Category Archives: Wellness

Simple Fixes Can Make All The Difference

I’ve got to say, I was damn near having PTSD flashbacks watching this man walk. That’s exactly what shape I was in twenty years ago.  You don’t feel the pain as part of the memory,  but you just hunch your shoulders, tighten your muscles and hold your breath due to a combination muscle memory and fear… you fear that pain.  Once you know it, there’s no joking about it, and the thought of going back there can be absolutely paralyzing.

 

The pain was so excruciating, it felt like lightning strikes from even the slightest move in the wrong direction.  If you put your right hand on your hip, that little dip where your thumb is resting was the point of origin for the pain and it went straight down my leg.

 

My primary care doctor just kept handing me pills… 40 mg Oxycontin three times a day, which I kept telling them that they weren’t working, but that was the new miracle drug on the scene then so in their opinion it was about finding the right dosage, no matter how high the dosage or how often it was taken because it couldn’t NOT work; it was a miracle after all, right?
I was given Percocet for breakthrough pain (which was incredibly necessary since it was ALL breakthrough pain!) but still mixed with the Oxycontin I was taking.  Parkinson’s meds for the restless leg caused by a herniated disc,  Klonopin because the pain caused me to be really anxious (go figure) and a host of more pharmaceutical granola, including the 150 mg of Zoloft I was taking twice a day mainly due to the pain meds and my Depo-Provera shots.  I didn’t find out about Depo causing extreme depression until 7 years later.

 

No one thought to look at my neck even though they all knew what had happened to me in an earlier accident and the damage that was done.  It’s been twenty years and I’m still dealing with the nerve and muscle damage in my neck and left trapezius muscle.  At least now I know if this ever starts up again that the ice pack needs to go on my neck, not on my the back of my hip.

This really reinforces my dislike for allopathic practices, they treat the symptoms, they don’t work towards finding definitive answers regarding causative issues and never work towards curing or helping the body learn to help itself.  Holistic approaches, treating the patient instead of the symptom, homeopathic remedies that take so little to do so much with no side effects, addictions, OD’s, etc.  Considering the opioid problem we’re having in this country you’d think they’d shy away from things that are addictive or that you can OD from.

 

My gallbladder went rogue a couple of years ago and became my enemy.  It took me a week of pain so severe that I was ready to die. The pain was so severe that it grossly exceeded my natural childbirth.  I had a high fever joined with pain meds which caused me to hallucinate or pass out with horrific nightmares – that included feeling the pain from within the events of the nightmare.  If it was a choice of staying in the bed to die or going down the mile long gravel road that rattled your teeth loose that would cause even more pain, I was ready to die in that bed.

I finally had a brief window where the pain had subsided so I asked my roommate at the time to take me to the ER where they admitted me immediately.  Once the antibiotics started doing their job, the pain subsided as it should have (thank God!) and I didn’t need a whole lot of pain meds.  I asked for a couple Tylenol and was instead given a shot of morphine!  Why?  Because it was easier for the staff.  And again, it was over-medicating instead of dealing with the patient (in this case me) to see what’s going on instead of assuming.  I finally told them then to mark my chart to say that I am allergic to morphine to keep them from doing it again.

 

Watching that video, all I could think was how much pain I would have been spared, how much time that Kid wouldn’t have been so neglected as a result, and that still throws shadows on our relationship to this day.  How many people could be treated differently, not only with dignity but in partnership with their doctor to actively work together to solve or treat things to achieve the best outcomes for the patients?  I have fibromyalgia and talk to anyone who has it and they can tell you about the disrespect and mistreatment and/or lack of treatment that they have had because of it.

This country needs to stop being grabbed by the  ______  from the pharmaceutical companies that want us on multiple pills so they make multiple sales, and push for treatment because a cure doesn’t help their bottom line in perpetuity.

We need to be seen as patients, not as symptoms.  We’re not a pile of disconnected body parts, we’re all connected, and it means that we shouldn’t be treated as a series of separate body parts.  Maybe then we can return quality of live and work on being a healthier country overall.

 

We’ll talk again soon, 
Maggie  

 
 

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Be Your Own Advocate!!

As little as 40 years ago, it was not considered out of the ordinary for a doctor to treat patients as “less than”, woman especially because we had a society that regarded marriage as ownership.  Their voices were ignored and they were treated as though they were mentally damaged and didn’t have the capacity to understand what they were being told, so the husband did the answering and the ordering.

One where the husband was the one making decisions for his wife, rather than what the woman wanted/needed for herself.  Going back a little further you had instructions on how to behave for your husband and how he may discipline you.  Believe it or not, spanking a wife was somewhat commonplace (and it had nothing to do with 50 Shades, for those wondering.)

My mother and my Great Aunt were both overlooked as their husbands were asked for a medical authorization.  Back then a husband could call the doctor and get test results, find out how their office visit went, etc and make decisions for his wife going forward without the slightest bit of input from the one receiving the care.

Another Great Aunt was taken by her husband (because she wasn’t “allowed” to drive, his rules) to the dentist’s office to get a filling in her tooth.  Her husband asked what condition the rest of them were in, then with that information told the dentist to remove all of her teeth and give her dentures because he didn’t want to be dumping a bunch of money on his wife’s dental care.

Can you imagine being in the dentists’ chair waiting for your tooth to be drilled, only for the doctor to come over and just started pulling her teeth!  She was 25 years old and had absolutely no say in the matter, her husband told him what to do and that was the end of the discussion.

That time is gone.  Thank the gods.

 

Woman With A 50-Pound Ovarian Cyst Was
Initially Told To Just Lose Weight!!

 

We also used to be a society where doctors weren’t questioned, much less second-guessed because he was seen as the demi-god of treatment and healing.  My grandmother wound up with chemical burns and needed skin grafting due to a definite case of malpractice …but you didn’t pursue that back then. (This was when the nurses still wore white.)  Frankly, if doctors were all that, there’d be no need for medical insurance.

Thankfully, now we encourage second opinions on major issues or procedures, and especially surgery.  You must be your own advocate, no one else will be.  Remember that you are not at the mercy of your doctor.  He works for you and you pay your premiums to the insurance company so they can pay for your assorted medical needs.

They work for you

I saw the article about this poor woman with the cyst and I flashed back to all those terrible stories.  And of course, if a woman appears to be overweight, then she just needs to get off her butt and do some exercise.  This is something that would have been seen on a simple office ultrasound, but no, she needed to go on a diet.  This woman knew something was wrong with her body, but the doctor dismissed it.

There’s a number of different things that can cause weight gain in a centralized area like that, but he didn’t bother to check for any of those either.  Hell, I have a cousin that was used to her weight fluctuating so she just wore bigger baggy clothes.  That is until she was in so much pain that she thought she would die and they ran her to the ER only to find out it wasn’t her appendix bursting, it was that her water needed to break since she was in active labor.  But the whole time she was being told that she needed to exercise more, that she was getting fat.

The next time you know that something’s wrong with your body and it’s a significant issue and your doctor blows you off, tell him that he needs to prove you wrong, he needs to run the test to see if there is an underlying cause and not just chalking it up to overeating and under-exercising.  You have to stand up for yourself, don’t let them “tell you”, have a conversation with them.  Ask them why they feel that their diagnosis is the best for describing your current health.  Ask if there are any tests that can be done that can confirm or rule out things so you’re not waiting until something gets really bad.

I’m looking at having surgery this fall, my best friend is coming down to go with me to the surgeon’s so he can be my extra eyes and ears.  If you’ve got a friend or relative willing to do that for you, great.  I also used to carry a 3-ring binder with test results and whatnot in it.

Even now I have a small notebook in my TN that I am writing in regularly.  Appointment times & dates, recap the appointment, then I add what comments or questions that I want to address with them on the next visit.  Talk to them as peers, not as a subordinate waiting for the crumbs they throw you.

Have a good day and take it easy.

Maggie ॐ 

 

 

We’re Suffering and It’s Real, Too Real In Fact

Image result for free images for blogs fibromyalgia

Once again I saw another human at the end of their rope because a friend, loved one, co-worker or any other allegedly sentient being on the planet did a number on them about their fibromyalgia.  

The stories are always the same… “you’re an attention seeker”, “you’re lazy and trying to get out of _____”, “it’s not really *a thing*, it’s just lazy doctors who want to dump people in a pile when they don’t want to find out what’s *really* wrong with you – or – there’s nothing wrong with you, everyone feels that way from time to time.”

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Speaking on behalf of our brothers and sisters, here and across the globe. Our pain and symptoms are very real, regardless if you “buy it” or not.  We do not need you to be patronizing, to offer us lip service, telling us what *you think* we want to hear, or have you be downright defiant and dismissive of what we are going through by claiming it to be “all in your head”, or that it’s a “b*llsh*t excuse the doctors use when they don’t know what’s wrong. To some degree. that last one is correct.  

Image result for free images for blogs fibromyalgia

Doctors used to write off symptoms that they could not find the root cause, lumping them in a pile named fibromyalgia.  As a result, what’s happened is that someone finally noticed similarities in all of the patients’ symptoms in that pile. After that, they started recognizing that this is a real, somewhat treatable, currently incurable disease/condition.   It is unknown as to whether the cause of the symptoms are in the nerves or if it is in an area of the brain sending wrong signals which cause our symptoms or environmental sources. I’m inclined to believe it is the latter two, but I don’t know any more than anyone else.

Why are some people allergic to something and some else, even in their own family sometimes, are able to binge on.  I was born with several health problems including a severe intolerance to lactose and in those days (no old jokes please) there weren’t the options that there are now.  My sister came along 5 years later, spent 3-4 days a week in the hospital under an oxygen tent.  Once they were afraid that her heart could wind up damaged from all the epinephrine they were giving her, they finally agreed to allergy testing.

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Out of the 204 things that she was tested for, thankfully she was *only* allergic to… 196 of them.  Only… sheesh.  And guess what, none of ours overlapped and still haven’t.  I have spinal diseases, she had cancer,  She’s allergic to morphine and it doesn’t even work for me.  The list of differences goes on an on.   The same is true for fibro, we’re all alike, and we’re all different.

I read somewhere that fibro can be caused by a traumatic experience where you got hurt. For me that makes total sense, that’s when mine reared its ugly head, but you could put 200 people in a room and only perhaps  7% of us would be able to point to it as when fibro walked into our lives like a person you can’t stand who now won’t leave your house.

Read More about the
100 Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Personally, I think we’re all f*cked to some degree because we are all members of what I refer to as  the Pop-Tart generation. So many things were not on the landscape until the 60’s with the ‘fortified with  vitamins and minerals”, why did it need to be fortified in the first place? Pop-Tarts were fortified with 5 vitamins when they started and now it’s 16 and calcium and fiber? Why was Tang nutritionally better than orange juice? Cold cereal was introduced, prior to this it was oatmeal, Cream-of-Wheat or grits, and we all know what the ingredient list looks like on the side of the box of cereal.  We started running public water to more families, fluoridated of course. Our bodies have been beaten like a bad boxer with no end in sight.  

We need acceptance, acknowledgment, better treatment, and a hope for a cure. Empathy and the willingness to take us our word for it won’t cost you a thing; much like manners, this is free to use and available 24/7 if you choose.

Thanks for listening

Maggie ॐ 
“Art and Giving are Food for the Soul”​

Why are you whispering? Check Them Before You Wreck Them!!

Editor’s note:  I received the same message today that I received last year.  Oddly enough, today would have been my mother’s 75th birthday.  She’s gone now, thanks to metastasized breast cancer.  If you do nothing else for yourself, please do the and share it with the people in your life.


It’s that time of year again, and by that I mean it’s the time for slacktivism in the name of breast cancer. While the games haven’t surfaced (yet), There’s a different one currently going on.  I woke up to see a notification on messenger from my friend’s daughter that said the following:

She sent the words, I made the graphic.

As per my usual stance, I had to tell her no because these things make me angry but assured her that I would get a reminder out.  If you’re new to following me, I must explain that I get really angry with the slactivism.  You see both of my parents died of cancer.  My father died of a mesothelioma (the ones that the attorneys advertise) and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer just 6 months later.

She went through months of medication and radiation, constantly in pain from the literal burns to her skin.  6-1/2 years later, and after yet another clean bill of health from her bi-annual checkups from her breast oncologist, we went on the vacation she’d always dreamed of to Alaska. She had fallen getting in and out the boat she boarded to go salmon fishing.  She caught a nice one too, over 2 feet long!


When we got home her shoulder suddenly started getting worse instead of better.  That’s when they found a spot on her liver.  They did further testing and revealed that a tumor was in her liver and not on it as it appeared initially and was progressing pretty rapidly.   With the confirmation, they gave her 4-6 months to live, but she died one month later when the tumor had grown so large that it literally caused her liver to rupture/explode.


Oddly enough her death certificate lists the cause of death, not as liver cancer, but as metastasized breast cancer, meaning that breast cancer returned had spread.  We knew that the breast cancer could come back in the breast and we knew that it could spread to other areas of the body, but none of us knew that it could spread to other organs while it wasn’t present in the breast, making it that much more serious and why we should be diligent about keeping ourselves alive and healthy.


Now for those who haven’t been around someone with cancer, there are several forms of treatment; chemo and radiation being to the two biggest.  Radiation therapy causes a burn to the skin that’s like the worst sunburn you’ve ever had. It was brutal, and it hurt her so badly, just putting a t-shirt on was painful and putting on a bra and going to work, much less going to work all day.  Think about working with the worst sunburn you’ve ever had and then multiply it several times.  It can also cause other issues like lumps under the skin (doesn’t that sound like it would be pleasant to add to the already wonderful situation.

Chemotherapy is another type of radiation therapy but instead of being topical (directed to the skin from outside the body) it is invasive, meaning taken internally.  And because it’s an invasive therapy, it means that it can have side effects anywhere in the body instead of it remaining in the area targeted like radiation therapy does.  There’s too long of a list for me to cover all the side effects of chemotherapy;  if you’d like to see them and learn more please visit the National Cancer Institute’s Chemotherapy Side Effects series, there are 18 documents in total.

Educating yourself and others are what needs to be done to finally win this battle.  Cancer has claimed *BILLIONS* of lives.  There is nothing to whisper about behind the scenes. Preventing cancer is not in poor taste, it’s not obscene.  For the record not only do men have wives, mothers, girlfriends, sisters and daughters who have, have had or possibly will have this and they need to know about this too, men can also get breast cancer.  Tell me the last time you saw a game of tag about that?

So speak up and speak out.  Stop whispering and playing online games, and thinking you’re off the hook because you bought something with a pink ribbon on it in the past 20 years.  We need to save the people, not the tatas.

So please, check them before cancer wrecks them.  If you’re a woman who is sexually active, consider doing it with your partner since chances are they are more intimate with your boobs than you are (or at least they try to be).  The Five Steps of a Breast Cancer Exam

So remember…

 

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie ॐ 

 
  Maggie Valera
“Art and Giving are Food for the Soul”

 

P.S.  While we’re talking about it, guys need to be reminded too.

 

 

Yes, #metoo

To my fellow #metoo survivors, I am so thankful to have met you and have been witness to your strength. Without uttering a word, we both know what the other has suffered at the hands of others. Knowing that we have this commonality, while not something to celebrate, truly is a gift. Few can truly understand, and many, no matter how close to us they are, will never share that commonality and understanding that you and I and too many others do.

This is such an awkward time. There are so many who support us and stand up for us even if they don’t know our names or faces, who “celebrate” this scandal as a victory of sorts, uncovering the ugly secrets from the back of the Hollywood closets and recognize that open communication and solidarity are the only things that can keep this plague of systemic abuse at bay.

#MeToo: Harvey Weinstein case moves thousands to tell their own stories of abuse, break silence

They’re right, but sadly no matter how much we appreciate their support, what they don’t realize is that as this story stays in the forefront, all of us…even without thinking about one single detail of our own incidents, are drowning in the flood of emotions that come with it. Some might call it empathy, however, I think PTSD is a more apt description. We’re left trying to stay on our feet while these waves come crashing against us, furiously trying to keep our head up and not get pulled down by the undertow.

So for those of you who see #metoo, we thank you for your support even though we might not be able to say it just yet, and please know that your support will help in our healing.

I wish you peace and prosperity, 

Maggie ॐ

PTSD Awareness

June is PTSD Awareness Month, and it’s more common than you might realize.

PTSD-after-Open-Heart-SurgeryWhat is PTSD?

It’s estimated that approximately 20% of combat vets suffer from PTSD and only half will seek treatment.  But they’re not alone. Originally noted by terms of “shell shock” and “battle fatigue”, we’ve come to realize that it’s not just soldiers who suffer from this. Anyone who has been subject to a severe emotional trauma can experience this as their mind tries to process what has happened.

Abuse victims, rape victims, victims of violent crimes, combat, natural disasters, etc. all take time to emotionally heal from what they’ve experienced. However when the symptoms are severe and they last more than four months, they may very well have PTSD.

PTSD occur

It’s estimated that as many 8% of all Americans (over 24 million) will experience PTSD in their lifetime.  We tend to hear the term thrown around but I wonder how many people really know what it is?

PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is characterized by three types of symptoms:

Reliving the event – Most commonly known as flashbacks or triggers, hearing a car backfire can trigger someone to re-experience sounds of gunfire, seeing a car accident can cause someone to relive their own traumatic event, etc.  Something as subtle as a news broadcast or online video, a sound or even a smell can trigger this things during waking life.  Reliving the event in dreams is common as well.

Avoidance of reminders – This can be avoiding tv or movies with similar subject matter such as war movies or ones with fires, earthquakes or one where a character is raped, or avoiding similar locations.  For example, getting robbed at an atm may cause you to only take cash out when you’re at the store so you don’t have to go near the bank.

Having been in a shoe store when it got robbed caused one of my best friends to not be able to bring herself to go in that chain store again for many years; and not just that location but all of them since they all look-alike.

Feeling numb or keyed up – Staying “numb”, shutting down emotionally as a means of not dealing with feeling… with people, activities or even forgetting parts of the traumatic event or just not be able to talk about them.

Being “keyed up” includes sudden rushes to anger or irritability, trouble sleeping or concentrating, becoming almost paranoid about your safety or startling very easily.

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I was working in a restaurant years ago as an hourly supervisor when we were robbed at gunpoint.  No one was hurt thankfully and it was over in about a minute.  It was my last day of work before vacation which I thought was a blessing at the time but it turned out to be my downfall.  With not being there, I wasn’t able to deal with it and fear took over.  When I did go back to work, I couldn’t be anywhere near the register without breaking into a sweat from a panic attack.  My boss was very understanding and accommodated me stepping down from my supervisory position for a couple of weeks and kept me in the kitchen. Sadly it just got worse.

After 9 years with the company I wound up putting in my notice and left because I just couldn’t handle even being in the building anymore. I had nightmares regularly for a couple of years after the incident, each time I wound up getting shot, even though no one got hurt in real life.

A year later my family and I went out to dinner (my daughter was 4 at the time) and my sister noticed a sign that it was supposed to be family night complete with a clown and balloons.  As the server came by my sister asked where the clown was and that my daughter would enjoy a balloon only to be told that he had already left for the night since there weren’t many children in the restaurant.  I was tending to my daughter and heard my sister exclaim “we got robbed” – speaking of the clown and the balloons.  I however broke into a cold sweat and started crying and eventually excused myself to go throw up.  The very definition of being “keyed up” and “startling easily”

I’ve dealt with many things in my life, which to me (on paper at least) would seem to be more traumatic that this one minute window of time… but it derailed me for a several years.  I have no idea why one incident would create such a lasting effect while others did not.  I never sought help, in fact I didn’t even know that what I experienced even had a name.  It wasn’t until many years later when I was retelling the story to someone when they told me it was PTSD.  Had I or someone around me known what it was, I could have sought help to deal with it.

