Saturday, May 31, 2014

Oooh, my aching head

Since 1968 I've had a headache.  That's when I remember it as a long term event, anyway.  Having my first "career" job,  I would climb out of bed at 6 a.m. and dash to the kitchen for a swig of diet Pepsi and two aspirin -- every morning.  Usually that would last me until bedtime. 

Around 1975 Hubby introduced me to Vanquish, a form of aspirin high in caffeine.  By then I'd realized that caffeine had the ability to keep the headache at bay, even though most people believe it causes headaches.

The thing is, I've never had a migraine -- or at least what most folks describe as migraines.  I don't see auras, I don't throw up, I don't have to lie down -- I simply have an ache in my head.  Mostly it's not even worth calling it a pain and usually two Vanquish when I climb out of bed sets me up for the day, especially since I've been retired.

By the time I quit teaching I was taking the Vanquish a ridiculous amount of times a day -- but it also seemed to help the arthrtis aches, as well, so I wasn't especially worried.  Once I quit pounding concrete floors and feeling stressed out, the headache lessened enough to need only 2 capsules in the morning.   

I don't tell my doctors about the headache but I do list the Vanquish on my list of meds that I take daily.  Most doctors have suggested that Tylenol might be a better solution but that simply doesn't work for me - ever, not even for the smallest pain or ouchie. I believe I could swallow a whole bottle, and except for getting sick to my tummy, I wouldn't touch a single ache.  

The lit says that Vanquish is actually an aspirin/acetaminophen caplet with two buffers and a heap of caffeine.  Anacin is supposed to be its equivalent, but for me it doesn't come close.  Of course this may be all in my head (like the headache) but it could also relate to the extra dose of caffeine in the Vanquish.  

My new physician, Dr. Parvin, of the Center of Integrative Therapy, is the first person to question why I take Vanquish every day -- rather than just try to substitute something for it (or ignore it all together).  I told her about the headache so my last acupuncture was actually to relieve "headache" - as was my last massage.  Parvin also suggested some alternatives to the Vanquish but she actually realized my resistance and reliance on the medication, and said, "Okay, take two in the morning -- yes, every morning -- but try to limit intake after that."

Bless her.  

The headache is still there -- for me it really feels like one long stretch of minor "ache" since 1968.  I can't remember a time I didn't have it in some degree of strength.  I've been diagnosed with a pretty severe case of TMJ so that probably contributes but my jaws never, ever ache and I'm NOT wearing that mouth guard they hand out (I'm sure I could NOT breathe with it in my mouth -- even if I could I'm SURE I couldn't).  When I had severe allergies the headache was worse but then three years of allergy shots really helped during the 1980's.  

High humidity days also seem to make the headache worse.  As well, of course, as lack of sleep.  Lately I've developed a brand new sleeplessness -- I don't sleep at all at night and I stumble through the morning like a zombie.  Then, in the afternoon, if I sit down to read or watch TV I fall asleep sitting up.  So the following night I repeat the pattern -- up all night, zombie-like all day.  

This morning the headache was a pounding, nasty deep pain in the front of my head.  I've had the two Vanquish but I can tell that this is probably a six Vanquish day -- if not eight.  Napping won't help -- it will only keep me up longer tonight when I do finally try to sleep.  Sometimes, if the headache is really severe (and this actually quite rare -- probably like most people who get a pounding head once in a while), laying still in a dark room may help.  

Otherwise, you just grin and bear it -- and be very grateful that Bayer keeps producing Vanquish.  I can't find it in the stores these days (it was popular only during the 1960's and '70's) -- but I can order it in bulk on-line.  I get a case a year of the stuff, delivered right to my door.  It's salted in all my purses, pockets, and travel bags.  It's probably a case of "if you believe," the pain will abate.  The 40 year headache may not go away but it can be ignored and most of the time, actually not noticed.  

Like the "bad" back pain, the headache is just something I've learned to live with and accept.  Interesting the things we are willing to accommodate - and those we find totally unacceptable.  Being retired, this lack of sleeping at night is probably really not so problematic.  I could actually sleep anytime I really wanted to -- but THIS problem I want solved.  I don't even mention the back or the head to my doctors; I only complain about the sleeplessness. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Hero Dies

She said:  When you learn, teach, when you get, give."

And she did.

We sing her praise and remember her with gratitude.

Maya Angelou's body died today - but her spirit lives in us all.  She IS our teacher. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Kim and Kayne Got Married

The nuptials between Kim Kardashian and Kanye West was really all the world seemed to acknowledge this Memorial Day weekend but in our little part of the world we had a quiet birthday / remembrance celebration by staying at home.

We picked up barbecue from Gates ("Hi, May I help you?") late Sunday morning -- just before the rush hit the restaurant; they always have a crowd on the summer picnic holidays.  It was beef and a half sandwiches for us both with fries for Hubby and potato salad for me.  The sandwiches were big enough to feed two starving Schnauzers and two adults for both Sunday dinner and supper. 

Hubby offered either fried chicken from Stroud's or steak and baked potato from Jess and Jim's in Martin City for a more formal celebration, but I just wasn't feeling it (the new vitamins are sort of playing havoic with my digestive track).  Dinner at home without underwear sounded so sweet so we went for it.

Hubby had gotten me a small chocolate cake from the fancy Swiss bakery just up from the Plaza, Andres, and a box of their handmade chocolates.  We completed our lazy Sunday afternoon bathed in a chocolate glow. 

I got the small box - the big one costs a fortune!
Hubby happily watched Cannon, the Love Boat, and Rockford Files on ME TV (he's become hooked on any shows from the 1960's and '70's) and I read my Kindle.  We didn't have a jet set party but we did have a nice, quiet celebration at home. 

how to party withOUT your underwear!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Winning, little by little

I freely admit, even though I'm vastly overweight, I will NEVER go on a diet again.  I've tried all the fad stuff in the 1970's, even used those diet pills.  I was clearly on speed and I acted like it but I did lose the weight, faster and easier than I thought possible.  But those nasty little pills screwed up my head and changed my personality so when I re-gained the weight after I stopped the pills and began eating again, I found I couldn't stand what they did to me when I tried them yet again. 

In the 1980's I went on the Nutrisystem diet.  I hated every single m minute of it but, again, I stuck with the program and lost 60 pounds in three months.  What? you say.  Didn't you know that you wouldn't keep the weight off losing like that? 

Here's the thing, though -- fat people, at least this fat person, deeply believes in all the diet hype and that suffering is the only way to actually lose weight.  I was miserable the entire three months I stayed on Nutrisystem and felt more and more deprived with every passing day.  Seeing the pounds fall off did not alleviate the misery. 

Nutrisystem gives you prepared meals that you eat three times a day and twice you are allowed snacks (a sliced cucumber in the afternoon and one of their own snacks like a brownie after dinner).  The meals were so tiny that I always felt starved.  I can remember licking the box I had nuked the meal in to make sure I had gotten every last morsel.  Also, the food tasted really bad.  You ate it only because you were so very hungry. 

The Nutrisystem food plies your system with lots of preservatives but no starch or fat.  For me, all this weird eating eventually caused my gall bladder to belly-up (now this is a known problem with the diet -- but then I had no idea the problems I was causing myself -- after all, slimmer people are healthier, right?). 

Just as you suspected, the minute I stopped eating Nutrisystem food I regained all the weight and a few pounds more just for good measure.  That was when I announced to the family and Hubby that I was no longer going to diet.  If the weight caused me to drop dead five years earlier than expected, that was just five years of dollars that I wouldn't need for my retirement benefits. 

I tell all my doctors that I'm not going to diet.  The woman physician I saw when I was teaching was aghast and kept telling me all the horrors that awaited me as I aged at this weight.  I never bothered to explain to her that I'd had misery after misery on diets and always, eventually failed, so her litany of problems just washed over me.  My current GP, Dr. Patel, has patiently tried to introduce better habits a little at a time.  He champions the water aerobics and he's pleased that I walk the dogs once a day while he tries to persuade me that a walk with the boys after every meal would increase all our happiness, both the boys and me. 

At the Interpretive Center I've been clear that I am not going to diet.  However, I did agree to add in some of the fresh veggies and fruits every day, even if what I was really eating for a meal was Fritos (it's not sweets that call me -- it's the crunchy, salty stuff).  I'm also gun-ho for the seafood portion of the meals, like shrimp -- except I put a lovely cream sauce on mine.  I'm just not telling the doc about that. 
Today's lunch was a scoop of cottage cheese, a stalk of fresh broccoli, a cucumber sliced and marinated in my grandmother's sweet / sour dressing (onions, vinegar, sugar), a scoop of Hubby's apple / orange / honeydew fruit salad, and a small plate of Spanish rice made with some hamburger (from Hubby's diabetic cookbook).  I enjoyed every mouthful and at the end, I was actually fully satisfied.  I didn't even need a cheese cracker or a Frito (all of which I do have in the house -- because, like Scarlett O'Hara, as God is my witness I am never going to go hungry again!).

I picked up the pills from the script for the vitamin D (10 drams) today and the vitamin B complex and melatonin have arrived in the mail.  Tomorrow I will begin adding in the new meds into my daily regime.  We did water aerobics this morning and the water felt fine.  I'm having a lot more pain because I'm off nearly all the pain meds but my mood has not suffered accordingly and I'm withstanding my bum knees pretty well (though at water aerobics the instructor asked what was wrong when I tried to pull my knee behind me and grab my ankle -- good gravy it hurt!). 

For the moment -- and I know this is all new so therefore exciting -- all systems are "go!"  I'm not counting the days or the calories or the pounds; everything is based on improving my mood and feeling more positive about life -- and finally getting a good night's sleep. 

In case I need some dessert

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New blood work -- new results

In March my GP prescribed a set of blood tests that showed some concern for my kidneys and a possibility that I was on the edge of diabetes.  I wasn't worried about the diabetes because I'd sort of cheated and had a small glass of orange juice the morning of the test -- it wasn't much juice and I drank it about two hours before the test because I didn't realize I was going in for blood work -- but it probably made the blood sugar reading just a little high,.  The idea that I was in a pretty advanced stage of kidney failure scared me, though.  Nobody wants to submit to dialysis in their old age.

When the Integrative Therapy clinic wanted more blood tests, frankly I was sort of relieved.  I could make sure this test was clean and the readings would be accurate.  Friday's results were much more pleasing -- no sign of diabetes at all and the kidney levels were all within normal range.  Hugh sigh of relief. 

The only problem that could be treated with meds was the vitamin D deficiency.  Rickets, anyone?  The only folks I ever heard of who had such a problem were the old time sailors without fresh food on their long voyages.  Seems I'm really lacking in D -- enough so that a very high dose has been prescribed from the pharmacy -- so high that it can only be taken once a week, instead of those paltry over the counter 1000 unit pills swallowed daily.  I'm also to take melatonin but only 1 mg at bedtime and B-complex once a day.  These I've ordered on-line because the price is so much cheaper. 

I love the massage that has been prescribed.  It's wonderful to have someone touch you so intimately and with such assurance -- and only want you to relax and feel good after.  I think I actually did feel better last week.  Certainly my mood improved just a little every day.  After the acupuncture and massage on Monday and Tuesday, a friend treated me to a pedicure with all the works and it was heavenly, too.  By the weekend I was really encouraged but then Sunday night / Monday morning I lay in bed, not sleeping, getting angrier and angrier that Hubby insisted on having the TV on, even though I couldn't find a way to sleep through it.  The whole day Monday I was just pissed off and way too tired. 

(Maybe I was just pissed that nobody was paying me any attention over the weekend -- like I'd gotten all the previous week.  I'm quite capable of admitting that having folks focus on MY health for a change might have had a mood elevating affect)

We did water aerobics and I had a massage Monday afternoon and all that began to de-stress me out of my bad mood.  Last night I slept pretty well (for me -- I got up and read a magazine at 2 a.m. but by 3:30 I was back asleep). 

Then today I got the good news that my kidneys were not at stage 3 of renal failure and my creatinine levels were good, however I still needed to back off on the arthritis meds to ensure they stayed in normal range.  My blood sugars were perfect (as they always should be).

I actually have been eating more fruits and veggies -- today's lunch was a green salad with a huge stalk of broccoli.  And some cheese crackers -- because I'm not dieting, I'm just eating BETTER. 

I see the Integrative Therapy doctor next Monday for another round of treatment.  I'm honestly  looking forward to it.  Then mid-June I go back to the GP to assess my progress.  Hopefully, things will continue to improve -- and I will not come down with rickets. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

A diet JUST for me

For 41 years I've mostly cooked what Hubby enjoyed eatingt.  We ate a lot of pasta and tomato based dishes.  We ate pork and red meat.  We had the fruit he enjoyed -- apples, pears, oranges, melon.  That's not to say I didn't like them, also -- I did.  I was very happy with our diet -- and the things I really loved, like seafood, I mostly ate when we dined out.

This alternative / integrative therapy I'm undertaking suggest I eat four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit daily, with a minimum of meat and a lot of fish.  Since Hubby has been sick and eating has become a problem for him, I've really not been eating his "type" of food anyway.  A bowl of mashed potatoes is really not my cup of tea for dinner, so I've been dinning on things that cooked quickly and with a minimum of effort for me.  Hot dogs had rather become my staple which caused me to think this new diet regime (for me) might be a good thing.

Hubby agreed to make his fruit salad for us -- I already had the melon cut.  When I was out lunching with the retired teachers group from my old high school, he cut up the apples and oranges and added them.  The only problem for me is, he sugars his creation.  He does use sugar substitute but the salad is decidedly sweet and though everyone devours it at Christmas when he makes it, I usually don't partake.  But a small bowl now that I'm required to eat four servings a day seems possible.  I purchased some bananas and strawberries to supplement the sweet salad.

Today I'm steaming broccoli and asparagus, both of which I actually do like but Hubby won't touch.  I even have a small package of haricots verts to steam in the microwave (I've always had canned green beans, never the fancy French variety).  

It was fun shopping just for me.  Hubby had plenty of rice and the veggies in the pantry so I didn't need to feel guilty.  Now if I can only feel more "healthy" and actually sleep at night.  So far, since the acupuncture and massage, I'm batting zero on the improving sleeping thing.   


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Warmth, Music, Peace

This room, again, had plain white walls but the vibe was completely different from yesterday.  In the far left corner sat a small mahogany table topped with an amber lamp, dimmed just enough to throw a warm glow into the room. 

Center place was a white "bed" like table with two pillows, head and foot.  Crisp white sheets covered the surface and were neatly folded for easy body "insertion."

I had come thinking I didn't like other people touching my body.  If, during a pedicure, someone rubbed my legs I'd ask them immediately to stop -- it always hurt. 

I've only had two massages in my life, both during the '80's, at a ritzy spa on The Plaza (those of you who remember Swansons may also remember their day of beauty -- hair, nails, massage, steam, cleansing, and champagne).  I wasn't particularly impressed either time I had been gifted with a certificate to partake. 

I was asked to take off my tee and bra, as well as my shoes and necklace. I chambered up onto the table and was delighted to find the sheets and pillows were warm to the touch -- not hot, just pleasantly relaxing.  The table was heated. 

I was offered a choice of music and picked some new age piano number which played softly in the background.

The masseuse turned me onto my side, placed the warmed pillow under my head and between my legs.  Behind me she opened some bottles and then we began.

Heaven.  Her hands had been warmed like the bedding.  She understood I didn't want deep massage, just soothing, muscular rubbing and she went at it, talking quietly to me about careers, dogs, husbands, homes.  She started as a graphic artist but 16 years ago decided to study massage and become an independent contractor. 

After what seemed like an age, I was turned onto my back, pillows under my head and knees.  She worked each arm, then my shoulders, my neck, and finally my face and scalp. 

It was blissfully relaxing. 

After 30 minutes I was ready to depart.  I paid my bill ($25 for 30 minutes -- you can't beat that and if you want the info just ask) and made my appointment for next week.  

This new age stuff might have something to it, after all. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

Sticking it to me

The office was drab -- brown chairs, white walls.  No magazines, just clinic brochures on the tables.  Only one receptionist, a woman about my size and build but unfailing happy, even when she had trouble inputting files on the computer or scheduling new appointments.

First they took my insurance, then copied my driver's license.  Next came the request to see ALL my meds, which, of course, I had refused to bring.  I do have a nice computer print-out though and this I produced for them to make more copies of, even after I told them to keep it.

The happy receptionist thrust an 11 page intake form at me.  I knew it was coming and had been given some complicated instructions about how to find it on the web, but they were too involved and I didn't want to waste my printer ink on 11 pages of my own health history. 

The questions were detailed and asked a lot of things about pain and problems and health goals.  Next came the pages for activities, pleasurable, necessary, and sexual.  The form provided me four lines to explain my emotional, verbal, or sexual traumas which caused me to become silly -- four lines? I wrote.  "Your must be kidding me."  Nobody followed up on that remark.  Finally came the dietary questions about what I liked to eat, what I did eat, and what I'd eaten that day.  "Nothing for today" was the reply which actually was commented on in the exam; ice cream and Cheetos were last night's dinner. 

The appointment ran late and I had arrived 45 minutes early to make sure I could complete the intake form(s).  I was becoming impatient when finally I was called into an examination room and soon after the doctor, herself, appeared.  She apologized for the tardiness -- the intern I was scheduled to see had been called to the hospital to admit a patient.  Would she do?  She would do fine.

Dr. Gazala Parvin, Medical Director
 We reviewed the 11 page form.  We talked about what I perceived as my health problems -- not what the doctors told me was wrong.  She reviewed all the files from my GP including the recent blood work, which was proving worrisome to everybody. 

"Well, clearly, you need to sleep.  That is what we are going to work on immediately and we may improve pain levels and other problems along the way.  I will propose a "healing" plan and we can decide if you want to follow it."

We had begun.  First she examined my body.  I thought my pain levels were one to naught, but once she began the probing they accelerated quickly.  She was a tiny, slim, fragile looking thing and she had me "woofing and panting" within minutes. 

Acupuncture was to start immediately.  I had seen it performed in the movies but the actual process is nothing like that.  A total of 10 very sharp needles were inserted -- two in my right arm, three in my left.  Immediately it felt like my right arm had swollen into a huge, hot mass of tissue.  It didn't hurt -- it was just very strange.  You do feel the needles being inserted but she had be intake breath at every insertion. 

Two more needles went into my right leg -- the one in the knee actually did cause "pressure" -- a very weird heaviness descended on the entire leg.  Three more went to the left leg.  I had started out with cold feet but quickly the left foot warmed up and felt lovely and warm -- while the right foot remained cold and clammy. 

"You are clearly blocked on your right side," the doctor muttered as she turned out the lights and left me on the table for 20 minutes to "concentrate on your inner core."

I would have said that 20 minutes on a doctor's exam table would have sent me "nuts" but it didn't.  I actually felt "quiet" -- the only way I can describe what those 20 minutes were like.  I didn't squirm or try to write blog entries in my head -- I just "was."

Soon the lights came back on and I was sitting on the patient chair, reviewing the diet I should follow for the next two weeks before my next appointment.  Also I was scheduled for two massages, one tomorrow and one for next week.  We practiced a routine that I must do three times for each area of my body before sleep or whenever I wake up from sleep.  Supplements were advised to go along with my diet and more blood work was required. 

I left light-headed and feeling more relaxed than I had in some time.  Alternative treatment from the Center for Integrative Therapy might actually be a good thing.  I went in skeptical but I feeling pretty "relaxed" about the treatment now.  I think I'll go take that hot bath that was suggested when I left the center's office.  

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Hair -- it is cut

5/1/14 -- following hair cut
No more excuses for not leaving the house.  I went and got the shorn head at 11:30.  Razor cut on the sides, scissor snipped to an inch or less on the top. I got my favorite beautician at Fantastic Sam's -- I will take anybody who is free but I have one person I prefer but will never ask for Ruthie because, with this cut, anybody will do.  However Ruthie invented the cut for me, though it's gotten shorter over the years.  Anyway, I walked in and she just laughed.  Out loud.  Because the hair was standing straight up all over my head and I couldn't control even the razor cut sides. 

During my first iteration teaching (from 1968 until 1990) I went to an actual "beauty shop" once a week.  I was pernamented every three months.  My hair was dyed once the gray showed up.  I got a weekly manicure.  When I quit teaching in KCMO and opened my own business I forgave the weekly appointments and grew my hair long.  Well, as long as it would grow.  I wore it "bun-like" on the middle of the back of my head, often with a colorful bow, ribbon, clip.

Teaching in fall, 1978 -- regular weekly beauty shop appointments kept the hair perfect
Clearly I'm the one in blue, third from left -- and the hair was past shoulder length
When I turned 50 I opted to get a really nice, expensive cut at a chic salon.  Mr. Chris cut my hair into a stylish "do."  Within a week I was back asking him to fix the $150 cut he had designed.  He was "insulted."

That's when I found Fantastic Sam's.  They had a woman who would re-cut my hair so I could maintain it -- and she would permanent it until I actually had body AND curl.  Then I started going semi-regularly, about every four to six months -- for a re-do.

2006 -- notice I'm still denying the gray
 After I retired I finally thought I could get the hair short enough to live without the permanent.  It's been a tough adjustment for me -- but I have found that getting out of bed, tossing a wet comb through the weird mop on my head, and heading out the door has distinct advantages.  True, I'm not "cute" looking -- but few nearly 68 year old women are, so the trade off for ease and comfort has advantages.

Having a new hair cut always puts a little energy into my step and I feel better about myself, if only because now I'm "even" on both sides of my head (you have no idea how annoyed I feel when I look in a mirror and one side of my hair looks puffier / flatter / curlier / longer / shorter than the other).

Now I think I'll take a nap.  It's really chilly outside, the sky is gray and cloudy, and periodically some rain drips from the sky.  At least I've been outside once today.  The TV reruns and DVR are calling my name.