Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend

I hope that each of you had a pleasant and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. My family spent the holiday weekend at home. On Wednesday night my niece took the train out to our house from the city. We spent the evening catching up, playing Scattergories, and eating burritos made by Alexander, Sophia and myself and then yogurt parfaits brought by Ashley for dessert. (Unfortunately for me I only enjoyed these foods through my family as I ate my Body Ecology Diet approved foods. Will power is definitely one thing I have.) On Thursday the kids joined me in the kitchen to prepare our Thanksgiving meal. I absolutely love the kids in the kitchen with me. It is my favorite part of the day. (Thanks to my mother who gave me wonderful holiday memories of helping in the kitchen!) The food turned out great! That evening my brother-in-law and his lovely wife joined us for dessert. I was really touched that Hilary made gluten free, pumpkin chocolate chip bread for us and remembered I don't eat dairy and brought coconut ice cream instead (unfortunately I can't eat it right now either!).

On Friday the four of us decorated the Christmas tree and house and then watched Angels and Demons, which we loved and Elf, which we will most likely watch a few more times this season since it is one of our favorites. Every year since the kids were little I have given them an ornament to represent their main interest of the year. This is considered the "first gift of the season" since they open it before we start decorating the tree. This year I gave Sophia an ornament that says, "Book lover". On the front it says, "So many books, so little time." In reality, Sophia has always been a book lover. However, this year she has devoted a lot of time to reading and always has several books waiting to be read. I love when she gets up in the morning and shares what she read the night before. This year just seemed to be the year that books became her best friends.

For Alexander, I found an ornament with a snowman playing the piano. This year Alexander has really been into music. He knows a lot of bands, he is always using the Shazam app on my phone to identify songs he likes, he became a huge Beatles fan and this is the year he asked Steve to teach him to play the piano. Every morning he wakes up, prepares his breakfast and heads down to practice the piano. When he is ready for something new he asks Steve to help him.
We have many ornaments on the tree that the kids have given us. This year Sophia made a happy face for me out of clay and beads. It's adorable.

For Steve, Sophia made the letter "D" for dad.

This is my all time favorite ornament which was made by Alexander about five years ago. On the back of the cape it says, "#1 Super Mom".

The tradition at our house has always been to rotate between Alexander and Sophia putting up the star. Sophia put the star up this year and said, "It isn't as fun as when Dad lifted me up to put the star on the tree. " This was the first year both kids were too big to have Steve lift them up. After we put the star on the tree and began decorating I found a note we wrote last year that said, "2009 Alexander puts up the star, not Sophia." Oops! We always forget who did it the year before and started writing notes.

As we enter the Christmas season, I find that my favorite things about the season happen right here in my own home. Last night we each mentioned things we were going to do individually and somehow we all ended up sitting in the living room around the Christmas tree talking and laughing. I like that the tree has that affect.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On again.....Off again.

Lately the kids and I have been a little obsessed with reruns of That 70's Show. On the show Kelso and Jackie (both teens) have been in a long term relationship with each other that tends to be like many first time romances....on again and then off again. I guess in a way it is like rheumatoid arthritis. We enter into this serious relationship in which we have no experience vowing that it won't take over our lives and trying to make it work around the life we have already created. But, as is the case for Jackie and Kelso, we end up getting hurt over and over again. As a teenager I remember thinking that I wouldn't put 100% of my energy into my first love, but somehow he became all that mattered. Many days it feels the same with rheumatoid arthritis.

Generally though, the relationship with our first love and with RA is calm and we feel somewhat content and capable of continuing on in the relationship. Sometimes with RA we even find it enjoyable as we meet new people and find new support systems. It becomes our norm and we find comfort in that normalcy. Jackie and Kelso's relationship has been on again, off again for so long (flare-up on and flare-up off) that even though they both seem to want to move on they can't seem to pull themselves away from each other. I feel that way with rheumatoid arthritis. It keeps pulling me back like a magnet.

Occasionally, this relationship with RA gives us great highs that make us realize our strengths and gives us the energy to keep going and to make this relationship work. Do you remember feeling that way with your first love after a big fight? I guess rheumatoid arthritis is like a first love in that neither one will ever totally leave us. A part of them will remain with us our entire lives. Each of us with rheumatoid arthritis knows that we will have good and bad days and if we are lucky we might even experience remission. But, our joints, like our first loves are our weakness and they will always be our soft spots during times of stress and unhealthy habits. The cool thing about RA, in my opinion, is that we have a choice over how we want this relationship to end. We can treat it like many first love relationships end which is in hate and bad memories or we can be one of the lucky ones that make this experience something that we feel good about and years from now look back and hold fond memories of the growth we experienced and the strength we found in ourselves.

I posted yesterday that I have been experiencing extreme pain in my knee and having a terrible time sleeping. My poor daughter Sophia accidentally hit my knee twice yesterday by once backing up and running into me and the other time accidentally elbowing my knee while getting up from the couch. She felt so bad when she saw the reaction on my face and I felt so bad for her. But, this morning I woke up shocked that I had slept through the night. I hadn't woke up once to turn myself over or to straighten my leg. Hmmm.....I needed to try it out while awake. Yes, it was true. I was rolling over with very little pain and my leg was bending, even if a little stiff still. I guess for today my relationship with rheumatoid arthritis is in a calm state. I am content with that.

What I am noticing with my knee since starting the Body Ecology Diet is that each time I have a flare-up with this awful pain is that once the pain subsides, the swelling has gone down a bit more. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the pain is part of the healing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good Awaits Me

"I know that only good awaits me at every turn. " ~ Louise Hay Daily Affirmation

Sometimes when I post on my blog about rheumatoid arthritis I feel that I live in two worlds. One world is positive and happy and the other is sad and frustrated. Fortunately, I see the same thing on other RA blogs which helps me realize that "Yes, I am sane and no, I haven't yet crossed over to the crazy side." I know that this is just part of dealing with a chronic disease.

Today's post is definitely of two worlds. I believe it is safe to say that I am experiencing the worst pain I have ever felt in my RA experiences. I wake up at night because I can't move my leg and when I try to move it the pain is so bad I find myself making weird, embarrassing sounds. It doesn't help that our dog Izzy jumped right on top of my knee at three in the morning when she heard Steve making a snack. Somehow I just can't be mad at her. Her cuteness outweighs any pain. Plus, she seems protective over me at night when I hurt and I love that about her.

A few times this morning I thought I would cry as I generally do during a flare-up to let out my frustration, but nothing came. The frustration just isn't there. Even though I feel tremendous pain in my knee, I am finally able to see myself healthy again. This is huge for me. When I look into my future I don't even have to concentrate on seeing myself sitting cross legged on the floor, bike riding or even just sitting in a chair without worrying about how I will get back up. The picture just comes to me!!! It is a wonderful feeling. I know that good is around the next turn and if I just stick with the changes I am making in my diet and in my personal life, that it will be worth the wait. There is no need to feel frustration.

Many thanks for all the prayers and healing thoughts that have come my way. They have brought me to where I am today and for that I am grateful.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Homeopathy Intake, Good News and A Question

Yesterday I spent four hours with a friend totally focusing on ME. My friend is taking a class on homeopathy as part of her courses towards becoming a naturopath and her assignment was to complete a homeopathy intake and figure out the best remedy for me based on my answers. Since this was my friend's first time of taking an intake, it took about twice as long as it will once she is more experienced. However, wouldn't it be nice if all of our physicians spent two hours getting to know us as individuals before making life changing decisions with us? I always felt like I was just another RA patient with my rheumatologist rather than a complex individual that may follow many of the same symptoms of others with RA, but with my own unique makeup. In a homeopathy intake everything from your physical complaints to your childhood fears to your current spirituality to to the temperature you like to eat your food to your sex life are factored into the remedy. I love this! I love that your whole being is considered in the remedy because in reality, I believe our whole being - fears, emotional pain, physical pain, loss, joys, beliefs, etc bring us to where we are in our disease. In a few days to a couple of weeks I should know what remedy my friend has chosen (time depends on when she can talk with her instructor) and hopefully additional information on why she chose that remedy. Then I can decide if I want to try it or not.

Since a homeopathy intake is so detailed and personal, it is draining. After four hours of thinking and talking about myself, I was exhausted. At first it was also a little awkward sharing so much information about myself. But, my friend is someone that I confide in often anyhow and someone that I trust completely, so that helped. I did tell her that she will have to send me some answers of her own now so that we can even the score!

And now for the good news. For the last year I have had this rather large cyst like thing growing on my wrist. My chiropractor believed it was related to how I digest fats. The good news is while following the Body Ecology Diet, which focuses on how you digest fats, the bump/cyst has magically disappeared.

Lastly, I have a question for my RA readers. When you have a joint that is in pain, does it help to massage it lightly or give it a deep, hard rub? I have found that when I self massage my knee it is painful at first with deep massage, but within minutes it feels so much better. I tried the deep massage on my shoulder the other day and it worked wonders. My friend said that is something to consider in the remedy and asked if that is true for most RA friends because the pattern of a disease is also considered in the remedy. (Yikes! So many things to consider for one individual remedy.) I haven't heard many people talk about self massage so let me know. Does deep massage or light massage feel better on your joints?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Listening to Our Voice

Ancient people were intuitively aware of the inherent order, the natural perfection of the universe. Nature was not an enemy to be conquered, but a friend that supplied food and water for physical needs and beauty to satisfy spiritual and emotional needs. When people got sick, they knew how to use natural remedies to heal themselves, and they trusted the inherent perfection of nature to assist in healing.
We must once again start accepting nature's ways, trusting and nourishing our intuitive selves. We will then be in a better balance with our rational, intellectual selves, resulting in exciting opportunities to create the world as we really want it. ~ Donna Gates, Body Ecology Diet

In November of 2004 when I had been on Methotrexate, plaquenil and predisone for many months and saw my body and spirit quickly declining, I searched for additional help. That help came from a naturopath in the city who from the first visit gave me hope that my body was capable of healing and a feeling of empowerment that I was in charge of that healing. With her help I learned that in order to feel better I would have to put in some hard work. I was ready. I accepted each of her challenges and within two months my inflammation rates were finally within a normal range again and slowly I started seeing my body heal and experience remission.

Several years later I started experiencing extreme pain in my feet again and having flare-ups in my shoulders. My rheumatologist recommended moving to new medications and handed me several handouts. I refused to read them. I knew that wasn't the path I was meant to take. In the years I had worked with my naturopath and was required to learn about my own personal body with all its aches, pains, fears, etc, I had learned to listen to myself. I had been given the wonderful gift that Donna Gates speaks about in her book "start accepting nature's ways, trusting and nourishing our intuitive selves."

In February 2008 I took myself off all medications. (I had been off predisone for some time and slowly reduced the others) In hindsight I wish I had first looked at my current diet and made sure it was still as clean as it had once been. If I had looked at my diet before going off medications I would have realized that I had slowly incorporated many toxins back into my diet: wine, a little dairy and gluten here and there, and lots of sugar. Sure, I was still eating lots of good things, but unfortunately my body is not able to handle the toxins. So, with a weakened body I took myself off meds and experienced a full body flare-up which made it that much easier to continue adding back the toxic foods.

When I started seeing my current chiropractor and acupuncturist, they both recommended some diet changes and I explained to them that I wasn't ready for diet changes again. I knew I needed them but I was exhausted from fighting the pain and inflammation that comes with RA and emotionally drained. I just wanted someone else to "fix" my problem. As you can see, that didn't work.

Luckily that gift of trusting my own intuition and listening to myself was still inside me and ready to make a comeback. You see, once you really start listening to yourself, it is hard to stop. The Body Ecology Diet kept coming back to me in different ways as if it wasn't going to leave me alone until I gave it a try. I had read the book several years ago and found it intimidating, but with the new read, it made perfect sense. I knew I had to try it.

In the last two months of the diet I have experienced pain that I haven't experienced in a long time, if ever. My body has been working hard to clear out the toxins and I thank it each day for the work it does. Each day I learn something new about my physical and emotional body. I feel my spirit strengthening and my confidence growing. I visualize all the repair work that my body is doing on the inside so that when it has the strength, it will be able to work on my joints. I am learning patience beyond anything I ever imagined and that makes me happy. I almost hesitate to say this but in the last few days the pain in my knee has reduced and the swelling is shrinking. I find this interesting that it is happening at the same time I am seeing changes occuring for the better with my digestion.

For me choosing a medication free route is not just about the fact that I fear what medications may do to my body as they try to relieve the pain and swelling, but it is about finding the core cause for that pain and inflammation. It is about learning about myself and learning to trust in myself and nature. It is about nourishing my body and that of my families so that one day they do not have to experience what I am experiencing today. Being medication free is empowering to me. I like having some control over how I feel and with medications I just never felt that way. We each have a path to follow and when we listen to our own voices, we know which path fits for who we are. I am happy with my choices and happy that I have learned to listen to my voice.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A New Rheumatoid Arthritis Store

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy, a great friend and fellow rheumatoid arthritis hero has been sharing his superhero powers with the world for six months now. In my opinion, his most powerful abilities lie in his ability to write about his personal experiences with rheumatoid arthritis and that he has no problem sharing the voices of other RA bloggers on his blog.

Recently RA Guy took his superpowers one step further and added a store that is powered by Amazon and has a nice selection of books, cds, videos, and health and personal care items that may help in soothing your RA or other chronic pain. I like that Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy always does a complete research on topics related to RA and keeps an open mind about both traditional and conventional medicine which you will see in his store. So check it out. You might find some ideas to add to your Christmas wish list or gifts you want to give to others.

My personal favorites from his store:
Real Food: What to Eat and Why By Nina Planck - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book. Several years ago I was encouraging all my friends and family to read this book.
Nelson Bach USA - Rescue Remedy Pastille - I always carry Rescue remedy with me and pop one in whenever I am worried or having negative thoughts. (Some days I go through a lot).
Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist - I haven't actually read this one but have seen several interviews about the book online. Michael J. Fox is a true inspiration.
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay - I have read several of Louise Hay's books and blogged often about her daily affirmations. We can all learn from her writings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

People In My Life : Jesus

Thursday morning I introduced the topic of "Work" to my low level English as a Second Language students by discussing their jobs. Each person shared what they could about their jobs which was very interesting. When we got to Jesus he shared that he no longer works. He is retired. He moved to the United States from Mexico 42 years ago. For 36 years Jesus worked for the same company as a fork lift driver and then in the shipping department. Jesus shared that when he first started working the job he told his manager he was going to quit because he didn't know enough English to do the job. Luckily for Jesus, his manager had faith in him and sent him to classes that focused on the language necessary for his job. As Jesus spoke, I could see my younger students really focusing in on his story. They knew he had something important to share. He said his dream was to put his children through college. He showed pictures of all four of his children who not only graduated from college, but graduated from private colleges. Two of his children are now investigators, one is a lawyer and one an engineer. Jesus shared that he put in a lot of hours to make his dream come true - a lot of 12 hour/7 days a week to get there. When asked if his family suffered because of his long work weeks, he said they made the time together. Now that Jesus is retired and his dream of his children attending college is behind him, he is now focusing on himself. He said he now has the time to devote to learning English for himself. When he was finished speaking, the class applauded him.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cooking to Heal

The Body Ecology Diet foods build the immune system and nourish the body and spirit. They should be cooked with the intention to heal. A cook's vibrations are always in the food he or she cooks. Many spiritual leaders choose a spiritually elevated follower to cook for them. They know that only a well-balanced, centered person has the power to create meals with a harmonious and positive energy. Creating a meal can be an expression of love for those who will eat it. Whether you cook for yourself or for those you love, it's important to cook with the intention to heal, with calmness and appreciation for the benefits the food can bring. -Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates

Since the Body Ecology Diet requires that I make 100% of the foods I eat right now, it does take time. I don't mind. Over the years I have learned to appreciate being in the kitchen. I have learned that the food I make, even in its simplest form, is a gift I give my family. This way of thinking has brought great benefits to me. Since my children were very young, they have worked side by side with me in the kitchen chopping veggies, baking muffins, and cleaning the dishes. When you work together in the kitchen, wonderful things happen - you sing together, you laugh, you confide, and you talk. Yesterday was a day that Alexander, Sophia and I spent in the kitchen. First Alexander poked holes in six coconuts to drain the water for my coconut water kefir and then he cut each coconut so I could scrap the meat out and ferment it as well. Afterwards I cut cabbage, carrots, daikon, and kale so that it could start fermenting. Sophia came in to help by pounding the veggies to release their juices and then put the veggies in jars for me. Neither one had to be coaxed or bribed to help. I love that both of my children are not only supportive of me dealing with my rheumatoid arthritis through natural means, but that they lovingly help me prepare foods that are intended to heal my body. With so much love going into the foods I eat, I don't know how they can't be healing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Body Ecology Diet Update

Our bodies are often compared to an onion that has many layers. In order to experience complete recovery of health problems we must peel away at each of the layers that have contributed to our unhealthy body. For me, that means that before I can experience freedom from joint pain and swelling, I must first work on other areas of my body ~ my colon, my digestion and my liver. The idea of working on other areas of my body instead of my joints has actually been liberating. I am not even focusing on whether or not my joints feel good because I know that they are the weakest part of me and in order for them to feel good, I have to strengthen other areas of my body first.

In the last few weeks I have experienced a lot of detox symptoms ~ body odor, bad breathe, fatigue, joint pain, and anger. Last week the anger was strong. In fact I even woke up feeling angry. I felt relief last night when I read that as the liver is cleansing a person may feel a lot of anger and should warn their family. Oops....too late for that. Also, as the liver is cleansing, expect knee pain. Yikes, that is happening too.

I am visualizing my body doing a lot of healing that can't be seen or felt right now except through detox symptoms. I am staying true to the diet and so far haven't slipped once. What keeps me from resisting foods off my list? Whenever I imagine really eating the food, I visualize it attacking my body and then it doesn't sound as good.

In the last few weeks I have continued to lose weight (12 pounds! Hopefully that levels off soon) and have had numerous complements on my skin. It seems to have a glow it hasn't had in some time! I am glad others are noticing! Our bodies do a lot of work for us and are able to handle so much that we throw at them. I am happy to be giving back to my body.