Sunday, 31 March 2013

Day 330 - good news

The events which form the content of today's post actually occurred on Thursday, and I'd planned to blog about them then, but when I didn't have a chance on the day it seemed apt to leave it until this weekend. (In case you hadn't noticed, I like symbols, and although I'm not religious, this is a time of year which has significance for a number of different belief systems in terms of new life and fertility and such things - hence my tweet earlier today wishing my followers a happy Ishtar/Eostre/Easter.)

Now, I'm not pregnant. That is not the news. (Part of me is contemplating putting those previous two statements in ALL OF THE FORMATS [like that] to ensure my grandparents, who are very kindly reading this blog, do not get the wrong idea and an unnecessary shock - but I shall refrain.) No - by my references to 'new life' I mean a new lease of life - because it felt like that was what I got on Thursday. To be fair, these last few weeks at home have been awesome (in its literal sense, because they've filled me with awe [etymology geek alert!]), so it wasn't as though there was this major shift in gear on Thursday. It was more that I felt vindicated in what has occurred for me physically over the last almost-year (eek! How did that happen already!?) - because Thursday was the day of my appointment to talk about the future in terms of my body and medical intervention and things. I was scared. It was huge. I wasn't sure what the outcome would be and especially whether my consultant would share the enthusiasm and positivity I've been feeling about my physical state. It had to encompass graduation and life afterwards and, as a rule, orthopaedic surgeons can be pretty, well, surgery happy.

As things turned out I needn't have worried - not only was he very positive, and impressed with my improvements (and sometimes a little confused, because I shouldn't be able to do certain things that I can. Teehee - he, as well as my physio, knows nothing about this blog - don't tell!) but he was also extremely honest. People in the medical profession, and surgeons in particular, often have a tendency to use every tool of persuasion they have at hand (including, but not limited to, scalpels and latex-free gloves!) - so I was expecting something along those lines, if not quite as dramatic. What I got couldn't have been more different - a reasonable, unaffected discussion about various possible procedures and their implications - and, crucially, the acknowledgement that no of them are (or ever will be) certain to make me better. We even decided that, since everything's going so well at the moment, we'll just stick with what we know will work.

So today's good news is...more botox and no surgery for me! Huzzah!       


Monday, 25 March 2013

Day 324 - pics or it didn't happen

I said in my snowblog the other day that things were happening fast, but I didn't realise how fast.

The titular phrase of this post has been a thing on t'interweb for a while. So I'm going to post a picture as proof of what happened today, for two reasons: a) I've taken a teeny-tiny break from work to write this, but can't really allow myself much longer, and b) I'm not sure how to describe it, other than to say it's something I've not done for a while and didn't know if I would again.

Here you go:

Halfway to Lotus position - bring on the yoga!
I appear to have re-discovered the ladylike aspect of my disposition ;)

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Day 323 - in praise of 'The Lizzie Bennet Diaries'

There is a high probability that I will never meet the group of people behind the project to which this post is dedicated, not least because they live 'across the pond' in America. Nevertheless, readers of this blog who do know me in real life will be aware of my love of Pride and Prejudice - along with the impact the novel has had on my journey to where I am today, planning to walk when I collect my degree certificate this summer - so it seemed important to acknowledge how significant this modern adaptation, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, has been over the last months in providing an impetus to keep going until I reach my goal.

Before I explain the concept behind the series (affectionately termed The LBD), though, allow me to back-track a little. Growing up with cerebral palsy, and as a wheelchair user, I could not engage with the world in the physical way most of my friends did. Cue reading and, especially, Austen - for whilst I could not experience the feeling of jumping over a stile and getting muddy boots in reality, Lizzy Bennet took me there in my imagination. Equally, when her annoyingly loveable mother, Mrs Bennet, complained hysterically of 'such fluttering and spasms all over', I could laugh in empathy, because my muscles rarely did what they were told to and spasms (real, in my case) were a phenomenon with which I was only too familiar.

Through literature, I found a world in which I could participate on a level playing field with my peers, and the fact that Austen opened that door for me as a young girl is a truly a 'debt that I can never repay', to paraphrase Lizzy. As I got older, surrounded by able-bodied peers, I found ways to make the real world more accessible, as I became more able and independent, thanks to physiotherapy, determination and a tenaciously supportive mother - but reading was always my relief. 

Naturally, therefore, when things collapsed for me physically in 2008, aged sixteen, I looked to 'dear Jane' for solace - except I was in such pain from the resurgence of spasms that I couldn't turn pages. I did the next best thing, and alternated marathons of the 1995 mini-series and 2005 film versions of Pride and Prejudice, which somehow got me through studying for my A-Levels and meant I was healthy enough to go to university.

