If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue. My pain comes from Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis in all my major joints, Myofascial Pain, a condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia, Diabetes (and Neuropathy that comes from that), Pelvic Adhesions, a spinal condition called Forestier’s Disease, aka D.I.S.H. which stands for Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis, Gastroparesis and several other medical conditions.
My many faces of pain
I’ve been living with Chronic pain for over 30 years now, from the time I was a teen, and I’ve learned a few things in those years. I’d like to share 10 of those things with you now.
1. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE
No matter how long I’ve been in pain for, I’ve never given up hope that things are going to get better. Some days I have are pure agony. Some days are pure delight. I cling to the good days as a reminder that things can be better and often are. There is always hope.
2. A GOOD DOCTOR IS TO BE TREASURED
Doctors have a hard time treating patients with chronic pain because they haven’t been trained well. They’re trained to diagnose a problem and solve it, so chronic pain is frustrating for them as well. If you don’t have a sympathetic doctor who is doing everything they can for you, find another doctor. When you do find one, be honest with them. Share everything…your depression, your anger, your worries. A good doctor wants to help you, but if you can’t share with them, you’re not giving them the chance to do all they can.
3. SUPPORT GROUPS AREN’T RIGHT FOR EVERYONE
Some people thrive in a support group. Others tend to get tired of the constant back patting and “Oh my gawd, I’m so sorry” conversations. Some are in the middle. I think a support group can be a great thing, as long as it’s the right fit. You want a group where you can feel heard and valued while offering support to the others as well – not just a one-way street. I also think it’s important to not jump into every group you hear about. That just becomes confusing and almost like a competition, to see how much sympathy you can drum up. You have to be willing to give back and you can’t forge honest relationships with people when you’re in a dozen active groups in my opinion. Unless that’s all you do all day long. And if that’s the case, I feel sorry for you, because you’re obviously not getting something you truly need.
4. CHRONIC PAIN IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPLAIN TO OTHERS
Despite having great tools like the Spoon Theory and the Battery Analogy to talk about how much energy it costs us to live with chronic pain, it’s almost impossible to get others to understand what it’s like to live with chronic pain day in and day out. Here’s the thing…THE PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY. I can’t make it any more clear than that. No matter what I’m doing, or not doing. I’m hurting. Sometimes I’m in agony, like when I get a Trigeminal Neuralgia Flare up. Try to imagine the last time you experienced brain freeze from eating/drinking something cold…do you remember that sensation? That agonizing pierce of pain in your brain? Now try to imagine that same feeling but in your cheekbone…for 12 hours in a row. Can’t imagine it?? Go try and get brain freeze as a reminder. That’s what my TN flare-ups are like. They start in my cheekbone and spread to my sinus cavity and my eye, then down to my jaw, and to my esophagus. I get spasms in my throat and often I get chest pain as well. For 12 hours.
My Fibromyalgia pain feels like my limbs are in concrete…it’s a heavy throbbing sensation in my arms and legs that make them impossible to move. The Neuropathy I feel in my feet is like pins and needles that never go away. My back pain is so intolerable that I can’t sweep my floors for more than 5 minutes without my lower spine seizing up.
5. DID I MENTION, THE PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY.
Sometimes it lightens up a bit, maybe after I’ve had a rare good night’s sleep, but if I’ve done too much on a particular day, the next day will be agony. Every day is different, and I’ve learned that there is no rhyme or reason as to what might cause a flare and why some days are better than others. Even as I’m typing this, my hands and wrists are throbbing and I’m making more mistakes typing than I normally do. When I sleep, I have to make sure my fingers aren’t curled, or I’ll wake up and won’t be able to move them.
6. COMFORT ROUTINES FOR FLARE UP DAYS ARE LIFESAVERS
In order to combat chronic pain, you need to have an arsenal of weapons at your disposal. This can include medications, therapies like massage or chiropractic care, acupuncture, heat, cold, stretching, yoga, and other items that help you when your pain is flaring up. Warm fluffy blankets and socks, a TENS machine or massaging unit, a roll-on pain medication – whatever you find works for you is part of your comfort routine and it’s important that you use these items when needed before your pain becomes even worse.
7. PACING REALLY DOES WORK
One of the important things you learn when you have chronic pain is that you have a limited amount of energy and you have to pace yourself throughout the day/week, etc. in order to stay ahead of the pain. Pacing is critical in helping to prevent flare-ups or in helping to reduce the number of flare-ups you may experience. There comes a point when you may have to consider outside help for chores because you can’t do them all. Perhaps a teenage neighbour can help with cleaning or laundry or care in the garden. Maybe you decide to hire a cleaning service twice a month for a deep clean that you can’t get to. Whatever you need and whatever you decide, my best advice is to lose the guilt. It’s not your fault you have chronic pain. You do what you need to, in order to make your home a happy one again.
8. SLEEP IS A VERY GOOD THING
Most people with chronic pain struggle to get good sleep, just by the very nature of being in pain. Take the time to establish a good sleep routine and don’t be afraid to nap during the day if that’s what your body requires. Just sent a timer for no more than 90 minutes (one sleep cycle) and do it early enough that it won’t interfere with bedtime. If you need to ask your doctor about sleep medications, then ask. Don’t be afraid of them, but perhaps try the more natural solutions first, like melatonin. Your doctor can give you the best advice.
9. WE ARE ALL WARRIORS
Just by the mere fact you are reading this and identifying with it, you are a warrior. Living with chronic pain is no picnic my friend and those of us who do it struggle every single day of our lives. Some days are good, some days are bad and some days are too difficult to talk about. It takes a special kind of strength to manage chronic pain and life at the same time and I admire every single person out there who is doing it. You are a warrior.
10. I’VE FINALLY ACCEPTED MY BODY THE WAY IT IS
For all my bravado and positive spirit, it took me a long time to learn to love this pain-filled body of mine. When I was forced to leave my job at the top of my game in 2009 I was devastated. I didn’t think I’d ever be useful to anyone again and I sank into a deep depression over how my body had let me down. It took several years before I was able to accept that this truly was my “new normal” and that returning to work wasn’t going to happen for me. When I found myself in a place where my health had improved somewhat, and I felt I had something to give back, I started volunteering for the Patient Voices Network and that really helped me get back on my feet. I am able to take part in committee work again, but at a pace that works for me and my health. I’m better able to accept my body and all it’s medical failings because I’ve found ways to contribute again.
I’ve also been able to get involved in hobbies again such as crafting and reading. I’m learning how to crochet and do needlepoint, all things I didn’t have time for when I was too busy working. So accepting my limitations also opened the door to new things for me to try, which has been a blessing. Perhaps you’re in the same place now, ready to accept that this is your new normal, and it’s an okay place to be. If you’re going to be in pain anyways, doesn’t it make sense to accept it and find ways to make the best of it.
I’ve been blessed with a positive nature that has helped to get me through a lot of difficult situations in my life. Chronic pain and my medical conditions are part of that. I believe in God and trust Jesus every day to be there for me. I have wonderful family and friends who have been so supportive of me. I belong to a great support group online that genuinely cares about me. More than anything though, and as my first point says,
I thought I’d start out the year with a refresher course on the conditions I live with and how blogging has had such an impact in my life. Because of my blogging, I have had chances to be interviewed in a Canadian National newspaper, on two different podcasts, and several different articles online. The various conditions I write about are because of the fact I live with them and am personally acquainted with them. So, without further ado, here we go:
So I’ve talked about my Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis, and when I say I have arthritis in all my major joints, I’m serious. I have it in my shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers, my cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, left hip (right hip has been replaced), knees, ankles and toes. Some areas like my left hip and right knee are quite serious and will need replacing, but the rest I’ll have to live with.
Meanwhile, my thoracic spine has a different type of bone condition called Forestier’s Disease or D.I.S.H., which stands for Diffuse (Widespread) Idiopathic (Of Unknown Cause) Skeletal (Referring to the Skeleton) Hyperostosis (Excessive Growth of Bone). It forms in the shape of a bone spur, but instead of a normal spur that could be removed, it looks more like melted candle wax on the spine, so nothing can be done about it.
I also have regular bone spurs on my right hand – I had one removed from inside my pointer finger as it grew through a tendon, and there is a second one on the outside of my middle finger growing through the knuckle. Both have been very painful and interfere(d) with typing and writing.
My Type 2 Diabetes has been with me for 8 years now and is mostly under control. I go for regular blood tests every 3 months, to get my A1C numbers that show my average blood sugar levels for the previous 3 months. Generally speaking, I average around 6.9 to 7.2 which is slightly higher than the 5.9 – 6.2 my doctor would like, but I do my best. I use long acting insulin at night, 14 units which does a good job at helping to keep things under control. I’m trying to eat better, but I’m a sucker for sweets and it’s hard to be disciplined.
So, what else is on that list. Ah yes, the ever lovely Gastroparesis
Now, the way they determine if you have this or not is through something called a motility test. In my case, they wanted me off ALL of my meds first to make sure they weren’t contributing to the problem, so for 2 days prior to my test I had to quit my medications cold turkey. That included my meds for Fibromyalgia, my anti-psychotics AND my opioid narcotic for pain. Do you have any idea what going through withdrawal is like? It was horrendous. I had the shakes, the runs, I couldn’t eat or sleep, and for those 2 days, I alternated between thinking I was dying and wanting to die to having to feel better in order to die.
On the day of the test, I went to the hospital to where the Nuclear testing is done. I knew that I was going to be eating an egg sandwich with a radioactive tracer in it and that tracer would be monitored through a series of special x-rays, but I explained to the nurse that everything I ate was immediately running right through me like water. She was so sweet…she “reserved” me a private bathroom, brought me my sandwich and told me to eat as much as I could while I sat there. Talk about embarrassing!!! It’s embarrassing writing about it!!! But, I managed just over 3/4’s of it, which she said was enough. She brought me into the x-ray room where there was a gurney to lay on, and then gave me a warm blanket.
The first pictures were taken every 2 minutes, so I just sat. Then they took them every 5 minutes apart, then 10 minutes apart, then 15, then 30 and finally 2 pictures 1 hour apart each. In between, I slept on the gurney, and my nurse brought me as many warm blankets as I wanted. She also brought me a cold wet face cloth for my forehead. When it was all over, I gave her a big hug and thanked her for being so kind. Then I took my medications asap!!!!
The tests showed that I have a moderate degree of low motility so my food sits in my stomach for a long period of time before moving on to the intestines. This explains why I always look bloated and pregnant. There are medications that can be taken, but I’ve asked my doctor if we can just hold off and wait on that for now. This is more of an inconvenience than anything right now, and I just don’t want any more drugs in my system than I absolutely need. If the problem becomes hugely bothersome, we’ll revisit it, but in the meantime, I’ll just try to watch what I eat, drink more water and try to exercise a bit more.
The Internal Pelvic pain is because I have had a number of pelvic surgeries over the years, so there is a lot of internal scar tissue left over that has attached itself to things like my bladder and bowel, etc. There are occasions when I move a certain way, and those adhesions stretch very painfully – it feels like velcro being ripped apart except it’s my body doing the ripping. It takes my breath away sometimes, it’s so painful, but it only lasts for a minute or two, then it’s gone.
Which leads to Hypothyroidism. For a long time, I assumed that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was the only reason for my constant exhaustion, as my Thyroid numbers always came back normal on blood tests done every three months. One day though, my thyroid went rogue and those numbers were crazy. I had been especially tired…like dragging my ass tired, needed toothpicks to keep my eyes open tired
Oohhh, that is NOT a good look on me!!! My doctor put me on meds and I could feel a difference in a very short period of time. On my next 3 month course of blood work, everything was back to normal, so now I take Synthroid on a daily basis for the rest of my life, to ensure I have a properly working system. So glad that was an easy fix!!
So there you have it. It’s a tough road to walk, I have to be honest. I live with pain 24/7 and have for almost 30 years now. Suffice it to say that you have to be mighty strong to live like this, to get through the day-to-day of actually living in pain. I know some people who just couldn’t. They tried so, so hard, but in the end, their pain was too much for them, and they took their own lives.
I’m a huge advocate for assisted suicide for people who live with severe, intractable pain. We take better care of our pets when they are hurting than we do our humans, and I think that is just plain wrong. I believe every human has the right to choose to die with dignity and I’m glad our Government has come on board with this. I know it’s not perfect, but at least things have started and that’s the main thing.
One thing having all these conditions HAS done though is that it’s given me a platform to blog about them and to discuss them as a Patient Partner in my volunteer work. I live in Langford, BC Canada and I belong to an organization called Patient Voices Network. They help take the voice of the patient and partner us with Heath Care Organizations who need Patient Advocates for the work that they are doing. I’ve been involved in committee work, focus groups, conferences, quality assurance forums, seminars and more because of PVN. The educational experience I’ve received is on par to anything I attended in my working life and in fact, when I attend anything in their offices in Vancouver now, it’s like being greeted by family – I know everyone and they all know me, I’ve been there so often for meetings.
I currently sit on 4 different committees: I am a member of the PVN Oversight & Advisory Committee, I currently sit on the Clinical Resource Committee for the BC Emergency Physicians Network , and I accepted a role with the Laboratory Quality Council Committee. We are responsible for all Labs on Vancouver Island as well as all Medical Blood Collection Stations.
Most recently, I took on a new role as committee member on the Measurement System for Physician Quality Improvement- Surgical Group. I am surrounded by top surgeons in Cardiac Care, Orthopedics and Neurology, plus high-ranking members from the Ministry of Health, the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council and other Health Organizations – and then there’s me. The lone patient voice to represent the masses. It’s a huge responsibility and one I take very seriously. I’ve already spoken out to let them know that while they see quality one way, I as a patient see it differently, and I expect my voice to be heard. It was empowering to have them tell me that I am the whole reason the others are there, because it’s all about the patient in the end.
So all this adds up to some pretty amazing experiences for me because of the pretty extraordinary pain that I live with on a daily basis. I have been truly blessed in my life, and I’m fortunate to be able to share it with you, my Dear Readers. Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope to bring you more articles this year about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and other Invisible Illnesses. And remember…
It’s December 29th and the year is drawing to a close. I want to take this time to simply recap the year and say thank you to my Dear Readers for spending your time with me in 2018.
From the beginning of the year, when I really got started blogging, I started out by writing Happy New Year . My main theme at that time was to talk about my hip replacement surgery which was the real reason this blog came into existance. I had been searching for personal stories of “younger” women who had undergone hip replacements but hadn’t found much, so I thought I’d share my story for others who might find it helpful for themselves. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was writing about my other health issues, including Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illnesses.
I’ve had the opportunity to share my thoughts about body image, intimacy when you live with Chronic Pain, the sleeplessness that comes with Fibromyalgia and Invisible Illnesss, and how the simple loss of bathing can mean so much heartache. On the other hand, I’ve been able to share about gratitude and finding joy on more than one occasion, so I’ve tried to focus on the positives as much as possible, whenever possible.
I couldn’t do this without you. Without my Dear Readers, there wouldn’t be much sense in putting this out there, so I appreciate each and every one of you who comes to my blog and reads what I have to say. You may not comment on every post, heck…you may never comment on a post I write, but the numbers don’t lie. My stats show that you are there and that you keep coming back. In fact, when I took a week off and didn’t do a thing to market the blog…no Pinterest, no Twitter, no Social Media at all, the numbers dropped, but a bunch of you still came by to see if there was anything new.
You can see where I was away for the week. On Nov. 15th and 16th, I was in Vancouver for a volunteer meeting, and away from my computer the whole time. When I put the effort in, you do the same and come back to see what’s new…the numbers don’t lie, and I am forever grateful.
So, to wrap up 2018, I want to say thank you. You’ve helped me reach a far greater level of success than I ever thought I’d make, simply because you like to read my thoughts. That’s pretty amazing to me. I just want to provide as much information as I can to anyone who is living with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue or Invisible Illness. I want you to know you’re not alone. I’m right there with you and for as long as I’m able, I will continue to write and bring you articles and information to help you thrive.
I wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. May you be blessed in 2019 with the very best the year can offer. Remember…
I’m so tired, I’m repeating a post from the past!!!
Have you ever felt exhausted? So exhausted you could barely move? The kind of exhausted that leaves you feeling almost helpless? Guess what…I have a new word for you!!!
Actually, I think there are many people in my life who this word could apply to…the warriors who struggle along every day despite the illnesses that try to hold them back. My friends and fellow Warriors…you are simply Quanked!!!!!!
Taken from Grandiloquent Words:
-Overpowered by fatigue.
-To have the strength reduced or exhausted, as by labour or exertion; become fatigued; be sleepy. Origin uncertain Used in a sentence:
“After sprunting all weekend, then frooncing to get my chores done, I’m well quanked.”Quanked is a condition in which one’s energy and vitality have been consumed. One who is quanked has used up his or her bodily or mental resources, usually because of arduous or long-sustained effort. To feel quanked at the end of the day; quanked after a hard run; feeling rather quanked; quanked by a long vigil.-See forswunke
Now, in all seriousness, I think the word is an excellent one to describe how it feels to be exhausted when you live with an Invisible Illness. It’s beyond any type of tiredness you’ve ever felt before. It’s sleeping for 12 hours and waking up just as tired as you were before you fell asleep. It’s like climbing a mountain when all you did was go up one flight of stairs. When sleeping on the couch is easier than trying to get up to go to bed.
Now add in being in pain constantly and what do you get? You get you. You get me. You get people like us, who have been living in varying stages of agony for varying periods of time. I’ve talked with several friends who live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue plus various other Invisible Illnesses and they’ve described their fatigue and pain like this:
It’s like swimming through concrete while being on fire at the same time (this was mine).
It’s like constantly having a “pins and needles” sensation that never goes away
I feel like I’m being randomly stabbed by a crazed maniac, but that crazed maniac is inside my body and I can’t stop it.
