Earth Angels: Part Two (Pay it Forward)

One morning I was running late for work, per usual.  My gas gauge was noticeably low, but I didn’t stop for gas, knowing that stopping would add to my tardiness.  I guess you can say I like to live on the edge, or maybe it’s a genetic thing.

See, growing up, my father was notorious for letting his car run out of gas–while his kids were still in it.  It was so bad in fact, that there was this one spot on the road that we knew if we got past it, we were somehow in the clear.  We knew the spot well because we had walked the few miles from there to the gas station a few times.  Perhaps this was a game.   I don’t know why he would do this exactly.  He claimed the gas gauge was broken.  In fact, there were other places at other times, in other areas of California that we also ran out of gas, but that’s another story.  I think  he liked to live on the edge, or maybe it was something else, maybe his reasoning skills are broken.  And Dad, if you’re reading this, you know it’s true.  Back in those days, you could hitch-hike to a certain extent without the same kind of worries that you have today.  Needless to say, I grew up thinking running out of gas was sort of fun?  Now I know that it’s terrible for your car, ruining pipes and so forth and being in L.A., it’s definitely dangerous.  So let’s just say that I don’t wait until the last-minute any longer.

I had run out of gas a long time ago, around the age of 18.  The steering wheel had locked up, something I didn’t know about at that time.  It was scary, but I was lucky because a police officer had seen me, pulled over, and literally pushed my car with his car, around the corner to a gas station.  Was he another Earth Angel?

So here I was, driving to work, with a very low gas tank.  Traffic had come to a stand-still and I started to really worry.  I was on the freeway and I really didn’t know for sure if I was going to make it to the next exit.  Sitting there, in traffic, not moving, was lowering my chances of EVER making it to work.  It was a hot day, but I knew better than to run the air conditioning or else I definitely wouldn’t make it off the freeway.

I finally made it to my exit and my gas tank still hadn’t hit the R yet.  I was convinced that I could make it all the way to work as long as it didn’t hit the R.  That was, until that familiar feeling in my steering wheel hit.  Right as it did, it dawned on me that I had just passed a gas station.  I immediately flipped a u-turn, struggling with my steering wheel.  It just so happened that there were no cars on the street at that moment when I did this, and this is L.A. in the Wilshire district, making it a strange serendipitous coincidence.

As my car struggled on its last fumes, I attempted to roll up to a gas pump.  This was going slightly uphill in the drive-way.  I realized quickly that I wasn’t totally going to make it.  As my car started to drift backwards, I immediately pulled the emergency brake to stop it from rolling back into the street.  I had at least made it to the gas station.  This was a true miracle.

I was feeling REALLY lucky at this point.   I had just ran out of gas and for the life of me, I had no idea how I had been so lucky that I was able to literally roll right into a gas station.  I am a glass is half-full kind of person, so I knew no matter what, I was going to feel lucky for the rest of the day.  I felt like someone was watching over me.  What if I had run out of gas on the freeway?  I was in a fairly safe neighborhood in L.A.  There was nothing that could keep me from smiling for the rest of the day.

Stupidly, I was un-prepared though.  I didn’t know my debit card number by heart (still) and the gas station didn’t take credit cards.  I didn’t have any cash on me and I couldn’t call anyone because my phone was dead.  I didn’t have any change on me, not even a penny.  At this point I was feeling like quite the idiot.  I didn’t worry.  I knew if I had to, I could walk to work, even if I was in heels…… it was only a couple of miles away.   I knew there was a solution, I just didn’t know what it was going to be quite yet.  The guy at the gas station wasn’t going to help me, nor was anyone in line, so I started walking back to my car, wondering what I was going to do next.

Luckily an Earth Angel came to my rescue.  He asked me what happened to my car, (as he was getting gas) and I explained that I was an idiot and ran out of gas and that I’d use my credit card but they only take debit and I’d call someone for help but my phone was dead.  I told him not to worry, that I would figure something out.  He told me to hold on.  I didn’t know what he meant but I said ok.  And then he asked me to hold the gas pump.  “Don’t put the pump back,” he said.  He asked for my keys and so I gave my keys to him.  I wasn’t worried about him stealing my car.  It didn’t have any gas and his car was far nicer than mine, how would he drive two?  So I waited, wondering what his plan was.

He got in my car, took the break off and with the help of another person, (another Earth Angel) who kindly jumped in, pushed my car up to the pump.  He put $2 worth of gas in my car and told me where a nearby gas station was that took credit cards.  I thanked him profusely and said, “I wish there was something I could give to you.”  He said in return, “Just pay it forward.”

He was right.  That kind of kindness comes from somewhere unexplainable, somewhere so sweet and true, it gives me goosebumps.  I don’t know that I’ve paid it forward yet, not quite to that extreme, but I hope to be as kind, to be as wonderful as he and someday be someone else’s Earth Angel.

