Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spotlight on ME: Can You Say Similar?

Thanks so much to Lyda at I Don't Know.....It's a Mystery for spotlighting me on her blog today.  It is a huge privilege to be a part of her blog.  I was drawn to her blog due to her rheumatoid arthritis and paleo style of eating and have grown to love everything about her.  We definitely do share a lot of things in common which is why I love visiting her blog.  If you haven't discovered her blog yet, be sure to check it out.  It is full of optimism, something I can't get enough of everyday.   Thanks for giving me a good supply Lyda!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kennebunk, Maine: A Family Vacation with My Mom and Siblings

(Front) Sherry, Stacey, Mike, Robyn, Mom (Back) Cathy and Danny
My first solo trip without Steve or the kids was a success!!! I spent two days and three nights in Kennebunk, Maine with my mom and five siblings to celebrate my older sister's upcoming 50th birthday.  In my family, we don't generally celebrate birthdays with anything besides a phone call or an email, but turning 50 is a big deal and something to be celebrated.  For my brother Mike's 50th two years ago, my mom rented a space in Kansas and we had everyone - siblings, spouses, parents, nieces, nephews, grand kids, etc.  It was huge.  For the second 50th birthday we decided to do siblings only.  I loved this time with my siblings and mom.  It was absolutely perfect!

This was our first morning in Maine.  Stacey and I were up early and decided to walk.

This was on our last morning in Maine.  Stacey and I were up at 4:15AM.  We needed just a little more time together before I headed to the airport with my two brothers.  I love time with her. 
All four of us girls decided to walk to the beach and see the sun rise.  Perfect!

Cathy, Stacey, Robyn, and Sherry
The four sisters on our early morning walk along the beach.
Stacey went to Australia last year with my mom and brought back a wine called "Four Sisters".  

This was my favorite day because it was so relaxing.
Spending some time talking with my mom on the beach.  She made all of this possible.  Thanks Mom!
I loved seeing my brothers hang out.  They would often desert us girls and meet up for a beer. 
My sister Robyn had me cracking up so hard as we ran along the beach.
The beach was the perfect place to get some barefoot time in.
Our last evening together we decided to skip sitting at a  restaurant. Instead we each brought back  food from wherever sounded good to us individually.  We sat outside eating until the mosquitoes finally forced us inside.
The last night we also sang "Happy Birthday" to my sister Sherry with a blueberry pie.  (I didn't have any but I heard it was delicious. )  She will be 50 in September.  Happy Birthday Sherry!

My favorite part of the trip besides laying on the beach was coming back to our rooms at night to play games, drink wine, and eat chocolate. 
This is me, Cateepoo, in our room.  This picture is how I felt during this trip - happy!

I came home to a clean house, two kids and a husband that missed me, and a border collie who was beside herself with happiness to see me.  I am glad to be home knowing that I have shared some wonderful memories with people I truly admire and love.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nodules: An Ugly Side Effect of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Nodules.  They are one of the ugly side effects of rheumatoid arthritis.  According to an interview done with Dr. Joan Merrill at HealthCentral, "nodules look like bumps under the skin, and can be painful, red and sore......but they can also be painless and can come on any part of the body.  Though, usually they appear under the skin, in places where we put weight on our bodies, such as shoulders or elbows, they can also develop in the lining of the brain, or in the heart."  To read the rest of this post, go to MyRACentral. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happy Where I am Right Now

I think one of the things that has helped me the most in healing this last year is that I have finally stopped worrying about everything.  When I was first diagnosed in 2004, my biggest fears were deformed joints and not being able to get out of bed by myself.  Although those two fears stayed with me for many years, I also added on the fear of the side effects of medications, fear the pain would never end, fear of eating because the food I put into my body might be causing more inflammation, and fear that if I take medications they may not work long term. (There were more, but these were the main ones.)

Last year at this time I was in deep turmoil trying to decide what path to take next with my rheumatoid arthritis which was also controlling the rest of my life.  I talked with close friends, I visited my naturopath, I meditated, and finally I came to the conclusion that  I was spending so much time trying to be healthy that I was adding a lot of stress to my life.  Stress is very harmful to our joints.  When I decided to give medications a chance again, I remember this huge burden being lifted from my body. 

When I picked up my first prescription of Enbrel, my sister Stacey was visiting.  I started crying when we left the pharmacy.  She thought it was because I was scared of the medication.  It wasn't that.  I knew that my life was about to change.  It was about to change because I had a strong sense that the medication was going to help.  This sense came from many places.  Mostly, it came from me finally accepting my situation.  It was accepting that the medications may have a place in my life to help me and it also came from my decision to stop worrying about everything.  I remember when the decision to take medications was complete in my mind I also had decided on following the paleo diet which allowed me a lot more freedom in my food choices than I was doing previously, it completely fit into my food politics,  and I decided at that moment that I would allow myself to "cheat" on foods when it felt right for me as long as it remained gluten free. (I find this funny now because since making the choice to give myself a break with food, I have actually eaten better than ever before.  Feeling like I can't eat certain foods makes them so much more desirable.)  I also stopped worrying about deformities and decided to look at them as trophies of the strength I have each day to deal with whatever life throws at me.  I don't worry so much about the side effects of medications because I know that I am treating my body the best I can with good food choices and a relaxed mindset.

I was right when I picked up my Enbrel prescription.  My life has changed this last year.  I am active.  I am strong.  I am happy.  I know Enbrel plays a large part in this change but I also think a lot of the change comes from not being so hard on myself to save myself.  This last year I have let a lot go in my life that wasn't serving me any longer.  I have allowed myself to share meals with friends and family without freaking out inside.  I have focused on the beauty of who I am rather than what may become of me.  I have really spent time this year focusing on the moment by taking the time to laugh, to hug, and to just be.  It has made a huge difference not only in my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms but in my overall life. 

This journey of mine with rheumatoid arthritis has definitely had some ups and downs and I have no delusion that path will continue, but in the meantime, I just want to enjoy each and every day I have of feeling good.  I appreciate my naturopath, all my blogger friends, personal friends,and family that helped guide me to the decisions I made last summer because I am really happy with where I am now.      

Q101.1 Last Day: Meeting Electra

Sophia, Electra, and Alexander
On Wednesday Alexander and Sophia asked if we could go to the Q101.1 alternative rock radio station and peek in on their last day of broadcasting.  Sure, why not? This is the radio station we have been listening to since we moved to the Chicago area 13 years ago from Kansas.  We got up Thursday, took the train downtown, walked over a mile to the Merchandise Mart, and peeked in on Electra, the midday host all three of us generally listen to together in the car.

Zandy reading on the train

It was fun.  Once we got there and waved to Electra through the window, we weren't sure what to do next.   Along with another group of teens, we decided to wait an hour and see if she would come out and meet the kids that were waiting for her.  She did!  She gave all the girls a hug and shook hands with all the boys.  My kids were so excited.  

We walked the mile back to the train, grabbed some food to eat on the train, and headed home so the kids could attend a Harry Potter party and then attend the midnight release of the movie with friends.  While they were busy with friends, I had a date night with Steve. It was a long fun day for all of us.  I am so happy that my body is finally healthy enough to make these memories possible.    

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Battling Perceptions of Rheumatoid Arthritis: "You Look So Good"

Yesterday I saw a friend I haven't seen in almost a year.  She asked how I am feeling.  I right away answered, "Great!"  She smiled and said something like, "I can tell with all your bouncing around."  We were in the pool, which is why I was bouncing around.  She complemented me on how good I look and I felt myself beaming inside because I know that right now I feel good and it shows.  I also know that this friend wouldn't hesitate to tell me if I looked awful and I appreciate that about her. 

Below is an excerpt from my latest post at MyRACentral. I don't know if I really like the post.  It feels negative. It shows a bit of the evil side of me when I am in the midst of a flare.  But, it is also reality for me. 

"Cathy, you look so good." This is a comment I receive from one of my friends every time I am in my worst flare. It makes me cringe. My daughter tells me to relax and accept that she is just trying to make me feel better, but in reality it makes me want to scream and I have to resist the urge to claw her eyes out. That sounds harsh, doesn't it? It really is, but it is the way I feel when friends tend to ignore the pain I am feeling or want to gloss it over. To read the rest of this post, head over to MyRACentral

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence from Rheumatoid Arthritis

Last year at the end of July, I began my journey of using biologics.  Getting to the point of accepting biologics in my life was not an easy one.  In fact, I fought the use of biologics for years.  I wanted to be able to work through my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms without the use of medications.  I stopped taking my Methotrexate and Plaquenil and went on a two year strike from all medications.  It was a hard fight and in the end, I had to surrender.  It broke my heart giving in to the medications and the fact that they would once again own my body, but I came to a point that I couldn't fight any longer.  To read more, visit MyRACentral.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Best Thing That Can Happen To Me Is Happening Right Now

Deepak Chopra says, “The best thing that can happen to me is happening right now." Now that my rheumatoid arthritis inflammation has calmed down and my body is able to do so much, it is easy to believe in this philosophy.  When I feel good my whole relationship with life is different than when I am in the midst of a flare.   But as I took a long walk with my border collie Izzy the other morning, it occurred to me that all those years I have spent dealing with one flare after another was actually the best thing that could have happened to me. It was the best thing that could have happened to me because it was preparing me for where I am today.

I like where I am today.  I feel happy with who I have become over the years.  I like rejoicing in the small everyday events of my life that I didn’t focus on as much before rheumatoid arthritis slowed me down.  I like that rheumatoid arthritis forced me to stop and think about the time and energy I spent doing “things”.  I can now look at my day and decide what is really important to me and let everything else go.  Rheumatoid arthritis has helped me to focus on my goals in life and to let people and things that are filling voids in my life go so that I have room to give to those who are filling me to the brim with love, worthwhile experiences, and fun.    I have learned that it is okay to ask for help and that people actually want to be there for me.  I have built stronger relationships.  I have learned to eat in a way that is not only providing my rheumatoid arthritis some relief but also the stomach issues I have dealt with since I was a young girl.  I have discovered passions that revolve around food choices and health choices.  I have learned that everyone has a very unique path they need to follow and even though it may be quite different than my path, it doesn’t mean it is wrong. 

Although I don’t like the pain that rheumatoid arthritis has brought to my life and those around me, I know it was where I needed to be.  Rheumatoid arthritis needed to be a part of who I am.(And still does)  All the awful days I spent in flares forced me to take a deep look at who I am and what I really want out of life.  I needed to have those days in my past to get to where I am today.  Each day I have experienced  with pain, swelling, and tears and each day I have spent without any of those were exactly where I needed to be each day.  Each day is a chance to learn and to grow.  As I write this post and reflect on my day, I know “The best thing that can happen to me is happening right now."  

Friday, July 1, 2011

New Glasses

My Zandyman, AKA Alexander, is now the owner of a brand new pair of glasses. A few months ago he started complaining of not seeing as well out of one eye as the other. I took him in last week and apparently he needs a heavy duty prescription for astigmatism. He seems pretty excited with the glasses. I am sure that seeing things clearly would make a person excited. Anyhow, I think he looks great!!!