Today, April 30th 2013 is my 40th birthday! It is also doubly special for me because 2 years ago on this day, I asked Gabriella to marry me. So indulge me in taking you on a journey, one of sorrow, happiness, joy and pain, but most importantly, hope and love.
I remember the first days as a new resident to Second Life™, I was completely lost and confused. I had come from a very heavy roleplay background, mostly fantasy and mythological based. Creating characters like Sidhe, Dragons, Centaurs, Satyrs and other preternatural beings was highly appealing to me, and when I stepped foot in Second Life™, that was the first thing I wanted to do.
My pursuit for fantastical things was a rough start, but once I dug around using search I came across the many amazing creators of fantasy based items in Second Life™. I had come to Second Life™ with two friends that ended up venturing into different roads in this new virtual place than I did and we grew apart That found me seeking out my own adventures, trying to find a reason to stay.
Pushing myself to not let my shyness and social phobias hinder me in this virtual world, I sought out new places each day, and embraced the many things that I could do in Second Life™ that I am no longer capable of in my real life. That is what Second Life™ has become for me, an outlet for creativity and a means to socialize where my illness no longer allows me that luxury.
Many of you who read my blog or follow me on other social networks are well aware that I am ill. It started at the age of 12, just shy of a year after my father died of a massive coronary heart attack. I had my first migraine our first Christmas without him. I began my journey of migraines and the road just got harder each year.
Once the neurologist ruled out frightening illnesses like M.S. and Parkinson’s Disease, he informed us that I had what they referred to at the time as severe chronic migraine syndrome.
What did it all mean though? That I would get a migraine at least every 2 weeks that would last for many days before breaking. Medications helped sometimes, other times it made it worse.
I learned to live with having migraines. I changed my diet to exclude migraine inducing foods and drinks. No caffeine, chocolate, MSG (monosodium glutamate), aged cheese, nitrates. If you research foods that contain just nitrates alone, the list becomes quite long. I did all of this. I read every single package, carton, label to make sure it did not contain MSG for that was a major trigger for me and most migraine sufferers. When you go to the market or grocery next, take a look at the back of boxes and labels, you will be surprised how many products contain MSG.
In January of my Junior year of high school, I was on a retreat with my peers. During a performance by a guest speaker, I had my first and only seizure. The tests with the neurologist started up again, now a worry of epilepsy added to the already disconcerting migraines. Thankfully epilepsy was not the issue, but the pressure caused by the continued migraines the cause of my seizure. This was treated with blood pressure medication, to keep the blood vessels from restricting and causing an issue again.
During my last year of high school, I had at least a migraine a month, but they seemed to be less frequent which I was thankful for. However, Winter of my graduating year I was in a car accident on the way to school. A typical scenario, on a highway, the car in front of me hits black ice, I hit my brakes to not hit the car in front of me. The car in back of me hits me, I hit the ice and flip my cherry red 1965 convertible Mustang. Luckily in Winter the top was not down or I would have lost my head. During the flip, the metal frame of the windshield bashed into my face.
We were taken to the hospital via ambulance, secured for all head trauma and possible broken spine. I recall the paramedics talking, shocked that we were even alive for the car was smashed up good and had rolled completely over.
The outcome was a broken leg for my buddy and a facial contusion to the left side of my face. I was extremely lucky that the cheekbone did not break. For months my face looked like I had gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. The headaches of course got worse during that time, but then evened out to their normal once every two weeks or so.
I continued on through high school and college with these frequent migraines. They started to lessen when I was 21, often people can grow out of them, but that was not the case here. I had about one a month guaranteed. That was less than in high school which I was thankful for.
In 2000, I steadily got worse, suffering from the migraines every few days. On top of the migraines I started to have other issues of pain in my neck, shoulders, arms and hands. My coordination became unsteady, my sight diminished and I started losing my hair.
I went to a neurologist again, and began the long testing routine to rule out: Lupus, M.S.,Parkinsons Disease, Cancer, Lou Gherig’s disease, the list went on and on and on. But the one that stuck out to us was cancer. Now we were worried I had something even more severe and life threatening. We waited two long weeks for test results to fully come back. It was NOT cancer. Relieved, only to discover that I have Fibromyalgia. When tested for Fibromyalgia, an individual has to have pain or tenderness in 11 of the 18 trigger points on the body. When I was tested, I had all 18 trigger points ‘live’ as they refer to it. Diagnosis: Chronic migraines and Fibromyalgia.
Every year that passed I got worse, my pain hindering me from many things in my life. My attendance at work became very poor. I was unable to continue attending university classes on campus. In Winter of 2009 I returned to a new set of specialists. I set up an appointment in October of 2008 to see the top neurologist in the country who specializes in chronic headache disorders in January of 2009. It was not easy to get in to see this woman!
I was again tested in the same way I had been so many times before. The doctor put me on new medications that I had not tried before. Every couple of weeks I went in to get Lidocaine shots in my shoulders, neck and scapula region of the back. It was not a pleasant treatment but I was willing to do anything to get relief. The shots helped some, but the pain still never went completely away. More medications were tried. At this point in my life I had taken over 22 different medications for my multiple illnesses. I underwent physical therapy, acupuncture and deep massage. Three months into my treatment I was put on medical leave from work. For six months I continued my treatment.
During this time, the doctor put me in for a program that she had been a part of the clinical trials for, using Botox injections in the head to treat chronic migraines. My insurance was not too keen on the idea and it took a great deal of paperwork for her and I to get them to pay a percentage of the cost. Each shot was $800.00 USD. The shots were administered to my neck from the curve of my shoulder up to the base of my skull. The shots were also placed at the entire left side of my skull from the back of my ear to the curve just before the temple. Additionally shots were placed all along the forehead and right between my eyebrows. The shots hurt like hell!
I sat in the doctors office after she administered the Botox injections and within ten minutes I looked to mon Mama and through my tears said, “There’s no pain, there’s no pain.” Had we finally found the solution? For nearly five days my pain was gone, but it was short lived as the return hit hard and fast on day five. The injections could only be given every three months. When the 3 month mark came up I received my second treatment of the Botox injections. This time, they did nothing. By round 3, it felt like a waste of money as they too did nothing.
Part of me will always wish that the treatment had never worked at all for it gave me that reprieve, that moment of hope and I grasped hold of it with all of my being. When hope is shattered it is a painful event, and why I wish I’d not known that glimpse of being well, being pain free, being normal.
I now take a medication in the morphine family. My pain is still greater than the morphine based medications. It is very difficult to keep my head up, suffering pain unending as I am. During my journey of illness I have lost lovers, friends and myself. For people get tired of asking you to go out to do something and you have to cancel because you’re sick. They stop asking. They stop calling. They don’t want to hear you ‘whine’ about being sick, about how you’re dreams have been pushed from reach. They want the fun friend who is always making them laugh, who they can rely on, who cares for them. Yet when the tears of the clown fall, the audience turns away from the sight. I do know that true friends, loves and family do not leave you when you are in your darkest hours. I do know that those who dismissed me due to being ill never deserved me in the first place.
The hardest part is losing my independence and my dream of the arts. My hands shake horribly from my illness, so badly that I look like a junkie needing a fix. I am unable to draw, ink, paint due to this. This is why my blog is my creative outlet. Through Second Life™™, I truly do have a Second Life™, where I am not sick, where I can go out dancing, I can take photographs and be creative. It is my therapy, my reprieve and distraction where medications and specialists are at a loss, my distraction is all I have.
In all of this darkness and pain, I had resigned myself to being alone, for who would ever want someone so broken?
During those trying months of testing, injections, fears abounding, hopes crushing, Second Life™™ was my only means of socialization. I had gotten to the point that I was going to uninstall it and never look back. And then, I met a girl named Gabriella.
When we met I was lost and alone, living in a world filled with monochrome hues and falling into a vast abyss of depression. The moment we met, the gray canvas of my life suddenly came to life as if a grand painter splashed the sad canvas with every color of the rainbow. Gabriella is my rainbow, filling my world with color and love.
We hit it off from the start, and that spark grew as we enjoyed each others company, getting to know one another. She became my dearest friend, and the world was not so gray or frightening anymore. As our friendship grew more solid, we shared secrets no others know and most of all we held one another through the journey of living lives with chronic pain. She helped me quickly remember my humor, my creativity, my silliness and to laugh, oh how she made me laugh!
No other had ever looked upon me without seeing the broken body and soul, yet her eyes never saw me a broken or flawed. Gabriella accepted me for all my faults, took all the broken pieces as one whole, and held them in her hands as she would a newborn baby with gentleness and security.
No matter how low I get, she picks me up, dusts me off and says I love you, all your broken pieces and never ever tries to glue me back together but accepts me, pieces and all. Never does she say to me that I am less due to my pain, nor does she turn away from me or ask me to not speak of my illness. Always she puts her hand out to hold mine, to lift me up and shelter me in her arms and her love. She thinks I am magnificent, even when I think I am worthless, she shows me otherwise. And when I lay huddled on the floor, crying for myself, weeping in pain, torn and tattered like a rag-doll, she puts her arms around me and tells me she loves me, and that I am never alone.
On June 30th, 2011 we were married in SecondLife, amongst our friends and family, and that is the biggest blessing SecondLife has given to me.
I am equally blessed to not be alone, and that is not just Gabriella, but others who have crossed my virtual path. Many of you, who read my blog, who follow me on social networks are a great network of compassion and strength. So many of you reach out to me and may not realize how much of a difference that makes upon my day. To each and every one of you that has reached out a hand to me, thank you, for being a part of my support network. I look forward to the day I get to share with all of you that I am better, that I am free. I will never give up, and I will always be thankful that it is not worse.
This is what Second Life™ has given to me.
BIOGRAPHY: Chancer Raynier became a resident of the virtual world Second Life™™ September 2009.Inspired by other Second Life™™ bloggers Strawberry Singh, Bronson Twine a.k.a (ir)regular guy and Harlow Heslop I took the plunge and began sharing my style and images in May of 2011.
Chance often shares personal thoughts, opinions or things that are important to him, especially his adventures with his beautiful wife, Gabriella on his blog http://chanceraynier.wordpress.com/.
In additon to blogging, Chance is an avid roleplayer, music lover, film buff and comic book collector. Above all else, a creative soul and Second Life™™ provides a platform to express his creativity where he is no longer able in real life due to chronic illness and pain.