There are parts of my body that are numb and parts of my body that are burning and other parts of my body are throbbing and it all happens at the same time.
My brain is foggy and I can’t remember things like I used to. I hurt everywhere all the time and I’m always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. I don’t like this me that I am anymore.
I feel like I’ve been in a war, but you can’t see my wounds
Do you remember when you were young and you could stay up for hours and hours at night and never feel old? Yeah, well I can’t do that anymore. I’m lucky if I can stay up past 7pm and I don’t even have kids. I’m too tired and achy and sore.
There are ways you can try to improve your sleep with Fibro and Chronic Pain and the key is consistency:
Sleep in a quiet dark room with a slightly cooler temperature than normal. Wear a sleep mask if necessary.
Power down the electronics (TV, computer, Smartphone, etc.) one hour before bedtime. The light from your bedside clock is also enough to disrupt your sleep, so check and see if there is a dim light setting, or face the clock away from you at night.
Set a regular bedtime and wake up time. Establishing a schedule can help the body recognize good sleep habits.
Consider downloading and listening to “sleep music”. There are many recordings that are free, including delta wave music which works with your brainwaves to help lull you into a natural sleep. A “white noise” machine may do the trick for you. These can be found in almost any electronics store and come with various sounds and settings, designed to help your body relax and let go.
Limit Alcohol before bed. You know you’ve read this before but for good reason. Alcohol may make you “feel” tired but actually will wake you up more often.
Eat a healthy snack 45 minutes before bed. This would be something with protein in it like half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain low-sugar cereal, milk or yogurt or a banana. Eating like this before bed helps stave off the “midnight munchies” where you wake up starving in the wee hours of the night.
Get some exercise! Regular exercise like walking or swimming can help the body to rest well in the evening. Start slow and build up over time. Work with a personal trainer if possible who can help you set up a routine tailored to your specific needs and abilities.
Check with your Doctor to ensure there are no other underlying health issues that could be causing your fatigue (i.e.: thyroid issues, anemia, etc.).
Don’t just lay there – get up! If you haven’t been able to fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom. Read or do something that doesn’t involve your TV or computer/Smartphone until you feel sleepy and then try again. The bedroom should be for sleep and sex only. The longer you lay awake in bed for, the more used to being awake in bed your body becomes. You need to break that cycle so getting out of bed and moving to a different room is the smart choice.
Medications should be the last resort but are available to help if needed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for information about over the counter medications to try first.
If you tend to be a worrier at night, with a million things running through your head, allow yourself 10 minutes of this. Set an alarm and let your thoughts go wild. At the end of those 10 minutes, it’s time to stop. It takes practice but it gives you the opportunity to get all those worries out without mulling them over for hours. This isn’t the time for solutions, just the time to acknowledge that they’re there. In the end, say something like “I’m glad I had this time to worry about everything, but now I’m going to sleep on them. I’ll deal with them in the morning”. It tells your brain you’ve acknowledged the worries, and you’ll do something about them later. And off to sleep you go.
Another way to sleep better at night is to be organized during the day. The less you leave to chance during the daytime, the less you need to stress at night. “Did I sign Johnny’s papers for camp?” “Where did I put the chequebook?” “When is the next Book Club meeting?” Whether you use your smartphone, an organizer or the calendar at home, by having a regular system for keeping track of appointments, meetings and paperwork, you’ll stress less knowing you have it all in one place and you’ll sleep better at night.
Sleeping better isn’t always about being in less pain. It’s about doing all the things you can to make your environment as sleep-conducive as possible which may result in less pain. Removing as much stress as possible from your sleeping area is one of the biggest and best things you can do, so try and think of all the things that will make your bedroom area the most comfortable it can be. The key is, whatever you do, do it with consistency. None of us wants to feel quanked.
Oh boy…do you ever get those loaded questions? I do and as much as I appreciate that people care and want to know how I am, I also wonder if these are “polite” questions, or do these people genuinely want to know how I am. It’s so hard to know how to answer.
So, generally, I respond with, “I’m doing okay thanks”.
But what if I told the truth?
The truth is, I’m struggling right now. I’m struggling physically with pain and exhaustion and I’m struggling with my blogging and I’m struggling with feeling lonely and housebound, but I’m pretty sure no one really wants to hear about all that when they ask me how I’m doing so I don’t tell them.
But I’m going to tell you.
I’m averaging about 2-3 hours of sleep a night right now. I manage about 45-60 minutes at a time and then I wake up. I feel like I’ve slept for hours, but I look at the clock and barely any time has passed at all. I’ve always struggled with insomnia and I’m going to be trying some new meditation music, but it’s frustrating to not be able to get decent rest. It doesn’t allow my body to heal, which contributes to my overall pain. As I type this, I can feel my hands and legs and feet throbbing with pain. It’s almost like a drumbeat – thump THUMP thump thump, thump THUMP thump thump, thump THUMP thump thump, over and over again. My legs muscles feel tight and almost crampy and my fingers and toes feel swollen. My back is tight and tense and I can also feel the tension in my jaw and neck. My vision is blurry and I can feel the spot just under my cheekbone where my Trigeminal Neuralgia flares up – it’s gently pulsing, almost like it’s teasing me.
Now, I don’t tell you this to ask for sympathy. It’s just stating the facts. The same as I’m struggling right now to come up with various subject matter to blog about. With two blogs on the go now, I’m working at how to monetize one of them, and keep this one for posting on. I’m taking some courses about how to make money blogging and I’ve signed up to review a couple of courses as well. In the midst of that, I’m also taking a general writing course, plus I’ve applied for a new volunteer position – another committee that I’d like to be a part of. I’ll be back to work on one of my current committee assignments soon, which I’ll write about, but it still leaves me struggling with core subjects to blog about. It’s not for a lack of writing prompts, that’s for sure. Generally, what happens is I get an idea in the wee hours of the morning and then I write like crazy and bang out a post in about 30 minutes. It happens when I write poetry too. It just comes to me, I don’t plan it. When I wrote Wistful Thinking, I literally had the idea and the concept and completed poem done in 10 minutes.
The other issue is that I’m housebound for the most part. It’s because I don’t do enough to get out and about, because of pain and exhaustion (and because I’m busy blogging). Well, no more excuses for that. I just bought a new walker/rollator to get me out moving again. She’s a pretty silver/blue Xpresso and I’ve named her Bluebird:
Isn’t she lovely!! So much nicer than my old one, as there are no exposed cables, the basket is deeper, the seat is thicker and so is the backrest, and the wheels are designed to go over gravel and other rough surfaces. The handle area is large and smooth and she rolls beautifully, plus it’s still a one-handed close…I just pull up on the handle in the middle of the seat and voila! she folds sideways, so easy to transport when needed on the bus!! Hopefully, this will be the incentive to get me out and about more often…there is a gorgeous lake just 15 minutes from my house with a perfect walking path around it and I’m making it my goal to get down there at least once a week.
I also plan on getting back in the pool, and Bluebird will be great for walking to the bus and back. I’ll be speaking with my new doctor in the next week about taking an Aqua Therapy course at our local Pool and Fitness Centre. It’s a specialized one-on-one program for People with Chronic Pain, working with a registered Kinesiologist to help with rehabilitation in the pool, so it’s easy on the joints and muscles. By getting my doctor’s approval, there’s a good chance I can have the costs paid by my Long Term Disability provider. I’m excited about it and even though I have to take a bus to get there, it’s only a 20-minute ride. I’m sure there’s parking available for Bluebird as I’m not the only one who takes these types of classes.
I’ve also been trying to be more physical at home, and not just sitting in my recliner all day (although it is rather molded to my butt shape). I’ve been doing wall push-ups and bicep curls and was trying to do squats as well, but those became too painful for my knees and ankles. I’m going to start doing planks to see if those work and maybe some gentle lunges with no bouncing. Everything hurts my joints so much, but I need to become more flexible. I think my Achilles Tendon is ultimately going to need surgery as it’s responded to nothing else we’ve tried – no physio, no stretching, no taping. I’m not sure what else is left, but I see Dr Winston soon, my Physiatrist and we’ll talk about options. It’s slowing me down and affecting how I walk and causing my left hip to have even more pain than necessary, which is going to increase the time before needing a hip replacement on that side as well. I’ve also developed some painful Neuropathy in the left foot, on the top and into the big toe, that might be related to my Type 2 Diabetes, so more to talk to my new doctor about. This just came on in the last few days, while on the motorcycle trip.
Mentally, I’m worried because I think I’m going to have to come off the drug I take for my Bipolar Disorder and it’s the med that has given me all the energy I’ve had lately, Abilify. It’s causing me some major side effects; brain zaps, tongue trembling, handshaking, vision blurring and an uncomfortable amount of weight gain. I’m only 5’2″ tall, so any weight gain over 145lbs is too much and I’m up to 160lbs. It’s the brain zaps that are the worst though…I can actually feel them…they’re like an electric shock in the brain, but in high speed, and you can both feel them and hear them – a lightning bolt that goes right through the head from one side to the other. If I had to describe them based on something we physically have, I’d say it’s like one of those electronic fly killers that buzzes when it kills a fly…same sound, that bzz-zap!
There are good things happening in my life though. Ever since we bought our new motorcycle, I’ve been able to get out for more and longer rides with my husband Ray, which is a real treat for me. Our new bike is a 2007 Yamaha Venture and more of a cruiser than the sports bike we had before, a Kawasaki Concours.
The Venture is super comfortable for me and I’ve been able to go for longer rides each time we’ve been out, including a very recent Grand Adventure! Ray and I took the bike and went to Mt. Vernon, Washington to visit an online friend of mine named Maura so I could hang out with her and binge watch the second season of This Is Us, a tv show that I started watching on Netflix, but is no longer being carried there. Maura is a huge fan as well, so I spent 2 days with her watching the show while Ray went off exploring on the bike, then we hung out with her and her hubby Paul for dinner the first night (and with their daughter Anna – their son Matthew was out), and on the second night, we took them out for dinner at a local pub. On Saturday morning, Ray and I left at 5am to head for home, taking the I-5 freeway to the Blaine border crossing and then the Tsawwassen ferry home to get back to our cat Dorie at just after 9am.
Altogether, I’d say I spent 2 hours in the saddle but every second was great!! I know I can go for longer now and be comfortable. I can get on and off the bike easily, and it just feels good to ride. As an added bonus, I have a new leather jacket and gloves! Ray bought them for me on Saturday, August 25th here at a leather shop close to home. I really wanted pink, but decided this black jacket was too sexy to pass up! It has just enough detail on it to make it look sharp without being tacky. The leather is buttery soft with black stitching up the sides on the back, and on the back of the arms from the wrists to the elbows. Ray will have to put a new snap in at the wrists to make them tighter (I have short arms and tiny wrists) but it fits beautifully everywhere else and I’m delighted to have it. I also bought proper bike gloves – I got gauntlets, the kind that goes over the jacket sleeves to protect me from bees flying into my sleeves, etc.
I’m still keeping busy with my volunteer work and have applied to sit on a new committee for Island Health’s Laboratory Services Quality Council. I access Lab Services every three months for blood work, so thought it might be fitting to be a part of their quality control council. I’m also waiting to hear back on a couple of other opportunities I had my name in for so it could be an exciting fall!
So there you have it…a bit more about me and what’s been going on in my life and how I’ve been truthfully feeling. The next time someone asks you “how are you doing”, how will you answer them? With a short predictable answer? Or will you tell the truth?
I want to get controversial today and I’m even going to throw in a disclaimer that this post is my PERSONAL opinion. I have no affiliation with any of the organizations mentioned within.
I was recently involved in an online Facebook discussion that got pretty heated. What was it about you ask? Well, let me ask you a question…
Is there a blood test to diagnose Fibromyalgia?
The answer is NO.
Is there a lab test to diagnose Fibromyalgia?
The answer is YES and NO.
How can there be both? Well, I’m going to explain it to you and when I’m done, you’ll see how wording can make you believe both things. Before I do though, I’m going to give you the correct answer. As of right now, today, there is NO blood test that definitively diagnoses Fibromyalgia. Not according to the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins or any other leading hospital in the United States.
First off, let’s get something clear about Fibromyalgia. Fibro is NOT an inflammatory disease. It is technically NOT an autoimmune disease. What Fibro IS, is a NERVE disease where the brain misreads the pain signals going to the body through the spinal cord.
The big test that everyone talks about when they say there’s a lab test that DOES diagnose Fibro comes from EpiGenetics. It’s called the FM/a test and it shows some promise that it could potentially diagnose Fibro. They say it does that now, but I say in the future. This article from Healthline explains it in more detail but it’s important to note that more clinical trials need to be done before we can trust this test to be the definitive lab test we’re all waiting for.
Here comes your Science lesson. This FM/a test looks for chemokines, which are a family of small cytokines, or signalling proteins secreted by cells. Some chemokines are considered pro-inflammatory These are formed under pathological conditions (on pro-inflammatory stimuli, such as IL-1, TNF-alpha, LPS, or viruses) and actively participate in the inflammatory response attracting immune cells to the site of inflammation. But as I said above, Fibromyalgia is NOT an inflammatory disease…so how is this blood test going to be useful other than by process of elimination? And by that, I mean it’s going to rule out all the other diseases that DO have inflammatory responses, such as Lupus, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.; basically, all the auto-immune disorders, which would have already been ruled out by the doctor through a regular panel of blood work.The way Fibromyalgia is diagnosed is by using the traditional Tender Point test. There are 18 tender points on the body of a person with Fibro:
As indicated, having 11 of the 18 Tender Points is considered a positive diagnosis. This is the ONLY way Fibro is diagnosed, after all other possible conditions have been ruled out, such as arthritis, lupus, MS, etc. This Tender Point test has been accepted as the gold standard in the medical community for years and will continue to be utilized until the medical community itself accepts a blood test as the new standard. That may be the test from EpiGenetics or there is one being developed based on RNA, not DNA, by a company called IQuity. They call their test IsolateFibromyalgia and you can read about it in this article.
EpiGenetics has developed their test and are marketing it aggressively, but it hasn’t been endorsed by the major hospitals like the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins, etc. or by doctors who treat Fibromyalgia. It’s accepted in most States, as well as in Canada and several other countries. Insurance and Medicaid will cover it in the US, but I don’t believe there is insurance coverage anywhere else, so you have to pay $1080 for the test, plus possible shipping fees to their California Laboratory and it takes a week to get results. In my opinion, that’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t have the support of the medical community.
For people with all the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, one of the most complex of the Invisible Illnesses, in my opinion, the future could be looking a whole lot brighter a whole lot sooner than we think. Instead of having to rule out multiple other conditions, a simple blood test will be able to help your doctor determine if you have Fibromyalgia, which means treatment can start sooner rather than later. Who knows…perhaps once we have a test to determine if you have Fibro, it won’t be long before we have an actual treatment for it too! One that really works, not just masks the pain or other symptoms for a short period of time.
Your best weapon against Fibromyalgia and all Invisible Illnesses is education. Stay up to date with information from trusted sources like the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and Healthline. Labs like EpiGenetics are focused on their own work and will be biased toward their own product so be aware of what they’re saying and why. They have a product to sell you and that’s their agenda – to make a profit. Keep that in mind anytime you’re researching information and ask yourself; what’s in it for them and what’s in it for me. The answer to that question can save you a lot of grief and controversy.
Remember, there is always hope.
Here’s a quick question for you. When you are a patient in the hospital, what do you do for entertainment? Do you watch TV? Read a book or magazine? Surf the internet or check out Facebook? Go for walks or check out the Gift Shop? Or are you mos….woah, woah, WHAT????
GO BACK…surf the internet? Check out Facebook? Don’t you use up a lot of your Data that way? Or does your hospital provide free Wifi?
I was recently invited to be interviewed for a news article about the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, as it’s the first hospital in BC to offer free Wifi for patients and visitors. Now, we’re not talking blazing fast for video downloads, but good basic Wifi for surfing the Internet while you are in the hospital. I don’t know if this is offered where you live, but it’s brand new for us. There is one other BC hospital trialling this, and the BC Ministry of Health hopes to roll the program out to the rest of the province, though there is no set timeline.
I can tell you from my own experience that this is a very welcome move. I’m not a TV watcher (I don’t even watch at home) and I often don’t feel like reading. So what’s left? I listen to music a lot, but when you hallucinate music, that’s not always the first choice either. Having the chance to message chat with a friend or to be on Facebook or Twitter really appeals to me and I think this will be a very popular decision.
Here are the transcript and sound bytes from the interview:
~~~~~ Patients and visitors to Nanaimo Hospital can breathe easier knowing they won’t have to worry about racking up high cell phone bills.
Island Health announcing today they’re introducing free wi-fi at the hospital.
Patient partner Pamela Jessen says when it comes to Data usage, it removes a heavy burden from people already in a stressful situation…
Island Health says they hope to expand free Wi-Fi to more of their sites, but there’s no timeline yet in place.
Free Wi-Fi at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital means patients won’t have to feel isolated and disconnected.
Island Health announced the service today, saying the Wi-Fi will be for keeping in touch and using the internet but won’t be able to handle high-def video streaming.
Pamela Jessen with the Patient Voices Network says it removes a great burden from patients but also their visitors…
The service is expected to cost roughly five thousand dollars a year. It’s paid for by the Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary, who raise funds for the hospital.
What about you? Your thoughts in the comments would be appreciated!
I’m so funny! I make me laugh!!
