Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Health and, well, not...

Clunky title, I know.

I have been finding myself thinking about health for awhile now. Between signs my body has been giving me and signs I have seen in others over the years, I have a nice list of what-not-to-dos.

Unfortunately, while somethings are obvious - don't smoke (will likely get a sign someday), don't drink too much (already got a sign a few years back), don't eat too much (trying not to get the sign) - some things are not so obvious.

Although a lot of diseases have their known causes, there are others. The problem with these is that you could be doing everything right and you can still get it - certain kinds of cancer fall into this category. The one at the top of my mind right now is ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Oddly enough, this leads me to food...

About a year ago, I had some huevos rancheros. best. huevos. rancheros. ever.

I was on a road trip across the Southwest. It was past lunch and we were hungry. It was also Sunday afternoon in Gallup, New Mexico. The offerings were fast food, Chinese buffet and what appeared to be a "homestyle" diner (read: bland, pre-packaged, oily, and overcooked food fit for a retirement home). As I have had most of the fast food in Gallup over the years and I know better than to chance a buffet of any kind on the road, we chose the diner... the Route 66 Railway Cafe.

As soon as I walked in, I changed my mind. I smelled the authenticity. I saw the plates on the tables. I read the look of smug satisfaction on the faces of the diners. As soon as I read the menu, I knew.

I wanted the huevos. It was a late lunch, but it's always a good time for huevos.

So, one piping hot cup of coffee later, the huevos showed up (with green sauce, of course). My travel companion spent the next half hour laughing as I "Mmmm"ed and "Ohhhh"ed through the plate (did I mention it was good?). We had a great time complimenting the food, the coffee, and my error of judging the book by its cover. I will never forget that lunch.

We left, heading east. A few hours later, we stopped at Cline's Corner. We were waiting for the vehicle we were traveling with - it had developed issues coming through Albuquerque. We decided to go in, sit down, have a 10-100, and a milkshake. best. milkshake. ever. Again, this made all the more enjoyable for the company.

I was regaled with tales of a lifetime of stops at Cline's Corner - all the way back to the late 1940s on old Route 66 in a Plymouth sedan with the windows rolled down - no air conditioning back then, you know. Many other trips occurred over the decades with her folks and her brother. Years later, these trips were her and her dogs.

This visit with me was her last stop at Cline's.

The reason for our trip was to bring my mom back home. Not eight months earlier, she had been diagnosed with ALS. When the diagnosis was made, everything started to add up. Little things here and there - at one time played off to allergies, asthma, arthritis, and other ailments - were now easily explained. As near as we can guess, ALS had started to show up in our lives two years prior - maybe three.

Within a few months of the diagnosis, she needed a walker on occasion. By Easter of last year, we borrowed a wheelchair so she could enjoy the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, AZ. The first day of this move, she drove from Scottsdale to Payson, Arizona. I think that is the last time she drove more than 30 minutes.

As of this Memorial Day weekend, it will be one year back in our hometown. She is now living with my sister and is in hospice status. Spirits are high. Friends and family are near. Laughter is still in her eyes.

So. Here we are. ALS is on our mind. I wrote this partially to let some air out but to also try to do the little bit that I can to raise awareness of the disease. Those who are friends of mine on Facebook have seen my profile pic for the month of May. It is the symbol for the ALS Association. They have been great to my mom and our family. The services and support they provide have been wonderful at a time when we needed them. The support groups associated with them have been helpful for my family, as well, for the advice in dealing with bureaucracy and anything else associated we just don't get.

If nothing else, learn the signs and symptoms of ALS. There is not a cure yet, but there are some treatments and clinical trials that are looking good. It's only too late if it is too late.