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Posted on 8. May 2014

Just Push

By Valarie Kinney

Just push yourself.

The words I heard so often, so long ago, have stayed with me.

My father was one of eight children raised on a farm, and I’m not sure there was a time in his life he wasn’t up early and up late - working, working, working.

My mother, raised in a tiny house in a tiny village, began working as a young teen and rose each morning of my childhood at 4:30 a.m. to head to a GM factory where she worked the line in cruise control. Mom had a bad back, and some mornings she would crawl down the stairs in the wee morning hours. I’d get up, too, and help her put on socks and shoes, and she’d half-crawl out to the garage and get in the car. Never in her life did she call in sick to work.

Just push yourself.

It’s the way I was raised. 

So many mornings, there is a soft knock on my door, and a wavering voice: “Mom. Mommy? I’m sick. I can’t go to school.”

The first words out of my still half-asleep mouth are, “You’ve got to push yourself.”

We negotiate.  “Stay home for an hour and sleep. Take your meds. You can go in late, but you can’t miss the whole day. Not again.”

When I was growing up, the rule for missing school was we either had to have a fever or be throwing up. No negotiation. Sore throats? Migraines? General malaise? No dice. These were things that could be pushed through, if only one tried hard enough. Buck up. Push yourself.

This is the playing field I’m familiar with. But since my children were diagnosed with common variable immune deficiency (CVID), I feel as if I’m on a completely different field; the game is different, the equipment is awkward and unfamiliar, and the rules are shouted at me in German. 

As a mother of kids with chronic illness, it’s difficult to make these calls. Keep her home? What’s another day after she’s missed 50? Make him go. How will he ever hold a job? What time does the doctor’s office open? I should call in a refill on that Xopenex, just in case. Does she look feverish? What will the school say if we call in again?

These thoughts zing in my brain before 7 a.m.

My husband says I am too soft on them.  I need to make them push themselves, he says. 

I know it. I know it.

I’ve heard whispers that teachers have been gossiping about my kids, about how many school days they miss. They know there is a 504 in place, but they don’t really understand why. They look at my kids and see typical teens, laughing and learning and getting caught up in high school melodrama. If they looked closer, they might see the overly bright, glassy eyes of a fever. Or bruises from the last tourniquet, blown veins from the last infusion, or hardened lumps of tissue from the daily shots. 

When we discuss it, the school staff nod and say they understand, then suck air noisily through their teeth and look away and I know they think my kids are probably just hanging out smoking over at the local fast food joint and I’m a clueless mom trying to cover for them. 

But the truth is, I do want them to push. Past their limits. Past the sky. I want them to bust through the glass bubble of CVID and shatter it into crumbled bits. 

I want them to be free, without a single thing to hold them down.

Push, push, push.

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Comments (6) -

Diana
3:38 PM on Thursday, May 08, 2014

I relate very much to your story of having to 'push' through the days.  I was not diagnosed until age 53; however, I was sick all the time.  After specialist found nothing, my primary care doctor treated symptoms with steroids, antibiotics, etc.  Now that I am on a regular subcutaneous infusion schedule and after over 3 years of pushing, I get it.  I have a choice.  I can stay in bed with a migraine or I can go out with a mask and plant some flowers.  This is just one example; however, I have found more contentment in life since I 'push'.  Like your children, sometimes you just run out of energy and can push no more.  Thank you for sharing your story with us... CVID = PUSH  Smile

Sandra Wallace
9:06 PM on Thursday, May 08, 2014

I understand the conflict that you are feeling - do I push myself or do I listen to my body.  After 18 years of rheumatoid arthritis, I've learned that it's easier to push yourself when you are feeling better.  The pain, fever, other symptoms are your body saying, "I need rest because I've very busy fighting this darned disease."  There are still times that I push myself when I really should be taking care of myself, but I'm much better about listening to my body as the years go by.  And now that IVIG has been added, it's definitely easier to rest when I need it.  Pushing is only healthy when it gives us the gentle exercise or socialization that we need.  I'd be tempted to let the kids finish school at home online.  It might be interesting to see how much better they feel when they are not having to push.  I've been amazed at how much better I'm doing since I cut back from a 30 hour to 12 hour workweek.

Christina Bell
3:32 PM on Friday, May 09, 2014

As I sat waiting for the energy to finish/work on my final projects for school I was reading this blog on facebook. I noticed tears running down my face. I to know all to well the erge the drive to succed to produce. The fear of not being good enough. Will my CVID rear it's ugly head again this semester? Will two classes be to much? Will I ever finish? I must succed. But, do I? Need I? I guess these questions always will be. But, more and more I am coming to the relization that I do not have to prove to myself that I am not damaged goods. That to push only puts me in a rut the next day or days as it may be. I am not the best at this. See, this semester as an art student I thought I had this under control. What am I doing PUSHING! Once agian pushing. Once, again waiting till Monday arives at 10:45am. So I can rest. Till then push. Till then I keep going.

Michael
9:35 AM on Saturday, May 10, 2014

I began pushing myself at the age of 13 when I first had sciatic pain.  As I went through many health challenges in life. I continued to push through.  After my 5th back operation when I was 43 I knew that I had to push even harder, but when I was diagnosed with my 1st auto-immune disease, myasthenia gravis, at the age of 53 pushing became my daily mantra.  I then had 4 additional auto-immune diseases by the age of 57 and I adopted the mantra of "I never give up, but there are some days I must give in."  Now I have 8 herniated discs and myasthenia gravis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, sjogrens and diabetes.  Thank God for my weekly IVIG treatments which keep me breathing and my legs and arms functioning.  Pushing through is a way of life.  I must stay as physically active as possible because inactivity will allow side effects from these diseases to either cripple me or kill me.  Neither is am attractive option.  At the young age of 64, I push myself to get up every day and either golf 18 holes or work out for 2 hours with weights and a recumbent bike.  (For golf I have a disability golf cart that allows me to play.)  When I finish either of these activities I am truly spent from the fatigue which is a byproduct of all my problems, but I have pushed myself to live another day.  All of us need to push through in order to have as great of a quality of life as possible.  The alternatives are not attractive.  

Gaby
6:31 AM on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I'm a patient with Mom who I call a "Mom on Fire." She was a single Mom too, so had few resources to cope. So what my smarty pants Mom did was accept a job at a school where there was a "sick bay." A place with a nurse where I could go and sleep or rest at any time if I needed to. I survived through school on antibiotics because I wasn't on treatment yet and did what I could to keep up and fit in. If I knew then what I know now I wouldn't have cared about the latter so much. Anyway, what my Mom had to learn about me was, was I being a testy teen or was I just simply unwell and grumpy. It was not easy, there was no hand-book. But one thing I give her credit for is that she NEVER indulged my illness. I still had to get up and go to school. If I was that sick I was lucky enough to have a place to rest. Our mantra was and is to this day (as I sit here working in my corporate 8-6 job in HealthTech feeling absolutely exhausted for some reason today - possibly side-effects from my SubQ on Saturday) "Deal With It." I could go home. But I'm here. Dealing with it. Stick it out "Mom on Fire" your kids will hold those lessons in resilience (within their limits) true.  Push, but don't push past. Build energy don't exhaust it. Chi Kung and Kundalini Yoga has been a wonderful teacher for me in learning how to manage what and when I give (and to whom.) In some ways better than the spoon theory as that for me presumes that there is a fixed amount that depletes and that we can't generate energy within ourselves. We can, we just need to know how, individually. You are an awesome Mom and screw the teachers who are just ignorant and unconscious. Honestly.

Lynn
2:37 PM on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I am all too familiar with the push attitude. I should be, as I have been living it for roughly twenty five years now. I pushed myself as a single parent, raising my daughter the best I knew how. We did great through her elementary school years, junior high and high school. I felt good watching her make her way through the years, the friends and accomplishments. She attended a popular university and she moved in the dorms. All the while I was pushing myself. Pushing myself on a daily basis. There were times when I had no energy to push and I was forced to stay home from work. I was always given a doctors note. I made sure of it. The management was not concerned about my health as much as they were about my abscences. I'm not only pushing but now being pressured to push. I am too tired to keep pushing. I want to stop. I want to check out. I am tired of this hamster wheel. I make my attemp to put an end to it all. The attempt isn't good enough so I push myself back to work the next day. A couple of my co-workers who are friends notice a difference in me. I reached a place where I have to reveal my shame, my weakness and my feeling of defeat. After a few days at the mental resort I have a refreshed view. No diagnosis but mentally I am stronger. Soon I'm back to the daily push to and from work. My daughter is going to graduate from college now and will be getting her degree in Chemistry in addition to being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. I am so proud of her. I push myself to spend as much time with her as I can before she has to move to Virginia to attend Officer Candidate School. Still pushing to work and now pushing to travel to Virginia to see my daughter on occasional weekends and then graduation. Yeah! She comes back home and is stationed at a marine base south of our home. Three years later, I learn my daughter is going to Iraq on deployment for one year. I push myself back to the psychiatrist's office to help myself cope, give me strength, to be brave for her. I push myself to the Marine base where she and her unit leave from. I watch her vehicle disappear. I push myself back home and know I need to rest in order to be able to push myself back to work the next day. It's harder and harder to continue the push but I do it. I do it unless my body becomes I'll, as it often did, and I am told to stay home and rest until my lungs can at least work properly. The stress of my child, my work and  finances become too much and sleep doesn't come very easy anymore. Fast forward 5 years and I need help with my lungs. I need to find a new pulmonary Doctor to get me breathing right again. A month of high dose steroids and antibiotics and I'll be as good as new. That had been the regimen all these years. I find a pulmonary Doctor on the Internet. I pick the one with the best rating. I see him the first time in April of 2013. He listens to my story of my medical history. He prescribes medication for my current illnesses and orders labs. I return a few weeks later and the labs he ordered are my Immunoglobulin levels. I am deficient. He tells me my immune system is shot! I'm frozen! I am happy and sad at the same time. I am given more lab requisitions to further check my immune system. On my return appointment day, (May 3, 2013), I'm told my immune system is worse than he originally thought. I have CVID. We discuss my condition and what it means for me and my employment in the medical field, my need for change. I leave that office with a new outlook. I no longer wish to push myself through life. I want to stop and listen to my body and give it what it needs. Pushing is not what your body needs with a diagnosis like this. At age 51 I was given a diagnosis that was a complete life changer for me. I left my job of 18 years with a disability retirement, moved, and I quit pushing. Almost 4 years later now and I can't imagine what life would be like with my additional ailments and the need to be pushing my way through it. I knew I had to stop and listen to my body. That's my new way of life, I listen.

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