The Aerial View

Fort Wayne, Indiana aerial photo by Steven Horney

Moving from a city of 8 million people to this big-little area of 300,000 where I live now was a huge undertaking in 2007. The occasion was marrying my Intended Beloved, Steve. The leap of faith required to do so was tremendous: almost everything in my life changed that year including those related to the death of my Mom in March. The process of grieving then leaping off into a new direction was downright painful at times. And now 15 years later can I still say that embracing Steve during the same year was one of the better decisions of my life. The Lord has blessed me so much by my beloved Stevers!

You could say that my story is like taking an aerial photo in a Piper Archer. The reality for me is that down on the ground, the highs and the lows are one dastardly beast to navigate at times. I lose a couple of days per week to a sickness that started in 2011, then rally, or rather scramble, to put my life in order on the rest of them. The stuff of life still needs to be done even when battling a serious illness. Steve does what he can to help me out, especially when I am in a crisis, but he can’t do everything. Nor would I want him to do so. A little more maybe, but not everything! We have learned the value of compartmentalization: setting aside the challenges of a given day when we need to focus on a more important task together. For example, when my care needs are significant, we cannot bemoan our latest disconnect or household repair even if it’s a painful or expensive one. Steve is the only one who can bring me a rescue remedy when I am frozen in a convulsive episode. He is gracious towards me at these times and for this I am exceedingly grateful.

Taking an aerial view of one’s life is helpful at times. Climb to 4,000 feet and sit away from the clouds, the storms of life while connected to the grandeur of the world in which we live. Dwell on the Lord’s goodness and His marvelous creation! Eventually we will land our plane back on earth but why rush things? The question becomes how to avoid crashing and burning or perhaps going crazy when the flight gets bumpy along the way. No worries! Whether climbing or descending into the various situations of our lives we must resist being bounced off-course by heated or cooled thermalic conversations, the cross-winds of life’s technical problems, static in our headset or bodily gear, and limited fuel energies. Not losing sight of the bigger picture is critical to managing these challenges. Not losing sight that the Lord our God is in charge of it all is critical to overcoming these challenges. He has a flight plan and will reveal it to us in due time for He IS the pilot in command!

It’s only with a longer view fixed on Jesus Christ that we will come to understand that what we may label as a detour is actually the best course after all. I need this reminder this evening. There was a nasty fire in the cockpit so-to-speak of our evening that was so bad, my co-pilot in life had to care for me like I was an invalid. I wept in between bites of food that were difficult to chew even cut in small pieces and fed to me with a spoon. I was that weak after yet another violent convulsive episode. The repairs and mold remediation going on in our home for the second time in 9 years somehow triggered the collapse. On one hand I grieved that this hell on earth was still with me, still with us. On the other hand, I was grateful that I had a choice of rescue remedies/treatment strategies plus a skilled caregiver who knew what to do to help me. These took many years, many “flight hours” to develop. Steve is an experienced and capable pilot. The episode lasted a couple of hours before I had the strength to safely get out of bed. By the grace of God I finally got to the bathroom. By my Lord’s power the nightmare ended.

I am now awake and alone well after midnight as I write this tonight with many questions and few answers. Evidently it is still not my time to recover from this serious illness nor to die from it either. I do have some more, new treatments that are promising; they are enough to pull me through the turbulence at times in my own aerial view. There is so much goodness beyond my bed of sickness that I do get to enjoy these days at least once per week. And ultimately I have the hope, the peace that comes from His promise of a glorious life beyond this one in eternity with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In fact, it has already begun . . .

Would you like to have this hope too Gentle Reader? Jesus Christ is more than the best pilot around. He is God! Entrust yourself to no other really. JJ

We’ve been to the mountain

As the only two references to this song on the internet, let’s just say that the video and prose of this hymn lie more in my memory than anywhere else. I can still picture the Worship Leader (long before they were ever called such) playing his guitar at the “Guitar Mass” in the Catholic church where I grew up. Was his name Don? I forget. What I have not forgotten is a song, when sung in its simplest form, that has carried me through many rough days throughout my life. I didn’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before 1989. But He was there, leading me on and to His mountain, Himself. Mystery indeed. I am so very glad He did.

In the still of the morning, we awake with the dawn.
We live our day in the challenge of faith,
but what will we have to lead us on?

Chorus
We’ll just say that we’ve been to the mountain
And caught a glimpse of all that we could be
We will know that a new day is dawning
With a morning sun for all of us to see

In the rays of the sunrise, we find the warmth of new life
Our faith is strengthened as the mysteries unfold
Where lays the answer How will we know

Chorus

We’ve gone with Him to the hillside
His glory He has shown to man
The sacred promise of a brighter morning sun
And living in our faith we’ll see the dawn

Holding on for the Win

As if losing 2 dogs within about 5 weeks time wasn’t hard enough

Our hearts just hurt with the passing of Elle then sudden adoption of Luna.

Only the Lord knows both the desires of my heart and my heartaches to date.

He has walked with me when lungs gasp for air, the body seizes, and screams erupt from within.

My beloved has seen it all as well, taken it in, stood by as best he could albeit weary from the road.

Then Steve pegged the improvements between dogs, setting me on a hunt for answers

I found them or so I think. It explains so much. Even my genetic testing confirms the link.

Will I really recover from the histamine intolerance and DAO deficiency that goes beyond allergy

And will these two culprits really be at the center of chronic illness for me?

Sadly, my first attempt to treat this above my exhaustive cleaning and decontamination

Created new issues as a supplement high in DAO is also high in iron, making me worse!

So back to the version recommended by my chiropractor I go, still overthinking this all

Just a day later the headaches, pain, seizing, irritability, nosebleeds, and more are coming down AGAIN.

What a nightmare this journey has been! Will I ever get to “The Station” as Dear Abby once shared?

If I get there will I recognize Just Julie or the shell of my former self? I digress once more.

Really I hope someone new comes forth from this suffering. Or perhaps she is already here?

For alas there is always purpose to our troubles, for those in Jesus Christ, who believe in His sovereignty.

No matter what happens, Gentle Reader, He holds it all tenderly in His strong hands. He does.

Choose to trust that there is something more for each of us in this life or beyond,

That’s where we all will win, you and me both. Honestly, what else ya got anyhoo?

JJ

The Lunar Passage

It’s 2 days before we may be sending off our stunningly beautiful, 2 year old German shepherd dog to her new home and I am struggling with the whole thing. She came to us probably too soon after our 13 1/2 year old Elle GSD and beloved fuzzy family member had to pass on. Elle was deathly sick so it was the humane thing to do to put her down. Steve and I both cried. Then along came Luna on a rescue website 10 days later and we were off and running in a caper that had more surprises and trials than we could have ever imagined! Now all I can do is sob some more when I think about where we have landed with our furry family members. Soon, both will be gone.

I am struggling again and largely bedridden most days. The drainage from chronic sinusitis is both gross and bloody; nausea has been profound and triggered by a recent ’bout with a cold then the flu. The convulsive episodes are stranger now, with an aura of spaciness leading into them that is atypical for me. Rescue remedies leave me with massive fatigue, if I have not already passed out when in bed. And shaking episodes of up to 20 minutes make it difficult to function even if I do happen to be upright when they occur. What keeps me from despair in this current downward trend is that there appears to be a causative effect of an allergy to our German shepherd dogs. Only as Elle was dying, inactive, and no longer shedding did all symptoms get better for about 2 weeks. My improvements continued as I removed older rugs and cleaned all of her favorite places in our home. And now as Luna enters her 3rd week with us, her gorgeous long hair and dander dropping everywhere, my health has headed into a significant decline. But I have never tested as allergic to dogs! What could be going on?

You know I share all this stuff because writing clarifies my thoughts and research findings. Perhaps there will be a secondary benefit of a fellow sojourner with chronic illness finding something in my story that resonates with him or her. More importantly, Gentle Reader, I hope you see the Lord’s hand working for good and His glory through the seemingly most impossible of circumstances. Ten years of virtually daily convulsive episodes and reactivity is hell to endure. I have tried to live around and through the shroud of pain and suffering, without losing my mind or life itself. Life’s lessons rarely come from the good times. Even so, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ IS GOOD, has a plan and a purpose for every paw print traipsed along the way: hers, hers, and my own. What if Luna is a gift from the Lord to show me how to get well? Would the tears of sorrow from losing one more thing give way to joy if I gain so much more in the end? My husband and I both are about to lose a fun, furry companion but he may re-gain his life partner, his wife! My activity level and health had dramatically improved during the week before we got Luna. What if I could be almost fully restored?

