Monday, November 26, 2012

How slow can you go??

Martha Stewart's Woodland Christmas
This time of year has been a source of dread for me in years past.  Visions of the "perfect" holiday appear on TV specials, in holiday magazine editions and everywhere in stores.  The perfect table must be set with food served that rivals the head chef's entrees at the Hilton.  Delectable goodies must be made and served on just the right plate.  The images of people giving and receiving expensive gifts with delighted, joyful faces complete the perfect holiday picture.  But those images are based in fantasy and aren't grounded in reality.  The most memorable holidays are those that had their share of disasters, like the year we went to put the turkey on the grill to slow cook for hours only to discover that the bird was still in the freezer.  Over the years I have found that each holiday season can be whatever I want it to be and as a result each year is different from the other and that's a wonderful thing.  By listening to the pulse of each season and accommodating whatever life has presented at that time, I have found that all my life experiences are fond memories, because these

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In awe of the living things with which we share our planet

The President in Sequoia National Park courtesy of Nat Geo
Sequoia National Park by Nat Geo
Whenever I become too focused on my own concerns I like to remind myself there are other people that have concerns too.  I also like to refocus my attention to the amazing living things that share our planet with us.  Today I received the December 2012 issue of National Geographic.  On the front cover is a picture of The President: the giant sequoia that has lived in Sequoia National Park in California for the last 3,200 years.  When this tree was born there was no National Park and there was no official California.  Just the pristine land and the trees and all the living things that benefit from these magnificent giants existed at that time.  The President is not the largest tree on Earth; it is only the second largest.  It isn't as tall as the giant coastal redwoods in northern California or Eucalyptus regnans in Australia (highest reported tree was 375 feet tall and was felled in the late 19th century), but it is far more massive.  The President reaches for the sky at 247 feet tall, its four largest limbs are as big as large trees, and it has a thick crown that holds an estimated two billion leaves.  The only tree that has a trunk of greater bulk is that of The General Sherman; a tree that is also in Sequoia National Park.  (2012, December.  National Geographic, pg 28 - 41).  If you have never seen these magnificent trees I would urge you to make the trek to 7,000 feet where these trees thrive despite the rugged conditions in the Sierras.  Standing next to one of these giants is truly a spiritual experience and in doing so we realize that we are just passing through a world that belongs to them.  They are tough survivors that have seen so much in their long lives.  They are an ecosystem unto themselves and provide a home for so many of Earth's creatures both plant and animal . . . and insects too.  I have never felt so insignificant as the moment I stood next to The President and The General Sherman.  It was a lesson in humility for me and I have never forgotten that moment even though it was many years ago.  That moment of humility reinforced that those things that I believe to be important and urgent only belong to me and are ultimately of little consequence or importance to anyone else.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Your pain experience is unique and personal

Pain is a poorly understood phenomenon.  Pain has been treated and studied for so long, and Western medicine has made extraordinary advances in so many areas,  but we still have only a fundamental understanding of pain's mechanism.  Pain is a complex mechanism that involves physiology, spirituality, emotions, and perceptions.  As in all health issues, it involves the mind/body connection.  When people are in pain it is a completely subjective and personal experience.  Pain makes people feel emotionally out of control, which increases anxiety levels and increases the intensity of the pain experience.  That is why lavendar aromatherapy decreases the perception of pain; lavendar is a calming herb.  When I was working with an Interventional Radiology Department I observed that women experienced more pain than men when a chemotherapy port was placed in the upper chest.  When I presented that information to the port placement team it was decided to give women a prescription for pain medication before they were discharged back home.  In my follow up calls women reported they didn't fill the analgesic prescription, they still had pain, but they tolerated that pain better because they knew they were in control and could opt to fill the analgesic prescription if they wished. I have also observed from my own experience that the more pain medication I use the more I seem to have a rebound increase in pain.  Therefore I use pain medication as judiciously as possible.  That rebound pain experience

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hanging on the precipice of change

How are all of you on this beautiful day?  We have stormy clouds and scattered rain today.  It's the kind of day that I usually enjoy, especially because the garden celebrates the rain.  But on this day the weather seems to be oddly symbolic for the state of my beloved country.  A storm brews with the outcome of our election and I fear that life as I have known it with the abundant freedoms I have enjoyed is now gone forever.  I am in mourning.  We are a divided nation that believes throwing darts at each other in the form of hateful rhetoric will solve our critical problems.  We are on the Obama Care implementation path that will lead to a disastrous destruction of our healthcare system.  The thought of our healthcare system moving toward care rationing is frightening to those of us with chronic illness.  No one in the current Administration talks about care rationing, but that will be the result of this healthcare model.  In addition, we are perched on the edge of a fiscal cliff so high that the bottom is not visible.  I fear that solutions will come too late or not at all.  The change that looms before me and all Americans will be one of the greatest challenges of our lives.

I have written about change in previous posts.  I am quite adaptable and flexible with changes, because I am always in a problem solving mode.  The changes in my life have always felt rather comfortable, because I have consistently

Friday, November 2, 2012

The personal search for a cure . . . or do we write our next life chapter?

Autumn colors in Lori's yard in Missouri
I keep informed about the latest news on fibromyalgia research and I'll bet you do too.  There are books available that claim they know the answer for a cure.  From my experience there are fibro flares or excacerbations and there can be varying levels of remissions.  When people experience a significant remission they rejoyce and celebrate their victory and welcome the return of wellness.  They believe they have reclaimed their "life" defined as a youthful exuberance.  But fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue lurk in the background waiting to strike again with a vengence.  Being in denial does have its benefits, but as this illness marches on the reality of our lives becomes clearer and more difficult to avoid.  Current research indicates that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue are due to central nervous system sensitization, but what causes the central nervous system to be overly sensitive to stimuli?  So we still don't know the root cause of this illness, therefore treatment continues to be focused on symptom management.  The reality of symptom management is we must spend every hour of every day managing those symptoms.  Each of us is familiar with our own particular fibro rhythm that we experience every day with little variation.  How productive is it for us to wait for a cure so we can return to our previous wellness plateau?

Rose in Lori's garden in Missouri
It seems to me that life is lived as a series of chapters in a book that is continuously in the process of being written.  Some chapters are longer than others and there are times when chapters are frequently revisited and revised.  When chapters are revisited and revised that means that new chapters fail to unfold and that life book becomes stagnant.  Reminiscing about the past means existing in a static state and new life chapters fail to be written.  There are no dramas, no adventures, and no comedies added to our rich life experiences.  It's as if we have chosen to hang in a sort of suspended animation that is equivalent to being in a self-induced coma.  That seems to be a sad choice for any of