nurturing thursdays: choices…changes…part 2

This is where I come in…

This year I turn 65. The year of Medicare. On the thresh hold to formally entering…old age. 

I’ve been practicing for a while, even telling folks I was already 65. My husband who turned 66 recently, pointed out my mistake. Seems I was rushing him along.

Funny thing. As the years pile up I’ve become more preoccupied with, of all things, death.

Without realizing it, death has become my point of reference these days. Not in a morbid sense, more like savoring the pluses in my life while trying to downplay or diminish the minuses.

So with my daughter as ring master, I’m jumping through the hoops and…going for the gusto!

On Facebook the other day, I saw a photo of my mother-in-law seated with her 7 daughters. They were the picture of health and happiness. She sat shrunken, a shadow of her former, robust self. A quick glimpse of her eyes spoke of a woman growing older by the second. Yes, she looked all of her 80+ years. But she seemed to me, even older on the inside.

Years before my mom died, she fell in the bathroom of a vacation home we rented near the beach on Oahu. Her legs were like toothpicks, bowed from years of suffering the effects of arthritis. She was probably mortified that it took several of us to get her to her feet. Sadness seemed to hover over her like a black cloud in spite of her efforts to smile away her tears.

Both images are permanently embedded into my brain. Old age is not a pretty sight to behold.

For more than a decade now fibromyalgia, arthritis and I have occupied the same body…mine. In recent years I’ve been forced to take a backseat, while they’ve taken to calling all the shots. By late afternoon, I’m totally fatigued. Muscling through dinner preparation and evening chores, I usually fall into bed exhausted, aching from head to toe.

Caring for our dog who has heart disease and chronic neck and back stiffness, has only added to my own aches and pains. I must cajole her into taking her meds morning and night, including forcing a capsule down her throat. I must lift her in and out of the car when taking her to the vet, as well as carry her up and down flights of stairs.

Knowing that we women are often the designated caretakers, I wonder how long I can manage to help those about whom I care, as my own health dwindles. How can I help my husband should his health fail?

It’s more than likely my chronic pain was caused by the statin CRESTOR which I started taking to lower my cholesterol. I alerted the prescribing doctor to the fact that news reports indicated Asian women were susceptible to muscle pain caused by the drug. He’d not heard about it so I remained on Crestor, especially since it did the job intended. Even a subsequent physician, who happened to be female and Asian, ballyhooed my information. Not until a third physician drew blood to measure my C-Reactive Protein number and found it to be 1000+ instead of within the normal range of mid-100, did I stop taking CRESTOR. Only after trial and error did I end up with the one I’m currently taking which doesn’t have the same effect…yet.

In the midst of trying to determine the cause of my chronic pain, the doctor sent me to a rheumatologist who diagnosed me as having fibromyalgia. Like the “kiss of death,” I’ve been living with it ever since. Thanks, CRESTOR!

Alternative medical practitioners, including chiropractors and massage therapists, have helped me live a fairly normal life. I’ve done pretty much whatever I’ve wanted to do. But with old age settling in for the duration, quality of life becomes harder and harder to sustain. 

After much reading, discussions with my naturopath, and soul searching,  I have begun the WILEY PROTOCOL natural hormone replacement therapy. 

Not having had the truly bothersome effects of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats, I never felt the need for hormone replacement treatment. But now that old age is staring me in the face and my quality of life is in jeopardy, renewing my body’s resources seems imperative. 

Without hormonal balance, our bodies are going the inevitable route of shutting down. And while that is the natural order of things, I’d like to make the journey as enjoyable as I possibly can. 

I’d like to savor the moments I can still do for others, and with others. I’d like to continue laughing, and hugging. I’d like to feel the excitement of learning new things no matter how old I get. I want to keep on writing, and blogging.

Essentially, I’d like to keep on…keeping on.

So why choose to change things up? What’s my goal? Well I’ll tell you…it’s for quality of life…no matter the quanity of years.

…here’s to living life…the best way i possibly can!!!

………hugmamma.IMG_3370

chronic pain…oy vey!!!

fibromyalgia awareness

Image by veganjoy via Flickr

A few years ago my family physician referred me to a Rheumatologist, a specialist in rheumatoid arthritiswho told me I was suffering from fibromyalgia. I’d been experiencing never-ending muscle pain in my upper neck area. I’d gone to Dr. Kinnish because I’d not found relief at the hands of another doctor I’d been seeing. I’d tried to tell her I thought the cholesterol-lowering statin Crestor might be a contributing factor to my chronic pain. But she, and other doctors before her, including the one who’d prescribed Crestor in the first place, paid no heed to what I was saying. After all, I only had a news report to support my claim…far from the expertise of those in the medical profession.

