Saturday, March 28, 2009

v is for victory and vertigo

have you ever spent 11 hours in the emergency room? an insane experience if ever there was one. last thursday i woke up dizzy, again. i've been dizzy for over 2 weeks, but mildly so and it seemed to be decreasing. boy was i wrong! just getting a glass of water at the sink, the room began to spin violently and i was forced to sit down on the floor. i tried to focus my eyes on one spot, struggling in vain to get the room to stop spinning.

the level of nausea rose dangerously.

you can certainly predict what happened next. oh, it was awful. eight times. worse yet, in my belly was only water and my morning vitamins. afterward, i couldn't stand or do anything useful.

so, i canceled my office hours and crashed back into bed. a while later i woke to a call from my sister in michigan. she listened to my recent story and then read me the riot act. she insisted i go to the emergency room...and make it snappy! obediently, i called a friend and i went. it is not advisable to argue with my sister at such times.

i went, only to sit and sit and then sit some more. i could not read, i was too motion sick. i simply stared at the wall. afternoon slipped into evening and then into night. a kind angel came along and got my house key to go tend to my little dog, who was all alone in the dark and needing to pee. i got very chilled and quite dehydrated, i felt absolutely awful. finally after eight hours, they led me to a room. warm blankets, an iv line inserted, the tv on pbs. i was more comfortable, but things still moved at a snails pace. lovely nurses and even nicer doctors attended me. they did many tests and at long last, after reactivating the severe vertigo and the vomiting, they gave me a definitive diagnosis. you can read the details about BPPV right here.

i finally came home in the middle of the night by taxi and crawled gratefully into my own bed. i now have scripts to prevent the vertigo, and stop the nausea. the next day, i saw my wonderful acupuncturist, who has a background as a PT, working with head trauma patients. she was able to perform a series of head manipulations on me to help heal the problem. i am concentrating on not tipping my head suddenly in any direction. which does make doing my back stretches quite difficult. or anything that requires bending over. thank goodness my legs also know how to squat.

what a crazy thing after a few weeks of crazy things in the health department. is it any wonder i feel a bit crazy?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

the fruit of intention is sweet

rejoice! the letter came yesterday from lewis & clark college and i am thrilled to share that they have accepted me into the graduate school of education, the school counseling program. out of the 115 people that applied, the committee accepted just 35. i am feeling so honored and blessed to be in that select group!

as the news sunk in yesterday, it was if the 20 little monkey hands that have been strangling my stomach slowly let go and floated away. i knew i was deeply stressed and that it has been seriously affecting my well-being, yet the flood of relief was something i actually felt, not just emotionally, but physically.

oh, thank-you universe. thank-you friends for your love and support!

tomorrow i will mail back my confirmation of acceptance and hopefully then be able to quickly get in to meet with my advisor and the financial aid folks. the summer term begins may 11, so in almost a blink of an eye, i will be a student! i am so excited about this chapter, about learning and meeting new people. i am sure it will be a healthy, growing time in my life.

ah, health. my back is much better, not 100%, but better. that is also a relief. however, there is something wrong. i feel in in my bones, my gut, my deep self. i am not out looking for problems, but my body has something as of yet undefined going on. my blood tests were inconclusive, so now i am hoping to get accepted by the top specialist and get to the bottom of things with some x-rays. sadly, the average time it takes a woman to be diagnosed with any of these reactive arthritis disease is 9 years. often, after much damage is done and symptoms are severe & constant. i personally am not going to be satisfied with that. if i do indeed have a degenerative disease then i want to know now, not after serious damage is done!

today i made a list of all my weird symptoms. all the odd things that have plagued me for months or years. when this blinding back pain struck a few weeks ago, i would not have connected it to jaw pain & locking, or life-long intestinal issues, or my heel bone spurs, or even my hair loss. however, now that i have done hours of reading, especially on discussion forums where real live people report what is happening to i see that all this weird stuff may be connected. strange symptoms, some occasional, many chronic for years, that i never even saw a doctor for. or when i did see someone for the severe intestinal problems, they ran some tests and told me what i already knew...that something is wrong. my bowel is irritable. brilliant, i knew that at age 18!

it starts to make you feel crazy. like you are just creating symptoms from stress and all the weird stuff isn't real if no one can name what is wrong. thankfully, my current doctor does not think i am crazy and is willing to look at all the possibilities. i fear, however, that diagnosing something really odd might be beyond the scope of her abilities.

meanwhile, i am just working on taking really good care of myself and doing as much healing as i can with diet, exercise and stress-reducing activities. the ymca has approved me for financial assistance, so i can have a membership to their excellent facilities for only $25 a month.

little by little, i am determined to turn the tide in my body to abundant health. and i am certain that entering a career path that asks me to utilize my brain & heart, over my brawn - that path will be an important part of my healing.

life really is too short for me to burn up my one precious body with simply making a living. thank goodness my brain and compassion seems to be inexhaustible...when i take proper care of myself.

now that is the real work. excellent, consistant self-care.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

a little light on a rainy day

thank-you for your loving comments and encouragement, my friends. i am here to report that after 72 hours of round-the-clock dosing with anti-inflammatories, both herbal and pharmaceutical, i am feeling relief. i am in a very manageable place with pain at the moment, thank heavens.

whoa, now that was a crazy ride!

it is still always worst in the morning and the early morning hours leading up to getting up. then as the day progresses, with movement and change in position, the pain subsides. this pattern is actually one of the primary signs that point to ankylosing spondylitis. the low back and hip pain and tightness i have had for years upon waking (that went away during the day, so i didn't seek treatment) were early warnings.

granted, i do not have a positive diagnosis yet. but of course, i have been doing lots of research and reading this week. and i have to admit, this auto-immune, arthritis thing makes sense, given my medical history. for a long time, i have thought something was wrong, but i couldn't figure it out. my chronic inflammation conditions have lingered and lingered, even with years of treatment and very careful, consistent care on my part. last summer my doctor said it just doesn't make are doing everything right, yet you are not getting better. at that time, she suggested that a systemic inflammation was going on, perhaps a reaction to gluten. i went 100% gluten-free in september 1st.

our whole immune system starts in the gut. that is why healing with food is so profound and powerful. yet, i have only been doing this for six months. not enough time to heal years of damage to the intestines. i don't know how long that takes, actually. or how to measure when i get 'there'.

many people with ankylosing spondylitis find following a strict no-starch diet works wonders for them. i may have to say good-bye to pizza (even the gluten-free kind) and potatoes forever. considering i have already given up all bread, cakes, cookies -one wouldn't think this is a hardship. yet i find i still need some comfort foods, once in a while. perhaps after a long period of healing, i can have those things in small amounts, occasionally. i have read of people who have managed to get there. so i have some hope.

at the same time, given the thought that this disease works to fuse my bones together and cripple me, giving up a couple of foods seems like, um, well, small potatoes. sorry - i get both bad puns and ankylosing spondylitis from my dad. i would do anything to avoid the pain i experienced the past two weeks.

now we are just waiting for the blood work to come back from the lab with some answers. i hope for real answers, some direction to pursue, something solid enough to get me into the specialist. you know me, i like to solve things. being in limbo is very difficult for most of us. being in limbo with an expiration date on my insurance is making me crazy with stress.

yet it is such a part of life. limbo. did you ever notice how much of our lives we spend waiting? waiting for answers, waiting for change, waiting for different weather, waiting to do this or that very important thing...waiting for life to settle down, waiting for something to save us, waiting to speak up, waiting to let go...

we like action, we hate limbo, yet we wait. sometimes patiently, often with fretting impatience. that would be me, the fretting, obsessing type of impatience. it is something i really don't like about myself, something i seek to meditate away.

and then i remember. in meditation, you just sit with what is. sit with that awful impatience and one breath at a time, try not to judge. allow the parts of myself i view as weak, nasty, just plain bad - to just be.

this is more challenging than giving up pizza, or sticking with exercise. yet i know this is where i must work. my stress level and how i manage it has a huge impact on the emotional life of each cell in my body. i have always held my stress in my gut, so it comes as no surprise there is damage to heal there. i am ready to accept that the lion's share of that healing may need to be spiritual and emotional. i can't afford to slack off on this and waiting is causing me true harm.

and by the way, i have learned that many people with
ankylosing spondylitis treat pain with medical marijuana. so my plea in the last post wasn't crazy at all. just like any other herb, you can take it in a tincture. although chocolate truffles sound like a great way to take medicine!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the speedboat and the rock

i am a boat, speeding towards a rock that will certainly crush my frame. the rock is aways off, but i can see it, i can taste what the impact could be. it's a beautiful sunny day. i look everywhere but at that rock in my path. i am hoping at the last second, i can somehow swerve and avoid the crash.

save myself from the smashing, the pain, the drowning.

even as i feel the wind in my hair and know i am moving quickly towards the rock, each moment is in surreal slow motion. frame by frame, like the slow passing of a movie, projector set on the wrong speed.

my body has shut down for business. the low back is the general manager - she has flipped over the open sign and switched off the lights. in the dark, i lay in pain. last night, white hot pain that made me cry out, flashing into my sacrum, searing through my hips. i stumbled to the kitchen, sobbing, and took something more to kill the pain.

i am thinking, oh please just kill me. i thought my pain from two days ago was a 10, then a new 10 came along and upped the standard. what the hell is going on?

so far, no real answers, but a few solid hints towards the problem.

a new problem. or, more accurately, an old problem i didn't know i had. a problem older than both bouts of cancer. a problem that most likely set the stage and sold the tickets to cancer. the thought my doctor and chiropractor has is this: that i have ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis. it's a auto-immune disease, really. it fuses your bones together and it's whole game is inflammation. my dad has it, has had it for 40 years. so i know that for the most part, i could, like him, beat this with diet and exercise.

yet at this moment i am so sick of being a patient, so weary after now 10 days and nights of is all just overwhelming.

there is blood work to be done and x-rays, too. a specialist to get on board. all this, when i am racing ever closer to that rock. april 30 is the day my COBRA insurance policy runs out. the policy that has been my lifeline these past 17 months. with it, i have been able to have coverage for a nathurpath doctor, a chiropractor and my acupuncturist, who also does chinese medicine. without it, i have only the option of the state high-risk pool plan. even more money each month that i don't have. my credit card debt mounts and i think if only i can survive this with my credit intact. i feel too tired and too beaten down to start again from scratch. i try to consider what 'plan b' could look like if i am not accepted into grad school and able to subscribe to the school's health insurance. it is very hard to look at that possibility.

when i do, all i see is the rock, getting bigger as i draw closer.

as i sat crying in my doctor's chair yesterday, she talked to me about stress. she said a failure in the back connects emotionally to not feeling supported, to fears about security and foundation. she is right, dear readers. i am scared and obviously, deeply stressed. as much as i try to concentrate on the beautiful blue of the water and the call of the birds flying by, i can't help seeing that rock in the distance. i have not felt so vulnerable on so many levels before. if there is a safety net, i can't seem to see it.

pain has made me so tired and so irrational. financially, i need a miracle. i know this much is true. in this moment, i can not find my way to peace of mind. i can barely find my way through the veil of pain and to the keyboard in front of me.

heaven help me, i can see why people become addicts after accidents. i would take anything, anything to relieve this pain. please send chocolate laced with pot. or whatever else you have.

you probably think i am kidding. i assure you, i am not.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

strange and more strange.

this has been an odd week for the body. it's a tale of struggle and strangeness, of pain and mystery. i began my cleanse on monday, a bright and warm spring day. unlike my last cleanse, this time i was prepared, experienced, confident.

then, things started to fall apart. my body started to host the weirdest symptoms. i still haven't really figured it out and neither has my doctor.

i woke on tuesday morning with severe low back pain and quite dizzy. walking the dog, i nearly fell over. however, i didn't feel sick, exactly. the cleanse protocol i follow allows you to eat plenty of sustenance, it is simply all pureed and from the alkaline list. i was drinking liters of good water and taking all my supplements. on monday, i had done a gentle workout (15 minutes on the exercise bike, 15 minutes gentle yoga and 25 minutes in the dry sauna). i also had a great acupuncture treatment. i should have woken on tuesday feeling like a million super-healthy bucks!

i knew my period was eminent...could that be the wild card? i'd never been dizzy like this before. perhaps i needed more water. i drank more water. i took things easy, took a salt bath, read a book.

by tuesday night, i had moved from just dizzy to intense vertigo whenever i tried to lay down. as you can imagine, this made going to bed quite difficult. when i lay down, ever so gently, the bed began to spin, violently. within minutes, my body was overwhelmed and copious vomiting followed.

now i truly felt terrible.

after an hour of inching down bit by bit to a prone position with the light on, i was able to fall asleep. i was sure a night of rest would restore all to normal.

it was not to be. i visited my doctor and she was puzzled as well. my ears and throat looked fine. perhaps a strange virus had settled in my inner ear and low back? we decided to wait a couple of days and then re-evaluate.

ah, but my interview with the faculty at lewis & clark graduate school was to be friday morning! i found it very hard not to stress out about feeling sick, dizzy and in pain for that very important meeting. i resolved to suck it up with the help of medicine, if needed.

sticking to the cleanse has not been a struggle this week, this first of 3 weeks. the dizzy symptoms have meant i am persistently nauseous, so my appetite has been seriously dampened. drinking smoothies and purred veggie soups has not been a struggle in the slightest. so perhaps there is a silver lining. the worrying part is that i still do not feel well.

the intense vertigo has past, it seems. yet i remain slightly dizzy, a little nauseous and my low back is absolutely killing me. on monday, if it is not improved, i will seek out a chiropractor. perhaps it was never a virus, perhaps i have a pinched nerve.

the week comes to a close, a strange week with some real lows. i have been able to do very little in the way of work and i do have some wedding locket sets to complete. fingers crossed for a healthy start to next week, so i can make up for lost time.

oh, enough about my health already! you probably want to know about the interview, right? dear friends, i went -in a smart outfit and aided by enough medication to keep the back from making me cry out in pain. the process was interesting and unlike anything i have experienced. picture this: a group interview with 25 applicants and 2 faculty members. first, we were given 30 minutes to write an essay, then an hour of going around the table, each person answering a question. then we broke into two groups, i was in a group of 12 applicants with the director of the school counseling program. i really liked the director and i think we connected. in our smaller group, we then went around and answered several more questions. at the end, we had the opportunity to ask questions of the director.

the strange part was feeling as if you are speaking to the whole group (which are in essence, your competition at this point) and telling your story, but the only opinions that matter are the two faculty members present. i feel i did well and for the most part, i felt comfortable and confident. certainly being 42, with years and years of professional experience, management and public speaking -i did have a significant advantage over the applicants in their early 20's.

at this moment, i am filled with relief that the interview is over. i believe i presented myself well, spoke sincerely and made a positive impression. my work is done in this application process. now, we wait for the faculty committee to decide. the director suggested we would have an answer by mail "around the beginning of april". the best part was leaving with even a stronger conviction that this school and this program is a great fit for me. i am so excited about the opportunities for growth, for intellectual stimulus, for building community. and i was thrilled to learn that 100% of their graduates get full time jobs in the field. some even get hired before they finish the program and end up being paid for the second year of internship!

so, i do think this is a perfect 3 weeks to be cleansing. in with the new, out with the old. my highest hopes are hung on getting accepted into this grad school, this program. however, if the fates decide differently, at least i will be healthier (and slimmer -i have already lost 4 lbs) to handle the blow.

at the moment, my deepest desire is for my back to stop hurting. today, i am living in the moment.

Monday, March 2, 2009

spring fling: a cleanse

well, my dear friends, today i embark on a spring cleanse! it's been 6 months since my last one and my body is telling me now is the time. even though it is not truly warm weather outside yet, the sun has been showing us some love lately. days are getting longer, bit by bit. we have a time change just around the corner and i'm going on a short trip with my family to mexico at the beginning of april.

all signs point to cleanse!

i do feel i have made good progress on healing, both heart and body, since september. i've started in to a more regular exercise routine, my apartment is finally decorated and orderly, and the small collages i have been playing with are filling up my creative cup.

though my body would be happy to drop a few pounds, i know that for sure.

i feel like there is such a delicate balance going on. my foot and heel problems have been better for months. yet those months have been largely sedentary ones. as i have eased into some exercise, the heel seems always on the edge of a horrible flair-up. the simple truth is that carrying extra weight puts pressure on that foot. in fact, being overweight is one of the primary causes of plantar facsitis. i may not be able to melt away the bone spur, but i can lose a few pounds. as difficult as the task may be, it is possible and within my control.

so i am going to follow the same cleanse protocol, the ph miracle for weight loss, by dr. robert young. it worked so well for me before. last night i dashed around to the markets to stock up on all my veggies, almond milks and young coconuts. it will be good to break myself off sugar for a few weeks.

if you want to follow along, or join me, my plan is to follow the liquid feast program, get weekly colon hydro-therapy, participate in gentle exercise every single day, do at least 3 dry saunas a week at the gym and finish up on march 22.

spring is the perfect time to detox your system and start a new healthy habit or two!