Blog Archives

Writing and eating on the toilet seat…

My days have been thrown into turmoil. A couple of days ago I had a little accident, and as a consequence I can’t sit down. How am I expected to write, eat, drive, or watch television? Of course there’s always the toilet seat, that’s comfortable!

A couple of days ago I was walking Stilton, my one year old Standard Poodle dog and was progressing down a steep grassy slope, when in a flash, my feet went from beneath me and I landed with a THUD on my coccyx. My spine jarred and a bolt of pain rushed through me. Aside a little discomfort, I was okay. Stilton, though, seemed bemused, and looked to me with questioning eyes, puzzling over my choice of resting spot.

Back at home, my first thought was to soothe myself with a cup of tea. (Isn’t it what the English always do?) It was going to plan, until I tried to sit on the sofa. I just couldn’t do it. The pain was incredible. I could sit if my weight was forward, away from my coccyx, otherwise … ooh, the agony.

Try spending one day without sitting. It’s not easy, and certainly not for someone who spends the majority of the day resting on ones backside. I can’t eat meals in a relaxed manner, I have to watch television in a horizontal pose, and I can’t even drink a cup of tea in bed.

Woe is me!!!

So what’s my solution? Play more tennis. 4 hours yesterday, and another 4 today! Well, I might as well do something useful with my time! Perhaps that grassy slope could come in useful after all …

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A wound failing to heal is not always bad news

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If you have ever lost a loved one to cancer you probably understand me saying that you can become a little paranoid and believe everything slightly amiss is potentially that dreaded disease. I lost my beloved dog, Bella, to canine lymphoma almost two years ago, and I still find myself thinking such things. A limp is potentially bone cancer, and a wound without an obvious cause is skin cancer.

Of course, most things have a simple explanation.

Let me go back about 7 years. It was late August, and Bella developed a wound on her foot. It was swollen, there was a small hole between her toes and it was weeping sanguineous substance. It must also have been painful, because she carried her sore foot, refusing, except in extreme circumstances, to put weight on it.

After a few days we realised it wasn’t healing and so took her to the vet. They checked it out, prodding and poking, and prescribed a two weeks supply of antibiotics. There was no improvement, and the vet had no solution, so we had to sort it out ourselves.

Dried garlic came to our aid. We didn’t add it to her food but sprinkled it on her foot. After about 24 hours, healing had commenced and a scab had formed. It seemed like we were beating it … finally.

Wrong! Days later the wound exploded, opening back up and squirting out more sanguineous substance. Only this time it opened in a slightly different position. We were at a loss what to do. The vets were of no help, and poor Bella continued to limp.

One day, 3 months after her problem started, I was examining the hole when something shot out. Once I had cleaned it up, I discovered what it was … a grass seed! Finally, her foot healed, permanently this time.

So don’t forget. After walkies check your dog’s feet. It can save you and your dog a lot of heartache.

My legs with a mind of their own

My days are spent working, exercising and socialising. It is a good mix, and most of the time, by the time bedtime approaches I’m relaxed and already starting to dose. Yet the instant I climb into bed, I cannot sleep. Why? Because of my damned legs. I cannot keep them still!

I am an occasional sufferer of Restless Legs Syndrome. This condition causes an uncomfortable feeling in the sufferer’s legs. It’s like a crawling sensation under the skin, or a deep ache, and it will not go away. The urge to move is irresistible. Walk a little and the discomfort disappears; stay still for long periods and it returns.

During the day, it is something I can ignore for the majority of the time, but at night . . . I WANT TO SCREAM!!

Why is it when I want to sleep, my legs feel like they want to run a marathon! Given I am an arthritis sufferer, I am used to dealing with pain, and I can focus on controlling my urges to kick out, but it is not enough. Within an hour of slipping into a slumber, the nagging ache returns, waking me up. My feet and legs twitch and shooting pains rush up and down my legs. It’s not especially painful, but it is very, very annoying.

I’ve tried painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets, but they don’t work. So I have to suffer, night after night.

There is one solution. Walk around!

Even if the pain is extreme, the instant I get out of bed I feel relief. Isn’t that bizarre? Why should it be so immediate, and why won’t the ache go away whilst I am horizontal?

I don’t want to walk around the house once an hour during the night. I don’t want to do stretching exercises, and I don’t want to train for a marathon! What part of my brain refuses to listen? I just want to sleep.

Zzzzzzz . . . 

Maintaining a healthy PH balance

When I first developed rheumatoid arthritis, I soon learned that diet was something I had to consider changing as it influences inflammation levels. Initially, it was difficult trying to determine what foods were making my condition worse, as the information that was out there varied a huge amount. However, after keeping notes of exactly what foods I ate and matching it to my inflammation levels, I discovered dairy produce, particularly cheese, was my enemy.

Eating one of my favourite foods just wasn’t worth the screaming pain I developed in my shoulders within hours. Cheese had to go, or more importantly, I had to find a way I could eat it without being affected.

I came upon an article discussing the acid-alkaline balance within the body. Apparently, we are meant to eat an 80-20 alkaline-acid proportion in the diet, to stay problem free. Foods can either be acid or alkaline, or they can be acid or alkaline-forming, meaning once they have been processed, the residue is either acid or alkaline. If we don’t eat foods in the correct ratio, we suffer from over-acidity.

Many diseases and allergic reactions have this association, but those conditions with symptoms of pain and weakness are affected the worse. Over-acidity equals inflammation. Therefore, for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, a high alkaline diet is essential.

What makes such a diet?

1) Fruits are mainly alkaline, so long as they are not canned, dried, glazed. Cranberries, plums and prunes, are the exception, and they are slightly acidic.

2) Most vegetables are alkaline, with the exception of dried beans, brussel sprouts, and lentils.

3) Raw milk (not boiled, cooked, pasteurised, etc), whey and yoghurt are alkaline, but butter, cheese, cream and custards are acidic.

4) Meat and fish are acidic.

5) All cereals are acid, with millet and rye been the least acid forming grain.

6) Teas are alkaline. Alcohol, coffee, sugars, vinegar, condiments and spices, and dressings and thick sauces are acidic.

If you maintain a primarily alkaline diet, you may be able to eat more of the acid foods without being affected. It worked for me.

I’d say, it’s worth a try. The benefits are huge.

How tennis saved me – account of an RA sufferer

Last time I discussed the benefits of exercise for Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers. This time I shall discuss my own experience and explain how tennis saved my life.

When I started playing, I was in my mid-thirties and should have been at the peak of my health, but I wasn’t. Despite being on medication, I still had hot swollen knees, sore fingers and toes, and rigid, immovable shoulders for most of the day. I could barely walk, and limped from the house to the car. That was the extent of my exercise.

Something had to change. I was deteriorating rapidly and my outlook was bleak. I was constantly out of breath and my resting pulse was 79. It wasn’t a good position for someone of my age to be in. So, I joined a tennis club and signed up for group lessons.

I distinctly remember the early days. The racket was huge in my hand, and extremely heavy, so much so I struggled to hold it upright. In addition, I found it hard to grip the racket. When I did manage to make contact with the ball, (hard when you’re a beginner) either the racket was knocked from my hand or I was pushed backwards. Believe me, the ball wasn’t moving at a great speed. I was just very weak.

I had other problems too. Firstly, I couldn’t move very well around the court since my knees were so frequently like balloons, and secondly, I struggled with the service action since I couldn’t raise my arm above my head. Everything was against me . . . except my desire.

My coach, bless him, told me he doubted my ability to ever play tennis. Thankfully, I wasn’t so easily put off!

So I persisted, despite the agony. After each session, not only was I exhausted and needed a sleep, but my body roared out its complaint. Every time I was in agonising pain, particularly in my shoulders and knees. If I had told my doctor what I was doing he would have probably been horrified, but I had a theory. I was going to be in pain anyway, so what did I have to lose? And I was right. Over time, the pain I inflicted upon myself disappeared, and not only that, my hot swollen and stiff joints were no more. In effect, I had put myself into remission.

One other personal benefit was for my right shoulder. At the time, I couldn’t lift my arm much at all, but to my delight, when I played tennis, I could lift it above my shoulder. The reason for this was because tennis involves a swinging action of the arm, something that doctors advice RA sufferers to do on a regular basis to aid movement. I was doing it for a couple of hours at a time. It had to help. At first, the free movement only remained with me for the duration I was playing tennis, and the instant I stopped, my shoulder seized.

However, over time, this changed, and after a few years, I gained permanent free-flowing movement. For me, this was an amazing achievement. I could finally reach into the top cupboards in kitchen! If you don’t have RA, you may not appreciate how good that feels. It was huge.

Tennis is my favourite sport, but that aside, I do believe it to be good for RA sufferers. The swinging action is beneficial, the amount of running you do whilst playing doubles is limited, and the social benefits are immense. It is perfect for anyone with limited movement, and if you are like me and play regularly, you will get fitter and fitter.

I personally believe, had I not taken up tennis I would be in a wheelchair by now. Also, my life expectancy would have been reduced and my susceptibility to other illnesses would have increased. In essence, tennis saved my life. No wonder I love it so much!

Tips for better sleeping with RA

I know exactly what it is like trying to sleep with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is agonizing; the pain travels. What starts as a left knee problem, ends up extending from your toes to your hip, and before too long, reaches your entire left hand side. The more you think about it, the worse it gets.

You burn up. You fight the sheets. You pace the room. For the sake of your partner, you stifle your screams, but at the same time you are desperate for a consoling word or gesture, and gradually, as the agony evolves you release a desperate cry. He turns over and catches your eye. Suddenly, you are burdened with guilt.

So what can you do to help.

1) Try not to sleep during the day. It can mess up your sleeping pattern. Also, during the daytime try to be active and create a healthy fatigue. You will sleep better as a result.

2) Relax during the evening. Don’t overuse your brain, don’t exercise, and don’t eat or drink stimulants such as coffee. You want to be in a tranquil state before bed. Being too tired can be as detrimental as being too lively.

3)  Don’t force sleep upon you, and don’t worry if  you are awake. Stress stops us from sleeping. If you can’t sleep, get up and do something. Don’t fret.

4) Now, for those joints. A comfortable bed is important. RA can generate too much heat and create a fever. Have layers on the bed and be prepared to add or remove covers.

5) Try to keep joints straight. Bent knees and wrists hurt more, which is why splints are often prescribed. Laying on your back can be a relaxing position for RA sufferers, but if you are like me and at times struggle to straighten knees, you may need to rotate your legs outwards from the hip or add a cushion under your knees.

Another reason for sleeping straight is so your shoulders don’t get crushed. Being on your side may initially feel like a comfortable position, but after a few hours of sleeping like that a pain may develop.

For me, sleeping on my back was unnatural, but the benefits of being pain free outweighed the benefit of laying on my side.

6) Learn your own comfortable positions. They will vary depending on where your problem lies. I often suffered from the pain on the rear of my shoulder.  No matter what position I slept in, I would wake up in the early hours in agonizing pain. It took some time, but I realized if I slept on my stomach with my arm dangling over the side of the bed from the elbow down, the ache never arrived. Not only that, but if started the night with a niggle, it would disappear.

I also found, for shoulder pain in particular, that the pain was far worse in a horizontal position as opposed to a vertical one. When I was at my worst I would sit up in bed and drift into sleep. It wasn’t the best position to be in, but it allowed me to be freed of the worse of the pain. Then I could shuffle down the bed.

7) Use painkillers, but sparingly. Sometimes, I would consider them a God-send. Other times they didn’t work at all. Don’t rely on them.

8) Don’t allow adrenaline to take control. It feeds the pain. Tell yourself you are going to control the pain and breath slowly and deeply. Imagine beautiful scenes and vistas. I often visualized floating over a beautiful landscape.  It’s hard keeping such images in your head, but if you can manage it, it does help. You want the adrenaline gone. The only way to achieve this is to relax.

9) Don’t worry if you can’t sleep. Stress is banned, since it is on the side of the RA. Don’t give your condition any more tools to torture you with.

Hope this helps!

A devastating life sentence – RA at its worst

Your life has been shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. You have no hope, no future and you are in constant pain. No one understands. You are alone in your agony.

I was just twenty years old when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s not easy being told you have developed an incurable condition at any age, but when you are young, and you have acquired a disease more associated with the elderly, it is hard to come to terms with.

I loved being active. I walked my dogs twice a day, played badminton once a week, and often participated in outdoor pursuits. So for me, as a lover of the outdoors, it seemed a cruel diagnosis.

As is often the case, the onset of the disease was harsh and I rapidly lost condition. My resting pulse was over 80, my breathing was permanently laboured, and I couldn’t tolerate being on my feet for more than fifteen minutes. I was wasting away, dieing a slow, painful death. Worse still, I believed I would have to live like that for the rest of my life.

It was difficult to stay positive. I could not sleep; I could not dress myself; I could not raise my arms to brush my hair. Simple, everyday tasks, such as turning a round doorknob or placing a key in a lock were for others. I was useless, completely and utterly. Nothing could motivate me. I wanted to slip away.

Twenty plus years on, it all feels like a distant memory. My disease is in clinical remission and I am fitter and more active than I have ever been. In addition, my difficult days are so rare they act only as reminder of what could have been.

Perhaps I am lucky, or perhaps it is something to do with some of the little things I have done. Either way, as I consider what I have been through it reminds me that no matter how hard life seems and how many doors appeared to have closed, nothing is certain. There is always hope.

More later . . .

Do you know the state of your internal organs?

Do we pay enough attention to the state of our internal organs?  If we could see what was going on, would we do more?

Imagine if our liver and kidneys were as visible as our skin.  Would we not try to improve its appearance, even if it was only for vanity’s sake?  Our organs are out of sight, but they should not be out of mind.

I have been pondering this for two reasons.  Firstly, I am involved in a writing project regarding kidney transplants, and secondly, my delightful dog, Bella, has cancer and is on chemotherapy.

 

As the regular readers of my blog will know, Bella was diagnosed with a lymphoma just before Christmas.  The cancer was very aggressive and took hold very quickly, so we put her on chemotherapy.  With dogs, it is usually without complications, but she very nearly died.

She suffered from Tumour Lysis Syndrome, which can happen when the cancerous cells dissolve into the blood stream and are not dissipated quickly enough.  It was touch and go for a week, but thankfully she pulled through and is now back on chemotherapy and doing excellently.

Dogs with lymphomas are never truly cured and often die from organ failure.  So I have put together an assortment of remedies to keep her in full working order.  These are  her supplements for two days.

She has turmeric, garlic, kelp, Q10, calcium, omega 3, multi-vitamins, arginine, glutamine, red clover, dandelion, milk thistle, ginger, ginko biloba . . .

No wonder she has the vitality of a pup!

I wonder if my organs are as clean.  I very much doubt it.