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Monday, January 30, 2012

Water on the Brain

Hello again, this time I want to discuss the ever looming "MS Flare". This is when symptoms go into overdrive and become very difficult to ignore. Most of the symptoms are ones that are not normally present in day-to-day life, or if they are are in a milder form.

I typically have a MS Flare in January/February. I believe it is something related to the weather or it may even be that there are more people sick around me. With MS my immunity can fluctuate & while I may never get your cold, I may still have the bug in my system bringing havoc in another way. There may not be a medical explanation of this, but it is what I observe for myself.

Many times, I can see some signs of a cold, but will not experience any real symptoms. For example, we are told that when we blow our noses to watch for a color change from clear to green or yellow as a sign of a cold. (I know. Gross. It will be worse in a minute) Well in the morning when I blow my nose, I will have instances where I see small crusts that have the colors of illness. I have had no stuffiness or drainage or any other symptoms of the common cold. This will continue for several days & then go away. Now, I have begun to believe that my body has bigger issues and this small infection, while present, doesn't ever become a cold.

If I am in this state or if I am feeling extra tired or sleeping more then I will limit my exposure to sick people. I can't do anything about my family, except wash my hands, etc., but I do the best I can in these situations. If I am feeling "in my bones" or "in my gut" that I should avoid it, I do. If I feel a MS Flare coming on & have been exposed, sometimes I have noticed an increase in symptoms of MS. Maybe not a full on flare, but a definite period of needing to "sleep it off".

For the last couple of weeks, I have noticed little symptoms coming out in a small way. I have had my hand shake(tremor), or I lose my grip & drop things. I have had instances of the "drunk walk" and losing my balance. When this happens the "drunk walk" causes me to start veering sideways when I want to go straight. The balance will be me turning around & needing to grab something to steady myself. Some moments of light-headedness & my legs have been jerking when I lie down. My swallowing issues are more often and some blurry/double vision. Again, not enough to call the neuro because it is very mild, but noticeable.

Friends & Family will ask how I am and if I reply that I might be "feeling a flare coming" they tell me I need to take care of myself. I tell them "I'm working on it" & "I am". I thought about this over the weekend & asked myself what that really means, "I'm working on it"? My answer was I make sure to go to bed early, when I can. I put my feet up more often, try to avoid stressful situations. I drink more water and, honestly, hope & pray. That really is the big one "Hope & Pray". I work on that one alot.

That got me to thinking more and wondered, "What do I really expect I can do beyond that?" I mean MS is not curable, so it's not like I am missing some magic quick fix to help me avoid a MS Flare. I am doing all that I can do in my mind. I decided to take it a step further and think back to my last MS Flares and what came before them. I realized during my last 2 flares I had both a urinary tract infection (UTI) & a yeast infection ("girl" infection). Both had virtually no symptoms to alert me and I didn't know about them until I was deep into the flare. This got me to thinking, if I can't prevent the MS Flare, truly, what if I tried to hold off & avoid the UTI and the "Girl" stuff?

One of my medications, maybe more, cause me to have dry mouth. Very dry mouth. I try to drink my water, but it isn't a priority I always follow. There are commercials now that address this issue and how it can cause dental problems and other mouth issues. I thought about this & am assuming that being dry could be an issue in other female areas as well (By the way, I am in no way afraid of these words, vagina & yeast infection, but I know some are so I am trying to limit it with the idea of being respectful). Back to the dry body parts. I wondered if this could be causing the infections as well? I'm sure it doesn't help.

My new plan is to take steps to prevent these issues, and in turn, maybe avoid an MS Flare. It's worth a shot, right? So, I bought an over the counter med for the girl stuff. So far I am better with that because I was noticing some symptoms for that. I also bought the plain, organic straight cranberry juice. It was $6 for this 32 oz bottle & that was ON SALE! I didn't want to mess around though. Since I was having symptoms of the girl stuff I figure the UTI isn't far behind. So I bought it anyway. Let me tell you, I found out why they add the sugar. OMG! It was TERRIBLE! I am still drinking it though & am treating it as "medicine". I am only drinking 2-4 oz a day until it's gone. We shall see if it works or not.

After the yucky cranberry juice is gone, I am switching to the Ocean Spray kind. I know it isn't as good as the straight stuff, but I am doing this in the spirit of prevention and not to wipe out an infection. I headed to the juice aisle to read labels. Ocean Spray has 4 different versions of their plain cranberry juice: "Traditional" (that's my name for it), "Light", "Diet" & "100% Juice". I started reading the "Diet" one: it was packed with chemicals like diet pop, so I wanted to avoid those. Next, onto the "Light" one: it had only some chemicals & some sugar. Third was the "100% Juice" one: It's 100% juice alright, but they used 3 other types of juices to sweeten it. Last was the "Traditional": It had 27% Cranberry Juice, filtered water, cane or beet sugar & Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). I chose the "Traditional" one. I thought my goal is for the cranberry juice to help me & I don't need other juices fighting against it. Plus, only water, sugar & vitamin c? I think this is a good option. Right or wrong, I am going to try it.

In addition to that, I am adding a serving of yogurt everyday to help with the girl stuff. I already start my day with McDonald's yogurt parfait, but I thought I would add another serving. Besides, calcium is good for my bones & steroids eat those up. Win, win, right? I will see. I also am increasing my water by keeping a glass full at all times on the kitchen counter or near me. I like the counter because when I walk by, I see it and remember to drink it. I guzzle it down & refill it for next time. This has to be when I am home or know I will have access to a bathroom, otherwise I won't be drinking as much.

I still believe in the "My MS Yoga" for stretching my muscles out and increasing my flexibility. My goal is to do that 3 times a week. I remember how good I felt when I was practicing it daily & it was worth it for me. I also want to add in my physical therapy routine again. My PT taught me balance exercises & routines to increase my strength. I had never felt better when I stopped going to the PT center in July. I want that back.

Well, there you have it. My goal to get this water off my brain and drain my bladder in the hopes of holding off, minimizing or preventing an MS Flare all together. Will I be successful? Only time will tell. You all know that I never give up and most of the time I will be smiling as I go. Even if this attempt fails, it won't matter to me. MS is out of my control. The one thing I can control is how I react to it. My attitude and my outlook are completely in my own hands. I will look for my silver lining. I will find my smile. I will find the good in all I do. I have so many blessings in my life & I plan to enjoy each & every one!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Renew Your Mind

Happy New Year Everyone!!! 2012 is going to be a great year, I can feel it already. This is the year I begin the decade of "Me". This may sound selfish from the get go, but allow me to explain.

I have always been the "helper" the "problem solver" the "mom of everyone". These are all things I love to be and will probably continue to do so for my lifetime. I have made changes in these areas as I have learned when to say no and when to remember that my worth is not wrapped up in always being there for every one, every time. I learned that I don't need to be liked by all people and that is okay. I don't like everyone I meet, so why should I expect that anyone who meets me will like me no matter what? What a boring world it would be if we all liked one another & agreed on everything. I celebrate our differences and embrace the uniqueness of our personalities. Letting go of the pressure to please everyone and for me to like them unconditionally was not only freeing, but oddly, relaxing.

There was a time when I would be the one to be in the thick of a fight. Oh, I wasn't the type that would start one, but if I found someone or something that NEEDED defending, I would be the one front & center to go toe to toe with the best of them. Once I discovered Facebook, these instances occurred more often and could become more heated very quickly. The fights could get nasty and people hiding behind their computers would use their false sense of bravado to fight dirtier than they would face-to-face. I had many a night getting so involved in this drama that I would push my health to the limit. My heart would race, the adrenaline would pump so quickly that my hands would go numb, weakness would intensify and the tremors would be uncontrollable.

The worst moment I had was when one woman decided to criticize my character yet again. It was within a debate on a mutual friend's page and it shook me so much. I was afraid. Not of her, I could handle her. I was afraid her comments would push the friends we shared to pick a side. I was afraid that the friends we shared would believe her accusations. I was afraid that I would get pulled down to her level. I had discovered the attack when I checked my email and Facebook while on vacation with my family. I couldn't believe my eyes. When I had logged off before leaving, I had made a comment in jest and this woman had twisted it so completely around that even I doubted my intent. I tried to explain & defend myself, but she got nastier & nastier. I did put her in her place, but after I logged off, I realized something.

