Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lame-ish Awesome Year

I look back on this past year and think LAME! I spent a lot of time in pain, in bed, and at my doctors' offices. I spent this last year in medical debt. I feel like it's constantly two steps forward and then one step back. It's been frustrating to come to terms with the fact that my illness will always be around.

But I also look back and am grateful for this year. Before my chronic pain started, I lived a crazy, busy, active, A.D.H.D life. Now that I've been forced to sit still for awhile, I'm amazed at what I've learned. It has been miraculous how I've been blessed to find treatments that help, and even though I'll still endure some level pain for most of my life, I have found ways to make it more tolerable and manageable. Yeah! I found out who my real friends are. I grew closer to the people serving and lifting me. I learned insane amounts of lessons about myself, life, and people. I learned to really listen to my body, I learned how to confront my fears, and I learned we are surrounded by miracles. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you again for all your nice comments, prayers, thoughts, and phone calls.

And on a less serious note, watch this really funny clip. Laughter is good for pain :)

Do you have irritability, headaches, joint pain or depression?

If this article interests you, just click on the link.

"Are You Walking Around With Celiac Disease and Don't Even Know It?"
via Carbwire by jimmy on 12/15/08

Alice Bast founded The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness in 2003 Have you or someone you know been to see doctor after doctor about joint pain, headaches, chronic pain, infertility, tingling in your body, depression, irritability, and other such issues only to be told they can’t find anything wrong with you? Frustration can set in [...]

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Know your heart

Here is a beautiful story and prayer from Dr. Remen. Hopefully it can lift our spirits!

Recently during a physicians' seminar on listening, we all took out our stethoscopes and spent several minutes listening to our own hearts. We are all middle-aged people and for the first little while everyone anxiously diagnosed themselves, fearful of hearing a split S1... or a third heart sound. But as time went on, we moved past all that and heard something steadfast in the midst of our lives that had been there always, even before we were fully human. Our lives and all other lives depended on it. It was a profound and ineffable encounter with the mysterious. Most of us were deeply moved. We had auscultated and diagnosed hearts for years, but none of us had ever experienced this before. In that moment we had glimpsed something beyond our habitual way of seeing and hearing and knew that what we work with every day is life itself...Afterward there was a silence. Then one of the cardiologists present began to speak about his work and to wonder aloud how one could be so close to something holy and not know it. It reminded him, he said, of a prayer that he had heard some time back. Somewhat embarrassed, he began to recite it aloud:

Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightening, illuminates the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, "How filled with awe in this place and we did not know it."
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather's blessings, p.70

Friday, November 28, 2008


I am feeling grateful for many things this Thanksgiving! I'm grateful for yummy gluten free food, for fun games, and fun times! I'm grateful for a husband that makes me laugh everyday! I am grateful for Gilmore Girls reruns and chocolate pie.

I am overwhelmingly grateful for knowledge and for good doctors. These two things have helped me to find ways to manage my pain and live a better life. I'm grateful for what I've learned from the pain that I have experienced at such a young age, because it will enable me to better serve and uplift others throughout my life. I am also grateful that my life--now with more manageable pain--will be more beautiful and fuller than I ever imagined it would be.

I am very grateful for friends who live good lives and who are selfless and kind. Just today our friends gave a us a gift of money that a group of our friends put together to help us pay down some of our medical debt. I've had the feeling that somehow the burden of our medical debt would one day be relieved. Today was an answer to some of those prayers. I am very grateful Penrose 80! We hope we can return the favor and help all of you as well! We are humbled by your thoughtfulness and will be forever grateful for your love and support.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What to do when money is tight and it's the holiday season?

Money is tight for almost everyone right now, and considering the health care crisis, it can be especially tight for patients with chronic illness. Here are some more financial tips. I'm sure as readers you have lots of ideas on how to save money. Feel free to comment with added financial advice! I'm always interested in learning more ways to save money!

1. Whenever you go shopping always bring a list and stick to the list. I am the worst at this. I can't go to Walmart or Target without a list, otherwise I will leave with things that I think I need because I pass them as I'm shopping. Make a Christmas list, budget ahead of time, and stick to the list.

