Archive for the ‘Dying’ Category

Dallas Obituary 2


The following notice appeared in the Sunday Dallas Morning News on September 7, 2014:

Martha Elizabeth Ward (Nee Hudson)


Martha Elizabeth Ward, author, poet, and bhakta, was born July 17, 1960, in Amarillo, Texas, and died Wednesday, August 20, 2014, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, of natural causes following a long illness.

She graduated from Amarillo High School in 1978 and was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Records with honors from Southwest Texas University in San Marcos in 1982. She lived in the Dallas area for many years, working in positions such as Director of Medical Records, and medical records quality auditor for the State of Texas. She had two children, Jennifer and Michael.

Disabled by a botched operation in 1997 that left her with a chronic pain condition, she took up residence in the Shivayogi Ashram with her guru Professor Emeritus G. V. Desani, noted author and spiritual teacher, and Ray Ward, her husband-to-be and GVD’s personal editor. She managed the Professor’s aides, and learned about Theravada Buddhism, mindfulness exercises, and Bhakti yoga. She loved living in a literary household, her writing and music, and being able to spoil her children.

She died as she had hoped, in the arms of her loving husband, surrounded by friends, and the sounds of a baby’s laughter.

She is survived by her husband, Ray Randall Ward; the son whom she loved above all, Michael Lee Felton; her dear brother, Michael Eugene Hudson and his wife Kathy; their daughters, Channa Foster and her son Gideon Foster, her goddaughter Danielle, Callie, and Cate; her parents Clyde Milton Hudson, Mary LaVonne Riley Hudson; her estranged daughter Jennifer Elizabeth Felton-Woods-Lingner and her husband Ryan, and her four grandsons, Michael and Gabriel Woods, Asher and Grayson Lingner.

She was an organ donor, and her skin was donated for reconstructive surgeries. Her remains were cremated and will eventually be scattered at sea, according to her wishes. A memorial service will be scheduled sometime next year. Her full obituary will be published on her blog,, and posted on her Facebook page, .

In the Dead of Night



‘iss me.

What? (rolling over & kissing her neck)

I love you so much .

I love you too, dear.

I’m having so many memory lapses, it scares me.

You have a terrible disease.

I miss you so much.

I miss you too.

I’m afraid I’m going to die soon. That fear comes and goes. I don’t want to leave you alone.

You’ll be going to a better place, with our teacher. We were both there before we came here. I’ll join you there soon.

I hope so. I wish I was still pretty.

You are, dear. You’re beautiful. Remember the story of the Little Prince?


Of all the flowers in the whole wide world, there was only one that was his, and his alone. And of all the flowers in the whole, wide world, you are the only one for me. The scent of the old rose is incomparable. It grows only on the older vines that have lived through the winter, not the new vines of spring.

Do you remember the picnics we used to have?

At night, naked, in bed?

I could still eat the food we used to put on the platters…

Well most of it, anyway.  The taste of the raisiny port, Blue Stilton , the cheeses, crackers, tiny meats, chocolates.  Some of it you’d take from my mouth into yours, like a baby bird. Especially the chocolates.

And the music.

Our menage-a-trois with Beethoven, or at least his visions of Heaven.

I can’t be close to you, like we used to.

We’ll have to work towards it. Save for a couch that unfolds into a bed. Then we can roll about, wrestle, like we did.

We have had such a hard life.

Yes, especially, emotionally. But we’ve also had more blessings than many. I’ve been granted the ability to make enough money for us to be together, in our own place, safe, shielded from the weather, hire people to help you with your writing.

I know.  I give thanks every day.

So do I.

I’m afreaid I’ll forget who you are.  I won’t know you.

That may happen. But it will always come back.

Are you sure?

That’s how the disease progresses. It comes and goes, your memory and awareness. I remember a story of a couple. He had the disease.  He was sleeping more than 20 hours a day. He hadn’t spoken for months or shown any sign of recognizing her. She was with him as he died.  At the very end, she told him that she loved him. He squeezed her hand as he used to. He was still there, knew her, loved her. Then he died. I will be there when you die. You don’t have to worry or make any effort. I will know that you are there, that you love me and that I love you. Then we will be together again after a little while.

(She squeezes his hand. He places her forearms on his and interlaces their fingers, squeezing back.)

I have to try to get another hour of sleep before I have to get up to go to work.

(She starts to snore, softly.)

Land’s End


A long dry spell between posts has come to an end.  Her spoor has turned from the stones to the sea.  She has returned to whence she came, and will walk these shores no more.  She swims free at last.

Adieu, my sweet!

We are transcribing her recordings and will post her poems and stories and thoughts here.

My Beloved


Hello everyone,

I am so happy to be able to post in my blog today.  As many of you know, I am having difficulty writing, but today I am blessed with the ability to write to you.

I read an article written during the holiday season named  Less Later, More Now! by a blind woman named Marcia Morrissey.

She talks about the stress of the things that we think we have to do for holiday preparations ” which often keep us “too busy” to light a candle and say a prayer, or read a bit of scripture, or that make us tell family members “later” when they need us “now.”

I think this happens in every day life, not just during the holiday period.  I go back once again to one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, who talked about getting trapped in the “noise of humanity” and not stopping to listen to the silence of the spirit and learn what nourishes and feeds our soul and the souls of others.

I have seen a tragic pattern as I have read the countless stories of people in chronic pain or frontal temporal degeneration (FTD).  So many people who are carergivers and people who have chronic and terminal illnesses find the support of family members, friends, even fellow church members slip away.  These people gradually disappear from their sick friend or sick relatives life. They consider themselves well meaning but they are too busy, caught up in the “noise of humanity”. While living their daily lives, they feel burdened down as it is.  I understand these are hard times.

There is work that has to be done then there is “busy” work. Busy work I consider those things we do to distract ourselves.  Or maybe you are out of work right now, you’ve put in all the resumes you are able. You are feeling down so you veg out in front of the television. I know about feeling down and vegging in front of the TV.  We don’t have good cable where we are living now and I am still suffering from Turner Classic Movie channel withdrawal.

When you aren’t doing anything purposeful could you drive over and spend a little time with a caregiver or your relative or friend who is ill?  I can tell you this, one visit from you can make their day a good day and the bright spot in their week.

A little attention goes a long way. Perhaps you could do something, even the smallest thing would help.  If you can’t spend any time going to see them or you live too far away, then call them, send an email or a message on Facebook.

(To my friends, I’m not trying to guilt you into sending a message to me. I know you are there.)

Try for a minute to look at it from their point of view.  You have gone for many years thinking you had a close relationship with your family and friends. Many times you have talked about how you would be there for each other if anything happened.

Then you find out you have a terminal illness.  You expect those dearest to you will come to you and say, “What can I do?”  And what happens?  Your mother cries, “Why does this have to happen to me?”.  Your father shuffles back and forth for awhile, claps his hand on your shoulder then walks off to another room.  Your children stare at you with disbelief, run upstairs to google your illness then come back downstairs and confront you with the news that they found a site that says your disease is not terminal. Your sister is in total denial and your brother, who is a doctor, treats you like a difficult patient instead of the best friend who always understood you.

This unfortunately is not an unusual response. It is quite common.

But then you have to make the choice, do I exit now out of life or choose to go on?  I have chosen to go on.

Understanding that my spiritual self is my true self that journeys on through eternity has helped me to live with the horrible maladies that I face. What we are afflicted with in human terms may be blessings and opportunities in spiritual terms. We have to go on with what we have — like the blind woman or like the guy typing with his toes because he has no use of his arms or me using Dragon speak to dictate — and do what we can in the world.  I think to get through adversity you have to look at this world in more than merely human terms.

There is a difference between the human worldly goods and gifts and things we desire and the spiritual values. What on a human level is a disaster — to be afflicted with a fatal disease — spiritually may be a blessing.  It is terrible to suffer pain and loss, and to suffer from compassion for others that are suffering.  Spiritually those sufferings can have a spiritual purpose, to make us stronger, more compassionate, to have more understanding, and to grow spiritually.  Here in this world, now, with the afflictions and burdens we have to carry.

In my own life one of the major burdens that I have no one can see:  I continually have to keep the dam up against the flood of unruly thoughts that the death of the neurons in my brain is causing.  Unruly is a mild word.  The voices, the thoughts, are not mild.  It can be exhausting just to sit, to all outward appearances, quietly.

As I may have written before, I have spent some time reading the writings of the Saints. Two that I feel are my companions in suffering are Julian of Norwich and St. John of the Cross.   I did not ask for three wounds from God as did Julian of Norwich. Her words of suffering have been a companion in my suffering. I share with her the one of the gifts — wounds — that God bestowed upon her, which is compassion.

I also have found comfort reading the poem, Dark Night of the Soul. Like St. John, I have sought a personal relationship with God. God is the Beloved and I have a place within “where no one else can come.”  Although when I was growing up, I went to a fundamental Christian church every Sunday, I had an amazing experience when I was 13.

I was vacationing with my family in Red River, New Mexico.  We were staying in a lodge in the mountains.  I was reading a romance novel, sitting on a log. I closed the book ad exclaimed to a squirrel, “I am totally bored.”  I decided to go for a short walk.  I followed a path and about after 15 minutes, I looked around me and noticed the forest had changed.  All of the trees had brilliant colored leaves. The brook I noticed was wider and many beautiful fish swam in a pond nearby.

I looked around and saw a beautiful man in a yellow robe sitting not to far away from me.  I knew he was Jesus because he was my conception of Jesus.  He motioned and I laid my head on his lap. He stroked my hair and said words to me that I don’t remember. I felt as if I had come home.  All worries left my mind.  I fell asleep and when I awoke he was gone.

I ran down to tell my brother and he believed because he always use to believe me.  I took him back up the path but we could not find the place. My brother still believed me.  I knew this was not something I could share with my family. They would tell me it was a fantasy and it was pagan for me to say that I saw Jesus that way. Jesus just did not come to individual people in visions anymore.

But I kept this experience inside my heart and after I met my spiritual teacher, I realized I could have a personal relationship with God that needed no intercession.  God is my “Divine Beloved.”

There is a story from the East of a famous saint to whom God appeared as a beautiful girl of sixteen.  He was so tormented by the absence of his beloved when she did not appear, that he felt he had to abase himself to get her to return, to the point of licking dog droppings in the street.

I also have taken much comfort from reading the words from Rumi about his divine Beloved.

The reason I am sharing these personal relationships with God is that this relationship has kept me strong. I have lost just about everything that people lose at one time or another.

In her article Mary quoted the Scripture readings of the third Sunday of Advent, Isaiah 35:1-10:

“…They will see the glory of the lord, the splendor of our God.  Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak.  Say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong fear not!  Here is your God; with divined recompense he comes to save you.  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag.  Then will the tongue of the mute sing.  Those the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing crowned with everlasting joy; they will be with joy and gladness.  Sorrow and mourning will flee.”

It is wonderful to read these words promising what will happen after we have shed this mortal suit.

Many of you are familiar with the passage that Mary quoted in her article, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk…the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them, and blessed is the one who takes no offense in me.”

Many take this passage to mean that Jesus is saying he is “The One.”  I don’t discount this meaning

For me, this passage has an additional meaning, now and for everyone with ears to hear.  The one who is blessed is anyone who realizes that their true self is their spiritual self and who acts accordingly:  walk their spiritual path and nourish their spiritual needs. The truth is good news to the poor, to understand that all material gains are not real, that they will pass away in a short time, but you can gather what makes you spiritually rich, and that can last for an eternity.  The dead are raised are those who were dead to their spiritual self.  For the lame, no legs are required to walk with your true body — your spiritual self.  The blind can come to see the spiritual truth.

It is hard for people to understand about blessings.  A huge loss, psychological and physical pain, such things are not blessings within themselves.  But if you can understand that what we see around us, this mortal world is only a fraction or perhaps a distorted perception of the real world.  We are all spiritual beings, connected in ways that are hard for us to conceive. We are busy ants carrying crumbs. Any good or bad intention you have starts crafting a design that you do not see until it comes back into this world and affects you and others in ways you may or may not expect.

Loss, Part 1


I apologize that I haven’t been able to post here for awhile.  Diseases and sundry disasters have intervened.  But, I am back and looking forward to sharing my thoughts and information with you.

Loss is something everyone experiences at some time in their life.   All will experience losing someone or something, and the greater the value, the keener the sense of loss.

When I talk about loss with people I often bring up a very famous figure, Job.  Here is a good, happy and wealthy man who  lost almost everything in this world — wealth, family, then health.  Whether you believe Job actually existed or not, the biblical story of Job is a very good account of how a person deals with loss.  Even Jung devoted a small book to the problems implied by Job’s losses, titled, Answer to Job.

I’m not going to debate in this post whether there is a God and why God lets things happen to good people.  I may have some further comments on this after re-reading C. S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain.  ( Or rather listening to it as an audio book, as I can no longer read the paper pages of books and magazines.)

I want to point out Job as an example of a man who lost everything that he could possibly lose — save only his life — and still had faith that there was a higher power, that he was not alone in his suffering and that as long he lived there was some purpose for his life.

I have lost so much in my life. Those of you who know me understand that my life has been full of suffering and loss.  I have a PhD in loss (Pain, Hardship and Disaster).  Even my life is being taken.

When we suffer loss we may have some forewarning or we may not.

Even if we know the loss is coming, as much as we try to prepare ourselves, we are often surprised at the effects on our lives.

For me, there came a time when I could no longer drive.  Selch and I had talked about some problems I was having with loss of attention while driving.   I scraped a toll booth, and a guard post in a filling station.  When my son was with me, he warned me a couple of times that I was swerving off the road, but I didn’t recall it, so I thought he was exaggerating.  One day, Selch followed me to get the car fixed and told me that I was swerving in and out of my lane on the road and it was too much of a danger for me to drive.

I imagined when I was younger that if I ever wasn’t able to drive, I would be totally devastated.   I think because I had already had so many other losses and I had been driving gradually less and less, I was better able to cope with the loss than someone who was still working or who had small children.

Still, I had regrets. We lived on the East Coast and I wished I had taken more of the driving trips I loved to do.

From the time I got my license as a teenager, the ability to drive has meant freedom.  My mother would take away my car keys to punish me because she knew that it really tortured me, to not have the freedom to get out of the house, get into the car and go somewhere, or nowhere, just so long as I was driving.

For many years, even after I had children, if I was troubled, depressed or mad, I would jump in the car and drive down the highway for several miles and drive back.   I imagined if I had been born a few hundred years ago, I would have gotten up in the middle of the night and run through the forest or the fields.  (Also,  I probably would have had a shorter life span, because even Little Red Riding Hood knows it is dangerous to walk through the forest at night!)

Now, that I am confined to my recliner most of the time and getting out is a major production — with a wheel chair and making sure that I bring a bag with all my medications — I rarely think of driving.  Still, some nights I wake up at night searching for my keys until I realize I can no longer get up and go.

For me, there have been losses I haven’t expected.  I had been having abdominal pain that had been ongoing since the last trimester of my last pregnancy and had been getting progressively worse.  I saw an OB/GYN who told me I probably had abdominal adhesions.  They could be pulling on sensitive tissues internally, causing the pain, without any abnormal lab results.

She told me that she would do a laproscopy of the abdomen, a fairly simple day surgery procedure in which she would make a small cut and insert a tube in my abdomen so she was able to see the adhesions and cut them out.  Selch took me to the hospital on Valentine’s Day in 1997.

I had worked in the medical field for several years and  had day surgery before.  I was first aware that something wasn’t right when I woke up and they were pulling a tube out through my mouth.  Even though I was very groggy, I knew that I must have had general anesthesia.  I panicked inside. What had gone wrong?

The doctor told us that there had been more adhesions than she thought so she had converted my surgery to a laparotomy.  I wondered why she did a laparotomy without having me consent to it first.  From the moment I came out of anesthesia, I had severe pain in the right side of my abdomen to my back and down to my thigh.  I didn’t know then that the pain would never go away.  She had damaged three major abdominal nerves, and surrounding soft tissue, causing Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.

I couldn’t walk correctly for the first two weeks and the doctor told me it would resolve itself.  The walking got better but the pain was unbearable.  I had taken a two week leave of absence from my job.  I had just started a new job.  I tried to go back a few times to work but could not stay for more than a couple of hours.  My pain was too great.  I had to resign from work.  Selch, who was my boyfriend at the time, offered to let me stay at his house to recuperate.  I had to let my apartment go.  We thought it was temporary and that I would be able to get back up on my feet and get a job eventually.  I was never able to go back to work.

I had been employed full time since I was 21, and had been the primary bread winner after my children were born.  I worked my way up to being a director of a department at a young age.  After I gave birth to my daughter,  I worked for a company in which I assisted doctors in reviewing medical records for quality, then I became a consultant in a health information department.  I had been through a lot of hardships already and had had two failed marriages, but I always thought everything would be okay because I was able to support myself and my children.  Not having that security was a huge loss.  From then on, I was dependent on someone else.

I often  don’t realize on the last day that I am able to do something, that I will never do it again.

When I left my job the last day that I worked in March 1997, I did not know that I would never work outside my home again.  I had lost relationships and things before this happened, but I always believed that no matter what I would be able to support myself and my children. I did not make a great deal of money but I worked in the medical field and there was always a need for the type of work I did. Originally, I planned to stay with Selch for two weeks while I was recovering.  I never left.

I lost the sense of security and the independence that I would be able to take care of myself and my kids no matter what happened. And losses have a tendency to pile up on top of each other.   I had received a lot of emotional support over the years from a network of close friends at work. They continued on with their busy working lives.  We met a few more times for lunch and after work, but I would repeatedly have to cancel plans because I was not feeling well.  My friends stopped asking me to go out.

People started feeling uncomfortable around me. They didn’t know quite what to say about my pain and I didn’t want to talk about it much fearing that I was imposing on them. The other problem was that I wasn’t in the working world anymore. I wasn’t part of the team, I’d lost track of the players.

Finally, one of my last work friends flew the coop. I called her the Buzzard of Happiness, because when she talked about her life it all seemed so hopeless, but yet she had been a good solid friend who had a quirky sense of humor.

The last time I talked to her was when I had to cancel a movie date with her for the third time. She told me she could no longer be my friend, her life was depressed enough without having to think about my situation. Our outings had been one of the bright spots in her life and she didn’t want me to become another person she dreaded seeing.

My feelings were hurt but I appreciated her honesty. She was able to say what many are not able to.

We discovered that my pain would never go away.  My RSD might have been treated effectively, had it been diagnosed sooner.

Many of us have some losses that are so profound and hurt so badly that they are difficult to share. I have had a few losses that bring tears to my eyes when I even start to think of them.  You know these losses that leave you so brokenhearted that you build a grave someplace within yourself, a quiet dark space where you can go to mourn.

I spent most of my day today trying to explain the loss of my children to you.  When I started typing the words, I   remembered again the one normal weekend that became a catalyst of change for me and my children.  By the time I finished, tears were dripping down my cheeks and snot was flowing out of my nose.  I am not an attractive crier.  My eyes are red-ringed, my nose is as red the honker on my coach’s face after he had been on a bender, and  my head feels like the dead weight of my sorrow has crashed down upon it.

I can’t share that story with you today because someone with piercing words  recently sliced open the tough scab over my tender wound.  Yes, I am bleeding again, but I am not as raw as I once was.  I have developed tools over time to staunch the flow.  So I will save that story in draft for another day.

When one domino falls, the others behind it usually fall in an orderly fashion.  That isn’t how it is when you are riding the train of life.  One break in a relationship, a health crisis, even what might begin as a small lapse in judgement can cause a cascade of collisions on down the road.  Many continue on life’s journey but they are  riding a on a crooked rail.  The heart becomes a wounded member that limps between the strong beats of life.

The Light and the Tree


A  few nights ago, I was looking out of a window and saw a street light that was next to a tree casting an eerie artificial light on the tree’s leaves.

For a few minutes, I was transported back to a night when my 16-year-old self was staring at a light shining on a tree outside of the window of my great Aunt Jewel’s house which was located in a small town in Texas

I had just received my driver’s license a few weeks before.  Ever since the movie, American Graffiti, many fad’s had been revived from the 50’s, one of them being “cruising.”  Early in the evening, I had been cruising down main street in my yellow Maverick with my younger brother who was a reluctant passenger.  We had been going to visit my grandparents at least one weekend a month ever since I could remember.  My cousins were much older than we were and there wasn’t much “treasure” left up in the old closet upstairs at our grandparent’s house  for us to discover.   I was thrilled to be able for the first time to  drive up and down Main street, windows down, radio playing “We Are the Champions” and local boys honking their horns and shouting, “Baby come take a ride with me.”

When I was looking at that light many years ago, I remembered at that moment feeling excited that a new world of possibilities was opening up for me and also secure in an environment of extended family that wrapped their  loving arms around me.

Then I came back to myself as I am now  looking at the light next to the tree.  I thought about my grandparents, my great-aunt who passed out of this world years ago.  I began sinking into constant pain and and dwelling in disappointment that my grandchildren will never be coming to “Grandma’s house for the weekend.  I  lived in a world where I had lost much.  Before I feel  down any further in the well of despair, I stretched my back and lifted up my head and whispered a short prayer.

My mind flooded with many life  lessons  that have resulted in strength,understanding and compassion.  I realized I do have in front of me a world of possibilities and ahead lies the preparation for shedding this broken shell. I will continue my journey  with my true identity, that part of us that always will be  Imagine those possibilities  and as Captain James T. Kirk, Starship Enterprise, once said, “To infinity and beyond.

Memento Mori


Today the effort should be done,

Who knows if  ‘morrow death will come?

— from The Word of the Buddha

Since antiquity, serious thinkers have kept reminders of their mortality close at hand, to help free their minds of earthly bonds and distractions.  Frequently they would be portrayed holding a skull, or having one on their desk, their memento mori, remember that you will die.

To the Anchoress of Sterling, they come unasked.

The Anchoress sat working by the window, next to the new basket of spring bulbs that are vigorously sprouting.  The Anchoress turned from her squint and spoke to me.  “For the past three minutes I lost the ability to write.”

“How so?”

“Three times I tried to write a note.  Each time, when I looked at it, it was as though I was looking at a foreign language.  I didn’t know what the letters were or what the words meant.”

“Is the inability gone entirely now, as though it never was?  Or, are there remaining effects?”

“There are remaining effects.  I am repeating letters too many times when I spell words.  And I am confused, still.”

After more pointed questioning, she asked, “Do you think that I am going to lose the ability to write, permanently?”


“Then I’ll just move on to dictating, as we talked about.”

“It may not be for a long time yet.  You’ll have better days, and worse.”

“It’s not how I thought it would be.  I thought it would be there one minute, and then it would be gone.  But it’s more complicated than that.”

“You mean thinking that you’re writing someting correctly, and it being wrong, and then realizing that it’s wrong.”

“That’s it.  It’s exactly like you said, What was the word?”


“Yes, it’s exactly like an  interface problem.  Like with the computer.  I know what I am trying to say.”

“But it just doesn’t come out right.”

“It’s very upsetting.”

“I know.  And scary.  I think we need to concentrate more on the more important things, while you can still write, and spend less time on the unimportant.  Only do the unimportant things after you are unable to make progress on the important work.”

“You’re right.  But there are some things I want to do.”

“It’s important that you follow your interests.”

“You’ll have to remind me, prompt me, because I can’t remember.  You’ll have to come close and sit with me, and help me along.  Once I’m writing, I love it and I can lose myself for hours.”

“I know.”

“It’s strange that you can have something be so important emotionally, that you are reluctant to approach it.”

“But it’s a very natural response, a paradox.”

Philippe de Champaigne, Life, Death, Time

Vanitas, Philippe de Champaigne , 1671

Living with FTD-suffering


I recently read an article “You will call, I Will Answer.

Anyone who is going through suffering will be able to relate in some ways to William Stunz’s account of his life.  I don’t totally agree with everything that he says.  It has helped me over the years  to read accounts of other people’s suffering and also talk to other people who are suffering.  Each person who is suffering  needs to find tools to cope.

A book that I hold close to my heart is “The Revelation of Divine Love” by Julian of Norwich.  I can give you no better explanation of the connection I feel with the Anchoress than Selch describes in his recent post.

Stunz talks about how he felt when people inadvertently blamed him for his pain due to lack of faith.  Many of us who have an illness or who are  caregivers have  experienced well wishers who tell us we need to have more faith or things would be better if we prayed more often.

I was raised in a family who went to a fundamentalist Christian church.   Now I practice  Bhakti Yoga and Theravada Buddhism.  I do not judge anyone’s faith or religion.  All paths  lead to God. We are all a part of God, brothers and sisters, connected by our souls.

Why does God let bad things happen to good people?  There have been countless books written on this subject and for many, this question has no answer.

Dr. Stunz says, ” I do not think that my suffering is God’s discipline.”  I agree that suffering is not literally “God’s discipline”, but I do believe in  karma good and bad.  We make our own karma, some life experiences are decided before we come into this life and in other matters we have free choice.  We are also affected by other people’s karma. Karma has helped me personally to  understand suffering.  What is good for spiritual growth may not seem like a good thing for us while we are living in our physical bodies.   The reality we perceive as humans is only a small part of  “The Truth.”

This does not make suffering less painful or less real for us.

Stanz recounts about whether or not suffering has made him a better person. We have heard many times that suffering will make us stronger and that is the last thing we want to hear.  My own experience parallels the experience of Dr.  Stanz.  At first, when I developed chronic pain I was overwhelmed by sadness, depression (anger turned towards myself) and despair.  I came to realize that I did have a choice, give up or go on with my life one day at a time.  If I dwell on the past too long , it does nothing to change my current life and it wastes the limited energy that I have that could be used in a positive way to make myself and others feel better.

For those of us who suffer and those of us who are caregivers, we must realize that life changes for everyone.  Chronic illness, FTD in particular, changes our lives, behaviors of the caregiver and of the loved one, in  particularly difficult and often incomprehensible ways  While the illness robs us of many things, the part of us that is real and true, the being who cares, loves and wants to reach out to others is still there.

When a woman is grabbing the arms of her husband  because he is trying to take the car keys in a boorish and childish manner because he has FTD and doesn’t believe or remember he can’t drive, doesn’t she think of the many times those arms around her made her feel safe and warm?  She has reminded him so  many times lately that he cannot drive and she thinks about when she may have handed him keys with no thought of peril for his well being.  When you can’t manage not wetting your pants do you ever think about the time not too long ago when you put your pants on one leg at a time without any thought and managed an entire department of people?

We must not forget who we are, our true selves and understand that the disease is causing these troubles and behaviors and the disease is not who we or our loved ones are.  We should hold tightly to this life rope that connects us to who we really are.  It will help us hold on to our dignity and compassion for ourselves and our loved ones during the most trying times.

I agree with  Dr.  Stanz that accepting that I had a terminal illness was easier than I thought it would be. Once I accepted that everyone dies,  I am understanding there are blessings  that come with  a shorter span of  interaction time with the world  so I should try to enjoy things while I can

I had an eating disorder when I was young and I have never liked food.  Now I really enjoy eating.  Selch is cooking dinner right now and preparing fruit salad.  Who would have thought that fruit salad could be downright delightful?  I appreciate small things like chocolate pudding, looking out the window and watching the birds,  and talking to an old friend.  It is a struggle for me to go out anywhere, but I still find activities that make me feel good.  Like  Stenz said, he was able to feel more physical pleasure.

I often go to Second Life which is a virtual world on the Internet.  I have an avatar there who can fly, swim, sail, see many beautiful places and visit many interesting people.  I think allowing fantasy and creativity in to your life when you are suffering is a good thing.   We have forgotten how to play as we did when we were children.  Yes we have responsibilties but  all of us who are suffering could use some play therapy.

Last year was the roughest year of my life.  What helped me get through that bad time was definitely my relationship with Selch,  my partner.  During that time, Selch often teased me that I was Jobette.  One bad thing after another kept happening until I got to the point that I felt like I only had a few things left to lose.

Many things and relationships I thought had to be there for me to ever be happy again didn’t need to be there and were actually impeding progress in my life.

Progress in life has a lot to do with knowing, loving, accepting and protecting yourself as you would your dearest friend.  I can only change what I do.  I cannot change anyone else just by insisting that they be the way I want them to be.

It may feel like we are not in control of our lives because of the circumstances that we are in.  But, we make choices all of the time about how we will react to the situations where we find ourselves.

There is something to be learned from everything that I experience.

I practiced mindfulness exercises before it became “fashionable,” and  these practices have greatly helped me with my struggle with difficult and unwanted thoughts.    To be able to quiet the mind of all its busy thoughts for even a short period of time is very helpful.  Like any exercise the more you do it, the easier it is to do and the benefits are greater.

I am learning  to stop caring about what people think of my situation. Selch and I have to focus our energy on living our lives the best way that we can.  It is so true that real friends will be supportive and if they aren’t, then they are not a “true friend.”  This also applies to family members.

If you are sick or you are a caregiver , it is you who are in the trenches.  You don’t need a lot of well wishers who don’t want to get their hands dirty.

I am in constant pain and FTD is keeping me from “controlling” many areas of my life but I constantly remind myself that the illness cannot control who I am.  Eventually it will disrupt my interface with the world to the point that I will not be able to communicate or understand what anyone is saying to me.  I have spent years in this life continuing the journey towards self-awareness.  What will happen as  I  watch the disease that is causing my physical body to do things I would never do?

Maybe, my weird sense of humor will remain.  I hope I will be able to be tolerant and understanding of that physical body that is the shell of me.

Mr. Stenz spoke of one of his fears of death was the fear of be disappointed that he didn’t live a better life.  I can relate to his feelings.  Sometimes I still do ask my self why I am  here but now  less and less I feel like my life is not useful so why don’t I just die?  I know I have  been given blessings of a well stream of creativity, the dam of writer’s block has burst.  I have so many characters telling me their stories, I often wonder who should I tell what and when in this limited time that I have.

Why do I live? Why is there suffering?  Perhaps, like children we ask many questions but as we grow in time, life (the continuing journey and existence of our being) we will no longer need to ask the question.

The Anchoress of Sterling


Julian, or Julianne, Anchoress of Norwich petitioned God to grant her three things.  These were things no normal woman would want.  But then Julianne was not a normal woman.  She was an Anchoress.  Rather than a family and children, she chose to be celibate.  Rather than living in a village, she turned away from the world toward God.  She had herself ceremonially walled up into an anchorhold, a tiny room built against the outside wall of a church or a cathedral, with only a tiny window, a squint, as a portal to the world.  Through the squint, food came in, chamber pots came and went, and advice might be given to those who asked.  She spent her days praying to God.  She asked for spiritual blessings for one who has renounced the world, not for human blessings for one wholly immersed in it.

She sought to experience fully the pain, the suffering, of Christ, in his agony, dying on the cross.  This was the first of her petitions.

The second petition was for God to grant her a terrible illness at a young age that would bring her to the point of death.   Her petition was granted.  She faced her impending death in her anchorhold.   She was attended, it may have been, by a servant or two.  After receiving the Last Rites, she recovered from her illness.

Her third petition was to receive three specific wounds from God:  true contrition, natural compassion, and fullhearted longing for God.  Unlike the first two petitions, she attached no conditions to the third.  While it is charming — to me, at least — that she attached conditions to what she asked from God, not to attach conditions is courageous.  Perhaps the only thing more dangerous in human terms than asking God for spiritual blessings is to ask them of a lesser being.

Later in life, the Anchoress of Norwich wrote about sixteen visions, or understandings, or showings, that God granted to her.  She wrote The Revelation of Divine Love so long ago that the English she wrote then has to be translated into English we can understand today.  It was the first book by a woman written in English.  She saw God’s divine love as the love of a mother.

I know another anchoress, who is still, for now, among the living:  The Anchoress of Sterling.  (No, not the worldly-wise Catholic woman who blogs as The Anchoress!  A real anchoress.)

To the Anchoress of Sterling, all the blessings Julianne sought have been granted, without petition.

Her physical sufferings have exceeded those of Christ on the cross. His pain extended for days.  Hers are more severe, and for more years than his days of pain.

She has been granted at a young age severe physical illnesses — not one, but several — that will take her not only to the point of death, but to death and beyond.

She has born the three wounds throughout her life.  These wounds are so much a part of her, that her greatest fear facing death, is that she may be deprived of them.

She lives as a celibate, in an ashram or abbey, in a small room, in a single reclining chair.  She cannot lie down on the bed in the room, as it causes her great pain, and vertigo.

She spends her days praying to God.  She sees God as a girl or young woman.  Her rosary is from a Catholic Domitilla, her prayers a great Vedic mantram with bijas.   She also practices Theravada Buddhist mental culture.  Her squint is a notebook computer, with a wireless internet connection.

She has a rough-spoken manservant, whom she met on the internet a decade and a half ago.  He became her lover, then her spiritual teacher, then her husband, now her servant.  He sleeps on the bed next to her chair, and tends to all of her physical needs.  He also spends his life praying to God, doing the mental culture of Mindfulness of In-and-Out Breathing, cultivating love for his mistress, and working at a job to provide for her needs.

Her strength of resolve and her creativity are both increasing as she approaches the end of this life.  This blog is one of her happy conceits, a metaphor of her life.  She is a were-seal, a silkee of Celtic lore, who lives in the sea, sheds her seal skin to live and breed on dry land as a woman, then must leave her husband and children, don her sealskin, and return to the sea.  The sea is the heaven she left to suffer in this comparative hell, and to which she will return.

Living with FTD-poem that applies to people who have FTD


I read this poem on a support group that was written by a man who died in a geriatric ward in Nebraska.  I think it applies to people with FTD also.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . . .. . What do you see?
What are you thinking . . . . . when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old man . . . . . not very wise,
Uncertain of habit . . . . . with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food . . . . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . . . ‘I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . . . . . the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . A sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not . . . . . lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . . . The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking? . . . . . Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . . you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am. . . . . . As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, . . . . . as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten . . .. . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters . . . . . who love one another.

A young boy of Sixteen . . . . with wings on his feet.
Dreaming that soon now . . . . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . . my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows . . . . . that I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . . .. . With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons . . . . . have grown and are gone,
But my woman’s beside me . . . .. . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . . My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me . . . . . my wife is now dead.
I look at the future . . . . . shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . . . . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . . . and the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old man . . . . . and nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles . . . . . grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . . where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . . . . . a young guy still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys . . . . . I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living . . . . . life over again.

I think of the years, all too few . . . . . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . . open and see.
Not a crabby old man . . . Look closer . . . see ME!!

Living with FTD-Frustration of Diagnosis and Support for FTD Patients


I am going to be writing more posts on what it is like living with FTD in the near future.  This morning, I want to talk about a particular frustration that I share with some other people who have FTD as well as people whose loved ones have FTD.

The “typical” FTD patient according to most medical literature exhibits personality changes, “acting out behaviors”, denial and lack of insight about their illness.

In reality, symptoms of FTD can wildly vary among people who have the disease.  FTD is hard to diagnose because a person with FTD can show symptoms before actual brain damage shows up on an MRI or brain scan.

Even people who have typical symptoms often will be misdiagnosed as having psychiatric problems and spend valuable early years under the treatment of a psychiatrist and taking psych. meds that actually may make their FTD worse.

Most neurologists do not have the training to diagnose FTD.  People with FTD usually “pass” typical neurological examinations.  Thus, the neurologist tells the patient that he or she cannot find any neurological abnormality that explains their symptoms.

I have many FTD symptoms but as I mentioned above, I do not have the typical symptoms that doctors use to screen for FTD.  I’ve had unexplained neurological symptoms, anxiety, depression and increasing apathy towards activities of daily living for the last five years.

My husband and I went through Dante’s Medical Inferno trying to obtain diagnoses for my other illnesses (RSD, abdominal migraines, Celiac Sprue, Meniere’s Syndrome, etc.) I’ve met some physicians who belong on the inner rings of hell but after years of struggle I finally met a few doctors who are good Samaritans.  You will know when doctors get their angel wings every time that hell freezes over.  Okay I’m joking, sort of.

I was admitted to the hospital for unexplained neurological symptoms.  The neurologist came in with a gaggle of baby docs, did the usual neurological examination and said what so many have said before, “I don’t know what is wrong with you.”

My husband, a battle worn veteran of diagnostic warfare and physician retreat, requested that the neurologist order an MRI of my brain.  The neurologist complied.  Most doctors are willing to order an expensive test.  Why not, if the insurance company pays for it and they can be rid of a difficult case that could potential cost them time, money and liability by using  the authority of  The Test that will certainly show something if there is actually something wrong.

My MRI was consistent with FTD/shrinkage in the frontal and temporal lobes on the left side.  The neurologist had his own opinion.  Although he knew nothing about FTD, he told me that FTD was rare and I did not exhibit the symptoms so he was sure that I did not have FTD but I should follow up with another neurologist.

If, I had not been a professional patient then I probably would have gone to another neurologist who knew nothing about FTD.  I would have continued having greater difficulties with anxiety, depression, loss of speech.  When I started having auditory hallucinations then I would have probably been referred to a psychiatrist and  put on psychiatric medication that might make my FTD even worse.  My family totally baffled by these developments as I became incontinent and unable to speak would be advised by friends and the family physician that it was probably time to put me in a nursing home.  I might have died not ever knowing I had FTD.

As I mentioned, I belong to an FTD support group.  They are a really nice group of people almost all caregivers that provide a lot of good information and are very supportive to whoever joins the forum.

I am glad I found this group.  I can’t go out to a support group and there aren’t really any other FTD support groups online.  As the months passed, I discovered as many people do who have chronic, serious or terminal illnesses that I really wanted to talk to others who also had FTD.  It is great to have supportive friends but sometimes when your in this sort of situation you really want to talk to someone who is  down there in the trenches sinking in the same mud.

Fortunately, I met a very brave and compassionate woman who has FTD.  She’s made a documentary about families coping with FTD.  She invited me to a weekly chat group where I eventually met six other people with FTD.

Most medical literature says that the hallmark signs of FTD are acting out, personality changes, denial and lack of insight into illness.  Another FTD “researcher” told me despite my solid proof that I did indeed have FTD diagnosed at Johns Hopkins that I could not have FTD because of did not have these “hallmark” symptoms.  He told me he had reviewed 2000 cases (I later found out not actual people but autopsy slides of people) and all of them had the “hallmark” symptoms.

It is a fact that I have met a total of seven other people who have FTD, are able to communicate and have insight into their illness.  I realized if there are eight people who have FTD who did not have the classic early symptoms of FTD that neurologists use to screen for FTD then there are probably many people living their lives that are progressively becoming more difficult that don’t realize they have a terminal degenerative brain disease and they might have only a few more years to live.

This possibility really bothers me.  Most people who have terminal diseases have some forewarning even if it is a short period of time to say what they want to say to their loved ones and get their affairs in order.

No one knows when they are going to die and many people die in accidents.  Still it bugs me with all our modern medical technology that there may be thousands of people out there who don’t know that they have a devastating terminal illness.

Since most recognized FTD patients are unable to express their needs in a functional manner there is not the kind of support for FTD patients that there is for people with other terminal diseases.  Support for FTD on the Internet is primarily focused on caregivers.  I certainly agree that they need much  support but I think there should be more support in the medical community for FTD patients including those that are unable to communicate their needs.

Since FTD ,until recently, has been considered a rare disease even by FTD specialists, there are very few programs set up for FTD patients.  I wished that FTD patients were able to receive the same kind of support that Alzheimer’s patients are now receiving and that there were  more clinics that had programs and interaction for FTD patients.

New research in Alzheimer’s has also lead to new research in other neurogenerative diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and FTD.  I hope in the near future that there will be more programs for FTD patients.

Currently, FTD patients are treated with medications for symptoms.  Most FTD patients before they are diagnosed have been progressively having  increasing problems at their jobs and not long after they are diagnosed they end up having to go on leave or disability.  They remain at home with their families until their loved ones can no longer take care of them and then they are placed in nursing homes where they usually rapidly decline.

I have read about a lot of families that are wonderfully supportive and do everything they can to help their loved ones with FTD.  Also the Alzheimer’s Association has support groups for people with presenile dementia that people with FTD can attend.  Unfortunately, I am too disabled by my other illnesses to be able to attend a meeting.

Still, the burden of care and support remains with the families of loved ones.  If people with FTD don’t have loved ones that are able to take care of them and support them, they end up living alone until they cannot take care of themselves and then they are put into the nursing home.

I have not seen one article that addresses the possibility that there may be thousands of people who have FTD who do not know they have FTD because even FTD specialists rarely see “atypical” patients such as myself and the others who I have met who are “atypical” patients so they may not even know “atypical” patients exist.

It is a fact that there are people that have FTD who are able to communicate and have insight into our disease.  There must be others like us  who are probably falling through the cracks because they do not have the “hallmark” symptoms of FTD which are used as a screening tool for FTD.  Perhaps when FTD no longer is labeled as rare by most neurologist, this will occur to some physicians.

I read an article recently in which an FTD researcher speculated due to the new research breakthroughs they are making in discoveries about neurodegenrative diseases that the diagnosis of FTD may end up accounting for 65% of people who have presenile dementia.

I do not wish for anyone to have FTD but the more number of people who can be found that have FTD means larger amount of funding for further research and programs for people with FTD.

If people with FTD were like stars that scatter the universe and I was an angel, I would scoop them all up in my magical net and protect them under my wings.

I am one spiritual being who is having a human experience.  Part of my experience is living with FTD.  I do the only thing I am able which is  to tell people about what it is like living with FTD and giving support over the phone, the internet and always in my prayers.

Article on FDA REMS


I just read an article titled ” When Elephants Dance , Ants take a Pounding”.

“On December 4, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called upon pharmaceutical company representatives to report on their progress in developing a REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) for extended-release or long-acting opioid analgesic products containing oxycodone, morphine, methadone, and other agents. Concerned about what are perceived as high rates of misuse, abuse, addiction, and overdose with these powerful pain relievers, this is the first time the FDA has demanded a REMS program for an entire class of drugs.”

Many of the drug companies manufacturing the above mentioned narcotics have formed a  Industry Working Group (IWG) to try to deal with the problems of drug abuse  while still trying to assure that people such as chronic pain sufferers will still be able to get the medication they need to function in their every day lives.

The FDA gave these IWG’s little information to form a base to construct a plan even though the IWG members have spent many hours putting together a plan. You can read in the article about the proposed phased in plan

As the article points out, the problems are not with the people who take the prescribed drug but it is a community problem.  No matter what the FDA regulates there is still going to be abuse of “prescription” drugs.  The FDA thinks by keeping doctors from prescribing narcotics with abuse potential that it will stop people who abuse prescription drugs.

Some of these drugs may still be available on the street because of prescription narcotics prescribed overseas.

It is obvious to any thinking person, that people who abuse drugs if they do not have prescription narcotics available will obtain drugs from the “street.”

Some FDA officials have admitted that it is their goal to get doctors to stop prescribing these narcotics period.  They obviously do not care about the thousands of people like me who need narcotics to make their pain manageable so they can live day to day.

These officials have also admitted that it is their plan to put all of us who are prescribed these narcotics into a register and ration the amount of narcotics we receive.

Why, why, why do they want to do this? They have to know that we who responsiblity take narcotics under a doctor’s supervision are not drug abusers.  Or do they?  Have they bought in to the totemism of the “evil’ narcotic so far  that they believe even legitimate narcotic use should be stamped out?

Is it to prove that they have done “something” to address the war on drugs so their funding will be continued?

I have seen so much violation of constitutional individual rights in the past few years, I’m starting to not recognize this country as America, Land of the Free.

What can we do? We can do what our founding fathers afforded us the right to do.  We need to spread the word about what is going on as much as possible and join the consumer movement for health care reform.

We can write to all our congressmen and women and tell them our stories.  Also we can vote people out of office who will not stand up for our constitutional rights.

Even though I have a terminal illness, I for one will not roll over and give up.  Fortunately, there are physician practices and other foundations with strong political backing who are prepared to fight these proposed changes.

I’ve already read so many sad stories about people being undermedicated due to physician fears of governmental retribution.  I understand their fears and concerns, but to stop giving people medication that they need to survive before any action has been taken against their practice is inexcusable.

The DEA did raid doctor’s offices but the numbers were few and most cases were settled out of court.  It was enough to send many doctors rushing away like herd animals.  They should look at what actually going on now, not what they fear may happen.  While they can help people who are in horrible pain they should remember their oath and not turn people away who are in agonizing pain.

I believe physicians should stand by their patients and face what is coming together.  I still see humanity in some physician’s practices and I am old enough to remember when caring for the patient was the primary focus of the physician.

We need strong minded compassionate people in the medical field.  This is another reason why I believe that the best model for health care reform in a consumer based movement.  We have a right to good quality of care.

I let myself for a minute imagine the post apocalyptic world for chronic pain patients that would exist if the FDA is allowed to intact their plans.

Thousands of  people who suffer from chronic pain and chronic illnesses will be having to make life and death decisions.  Such actions would force those of us who chose to live and carry on with their responsibilities to seek our narcotics from an illegal market who would be more than willing to welcome us into its clutches.

Those without money to pay for these narcotics might be forced to do things that actual junkies do not because we wanted to get high but to survive.

Is that what the government wants, to send thousands more consumers into the illegal drug market?

Hopefully, it won’t come to this.  As I said, I do see promising signs that physicians and organizations are joining force to keep this legislation from being acted upon.

If you want to read more information on guidelines that the FDA is using to define chronic pain and treatment of chronic pain with narcotics see  The National Clearinghouse Guidelines, Managing chronic non-terminal pain including prescribing controlled substances.

I also want to remind readers that I do have another blog that I am starting.  It is called The Professional Patient.

About Dying


Today has not been a good day.  I’ve been having problems with pain and  I am lingering in depression.  I was telling Selch that my medication helps treat many of my symptoms but it can’t take away my disease.  My illness is like a dark invader who is always with me.  I feel him behind me.  Sometimes his dark hands rest on my shoulders.

There are times when I feel more freedom my illness  such as when I am praying.  My prayers are like a shield that guards against unwelcome thoughts.  In the best of times, I am with my Ishta (the desired form, the aspect of God that was given to me by my spiritual teacher.)  Listen to  Loreena McKennitt’s  Dark Night of the Soul.  It is a good description of the feelings I sometimes have.  The poem was originally written by St. John of The Cross, On a Dark Night.

Sometimes in the midst of a wonderful day-dream, I gradually see a small dark thread.  As I get closer, it becomes a long dark ribbon.  I know that it is my connection to death. I’ve considered touching it or perhaps even grasping it with a gentle tuggle.  Perhaps, I will do that someday.

Even though I have a terminal illness, no one can tell me how long I have to live.  It isn’t like some forms of cancer in which the doctor can make a determination based on survival rates.  This dark spider lays her “eggs” (sometime tau bodies) in various places within the frontal and temporal lobe.  No one can predict which neurons will die.

When I received a letter from my doctor’s office and Selch read those words Pick’s disease (FTD) , it altered my sense of physical self for the rest of the time I have left on Earth.

My life  has been filled with good times and bad.  There have been times when I was up to my neck in the mud of Earth immersed in life.  Experiences such as motherhood, marriage and career have drawn me into the same world as everyone else but at strange unexpected times I  have this sense of being on the outside looking in.

We all have to die and to find out that I will be living on the Earth a shorter amount of time than many of those I love dearly does make me feel sad.  Yet, now I have a sense that I may be going back to the place that I belong.

So, I do not fear death itself.  I call the dark presence an invader because I did not invite him to come and he draws physical life force from me pressing on my back forcing me to painfully exhale life energy.

We are not only our physical bodies.  I think what I fear more than death is the continuing experience of a faulty interface that will gradually  keep me from communicating that those that I love.  I’ve asked Selch if I will be able to find a way to tell him I am still here.  He says he will always know that I am here until I have departed from this life.

I have lost many things over 13 years of having a chronic pain syndrome and then five years of having symtpoms from my degenerative brain disorder.  I do not have  what people call their personal freedoms.  I’m not able to drive, I can’t do activities of daily living.  I have apathy about doing the most simple things  so I have to be constantly reminded even to drink water.  Yet, I am able to still read articles and stories on the computer and type on the computer.

As I mentioned before, the disease  has its own special design of destruction for everyone that it touches.  So, it is hard for me to explain to people  how disabled I actually am because I am still able to write.

In the last month, a few people who I know who have FTD have fallen several steps down the stairs of functionality.  It is hard to find anyone with FTD who can communicate.  I feel like there are a few of us are clinging to a lifeboat and when one of us slips down, it is a major loss.

Selch reminds me that this does not mean that the same thing  will happen to me but for me each time one of the members that falls off the raft,  is  a ray of hope has disappeared.

Before I started this post ,I read an article,  Hard Choices for a Comfortable Death: Sedation. The author of the article writes about his discussion about intraveneous “terminal sedation” with different doctors who are taking care of patients who are dying  in various hospitals.  The process of  IV “Terminal sedation”  involves bringing people with a terminal illness into the hospital, some who have been receiving home hospice care, because they are have extreme discomfort that can’t be managed by home hospice.

The doctor has a lot to consider in these situations including how the family feels and  previous wishes of patients to die at home with their loved ones that were made before they started having intolerable pain.

I’m not sure about how I feel about IV terminal sedation.  Many doctors argue that it is the disease itself  at the end that kills the patient, not the pain medication ,that they become tolerant off  in a short period of time.  For instance, how would that work for people like me who are already considered “opioid tolerant” meaning that I have been treated with narcotics by a physician over a long period of time so it requires a higher dosage to treat my pain.  Then I wondered if once people who are opioid tolerant are undergoing  IV sedation, are they still feeling pain at some level?

Many times during terminal IV sedation, the patient is not given any fluid or nourishment.  The physician explains that it helps the patient to rest more peacefully because the body isn’t stressed having to process liquid and food.  But, are they actually being “starved to death?”  These are questions I can’t answer.

I have been under IV sedation many times for many procedures.  Several times IV sedation was considered necessary for the doctor to give injections that contained pain relieving medication into my spinal nerves.  I received 8 course of IV sedation when I was in the hospital two years ago  for a month due to an enormous  deep vein thrombosis.  Those  attempts at IV sedation were not very successful in treating the pain caused by the procedure because the doctor wanted to give me less IV sedation because I was on a high dosage of pain medication.  I wish sometimes that chronic pain patient’s could carry a pocket pain management doctor around with them when they needed to undergo any treatment or procedure.

It would be nice to see the cheery young face of my nice Polish doctor explaining in a very scientific yet simple to understand manner to the no nothing about pain doctor why I actually require more IV sedation.

I have noticed from my personal experience and after reading multiple  articles about children and people who are chronically ill that have to undergo multiple procedures under general or IV sedation. They  are more prone to nightmares which involve removal of body parts, horrible creatures performing procedures, etc.  I have several dreams that would rate closely whith some of the most horrific movies ever made.  Perhaps that is why I don’t bother to watch the movies, I can see something much more grueosme and life like for no money in my dreams.   Perhaps the pain that we do not supposedly feel during procedures, sedation, altered states such as comas  is stored is displayed in other mediums  such as our dreams.

To sum it up, I am not totally sure that IV terminal sedation is a total painless, uncomfortable way to spend your last days or weeks on Earth.

Obviously, it has benefits for the family because they don’t have to see their loved ones suffering but on the other hand they are unable to talk to them before they die.

That brings one other thing to mind.  When we appear to be not there are we really still there?  It is something I’ve discussed before and I’m sure I will discuss again.

Bye for now

Visit with FTD Research Specialist


Monday, at 8 a.m. sharp I arrived at the office of a physician who does research in FTD.  Selchietracker as always my faithful companion accompanied me.  The physician’s office is affiliated with a local medical school.  I had been to other clinics in this medical school for various reasons and not been satisfied with the physician’s diagnosis and/or treatment.

I was willing to give this physician a chance.  He had been recommended by a person at National Conference for FTD which Selchietracker attended a few months ago.

After we were escorted to his office and we met the doctor, the first thing I realized was that I had met him before.  I had worked in the local medical community for several years dealing with many physicians so I assume that I have met him somehow in that capacity.

Unfortunately, because we are in transition and about to move again, Selchietracker could not locate the disc which contained my MRI film at the last-minute when we were walking out the door.  He did bring documentation from a doctor who diagnosed me at Johns Hopkins as well as the results of the MRI and other tests as well as her conclusion and findings.

He asked us what we wanted from him, confirmation of diagnosis? Did we seek  treatment options-he quickly answered there was no treatment, or  he asked, did we need further information?

Selch explained that we would like to identify what strain of FTD I might have and find out further information about research trials, etc.

First the doctor bragged about  their extensive collection of autopsy slides for FTD patients.  Apparently they have the largest number of autopsy slides for FTD in the country.  Well that was okay but not very helpful to me since I am still the walking wounded.

Next, he put me through a battery of neuropsychiatric evaluations.  Any of you who have had to do these tests or watch your loved one with FTD complete these tests know that it is no fun to not remember simple words.  I especially fear the dreaded count back in 7’s from 100.  I can never get past the first few, major mental block.  Or the pictures you are required to draw of the connecting shapes and a three dimensional square.  My pathetic attempt looked like the work of a three-year old and to add insult to injury, he told me he was labeling my work with my name.  Come on, enough of kindergarten.

Then he did the usual neuro exam.  I know the drill well.  I could probably perform the exam blindfolded without the assistance of the doctor.  Of course, nothing wrong there except his breath.  I do wish doctors would check their breath before approaching a patient.  There is nothing like being poked and prodded and having to hold your nose.

After the exam, we discussed my history of symptoms.  He asked a few appropriate questions.  Then came the true test. What about my behavior?  Selch proudly proclaimed that despite my other symptoms commonly associated with FTD including apathy towards activities of daily living , that I was still a compassionate person who understood the affects of my illness.

Despite the fact that the physician had not reviewed my MRI and did have ample evidence from a doctor from Johns Hopkins who specializes in FTD that I did have FTD,  he proclaimed I did not have FTD because my behavior was not appropriate.

Because of my problems and reactions to nightmares, he conceded that I did probably have Lewy bodies.

For a brief description about Lewy bodies see:

For more information about Lewy bodies and FTD see:

Selch explained to the doctor that there is a variant of FTD that has Lewy bodies.

The doctor stubbornly remarked that he had seen thousands of FTD patients (FTD is supposed to be still considered rare and it isn’t as if he is attached to a major FTD clinic, so did he mean thousands of live people or thousands of autopsy slides that he mentioned previously) and every single one of them male and female had a history of acting out and not understanding anything about their illness.

I told him that I could produce six people diagnosed with FTD who are able to attend a weekly chat and discuss their disease process.

He gave no response.

So, he wished us luck and suggested we send  him a copy of my MRI.  I think we will be heading to greener pastures.  We are moving closer to a well-known clinic for FTD patients so I think we will continue down the yellow brick road to meet Oz.

Because, because of the wonderful things a good physician does, like PET scans, etc.

I realize the best way to get a functional MRI,more complex scans  or trial treatment is to be enrolled in a study.  Am I willing to be a guinea pig?  I’ve been poked, prodded, scanned, panned, scoped, doped and have never lost hope since I was a small child.

I still firmly believe that there are many others like me that are out there but they haven’t been diagnosed.  Most neurologists don’t know much about FTD.  If depression and anxiety are the first features, then the patient is likely to do a lot of couch time.  I went to many doctors for many years before a doctor discovered that I had a complex regional pain syndrome, with a domino effect other diagnoses fell into line .

I was diagnosed with FTD because of Selch’s practice of smoothly prodding doctors to order tests needed to evaluate my condition.  Also, we have learned when presented with an abnormal lab result or other abnormal finding that cannot quickly be explained away, we will seek multiple consultations until we are satisfied with a diagnosis or have reached a temporary point where we have to stop until other doors open up in the future.

I love when we go to Manhattan to see one of my doctors.  While we are on the streets and Selch is rolling my wheelchair down the uneven sidewalks ,I always see someone with a poster that proclaims one thing or another.  I also think of those comedians who say, “Here’s Your Sign” and “You might be a redneck if…”.  I imagine rolling around holding a poster that says IF YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS YOU MIGHT HAVE FTD SO GET HELP NOW WHILE YOU STILL HAVE A LIFE TO LIVE.

Instead I remain in my “sick” recliner, preaching to the choir.  Maybe, someday, somewhere, someone will find me.

The Beginning of the End


I am dying.  This is a simple statement of fact.  Mature people should be able to accept this at face value, and react accordingly.  So one would think.  Instead one gets the queerest reactions.  Most deny the obvious, and say — quite without evidence or justification — that I’ll live at least ten years or more.  How convenient for them, not to have to confront anything real or unpleasant in the immediate future.

My husband set up this blog for me.  I’ll try to learn how to work it.  It will be difficult.  The interface between my spirit and my body is slowly going out.  As my brain is dying, there are episodes of “static” or storms of uncontrolled thoughts, that I have to fight hard to control.  It takes a lot of energy, just to appear normal.  I am not.  My disease is mostly invisible.  Recently, I have started to add stuttering sounds, at the end of my words, like da-da da da, or pa-pa-pa-pa-pa… for minutes on end.  Very embarrassing.   And very uncomfortable for those who want to believe the convenient lie that I’ll be around for the foreseeable future.

This won’t just be about dying.  I’m also writing a novel and consulting with an incipient start-up company to develop automated medical diagnosis software for the web.  I have opinions on politics, life, and how to improve the medical system.  I am a spiritual being, and so I don’t always have the human perspective of the world.  The spiritual view is usually quite different.   Sometimes poetry blurts out, unbidden, silly sometimes.

Selchietracker has written this to prime my blogging pump.   Channeling me.