Taking a Break


Thank you to all of my new and older followers. I appreciate you taking the journey with me.

Due to all the sadness that has been happening around the world, especially those that have personal connection to us through our friends and family, I’ve been struggling to focus on writing for the past week. I find that doing physical things, like playing Pickleball, are the only things that help me get through the day. So I’m going to take a break from writing for a few days. Hope to see you again soon.❤️

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Coping with the Unpredictability of Weather


Is it just me, or do the rest of you think that weather has become much more unpredictable over the last five years or more?

If you’ve read my post in Memoirs, Seeking a Diagnosis, you will know that I suffer from chronic pain that has never been diagnosed as being caused by anything other than some “mild” arthritis. Maybe that’s the best diagnosis there is. Some studies say that wet, cold weather can make arthritis worse, and more and more I believe it. Most of the time I can deal with my pain and continue to function, but on my really bad days, when I can’t seem to finish any task, when my whole body hurts and my brain wants to shut down, a major change in the weather is involved.

During the past week, here in our community, we’ve gone from damp, rainy days to warm sunny ones, sometimes in the middle of the day. A week ago yesterday was one of those days. We had to drive my son to Toronto to catch his flight to Poland, where he is making his new home. The next day I was thankful that his flight was on Thursday and not Friday.

Friday morning was a sunny day with a little wind; by 3:00 pm the wind had accelerated so much that tree branches were taking out power lines, not only in our community, but in various locations throughout the province. Flights were cancelled in Toronto, which is 200 miles west of us, yet the nearest town to the east of us still had power. While we sat in a restaurant in that town, waiting for dinner, I watched the overhead traffic lights and signs swinging and bouncing precariously at the intersection.  Across the street a row of young cedar trees danced to the music of the wind, and discarded plastic bags and grocery fliers whirled through the air. I washed down two Advil with coffee to keep the pain in my shoulders under control. When we left the restaurant with the plan to purchase some battery operated candles, we saw that a street light had broken near its base and toppled over onto the sidewalk, narrowly missing a parked car. The store that we hoped would sell us the candles had just locked its doors and sent employees home.

Back at home I sat with my charged electric massager on my shoulders, while entertaining myself with games and puzzles on my iPad. The power came back on for half an hour, enticing me to turn on the washer and dryer to finish the laundry I’d started hours before. The last load of wash was done before the power went off again; the clothes in the dryer were still damp. By flashlight I hung them around the bathroom. We called it an early night, sure the power would be restored before morning. It wasn’t. The wind had died down and the sun was shining, but it was 3:00 in the afternoon before I could finish the laundry and make a meal.

Aftermath of first wind storm

Aftermath of first wind storm

Yesterday morning I awoke in major pain, the worst I’ve ever had. My head pounded, my shoulders felt like they carried a hundred pounds and none of my joints wanted to move. At first I thought it might be due to all of the pickle ball playing I’d done every day this week, but when I got up and opened the blinds I knew the cause. The sky was filled with heavy black clouds and it was already raining. As the winds picked up, so did my pain. The whole day was a write off for me. Shortly after the lights flickered at 4:30 I scurried to get some dinner cooked, knowing the power was going to fail us again. It did. We ate in the condo common room under the skylights and read until the sunlight disappeared. We used Jim’s phone data to watch a couple of TV shows on his iPad, and ate a snack by candle light before giving up and going to bed.

candles2

The power came back on in the middle of the night. I know because the kitchen lights were shining into my eyes through the bedroom doorway. Today the sun is fully exposed, the winds are calm and my pain level is back to moderate.

I’m thankful that our power was restored in such a short time, unlike some areas of our country and others.

What are your thoughts on our unpredictable weather, and how does it affect you?

In the Blink of an Eye


My plan, last month, was to start writing blog posts about the preparations needed to take a trip to China. On September 25th, one week from today, we were scheduled to join a twelve day tour with friends of ours. We’d booked this trip through the local Chamber of Commerce back in May, and until three weeks ago we were counting the days.

But, life can change in the blink of an eye. On Tuesday, August 23rd, Jim and I walked across the soccer field to the Hastings Field House to play pickleball, something we’d been doing three or four times a week all summer long. I was feeling fit and strong and happy.

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Hastings Field House

Two hours later I was lying on a bed in the emergency room at our closest hospital. At the time I wasn’t clear how it had happened, but somehow I’d thrown myself off balance while trying to hit a ball, and before I could move an arm or leg to catch myself, I landed on the floor with such force that it knocked the wind out of me. My right hip hurt and I couldn’t put any weight on my leg, but I couldn’t believe that it could possibly be broken, because it didn’t hurt all that much. I sat in a chair and watched while someone else stepped into my place and the game was finished, at my insistence.

However, when they tried to get me into a truck to take me home one movement caused me to gasp and suddenly I had no control over my leg or foot.  I had to admit that it was more than just a bruised hip. I was still optimistic, hoping it could be a dislocation that could be easily remedied. Instead of going home, my friend drove me to the hospital while Jim followed in our car. X-rays were taken of my hip and the conclusion wasn’t good – a fracture. They’d hoped to transfer me to Peterborough Hospital for surgery later that day. I had to fast until they learned that it wasn’t going to happen.

It was Thursday morning before I was loaded into a patient transfer wagon for the rough, hour-long trip. At 7:00 that night I met my surgeon outside the Operating Room. I was going to require a whole hip replacement! My optimism went out the door.

off-to-surgery

Off to Surgery

I asked if I’d still be able to go to China in a month’s time. One nurse in the Emergency Room had told me that I’d be up walking the day after surgery, after all.

“Not going to happen,” said Dr. Lever. “You would have to have a load of blood thinners on board because of the risk of blood clots, and your extended health insurance wouldn’t cover you if anything happened as a result of this surgery. Do you have cancellation insurance?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll sign whatever forms you need to get your refund.”

“We usually leave for Arizona the middle of October, in the motor home.”

“Sorry, I don’t recommend that either.  You should stick close to home until your full twelve-week recovery period is up, for the same reasons.”

As they rolled me into the operating room, just before the anesthesiologist did his job, a few tears escaped from my eyes.

ceramic-joint

What my new hip joint looks like

The Emergency Room nurse was right – I was up walking with a walker the next day, but it was obvious that there was no way I’d be ready to do any hiking in China in just four weeks, other risks or not.

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Third Day: Sitting up in a chair, filling out forms

By Sunday I was out of hospital and on the road to recovery, but instead of completing preparations for our trip to China, I’ve been filling out forms to get a refund for it through our Cancellation Insurance, and cancelling the extended health insurance. We will also have to adjust our insurance and our arrival dates for Arizona, but we will go. And maybe next year we’ll go to China.

Something Different


This week I did something that I don’t often do – I treated myself to a trip to a Spa.

Nourish Your Sole is different from most Spas, and certainly not the kind of place that malls provide, where you can run in and get a manicure and pedicure in twenty minutes if you don’t care much about the germs that lurk in the foot soaks or in the utensils that are used for multi people.

At Nourish your Sole, in Cobourg, Ontario, I was greeted with a smile, an offer of something to drink, and the pleasant vibes of my favourite old time music hits. I was invited to choose my nail colour, one for each service I was having done; in my case a manicure and a pedicure. I was also invited to choose the essential oils that I wanted for the massage. I chose a lavender and eucalyptus combination.

Next I was seated comfortably at a manicure table, where my nails were filed and trimmed, and my hands were gently massaged right up to my elbows, by Brittany. I was so relaxed that when that was done I almost forgot about the polish! The polish is in small bottles that are used for you and you alone.

Nail colour1

From the manicure table I was ushered to a soft leather arm chair, with cushions to arrange at my back. Brittany left, but soon returned with a large round wash basin that was lined with a recyclable plastic bag and filled with warm sudsy water. I put my feet in and felt the tension evaporate as they soaked for maybe ten minutes. I really have no idea how long it was, but it was luxurious. When Brittany returned, the same treatment was given to my feet as my hands: nails filed and trimmed, massage all the way up to my knees. After the excess lotion was wiped away, the colour was applied. When it was hardened Brittany helped me get my sandals back on without smudging, and gave me a little gift bag containing my two bottles of polish and the emery board that she’d used on my nails. They never reuse them.

Although I’d misread the pamphlet when I booked my appointment so I had expected to be done in half the time, at half the cost, I felt too good to care. I decided to treat myself again next month!

Wooden Signs and Diabetic Children


On Wednesday I took delivery of 56 wooden signs, destined for Camp Huronda near Huntsville, Ontario. Since they had to be there before the camp closed on Saturday, what better way to deliver them on a beautiful summer day than by motorcycle?

Thursday morning we had all of the signs and an over-night bag snugly packed into our little cargo trailer that was hitched to our Suzuki Boulevard, and were heading north out of town. This was the first time that we’d pulled a trailer behind this bike, only an 800 cc, but it was incredibly easy going. We made it to Minden in time for lunch and a much needed stretch. By 2:00 we had found the camp, deep in the forest on Waseosa Lake Road.

I knew before we left that Camp Huronda is a camp for  children with Type 1 Diabetes, but we learned a whole lot more from Amanda when she greeted us and helped unload the boxes.

Camp Huronda is a 125 acre camp sponsored entirely by the Canadian Diabetic Association, private donations and geared-to-income fees paid by young campers who spend two weeks during the summer enjoying biking, hiking, swimming, kayaking, crafts and, more importantly, making friends with other children who understand the hardships of living with diabetes.

“We always have a highly qualified endocrinologist at camp and the health and blood sugars of every child is closely monitored. Usually insulin dosages can be cut by 20% while children are at camp because of the increased activities and healthy diet,” Amanda told us.

Camp Huronda

Amanda and Jim display one of the signs

Children are also taught how to manage their illness and how to administer their own insulin, sometimes for the first time.

I was impressed.Unlike previous generations of children suffering from this cruel disease, who were misunderstood and often taunted by their peers, these kids will have a much better chance of not only survival, but living happy, fulfilling lives.

Camp Huronda

Providing free delivery of 56 new signs for their camp was the least we could do to help.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the picturesque town of Huntsville and the evening resting up for another enjoyable ride on the twisty roads leading back home.

Huntsville Inn

We stayed at Huntsville Inn, an older but newly renovated motel on Main Street. The rooms are small, but clean and bright and contain all the amenities needed for a short-term stay.

All Saints Anglican Church

A beautiful church, appearing like a castle overlooking the banks of the river.

 

Huntsville Gardens

Jim resting his feet at one of the many mini-gardens on Main Street

 

Are We an Over-drugged Society, Part II


When my ninety-seven year old mother was visiting at Christmas and she missed her supper-time meds because we were out one evening, I was concerned about her taking them when we got home, and then taking her bedtime ones shortly after. She, of course, had no such concerns, “They’re only a vitamin,” she said.

After she’d gone to bed I took to Google to see what I could find out about these “vitamins” that she was on. Because she lives in a Retirement Home rather than a Long-term Care Facility, her family isn’t informed of any additions or changes to her medications. My brother had asked her doctor recently if any of her meds could be the cause of her very recent and quick onset of dementia. He was assured that it was simply old age and the drugs had nothing to do with it.

We knew that she was on a mild anti-depressant (“nerve pill” as she calls it) as she has suffered from bouts of severe depression for most of her life. But, I was appalled to learn through my research that she was not only on two anti-depressants, but also an anti-psychotic medication, called risperidone.

When we took her home after the holidays, I asked the nurse at the Retirement Home, why Mom was on an anti-psychotic. Her response was “It was prescribed when she was getting really anxious.” She agreed that it might not be necessary and she’d ask the doctor about prescribing something else to be given only when needed rather than every day.

It was an item on the Global News program 16 x 9, a couple of weeks later, that caught my attention this time. More precisely, the words “Risperidone”, “Anti-psychotic” and “Nursing Homes.”

It seems that recently there has been an uproar in BC over the routine use of anti-psychotic drugs to “calm” the residents, some to the point of making them zombie-like, despite Health Canada warnings that these drugs should NOT be given to patients with dementia. It wasn’t until the children of some of these people began to ask questions and insist that they be taken off these meds, that an investigation began and new methods of calming the distressed, such as physical and mental stimulation, were introduced with great success. Changes are being introduced throughout the province of BC, but the practice of using the drugs is still prevalent in other provinces of this great country.

I understand that at ninety-seven Mom doesn’t have a long life expectancy, but she still deserves to live her last days with dignity. If her medications are causing her to no longer care about the things that were important to her, such as her personal grooming, then it’s time to take a stand.

The lesson here is that we Baby Boomers need to insist on being informed about our elderly parents’ health care and medications, just the way we did when our children were young.

Who would have thought that the day would come when parents would live long enough to become the children?

To get the whole story go to: Global News, Nursing homes routinely administer anti-psychotics

Are We an Over-drugged Society?


During the last few months a couple of news stories have caused me some major concern. I’ve always been one to avoid pharmaceuticals whenever at all possible, and every time that I’ve caved into a doctor’s insistence, I’ve regretted it and I haven’t been long getting off the prescription.

I’ll talk about the first one today.

I’m not sure that I was even yet fifty when my GP sent me for a bone mineral density test, the only reasons being that I was approaching “that age”, early menopausal and small boned. I’d never broken a bone in my life. I was very skeptical, and was even more so when the results came back that I had osteopenia! (osteopenia is a condition in which bone mass is lower than “normal”, but not low enough to qualify as osteoporosis) When I asked my doctor how that could be, since I’d spent the last twenty-five years of my life doing all the things recommended to avoid such a thing, her response was, “Well if you hadn’t done those things I guess it would have been worse!” I agreed to take calcium and Vitamin D supplements, and started a daily walking routine. I refused to take the pushed “hormone replacement therapy” and was happy when it was temporary taken off the market. However five years later,  the Nurse Practitioner  at my new doctor’s office told me the results of my latest bone density test (I’d been having them yearly since the first one) had not improved since I was moved into the osteoporosis category after my second test several years earlier. I gave in to taking the newest “natural” supplement and my bone density increased to the osteopenia category. I still felt something wasn’t right, but I was without evidence to protest. Then, a couple of months ago, while sitting in a waiting room, I came across an article in Vogue Magazine that made me sit up and take notice.

The story, written by Patricia Morrisroe, initially sounded like my story. She too had been urged to have a bone mineral density test when she reached age fifty, and had been diagnosed with osteopenia.  She too accepted, reluctantly, a prescription for a bone building medication.  She later stopped taking the drug due to resulting other health issues.  Her subsequent research gave me reason to give up on my weekly dose of such a drug.  After reading the article, even my partner, normally a firm believer in following any doctor’s suggestions without much question,  had no arguments for me.

I’ll leave it to you to go to the link where I found it and read the full article.  Here are  the five main points that determined my decision:

1.  Osteopenia is no longer viewed as a problem that automatically warrants medication, except in rare cases. People with osteopenic bones have such a low fracture rate that it doesn’t make sense to put them on a drug to prevent something that may not happen for several decades, if at all.(1)

The definition of Osteoporosis has evolved over the years and was once diagnosed only after someone had sustained a fragility fracture. In 1994, after the World Health Organization convened a meeting of experts, osteoporosis was defined by bone mineral density, the one measure of bone health available.  ‘Normal’ bones were those of a 30-year-old woman(2), and anyone who deviated 2.5 or more below that standard had osteoporosis, anyone in between had osteopenia.

2.  Doctors are now questioning the  long-term safety of the current drugs, and how often a woman should take the test, and if it is even valuable.

3. New data from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel that develops recommendations for disease prevention, indicated no solid evidence that testing a patient’s bone density helped her avoid fracture…density is only one part of the picture; bone quality is determined by othe components, such as the micro-architecture of the bone and its capacity for self-repair.(3)

4. As a small-boned person you may have lower readings on the machines, but you may have perfectly good bone, just less of it.

5. While most doctors believe in treating osteoporosis with medication, giving them without accurate diagnosis (i.e. legitimate risk factors) can be dangerous. The drugs can  have significant side effects, most commonly gastrointestinal problemsThe U.S.  FDA recently ordered the makers of the most commonly prescribe osteoporosis drugs, to carry a warning label, following reports of atypical thigh fractures. The accumulation  of these drugs being deposited in the bones for years, could ultimately lead to bones that are more brittle. There appears to be no such warning in Canada yet.

6. Not enough is known about the effects of these drugs, because there have been no long-term studies done.

Pretty scary stuff! I think I’ll go for a walk in the sun. I need a break before telling you about my other discovery.

(1) (2) (3)Morrisroe, Patricia. “Breaking Point.(osteopenia and osteoporosis).” Vogue. 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2012 from accessmylibrary: http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-249226931/breaking-point-osteopenia-and.html