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.
Who Was I Kidding?
I’m mad. I’m mad at my body, I’m mad at the way I’ve been let down, and I’m mad that I’ve lost my freedom, once again. What am I talking about?
For those who don’t know, I used to sing in a women’s barbershop chorus as well as in a quartet. I love to sing but I haven’t done it since 2007. Recently, I heard about an opportunity to join a group called the South Island Care Choir, made up of Doctors, Nurses, other Health Care practitioners and Patient Partners from Patient Voices Network, the group I volunteer with. I immediately jumped in and said YES!! I would love to join this group, not even thinking how unrealistic this might be for me healthwise.
Well, I’ve just made the unfortunate realization that it’s not going to be feasible for me to do this, and I am totally pissed. The main reason why I won’t be able to sing? My stupid left foot and it’s stupid Haglund’s Deformity that we’ve just confirmed. I literally can’t walk on this foot for more than 10 minutes without being in agony, let alone stand on it for 90 minutes to sing. I would have to walk to the bus stop there and back to where we would rehearse, and I am NOT paying the $50 it would cost for a taxi each way. Even using my walker or my crutches wouldn’t make a big difference…I would still have to be on my feet to sing properly and I just can’t manage it right not. Plus, the only way that this Haglund’s Deformity can be managed is with surgery. I’ve already tried the other measures to treat it…ice, elevation, anti-inflammatories, rest…everything.
I am so mad at myself for getting my hopes up and then realizing that this just isn’t going to work. I wanted so badly to be able to sing again because I miss it so much…the camaraderie of being in a group environment, creating harmony together, performing for people…just everything. Singing in the past brought me so much joy…I really wanted to re-create those feelings again. Unfortunately, if I’m totally honest with myself, I would end up being in too much pain and too tired to really enjoy myself and now is just not a good time to do this.
I’m going to send a note to the director and ask if it’s okay to put this off until the Spring and then perhaps re-join at that time. Hopefully my foot will be dealt with by then and I’ll be recovered from surgery and no longer in pain. My regular pain I can manage, but if I can’t stand on my own two feet with just my cane, then there’s no sense in pretending. I don’t want special accommodations, I just want to be like everyone else on the risers; a regular singer.
From my Sweet Adeline Barbershop days – the link below is my quartet Quintessence singing Marshmallow World. It’s from the Christmas CD “Jingle Belles” that my chorus Rhythm Of The Rockies put out, I believe in 2004. This was when I was living in Calgary where I was a founding member of the chorus.
In 2005, Quintessence competed in Sweet Adelines Region 26 (the All Canadian Region!) composed of choruses and quartets in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Every year there would be Regional Competitions held to pick winners to go to International Competitions. Out of 16 Quartets, we placed 10th overall in the competition and we won Novice Quartet of the Year which was a real honour – the best of all the new quartets!! One of my favourite memories was when we entered the theatre after coming off stage, people were applauding as they did for all the competitors, and the reigning Quartet Champions stood and applauded for us – again, as they did for each quartet, but it made me feel so special, like our quartet was so amazing. I’ve never forgotten that feeling, something likely so insignificant to them, but has had a lasting impact on me all these years later.
And that was another reason I wanted to sing. I wanted to be able to influence other singers who maybe were in a choir for the first time. I wanted to be able to encourage and inspire someone who was trying something new for the very first time. But no…my stoopid body refuses to cooperate and so once again, that freedom to do what I want when I want is gone.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy our version of Marshmallow World. I realize it’s not Christmas yet, but the weather is changing and some people Edmonton have already had snow so it’s not totally inappropriate either. Marshmallow World
And as for me, like I said, I guess I’ll revisit singing in the Spring and see how things are at that point. Hopefully I’ll be in a better place physically to be able to sing without pain and I’ll enjoy the experience even more.
there is always hope
Hi, how are you? How are you doing? How are you feeling these days? 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!
Annoying!!! 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.
Here are a few pictures. I’ve also included a picture of yours truly with my hubby Ray, as we were coming home from our trip. It was taken on the ferry from Tsawwassen, BC to Victoria. 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? There is always hope
Are you grateful for your life? Are you grateful for the things you’ve been given? Are you grateful for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue? What about your other Invisible Illnesses? For Fibromyalgia? I am, and let me explain why.
I have had my Invisible Illnesses for over half my life now, and they have been a predominant part of my life since 2004 when I went into a major flare that I’ve never recovered from. That was the year I had stomach surgery for severe Gastric Reflux disease – a procedure called a Nissen Fundoplication. The surgery itself was successful, but I suffered nerve damage in the sternum area from where an instrument being used was pressed too hard against a nerve for an extended period of time, causing it to be pinched for over an hour. This caused me excruciating pain that didn’t resolve for almost a year and had me addicted to morphine pills to the point that I was hallucinating. In fact, at one point, the general surgeon called in a Thoracic surgeon, who was going to crack open my sternum to try and fix whatever the problem was – a drastic solution indeed.
I’m grateful this didn’t happen and the Thoracic surgeon had the sense to suggest a drug called Gabapentin for nerve damage which is what he suspected was the problem, and he was right.
I spent almost a year in a hunched over position, trying to “contain” the pain, it was so bad. I ended up having to go for physical therapy and massage in order to loosen up my muscles to where I could stand in a straightened up position again.
I’m grateful for the therapists that helped me.
I’m grateful there are medical teams in place when we need emergency surgery, such as when a cyst I didn’t even know I had on my ovary burst, causing me horrid pain. It needed immediate removal and there was a team to do that. Just like there was a team to remove my gallbladder and my other ovary when it went rogue as well.
And I’m grateful for my three doctors who have worked with me and my overall health issues over the last five years, Dr Leong, Dr Winston and Dr Burnett, my orthopedic surgeon who did my hip replacement.
Okay, you say…it’s easy to be grateful to the people who help us, but how can you be grateful for having Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia and all the other stuff. Well, I’ll tell you.
When you have Invisible Illness, you tend to miss out on a lot of life. You may have to give up your job or volunteer activities, your hobbies and family life. You end up losing a lot more than you seem to have left. But what having a Chronic illness does is force you to dig deep to FIND what you’re grateful for. I made a list:
Sunrises and sunsets
Quiet mornings after a good sleep
A perfect cup of coffee
A day where the kids get along and no one is fighting
A day where the cat or dog doesn’t barf all over the place
Feeling energetic enough to accomplish a few things on the “to do” list
Feeling less pain than normal
Being able to go for a coffee date with a girlfriend or two
Having dinner with your family together instead of needing to lay down
Date night with your spouse
Watching a movie together instead of early to bed
Having a bath or shower
Having enough food on the table and money in the bank
A sense of safety and security
A roof over your head
Having a close friend you can confide in
Books to read and art to admire
Social media like Facebook and Pinterest
Ice cream or a favourite treat
Family and friends to share memories with
I could go on and on…the point is, there is so much to be grateful for, but when you live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness, it’s easy to get stuck wallowing in the negatives, to the point you forget to stop and remember to be grateful. Take a moment now to list a few things that you’re grateful for and make it a habit each day to say thank you. An Attitude of Gratitude is easy to cultivate, but like a good garden, you need to tend to it every day.
there is always hope!
I want to share with you some valuable advice from another Pain Warrior. This is a person who lives with Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and his name is Tom Seaman from The Mighty. He just shared these thoughts recently and they struck such a chord with me that I had to share them with you.
I used to blame myself for having Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain and not being able to do things like everyone else. I figured there must have been something I had done in my past to cause it. I was a pretty rebellious teenager and did a lot of heavy partying, including drinking and drugs. I was in a very abusive relationship with my first “love”, the man who became the father of my two children. I have no doubt these things may have contributed to the stresses in my life, along with a huge and ugly surge of hormones when I started my period at the age of 13 (and turned from a normal young girl into a rage monster…no lie, you can ask my sister!).
As other stresses entered my life, my Chronic Pain got worse. So did my Osteoarthritis and my Chronic Fatigue. I was a single parent for a period of time and worried about my kids being on their own so much while I commuted three hours a day and worked at a job I loved. There were other relationships including a marriage that didn’t work out before I finally met my (now) husband Ray who is the finest man I could have ever hoped for. All of it took a toll on my health though, and I believe that a surgery I had in 2004 was the catalyst for my real downfall.
I had been suffering from severe Gastric Reflux Disease…GERD. I thought it was normal to eat a handful of Tums at a time and so had done nothing about my heartburn until Ray convinced me to talk to my doctor. She sent me for tests that showed I had a very severe form of GERD and recommended that I see a surgeon to have a surgery called a Nissen Fundoplication. It was named after the doctor who invented it, and basically what they do is take the top of the stomach and wrap it around the bottom of the esophagus, effectively preventing anything from backing up into the esophagus again. This means no more acid reflux and no more heartburn. It also means you lose your ability to vomit, so if you ever come down with the flu or become pregnant, you are in huge trouble. If you are dry heaving or attempting to vomit, the strain on the Fundoplication can stretch it enough that it loosens so you do bring up the contents of the stomach, and need to have the surgery redone. In my case, I need to go to the hospital and have an NG tube placed down my nose and into my stomach to empty the contents…a procedure I’ve had done 3 times now, so I’m a pro at swallowing the NG tube now.
I went ahead and had the surgery, and for what it was done for, it worked extremely well. I’ve had no problems with heartburn except a very rare exception every now and then. Unfortunately, I suffered nerve damage in my sternum area where an incision was made to hold one of the instruments in the surgery and which caused me tremendous pain for many months afterwards. I was drugged up on morphine pills (plus pills for nausea and itching) for so long that my friends could barely recognize who I was. It got to the point that I had to be hospitalized to wean off the morphine because I was hallucinating that I could hear a band playing, and I kept looking behind my computer to try and find them. The doctors were at the point they were going to crack open my chest to try and find the problem when the Thoracic Surgeon suggested trying Gabapentin for nerve damage and it worked. Unfortunately, that 11 months of pain and misery put me into such a Fibro flare that I don’t think I’ve ever properly recovered from it.
I went into quite a depressive spiral during that time. I was off work for months…I tried to go back but had to take more time off. I missed working…it’s always been my passion and to not be there with my team was hard. I was missing church and my Lifegroup, and missing my friends and times of social gatherings…I was just miserable. Eventually, I got better – well enough to go back to work, etc. but I’ve never felt 100% again. A year later, my body decided to go rogue on me and I ended up in 2006/2007 having 3 separate surgeries in a 6 month period of time; my left ovary burst, my gallbladder gave out and then my right ovary burst, putting me into surgical menopause (I’d had my uterus out at age 28). That in itself was traumatizing, so again, my Fibromyalgia kicked into high gear and I was flaring badly. I had one more surgery in 2007 that actually had to be cancelled while I was on the operating table as the Anesthesiologist couldn’t find a vein for the IV. I have tiny crappy veins and I’d been left waiting all day without liquid. No wonder.
So, my poor body went through the wringer during that period between 2006-early 2008 and I blamed myself so much. I don’t know why, there was nothing I could have done to prevent anything, but still…it just seemed like I was constantly ill or recuperating and I was never able to go out with Ray when he wanted to. All I wanted to do was sleep or rest and I felt like the worst wife in the world. All the chores were left for him, I had no energy to do anything…and yet he never once complained. He truly is the most remarkable man, and I know God picked him especially for me. Ray takes the best care of me and I am so grateful.
When I read the words that Tom Seaman posted, I was reminded of all of this all over again. It’s easy to get into a “blaming yourself” mindset but nothing we’ve done is our fault. Fibro picks its own victims (ooh, I hate that word) and we have to live with the consequences. I know we all try our best to live with it and make the most of life, but we have a tendency to try and fault ourselves I think. We feel guilty that we can’t be there for our families, our friends, our employers, our volunteer work. We drop hobbies and things we enjoy because we just don’t have the energy to do them anymore. We see others picking up the slack for us, and there can be a sense of shame. And often, we retreat because depression kicks us hard.
Today, I say NO MORE! We have been dealt an ugly hand, but IT IS NOT OUR FAULT. If you are feeling these feelings of guilt, shame, anger, depression or other negatives, STOP. Nothing you have done has caused your Fibro. If you are living with Chronic Pain or Chronic Fatigue, accept it. It is what it is. You can’t change it so you have to accept it. The only other alternative is to wallow in misery and I don’t think that’s an acceptable alternative…and neither do you, honestly. Take Tom’s words to heart, and my words too…
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!!!!
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……”
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!