Some Body To Love

I love my body! Despite the fact it’s a piece of crap on the inside and has been for a very long time…I still love it!  220px-Breathe-face-smile.svg

It’s not a model’s body, not by any stretch of the imagination, but my husband still finds it attractive after 24 years together. He took this photo back in 2011 when we went on our first cruise and when I asked him if he could find it (because I wanted to show it to our daughter to prove I looked good in a two-piece back then), he looked at me almost in disbelief and said “of course I can find it”. He knew exactly where it was because it’s a favourite of his.

Pam'sButt

I was 49 when this photo was taken and I’m 56 now. I don’t look quite the same as back then but I’m working on it. I’ve had a hip replacement since this was taken plus another surgery, as well as many years of increased pain with my Fibromyalgia and other illnesses. In fact, over half of the Invisible Illnesses I live with now didn’t even exist in my body when Ray snapped this photo. But I still love my body, just the way it is right now.

I’m 5’2″ tall and I weigh about 145lbs right now. I fluctuate up to 150lbs. I have strong arms and legs, but my fingers and hands are weak. Once upon a time in 2008 in Calgary AB, I walked a Half Marathon in -23 degree temperatures (with a windchill of -30). The annual Running Room Hypothermic Half Marathon is quite famous and is now held in cities across North America.  This was my very first time – I took a training program but hadn’t trained properly near race day because of my health and really, I probably shouldn’t have even done it. However, I finished in 3:30:22 and in fact it was such a good race time that Ray almost didn’t make it to the finish line in time to take photos of me crossing (it was a surprise for me). I was delighted to finish and vowed I would never do anything like that again (I got a tiny bit of frostbite under my chin which was the only area left exposed).

HypoHalfMedal

I love my body now, but there was a time when I mourned for the body I used to have. Back in the mid-2000’s, I used to be in great shape. I went to the gym, I had a trainer named Terrianne and I lifted weights – heavy weights. I was doing 40lb bicep curls and 80lb hip abductors and at one point, I could leg press 800lbs. Yes, you read that right…I could leg press 800lbs. I was well muscled and toned and in the best shape of my life. It was only because of 3 unexpected surgeries between 2006 and 2007 that my life derailed and I was unable to recuperate properly. In fact, I had barely done any proper training for the Hypothermic Half when the Marathon actually took place, so to finish in the time I did was a real testament to the shape I’d been in previously. We really take our bodies for granted when they’re running well, don’t we?

I still love my body! Even after everything it’s put me through with surgeries, and Fibro and Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and all the other Invisible Illnesses, it’s the only body I have, so I try to stay positive and treat it well. I like to try to keep my mind sharp as well so I enjoy doing things like word search puzzles and crosswords and I’ve always enjoyed those online hidden object games. Because I don’t get out of the house a lot, I do tend to spend a lot of time on the computer, but sometimes, I’m aware of being “housebound”. It’s an awful sensation and it makes me feel like an invalid. A shut-in if you will. How about you? Do you ever feel that way?

Unfortunately, I have to use a cane for mobility purposes. I’ve had my right hip replaced and it works great, but my left hip still needs to be replaced in the near future. Additionally, my Left Achilles Tendon has been giving me problems for quite some time and even though I’ve seen a physiotherapist, he’s not been able to do much for me. We’ve tried massage and acupuncture and he feels that there’s not really much else that will help the problem, which he thinks is more with the tendon attaching at the bone. Ultrasound isn’t going to improve anything, so after 4 sessions, we’ve called it quits. The other reason for using a cane is that my right knee has problems with severe pain and an occasional buckling and collapsing problem. It’s arthritis that causes this and so I wear a knee brace and use the cane for stability.

Sometimes, when I’m out running errands, I have to use a rollator because the distance is too far for just a cane. Mine is bright orange and made by Hugo:

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I call it my “Pambourghini”. Seriously though, it’s great for use around downtown Langford where I live, or when I take the bus to the doctor because it folds up with one hand and it’s easy to transport if Ray and I take the truck somewhere instead.

Here’s the thing though – I don’t want to be defined by my Chronic Pain, and just because I use a mobility device doesn’t mean I don’t want to look my best at the same time. I try to dress fashionably but I also have my own unique sense of style. I can’t wear high heels, so I tend to wear shoes that have some sparkle to them. I love long dresses for a more feminine touch, and over the course of the last three years, I’ve gone from having summer hair (practically bald) to short hair to long hair.

