10 Things I’ve Learned About Chronic Pain

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.

The author showing various pictures of her face in pain

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.

Kitten resting in a fluffy blanket

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.

CONCLUSION

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,

There is always hope

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Refresher Course

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:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia / Myofascial Pain
  • Osteoarthritis (in all my major joints)
  • Forestier’s Disease (aka D.I.S.H.)
  • Type 2 Diabetes (on insulin)
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Gastroparesis
  • Internal Adhesions/Scar Tissue/Chronic Pelvic Pain
  • Hypothyroidism

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.

Diffuse-idiopathic-skeletal-hyperostosis-DISH-of-the-spine-grave-290-male-50-60-yrs

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.

My Trigeminal Neuralgia is something I’ve talked about before so you can read the article about it here.  The same goes for my Bipolar Disorder.

So, what else is on that list. Ah yes, the ever lovely Gastroparesis

what-is-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

DraggingMyButt

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…

There is always hope

Ending The Year

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.

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 3.47.10 PM

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…

There is always hope

The Gifts From Chronic Pain

Basic RGB

Living with Chronic Pain is no picnic. Intractable pain day after day wears down the body, the mind and the spirit and it can be extremely difficult finding anything good in the experience, but I have found a few things I wanted to share with you. Remember, these are my own personal thoughts.

  1. If you’re a spiritual person, it can deepen your faith. Now, in all honesty, Chronic Pain with no resolution can have the opposite effect and have you turning away from your Higher Power because you haven’t been healed, but I tend to think in the positives anyway. I believe that having Chronic Pain helps you to draw closer to your Higher Power as you find something…anything… to cling to when times are bad. God is an excellent listener and doesn’t mind if you yell at Him – He already knows you’re doing it, so what’s the point of pretending. Go ahead and be angry at Him. Yell, rant, rave, swear…do whatever makes you feel better. He can handle it. And then when you’re done, take a moment to thank Him for listening to you without judgement.
  2. You develop inner strength. Nobody develops inner strength like a person who lives with Chronic Pain. As the hours and days and years go by and nothing about your physical situation changes, there is resilience. It’s the necessary component that allows you to pick yourself back up after setbacks and keep going. To say to the world “I’m not done yet”. It’s the part of you that refuses to give up when others might say “it’s too hard”. Only you can determine your own resilience and whether or not you can keep going, but so far, you’ve had a pretty excellent track record to keep going. You are brave.
  3. Patience really is a virtue. In a world where everything needs to be had RIGHTNOW!! patience seems to be an old-fashioned quality. A person with Chronic Pain learns about patience very quickly – an oxymoron if ever there was one. You wait for appointments, you wait for doctors, you wait for your pain to subside, you wait for tests, you wait for results, you wait to feel better, you wait for answers, you wait, you wait, you wait. Depending on how complex your situation is, there may be several doctors involved in your care, so you wait for all of them to coordinate their schedules to see you and treat you. You wait endless hours for flare-ups to subside. For sleep to come. For pain to stop. For nausea to disappear. For bones to heal. And in all of this, you learn patience because you have no other choice.
  4. You finally have time to… When you’re feeling up to it, you finally have time to do those small things that you never had time for earlier: watch a favourite show on TV, read a favourite book, phone a friend for a chat, go for a massage, get your hair cut, organize the junk drawer, clean up the hobby room, work on a craft, write a letter to send via snail mail, look up a simple recipe to try that isn’t exhausting, order some flowers, send a love note to your spouse, go through your kid’s baby books or old photos, play a computer game, take an online course, go to an exercise class…the list is as endless as your imagination.
  5. You’re forced to slow down your pace. If you’re anything like me, most people with Chronic Pain or an Invisible Illness probably were Type A Personalities at some point in their lives – always on the go, go, go. If you were a doer who was always busy before, you’ve been given a gift to slow down and appreciate life around you. I became fully disabled in October 2009 but probably should have gone on disability about 2 years sooner. I had to really push through those last 2 years, to the point that I often lost the thread of a conversation right in the middle – I wouldn’t have a clue what we were talking about. I couldn’t manage more than one task at a time when I was famous for my multi-tasking abilities and I would jeopardize safety in firefighting drills by not remembering the steps to take to get out safely. By taking Disability and being forced to slow down, I was able to regain those skills again, in a more family oriented situation.

What gifts would you add to this list that you’ve received since experiencing Chronic Pain or Invisible Illness? Does this list ring true for you? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

There Is Always Hope

Turning Shame to Victory

I should on myself today.

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As a person living with Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and a host of other conditions, I tend to live with a lot of shame. I blame myself for not being able to keep up with the chores around the house that I should be able to do. I blame myself for not being able to work as an Administrative Specialist, a job I adored. I had a pity party about a lot of things as I stared at the dust on the TV stand. That’s right…I should upon myself today. I do it often. Too often.

Most people with Chronic Pain do the same thing. When we lose the ability to stay on top of the chores we used to do easily before, we start to feel guilty and ashamed. Dishes pile up, laundry goes unwashed, showering and personal grooming falls by the wayside and moving from bed to couch often becomes our biggest accomplishment. It’s not that we want to feel this way, but pain and the side effects of medication often make us this way. Most of the medications we are given include fatigue as one of the side effects. Others include weight gain, which can slow us down tremendously, nausea, constipation and/or diarrhea, dizziness, and other unpleasant things.

And that brings up another issue. All of these side effects do little to help us feel pretty. In addition to feeling pain and fatigue, we’re often left carrying extra weight so now we feel even less attractive than before. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

So how do we get over “shoulding” on ourselves. We feel like we should be able to keep up with the chores around the house, while we’re still taking care of making dinner and watching the kids and staying on top of their activities and doing everything else expected of us, plus making sure our spouse’s needs are met.

What happens when you live with a spouse who expects you to manage everything exactly like you did before you became sick? A spouse who doesn’t believe that you’re really ill and who thinks it’s all in your head? What if you live without a spouse – if you’re a single parent with no support? Who takes care of you?

In order to find victory in the midst of this shame, try answering some of these questions*, being as honest as you can.

  • What three words/phrases best describe you in a POSITIVE way? Don’t settle for neutral or slightly positive words to describe yourself. Be bold.
  • What do you do best? Everyone has unique talents and abilities — find yours by taking an accurate inventory of your life.
  • What is your biggest accomplishment in the last year? If fibro and depression have been a longstanding part of your life, you likely feel that the last year has been void of any accomplishments. Look deeper — achievements come in all shapes and sizes. Depression works to minimize your triumphs, but shedding light on them magnifies their impact.
  • What are three successes in your life? When you look at your lifetime successes, you begin to see how effective and valuable you can be. You understand your value and build your self-esteem.
  • What are you working on? Having goals and direction in life limits depression. Completing those goals adds another accomplishment to your list and boosts esteem.

Fibromyalgia may change many things in our lives, so it’s important that we remember to find the positives and celebrate them. No more shoulding on ourselves!

So, I’ve decided to give up the guilt about what I’m NOT able to do around the house. I’ve even found new hobbies and activities that I’m passionate about and that I’m actually good at! I’ve become a volunteer for an organization in BC, my home province in Canada, that uses Patient Partners to work with Health Care organizations to help make real change in how health care is delivered. The Patient Voices Network has given me opportunties to speak in front of large crowds, attend educational events and become part of several committees. I’m careful to choose to become engaged according to how I’m feeling and I don’t take on engagements that require weekly participation. Most of what I do involves 3-4 hours of my time per month which is manageable. Twice I’ve had to regretfully pull out of engagements that became too involved for me to manage. Even at the last conference I attended which lasted for 3 days, I was able to build rest time into the daily schedules. I wouldn’t have been able to manage otherwise.

That being said, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m underestimating how awfully painful it is to be forced to change yourself or how hard it is to find new passions to give you a sense of purpose. These are not simple to apply or instant fixes. Please don’t think I’m minimizing the pain of the loss. I want you to know that I think you’re incredible because of the fact that you’ve survived those things and have continued moving forward, no matter how slow. That is victory!

Even when you’re sick and you haven’t found new activities or even if you can’t get out of bed, what I just said about you being incredible is still true. You’ve survived so much and you’re still here fighting! I mention finding new things to do as a way to better self-esteem because I know it’s something helpful when possible, but there are so many things I feel are more important and that have been more fulfilling for me.

Being sick has forced me to learn a lot of lessons that other people might not ever learn – lessons about patience, how to deal with pain and difficulties with grace, good humour and empathy. I’ve learned that the little things are often the big things in life.

All That Matters

It’s the Little Things That Matter
They’re the things that mean a lot
They’re the things that I can count on
When I’m giving things a thought

Oh there’s lots of big grand gestures
That are meant to mean big things
But in the end, they aren’t the ones
That tug at my heartstrings

I prefer the smaller hidden ones
The things that seem quite shy
The little acts that are given out
Not meant to catch your eye

It’s the little things that matter
That make a quiet sound
I love them best from all the rest
They make the world go round

Also, I think I understand more about pain and can truly empathize with others who are hurting. I feel like I can truly help people because of the pain I’ve experienced. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty darn cool. And I feel like it takes immense strength to not only survive chronic illness, but to continue appreciating life and showing love to others when in constant pain. It’s also taken strength to rebuild myself and my self-esteem. I have to give myself credit for that. And finally, as much as I wish I was healthy, I fight for my life every day and I’ve won every single time. If that’s not victory then I don’t know what is! And the last thing I know is that if I’m capable of all this…you are too.

There is always hope

 

 

 

* https://fibromyalgia.newlifeoutlook.com/self-esteem-fibromyalgia/

Needle-ittle Update On Things? Sure!!

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.


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

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 (@BCEmergMedNtwrkand 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.
nope…still weird!

…Two Months Later…and counting….

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”.

TroyDec2018
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?
ashleymomfeb2018.jpg
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:
PamJulie
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!!!!

Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!!

Remember…there is always hope!

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……”

Carry on…

There is always hope

Volunteering, Speechifying and Stuff…

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!!
19Pam  7PamandRay 1PamandRay
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.
Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 11.50.08 PM
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:
PamelaJessenSpeech
      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!