Category Archives: Health

Thank You, Estrogen!

Medicine is expensive. CRAZY expensive.

In the US this is due to several reasons, not least of which is the stranglehold big Pharma has on many of our Senators & Representatives.  But that’s a discussion for another day…

Some medicines are covered by our insurance, others aren’t. It always seems to be a crap shoot, and figuring out which medication is covered has made more than one of my doctors pull their hair out.

It's my OWN damn fault!

It’s my OWN damn fault!

I took a estrogen/testosterone pill after my radical hysterectomy in 2001, and it worked like a charm.  Not having those pesky ovaries meant that my body didn’t create estrogen OR testosterone, so I needed to supplement that. I used a pill called “EstraTest” and it worked beautifully.

Through the 2000’s and up until the ACA was passed, I didn’t have steady health  insurance. Now I do (thanks, MNCare!) and my health has improved dramatically because of regular doctor visits and access to medications I need for my chronic conditions like asthma & fibromyalgia.

I take daily asthma meds, and use Vitamin D3, exercise and diet to control the fibro, but access to my acupuncturist and chiropractor, and regular checkups by my rheumatologist are priceless!

The fly in the ointment of all this health goodness was that beginning around 2007 my Estratest was no longer available/covered by insurance.  I was switched to Estodial, but it just wasn’t afforadable ($180/month, WITH insurance!)  I fell into the habit of taking one pill every three days to keep my non-estrogen symptoms at bay. Finally, I just gave up and stopped getting the prescription.

That was last Fall, and it took about 3 months for me to feel the full effect of no estrogen; exhaustion, depression, brain fog and KILLER hot flashes!

My bike, my man, my dog and a new haircut in Summer 2015

My bike, my man, my dog and a new haircut in Summer 2015

Last month I made an appt with a new Gyn (who KNITS!) and she suggested checking with Target, who carries the Estrodial at a cheaper rate. So, for the first time in a few years, I’ve been taking my estrodial daily and the change has been amazing.

I wake up feeling ABLE to work! I’m not dragging myself through each day in a pain fog! My mind is clear, and I just feel more like MYSELF!

I told Gerry, “Just wait, after a few weeks you’ll see the old Annie back!” and I was right. This week, while getting our house ready to put on the market for sale, I have worked harder painting, scraping, cleaning and spackeling than I have in years.

Yes, I’m definitely feeling all of that work — I have the aches and pain you’d expect — but after a bath and a good night’s sleep, each day I feel able to actually WORK again.

I’m reveling in this, and I have to force myself to NOT overdo it. After all, physical exhaustion leads to fibro flare ups! But with the estrodial, I’m doing two to three times as much as I would have been able to do a few months ago, and I’m NOT exhausted!

Hormone replacement therapy isn’t for everyone, I have a lot of friends who deal with their menopause symptoms with less pharmaceutical methods, and they work great for them! But having NO ovaries at all (and after discussing it with my doctor(s)) this seems like the best route for me.

You can see the fruits of my labors this week.  Tomorrow is a big dye day, and I’m NOT dreading getting up in the morning! YAY!

If you want to follow my daily DIY progress on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, I’m using the hashtag #HomeSaleFixUp and posting each day that I’ve done a bit of work.

Darkness, meet Dawn

2015-04-16 12.01.56

On Set In Loveland, CO March 2015

Hey Folks!

I’m writing the post that I’d been hesitating to write for over a year. [deep breath]

It’s been a pretty hard 14-month period, but also an amazingly great period. A dull twilight punctuated with glimmers of pure white starlight, and dark moments, too.

The Good

Andy gets a tattoo!

Andy gets a tattoo!

The family’s healthy—for the most part— we have a home, heat, food, running water and as much love as any family could need! I have exceptional friends, excellent work, beautiful yarns to dye and sell and one of the best business partners I could ask for.

The kids are beautiful and thriving, Andy’s doing well in her 2nd year at Earlham, Max is applying to various colleges (c’mon Hampshire!)

