Tag Archive: health


Coping with Pain and Living

pain level conceptual meter indicate maximumIt has been 15 years since I began a journey of living each day with chronic pain.  It hasn’t been easy but I do not take pain pills. I am finally at a point where I am comfortable with the daily struggle.  I have found some helpful things that doctors and therapist will not tell you about.  Coping is hard but to live a full life coping is essential. Peace of mind, contentment and a willingness to change your mindset can do wonders. There are also some useful treatments you can do yourself when the pain is intense.

Number one on my list of tips would have to be pity parties.  You are allowed to have them but set a timer for one hour.  At the end of the hour, fix yourself up.  Put on makeup, perfume, or whatever makes you look your best. If you struggle with this, at least brush your hair, brush your teeth and wash your face.  When you feel clean and refreshed you just feel better.

Number two is meditation.  Meditate with a montra, music, or prayer.  Breathe deeep breaths and realize how good it is to be alive. When your mind is calm your pain will decrease.  Meditation is very difficult when you are in pain but it is surprisingly effective. As pain increases, agitation and worry increases. As agitation and worry increases, pain increases. This creates a cycle of increasing pain.  Calming the mind, calms the pain.

Number three is spiritual awareness. This is the ability to let go of your responsibility to fix it. Sometimes things in our life are not what we planned.  An awareness of our spiritual beliefs and a feeling that we cannot control everything in life can ease our soul.  When pain is chronic it is easy to get bitter and concentrate only on the negative.  Look outside yourself. There is always someone in more pain, guaranteed. I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior and that belief gives me peace.

Number four on the list is smiling.  Try to smile whenever you look in the mirror.  Smile at everyone you meet.  It is extremely hard not to feel good when you are smiling.  A positive, happy outlook will make anything you are going through easier.  Even when my hair was falling out and I had a red rash all over my face, I got in a habit of smiling when I look in the mirror. I must admit I did look funny.

Those are the most important things on my list. They are also the four hardest.  Now I will give you simple things that help.

Heat always helps arthritic pain (swelling needs cold).  A heating pad is my best friend. I have wrapped my hand and my feet with one, sat on one, leaned on one and many other positions of comfort or comedy.  Of course, a hot tub is great if you don’t have high blood pressure. For arthritic hands or feet, a paraffin dip is fantastic.  If you hands get cold, sleep in gloves. My favorite is a warm bath.

Vicks Vapor Rub, or a generic version, is the most versatile of aids.  There are expensive over the counter medications with the same ingredient, menthol.  Rub this wherever you have pain.  It smells horrible but it works great!  If the smell is a problem there are many other products that work but they do cost more. Look for the highest percentage of menthol. If your hands hurt rub them with Vicks and put gloves on; for your feet rub and put on socks.

Stretching and exercise is very important.  My condition flares up after exercise so I quit exercising and my pain increased.  It is very important to keep your muscles and soft tissue strong and flexible.  I do yoga to keep my range of motion, balance and flexibility.  I often combine yoga and meditation. I go to physical therapy once a week to keep my muscles from atrophying. I have a treadmill and I try to walk everyday.

The best thing you can buy for pain is an e-stim, electrical stimulation, machine.  This is a battery operated version of the machines in use by physical therapist and chiropractors.  Most drug stores have these and they are available on Amazon for under $30.  If you decide to purchase one, buy one with leads and sticky pads.  This allows you to better target your painful areas.  Versions are available for various areas that are butterfly shaped with the pads and control in one device.  I have tried them and found they are great for small areas but require someone else to start them if they are for your back. And they are more expensive.

I truly hope my tips help you. Once you have your mind calm and your body exercised, take a warm hot bath with bath salts. Dry off well. Spray your bed with lavender scent. Hook the e-stim up, cover it with the hot pad and relax with deep breaths. You are alive! You are truly wonderfully made.

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A Chorus of Prayer

Raining Up to JesusI don’t normally post my religious beliefs, much to my discredit, but this week I experienced something that I have to share.  My son was dealing with a health crisis and the power of prayer was strong. I am a christian, but sometimes my faith waivers as everyone’s does. Please don’t misunderstand.  I am neither sinless or a pious person.  Jesus Christ has purchased the forgiveness of my sins through his death and ressurrection.  What follows is my testimony of God’s mercy and the healing power of prayer. Please read this entire post before you form an opinion.

My youngest son had been passing kidney stones but there were 4 that were too large for him to pass.  He had the shockwave procedure done to break up the stones. It is quite normal for bruising to occur inside of the lining on the outside of the kidney.  Bruising is caused from bleeding that usually clots and is absorbed back into the body. They did not get all of the stones broke up.  Three were left and he was sent home.  Two days later he went to the emergency room when the largest stone blocked the duct to his bladder. (Please pardon the lack of medical terms.  For more information go to Medline Plus.)

They admitted him into the hospital and tried to manually pull it out.  The stone was too large and they could not use the laser to break it up as the laser was broken.  The doctor on call decided to put a stint in too prevent the stone from blocking the flow from the kidney to the bladder.  Once again, he was sent home.

He began having severe back pain the next day and by the night he was back in the ER.  He was admitted to the hospital.  When he got up to go to the bathroom, he fainted.  He was put in ICU with internal bleeding.  When they put the stint in, the stint dislodged the clot in the bruise and it began bleeding inside the lining of the kidney. His blood pressure dropped and his heart was having to work too hard. My daughter-in-law called and asked us to come down. They gave him four pints of blood total.

As soon as I got off the phone, I prayed, then I called my friends to pray, then I called my church prayer chain, and then I put a call for prayer on social media.  I prayed a prayer of praise for the healing my son was going to receive.  A sense of unbelievable calm filled me. Imagine a reverse rain carrying prayers to God.  I knew that God was hearing a chorus of cries for the healing of my son.

My son was sent straight home from the Intensive Care Unit after 3 days and is doing fine!

It was a little unsettling to know that my son could be dying but I felt no worry or despair.  I just knew that God was taking care of him.  God says that if we but ask, he will answer our prayers. The bible tells us: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not”. Jeremiah 33:3; “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” John 14:14; “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Matthew 21:22. So why do we not believe in the power of prayer?

I know that there have been times when depression and despair have kept me from believing my prayers would be answered.  Usually in those times, I cannot find the answers to my prayers.  I am so immersed in the situation within myself that I cannot see the answers that God gives.  We must have the faith to believe that God will provide answers. We must give Him the praise and thanksgiving that He deserves and demands.   “I will praise you with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise to you” Psalms 138:1; “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:15

Let this post be a testament to the power and love of God and his son, Jesus Christ.  Thank you, God, for healing my son.

Rabbit holeHelp! I have fallen down the rabbit hole. My husband is self-employed and has insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.  We actually enrolled him during the initial roll out. There were no problems.  Signing up was quick and painless.  This year I received a letter, in my name, that we needed to resubmit his application through the government Marketplace. We wanted to carry the same policy.  Yikes! The only time I have ever encountered customer service this poor was dealing with disability insurance companies when filing a claim. Those of you following my blog know what that was like.

First I tried to renew through the website at 8:00 a.m. Everything went fine till the financial portion.  Because my husband is self-employed as a sole proprietor, he does not get a monthly paycheck.  The first question was asking the monthly income.  We base our income on the profit for the year before so I divided it int0 12 months. The same way I did it the year before. After completing this it said I had to send in a W2, pay stub, business ledger, or 2014 tax return. He is self-employed so he doesn’t get a W2 or a pay stub! I ought to copy our business ledger and send it to them, but I don’t want to kill that many trees or pay that much postage.  Obviously we don’t have a 2014 tax return. I gave up and decided to call the number provided.

It was now 8:45 a.m.  After a 10 minute hold time a very courteous young lady answered the call. She took all my information then told me she couldn’t discuss my husband’s insurance with me.   I reminded her that I received a letter to me for my husband’s insurance.  She absolutely would not, could not speak with me without my husband with me.  Thank you very much for the help. It was now 9:15 a.m.

Now for the biggest fiasco yet! At 9:30 I decided to try to call one more time and get another representative a try.  This time there was a 15 minute wait time. The call was answered by a young man that confidently responded that he could certainly help me with the task.  Everything went well till we got into the financial portion.  Once again he asked for the monshooting-starthly income and I explained the self-employment issue.  I stated our income hadn’t changed.  Finally after 2 hours going back and forth, we get his insurance set up for $325 a month.  But I still have to send in nonexistent paper work! Plus there is another number I have to call to get it started.  Wonder how long that will take? It  was now 11:35 a.m.

But it gets even better.  The same day I received a letter in the mail from my insurance company stating that if we didn’t renew it would automatically renew for $183 a month! If you saw a shooting star that night it was just the top of my head exploding!

Trying New Things

Painting, gardening and crafts

As I continue to define my role in life as a disabled retiree, I have tried several alternative directions. I have tried tutoring, sewing, painting, care-giving, volunteering, and gardening. Oh yeah, I blog. There just hasn’t been anything that cranks my tractor yet. I know I have a hidden talent that is just waiting to be found.

Tutoring went well and I enjoyed it.  The point of tutoring is to get the student to the point that they don’t need to be tutored.  At first, I got several calls a week requesting tutoring. I had 4 or 5 regular students for 3 or 4 sessions.  Each student became confident enough to end the sessions.  The school hired another math teacher and I quit getting calls.  Guess I was too good for my own good! I even tutored a few adults that wanted to learn different technology. While I enjoyed that, adult students taking private lessons can be truly demanding and required too much babying.

I thought I knew how to sew.  I made pillows and seat cushions.  I even taught a friend to sew.  We made at least 5 summer dresses and tops.  She wears the dresses all summer and they look great on her.  They just look like sacks on me!  I tried to make my great-nieces clothes.  I only saw them wear them a few times.  I suspect their mother made the girls wear them then.  I left wads of elastic in the waistband because I couldn’t get it back around to cut it off.  The seams were too large making the legs tight.  Honestly, I wouldn’t wear them and I won’t even display them here!  And my bloody fingertips became too sore.

 

crafts displayed on a table

Countless hours and burnt fingertips produced an array of crafts to sale.

My latest effort was crafts.  A local church was having a bazaar and you could rent a booth for $20.  Great. I was excited. A friend of mine decided she would do it with me. We spent a week gluing, painting, and tying.  We collected craft ideas and were diligently preparing to sell our first million, or a 100 at least.  I found it very painful. Hot glue and hands that shake or drop things should not be in the same room together. I think I lost the fingerprints on at least two of my fingers. The big day came and we went to find our booth.  It was at the very end of the booths, behind the musical equipment for the band that was playing.  And it was farther from the door than any other.  I think we sold $120 but spent $60 on materials and paid a $20 booth rental.  We cleared about $30 each and I got rid of those pesky fingerprints!

So far I haven’t found my next calling, but I am certainly going to keep looking. The desire for individuality and purpose is uniquely human. As long as my fingers hold out, I am going to keep searching for what I want to do with my life when I grow up!

Re-Purposing Myself

Re-purposing is all the rage these days.  Bing returns over 2 billion results for “repurposing.”  We turn used plastic bags into purses, old ladders into bookcases, and even suitcases into chairs!  It seems we can give everything a new start.  What happens when we must give ourselves a new purpose?

A lot of the younger basuitcase chairby boomers are in the position where they have to change directions.  They are the boomers that have lost their jobs due to down-sizing, the economy or health issues. A lot of them worked for one employer the past twenty years or more and their salaries had risen too.  Retirement was on the horizon, but not yet an option.  From a business point of view, I can understand why it makes financial sense to lay-off the more costly employees.  Why pay someone $80,000 when you can get someone young and hungry for $30,000!

Unfortunately employers rarely hire anyone within 10 years of retirement. My friends say company interviewers always ask when you plan to take retirement. If you are honest and say less than 10 years, you can bet you will never hear from them again. One of my friends told an interviewer that he was going to work till he died in order to pay off the debt from being unemployed.  A retired military non-commissioned officer was laid off from his civilian job just after building a new house.  The result was a heart attack.  Knowing that no one would hire him now, he put the house on the market and prepared to re-purpose his self.  Me

I now face my own re-purposing.  What do I want to be when I grow up?  So far I’ve been a daughter, a wife, a mother, a procurement clerk, a typesetter, a secretary, a teacher, a manager, a computer technician, commissioned artist, training manager, certified facilitator, graphic design artist, webmaster, and a host of other things. Not much left to choose from now.   I am not able to physically hold a job so I think for the first time in my life, so I will just be me.

Maybe I will take out my past purposes and play with them now and then. Maybe I will travel, paint, sing, or play.  We are embarking on a new adventure with exciting challenges and freedom.  I say embrace it and take it one day at a time.  Now is such a wonderful time.   Let’s re-purpose ourselves just to live in the now.

Wet cat

Ordinarily I do not write about my family, but the past two years have been a wild ride for our family.  Life has been a tiger that we just had to hold tight for the ride.  Our youngest was in Afghanistan, and our oldest was out of work.  I am disabled and receiving Social Security Disability but still, after nearly three years, considered able to work by my disability insurance company.  We have been building a new house and trying to sell our home of 20 years.  My husband wants to retire but the tiger came in and made that impossible for now.

I have not posted while my son was in Afghanistan as my sacrifice to honor his service.  A Mechanical Engineer with a wife he served for one year, and completed his Master Degree while away.  He is in the National Guard serving when there is only moderate personal gain and much sacrifice.  His poor wife had to maintain the house, the yard, the finances, two vehicles, and take time for her own career while he was gone! All these men and women that serve in the Armed Forces have my gratitude and respect.  They leave their homes, their jobs, their wives and children to fight wars and protect us during those times when we are most vulnerable.

The economy has definitely been felt in our household.  My oldest was out of work.  He went through 12 years of high school, passed all the grades, but could not pass the required exit exam. He has a learning disability which makes passing standardized testing very difficult for him. He tried for 10 years and finally got a GED this year!! He has been hired on a temporary job but definitely a step forward.  I am so proud of them both. They aren’t shy about hard work and rode the tiger down!
Happy-cat
I live with active sarcoidosis and severe bilateral Meniere’s Disease. I do not drive to protect the safety of the other drivers on the rode, so it has been a blessing to have an offspring available.  It has been liberating to have a driver available whenever I needed or wanted.  And I didn’t feel guilty since he was eating my food!  Now that he has gone to work I am once again confined to socializing and shopping through technology. (You can spend a lot of time shopping and money on the internet!)  Most of the time lately I am in too much pain and fatigue to do anything.  With little time to accomplish anything, it is hard to get anything done!  Unfortunately, recent bouts with pneumonia and bronchitis have set me back. I am back on track now and hope to be back up to mischief.

There is always hope in everything. That is what makes us keep riding … the hope of a future!

 

More to come about this year!

Surprised?

Well, Cigna canceled my disability insurance payments.  Surprise!  I am initiating an appeal. My doctors have not changed their positions. Cigna Life Insurance coverage is no longer in force, as they have canceled the premium waiver.  On top of all this, my COBRA health insurance coverage expires the first of September, but I can’t get Medicare until November. I am about at the end of hope.

I expected my disability payments to be canceled.  That is how the insurance game is played. But they canceled it because the strength in my legs had increased. I never knew that leg strength helped to type or hear! Once again my ENT and rheumatologist had to fill out forms and send in letters. They make it so difficult to get and keep payments coming.  The reason I signed up for disability insurance was to make sure that I would have enough income to pay my bills.  These payments are less than I draw from Social Security, but they are needed to cover the bills for insurance.

Image

I cannot get life insurance coverage outside what I used to have.I received a letter from Cigna stating that they had also canceled the premium waiver for my life insurance.  The letter said I had the right to appeal the decision, but I had to apply for conversion to a private policy within 30 days.  AND I had to send in the first three months payment with my application which would run about $1400.00!  I am fortunate to have some room with my finances but that and my health insurance run more than I draw from Social Security. Our home is on the market and we are building a smaller, handicap accessible home to lower our expenses.