2. I've given my email address to the stores where I often do my Christmas shopping during the holidays. I've already received a lot of emails from them with promotional codes for free shipping or discount coupons that I can print and use in the store. If you don't want your email inbox full of ads, create another email account that you use only for stores and companies you're interested in receiving coupons from. Kohl's has a promotion right now, if you give them your email address, they will send you a $5 coupon. My husband and I each did this to save $10 on our Christmas shopping.

3. You can also google the name of a store along with 'promotional code' or 'coupon' to find additional offers.

4. Google also has a feature where you can type in the name of an item as well as 'price' and it will give you the stores with the lowest prices on that item. Or you can text google from your phone and they will text you back the stores with the lowest prices on a particular item.

5. If you are able to pay off your credit card in full, 100% every month, you can get a card with rewards points and use them for Christmas shopping or winter clothes shopping. We put medical bills and gas purchases on our credit card and use cash for all our other purchases. We pay our card off every month and never carry a balance. We use our rewards points for gift cards to stores like Old Navy, Gap, and TJ Maxx. New clothing usually isn't an added expense for us; we get it for free using our rewards points. We've never payed any fees to our credit card company, so basically they're paying us to use their card.

6. Since I'm back to my normal weight I can't fit in my winter clothes from last year. I've taken a lot of my summer shirts and layered long sleeve tees under them so I don't have to buy too many new winter sweaters.

7. If you have medical bills but money is tight right now here is a tip: Make sure they aren't gaining any interest. If so, make a token payment of a few dollars for the months of November, December, and January. It is better to make a small payment rather than no payment at all. If you are making small monthly payments they won't send your account to collections.

8.You can turn your water heater down. That way you'll use less hot water on a daily basis and your bill will be a lot lower.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Road to Home

Dissolve Physical or Emotional Pain

There is a balance in dealing with pain. It's crucial to acknowledge and care for physical or emotional pain, but don't get enveloped by it. Listen to your pain, address it in the ways you need to or know how to, and learn from it. If you suppress the pain or ignore it, it could possibly increase. After you have listened to the pain (emotional or physical) and tended to it, and it chronically persists, then it's time to redirect your focus to what isn't hurting and to what is working. Once you've done this, you've found the balance in pain. And you've practiced an important life lesson.

Chronic pain patients are often given the advice to focus away from the pain and channel that focus towards the parts of their body that aren't in pain. This technique is very effective. Try it... If a part of you is in physical pain try to think about the parts of you that aren't in pain. Focus in on those parts, let yourself feel gratitude for the lack of pain in these parts. And if your pain is emotional rather than physical, focus on the things in your life that cause you no emotional pain but rather lift your spirits.

At first I was scared of the pain, so I ignored it. I crowded my mind and life with busy, productive distractions from the pain. After a while, the internal physical pain started to scream at me so I would listen. I stubbornly fought against it, but eventually I listened and worked hard to calm it. There is a certain amount of pain that still persists no matter what I do, so I'm learning to focus away from the pain.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Keep it simple! In the article "The Best Organics for the Buck" (O Magazine October 13, 2008), Karen Springen outlines the most important organic foods to focus on buying when you're tight with money. I know, I know, it's one more thing to worry about. I thought so too, and I also thought organic food was for hippies or rich people. But studies show that organic food is more nutritious, so it's worth the extra cost. The more nutrition you can get when your chronically ill the better able you are to manage your disease. And even if you're not chronically ill, the sooner you start eating organic food or locally grown food the better. Karen recommends the following specific organic food investments (investments for long-term health)!

In the article Karen recommends if you drink a lot of milk, it's good to buy milk organic. "There are so many hormones and antibiotics in many brands of conventional milk" says environmental activist Deidre Imus. Studies show that organic milk can have more nutrients.

The Environmental Working Group has found the following fruits and vegetables have the highest level of pesticides "cranberries, nectarines, peaches, strawberries, pears, apples...sweet bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, and lettuce. Some of the least contaminated fruits are those with removable peels, like bananas, citrus fruits, pineapple, mango, and avocado." (O magazine, p.78).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remember to Breathe

One of the best ways to free our feelings is to breathe into them. Deep breathing assists us in several crucial ways. Physically, it cleanses our body of air that has been sapped of life-giving oxygen, replacing it with fresh, rejuvenating air. Interestingly, studies show that when elderly people practice deep breathing for only a few minutes a day, their memories improve dramatically. Psychologically, slow, deliberate, deep breathing allows us to move below surface feelings into an awareness of casual, root emotions that may be breeding discomfort in our lives.
Sue Patton Thoele, A Woman's Book of Confidence

I am the worst at this advice. I keep myself distracted, so I don't have to really feel the pain, but that also keeps me from really feeling things and from truly breathing. I have to remind myself to stop, breathe and feel. When I do stop and take deep slow breathes it clears my head and rejuvenates me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Music is therapeutic

I love the lyrics to this song, Can't Go Back Now, by the Weepies. The songs I included on my playlist are more than just songs I like. They have lyrics that uplift and that also resonate with me and other chronically ill patients. You can read the lyrics here or listen to the song on my playlist on the right hand column of my blog. Music can be very therapeutic when you're in pain.
Yesterday, when you were young,
Everything you needed done was done for you.

Now you do it on your own

But you find you're all alone,

What can you do?

You and me walk on

Cause you can't go back now.

You know there will be days when you're so tired that you can't take another step,

The night will have no stars and you'll think you've gone as far as you will ever get

But you and me walk on

Cause you can't go back now

And yeah, yeah, go where you want to go

Be what you want to be,

If you ever turn around, you'll see me.

I can't really say why everybody wishes they were somewhere else

But in the end, the only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself

And you and me walk on

Yeah you and me walk on

Cause you can't go back now

Walk on, walk on, walk on

You can't go back now

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wrestling with the Angel (Image: The Wrestling of Jacob and the Angel by Chagall)

In Rachel Naomi Rehem's book, a national bestseller, My Grandfather's Blessings, she recounts the beautiful story of Jacob wrestling with an angel as her grandfather once told it.
Sometimes a wound is the place where we encounter life for the first time, where we come to know its power and its ways. Wounded, we may find a wisdom that will enable us to live better than any knowledge and glimpse a view of ourselves and of life that is both true and unexpected. Almost the last story my grandfather told me was about a man called Jacob who had been attacked in the night as he slept alone by the bank of a river...He awakened to find himself gripped by muscular arms...It was so dark that he could not see his enemy, but he could feel his power. Gathering all his strength, he began to struggle to be free.
'Jacob was a very strong man, but even using all of his strength he could not free himself..." "How long did they struggle, Grandpa?" I asked with some anxiety. 'A long, long time...' he replied, 'but the darkness does not last forever. Eventually it was dawn and as the light came, Jacob saw that he had been wrestling with an angel...Jacob's leg was hurt in the struggle. Before the angel left, he touched [Jacob] on the place where he was hurt...He touched it to remind Jacob of it. Jacob carried it all the rest of his life. It was a place of remembering.' Looking back on it, I have wondered if my grandfather..had not left me with this story as a compass. How put the struggle behind you as quickly as possible and get on with your life. Life might be easier then but far less genuine. Perhaps the wisdom lies in engaging the life you have been given as fully and courageously as possible and not letting go until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything." (p.25-27)

Monday, October 13, 2008

This quiz will save you from getting sicker, and help you age slowly...

Answer these questions from the book The Anti-Inflammation Zone by Dr. Barry Sears to see you if have internal silent inflammation:
Are you overweight?
Are you always craving carbohydrates?
Are you constantly hungry?
Are you tired, especially after exercise?
Are your fingernails brittle?
Is your hair limp with little texture?
Do you sleep excessively?
Are you groggy upon waking?
Do you have a lack of mental concentration?
Do you lack a sense of well-being?
Do you have headaches?
Are you constantly fatigued?
Do you have dry skin?
(The Anti Inflammation Zone, p. 34, by Dr. Barry Sears author of the New York Times bestseller The Zone)

Dr. Sears writes that "if you answered yes to more than 3 questions, you probably have elevated levels of silent inflammation." (p.35) Silent inflammation can go undetected for years and manifest itself later in life as chronic illnesses like Alzheimer's disease and early aging. It's important that you listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Silent inflammation can also contribute to depression. Be mindful of signs that your body is under distress, and take the time to care for it.

