Friday, January 29, 2010

The Miracle We Call Our Body and The Doctors Who Help Us Figure Them Out

I don't like complainers. I have tried hard to not be the type of person who whines about things. Jim might think different because, for the most part, if I do have a complaint, he's the one that hears it. (Love you, honey!) So when I feel a little bit down or sick I usually just trudge through it because I know things will be better sooner or later.

Well, things started to really go downhill last August. What I thought was seasonal allergies turned into a 3 month battle with a sinus infection. I would feel crappy for a couple of days then better for a couple of weeks. But then I would feel bad again and the cycle repeated itself four or five times. I had never had a sinus infection before so I didn’t know what to look for. It really got me down to be sick so much when I am usually pretty healthy. I finally went to our family doctor, who is also a neighbor of ours, and got the blessed antibiotic. I thought I was on the quick road to recovery. But my body said, “Not so fast!”

By then, the cold weather was in full swing. I know I suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am really affected by lack of sunlight and warmth. But this year my Reynaud’s Syndrome (I think I blogged about that before) really acting up. I have also been feeling a lot more fatigue than my usual winter laziness. There have been other things that have been bugging me but are tolerable so I just push them aside and get on with life.

One very cold night in particular was our ward Christmas dinner. My hands would not warm up and I showed them to my doctor, who was also at the dinner. He was shocked at how little blood flow there was to my fingers and told me to come in and see him so we could do some tests. When I went in, we talked about a few things I was concerned with; my fatigue, my Reynaud’s and some other things. He decided to take some blood samples - and when I say some, I mean about a gallon! He did just about every test he could think of. He tested my vitamin levels, my thyroid, my cholesterol and several other things. One of the tests was an ANA test. It tests for the presence of antibodies in your blood. If you have a high level of these then you probably have a connective tissue disease or other autoimmune disorder. Well, my levels were high. He speculated that it may be Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. He decided to send me to a friend of his, a rheumatologist, someone who specializes in this type of disease.

Apparently this specialist is so special it takes months to get in to see him. Luckily my doctor is friends with him and we only had to wait about six weeks. It was an agonizing six weeks, waiting and wondering. I worried all through what is supposed to be a really happy month. Jim suggested we not talk about it with the kids and other family members until we knew exactly what to tell people. And just like Austin and his Autism diagnosis, I just wanted a name to go with what had been getting worse over the last year.

The day finally came just this past Monday. We woke up really early because this doctor is almost an hour away and he was seeing us before his usual first appointment. We talked to him for about an hour total but I could see it in his eyes that he knew exactly what we were dealing with in about 20 minutes.

I do have an autoimmune disease. It is called CREST Syndrome or Limited Scleroderma. Right now I am only showing a few of the symptoms. The Reynaud’s was the first. That started in early 2002 and has gotten progressively worse over the last eight years but I have just been dealing with it, trying not to complain. I try to stay warm, especially in my hands and feet. Another symptom is what they call a "lazy esophagus". Sometimes when I swallow food it takes a while, and a few drinks of water, for it to go down. It was just another thing I would deal with. I never thought about telling my doctor. I don't think I even said anything to Jim more than once or twice. The other symptoms are skin related. You can click on the link above to read the Mayo Clinic definition or you can click here to read something from the Scleroderma Foundation.

I have been put on one prescription medication, a Calcium Channel Blocker, to help with blood flow to my fingers and toes. I am also taking a low dose aspirin and vitamin D - which he recommend that EVERYONE (even little kids) take vitamin D, especially anyone that lives in Utah or anywhere north of Los Angeles. This also helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder, bone health, diabetes, and all kinds of heart problems. Most of us just don't get enough sun light to help our bodies function properly. I am going next week to get and Echo Cardiogram and a chest x-ray. One of the things that my happen is pulmonary hypertension because of collagen build up that may happen around my heart and lungs. But that's WAY down the road. The other symptoms will just be treated as they come up, when they come up, if they come up.

The weird thing is that I have much less anxiety now that I have a diagnosis than last month when I had no idea what was going on. I am so glad there are people out there that went to all those years of school just so they can help people like me. I am also thankful for the doctors that recently helped Jim's dad. He was going to have some cataracts removed and the doctors wanted him to have a full physical. He had a chest x-ray that showed a little shadow on his lung. The biopsy said it was cancer and within a week he was scheduled to have it removed. It was a very scary time for the family. He had the surgery last Friday and it was very successful. They were able to remove all the cancer and he is on his way to a full recovery. It will be a long and hard road but we are glad he has been well taken care of and will be with us for many years to come.

Our bodies can be such wonderful things. They allow us to do and be so many things in this life. I have tried not to take this gift that has been given to me by my Heavenly Father for granted. I try to eat healthy while still enjoying yummy food. I try to stay fit without spending hours and hours at the gym. I think I have an OK balance of that in my life. (The doctor did say my cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels were really good) I have tried to learn and grow as much as I can. I have had the blessing of having three wonderful, healthy children. But we are mortal and there are things that will happen to these bodies while we live here on earth that may be unexpected. That is a guarantee. But I know if we put aside our selfish reasons for wanting our bodies to last forever (beauty or fame) and use what health and energy that we have left to help and serve others, our time spent in these mortal bodies will not be wasted. In fact, if we serve others, I personally feel that we will be more joyful in what little time we have in our mortal bodies and WAY less likely to be a complainer!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter Wall Quilt

Well, I finished. . . kind of. I finished the top (with only a few mistakes). I didn't have a big enough piece of batting so I haven't been able to bind it yet. I had to see what it looks like on the wall so I put it up with painter's tape. It looks cheesy but it helps me imagine how it will look once I get to the store for some batting and get it put together.

Each snowflake consists of 63 individual pieces that had to be cut and sewn together. If I am off by even 1/8th of an inch it throws everything off. I am a perfectionist and hate to see when seems don't line up quite perfectly. It makes me want to take it apart and try again. But I have one friend that I showed a mistake to and she said, "Well, there are no two snowflakes alike. It looks great the way it is." Don't you just love her? I sure do! I hope everyone has a friend like that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Great Procrastinator

I probably don't have any followers anymore because I haven't blogged since Halloween. That's OK. I still have stuff to ramble on about so here I go.

My usual excuse for not blogging is because I think knitting is more fun. And that did take up a bunch of my time before Christmas. I had plenty of projects to keep me busy! But since then I have just found other things to do. I still have a couple o projects on needles (that goes without saying). I have been slowly un-decorating from Christmas. I have been walking every day. I have been finding lots of other little things to do other than blogging.

Well, today my plan was to finish up a winter wall quilt that has been in pieces in a drawer for over a year. There is a giant, empty wall where I usually have a quilt hanging. It has been staring me in the face since I took down the Thanksgiving one in late November. I was going to get up, clean off the kitchen table (it is covered with various things that people I live with set down and don't put in their proper place), set up the sewing machine and get to work. Well, I guess there is something I dont' want to do more than blog because, here I am, writing a new blog post!

It's not that I don't like to sew (or blog). It's just that I don't want to do what I have to do to get to the place where I am actually sewing. Maybe that's why I find it so easy to get stuck knitting. All I have to do is find a nice place to sit and grab my needles. There is no prep, no set up, and I don't have to make a space by cleaning up after my family. I usually just prop up the pillows on my bed and go for it. It makes me feel so cozy on these dreary winter days.

But lately I have felt the void of not blogging. I have things to say and share with my friends and family and this is the best way to do it. So to all of you out there that keep checking up on us and you have had to look at my gross Halloween face several times, here is a new post. I'm back! And I am actually thinking of starting a Knitting Blog. (If you have any suggestions for blog names let me know) Check back soon and often. Hopefully my next post will show my completed wall quilt. But don't hold your breath!