The Bad

Max Gerry Gustavus Tour

Max, Gerry & Jasper on a College Tour

Gerry’s health, which has fluctuated between very good and scary bad since his initial diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma in 2007, has been on a bit of a downswing. We’ve experienced worse, and as we experience the loss of friends with this disease on a regular basis we realize how fortunate we are, but it’s a constant mental and emotional burden.  But our dealing-with-ongoing-chronic/terminal-illness muscles have been honed, and we generally have a pretty good attitude about it.

I can honestly STILL say that the lessons that cancer has taught all of us—mostly about ourselves and our love—are worth learning.

The Embarrassingly Bad

In November 2014 I tried to kill myself, and I’m still dealing with the fallout.

I wasn’t depressed (well, no more than usual, like my father and many other members of my family, I suffer from depression and treat it with prozac, eating well and exercise)

I WAS, however, on a drug that caused me to behave in a way that was absolutely foreign to me.

Lyrica Blues

In August 2014 I was diagnosed with Shingles, and it was a bad case. The pain was overwhelming, causing me to be in and out of the ER several times. As part of my recovery, I was offered Gabapentine.  Having used it before for Fibromyalgia, I knew it did little more for me than make me dopey.

So then I was offered Lyrica, and the difference it made in my pain was outstanding. Not just the shingles, but my fibro pain as well. It was as if Annie from 5 years ago was back and I felt like a million bucks. Until I didn’t.

One evening, after a VERY silly and unimportant argument with Gerry (seriously, we argue as every couple does, this was NOT a big one, just silly…) I found myself sitting in the living room with a fully bottle Gerry’s pain medication that I’d picked up from the drug store that day, and without really knowing what I was doing, I poured a big handfull out and swallowed it.

It was surreal. It was almost an out-of-body experience. I still can’t quite believe that I did it. It was almost as if I were watching a movie of someone doing what I was doing.

Gerry was upstairs, the kids were out of the house, and something in my brain just said, “Hey, take a bunch of those pills why don’t you…?” So I did.

I told Gerry immediately. He didn’t understand at first, but when he got it, we were off to the hospital.

And here’s where it got interesting.

This guy would like a walk, too!

Help with dyeing

I expected to be questioned pretty thoroughly, perhaps admitted to a psych ward or something (the only thing I have to go on with this are Lifetime movies.)

But when I explained to the nurse admitting me that I was on Lyrica, and I had NO idea what happened, I just suddenly had 30 strong painkillers traveling down my throat.

And her response? “Oh, Lyrica. Yeah. We see that a lot.”

I was sent to an exam room where a doctor and nurse came in to give me charcoal to drink (I chugged two bottles in record time, good to see my college education paying off) and, when I explained to them what had happened, they replied in unison, “Oh, Lyrica, yeah. We see that a lot.”

They didn’t even have a social worker come to talk to me, they chatted, and on my promise to see my primary care doc the next day, I was released.

The next morning I did see my doc, we worked on a schedule to taper myself off of Lyrica, and I also saw a therapist for a few months.

Since Then

My bike, my man, my dog and a new haircut!

Pure Happiness; Gerry, Jasper & My Bike

I had never had such a strong urge to do myself harm before that night, and I haven’t had an urge like that since. Amen.

The fact that I DID have that urge is frightening; obviously there was something inside of me that felt entirely overwhelmed and full of despair. But it was the Lyrica that crystallized those feelings, that made them solid and compelled me to act on them.

I haven’t discussed this with the world in general (until now – hi world!)  My good friends, family and some of my customers have known, though. I’ve had several folks come forward to tell me they’ve had the SAME experience with Lyrica.

I’m not saying that Lyrica should be banned, but I do think that it can be a very dangerous drug, I’m proof of that. The entire time I’ve had Fibromyalgia I’ve worked hard to deal with that ongoing pain with diet changes and lots of exercise.  My instincts in this were more right than I could know, I’ll continue in this vein as long as I can.

Why Now?

So why am I telling the world this story now? I’m not entirely sure.

I feel as though there’s been a dark cloud on the horizon since this episode in Nov 2014. As much as I tried to fight through it, I would wake in the early morning hours gripped with terror (unreasonable fears; financial ruin, Gerry’s demise, something happening to the kids, etc.) and it’s been a long road coming back from the fear surrounding this episode.

Sunset, Ft. Myers Beach

Ft. Myers Beach Escape, Feb 2015

It’s just been in the past few weeks that I feel I’m finally passing out of this dark phase. I knew it would happen, I knew the light would shine again and I’d feel more like my best self. But it’s been a lengthy process of dealing with guilt for the fear I caused Gerry, anger at myself, and fear that I’d broken something that couldn’t be fixed.

But light is filtering through again. Many folks have written to ask why I’m not blogging as much, how come I’m not on Facebook as much as I used to be; this is the answer.

Last year I talked about my experience in front of a Multiple Myeloma group leaders at a conference . Lyrica is a drug that is commonly used within the MM community as shingles is often seen among these patients.

After I’d heard Lyrica praised over and over at the conference (and it IS a remarkable pain med!)  I wanted folks to hear from someone who had personally experienced the, “may cause suicidal thoughts or actions” warning first hand.

ModeKnit Yarn Cables

Thank Heaven for Knitting

As many of you know, I’m no shrinking violet and can speak in front of a room, but this was a terrifying experience; admitting that I’d done something so stupid and potentially harmful to my family. But I feel it was an important thing to do, and heard later from someone who’d had a similar experience in the group but had never talked about it.

So now you know.

I’d like to say, “Now let’s just forget this ever happened, and go back to life as it used to be!” and I’m trying to do that as much as I can. But I’ve stood on the cliff, I kicked a stone off and in an almost trance-like state, I followed it over. But I caught a branch on the way down and didn’t go splat.

ModeKnit Yarn_A Lovely Thing

A Lovely Thing, “My Year In A Colorway”

The reality of this experience had darkened everything I did for months.

I’ve been adding touches of black to many of our ModeKnit colors (which works well in many cases) but finally I feel as though I’m able to see many colors as they really are, pure and bright.

As much as I understand that there will be periods of light and dark in the future, I’m feeling more hopeful about moving forward than I have in – well – 14 months. Thanks for sticking with me.

MKY_all_the_colors

The Holiday Cycle

andy_alison_inside_lav

So wonderful to have the girl home, even if only for a few days!

I generally feel some kind of let-down on the day after a big day, and Thanksgiving is no different.

I think it’s all the cooking, cleaning, organizing and trying to get the troops sitting at the table at the same time that is so wearying. I also think I’m afflicted with an early case of empty next syndrome. I realize that this time next year both kids will be away at college – and after that, who knows?

Coming from an incredibly disfunctional (and at times absolutely toxic) family environment, I’ve worked hard to keep my own family holidays as low key and – well – small as possible.

It always seemed to be at the larger family events that someone would take joy in pushing someone else’s buttons; I’m afraid I got a lifetime’s worth of that at a young age.

Small and quiet works well for us.

And then I worry that our holiday will be TOO small next year.

Someone's been helping me with the skeining...

Someone’s been helping me with the skeining…

I love my family, and they love me, but somehow during the holidays there generally comes a blue period when I foolishly begin to doubt my abilities as a parent.

It makes me wonder if my own mom (and her mom, etc.) felt the same at the holidays. I miss my mom (and cousin Jan) all through the year, holidays are one of the hardest times, though.

And, as it’s been a bit colder (after a LOVELY early November) I haven’t had a chance to get out on my bike for the past week.  Astounding how that rocks my world. I know a good amount of the ‘blues’ is due to inactivity. So it’s time to do something about it.

This guy would like a walk, too!

This guy would like a walk, too!

We’re incredibly lucky here in St. Paul, we have a wonderful network of Rec Centers, and for the low cost of $30/year we can visit ANY of them whenever we want for gym time, pool time, or to take a yoga or zumba class (those last have an additional fee, but it’s pretty low!)

So I’m setting out to renew my membership again, so I can try to get some regular exercise to take the place of my daily bike rides.

I’m lucky that right up the street, about a mile away, is a great rec center with a pool and a sauna. Kathleen and I have discussed finding a Zumba class, so maybe we’ll be doing that, too!

My mom used to say, “When you feel blue, take a walk or take a nap.” and I think right now I need the equivalent of a nice long walk every day. Maybe a nice, long walk down to the Jimmy Lee Rec Center?

red yarn settingIn working news, I have SO much yarn to dye in the coming months.

The good part is that I’ve been scheduling the dye sessions, so I’m not working haphazardly (as I might have last year with smaller orders).

I’m trying to work in a very planned way to dye all the yarn that is required for a some pretty big orders, (and the nonstop fiber shows in the late Spring & early Summer of 2016 we have coming up!)

Vacation! (?)

Gulf Coast, Post Sunset

Gulf Coast Sunset

I promised myself 8 years ago that we’d actually DO vacations. We’d find a way, through frequent flier miles and Vacation Rental By Owner, to relax a bit each year.  It’s something folks in Europe do without blinking, and something more Americans should do.  For pity’s sake, folks, we work damn hard and we deserve a bit of a break!

This year our getaway (without the kids, Andy’s in college and Max has that high school thing…) was courtesy my business partner, Kathleen Pascuzzi, and her brother. They own a lovely home down in Florida, where her mother lived, and her brother’s family only uses the upper floor.

So when Kathleen offered the space to us for a week we jumped at it – YES!

Actual Spirit Air Passenger (contemplating that death may be preferable to another Spirit flight)

Actual Spirit Air Passenger (contemplating death, which may be preferable to a Spirit Airlines flight)

If you follow my tweets, you know the trip down was not stellar. Actually, it wasn’t the trip, just the check-in and boarding. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing.

WARNING: NEVER FLY SPIRIT AIRLINES.
I’d been warned & never believed how bad it was. Now I do.

The past week had been unexpectedly difficult. I taught in NY, which was great, but got all light-headed at the end of my class and still feel like a wuss about that.

Then I got snowed in (iced in) and had to stay an additional day in the NYC area. It wasn’t bad, I was fortunate enough to get to visit with some very dear friends, but it was taxing!

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 6.15.26 PMOver the weekend there was a family emergency which compelled me to fly and drive quite a distance over a two day period, which was also taxing (physically and mentally).  When I got back to St. Paul, I jumped right into my work, attempting to get 3 days of skeining and dyeing finished in one day (which I did – sort of…) and just as I was catching my breath it was time to board the plane.

I hadn’t entirely unpacked all week.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 6.13.33 PMBut here we are, finally, in beautiful Fort Meyers Beach, FL, where it’s lovely and sunny and beautiful!

Folks here are saying it’s a lot chillier than normal, but right now in MN it’s 1º, perspective is always helpful.

Our first day here we visited the Koresh Unity Historic Site.  I’d actually visited this place back in 1991, when I took a solo 1-week vacation from grad school.

Who but me would go, alone, to Florida for Spring Break
to visit Celibate Utopian Communities?

The Hollow Earth

The Hollow Earth

I’d told Gerry about their fascinating and kooky concept that the earth was actually a hollow ball (with us on the inside edge, looking toward the center of the sphere when we gaze ‘up’ at the sky)

If I hadn’t discovered a book about the community, Hollow Earth by David Standish, I might have thought I dreamed the whole thing.

Koreshan Furniture

Koreshan Furniture

I was surprised to see it was only 5 miles from Ft. Myers, so off we went!

It’s a beautiful site, with a very interesting story. As with many 19thC ‘Utopian’ communities, the Koreshan Unity (NO relation to David Koresh) believed both in celibacy and equal rights for women.

Both were definite draws for me in grad school.

Gerry & Water Tank

Gerry & Water Tank

Along the lines of the Shakers (some of whom made up the community) they built furniture, baked bread, made clothing and ran a printing business.

Except for the celibacy thing, they might still be active today…

If you’re in Florida and have any interest in history, it’s worthwhile to visit! It’s a lovely site with many interesting activities for folks year round!

Channeling Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the Koreshan Bamboo Landing

Channeling my inner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the Koreshan Bamboo Landing

Rounding out our day, we visited Brisket Brothers BBQ in Fort Myers. This rib joint is owned by Kathleen’s brother, Robert, and the food is DELICIOUS!

Driving there the traffic was stop and start, and my leg was sore and achy from the braking (which I thought was odd…)

After we had our very tasty lunch (pulled pork for me, corned beef for Gerry) we headed home for an evening walk on the beach (where I felt oddly achy and chillier than I should have)

We had a drink, a ‘bucket o’ fun’ (which we shared, I couldn’t drink more than a sip or two)
and then walked home, in bed by 9:30 or so.  We are wild people, woo!

So it wasn’t a HUGE surprise when, at 3am, I began feeling terrible. Really, really terrible.

I had the flu. I am 100% positive it wasn’t due to anything I’d eaten or drunk the day before. I’m certain it’s something I picked up during our airport/plane time.

Flotsam

Flotsam

This was full-blown flu, with body aches, fever, chills (and all the less pleasant activities, too)

It always sucks to be away from home and be sick, but Gerry is the most amazing husband. He made everything much better.

Yesterday was a write off. I was OUT of commission all day.

Today was a resting day, we walked to the beach, sat in a chair, finally admitted to each other we were freezing and came home.

Yes, this is excitement at the beach!

Sunset, Ft. Myers Beach

Sunset, Ft. Myers Beach

Having said that, we’re having a great time! If nothing else, being totally away from home means an enforced no-dyeing policy is in effect for me until I return home.

And, it is about 60º warmer here than back home, that’s a very good thing!

Ironic (and fitting) that I would leave a very cold place to come to a very warm place and end up with chills.

But at least – as with everything – I have a good story!

AARP

I blame the AARP discount.

Mourning brooch of diamonds & jet

Mourning brooch of diamonds & jet

I applied for the card a weeks ago to get the AARP discount at the hotel for my NY trip (teaching at the Big Apple Guild)

Yes, I’m over 50. 52, in fact. Like a deck of cards.
Like the weeks in a year. Like President Obama.

I flew in on Friday, got all settled in my (amazingly cheap room – thanks AARP!) and headed up for the Late Night at the Metropolitan Museum to see the Death Becomes Her exhibit. When I was in grad school I wrong a lengthy (perhaps TOO lengthy) report on Mourning Dress, so it’s a topic that resonates with me.

A mourning brooch, a miniature of the deceased with a cuff woven of her hair.

Miniature of deceased woman, woven cuff of her hair.

It was a WONDERFUL exhibit, perhaps a bit too small (once again, I tend to like my costume exhibits lengthy) and, in all the excitement of seeing the show and returning to my hotel, it didn’t dawn on me that I hadn’t eaten.

You know, I love food. I really do. Skipping meals isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I just didn’t feel – hungry.

So Saturday I got up, had a banana and a gf muffin and took one to have for lunch, and headed over to the Big Apple Knitting Guild.

The classes were really great! The group is wonderful, I love the passion and opinions of this guild, I really did feel like I was visiting family! Entrelac went well – it’s a hard concept, and some of the newer knitters had to work very hard, but I was SO proud of everyone.  Everybody’s abilities were stretched, that’s the goal!

When I teach, I don’t so much want everyone to be at the same point when the class is over, but I DO want everyone to grow a bit, to stretch themselves, and gain a bit of confidence!

An Egyptian foot.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the blog post.

An Egyptian foot. This has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post.

During the lunch break I stayed in the room, which was INCREDIBLY hot. It was at a dance studio, so the heat is usually up high to loosen up muscles.  I found myself getting a bit overheated.

The second class was the Mitered Bag, which was also a lot of fun.  The many different skill levels in the class meant that there was a lot of going back and forth between students, it wasn’t a class where I sat much, and near the end of the class I found myself feeling very light headed.

This usually doesn’t happen to me, and I’m still not certain why it did.  For a bit I was scared, but sitting down, drinking some water, and then getting outside in the fresh air did a world of good.

I think I may have just been overheated, and unwise in my food choices (no real protein for most of Friday or Saturday) and working very hard.

So I’m blaming AARP for my first ‘spell’, as my mother would say.  Apparently the tradeoff for those great discounts are lightheadedness and dizziness. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My dad died of a heart attack at 56 (after a stroke at 53), and my brother died of a heart attack at 45. I haven’t been getting out on my bike lately, or even getting to the exercise bike at the gym, and I feel this is a large part of my episode yesterday.

I felt SO embarrassed. I know that sounds silly, and I’d be the first one to tell someone else, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, DON’T feel foolish!” but I did.  Aside from feeling that I’d not tied up the end of the class very well, I felt – exposed – while something odd was happening to me that I didn’t understand.  A very odd feeling.

Annette, my contact from the guild, VERY kindly walked me to my hotel (it was 4 blocks away) and up to my room.  It was very good of her, and I was grateful!  I discovered delivery.com, ordered some rice and chicken soup, and feel light years better this morning.  I don’t fly out until Monday, so I have a day to rest.

And, yes, I will eat something.  I don’t think Gerry would look very good in any of these dresses…

Judgement Induced Paralysis

I haven’t been writing on my blog for a long time, for various reasons, but one of the strongest is fear of judgement.

Tired & Judgy

Tired & Judgy

I’m speaking in part about judgement by other folks (always a bit of a fear for anyone, but something we all deal with in our own ways) and in larger party judgement by myself. I am the author of that nagging voice in my head which has been relentless in it’s scrutiny of my life.

The shingles pain continues (yes, it’s baa-aack) and in August my doctor prescribed Lyrica. The drug did amazing things for the pain, but affected me in very strong, negative ways, so I had to go off of it (slowly, with a doctor’s help)

Memory is also an issue. Did I forget to mention this?

Memory is also an issue. Did I forget to mention this?

Mentally, I’m much clearer, but the pain has really cranked up a notch (or two) which is probably a mixture of the cold, the fact I’m not cycling as much as I was (although I AM cycling at the local rec center!) and my body hating me for taking away that wonderful pain drug.

Pain steals energy, and I have so little to throw around. Any energy I’ve had lately has gone entirely into yarn dyeing / biz stuff, editing my Bolero book (out in Summer, 2015!) and Thanksgiving prep & recovery.

But now I have a sweet spot of a few weeks before the next holiday, so I’m anticipating blogging a lot more. And I’m trying to reason with that Voice Of Judgement in my brain, trying to tell it to back off (but not ignoring it completely, there’s a good bit of truth there, too!)

COMING UP!

I have three terrific books to review, with giveaways for each of them! Stay tuned, I’ll be doing the first review starting this Friday for a wonderful new book by Lara Neel. Books by Kate Atherley and Wendy Johnson are also on deck (did I mention giveaways?)  Stay tuned!

And thanks for hanging in there with me. I hate to think of my blog as a ‘low priority’, I enjoy writing it (and hear from you) so much!

I’ve learned with an exhaustion issue like Fibromyalgia, I need to use discretion when delegating energy. And not beat myself up too much.

Resting & ReCharging