Stepping Out With Rambo & Rocky


John J. Rambo: “…There isn’t one of us that doesn’t want to be someplace else. But this is what we do, who we are. Live for nothing, or die for something…”


Rocky Balboa: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

During the 80’s I was enthralled by Sylvestor Stallone’s cinematic underdog heroes, John Rambo and Rocky Balboa.  Gutsy determination fueled by “a burning heart” were characteristics of both men challenged with insurmountable obstacles in facing formidable adversaries.  (Add my female appreciation for Sly’s rippling male muscles.)

Diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome, my life became a grueling challenge in facing an undefeatable foe.  Appreciation for rippling muscles has become a paralyzing dread.  SPS can hijack my body in uncontrollable waves of painful muscle spasm.   “You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life.”  My life is a war, each day a boxing match–Rambo and Rocky, symbolic of living with Stiff Person Syndrome.   “It is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

With a typical female mindset, I have a wardrobe of gait aids to accessorize activity with ability.  Rocky and Rambo are my two machismo escorts.  Rambo, aptly decked in camouflage, is my battle comrade for the mall, our war zone.   With my SPS hijacked perceptions, Rambo helps guide me through the minefield of syndrome angst camouflaged as a “normal” shopper.  Packing my artillery of emergency medications, I anticipate possible sniper fire. (Trigger-induced stimulus for symptom attack.)

Rocky is my caddy, companion, and gait aid.   He fits in when I go to the gym carrying my “life support” of medication, cell phone, emergency contact info, snacks for sugar hypos, & glucometer…a Rambo camouflage.  Within the familiar boundaries of the gym, I have become lax in my agoraphobic training of walking “out there.”

Stiff Person Syndrome continually holds my perceptions hostage, creating a possible red alert reaction of symptom overdrive…an Exorcist muscle implosion of Twist & Shout.  A survival mode of fear and avoidance kicks in, further surrendering me to SPS.  Time to reschedule workout training for solo walking against Stiff Person Syndrome assault.

For my first match…

1) Understand my weaknesses.  With a malfunctioning neurological circuit breaker, my perceptions are on continual stimulus overload.   I am possessed with a deranged hyper-sensitivity to a breeze, the cracks in the asphalt, a barking dog, the child on an erratic bike, oncoming walkers, traffic, outside noise, speed, all sucking me into a frenzied vortex of consuming syndrome awareness…”scared stiff.”  Dazed, SPS will deliver a strong upper cut, (spasm), trapped against the ropes or knocking me to the ground.  Olay is no match for stitches, injuries or bruises.

2) Plan an offensive.  To minimize perception distractions, I chose a serene “out there” arena.  I would face my adversary when medication was at peak performance, my body in a co-operative mode.  In my ringside corner, I had a prayerful pep talk with my Heavenly Coach.

3) Commit.  Life with SPS is war, every endeavor a staggering boxing match.  Solo walking, “out there” in an asphalt arena is my chosen challenge.  I strap Rocky into Rambo, my muses, and open the front door…

There’s no easy way out…

Copyright © 2012


Hoochie Mama

January 2011

“Cultivate your curves – they may be dangerous but they won’t be avoided.” ~Mae West

A friend and I were going for a walk at the mall combined with shopping for two ‘must have’ additions to my wardrobe: a pair of black dress pants and a gray skirt. She understands about my SPS, so was unfazed at my army camouflage print baby stroller (surrogate walker) to carry my 50lb. purse, hiking pole, and bottled water. With my SPS perception, going into a mall is leaving rear flank obscurity to charge from the front line in an active war zone.

I love to go shopping with a girlfriend. Unlike a man, girlfriends are not bored to a glassy-eyed catatonic state while you are in the fitting room on Mission Impossible to find a good fit to enhance your figure–for a reasonable price. When you need an honest opinion, a girlfriend will give it to you straight, not a beleaguered, cookie-cutter, “It looks great, Sweetheart. Ready to go?”

I found a church-appropriate length pencil skirt. On my slender frame, I looked like Olive Oyl. Opening the door, my assessment was confirmed with my friend’s opinionated, “You need a shorter skirt.”

Girlfriends also understand the importance of color. Charcoal gray or pale gray. “Go with the light gray. Summer is coming,” her female wisdom suggested. I hadn’t thought of that. So the shorter pale gray skirt it was.

Sunday morning, I decided on wearing my new pale gray skirt with a black sweater and lacy black nylons. SPS decides to wrestle with me. After a 10-minute aerobic, contortionist match on the couch, I triumphantly donned my fashionista pantyhose in a victory over SPS symptoms.

I was feeling fashionably good as I went to church. My girlfriend approached me with a big smile and said, “You’ve got your hoochie mama skirt on.”

From Olive Oyl to a hoochie mama. I have to plead innocent. I was influenced.

Copyright © 2011