The #1 Lie I Like To Tell Myself

As a professional procrastinator, I like to put everything off until the last minute. My experience with myself is that, if I begin working, I don’t know when to stop. I have tried to compensate by telling myself that I’ll do this thing for myself now and get to the work later. As long as I’m the only one I have to worry about, this is a fine plan.

The problem is that I am not the only one that I have to worry about. We don’t have kids so this is usually the case. However, I do have an elderly parent with pain issues that seemingly Will. Not. Go. Away. My mother has spent the last 14 months in and out of an excrucating amount of pain. My family and I have dropped everything at the last minute to see that she gets the care and medication that she needs almost every single month, sometimes for a week at a time.

Due to complications from an autoimmune medication that my mother was taking, she discontinued an otherwise effective medication. We didn’t really know how effective until she had to stop taking it a month ago. The medication continued to work for a few weeks. Into our fourth week, we now clearly see that it had been working more than we realized when a highly intense form of sciatica hit.

I called her doctors and picked up a prescription. My husband worked from home today so I could take a memoir writing class this afternoon. In my place, he called 911 to advise on my mother, had the prescription filled at their instruction, made lunch for my mother, and ensured my mom took her medication that thankfully worked within the hour. I felt better that she seemed to be in less pain.

After I came home from class, I checked on mom: sleeping. I had my own dinner and then got her up to take her medication again. My husband stayed with me, helping mom with dinner, clean up, and getting around. I set up a commode on the toilet my Dad used to use because it means she doesn’t have to bend down as far.

I wrote a medication diary so I can keep track of the pain meds that she’s now taking. She had mentioned she was chilly so I took her temperature, which was raised. I gave her an additional Tylenol only. We will check her temperature as well as ensure that she eats and takes her medication on an alternating basis.

I put a lamp in her room so she doesn’t need the bright overhead light. I set her up with throat drops, her phone, and water. She drowsed and I came up upstairs to our apartment to have some lemon ginger tea and write. As I sat down, I asked myself, “When are you ever going to learn? When in doubt, write.”

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Weather, Curcumin, Exercise, and Fibromyalgia

Despite some stress with my mom’s health issues in August, I managed to get to the beach a couple of times. That put me in a better mood. I think the summer does that to me, specifically, being at the beach, riding the waves, and relaxing to the sounds of the waves. One weekend, my husband and I biked about 10 miles along the Wantagh Parkway, which hugs the shoreline of Jones Beach.

Before we moved to NY, I had a number of conversations with my physiotherapist about the benefits of turmeric in the pain management of fibromyalgia, a syndrome that I have. For those who don’t know, fibromyalgia is a syndrome, not a medical diagnosis, because a cluster of symptoms appear for which there are no known causes or diagnostic tests. WedMD has a pretty comprehensive list of fibromyalgia symptoms.

I am not a big fan of turmeric, so adding it to my food presented a problem. At a local natural foods store, I came across a supplement called CuraMed by Terry Naturally. The supplement claimed to have 750mg of a clinically studied element of turmeric called curcumin (BCM-95). They also make a less potent version called CuraMin. I started that first and noticed a slight reduction in pain. After finishing a bottle, I let some time lapse, and then decided to try again, this time with CuraMed.

Sometime in the middle of August, I got a call from my gym, LA Fitness in Lake Success to come in for a fitness test that came as part of the gym membership I bought in February. Since I paid for it, I decided to go in. I should have known it’s an in to a sales pitch to buy a training package. Once I got there, I was hustled along to the manager, JM, with some serious sales skills! Even when I knew what was going on, there was a part of me that wanted to say yes. I ended up putting him off for a day to talk to Mark about it, but I signed up for a package. IU figured that, if I’m going to be in pain, it might as well be from trying to get healthy with exercise instead of just the same old same old fibro pain.

That was a month ago. Since then I have been going to the gym four days a week, twice to do weights (one with a trainer) and twice for some other reason – yoga or other classes). Today I went in and rode a bike for about 40 minutes, just to do something different.

I looked back on this last month and realized a few things:

  • The CuraMed supplement has eased off my depression. Whether it’s because it’s acting as an enhancer to the generic Cymbalta I am taking or because it is actually working on some level as pain relief on my fibro, I have no clue. I am actually still in a bunch of pain, but my mood has improved significantly.
  • I have experienced elements of euphoria after exercising which is more than just exercise itself. I know what it feels like to have endorphins rush through your system after a good work-out. This seems to be almost a bit of a mania. Tonight, I got home after a workout and danced around while I made dinner, and then had some champagne with my husband to celebrate our one year anniversary of our move to NY and my one year anniversary of my Master’s graduation.
  • That I can probably talk to my doc about coming down on the dose of my generic Cymbalta. I went on it because it was reported to help with sleep for fibro patients. The days I exercise I sleep much more soundly than when I don’t, which is at least 4 days a week.

All in all, I have been feeling  better despite the marginal improvement in pain. All I can do is keep on hoping that, one day, things will come together and I will cease to be in chronic pain every day that interferes with my life as it does now and has done for years.

Great Doc Award: Dr. Lewis B. Lane

My mother sees Dr. Lewis B. Lane in Great Neck for her arthritis. Dr. Lane is the Chief of Hand Surgery at North Shore LIJ University Hospital. I accompanied Mom last month to a checkup appointment with Dr. Lane for the arthritis in her hand. 

So after Mom broke her hand, I took her Mom to an appointment with Dr. Lane who wrapped her arm up with a half cast. Unfortunately, the half cast and the arthritis do not mix.

With arthritis, moving your hand helps diffuse the inflammation. With a break, moving your hand can delay or prevent the healing. The half cast caused severe arthritic inflammation and swelling throughout the hand while also sending her pain through the roof. She has been battling the battle of the hand problems ever since she fell on the 6th. 

By Saturday the 23rd, the pain had gotten particularly bad. I called and spoke to the on-call doctor, reiterating the unfortunate situation to Mom about how to treat her hand: take the Percocet that she got from the hospital, use ice, take off the cast as long as she doesn’t use the hand too much. 

On Monday, I called the office and got a morning appointment for Tuesday morning. Mom got a cortisone shot in her hand. The pain of it surprised her as she had no pain with previous cortisone shots in her lower back and knee. Dr. Lane said it would take at minimum a few days to take effect and as long as one to two weeks. She might get some improvement by this weekend. 

Unfortunately, my mom has continued to have severe pain in her hand since Tuesday. I called Dr. Lane’s office and left a message. I wanted to know if there was any better medication that my mother could take instead of the Percocet since she still has pain even when she takes it. The staff person said she would get a message to him because he was out of the office and that he would call me back. 

Within a couple of hours, Dr. Lane called me back and we spoke at length. Dr. Lane and I talked about a range of things: whether or not the Percocet had Tylenol in it (it does), the problem my mother is facing with her dual hand issues, and the limitations and problems of pain management for elderly patients.

I have explained the challenges of a break in her arthritic hand many times to my Mom. But it’s hard when she suffers, wants relief desperately, and I am unable to do that. All I can do is offer sympathy, support, and be there for her. 

But back to Dr. Lane. He asked about whether or not she was depressed, suggested I talk to her doc about meds or therapy, and spoke empathetically about her predicament. He talked about his experience dealing with his own elderly mother and even complimented me on being there for my mom, saying there was a special place in heaven for people like me. I said I hoped there was.

I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Lewis B. Lane. Not only is he an incredible doctor, he has a calm demeanor, treats his staff and his patients with respect, explains things clearly, possesses a great bedside manner, is caring and empathetic, and is very funny!

I adore this man as a doctor, and I told him I thought he was a doll.

Because he is. 

Fibromyalgia Pain Management: Easier Said Than Done

Pain management is often discussed when talking about patients under going major medical problems, such as chemotherapy or surgeries. However, the type of chronic pain that comes with fibromyalgia, which is what I have, can often be compounded by other types of pain, such as menstrual pain.

On the one hand, I have my daily pain medications, Gabapentin and Cymbalta. They provide me with with relief from a good deal to most of the pain on good days. Cymbalta especially allows me to get a full night’s sleep. I am therefore able to get up, take care of myself, and even work for part to most of the day.

If I am under the influence of menstrual pain, then my body is in chaos. Menstrual pain amplifies the chronic daily pain so that it feels like my entire body is suffused in a nonspecific pain. I can control it with medications like Premysyn but, if I take too much, then I can’t do more than lay around on the couch or take a minimum four-hour nap. So I can only take 1 Premysyn pill to take the edge off. I am left with a slightly overmedicated feeling, which is better than being in a state of amplified pain.

Managing chronic pain is a delicate balance between living with too much pain and taking too much medication. The additional one pill I take for menstrual pain only slightly pushes me into the overmedicated category, which is better overall for my ability to live my life in any way that I can.