Archive for the The Blogs By Jennifer Category

A Night In The Life Of Chronic Pain And Gratitude By Jennifer

Posted in The Blogs By Jennifer, Week 07: Sleep on August 22, 2011 by Cookie Has A.S.

I go to bed with a heating pad and a special pillow and I close my tired eyes and try to quiet my mind which is running in a way I no longer can.

The pain in my chest keeps me awake and my cheeks are damp from knowing she is nearing the end of her time with us.

I toss and turn but even that is altered now — it’s a process to turn over and there’s pain if I lay on my back and pain if I lay on my hips, and if I lay on my side my ribs ache.

I give up for now, and push aside the covers, reaching for my glasses on my bedside table, and quietly get into a sitting position and then stand and grab a sweatshirt and slip out of the bedroom as silently as I can, trying not to wake my husband.

I put on the tea kettle and flip the knob to high and watch as the burner glows red in the dark kitchen. In the dark night.

Opening the microwave, I ball up a second heating pad and place it on the rotating glass plate and press “3.” The appliance hums to life loudly in our silent home and I hope, like so many previous nights, that I am not disturbing the rest of the three gifts God has given me — my husband Jonathan, and our daughters who sleep with well-loved bunnies and dollies in a shared bedroom lit by soft nightlight.

I pad over to my recliner and sit with my now-hot heating pad placed against my chest, where it feels like a heart attack is brewing right along with my tea. Costochondritis, inflammation of the chest wall, is just one of my symptoms with Ankylosing Spondylitis.

I rock and sip and wait for medication to kick in, and remember when my oldest was only 4 and she would find me balled up on the floor and tell me, “Medicine takes a long time to kick in, Sweetheart, but it will kick in.” She would squat down and stroke my hair and sing me a little song.

My family has lived with chronic pain for several years now. It has come in different forms — first, after a miscarriage, as pelvic pain, and then as spine and joint pain.

It wasn’t invited, but it’s here nonetheless, and although we didn’t ask it to come, we have learned our way around it. We have learned, every single one of us, how to take better care of each other. We have learned, from 6’2″ Jonathan to 44″ Natalie Kate, how to be more compassionate.

We have learned how to love better and how to be more patient and we have absolutely learned to be flexible with plans, as I don’t know from one day to the next how I will be feeling. Because of that unpredictability we’ve also learned how to seize the day. Mama can walk without a limp today? Let’s take a family stroll!

I sit and rock and sip and wait for the heat and the medicine to soak in and through me and I wipe away a tear that represents the grief I feel over Sara’s life ending soon. More tears swell up and pool in my eyes that represent this profound love I have for my family and friends and life itself, and my gratitude that I am here to experience all of this, the good and the bad.

Eventually I head back for a second try at sleep. I slip back under the covers, fold my glasses back onto my bedside table, adjust myself with two heating pads and a special pillow, and finally drift off to sleep with my chest hurting and my heart aching.

I don’t enjoy the pain, and I resent how it effects our family (especially when I see the hurt and worry in my daughters’ eyes), but I relish these sweet gifts it has taught me:

Live this life you’ve been given. It’s precious!

Ankylosing Spondylitis & the Authentic Truth: What’s Happening in my Home, My Heart & My Body By Jennifer

Posted in The Blogs By Jennifer, Week 03: Regret on July 25, 2011 by Cookie Has A.S.

It’s funny how for weeks I can’t think of a thing to blog about, and then all at once, I am inspired to saturation-point.

Maybe it’s a new blog or two in my reader, a clean room in my house, new pages lengthening my manuscript, sunshine and how we soaked it in this week. Maybe it’s fresh lemonade with strawberries made by my handsome husband, or maybe it’s recognizing how tall and gangly my daughters are growing. Maybe it’s knowing more summer fun & memories are just around the corner, or knowing a new year of learning at home with my girls begins soon. {I find inspiration in the school supply aisle… always have.}

Whatever it is, I want to write about it but there’s so much to say, I don’t know where to begin.

Balanced with all the goodness I just wrote about is the underbelly of the coin — not so good, refreshing or inspiring. Things like doctor’s appointments, frustration & confusion, more tests looming, more vials of blood drawn, a house that I can’t seem to keep up with and how I have allowed that to stop me from inviting friends over for a playdate or tea party or dinner. There’s stressors — we all have them — and so many things to try to stay current with, and that has become very difficult.

I could tell you about several weeks ago when my feverish four year-old needed to be carried from one room to the next, and how due to a back flare-up, I had to ask her to walk while holding my hand. I could tell you how bad the pain in my spine was, and how I couldn’t bend to lift her, but it doesn’t compare to how sad my heart was when I couldn’t just scoop up my hot, miserable little girl and carry her.

I could tell you how my ribs and chest hurt so much that it’s painful for my children to cuddle too close to me. I could tell you, again, that I worry about my future with Ankylosing Spondylitis and especially about my mobility.

I could explain how exhausted I am and how difficult it is to get out of bed on a daily basis. How much I yearn to be present in my little girls’ lives and hearts and the guilt and sadness that can come when I can’t be the mommy I once was.

No, I can’t take you to the library today. I’m sorry, it hurts too much to have you on my lap right now. I wish I could bake cookies with you, sweet girl, but Mama can’t stand for that long right now.

My eyes are welling with tears, and this is how I know that this is the authentic truth.

The pain can be severe, but what is unbearable is what it does to our family sometimes.

I know I could tell you what chronic illness and pain gives me. And I will tell you about the gifts found in all of this in a future post.

 But for now, it’s okay to take a moment and just admit how much I hurt sometimes when my body can’t match my heart.

Bad day or good day, I thank you for coming along on my journey. I hope you find a kinship and truth here. I hope you leave inspired or hopeful. I count many of you among my dearest friends & family, my support system, cheerleaders, fellow AS journeyers, sisters of body and heart.

Thank you.

Guilt And The Chronically Ill Parent By Jennifer

Posted in The Blogs By Jennifer, Week 02: Guilt on July 18, 2011 by Cookie Has A.S.


From the age of three I longed to be a mother, and it never occurred to me that for reasons beyond my control that might prove difficult.

I have lived with chronic pain since before my oldest daughter was two years old. By the time she blew out five candles, I’d been to the Operating Room five times.

Throughout my life, despite a loving, stable family and good upbringing, I have encountered health challenge after health challenge. Just as I had prior to motherhood, I fought to rise above and not let my health overcome the person I wanted to be and the life I dreamed possible.

I searched for treatments that would fix the problems and continued to fight to overcome, or at least diminish, the pain so I could be the best mother I could be, not offer my daughters only a portion of my attention, love and energy.

Sometimes it feels that as soon as I rise above one problem, another surfaces. When my oldest was six and my youngest three, I was diagnosed with a disease that had also attacked my father when I was a child, Ankylosing Spondylitis.

As difficult as it is to be elderly and stiff, in pain, and have trouble getting around, imagine those problems when you are 30, with a job, a household, and small children. Arthritis, unfortunately, does not only effect the old. Diseases like Ankylosing Spondylitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis typically strike between the ages of 15 and 50.

And so it is that I am raising my young daughters in constant pain with a body that operates like it’s 80.

Determined not to feel guilt over the worry and strain my disease places on our young marriage and family, I become very clear on exactly what I want my daughters to remember, on the childhood memories I want them to have, and most of all, the mother I want to be, and then I work twice as hard and resolutely to be that mother, to create those memories, and to make the love I give so strong and the legacy I leave so rich that it overshadows the pain and the slower pace with which we must live life.

Guilt is easy to feel when you are a parent and even more so when you are a parent with chronic pain, but I will continue to do what I do best: love my girls. True love defeats fear, defeats guilt, and will defeat chronic illness. I will be a good mother because I will make it my biggest priority to love well.

Jennifer Slawson LeBlanc

Posted in Meet The MOWer's, The Blogs By Jennifer on June 21, 2011 by Cookie Has A.S.

About Me

I grew up near the sea with 2 parents and 3 siblings. You could often find me with my nose in a book, riding my bike, or in a tree fort.

I spent a year in Canada in my college years. Between literature classes, chips & salsa, and collaborating on school projects, I met a tall, handsome Canadian and a few years later we got married.

We are raising two beautiful children and also lost an unborn baby. That loss shapes who I am and how I see the world.

I have been living with chronic pain since 2005, have had multiple surgeries, and was diagnosed with a chronic inflammatory disease in 2010.

I believe in using writing and art for expression and healing. I try to make a choice daily to be joyful, positive, and allow the hard stuff to help me grow.Within loss and pain there are countless blessings.

I homeschool our daughters and love encouraging their creativity and unique interests.

Someday I hope to publish a book, and see Europe with my husband. For now I hope to be a positive person and inspire others to use their creativity.

Thank you for visiting Live Art.fully!