Now, in my final year of English and Theatre Studies at Warwick, I am not only well but well enough to be on a mission to walk to collect my degree (the progress towards which I document on this blog) - and here is where I get back to The LBD. Simply put, I find myself once again indebted to an adaptation of Austen, in this case an especially brilliant series of video-blogs. I mentioned yesterday that during the last term it has been a slog to keep up physical improvement, because of the amount of academic work I've had to do, and this has been one of my fundamental coping mechanisms. Narrated principally by Lizzie Bennet, a post-grad in Mass Communications, the videos form part of her final thesis and detail every aspect of her life, following the plot of Austen's novel (I don't do spoilers, however many centuries a book has been around!). The series, co-created and -directed by Hank Green and Bernie Su, and written and acted by a wonderfully talented ensemble of people, is now nearing its end.

So, since the most recent episode (aside from an adorable Q&A mini-video) is entitled 'Gratitude', I felt I should express mine today. I want to say thank you to the whole team - to Hank and Bernie for the concept; to the writers (especially Kate Noble and Rachel Kiley) for their brilliance and fidelity to Austen (because, despite its contemporary setting, this is my favourite adaptation); to the cast (everyone - you're all fabulous - but especially Ashley Clements as Lizzie) for their passion and commitment to investing their characters with a new vitality; to the crew, for ensuring that every aspect of the production is realistic.

Not only has it been nice to know that it isn't just me who has a huge mountain of degree work to plough through but, as I get closer to my graduation, the videos have helped me realise that I can and will take the (literal!) steps I want to on the day of 'the final exam of my life' (to quote this modern Lizzie). After all, the hills I'm climbing to get there aren't half as unforgiving as those in San Fransisco - and reminder that means a lot.

So thanks, LBD, and congratulations on the well-deserved Kickstarter success - I hope you realise what a difference you've made to all of us viewers.

EDIT: I can't believe I didn't post a link to the videos last night, so here it is. Watch them, they're awesome:

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Day 322 - walking in a winter wonderland

Hey, blogsphere, is anyone out there?

I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't any readers left, because my presence here has been somewhat lacking. Not only have I failed to post for almost two months (sorry!) but, in my absence, I missed marking Day 300 of this quest. Shocking and unacceptable. Alas, apparently that's what you get in the final year of your BA - snowed under. So it's nothing short of ironic that today, when I've finally found the time to post, a huge proportion of the UK is experiencing actual snow. In fact, here in London, we can't see out of the skylight in our kitchen.

Anyway, I'm going to extend this instance of simultaneously literal and figurative white stuff into a linguistic device (it's not strictly a metaphor, because it's both fiction and reality) out of which I'll fashion a snow-post, because it's too cold for me to go out and make anything else...and because it's really a very apt description of my life recently.

Over the past few months (which I'll lump together and call 'this term', even though I have posted since it began) I've had a lot of work to do, physically and mentally as well as academically. It's felt at points as if I've been shovelling settled snow whilst there was still more falling - so that, each time I thought there was a little glimpse of progress along the road underneath, further flakes would come and fill that gap. I mean, we've broken up for the holiday now, and I still have 25,000 words to write, most of which are due in the first week of next term. It's been a hard slog, and it's taken its toll on my mind, especially because there hasn't really been time to focus on things other than my course. I've hardly had an opportunity to walk, let alone blog, and that's scared me.

But here's the important (and exciting!) bit - the work, and the break from walking it's entailed, doesn't seem to have affected my body in the way I thought it would. Quite the contrary, actually, because I've not had even the tiniest twinge of sciatica for a good while now. Also, since I've been home I've been getting out and sitting on another chair several times each day, and my standing continues to get stronger and more confident with each transfer. (I can now push myself out of my chair and up to standing with Mama just in front of me for support - I'm not quite stepping on my own after that, yet, but nearly!)

The most fundamental change, though, is in the range of movement of my legs. On Wednesday night I lay on my back and asked for my right leg to be stretched to ease the tension in my hip-flexors, and it was as though my leg grew. That was amazing in itself, of course, but even more so for me was the fact that I could tolerate it. For the greater part of the last five or six years I've only been completely comfortable in a chair-shaped position, or semi-foetal if I'm lying down, so it was a surprise - a very pleasant one.

Then, on Thursday, I had a very spasmy day. This worried me, but with hindsight I think it was just because I gave my muscles a workout they're not used to, and they wanted me to pay for it. Equally it seems that my mind, having been so immersed in work, struggles to keep up with the pace of the changes occurring in my body - so it tries desperately to pull me back into old patterns centred around fear and pain and spasms in order to find some semblance of familiarity.

To this I can only apologise, as I can only apologise to you, dear readers, for not having posted in so long - because this helter-skelter snowfall of change and improvement seems to be worth it. So, sorry, mind, for the confused transition - but thanks, body, for letting me get back to walking today with a view of the snow. Thanks, too, to you readers, for bearing with me through the blizzard. I think the flakes are pointing toward freedom - and I think they're sticking.

I love you. #Walkingby2013