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The last post in here was forever ago!  My life has been chaotic to say the least.  I had my surgery (after a last minute approval which I’ll detail later) on July 29th.  I was out of the hospital on Aug 2nd and apparently doing fine.  As part of my at home recovery I had to give myself shots of Lovenox, a blood thinner.  A few days later I was back in the hospital with a major GI bleed.  My blood count dropped to a 6.  I had transfusions and many IVs to clear the blood thinner out of my system.  I had to wear a heart monitor since my heart had gone into tachycardia while I was so anemic.  It was pretty frightening.  Again, I’ll go into that later. 

I returned home from the hospital on Aug 10th.  That was an expensive stretch.  Then on Aug 22nd I was back in the ER with extreme digestive problems and pain.  It turns out I picked up a bug from the blood issue hospitalization.  I had allowed myself to get extremely dehydrated too.  All of that combined into a nasty spell of a few days being hooked up to IVs and having various tests run again.  I missed the first two weeks of school because of it.  I had to resign from my fall coaching position and my surgeon was there to witness the waterfall of tears.  When I returned to school I was a mess.  I still had a hard time eating.  I was still dehydrated.  I was trying to make up for my absence with getting to know the kids and getting all of my grading done.  It was beyond stressful.

I worked and worked these past three months.  Now, finally, Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away and I have time to type.  I’m down about 80 pounds from my heaviest last January when I went in for the consultation with the surgeon.  That should be great news, right?  Ha!  Being so damaged from constant negative fat comments, I still think I look huge.  I am still always on the verge of falling into the hopeless and negative thoughts that are so intertwined between food and mood.  These two things have been my life since I can remember – even as a child.

The R.A. is what this is really about.  There is research and I’ll post a link if I find one that suggests if an R.A. patient undergoes the RNY gastric bypass that the digestive re-routing has a positive effect on joint pain.  In other words, that the effects of changing up the digestive tract counteracts the R.A.  Whatever the real research is there, I can say that my feet have not hurt in all of October and November.  That searing hot, stabbing pain that was a dreaded part of my every morning as my feet swang from my bed to the floor is gone.  What a relief!  I also notice that my fingers aren’t as stiff.  I wonder if it is the cutting back of sugar from my diet?

The post-op RNY diet is extreme and that accounts for the weight loss and lifestyle change.  I was eating absolute trash all along before this.  I was even binge eating at times, usually times that correlated with depression, anxiety, loneliness, and stress (which is pretty much 90% of my world).  Post-op, if I even eat one bite too much of something I end up praying to the porcelain gooddess…so to say.  It isn’t pretty.  I’m learning through just such negative reinforcement to portion control and be wiser in my food choices.  If what I eat isn’t guaranteed to make it through me, than I better pack what I do eat with nutrients.  Thus, the 80 pound difference.

Would I suggest RNY to morbidly obese friends and family members?  Absolutely! 

While there is nothing easy or quick fix about medically altering your physiology, there is hope in it where diets and will power have failed.  Even the positive effects of gastric bypass may be negated, the pouch can stretch from overeating, food choices may revert back to old habits, high caloric foods and drinks may still lead to weight gain – etc.  I know those risks exist and threaten my success each day.  I know my mind is still the same mind that allowed myself to turn to food for self-medication.  I’m still me no matter what the scale and closet say.  This is where I need to get real serious.

There is a lot of work to be done introspectively.  I need to meet my mental demons head on.  I need to grieve and process anger.  I need to recognize the hard struggles I’ve endured and make ammends with my regrets.  There is a long road of psychological atonement that I must walk, and just like the weight loss it must be slow and steady to be effective.

As far as the insurance company goes, they paid for everything.  I’ve had to cover some co-payments here and there, but otherwise it is all good!  Thank the good Lord!  There is no way that I could have handled the estimated expenses I was looking at as all of the bills poured in.  Three separate hospitalizations was REALLY, REALLY, REALLY expensive!  I’m grateful to be feeling better, doing better and walking, biking, and even jogging, for the first time in a long time.  I’m glad that I did this bariatric procedure!

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I remember watching the Julia Robert’s movie, Erin Brockovich and thinking how is it possible for that insurance guy to be able to go along with that memo/mandate from the powers that be and deny patients their health coverage?  Then, this past year the very same thing happened to my sister.  She suffers a congenital degrading disc thing in her back.  She is a fit, previously healthy 29 year old.  She had a discetomy in her lumber region when she was in high school.  Since then she has lived with continuous back pain.  She has seen specialists all over the Chicagoloand area.  She continues to suffer extreme pain.  Finally, her main specialist suggested a fusion.  This would be a major operation and require pre-authorization.  BCBS-IL denied her because she had not attempted other means of fixing the pain.  Her previous discetomy was too long ago to be considered a viable attempt at fixing a “degenerative” situation.  So, in December she had another discetomy and recovered to only a slight amount of relief.  I now blame BCBS-IL for basically turning my otherwise healthy younger sister into a near Vicodin addict.  She has been popping major pain pills for almost a year now.  And now, NOW, BCBS-IL finally approved the fusion surgery because the various specialists all determined that the discetomy was not a viable treatment option for a condition that will only continue to get worse with time – as the “degenerative” label so obviously suggests.  So, until the fusion surgery she will continue to pop the Vicodin just to grit and bear it.  She has talked to lawyers and sought an outside review of the whole situation, but her situation has been resolved with the scheduled date of the operation.  Now she faces an even more interesting situation since the “spinal” issue will flag her for future insurance plans and thus cost her more.  The method of how BCBS-IL handled her case is just one example that completely frustrated her (and our family).  It coincides with my own.

I was denied for Surgical Treatment for Morbid Obesity.  Let me update this whole thing because I am not HUGE, but I am obese by BMI standards and having R.A. makes working out something that helps to combat joint stiffness, but doesn’t necessary allow me to attack flab with the gusto that I once enjoyed so much.  I looked into this two summers ago and began jumping through all of the BCBS-IL hoops toward approval.  Two years ago I was also a cardiac patient as a congenital heart condition came to light at the same time as my diagnosis with R.A.  Actually it was the chest pain that got the whole health assessment ball rolling.  The cardiologist suggested a follow up appointment with a rheumatologist and the rest is history: LBBB, R.A., and hypothyroidism.  That was a fun year: 2008.  I wasn’t really THAT overweight in 2008, I had previously lost a lot of weight in 2007 due to my obsessive working out that I did to cope with mourning a death.  I just thought that I was sore and my family was worried that my massive weight loss, combined with pain, was something heart related – especially since our family has heart issues on both sides.  Anyway, as 2008 hit me with all the medical woes, the working out scaled back and almost stopped, with the rare exception here and there.

With the slide into unhealthiness and the mental shock of dealing with a diagnosis of R.A. – the same disease that has possessed my mom – I was not the most motivated patient when it came to hitting a treadmill or lifting weights.  If I did what I used to be able to do with such little effort, I would be so sore and so stiff that I could barely function the next day.  I wore magnetic bracelets, sought Eastern therapies, and began to discover what life with R.A. was really like.  I had been heavy, then fit, then fat, then less fat, then really fat, then just mushy….all my life going up and down the scales and clothing sizes.  All my life I had done one thing or another to address my body composition.  Finally, the rheumatologist suggested that I look into Lap Band.  Getting all and any extra body weight off my sore joints was hugely important.  So in 2008 I attended an informational meeting about it.  There seemed to be so many insurance hoops to clear just to get to the point where they could submit to insurance.  I didn’t have the time and I really didn’t have the money.  So I continued to attempt diets.  The bariatric doc from 2008 suggested that I see another doc who prescribed the OptiFast diet.  I’m not sure how many readers can ever, ever say that they sustained a long-lasting success using this p.o.s. plan.  I did the weekly weigh-ins, meetings, and extra vitamin shots (those weren’t free either).  This was all very expensive, but I sucked it up because it was a “non-surgical” treatment.  I starved on that program, had migraines, flare-ups, and all kinds of digestion problems.  So I stopped because I couldn’t continue to feel like crap from doing that.

I had acupuncture.  I had a permanent pin in my ear in order to “curb” my appetite.  By the way, the acupuncture was super helpful, and of course, since it was able to actually relieve my R.A. pain (I mean “relieve”) it was not covered by BCBS-IL, so I became poorer in my paying out of pocket for it and then had to give it up since I just couldn’t do it because of cost.  Nonetheless, I continued to gain weight and hurt.  The vicious spiral or R.A. and weight….it hurts to work out, so you don’t, so you get heavier, you hurt more, you become even more sedentary.  Last January (2010) I finally resolved to see out the bariatric surgery option, really as a last resort.  My surgeon said that I should have no problem getting it covered because of my BMI and the co-morbid condition of R.A.  Well, if only it was that easy.

I began to work with my new PCP who not only was the THIRD doc to explicitly recommend The South Beach Diet as part of my “medically supervised diet” but who also addressed the heart related issues that I needed to have monitored.  BCBS-IL paid for these monthly appointments, the mandated pulmonary and gastric testing, and other appointments with specialists as part of the pre-op process.  There was a sleep study and an upper-GI – these exams are by no means cheap, and BCBS-IL paid them.  Then, as the scheduled date for surgery approached I received a letter to say that my coverage was denied due to two reasons.

The first reason is crazy.  They claim that I have not documented that I am 18 or older.  I’m sorry – every doc’s note shows my birthdate on it…are they kidding????

The second reason states that I have not attempted appropriate non-surgical treatment!!!  What?!  Come on BCBS!  They want to see a medically supervised diet!  Didn’t I just do that?  But they wanted Weight Watchers, NurtiSystem, or Jenny Craig.  That is nuts!  The South Beach Diet was recommended by THREE different doctors.  Am I supposed to be doing a “medically supervised diet” that goes against what a medical practitioner says to do so that I can go to a strip mall store front and check in with a part-time customer service agent?  Give me a break, BCBS-IL!  You are purely playing a numbers game and denying me the procedure because you think that you can.

I’m going to fight!  I pulled together the 54 pages of the previous submittal and re-submitted with a cover letter that outlines the points of their contention.  My PCP wrote a letter stating the “medically supervised” part of the process.  I just heard today that BCBS-IL turned it down again.  The date was set for July 19th, is now pushed back to July 26th.  It looks like it might be pushed back to December now since they want me to do Weight Watchers.  I intend to get this in the calendar year 2010 since I don’t want to have to go through paying my deductible all over again – which is probably a factor that they have considered.  What a nasty numbers game!

So I surfed the web to see what other factors were going on with BCBS and was shocked to see what a large number of consumer complaints there are.  I’ll begin by saying that their pre-authorization procedures for my case (and for my sister) are ridiculous!  I can’t also begin to express my absolute and utter DISGUST at their automated phone system.  Their help line needs help.  They will not pass me along to anyone who can do more than simply restate what was in a letter or what the plan states.  They don’t HEAR you, they don’t LISTEN.  BCBS-IL will find any way it can to keep the BIG MONEY that it gets paid.  It is all about profits.  It is rather sad that people’s hard-earned cash gets funneled into this system that makes it impossible to get the coverage when it logically makes sense to provide it.  Hanging up coverage on a tiny technicality here or there, forcing my sister to have an operation that the specialists knew would not do a thing for her, just because the damn insurance company wanted to see that procedure first, is inhumane.  She suffered pain, loss of time from work and family, and a year of her young life to pain.  Their system, that she, me, you – all of us pretty much have to fund FAILED.

Just to make things all the more disgusting, try this.  Do a web search of BCBS CEO’s salaries.  Their salaries aren’t nearly as shocking as the “bonuses” and “payouts.”  There are fat-cat corporate dudes getting rich because of my monthly paycheck deductions.  Yet, I have to continue to jump through hoops for some company that can fly their execs around on Leer Jets!?  Unbelievable!

I’m going to the Illinois Insurance Reform Group’s site and seeing what my next steps are.  I’m going to ask BCBS-IL to do a peer-to-peer review.  I am also going to have an outside review too.  I’d love any thoughts/ideas/suggestions for how to get some actual answers from someone who can actually do something.

Hello reader (or hopefully readers):

I apologize for the long absence.  I’ve been a busy school teacher/tennis coach.  School has ended which means I will be back blogging.  I have a lot of stuff to cover.

1. I’ve been holding my meds for over a year now and seem to be okay.

2. I’m having gastric bypass in a month and I’m freaking out.

3. I’m going to update the whole mom story soon.  Remember she was diagnosed with R.A. in 1983.

4. I am going to explore the effects of Eastern medicine on treating chronic pain.

5. I have some funny, funny stories about me and my arthritis gloves at school.

Anyway, I will be back.  It is my goal to be a loquacious blogger this summer.  I have much, much, much to share!

Thanks!

So my week of spa treatments continues…

Thermojet.  This is an infrared body wrap system that is supposed to “melt” body fat.  I can’t say whether or not I’m a believer, but the heat does feel really good on my sore back and my crazy sore legs.  The process involves wrapping the core and the thighs in these silicon pads that then deliver infrared heat deep into the tissue.  The elevated temperature is supposed to cause a metabolic process whereby your fat cells react by shrinking.  I’ve looked on the Thermojet website and I think that if it was such an easy fix that more people would be using it.  I’m currently paying $75 per treatment and I’ve had 2.  I took my measurements at the beginning of my week and can say that there is some truth in the dropping of inches…that is the biggest claim – drop inches (I don’t know how that equates to pounds).  I’ve lost 1″ from bust, waist, hips, and thighs.  Of course, I sweat like crazy so maybe it is water weight.  I think I’ll know better with a few more wraps.  The positive benefits of heat, drinking more water, and spending 45 minutes just chilling out are certainly part of this treatment.

Reiki.  I will be having my 2nd Reiki treatment soon.  Although, again, there are a lot of skeptics that would say this is a bunch of hooey, I can’t help but think that there is something to be explored here.  Reiki is not a massage – as I thought it was.  Reiki involves a therapist using hand positions above the client’s body at points along the Chakras.  As the therapist (healer) does this, they sense and treat the Chi as it relates to that particular chakra.  After my experiences with acupuncture, this is strikingly similar.  You don’t need to undress for this treatment.  It lasts an hour and the therapist provided me with some interesting feedback following the session.  I didn’t provide her with anything more than a basic answer to a question before we started.  She asked me, “what do you want to achieve with this session?”  I said, “I’m not really sure.  I have physical ailments, which I imagine a lot of people do too.  I guess I’m just willing to see what you think.”  She seemed fine with that and then told me what she was going to do with putting her hands above the different places of my body.  She said that she often has people fall asleep and that is fine.  She also said some people claim they feel strange: lightweight, deeply relaxed, or warm.  She also said that clients have heard a humming sound or have seen lights.  So following the prep, I laid back and closed my eyes.  At first I had a bunch of racing thoughts.  I was thinking about how I could try to focus on random stuff so that I wasn’t falling under the power of suggestion.  I started to think about how much this was going to cost.  I thought about other things I had spent money on and then worried about money a little.  Then I thought about my grandma being sick and how she must feel alone.  I thought that I should be a better granddaughter.  I thought about how much stuff I need to do and started making lists in my head.  All of this thinking sped through my mind until I felt a pulling sensation in my jaw.  It felt like an ache – as if I had just worked really hard of chewing old gum.  So I thought about whether or not I had noticed that feeling at all and if that was from the healer’s hands being above my head.  Right as I was feeling that, she moved her hands to my ears.  Her hands did feel warm and once she switch to my ears my jaw didn’t feel like anything anymore.  Then I was just thinking about the warmth on my ears and how it felt good.  She stayed there a while and then moved to my eyes.  Again, her hands were warm.  At this point I just checked out.  That is, I started to feel very floaty – as if I could snap out of my body if I wanted to.  Then I thought that I could feel a massaging sensation, but not physically.  It was as if I could sense her cradling the energy and it was just held there above my physical body.  Now, at this point, I started to doubt myself.  I thought, “oh dang, I’m making this up and maybe I am asleep and just dreaming this.”  There was some drilling and hammering going on nearby and I felt my concentration wander to those sounds.  However, that warm, massaging, vibrating sensation continued.  Then I had some thoughts about how I’ve felt vertigo when I’ve meditated in the past.  I thought that is was strange how I wasn’t feeling that now.  I felt grounded and safe.  Also, with acupuncture, I could remember feeling so cold – sometimes so cold that I was physically shivering.  With this, I was warm and content.  The therapist’s last hand position was just below my feet.  It felt like something was draining from me.  I’m not sure if that was power of suggestion or not.  I kind of imagined that this floating feeling settled back into my body on the table and then that the bottoms of my heels were like the drains of a bathtub and that the plug had been pulled and the water was slowly and gently emptying.

When the therapist told me to open my eyes I felt extremely calm.  I just remained still.  I’ll try to recapture what she said.  She stood by the side of the table and said, “well that was very interesting.”  It didn’t look like she was searching to make anything up.  She continued, “I think that you just wanted to achieve calm and peace.  When I put my hands by your throat the angels told me that you have a beautiful voice.  That means that it isn’t just like singing, it is that what you say is beautiful and that you should keep sharing your words because they are good.  Your heart charkra, gave me an impression.  I saw an old man in glasses and dressed to go fishing.  Does that mean anything?”  I said no.  “Hmmmm, well he means something to me.  He reminds me of a person who was always, ‘me, me, me.’  When you are in a relationship it is supposed to be fifty fifty.  This man that I know was not like that, he was mean.  Yes, he represents a mean man.  Maybe it is like that for your heart.  You had someone who was ‘me, me, me’ and it hurt you.  That is just the impression I get.  I also tried to ask for more information, I wanted the angels to show me a clearer picture and they said, ‘no. that we are too connected to have anything more revealed.’  Sometimes we come across people that we might have been connected to in previous lives or in some other sense of energy.  I just don’t know.  When I was over your solar plexus, here-”  She gestured to my upper abs.  ” -well, I’ve never sensed so much strength.  You are a very, very strong person.  You have so much strength – you don’t even know.  You only see like this-” she gestured a waving motion up and down infront of her.  ” -you don’t see how beautiful you are inside.  You are very wonderful and the angels said that you need to try and see the miracles that are right infront of your nose.  Your strength is yellow energy, golden.  You can trust that you are on the right path and that you should follow it.”  I said, I don’t even know what path I’m on.  She replied, “you don’t need to know.  Just trust that you are on it.  When I was here-” she gestured to an area on my lower abs about even with my hips. ” -I sensed a lot of creativity.  I also saw a lot of orange.  But, yes, much creativity.  You are also very smart, and this is a gift.”  I don’t remember what she said until the last past with my feet.  “I usually try to see people are birds or trees.  With you, I saw a huge tree – huge.  Again, this tree is strong.  But the roots do not run down deep.  It is like the roots are spreading wide to try and explore everything all around, like popping up to see, ‘what is this about?  what is over there?’  You are only a little grounded and need to work on that.  It isn’t about knowing more, but about trusting and feeling like the steps you take here on earth are safe and solid.  With you, I want to get your roots deeper into the earth.  I also got a vision of you in Scotland or Ireland.  You were in a place that was very old, very peaceful, and very green.  Does this mean anything?”  I said that I didn’t think so.  I’m not Scottish or Irish.  “Hmmm, well I saw you in this place and you were very happy.”  Honestly, as she mentioned this my mind went to the most recent film of “Pride & Prejudice” where Kiera Knightly is poised at the edge of a rocky precipice in England.  She stands as this strong, independent female as the wind whips through her dress.  She is beautiful and strong and very inspirational in this shot.  It is one of my favorite scenes ever, and I own the film and always get goose bumps when I watch that shot.  In that shot, she makes being alone a symbol of strength.  It is funny that I thought of that so vividly.  I told her about the different sensations that I felt and that as much as I didn’t want to think I was feeling anything that I can’t deny that I did.  She said that sometimes people are in tune with that energy and that is probably the case here.  She said I need to drink a lot of water so that I could continue to allow the treatment to have an effect.  And that was it.  The rest of the weekend included a lot of what would have been stressful stuff, but I rode out those events with a calm, gracious, and patient attitude.  It was actually very out of character for me.  And, more importantly, where I had the opportunity to be a good granddaughter, I was.  That is too coincidental for me not to mention.

Monday morning I saw my doctor.  He reviewed my bloodwork and my thyroid is barely functioning.  I guess that explains a lot: being so tired, being achy, my crazy menstrual cycle.  So I have a follow up on in a bit and I really hope that I start getting my energy up and my mind in gear for the start of the school year.

Tuesday was spa day, again.  I used another gift card to get a manicure and a pedicure at the Coldwater Creek Spa.  Oh my goodness was that a nice treat.  My feet haven’t looked so cute in a long, long time.  The nail tech was super nice and tucked me into this awesome reclining chair.  The pedicure was heavenly.  It felt so good to have warm, soft feet.  The different creams and lotions smelled so good.  After the pedicure, I had my hands done.  The result is that I do feel prettier.  I didn’t purchase any product since I simply wanted to use the gift card and not spend any money (except for the tip, of course).  This would have been an expensive day had it been my money.  I know that I can’t afford to keep up the nice toes, so I find myself just looking at them a lot and liking the shiny, pink polish.

Today I spoke with a specialist in Ayurvedic Yoga massage.  It combined deep breathing, yoga poses, stretching, and massage.  I am going to meet with her in person soon and see what treatments she might suggest.  Although since might seem over the top, remember I am searching for Eastern-influenced and based methods to combat my R.A. and to make progress toward a healthier lifestyle.  The yoga piece seems to be really important as I know that it is used with seniors to promote joint health.  I’m not a senior, but my yoga ability level is.  I’m excited to try doing yoga again since, from what I remember, I loved how good doing yoga felt.  I need to try my best to leave my frustration at the door.  I’m too out of shape now to hold a pose for long, and just like working out in the mornings, I get mad at myself for allowing such a drastic backslide.  So, now I need to clean.  My back is feeling better and I have neglected housework for far too long.

John Clease played a funny peasant in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.  In a scene where the townspeople want to burn a witch he claims, “she turned me into a newt.”  Then, since he is obviously human he adds with a goofy smirk, “I got better.”  Whenever I do get better from something I hear that character’s voice in my head.  My back is doing better.  I have realized that a lot of the pain was coming from my glutes and hamstrings.  Nevertheless, my back was seriously messed up and until about two days ago I was wondering when it would improve.

Despite the pain and the spasms I continued to work out – at a much, much lighter level.  I stabilized my back and did a lot of upper body stuff and smooth cardio.  The gym has a Cybex elliptical that is so smooth I can’t tell if I’m moving forwards or backwards.  It is awesome!  I also did walk in the therapy pool.  I had to spend a couple of hours sewing up a tear on my new swimsuit.  The last time I used it at the club I put it into that spin-dryer.  Since it is a larger size it got all twisted up on the machine and I had to rip it out of there.  It was a brand-new suit and so I was determined to stitch it back together so that I could get my money’s worth out of it.  My mending job makes it look like some Frankenstein thing.  Anyway, I managed to salvage it and use it!  I also kept up with the ice and heat therapy at home.  I continued to take anti-inflammatory meds – but not the prescription.  I forced myself to keep active after brief periods of resting.  The result is that I’m doing a lot better.

Today I had a one hour swedish massage at a little spa in the downtown area.  The newspaper kids gave me a gift certificate there and I couldn’t imagine a better time to use it!  Wow, this was just what I needed.  The therapist found all of my knots and sore spots.  She spent a lot of time on my back, shoulders, and legs.  When she asked me to flip over I could barely move – that was because I was so relaxed.  The lavender aroma-therapy oil also helped to soothe away my tension.  I could really get used to such luxury, too bad my bank account can’t.  One thing that I wish I could take better advantage of is that foot massage.  Once, when I had visited San Francisco’s Chinatown I found a reflexology place.  I don’t know what they did to my feet, but it took an hour and I never had happier feet!  The massage today included some work on my feet.  That really helped me relax and feel better.  I will research online and see what other places in the vicinity might have reflexology.  I’d like to do that.

I would also like to re-visit accupuncture.  I did a series of treatments a little over a year ago.  It was too expensive to keep up, but it was awesome!  I could feel the chi responding to it; I also became aware of listening/feeling my body.  I am admitedly a needle-phob.  It takes a lot of mental prep to get me in to the lab for bloodwork.  So the idea of me laying on a table with needles sticking in me was pretty overwhelming at first.  But these needles are totally easy to handle.  They are tiny and flexible.  Sometimes I didn’t even feel them going in.  It turned out to be a very relaxing and rejuvinating experience.  The worst part was when I would feel chilly.  Anyway, the cost was my main hang up.  Scheduling time for the weekly sessions was also tough.  Once things got too crazy with my time and finances it was the treats like accupuncture that had to go.  I do think that it is extremely helpful for combating the chronic pain of R.A.  There are a lot of other things that it can help – which I read up on  – but, for me, the almost instant relief from joint pain was the deal maker.

So to add to my wonderful debt, I bought a Wii.  I’m not sure if I’m keeping it yet.  I’ve been wanting to get one for a long time.  Since I like the idea of interactive play, this seems to be a justifiable purchase.  I am thinking of taking it back because I can’t afford it.  I also can’t believe that I can drop the weight I need to drop and get my health to where it needs to be by playing video games.  That is a lot of money to gamble with on that notion.  I once bought a PS2 and barely even played it because I’m just not good at video games.  I’m already annoyed with the tennis games because I’m standing up and swinging like I would if I was actually hitting a ball and it messes up the shot and I end up hitting the net or hitting wide.  I almost just have to wrist the shots to make them go in.  I have one more week to figure out if I’ll keep the Wii or not.  Maybe I can see if my health insurance will pick it up.  Just kidding.

And regarding that whole health care issue: the government initiative thing.  I wish that I could understand the concept better.  I’m smart and I feel like I can wrap my mind around complex stuff – but, this gets me confused.  At times I think that one fair government-based health plan might be a good thing;  but then on the flip side I can not deny that we have an amazing state-of-the-art medical system that has thrived on competition and the capitalistic nature of our society.  We have “The Best” because we have created a market where one can buy the best.  If we level that field, then I’m not sure what will happen.  It is extremely complicated.  I’m glad to see that really smart people are at work on the problem.  I’m not sure what is really going to work to convince me one way or the other.  I fell asleep during the press conference – I was tired from working out.  I also can sense a lot of spin from the ultra-conservative side of the media.  I’m not liberal and I’m not conservative.  I guess I try to be ethical and educated when I feel a tug of war in things where my one little opinion is supposed to matter.  That is why I can’t say what I think.  Is re-vamping the system smart?  Not sure….Is it ethical?  Not clear.  So, for someone like me with a life-long battle ahead combating a disease that will spawn other medical conditions where I will want the very best care from the most adept and highly qualified doctors that benefit from cutting-edge advancements at pristine facilities paid in part from an insurance policy that I’ve worked hard to earn by getting my higher education and certificates and by paying into the benefits that my career allows me to enjoy….well, I guess, I’m just not so sure about this.  I guess I just want to see and know that I can be taken care of by the best.  But, at the same time, I want that for my fellow citizens too (as that is ethical).  The whole thing feels like a catch-22.

So what can I learn from this?  1. I got better.  2. I value alternative medicine and wish that I could afford to keep up with it.  3. I’m skeptical about the Wii actually keeping me motivated and on track (but that is all about me and nothing that an eletronic device can combat).  4. I can’t sort out the reality of our country’s health care dilema.  5. I’m way to wordy.

My ambitious nature is truly a double-edged sword.  In most cases, my drive helps me to launch into things with vigor.  However, when I do run full throttle, it is hard to hit the brakes.  There have been many instances where only some sort of outside force will become that figurative brick wall that I hit head on – which then, finally, does stop me…dead in my tracks.

This past Monday I went back into the gym and hit it…hard.  I was only twenty minutes into an hour workout when I could already feel my very unused muscles screaming at me.  My hamstrings were cramping up, I could feel that uncomfortable tension behind my kneecaps and up at the base of my butt.  Then my quads started to burn.  At about forty minutes in I dared to attempt two sets of 20 reps of a kettlebell thing.  I’ve never done this type of lift/swing thing and it looked simple enough: do a half squat, grip the thing, explode up in the legs sending the weight up in front of my chest, then use my core and legs to counter the weight as it swings back down, use momentum to repeat the swing in a steady rhythm.  This might have been doable had my legs not already been trashed.  Since they were, I think that I used my lower back to produce the lift and the swing.  This was a terrible, terrible move.  After my first set I could feel a sharp shooting pain seizing up.  Since I was trying to be “tough” I did not listen to this warning sign.  I just powered through in pain.

Pain is something that RA folks just deal with.  Even with medications, pain is still ever present and a part of life.  I’ve been dealing with pain and other health things for so long that I just didn’t believe this back pain to be any different.  So after a little rest I did the second set of the kettlebell lifts.  Even though I could feel the sting of a sharp pain in the first move, I clenched my teeth and gutted out 19 more.  I knew that I would be sore, sure, I’ve done that before where I killed my hammies and could barely stand up a couple of hours later.  I just figured it would be like that.  So, I cooled off with some very painful stretches on the floor and then went to grab my bag from the locker and head off to teach some tennis.

As I lifted my bag up, I couldn’t even clear my head to sling the strap across my shoulder.  The pain was electric, hot, and frightening.  I dragged myself to my car and lumbered to get into the seat.  Then as I was driving, I was stuck in traffic behind a truck that had caught fire.  Thus, I  ended up sitting for close to 40 minutes before I arrived at the tennis courts.  As I had been sitting in the car I could feel my back and my legs tightening up.  I turned off the engine and cringed as I tried to open the door.  My legs were so heavy and I had to use my arms to help swing them out of the car.  As I tried to stand up, I felt something twinge – slip – pinch – wobble…it hurt…and then it didn’t stop hurting.  There was no way I could stand up fully.  I was trapped at a high school parking lot with my tennis classes about to start across the street.  Fantastic!

