Author Archives: Wendy Thomas

About Wendy Thomas

Wendy is a journalist, writer, blogger and teaches writing at Nashua Community College.

Lesson 1442 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 3 cont (Who-ville unite)

Day 3 – Stewartstown to Colebrook cont.

Once our bodies had had enough time to re-hydrate, our waitress came over to talk to us. There as a lull in afternoon business and besides, what good waitress worth her salt wouldn’t want to know about the two “nice backpack hikers” who were traveling through town?

I’m pretty sure that waitresses like writers, live to hear and tell stories.

Our waitress was middle-aged, wore comfortable shoes, and had a friendly, inquisitive face. Exactly the kind of person you don’t mind opening up to.

As Griffin and I leaned back in our chairs, bellies filled with salmon and chicken, we were feeling good. We told her about our walk. How we had started at the Canadian border in Pittsburg and how we hoped to finish at the Massachusetts border.

“But why?” she asked us. “Are you collecting for a cause?”

Griffin and I looked at each other. As selfish as it sounded, this walk was always meant to be a walk about us – to prove to ourselves that even with Lyme-damaged bodies, we could do it. Sure we had plans to talk about Lyme disease along the way, but it was never about collecting money for anything. It was about 2 people doing what we could and spreading the word about Lyme step-by-step along the way.

Modern sojourning proselytizers.

I started telling her about our family’s experience with Lyme disease, how 5 of my kids all had different symptoms, how Griffin had been the first and had had it for 7 years before it was even diagnosed. I told her at one time I had created a spread sheet with *all* of our family’s symptoms and then checked off who had what. Clear patterns began to emerge.

It was that spreadsheet that told me something bad and dark-shaped was attacking in our family.

The waitress told me how ticks were a part of living up in this area. Everyone spends time in the woods. She’d had many ticks over her lifetime. Her son who worked cutting down trees had to have several removed each week. “I’m worried about him.”

She continued. “Sometimes I think I have Lyme disease, but my doctor says it’s Fibromyalgia. He even talked about the fact that I might have M.S.”

This got my attention. While I had never been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, at its worst, my regular doc had suggested that I “just might” have M.S.” She had M.S. and while I processed what she was saying, I looked over her shoulder to a photo of her and her dog on the top of a mountain. “You hike?” I asked her as she wrote out a script for pain medication.

I thought that there was a very good possibility that our waitress not only had Lyme disease, but that she had tipped into chronic Lyme disease. “Her immune system has been fighting something for a long time,” I thought.

“I even went to a specialist in Boston,” she said, glad to have someone listen to her medical injustices. “But he was worthless. He took some notes and then told me I had to learn how to relax. I never went back.”

Even if the doctor in Boston had been helpful, it would have taken this waitress a day off from work to drive the 6 hours to Boston. She would have also had to pay for gas, parking, and any co-pays. That’s a lot of money and time for someone who waitresses for a living. No wonder she was stuck with a “quasy-diagnosis.” She had absolutely no access to competent Lyme care. No one was there to help her.

“I’ll tell you what, I said, let’s play match the symptom. I’ll tell you what my symptoms were and you tell me if you have them.” She was game.

Shooting nerve pains – “oh something fierce up and down my legs.”

Joint pain – “Yup, I can’t even make it up that hill outside of town.”

Muscle twitching – “Boy does that drive me crazy at night.”

Foot cramps – “So strong they pull my foot up and back.”

Tender bottoms of feet especially in the morning – “I can’t walk for the first few steps.”

General weakness – “Can’t open jars anymore.”

Memory issues – “Can’t remember a thing.”

Rashes – “My doctor calls it eczema.”

With each matching symptom her eyes kept getting larger and larger. A moment of strength arises when you find out that not only are you not crazy, but that, more importantly, you are not alone.

I told her that when Lyme disease goes into the chronic stage, it seems to hit you hardest where you are the weakest. For example, one of my sons had terrible stomach pain, the kind of pain that would send you to the hospital I told her. It was horrible I told her, when he had an attack, he’d be out of school of the next two days, weak from the pain.

I took him to a specialist who told me to ignore him when he had the pain “He’s just looking for attention” and to not keep him home from school – “You’re teaching him to use his pain, he’s just going to have to learn how to deal with it.”

That son was the only one with that type of symptom. Once he was treated, that pain went away.

He’s not had it since.

“My son,” she quietly replied. “Just collapsed at work last week with stomach pain. At the hospital they ran a million tests but everything came back fine.”

When you talk about Lyme disease all the time (like I do) you run the risk of being the “Lyme Lady.”- the person who sees Lyme disease everywhere. When my kids get a cold at the beginning of the school year, I’m on high alert – is it really a cold or is it a re-occurrence of their Lyme?

Because I’ve finally learned that everything is not always Lyme, I’m very careful to not diagnose anyone with it, even though sometimes I have to bite my tongue.

Like I did in this case.

If I was a gambler I would have put all on my money Lyme disease as her and her son’s diagnosis.

But I can’t do that, I can only suggest. Unless people are ready to accept Lyme disease they aren’t going to – especially not when a doctor who hangs paper degrees on his wall says otherwise.

Instead, I told her about Debbie from the night before. How her sister had chronic Lyme disease and as a result had had to have her jaw rebuilt. I wanted our waitress to understand the seriousness of untreated Lyme disease and its consequences.

Our waitress reached up and rubbed her jaw. “No kidding,” she said. I’ve been having tooth and jaw pain for a long time and they can’t figure out a reason for it.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

And again.

So very many people are suffering from a disease that if diagnosed and treated correctly early in the game wouldn’t have to suffer.

Even those who have long term infections can still benefit from proper treatment. Immensely.

Instead these people are shuttled from doctor to doctor, and prescribed medication after medication for their symptoms, while the cause is never identified.

Money that could be used for food, rent, even books and education is all funneled into the health system. The specialists get richer while the patients get poorer (and sicker.)

It’s going to take more than our two little voices on the road talking about this to make a change. It’s going to take the voices of all the people, all the mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters of Lyme sick people raised as one to be heard.

Just like the Who’s in Seuss’ tiny village of Who-ville, we will all have to join our voices and cry “WE ARE HERE!!!, WE ARE HERE!!!” if we in the Lyme  community want to be heard.

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Granite staters

 

(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)

***

Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

Like what you read here? Consider subscribing to this blog so that you’ll never miss a post. And feel free to share with those who may need a little chicken love.

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Lesson 1441 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 3 cont (Blisters and bear)

Day 3 – Stewartstown to Colebrook cont.

 

A blister? My first thought was “what have you done wrong?” Followed, of course by my second thought, which was “what an ass you’re being Wendy, hikers get blisters all of the time.”

Even when I was a member on the track team at UCONN (a short, short season followed by the first of my orthopedic surgeries) I didn’t get blisters. Oh sure, I had shin splints and even stress fractures (a huge hint from the universe that my gait was off) but I hadn’t had those bothersome blisters that seemed to plague other runners. Or hikers.

As a result I didn’t have any experience on how to treat them other than put a bandage on and then cover that bandage with hiker’s tape – a wide sticky tape that helped to eliminate friction on the area.

Griffin and I had been very careful about our foot care. We religiously used Hiker’s Goo – a thick white paste that reminded me of diaper cream on our feet morning and night. We got our of our shoes as soon as we were in the hotel and several times a day we removed our shoes in order to let our feet breathe.

But apparently that wasn’t enough.

Griffin was walking in hiking shoes, I was walking in running shoes. He got blisters from his shoes, I did not.

Not enough data points to come to any kind of conclusion.

I dug into my pack (at the very bottom where “things not used on a daily basis” lived) and retrieved the bandages and tape.

“Did you feel it coming on ?” I asked as he cleaned the area with a baby wipe and then unwrapped the bandage.

“It felt hot,” replied Griffin. “But then my feet always feel hot.”

It was true. While walking on the road was perhaps easier on your joints, I might venture to guess that it’s harder on your feet. At the end of the day, our feet came out of our shoes like sizzling sausages. Continue reading

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Taking the day off from posting

Having an “Anniversary Day” with Marc.

Will be back on Monday with more from the walk. Continue reading

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Lesson 1440 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 3 cont (Water, water nowhere)

Day 3 – Stewartstown to Colebrook cont.

Both of us had been warned about protecting our skin using sun screen while on our walk and while we both carried tubes of sunscreen, until now, we hadn’t really had a reason to use any. There had been shade and clouds.

But because we were so relentless exposed to the hot, hot, cloudless sun on this day, I began to feel a certain stinging heat emanating from my skin above and beyond that incurred by the (record) heat wave. I could tell that certain parts of my body normally not exposed to the sun were getting burned.

It doesn’t take long.

I looked over at Griffin, he was doing fine. But he was also wearing mens’ clothing. His shorts came down to just above his knees and his sleeves almost to his elbows.

I on the other hand had shorts that stopped midway on my thighs and lovely pink delicate capped sleeves that barely covered my shoulders. What had also escaped my attention then, but certainly got it later in the evening when I took a shower, was the “V neck” on my sport’s shirt which although proving a “stunning neckline” also allowed my neck and chest to get burned.