We can hope so, eh? Here we go again with some new ideas, some new notes:

  • Histamine is chemically classified as an amine, an organic molecule based on the structure of ammonia (NH3). In humans histamine is found in nearly all tissues of the body, where it is stored primarily in the granules of tissue mast cells.  The blood cells called basophils also harbour histamine-containing granules. Once released from its granules, histamine produces many varied effects within the body, including the contraction of smooth muscle tissues of the lungs, uterus, and stomach; the dilation of blood vessels, which increases permeability and lowers blood pressure; the stimulation of gastric acid secretion in the stomach; and the acceleration of heart rate. Histamine also serves as a neurotransmitter, carrying chemical messages between nerve cells.
  • Histamine, is a prominent contributor to allergic disease. Elevations in plasma or tissue histamine levels have been noted during anaphylaxis and experimental allergic responses of the skin, nose, and airways. Thus although histamine is only one of many mediators of allergic disease, it plays a primary role in allergic rhinitis, urticaria, anaphylaxis, and to a lesser degree, asthma.
  • Hypersensitivity reactions (HR) are immune responses that are exaggerated or inappropriate against an antigen or allergen. Coombs and Gell classified hypersensitivity reactions into four forms. Type I, type II, and type III hypersensitivity reactions are known as immediate hypersensitivity reactions (IHR) because they occur within 24 hours. Antibodies including IgE, IgM, and IgG mediate them. There are tests for these antibodies, however, our Family Doctor states that these tests aren’t as accurate as they could be, creating false positives.
  • Other classes of disease including histamine include Mast Cell Activation Disease, dietary and digestive considerations, neurological and psychological conditions, migraine, brain trauma, and more.
  • Apart from its central role in the mediation of allergic reactions, gastric acid secretion and inflammation in the periphery, histamine serves an important function as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The central histamine system is involved in many brain functions such as arousal, control of pituitary hormone secretion, suppression of eating and cognitive functions. 
  • The central histaminergic actions are mediated by H1, H2, H3 and H4 receptors. The histamine H3 receptor regulates the release of histamine and a number of other neurotransmitters and thereby plays a role in cognitive and homeostatic processes. Elevated histamine levels suppress seizure activities and appear to confer neuroprotection.  So far, H3 receptor antagonists/inverse agonists have garnered a great deal of interest in view of their promising therapeutic properties in various CNS disorders including epilepsy and related neurotoxicity. 
  • The role of the brain histaminergic system in neuroprotection remains a challenging area of research that is currently under consideration. Based on recent findings, which include changes in H1 and H3 receptor expression in a KA-induced epileptic model, it has been proposed that the brain histaminergic system is involved in experimental SE (status epilepticus) and subsequent neurodegeneration (Jin et al., 2005Lintunen et al., 2005). (Ibid)
  • Histamine is considered to be an anticonvulsive neurotransmitter as its low levels are associated with convulsions and seizures (Kiviranta et al., 1995Chen et al., 2003Hirai et al., 2004). In the review referenced here, an attempt has been made to scrutinize the recent experimental evidence that has evoked the possibility that the histaminergic system, via modulation of H3 receptor function, can be engaged to mediate a neuroprotective effect in epilepsy-related neurotoxicity and also to address the possible mechanisms involved. (Ibid)
  •  H3 receptor antagonists (particularly Pitolisant and Ayurvedic preparations) appear to possess both anticonvulsive and neuroprotective and/or disease modifying activity as suggested in numerous experimental findings. But this could also occur from a non-histaminergic mechanism. On the basis of the substantial experimental findings generated so far, H3 receptor antagonists can be envisaged as having a therapeutic effect on epileptic and associated neurodegenerative disorders. (Ibid)

So herein we find a correlation between histamine, allergic reactions, and epileptic-type disorders. Now I don’t have epilepsy per se, as determined by several EEG studies. But I definitely have a biologic if not neurologic basis for a Convulsion Disorder that worsens with several distinct triggers and physiologic/chemical factors, not the least of which is the recent exposure to a significant allergen. As soon as Luna settled into our home, it felt like many different systems in my body went haywire including itchy skin and the gastric upset. I had fewer symptoms when away from home for a treatment at our local hospital on Tuesday. Elle was a short-haired dog and Luna is long-haired, active, and came to us in heat. Hormones don’t typically make a dog more allergenic, however pheromones might do all kinds of crazy things. Luna certainly had more of a scent during her first 10 days with us than we recall Elle ever having, even after bathing Luna and as her heat cycle continued. Luna also weighs 10 pounds more than Elle. The earliest we can have her neutered, per our vet is about a month from now. I really don’t know how I would make it until then as I am definitely reacting to her right now! Anyways, getting a dog spayed doesn’t change the allergens that reportedly come from her fur and saliva.

All of this is to say is that there may be a scientific reason that I cannot turn off an allergic, histamine reaction that may exacerbate a neurologic condition when that trigger remains in our living environment. There is a possibility of a loading phenomenon that occurred over the decade of serious illness when Elle was with us. My body got overloaded with so many medical insults that we didn’t notice the hidden allergy; I did have other signs of system overloads such as shingles and chronic headaches. Then just recently, the headaches diminished significantly by changing to a low tyramine diet! Who knew this could happen? It’s very similar to a low oxalate diet but years on a LOD made no impact on daily headaches that had worsened over the past 2 years. I would wake up every day with my head pounding before even trying to get out of bed. Another take-away here is that things do change over time. For this reason we must be vigilant to keep observing, continue researching, change our treatment protocols, ask questions, and seek the best sources we can find for help again and again. Is there more to know even a decade later? Yes, there certainly can be. And when all is submitted to prayer, then I have found that the Great Physician can order my steps through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Renewal is always possible.

Right after Steve and I started putting some of this story together, made our decision to put her up for adoption, and made Luna available on the same animal rescue site in which we found her, Steve got an email from a wonderful family who wants to meet her. They sound just like us in many ways. Perhaps we can serve as the dog foster parents for a formerly sheltered pup who blossomed under our care. I wish you could meet her, Gentle Reader. She went from being terrified of everything and everyone to wagging that bushy, bushy tail when you approach her soft brown eyes and smile that nudges your hand to pet her just a little bit longer. Scratch my belly! Seeing her running alongside Steve as he cross-country skiis is an awesome sight to behold! I wonder what she will be like after she gets her vaccines and runs free at a dog park, lap after lap after lap. Oh Luna bean, I do believe your best days are ahead of you.

Maybe me too!

Luna and Steve in their element of snow!

Enjoy this video of Steve and Luna coming home. https://photos.app.goo.gl/y4Gd6FRfPCQ6AnCe6

Where do you go?

Where do you go when what was good is now bad and what was bad is now commonplace,

When the meaning of words is twisted or the prose is outlawed altogether?

Where do you go when your spirit is disquieted, there is no where that feels safe,

When you cannot trust your body to get you there even if you knew where that was?

Where do you go when fear-mongering is the top headline every day

When there is no place for discussion much less public or private debate?

Where do you go to share your pictures and news and questions and art

When social media has become the Big Brother of an ever bigger government?

Where do you go when your losses outnumber your wins and

You just don’t know when or if either one can come back in any form?

Where do you go where the customary habits of hygiene and socialization

Are so altered by an unforeseen enemy they can’t even objectively identify?

Where do you go for human touch, to connect with loved ones

When there is no room for them even when dying in a hospital bed?

Where do you go for wisdom, for light in the darkness, for hope of a better day

When all you can see is madness, anxiety, fear, doubt, and dumbing down?

Gentle Reader, you go to Jesus Christ

His throne of grace is mightier than

Any trial or tragedy or evil we may face.

Go now. Our very eternity is at stake.