Archive for the ‘health’ Category

I am a witness   Leave a comment

I am a witness.

I’m a witness to God’s goodness and mercy and I want other people to know that he’s real and that he’s good and that he’s love.

I’m not a witness because God has answered all my prayers.  I’m not a witness because I’m the greatest person or the most talented or most blessed or anything like that.  I’m not a witness to amazing, giant acts of God that anyone could see must be God working.  They’re pretty small when weighed against the world.

I’m a witness because although I continue to deal with chronic health problems, as I have for years, what I have found is that somehow he has kept me going through it all.  When I couldn’t get out of bed, he provided.  When I had no hope, somehow the day passed.  He is taking care of me by giving me something to do and the strength to do it, every. single. day.

Can’t say I have what I wanted, but I have what I need, and I wanted to tell you.

Posted September 14, 2020 by swanatbagend in faith, health, mental health

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Chronic or Acute   Leave a comment

Chronic struggles bring with them a dual challenge.  Acute situations naturally call out for support and practical help.  And they should.  But a chronic situation is just as challenging.

The first reason why it’s challenging is it’s dealing with whatever it is, disease, physical disability,  pain, learning challenges, mental health issues, all of the above.  You have issues that either aren’t curable or that you haven’t yet found a cure for.  You remediate as best you can if there is no cure.  You have ways to cope, or you sure enough are seeking them.

And there’s no particular end in sight.

People in this situation have to find a way to face the non-endingness of it.  It’s a cruel thing to face, and I believe this is especially true in our culture, where health and wholeness is worshiped.  Beauty and prowess are it.  If you were to believe the images we are saturated with, you’d think it is possible–if you just do enough.

The second reason is that difficulties are not and cannot be supported in the way they would if they were acute.  If the thing had an end, it would be more obvious to know what to do to help it get to that end.  You’d see the steps that could be taken and how a community could help.  But if it’s always there, it’s harder to be supportive.  There comes a time when it’s hard to know what to say or do, because the struggle still goes on.

For those with chronic problems, it goes on.

So it’s a gift when love also goes on.

Posted February 20, 2020 by swanatbagend in health, mental health, waiting

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The Medical Response to my Autoimmune disease   Leave a comment

This blog was recently published on The Mighty website.


The main cause of the current medical response to my autoimmune disease, which is not exactly the fault of the medical professionals who are working with me, is that there is still so much we don’t know. There are factors at play in the bodies of many people with autoimmune disease that haven’t been discovered yet.

What I would like, aside from feeling better, is an acknowledgment of this fact.

When you have been in the treatment process long enough, sometimes that is all you can expect, and all you want. I have received this kind of treatment at times, and my wish is that every patient would receive this kind of care. When I find this kind of respect, I stay with that doctor.

However, most of the time, the medical response that I’ve received over the past twenty years is some variation of this: “Your lab work is fine. Therefore, you are fine.” There is rarely awareness that lab values don’t tell the whole story.

The medical response to my autoimmune disease and the symptoms that go along with it often depends on where I am in my relationship with the current doctor. At first, the physician is attentive, involved and above all, confident that she can fix my problem and get me feeling better.

As the months or years go by, she is still concerned, but what happens eventually? Once the professional has tried every treatment she knows to fix the problem, that’s when my problem changes. Then I don’t have the problem, because she has fixed it for me. Now, if I’m depressed, fatigued, anxious and not sleeping well, it’s because I am a mother of three children, and we all know that having children just makes you tired.

The medical response has included five or six special diets and several medication and supplement protocols intended to eliminate the root causes of my autoimmune disease. I don’t deny that there are systems in my body which are not working optimally; in fact I have no doubt of it. Unfortunately, what has been tried has not been enough to resolve the problem.

What is hard is working in a months-long process of fully implementing the diet, the supplements, the tests, the lifestyle choices and the medications, only to find that the side effects of the process cause me to feel worse than before.  Once I get off the regimen, I am right back where I started. Thankfully, most of the time, although not all of the time, the side effects go away once I stop the protocol or regimen or diet.  I am out the money I spent, of course.

So, the medical response to my autoimmune disease, while well-intentioned and logically backed, does not actually fully fix my problem.

I know that the treatments and regimens I have tried have helped many other people. I agree with the research my doctor and I review when we make choices about the next thing to try. I know that eating Paleo is good for you and most people feel great off grains. I don’t, even when I’m off grains and sugars for months. There must be other factors at play that are causing the treatments I’ve tried to not work. But no doctor or lab tests have ever been able to pin them down.

It’s discouraging.

The net effect of the usual response adds to the struggle instead of taking away from it, because if the doctor has done all he can, there must be something wrong with me. If the diet didn’t help me, I must not have tried hard enough. I should have kept adding more supplements. Perhaps I was not fully compliant with the diet. Maybe I just needed to relax.

In this journey, respectful treatment goes a long way. I saw an ophthalmologist twice, after seeing my regular optometrist for repeated eye redness that started after I had a bad winter virus, the kind that causes headaches, fever and light sensitivity. Between the two of them we had tried antibacterial eye drops, antiviral eye drops, steroid drops, tea tree wipes and plain eye wipes. One of them said that eyelash mites were the problem; the other said they weren’t.

I went to the ophthalmologist to follow up. When it came down to it, he told me he could refer me to another specialist, but that in his opinion, the redness was an autoimmune inflammation that could not be fixed. He did not know why. And he did not have any other ideas.

That is what I needed to know: not other ideas that weren’t really related, not excuses for why the treatments weren’t effective, not fairy tales about how if I just tried one more prescription, it would be fixed.

There’s not much satisfaction in not getting better. But there is a sort of joy that comes from being treated with honesty and respect.

Posted September 10, 2018 by swanatbagend in health

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Home Gleanings   Leave a comment

Here are a few helpful bits of information relating to homemaking that I have discovered.

Ginger Tea

You’ve heard that ginger is a great anti-nausea, and so it is.  But if you want to deal with morning sickness, or any other cause of nausea, may I recommend fresh ginger tea.  Buy a piece of ginger root at the grocery store.  Grate about a teaspoon of it through a large-holed grater.  Steep this with boiling water in any tea ball or strainer that you have.  The longer you leave it, the stronger it gets.  Then add a bit of honey.  This knocks out nausea and is a lot more appealing, and fresh, than a stale dry ginger snap.


Cracked Skin

This happens to me every winter, or any time I have to wash my hands often.  This winter I definitely learned to use rubber gloves when doing dishes, but you can’t really complete all life functions with rubber gloves on, so, eventually, I had one or two places next to my finger nails, on one side or the other, that were cracked and raw.

I hate this!

It doesn’t seem to matter how much water you drink or how much hand lotion you use to try to combat this, it will still happen.

I used to put a tiny dab of petroleum jelly on these spots at night, top with a bandage and this would at least prevent the wound getting any worse overnight.  However, once the bandage came off in the morning, which it inevitably did because it got wet, then the spot was still there.  There was no actual improvement.  I just had to wait for it to heal.

This winter I tried coconut oil.  What a difference!  If you use a dab of virgin coconut toil and top with a bandage, not only does it protect the crack while you’re sleeping, in the morning, it is actually better.  I had one spot heal basically overnight.

I have used coconut oil before for peeling skin on feet, and it is wonderful for curing that as well.


How to Get Foam off Broth

If you’ve ever made homemade meat broth, you know that most recipes will tell you to skim the foam that rises to the top of the pot.

What I’ve always wondered was how on earth should this be accomplished when you are getting burns from the steam that is rising up in clouds?

Maybe this solution is obvious, but it wasn’t to me.  I’ve been making broth for several years now and most recipes tell you to bring the meat or bones to a boil with the water, then skim the foam.   What I do instead is put a couple of chicken backs or a beef soup bone joint in my stock pot, and add filtered water to cover or about 4-5 inches deep.  Then I put the pot on and turn it to high.  While it is heating up, I get out a slotted spoon and a small glass dish to drop the foam into, as well as any herbs I want to put in the stock, sea salt and some fresh onion, celery or carrot.  I always put in a bay leaf for either chicken or beef broth.

So now putter around the kitchen doing anything else you need to be doing, such as making lunches, etc., because you don’t want to leave the room. When you see that you are getting a few bubbles and just a tiny bit of foam, probably several minutes before it actually comes to a boil, (I love my glass lid for noticing this!), remove the lid.  Over the next 60 seconds or so, you will start seeing more foam.  Start scooping it out now with the slotted spoon.  It will continue to form and you will skim it off.  By the time the broth or stock actually comes to a boil, you will have most of the foam off, and you will have done it without burning your hand.

I have found that once the stock comes to a boil, if you turn it down, the foam breaks up into small chunks which slip through the holes in the spoon, making it a lot harder to get out.  This above technique has made the process a lot easier and more comfortable.


Homemade Sour Cream

I had no idea how relatively simple this is.  If you like sour cream but you want some without additives and stabilizers, you can make your own.  I used one half of a commercial package of yogurt starter, and two cups of cream.  You heat it up just like you would milk to make yogurt.  I believe it is to 180 degrees.  Stir occasionally to keep the temperature as even as possible.  Then let it cool back down to lukewarm, pour a bit of the cream into a clean jar, add the starter, and stir it in.  Then pour the small amount back into the larger amount in the pot, stirring well.

After that simply put your cream in a clean, sealed jar, and let it ferment.  I let it sit 24 hours because I’m currently avoiding lactose, and that longer ferment time is supposed to get rid of  lactose.  If you don’t have a yogurt maker, you can put the jar in a small cooler with warm water.  Change out the water every so often, to keep it pretty warm.  After 24 hours, or maybe less if you like the consistency and aren’t trying to remove the lactose, put it in the fridge and chill.

Fooling with a cooler is a bit of a hassle, but not too bad.  And, I have actually done better with using a cooler than with a commercial yogurt incubator–I think it was too hot.

Voila, you have made sour cream.


Posted March 2, 2017 by swanatbagend in food, health

I Have a Life   Leave a comment

I’ve been working through my latest lab results, and how I’m feeling, and re-reading a book about autoimmune disease and health that I read before…and I feel myself going back into research mode.

I really don’t know that I have a choice in the sense that while I’m back on the thyroid medication I prefer, finally, after a full year of dealing with different medications in an effort to chase away premature ventricular contractions, I don’t feel as well as I was hoping and expecting to.  The PVCs were horrible when they started last April, keeping me up all night many nights.  So I had to go off thyroid medication altogether for a while, which caused me to gain some weight.  I had to get my iron levels up high enough to ward off the PVCs, and the process plain took longer than I wanted.

So, here I am, supposedly back where I was two years ago.  Only I’m not.

I have a few other issues I didn’t have then and the mediation doesn’t seem to be doing what it was then.

So what do I do?

Back to the drawing board.  Is there a different medication I could take?  How can I help my digestion?  Should I change my diet?  Drop the fish oil?  Change the type of magnesium?  Change the B complex?  Would a sleep study be beneficial?  Something else to support the adrenals?

There are quite a few questions, but the main one is this.

How much effort am I supposed to put into trying for better health?

Would it be better to stop spending valuable time reading and researching and live my life as it is?

I get drawn into the complexities, and sometimes I find myself thinking about nothing else throughout the day but my recurring questions about the health strategies I’ve been reading about.  Then I ask myself, what kind of life is that?

Maybe I should just give it up, accept how I am doing for how I am doing, and make the best of it.

But those of you who know me well know I am not the kind of person who gives up when faced with an obstacle.  Hermione-like, I turn to the library of information in an effort to find a solution.

I just don’t want to spend most of my life–trying to fix my life.

Posted July 6, 2016 by swanatbagend in health

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What Doctors Don’t Know   2 comments

I’m not sure how to put this.  It’s an observation based on all the doctors I have known.  This is it:

Doctors don’t know what they don’t know.

Self evident, I’m sure, once you’ve been in enough waiting rooms and offices.

I’m mentioning it just for food for thought as you look for answers to the latest flu virus, round of strep or pink eye, or your latest concern about your child’s development.  People have a tendency to believe that a doctor knows more than they do.  Yes, any given doctor does know much more than you do about things medical and biological and pharmacological, most likely.  So that’s true.

The problem is that any one doctor will not know how to solve your problem, unless your problem is a problem they’ve been taught to solve.

You might have a problem that particular doctor did not study and does not know about.

You might have a problem that is multifaceted.  It might be caused by malfunctions in more than one body system.  You might have a problem that most doctors aren’t even looking for.  If they aren’t looking, they aren’t going to find it.

Take autism, a disability that is caused by multiple factors.  Also one that we still don’t even have half the answers.  We have a great many theories, and there are great many therapies and medications that can be tried, many of which are helpful to any given child, some of which may not help same child.

But in this example, if your child’s symptoms of autism are 80% caused by a virus that has taken up residence in his body, but your doctor wasn’t taught to look for viruses that could be affecting your child’s behavior, you will get sold a different set of solutions.  Behavioral therapies, anti-anxiety medication, social skills groups, occupational therapy: all of these have their place in treating children with autism.  Yet there can be other causes of the difficulties nobody is looking for.

Another example of “not seeing” is chronic Lyme disease.  People dealing with this can be told they have any number of neurological and physiological problems.  Maybe even mental health problems.  Then a person finally sees a doctor who takes a few or many steps backward and looks for the bigger picture, runs some lab tests, and finds the Lyme spirochete.  You can’t get better if you don’t actually know what’s causing the problem.

Doctors work hard to know all that they can, because they want to help the patients they see.  But they are only human and can’t help only knowing what they know.

I suppose it should not be surprising that when a doctor has done all she can, and provided all the suggestions for lifestyle changes she knows, and had you try all the supplements and medications that she thinks might be helpful to you, that this doctor may be strongly tempted to tell you you’re better, even when you don’t feel better.

I can understand that tendency.  I’d probably do the same thing.

But having worked with doctors over time, I’d say the reality at that moment is that the doctor just doesn’t know what else to do.

Maybe another one does.

Keep looking.

Posted February 18, 2015 by swanatbagend in health

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