COLLABORATION: To Blog or Not To Blog

To Blog or Not To Blog

A collaboration with Tammy Schuman of Scooter Saga


Scooter Saga – by Tammy Schuman


Cancer4Me – by Michelle Dennis Lattanzi

I’ve reblogged posts from Tammy Schuman before, and I have followed Tammy’s Scooter Saga for a long time. She blogs from the perspective of someone living with Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), and she does a marvelous job of bringing her readers into her world of ups and downs living with ataxia, and the day-to-day challenges she faces as her disease progresses. Tammy and I have become friends through our blogs, reading about our own life journeys.

Recently Tammy approached me to do a collaborative post about two bloggers’ perspectives on what blogging is and what it does for us. Each of us wrote our own essays on the topic, and Tammy brought them together. Below is an excerpt:

To Blog or Not To Blog

TAMMY – I enjoy blogging, but never appreciated the varied ways it could be used. As I mentioned earlier, I started journaling on my sister–in–law’s recommendation and my musings morphed into a blog* (web log). Getting Skeeter changed my perspective and provided all sorts of laughable moments. It was a compatible context for serendipity, my smart mouth, and learning to deal with a disability… Read more.

MICHELLE – Since I was very young, I enjoyed writing. I have always found it a comfortable and easy way to express my thoughts. I’ve journaled off and on for most of my life, with no other goal than to think on paper. Writing is a great way to work out problems. By writing down my stream of consciousness, I can order my thoughts and analyze them, then sometimes a solution will miraculously appear!.. Read more.

It was incredibly fun, and a first attempt at a collaboration for both Tammy and me. Enjoy, and please let us know what you think.


maintenance-cancer“Your annual exam sounds like taking the car in for maintenance.  They “flush the lines” and “blow the pipes”, then do some diagnostics.  The mechanic then tells you that your car may have a few dings and scars on the outside but still looks pretty darn good.  The engine is running well after their “tune-up”.  It may backfire once in a while and is a little slower going up a long hill, but it gets there.”

– Dr. Earl Schuman

I love this analogy because:

the human body = mechanics = plumbing = gardening, etc…

All systems are like, and can be used to explain each other. By making analogies like this, our great fears, such as mortality or failure, can be put into a familiar framework and therefore seem less scary.

I’ve mentioned Dr. Earl Schuman in previous posts. He is the family friend who has coached me through major life medical decisions, physical and emotional changes, throughout my 2012 colorectal cancer episode. He has regularly kept up with my writings and offered encouragement and advice, even with a busy work and home life.

Since I have earned good health marks and moved on to a more routine existence, I mistakenly assume that I must be far from Dr. Earl Schuman’s mind. Our original connection is through my dad’s cousin Bonnie’s college roommate and lifelong friend, Tammy, who married Earl (what, do you want a diagram?). Aunt Bonnie lives in California, and when I was diagnosed, word traveled to Bonnie who referred us to Tammy, a retired nurse, and Earl, a general surgeon in Portland, to advise me on how I should proceed. He did not have to help. But I came with no expectations and no clue! That’s where Earl shined!

I don’t know where to begin to thank Earl. Over the course of my treatments, Matt and I called in panic once or twice, plus a few times to run our research past him to see if we were on track making decisions about my treatment. I would email him updates. And then at times he would just check in. It was truly like having a guardian angel sitting by somewhere in the ethosphere.

Since achieving wellness, and even before, I have followed Tammy Schuman’s blog, Scooter Saga. She writes about life with Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), from which she began suffering in her 40’s and which forced her to retire early from her nursing career because of loss of muscle control, balance, fine motor coordination. Tammy’s blog is a portal into a world where adapting to every-day surroundings with an ever-changing muscle control is the new normal. And then to do it with grace, gratitude and laughter makes it a true inspiration. Tammy makes her experience so easy to digest, everyone should read along with Scooter Saga! I’ve been able to connect with Tammy through her blog, and feel that I’ve become friends not only with Earl, but also with Tammy.

Daily, and in their own way, the two are making the world a better place, and reminding the rest of us to keep the scary stuff in perspective!

Untoward Exits

A friend, Tammy Schuman, who blogs from the perspective of living with Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), graciously allowed me to reblog her post. With Ataxia, a person may have problems with coordination because parts of the nervous system that control movement and balance are affected.

Through her blog, Tammy shares her experiences and observations about her condition. What I like about this post is Tammy’s description of the day-to-day challenges of managing simple bodily functions with Ataxia. During the most painful and uncomfortable days of my cancer treatments, I had many of the same thoughts, panics and frustrations that she describes.

This is my first attempt at re-blogging someone else’s post, I hope it works!

Update – a few minutes later:

Well, it didn’t work, and it should have,  and I’m not sure why, and it’s late. Here is a link to Tammy’s post.

Untoward Exits

Whether it’s poop, pee, gas, snot or saliva––I’d like to choose when, in whose presence, and where it exits. Ah well…such is the life of an Ataxian. Fortunately, I have understanding family and friends. Another reason I love Skeeter–she doesn’t care how gross I am.

I watched a movie the other night (of course). Harry Belafonte’s character and Anthony Hopkin’s character were having a drink and trading barbs about the effects of aging.

Harry Belafonte: “At least I don’t have to get up three times a night to pee.”

Anthony Hopkins: “At least I get up.”

I’m not quite that bad, but I’ve come to look at the bowel and bladder more globally, like the nose and throat–increased sensitivity. I haven’t had major issues yet, but I sense they are coming. Perhaps it’s advancing age or the Ataxia, but I’ve noticed increased bladder sensitivity and decreased capacity. I’ve always had a capacity less than many people, particularly males. Like I needed to get worse? Lying awake at 2 am, trying to convince myself to just go back to sleep, is a waste of time. Get up, don’t fall and just do it, Tam (don’t think this is what Nike had in mind).

Consequent to the increased sensitivity, I (probably most people already know this):

–Avoid large volumes of fluid from early evening on (tea, caffeine, and wine are big offenders). I do have to get my wine in though.

–Go to the bathroom before bed (duh)

–Get up during the night whether or not I feel the urge.

–Hit the bathroom before I need to; Not having the “not now” ability I used to, I don’t dawdle.

–Never pass up a bathroom (duh).

–Never get into a car without going to the bathroom (double duh)

Depends, Rely, Dignity, Sillhouette? Nice try at confidence branding (that ship has sailed). The various products out there make me much easier to rescue on a long scoot, should I underestimate my bladder capacity. One thing about Ataxians that indirectly affects “untoward exits”. First of all, hurrying puts us at greater risk for falling. Secondly, we just don’t move as skillfully as we used to. Consequently, we have to compensate using some anticipation, rather than shouting “Get out of my way!” Now THAT’S embarrassing.

I go before Earl occupies the bathroom, before the grandchildren wake up and come in our room, before guests arrive, before getting on a plane, before going out–before just about anything.

The lesson: Go to the bathroom, blow your nose, check your teeth–Just do it. And have understanding friends.

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