The effects of PTSD run deep

PTSD doesn’t just affect your moods and  your dreams. There is a physiological component to PTSD.  Studies have shown that there are physical changes that take place in the brain.  In other words, your brain gets rewired.  That’s why overcoming it is so difficult. Most affected are the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex.

The brain controls everything, so physiological changes can affect all areas of your body and life.  The limbic system, located deep in the cerebrum, is composed of the amygdala, the hippocampus and they hypothalamus.

The amygdala deals with our primal instincts – fear, panic and all that’s associated with it; Heart rate changes,  sweaty palms, tremors, even nausea and diarrhea.

The hippocampus handles memory which is why people with PTSD can lose sections of their memory and even what’s called “anterograde amnesia” which is the inability to form new memories even if the old ones are completely intact.  These changes are thought to be caused by increased exposure to cortisol, also known the “stress” hormone.

The hypothalamus controls hormone production.  It affects sex drive, weight gain, sleep, thirst, body temperature, hunger and the release of hormones from other glands including the pituitary.  The pituitary gland is a critical part of our ability to respond the environment around us, most often without our knowledge.

The prefrontal cortex area controls your cognitive behavior, decision-making and even appropriate social behavior.

That’s just the start of it.  These changes convert into pain sensitivity, auto-immune disorders, fibromyalgia, etc.  Alcohol and drug use and abuse are frequent occurrences as well in the attempt to self-medicate and cope with all that one is dealing with.  As you can see, it’s not just a simple bad memory but your world being turned completely out of control.

 

National-PTSD-Awareness-Day1-226x300

If you’ve had symptoms like these, please find someone to talk to and know that you’re not alone.  If you know someone who is having these issues, please give them the help and empathy they need to deal with it.  Know that they have to heal in their own time.  There is no schedule, no cure, no pill they can take to make it go away, just time, support and understanding.

June is PTSD awareness month, and I’m so glad that it’s getting a bit of a spotlight, but knowing exactly what it is, is crucial to dealing with it.  So please, share the word.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

Spending Time With You

I saw a piece that came through on Buzz Feed entitled 31 Delightful Things To Do By Yourself.  I really enjoyed seeing that piece come around and I really hope that it inspires  younger people to do things solo.  Not just because it’s frugal, but because it’s necessary.  When I was younger I didn’t know how to spend time with myself nor did I want to.  While I love spending time with friends and family, I am finally at a point in my life where I enjoy my own company.  It took me way too long to get here.

After all the years that I spent being an active mother and wife, I realized that I spent my time as the hub in all the activities. I was included with each person individually and as a family, but I never went off on my own adventures even though my husband kept unsuccessfully trying to encourage me to do so.  (Thanks for trying ARV, you were right.)

My daughter moved out and that was a bit of an adjustment.  I think kids are more prepared to leave the house then the parents are to let it happen.  With her gone, it just left me and my husband together (constantly) and that was not good at all. After a few years of that we separated and it left me alone and scared to death.

Here I am two years later, and while I still enjoy my time with others, I’ve really come to value and enjoy my time by myself.  I write, I paint, I craft, I read, and I meditate. I spend time with you and the rest of my online friends.  I enjoy going out to dinner occasionally (when I can afford it LOL) with my kindle.

I like going shopping and just wandering around the stores looking at things, or going for a drive and checking out the landscape. I love listening to music, I read and occasionally I turn on the TV.  And the best part?  I never have to negotiate what I’ll be watching or feeling trapped and wishing I could be doing something else instead.

Spring Dreams2
This is my latest painting, I made it for my niece and her husband. That is their initials and their wedding date on the tree trunk.

As we go through life we find out that we don’t stay the “hub”, as our children become the “hub” of their own families and lives.  We may be married, single (or widowed).  We need to enjoy ourselves and value ourselves as others do.  So take the time to make friends with yourself; take yourself out on dates, spend quality time with yourself and make sure you’re giving yourself the same time out of “family time” that other family members get, you really need it.

What things to you enjoy doing on your own?

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie