News flash. Still working on Lyme recovery. Head is recovering enough to get some writing done, and have fired up a new group blog with a bunch of my writer buddies. Bunch of middle-life Midwestern smarties. Check it out if you like that sort of thing. (I know you do.)
Checking in, folks.
Well, I”ve been on quite an adventure since I last checked in. It seems Lyme Disease, if you don’t treat it immediately and soundly, is not so easy to fix.
This version of the disease is called Neuroborreliosis. Which is an infectious disease that comes from an untended Lyme infection. That is, I did not seek proper care when I was infected, or perhaps re-infected, and the bacteriae introduced by some long forgotten tick bite(s) had been calling my body home for many years before they were discovered, in February 2010.
For long-time SDP readers, I was was likely infected during those long, glorious runs and hikes in the Maine woods back early in the decade, when I would seek out (!) matted down deer beds to pee on really long runs. Sheesh. There was a rash I ignored, and well… The blood clot, the horrible headaches, the menses-from-hell, all part of the Lyme picture. As was the scary cognitive deficits that had me turning off the car as I drove down the road, and sitting at stoplights, not understanding their meaning, and unable to remember how to make the shower water hot or cold… crazy stuff.
Unfortunately, treatment for this disease is tricky, and individualized, and sometimes our best medicine can do little more than try to achieve a kind of uneasy truce with the bacteria. My response has been at times terrific, but lately thwarted by complications.
As a lifelong storyteller and communicator, the central frustration for me (putting aside the physical disabilities for now) is that the infection sometimes affects my ability to read, write, speak, or understand the spoken word. Also my hearing is affected, and my sensitivity to light limits spending time online, considerably. The good news is that the symptoms are not consistent. I have days when I feel great. Days when reading and writing is not very difficult at all.
But on those days when I can’t think straight, I’ve found it helps me to draw. I don’t know why. I’m a lifelong knitter, and I thought knitting would tide me over those times, but knitting hurts when the symptoms are flaring. Drawing doesn’t hurt.
Also, graphic novels are somehow, if not easier to follow, then just more pleasant for me, when my mind is mush. It doesn’t frustrate me to stare at a page of images the way it does to reread the same sentence 50 times, trying to decode it.
I am new to drawing. There is much I don’t know about it. But I won’t let that stop me. I have begun posting my drawings in another space, a drawing project that lets me work out my frustrations about Lyme, and also help to provide some information about this aspect of the disease that so few people understand.
I hope it will help others who are dealing with this nasty illness. My humor tends to be dark and snarky, though. And like a lot of people who have lived online a long time, I have a propensity to over-share. For those offended by that sort of thing, let this be my official apology and invitation to ignore it.
Oh, I should say this… I spend on average a third to half of my days in bed, in a quiet, dark room, wearing a mask, trying to sleep through horrible headaches and manage violent nausea. Good days are half about catching up with my life, loving my family and friends, and then there’s a little time to actually produce. I guess what I’m saying is, production is a crap-shoot.
I’m sure I’ll get back to writing about health again when it is possible for me to do that. That is a day I look forward to.
Meantime, I hope you are taking good care of yourselves. And please, please, please, if you are bitten by a tick, go to your nearest prime care or emergency room immediately. Do not wait out the weekend to do it. The sooner you treat this disease, the easier it is to beat it. Not beating it is not something you want to experience.
All my best, always,
I ran into a friend/reader the other day, who reminded me that you can’t read my mind when I leave these pages blank. Sorry about that.
When last you looked in, I was rededicating myself to the lovely pool, and feeling good and rather full of myself over several silky blue laps in my new bathing suit. Also, I’d just been diagnosed with Lyme disease, and had started taking antibiotics to treat it.
And then I melted. I soon learned that when left unchecked for a few years, the bacteria that cause the infection we know as Lyme disease, can really dig into various tissues, and when they’ve done that, they don’t want to leave.
When we send in the big drugs to kill off that scum, a toxic response ensues, and a delicate girl like me can go from sick to wishing-I-wouldn’t-wake-up-again very quickly.
That sums up the past couple of months for me. I’ve been struggling to clear this nasty sludge from my system, injecting heavy antibiotics straight into my heart through a Picc line every day, and trying to put out flares of inflammation hop-scotching through my body while managing side effects from heavy antibiotic therapy that accompany the death and destruction of all your friendly bacteria.
All the while, slowly getting better. Big improvements in my brain. The horrible and constant headaches I called migraine were probably a form of encephalitis common among people infected by tick-borne bacteria for a long time. Those have diminished dramatically.
I’m thinking much more clearly. Lyme can rob you of language skills, both comprehending written and spoken language, and speaking — finding the right words. Other kinds of comprehension — decoding traffic lights and dashboard controls, for instance, can disappear with Lyme too. I didn’t talk about that much, because, because I was terrified, I guess. But now that I’m confidently reading, writing, and driving again, I’m coming out with it. And if you were the poor man driving the pickup behind me when I attempted to step on the clutch that I haven’t had in my car for 20 years or so, coming to a full fast breaking stop in the middle of the street a few months ago? I’m really sorry about that.
A Picc line, if you’re not familiar, is a flexible line in your upper arm, inserted into a vein, and run up into your vena cava. The other end is anchored to your arm with a bracing device and a couple of stitches, and then kept under sterile wraps for the weeks to months that you have it in place. It ends in a receptacle for the syringes or the IV infusion pumps used to deliver meds.
It does not allow swimming. Nor showering, really. Not at all. And I may be stuck with this thing until all of my symptoms subside. The symptoms still left are mainly painful joints, problems sleeping, a little trouble focusing, and balance problems. I’ve been falling down.
My struggle with fitness right now is finding something I can do that doesn’t hurt and trying very hard not to feel sorry for myself. That emotion almost always finds me face down at the bottom of a Ben & Jerry’s container. So my weight just creeps up and up.
But I’m coming around. Walking more. Trying out the elliptical machine (handrails are my friend!). I’m writing more (Did you see? We’ve launched middlesexmd.com!). And working with friends on a new writing project.
I’m interested in hearing from people with arthritis. What do you do with your sore joints? How do you give yourself enough exercise to stay fit and keep your metabolism humming? What can you tell me about how to work around or with balance problems? Give me hints. I’m all ears!
You know those dreams when you’re trying to get somewhere, do something, but your legs are too heavy, and you can’t make a move?
The waitress dream is table after table of new customers, and you’re trying to get to your tables to pour water and take orders, but you can’t, while orders nobody placed are piling up in the kitchen. The student dream is tomorrow’s exam, but you haven’t been to class all semester.
I have many versions of this dream, but the weirdest latest one: I have to swim uphill to get to my family. They’re up there, on an island atop this mountain of ocean. And I should be able to reach them, but I’m swimming so slowly and getting so tired. I never make it. I just wake up tired.
So returning to swimming at the pool has been a wee bit worrisome for me. I imagined that I’ve grown so out of shape I would just be recreating that nightmare, that the far side of the pool would be too far out of reach for me.
But I also knew that with inflamed joints I really have no other options. I had to get into that pool, face down the dream, start somewhere.
So I rejoined the little club, and programmed all the open lap times into my calendar, packed my gym bag, even finding all my pool gear, my various goggles and swim fins and lap counter.
I sat on the edge of the pool and went through my goggle bag. The elastic on every pair but one had rotted out. My battery-operated lap counter, of course, was dead. So were all of my swim caps. It’s been awhile since I swam, okay?
I grabbed a kickboard and held on for dear life, just sure I’d never make a lap without it.
But here is the happy surprise. Not only could I do it, but I completed many laps with barely a rest in between. And not just any laps, but one or two of them with a decent semblance of form. I chucked the kickboard pretty quickly, and smiled inwardly, and just swam and swam. The water stayed flat. No mountains anywhere. It behaved just the way I can rely on water to behave in the real and rational world.
That was a couple of weeks ago. I’m pretty chlorinated now. Friends returning from their southern treks are urging me into water aerobics classes too. And I’ll enjoy those for the girliness of it, but there is nothing quite like laps. I may be more of a manatee than a seal, but we’re all graceful in the water. Blue grace. Blue, quiet grace.
Sorry for not checking in sooner, gang. I’ve been a bit plowed under. I expect I will be now and then. Get this: I’ve tested positive for Lyme Disease. I’m quite surprised about it, but it certainly explains the past couple of years. Started on an antibiotic, and I think it may already be helping.
So, here’s to stepping right past your fears and anxieties and just starting again. It feels so good.
I remember when my family started eating yogurt. It was in the early 1970s. We had returned to the U.S. after living on a naval base in the Philippines for a few years. It seemed as if the whole world had changed in the few years since we’d left the States. For one thing, there was yogurt in the grocery stores.