I was out to dinner with my family & the whole time I was worried about what was happening on Facebook and what this girl was doing. I wasn't paying attention to my husband or my children. I didn't notice at first, but when I looked around at where I was and who I was with, I was ashamed of myself. I was worried about something so meaningless. If the friends I was worried about believed her, they weren't really my friends or they didn't know me at all. If I gave another second to this woman on Facebook, I was allowing her to win. She would be stealing time from my family and THAT, that I had control over. I stopped thinking of her & decided I would see how it played out after I returned.

As it turned out, I had my chance with my friend. We actually became closer. We talked on the phone for hours. It was amazing to develop a deeper level to our relationship. She told me her concerns and perceptions and it pushed me further forward into what would become my new outlook on life. I was in control of what I did and how I reacted to others. No one else was, so I took back that power. I wouldn't allow someone to decide for me how I would live my life, so I let it all go.

A couple of months later, someone was making fun of me again and my upbeat outlook. I kind of chuckled about it and moved on. Several of my friends brought it to my attention and wanted me "to know" what was going on. I thanked them and said I knew, but I didn't need to get involved. I looked into it further and read many of my friends posts that had jumped to my defense and I knew if I said anything I would add fuel to the fire. So I "walked away". Several people couldn't believe I did that and said they didn't think they could have been so relaxed about the situation. I ended up starting my own open post stating basically what I wrote above. It is our differences that make the world go round. I accept that others will have an opinion of me as I have one of them. We can agree to disagree and pick our battles. Cliche? Maybe, but valuable lessons nonetheless. I have many friends that I love & care about and if one more doesn't want to join them, then that is their decision & I respect that. I have less stress now that I have learned to pick my battles and care less about what others think or intend. One of my favorite quotes is "How others treat me is their path. How I react to it is mine." Perfect.

So that was my last 2 years, spent healing myself and becoming comfortable in my own skin. So as I began this post, my New Year's resolution is 2012 is the year of "Me". I explained this best to my husband: My 20's were for "us", him & I. Growing together and learning about one another as a couple and as parts of a couple on our own. My 30's were for our children. Giving birth, devoting every moment to their well being and growth from infancy to children off to school. To be the best mommy I can be for them. My husband is a very real part of that decade too, of course. So my 40's are for "Me". None of these decades are truly devoted completely to one entity, but they are the dominating element of that time in my life.

And so I begin 2012, with this post and my challenge to you: Make 2012 the beginning of "You"! This is the year I put myself first. I make my health a priority and not an afterthought. I make my sanity and my emotional spirit a part of my growth to become better, deeper, more important than I have in the past. My connections with my friends are just as valuable as my connections as a wife & mother. Doing the things I believe I need to do to drive me into the next best thing, the person I know I was meant to be and to do what I was meant to do, will Renew my Mind into a whole new me. A better me.

The best part about this is my family will benefit the most out of my new goal. A better "Me" leads to a better them. If Mommy goes down, the house of cards falls with her. Staying healthy and attempting to maintain a better lifestyle including physical therapy techniques & "My MS Yoga", I believe my health will improve or I will heal faster. So that is step number one, relearn how to make my body the best it can be. Number 2, is reconnect with my family & friends on Facebook, in person & by phone calls. I need the people in my life who not only need my friendship, but who's companionship I need as well. This will keep me socially stimulated and help with my sanity levels. ;) Number 3, is about investing my time more in this blog, & put together a book of poetry from my collection of MS poems. I have been asked to do this and I want to follow through. If I can help others with it then bonus for me!

I will maintain the person I am inside and bring out the parts I pushed aside. I need to take care of myself in mind, in body & in spirit. To grow into the woman I know I am and in turn teach my children that we all have value. To find balance and make sure you include yourself when you choose your paths in this life. As I Renew my Mind, I know the rest will follow. I turned 40 years old 6 days ago and I say bring it on!! These are going to be some of the best years of my life because I do have something to say about it and I am going to speak loud and proud. Watch out world cuz here I come!