Sometimes I was too busy to listen to what my symptoms were trying to tell me. If you have screaming pain, you already know you have inflammation. Inflammation is what causes pain, so if you nurse the inflammation, you will help calm the pain. In order to combat the inflammation, Dr. Sears recommends taking fish oil, exercising regularly (but not excessively), and reducing stress. He also suggests extra-virgin olive oil, ginger, and Aloe Vera (p. 91-92).

My doctor also says it's important to pinpoint possible food intolerances. Recent studies also show that if you avoid using too many strong cleaning chemicals, you can reduce inflammation. Using more natural beauty products--rather than products with a lot of chemicals--can help you reduce inflammation. Check back for future posts on more ways to calm internal inflammation.
"By reversing silent inflammation you will: think better, look better, feel prevent heart disease and stroke, help ward off cancer, help reverse type 2 diabetes, help prevent neurological disease (Alzheimer's, depression, attention deficit disorder, Parkinson's), help reduce autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis), help reduce screaming pain (fibromyalgia, migraines, chronic pain, arthritis, and so on). But most important, you begin to control your own future."

Dr. Barry Sears The Anti Inflammation Zone p.8-9

Healthy food

The best advice I ever heard about eating healthy is this...

Try to eat mostly plants and as close to their natural state as possible.
(O magazine, October 2008)

If that sounds incredibly lame to you, trust me! As you add more of those gross veggies into your life, little by little you'll convert! Vegetables are more nutritious when they haven't been cooked or processed. And if everyone followed this advice we'd all be a lot healthier and happier. We'd look better and live longer.

On personal note...

I remember vividly the day my worst pain flareups began. It was the day of my sister's wedding. I was already struggling to heal and manage a really strict, allergen-free diet. I'd dealt patiently with months of vomiting, tons of weight loss, fatigue, brain fog, clumsiness, and a lot of side effects (just to name a few things). But the day of my sister's wedding, the pain was off the charts! At the time, I didn't realize that horrible pain would become a permanent fixture in my life. I wished I could be rushed to the emergency room, where the doctors could fix whatever was causing me pain, and I'd be cured in a few hours of surgery. Some days I wished I had cancer or diabetes, because at least then people would know and understand my sickness. But that's not my story. Instead I got a invisible chronic illness with a name that people haven't heard before. I did have several expensive surgeries, but no cure, just worsened pain. I got a disease that takes many doctors visits and that requires constant maintenance.

With all this lameness, I continue to count myself as incredibly lucky. I am blessed because I have an incredible husband who helps me get through all this crap. He carries me through the difficult days. When I was vomiting a lot, he would hold my hair back and comfort me as I threw up for hours on end. When I wake up in the night in pain, he holds my hand and asks if I'm okay. I married the most amazing person I've ever met in my entire life. I aspire daily to have more of the traits that my husband embodies. And I'm super grateful he puts up with me! I don't deserve him! He is continually sacrificing to help me. He could write his own blog on how to care for a chronically ill spouse!

Credit Crunch

Here are some quick tips on how to improve your credit (and feel free to comment with any additional tips):

1. Don't apply for a lot of credit cards or loans. The inquiries will hurt your credit score.

2. Make sure you have credit cards or loans in your own name. You need your own line of good credit. You can't depend on using your spouse's. That way, you have a double safety net. If either of your credit gets damaged, at least the other one has good credit.

3. Don't charge a lot to your credit cards. If the limit is $2000, then only charge $200 to the card. If you have a small amount charged to your cards and high credit limits, it will increase your score.

4. Don't be late on payments ever!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Thank you friends and bloggers!

Thank you for all your supportive posts, comments, and emails! They help to strengthen me, especially when the pain is at its worst! Thank you to all of you who posted my link on your blogs so others can link here. And thanks to all of you who put really nice posts on your own blogs to support my efforts here. I couldn't survive without your help!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bittersweet Pain

The other day I started to make a list of all the things that I'm thankful for. The list included pears. How many of us would even think to list pears as one of the great gifts in our life??? Four years ago, before my illness, if I made the same gratitude list, I wouldn't have listed pears. Now living a very restricted diet and a very restricted lifestyle, I am so much more grateful for the simple things in life! That is why the pain is bittersweet. The bitterness we experience increases our capacity to feel the sweetness in life!