On the Take

Image by colros via Flickr

Thankfully Dr. Kinnish took my claim seriously and ordered blood work. The results came back…literally through the roof! Where the norm for CK, Serum is between 24-173, mine was 1228! With my doctor’s guidance, which included the advice to stop taking Crestor, I was able to bring my pain indicator down considerably. At present it stands between 200-300, depending upon the physical activity to which my body’s been subjected in the weeks prior to testing. Sitting in economy seats on 10 hour-plus international flights definitely elevated my muscle aches so that in recent visits to my chiropractor, she said my entire back seemed like that of a football linebacker’s. When I went for a second treatment, she said I was only half a line-backer. Her followup advice? Go back to exercising…to flex my muscles. And that’s what I plan to do.

Chronic Pain Barbie

Image by Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick) via Flickr

Meanwhile, I wanted to share the following sound advice from Dr. Peter Abact, author of Take Charge of Your Chronic Pain: The Latest Research, Cutting-Edge Tools, and Alternative Treatments for Feeling Better.

THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE now estimates that chronic pain afflicts an estimated 116 million Americans, making it one of the major health problems of our time and one of the biggest reasons people see their doctors or miss work. Odds are that at least one member in every family is dealing with pain at this very moment. Chronic pain can affect every aspect of your life, from how you move your body to what you think and feel.

When you think of pain, you are likely to think about acute pain, which is a symptom of tissue damage and inflammation when you first get injured. This type of pain often gets better with a little rest and responds well to medications.

Chronic pain is very different, because it is an experience that can overwhelm you for months and years. Chronic pain is a disease, and if you aren’t careful it can rob you of things you cherish most in life, such as your independence, health, family and career. Common causes of chronic pain include diseases of the spine, fibromyalgia and arthritis, and it is often accompanied by depression, insomnia and anxiety.

Yoga Class at a Gym

Image via Wikipedia

To address chronic pain, you need to start by pursuing two main lines of attack. The first is finding tools you can rely on every day. This might include everything from stretches, special exercises and meditation to taking regular breaks from the computer; with practice and persistence, you will be amazed at what you can do. For example, recent studies have found that both yoga and tai chi are effective in treating the symptoms of muscle pain associated with fibromyalgia, and also that bed rest actually aggravates back pain while walking provides relief.

The second is making the necessary lifestyle changes to create your optimum health. This means reexamining what you do with your time each day. Taking time out each day to focus on yourself is critical to developing an effective pain-management strategy.

meditation

Give yourself a break from computers and cell phones, and spend that time preparing a healthy meal, getting some fresh air and exercise or just having some quiet moments to filter out all of the nervous energy running through your brain.

Your body will feel better when you keep it active, and your mind will stay sharper when you lower your stress. And remember, the better you are at taking care of yourself, the more effective you will be at being there for those who love you.

If you’re like me, forever rationalizing my aches and pains to those with doubts, Dr. Abact’s treatise on the subject is a God-send. Rather than talk until I’m “blue in the face,” I’d just swallow my words and ignore the naysayers as best I could. Not an easy task, especially with those whom I’m in regular contact. They look at me as though I’m spewing my usual yada, yada, yada. For those in my position, I hope this brings you some satisfaction in knowing it’s not all in your head…

…but that it truly is…in your body………hugmamma.  

veggies and watermelon, quick and easy

I love to cook, probably because I love to eat. By the way my recent visit to the doctor bore good news, my muscle inflammation is at an all-time low, in the mid-200 range, 20+ points above the desired max. Unfortunately the bad news is that my cholesterol count is still too high, over 200. Statins are not an option because of my tendency toward muscle inflammation. So doc and I decided that I’d continue to focus upon dieting and exercising. I’ve done it before, 20 years ago when Weight Watchers and 4-mile walks contributed to a cholesterol reading of 162. But can I do it now when metabolism is on the down-swing, not on the up-swing, and looking at a peanut can pack on 10 pounds? Well, stay tuned…

Eating fruits and veggies is a conscious act, unlike savoring a slice of Hawaiian sweet-bread, slathered with butter, real butter, and chocolate peanut butter. There’s not as much crunch and fiber as the healthy stuff, but there’s a whole lot more mouth-watering, sensory overload, smooth-as-silk flavor. But never mind what I’d rather, here’s a tip for those lacking time and motivation to prepare the good-for-you stuff. Just figured this one out for myself, and I like its simplicity, versatility, and the taste’s not so bad either.

I purchased a prepared, large veggie platter from Costco for $9.99. At home, I distributed the veggies into quart-size storage bags. My bags contained sweet baby carrots, plump cherry tomatoes, bite-size pieces of broccoli, and another of cauliflower. A tub of Litehouse peppercorn ranch dip came with the platter. I munched on these assorted veggies randomly throughout the day, sometimes spooning a little (goes a long way) of the dressing on them. I also served the raw veggies as a side to a meal of chili. Finally, I tossed the broccoli pieces and cherry tomatoes in with salad greens along with other items like sliced almonds and blueberries. Then scooping a couple of tablespoons of the dip into a small bowl, I added a little water to thin its consistency. Pouring the homemade dressing over the salad contents, I combined them until everything was nicely coated. I do this with all creamy dressings so that we eat fewer calories, but enjoy the same mouthfuls of flavor.