That was Monday morning.  I quickly got my classes covered with other coaches and went home to begin ice therapy and I-Be_Hurtings (ibuprofen)…800 Mg geltabs.  I popped the Advil and hobbled to the floor.  I thought that I was hurting pretty bad for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness – have had it before with legs and just thought that this was an extreme case).  I didn’t sleep as the pain just continued to get worse.  So I phoned my sister who had some pretty bad back issues a while back.  She agreed I should just keep icing it and see if it gets better.  It got worse.  Later that night I couldn’t move without clinging to a wall, countertop, on the bottom of my putter as I used it like a cane.

For three days I had endured and only ever felt a little okay when I was sitting still with an ice pack in place.  Finally, I got to the doc’s today.  Herniated disc.  No big shock there.  So he wants me to take prednisone.  Ahhhhh, no!  He also said no lifting…terrific, there goes my trying to get in some extra hardcore workouts before the crazy schedule of school started again.  Now, I’m taking even more steps away from fitness because I let my ambition get the best of me.

I will listen to my doctor about not lifting, since I can’t anyway.  He suggested that I walk in the pool in order to keep mobile.  I’ll listen and do that too.  But I’m still not so sure about taking the roids.  I just don’t like the thought of that.  So, even though not listening to my body got me into trouble in the first place, I’m still not sure that I will take the prescription.  In any case, I pushed too hard and now I’m paying for it.

I am so sorry for not posting here sooner.  I simply got very, very busy: things like keeping up with Doc appts and attempting to find the time to prepare super healthy food and run around with a sick cat…yeah, life was kickin’ my sorry ass all over and I couldn’t sit still long enough to write without falling asleep sitting in a chair.  Now my sleep schedule is all jacked up.  I’ve been having a hard time stilling my thoughts enough to fall asleep, then I’m having such active and vivid dreams that I’m often jolted awake way earlier than the alarm.  All in all, I’m lucky to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep.  This is why I had THE BEST Sunday yesterday.  I took the day off working at the club and just slept!  I was crashed out on the couch with the sun pouring in through the window.  The cat, finally done throwing up, was crashed out on top of me.  The TV was off and we just listened to the wind and the birds.  It was so peaceful!

The R.A. has been pretty bad.  The lifting and working out must have tipped the pain scale.  I was having such a hard time walking after any stretch of inactivity.  Mornings were excruciating.  I was hanging on to the bed and leaning on a dresser to make my way those first dozen or so steps.  My fingers were locking up and I attempted to wear my new thermaskin gloves more often – even at school.  Those things ARE GREAT!  See my previous posts for the link to the store….and no, I’m not getting anything for the endorsement.  The velcro is very catchy, but they do warm the knuckles and wrists.  I am very glad that I’ve had them for those  mild and cold snaps of weather these past two weeks.

I’m also back to taking the damn shot.  Of course three days after taking it I was sick as a dog.  My migraines came back with my period.  There were two days when I didn’t know how I’d drive home.  Of course, this could all be tied to the lack of sleep – which I attribute to sinus trouble – which I attribute to my immune system on siesta due to the damn shot – or lack of sleep attributed to constant and increasing pain – and no, I didn’t take any pain medicine (which I could, but it tears up my stomach and then I’m not sleeping due to heartburn)….man it is all interconnected!  If one thing is out of whack the whole system goes screwy!  I do know that I NEED SLEEP!  This is not a good mental state: exhausted, emotional (hormonal emotional), and in pain.  I know I’m preachin’ to the choir here, right?  Put Monthly Mother Nature on top of all that I am was ready to rip heads off.  I almost cried in school the other day because I was just so tired of putting in so many hours with my before-school frequent fliers for detentions.  I just really need Spring Break to roll around.  Then I can rest and enjoy some daylight.

The GoWearFit has been awesome!!!  I dropped 4 pounds – very slowly – in maybe three weeks just by seeing what I’m burning without doing anything more than eating more veggies.  I love the MSG warning.  That goes off with all kinds of processed foods.  I’m shopping at Whole Foods (which I can’t afford) because I have so much stuff in the freezer that sends my alarm beeping “MSG! MSG!”  Kind of frightening when you consider all the chemical crap in most of our food.  I finished reading “SKINNY BITCH.”  That is a VEGAN brochure hidden in a catchy self-help title.  Basically, it scared me but I am still prone to enjoying an occasional vittle despite the guilt and horrifying images that come to mind with it!  The positive side of reading that is that I thought about food a lot more…the negative is that is sounds like the self-loathing self-talk of any woman who has ever had or continues to battle an eating disorder.  I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I’m thrilled that the boys’ team is really coming together.  We started with two coaches and two players – we were told that we had to have 12 to make the season a go.  Now I have 20 really nice and fun players.  They seem to really enjoy it! I didn’t secure the recruit from football who showed amazing promise, if only I could have pulled off a golden set….6-1 didn’t cut it!  I’m fine with that since I’m so pleased with the boys that are out there in 40 degree rain and wind.  They have given me a lot of moments to beam with pride.  We are supposed to play the school’s first ever home match tomorrow afternoon.  The boys are all dressing up in professional wear for school and I hope that the rain holds off.  I think we could stand a chance to win!  Our #1 singles came from soccer and is super talented despite his minimal playing experience!

I’m really hoping to get my sleep balanced again.  Although yesterday was a perfect day, those are few and very far between.  I need to use that kind of time to knock out research papers!  I have over a hundred to go!!!  Yeesh I need a T.A!

I decided to post today since I wanted to try and get some more feedback from my new GoWearFit.  Surf http://www.gowearfit.com – very, very cool!  This gadget, which I totally could not afford, is AWESOME!  You strap a little sensor to the back of your left arm and that is it.  It records the amount of calories that you burn doing everything – even just sitting here now typing this.  You can even wear it through the night and see the average calories per minute you burn while sleeping.  Not only that, but it also counts steps using a different technology than my crappy $16 pedometer.  Then using METs, you can track how many minutes of moderate and vigorous activity you do each day.  For all three of these options you can set goals.

My goals are to burn 3880 calories, walk 8000 steps, and get 60 minutes of moderate exercise.  I’ve been trying to get into the vigorous range, but I think that is reserved for running, because I’m totally pushing myself on the bike and elliptical and not getting above that 6 MET range.  So I’m seeing some interesting numbers.  First of all, it is damn hard to burn 3880.  I haven’t yet.  I can get to the high 2000’s – but that is with my normal walking around school and doing a bike or elliptical in the morning.  I haven’t yet done 8000 steps.  I didn’t realize how hard that is.  The moderate exercise is okay.  I think I need to change from 3-6 METs as the range to 4-6 since I don’t think my walking up and down the stairs is really enough to see progress.

There are some other cool features.  I’ve had the MSG! warning come up.  I guess the device can sense that crappy additive.  I ate a french fry on Thursday and no sooner than had that hit my lips than did the indicator start beeping.  That is really cool.  So, of course, I Googled MSG and found a bunch of really frightening stuff.  I don’t think I can go a day without some MSG and/or derivative getting into me.  It is everywhere.  Also, you can set the display to give you an alarm and message when you need a reminder – like to take some medicine.  All of this interfaces through the website.  The website creates reports and charts – it is awesome!  I tried to log food, in order to compare the calories burned to calories consumed.  The javascript failed and I was unable to complete this step.  It is purely a fault of my older computer, nothing against the company.

I am so used to the heart rate monitors I used to use almost religiously.  I wish I could see my heart rate.  However, I do understand that trying to scale feedback to fit a certain number does not provide as much feedback as this device.  My heart rate is unique and just because it is at a certain number doesn’t mean anything.  When you boil it all down it is all about banking.  In order to drop weight I need to burn more than I consume…that is what this helps you do – pretty effectively.  I just need to know what I’m actually consuming.  Considering the amount of calories it says I’ve been burning than two things could be happening here.  One, I’m eating a ridiculous amount of food – like over 3,000 calories a day.  I remember hearing that Michael Phelps eat 10,000 calories – that is a boatload of food.  I’m not sure what 3,000 calories of food looks like, but it seems like a lot and maybe that IS really the case.  I just don’t know since I’m too crazy to actually follow portion control.  The other thing I’ve considered is that my medication and thyroid thing is effecting how I actually metabolize fats.  That is, even though I’m burning a lot, the question is does it actually go away?  Is there something causing me to still bloat and stay heavy?

I ask this because I really, really want to get back to running.  I have dreams about running sometimes.  The impact from that kind of exercise combined with my weight gain has made running impossible for way too many years.  I just want to run and jump and not worry that my knee or ankle will twist and shatter beneath me.  I was watching the frosh football players do sprints last week and just wished so much that I could blast through the air like that.  Granted  that they are twenty years younger than me and in way better shape than I’ve ever been or will be, but it was great to see their huge kicks, explosive steps, and balance.  I want that!

So I decided to play a lot of tennis today.  I ran as much as I could.  Amazingly, I was awesome.  I haven’t hit that well and that hard in so long.  I was ripping serves, chasing down short balls, blazing forehand return winners, and getting down for my backhand.  I could sense that it hurt, but the rush of just doing it overcame the sting of each step and tightening in my fingers.  I know I am going to really hurt tomorrow.  It was more activity than I’ve pushed myself to do in more than eight months.  My boys tennis team starts tomorrow and I am going to try to be active with them.  I know that I’ll have good days and bad days with my RA, but I just need to push through the pain.  I’m only getting older, so make the most of the moment.

I saw a lady last week with really, really deformed hands.  Her knuckled were so swollen and her fingers were twisted in the “swans neck” shape.  Her hands stand out as the most shocking ones I’ve ever seen.  It made me grateful that I am not that bad – not even close.  I Googled images for RA hand deformity.  I don’t resemble anything like those images.  My fingers are a little curvy and my big, middle joint can get knobby, but I can use my hands fine once I get them going.  So, I did decide to buy the Thermaskin gloves – as a preventative thing.  I use them at night while I sleep.  I helps to prevent me from clenching my hands into fists while I dream.  I often wake up with nail marks in my palms.  The gloves keep me warm and relaxed.  So far, I think they are a good purchase.

So, as far as the RA goes this week, I just don’t care about it.  I want to and believe that I can get fit once again.  It is a long road and there will be pain with every step.  But there would still be pain if I did nothing too.  Might as well just adopt a fighter attitude and know that if I use my new “toys” the right way I can make some strides.  Ok, time to cook something for dinner.  Have a happy week ahead!

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I’m currently reading:

The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki