Louie and Nancy Grams of Eagan, MN, have been married for 46 years. For most of those 46 years, Louie has been chronically ill, with countless MRI and CT scans, hundreds of invasive procedures, and 35 surgeries.
Multiple System Atrophy, in the Parkinson’s family, affects nearly every system in his body. He also lives with celiac and diabetes. The worst symptom, right now, is kidney stones. Every day. Louie said even his nephrologists cringe.
Despite pain that seldom fades, Louie said, “I actually love the life I am living. I would rather not have the pain and sickness, but I have learned a lot going through it all.”
That’s because he made a choice, long ago, not to let chronic illness consume his life. He decided, instead, to stay connected and remain engaged with his faith, family and friends.
While poor health has made his world smaller, Louie said opening himself up to healing has made his life larger.
“Even though I don’t do as much physically, I would say my life is fuller,” Louie said. “There’s more to it. There’s more enjoyment. That, in itself, is healing.”
Louie used to do a lot of hiking on the north shore of Lake Superior, and loved taking pictures of grand vistas and big horizons. The family still vacations in the area, but now Louie uses a walker to get around.
“I still take as many pictures as I used to take,” Louie said. “I’m covering probably 1/100th of the territory I used to cover.
“But I am seeing things in the spaces I never noticed before. I see details I never noticed. I see changes in light and color and things like that. I am more free in the world.”
Among the most prolific authors on CaringBridge, posting almost daily since 2009, Louie said writing also makes him feel free.
“I always feel better after I’ve finished writing,” Louie said. “It’s like when you have a deep encounter with somebody, where you know you’ve really shared yourself, and they’ve really shared themselves with you. I think there’s real healing in that.”
While the progression of his disease has slowed, Louie continues to manage pain that most would find unmanageable. And he continues to heal.
“There is really a healing for me in the sense of being able to live a very enjoyable life, even with sickness,” he said. “The pain is there. But when you’re not focused on it, and you find reasons to be happy and to laugh and enjoy things, pain is a lot easier to manage.”