It had never occurred to me that there would be such a difference in clothing between the men and women. Women literally sacrificed comfort for style while men had both comfort and protection. Men’s thighs and upper arms didn’t get burned. They didn’t get dark red “Vs” going down their chests.

Why hadn’t I ever noticed this? In hind sight it seemed a little silly.

Something was going to have to change and I had a feeling it was going to have to be my clothes. I made a mental list of things I wanted Trevor to bring with him when he drove up tomorrow. Long athletic shorts and a men’s shirt were placed at the top.

Even with the terrific heat, Griffin and I were slowly making progress. We kept a steady pace and were careful about constantly drinking water. Two liters of water may sound like a lot, but when you are sweating it out almost as fast as you can put it in, you soon realize that it is not nearly enough water when there is a (record) heat wave.

At all times, Griffin and I each carried 2 liter water bottles. At one of our mile breaks we drank from our water supply. One bottle was empty and we were already halfway through the other one.

“What happens if we run out of water?” Griffin asked me recapping his bottle.

I thought back to the evening before when I had asked a stranger for help getting us to the motel. I was not above asking for more help along the way if we needed it and I told Griffin as much.

Across the street was a red farm – beautifully taken care of and as pretty as a postcard.

“In fact, I should go over to that farm right now and ask them if we can fill our bottles with water.”

Griffin blanched, his stranger –danger training once again kicking into high gear. “We have half a bottle each left, let’s just wait until we really need it.”

I shrugged. It would have been easy to simply knock on the door, but in a way Griffin was right, if we got more water now, it would be extra weight that we’d have to carry. And already we were carrying too much on our backs.

We packed up our water and carried on – the sun now almost directly overhead.

There are so many things we did wrong on our walk, so many things I’ve kicked myself about and walking by that farm without stopping for water was one of the biggest that stands out. There is no doubt in my mind they would have filled our bottles, heck, they probably would have invited us into their gingham curtained kitchen for a glass of cold lemonade.

Cold lemonade – if I had enough moisture in my mouth I would have salivated at the thought.

As it turned out, that farm was the last house we saw. No one else lived in those parts. We were walking on a road which shouldered a mountain on one side and dropped off to a valley on the other. You’d have to be crazy to set up a home there.

Or try to walk it without water.

You can go for a long time without food, but you can’t, especially during a heatwave – while walking on a road out in the sun, go long without water.

Things were getting desperate. I had thoughts of people finding us days from now, desiccated travelers who hadn’t asked for water when we could.

Having found a little bit of internet service near the top of the mountain, I tweeted and put on Facebook a plea for water. I knew that some people were following our journey online and hoped against hope that maybe a friend of a friend knew a friend…

Griffin wasn’t concerned. “We’ll be fine,” he kept telling me.

Between the two of us we had a quarter bottle of water left with absolutely no end in sight. “Just take a sip,” I cautioned Griffin at our next mile break, “we have to make it last.” It was starting to feel like one of those Bear Grylls survival stories – thoughts of eventually drinking our urine crossed my mind. This, I didn’t tell Griffin.

It is the job of a mother to protect her children, to care for them and to provide for their needs. Water was a pretty big need. I wasn’t doing such a great job at mothering.

We had seen trail magic already on our walk. Becky, who went above and beyond taking care of us on the first day when we couldn’t walk another step and Debbie, who drove us to our hotel when we had gotten lost.

And now, unbelievably as we turned a bend, we saw a sign for a New Hampshire Welcome Center only 1 mile away. It was a mirage, it was luck, it was trail magic again – it was all of the above.

Because where there is a welcome there is water.

There are 13 welcome centers throughout New Hampshire. Each center provides restroom facilities and tourism literature. Several centers also provide food and drink vending machines.

This one provided picnic tables, rest rooms, those beautiful, beautiful vending machines, and water. Plenty of fresh, cold water.

Never have I ever been so happy to see a state run facility. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to put a Welcome Center in the middle of nowhere, but I send them my eternal thanks.

Griffin and I commandeered a picnic table in the shade and spread out a feast of a lunch. It was time of celebration – the walking Gods had saved us again. We ate granola bars, dried fruit, and some of the “emergency fudge.” I also ate the last of my raw dead cow (glad to be done with that) and we washed it all down with juice from the vending machines and bottles of water. Surely this was the best meal ever.

“Mom, you have to stop saying that about every meal we eat.” Griffin said, rolling his eyes at my pronouncement.