And when I have a chance to go out with friends or with my husband on a rare date night, I want to look good. I want to dress up and be pretty and look like every other person around me. I don’t want someone to be able to pick me out of the room and say “oh, there’s the one with chronic pain”.

But while I care very much about how I look, I’m often too tired or too sore to go anywhere and when I do go out, it’s usually a medical appointment. The last person I need to impress is my doctor. In fact, I generally want him to see me at my worst, so he knows what my day-to-day look really does look like.

GWSoonFlu

In order to try to take care of myself, I’ve recently taken on a 30 Day Challenge to do 20 Squats, 20 Wall Push-ups and 20 Bicep Curls every day. I want to try and be as fit as I can in the body I have but I know I need to start slow so I don’t cause a Fibro flare-up. This was my modified answer to an invitation from a friend for a 100 Squats a Day Challenge. So far, I’m on Day 2 and I’ve done both days in good form!!! Go me! I set an alarm on my iPhone to remind me what to do and when, and I’m determined to follow through!

There was a time when I didn’t always feel this way. I felt like my body had betrayed me. It was hard to go from being so healthy to suddenly being bedridden half the time, or unable to go for a walk without using a cane. It was frightening to think that this was going to be my future, and chances were it wasn’t going to get better, only worse. And in a lot of ways, it’s been true. I’ve had to give up hobbies I loved because I don’t have the stamina to keep doing them.

When I lived in Calgary, AB, I used to sing in a women’s 4 part a cappella Barbershop Chorus called Rhythm of the Rockies, and in a quartet called Quintessence. We were part of Sweet Adelines International and our chorus would compete in Regional Competition against other choruses from BC, AB and SK – we were the All Canadian Region, Region 26! The winner of the Chorus competition would go on to International competition the following year. In 2005, Quintessence decided to compete for the first time in the Quartet competition and ended up winning Novice Quartet of the Year!! I think we placed 10th out of 16 Quartets as well. We were so proud of ourselves!!!

Quintessence

Quintessence Quartet: Cheryl (Baritone), Pamela (Bass), Lauri (Lead), Judith (Tenor)

Rehearsals became too much for me, when pain and fatigue took over my life. We competed one more year, in 2006 but that was my final year of singing, including in the chorus. What a huge disappointment that was for me. I had been singing in some form or fashion for most of my life. And now, that was gone. It’s even harder now that I live where I live as the very excellent Pacific Edge Chorus from Sweet Adelines rehearses just down the road from me. I would love to be a part of singing again but I just don’t think I could manage the energy required to be involved again. I have to be honest though…every Tuesday night, I’m teased by the fact there’s a rehearsal going on!!

How do you feel about your body? Do you feel like your body has betrayed you since you first developed Fibromyalgia? What has Fibro taken from you? Did you used to be involved in any crafting or hobbies that you had to give up?

Do you still like your body?

Despite everything, I still love my body. I’ve forgiven it for what its gone through. I know it’s not it’s fault, it just is what it is. Overall, on the outside, I think I’m aging well. I have no wrinkles, lots of silver in my hair which I love, and the older I get, the more content I seem to be with life in general. I’m in love with my hubby, my kids are doing well in their lives and my three grandsons are all happy and healthy. Those are the things I like to focus on, not the parts that are breaking down left, right and centre. I try to remain positive and stay joyous. Contentment IS achievable, but it takes fortitude and the right mental attitude.

If you’re struggling, I invite you to reach out. I have a wonderful little booklet with some powerful words from women I’d be happy to pass along to you, so if you’d like that, send me a message using the Contact Page. It’s about more than just body image…it’s empowering in many different ways, but all about being a strong woman. And that’s how I like to think of myself. I am a strong woman!

Our bodies are complex, but they’re all we have. Let’s all be strong and learn to love them again, just as they are.

Remember…

there is always hope

Chronic Pain Comforts

Welcome back!

When you live with Chronic Pain, whether it’s from Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, Migraines or any other Invisible Illness, you want to find as many ways to be as comfortable as possible. You may or may not be taking pain medications, so sometimes the things on this list are the only things you rely on to get relief. You can find lists like these all over the internet, but I’m going to share my favourite ideas here. I won’t give you product names as there are far too many to mention and everyone has their favourite brands. I don’t tend to use all of these products myself, but many people do. If it works for you, great! If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it…move on and try something else.

Some of these things are for use at home, some are for taking with you when you’re out and some can be used in both locations. I like to have doubles of things such as Wet Wipes. They’re refreshing on the go or at home when bathing is a challenge and you need a quick clean up.

In no particular order:

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Heating Pad: Many people find using a source of heat to be extremely comforting. Just remember to take safety precautions with your skin, and never use a deep heating rub with a heating pad at the same time, or you’re asking to be burned.

Ice Packs: In much the same way as using heat, ice packs can be a lifesaver for pain. Some people with chronic pain use both at the same time…heat in one area and ice in another. Experiment with what works for you.

Eye Mask: When you’re having trouble sleeping, this can be quite soothing, especially if you prefer to sleep in complete darkness. It’s also helpful for Fibro induced migraines.

Ear Plugs: Again, super helpful to block out distractions to help you sleep better and to aid when Fibro migraines strike.

Epsom Salts: Soaking in a hot Epsom Salt bath is one of the best things you can do to soothe aching joints and muscles. There has been an explosion in Flotation Therapy lately in cities all over North America. People spend up to 90 minutes at a time in skin temperature Epsom Salt flotation therapy tanks, literally soaking up the benefits of this mineral. The ratio of Epsom salt to water in most tanks is such that many are more buoyant than the Dead Sea!

Magnesium Rub or Gel: Another essential mineral needed by the body, most of us are deficient. Using a good rub or gel can help alleviate pain. Ask your doctor if a supplement of Magnesium is right for you as well.

Pillows: Pillows for sleeping, pillows for propping, pillows for wedging, body pillows…wherever you need some extra support, finding the right pillow can be crucial to your comfort. Firm, medium or soft; feather or foam, whatever your preference is, you’re going for comfort, so let your body be the guide here.

Shower chair: If bathing is uncomfortable for you, but showing tires you out, consider getting a shower chair. They come in many sizes and shapes and can be found in lightweight, portable designs.

Kindle or e-reader: Take your entertainment with you or leave it at home, but always have your favourite books at your fingertips with an e-reader. There are many services that let you download books for free including your local library.

Body Lotion: Your favourite scent can help keep you smiling.

Magic bag/wheat pillow: These are the type of bag you can either microwave or freeze and use for spots on your body for various aches and pains

Scented candle: Some people find having scented candles burning helps them to relax. Try different scents according to the seasons or just choose your favourites.

Mints or Gum: If you tend towards having a dry mouth, you might want to keep mints or gum handy, or hard candies to suck on. I personally like Tic Tacs as they are small, come in lots of assorted flavours and are easy to pack in even the smallest of purses.

Colouring book: Currently one of the fastest growing trends to help relax you, there is an endless array of styles and designs to choose from. I have several on the go at any time, and use both pencil crayons and felt markers to colour mine. Jenny Lawson’s last book is part story/part colouring epic.

Herbal Tea: Even if you’re not normally a tea drinker, a good herbal tea at night (decaffeinated of course) can be a wonderful way to unwind before falling asleep. Many delicious flavours are there to choose from; I personally like fruity flavours the best.

Water to stay hydrated: Whether you use a water bottle or fancy decanter, having cold fresh water is essential in maintaining optimal good health for any condition. Make sure you keep it fresh by changing drinking the contents often.

Chocolate: Definitely an indulgence but if you’re not a fan of chocolate, at least keep a favourite snack nearby as a treat.

Fan: A small portable fan or a hand fan can help if you have trouble regulating your body temperature.

TENS Machine: Many people swear that using a TENS Machine helps with pain. I personally haven’t found relief with one, but everyone is different. Find out if you can rent one through a Medical Supply Store first before buying a unit, so you know if it will help you or not.

Portable Cane: A foldable cane can be super handy for around the house or outside if you find that sometimes you’re unsteady on your feet. They come in various colours and patterns so you won’t be stuck with “just” basic black if you want something to stand out with.

Essential Oils: These oils have long been thought to have medicinal purposes and many people swear by their properties. There are several good companies that market these and many more little independent companies to check out. Some carry a full range of products designed to use as a set and some carry individual offerings. Find what works for you.

Wet Wipes: The portable bath! When you need to freshen up but you’re just not feeling well enough for a proper bath or shower, wet wipes are the miracle bath.

Dry Shampoo: Like the above, dry shampoo is a spray/shake in, brush out helper for clean fresh hair without having to go through the full and proper wash and dry.

Favourite Pet or Stuffie: Everyone needs someone to cuddle!

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So there you have it, my list of essential comfort items when you need a little pick me up. Are there things you can think of that you would use? Share them in the comments so we can add them to our own lists.

Thanks for reading and remember…

there is always hope