It Is Well With My Soul

If you have a Chronic illness, then you have experienced that Twilight Zone moment when your diagnosis was first given. A part of you is hearing what the doctor is saying. The other part is almost in shock — engulfed with disbelief. This is the start of an emotional, physical and often times spiritual roller-coaster. One that none of us asked to ride on. One that seems hopelessly out of our control. Or is it? I have heard the diagnosis of a Chronic illness, more than once. Multiples are not unusual. Millions of patients can attest to that. And I have asked, “Why me?” But I have also asked, “Why not me?” One of the most important things that any patient of a Chronic illness can do is embrace their condition. Those words are easier said than done. I know. Still, they beg the question: Have you accepted your diagnosis?

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A Chronic illness is not the same as being terminally ill. Yet, there are five stages of grief involved: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The life you had is gone. This is your new normal. Many of the things that you once did are lost to an affliction that you didn’t ask for. And, if you are like most patients, you don’t feel that you deserve. It’s a lot to take in. It doesn’t seem fair. Why is this happening? You lament about what you could have done differently. Some seem to have done everything right and still they are diagnosed with a Chronic illness. It’s confusing, irritating and overwhelming. While you are trying to cope with medications, treatment, side-effects, lifestyle changes, symptoms and emotions … you may also be wrestling with your religious beliefs.

Faith is easy to have, when life is good. It becomes a different ballgame, in trying times. Some people question their faith, when life gets hard. They may even become angry with God — confused by the turmoil that has engulfed their comfort zone. Often times, adults drift away from church and faith. There isn’t a specific reason. It just happens. The diagnosis of a Chronic illness can bring them back. They now need the assurance, hope and peace that faith provided. The things they so easily took for granted, they want again. Yearn for it. For others, who have never had a religious belief system, difficulty can actually lead them to faith. It’s a very personal walk, down an often lonely path. If you are struggling with your faith, you may be asking, “Why did God let this happen to me?” And that’s a good question. We don’t always understand why, at the moment we are going through an ordeal. It may take months — even years — to know. But one day, we will understand (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Personally, I believe that God has a plan for each of us. To get us where He needs us, God uses every tool. He doesn’t create our suffering, but he allows good to flourish from it. He knows that in these difficult moments, we are gaining insight … growing as individuals … serving as examples … literally inspiring others. Good emerges. In Romans 8:28, we are told, “… God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

If you take a few moments to look through the Holy Bible, you’ll note that affliction and suffering are ever present. In fact, there are at least 14 words in Hebrew and Greek that translate to “affliction”. Think about that. Suffering is part of this earthly world. It always has been. None of us are immune. Chronic illnesses, i.e. Alcoholism, Mental illness, Atrophy, Leprosy, Epilepsy, Obesity, Glaucoma/Blindness, etc., were present in biblical times. What you are experiencing isn’t new. Such afflictions have been around for centuries.

Thanks to modern medicine, today, we have options that make living with Chronic illness much easier. Even modern society has changed — becoming more accepting of those who suffer from these diseases. Yes, there are still problems that need to be addressed. Awareness must go on to educate others. The more people understand, the better off that we become as a society. Healthier living. Preventative measures. Learning has its rewards. There will, unfortunately, always be individuals who are bigoted, who discriminate, who bully, who judge, etc. We cannot control human nature. But we can pray for them. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

If you have a Chronic illness, work towards accepting it. Stay optimistic. Take the necessary steps — changes —  to manage your health. It will provide much needed stability to your life. Learn to live each and every day to the fullest. Appreciate what you can do. Maintain a clear perspective — set a few goals. Avoid additional stress. Count your blessings. Your life has changed before. Think about it. Perhaps, it was when you went off to college? Or when you entered military service? Or when you married? This isn’t the end of the world. This is a new journey. So embrace it, as I have. It isn’t the path that I would have chosen. Then again, in a weird sort of way, maybe it is. I have always enjoyed a challenge. But, at the end of the day, it is well with my soul. And that peace is priceless.

 

 

Reference Links:

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/july-online-only/doesgodallowtragedy.html

http://www.jennifermartinpsych.com/yourcolorlooksgoodblog/2013/09/the-five-stages-of-grief-for-chronic.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-affliction.html

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/diseases-bible

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

*Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

The Battle At Home: Living With A TBI

The wearing of poppies to honor America’s war dead has origins that date back to WWI and a poem by John MaCrae (In Flanders Fields). More than a century later, most of us still associate the red flowers with Memorial Weekend and loss. Some of us even wear them as a sign of “remembrance”. But something society often fails to remember is that war takes its toll on veterans. And for some vets, the battle at home is the hardest fought.

 

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According to the Department of Defense, from 2000-2017, more than 375K veterans have been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury — 82.4% suffered from mild cases, 9.1% suffered from moderate cases and 1% suffered from severe cases. TBIs among veterans are generally caused by explosions or combat. But what exactly is a TBI? 

Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, is a stressful injury to the brain caused by an outward force, i.e. a blow to the head, violent movement of the head, etc. When these injuries occur, the brain is violently moved around in the skull causing damage to the brain and bodily functions. And, as odd as this may sound, not everyone realizes that they have a TBI even when their symptoms are chronic which is why awareness is so important.

If you or a loved one have experienced a head injury (in or out of military service) and you want to know more about TBIs, here are the most common symptoms:

  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headaches.
  • Seizures occur in many moderate to severe cases.
  • Difficulty with relationships.
  • Mood Swings & Personality Changes.
  • Depression.
  • Slurred Speech
  • Motor Impairment.

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor. A Traumatic Brain Injury can be easily diagnosed with medical testing, i.e. CAT scan, MRI, X-rays, etc. 

Once you are diagnosed with a TBI, the next step is managing your condition. Medications and/or therapy may be required. In severe cases, a caregiver may also be needed. So, it’s important to ease back into your routine. Goals are good, but avoid pushing yourself too hard. Your body doesn’t need that added stress. And depending upon the severity of your injury, your new normal could be drastically different than life before your TBI. Give yourself time to mentally, physically and emotionally adjust to it. In fact, you might even consider getting a Service Dog. Many veterans who live with TBIs benefit from these furry friends and their companionship.

As this Memorial Day approaches, let’s all take a moment to reflect on what the day is actually about. Consider the lives lost and the families effected. Freedom is never free. It is hard earned. Our history is a timeline filled with the dates, statistics and facts. For some, the war does come home. They fight a battle, daily. There are no medals for their pain, frustration, loneliness, or perseverance. Nor do they expect them. But understanding goes a long way. Spread the word …

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.dav.org/veterans/resources/traumatic-brain-injury-tbi/

Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI Service Dogs

https://www.brainline.org/article/what-impact-will-moderate-or-severe-tbi-have-persons-life

https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

https://www.maritime-executive.com/features/the-poppy-a-symbol-of-memorial-day

*Photo by Tony Liao on Unsplash

Sometimes, You Have To Bake Cookies …

Many years ago, my hubby told me that he always knew when I had a bout of Writer’s block. Apparently, in my frustration, I’d leave my home office … go into the kitchen … and proceed with a cooking/baking frenzy. At the time he first made this observation, I just laughed — dispensing it as nonsense. But in the years since, I’ve come to realize that he was right. I do get some sort of cathartic relief, when I cook or bake. And it isn’t necessarily caused by Writer’s block. The kitchen has somehow become my zen place.

 

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As odd as it may sound, there is medical research behind this. Studies have actually been done. When you cook or bake, you are creating … relaxing … destressing … spreading the love. You are experiencing fulfillment and satisfaction. Your body and mind is calming itself. If done with others, you are sharing quality time that strengthens any relationship. All positive. All healthy. All good.

In fact, cooking/baking is being used by many therapists and clinics as part of treatment for patients who live with a variety of mental and behavioral conditions, i.e. depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, stress, even some addictions.

We are living in crazy, chaotic times … nothing is as simple as it was just 4 months ago. Our lives, careers, expectations and work environments have changed. Learning environments have changed. There are added demands, frustrations and stress. None of us are immune. But we can explore new ways to deal with these challenges. 

Sometimes, you have to bake cookies … knead dough … chop vegetables … make a casserole. You have to step outside of your usual comfort zone and explore new things. You might even find that you enjoy it — a lot. It may comfort you as it has me. It may help you to cope. At the least, you may discover a new hobby or hidden talent. That’s not a bad thing. It could be a means of self-growth. And that’s positive, too.

I could go on, but there’s a recipe waiting … the oven is warm … and the kitchen is calling me. Need I say more?

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/feeling-down-scientists-say-cooking-and-baking-may-help-you-feel-better-180961223/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049

https://www.mindfood.com/article/why-cooking-makes-happy/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201505/kitchen-therapy-cooking-mental-well-being

https://www.calmmoment.com/mindfulness/how-mindful-baking-can-improve-your-mood-and-reduce-stress/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/12/baking-anxiety-millennials/578404/

https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2020-04-13/how-to-relieve-stress-during-a-pandemic-quarantinebaking

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/baking-for-others-psychology_n_58dd0b85e4b0e6ac7092aaf8

*Photo by Madison Kaminiski on Unsplash

Asthma Breakthroughs …

Asthma is a pulmonary condition that causes the airways in your lungs to narrow and swell and produce additional mucus. As a result, your breathing becomes more difficult. It may also trigger coughing, wheezing and/or shortness of breath. For some patients, the effects are mild. For others, they are life-threatening. Asthma, like other chronic conditions, has no cure. But it can be managed. And today’s medical breakthroughs promise even greater manageability!

 

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Asthma, whether diagnosed in children or adults, is treated with a variety of options, i.e. medications, inhalers, bronchodilators, biologics, immunotherapy, intravenous corticosteroids, etc. What is used depends greatly upon the severity of the patient’s condition and how well they respond to the treatment.

Recently researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, published their findings on the critical role that a protein (Caspase-11) plays in Asthma. While this research won’t offer any instant relief, it will no doubt pave the way for new medications to become available in 3-5 years. And that’s great news for Asthma sufferers.  For more information about Caspase-11, you can visit the links below. You may also want to talk to your doctor to get his or her medical opinion. The more that we can learn about any Chronic illness, the better prepared we become in treating it. With that preparedness comes more manageability and a better quality of life!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20369660

https://www.aafa.org/asthma-treatment/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200226080629.htm

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-14945-2

Asthma Therapy May Receive a Boost from New Caspase-11 Finding

*Photo by Uwe Conrad on Unsplash

Spring Into Berries …

Yesterday, I ventured over to Cooley Farms in Chesnee, SC, also known as “Strawberry Hill” to the Upstate locals. Surrounded by an endless acreage of peach trees (their main crop), the shed was bustling — even on a Thursday. There’s nothing like sweet, spring berries to bring folks out of hibernation. And nothing better for you!

 

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Yes, these farms and roadside stands conjure up fond memories from our childhood. Yes, they also make us want to bake, freeze and can. That’s not a bad thing. Our grandmothers did it. Many of our mothers did, too. If suddenly, the idea of homemade jelly on a bagel or warm biscuit sounds divine … embrace it! But if you aren’t feeling that adventurous, that’s okay too. Berries are perfect for eating, on their own. No cooking required. And they are bursting with goodness!

Fresh strawberries are high in water content and low in carbs. They’re also filled with antioxidants. This means that these bright red delights are a safe choice even for diabetics. Strawberries also boast fiber for digestion, vitamins and minerals. And the taste? OMG! Bite into one and let that sweetness roll down your chin!

Blueberries are equally appealing. A serving, or 1 cup, has just 80 calories! These little, blue darlings are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. This promotes tissue growth and wound healing. And they are so incredibly versatile. From breakfast to your evening dessert, there’s endless ways to incorporate them into your diet and meal-planning!

Raspberries offer us an abundance of antioxidants that aid in brain-power, heart health, diabetes prevention, digestion, even some forms of cancer prevention. They provide vitamin C, iron, folic acid and potassium. And their sweet-tart flavor appeals to the taste-buds!

Last, but never least, are the Blackberries! I could write a book on the cobblers that my grandmother made with them — so yummy! The homemade jam, too! But blackberries are so much more than sweet indulgences. These dark, luscious berries are downright impressive, health-wise. They offer vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and manganese. One study even found that blackberry extract has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory abilities! 

If your Chronic illness has encouraged you to try the Paleo Diet, AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) Diet, or the DASH Diet, you’ll find that fresh berries are already there. If you are just trying to eat healthier, minus a conformed diet plan, why wait? There are endless ways to enjoy these gems and recipes to explore. It’s time to spring into berries and reap the healthy rewards!

 

Reference:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/strawberries

https://www.blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-nutrition/health-benefits-blueberries/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070908001613.htm

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283018

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-blackberries#health-benefits

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

The Autoimmune Paleo Diet

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

*Photo by Farsai Chaikulngamdee on Unsplash

 

 

A Dose Of Patience …

Have you ever heard the cliche “Patience is a virtue”? My mother, who seldom exercised patience, often said it. Perhaps, as a reminder to herself? She was a busy woman and a healthcare professional. She was driven … focused on results … and eager to see them. My grandmother never uttered the cliche, but she had an abundance of patience. She was a very prolific gardener. I’ve seen her take a sprig from a bush … put it in some water … and nurture it into a large plant. She had the ability to sit back on the porch … watch … wait. And me? I’m somewhere between the two — not as impatient as Mom or as patient as Granny. I have my limits. We all do. Life isn’t perfect. We aren’t perfect. Things can and do get crazy … overwhelming … and stressful. But that’s where patience comes in. It helps us to juggle it all.

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From the psychological standpoint, patience is actually a coping mechanism. When a person uses patience, they aren’t giving up. They are utilizing a constructive method to reach their goals. Impatience comes from an individual’s inability to withstand certain situations or emotions. Did you know that when a person becomes more confident about winning or attaining their goal, they also become more patient? Hmmm.

Biblically, we are taught that patience is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). It’s a wondrous thing like joy, love, peace, kindness, goodness, self-control, etc. A true gift. And embracing patience makes life more enjoyable. Imagine that.

We are living in some very stressful times. If you aren’t patient, by nature, there is still hope. Here are ways to train yourself:

  • Understand & Counteract Your Triggers.  What do you think of, or feel, just before you lose it? When you feel this building-up, you can counter it with calming exercises.
  • Increase Your Self ConfidenceImpatience is more likely to appear, when you feel let down or losing control. When you are confident, you will work with the situation as it is, instead of becoming combative.
  • Look For The Positive. Patience is a matter of perspective. Turn a negative into a positive. For example, if the elevator is out-of-order at work … you can get healthy exercise using the stairs.
  • Change Your Attitude. Most people who struggle with patience can’t answer a simple question: Why are you in a hurry? Focus on the task — not the speed that you are doing it. 
  • Release Tension & Stress In A Positive WayThis can be done through exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Give yourself some “Me Time” for a nap, a leisurely bath, or a good book. It helps tremendously.

 

Last, but not least, love yourself. Instead of being so hard on you, try compassion. Try understanding. You don’t need more stress in your life. None of us do. Chronic stress brings even more problems to the table.  But if you learn to cope, with a dose of patience — that’s the key to happiness!

 

 

Reference Link:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201209/the-power-patience

https://www.2knowmyself.com/The_psychology_of_patience

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+5%3A22-23&version=NIV

How To Be More Patient: 7 Easy Tips

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323324

*Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 

 

Have You Got A Fever?

Have you got a fever? How many times did you hear those words, when you were growing-up? Like our parents and grandparents, we became adults and say those same words to our kids. But when it’s us … we ignore the signs and keep plodding along. And that’s not the smartest thing to do. If you have a Chronic illness, a fever is even trickier to deal with. Some of these illnesses can cause fevers, i.e. Cancer, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), Hyperthyroidism, etc. When this happens, you are left to wonder if you have caught something, i.e. cold, virus, or if your Chronic illness is flaring up a bit. Time to narrow down the guesswork …

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Most people, including those with a Chronic illness, have an idea of what their usual body temperature is. The average for most is 98.6 F (37 C). But it isn’t unusual for an average temperature to be a bit lower or higher. Mine runs around 97.4. So, if I’m feeling a little feverish and my temperature is 99.4 … I know that my RA is most likely the culprit. I’m usually a little stiff & achy in my joints, too (additional RA symptoms). If my temperature is even higher, then I know that something else is going on. The CDC considers a “fever” to be  100.4°F (38°C) or higher. For the sake of this article and our good health, we will too.

If a baby 3 mos. of age or younger has a fever, don’t hesitate. You should contact a doctor immediately.  Whether you are dealing with children or adults, how you treat the fever depends greatly on how high it is and the discomfort involved. Drink fluids, i.e water, juice, etc. Add a light blanket, if you feel chilled. Anyone from a 6 mo. old baby to a senior, can be given acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). Read the label carefully for proper dosing. And absolutely no aspirin for children or teens. If additional symptoms are present, i.e. a cough, breathing problems, headache, rash, vomiting, etc., contact your doctor. A fever is often the first sign that something is going on in your body like an infection. So, think of it as a warning — a distress signal. Never ignore it and plod on.

For some skeptics, this may sound like over-reacting. But if you have a Chronic illness, it’s part of managing your condition. When you manage it well, it doesn’t manage you. For everyone in this age of COVID-19, it’s just smart to know such things. Learn to listen to your body, if you haven’t done so before. Pay attention to what it’s trying to tell you. Many of you may even be checking your temperature on a regular basis, or it’s being checked as you enter the workplace. That’s okay, too. It’s usually wise to err on the side of caution. Knowledge and awareness are keys to good health. Never be afraid to use them. Stay well, friends. Stay well.

 

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/first-aid/fevers-causes-symptoms-treatments#2

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20352759

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-fever/basics/art-20056685

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323819#normal-body-temperature-chart

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

*Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash