japan, different perspectives

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Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr

Saw my physical therapist today. As with other alternative health practitioners, I find my sessions with Dieter and Jody mentally therapeutic as well. Perhaps it’s because they, along with chiropractors and massage therapists, are in “my space” as they work to heal my body. I find it easy to express my thoughts and feelings about a whole host of topics, especially about life’s ups and downs. Because these practitioners look to getting at the root of the problem, rather than prescribing drugs for the symptoms, their solutions are more organic. They resolve to get my body back working for me, not against me. I cannot recommend them enough. Carrie, Rachel, Jennifer, Dieter and Jody are my pit stop team. Whenever I need retooling, they’re on hand to service my “parts.”

Dieter and I spoke briefly of the devastation in Japan, as did Jody and I. What was interesting about the latter conversation is what Jody told me about a couple of her Japanese co-workers who have families in Japan. To her surprise, her peers expressed little concern about their relatives. One of them still had parents and siblings there. She seemed to feel they were fine since they were in the southern part of the island. The other staff member whose sister lived just outside Sendai, where the earthquake struck, explained that such natural disasters were commonplace. The implication was that the Japanese learned to live with them.

神奈川沖浪裏 Kanagawa oki nami ura (

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Needless to say, I was as surprised as Jody. I thought of American parents who were frantically seeking word of their young, adult children who lived and worked in Japan. I thought of TV news pictures showing people flocking to catch flights out of the country, hurrying to get away from the nuclear contamination that threatens to spread. As I pondered the disparate views of 2 Japanese women, and 2 American women, I realized the answer lay in the differences in our cultures.

Honor of country and oneself is what drives the Japanese. They honor their gods, but the people control their own destinies. With their hands, their minds, and their steely determination, they forge ahead. They work through and around obstacles. They seem to take no notice of the words “no,” “can’t be done,” “not possible.” Instead they seem to embrace the words “let’s try,” “let’s see,” “if not this, maybe this.”

SHOW ME THE OBI ! -- THE OSHIMA ISLAND GIRLS o...

Image by Okinawa Soba via Flickr

On NBC’s World News with Brian Williams tonight, reporter Ann Curry spoke with several survivors. A middle-aged couple seemed to epitomize exactly what the Japanese are about. In the midst of a country torn apart, they were picking up the pieces, literally. They swept and scrubbed the tile floors, and along with neighbors, they carted snow from the surrounding hillsides, melting it into water. The men were shown proudly carving chopsticks from bamboo they had gathered themselves.

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Jo...

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Curry and her camera crew also visited shelters, one where young boys were seen laughing and clowning around for the the TV team. Another boy was drawing pictures, lost in his own world. The elderly were being tended to by others concerned for their fragile health. And local women sent food in the form of rice-balls, for the starving homeless. There was a general air of people helping people, as they patiently awaited their turn for help from their own government, or the outside world.

Oft-times I think we Americans tend to project our own world-view upon those of others. We can’t imagine that others would think differently. We proclaim English as the universal language, and our way of thinking as the most reasonable. Knowing the Japanese culture as I do, having been raised among them, I could guess at the reasoning behind the reaction of the 2 Japanese women who worked in the physical therapist’s office. My immediate reaction was the same as Jody’s. However, it was tempered by my knowledge of a culture that is world’s apart not only physically, but in its value system as well.

Two maiko performing in Gion.

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so perhaps they don’t worry…until they have to worry…hugmamma.

working out the “knots,” makes a difference

Had my second physical therapy appointment today with Pierre at Olympic Therapy. Several weeks ago, I had experienced muscle pain in the area of my neck, upper back and shoulder blades which traveled the length of my left arm, including my fingers. The tingling sensation that went along with it, and the sharp pain in my armpit, had me thinking heart attack. Needless to say I lay awake all night, wondering. By the following morning, I’d decided the chronic ache I’d been experiencing for years, had gone into overdrive. A visit to the chiropractor and the internist later that day confirmed my suspicions.

Following almost immediately upon the heels of my back problem, I caught my husband’s cold. The hacking cough I developed as a result, lasted weeks. My back, and ribs, took a beating. I decided then and there that once I was well enough, I was seeing a physical therapist. I needed deep down relief from the tightened muscles I’d lived with for years.

Many have told me that my neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles felt like a block of brick, including doctors, alternative health practitioners, my husband and my daughter. Doctors prescribed over-the-counter pain medications, as well as muscle relaxants. Chiropractors and massage therapists have given me great relief which lasted, until I returned to the daily grind of lifting, bending, twisting, slouching. But I knew the day would come when I needed physical therapy to undo all the “knots” that had accrued over my lifetime.

Pierre has allowed me to see that I needn’t live with chronic pain. In my first session last week, he evaluated the extent to which my head could turn from one side to the next. It was obvious that turning to the left met with some resistance the further I tried to move my head. Pierre taught me exercises to do there, and at home, which have loosened the tightness in that area considerably. He also recommended corrections to how I should sit at the computer, sliding forward to the edge of the seat so that the weight of my body rests on my legs. Having done as he suggested, my return visit already showed signs of improvement.

Today as I lay looking up at the ceiling, Pierre used a roller of some sort to work through the knots on the left side of my neck. I felt pressure, but no pain. He concurred when I asked if the knots were scar tissue that had amassed in the area over time. He again confirmed that he was working to release the fascia which encases the muscles. Finally, he warned me that the tiny capillaries were releasing blood, so that my neck would have red bruises for a couple of days.

When I sat upright, my vision was so clear, as if someone had inserted new eyeballs into my sockets. Pierre chuckled when I told him. But more significantly, from the time he worked on my neck until now, there is such a looseness in the area of my neck, the likes of which I’ve not felt in more than a decade. I realize, however, that more needs to be done to ensure that the healing is long-lasting, and not a temporary fix. Especially if I want to remain active, and capable of lifting, bending, twisting, but NOT slouching. I’m going to sit up straight from now on, even if it kills me!

Medical doctors are not the “be all and end all” to good health. Many of them will tell you, a little help from alternative health practitioners goes a long way toward keeping our bodies oiled and primed to enjoy quality of life. And one of my main priorities, apart from my family, is to keep my “chassis” up and running, and good to go!

you might want to do the same…hugmamma.

on a mission to clean up the “mess”

Straying from a somewhat healthy regimen the last couple of months had me ending up a mess, literally. While my daughter retained some semblance of her usual diet, I threw caution to the wind and gorged. It didn’t happen overnight; it never does. And it didn’t sneak up on me, not really. My hand and my mouth became best buds. My hand kept shoveling tasty morsels into my open mouth, which just couldn’t seem to get enough. I think Halloween, with its usual tempting delights, got me started, and I never looked back. Beware that first delectable bite! Needless to say, I’m on a mission! 

“Cervical thoracic strain” (doctor’s words), combined with heartburn, had me laying awake a couple of nights several weeks ago wondering if I was in the throes of a heart attack. After spending a restless night analyzing my symptoms, I got the first available appointment with a doctor the following afternoon. Suspecting I might be experiencing muscle pain, I saw my chiropractor first. Her adjustment provided some relief, so that when I saw the internist I had already surmised  that chronic pain was the real culprit. An EKG,  performed just to be sure, corroborated my diagnosis. A much-needed massage a few days later, brought almost complete relief. It loosened up all the tight muscles in my neck, shoulders and back, that had probably been creeping upwards for months, as a reaction to internalized stress over my daughter’s situation, and the holiday crush. I’ve a physical therapy appointment next week. I’m hoping it’ll work out the few remaining aches and pains.

Prilosec works well to resolve my intermittent heartburn. I’ve a few days left of that regimen. But just when one set of issues was minimized, another came calling. Let’s just say it had to do with my “plumbing.” Seniors will know what I’m talking about. Younger folk, like my daughter, would say “TMI! TMI!” All I’ll say is it’s no fun seeking medical help from an ER doctor. Been there, done that, don’t ever want to do that again. Uh, uh, no way.

So while I was recovering from that bad experience, I caught my husband’s cold, and couldn’t stop hacking my head off, coughing and coughing, relentlessly. More sleepless nights until yesterday, when I finally drove myself to a walk-in clinic. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic for a sinus infection, an ailment I suffered annually in the past, but which I’ve not had for a couple of years. Because drugs are hard on the liver, I prefer not to take antibiotics. But it already seems to be working its magic, for my coughing has lessened considerably. As with all things, moderation is the key, and everything has its time and place. Although, the drug I’m taking has also done a number on my “plumbing,” in the other direction. Okay, okay. TMI! TMI!

I’m reading several books concurrently, one of which is “Healthy Aging – A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being,” by Andrew Weil, M.D. On page 1 of its introduction, Dr. Weil says something with which I fully agree. 

 In 2002, I turned sixty. To help celebrate the occasion, friends organized a surprise party for me. After the festivities, there came a time to reflect, and when I did I came to an uncomfortable conclusion: I am closer to a time when my energy and powers will diminish, when I will lose my independence. Sixty is about the time that organs of the body begin gradually to fail, when the first hints of age-related disease begin to appear.

I hardly notice my aging on a day-to-day basis. When I look in the mirror in the morning, my face and white beard seem the same as the day before. But in photographs of myself from the 1970s, my beard is completely black. Looking at old photographs, I can’t help but notice the physical change that has taken place in the course of thirty years. If I pay attention, I can notice other changes in my body: more aches and pains, less resilience in meeting the challenges of traveling, less vigor on occasion. And my memory may not be quite what it used to be. At the same time, despite the evidence, some part of me feels unchanged, in fact feels the same as when I was six. Almost everyone I talk to about aging reports similar experiences.

It’s true, all true. You’re invited to continue journeying with me through the aging process. Perhaps it’ll give you a heads up when your time comes, or maybe you’ll nod your head in recognition of an experience or two that “rings a bell.”

for aging gracefully, huge hugs…and a mountain of effort…hugmamma.

“change your brain, change your life”

I have to credit Dr. Daniel Amen’s book Change Your Brain Change Your Life with my “detour” towards a more positive attitude. It’s the path I’ll continue to travel, as I journey “home.” With the information gleaned from the book, I’m pretty certain I’ve suffered a form of depression all of my life, and I’m sure my mom did as well. We battled our “demons”, mustering up all the courage we could gather from deep within, and relying upon the  support  of loved ones. At best, our attempts to help ourselves was haphazard. Sometimes our efforts succeeded, other times we probably “blew it.” We muddled through, with growing negativity as a constant companion. To survive, we felt compelled to sever relationships along the way, that might destroy our fragile psyches. Looking back, we were just trying to live our best lives, given the hand life had dealt us. Without a doubt, there must be many who have led similar lives.

All kinds of help is available these days, from psychiatrists to clinics to alternative health practices. There’s no quick fix for depression, nor one right way. However I am a proponent of Dr. Amen’s philosophy, for it has helped me understand the workings of my brain. And just as I take care of my body with the help of exercise, diet, chiropractic manipulation and massage therapy, I am learning to look after my mental health, thanks to Dr. Amen’s message.

Your brain is the hardware of your soul. It is the hardware of your very essence as a human being. You cannot be who you really want to be unless your brain works right. How your brain works determines how happy you are, how effective you feel, and how well you interact with others. Your brain patterns help you (or hurt you) with your marriage, parenting skills, work, and religious beliefs, along with your experience of pleasure and pain.

If you are anxious, depressed, obsessive-compulsive, prone to anger, or easily distracted, you probably believe these problems are “all in your head.” In other words, you believe your problem is purely psychological. However, research that I and others have done shows that the problems are related to the physiology of the brain–and the good news is that we have proof that you can change that physiology. You can fix what’s wrong for many problems.

Depression is a physiological illness, just like diabetes or arthritis. Living in our high-tech, fractured society, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us suffer some form of depression, ranging from moderate to bipolar.

According to Dr. Amen’s book, my difficulty may lie within my brain’s Cingulate System. Glancing through the following checklist, I  have probably exhibited several of the symptoms, especially during the early years of my marriage. Maturity and motherhood helped me overcome some, but more recently, suggestions from Change Your Brain Change Your Life helped me to combat other symptoms, namely “excessive or senseless worrying,” “tendency to have repetitive negative thoughts,” and “tendency to predict negative outcomes.” But just as there’s no cure for arthritis, there is none for depression. Both have to be managed, which is fine with me. It’s a fact I’ve come to accept. Exercise and a reduction in sugar intake has helped lessen the arthritic pain in my lower back. And practicing Dr. Amen’s recommendations, has greatly minimized my depression.

CINGULAR SYSTEM CHECKLIST

Please read this list of behaviors and rate yourself (or the person you are evaluating) on each behavior listed. Use the following scale and place the appropriate number next to the item. Five or more symptoms marked 3 or 4 indicate a high likelihood of cingulate problems. 0=never/1=rarely/2=occasionally/3=frequently/4=very frequently

  1. Excessive or senseless worrying
  2. Being upset when things are out-of-place
  3. Tendency to be oppositional or argumentative
  4. Tendency to have repetitive negative thoughts
  5. Tendency toward compulsive behaviors
  6. Intense dislike of change
  7. Tendency to hold grudges
  8. Trouble shifting attention from subject to subject
  9. Trouble shifting behavior from task to task
  10. Difficulties seeing options in situations
  11. Tendency to hold on to own opinion and not listen to others
  12. Tendency to get locked into a course of action, whether or not it is good
  13. Being very upset unless things are done a certain way
  14. Perception by others that you worry too much
  15. Tendency to say no without first thinking about question
  16. Tendency to predict negative outcomes

GETTING UNSTUCK

The cingulate system of the brain allows us to shift our attention from thing to thing, idea to idea, issue to issue. When it is dysfunctional, we have a tendency to get locked into negative thoughts or behaviors; we have trouble seeing the options in situations. Healing this part of the mind involves training the mind to see options and new ideas. …Whenever you find your thoughts cycling (going over and over), distract yourself from them. …Sing a favorite song…Listen to music that makes you feel positive…Take a walk…Do a chore…Play with a pet…Do structured meditation…Focus on a word and do not allow any other thoughts to enter your mind (imagine a broom that sweeps out all other thoughts).

(Keeping busy has been my “default” response to low spirits. Ironing clothes is a “favorite”, a chore my mom taught me with pride, since that’s what she did at the orphanage where she worked. When I’m outdoors walking Mocha, nature’s beauty intoxicates my senses, forcing me to disengage from life’s frenzy. Indoors I get the same “high” watching a favorite Michael Jackson DVD, which gets my body pulsating to the beat. Sitting for a few minutes with one of my cat’s purring in my lap, makes me pause, enjoying the moment. And when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I thank God for all our blessings, and pray that all may live their best lives. This prayer alone has helped me fall asleep, because it stops the “ants”- automatic negative thoughts, dead in their tracks.)

Many people with cingulate problems have an automatic tendency to say no. Fight the tendency. Before answering questions or responding to requests in a negative way, take a breath and think first whether or not it is best to say no. Often it is helpful to take a deep breath, hold it for three seconds, and then take five seconds to exhale, just to get extra time before responding.

When you are stuck on a thought, it is often helpful to write it down. Writing it down helps to get it out of your head. Seeing a thought on paper makes it easier to deal with in a rational way. When repetitive thoughts cause sleeping problems, keep a pen and paper near your bed to write them down. After you write out a thought that has “gotten stuck,” generate a list of things you can do about it and things you can’t do about it. Use this simple exercise to unlock the thoughts that keep you up nights feeling tense.

(Blogging has been a God-send. It’s been cathartic in that I’ve been able to exorcise “demons” that have probably been roiling around inside my gut for too long, not only personal ones, but thoughts about the world in which I live.)  

When all of your efforts to get rid of repetitive thoughts are unsuccessful, it is often helpful to seek the counsel of others. Finding someone to discuss your worries, fears, or repetitive behaviors which can be very helpful. Often just talking about feeling stuck will open new options.

(Coffee with friends has always been a great way to share problems and gain new insights, and perhaps discover helpful suggestions, and sometimes, even answers.)

Exercise can also be very helpful in calming worries and increasing cognitive flexibility. Exercise works by increasing brain levels of l-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is a relatively small amino acid and has trouble competing against the larger amino acids to enter the brain. During exercise, more of the large amino acids are utilized to replenish muscle strength, which causes a decrease in the availability of these larger amino acids in the bloodstream. When this happens, l-tryptophan can compete more effectively to enter the brain and raise brain serotonin levels. In addition, exercise increases your energy levels and may distract you from the bad thoughts that tend to loop. I often recommend exercise for oppositional children as a way to improve their l-tryptophan levels and increase cooperation.

(Kristina’s exercise class has been a life-saver. During these last 5 or 6 years, it has been a healthy addition to my routine, not only for my physical well-being, but for my mental and emotional well-being as well. I can feel the difference in my mood and my energy level, when I’ve been remiss in my exercise routine. The same can be said for my visits to the chiropractor and massage therapist. They’re not luxuries; they’re necessities.) 

Low serotonin levels and increased cingulate activity are often associated with worrying, moodiness, emotional rigidity, and irritability. There are two ways that food can increase serotonin levels.

Foods high in carbohydrates, such as pastas, potatoes, bread, pastries, pretzels, and popcorn, increase l-tryptophan levels (the natural amino acid building block for serotonin) in the blood, resulting in more l-tryptophan being available to enter the brain, where it is converted to serotonin. The calming effect of serotonin can often be felt in thirty minutes or less by eating these foods. Cerebral serotonin levels can also be raised by eating foods rich in tryptophan, such as chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, peanut butter, eggs, green peas, potatoes, and milk. Many people unknowingly trigger cognitive inflexibility or mood problems by eating diets that are low in l-tryptophan.

For example, the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets that I recommend for low-dopamine states (related to prefrontal cortex underactivity) often make cingular problems worse. L-tryptophan is a relatively small amino acid. When you eat a high-protein diet, the larger amino acids compete more successfully to get into the brain, causing lower levels of brain serotonin and more negative emotional reactiveness.

(Diet remains an ongoing challenge, but at least I’ve eliminated as much sugar as possible, and replaced simple carbs with complex ones, and continue to ramp up my intake of fruits and veggies. But I’m no angel; every now and then I “sin.”)

Dr. Amen also prescribes reciting the Serenity Prayer, as a way to combat repetitive negative thoughts. “The Serenity Prayer is repeated by millions of people around the world, especially those in twelve-step programs. It is a beautiful reminder that there are limits to what we can do in life and we need to respect that. Many people find it helpful to repeat this prayer every time they are bothered by repetitive negative thoughts. I recommend that you memorize at least the first (three) lines of the prayer (change it as needed to fit your own beliefs).”

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you in the next.

-Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr

 As we age physically and mentally, our quality of life can suffer. Money certainly helps sustain a certain lifestyle, but is it substantive if we’re unable to reap the spiritual rewards as well? I’m trying to remain as agile as possible, mentally, physically and emotionally so that I can continue to write, and enjoy life’s small pleasantries, until I no longer can. Changing my brain, has helped change my life, for the better.

our best lives, hugs for…hugmamma.

   

medical help updates, the wsj

Have accumulated some Wall Street Journal articles that have medical updates which might prove helpful, whether for you or someone you know.

“How Life’s Details Help Patients – Personal Observations Provide Doctors With New Information to Aid in Treatments” 

Project Health Design is researching the benefits of patient input in the treatment of their illnesses. Unlike my attempts at self-diagnosis, the use of smartphones and wireless monitoring devices are important tools used in tracking patient information. Nikolai Kirienko suffers from Crohn’s disease, “an inflammatory digestive disorder.” Thirty years old, Kirienko has had surgery 6 times in 6 different hospitals. Throughout, he kept an electronic journal. His observations helped “avert disaster on several occasions. Once, as he was being rolled into the operating room, he noticed swelling in his fingers that he recognized as a sign of a blood clot, of which Crohn’s patients have a higher risk. He had suffered two clots in the past and recorded the symptoms in his journal, which he says ‘gave me the confidence’ to insist on delaying the surgery.” As a result of logging his own personal data, Kirienko initiated the idea for Crohnology.MD. Researchers are working with Berkeley undergrads on Kirienko’s project which “will let Crohn’s patients with a smartphone track daily digestive symptoms and sleep patterns along with signs of anemia, depression and weight loss that could signal a worsening of the condition, which affects 600,000 Americans. Known as ‘observations of daily living,’ the data will be charted, along with lab results and other measures, to create visual trend lines on a website–and viewed by patient and doctor.”

Project Health Design has involved other academic medical centers: asthmatics are using smart phones to track their symptoms, medications and physical activity; mobile devices are being created to help parents track “the progress of pre-term low-weight babies. At San Francisco State University, researchers are providing smartphones to overweight teens to help them monitor physical activity, food intake, and mood changes, to see if it can help them overcome obesity.” Collecting the data obtained, PHD teams are integrating it into personal health records so that physicians can follow patterns which might forewarn of health problems. PHD’s national program director, a professor at Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, Patti Brennan explains “We don’t want to track every missed footfall, but we are making it possible for patients to record what they felt was important, and what they wanted the doctor to know,…”  PHD researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center helped design a handheld electronic pain diary for patients. Recalling the intensity of pain was easier at 2 hour intervals rather than on a daily basis. So they entered their observations by touching the screen on the device over a period of 3 to 4 days. ” ‘To take care of someone with pain, a doctor really needs to know what the experience is like over several days, and to know things like how pain interferes with sleep.’ ” according to Dr. Roger Luckmann, the physician directing the project. He is working to develop a commercial version.

Following are websites that allow patients to enter daily health data and observations that provide useful feedback to be shared with their physicians.

  • The Carrot.com – Online journal lets users track 30-plus health factors including weight, food intake, energy level and exercise and input data from an iPhone. Produces reports that track factors together, such as exercise and mood.
  • PatientsLikeMe.com – Offers surveys about diseases, conditions, treatments and symptoms. Users can chart health over time and compare progress to patients with similar conditions.
  • MyPyramidTracker.gov – Government-sponsored site lets users enter dietary information and exercise. Provides picture of food intake vs. activity level for several days or up to a year. Compares daily dietary information and exercise to current guidelines.
  • Keas.com – Offers tools to track personal data and health plans to manage weight, chronic conditions, depression or pregnancy. Users can sign up for condition-specific care plans such as headaches and keep diaries on headache triggers.
  • RevolutionHealth.com – Provides health trackers for blood pressure, blood sugar, pregnancy weight gain, pregnancy temperature, exercise.
  • Baby-Connect.com – Lets authorized users on iPhones, iPads, ipods or website track daily information on infants including food intake, diaper changes, sleep, mood, growth milestones, medications and vaccines.
  • HealthButler.com – Preventive health information service lets users track healthy habits and compliance with preventive health measures over time; links screening and preventive history to Google Health personal profile.    

“New Hope in Fatigue Fight”

“Researchers said they had identified a family of retroviruses in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, opening up a potentially promising new avenue of treatment for a debilitating disease that afflicts as many as four million Americans and 17 million people world-wide. The finding will likely spur patients with the condition to seek treatment with drugs used to fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Although HIV and the newly identified virus group are different, they are both retroviruses.” If chronic fatigue syndrome is a virus, then it goes a long way in legitimizing the complaints of its victims. Since its debilitating symptoms “wax and wane…patients say friends, co-workers and even family members don’t believe they are really sick. Studies finding a viral connection with the disease would completely transform how the illness is treated and viewed.”

A retrovirus called XMRV may be related to CFS. Both may be members of the MLV, murine leukemia virus-related viruses, family. The October issue of the journal Science reported a research conducted at the Whittemore Peterson Institute “found XMRV in a majority of fatigue patients.” However a more recent report by the CDCP, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no evidence of XMRV in CFS patients. “…a large-scale clinical trial testing HIV drugs against the ailment isn’t likely” until further scientific evidence is developed linking the virus to chronic fatigue syndrome. Drug companies Gilead Sciences Inc., and Merck and Co., Inc. would proceed with testing once more proof is secured.

Doctors and patients are already testing the connection between XMRV and CFS. Fifty-six year old doctor and chronic fatigue syndrome patient, Jamie Deckoff-Jones, “has been blogging about her experiences and those of her 20-year-old daughter. Both tested positive for XMRV and are taking a combination of three anti-retrovirals.” Where a year ago Dr. Deckoff-Jones would get up for short periods of time a day, after 5 months on the drug, she was recently able to attend an XMRV conference in Reno. Her daughter, meanwhile, went to a party and is enrolling in community college. “This is all very new, and there is no way to know if improvement will continue,…but we appear to be on an uphill course.”

Comforting Children Without Pills and Shots

It seems alternative medicine is becoming acceptable to mainstream medicine, not only for adults but for children as well. “With seriously ill children often taking so many medicines, parents increasingly are asking for nondrug treatments–such as meditation–to help their kids cope with drug side effects or symptoms of conditions from asthma to cancer. These ‘complementary’ medicine strategies are not meant to replace conventional medicines or procedures but to be used in conjunction with them to combat issues such as nausea induced by chemotherapy, or the stress and anxiety of being sick and in a hospital.” Pediatrics professor and head of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., Kathi Kemper studies the mind-body connection. In 2008 she found that live harp music helped 8 premature babies gain weight. “To figure out what was going on, Dr. Kemper’s group put devices called actimeters, which measure very small movements, on the legs of the infants and found that those babies who were exposed to the music were alert and paying attention compared to those in a quiet room or getting the usual care. …’music helps them sleep and be less tense,’ …Soothed babies exhibit fewer tiny muscle movements compared with more tense babies, which reduces the amount of calories they burn.”

Dr. Timothy Culbert, medical director of the integrative medicine program at Minneapolis-based Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, one of this country’s largest hospital-based, pediatric complementary medicine programs. Culbert feels “Pediatrics as a profession needs to catch up.” He and a team of colleagues are on the verge of launching a study to examine further the use of nondrug coping skills for kids with cancer. The study is being launched in 4 hospitals here and in Canada. The “Comfort Kit” had been designed by Culbert’s team years ago to teach children “deep-breathing relaxation techniques; aromatherapy, in which patients inhale chemicals produced by plant oils; and acupressure, a variant of acupuncture with pressure applied to certain points in the body.” In a study with 150 kids who had surgery “87% said the techniques helped them cope with pain after the procedure. Another study conducted last year found that the vast majority of kids with cancer reported that acupressure helped relieve their feelings of nausea.”

Alternative medicine can be very useful in supplementing a patient’s medical treatment. ” ‘If it’s a way of coping, I say go for it, because it’s safe,’ says Dr. Kemper. Families just need to be cautious if a therapy has side effects, is costly or is used instead of a therapy that is known to be effective, she says.”

I agree, go for it!   

 

 

hugmamma,m.d.

Here’s a bit of medical trivia. Just to set the record straight, I’ve returned to self-diagnosing my condition of a few days ago. Given my very close proximity to the patient, whose symptoms I’ve watched with extreme interest, it seems, in my “expert” opinion that I’ve been suffering from symptoms of “dry mouth.” Referring to my copy of  “The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms”, it seems likely that my dry eyes, dry skin, rash on my eyelid and neck, and decrease in saliva may be owing to “dry mouth.” In my case it is probably due in large part to Claritin, an antihistamine I’ve been taking for a couple of months to combat allergies. Under GERIATRIC ESSENTIALS, the book claims that “…dry mouth becomes more common among the elderly,…probably due to the…many drugs typically used by the elderly rather than aging itself.” And I am getting elderly.

A walk-in-clinic physician at Philadelphia’s airport had prescribed Claritin. I’d been suffering allergy symptoms for some time, without realizing it. I know I’m affected by seasonal changes, but they seem to occur without my taking notice. Only after I’m forced to see a doctor for relief, am I aware that allergy season is in “full swing.” Not wanting to ruin my trip to Venice, I did as the doctor prescribed. Claritin was added to my daily intake of vitamin supplements. Who could know that it would cause an altogether different ailment, like “dry mouth.”

In the recent visit to my own GP, the symptoms hadn’t yet fully developed. So my doctor felt I was still suffering allergy symptoms and prescribed Benadryl when needed, in addition to continuing the Claritin. So after doing what I was told by 2 physicians, and still not  finding relief from the problem, I’ve decided to follow my own advice for now. I discontinued taking both antihistamines. We’ll see. As of now, my diagnosis and prescription seem to be working. Oh, and I should probably be getting more sleep, according to Merck. Well, that may be a difficult pill to swallow with my recent appetite for blogging. It’s now 2 a.m. 

I don’t take medical conditions lightly, although I address them with “tongue-in-cheek” humor. But I am a proponent of being an active participant in my own well-being. I heed expert advice, but I question it and continually assess my symptoms to make certain that my health is improving. Doctors offer their best-educated opinions in the moment, but they are not experiencing it first-hand. I know what I’m feeling all the time. I wish my medical team lived with me 24/7, but they don’t, so I’m the next best thing.

I can see the next patient now…hugmamma

no mystery, off the court…or on

Well, just as I suspected. I’m sure you did as well. “NO PEANUTS!” ordered my doctor, when I saw him a few hours ago. At least not until my “thick” tongue and abnormal throat symptoms disappear. Prescribing Benadryl should the symptoms return, I laughed knowing he’d give me some good old-fashioned remedy, just as he did for the rash on my right eyelid. For that, he told me to apply a dab of non-prescription 1% hydrocortisone ointment. I like my doc, he’s just a regular guy, nothing “fancy schmanzy” about him.     

After typing the final period on my previous post, I noticed my throat slowly starting to constrict once again. Time for playing doctor was over. I needed an expert’s opinion. Fortunately there was a cancellation, if I could hurry myself over to his office in 20 minutes. I said “You bet! I’ll speed.” To which the receptionist laughingly replied “No! Don’t do that.” I laughed back “No, no. Just kidding. I won’t.” And off I went, driving like a bat outta…

The male nurse ushered me into the examining room with a look of surprise. “Weren’t you just here?” I told him I had been there a couple of days ago for my eye, but now it was my throat. “Old age,” I declared chuckling, “I’m falling apart.” We both laughed in commiseration.

Once we were seated in the room, the nurse began telling me about his ailments, a problem ankle and a hip needing replacement. Now mind you, this young man, and I say young because he must’ve been some 15 years younger than me, got my total attention. Listening to his tale, I felt like I had a superficial cut in need of a band-aid. He was injured during his service in the army. When I asked what had happened, he told me I would laugh as others had done. I said I wouldn’t, and I didn’t, because an injury is no laughing matter, however it occurs. In fact, I told him my husband would totally sympathize with him because he’d been in a similar accident. But unlike my husband who waited a couple of years before the injury was really bad and in need of surgery, the nurse’s leg was immediately placed in a cast. He wasn’t ambulatory for some time.

Basketball is not child’s play when you’re up against a guy weighing 209 pounds, or when you’re “pushing” 40 and going up against a college kid. Moms and wives know these things. Why won’t men ever listen to us?

enough said…hugmamma