Okay, first of all, welcome back! Now, I’m not sure if I’m welcoming you back to the blog, or myself. Honestly, it’s like I write in 2 month spurts, but I know I have so much I want to say….it just takes forever for me to feel well enough to write, and then I start and then I get tired and then I stop and then I get energy and then I start and then I get tired and then I stop and then I get energy and then…and then…and then. Well, of my 12 followers, and the few others who read this but don’t follow me (and you shouldn’t…I get lost a lot…more on that below too!), you probably know me well enough to know that my Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue pretty much rule what I can and can’t do. So, I write when I can, I keep short notes to add here later on when I’m able. Such as my hubby Ray and I heard that a dear friend of ours in Calgary was going through an extremely upsetting situation and facing some immediate financial challenges so daunting, she could lose her house. A mutual friend set up a Go Fund Me account for her, but Ray and I sent her an immediate $500 to help her right away. I wanted to share that because it was such a blessing to be able to help in a bigger way this time rather than just a phone call to tell her we were praying and that she was loved.
So, continuing with the story, I took my injection kit and headed off to see my Physiatrist, Dr. Winston on the morning of March 8th, all bright eyed and bushy tailed. He came into the examination room and asked if I had the Synvisc with me – it felt so clandestine (“Hey Rocco…you got the stuff?”). I gave him the box and told him I had a feel-good story for him about it. I mentioned in my last post that the cost for Synvisc-One is quite expensive – $481 to be exact, and when I had called my benefits provider, they had told me it wasn’t covered so we would have to bear the cost of it ourselves. Fine, no problem.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, but when Ray went to pick up the Synvisc-One kit…our insurance company covered the complete cost, no questions asked!!! I love it when things like that happen…I believe it was God’s confirmation that we did the right thing helping our friend in need, and He provided for us in return. I’ve probably never mentioned on this blog that I’m a Christ Follower, but there you have it…the first time said, but probably not the last!
So, back to me and my knee!! Dr. Winston had another student with him for this appointment, another handsome young fellow named Lee (are all Med students so gorgeous now, like they’re all from TV shows???). Plus, Dr. Winston had a surprise for me…he had Botox for my face!!!! Yay! I wasn’t expecting that, so that was a real treat! He put some ice on my knee to freeze it a bit, then asked me to show Lee where I experience the facial pain, so I pointed to the area under the cheekbone. Then Dr. Winston explained to Lee that they don’t inject the Botox under that area or the muscles would droop. Instead, they do it along the side of the face, right by the hairline, going from the temple to the jawline and injecting approximately six small shots – more like tiny pinpricks, though I could feel the Botox spreading (more like oozing) as he did it.
I’ve had Botox injections done before, in other, more intimate places for muscles and it’s really not painful. So, he went ahead and did those injections while the knee froze, and it was quick and painless. After that was done, he got busy with my knee. The first injection was painful and he pointed out to Lee that you could physically see where I was shutting down because of pain…it was just agonizing!! Dr. Winston then injected some local freezing into the knee area and waited for it to take effect before injecting the rest of the Synvisc-One, which went smoother but still painful.
He told me to stay off the leg for the next couple of days and asked me to call him in a month to follow up, and then see him within 6 months for a follow-up appointment. So…what did happen after a month? Well, I’d say neither of the injections really did what I wanted them to do.
For the knee, there was a tiny bit of pain relief in the beginning, but after the first two weeks, the knee went back to collapsing with the sharp bolt of pain and the ache was there again, just as before. And with the face, I had a major TN flareup a month after the Botox, and have had several more since. I didn’t call to give him the follow up in the month after (probably because I was in the middle of the TN flareup then forgot), but now I need to call him to make an appointment because my right shoulder is giving me major grief. I mentioned it to him at the last appointment, and I’ve been doing the exercise he showed me, but I have a feeling I’ve damaged the rotator cuff and might need a surgical solution.
So, that’s where we’re at with those body parts. In other health news, I’ve had increasing auditory hallucinations, that continued to get louder and louder in my head, and the voices started getting louder as well. I was also able to distinguish the voices more clearly. They’ve always sounded more like “talk radio” but this time I could make out women’s voices and very clearly heard the word “her” being said over and over. At one point, I start having a panic attack, everything was so big in my head. Ray had his own Dr. appointment w. Dr. Leong and I gave him permission to talk about me. He told Dr. Leong that he was worried and Dr. Leong told Ray he wanted to see me asap. I went in the next day and Dr. Leong asked me if I knew why I was there. I answered, “because my husband loves me”. We’ve done a major prescription change…I am completely off the Seroquel for my Bipolar Disorder and I’ve started taking Abilify.
I think there’s been a huge difference already. The hallucinations have settled down, I have a bit more energy overall, I’ve lost a bit of weight, and I think my blood sugars have stabilized as well (it can affect a Diabetic’s blood sugars in both directions so I have to test my blood a little more frequently). I see Dr. Leong again on June 13th so I hope it’s all good news to share with him. It will be the first time in a long time I feel like I have good news to share!!!! And in other news regarding Dr. Leong, he’s leaving Herald Street Health and moving to Mill Bay, BC, which is up the Malahat Hwy heading towards Nanaimo. He’s offered to keep me and Ray on as patients and I’ve accepted. Ray will just take time from work to drive me to appointments as mostly they should be every couple of months for prescription renewals and my Diabetes checkups, so nothing urgent. Ray will schedule his appointments with mine for the rare times he needs to go, so it should work out fine. Dr. Leong isn’t keeping a lot of his patients, so I feel blessed and honoured that he’s offered to have me stay with him.
Okay…enough of my health…let’s move on to what happened on our Seattle trip. I wanted to quickly say that I met up with my dear Chickie, Carrie Ann and she is just as delightful in person as she is online. We met up with two other lovely online friends from our Bloggess Pals group – a group of ladies who all love Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess.
Megan, Kimmy, Carrie and myself spent a few hours at Starbucks near our hotel, talking and laughing like we’d known each other forever!!!! We had the best time and it was hard to say goodbye.
Chickie and Mum!
(L-R) Pam, Kimmy, Megan, Carrie
Carrie then came to Victoria for a week with Ray and I. We went whale watching and shopping and hung out at home watching movies and just had a lovely time together!! I miss her very much. oxoxoxoxox
Carrie and Pam
And how else have I been keeping busy? Why…volunteering of course!!!
I was not able to take part in the “Train the Trainer” course after all. I was having a lot of problems with energy and pain and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to bring my best self to the table, so I canceled with sadness. Fortunately, another opportunity came up for me to help others. I am going to be a Patient Speaker at the Island Health CARE Orientations. These orientations are for people who want to become volunteers just like me. Island Health is the Provincial Health Region I live in. Patient Voices Network is the Provincial Wide organization that I volunteer for. I wanted to make that distinction. I start on Thursday, June 14th by attending a CARE Orientation as an Observer, then attend a 2 hour coaching session in August. Once that’s finished, I’ll be put on the 2018/2019 Speaker Schedule and will speak 2-3 times (possibly more) in the Victoria area.
I continue to sit on the two committees mentioned earlier; the BC Emergency Medicine Network (@BCEmergMedNtwrk) and the PVN Oversight & Advisory Committee (@PatientVoicesBC). My partner with the BC ER Medicine Network is Jolaine Cowherd – she and I are busy updating all of the Patient Information Sheets that are provided there. These are the sheets Doctors give you regarding various conditions when you are discharged; what to expect when you leave the hospital, what to do if your condition worsens after leaving the hospital, etc. These are then approved and uploaded to our network so the information is always kept current. I also designed the sheet that Jolaine and I are using to update the information, as there hadn’t really been anything in place before – I’m not sure there had ever been a review process in place, and that’s why this volunteer position became available.
My role as Co-Chair of the O&A Committee has been a busy and enjoyable one. I’d been working with Ben Ridout, but he has now moved on to a newly created role, more tailored to his overall background, so I have a new partner in crime! Meet Teresa Bissenden! She’s absolutely delightful, as smart as Einstein, adorable as anything and is an amazing facilitator. We have been working together for a couple of months now and as the last thing that Ben and I decided, the main task for Teresa and I was to organize a Face to Face meeting for the O&A Committee. It would be the first meeting for many of us as the term for Committee members is 2 years, and so a great opportunity for Teresa to meet everyone as she starts her new role. So, that’s what we did!
Teresa and I worked on the agenda and then she and her amazing team, including Denise Pinto and Irena Apostu did the hard work of coordinating all the details, including travel, food, etc. As a Certified Event Planner, I can tell you it is a HUGE job organizing these types of meetings, especially when you have people traveling from all around the province, including very remote locations. Everything was done very well…we all raved about Denise’s choice for lunch…delicious Indian food including fabulous Butter Chicken and Rice, and we all worked extremely hard on our agenda items, to successfully end the day with a finished document to present to the Ministry of Health. It was emotionally draining for me and I admit, I cried at the end when we were going around the circle giving our final thoughts (more about that below).
During our lunch break, I was supposed to be giving an interview to a reporter from a Nanaimo newspaper. He had contacted Teresa as he wanted to talk to a “patient partner” to get their feedback regarding the possibility of having WiFi in the Nanaimo hospital and all hospitals. The interview was scheduled for 12:30, but when we called him, he wasn’t around. His colleague offered to do it, but when I asked him if he knew the subject matter well, he said “not really”, so I said I’d rather do it with Spencer, the original reporter who requested to speak with me. I left my home number and asked for him to phone me this coming Monday (tomorrow) so we’ll see what happens. Not sure why he wasn’t available since he was the one who wanted to talk to me, but we’ll find out tomorrow I guess.
And now it’s time for some funny stuff, some sad stuff and some “you have to laugh about it now” stuff. After the meeting, I was so tired and emotional, I canceled my dinner plans and headed to the airport early (I knew my dear friend Donna would understand and she did). My flight wasn’t until late (10pm) so I realized I’d have a long wait – probably 5 hours, but I was hoping I could find a quiet corner and just rest. I hadn’t slept well the night before and actually not for several days prior, as is normal for me. I was also feeling emotional as I mentioned. The news about Kate Spade’s suicide had made me sad and then finding out that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide that morning (June 8th) had really upset me. It wasn’t until I was home that I realized all day, in the back of my mind, I was worrying how many of the successful ladies I was with all day were struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts of their own if any. Would I be able to tell? Could I help?
After leaving the offices where the meeting was held, I started walking towards the Skytrain station to catch the train to the airport. I had already checked in for my Westjet flight and printed my boarding pass, and I only had my purse, a small bag, and my walker. It was pouring rain and I was wearing a long sleeve long sweater, just a thin one, but the station is only a few blocks away…I love that convenience of the offices being so close!!! Except….this time I had a brain fart. My brain somehow thought the station was somewhere else. And I forgot to walk ONE BLOCK and turn right and just kept on walking straight. Did I mention it was pouring? Yes, I did. And I kept walking, thinking to myself, “Self, if you just walk to Burrard and then turn right, go down a couple of blocks, it’s right there”. But Self thought differently, and I turned when I shouldn’t have and then kept on making turns and walking down roads while getting wetter and wetter and more emotional and more emotional until almost 30 or 40 minutes later, Self finally stopped at a Bellhop at a fancy hotel to ask for help, since Pride took a hike a long, LONG time ago. This handsome young man looked at me and asked me if I was okay. Me, with tears in my eyes, replied: “I just need to find the Waterfront station”.
He replied back, very gently and very carefully “it’s right across the street Ma’am. Just go up to the lights, cross at the intersection and enter through the main doors to the elevator”. I’m not sure if he thought I was going to hit him or hug him but at any rate, he stepped back a step, and I just looked at him with tear filled eyes, whispered “thank you” and trudged away, dripping wet. I found the entrance to the station, stopped inside, and then started to sob. Huge tears start falling down my face and now I’m starting to shake. I stood there, just trying to breathe, but more and more tears are falling, so I just let it out of my system…I don’t care who sees me. No one stops but I don’t care. After a few minutes, I feel a bit better so I try to wipe my face with a soggy Kleenex until it falls apart on me. I headed over to the Ticket machine and now I have to figure out how to buy a ticket to the Airport. And I start crying again. Then I spot two Customer Service agents…I walk over to them, still with tears. One of them sees me and with concern asks “may I help you?”. I look at her and then totally lose it.
“I..am…having..a “sniff” …very…”sob”…fifficult..time…”sob”…with..the “sniff” …ticket…ma..ma..”sob”..chine”
Oh, my word. The two of them couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful!!! One of them hugs me and asks if I’m okay. I nod and manage to tell them how I got lost trying to get there and she’s fussing over me and how I’m wet and she’s picking wet Kleenex off of my face and the other is helping me get my ticket and I’m giving her my money and the first one is telling to make sure I get on the YVR train, not the other one and then I’m all set. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without them. Well, I probably could have, but I’m oh, so glad they were there to help. I was so wet and cold and lost and overwhelmed and emotionally overloaded….a breakdown in the Skytrain station is the last thing I needed!!!
So yes, I made it to the airport, found a quiet spot, rested, caught my plane and of course, made it safely home to the arms of my husband!!!
And to finish up this blog post and get you totally up to date, today, June 10th is my wonderful husband Ray‘s birthday!!! I love this man so much!!! We’ve had a wonderful day together…I went for my first motorcycle ride in 2 YEARS with him – only to Denny’s for his birthday lunch but it was a start. He’s done some gardening, I’ve updated all 12 (and more?) of you and he’s in the kitchen, making something wonderful for dinner. Last night, we were at a Slegg work sponsored event at Western Speedway which was great fun!
So my friends…there you go. Everything that’s been going on for the last couple of months or so. As always, I promise to do better at staying up to date. As always, I’ll probably fail. But…I’m never gone forever unless I die. So let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Because now, when I end with my motto like I always do, it’s gonna sound weird.
There is always hope.
ha ha ha…I kill me.
Well, I sure hope Y’all didn’t hold your breath waiting for the next chapter in my story because if you did, you’d be dead now.
I am so sorry I’m such a crappy keeper upper of writing. Partly it’s because I sometimes forget I have a blog and sometimes it’s because I feel so crappy that I can’t write. Mostly the second one. And SO MUCH has happened since I updated last, I hardly know where to begin. So…I’ll begin with the end and then go from there.
So the answer to the big question is YES…I did survive the wide excision surgery for the mole in the Lady Garden and when the pathology report came back, apparently everything that needed to be cut away was removed, so that’s good. Unfortunately, even at this date (March 4th), there is still an area that bleeds when scratched or rubbed – like the scar tissue hasn’t healed properly. I did have problems with the dissolving stitches not dissolving properly, and the scar itself is rather thick, but I think I’ll need to go back to the Gynecologist for her to have another look at why it’s not healing well. It’s disappointing to me because this whole experience has felt “wrong” from the very first time I saw the mole, and I just don’t think the story is over, even though the pathology report came back clear. Let’s just say that for now…I don’t think the Lady Garden is totally tended to and may need some minor pruning still to yield optimum results.
So, what else has been going wrong on that’s been keeping me away from here. Well, let’s see…
First off…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! LOL…okay, I realize you’re reading this in March, but it’s been that long since I posted last, so I figured I’d better send out greetings. I truly hope 2018 is a fantastic year for all of you. It’s been a busy year for me so far, mostly with health-related issues, but also with a lot of volunteer-related activities as well. Ray and I had a quiet Christmas and New Year and then BOOM! right back into the busyness of life.
My year started off with a visit to a Psychiatrist, to determine if I was Schizophrenic or not. Wow…what a way to kick off a year, right? The reason for this is because of hallucinations I’ve been having for quite some time. I can’t even remember if I’ve mentioned them on this blog before, but I hallucinate music, and now, more recently voices and other sounds as well. The music manifests itself often as classical, sometimes jazz or rhythm & blues and often country (and I’m not a fan of country music!). I “hear it” on the right side of my brain, but it sounds like it’s only inside my head, not like it’s coming from outside. More recently, I’ve started hearing voices. It’s not just one voice but sounds more like talk radio, or a group talk, but I can’t make out individual words or sounds. I know it’s English, but it’s almost like the people are too far away to hear. And I only hear them on the left side of my brain. There’s no one voice trying to tell me to harm myself or other people, or anything similar….and that was how the Psychiatrist was able to determine quite quickly that no, I don’t have Schizophrenia or any other type of mental disorder outside of my Bipolar Disorder. Unfortunately, he also couldn’t tell me why this was happening.
Dr. Leong, my Family Doctor, ordered an EEG to see if there was some type of complex seizure disorder happening, or a type of epilepsy, or something else that might be causing the hallucinations. It was scheduled for March, so that was great because it meant I could plan a visit to Calgary in January to visit my dear friend Charlotte and to see my wonderful son Troy….something I had meant to do in November for Charlotte’s birthday like I always do, but had to cancel because I was too sick to go last year. It wasn’t a long visit this year, only 5 days, but they were wonderful days, just being together. I miss Charlotte so much….talking every week just isn’t enough. I so wish I was rich beyond all measure so I could have a private jet whisk me there whenever I wanted, but I guess it’s only a pipe dream if you don’t actually buy the lotto ticket!
We had a wonderful lunch with Troy…he loves to see Charlotte as well, and we all non- stop talked for the whole time we had together. My boy just gets more handsome as he gets older…he’s 36 now…and yes ladies, still single. He’s dating, but hasn’t met “the one”.
The other reason a March date for the EEG was good was that it meant I’d be able to attend the Quality Forum 2018 in February. It’s a huge Health Care forum held in Vancouver, which I’ll talk about more in my volunteer activities below.
So, back to the EEG – I had that done this past Friday, March 2nd. My technician was a gal named Regan…she was great! Really knew her stuff, had a great sense of humour, so we spent 90 minutes together while she got me ready, did the test, etc. The first part was for her to take a pencil and mark my scalp in a million places, for where the electrodes were going to be placed. Then, she took a dab of sticky glue and glued the electrodes to my scalp and to a few places on my face, finally gathering everything back into one neat ponytail!
After that, she gave me some instructions, such as closing my eyes and spelling my name, opening and closing my eyes, doing some deep breathing for 3 minutes (to a specific pattern, which was REALLY hard at the end – I was practically gasping for breath!!), and then towards the end, she placed a very bright light near the bed and told me that I would need to open and close my eyes at her command, but when they were open, I could look down at my feet and not directly at the light. That was great, except it was bright like a strobe light and I immediately got an ocular migraine, with the zig-zag pattern, but no pain. It’s not a big deal, and I know it only lasts for 30 minutes, but I was really hoping it wouldn’t happen. Oh well….could have been worse. Then the test was over, and the time had come to remove the electrodes and to clean the goop out of my hair. It actually wasn’t too bad…the stuff felt more like a hair gel than anything. My hair is quite long and straight…the stuff would have worked better on someone with short hair. She said the results would be to Dr. Leong in a week, so here’s hoping there are some answers. The last time I hallucinated was 2 days before the test and she said that things can be picked up even a week before, so if the brain was going to be able to show a problem, it would. Cross your fingers!!!!
I guess the blessing with these hallucinations is that it’s really more inconvenient than anything, but sometimes it all gets really really loud in my head and then I start panicking. The last time it was like that, I put my headphones on and watched 2 movies, trying to drown them out and it didn’t work and I got really freaked out. I found out later, I could actually call the Crisis Line and they could send a team out to help determine how to best help me at that time, so that’s a relief to know for the future. Mostly though, it’s just music in the background of my brain, and I just need to ask Ray for confirmation that it’s happening.
So, there’s been that to deal with. And then the problem with my left Achilles Tendon becoming inflammed has become more of a problem than I first thought and is affecting how I walk, which is causing pain in my new hip joint. I need to go for physio, but I just can’t seem to work it into my schedule, because it seems like every time I want to try and book it, I’m feeling like crap. There’s a physio place within walking distance, but of course, walking hurts, but if I try to take the bus, I still have to walk about the same distance to get to the bus depot. If I use my walker, it’s better than just the cane, so I’m just going to have to buckle down, set a date and go, whether I feel like crap or not. And as for the feeling like crap, that’s coming from all my normal pain issues, plus the added pain from my right knee, that is still collapsing under me with that sharp bolt of pain, even when I have the brace on (which I wear during all waking hours), plus I’m having frequent Trigeminal Neuralgia flare-ups that are just agonizing (in addition to the pain being felt in my face, it’s causing spasms in my esophagus now as well), AND I’ve developed major pain in my right shoulder and the right bicep/tricep muscles for no reason I can determine. Apparently its Frozen Shoulder according to my Physiatrist, Dr. Winston, and he was telling me that my shoulder capsule is affected by almost 50%. He showed me a stretch to do (while working me over) and holy was it ever painful.
I AM SO SICK OF MY BODY BREAKING DOWN!!!!!!!!
Seriously, it seems like every time I turn around, something else in my body is going wrong. I hate complaining; that’s just not the person I am, but this blog is where I vent and you, my unfortunate readers, get to listen. It’s just so frustrating!!! I am hoping for some relief next week though. I see Dr. Winston again on March 8th, and he’s going to do a knee injection for me of a product called Synvisc-One – it mimics the fluid naturally found in the knee and if it works for me, should help relieve some of the pain I experience from my osteoarthritis. I have NO idea if it will make the collapsing sharp bolt of pain go away, but it would allow me to go with Ray on rides on the motorcycle again and to not have knee pain 24/7. It would also stave off a knee replacement as well. It’s a 2- Injection process…1 injection every six months. We’ve checked, and our insurance doesn’t cover it, so we are paying almost $500 for the cost. I should ask Dr. Winston if there is a similar product for the hips as my left hip will need to be replaced in a couple of years as well. I am also hoping he will have some Botox in stock to inject in my face where I experience the worst of my Trigeminal Neuralgia flareups, in the hopes it will either stop them, or slow down the frequency. I’m waiting to have an MRI done (for my hallucinations and for the TN as well) and then I’ll be able to get a referral to a Neurologist to discuss having the Microdecompression brain surgery to “cure” the TN. It’s a brain surgery where they go into the skull, and put a sponge between the Trigeminal nerve and whatever it’s touching, so it stops firing off all the time.
Plus in addition to all that, I’ve been having some issues with my Gastroperisis which has been making eating difficult, and my Chronic Fatigue has made doing everything and anything soooooo difficult because I’m sooooooooo freaking tired. I can (and have) slept for days on end, getting up only to pee and MAYBE eat something, but I wake up even more tired. When I have had some energy, I’ve been trying to stay active with my volunteer commitments and wow, has there ever been a lot going on there!!!
VOLUNTEERISM…..(I actually get more than what I give…really!!)
As a refresher for what I’m doing as a volunteer right now, I am currently sitting on 2 different committees, plus getting ready to attend a “Train the Trainer” seminar, regarding Strategies in Patient Oriented Research (SPOR).
The committees I’m involved with are both through my involvement with PVN – Patient Voices Network. One is with the BC Patient Safety Quality Council and my role is with the Oversight & Advisory Committee as Co-Chair along with my partner in crime Ben Ridout. We guide the activities of the PVN as well as ensure that patient voices are included in the planning of PVN initiatives and operations, and that patients’ advice and recommendations are considered in all activities. Also, the Committee and the BCPSQC work collaboratively on patient and public engagement, with the goal of improving and promoting the work of PVN.
My second commitment is to the BC Emergency Medicine Network Team – Clinical Resources Committee, which meets quarterly via telecom from around the province. This committee is dedicated to providing the most comprehensive Canadian repository of Clinical Resources and Real-Time solutions for BC’s Emergency Room Doctors, Nurses or other medical personnel, in one easy to use location online. These resources include Clinical Summaries, ECG’s, Patient Information Sheets, Procedural Videos, plus Websites and Apps. We welcome input, and your resources to continue to grow the information we currently contain – visit us at https://www.bcemergencynetwork.ca/
Because of my involvement with PVN and with the BC Patient Safety Quality Council, I was invited to attend an annual event that BCPSQC hosts, called Quality Forum. At its bare bones, The Quality Forum unites hundreds of people working in British Columbia’s health care system to share and discuss how to improve health care quality and patient safety. It takes place over 2 days, with an additional “pre-day” of events. This year, the choices included either a day-long workshop on Designing and Delivering Sustainable Improvement or a huge array of Health Care workshops that were hosted with the Joint Collaborative Committees. In the evening, there was a ceremony to honour the winners of the Quality Awards, celebrating improvements in Health Care in a variety of different categories (in which I was a judge for this year). After the awards had been given out, the annual evening event started – Health Talks!
Health Talks is sold out every year. This year was no exception and with the lively Stephen Lewis as the Host, each of the eight participants had been invited to answer the same question: What are your hopes for health care?
Rather than just have boring old talks though, the speakers were required to use something called the PechaKucha 20×20 format, where each presentation contained 20 photos and each photo was displayed for exactly 20 seconds before automatically advancing to the next one. Everything had to be precisely timed, so you fit your talk into your 20×20 format, and it was fun to see the creativity that took place as each speaker strove to tell their tale in a way that stood out and connected you. Here is a link to the speakers, so you can find out more about them and what they wanted to share with the audience…each of them was amazing!!!
The main part of QF18 was amazing – not only were there amazing workshops and educational tracks to take part in, there were also incredible Plenary Speakers each day, plus 50 fantastic Story Boards created by various Health Care teams across the Province, each highlighting the amazing work their groups have been working on to improve processes and Patient Care. And food. Oh my goodness, the food!!! I believe there were approximately 950 – 1000 participants at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Vancouver, and they fed us all very well indeed, with breakfasts and lunches on each day of the program, including the “pre-day”. No menu was the same and I don’t think I’ve had a fresher salad than I did there, plated before me on Thursday and Friday! Oh, and I was also reminded just how much I love creme brulee!!
Overall, it was an amazing three days of education and fun! I was supposed to fly home on Friday, but there had been snow in Vancouver that morning and my flight was canceled as Harbour Air couldn’t fly their seaplanes out of the harbour because of the weather. BCPSQC took care of booking my hotel room for another night and booked me a flight on Saturday with Westjet to get home. That flight was scheduled to leave at 2pm, but on Saturday morning, I received notification that it was delayed until 4pm. The hotel let me have a late checkout, so after sleeping in, I took the Skytrain to the airport (I haven’t been on the Skytrain since I last lived in Vancouver, so we’re talking back in 1994!!!!) and found out there were even more delays when I got there (plus a gate change. By the time it was all said and done, I finally got home at 8pm – and literally cried in Ray’s arms when I finally saw him at the Victoria airport. I had been gone since Tuesday…it was a LONG time to be away from him and from Dorie cat. I think I crashed for three full days of sleeping (and getting up just to pee, and then going back to sleep…I don’t even think I ate!) before I was recharged again. It takes a huge amount of my energy to do these kinds of trips, but the value of doing them is too important not to.
On the good side though, these Vancouver trips mean I get to see my darling daughter Ashley which is always a treat!!! Doesn’t she look lovely?
I also had the chance to meet with an online friend named Julie. She and I have “known” each other for several years now, but never had a chance to meet before this. She came with a friend to the hotel and we had a lovely time chatting over coffee…and managed to get a great “selfie” together before I had to head back to my next workshop:
So, a HUGE thank you to everyone at the BCPSQC (@BCPSQC #BCPSQC) who sent me to attend this amazing forum. It was wonderful to finally attend, as last year, I was part of the Steering Committee, but couldn’t attend because I was having my hip replacement surgery. I am forever grateful for this opportunity, I learned so much, I had chances to speak up and share my learned experiences, and I made some great new friends as well!!
And if you think all that isn’t enough, I have taken on one more volunteer assignment. On Friday, March 9th, I will be taking part in a “Train the Trainer” program through the BC Support Unit, whose mandate is Advancing Patient Oriented Research. The course material is to teach the Foundations in Patient Oriented Research, as Patients become more involved in their own care, and as healthcare focuses more on Patient Centred Care.
What is Patient Oriented Research? The BC Support Unit defines it as “research that is done in partnership with patients, answers research questions that matter to patients, and aims to improve healthcare”. Further to that, the current services that BC Support Unit offers include patient engagement, research methods support, data access & use, knowledge translation, and training & capacity development through webinars, online resources, and an annual conference. I’m excited to be able to learn how to facilitate the Foundations course, so patients…and really, that means ANYONE in BC, can learn and understand exactly what Patient Oriented Research is, and why it’s so important to them personally, and to Health Care in general.
I know it sounds like a lot, after reading this, but really, my time commitment isn’t a lot. For the Oversight & Advisory Committee, it’s a few hours for every 2 months, and for the BC ER Network, it’s a quarterly Telecom meeting right now, with some reading materials etc. to go through in between. I won’t know the true time commitment for the Patient Oriented Research after going through the Train the Trainer session, but even then, I have control on whether I’m able to co-facilitate a group or not. I’m very careful to not take on too much because I know my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will cause huge issues if not managed properly. I’m just so passionate about helping make a change in Health Care so people can have better access to care and treatments and stuff like that, it’s hard to say no sometimes!!
Anyway, I do have something coming up soon that I am REALLY looking forward to….Ray and I are going to take the Victoria Clipper to Seattle, WA for a couple of days in April and while we are there, I am going to be meeting a very dear online friend from the United Kingdom named Carrie Ann Fitton!!!! She is my “Chickie” and I am her “Mum”….she’s the same age as my kids, and I’ve kind of adopted her. She’s quite alone in her life…she had a baby boy who died of cot death and her dad, whom she was very close with, passed away last year, so she’s had a lot of struggles. She doesn’t have much family left and no one that’s close really, except an Uncle she sees, but it’s hard, because he enjoys a drink now and then, and Carrie quit drinking just a shade over a year ago!!!!!! I’m so proud of her! She went through some very tough times – she’s got some disabilities and uses crutches to get around (much like me and my cane and/or walker) and she’s short and sassy like me, so we’re quite the pair, but I’ve been a Mum figure to her for quite awhile now and I think that’s been really good for her. Anyway, she is flying to the US in April to visit a girlfriend first, and then meeting us in Seattle. She and I will be meeting some other online friends on April 14th, then Carrie and Ray and I will return home to Victoria. Carrie will stay with us until the 21st and then fly home, and while she’s here, another online friend that neither of us has met is flying in from Toronto!!! Tanya is going to join us for whale watching and other touristy stuff, and I am SO EXCITED ABOUT THE WHOLE THING!!!!!!!!!
So, I think that pretty much brings everyone up to date on where my life has been and is at since I left you hanging at the Lady Garden gate last time!!!! I promise…on my honour, to try harder at keeping things more up to date here. I won’t even bother making excuses. I’ll just try harder.
Thanks for being so patient and reading through this schlimazel. Oh…OH!!!!
ps: Edited to add that I just got an appointment date with the Gynecologist to figure out why my surgery site from November’s wide local excision in the Lady Garden still hasn’t healed properly. It’s on March 23rd so further updates will follow. And now I have the song stuck in my head from “The Never Ending Story……”
Welcome back Dear Readers! Once again, I apologize for letting so much time go by since the last post, but there’s been a lot happening in my life and unfortunately, the Blog tends to take a back seat to everything else. I hope to do better going forward, but for now, it’s time to get caught up on everything that’s happened since I last entertained you.
To get started, let’s take a break from health issues for a little bit and talk about something else that’s a huge part of my life – volunteering! I’ve been an active volunteer in various capacities starting when I was a kid in Brownies and Guides, and then again during most of my working years, especially the years I spent working at Bell. Bell was a major sponsor at the Calgary Stampede, and for those ten crazy days each year that I worked for the company (2003 to 2007), I would go to work at the office for my regular hours (8am to 4pm), then head over to the Stampede Grounds and to the Bell Xperience Tent, where I would pass out flyers at the front from 4:30pm until 10pm or so – whenever we closed. I would dance at the front entrance, make all sorts of new friends and just have a ton of fun!! I even had the opportunity to take a ride in the Bell Lightship as Hostess to the winners of an employee contest to visit Stampede – and they let me bring Ray along as well!!
There were a lot of other volunteer activities I was a part of during my working days, including the Calgary Corporate Challenge, Habitat For Humanity, and Blood Donation Drives.
After leaving work and going on Long Term Disability, I wasn’t sure how I could make volunteering a part of my life any longer. I mean, I couldn’t get through my days without needing to nap, I had no energy, no ability to converse with others without losing my train of thought halfway through a sentence – I was deep in depression and as much as I wanted to continue to give back, I simply didn’t have anything left in me TO give. So…volunteering was pushed to the back and left there, forgotten. I worked hard on trying to improve my health physically and mentally over the next several years, working with various Doctors and medical personnel to try and fix everything that was wrong with me. The list is quite long unfortunately and most of what’s on it is “unfixable” – I can find ways to help me feel better, but the issue in question is never going to go away.
I did start to feel better in many ways and came to a point where I felt I was able to volunteer again, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. Most of what I had done before had been quite physical and I knew that wasn’t going to work for me now, so I had to be realistic about my new abilities. I came across an advertisement about Patient Voices Network and immediately knew this was the fit I was waiting for. The concept that I, an everyday, average British Columbian, could have an impact on how healthcare was delivered, completely knocked my socks off…I signed up on the spot!
I went through the orientation class and immediately began registering for various engagements that appealed to me. In the four years, I’ve been a member of PVN, I’ve had involvement in the following opportunities:
Attending the 2014 BC Provincial Dialogue and having my thoughts printed in the PVN Voices of Change | Spring 2014
Island Health CSAE PDSA Progress Sharing Update – Island Health – 2014
Judge – Quality Awards 2016
The ERAS Project (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) – including the creation of a video – 2016. (I was also nominated by my peers for an award at the 2017 Quality Awards for my work on this engagement.)
Member of the Medical Imaging Quality Council – Island Health – 2016 for one year
Member of the Patient Advisory Committee for the Update of the Canadian Guidelines for Safe and Effective Use of Opioids – 2016-2017
Member of the Planning Committee – Quality Awards – 2017
Information Governance Conference -Sept. 24/17 (opened the Conference by speaking to 175 people)
Judge – Quality Awards 2018 – Completed
PVN – Co-Chair of the Information & Advisory Committee (2017 to 2018)
Involved in a research project with Dr. Morgan Price. The project is looking into Medication Adherence – highlighting motivators and barriers to adherence
Patient Speaker – Board Governance Training Program (January 25/2018)
The best part is, I can pick and choose what I want to do, based on how I’m feeling. Most of these committees meet once every two months via teleconference, and occasionally, there is a face to face meeting held in Vancouver which is always a treat. Expenses are covered and I get a chance to visit my daughter Ashley on those trips, usually for lunch on my day of departure.
My last trip to Vancouver was just such an occasion. I was invited to give a speech to a group of approximately 175 people, on the topic of Information Governance and why it’s so important that our Health Records be available in all Health Regions in BC, not just the Region you live in. I didn’t realize that was the situation here and spoke on the scenario of what would happen if you had an emergency in an area outside of your home Health Region. Here is the Video of my speech – it was well received and I had many people come up to me throughout the day to tell me what an impact it had made on them and how important they thought it was to open the day like that. I hope you enjoy:
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE SPEECH
I don’t have a lot of experience speaking in front of large crowds, but because I’ve sung in my barbershop chorus and quartet in my last life, I think it’s made it easier to talk to a big group. I wasn’t nervous at all and I even when I found out it was being videotaped, I didn’t get scared. I think there will be more opportunities for me to speak in the future, so I’ve been going over this one to see what kind of changes need to be made (not sure where that tic noise is coming from, but it’s got to go!)
Anyway, it was a great meeting with great feedback and that’s what I was hoping for. Later that day, I had to excuse myself to return to my hotel room for a conference call with the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s Oversight & Advisory Council. It was our first meeting together since I was accepted to the Council along with the other new folks, and yes, this keener was already applying to be the Co-Chair before the meeting was even over (which I ended up getting!). It’s going to be great being a part of this group…we basically guide the activities of the Patient Voices Network, so I’m super excited for the year ahead!!
Remember…there is always hope!