Saturday, September 26, 2009

Flu Shots, Swine Flu, and Fibromyalgia: Should Pain Patients Get Vaccinated? - Chronic Pain - Health.com

I came across this article and I thought I'd share it before the vaccines come out this year for the flu. I'm still debating about getting one myself because I have not done well for the past two years with the flu shot, but I'm still thinking about it.

Flu Shots, Swine Flu, and Fibromyalgia: Should Pain Patients Get Vaccinated? - Chronic Pain - Health.com

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National Pain Awareness Month

National Invisible Illness Awareness Week may be over, but National Pain Awareness Month is still not!  Pain is not fun to deal with and the number of people who suffer from issues like back pain in America today is alarming.  Some 80% of Americans are affected by back pain at some point in their life and 50% of older Americans suffer from chronic pain.  Restless sleep is a big factor in these numbers.  100 million Americans suffer from sleep deprivation, so it should be no wonder to us that our bodies are getting cranky.

Pete Bils, the Vice President of Sleep Innovation, will be hosting a Twitter Party!  Sleep Innovation does clinical research for Select Comfort.  I had discussed Select Comfort in a prior blog a while back, along with a national contest they had been running.  This should be fun to virtually attend and I hope you can all join me.  Details about this event appear below.

Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley

Pete Bils is hosting a Twitter Party Wednesday, September 30, 2009 from 11:30-1:30 CT. This is a great opportunity for you to ask an expert your sleep and pain-related questions via Twitter.  All you need to do to participate is the following:
 
·         Follow @SleepGeekPete to join the discussion and ask questions on September 30 between 11:30 a.m.  and 1:30 p.m. CT
·         OR join the chat by including the #SleepGeek hashtag in your tweet
 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How to Dry and Freeze Tomatoes

I shared an article on canning and an article on how to make your own solar dehydrator, so I thought I'd share this article on drying tomatoes.

How to Dry and Freeze Tomatoes

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pacing Yourself in the Race of Life

I've had a lot of people comment on my energy.  "Kim, slow down!  You are making the rest of us look bad."  "How do you do it?  I don't have all that energy."  "You did a lot!"  I don't hear these as much as I used to, but when I do, it's hard not to take it as a compliment. 

Energy was something that I had always had when I was younger.  Looking back, some might say I took my energy for granted, "You're young, enjoy it now.", I'd hear.  I don't really think I took my energy for granted.  I just knew I had a lot to do on any given day, and only 24 hours to complete it.  My old catch phrase when people said I looked tired was that sleep was over rated, and I'd get enough of it when I was dead... that was when I was in my twenties in college...

Now?  Well, I still have energy, but not as much as I used to.  It can be amazing what fibromyalgia and 10 years of abuse will do to a body.  The big difference between then and now is that I need to pace myself.  The word pace was never in my vocabulary before, especially when I did stock work in the home improvement and home appliance sections of a major retailer.  Not much thought went into lifting compact dryers on top of washers.  I just did it because I had too-- it was part of my job.  The only thing that ever crossed my mind back then was to relish in the fact that little 100 pound me could lift heavy objects.  Looking back, perhaps I should not have taken so much pride in that fact.

I can still lift things, walk quite a few miles, and even do strenuous exercise like aerobics, but only on my good days, and even then, I have to pace myself and not overdue it.  This may be great when it comes to living day- to- day, because you can always close the shower curtain so you don't see how much of a cleaning it needs, but what about meeting deadlines?  Is it possible to meet deadlines, or even go to celebrations when you have a chronic invisible illness like fibromyalgia?

The answer to that question is yes and no.  Sometimes deadlines at work can be met, and other times, you may need a little help meeting that deadline.  Some people think that because I'm a writer, I have all the flexibility in the world and can meet deadlines all the time, every time, and that's just not true.  There are many times when life gets in the way of creativity and I have to put my writing on hold so I can live through life.  I've missed out on writing many fun topics and even a contest or two (or thirty) because I was just too tired to look at the keyboard.  Parties and celebrations can be tough too.  I have missed out on a few girls night out fests, along with birthday parties that were throne for me.

