Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dealing With A Flare-Up

I had a fairly productive summer. But when October rolled around, suddenly my fingers and knees got stiff and began to throb. No matter what I took: ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, Norco, and combinations of them, I got no relief. I kept smearing topical ointments on, but the relief was brief. I know I built up a tolerance to all the medications I have and as the weather gets colder, and my body started to hurt more, I started to lose my ability to cope. In one of the many email newsletters I get, there was the ugly word: Hyperalgesia – when you build up a tolerance to Opioids and the probability that they end up making pain worse vs better. I tried to get in to see my PCP sooner, but she’s a popular doctor & is booked for weeks in advance.

I pulled out my knee braces. I pulled out my cane. I wondered how I was going to handle getting supplies I needed or doing my laundry. Meanwhile I went through all my books and printouts and magazine articles searching for a solution. And I was back to what I thought I had overcome: with my entire day being about finding ways to get relief. The only time I got a break from hurting was when I listened to a meditation tape or climbed into a very warm bath. While I was in the water, I was able to completely relax and disconnect from pain.

My doctor appointment was coming up (with my PCP)… and I found the “Partners Against Pain” website. They suggested planning ahead for doctor visits, gathering background materials, and establishing goals for your office visit. Since I did a lot of this anyway, it was reassuring to know this was a good thing for me to do. I worked on this ‘project’ for almost a month—organizing all my thoughts—and typing up a detailed report to hand to my doctor.

At the appointment, I told my doctor that my general weekly activities had included volunteering at the Chamber of Commerce a few half days a week, going for a 20-25 minute walk almost every day, doing some simple exercises on a therapy ball I have at home (plus a few planks and squats against a door), doing some traction at home, and spending time on the internet using facebook and reading email newsletters, reading books, and writing. I added that my huge accomplishment was getting another book finished. SO, I began to feel empowered vs. helpless/hopeless and was doing better, and have been a bit more active than in previous years (haven’t used a wheelchair or motorized cart that are in the stores in a LONG time). I wasn’t prepared for the change of season triggering a major flare-up and dragging me back down again—especially with the onset of hip, leg, thigh and knee pain. If I don’t have my legs, I can’t go for the walks. And there is no heated pool nearby to exercise in. I may also be experiencing some PTSD.

I added that I’ve been able to see Dr. Cully (chiropractor) twice a month for the last year (covered by Medicare with a small co-pay). Yay! I’ve made progress with the regular therapies he offers as far as arthritis in my spine, but there isn’t a whole lot he can do to alleviate the fibromyalgia symptoms. Dr. Cully helped me a LOT with my lower back and neck, but, as with the rib, I am still struggling with the C5-C6/T1-T4 area. He got me an over-the-door traction device to use at home for my neck awhile back (which I regret to not using regularly), but I do get some relief while I’m in it. I have two visits left this year (for chiropractic) that Medicare will pay for. I don’t know how many I will have in 2014. He recently got a heated water-jet massage bed which I get to use for 10 minutes prior to him working on me. When I get an extra $20, I will be able to use it for 30 minutes in the evenings. He also got a decompression table. He hoped this device would be beneficial to my Degenerative Disk Disease situation and Spondylolisthesis. Last month he did decompression on me for the first time and I got “rebound spasms”. I couldn’t even stand up when I was released and I found out what 10 is on the pain scale. As much as my body hurts, I am grateful I am not like THIS every day!

Back at home, I had found in a Self magazine, an article on Pain-Depression: so I researched the Mirtazapine I am on to see if it targets both serotonin and norepinephrine. The answer was yes and it seemed I wasn’t on a high enough dose. I also found an article on Benzodiazepines and FMS so I began to use more of the Ativan I had when spasms were triggered. I went through my old medical records and found a 2006 rheumatologist report to show my doctor so she agreed on getting new x-rays on my knees.

I reported on the medications I was taking regularly and asked for input on my ideas about increasing the dose of Mirtazapine and Gabapentin. She agreed. Gabapentin, by the way, has been suppressing the Herpes virus I’ve been plagued with for 37 years, and perhaps it suppresses the other viruses in my system, too.

The following Monday, I got a call from the nurse that the x-rays showed that I had ‘mild’ arthritis in my knees and I was prescribed Meloxicam (generic for Mobic) along with increased doses of Mirtazapine and Gabapentin. That night I took the first Meloxicam and the next morning I woke up without pain in my fingers and knees AND SPINE. I haven’t taken any Norco since then… and I started slowly getting back to activities I was enjoying and was able to start my exercise routine again. Oh, yes, I can play my guitar again.

I love my PCP!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Facelift--A New Beginning

I just figured out how to transform the previous blog into the new 'face' I wanted. 'Renee Alter's Atmosphere' was the website I had for about a year. I really liked all the things I could do with Google's blog... however, I had posted a LOT of things on a blog I originally titled 'Pebbles in the Sand.' 

With the addition of my music, I wanted to retain the 'Atmosphere' I had on the website, which I did not renew. Why pay for something that I didn't need? I found out that Amazon has free author pages, so I created one. I found out Reverbnation didn't charge to make your songs available for people to listen to and purchase. I found out that Facebook has free 'fan' pages, so I created one of those, too.

I love when a book I need magically appears! 'Feeling Good' by Dr. David Burns included 10 thinking errors. I was guided to keep track of my thoughts, identify which thinking error applied to them, and to rephrase/reframe them. I didn't have to see a psychologist, after all. (If you've been keeping track of my progress, you know that I tried to find one to help me while I was going through a really harsh period.)

'Love, Life, & God; Getting Past the Pain' got quite a few facelifts, too. As a result, I have quite a few paper copies (11) of older versions. I am at a loss as to what to do with them. I am not trying to figure out how to reformat the book for Kindle. CreateSpace raised their price to do this for you to $79, which I don't currently have. I found a wonderful group on facebook called 'Tom Winton, Authors Helping Authors' and I am now happily connected to other authors.

I am socially satisfied, too. I now have many wonderful Facebook friends, I'm still volunteering at the County Chamber of Commerce office, I play with a group of other acoustic guitar players on Tuesday nights, and one of the newcomers moved to two minutes away from me. At my apartment complex, I participate in monthly potlucks, monthly birthday parties, and bingo (at both events). The longer I've lived here, the stronger the bonds become with my neighbors. I've got Skype now... and after using it to talk to one of my sisters (it really felt like I was there), I look forward to doing this with other family members.

I found a book titled 'Focusing the Whole Brain' with documentation of using 'Hemi-Sync' to ease a variety of afflictions ... including pain. I purchased the first CD and have been listening to it every night for a week now. The CD helps me to relax, fall asleep, get back to sleep when I wake up to use the bathroom, I've been recalling extremely interesting dreams, and most of all, while listening to it, I am able to detach from the pain in my body. Their website is: When you get all the stages of a good night of sleep, depression and pain no longer overwhelm you.

I also found a book titled 'Financial Peace' by Dave Ramsey. I thought... if only I could take one of his classes. Here it is a month later, and I discovered there was a class starting here in my tiny town. I want Financial Peace ... and I want to be prepared for the possibility of becoming wealthier ... by learning everything there is about how to handle money that you are blessed with.

The dots of my life continue to connect in awesome ways... in the way of meeting the right people, finding the right books, and having the events that I hope for appear for me. The good days are outweighing the bad now. Now I need to buckle down and get back into a routine of exercising on a regular basis. I slacked off. And I ate way too much sugar...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

With Springtime Comes Music

Managing a chronic health challenge or two is a LOT of work when you do what you are supposed to do (like exercise, eat right, and avoid isolation) and so is all the paperwork involved in being on disability, if you are one of many who are on it. Trying to stay motivated to exercise regularly, including walking, and cooking nutritious meals, and budgeting right down to the penny is my primary 'job'. There is also the budgeting of time and energy. Yes, it is a LOT of work managing a chronic health challenge, especially when you are trying to do it alone. Maybe you are a caretaker, taking responsibility for another who is likewise challenged.

If you know me pretty well, you know that I've made my 2nd 'job' with music and writing. This involves way more than the art itself when you are interested in sharing and inspiring others with your art. There is a lot of business transactions to figure out and much to learn when you can't just hire the experts in the fields to do it all for you. I am going to try to remember that consistent WORK will be necessary in doing what it takes to promote my art .. one that I had not taken seriously for most of my life -- and that it won't always be 'FUN'. Somewhere in the mix of it all, I have to include time to CREATE new work. All work and no play is not a good thing. Technology can make many things a lot more frustrating and complicated in many ways, and so can lack of having the latest gadgets which make many tasks easier. But after I get it all figured out, I'll be able to teach other people (perhaps you?) how to do what I am learning how to do. I finally got the copyright filed on 27 songs and an album submitted electronically to CDBaby. And if you didn't have a chance to check it out, one more book self-published. It didn't take a whole lot of money to do these things, which I don't have right and hope to improve, with my art.

I don't know if you like 'folk-contemporary' music you haven't heard before, but if you do, you can go to the following link and click on the last line to 'preview all songs'.

I posted the link for my books in several places to CreateSpace (because it pays me a higher commission ... just being honest), however if you prefer Amazon, here is the link for them. Only one of my books so far is available on Kindle ... another project is learning how to do the conversion myself as well.

I've also created an author page with facebook. Part of the reason I am sharing my progress is so that if you are an artist, too, you can follow in my footsteps.

Personal comments are always welcome ... I enjoy hearing from each and every one of you as much as I enjoy sharing.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy New Year!

It's January 2013, and a great start for a new year. I just finished the major draft of 'Love, Life, and God: Getting Past the Pain'. I found a website with online Pain Management -- Someone I know showed me an article in January's Reader's Digest about a gadget she invented which was instrumental in the miraculous recovery of her daughter -- Maybe it can help me, too.

The Annual Local Author's Fest is coming up on the 19th at our library. When I stopped by there earlier this week, I saw that 15 authors will be there this year (including me) and all our books are on display as you walk in the door. As I walked over to the counter to ask a question, a bright PINK book with yellow letters caught my attention: 'Younger Next Year for Women' by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D. which was exactly the book I needed to read. 

After I got my DexaScan, the doctor's office called me and told me I needed to go see an Oncologist to get Prolia Injections. I had panicked. Why did I have to go see an Oncologist? A CANCER doctor? Two days later, I found out that this doctor was the only one approved by Medicare and other types of insurance to get these injections, WHICH WERE FOR OSTEOPOROSIS and that I didn't have cancer. But I was also filled with fear about what my future would be like if my bones don't hold up. 

But this pink book I found has the answer. The title is 'Younger NEXT Year' because you are supposed to start exercising, both weight lifting and aerobics, slowly and gradually, working your way up... that weight lifting was the only thing that would strengthen your bones and keep them from decaying. I had always done too much too fast, then quit, because I was in too much pain. This PINK book says we all have to get old, but we don't have to ROT. And it is not just another FAD diet with expensive supplements that most of us cannot afford. And on the aerobics end, you just had to get your heart rate up to a specific point, which I do just prancing around my apartment while reading books and talking on my cell phone.

And are you a Facebook addict? I am. I have 'liked' so many pages that it takes hours every day to go through them all. It keeps me busy when I have little else to do. I tore myself away for awhile to finish writing my book (Love, Life, & God), allowing just 30 minutes a day to jump in, check on my son, pregnant daughter-in-law and a couple of other people, and jump out. I finished the book about the 1st of January (didn't win the non-fiction contest, but I am fine with that--I had more to add to it). 

While I was waiting for the proof to come in the mail, I dove into Facebook to organize all my 'liked' pages after I organized all the emails I got into folders because I don't have time to read them all now. A lot of them are newsletters of all sorts I've subscribed to. I'm a fanatic about being organized. I figured out that you can organize all your 'liked' pages into file folders called 'interests.' While I was doing this, I saw the little word 'group' below my interest list. I am just a poor girl trying to get by on a not so big fixed income (for now), so finding out I could create a group in my free Facebook page is a big deal for me. I wanted to create a 'Pain Support Group' of people I know locally and from Facebook who deal with chronic discouraging pain, like I do. We don't have a Pain Support Group in my area so I wanted to form one. If you are on Facebook and you want to be included in this group, let me know!

I am feeling incredibly inspired and motivated! This is what gets me through a day with a hard to live in body. I feel encouraged about knowing that back in February, I could not walk very far or very fast. I feel encouraged at how much stronger I've become by doing my therapy ball exercises consistently. I've succeeded in shifting my way of thinking from 'I can't do it' to 'I can' -- to learn how to train like an athlete (on a much smaller scale). Having my own place has cured so many things: giving me the space to exercise and do/organize all the projects I managed to start. Hope I can keep up the pace!!!!