Earth Angels: Part One

I wanted to tell you a couple of recent experiences of mine.  Let me just preface that I am an incredibly lucky person, or maybe, just maybe, I have angels in high places taking care of me.  I do have plenty of bad things happen, but I always come out ok in the end.  When people help me, in an exceptional way, I consider them “earth angels”. But how does one know for sure that this person really exists?  Whatever the case, they are angels just the same.

I was about to tell you a few stories in regards to me, but it just occurred to me that there’s one more story I should add.  And so,  since it was so long ago, I’m going to begin with a story that really isn’t mine to tell…..

When I was a teenager, I had a wonderful boyfriend.  He was beyond handsome, part French, and a great story teller.  But that didn’t make this story un-true.  He was also a person I would say that was blessed with luck.  When I was with him, uncanny coincidences would happen, and I would swear he was the luckiest person I knew. In fact, he even called himself “the luckiest man in the world”, though he was still really just a boy at that time.  A boy nonetheless, seconds away from growing into a man, a very charming man, that is.

One night, my boyfriend and his friend were on a long drive…. They drove each weekend to see my girlfriend and I.  Yes, my best girlfriend was dating his best friend.  It’s almost straight out of an old-time flick, only this one is real and isn’t starring Cybill Shepherd.  After seeing us, they were off again on their hour and a half drive back to Vacaville CA.

While driving in Sacramento, about an hour out of the small town where I lived, they began experiencing car trouble. In a car I would say was a real clunker, with  oodles of miles, worn tires, and a general sense that it could break down any minute, the car did what was expected, it broke down, but in the worst of locations.  Since he was in H.S., it was a car just the same, something to be proud that you had, and he was willing to drive it until it puckered out.

At the time, the two of these boys were going over a massive bridge, the kind that diesel trucks gained higher speeds than this car could.  I don’t know the full details, but I remember it was dangerous.  My boyfriend told my family and I this story, hands flailing about, and something about a diesel truck and almost getting run off the bridge.  It was terribly late at night and they didn’t know what to do.  They somehow got themselves off this bridge by foot, on a bridge without a foot path, and looked for help.  No AAA, no cell phones, (they weren’t invented yet!), they were on their own.  And out of nowhere, they met an old bum.  That’s right, a bum. And the bum asked if he could help them.  They told the bum about their car, and about how it broke down, in great detail.  By the story alone, of how the car acted, the bum made a suggestion.  I know it had something to do with the stick shift and how it was no longer working, etc.  I know nothing about cars so I do apologize now for having a story with holes in it.  But I am doing the best I can.

The bum, after hearing the story, told these two boys that they needed a bolt.  A bolt had come off the car, he explained, something with the stick shift and if they got a bolt that fit just right, they’d be on their merry way.  Confused but intrigued, they kept listening.  The bum then told them to check behind a sign that was way off in the distance.  They were definitely confused at this point, how this bum knew that a bolt on some sign way off in the distance was going to fix their car, but they didn’t have any better options, so they did what the bum said.

I wish I knew what the sign said…because it seems like that could be an important part of the story, but I don’t.  The bum had told them to go behind the sign and unscrew one of the bolts.  And so they did.  It came off easily, just as he said it would.  When they returned, ready to thank the bum for the hopeful bolt in their hand, the bum had disappeared.

They walked back to the car and sure enough, the bold fit like a glove on whatever it was, and voila!  The car could now be driven!

When they told my family this story later, they were both convinced that this man was a real angel.   They had worried they were going to get hit on that bridge or that they were going to be stranded for a long while, in a dangerous part of town.  So they believed with all their heart that this was one of their angels, come to help them out in a time of need. And the rest of us, the listeners, felt goose bumps as the story was told and  thankful that if this was an angel that he was there to help these boys get home safe that night.

Sick Days, No thanks!!

Vomiting is one of the many side effects of Methotrexate

Vomiting is one of the many side effects of Methotrexate

Being part of a support group, I check daily posts written by fellow RA sufferers. In a recent post called “MTX questions” a person asked what others do in regards to taking their MTX, (Methotrexate). Do they take it Friday and feel sick on Saturday or do they take it Sunday and feel horrible for Monday? This is a common question and it gets addressed often. For those of you that don’t know, Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug, also known as a DMARD and it works by suppressing the immune system. For those of us with an autoimmune disease, the common thought is that an autoimmune disease means an overactive immune system. I have found information that states autoimmune diseases are simply the body confusing healthy tissue for non-healthy tissue, meaning it’s not a system that’s overactive as so much it is an immune system that isn’t working correctly. Suppressing the immune system does not make it work correctly. Instead, it keeps the body from destroying itself, kind of. Methotrexate may cause damage to the liver, intestines and sometimes the lungs, just to name a few. Although it doesn’t seem like methotrexate is a good option, doctors don’t present many other options when you get diagnosed with RA. And you can’t go on living with uncontrollable inflammation. Inflammation in itself, if left uncontrolled can cause cancer, intestinal damage, organ damage, other diseases and with RA will most likely cause joint erosion and deformation. So although taking a toxic drug like methotrexate seems out of the question, not taking it is just as scary.

