Sunday, January 29, 2012

Visualization is Key

To me, visualizing yourself as HEALTHY is the number one thing you can do for yourself when dealing with a chronice disease like rheumatoid arthritis.  My journey with rheumatoid arthritis has gone in many directions: medication, accupuncture, diet, supplements, physical therapy, and much more.  The one thing that has remained constant through my journey is me seeing myself as healthy.  Without that visualization, I don't believe I would be feeling as good as I do these days. 

Despite the pain I have felt in the past, visualizing myself healthy doing the things I love to do kept me going each and every day.  Sometimes the intensity and length of time the pain stayed with me blocked my ability to visualize myself healthy and my family needed to step in and visualize for me until I could do it alone again.  I remember feeling extreme pain yet a smile growing on my face as I saw myself once again do big things bike riding and taking long walks with my border collie or smaller things like jumping out of bed in the morning without stiff joints or taking a bath again without my husband having to be home to get me out.  Visualize yourself in a healthy place.  Draw pictures of yourself doing it, take pictures of things you want to do, do whatever it takes to keep that picture in your mind and look at it often.   I sincerely believe that we become what we visualize.    

Here are some posts I wrote while at different places on my journey related to visualization:
Visualization is Powerful
Visualization Helps During RA Panic Moment
Going in a Good Direction
Knee Cap
Epigenics and Our Health

What do you visualize your healthy self doing?   

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Show Us Your Hands! Establishes Founding Committee to Help Raise Awareness of Autoimmune Arthritis

(January 24, 2012) - Show Us Your Hands! is pleased to announce the new collaborative effort of three leading advocates from the inflammatory arthritis blogging community. Lene Andersen (The Seated View) and Cathy Kramer (The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo) have joined forces with RA Guy (Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy) to organize creative community projects and effective awareness campaigns aimed at increasing the public’s understanding of autoimmune arthritis.

Show Us Your Hands! started as a community collage project in December 2011. The interactive digital collage and commemorative poster include hundreds of photos of the hands of individuals who live with inflammatory arthritis, and represent people of all ages from around the world. This inaugural project serves not only as a symbol of the wonderfully supportive inflammatory arthritis community that continues to grow and connect online, but also acts as a reminder that people who live with these diseases should be proud of, and not ashamed of, their autoimmune arthritis hands. New photos continue to be added to this community collage on a regular basis.

Upcoming initiatives will build upon the overwhelming success of and positive community reaction to this initial project. The three members of the founding committee are currently working on establishing an organizational roadmap, and in the coming weeks will be announcing the details of the first of many upcoming projects and campaigns. “Reading through the responses to Show Us Your Hands! and viewing the photos of all the hands, I am overwhelmed by the strength of our community.  Together we have built a relationship of understanding and compassion to replace what for many has been a void.  As Show Us Your Hands! moves forward, I am excited to see that strength grow,” says founding member Cathy Kramer.

Autoimmune diseases occur when a body’s immune system mistakenly attack healthy tissue. In the case of inflammatory arthritis a person’s joints are frequently attacked, resulting in chronic pain and debilitating inflammation. The most common inflammatory arthritis diseases are Ankylosing Spondylitis, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, Psoriatic Arthritis, Reactive Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma, Sjogren's Syndrome, Still's Disease, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

Show Us Your Hands! is an international awareness movement which serves to unite and inspire the inflammatory arthritis community. For more information, please visit Show Us Your Hands! can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Preparing For Work Week

Last week I returned to teaching two ESL (English as a Second, Third, Fourth and sometimes even Fifth Language) classes.  One class is in the morning and the other at night.  Although I LOVE my long breaks from work, it is nice to be back following a regular schedule and seeing the students I love. 

Before heading back on Tuesday night, I decided to spend some time getting things in place for the week.  I cleaned out my two book bags and everything is now organized,  I took a pair of pants in to have the snap replaced, and I replenished my personal hygiene products. 

By replenish I mean I made my own products. You may think making your own personal hygiene products is a time consuming project.  It's not.  The amount of time I spent making these products took less time than I have spent reading the ingredients on the back of the products.  Plus, these ready made products end up costing a lot more than making them.

First I replaced my small Rubbermaid container of coconut oil that I use as a moisturizer and eye make-up remover and then I made my hairspray and deodorant.  What I have found in making a few of my own personal hygiene products is that I feel nourished when making them.  This may sound strange but when I am making them I feel as if I am spending a little quality time on myself and I like that feeling. 
Slowing down and finding time to spend on myself has been a slow process but one that I really enjoy.  Just as I have discovered over the years that cooking meals for my family is not a chore but a small gift of myself that I can give to them each day, making my own personal hygiene products is a small gift I can give to myself.  Not only do I feel safe using the products I have made myself because I know what is going into the products, but I also like knowing that I am spending time on something that is just for me.  I feel as if I am pampering myself. 
What do you do to prepare for your work week?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Why Don't They Understand What I Am Going Through?

Rheumatoid arthritis and I have been in a relationship for eight years now.  The first year was rough as we got to know each other.  In fact, it kind of reminds me of the relationships I see now between the teenagers in my kid's circle of friends.  There was a lot of crying, lots of ye...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I Blog

It occurred to me this morning that there is a connection between my love for early morning walks and blogging.  In almost all of my relationships I am the listener.  This personality trait sometimes leads to a very one sided relationship, but I have acknowledged that that is who I am and I am okay with it.  However, when I walk early in the morning, all is calm and quiet.  I have a chance to talk to myself and get my own thoughts worked out.  Then I have a chance to come home and blog before everyone else is awake.  Blogging is my chance to be the one talking.  I can say everything I need to say without someone interrupting me and returning to their story.  I am glad I can be a listener in my relationships as I feel that is what drives many people to me, yet I love having this blog where I can release and share my stories.

Why do you blog?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Stomach Fat to the Rescue

This morning I woke up and thought, "Oh poop, this extra layer of holiday stomach fat didn't disappear overnight as I hoped."  Oh well, what can I expect when I continue to eat additional holiday foods after the holidays?

Rather than reflecting too long on my stomach, I headed out for my morning walk with Izzy.  I was determined not to let the low temperatures of the morning stop me from walking my usual 40-45 minutes.  Several times on my walk my fingers became super cold and I knew I either had to head back home fast or I had to once again use my stomach to warm up my hands.  I chose my stomach.  Oh boy was I glad to feel that extra layer of fat as my cold hands slipped into my shirt.  Thank you stomach and all your beautiful layers of fat.  You instantly warmed up my hands and I was able to enjoy another beautiful morning walk with snow flakes falling all around me! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Show Us Your Hands

In January of 2004, I began having my first symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.  I woke up throughout the night unable to move my fingers and in the morning they were swollen.  I kept going through my days trying to figure out what I would have done to create this pain.  Fast forward to mid April 2004 when I saw a rheumatologist for the first time and I had extreme pain in my feet and knees and was struggling to undress myself - all within four short months. 

I was one of the lucky ones in that my diagnosis came quickly, although the management of my RA didn't magically happen right away.  It took time on medications and it took spending a lot of time with my naturopath who looked at my condition from a variety of angles.  What I remember the most from my first year of dealing with rheumatoid arthritis is the extreme fear I had about deformities.  Every book I checked out on rheumatoid arthritis and every site I went to, even my own rheumatology office only offered photos of folks with severe deformities.  Honestly, I don't know which was worse for me at the time - the photos of the deformities or the fear of not being able to get out of bed alone when I had two young children.

Eight years later I find myself looking at a collage created by RA Guy titled Show Us Your Hands.   The first time I looked at this poster I cried.  At first I cried with sadness because so many RA folks have the hands that I feared.  Then the sadness changed and as I looked at the poster full of hands I saw strength.  These hands were not just about what rheumatoid can do to our bodies. (I now refer to any physical changes in my body due to RA as "wonky" instead of deformities.  I think wonky is a lot more fun to say than deformities.)  These hands are like trophies that show the world that we have survived a lot of both physical and emotional pain but we are still out here living our lives.  Our beautiful hands with all their wonkiness still give to us everyday.  Really, they are quite amazing.

What I didn't realize in 2008 when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis was that each of us would follow a different path.  Some of us would experience a lot of physical wonkiness while others may experience little to no wonkiness.  So far, my wonkiness has been fairly minor and I am thankful for that.  But when I look at the changes my body has taken due to rheumatoid arthritis, especially on my right foot, I am no longer fearful.  Eight years of following my own rheumatoid arthritis path and connecting with others has shown me that no matter how forceful rheumatoid arthritis decides to be in my body, I am okay.  While deformities were once my worst fear, I now realize I can handle whatever rheumatoid arthritis throws at me.   

If there is one thing I wish I would have had when I was first diagnosed, it would have been the knowledge that we are all different.  Looking at all the hands represented, I see that we have each responded in our own individual ways to this disease.  We each have our own wonkiness or lack of wonkiness. Either way we do share one common trait and that is strength. This is what I needed to see when I was diagnosed. I needed to know that yes, my body may change physically, but I also needed to know that maybe it wouldn't change all that much.  This poster shows me the wide range of hands that have come together as a community to give strength to one another.  Reading the comments and seeing the words of relief that we aren't alone on this journey is absolutely remarkable.

If you haven't yet checked out Show Us Your Hands, please be sure to take it look.  You will be amazed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Paleo/Primal Diet: Does it Help Rheumatoid Arthritis? - Health Central

There is often controversy as to whether or not diet is helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Many folks believe there is absolutely nothing to what you consume while others believe it is what will save them. After years of trial and error with diet, I am no longer convinced it is going to save me from rheumatoid arthritis, but I definitely believe it plays a huge part in how I feel.

To read the rest of this post and other great posts on rheumatoid arthritis, please visit Health Central.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday Izzy

I grew up with dogs, but none of them were ever "my" dog.  Izzy is our first dog as a family but she is really "my" dog.  She folllows me from room to room, she sleeps with me, she greets me at the door no matter how long I have been gone, and she listens to my every word.  She does have a mind of her own though and does what she wants with my words.  She has been by my side through the worst of my rheumatoid arthritis flares and her high energy level has forced me out of bed every day, even when I thought it wasn't possible.  Daily she challenges me to renew my patience as a human as she attempts to countersurf, when she gets jealous that I am hugging Steve goodbye in the morning and acts like a spoiled toddler, and as she barks at bicyclists, UPS trucks, and basically anyone and everything that passes by our house.   Yet she calms me as I sit and pet her, as she runs to the bedroom when I say, "let's take a nap", and as she listens to me when I least expect her to.  I love that in the morning she really wants to bark at dogs passing by our house but muffles her bark when I remind her "the kids are sleeping."  I love that on weekend mornings she greets Steve in bed with a ball in her mouth.  Oh, how I love watching the two of them play.  I love playing ball with her in the backyard and then watching her as your energy explodes and she runs top speed in circles around the yard.  If you haven't seen a border collie run at top speed, you have definitely missed out on a beautiful thing.  I love Izzy for all that she brings to my life.

My sweet Izzy is a New Year's baby.  Today I would like to celebrate Izzy and the joy she brings to my life.

It is amazing how small not only Izzy was when she joined our family at 16 weeks old, but also how small Alexander and Sophia were.  They both now tower over their momma.
Could she be any cuter? I warned the kids when we picked her up that if she wasn't right for us we wouldn't take her home.  The minute I saw her, I knew she was coming home with us.
Right away we switched Izzy from her kibble diet to a homemade raw food diet.  She was paleo/primal before we were.
My hiking partner.
As much as I despise the snow, Izzy loves it.  She loves sitting on the driveway letting the snow accumulate on her body.
I laughed and laughed last winter when we experienced a blizzard.  Izzy ran back and forth in the back yard until she had a path made for herself.  Until the snow melted, she used that path everyday.  It was so funny to watch her ! Oh, and of course she still wanted to be walked, even though the streets and sidewalks were covered in snow.    
Steve and Izzy on a campout.  Steve is definitely in line as Izzy's second favorite since he is her main playmate.
Izzy was with me during my first week back on prednisone in March 2010.  We hiked a different path every day of my Amazing Week.
She's just one of the family.  She loves new adventures with us.
She loves sleeping in my spot when I am away from home.
If Izzy can do it so can I.  That was my philosophy during our last hike.
Pretty Izzy keeps a watchful eye out for us.
Izzy loves to help in the kitchen.  She patiently waits to see if I drop any food and then cleans it right up!
"Did I hear food?"  Food comes before everything else, even  "ball".
Happy birthday Izzy and happy 2012 to all of you!  I appreciate you taking time to stop by and read about my adventures and I especially love when you leave comments.  Thanks so much!