Anemia & Chronic Disease

Chronic illnesses often lead to complications and secondary conditions. It’s the nature of the beast. Anemia of Chronic disease, or ACD, is a prime example. When the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells, the result is a condition known as Anemia. Although there are many types of Anemia, ACD is one of the most common. This form of Anemia is prevalent in patients with Chronic illnesses that involve inflammation, malignancies, chronic infections and cardiovascular disorders, i.e. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s, Lupus, Cancer, HIV/AIDs, Hepatitis, Diabetes, etc. 

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The exact cause of ACD can vary. Often times, it depends upon the patient’s underlying condition. Research has also discovered that individuals with ACD have an imbalance of iron in the body. Because of this, they cannot effectively use iron to create new blood cells. Researchers believe that the immune system, which is constantly active in Chronic diseases, produces substances that can influence the development, storage and transport of iron within the body. The lack of functioning iron hampers the development of hemoglobin. As a result, this creates a negative impact on the amount of oxygen delivered through the body. In easier terms, “a relentless cycle”. One that can take its toll on the patient. Especially, if it is left unchecked. 

Symptoms of Anemia include:

  • Headache
  • Cold hands and/or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat

Although these symptoms may go unnoticed, at first, as the anemia worsens the symptoms will worsen. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above, it’s time to see your doctor. A simple blood test can confirm the diagnosis.

Living with a Chronic illness is an adventure, to say the least. And it may be impossible to prevent yourself from getting ACD. However, there are ways to help yourself through diet. Try to get enough iron, daily. This can be done by incorporating foods like lean beef, chicken, turkey, oysters, beans, leafy greens, baked potatoes, enriched whole-grain breads, fortified breakfast cereals, cashews, etc., into your meals. Folate and Vitamin B12 are also important. If you aren’t taking a good multi-vitamin, now is the time to start. Managing your condition will help you to feel better and live life to the fullest. So, please, don’t hesitate. Bottom-line, you’re worth it! 

 

Reference Links:

Anemia of Chronic Disease

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/anemia-of-chronic-disease

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000565.htm

https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/iron-deficiency

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/abr8922

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14477-anemia-of-chronic-disease/prevention

*Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

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Motherhood & Chronic Illness

I once saw a t-shirt that read “Motherhood: It’s more than a job, it’s an adventure!” And I had to buy that shirt. If you’re a mother, you understand why. Sometimes, I think we don’t fully appreciate our mothers until we become one. There is nothing easy about the detail. Motherhood is fascinating and scary … fun and frustrating … rewarding and overwhelming. Yet, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. Some of my most treasured memories in life involve my child. When I look at him, today, I beam with pride. I did a good job, despite my Chronic illness. Though, back in those early years, I often wondered if I was measuring-up. Or if, heaven forbid, he was getting short-changed. 

 

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Let’s be honest; shall we? Motherhood is demanding. Chronic illnesses are, too. And, sometimes, what we want to do conflicts with what our bodies will let us do. Try explaining that to a toddler.

As mothers, we take care of our children. That’s the job. And it’s a 24/7 duty. When we are sick, our responsibility as a mother doesn’t magically go away. It’s still there — packing a lot of guilt. You learn quickly to have a “Plan B”, because that beats doing nothing at all. Think of it as a negotiation, between your condition and motherhood. For example, it’s a snow day. The flakes are falling. And your little one is just dying to play in it. A part of you wants to go, too. Unfortunately, you are aching … stiff … or worse. Reserve such times, for snuggling under a warm blanket … reading a stack of books … or watching a favorite DVD. Maybe, you can even pop some popcorn or make some s’mores (fireplaces do come in handy)? This too is quality time. Sledding can be done with Dad, or cousins. In a day or two, you might even feel like joining in the frosty fun. Until then, be patient. Make the best of the situation. Enjoy every moment — even if it isn’t your “Plan A”.

If you manage your Chronic illness, it will provide you with the best results for living life to the fullest — including motherhood. So, please, keep your appointments with your doctor. Take your medications. Eat healthy. Exercise. Yes, changes in your routine and/or your child’s will take some getting used to. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. As strange as it may sound, our children learn from us even when we are sick. If we neglect our health, we send a negative message that tells them it’s okay to neglect theirs. When we take care of ourselves, we send a positive message. That’s a good thing.

Kids understand what “feeling bad” means. They understand terms like “hurt” and “tired”. And they will ask questions. When your child becomes inquisitive about your Chronic illness, be honest with them. Brief answers are usually best, for younger children. So, keep it simple. Teens are capable of understanding more. Then, of course, there is the internet where your child may read anything about your illness (factual or not). Prepare yourself for that, too. Help them find reputable resources online that can provide the best information. Talk openly. It’s good for them and you.

Last, but not least, stay positive. Optimism is key to managing any Chronic illness. It’s good for your health as well as your child’s. Kids aren’t as naive as we’d like to think they are. Our children pick-up on our emotions. If we show fear, they become afraid. If we are depressed, they too can show signs of depression. So, live fearlessly. Live strongly. Live fully. Chronic illness isn’t who we are. It’s just part of the package. We are women. We are mothers. And we are blessed. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/03/03/how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-your-serious-illness/?utm_term=.f8f4df873208

https://www.fmcpaware.org/why-does-mommy-hurt.html

http://www.igliving.com/magazine/articles/IGL_2013-08_AR_Chronically-Ill-Parents-Helping-Children-Cope.pdf

http://www.copmi.net.au/parents/helping-my-child-and-family/talking-about-mental-illness

https://www.nccn.org/patients/resources/life_with_cancer/talk_to_children.aspx

https://www.accu-chek.com/life/explaining-diabetes-to-your-children

http://talkaboutit.org/how-talk-your-kids-about-your-epilepsy-roger-cross-wendy-miller-phd-rn

https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/features/ra-explaining-pain#1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23510498

*Photo of the author & her son at an airshow, Myrtle Beach AFB, 1992.

 

 

Stay Hydrated

As the days grow warmer, we venture outside … enjoying outdoor sports, gardening, working, etc. Granted, the sun feels wonderful after a cold winter. But the higher temperatures also demand that we pay closer attention to our hydration level. If our bodies lose more fluid than they take in, we can develop a condition called dehydration. Severe dehydration can even be life-threatening. While dehydration can happen to anyone, it is especially dangerous for children, seniors and those living with Chronic conditions. In fact, there is increasing medical evidence that mild forms of dehydration can lead to a myriad of illnesses. Likewise, maintaining good hydration has a positive effect on many!

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Some medications can cause hydration issues, i.e. diuretics, laxatives and chemotherapy. Dehydration is often seen in cancer patients who are taking the latter. But, note, chemotherapy is used to treat other illnesses too, i.e. Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, etc. So, talk to your doctor and be vigilant. 

If you are taking any of these medications (many of us do), or suspect that you may be suffering from dehydration. Here are some of the symptoms to watch-out for:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Dry skin
  • Low blood-pressure
  • Extreme thirst
  • Rapid heat-beat
  • Inability to sweat

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance.

We lose fluids every day, through our body’s functions. Still we can maintain hydration. Water is the best source. Most nutritionists recommend about six 8-ounce glasses per day. Your doctor can help you determine how much is best for you. But there are other options, too. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches and oranges have naturally high water content. Vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce are also abundant. Soups are another source. An 8-ounce serving of plain yogurt is made up of more than 75% water. Cottage cheese has wonderful hydrating properties, too. So does Jello. Popsicles and frozen-fruit bars are also helpful. Even meats like hamburger and chicken breasts can help us to stay hydrated. And it’s pretty easy to incorporate these foods into our daily diet intake.

Spring is in full-swing and summer is just around the corner. Enjoy the weather. Have fun. Exercise. But, remember, to stay safe. Prevention is worth the effort. Whether you drink from a glass jar or not (it’s a bit of a Southern thing) … stay hydrated!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17921462

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16028566

https://www.webmd.com/drug-medication/medicines-can-cause-dehydration

https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/dehydration

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-hydrating-foods#section19

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/top-10-ways-to-stay-hydrated

*Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

When It’s Berry Good …

Ah, Spring … after the long, cold winter it’s an awakening of the senses. Nature pops with color … gardens bloom … birds sing. The days are longer … warmer. And our eating habits change, too. Our taste-buds seem to crave the colorful berries available at local markets and roadside stands. Whether you pick them or not, every bite is juicy and incredible. Strawberries are my personal favorite. Blueberries are a close second. And let’s not forget raspberries or blackberries. From now through the sizzling days of summer, berries are in abundance. But did you know, these naturally sweet gems are also good for you?

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Berries are nutritious. They’re packed with antioxidants (substances that help fight cell damage), polyphenols, anthocyanins, micro-nutrients, folic acid and fiber. Just one cup of strawberries offers more vitamin C than a small orange. And berries are low in calories, too. Studies have shown that fruit consumption, i.e. berries, improves cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health. Berries can also lower your blood-pressure and cholesterol. They can boost your immune system. They can even reduce inflammation and may help protect you against cancer, heart disease and dementia. Imagine that! 

If you still need more motivation, consider how easy it is to incorporate berries into your meals. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there’s a quick and oh-so-simple way to enjoy them. If you need ideas, there are also numerous sites filled with recipes. Though many berry lovers, like myself, would argue that nothing tops eating them right out of your hand! So, be my guest … indulge yourself. Add some color to your meal and vigor to your step. Eating healthy just doesn’t get any better than this!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068482/

https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-berries-health-benefits

https://www.badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/berries-bursting-with-health-benefits/

https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/signs-of-spring-berries

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/berry-good-for-your-heart

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287710.php

*Photo by Barry McGee on Unsplash

This Little Light Of Mine …

When I think back to my early childhood, I remember learning this song in Vacation Bible School. I was all of three or four years old. I still remember singing it in front of the congregation. Our teacher had instructed us to hold up our “pretend candles” aka one finger, as we sang. And at 59, I still find this simple little tune to be incredibly uplifting. I think most Christians can relate, which is why I chose it to discuss living with Chronic illness. Sometimes, we allow our diseases to distract us … hold us back … even consume us. If you live with one, you know what I mean. It happens all too often. But, for a moment, let’s focus on making the most of every day … every week … every year. Let’s consider living our lives to the fullest and letting our light really shine!

 

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  “In the same way, let your light shine before others …” — Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

First, accept that change is inevitable. It isn’t your fault that you’re sick. You didn’t ask for it to happen, or want it. But here you are. Your willingness to help yourself is your choice. Making changes to your lifestyle is also your choice. No one can do it for you. And, I know — it’s hard enough just living with your disease. The beauty here is that making changes allows you to feel a measure of control, in what often feels like an uncontrollable situation. And no matter what it specifically entails, change isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different. Healthier even. So, consider what you need to change in order to manage your disease. You might even want to make a list, or keep a journal. Then, take action. Perhaps, you are adding a form of therapy? Maybe, exercise? Or a diet? Your schedule may need some adjustments. You may need to ask for help. By all means, do so. That’s what support systems are for. Talk to your doctor. Stay realistic. Change won’t happen overnight. And patience is a necessity with any Chronic illness. But, slowly, make those changes at a pace that is comfortable for you. Think of it as laying the foundation for your future.

Second, don’t be afraid to set goals or dream. Yes, you have a Chronic illness. But you also have a life. It isn’t over. It’s changing; remember? Despite your diagnosis, you still have interests … pursuits of happiness. We all do. There are things that are gratifying like our careers. And others that we have longed to experience. Perhaps, you’d like to learn a new hobby? Enter a golf tournament? Get more involved in your community or an organization? Maybe, there’s a promotion that you’d like to accept? Or a destination calling your name? While the sky may not be the limit, there are a lot of options available. So, talk to your doctor. A well-managed Chronic illness will allow you to live life to the fullest. You’ll be happier, healthier, more productive, etc. Now, you’re building on that foundation.

Third, stay optimistic. I know it isn’t always easy. Some are naturally pessimistic. Thankfully, optimism can be learned. And, to be honest, it should be. This is one habit that we all can benefit from. Studies have proven, time and again, that optimism plays a positive role on our physical and mental health. Here are a few easy ways to be more optimistic:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others in a competitive way. We’re all unique.
  • Think positive thoughts.
  • Look for the good, even in difficult situations. Silver linings do exist.
  • Focus on positive outcomes. Don’t face a challenge expecting defeat.
  • Consider your own beliefs. What is your definition of purpose? Of life?
  • Strive to improve your health. When you feel better, you are more optimistic.
  • Challenge your mind every day, by learning something new. It helps to provide personal satisfaction.

Last but not least … I can attest that every change that I’ve made, either to my lifestyle or surroundings, has yielded positive results. This includes a couple of things that I was initially very skeptical about. While there are no guarantees in life, not mine or yours, there are options. Live fully and let your light shine!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/turning-straw-gold/201509/20-tips-living-well-chronic-pain-and-illness

Intensive lifestyle change: It works, and it’s more than diet and exercise

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ServicesAndSupport/managing-long-term-illness-and-chronic-conditions

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/21st-century-aging/201212/keeping-positive-outlook-when-dealing-chronic-illness

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=4511

*Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash

Smile: It’s Good For You

Sometimes, we overthink things. This is often true with Chronic illness. We overlook the simple, yet effective ways to help us feel better. Why is that? Are we looking for more difficulty? More expense? More drama? Surely, not. I think, just maybe, we are skeptical of simplicity. In this modernized society, we have somehow conditioned ourselves to believe that we need all the latest gadgets, gizmos, treatments and meds. We tell ourselves that if it’s “new”, if it’s advertised, then it must be better. Yet, in reality, we actually benefit from very simple things … free things … easy, natural things. And the perfect example of this is a smile!

 

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When you smile, you activate neural messaging in your brain and chemicals are released, i.e. Dopamine, Endorphins and Serotonin. Your brain is basically having a party and your entire body is invited to join the fun!

Smiling wards off stress. It relaxes you, if only for a few seconds. It lifts your spirits. You are happier. You feel better. That smile also lowers your Blood-pressure and your heart-rate. It can even relieve pain. Imagine that!

Each time you smile at someone (even a stranger) and they smile back, you both have created a symbiotic relationship. And both of you reap the benefits. In that moment that you exchange smiles, each of your bodies releases those feel-good chemicals into your brain. In those few seconds, both of you feel happier … more attractive … even more confident. This actually increases the chances of living longer and leading happier lives, in both individuals. And it wasn’t difficult or time consuming. Heck, it didn’t even cost a dime!

If you can share a little laughter, the benefits are even greater. In the short-term, a smile that ripples into laughter releases more of those feel-good chemicals … fills your lungs with oxygen-rich air … stimulates your heart and your muscles … relieves stress … and just makes you feel good. But in the long-term, it can improve your immune system … relieve pain … boost your mood … and increase personal satisfaction. Remember that old cliche, “Laughter is the best medicine”? As it turns out, there’s medical proof to back it up.

Now, granted, there are times when it’s hard to smile or laugh with a Chronic illness. But did you know that even a fake smile can trick the brain into releasing these feel-good chemicals? That in turn can have the same positive results on the body and emotions. So smile, even on the bad days — reap the benefits. In the long run, you’ll be glad that you did!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/smiling-can-trick-your-brain-happiness-boost-your-health-ncna822591

*Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash