Where Are You Christmas?

I just heard Faith Hill’s “Where Are You Christmas?” on the radio.  I’m not sure I ever really listened to the words of that song before…what a beautiful song.  I think I just adopted it as my theme song this holiday season…”My world is changing.  I’m rearranging.”  Yep, that kind of sums up where my heart is today.  But how ALS and Rudy’s absence is changing this Christmas and our family’s world in general is only magnified by what has been going on in our community for the past 12 days.

The Thomas Fire that broke out in Ventura County a week ago last Monday made it’s way to Santa Barbara County on Sunday and is snaking it’s way up through the south county communities of Carpenteria, Summerland and now Montecito.  We aren’t in any fire danger here in Goleta but Santa Barbara and Goleta have been blanketed with smoke and ash since the fire broke out which has severely impacted our community’s day to day.  Our local schools closed last Thursday and won’t reopen until after New Years, many businesses have shortened their work days significantly (if not closed all together) and we’re all donning attractive face masks when out and about.  It has been heartbreaking to see many we know affected by this massive fire (currently the 4th largest wild fire in CA history) and it will continue as containment is not expected before January 7th!

So far, the festive holiday events we typically participate in have all been cancelled or postponed…certainly adding to the question “Where are you Christmas?”.  It isn’t feeling particularly festive or Christmasy around here.  We were doing a great job making the most of the situation the first few days…Olivia had some friends over to bake Christmas cookies, we’ve watched a crazy number of Christmas movies and got creative with some crafts but the negative impact is starting to surface.  There is just so much to be depressed about and peppy, positive Patsy is fading.  Thankfully the house is filling up as Max arrived home on Wednesday, Wilson comes home later today and Aunt Andi flies in from the east coast this afternoon for a quick visit!!  That’ll switch things up and lighten the load considerably!  It may not feel like Christmas this year for lots of reasons but thankfully the wonder, the anticipation of good things to come, the hope of Christ and the reassurance of God’s presence among us is…always.

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Don we now our gay apparel.
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We woke up Sunday morning to a dusting of what looked like snow…but it was ash.
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Olivia and I decided to head south to escape the poor air quality for a few hours and do some Christmas shopping. We went from this…
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…to this in little over an hour!
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I’m horrible at taking fire pictures but we passed by the fire line on the ridge over Summerland on our way home later that day.  The fire fighters are doing an AMAZING job keeping the line contained to the ridge…so impressive and inspiring.
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Olivia and some friends headed down to the fair grounds to help with the animals that had to be evacuated from nearby ranches and the girls were given the fun job of comforting the animals! I’m not sure who enjoyed it more. 😉
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‘Went to Kyle’s Kitchen for some comfort food and found that Rudy continues to be “present” spreading his trademark Christmas cheer! Thank you Ferro Family for including Rudy in your decorating fun.

I’m particularly thankful, now, that the MOHD Squad got to go down to San Diego the weekend before the fire broke out to see Max perform in his PLNU concert choir Christmas show.  The variety of numbers performed made the show fun, festive and quite moving…it was the perfect way to kick off THIS Christmas especially.  I captured their rendition of my favorite carol…

Merry, Merry, MERRY Christmas dear ones.  May these last few days leading up to Christmas be filled with GREAT JOY, SUSTAINING GRACE, PERFECT PEACE and a STRENGTH of spirit and of mind that is truly beyond what the natural world can muster!  Thank you for your friendship and love.

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Kinda feels like this bears repeating…”It may not feel like Christmas this year for lots of reasons but thankfully the wonder, the anticipation of good things to come, the hope of Christ and the reassurance of God’s presence among us isalways.”

Pros and Cons

It seems most of my head space these days is spent praying about and contemplating the pros and cons of potential options available to me.  The reality is that there are a ton of theories out there but very few proven options.

Western/Conventional medicine can offer me two options at this point:

  1. Radicava – a medication that was FDA approved in the US in August.  Radicava has been proven to slow the progression of symptoms in some cases of ALS! (PRO)   It is administered through intravenous infusions -much like chemotherapy…(two weeks on, two weeks off initially and then 10 days on within two week period, two weeks off each month thereafter)…(kind of a CON ’cause it’s pretty consuming).
  2. Stem cell treatment through a clinical trial at UC Irivine.  I applied to be a part of the study several weeks ago and they are conducting applicant interviews now.  On the surface, it sounds quite hopeful with participants in previous trial phases reporting not only a slowing of symptom progression but also reversal of symptoms!  (Super Big PRO)  To participate in the study, however, I must commit to the 11 month study and NOT take Radicava.  Risky because my functionality could change a great deal in 11 months and I’m not guaranteed the stem cell treatment as half the test group will be given a placebo.  (CON)  I’m simplifying it but that’s basically the gist.  I don’t mind being a lab rat but is the risk of diminished functionality, physical effort, time away from family, etc, etc worth what I’d be getting (if anything) from the study?  Hard to say.

Alternative medicine can offer me a variety of treatments to help manage the disease…not bad just time consuming and often expensive.  (PROS and CONS to them all)

The challenge is to find a comfortable balance between getting caught up in the hysteria of all the proven and theoretical options out there AND getting caught up in a fatalistic attitude.  Both extremes are paralyzing…finding a balance requires a conscious (and ongoing) effort to focus.   It’s exhausting and, to be perfectly honest, my heart isn’t in it.

What I’m deliberating day in and day out are details related to disease management.  For 8 1/2 years, our family submitted to an intricate system of disease management with Rudy and as I wrestle with the details of my disease and cry out to God for help, I’m discovering I don’t want to submit to disease management anymore.  I don’t want to “treat symptoms”.  I want a system overhaul…I want a system reboot…I want my nervous system to resurrect.

Let me be clear.  I’m very grateful for conventional medicine, current technologies and the research & resources donated to get us where we are today in ALS treatment.  I’m also very respectful of what alternative medicine offers people like me.  I appreciate it, I’m doing due diligence in all areas and I’m engaging in the therapies that seem to fit me best but what I really want is for God to heal me this side of heaven.  I’m sure some of you are saying “well, duh!” but it’s an involved and thoughtful process for me and the subject of miraculous healing could be a blog post of it’s own.  I’ll share my thoughts on it sometime but for now I’ll just say I’m doing my due diligence in this area as well and seeking God for wisdom to truly understand what my options are and for discernment in determining what is best for me and my family.  Will you please join me in prayers for wisdom and discernment in my process as well as the motivation to put on my big girl pants and do the necessary legwork?  Thank you dear friends!  ‘Grateful for YOU!!!