It’s no wonder I kept searching for alternative options. I was tired of dreading my weekends. On Monday and Tuesday I still felt like I was a little bit “sick” from the methotrexate. If you haven’t taken this drug and it hits you hard like it did with me, this is what I experienced: The next morning after taking methotrexate I would feel more swollen, more painful and more stiff. My kidney area always felt like it had been kicked in the night and this would last until later in the evening. I would feel extremely fatigued and as if I had slept on rocks. Imagine you haven’t slept in 2 days. That’s how fatigued I felt. Or imagine what the flue feels like. That’s exactly how it was, resting both Saturday and Sunday so I could prepare for the following work week. Even running a low grade temperature wasn’t out of the question, of course this could have just been my RA at work. My hair would always fall out in mass amounts on Saturday and it would lessen as time went by. My eyes would be somewhat bloodshot and I would generally feel less hungry than normal for a few days. I wouldn’t exercise over the weekends. Instead, I would try and “recover” until the week started again and try to summon up energy to get myself to the gym after a few days of shaking off the methotrexate side effects. Heck, I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t throw up after taking methotrexate, a common side effect. As time went on having Rheumatoid Arthritis, I found myself becoming weaker and weaker. Workouts were less effective. My resistance level became less and less on the eliptical machine. I no longer did weights because the swelling of my wrists and fingers made it impossible. I continued to at least work hard at strengthening my knee joints. I figured that was the most important-being able to walk, so I made it my top priority.

When I finally freed myself of the methotrexate hangover, I felt like I was on the right path. And speaking of hangover, being on methotrexate meant you couldn’t drink a drop of alcohol because the drug itself does a # all on it’s own to your liver. Being off the drug meant I could drink again. Though I know alcohol is a poison, I tested my theory out on my own liver….just how bad can it be compared to methotexate? I was getting monthly blood tests because doctors have to keep track of how your liver is functioning and I would closely monitor my tests. At one point in time, just 10mg of methotrexate (a very small dose) elevated my liver enzymes. Yet when I went off this drug, one weekend I purged on alcohol. I came in for my test and didn’t tell them I was off of methotrexate. When the results came in, my liver was functioning better than it ever had while I was on methotrexate. Go figure!!

So truly, the reality is methotrexate is hard on your body. For those of you that take it, I feel for you. If your side effects are bad, giving up your weekends to a drug is a horrible thing to experience. I wish you all the best of luck in your journey with an autoimmune disease, or if you know someone who has an autoimmune disease please be compassionate as I’m sure they could use the support.

Self Induced Lupus?

Not everyone is as lucky as Pamela Anderson

Not everyone is as lucky as Pamela Anderson

A show on MTV called, “TRUE LIFE: I DON’T LIKE MY BREASTS” tells the story of four women, all of whom would prefer a different pair of breasts. In the show, two women went under breast augmentation, and another had her breasts reduced. For those women, the surgeries were successful. For another woman who had her implants done years before, she had a different reaction. Her body rejected the foreign tissue. It wasn’t immediate, but over time she developed more and more health issues to a point where she was very sick. Her doctors never suggested it could be the implants, and it simply never occurred to her. At the end, she suggested that before any woman have breast augmentation, that they check out the site: http://www.siliconeholocaust.org/

Autoimmune diseases and health issues are hard enough to deal with. This website is a good example that diseases like Lupus can be caused from outside sources. It doesn’t have to be genetics or luck of the draw. It is important that we try to do our best to be as healthy as possible. And if you know someone thinking of getting implants, you may want to direct them to this site so they can make a more informed decision.

I do feel proud that years ago I talked a woman out of having breast implants done. She had planned a trip to another country for a cheaper breast augmentation surgery. She felt her breasts weren’t big enough. She was a beautiful and very petite Brazilian woman and a mother of the cutest little girl. She had already taken time off, found a doctor and made an appointment. I couldn’t help it…..as an artist, I thought she was absolutely beautiful and that her very petite frame looked perfect. She wasn’t flat chested. She had proportionate breasts for her body. Why was she complaining? She had men falling at her feet. I asked to see her breasts because perhaps there was some disfigurement and maybe that, I thought, would help explain her desire for a curvier figure. She showed them to me, pointing out how small they were and yet they looked perfect for her frame. That’s when I felt I had to at least warn her that what she had right now could be better than what she gets. After all, any surgery is dangerous. There is no guarantee that you’re going to even wake up from anesthesia. Having any surgery shouldn’t be taken lightly. In some ways I felt bad trying to talk her out of it, but at the same time I wanted to make sure she at least realized the kind of risk she was taking. She could end up with uneven, hard breasts, or damaged nipples just to name a few. There was an entire plethora of risks she hadn’t even really thought about that could happen. At that time, I didn’t have RA and didn’t even consider autoimmune diseases like Lupus. If I had of had RA, I would have added those risks to the mix! Luckily however, she did change her mind. And I hope to this day she can look at herself and be happy with her decision and realize she is really quite lucky with the cards she had been given. So please, if you do know of someone who’s thinking about getting implants, make sure they know the facts. Not everyone ends up as lucky as Pamela Anderson.

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