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Day 5 #NHBPM: On the Shingles Soapbox

Day 5 – Monday, Nov. 5

Writing Prompts: Health Activist Soapbox.
OR Write a #ListOf3 Things that you’re thankful for / excited about / or inspired by

I really thought I was going to write about my three things today, and maybe I will as a post script. As late as yesterday, I thought I had nothing (or not much) to get on a soapbox about, but now I realize I do.

Last week, I was struggling with a bout of (pre-)shingles. I felt as if my bra strap was filled with burning thumb tacks. It was hugely uncomfortable, especially when I was driving. Which I do a lot. Any little bump in the road sent an electric shot of hot pain through the right side of my upper back. It was killer, and I was terrifying and depressed that it was only going to get worse. My back was going to break out into oozing pustules of painful, itchy yuck.

I had heard vaguely of shingles before, but I thought that they were something only suffered by Old People. I didn’t get the vaccine.

But a couple of weeks ago, I started feeling this… weird discomfort. It was limited to a very specific part of my body, as we learned in PT school, a determatomal patch. When I went to my trainer I mentioned this pain. I said, it’s not a muscle kind of pain. It’s my skin—or rather, UNDER my skin.

This is exactly what shingles is. It’s a dormant chicken pox virus that hangs out, sneakily, for decades, and then sometimes fifty or sixty years after the first outbreak, it wakes up! And attacks with a renewed and very painful life. Childhood chicken box tends to be itchy, but adult chicken pox hurts like hell.

This went on for about a week and steadily got worse. But nothing to be seen on the surface at all. After a week I went to see my doctor. She said it sure sounded like shingles. And that the only way of knowing was to take antiviral medication. If it got better, then it was probably shingles. And if it got worse, then we would have ruled shingles out and we could go on to figuring out other things.

For the first two days on the antiviral meds, the shingles pain seemed to get worse. I was getting depressed and frantic. But then it stayed the same. And then, slowly, it began getting better. And better. And now it feels pretty much normal.

I never got the rash. I WAS SPARED!

So what is my soapbox about today? It’s about… dealing with stuff EARLY. This happened with my diabetes when it was still in the Pre- stage. And I swear that this is one of the reasons it is still in good control. My endocrinologist echoes this. She says that if you catch diabetes before it has gotten to a severe state, then it will progress at a much slower rate than otherwise.

This just happened again with the Pre-Shingles.

I can’t tell you how many times people say, “I’ll just wait and see what happens.” Ie., I will see how bad it can REALLY get. Before getting it checked out. But the problem with that, is that if you wait until something gets REALLY BAD, then the damage is already done. You’re already going to be badly messed up.

I really feel like I dodged a huge, nasty, terrible bullet with this one. I’m staying with my aunt and uncle in laws this week. Their sister-in-law had shingles. It was horrible and painful and spread to her eye and blinded her. Seriously. BLIND in one eye. I am so very grateful I caught mine in time.

The second thing I am on my soapbox about it, take your medicine. Medicine is not inherently evil. A lot of people I know are all, “I don’t like to take medicine.” Who does? Sometimes medicine has terrible side effects. I myself admit that I did not take the Lyrica samples that my doctor gave me for nerve pain. Partly because I was holding out for it to get REALLY BAD (which it thankfully never did) and partly because I read that a side effect is: weight gain. Hahaha. Which I knew I did not want. So sometimes we have to choose.

In this case, though, I am very very grateful that I took this ginormous blue horse pill three times a day. I feel like it spared me an awful situation. I’m taking them until the bottle is empty.

So that’s what my (unexpected) soap box is about today:

  1. Get it checked out in the very early stages, whatever it is.
  2. Take your medicine.

Bonus blogette (second prompt):

  1. I’m thankful for my doctor and my medicine.
  2. I’m excited to be re-joining Team in Training, this time with the Run Team (my first time ever!) starting next weekend. I will be training to do the Oakland Half Marathon with my team in March, but also for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in January.
  3. I’m inspired by Juniorette, my daughter, who just ran a sub-2 hour half marathon at the US Half Marathon in San Francisco yesterday. I’m so proud of her! She is a rock star. We’re going to be doing the Tinkerbell Half together and all I can say is she is going to be waiting a LONG time at the finish line for her mama.
My girl!

Once more: this post is #5 in a series for National Health Blog Post Month. Check out these other fantastic bloggers!

Day 4 #NHBPM: The Disclosure Post

Day 4 – Sunday, Nov. 4

Writing Prompts: Disclosure post. How did you decide what to share? What do/don’t you share? OR Write about what’s in your bag / purse / backpack every day

I don’t think anyone is really interested in the contents of my bag or purse, so I’m skipping that one.

Disclosure. Ahh. Well, in the interest of full disclosure I’m going to disclose that I don’t disclose everything. I’ll be honest. Sometimes when I am making poor choices regarding my health, I don’t write about it. Instead I just won’t say anything, often until after I’ve “recovered” myself and then I might write about it retrospectively.

It’s hard to write about things we don’t feel good about, especially when we are in the midst of doing them. It’s so much easier to write about crossing the finish lane of a race, than writing “I’m lying on the couch watching multiple episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix.” It’s easier to blog about a great healthy recipe than “I just snarfed down half a jar of peanut butter.” Right?

There was a period of time when I was taking pictures of, and then blogging, every single thing I ate. This went on for a few months. I have to say, it was probably one of the healthiest periods of my life. Because I was committed to one hundred percent full disclosure. I didn’t eat mass quantities of peanut butter or chocolate because I knew that if I did, I was going to have to broadcast it visually throughout the internet. So it gave me pause, and made me really fully consider all of my choices. It made me think, Do I want to share this bite/plate/meal with the world? And if I didn’t feel good about that, I didn’t eat it.

Looking back on it, maybe I need to take up that practice again. It was a good one, and I learned a lot from it. Because it’s in periods of “hiding” that I tend to do things I don’t feel good about.

Here’s to writing more from the shadows….

This is the 4th post in a series of National Health Blog Post Month. Join me! And check out these other great health blogs:

Day 3 #NHBPM: Finding Out About… Pilates?

#NHBPM Challenge Day 3 – Saturday, Nov. 3

Prompts: “I don’t know about this, but I’d like to.” OR A post about a conversation with your doctor

I think I already posted about my most recent conversation with my doctor. So I have to mull this one over. What don’t I know about that I’d like to?

I think I’m going to say Pilates. Gulp.

I have had even more intense negative feelings about Pilates as I’ve had about yoga. I think both of those things make me feel really inadequate. I feel like I am bad at them, because I am super inflexible, and getting more so as the years go on.

Which is probably why I need them.

I took a couple of Pilates classes a few years ago and ended up in tears. I hated every single minute of those classes. EVERY. They were uncomfortable and made me feel just like a big huge failure. I swore to never go back. Plus, the word “Pilates” sounds like the word “Pilate” to me, which is all about betrayal, right?

But recently, I’ve been having more hip and back pain due to super tight, and I mean SUPER TIGHT muscles. I can’t sit upright with my legs extended. I can’t touch my legs below my knees, let alone my toes. I know that I need professional help when it comes to increasing my flexibility. It’s one of those catch-22 types of things. I am inflexible because I don’t do things like yoga, but I don’t do things like yoga because I am inflexible.

Recently I have been thinking about finding a one-on-one Pilates teacher and working on those machine things. I think I have this notion that I need to get stretched out, like on a medieval stretching machine (drawn and quartered?) and I need HELP to do so. This recent yoga challenge was a real eye opener. Part of me wanted to run for the hills and swear (once again) that I would never EVER do such a thing again, but then part of me knows how much I need it. If I keep going like this I’m going to be shaped like a chair for the rest of my life.

So. Gulp. That’s my new goal for… umm… sometime before the end of 2012. I will investigate and find a private Pilates instructor, someone who can help me, maybe, one day touch my toes.

This post is day 3 of the National Health Blog Post Month challenge. Join me!

Day 2 #NHBPM: Free From All Worldly Engagements

writer’s cottage

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Day 2 – Friday, Nov. 2  Write about the weirdest thing about your health OR Find a quote and use it as inspiration

I’m not so sure what is weird about my health, so I’m going with prompt #2.

Today I woke up in this little cottage in the North Carolina woods. It’s my third flying trip in three weeks, and I was a total grump about getting on that plane. It really stressed me out to leave my work, my complete mess of a house, and numerous obligations to come on this family trip. Back when we planned it, it sounded like a good idea – to visit Mr. McBody’s aunt and uncle (whom I adore) at their home near Asheville, North Carolina.

And as it turns out, it was a VERY good idea. It has already been way worth the stress of wrenching myself out of my life yet once again. Because the last two trips were “busy” trips – one for a conference and to visit friends, and the second to visit Juniorette up at her college. They were bustling and busy and stimulating and GREAT, but also kind of exhausting before, during and after.

This trip? It almost brings tears to my eyes to realize how perfect it is, and how much I needed it. I am, as is no secret, a very very social person. I love meeting up with people at all of my beloved COMMUNITIES. I thrive on community – at Fitbloggin, at Weight Watchers, my adoption peeps, my writer buddies. But what might not be as well known is that I absolutely thrive and need solitude. I NEED IT.

this, to me, is more heaven than any beach on earth

Right now I am sitting at this little table in this little writers’ cottage (normally inhabited by Uncle McBody). It is a freaking DREAM. I am happy. I am beside myself with happy! Outside it is fall and the leaves are trembling in all of my favorite autumn colors. I can hear critters shuffling through them outside my window. Mr. McBody, up in the main house, is engaged in endless conversation with Uncle (which they both love) and my mother is utterly content with Auntie – watching the birds come to the bird feeder, patting the sweet cat, and dealing with the antics of the mischievous dog.

Maggie the dog

And I am here in the cottage, alone. Exactly where I want to be, doing what I most love to do.

This morning, I took a beautiful 4.1 mile run through the autumn countryside. It was crisp and cool and gorgeous. I was so happy.

my lovely run
this tree blew my mind!

We shared a lovely, healthy lunch. A veggie salad followed by two squares of dark chocolate. I like how these people live! (can I mention again how much I love them)

Seriously? Yum.

And now… quiet. Ahhh. I can actually think. And rest. And write. And I know that days/weeks like this are as crucial to my health as good food or exercise. I need to re-charge. I need to have no sound but the ticking clock on the little yellow stove.

Back in the day, I used to go to writing retreats a lot more. I was lucky enough to be granted fellowships at colonies like MacDowell, Blue Mountain and Hedgebrook. My longest time away was eight weeks, and man… it was heaven. My mom came to stand-in and help with my children, and everyone thrived. (that’s a whole OTHER topic that I won’t go into right now, how some people villainized me for “abandoning” my children to the care of (gasp!) their FATHER and GRANDMOTHER – but you know? they’re wonderfully functional young adults now, no scars to be had from THAT anyway, thankyouverymuch) Ironically, it’s been tougher to get away now that I have a job and a mother who is harder to leave than my children were.

Be that as it may. Even being here less than 24 hours has brought home to me the absolute necessity of finding and making time like this.  It’s as important as sleep, or air.

Do you like or need to be alone? How do you find time for it?

This post is part of a 30-day series for National Health Blog Post Month. Join me! And check out some other bloggers’ take for day 2:

Day 1 of National Health Blog Post Month: Why Do I Write? About My Health?

my heroine: Harriet the Spy

Why do I write about my health? Why do I blog about health? The two questions are interchangeable, because I think if I did not blog about my health, I wouldn’t be writing about it. The blogging, ie the public conversation, is a necessary element.

I started this blog on the day that I first doubted my health. When I felt that my health had betrayed me, or that I had betrayed it. I was alone and afraid. I knew from other trials in my life that writing was a way to find my way through frightening territory.

I don’t know who or what I would be if I could not write. I first began writing imaginary stories, illustrated ones, about girls with cats and men with hats, when I was about six. When I was ten, I started keeping my first diary, the bona fide kind with a miniscule key and gold edged pages. I wrote in Harriet-the-Spy type composition books and then thick black Chinese notebooks with fine lines and thin paper. I have never not written, ever since I learned what writing was.

For many years I kept a blog about writing, and about books I was reading, but soon that spilled into many other areas of my life – parenting, mothering, daughtering – and I called that blog ReadingWritingLiving. Often as I experienced something remarkable, or moving, or noticeable in my life, I would think, this would be good for the blog.

On the day that I learned that I probably had diabetes, I did not think it would be good for the blog. I was terrified and ashamed. I desperately wanted to talk about what had happened, but I did not want anyone I knew to know what I was grappling with. I could not bear the thought of looking anyone in the face and telling them that I had probably eaten and slogged my way into ill health.

As I always do when I am feeling desperate or anxious, I turned to writing. Why not just write in a secret journal and keep it under my bed? Why not use my already conversational blog? Because I wanted to talk to people, but I wanted to do it from behind the dim curtain of a confessional. I wanted to discuss my predicament, but while wearing a paper bag on my head.

And so I began this blog. A blog in which I could express my fears and worries, and a vehicle for finding other people who had traveled this same path. I needed companions, but not the same companions I had known my whole life. I needed: though I didn’t know it even existed at the time – the healthy blogosphere.

I have met other people with diabetes. Other people who almost have diabetes. People who have lost weight or can’t lose weight or lost weight and then gained it. People who are struggling to get off the couch or who are training to finish an Ironman triathlon, or their first 5k race.  I have read the words of people who have made me cry and throw virtual embraces into the air, hoping they will land on a real human.

My blog is no longer secret or anonymous. I have met other bloggers, and my nonblogging friends have come here to see how I am doing, or to express their own thoughts and feelings about their health. It is a place where I can be seen.

This blog gave me my health. It gave me a place to say, “My health is not so hot,” and to say, I feel better than I ever have. It gives me a place to be honest, and vulnerable, and discouraged and hurt and victorious.  It’s not just about my health – it IS my health.

And that’s why I write about health.

I have joined the WeGo Health Thirty-blogs-in-thirty days challenge. As some of you know, I kinda like challenges. Sometimes I finish them and sometimes I don’t. But I like trying.

We are getting two prompts each day in November, and we get to choose which one we want to write about. I like that.

Click here if you want to join me.

Is it Possible to Stay Healthy While Traveling?

beautiful Prospect Park where I did a 5.3 mile run

I returned last night from an intense four and a half day trip to New York. It really made me think a lot about the challenge of staying healthy while traveling. I’d say, on balance, I’d give myself a B+ or maybe even a C- during this trip. Overall, it was kind of like a game of Fortunately/Unfortunately.

Unfortunately, I spent two and a half days sitting on my butt at a conference. Fortunately, it was a fantastic conference. And also fortunately, it was in New York City so it involved quite a bit of walking, getting there and then getting around afterward.

my friends changing from conference shoes to walking-to-dinner shoes

Unfortunately, I was crossing from West to East coast, and that always wreaks complete havoc on my biorhythms.  It is TOUGH to wake up the first few days I am back East. Fortunately, I really think that my Sleep Time app helped me! I woke up much more bright eyed and bushy tailed than I can ever remember doing when going East.

It all started with taking the 5am train to the airport.

Unfortunately, I indulged in a little more alcohol than I am used to. I think the fact that I wasn’t driving at all (and hanging out with friends I rarely see, and feeling very… umm.. festive) may have contributed to this.

cocktails at my Lady Writers’ gathering

Fortunately, I was able to make some fairly decent food choices. There was a place around the corner from where I was staying that featured a wonderful breakfast of yogurt, fruit and granola. I had this exact same breakfast more than once.

Thank you Dizzy’s for the yummy Power Breakfast!

Fortunately, I was able to continue my Yoga-A-Day Pose. Unfortunately, I only did it one day. Here I am bridging in my friend’s kitchen.

So unfortunately, there were a lot of things that were less than ideal while I was traveling. But fortunately, I kept track of what I was doing. And the less-than-active days spurred me to take my last full day and do a really, really long (and beautiful) run. Which I really needed.

185% before noon

On balance, it wasn’t stellar but it wasn’t terrible. I did my best. Now I’m home but the next two weekends will involve MORE travel. Fortunately, my next trip is a short one in the same time zone (yay) AND it includes a Fun Run (for Juniorette’s Family Weekend/Homecoming at her college) which I have signed up for. It’s good when you can incorporate activity into your schedule like that. The next trip is longer, and also on the East coast (BLERGH long plane trip! Time change!!) but the good thing is that it will have virtually no mandatory events, so I can include as much exercise and napping as I want/need. So it might even be like a mini vacation.

It’s a work in progress, learning to incorporate healthy choices into travel. I love to travel, and happen to like to do things that aren’t always local, and I love a lot of people who happen to live far away. So I’ve got to figure out ways to make it work.

How do you stay healthy when you’re traveling, especially when it involves a lot of meeting/sitting?

 

Challenges Can be… Challenging!

I’ve been thinking a lot about a comment that was left recently, in which Karen said, “I don’t ‘do’ challenges…” and I nodded my head. She’s not that kind of person. So many people aren’t. But then I had to think. I AM the kind of person who does a challenge. As often as possible. Who almost needs a challenge in order to get ANYthing done. Left to my own devices, I’m likely to sit around and watch TV shows on Hulu all day. But given a challenge – and suddenly I am capable of things I would never consider on my own.

I am currently in a ton of challenges, some private ones just with myself, and then others that involve hundreds or more people.

  • The Writing Challenge:  I recently challenged myself to write as many consecutive days as possible on 750words.com. Blog posts do not count. I’m now on Day 3, which means I’ve earned myself a Turkey sticker. Yay me! Writing has been so important to me (so I say) and yet I do not make it as much of a priority as I’d like. So I’m just doing this on my own.
  • A running friend of mine has challenged me to run every day. Any time or distance. I am now on Day 5. Last night it was almost midnight and I hadn’t run. I put on my shoes and ran circles around my little street for 5 minutes. I’m saying that counted. But… no way would that have happened without the Running Challenge.

    on the running trail
  • The Yoga Challenge: I have done one yoga pose a day for the past 15 days. Except for today. Tomorrow I will do two. I admit that I tried today’s pose in the morning and it scared me so I backed off. I will complete it tomorrow, with picture, as well as tomorrow’s pose.
  • Creative Process Challenge: I’ve been reading this bookwhich asserts that for successful writing to occur, you must do three things. Process, product and self-care. I count the running and yoga as self-care. The product is what happens with the Writing Challenge. But now I am also challenging myself to 15 minutes of non-goal oriented creative process per day. So far I have played with pink Play-Dough and done a drawing of a pumpkin. Two days down.

    i love the smell
  • The Big Blue Test: from now until Nov 14th (National Diabetes Day) I am participating in the Big Blue Test. This very test helped me understand the link between diabetic health and exercise, and I will be forever grateful. I encourage everyone, diabetic or not, to participate, because every test done means that $5 will be donated for much-needed medical supplies.

SO those are the things I am doing right now. That’s a minimum of an hour (or more) committed to Challenges per day.  I’m finding the time where it seems there is none. But I can say if I weren’t doing the challenges, that time would be lost.

I think I am the kind of person who NEEDS challenges. Interesting.

Have you ever participated in a challenge to get yourself going? Are you doing one now? Tell me!

Retreating

It’s been a long time since my last post! But today is a self-appointed (nonscheduled) rest day and I’m using it to catch up.

There’s a bunch to say about my tri training but I’ll leave that for another post. Today I want to write about my “Stories of the Body” retreat that was held at Santa Sabina Center last weekend.

Wow. Just wow. It surpassed my wildest expectations and hopes for what it could mean for 20 women to come together to write, share, contemplate, make art and dance, cry and laugh about their bodies. It was just awesome and made my heart break with happiness.

It made me realize that really, all I want to do is interact with the world like this. In an honest, vulnerable, thoughtful and calm way. It was a turning point. It was good.

That’s really all I want to say about it. Here’s some pictures.

inside the Hermitage

contemplative eating
Bodymindfull movement and writing
collage stories
Scrabble party
courtyard fountain
yes
telling stories through collage
peace
new friends
celebrating

The Power of Art

Two years ago, the same week that I received my diabetes diagnosis, I attended a night of solo performance. I was going to see a friend of mine, but as is often the case, she was performing in a showcase with a few other people I didn’t know. One of them was a woman named Lisa-Marie. I had no idea what her show was about, but as the lights came up and she started acting the part of her mother, “Lisa! Lisa! We have to check your numbers!” I knew that it was about diabetes. And it was. The friends I had come with started tossing concerned glances my way. They knew I had been fairly traumatized by this news from my doctor.

Turns out that Lisa-Marie has Type 1 Diabetes, what used to be called “juvenile diabetes” because she was diagnosed as a child. And in one scene, she was ranting about how frustrating it is to be misunderstood for that “OTHER” kind of diabetes, the kind that fat people who eat too many cheeseburgers get.

Ouch.

I remember slumping down in my seat, my face burning with embarrassment. I think I had a bit of an out-of-body experience for a few minutes. Yeah. That’s the kind of diabetes that *I* had. The kind that you bring on yourself. The kind where it’s all your fault (you disgusting pig). I died a million deaths during that 15 minute show, and when it was over I fled the theater like I’d been set on fire.

Well. Funny how life turns out. Last week I did a performance of my own show, and guess who else was in my lineup? Yes, none other than the same Lisa-Marie, who did an amazing piece about breast cancer (entitled “Nice Rack.” It was fabulous). And I knew that I had to talk to her about her show, and my show, and my life, and how it all linked together.

And I was talking to her, I realized (huge flash) that even though seeing her show had been absolutely excruciating back then, it also solidified in me a feeling of “HELL NO. Nobody is ever, ever, ever going to talk about me and MY diabetes that way.” And I realize now that it was a very very real and clear catalyst for my getting healthy. She was one of the things that pushed me into my journey in a very real way. And while her show had upset and embarrasssed me, it also was one of the greatest gifts I could’ve gotten.

Right in the midst of my own performance on Wednesday night (dress rehearsal for my performance at Fitbloggin next week!!), I added a line just for her.  🙂 “Oh no. I brought this on myself. I can’t tell anybody. I’m so embarrassed. I know what they say about people who get Type 2 diabetes – that happpens to people who too many cheeseburgers…. but… I don’t eat THAT many cheeseburgers. Do I?” It’s sort of a poignant/funny line, and now I know it’s going to stay in there.

It’s kind of amazing to me how many people come up to me after a performance and say, “I have prediabetes. But I haven’t done anything about it. But now…” Or the same thing about a family member or friend. And I hope that maybe my show can be the same kind of catalyst for them.

I didn’t make myself have diabetes, not 100% anyway. Genetics does that. But once I have it I can choose to ignore it or manage it and be as healthy as I can anyway. That’s what I choose.

Now I’m dreaming up ways that Lisa-Marie and I can do our shows together, the voices of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes coming together. How cool would THAT be.

Has a performance/book/movie/painting or other piece of art ever influenced how you lived YOUR life?

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