On that note, I just got an email from a dear friend. She told me of all the health, family, mental, financial struggles she is currently experiencing. Hearing her real-life dramas of divorce, infidelity, children making poor choices, and health struggles made me wish I could do more to help her. It also made me more grateful for the simple blessings in my own life. And hopefully someone else out there who is reading my blog and feeling down will be able to recognize similar blessings in their own lives. What are some of the simple things you're thankful for? 

Be Selfish Sometimes

It really is true that we do unto others as we do unto ourselves.Those who first love themselves are able to love others more genuinely. As we honor our own wants and needs, we can do the same for others...Those who truly love themselves--as opposed to being self-centered--can trust, accept, and support others from a [better] place...Make a list of the things you would like to do for yourself, but haven't because you thought it would be too selfish. If you do these things, will your life be richer? Will you be happier?...If you answered yes to...these questions, your life and your relationships will benefit from the infusions of a little selfishness.
Sue Patton Thoele, A Woman's Book of Confidence

This was difficult for me to learn. (Let's be honest, I still struggle with caring for myself first.) But it's all about production management. When I take care of myself, I'm better able to care for others and happier while I'm doing it too! It's important to give yourself the rest that you need and deserve. If you have a day that is particularly painful or difficult, treat yourself to something nice. Find ways to lighten the tremendous load of illness by pampering yourself for a bit.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How do I afford healthy organic food? (Financial Solutions)

If you read the post before this one, I know what you're thinking...eating healthy organic food can be very expensive! But look at it this way--healthy food is a long-term investment. The healthier you eat, the less money you will need to spend later on expensive medications and doctor visits.

1.Don't try to go organic all at once. When you go shopping compare the prices of regular food to organic food. If the difference is only 20 cents, then start there. Gradually add other organic foods into your diet.

2."Shop farmers' markets, or become a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm; in return for a seasonal fee, you'll get a weekly share of the harvest. Visit for CSA options near you." ("6 Ways to Save the World" O magazine)
3. Search the internet for your local grocery store's website. The store will usually post what produce is on sale. Plan your meals around what fruits and veggies are cheap and in season.

How to avoid getting CANCER (healthy goodness)

"The American Cancer Society reports that one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer. Yet, the No.1 risk factor associated with cancer death is diet." (, July 2008) If you already have cancer and are reading the title of the post, you're probably a little bugged right now. I know that most often when people are diagnosed with cancer or other chronic illnesses, it isn't a result of choices that they've made. I lived a very active, healthy life before I became ill. I also know what it's like to try to control every aspect of your environment (what you eat, how much you exercise, etc.) and still be very ill. There is nothing you did to cause your illness. BUT there are prevention steps everyone can take for some cancers, and if you're already sick, this advice will really help your body handle your illness. Better recommends, based on research, the following...

1. Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit daily. (For example; fix yourself a big salad on most days of the week. If you have Crohn's disease, IBS, or a similar illness check with your doctor before adding a lot of raw veggies to your diet.)
2. Eat organic whenever possible to avoid harmful preservatives, pesticides, hormones, and other cancer-causing substances; new research also indicates that organic foods have higher nutritive value.
3. Drink more pure water (avoid sodas).
4.Choose essential fatty acids. Take an omega-3 product.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

GIVE YOURSELF Some REST (Sleeplessness relief and pain relief)

Whether you're sick or healthy, this post can help you get more Zzzzzzzz's. You deserve it! I haven't had a full nights sleep in four years, so I'm very tired. With my illness, it's almost impossible to sleep through the night because the pain is so relentless and strong. But I have come across some great strategies that really help me sleep a lot better! The first three suggestions come from Dr. Woodson Merrell...

1. Dark Therapy: "Scientists studying the light-melatonin connection have discovered that the blue spectrum of light can disrupt circadian rhythms and keep you awake. Exposure to the blue light late at night--it's emitted by computers, televisions, even digital clocks--can wreak havoc with your body clock. Keep your room pitch-dark at night and cover all digital clock or DVD player readouts." ("Your Best Energy Source--Sound Sleep" O magazine, October 2008)

2. Behavioral Therapy: "Avoid nonsleep activities in bed (watching TV, eating, planning, or problem solving). Try to get up at the same time every morning, [and] don't get attached to unrealistic expectations of sleeping soundly every night." ("Your Best Energy Source--Sound Sleep" O magazine, October 2008) I make my bedroom a relaxing peaceful room, and I save clutter for the other rooms.

3. Acupuncture: "Because research suggests that acupuncture helps balance neurotransmitters, there's a logic for its use in promoting relaxation, which results better quality of sleep. In China acupuncture has been used successfully for thousands of years to treat sleep problems." ("Your Best Energy Source--Sound Sleep" O magazine, October 2008)

4. Routine: Creating a soothing bedtime routine is key. For example; take a shower, listen to calming music, or read a book.

5. Supplements: Health food stores sell natural sleep supplements. I have one called Nutrasleep and it contains natural herbs and vitamins that help you relax. If you need sleep medication, consult with your doctor. My doctor recommends Rozerem because it works with your natural wake-sleep cycle and is less habit-forming.

6. Aromatherapy: I buy a product called Anti-Stress Mind Repair from Earth Therapeutics. It has smells of lavender and chamomile. These aromas have been proven to be calming and are also natural way to relieve headaches.

Sweet dreams!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More free advice from a very sick blogger...

Do you ever feel confused, like your life is flying past you, without a lot of clarity on where it's going? This exerpt from the wonderful book My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, a cancer physician and counselor to chronically ill patients for more than 20 years, offers some insights into life and its randomness...
In 1998 Commonweal, the center at which I work, installed a labyrinth exactly like the one that has been in the cathedral at Chartres since 1300...Walking the labyrinth is deceptive. At the beginning one seems to be heading directly for the center when one is actually farthest away from it...Walking the labyrinth causes you to confront the world of illusion, the difference between our hard-edged perception of how the world works and how the world works. It can be a humbling experience...Could events [in my life] that seemed meaningless, or even wasteful, be taking me to a destination as surely as the twisting and turning path I had just followed? Perhaps my path only seemed random because I was still on it. At the end, from the center, would I someday see life as complete and whole and recognize a hidden direction and pattern that redeemed loss and failure and pain and utterly changed their meaning and value? Often it is only as a life becomes complete that the pattern which it upholds it, its underlying meaning, can become visible. (p.50)

It cost way too muh to be ill (Financial Solutions)

I just read in Newsweek this week that 1 in 5 is the "fraction of cancer patients with health insurance who still spend most or all of their savings paying for their medical care." ("We Fought Cancer...and Cancer Won")

Thankfully, Money magazine published an article entitled "50 Ways to Cut Your Health-Care Costs". If you are struggling to make ends meet because of medical costs, this article is very helpful!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Healthy Goodness...

At the time of my diagnosis, one the worst symptoms I experienced was nausea. I was vomiting all the time. It doesn't matter what your chronic illness is, it will be aggravated by your stomach digesting improperly. Sometimes, chronic illnesses can even be caused by an upset digestive system. Initially, my doctor tested me and treated me for a parasitic infection. (I had been living outside of the country for over a year.) Then, he had me do these important things...(Remember, it's important that you check with your doctor before you start any new treatments)

Probiotics - To place healthy bacteria in your digestive system, use probiotics--especially if you've been on a lot of antibiotics that can kill good bacteria. Better Nutrition says that probiotics are one of the "3 Household Essentials" (July 2008). "Probiotics improve resistance to respiratory infections, lower the risk of...allergies, and support healthy digestion. Probiotics are found in yogurt with live cultures and in supplements."

Elimination Diet
- If your stomach is upset, it could be from food allergies. It's important to meet with a doctor who guides you through all the steps of an elimination diet, so you can find out what your food-triggers are. I started out eating only veggies, rice and chicken and slowly added wheat, milk, soy, corn, eggs, sugar, nuts, etc. back into my diet. I paid attention to how I felt as I added these foods back into my diet. If I felt nauseous, groggy, or stuffed up, I knew I needed to eliminate that food from my diet.

Digestive Enzymes - These enzymes can help you digest your food better.

Fish Oil - This helps to heal any inflammation in your digestive track. Better Nutrition also recommends this as one of the "3 Household Essentials". It can help you have healthier hair, skin, and a healthier heart. It "helps to stabilize mood, reduce depression..., relieve PMS symptoms, alleviate attention deficit disorder..., and support healthy weight loss."

Nystatin - This help to kill any yeast overgrowth in the 'gut' that might be affecting your digestion.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bittersweet Pain

If you experience physical pain, please don't ignore it! I tried working two demanding jobs and ignored the pain I was in, but it kept getting worse. Now I know that as soon as my pain increases, I need to stop life's craziness, rest, and address the pain. Otherwise, I know it will get out of control and become more difficult to treat.

Newsweek featured an article entitled "The Changing Science of Pain" by Mary Carmichael (June 4, 2007). In the article, Mary discusses the complexities of chronic pain. Pain can be a beneficial signal in our body that tells us something is wrong. With chronic pain patients the neurons are constantly firing, screaming to the brain that something is wrong. "Chronic pain is one of the most pervasive and intractable medical conditions in the United States...Regardless of [the patient's] injuries, their genes, their gender or their background, nearly all chronic-pain patients agree on one thing: the hyperactive neurons can make life near unbearable. The cascade of changes in the nervous system can lead to an equally painful cascade of events in a patient's life; memory loss, job loss, marital strife, depression, suicide. And through it all the body hurts like hell."

How do you stop the pain?!

I've been through a lot of surgeries, medications, and experimental treatments. I have finally found a combination of therapies that help to somewhat numb the pain. Everyone responds differently to treatments, so be sure to consult your doctor before trying anything new.

I go to a multidisciplinary clinic. At the clinic, there are physical therapists, doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, dietitians, and psychologists all working together to treat pain. Chronic illness needs multipart therapy. Acupuncture helps with the nerve pain. Physical therapy treats muscle pain. Diet, medications and supplements help with inflammation, and my primary care doctor/ pain specialist oversees how it all works together.

As far as pain treatment goes, I love acupuncture. I would never voluntarily go and get 12 needles stuck in me several times a month unless it worked, and it definitely helps. Acupuncture interrupts the pain signals from continually firing, and gives me some needed relief.

Free Advice...

I often have to remind myself of the lessons I've learned from experiencing chronic physical pain. Initially, my diagnosis made me very angry--I couldn't accept the reality of a chronic physical illness at my young age. I fought the reality of an illness ruling my life. When the pain is extreme, it's difficult to accept. But I've learned that it's transformative to be at peace with the pain. Instead of bracing myself against an inevitable struggle, I can open myself up to the inevitable and accept the pain.

In his book, When You're Falling, Dive, Mark Matousek teaches, "When we attatch ourselves to a single outcome, it's easy to become hope's hostage... we risk spending our time consumed by longing...unhappy with what life has chosen to give us. Buddhism warns against too much clinging to desired outcomes we cannot control." (p.76) In order to conquer uncertainty and pain we have to really accept it as a reality of our lives. This isn't simple--it takes a certain kind of wisdom to accept all the crap life throws at you, but once you do, the pain isn't as consuming.

It costs way too much to be chronically sick... (Financial Solutions)

Tip #2
Try using cash this month for all of your expenses. Budget how much you want to spend for the month, and take out that exact amount in cash. Separate the cash into categories. For example, set aside $300 for groceries, $100 for gas, $20 for entertainment, etc. Once you use the allotted amount of cash, don't spend any more money. Compare what you spend in cash, using this system, to what you normally spend using a credit or debit card. Using cash can decrease your monthly spending. Less spending means more money for medicine, doctor visits, and hospital bills.

Tip #3
If your health insurance doesn't cover some of your prescriptions, or you've already reached your maximum prescription benefit for the year, there is help. There are websites that offer applications for prescription assistance.
If these websites don't offer help for a specific medication you are taking, then contact the company that makes the medication. Sometimes the company offers coupons or other ways to help you afford your medication. If it's a new medication that you are trying, ask the pharmacist to only fill a week of it. Don't pay for the entire medication until you know that it doesn't cause any adverse side effects and that it works for you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chronic Illness Awareness Week!

This week is Chronic Illness Awareness Week!
Go to:
for information about the upcoming conference schedule that you can access online!


In his book The Inflammation Cure, Dr. Megs explains how almost all chronic sicknesses are related to some sort of inflammation in the body. He says that -itis is a suffix that means inflammation. Any disease ending in -itis is inflammation related. Arthritis, aging, and allergies come from inflammation in the body. Even dementia can be accelerated from inflammation!

Dr. Meggs supports eating fish and/or take fish oil! There isn't a cure for most chronic physical illnesses, but research shows taking fish oil can drastically improve how your body is able to handle disease. Fish oil or other types of Omega-3s can help you life a longer and healthier life!

Always consult your doctor before trying any new supplements. Ask your doctor for guidelines on how much fish oil to take, and what brands are best to use. My doctor recommended EPA-DHA Complex (Ultra Pure Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids) made by Metagenics. Taking Omega-3 essential fatty acids has reduced the inflammation in my body and helped to lessen my chronic pain!

Foods that reduce inflammation include:
Sweet Potato

I recommend reading The Inflammation Cure, by William Joel Meggs M.D., Ph.d. In his book, Dr. Meggs gives great examples of the benefits of eating an anti-inflammation diet. He recommends that you always eat lots of fruits and vegetables and add olive oil to your diet. Following this advice has been very beneficial in improving my health, pain, and need for medications!

Friday, August 8, 2008

BITTERSWEET PAIN (Inspiration for the ill)

Because I do not look chronically ill, I sometimes get skeptical looks when I tell someone I have a chronic physical illness. Occasionally I've been told that it's "all in my head." For the rest of my life I will always endure some level of physical pain. It's unfortunate that my life, already full of unimaginable difficulty, has to be further complicated by the naive judgment of others. In a lot of ways, I know they are only products of their culture...

Joy H. Selak and Dr. Steven S. Overman's book You Don't Look Sick: Living Well with Invisible Chronic Illness investigates America's view on long-term illness. The authors specifically discuss Patricia Fennell's perspective on culture of misunderstanding. "First, Fennell notes, Americans are intolerant of suffering, assigning it no value, and expecting that it be done in silence. Suffering is often believed to have a psychological cause, and is therefore assumed to be a person's own fault. Second, western culture is intolerant of ambiguity, an element common to chronic illnesses, where often neither the cause nor the cure is known. Third, chronic illness is unpredictable and resistant to the high-tech quick fix our achievement-oriented society has come to expect."

Suffering can have a lot of value. Beautiful wisdom can be gained from hardship.

It's important to find physicians who will give patient and continuous care, because there is no quick-fix for chronic illnesses. Thankfully I've found doctors who work relentlessly to help ease the physical pain I'm constantly experiencing, and who continually research the newest and most effective treatments for my illness.

FREE ADVICE from a sick blogger

In her book, You Don't Look Sick: Living with Invisible Chronic Illness, Joy H. Selak teaches "The quiet activities illness demands can train patients to listen, a skill they will need to further perfect. Chronically ill patients who aspire to live better will need to listen to what their body is telling them and understand they cannot fix everything just by trying harder. They will need to spend time listening to the emotions, fears, and anxieties tied to the past and sort out what they can now release. They will need to listen less to the negative people in their lives, and with greater attention to the people willing to support and share with them. They will need to listen more closely to their own inner and spiritual selves as they learn new ways to navigate life with illness."

Grieve for your old life, it's so healthy to let yourself feel emotions of pain and sadness. If you allow yourself time to mourn, you will see how quickly you are ready to move on with your new life!

One of the huge benefits my illness is that it has enabled me to find out who my true friends are. I realize now that if I have a friend who is judgmental of my new life with a chronic illlness or impatient with my illness, he/she is not good for me. Having a chronic illness is a constant strain, so I chose to be around supportive friends who help and strengthen me.

It costs way too much to be chronically sick...

Where are I am going to get the money to pay for all my medical expenses?
How can I get and keep good health coverage?
What should I do now to prepare for continuing health problems?

I went from working two jobs to being on modified bed rest. The medical bills came flying in, and the stress of a chronic illness, in addition to financial difficulty, was overwhelming. I quickly became informed on ways to save money!
Every week, I'll post new advice for the financial struggles of having a complicated illness.

Tip #1
Always avoid a break in health coverage. If you have a break in health coverage, it gives health insurance companies license to refuse to cover any preexisting conditions. Also, become informed about where politicians stand on health issues.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for chronically ill patients to get good health coverage. I have $30,000 in debt solely due to health care costs, because my illness was considered a preexisting condition, and health insurance companies refused to cover it.

If you're too sick to work full-time, there are companies that offer part-time benefits.
Discover Card
Circuit City
Trader Joes
Barnes and Noble