You have to be on Social Security for two years to be eligible for Medicare.  COBRA coverage last 18 months and cost me about $900 a month.  That means that for 6 months I will not have health coverage.  I cannot possibly afford insurance that will cover my pre-existing condition (about $1300).  Believe me I have checked. I went through the procedure to try to get COBRA extended but they denied it because they weren’t notified within 60 days of receiving SSD.  That also has an appeals process.

The Sarcoidosis is in the joints of my fingers and my wrists.  I cannot type for more than 30 minutes without pain. I lose my grip at all the wrong times.  I can’t sit comfortably due to pain in my hips. I can’t walk without pain in my knees or feet.  I can’t stand still without falling because of the Meniere’s. I can’t walk without looking at my feet.  I can’t drive more than 10 miles from home.  Yet Cigna thinks I am faking and can work a full-time sedentary job.

I don’t have the energy on a good day to be active for more than 4 or 5 hours.  Someone is with me whenever I leave home in case I fall.  The medication I take is messing with my body and the disease markers keep going up.  The doctors tell me to avoid stress.  The insurance companies count on people either giving up or dying.  And the way this is going I think they are literally killing me!

 

 

Here We Go Again

doctorMy private disability insurance policy from my former employer finally approved my long term disability payments.  The Social Security Administration, SSA, approved my disability coverage six months ago and ruled “disabled without hope for improvement.”  This means that SSA will not need to reevaluate my disability for five to seven years. After receiving one monthly payment from the private insurance, I received a call from their representative that I will need to be reevaluated due to criteria changes.  It is a wonder that I didn’t have a stroke right then.  I know my blood pressure must have been elevated because smoke was coming out my ears.

I don’t understand insurance companies.  Disability insurance is gambling, period.  The insurance companies are betting that you will not be disabled before reaching retirement at 65.  You are betting that you will be disabled.  In my case, I won the wager, but I have to prove that I won.  Unlike bookies that pay out winnings, insurance companies do not simply pay out winnings.  You must prove you won and guess who decides whether you proved it.  That’s right.  It’s the insurance company.  Even the law is on the side of insurance.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, ERISA, was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1974 and applies to most insurance obtained as an employee benefit. According to the website of Pillsbury & Levinson, LLP, ERISA is one of the worst and most poorly understood laws ever passed by Congress. ERISA gives insurance companies enormous advantages that may actually encourage them to deny claims unfairly.  It would appear there are no penalties for the insurance companies that deny benefits.  After 2 years, I am finally approved but must be re-evaluated because they changed their criteria.  The insurance companies can decide to change the requirements for disability at any time without notice to you.

US SenateUnder ERISA, a policyholder may NOT sue an insurance company for any damages caused by the wrongful denial of benefits no matter how egregious, outrageous, or malicious is the conduct of the insurance company.  Under ERISA there cannot be a jury trial, the policyholder must sue in federal court and there is no pretrial discovery.  If you sue the insurance company, under ERISA it must be filed in federal court and heard by a federal judge.  I had to go through this process in order to received short term disability from the same company that is providing long term benefits.  You do not get damages for the time without an income or the cost of filing the law suit.

ERISA covers retirement, health and other welfare benefit plans (e.g., life, disability and apprenticeship plans). Among other things, ERISA provides that those individuals who manage plans must meet certain standards of conduct,  detailed provisions for reporting to the government and disclosure to participants, assuring that plan funds are protected and that participants who qualify receive their benefits. As pointed out above, this law actually encourages abuse by insurance companies instead of assuring that qualified individuals receive benefits.

ERISA has also been expanded to include new health laws. The Affordable Care Act addressed pre-existing conditions, coverage of adult children, and other protections to ensure affordable health coverage for all.  The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) amended ERISA to provide for the continuation of health care coverage for employees and their beneficiaries (for a limited period of time) if certain events would otherwise result in a reduction in benefits.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) amended ERISA to make health care coverage more portable and secure for employees.

