RESOURCES: Being an informed patient – is it a good or bad thing?

RESOURCES: Being an informed patient – is it a good or bad thing?

Image courtesy of Creative Commons, used with permission from Azeez Akanbi Dende-Raji

When battling a chronic illness, it can feel like you’re fighting everything around you, including your medical practitioners. They say one thing, you think another, and it can be an incredibly frustrating experience.

On the pro side, the more you know about your illness, the more productive your myriad doctor’s appointments should be. Hopefully you have doctors who appreciate that you’ve taken the time to learn about your condition. If they don’t, or act as if their word is law, find another doctors when possible.

On the con side, knowing about your condition inevitably leads to self-diagnosis. It’s almost impossible not to, but try to resist. Go to your doctor, get suggested tests (whether you suggest them or they do), and move forward from there. Be especially wary of the possibility your research will tell you that you suffer from 100 different possible diseases/conditions. We’ve all been there, right? OH NO I HAVE CANCER!!!! WebMD says so! Yeah, don’t give in to the temptation and worry that will follow.

On the pro side, being an informed patient will hopefully make you more open-minded about treatment options. We’ve all seen those commercials for medications, where at the end some person who can speak way too fast mentions a litany of side effects you may get if you take the medication.

“Possible side effects include nausea, dizziness, trouble swallowing, joint pain, locusts falling from the sky, and being eaten by a wooly mammoth.”

Who’d want to take that medication?

But it might be the best thing for you, and it seems the FDA requires these drug companies to divulge all possible side effects. In my opinion – and my opinion only – hearing about the most common side effects is a good thing. But those listed under “Extremely Rare Side Effects” on the information your pharmacy gives you are probably not applicable unless you’re predisposed to having side effects to every medication you take. In that case, please understand all possibilities before starting a medication.

Don’t be afraid to print articles you’ve read to bring with you to appointments, or to challenge your doctor about how they arrived at your diagnosis and why they ruled out other possibilities. Again, if your doctor can’t handle this, get another doctor.

How do you handle your doctor-patient relationships? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

 

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DISEASE MANAGEMENT: Tips for making showering easier

DISEASE MANAGEMENT: Tips for making showering easier

 

To anyone not battling a chronic illness, the title of this post probably sounds ridiculous, but us chronic illness warriors, it makes perfect sense. Showering and other grooming tasks can be incredibly draining for those of us with limited energy, and often doesn’t seem worth it. Here are some tips to help you through the sometimes arduous process of showering. This advice comes courtesy of The Mighty.

  1. Avoid taking a full shower on days when you have many required tasks. Instead, do a sponge bath or spot wash, and take care of the rest another day. It won’t kill you to go a day or two without showering.
  2. Use a shower handle with strong suction cups. That way, you don’t have to install anything or need tools, but you’ll have a way to help yourself balance.
  3. Try a combination shampoo/conditioner/body wash. You can use one product to take care of most of your needs, rather than bending and twisting to pick up and put down numerous products.
  4. Find a place to hang your towel where you can reach it easily. If it’s within arm’s length, you won’t have to risk a fall on a slippery tub or floor.
  5. Use an electric razor so you can do any necessary shaving outside the shower if needed.
  6. Dry yourself with your blow/hair dryer if you have difficulty reaching all the spots. Just don’t put it on high.
  7. If you feel you must take a shower every day, divide your tasks. Wash your hair one day, shave the next, etc.
  8. Stretch before showering to warm yourself up and make your muscles and joints less likely to seize up.
  9. Try a handheld shower head to minimize the pressure on your skin and to more easily maneuver to those hard-to-reach places.
  10. Install a shower water filter if chemicals bother your skin.
  11. Use dry shampoo on the days you don’t have enough energy to wash it in the shower.
  12. Buy a terry cloth bathrobe and let that do the work of the towel, then just hang it to dry when you’re done.

Do you have any other tips for dealing with showering? Tell me in the comments!

 

MY LIFE: Why you haven’t seen new posts

MY LIFE: Why you haven’t seen new posts

I tend to do blog posts in bunches, and I had posts scheduled through most of August, thinking I’d be fine to get another batch out when the time came.

I was wrong.

I’ve been SLAMMED with life, and I apologize for that. My daughter is going back to school on the 7th, and while I’ll miss her, I need my life back. I need my time back.

So look for new posts soon. In the meantime, stay well and be happy!

RECIPES: Raspberry Breakfast Bars

RECIPES: Raspberry Breakfast Bars

Photo and recipe courtesy of

Paleo Raspberry Breakfast Bars

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
  2. In a large bowl mix the almond meal, flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add in the raspberries.
  3. In a separate bowls, whisk the almond milk, eggs, ghee, and honey together.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and then add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
  5. Cover an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Pour the mixture into the pan and spread out evenly.
  6. Bake in the oven for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Take it out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.
  8. Slice and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Using ghee will give the bars a yummy buttery taste.

Yum! By the way, you can make these with any berry. What a great way to use all those berries you’ve picked this summer. Got any other recipes for the mounds and mounds of berries lying around my house?

 

RESOURCES: 5 ways to make homemade ice packs

RESOURCES: 5 ways to make homemade ice packs

Photo courtesy of The Make Your Own Zone

I’ve got five easy ways that you can make a homemade ice pack and they’re all easy to do with using common household items that can be put in ziploc bags and then popped in the freezer.   If you want  a little extra security against leakage, you can also double bag your ice packs by putting the ziploc bag inside a second ziploc bag, with the zippered side facing down toward the bottom.  And one of the methods is even easier – just use a wet sponge!

1.  Corn Syrup

Corn syrup (here’s a highly recommended brand) makes an excellent gel type of ice pack.  It stays nice and squishy and flexible and doesn’t change texture or color in the freezer.  It also contains nothing harmful if it would accidentally puncture or leak in a lunch, aside from things getting a little sticky.   It can be made using any size ziploc bag.  Simply pour some corn syrup into the bag, seal, and put in the freezer for several hours.  This is my favorite method for making a homemade ice pack and I keep one in the freezer all the time.  It’s especially good for injuries because it stays flexible and can be molded around ankles, knees, wrists or other sore areas.

2.  Dish Soap

Dish soap (I recommend Dawn Blue since it can be used to make lots of other DIY things) makes a simple homemade ice pack and depending on how long you leave it in the freezer, it can be more gel like and flexible or firmer and icier.  I prefer to take it back out of the freezer after just 2 hours because then it will still be flexible and squishy (much like the corn syrup). If you leave the dish soap ice pack in the freezer for longer than a couple hours, it will be much more icy and firm.  So the time frame for this method is more important, depending on what type of ice pack you want. Either way, it’s a simple method that can be made in any size ziploc bag by just pouring in dish soap.  No measuring is needed.  I’ve tried this method with both Dawn dish soap and Ajax dish soap which both worked well, and I would think that other brands of dish soap should work for making an ice pack too.

3.  Rubbing Alcohol

The addition of rubbing alcohol to water will keep it from freezing completely which makes it an easy way to create a homemade ice pack.  To make this method in a quart size ziploc bag, combine 1½ cups of water with a ½ cup of rubbing alcohol.  Seal and put in the freezer for several hours or overnight. I made this version in the smaller snack size ziploc bags and simply cut the recipe in half, combining ¾ cup water with ¼ cup of the rubbing alcohol.

4.  Salt

For a really cheap and easy DIY ice pack, simply add some ordinary table salt to water. Salt is another ingredient that when added to water will keep it from freezing completely. Use a sandwich size or quart size ziploc bag and add 2 tablespoons of salt to 2 cups of water.  Seal and put in the freezer for several hours or overnight.

5.  Sponge

Finally, you can create an ice pack by using a clean sponge, getting it wet with water and putting it in the freezer. This is a good method for an ice pack for lunches as it’s just water with no other possibly harmful substances.  The sponge will be hard and firm with no flexibility when first taken out of the freezer.  As it warms up it becomes moist and soft again, but not drippy.  You can put it in a baggie if you want, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.

If you’re looking for homemade heating pads instead, try this post.

DISEASE MANAGEMENT: Six facts about Tramadol you should know

DISEASE MANAGEMENT: Six facts about Tramadol you should know

 

I thought this was a great infographic about Tramadol. Many medications exist to treat chronic pain and illness, and in my experience, Tramadol is one of the more effective choices with one of the lesser amounts of side effects.

For my pain, I try to stick to ibuprofen and diazepam (generic Valium), but sometimes Tramadol is needed. When I have to take it, I do. I think that’s how many of us battling chronic illnesses handle the pain. Grit your teeth if you can, take over the counter meds if the pain doesn’t go away, switch to narcotics if you’re unable to handle your pain level.

How do you handle pain? What do you think of Tramadol? Tell me in the comments!

MY LIFE: Reconnecting with my spouse on our wedding anniversary

MY LIFE: Reconnecting with my spouse on our wedding anniversary

Courtesy of Creative Commons, used with permission from Hanza Butt

Today is my thirteen wedding anniversary. As many of you battling a chronic illness know, being sick can exact a heavy toll on your marriage and family life. So on this day of celebration, I decided to share some tips on connecting with your spouse despite your illness.

  1. Communicate. Don’t suffer in silence. It doesn’t help you, and it certainly doesn’t help your spouse, who will have no idea you’re having a rough day, etc. Our spouses are not mind readers. State your needs clearly. We need to tell them what’s going on so both of you can face the challenge of your illness together.
  2. Deal with anxieties so you can feel more in control. It’s normal to go through the stages of grief when your life changes so drastically. Don’t shove it all down inside and hope it stays there. It won’t. If you can’t deal with this yourself, use a therapist or counselor who specializes in treating people with depression and anxiety. And remember – your spouse might be grieving too.
  3. Watch your caregiver’s health too. The stress of helping you might be putting a burden on them, and if they’re sick, they can’t be there for you. Caregivers can suffer from burnout. Help them find ways to relax and recharge, alone or with you.
  4. Address the financial strains of the situation. Most people with chronic illness find that doctors’ appointments, meds, and other costs associated with the treatment of that illness can be a burden on a relationship. Use a financial planner if that helps – there are even some who specialize in helping chronic illness families figure out how to make their dollars go further. You’ll find a list of providers here.
  5. Put effort into your spouse whenever you can. if you’re able to cook a nice dinner, go see a movie with them, or schedule a time for them to get out of the house to do something they enjoy, do it. Make keeping your spouse happy a priority.
  6. Try to keep a positive attitude and encourage your spouse to do the same. Study after study has shown that attitude makes a huge difference in your health, and for a chronic illness warrior, this is especially crucial.
  7. Pursue your own activities and interests and make sure your spouse does the same. They may become so wrapped up in helping you that they neglect their own mental well-being. Make sure you each keep separate identities in addition to the joint identity you have as a married couple.
  8. Don’t stress about sex. Intimacy can be achieved in many ways that don’t require a marathon session of sex. Cuddling while watching a TV show, cooking together, going somewhere fun – all of these things can create a sense of togetherness.

So there you have it. Do you have any additional tips to share? Tell me in the comments, which I’ll read later, since today is all about my spouse and my marriage.

RESOURCES: Things to do when you’re feeling down

RESOURCES: Things to do when you’re feeling down

There are, of course, a kazillion things listed on this infographic. However, rather than going through all of them, I’m just going to highlight the groupings, since I think it’s easier and less overwhelming to pick the group you want to employ than to try to scan through all the individual ideas. Once you’ve narrowed the choices down to one, you can check out just that area.

Nurture Yourself: Self-nurturance is quite simple. It means seeking out pleasurable activities that are self-satisfying. Yet women in our society, even those battling chronic illness, feel quite guilty when they take time out of their schedule for personal development or satisfying activities. Things you can do to nurture yourself are to take a bath, color, or play with your pet.

Engage Your Brain: Engaged means fully occupied or having your full attention. An engaged reader really focuses on the words and maybe even jots down questions or comments in the pages’ margins. If you’re busy or involved with something, you’re engaged in it. Examples of this in regards to chronic illness include playing games on your phone, doing Sudoku or crosswords, and the like.

Move: Get to know your body well through trying different movement practices and honoring your unique circumstances. Everyone with chronic illness has different needs and energy levels, and you need to listen to your body. Examples of movement include gentle things like walking, tai-chi, and water aerobics.

Be Social: This has to do with being around other people, doing something that you find pleasurable. Unfortunately, for those of us with chronic conditions, social activities can be a huge energy drain, but doing things like meeting a friend for lunch, giving a donation of any kind to charity (doesn’t have to be monetary, charities need tons of different types of help), or inviting friends over for a gab session all apply.

Get Creative: If you do something creative you are basically doing anything original, making something new or imaginative. You can doodle or draw, go see a movie, make a craft, or cook a new recipe. Your options are nearly limitless.

Be Spiritual: Spirituality is different for everyone, but the basic premise is to affect the human spirit or soul as opposed to being consumed by material or physical things. Some examples of this (as you can see, they’re not all religious in nature), include meditation, listening to music, or getting together with others to celebrate your spirituality.

Now that you know some things you can do the next time you find yourself feeling low, keep this list handy. We can all think of these things without the list, but I find that when I don’t feel well it’s hard to divide out individual thoughts at all. My wish with this blog is to give other chronic illness warriors the tools they need to handle their conditions and live the best life they can, and I hope it does that.

Do you have specific things you do to pull yourself out of a funk? Tell me in the comments section!

RESOURCES: Let’s talk about magnesium

RESOURCES: Let’s talk about magnesium

Any chronic illness warrior should be making sure they’re getting enough of vital nutrients to not only keep themselves healthy, but also to treat specific parts of their illness. Magnesium is probably one of those vitamins that you don’t think of very often. We hear so much about the B vitamins, vitamin D, etc that magnesium and other minerals get overlooked.

But magnesium is absolutely essential to achieve good health, and especially in those battling a chronic illness, it’s something you need to take seriously. Not only is magnesium a part of three HUNDRED different bodily functions, but it’s also something only 25% of Americans get enough of in our diets.

And magnesium can be leached from your body if you eat a lot of processed foods and sugary drinks. We all struggle with eating properly – I had a margherita pizza for lunch – but don’t make it worse by allowing yourself to give in to those cravings. Reach for a snack packed with magnesium instead. These include nuts (peanuts, almonds, and cashews have the highest amount), plus oatmeal and other foods. See the infographic above for more information about them.

Another way to put more magnesium into your body is magnesium supplements and sprays, drink additives, and epsom salts/detox salts that you add to your bath.

DISEASE MANAGEMENT: Essential oils to relieve pain

DISEASE MANAGEMENT: Essential oils to relieve pain

Essential oils can be a huge help in pain relief. Many of us don’t want to rely on pills for pain management, and little other help is available, save a few salves and other topical applicants. You’ll notice many of the same essential oils are used to mitigate pain. I buy these in the bigger sizes, usually 4oz. Let’s begin!

There are three ways to use essential oils. The first is topical, whether diluted with a carrier oil or not (depending on the oil), applied directly to the affected area. The second, aromatic, consists of putting a couple of drops of the oil(s) in water in a diffuser. The third, which is probably the most difficult, is internal. You can buy empty veggie caps and fill them with a combination of carrier oils and essential oils. Most of these I would recommend applying topically for the best chance of relief.

Back pain:
Ginger
Wintergreen
Lavender

Nerve pain:
Eucalyptus

Neck pain:
Chamomile
Lavender
Frankincense

Shoulder pain:
Chamomile
Lavender
Frankincense

Knee pain:
Wintergreen
Rosemary
Ginger
Frankincense

TMJ pain:
Wintergreen
Lavender

Foot pain:
Frankincense
Wintergreen

Kidney pain:
Lavender
Thyme

Tendon pain:
Frankincense
Wintergreen

Hip pain:
Frankincense
Wintergreen
Lavender

Leg pain:
Rosemary
Wintergreen

Bone pain:
Frankincense
Wintergreen
Eucalyptus

 

I hope this gives you a good jumping off point for using essential oils in your everyday life to ease your pain. As you can see, only a few are needed for a variety of applications. I think oftentimes people think a ton of money must be spent on essential oils, but that’s not the case at all. I urge you to try these.