“But it’s true!”

Not being in any rush to move on, we took off our shoes and socks to rest and air our feet.

“Hey, look at that” Griffin said, twisting his foot sideways to get a better view. “I’ve got a blister.”

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(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)

***

Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

Like what you read here? Consider subscribing to this blog so that you’ll never miss a post. And feel free to share with those who may need a little chicken love.

Leave a comment

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Lesson 1439 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 3 (Show off)

Day 3 – Stewartstown to Colebrook

If you had said to us on the morning of Day 3 that we had to walk the entire length of New Hampshire in the next 13 days, both Griffin and I would have curled into a fetal position and refused to get out of our beds. Nope, not gonna do it. But instead, if you said to us that for the day –

For the day-

We only had to walk a little less than 10 miles, we would have reacted the same way we did that very morning when we woke up and realized what was in front of us. “Bring it on.” We were rested, our joints didn’t hurt -as much, and our morning Motrin was working its magic.

Seen from the beginning, a huge goal is impossible. But a goal broken down into its bite-sized steps is highly achievable.

Today’s 10 miles was definitely bite-sized.

Bring. It. On.

Which is why the night before, we had decided to sleep-in (relatively speaking) until 8 o’clock. Our plan was to have a nice breakfast of leftovers from last night’s dinner (best food ever) and be on the road by 9 o’clock.

We had a solid walking plan for the day. We’d break every two miles (that’s only 5 breaks!) and stop for a long leisurely lunch at roughly the half-way point. We’d be at our hotel so early this afternoon, maybe we’d even be able to do some poking around when we got to the next town.

The possibilities were endless and exciting. Today was going to be fun.

We practically sang as we put our supplies into our packs. The laundry I had washed in the shower the night before was still a little damp but in it went. It would be dry by the time I needed it tomorrow. We were learning the skill of packing the things we wouldn’t use or didn’t need during the day (toiletries, extra clothing, my Alfred  Hitchcock magazine) at the bottom of our packs and the items we would be using (phone, rechargeable bricks, snacks) at the top.

Oh what a great day it was going to be. Continue reading

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Lesson 1438 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 2 cont. (Zombie apocalypse)

Pittsburg to  Stewartstown Day 2 cont.

 

 

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I walked (as well as I could) over to the driveway, to the voices in the garage.

A woman saw me and came over.

Not sure what to say, not sure how to say it, I decided to go with the truth.

“My son and I have had a really stupid idea,” I began. “We thought it would be a good idea to walk the state from Canada to Massachusetts. But it’s too long.” I tried not to sound like I was whining.

I looked back at Griffin who was still fuming as he sat on the grass in the park. “We’re good people,” I tried to assure her “we’re just lost. The motel we were supposed to stay at was supposed to be over this bridge but it’s not. I’m wondering if you could give my son and I a ride to where it is?”

Now how many of us would have been receptive to a sweaty dirty woman in your driveway asking for a ride for her and her equally sweaty, dirty (and somewhat angry) looking son who was on the other side of the road. I waited, holding my breath expecting to hear, “Well, um, I’m busy right now.”

Instead the woman (Debbie) without missing a beat, called over her shoulder to the man in the garage saying “I’ve got to give these nice people a ride, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

As a mother, my eyes filled with tears. Someone was going to help us.

As a fellow human, my heart filled with joy. There are people out there who are willing to help others. Continue reading

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Lesson 1437 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 2 cont. (Wrong turns and had enough)

Pittsburg to  Stewartstown Day 2 cont.

 

Ten miles may not seem like a lot.

But walk them on a hot road,

With overloaded, poorly fitting packs,

And joints that were compromised to begin with,

And I guarantee that you will agree 10 miles can be forever.

But when you have made reservations in the only hotel in town, you really don’t have any choice but to continue walking.

After our 15 mile first day, we had to complete a 16.5 mile second day.

Or we weren’t going to be sleeping in beds that night.

Because we didn’t have internet or cell service along the way, Griffin and I amused ourselves with good-old-fashioned talk. We talked about the scenery; we talked about his starting a semester at school and my teaching one. Did he transfer the money for payments yet? Was my syllabus ready?

We booted up a waterproof speaker that I had packed at the last moment (it didn’t weigh that much right?) We sang to Black Eyed Peas – Tonight’s gonna be a good night.

When we had finally exhausted topics to talk about and we were still several miles outside of town, the silence was only interjected when there was something significant to say with answers that required the least amount of energy in return.

“Do you see that river over there?”

“Hmm.”

“That’s Vermont on the other side.”

“I know.” Continue reading

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