Holidays, Losing Weight, To Your Health

Losing Weight, the Weight Watchers Way


Dearest Readers:

If  you read my posts on a regular basis, you might recognize I haven’t written much lately about losing weight. Why? That’s an easy question to answer. I have been stuck in a plateau — for 12 months, bouncing back and forth, trapped inside a spinning wheel, my body refused to drop below a loss of 35 pounds. Inches lost? Many. Until about a month ago, I refused to measure! I worked out. I tracked my food intake. I was so careful; nevertheless, my body applied brakes, refusing to lose just one more teeny tiny pound. At my weekly Weight Watchers meetings, I listened to friends sharing their weight loss, while I sat in a corner near the back, so angry at myself that I contemplated quitting.

BRAKES and EXERCISE!

I missed my meetings. If my morning wasn’t starting on a positive note, I stayed home from the meeting, telling myself that the next week would be so much better because I was confident I would have a weight loss. Laugh. LAUGH. Laugh!

The next week, a weight gain. The week after that, a small loss…and so on. I read articles. I told myself that this too shall pass. I jumped on the treadmill. Maybe I could do ten minutes on it. When ten minutes got easy to this asthmatic woman, I chose to continue the treadmill, increasing the minutes from 10 to 20, then 30…35. A few weeks ago, I actually accomplished 60 minutes non-stop on the treadmill. Dripping with sweat, I screamed. I was euphoric! Oh…My poor four-legged children were not happy with my scream, but they did seem to appreciate their mommy working out while they napped.

I was certain the additional workout would do the trick. It did not. At my doctor’s office, I discussed my situation and how my body had simply stopped in limbo, refusing to allow me to lose any more weight. He nodded. Maybe you should try the Medical Weight Loss programs at the hospital. MUSC has one. I researched those options when I got home. I did not want to succumb to shots, pills or anything so extreme. For me and my self-worth, I wanted to accomplish my goals — shall I say it — MY WAY!

ONWARD

Today is November 21, 2013. Plans are all set for Thanksgiving next week. My husband and I are visiting a close friend for Thanksgiving so food should not be such an issue; however, today at the Weight Watchers meeting, our leader, Kathy, passed out paper plates. She had us look and select our chosen foods on a pretend buffet. I jotted my food choices down and went back to my chair to calculate the power points, discovering that the Thanksgiving meal would set me up for total destruction. My total power points for Thanksgiving will be a whopping 33 points. OUCH! I have decided that I will be most careful on Thanksgiving and I will only eat a bite of each food choice, and if I should weaken, I will simply tell myself that tomorrow is another day! That is one of the most important lessons we, the members of Weight Watchers learn…When we fall off the wagon, we stop. Regroup…and begin our journey once again. We do not beat ourselves up, or discontinue our journey. We move on! And On… AND ON! ONWARD!!!

Last week was a busy week for me. Phil and I were in Murrells Inlet, performing for the Elks Lodge. I think I had the correct mindset during our trip and I am happy to report that this week was the best week I’ve ever experienced with Weight Watchers. Much to my surprise, this week saw a decrease of 3.6 pounds for me, and a total weight loss of 36.6 pounds! Goodbye Plateau!

WHAT DID I DO TO CHANGE THINGS?

Beats the heck out of me. This week, much to the credit of severe insomnia, I have been too exhausted to work out. I have tracked my food intake faithfully, and I started calculating my calories. Yes, I know, Weight Watchers does not count calories, but I was desperate to break this 12-month vicious cycle! I found an App titled Lose It so I downloaded it to my iPhone.  Now, not only do I track my food on Weight Watchers, the Lose It program calculates the amount of calories I eat. At the moment, I calculate less than 1600 calories daily. According to this program, I could hit my goal in September 2014, based on my current history and my exercise routine.

GOALS ESTABLISHED

Losing weight is such a tedious, time-consuming task and when we hit a plateau, we could easily just throw in the towel and give up. For me, that is no longer my style. I made the commitment to lose weight the Weight Watchers way and if I had to change things a bit to make it work for me, it is worth the struggles — at least for me. I have a goal weight established and I am confident today I will accomplish that goal. Today was filled with encouragement for me. Next week is Thanksgiving and I have much to be thankful for, including the weight loss, not to mention the inches and dress sizes I am losing. I have much to be thankful for. Good health. Family. My precious four-legged children who warm my heart daily. A devoted husband. OK…I admit he drives me crazy and he could cause me to binge, but now, I ignore his PTSD attitude and MOVE ON!  I have a few Good friends, and so much more. Much of this is due to Weight Watchers. The friends and acceptance I have made is to the credit of my first step into the doorway of a Weight Watchers meeting. I will never forget how devastated I felt, especially when slipping on to the ‘confidential weigh-in.’ I wanted to place a bag over my head so no one would recognize me. What I discovered is something I never imagined — acceptance and encouragement. Everyone at Weight Watchers has walked in the same shoes.  They have been just as discouraged and fearful as I was, and now, we take it one day…one week…one month…one loss…at a time. Regardless of how long it takes to achieve goal, we are still — WEIGHT WATCHERS.

 

Losing Weight, To Your Health, Uncategorized, Zumba and More Ways to Work Out

Doctor’s Scales vs. Weight Watchers Scales — WHICH One Is Correct???


Dearest Readers:

I hope you are doing well, enjoying the weekend. My plans for this morning were to go outside early and walk my silly children. Unfortunately, it is an overcasting morning with rain in the forecast, so the plans changed. I will play with my children, and hop on the treadmill instead. If I walk in the rain, I run a gigantic chance of getting ill, and for those of you who know, I was dreadfully ill from late October 2012 until January 19, 2013. I do not wish to repeat that illness. Isn’t it a bit funny how I remember the day I awoke feeling better, feeling that finally the acute bronchitis that strove to attack my body indefinitely, succumbed to my determination to get well. Crossing my fingers here for a moment, in hopes I do not get ill this year.

Yesterday, I went to my doctor for my six month check. As you know, I have Type 2 Diabetes. My last blood work was great, with an A1C level of 5.4. I am hopeful my levels this time are still as good, and they certainly should be. It would be great IF my doctor phoned, telling me I no longer needed the oral drugs I must take for Diabetes. Next week, I look forward to the phone call, revealing those reports. Until then, I continue my daily habits. Perhaps “Daily Habits” is the subject matter for this blog today.

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I attend weekly Weight Watchers meetings, and lately, I feel as if I am on a roller coaster ride, or a yo-yo. Allow me to explain. For about seven months I have bounced, back and forth, with weight loss. One week, I drop a pound. The next week, I gain two pounds. Next week, drop .02, and on…and on… At the meetings, I’ve learned this is an expected process; however, after this week, I maintained – the same weight as last week. At my doctor’s office, according to his scale, I weighed exactly five pounds more than I did — the day before — at Weight Watchers??? How can that be? When I visit my doctor, I must fast for the blood work, so it could not be something I ate. I addressed this discovery to my doctor. His reply — “I’d go with the Weight Watchers scale.” Another discovery at my doctor’s office was — his scale is located within the traffic area of his office. To the right of the scale, a nice looking older guy sat. No doubt he was probably reading the scale, so when I jumped off, I moved the weights! Of course, this doctor’s scale is one of those antiquated ones that I have never trusted – the type where the weights must balance, and because of the size of it, there isn’t any privacy. I made a suggestion to my doctor for him to please have the scale located elsewhere – for privacy purposes. “Women prefer privacy,” I said. I don’t know if that will encourage them to move the scales to a different location, but it would make women feel better. What do you think, readers? Have you noticed at doctor’s offices, there is NO PRIVACY for scales??? Aren’t doctors supposed to have Privacy Laws? Isn’t what we weigh — PRIVATE?

My doctor and I discussed many issues this time, including why I was having such difficulty losing weight now. I understand as we age, our metabolism slows down; however, I am an active woman. I work out five to seven days weekly. I eat healthy and track my foods via the Weight Watchers e-tools site. Years prior to Weight Watchers, I tried my best to work out on the treadmill. My goal was ten minutes. At first, I could not move for five minutes on the treadmill without huffing and puffing. I blamed it on asthma. Determined, I started moving on the treadmill more, working up to ten minutes…then 20…30, and now — I am proud to say, I can move on that treadmill for 50.30 minutes. I count it down with the timer on my phone. Never do I get winded now. I am so proud of that accomplishment, and the inches are coming off, but the weight — I do believe the brakes to my weight loss are locked in place.

My doctor suggested going to Metabolic Weight Loss Medical Centers. http://www.goingmetabolic.com/faq.php I did a bit of research, reading their frequently asked questions site, and I have decided to remain with Weight Watchers. Years ago, I was successful with a weight loss program of drugs, shots and special meals, but this time I am determined to do this on my own — with the beauty, encouragement and lifestyle change of Weight Watchers. I have known people who have lost weight in this style and plan, but I am not motivated to go there. I want to accomplish my weight loss on my own — with Weight Watchers! Yes, it has been an incredibly slow process for me, but I have to remind myself that IF I stop and go to some other ‘weight loss’ plan, I will be hurting myself. I walked into Weight Watchers, mortified…ashamed…shaking like a leaf…afraid that someone would recognize me… When the leader saw that ‘familiar look’ on my face, she reached out to me, encouraging me. “We were all in those shoes before,” she said with a beautiful smile. Kathy, my leader, has become a friend. She is there to encourage me when I squeal with a weight loss, and she is still encouraging me when I frown. I do not consider that I am a ‘Loser’ — that is someone who gives up, and I am a ‘winner’ even when the scales say otherwise. Yes, it is taking such a long time, but I am truly liking the person I see, reflecting me, at the full-length mirror.

I joined Weight Watchers because I wanted to accomplish my weight loss on my own. I wanted to be one of the women who says, “This I do for me,” and I wanted to feel the achievement of my own weight loss, regardless of the cost. I still believe I will break this bouncing rubber ball plateau, and I will accomplish my goals. After all, this I do for me. Now — if only I could persuade my doctor’s office to move their scales to a more private area. Wouldn’t that be an accomplishment!

Losing Weight, To Your Health

Diet Is A “Four Letter Word”


Dearest Readers:

If you are reading my posts lately, you will note I have written about Domestic Abuse, Weight Loss, and other topics. Yesterday, while at my Weight Watchers meeting, we discussed the cliché, ‘If I had known then what I know now,’ and other topics, including the word — dare I say it — “Diet.”

One of my weight watchers friends sitting behind me shared the interesting expression “Diet is a four letter word!” Such a great title for a post about weight loss. As you know, dearest readers, I have been bouncing back and forth with a yo-yo effect with Weight Watchers; nevertheless, I have determination in my backbone and although I struggle, I am continuing the pursuit. Why? Many of my friends have expressed that question — one stating that if she continued to bounce back and forth like I have, she would simply quit. I must be strong. I cannot allow negative comments to influence me. Besides, even when I am a yo-yo, I am losing inches. I work out regularly and need to do it daily – instead of ‘when I feel like it.’ I need to simply get off of my butt and move. My treadmill has become a great friend. A 1998 model, almost an antique, compared to the latest and greatest treadmills, I enjoy getting on it and moving. Originally purchased weeks after my husband’s quadruple bypass, for years it served as a cluttered piece of equipment to rest clothing that I did not dry in the dryer. My husband has used it — maybe twice! My mini-schnauzer “Hanks the Tank” likes to walk on it and sometimes I have to almost fight with him to use it. Just how can a small animal intimidate and demand to use the treadmill? Today, I will increase my treadmill time to 45 minutes. Yes, at first, it is a bit boring to get on it and move, but this I do for me, so I shall continue.

If you have never gone to a Weight Watchers meeting, you might consider attending. Yes, it is intimidating but oh, so rewarding. I cannot wait until I hit goal. No, I haven’t established a goal with a leader yet. I have a number in my head, but before I express a goal weight I want to check with my doctor. The number I have dancing inside my circular thinking brain is a number that will make me weigh less than I did in high school. I really do not care how long it takes to accomplish that bloody number, but I do look forward to the date and time I hit it! My main concern is once I hit this number — is it a number that will be easy to maintain? Perhaps it will, perhaps not…but I have an unpublished number inside my dancing head!

At Weight Watchers, we do not say we are on a diet, or we ‘are dieting…’ Weight Watchers is a work-in-progress…a portion control way of life…and a lifestyle change. For me, I like to say it is a lifestyle change…a healthier, simpler way to eat, move and maintain. Who cares if it takes me FOREVER to reach my magic number…I am certain I am achieving it. I eat healthier now. More fruits. More fruits than I’ve EVER eaten in my life! Slowly, I am teaching my husband to try new things. He is from the old school — that ‘damned ‘good ole boy’ syndrome…and I do my best to open his eyes to change. As you probably know, ‘good ole boys’ do not like change. They believe in the silly philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ When I started making salads, adding fresh fruits and almonds, my husband thought I was nuts. Well, if you know me, you probably recognize that I am opinionated, but open to change. My husband is not. He refused to eat the salads, and other foods I have served. Again, he is of the mind-set that fruits and vegetables don’t mix. And don’t even suggest yogurt to him! If only he knew!!!

Enough about my husband…aka, the good ole boy…macho man!

In my next life, there will not be a good ole boy…simply a woman with ‘a mind of her own…’ Whatever that means…and that is how Phil describes me….”Barbie is a woman with a mind of her own!”

What??? Am I not supposed to have a mind?

If diet is a four letter word, it isn’t a good one. What is so great about Weight Watchers is the fact that all of us are in this together. We share our lifestyles, experiences, set backs, discoveries, recipes, and successes! I am so proud when I see someone called to the front of the meeting to share her lifetime membership status. I look forward to when I achieve goal and stand before those who first saw me entering Weight Watchers on my first date. Yes, it will be a celebration, but a good one!

This week I did not lose. I gained .04 of a pound. It was a tough week for me, starting with my birthday. Although I did not eat birthday cake, I allowed my birthday to depress me. I had a multitude of stress last week — starting with car problems, then the purchase of three expensive tires for my car, and it seems I had to stand in line everywhere I went. Two days before my birthday I had to renew my driver’s license. I confess. I never take a good picture and most of my driver’s license could be a mug shot — if ever the need arises. I waited in lines at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, in anticipation of the dreaded photograph. Much to my surprise, this time, the gentleman operating the camera asked, “Are you ready?” I looked at him, turned into the position that I have a chance of a better photograph and I asked, “May I smile?” He replied, “Just tell me when you’re ready.”

I inhaled. Licked my lips, smiled and nodded to him. “OK.”

About five minutes later, he handed my driver’s license to me. No mug shot! My eyes were bright. Clothing tropical and my face held a smile! “Nice shot,” I thought. “Is this really me now? No balloon face?”

All to the credit of Weight Watchers!

Thank you Weight Watchers — for the courage you’ve given me. The pride. Determination. A more slender face….Is this really me?

And that is why I yo-yo at Weight Watchers — simply because I know — It works. Weight Watchers…This I do for ME!

To Your Health

My Eyes Have It — FINALLY!


Dearest Readers:

To those who contacted me via e-mail, inquiring about the saga with my eyes and contacts, I’d like to thank you for your concern. I am happy to report when I went to the ophthalmologist in late May, I saw a different doctor. Seems my doctor moved to another practice, so I saw her partner. He checked my eyes thoroughly, looking back into the file to see and read notes. Then, he asked me, “Which eye was it that had a damaged cornea?”

Negative, frightening thoughts entered my mind, for a moment. He shook his head, looking again.

“What’s the matter? I thought my eye was getting better.”

“It is!” He exclaimed. “I don’t see any damage. You have two healthy eyes.”

I sighed! “Can I wear my contact again?”

“Let’s try one.”

Finally! My right eye was healed. No scarring. No damage. The cornea was healthy!

If you have followed my blog about my eyes, you will recall I have fought with an eye virus, an eye infection, a scarred and burned cornea, and an almost complete loss of eye sight since February 2013. For over four months, I could not wear contacts at all. In my right eye, all I could see was a blanket of gray, or a gigantic blur. Watching TV, if I covered my left eye to see out of the right, I could not make out images on the TV — not even the 52-inch in the den. At the doctor’s office, I could not read the eye chart — not even the top chart! Fortunately, my left eye was great, with good vision, but driving — well, let’s just say, I did not drive, except to get to the doctor’s office. All of my weekly errands were rescheduled for weekends, when my husband was home. I hated it. For almost four months I found myself practically homebound. Unable to drive comfortably. I did drive to Weight Watchers, that is — when I went. I did not walk, for fear I would not be able to see the sidewalk well and might fall. My independence was suddenly questionable. I confess, I am not a dependent person, so I remained at home, resting my eye. Hoping and praying that with each new day, I would see improvement. I did not.

The eye doctor had me on several medications. One of the medications resulted in burning my cornea, so she tossed that medication in the trash. During the four months of wishing and hoping and praying that my eye would heal, it did not. The doctor suggested a new course — over the counter Refresh Eye Drops and the prescription drug, Restasis. “Use them twice daily…and no contacts until I say so!”

That was the last time I saw my strict eye doctor in April. When I returned in May, I saw her partner, I believe he is the founder of the practice. When he shared with me that he could not find any damage to my eye, I was ecstatic! Hopefully, I could wear contacts again.

Today, I am pleased to report, I am able to wear a contact in my right eye. i have the thirty-day, soft type, and I am using them daily. I DO NOT SLEEP IN THEM! Although, reportedly, patients can sleep in them, but ‘eye conditions may occur,’ so I am being smart this time, not lazy. A new nightly ritual includes not just washing my face, brushing my teeth, moisturizing my face and body, I have a new ritual after washing my hands. I remove my contact. Place it in fresh solution, and I moisturize my eyes — first with Refresh drops. I wait about five minutes, then I open a Restasis vial and moisturize my right eye. When I awaken in the morning, the same ritual occurs, including moisturizing my eyes with Refresh and Restasis. After 30 minutes, I insert my eye contact.

I will never sleep in contacts again — even IF I am told that I might. While I do not know if sleeping in a contact causes eye problems, I am told that the eye needs to breathe and while sleeping in contacts, the eye might not receive the proper amount of oxygen. I do find it interesting that with all of the problems I had with my eye, all occurred with my right eye — the eye with the sleeping contact.

So, dear readers, to all of you I will say — you be the judge. If you wear contacts, please consider that you do not want to endure the problems I had. Nothing is more frightening than to have your eye sight slowly fading away. I had so many foolish questions dancing inside my mind:

*I am a writer – how can I write when I cannot see?” My mindset was a pity party, I suppose.

There were definitely additional questions I had, but I realized it was time to stop focusing on a pity party and pray that my eye sight would return. I am so blessed that my sight is back to normal now, and I only need to wear one contact. I still have reading glasses placed strategically around the house, and in my handbag. After all, a writer must be prepared.

The new contact is doing well. Perhaps because I am not sleeping in contacts at all, and I use the eye drops for dry eye syndrome twice daily. If you have dry eyes, you might consider printing a coupon from the Refresh website, http://www.dealsoff.com/refresh-eye-drops-printable-coupons/ read carefully how to use the vials and follow the directions 100%. Make certain you wash your hands before doing any eye care!

Lessons learned the hard way for me. I always wash my hands prior to any eye care, but I was negligent by sleeping in a contact. During this illness, my left eye was 100%. Right eye? Almost blind. Lessons learned. Please, follow my advice and NEVER…EVER SLEEP IN CONTACTS. It just isn’t worth an eye infection, eye virus, or conditions within the eye, especially with the cornea!

Let us all make a pledge to have Happy, Healthy Eyes!!!

Family, Free Writing, To Your Health

In Memory of a Friend…


Today is Monday, another beautiful day of life to enjoy and make the most of our day. After I awaken, let the pups out and pour a cup of coffee, I hop on the computer, to hear the latest news in the world, then I click on Facebook.

Reading a few posts on Facebook, I am shocked, stunned, broken-hearted. Why? I have lost another friend – a friend I knew in high school. A woman who always spoke to me in school. A woman I reconnected with at the high school reunion held in April 2013.

Becki Vinson Matthews looked beautiful at the reunion. Life and age had been good to her. I recognized her on the spot. Others, well, I didn’t recognize so easily. At the Friday night function in Uptown Columbus, we rushed outside to ‘dance in the street.’ The band was too great to ignore inside a bar atmosphere. Additional classmates — mostly girls — joined us as we danced, and danced, and danced. We chatted a bit and I listened to her chatting away about life, and grandchildren. On Facebook, we read posts and made comments after the reunion.

I was truly shocked to read that she is now an angel in Heaven, no longer with us. I confess, at the reunion, as I looked at the Memory Wall, recognizing most of the 60 classmates now deceased, the curiosity of a writer danced in my mind…curious as to who would be the next high school photograph to add to the memory wall.

It is unfortunate that our generation has reached a time in our lives where death will occur more frequently. Still, there are so many illnesses and deaths that will attack our bodies. Apparently, Becki died from a massive heart attack. Someone wrote that she was having chest pains before the heart attack. At our class reunion, she looked like the picture of health. Dancing. Smiling. Laughing. Catching up with each of our lives. She was a member of the “Sister Chicks” a group of high school friends still connecting, dancing and sharing life together. She and a few others wanted me to become a ‘sister chick.’

I am still in shock that she is gone and I am happy that we purchased a memory book from the reunion. Hopefully, when the day arrives and I receive my copy in the mail, Becki will be the first person I look for. She was so kind to me, telling me at the reunion that “I had no idea you could sing so well, Barbie!”

I laughed. “Yes, I suppose my secret is out now, isn’t it!”

Before we left the reunion I hugged Becki, thanking her for her warmth and thoughtfulness. Never did I realize that would be our last hug together.

Rest in peace, Becki with that contagious smile on your beautiful face and warmth surrounding you. Our classmates will miss you terribly.

To those of my class who are reading this, and to all of my readers, I would like to share a bit of advice. Heart disease is on the rise in America. Please visit the website, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp
to learn more about the guidelines for a heart healthy life. We are told to eat healthy, move and exercise regularly and to get a physical yearly. At my last physical, my doctor ordered an electrocardiogram. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ekg/

I am happy to report mine was — as my doctor expressed, “Perfect.” I was so pleased since my husband had a quadruple heart bypass in early 1998. I am constantly nagging him to exercise more and to watch what he eats carefully. He ignores me. Please, if you are reading this, make a pledge to yourself to take care of yourself, and please understand, Becki looked like the picture of health in April. Slim. Trim. Active. Energetic. We never know when something might occur to take our health away, but I am a true believer in living life to the fullest every day. And, when tomorrow comes, we must do what we can to protect our health. We hear of people dying quickly from heart attacks and many of those people did not know their heart was about to stop. Becki complained of chest pains before her death. Please, let us all make a pact today that if we have any of the symptoms of heart disease, or if we simply do not feel well, let us get to the doctor or hospital, to make certain we are well.

Symptoms of a heart attack:
Chest pains
Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach,
Shortness of breath
Nausea
A feeling of lightheadedness or fainting
Cold sweat
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health//dci/pods/trans_heartatt.html
Call 911 to get immediate treatment, please.

In memory of Becki Vinson Matthews – a classmate, mother, wife, grandmother, sister chick and a dear friend. Rest in peace, beautiful Becki. We will miss you!

To Your Health

Caregiving in America


PARENT TO PARENT…CARE GIVING IN AMERICA

by

Barbie Perkins-Cooper

During the holidays of 1997, my life was extremely busy until a shocking reality forced me to readjust my schedule, to make time for a new, unsuspecting emergency when my father needed me the most, during his illness. I was stepping into a new chapter of my life, green and naive of the responsibilities I would endure. The roles of life were reversing, and before the Christmas holidays of 1997 ended, I learned about new responsibilities while serving as the primary caregiver to my beloved, headstrong, and courageous father, Walter W. Perkins.
On December 9, I sat alone at the hospital waiting for the results of an endoscopy, feeling confident my dad would be fine. I flipped the pages of a magazine while waiting for the test results. When his doctor approached, I realized from his body language and the look in his eyes he did not have good news to report. When he whispered esophageal cancer, I screamed.
Later, I regained my composure, while the poisonous words of cancer echoed inside my head. How could this be? I pondered the diagnosis. Dad would need chemotherapy and radiation. I did not know if he would agree to the treatments, realizing that if he found the courage to fight such a dreadful cancer, he would become dreadfully sick. According to the doctors, chemotherapy could help, or because it was so toxic and powerful, it could kill him.
The prognosis was not a positive forecast. The oncologist estimated that he could live possibly six months; nevertheless, he was not able to retain food now and was malnourished. He needed a feeding tube, to pump nutrition into his stomach. If he did not respond and retain food soon, he would probably be dead within two weeks from malnourishment.
My heart palpitated as I realized my role model, mentor and advisor of life was terminally ill with a dreadful disease, and I was helpless to stop it. My father was my guiding light of life, always strong and healthy. Now, he would fight the battle of his life, and I had no doubt that I would be by his side for the duration of his illness. Our roles in life were reversing, only this time, I would become the caregiver to my devoted, charming, and loving 82-year old father.
I was not certain I was ready for this challenge, but I knew I would not allow him to fight the disease without me. Although I failed to understand the true definition of a primary caregiver, I would learn, and change my lifestyle schedule to be by his side. Realizing the nightmarish roller coaster ride I was on was a wake up call I hope to never experience again.
I was a proud, energetic, fulfilled woman of the baby boomer generation, the generation designated to babies born during the years of 1946-1964. I was involved in a demanding career, relieved that my son was grown and living on his own, planning to get married soon. Now, it was time for me to do what I wanted to do, until I realized my father would need me now, more than he needed anyone in his lifetime. I was the parent to my parent.
I accepted the challenge, never understanding how the cycles of life were spinning uncontrollably while I slowly stepped into the dreadful middle age years, stepping into a new chapter of my life as a caregiver.
Americans of the baby boomer generation are aging. Approximately one of four American households is involved in some form of care giving. The number of primary care providers is diminishing because many family members live far away or cannot become involved. Where does this leave the elderly? Who will feed them, dress them, and provide for their needs and companionship? Who will see that their medical, financial, and personal needs are met?
In America, hospital and long-term care is skyrocketing. Medicare will not cover the needs sufficiently. Only a small amount of American families can afford private nursing home care, or long-term medical care. Approximately 36% of primary caregivers are over the age of 65. As the baby boomers reach senior citizen status, the elderly population is projected to increase significantly and will require physical, emotional, assisted living and special needs. Although the majority of caregivers are usually women, many of these women must juggle a full-time job and children still living at home, while managing the care of an elderly parent. These demands can lead to physical ailments, including depression or burn out.
I was under the impression that Medicare would take care of the medical needs of my father, along with the elderly. I was sadly mistaken. Medicare would not pay for his prescriptions, unless he was hospitalized; and if he needed long term care, Medicare would only cover twenty days. Fighting for his life, Dad worried about the bills, along with how he would afford the expense of cancer. He was encouraged to file for Medicaid.
While the toxic brown bag of chemotherapy dripped into my father’s thinning veins, I realized I had to take charge of his life, at least for now. Although I did not feel emotionally strong enough to endure the horrors of filing for Medicaid, I knew I had to become his voice, his nurse, and advocate.
I adjusted my schedule, missing weeks of work, along with months of sleep. When I visited him, I smiled while struggling to camouflage my emotions. Dad was so weak and nauseated from the chemotherapy, he failed to notice, and I was thankful. I wore myself out physically, almost to the point of exhaustion. My emotional life was spinning out of control, trapped in a whirlpool I could not escape.
To my surprise, I found an inner strength within myself, focusing on my father’s medical, financial, and physical needs. We developed a closer relationship, and although we never discussed how it felt for him to suffer a terminal disease, I still remember his poignant words to me during one hospital visit. He reached for my hand, whispering softly, he said, “You know, Barbara, cancer is not contagious.”
Tears filled my eyes as I turned my head away so he could not see me crying. “I know, Dad.” I kissed him on the lips, telling him I loved him. I was proud to be his caregiver, and I was thankful he had confidence in me.
If you serve as a primary caregiver, be good to yourself. Find time to be alone, while juggling the demands of care giving, even if it means you must close the door for a bit of privacy for only a few minutes. Make the most of your days, especially while caring for your loved one. Take charge of your life. Do not feed the doubts, or listen to the negative aspects of your new lifestyle change. Repeat to yourself that you are taking life one day at a time, and make the most of every day, even if it is a dark and dreary day. Be thankful of your blessings and the days that you and your loved are sharing.
Learn to speak up and fight for your rights, and the rights of the terminally ill, or elderly person you are caring for. Watch for signs of depression, in yourself and your loved one. Some of the signs of depression include: inability to sleep, inability to concentrate, and a mind that races constantly, especially at night, sometimes referred to as circular thinking, lack of appetite, irrational behavior, crying, or irritability. I was in denial of my emotions, unable to see the warning signs.
While serving as a primary caregiver, encourage your loved one to be strong, to fight for life, and to be courageous. Let the person you care for make some of the decisions. Most of all, open your heart, your mind, and share your love. Never leave your loved one without a touch of affection and the simple words I love you, because you may not have tomorrow to express those affections. Discover the rights of the elderly. And when the time comes, allow your loved one to die with dignity, if that is his or her wish.
Search on the Internet for care giving issues, publications, and become an advocate about elderly care. I found numerous web sites, and I read them passionately late at night, when I could not sleep. Stand up for your rights, trust your instincts, and support your loved ones wishes. Make the most of every day, without making excuses for mistakes you make, appointments you must cancel, or demands you can no longer meet. Become familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act, and do not allow others, especially co-workers or a boss, to intimidate you.
Walter W. Perkins died on July 6, 1999 and although I am no longer a caregiver, I still consider myself an advocate for elderly care, especially where the rights of residents of nursing homes are concerned.
During Dad’s illness, I never took no for an answer, and I learned everything I could about Medicare, Medicaid and the rights of the elderly. I wanted to be the voice my father could not be, because he was so gravely ill and frail. I have no regrets, and I am proud to say my father was my top priority in life, during his illness, and residency in a nursing home. Although he died while I was walking into his room for my daily visit, I know that he knew I loved him, and I was dedicated to him. He was my life, and now he is my shining star. A few days before he died, he reminded me to make the most of everyday of my life, and I still strive to live life to its fullest, remembering his wisdom, his love, along with the passions he held for others.
You, as a caregiver, or a baby boomer, could be the next family member to walk into a nursing home or a hospital, while your loved one is dying. Live for the moment, hoping to see the sunrise and sunset of a new tomorrow. Never forget to share your love and special times with the terminally ill or elderly.
After the death of my father, I fell apart. As I dug my way out of the darkness of despair, I realized I was lost in a world of depression, unable to confront my emotional well being. It was my darkest moment. I managed to join a grief therapy session, while I learned to accept his death.
Watching my father battle the debilitating disease of esophageal cancer, as he struggled to maintain his dignity, gave me a wake up call I will never forget. Now, I make the time to search for flowers, rainbows and I enjoy the little things in life while enjoying life’s effervescent sunrises and sunsets.
Be proud to be a caregiver, while serving as a parent to your parent, and never look back! Life is too short to be trapped into a spider web of despair and regrets. We must remember to make the best out of a difficult situation, feeding the positive moments, while forgetting the negative and hopeless feelings we as caregivers experience. We must educate ourselves about care giving. We must trust our instincts, and know that what we are doing is not a sacrifice, but an act of unconditional love while we learn to adjust and place our needs aside. We are sharing and teaching, and growing into the citizens and family members that we need and desire to be. We must stand up, not only for our rights, but also for the rights of those who we love during their hour of need. With the support of our families, friends and other caregivers, we are building memories to cherish for the rest of our lives.
May God bless caregivers, the family members, and loved ones we care for; and may we as caregivers continue to find ways to improve the lives of the ones we love and want to remember — one day at a time!

On My Soapbox!, To Your Health

The Eyes Have It – Contacts, Eye Infections, Losing Sight


Dearest Readers:

It is a late and wet morning for me within the City of Charleston, SC. Originally, my plans for today were to walk the dogs, afterward, I planned to walk the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. The dampness of such a wet day has dictated that I cannot honor my plans. Deciding it is the perfect day to clean my home, I sprinkle carpet deodorizer on the carpets and relax while eating strawberry Greek yogurt and another cup of coffee. Time to write in my blog, I decide…and so…here we go!

Today, I will discuss an important issue. A frightening experience I recently had, giving me a major scare! In early February, I awoke with a pink eye in my right eye. Strange, I thought, Before when I’ve had pink eye, aka Conjunctivitis, I’ve had pink eyes — in BOTH eyes, not one! I used eye drops. I removed my contact, tossing it in the trash. I rested my eye, covering it with a satan facial mask. I doctored it with ice cold packs. Nothing helped. Two days later, with the right eye a bit swollen, and the inability to look into anything bright, I recognized that my diagnosis of Conjunctivitis needed to be confirmed professionally, especially since now, I could not stand bright light of any type hitting the right eye. The pain was unbearable.

Phil drove me to Nason Medical. Their diagnosis was I might have an infection in the retina. They referred me to an ophthalmologist. Early Monday Phil drove me to Mount Pleasant Ophthalmology. After many tests, the diagnosis was an eye virus. For many weeks, I returned to them twice weekly, using a variety of prescription eye drops. At first, the eye appeared to get worse. Testing my eye with the eye chart, all I saw was a blob — a white, foggy blanket, nothing more. I could not see an image at all! I was horrified. Additional prescription eye drops were prescribed. Now I was taking four eye drops throughout the day — four to five times daily. Reluctantly, I stopped wearing eye makeup.

Due to the condition of my eye, I remained at home, afraid to go outside since the sunshine felt as if it exploded inside my right eye, and I was horrified to drive anywhere simply because I could not see properly. I managed to drive to the eye doctor visits — carefully and slowly.

Depression sat in. During the day I cried, recognizing the tears would only aggravate my eye more. I tried to read, to catch up on a collection of magazines on my desk…how could I read them, when I really could not see the words or images? For the first time in my life, all I did was sit around and rest. No wonder I was depressed…my life was not my life anymore.

Finally, the eye virus cleared up, only to have the cornea irritated from some of the eye drops. Still, I struggled to read the eye charts. Forget the contact, or independence now…I felt my life was that of a wilting vegetable. Cooking was a struggle since I could not see to chop vegetables… On one occasion, I almost burned the pasta. “How is it you burn pasta?” I screamed. Simple. When you cannot see what you are doing, anything can happen!

I confess, I have taken the luxury of eye sight for granted, but not anymore. Every time I saw the doctor I asked her “when can I wear my contact again?” Her reply wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I decided it was best to follow her advice. On one visit, she mentioned that my cornea looked like sandpaper. This condition sounded a bit too serious. I drove myself home, researched on the Internet, deciding that the information I was reading would only horrify me more. I walked to the bedroom, spoke with my dogs, threw myself on the bed and I cried like a newborn baby. My pups moved closer to comfort me. I prayed, and prayed. Dear God, please don’t let me lose my eye sight. I have so much to do and say. Please God, touch and heal my eye.

On the next eye visit, my doctor removed me from all of the prescriptions, deciding to use natural tears, rest and a lot of TLC. Today, I am happy to report, my eye is much improved. The cornea is ‘healing well now.’ Natural tears are helping so much. My last checkup was on Monday and I’m happy to report I could actually read the eye chart! What a relief. Over the week I tested my eye, covering my left eye to see if the right eye could actually see something besides a blanket of fog. Like a little child, I recognized the beauty of green trees. Even the pollen blowing in the wind looked inviting, until I sneezed! What a relief. I could see again! Trees. Flowers. My dogs. A TV screen. The sky. The beauty of life. My eyes could see! I danced a happy dance…I CAN SEE AGAIN!

I must see the eye doctor in two weeks, and I’m happy with that. As for my contacts? They are still in the package. I haven’t opened my last box for fear that I would weaken and let temptation get the best of me. For now, I have reading glasses on my desk — two pairs are inside my handbag…one pair is in the den. One pair in the kitchen…and one pair by my bed. Yes, I’m vain…I don’t like wearing glasses. I find them uncomfortable and a bit difficult to walk in. The strange thing about this experience with my right eye is this — since the eye is able to focus and see things again, occasionally I can actually read something without glasses, or contacts. Isn’t that strange…maybe the eye exercises I’ve been doing are helping me, along with the eye vitamins and the sheer stubbornness of this modern day feminist who refuses to allow something to knock me down for long. Funny! My Julia Sugarbaker style has returned!!!

Eye health.

Rescuing Schnauzers, To Your Health

Through the Eyes of Love


To those who read my blog on a regular basis, you will know what an advocate I am for animals, especially Schnauzers. This week has taught me how blessed I am to have such kind and loving animals. My oldest mini-Schnauzer is not a rescue. We adopted him from friends who had a pregnant schnauzer ready to give birth. On the day they were born, we visited to select  our baby. As I touched each of the precious three that were available, one in particular responded with a sweet moan when I touched his ears. The family had named him Piglet since he was the biggest of the babies. Six weeks later, we brought Sir Shakespeare Hemingway home. Like most schnauzers, he is protective of me, territorial and nourishing of his mommy. This week has proven that! As you know, I’ve been sick off and on since October. Getting weaker this week, I went back to a new medical care facility — NASON MEDICAL CARE. I highly recommend them! Two days ago, Shakespeare had enough of gating in the kitchen area. When I told him to go in the gate, he refused and darted towards my bedroom. There, he stayed. Refusing to move. He wanted to care for his Mommy! He remained by my side all day, until my husband came home. He simply refused to leave me alone. Licking my hands (something he rarely does) he looked into my eyes, as if to say, “Mommy, I’ll take care of you”, then he raised his body toward me to hug. Tightly, his little paws went around my neck, hugging me for a long time while looking in my eyes. We were communicating. I could feel the power of his love and his fear that something was really wrong with his mommy.  Every day since, he hasn’t left my side. Always there while I am coughing a dreadful cough that appears to come from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. A cough that feels like I am fighting desperately to grasp just one more breath of life. When I struggle weakly to walk into the kitchen for water and coffee, Shakespeare is beside me. He waits and watches for me. He doesn’t ask for a treat. The look in his eyes is a serious look — ‘Mommy are you Ok? What can I do to help you get well?’

All of this unconditional love from a dog some would say. Well, if you’ve never experienced it, you haven’t a clue what you are missing. Animals have a way of communicating with those who love them and are connected to them. While writing this, Shakespeare is resting by my feet. When I cough, he lifts his head to look at me. When I pat him on the head, he lays his head down, understanding that for now, I am OK. Such unconditional love is so strong. I am so blessed to have such a kind, loving mini-Schnauzer that wants to share his life with me.

This week as I battled for strength, I have learned it is OK to allow my husband to care for me. This illness has gone on for much too long. As a hard-headed, opinionated woman it is difficult to ask my husband for help, especially when he offers it. Something he doesn’t normally do; nevertheless, I have learned that I cannot always be the tower of strength looking over my loved ones. Sometimes I need to allow others to care for me, regardless. This lingering illness actually scared me as I continued to flop my body onto the bed, weak, afraid and sometimes alone since my husband was working. I’ve never been in this position before — where I was too weak to cook a meal, too weak to sort and wash laundry and too weak to vacuum the house. In all reality, I was almost to the point of too weak to breath. Yes, this week I learned, from the powerful caring eyes of a canine, that others really care about me, and it is ok to reach out to accept their love. Lessons learned, through the eyes of love — my precious Sir Shakespeare Hemingway and the generosity of a husband who is not exactly domesticated, but loving me enough to learn. Happy 2013!

To Your Health

Mammogram 101


I suppose this is an article for women only; after all, I don’t think men would appreciate the subject matter. Here goes. Have you ever had a mammogram?

During the month of October, I scheduled my yearly mammogram. Since I do monthly breast exams, I wasn’t afraid. Nothing was different so I was confident that I would receive a letter telling me to return in a year. When the letter arrived, I was concerned. I needed an additional mammogram and/or ultrasound. I scheduled it immediately. Before the appointment, I got a call from the hospital informing me that I needed to bring $265.99 to pay for the additional test.

“What…I have Blue Cross Blue Shield. They pay for my mammogram.” Surprise — only 80% this time!

I almost cancelled the appointment. After contemplating the additional test, I phoned the Breast Cancer Center again, asking why I needed this appointment. “We can’t discuss that,” the voice on the other line said.

I was furious.

The more I thought of it, the more I realized I needed my Julia Sugarbaker diplomatic style to kick in. “Hello,” I said. “I have an appointment for an additional mammogram and was told no one could discuss it with me. Don’t I have the right to KNOW Why?”

“Of Course, you do,” the kind voice responded.

She transferred me to the radiology doctor where I discovered why. It seems that my yearly mammogram noticed a change…something in the glandular structure. I heard the word “asymmeticral,” or something similar.

“Have you lost or gained weight in the past year?”

“Yes…about 35 pounds. I’m doing Weight Watchers.”

“That could be the reason. It’s nothing to get alarmed about.”

Alarmed? Could we be talking a lump, or breast cancer?

The appointment was scheduled for the next Monday. I had exactly seven days to stress, worry while my imagination went crazy with fear.

I’ve always been told I have a nice chest.  For me, this compliment convinced me years ago that a woman’s chest is one of her most feminine assets. Perhaps some people can’t imagine stating that, but when it is one of the major compliments received, especially from my husband all types of fear entered my mind.

My maternal grandmother developed breast cancer — back in the days when cobalt was the treatment used after a brutal surgery. I had to change her dressings for her when she came home. Her chest was brutalized — like a raw piece of red beef. I was a teenager at the time and I’ve never forgotten how dreadful my grandmother looked. Never did I squint or show her my fears while I cleansed and dressed her wounds. Never did I forget how she looked. My grandmother was a grand lady, an inspirational, loving role model for me, showing me what a lady should always be, how a lady should act and dress. She influenced my life significantly!

What if that happened to me? How would my husband love me anymore IF I lost a breast?

I suppose every breast cancer survivor has felt that fear. I’ve known many women who have battled and won, but I’ve never discussed their fears, or dressed their wounds. I have been told that the incision is much better now, and there is plastic surgery that can be completed.  Before I went for the additional mammogram I researched breast cancer, reconstructive surgery and on and on. I do not recommend others to research. You must ask breast cancer survivors — those who have endured breast cancer. As a writer, I have the tools nearby to find the research. Sometimes a little knowledge can make one frightened out of their minds. Still, I could not pick up the phone to ask a friend. So many women do not want to talk about the experience, and I can certainly understand.

I told myself not to worry. Easier said than done, I assure you. Then, I took my maternal grandmother’s wise advice — I went to my window lifted my eyes up towards the Heavens and I prayed, having a lengthy talk with God. My grandmother’s advice of finding a special window to have God lift a burden has always worked for me. This time, I felt the burden lift. Thank you, Gramma!

An additional mammogram. I’ve had several but I knew this one would be different. Just imagine a portion of your body placed into a paddle where the radiologist pushes, pulls, probes, squeezes, tightens….oops, not the right position so it is time to push, pull, probe, squeeze and tighten again — while attempting to get the muscles, tissues and dense breast materials to tighten, flatten — perhaps like a pancake.

My breast could never become a pancake!

If you are a man, just imagine a tender part of your body pulled into the paddle while having the radiologist tighten…and tighten…and tighten…until there is a pancake size and when the position is intact, she says, “Now don’t move.” Meanwhile your special area feels so tight, uncomfortable, and a bit painful while you attempt to escape into a part of your memory reserved for relaxation.

What? You’ve never heard of a mammogram? A mammogram is an x-ray. Allow me to discuss it further:

According to the American Cancer Society, “Getting a mammogram is one of the best things a woman can do to protect her health. This simple test can find breast cancers early, when they’re small and have not spread. This is when breast cancer is easier to treat and the chances of survival are higher. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/findcancerearly/cancerscreeningguidelines/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer

If you’re 40 or older, you should get a mammogram every year. Don’t wait. Call your doctor to schedule one today.”

The American Cancer Society strongly recommends that women over 40 have a yearly mammogram. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so when you see women, and those who are close to women, wearing the pink ribbons, or pink clothing, remember to schedule your mammogram.

Remember to do monthly self breast exams every month.  For  thoroughly detailed images of how to do a self breast exam, visit the website: http://women.webmd.com/healthtool-self-breast-exam

Every women should have a yearly physical and have a breast examination by a doctor. While examining your breast, pay close attention to the nipples and if you see any changes, be sure to see your doctor.

In the event you should see a change, a lump or swelling, irritation or dimpling, any pain at the nipple, redness, or a discharge, please see your doctor.

After making the appointment, checking with BCBS, I approached my husband about my letter.  I’ve got to have an additional mammogram/ultrasound. It seems I have a glandular change in my left breast.

He looked up from the computer. Wow! This time, I had his complete attention.

What if…what if I have breast cancer and I lose my breast? I could not live like that.

Phil rushed to hold me. Suddenly the weight of the world lifted as he held me. Those arms of strength and love have gotten me through some rough times in my life.

“Did you speak with the doctor?”

Yes. Let’s just say my Julia Sugarbaker kicked in.

“You’ll be fine,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”

Easy for him to say. What if He was the one who would have a part of his anatomy placed into paddles that desire to flatten the tissues like they are pancakes.

Finally the day arrived. I did my best not to worry; after all, I had a talk with God. I arrived early. The appointment was at 3:40pm. I didn’t leave until after 5pm. This time, the radiologist explained what she was doing. She even allowed me to look over my shoulder. Silly me. I was still attached to the paddle so when I turned to look to the right — well, let’s just say — it wasn’t comfortable!

When will I know the results?”

“I’ll show these to the doctor before you leave. You might still need an ultrasound, but we’ll wait until the doctor says we do.”

Thanks.

Moments seemed like hours as I went back to the dressing room — dressed in a thin bed jacket style of fabric. I couldn’t get dressed until the radiologist said I could. So, the wait began. I know it was only a few minutes, but it seemed like hours. I kept glancing down at my manicured nails. I have a tendency to pull the nail polish off when I am so stressful. I played with my nails and waited. A knock was at the door. I opened it.

The radiologist introduced me to the doctor. “We’ll see you in a year,” she said.

I can go home? I don’t need the ultrasound?

I sighed with delight. Such sweet words to hear.

“It’s just a glandular change. Nothing to be alarmed about.”

How I wanted to hug her but I knew if I lifted my arms, I would be exposed to the world. Instead, I shook her hand.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” she said.

Yes, it will be a great Happy Thanksgiving now.

I suddenly felt guilty while driving home, thinking of the women who have experienced the same tests, only to hear the dreadful six-letter-word that starts with a C.

Somehow. Someway. Someday. Cancer must find a cure. Just when — and at what cost will that day arrive? Every day I pray for a cure while remembering my precious grandmother. Her courage. Her strength. Her love for her granddaughters. How I miss her!