try every night to be thankful for my many blessings. This includes trying to find something to be thankful for in an ALS world. I am grateful that we are meeting so many amazing people in this journey. I am grateful that the Big He can still talk and say “I love you” as well as he can still walk (short distances). I am very grateful we have someone in our life now that is helping us. She will be the Big He’s caregiver while I am at work.
We did a Thanksgiving Cruise with the Big He’s Dad, Stepmom, Sisters, the one Brother-in-law and their kids. We have done several cruises but this one the Big He was more limited to what he could do. It was hard for me to see this and I can only imagine what it was like for him. We had a great time but it did open our eyes to limitations that disabled people deal with daily. Traveling takes a lot more thought then it once did. We figured things out and had people to help along the way. There were new friends that would help secure an empty elevator for us, or move people out of the way so Frank the Tank could get through. Yes, we took the tank wheelchair and it was a hit. That alone helped us do some advocating for The Independence Fund and Carlson Mobility and how they help disabled veterans of all era’s. There was also the chance to bring up ALS and its impact. If we educated one person or made them more aware, that makes me happy, that is another thing to be grateful for; being able to communicate to others what ALS is and what it does to people and their loved ones.
I think that pretty much covers what we have been up to lately.
All my love,
The Big He’s update: He is about to start his 4th cycle of Edarvone which was shown to slow the progression by 30%. Can we see a difference? Not really. ALS does not progress in a linear way. It can be fast, slow or even pause for a bit, but it’s always moving forward, always progressing. The Big He’s speech is really starting to be impacted. While he can still talk, he does get tired and you can detect some slurring. He is still eating like a champ and not needing his feeding tube/button. Walking poops him out so it’s a common thing now for him to be in his chair when we are out and about. Please continue to keep him in your prayers and that this disease halts long enough for us to see a cure in the Big He’s lifetime.