My mother, who did some of her growing up in Switzerland, loved yogurt, craved it, and lived without it for many years. Muesli with plain, good yogurt was the breakfast of champions, as far as she was concerned. But she had never tried to introduce these foods to us, because, well, she couldn’t find yogurt, and because we were the Lucky Charms and Captain Crunch kind of kids.
But the 1970s ushered in an interest in whole foods, and that interest was echoed by my grandmother, a physician and friend of Adele Davis’, who had long been preaching the need for a big, wholesome breakfast. Providing milk and oats and whole grains and fruit for breakfast were at the top of her list of essential maternal duties. My grandma was a bit tough.
So… yogurt. Right. We would have never touched the stuff if it hadn’t been for… what was her name? Gretchen? Maybe? … A German exchange student hosted by my aunt and uncle. Every one of us fell madly in love with her, and she ate yogurt. Every day. So we ate yogurt, every day. Loved it.
My mother was thrilled. So happy. Until she started factoring the cost of keeping her four children supplied with the pricey yogurt. Soon yogurt was rationed as carefully as cookies and candy in our house. And it stayed that way for a few more years until Mom met another German friend, who taught her to make it. Giselle was her name.
At first we rejected the whole idea of homemade yogurt. But it wasn’t long before we figured out that the homemade stuff, a.) wasn’t rationed. And b.) tasted better than the other stuff. That is, stirred up with enough strawberry jam and granola, it tasted better.
Today we know more about yogurt. We know that it contains that great dairy fat that helps us control belly fat. Calcium to keep our bones strong, and all the lovely bacteria that keep our guts working gorgeously. A serving of yogurt as your last snack at night can help you sleep, too. Whiz it into with some whey protein for a morning smoothie. Add a handful of instant oats and some diced fresh fruit for a super fast muesli, or follow the recipe below if you want to eat the way the young women at my mom’s boarding school did.
Follow my mom’s yummy yogurt recipe to save a fortune on your yogurt bill, my friends, and enjoy the best yogurt you have ever eaten.
I make 2 quarts at a time, because that’s the size of pyrex bowl I have, and the amount of space I’m willing to devote in my fridge. There are just two of us in our household. My mom made a gallon-sized crock every week. But she had a spare fridge… You will soon know how much yogurt you want to make.
You should refresh your yogurt each week. It probably keeps longer, but that’s the advice I pass along from mom.
2 quarts whole milk
½ cup plain yogurt (the last half cup left from the last batch, or start with a good plain yogurt from the grocers. It must contain live cultures, and be plain, plain.)
You need a 2-quart non-metal bowl or crock for keeping/storing your yogurt, a bigger-than-2 quart saucepan or double boiler for heating your milk, a thermometer that will measure between 105 and 185 degrees F, and either a heating pad, a dish warmer, or a gas oven with pilot light. You also need 7.5 hours to complete a batch of yogurt.
Right. It’s this easy:
Step 1: In your saucepan or double-boiler, heat your milk up to 185 degrees. I like to heat the milk slowly, stirring constantly, to prevent the milk from burning in my pan. If you are an easily distracted cook — you have small children around — use the double boiler. Your goal is to get that milk up to 185 degrees, which is just before the boiling point.
Step 2: Stirring regularly to avoid a skin forming on top, cool the milk to 105 degrees. You can speed this process up by putting your saucepan in a cold bath, if you like.
Step 3: Add your ½ cup of yogurt to the milk, and whisk it in well, to mix it thoroughly with your warmed milk.
Step 4: Pour this mixture into your very, very clean bowl or crock. Cover the crock with saran wrap. I poke holes in the saran, and then wrap the bowl in a couple of kitchen towels before putting it in my gas oven, where the pilot light keeps the bowl warm, at around 110-115 degrees. You may place the bowl in an electric oven with the oven light left on. Or on a heating pad set on low. Or on an electric dish warmer set on low. Most crock-pots are too warm for this purpose, but if you have one that can be set as low as 110 degrees, that would be perfect.
Step 5: Wait for 7 hours. You can let your yogurt go longer if you like it more sour. I like a sweeter yogurt, so 7 hours is just right for me. Much less than 6 hours, and it’s too soupy.
Step 6: Your yogurt should be set at this point. If it’s not, try another hour. Refridgerate for at least 4 hours before enjoying your yummy yogurt!
Good grief, you ARE there. I don’t deserve you. But hello, there.
As I was saying, what, a couple of years ago…. this whole body maintenance thing… Not easy. That’s what I was saying, if I remember correctly.
While I wasn’t looking — attending to other things — I regained a bunch of weight. Not nearly all of it, not half. but a disturbing bunch. More alarming than the weight, for me, was how quickly and easily I lost fitness. It seems if one lies down and doesn’t get up for a couple of years, one loses muscle tone. Don’t bother looking it up. I tell you, it’s the stone cold truth.
I had grown proud of my fitness. Maybe a bit smug about it. And now, now that my ovaries are gone (poof!), and I have some inflamed joints to deal with (I sit up most nights, just me and my hip, in the dark, rocking), that fitness goal seems a bit farther away than it did even when I carried much more weight.
But I also know that without the fitness, the weight loss is simply not possible for me. I wouldn’t lose it, and I certainly couldn’t keep it off. So…
So tomorrow I rejoin the pool, at the club I am entitled to join because this year I turn 50. 50. That’s 50. And this club’s is for people 50+. (I’ll be the cute young thing there.)
Fighting pain? Fighting inflammation? Guess what’s good for those things? Um…. Eating well (eating your fish, cutting sugar and saturated fats and empty carbs) and exercising. That’s annoying news, but true.
Argh. The pool. Now I’ve said I’m doing it. So it must be true…
Hi folks. Juju here. Are you out there?
I am still here. Thanks to those of you who wonder and post and check in now and then. It’s been a crazy year. I’ve been through some heavy transitions that I’ll tell you all about soon…
I remember reading somewhere that menopause hits women like a perfect storm. Your parents suddenly need you, your de-nesting kids suddenly need you, your career challenges hit their peak, and that’s when your body starts playing tricks.
Well, the truth of that seemed academic and far away for me just a few years ago. I was fit, healthy, having fun with my job. And then… Wow.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Respect for hormones.
Say, speaking of hormones (I’ve got no transition more clever than that): On the average of once or twice a month during the years that I regularly worked on this blog, I’d get the question: When are you going to write about sex? And you know, I always answered: No way, dood, my parents read this blog… I’m no prude, and I was thinking hard about how middle age affected my sexuality, but, really and truly, dood, my parents were reading my blog.
Well, I lost my dear mom. And my Dad, who suffers from severe dementia, no longer uses the computer or reads. No reason to hold back now, folks.
But I have an even better reason. One of my docs — an OBGyn I went to college with — and a colleague from a Fortune 500 company I’ve worked for, are starting up a website specifically to support the sexuality of women over 40. Respect the hormones, indeed. They’ve asked me to come write for them. So… That answers that old question. When will I write about sex? Often. Daily. Over at MiddlesexMD.com. If the subject matter interests you or someone you love, check it out. We’ve launched just the blog today, but the whole site, full of lots of great info (oh my aching head), is under construction and ought to be up before spring sproings.
And without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of wild resolutions, I’m going to return to this blog too. Try to neaten up the edges, dust under the carpets a bit. I’ve fallen away from the subject matter, and the fitness/diet world has only gotten crazier in the meantime. But hey, I still have a body. Why not write about it? Right?
If you’re still there, I hope you’re taking good care of yourself. I will if you will.
I swear I’m going to get to the Taubes book project. It’s coming.
I’ve hit a passel of little bumps in the road:
1. Learning an awful lot about blood (it needs our respect, this goo), about clotting, and about electrolytes, and the system that keeps blood volume in balance, and stuff like that. Not sure it’s going to be of general interest here, but you’ll likely hear about it all anyway, once I feel enough on top of it to report coherently. Meantime, let me just say, drink your dang water, will you? At least 2 liters a day. Make a point of attending to it. Get a bigger mug. Commit to lots of herbal tea, mkay? Because it just may be that those of us who work hard at dieting (too hard?) and exercise put ourselves in a particularly dicey place where consistent blood volume is concerned. Isn’t that one more lovely worry to worry about?
This learning is not entirely at my leisure. I am being studied. It’s interesting to be a lab rat. You know that feeling you sometimes have that you’re sitting on your own shoulder, watching the proceedings of your life? This living-under-study stuff is very much like that but moreso, because you can’t talk yourself out of the feeling. You really are a lab specimen. And I really have to collect perfect data. Collecting data about body fluids is plain awkward. You can extrapolate and understand.
2. And then the hubbub of the holidays, for which I am never actually ready, no matter how much I flatter myself that I’m on top of things.
3. And now that 2-week cold that we’ve been nursing at the office came home with me, and is all bronchial and sinusy and gut-grotty.
4. Oh, well, and I got a Kindle. And have been downloading and reading almost everything at Manybooks.net while nursing my cold. And thinking a lot about the Transcendentalists, and Hawthorne, and Austen. I love my Kindle. It’s my second ebook. And it’ll be awhile before there’s a perfect ebook in the world, but if anybody’s going to get there, I’d put my money behind Bezos. I’ll likely write about that over on my company’s blog site one of these days.
(Speaking of blogs. I’m also acutely aware that I am trying to keep up around 6 blogs. That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? I may have to think about that little problem one of these days. Who needs six? Who needs one?)
So, I’m late on my homework, but still intend to sum up Taubes, and still interested in participating in that discussion, but just a lot of stuff is jumping in the way. I beg your patience, if, in fact, you’ve been worried. Which is assuming a lot, I realize…(smile).
First on my list, even before Taubes, is getting out from under clots and colds and getting a new/old sort of daily movement program underway. One of my docs wants me to return to swimming (to avoid injuring myself, causing bleeds, starting inflammation). And I see the sense of it. I need to rejoin my old pool, and reestablish my early morning habit. It would be a far easier thing to do in July than in January, let me tell you. I well remember the cold transition from icy parking lot to never-warm-enough showers to never-warm-enough water in January.
But I have just this one body, and this is what it needs. So there it is. Taubes is coming.
Here’s what I’m thinking on this January 1, 2008 for my Skinny Daily friends. Be gentle with yourself this year. Excessive dieting, excessive exercise — these can cause more problems in the long run. I continue to learn about this the hard way, and don’t want you to have to repeat my mistakes.
And you’re in this for the long run, right? Do change your habits to lose weight, because it’s a healthy and wise thing to do, but take pride in changing as slowly as you can so that you know you can sustain your new habits over time. Drama is for the stage, for the screen, but certainly not for a delicate system like your body.
So… I’m not a fan of resolutions, but do like the idea of taking a day like this to assess my life and habits. I need to think about how much and how often I’ve tried to fix my body as fast as I could. How most of my diet efforts have begun with a frenzy of change and rather severe restrictions, goals, and expectations. I have even encouraged that sort of thing here now and then, and regret it.
So these few holiday pounds I’ve found? I’ll worry only if I haven’t dropped them by June.
This will be the year of going slow. As slowly as I can. To gain as much as I can in health and longevity and daily well-being.
That’s what I’ve decided. How about you? Any ideas for today?
Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay. Okay.
Here’s the dealio.
I’ve learned from Jimmy Moore’s Living La Vida Lo-Carb (I need to catch up there. Jimmy’s been burning up the interweb with Taubes news.) that my other personal boyfriend Andrew Weil (yes, I have touched the beard) is asking all of his students and researchers to read Good Calories, Bad Calories, as he has, cover to cover. I won’t share the link to the contentious Larry King show that featured Weil giving his stamp to the book, because the segment is just stuffed with images of headless obese people, and I won’t perpetuate that kind of yellow journalism.
However. Here’s my concern, and my pledge. I’m concerned that the book, informed by 7 years’ research, and pared down from Taubes’ original 400,000 word first draft, is too much reading for most of us. And yet, to paraphrase another great thinker, people are dying every day for want of what is found there.
I’m thinking cliff’s notes. I’m thinking instead of one book report, I’ll take on Taubes’ book, and offer up my version of cliff’s notes of its contents. This is just to help spread the contents around. But it is not to keep you from:
1. Buying a copy of the book and giving it to your doctor.
2. Buying a copy of the book and keeping it on your coffee table, to engender discussion among your circle of friends.
3. Buying a copy of the book for anyone who’s got the job of preparing your food or your children’s food, at schools, churches, hospitals — particularly institutions.
4. Buying a copy of the book for your local library.
5. Buying a copy of the book for another local library where there isn’t much wealth or many book donors.
6. Sharing the book with your weight loss support group.
I can’t promise the cliff notes will come as fast as you want them to. I also can’t promise that they won’t be laden with my own snarky editorial commentary (I KNEW that Ornish was a prig! Stunkard’s onomatopoeia ain’t lyin.)
I REALLY hope — those of you who will absolutely read the book along with me — that you will jump in and question, correct, add to, subtract from my notes. I’m going to go chapter by chapter. And… if you’d like to help with this project, holler, will you?
This is big, y’all.