Is Anyone Listening?

I don’t blame you if you’ve decided not to read this blog. I understand. After all, it’s been two months since my last post. I got out of the habit of writing. I haven’t felt like it even though I know that writing would ease some of the pain I’ve been in. Not all of it though, since some of it is physical and using my right arm/hand can be painful.

Now that I have your attention, the physical pain is caused by a massive rotator cuff tear as well as a tear in the bicep of my right arm. I am right-handed. I am a church organist. I am the caregiver for my parents. I am the driver for my parents. I am not on any pain medication other than the anti-inflammatory I take for my arthritis. I’ve been using ice and Extra Strength Tylenol to help cut the pain. This is the injury that happened in early November, the one I had a cortisone shot for and that I went through physical therapy for. I don’t know when the bicep tear happened, but it’s possible it happened at PT when they added weights.

As for the other pain, the mental/psychological pain I’m going through, well, I learned two days before I had the MRI that resulted in the above diagnosis that my dad has Alzheimer’s. The psychiatrist at the VA GEM clinic told us that when she examined him. I had called the day before the appointment and requested that one of the doctors explain to dad why they took away his driving privileges. That is the reason.

I was surprised and not surprised. After all, my aunt, his sister, had it, and the changed I’d noticed in him were troubling enough to make me think something like that was going on.

The biggest problem now is to get mom and dad to agree to a move to assisted living and to move right away so that I can get the surgery I need. Even then, things will be delayed because I need someone to come help me through the first weeks of recovery and that means coordinating my schedule with my sister’s schedule. I hope it happens soon because I’m tired of hurting.

Just thought it was time to check in and let you know what’s up in case anyone is still out there.

Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 5:37 PM  Comments (5)  

Sometimes It’s Lemonade, Sometimes, the Juice Burns Your Eye

Guess what it has been for me recently?

I know I’ve been AWOL for over a week now and I have only myself and life’s little problems to blame. Doctor appointments for me, mom, dad, physical therapy for me, running errands for mom and dad, trying to get ready for Christmas, playing for Advent services, and dealing with a case of extremely dry skin on my hands. But what I had to deal with yesterday topped everything.

Yesterday was supposed to be the day I practiced for today and the upcoming Christmas Eve services and next Sunday. The day I was going to clean house and do some baking and some decorating and my laundry. Then, at 11 o’clock A.M. the phone rang. It was dad asking me to come over because he’d had an accident. So, I dropped everything, put on clothes I could wear in public, and drove over there.

The accident actually happened on Friday probably right around the time the sun was going down. Per dad, someone hit him on the left side of the car. Dad is OK. The car is not. He wanted to go see it and talk with the people at the garage where the cops had it towed. Of course, dad didn’t remember the name of the garage, just that it was in his hometown and “near where he used to live”. Very helpful if I had been there at the time, but I wasn’t around then.

We found the garage, it was open, and we got to take what few things dad had left in the car home. Then it was to the bank and the grocery store and pharmacy. Then I had the singular joy of talking to dad’s insurance company. Lots of time spent with automated menus while mom and dad were both asking me “Maybe no one is there?” or “Aren’t they answering?”. I finally got a person to take the info on the claim, but I didn’t have all the info. One thing I didn’t know for sure was the name of the police department that helped dad because he didn’t remember. I also didn’t have any information on the other driver or drivers because dad said the person who hit him drove away. I don’t know if there were any witnesses, either.

The insurance company wanted us to use one of their approved garages to get faster service, but dad wants to keep the car where it is. Actually, I didn’t ask him about this since I was afraid that the approved garages might not be as conveniently located and it would mean more driving for me. The company also asked if he wanted a rental car. I told them that we hadn’t talked about it. (The last time dad had a rental car, he wrecked it and his insurance had to pay.)

After all this, I had to make them lunch since they had not eaten. Never mind that I hadn’t eaten either. Neither had I made it to Weight Watchers last week. (The WW week begins on Sunday, so I missed a week.) I could not fit in a meeting. I had planned to run in to get weighed yesterday. So much for the best laid plans.

I mentioned extremely dry skin on my hands. That’s the topic for another day. I can report on my visit to the dermatologist and the the lifestyle changes I am making because of it.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to get everything done so that I can be provide people with a meaningful Christmas Eve worship experience when all I want to do is go hide in a heated, furnished cave with indoor plumbing, Internet access, and HBO, for about a month. And, please, Lord, no snow on Christmas Eve since I’ll be out there driving in it. Thank You.

Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 7:45 AM  Comments (2)  

Snow, Wind, Repeat

Before I get into a rant about the cold wind blowing in from the northwest, here’s an update on my progress at Weight Watchers. Despite being less than 100% faithful to the new program, I dropped 1.8 pounds last week. That’s as much as I lost during the whole month of November. The trick was not in the new program, but in the mindfulness of my eating. There were times when I ate small quantities of things (OK, chocolate) that, just a week before would not have been enough. But instead of buying a bag of Hershey’s kisses and eating nearly all of them in a day, I picked up some good, dark chocolate and nibbled on a piece a day. A nice treat that satisfied my craving for something rich and sweet. I also ate a lot of grapes that, oddly enough, satisfied my urge to crunch on something.

Now to the weather. Most of the U.S. seems to be in the grip of a cold snap that is also producing snow. Here in the Pittsburgh we are fairly lucky. The snow totals aren’t too bad, but the winds are. Combine the wind with the cold temperatures, and it is just frigid outside. I know, I spent a lot of yesterday out in it. The walk from car to building was enough to convince me that I wanted to be inside. Of course, once inside, I wanted to be back outside because I could not get anyone to wait on me.

That’s one of my pet peeves about some stores. You have money that you are willing to spend, but there is no one around to assist you. I did manage to get what I wanted. Now, I just have to find someone to help me get my new, flat-screen TV out of the box without breaking it. It’s a little heavier than I thought it would be and with my shoulder injury, I’m afraid to do too much lifting on my own. I also decided to upgrade to a Blu-Ray player. Hey, if I’m going to be stuck at home a lot this winter, I should have the means to enjoy myself, right?


Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 9:52 AM  Comments (2)  

Snow, Stress, Migraines, and Pedicures

Sounds like a recipe for a Seinfeld episode, doesn’t it? That show used to tie a bunch of seemingly unrelated ideas together and weave them into a brilliant story and hilarious half hour of TV. Well, my life is no TV show, but there are lots of seemingly unrelated pieces that do manage to weave themselves into the story of Barb.

For instance, snow. Yesterday I made a comment on Facebook about the snow that was falling and how pretty the trees look with a thin coating of snow. It’s as if they have a layer of white icing on them. That prompted an exchange with someone in Hungary, a young girl to whom I may be related. I’ve contacted all the other people with my last name on FB and “friended” them. She’s the friendliest of the bunch. Anyway, we have been chatting about snow and what we like about it and the fact that neither of us like sleet or ice. I’m constantly amazed that just 3 years ago, I didn’t know she or any of the other people I’ve met through FB existed. Technology still has the power to wow me.

Technology can also stress me out when things aren’t working. And that brings me to topic number two. Earlier this week, I called an electrician to check out the lighting in my mom and dad’s basement. One circuit of overhead lights wasn’t working and it made a trip down there dangerous for everyone, including the cleaning woman who does their laundry. I thought the problem had been fixed a few weeks before by a handyman, but it recurred. My aunt’s death and Thanksgiving got in the way of my doing anything to rectify the situation. So, on Monday, an electrician was there and found that it was no more than a tripped circuit breaker. Problem solved. Except the lights are out again.

Dad called me last night at 6 P.M. asking for the phone number of the electrician so he could call for them to return to fix the problem. Since it was past closing time, I told him I’d call this morning, before my physical therapy appointment and my hair and pedicure appointment. That satisfied him. Not me, though. I started to stress out about all the things I have to do today – cook a big Weight Watchers breakfast since lunch may not happen, call the electrician, go for blood work, go to therapy, maybe have lunch, go to hair appointment, do several loads of laundry, write this entry, cook a WW-approved dinner, practice for Sunday. Yeah, it stressed me out, especially when I thought that I’d have to run over to see mom and dad between appointments and there really isn’t time in the schedule for that.

So, I cooked and ate the good breakfast – 2-egg omelet with spinach, mushrooms, 1/4 c. reduced fat feta, and a toasted whole wheat pita – and then showered and dressed. While dressing, I saw the aura that means one thing and one thing only: the onset of a migraine. And it is now here. I raced to the kitchen to grab one of the melts I take to help lessen the severity of the headache, but the aura ran its course, followed by the dull headache and nausea. This is the third time since last week I’ve had a migraine and, if this continues, I’ll contact my doctor about changing or increasing my preventative medication.

Which leads me to the pedicure. I don’t really want to smell the nail polish and polish remover and possibly permanent solution or hair dye, but my hair is in need of a cut or at least a good shaping and I am overdo for a pedicure. These are not an indulgence for me. I consider them a necessity. I have difficulty cutting my own toenails, so why not get the fun polish job along with the cutting?

The soak in the warm, swirling water and the foot and leg massage will help ease some of my stress and maybe help with the migraine even if I have to walk to my car in the snow while wearing flip-flops afterward. See, all tied together. Rather Seinfeldian, I think.

Published in: on December 2, 2010 at 9:05 AM  Comments (4)  

It’s a New Day!

I finally went back to Weight Watchers today for a lot of reasons, the least of which is my weight. They started a new program this week. Tomorrow is a new month. This is a new year, a new church year, that is. I’ve completed my fibromyalgia study/class at the University of Pittsburgh. And, I am ready for a new start.

Of course, it’s raining and ugly outside, a perfect day to stay inside, but I chose to go out into it. That is something I learned at Pitt, that I have a choice. And right now, my choice is to get back on track with Weight Watchers. Perhaps if I start controlling what I eat, I’ll be able to be more accepting of those things in my life that I can’t control.

After my meeting, I went out to a non-WW-approved lunch. Kind of a last fling. I feel no guilt since it was a choice. Then, I went to my hair/pedicure appointment. I planned to spent the next several hours getting pampered. Except, my appointment is actually for Thursday.

So, instead of fretting, I looked at it as a free afternoon to catch up on a few things, like this blog and a bit of housework and some meal planning.

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 2:16 PM  Comments (2)  

My Shoulder Diagnosis

I saw the orthopedic surgeon yesterday, and got some good news. There is no obvious tear, but there is some damage. I have a bone spur and some calcification. The pain is tendonitis. I got a cortisone shot which wasn’t as painful as the others I’ve had in the past. And, it helped quite a bit. So much so that I went shopping and carried my purchases in my right hand, which hurt, but which I was able to do. Of course, by the time I got home, the shoulder was pretty sore and I had to ice it. That’s why I waited till today to post this. I also have to start physical therapy.

All this means that I will be making Thanksgiving dinner and playing the organ for Thanksgiving morning, regular Sunday services, mid-week Advent services, and two more services on Christmas Eve. Then, there is going to church on Christmas day, cooking for mom and dad, and then playing for regular Sunday services the following morning. I’m tired just thinking about it. But, that schedule had me completely stressed out because I had no idea how I’d manage it all in pain. Or how I’d get through it if I had to have surgery and there was no one to take me to and from the hospital and to help with my rehab. Now, I’m just under the stress I normally feel when I sit down and think about my life.

Since I have to run over to see mom and dad, I am going to cut this short. I’ll be posting something else later today or tomorrow, something more on topic, I hope.

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 10:10 AM  Comments (4)  

Lessons in Frustration

I wasn’t planning on writing about this, but circumstances overtook intentions. I was going to focus solely on the pain in my shoulder. After all, I have yet to see the doctor about that and, after a normal weekend, it is bad again. Driving to two churches and playing for two services really ramped up the pain. But, instead of being able to rest it, I had other things I had to do.

Hence, the frustration. My dad had been harping on the need to take his care for an oil change and a check up. What that meant was he wanted me to call someone and make him an appointment to do that. So I did. He was scheduled to be at the Honda dealer at 9 A.M. yesterday morning. On Sunday afternoon while I was visiting, I asked if he’d like to drive the car to the dealership and leave it there so it would be done by Monday afternoon. He said that he’d remember to go in the morning.

Monday at noon, just as I was getting ready to start cooking my lunch, tummy growling in anticipation, the phone rang. Guess who? Guess who was ready to take his car to the dealer for the oil change, etc? Guess who wanted me to go along? So, instead of eating lunch, I got into my car, drove to their house, drove to the dealership with dad following me (he didn’t remember where it was), drove him back home, and drove myself home. I ate lunch three hours later, at 3 P.M.

Last night was the next to last session of my fibromyalgia/stress relief study group. My arm/shoulder was killing me by this time, but I was determined to go because I like these women and I think that, if I actually practiced some of these techniques faithfully, they would help with my pain levels. But, I did not want to drive in the dark with a sore shoulder. I ended up going and, although I spent the entire evening in pain, I did enjoy myself.

I got home, did some unwinding, and went to bed. At 2 A.M. my phone rang. It was dad. He wanted to know when we were going to get his car. I explained to him that it was the middle of the night and that I have a doctor appointment in the morning (all true) and would not be able to help him till the afternoon. Of course, I’d told him that yesterday when I dropped him off at his house. It turns out that he called me five times last night while I was at my fibromyalgia group meeting. I didn’t get home till 9 P.M. and since I was so tired and sore, I didn’t check my answering machine. If I had, I might have been able to prevent this middle of the night phone call, but maybe not.

All I want to do now is scream at the top of my lungs or whine to whoever will listen and even to anyone who won’t. I’m tired. I’m in pain. I don’t have it in me to care for others right now because I need to care for me and yet this is my dad and my mom. They raised me. They did for me when I wasn’t able to do for myself. I don’t believe I have the right to refuse them.

Next up, the report from the orthopedic surgeon and what it means for Thanksgiving and beyond.

Published in: on November 16, 2010 at 7:09 AM  Comments (2)  

Favoring One Side Has Consequences

The other day, I whined about my sore shoulder. Well, I finally contacted the doctor and he suggested that I see the orthopedic surgeon who did my knee surgery last year. The reasoning behind this decision was my description of what happened when the pain first began. I told the doctor that the pain was intense, a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, and that I heard noises when I did whatever it was I did. I also told him that it’s been waking me up at night and has interfered with my daily life. He thinks I may have torn something. I won’t know till next week since that’s when I have my appointment, but at least I have one.

So, here’s what I mean by my heading. I was cleaning stuff out of the fridge. I had some spaghetti sauce from last week and decided that I’d better toss it. As I was carrying it across the room it fell out of my hand and landed right side up. Nothing spilled. I was extremely glad since my kitchen is mostly white. I got out a spoon and took the container and the spoon to the garbage can to dump it. That’s when it spilled. I laughed so hard I nearly cried.

Not sure what this teaches me, but the laughter sure helped to ease some of the pain. I guess it is the best medicine.

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 3:38 PM  Comments (2)  

Writing and Pain and Rain/Snow/Cold

Well, it’s been an interesting week. If anyone is following me, they know I was late with my Thursday post. I am also a bit late with today’s, but I did answer the comments pretty much as they came in.

Let me explain my title. I have a very sore shoulder. I’ve had a touch of bursitis in my right shoulder for a while now and that combined with the fibromyalgia has always meant a bit of pain there. But, on Monday night, I did something while cleaning the kitchen that caused the shoulder to make a lot of noise and give me a lot of pain. Since then, I’ve used heat and extra-strength acetaminophen to get through the day. I kept putting off calling the doctor, thinking that it would feel better, but, here it is Saturday and it’s not a lot better. Needless to say, I’m calling on Monday.

The weather is not helping. We had gorgeous weather over the weekend and then it turned cold and wet. We were even supposed to have some wet snow mixed in with rain overnight. It may have happened. I don’t know. I was in bed. Even if there had been snow, it would have melted on contact with the ground. It’s still too warm for anything to stick. But, with temperatures in the 40s, it’s cold. And that is not fun for a weather-sensitive person who also happens to have a very sore shoulder.

All of which is just my way of saying, I hurt and I want some sympathy and I don’t want to have to play for church tomorrow, but I also don’t want to give up the money that I’ll earn by doing so. Although, if my shoulder doesn’t feel better in a few hours, I’ll be making the “I’m sick” phone call. It’s not so much the act of playing that’s the problem. It’s the driving. I put close to 100 miles on my car each Sunday driving from my house to church 1 then to church 2 then to visit my parents then home. That may not happen tomorrow since the short (15 minute) drive to my visit my parents usually makes my arm hurt like the dickens.

I think I kind of made my mind up, didn’t I?

Published in: on November 6, 2010 at 1:28 PM  Comments (2)  

That’s Me, Sort Of

The November/December 2010 issue of Weight Watchers Magazine is all about preparing for the rapidly approaching holiday season. I normally gloss over the articles since they tend to focus on people I can’t relate to – busy mothers or young men and women just starting out in life and dealing with weight issues in addition to a job hunt. But this issue has an article about caregivers and the unique weight loss and health challenges they face. Needless to say, I stopped to read this one while paging through the magazine in search of new, WW-friendly recipes.

The article, by Ginny Graves, detailed three steps all caregivers should take to get or stay healthy. Graves advises readers to learn their own limitations so that they don’t become totally overwhelmed. I can definitely relate to that. If you’ve read earlier posts, you know that I have fibromyalgia and that overdoing things only makes my condition worse. And, naturally that means I can’t do as much for my folks, which makes me feel guilty. Sharing the burden helps, but there isn’t always a way to share. My sister wants to help, but she lives several hours away and can’t be here for the day-to-day care. I send her emails almost every day detailing what I’ve noticed or what the doctor said, but it often feels as if she’s the boss and I’m sending her progress reports. Yet another source of frustration for me.

Graves called the second step owing the role of caregiver. She cited a study by the National Family Caregivers Association that showed the vast majority of caregivers were “more proactive about seeking resources” once they acknowledged that they are caregivers. This is true. I realized that something had to be done before I ended up in the assisted living facility I’d like to see my parents in. At that point, I sought help from the county’s Area Agency on Aging and the Veteran’s Administration. I just wish I could convince mom and dad to accept more help, for my sake if not for theirs.

Finally, Graves reminds all of us to remember ourselves. This is a common theme in Weight Watchers meetings as well as in many self-help articles in magazines. We all give lip service to the fact that you can’t help someone unless you help yourself first, but how many of us actually follow this? Think about the card in the pocket of the airplane. The one that explains what to do when the emergency oxygen mask comes down from the overhead compartment. I haven’t flown for a long time, but I seem to remember that it said that if you are traveling with a child, you should put on your mask first and then help the child put his or her mask on. I need to remember that.

I have contacted Ms. Graves and plan to pick her brain on this subject next week. Stay tuned for a follow-up.

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 2:53 PM  Comments (2)