Wet cat

My benefits were reduced by the amount of my Social Security Act Disability funds so the amount to be paid by the insurance company is rather small.  They are supposed to pay for about eight years.  It appears that the eight years will consist of constant harassment, evaluations, and forms.  My employer paid for this benefit, but I wonder if the harassment will be worth it.

The really bad thing is that there isn’t a thing I can do about it. We are always told these laws are to protect us, but who do they actually protect!

Goodbye, Mustang Sally

Old picture of boys leaning against cars.

I grew up in the 60s and early 70s.  Mustangs were THE hot car.  The boys would park their Mustangs, and other muscle cars outside the gym.  They would lean up against their cars in their bell bottoms that fit comfortably  tight, no need to buy boxers for show.

Looking back I am sure some of these boys were just skinny pimply faced kids, but they sure did look hot to us girls when they leaned up against those muscle cars.

When I turned 50, I guess I had a midlife crisis, but I absolutely had to have one of the new retro style Mustangs.  I specifically wanted the pony package in gray with a black convertible roof.  In 2009, I found her.

Mustang Sally

She was on a car lot covered with leaves.  I knew I had to have her.  She went home with me that very day.

On bleak cold or rainy days, she rode me to work safe and secure.  When the sun was out and the day was warm, she would put her top down and ride with the wind.  On those days, I felt young and free riding with my friend.  I would get challenges at red lights and would race her engine just a little to have some fun.  (Never enough to break the law.  Never. Honest.)  Going into drive through service windows were a hoot!

Then my doctor said those words, “You need to use extreme caution driving.”  I began to have vertigo spells where someone would have to come get me.  More words followed that changed my life, “You need to stop driving.”

“Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down.
Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down.
You been running all over the town now.
Oh! I guess I’ll have to put your flat feet on the ground.


All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride.
All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride.
All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride.”
~Wilson Pickett

Now my old friend, Sally, is going to a teenage girl who will treasure her as she deserves to be treasured. Maybe they will make their own teenage memories.  Memories that she may look back on 40 years later and smile.  Hopefully, they will be memories she can cherish and remember with laughter.  A classic ride driven by a classy young girl.

Take care of Mustang Sally for me, Christina!

Brain Fog

out of orderIt has been over a year since I have went shopping on my own. It has been over a year since I drove myself to the doctor. It has been nearly a year since I went by myself to visit a friend. It has been almost a year since I have done anything unplanned. It has been over a year since I had to think!

Everything seems slowed down, almost like swimming in hard set jelly. I hear people tell me things and react as one should react. Later though I can’t remember them telling me and I have to ask again. I never remember people’s names, but then I never did in the past either. I have a degree in math, taught high school math, and did graduate work in computer science, but I find myself stumped when trying to figure out the difference between two prices. I used to always be elected to keep score during game night. Now I am accused of cheating because I add wrong!

I truly do not believe it is due to any physical calamity, although God has given me a few. I think this “brain fog” is just laziness. I have set and hibernated for the past year.  Am I better physically? Maybe in some ways.  Mentally?  Definitely not. Because of my physical limitations, I have allowed my brain to atrophy. I have not been challenged with true problem solving. I let my physical dependencies morph into emotional dependencies. My brain became a couch potato.

So I need to get off my rear and motivate. I am not sure how to go about it. I know exercise is in order in some format. Balance and fatiguing the muscles are issues. I need to find some way to volunteer for something even though I can’t get anywhere or predict if I will even be able to volunteer on any given day. Crossword puzzles and smartphone games are gwoman holding shopping bagsreat, but lack that charge you get from social interaction.

Recently I did go on a shopping trip with two other friends. I was out of the loop when they began talking jobs, shopping, or anything outside our little group. I quickly tired and began walking slower. How do people do this?

How do you become a healthy shut-in? I do not live near a metropolitan area. My husband would not move to the city. There is no public transportation. My husband works long hours and has to rearrange employees to take me places. I want to get healthier and continue to grow stronger. I want to grow sharper mentally and to continue to live independently. Any suggestions?