October Slide Part 2

Several years ago I wrote a blog post about the October Slide. At the time I didn’t know much about it and was sort of educating myself as much as I was trying to start a discussion and raise awareness. Not much has changed since then. I still wonder about this weird phenomenon where people with chronic illnesses get sicker during the month of October.

I know October is almost over, so this post may be a bit late, but generally the October Slide isn’t just limited to a single month. Many people who experience it do so through most of the fall, into winter, and the following year. In fact, some people with ME/CFS get worse in November and call it the November Factor.

The good news, at least for me, is that I haven’t been feeling that much worse this October. I’m definitely doing better than past Octobers, but I will admit that earlier this month I did notice it becoming harder for me to speak and walk. For the most part this was a small blip and I haven’t taken much of a dive, but it did make me wonder: Is this the October Slide? Is it once again coming for me?

It didn’t help that I noticed some of my friends and loved ones with chronic illnesses going through their own version of the October Slide, wondering the same thing. And then there’s the fact that, even though I wrote that blog post four years ago, a surprising number of people still read it. Every October my blog gets an influx of referrals from people searching October Slide.

So, this is all to say that I don’t have any answers. In fact, most of the year—maybe even 11 months of it—I tend to forget all about the October Slide. But then, either because of the page views on my blog or someone mentioning it on social media, it pops back into my mind.

Through such channels I have found others writing about and discussing the October Slide. While it’s good that people are still talking about it, someone (a doctor) should really do a study on it. I know a lot of chronic illness patients would like to see the data and get some answers.

BEFORE YOU GO . . .

1. My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

2. The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible

3. You can also support my blog by donating directly.

I Went For a Drive

Until recently, I hadn’t been in a car for at least five years. The last time, I was so severely sick that a crew of paramedics had to put me on a gurney and wheel me into the back of an ambulance under the cover of darkness because I was so sensitive to light. They transported me to my mom’s house on top of a mountain in the Sierra foothills, where I’ve been living the last several years. I wrote about the experience in my memoir, When Force Meets Fate:

I’m put on the gurney and into the back of the ambulance. Sasha holds my hand while she awkwardly crouches next to me. From the driver’s seat, I hear the voice of the same driver from the ambulance ride I took back in June. Then I feel the paramedic’s hands wrap a blood pressure cuff around my arm. The ambulance takes us up several steep mountain roads, and we get lost a few times, but eventually arrive at the new house perched atop a mountain ridge overlooking the Central Valley. I have no idea what the new house or its view look like, but apparently they’re both pretty great. When the paramedic wheels me onto the deck, I hear him say, “Wow, look at that view.” The only view I can see is a ceiling as I’m shoveled onto my new bed.

This latest trip wasn’t as bad, but it was still difficult. The preparation began two years ago, when we had a concrete ramp built from the front deck of the house to the gravel driveway. But the driveway was so steep, we couldn’t decide how to design the ramp. We could have built it to disability standards, but that would have meant making switchbacks and possibly not leaving enough room to park the car in the driveway. So, in the end, we decided to go with a steeper, L-shaped ramp.

Next, I had to get to the deck, which, if you’ve been reading my blog lately, you know I did gradually as I began to walk again.

Getting to the deck was only half the journey. At that point, my mom decided to buy a van that would be easier for me to transfer into and provide a smoother ride once I was inside. My aunt and uncle were nice enough to deliver the van from the Bay Area. But once we got it, I still had to figure out how to get up the ramp and into the van.

I sat outside in my wheelchair and strategized. Then I tried using my power wheelchair, but despite its all-terrain features, it didn’t have enough power. I got about halfway up the ramp before the motor gave out and I almost tipped backward. I leaned forward and grabbed onto the fence post to keep myself from falling, gouging my hand on the sharp edge.

Things weren’t going well, so I tried another idea. Triple digit temperatures and wild fire smoke filled the air, so I waited for a cool night with less smoke, then I got into my larger, non-electric wheelchair, and my mom used her superhuman strength to pull me up the ramp. I was able to transfer into the van, but I was too exhausted to go for a drive.

Music: “Remember” – iksonmusic

After the trial run, I decided to wait a few days before trying again, mainly because it was still hot and smoky outside. I wanted to do it on a cooler, clearer day, at dusk, so I could see the views while we were driving. Finally, after months (years really) of waiting, I got to go for a drive.

Music: “Take it” – LiQWYD

We drove around the neighborhood for a few minutes, but there were LOTS of steep hills (the downhills gave me vertigo and the uphills made me car sick). I was ready to go home. But before I went back inside the house, I lay in the van for a while, looking up at the vast, clear sky above.

I was tired when I returned to my bed, but I didn’t crash too hard and recovered fairly quickly the next day. As I lay in bed recovering, I thought about how far I had come, what it took to get to this point in my recovery, and how there were times when I couldn’t even imagine riding in a car again. But that’s the wonderful thing about recovering from illness, it happens in ways you often don’t expect, and when it does, you appreciate it that much more.

BEFORE YOU GO . . .

1. My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

2. The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible!

3. You can also support my blog by donating directly.

Up In Smoke

The last time I went outside I wasn’t sure if I could get back in. The smoke in the air was 500 on the AQI meter (literally the highest it goes). It burned my lungs and throat. I was dizzy and disoriented, weak and sick to my stomach. It was like smoking some bad weed, hot boxing a car, except I didn’t get high, and the car was the entire outdoors.

Most of the west coast has experienced smoke and haze this summer. But some places have had it worse than others and, unfortunately, I live in one of the most smoke-filled areas—the Sierras. The Dixie Fire, Beckwourth Complex Fire, and Caldor Fire, have burned hundreds of thousands of acres and sent giant, pluming clouds of smoke into the air.

The worst part about the smoke is not that it keeps me from going outside, though, that is extremely frustrating since my health has improved, recently allowing me to walk outside for the first time in several years. No, the worst part is that the air quality has been so bad inside, making it hard to breathe nearly all the time.

I’ve been running two heavy-duty air purifiers, along with a humidifier to reduce smoke particles, and wearing a wet mask inside to further limit the particles. But even with these precautions, the smoke still gets in my lungs. It makes my eyes burn, my lungs wheeze, my sinuses congested, and gives me migraines.

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With all this in mind, I now realize that I need to find a new place to live, a healthier place with the cleanest air I can find within the radius I’m able to travel.

I recently posted about this on social media and a lot of people mentioned that nowhere in California, particularly the Bay Area, is untouched by the smoke. And while this may be true, smoke is a constant issue where I live. Even during the winter, the air here is clouded by smoke from burn piles, camp fires, and chimneys. Breathing in smoke, looking outside and seeing a thick haze blanketing the valleys and roads has become a way of life, a way of life that I need to escape if I want my health to improve. Also, it would be nice to sit outside and see blue sky again, to breathe fresh air.

So, I need to move to a healthier area, which will almost certainly be a more expensive area. I also need transportation—a van that is either wheelchair-accessible or one that I can lie in comfortably for several hours (I still don’t know how my body will handle this).

The problem is I don’t have the money for these things. One way to help pay for them is to monetize my blog, something I’ve resisted doing over the last several years, mostly because I hate ads. And I know other people hate ads. But I may have to do this, so I sincerely apologize if there are any ads for dick pills or links to “10 Botched Celebrity Plastic Surgeries.”

Reader contributions also help. If you find my writing useful and enjoy reading it, please chip in so I can be compensated for the time and energy I put into my blog, and so I can find a healthier place to live. I would be grateful!

I will keep you updated on my search for a new place to live. Hopefully I can figure something out by next summer.

Other ways to support this blog . . .

1. Order my memoir! WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

2. The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible!

3. You can also support my blog by donating directly.