For the price of individual packages of carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, not to mention a jar of dressing, the Costco platter was quite a savings. And there’s always waste in purchasing big bags of carrots, a carton of cherry tomatoes, a head of cauliflower, and a head of broccoli, as well as having half-empty bottles of dressings sit in the refrigerator for weeks or months or years. (I’m guilty of years’ worth of liquid dressings that have congealed beyond recognition. I’ve yet to toss some out.) Each one of the aforementioned, packaged items can run half, or higher, the price of Costco’s veggie platter. The convenience of not having to cut up the heads of broccoli and cauliflower is an added bonus, not to be downplayed when fast foods are more tempting than good foods.

Watermelon is a favorite of my daughter’s. I use to serve it up regularly for play groups at our house. Though it’s not so commonplace for us anymore, my husband and I are still fans when the fruit is in season, like now. I still dish it up as I did for toddlers, …oh so long ago.

I recently bought a third of a watermelon. I first sliced it crosswise into pieces we’re accustomed to eating. Then I slid the knife between the edible red portion and the pale green rind, cutting around the entire rim, separating the red from the green. Finally, I sliced lengthwise across each side of the red, juicy fruit, separating it into bite-size chunks. Leaving the fruit intact, we ate the chunks directly from the fruit “bowl.” With some adjustment the same method for cutting and eating can be done with whole or halved watermelons.

For those of you who bypassed the “hawaiian goodies” detailed in a previous post, this one’s for you…

bon,bon, bon appetit!!!…hugmamma.

crestor, beware…

For some time now, statins have been touted as an “elixir” for lowering cholesterol. Since February the FDA has also approved their use in helping to “prevent heart disease and stroke in people with normal cholesterol levels.” In a recent AARP article, Dr. Mehmet Oz explains that the decision was a result of a 5-year study of men 50 years and older, and women 60 and older, whose cholesterol was normal but who suffered high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). “People with high levels of CRP have a greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, autoimmune disorders, and other maladies.” In the study, those taking the statin Crestor for approximately 2 years were 44% less likely to have heart attacks or strokes, than those who didn’t. Based on this finding, the research ended, and the statin was offered to the remainder of eligible adults.

The FDA’s decision isn’t without controversy. While statins can lower the level of LDL, bad cholesterol, they do little to raise the level of HDL, good cholesterol. Meanwhile they could cause “severe muscle pain and a 9 percent increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

About 10 years ago I was put on the statin Lipitor to lower my cholesterol which stood at 195. Moving to another state 4 years later, I saw another doctor who took me off that statin because my liver enzyme count was slightly elevated. He put me on Crestor instead. Subsequently, I began experiencing an increase in muscle pain. I’m unsure when, but after that I heard on the local news that Asian women were at increased risk of severe muscle inflammation when using Crestor. I mentioned this to my doctor who had no measurable reaction, so I didn’t pursue the matter. As the pain became chronic, my doctor prescribed muscle relaxants which I took periodically. Their only benefit for me was that I got a good night’s sleep, but  awoke in the morning to the same pain.

When I moved back to my permanent home state, I started seeing a female, Asian internist. She too kept me on Crestor, despite my information of its debilitating effects on women of our ethnicity. After a couple of years, I switched to a doctor with whom I could communicate more effectively. 

I found such a physician in General Practitioner Dr. Kinnish, and I’m very fortunate to be under his current care. When I expressed concern that Crestor might be to blame for my ongoing muscle pain, he immediately ordered blood work and insisted I stop taking the statin. Surprised, I didn’t realize muscle pain could be analyzed by drawing a blood sample. When the results came back, Dr. Kinnish was astounded. The normal range for the CK, Serum test is 24-173, mine measured 1228!!! Needless to say, he kept me off Crestor and began re-checking my numbers regularly thereafter. In the ensuing months my levels dropped to 497, rose to 738, dropped to 419 then to 330 and finally to 223. I was headed in the right direction, so the doctor recommended I continue my regimen of healthy eating, exercising, and visiting the chiropractor and massage therapist as needed. I’m due for a follow-up next week, and am keeping my fingers crossed for a good report. (xxxxxxxxxxxxx)

Without the help of drugs, I’m working at reducing my cholesterol the old-fashioned way. Like Kinnish, “my other” doctor, Oz, recommends going back to basics. “Many of my patients have reduced their cholesterol levels (and blood-sugar levels) without the use of drugs by adhering to a diet low in saturated fat and by exercising regularly. …Statins remain a good option for people who, despite a sensible diet and ample exercise, can’t lower their LDL. But statins or no, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to fortify your heart.”

can’t go wrong with 2 great doctors…hugmamma.