It can happen, and when it does, there is usually a very good reason for it.  I tend to find that the week before an event or deadline, is very intense.  I am very detail oriented and I get very worked up about having very little time to accomplish the mundane before a big event.  For instance, when I know I'm going to have Christmas dinner over at my house, I will go crazy the week before cleaning and re-cleaning everything that has a surface, just to make sure I leave a good impression on my guests.  I am very much like Monk in that I like order and cleanliness, but you'd never know that because my kids and husband are the exact opposite.

Just looking at things out of order can send a cringe down my spine and this is not good because I become stressed, overwhelmed, and then eventually, I get a flare.  My flares can either be excessive pain, excessive tiredness, anxiety, or a combination of any of these.  When this starts to happen, I can kiss the celebration or deadline goodbye.

Having said all of this, how does one with fibro overcome enough stress so they can meet their deadlines in as pain free as possible way?  Well, you have to pace yourself.  For me, I have to start planning an event at least a month in advance.  I will start to clean up the house very early by taking care of the things one does not normally do on a day-to-day basis.  I'll vacuum the heater vents, dust, and get rid of all of the cat hair from every nook and cranny that I can find about a month ahead of time.  I then clean the curtains and windows and also make sure that everything that's out of place is put back in its place.  Once that is all done, I start to prepare the hors d'oeuvres and desserts.  Once they are cooked and baked, they go into the freezer until I need to take them out for the big day.  If I am cooking a turkey, I will even start to cook that a day ahead of time, just to make sure that I get it done on time.

Doing all of these things in advance has helped me over the years.  Pacing myself and my time has even helped me to enjoy the holiday in an upright position, instead of in my bed.  This won't help with everything, especially when there are other people involved with your deadline, but it can help out in most cases. 

Pacing yourself can even work when you have an outing planned with your friends and family.  For instance, I knew that I would be going to the sunflower maze and picking apples with my kids this past weekend.  This was going to be an all day event because picking your own apples can take a little bit of time and pacing myself was crucial in order to get through the day.

I prepared by taking extra clothing for the children, drinks, and food, just in case we needed to take short break from the picking.  I also took a bag that had extra shoulder support and the baby carriage to make sure I had something to transport the bag, the toddler, and the apples if I tired from carrying any of it.  I also invited several people along with us to aide in carrying the load.  This worked out fairly well for me because when I needed to stop and take a break from carrying little Olivia or the carriage, my brother or mother-in-law was right there to help.

Having fibro means that even the fun days need a little extra planning, but with a little thought, some experience of past ventures, and patience with pacing yourself, you can have a life outside of your condition.  And that is just fabulous!

Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eat Locally Grown Food All Year

Some people have wondered how I can cook a healthy meal EVERYDAY and not feel tired. The truth of the matter is that on some days, I am tired and I need something quick.

After keeping track of my illness for a little while, I realized that on some days I'd have a ton of energy and could be productive all day long. On those days, I'd spend my reserve energy preserving food. It made sense to me to prepare extra home cooked food for the days I just couldn't do it.

I use many methods for preserving, but canning is one of my "new" favorites. I used to watch my Grandmother do it when I was younger and that gave me the confidence to try it for myself. Canning is not that hard and despite popular belief, you don't need fancy tools for it-- just the Mason jars.

Frankly, if you have a big pot to boil things in, the Mason jars, a set of tongs, oven mitts, and the internet, you have all you need. I have found tons and tons of preserve recipes on the net and have had no need to buy a recipe book. I have found several recipes for berries, peaches, and even, clam chowder.

You can get fancy, of course, and buy a pot that will put pressure on your cans while boiling them, but it's not necessary. The only reason why you need to boil them is to remove enough bacteria to be able to preserve what you are canning. A stock pot can do that for you.

The mason jar tops will flatten over a period of time while you are boiling them. The seal can be checked by pressing the middle of the lid with your fingers. If you here the metal move, it hasn't sealed just yet. It will seal over a bit of time and with my experience, I've found that it seals within the first couple of hours.

Mason jars are easy to find in stores right now because farmers are starting to preserve their summer crops. I found mine in a local supermarket, as well as, Walmart. They are fairly inexpensive and can be stored in the fridge, freezer, or in some cases, a pantry shelf (depending on the recipe).

This article below shares one person's experience with canning and I hope it gives you the encouragement to try it for yourselves. It's really fun and is a great way to help you feel fabulous all winter long.

Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley

Eat Locally Grown Food All Year

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Eat Locally Grown Food All Year

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Eat Locally Grown Food All Year

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Eat Locally Grown Food All Year

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Visible Symptoms of an Invisible Illness

Some of you may be scratching your heads at the topic of this post and wonder what I could possibly be talking about, but after I explain, you may not want to scratch any part of your body ever again. The topic for today is skin irritations and for some Fibro sufferers, this is a visible symptom that can plague us.  According to Fibromyalgia Network's interview with Doctor Charles Lapp of Charlotte North Carolina, skin irritations are very common.  He states "fibromyaligia-related rashes occur in the majority of patients that I see." Fibromyalgia Symptoms boasts a rather high statistic on its site claiming that 70-80% of Fibromyalgia patients have skin problems with their illness.  The skin problems can vary from person to person.  Some experience dry, itchy, and/or mottled (skin changes color, appearance, or in tone) skin.  Others have experienced skin that is tender to the touch, or have a rash develop due to itch and irritation.

I was born with skin irritations around my eyes (Seborrheic Dermatitis).  The doctor at the time told my mother that it was eczema and that there was very little we could do about it because steroidal creams were out of the question when I was born.  These creams were believed to cause blindness so I suffered through until I was old enough to start using moisturizer. 

Throughout my teenage years and young adulthood, I would have an occasional breakout around my eyes, scalp, and arms.  Management of it then was not hard, I just changed moisturizers when I needed to and the problem went away within a few days.

It has only been recently that I have found my skim irritations to be a major life altering problem.  For the past two years, I have been dealing with my two right hand middle fingers having a chronic rash.  It has become painful on some days because the skin is mottled and is so dry that it will peel and bleed.  I have also had the same problems near my breast plate, around my eyes, legs, and arms.

The itching was becoming incredibly intense, and at times, I would avoid a shower like the plague because it hurt to have my skin in water.  On occasion I'd get lucky and find a moisturizer or doctor recommended steroidal cream that would clear my skin up.  However, this is now only lasting for 4-5 days. 

Upon desperation, I started to surf the net for natural ways to deal with this problem.  I started searching for reasons for the problem first.  I wondered if there was a link between foods, chemicals, allergies, or even mold that might be the culprits for my condition.  The little information I found, was confusing at best, and at times, contradictory between websites and doctors.

In the first quarter of 2007, The Advocate Newsletter from The National Eczema Association, interviewed Doctor Jon Dyer of Columbia, Missouri.  He is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Child Health and believes that diet is a controversial fix because you may be depriving your body of essential nutrients.  He goes further to state, however, that he "is unclear about the role of diet and allergies in a lot of (his) patients."  Dr. Dyer also shared his views on probiotics helping with eczema.  These views are about the same as his thoughts on diet, "I think the jury's still out on this, but it's an interesting idea."  The article goes on further to explain many other treatments like massage therapy, ultra violet light therapy, and even topical and systemic medicines.

After reading this, as well as, other articles on The National Eczema Association website, I began to get very discouraged.  Taking the time to constantly moisturize my skin is a difficult task with two little ones...not to mention the fact that I hate vanity of any kind because to me, it's a waste of time.  I don't like moisturizing my skin, I don't have time for makeup (I can't wear it even if I wanted to anyway), and my hair hasn't been out of a ponytail in almost a year (or two-- I forget).  Frankly, with the kids, the cats, and the hubby, I'm lucky to even be able to make it to the bathroom on some days.  I'm sure all of you Moms out there know what I'm talking about, we tend to put our needs last.

So, I started to surf a little more and came across another site, but this one was very different than the rest.  This site is run by a woman who suffers from eczema and knows what it's like to live with such an irritating condition (pun intended).  Her name is Donia Alawi and she has suffered with eczema since 1980.  Her skin disease had gotten so bad that she was facing the possibility of having a limb amputated.  She had tried creams like cortisone and herbal remedies, but these did not seem to clear her skin up for good.  What she started to realize was that if she wanted a lasting clear up, she'd have to look to her diet.

This made a lot of sense to me because I am an advocate of a healthy diet.  I don't like fake foods of any kind, be they processed or filled with chemicals, and I have been trying very hard to eliminate them all.  I will stray from time to time and eat out at a restaurant, eat frozen pizza bites (a huge favorite of mine), or even eat an occasional candy bar.  For the most part, though, I've got a good handle on it 80-90% of the week for my fibromyalgia condition. 

Donia's suggestions for eczema are a bit different.  She suggests to eliminate beef, chicken, and dairy while adding more raw foods and fish.  It's a vegan approach to a healthy diet with some exceptions.  She suggests to avoid tofu because the processing of this product may cause a flare.  Tempeh, a soybean cake that is generally found near tofu in the market, is okay.  Now, this diet may be harder for me to adhere to because I really, really like dairy and tofu, but if this can help with my skin condition, it is worth a shot.

I encourage each and every one of you to check out Donia's Eczema Natural Healing site if you have, or know someone with a skin condition that can benefit from Ms. Alawi's wisdom.  She responds to each email personally and also has an informative newsletter that you can sign up for.  It is with high hopes that her wisdom will help me to feel fabulous on the inside and out.  Wish me luck, and as always, I will keep you all up to date on this.

Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley

P.S.  Don't forget about the comments contest I'm running...  We have restarted the contest and the 50th commenter will be the winner of an autographed copy of one of my books. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Fibromyalgia
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2005
3. But I had symptoms since: 1984
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Giving up my full-time retail management job of 18 years.
5. Most people assume: That I'm not sick and that I'm making up my illness.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: Trying to work through the stiffness.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: N/A
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: A jar opener and a Mr. Clean Magic Reach Mop.  Both have been great additions to my household to help me be able to be self sufficient.
9. The hardest part about nights are: When I wake up and can't fall back to sleep.
10. Each day I take _0_ pills & 4 vitamins. (No comments, please) I only take vitamins.  I am doing a natural approach.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: Look to the simple and inexpensive alternatives like yoga, meditation, crystal therapy, chakra clearing, and aroma therapy.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I wouldn't change my invisible illness for anything.  It has taught me a lot about my strengths and weaknesses.  I've also met many, many new friends that I would not have had otherwise.
13. Regarding working and career: My career is now very different since I'm a stay-at-home mom and a writer and it took some time to get used to, but this is how I chose to reinvent myself.
14. People would be surprised to know: That I get very run down by 3 pm and I have to do something physical while drinking coffee to stay awake.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: The guilt of not being able to do what I used to.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Hike.  I love to hike, but stopped for a while when I first got ill.  I just recently went on a short hike and found that I still can do what I love.  The hike may be much shorter than I used to do, but I can still do it.
17. The commercials about my illness: Are awful!  The only thing that pills will help with is depleting your funds.  The pills I've seen are only geared for one or two symptoms-- not all of them.  Diet, lifestyle changes, a strong and positive will, and exercise are the best ways to deal with this beast-- in my opinion.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Enjoying the change in seasons and dancing.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: Working.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Indoor Gardening.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Play whatever my kids' hearts desire.
22. My illness has taught me: That you define yourself not your job.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: When healthy people think that my being tired is like their being tired.
24. But I love it when people: Understand what I go through.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: The Show Must Go On
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: That there is hope in having a somewhat normal life.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: That life can still be pretty normal.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Make me a cup of coffee.  This may sound weird, but I couldn't lift the coffee pot at one point during my illness and had to ask my husband to make it for me.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I believe in this and I'm passionate about it.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Understood.
Find out more about National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and the 5-day free virtual conference with 20 speakers Sept 14-18, 2009 at www.invisibleillness.com

National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week: My thoughts, My Life

National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is fast approaching.  The kickoff is on Monday, September 14,  2009.  Many of your favorite health bloggers will be discussing various chronic illnesses at this time because nearly 1 in 2 people in the US have a chronic illness.  From that statistic, about 96% of  illnesses are invisible.  These may be shocking numbers to some, but when you think about it, how many people with Cancer look sick?  They may loose their hair from Chemo, but aside from that, most of the time these people look healthy.  People with Fibromyalgia, heart conditions, Diabetes, ADD, ADHD, arthritis, Lupus, and Lyme Disease all look healthy too.

It is unfortunate at times that any of us with a chronic condition appear fine, because there are some people who don't understand how we could be feeling okay one day, and reeling in pain the very next.  Some of us with a chronic condition wish we could have some type of visibility to our illness, but I'm not one of them.  I know I may not be understood by some people and that's okay with me.

Why is it okay?  Because if that individual can't be bothered to take the time to get to know me, well they might not be the type of person I want to be around.  People who do know me can say that I'm a very open and honest person.  You don't have to guess at how I feel because I let you know.  I'm also very giving and appreciative.  If you take the time to help me, I will appreciate you back.  I feel these are good qualities to have. 

But there's one thing that I used to do before my diagnoses that I don't do anymore.  I don't apologize for being me.  Some of you may wonder what I mean, so let me explain.  You see, I used to have a lot of people in my life that wanted me to agree with everything they said and do everything that they wanted to do.  I'd help them clean their house, watch their kids, offer my shoulder for crying fests, and the list goes on.  In return, they'd be my friend by coming over for coffee or showing up for one of my holiday shindigs.  And that was great at the time.

Once I got diagnosed, my schedule started to change a bit.  I was throwing less parties and I couldn't watch other people's kids or have all-night shoulder crying phone fests either.  I was tired from my own immediate life.  I tried to be as nice and as accommodating as possible to these friends at first.  I'd apologize for being scatter brained instead of trying to explain fibro fog for the thousandth time.  I would blame my being tired on 12 hour shifts at work or being up with the baby, instead of my chronic fatigue because I didn't want to hear how tired they were from an 8 hour shift at work.  I even apologized for being cranky with them

A lot of us do this on a day to day basis because we don't want sympathy and we don't want people feeling sorry for us.  But why should we feel sorry for being sick?  This is the realization I came too when I had asked an old friend to help me.  It was very rare that I asked her for help and when I did, she almost always said no but this time was different.  She had said she would be able to help, but blew me off at the last minute with an I just can't because I'm too tired from work excuse.  I probably would have let it go, but when I heard the statement You have to understand how hard my life is, I lost it and started yelling into the phone.

I did this because I did understand her life.  She had struggles like we all do when we are first starting out with a husband and a child.  I had (and still have) the same struggles.  I worked a full time job and then came home and cooked dinner and I'd spend my one day off a week cleaning the house.  I know and understand what that's like and I can sympathize more than most because I did (and do) all of these things with a disability to boot. 

I yelled because I was upset for being mistreated.  I yelled because I was mad at the fact she was blowing me off.  I yelled because I was irritated by her lack of understanding my needs.  I yelled out of frustration because it was apparent that I had to take on the brunt of responsibility in her absence.  She knew this, I'm sure, but she still expected an apology for my behavior. 

It was at that moment that I had an epiphany.  I decided not to apologize for yelling at her and decide to agree that we would disagree with the situation.  I did this because I knew she would never truly understand what it's like to have Fibromyalgia.  She couldn't because she can only see a regular life staring back at her.  And that's okay.  But just because she view things differently, does not give her the right to mistreat me due to my Fibromyalgia. 

My friend and I don't talk anymore.  Perhaps her life is busy, perhaps she still feels the sting of that uncomfortable day.  That's okay too, because she taught me a very valuable lesson.  The lesson?  Never take yourself for granted because others can and will.  Don't ever apologize for being sick.  You can't help it, but they can help you by being supportive.

Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How can I know which health stories in the news have the best information?

When I post any information on health issues for Fibro and Fabulous, I try to look for a lot of what this Harvard Report is saying. One study does not cut it when it comes to anything having to do with Fibro-- we sufferers know that.

Fibromyalgia is so diverse a disease that you would need several studies just to cover everyone's symptoms so this makes sense.

Most of us who have been dealing with this beast for quite some time have become desensitized to all the hype with a single study. But the newly diagnosed may not know what to think and I hope and pray that they come across this information first BEFORE they take the "truth" of a health study on the net.

How can I know which health stories in the news have the best information?

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