Downward Spiral

If you read about my non-conversation with a haughty school secretary, you might remember I had a bit of a mild cold, but NOT Covid.

Well…on Saturday night the landscape changed. I started to run a low grade fever, went to bed, woke up wracked with chills and my temp had climbed to 102. I was nauseous and developed a very ugly, very productive cough (TMI, I know.)

With my asthma and history of viral lung infections, I had an idea that I now had a secondary bacterial infection.

All day Sunday I tried to lower my temp with acetominophen since I can’t take ibuprofen but my chest wasn’t feeling particularly great.

Early Monday morning I was able to schedule a video appointment with the doc who ordered a chest x-ray.

And just like that, the diagnosis was bilateral pneumonia!

Doc said I was very lucky. My proactive attention to the symptoms stopped me from having to be hospitalized, that’s how bad it was becoming.

That is my WORST nightmare, for sure. With a mom for a nurse, I’ve heard too many horror stories to want to end up at the mercy of strangers, no matter how talented or dedicated they may be to the craft of nursing.

Being hospitalized also triggers memories of my son’s near death experience and I literally can’t stand the smell or the bright lights or the constant sounds.

So now I’m taking two kinds of antibiotics which I also hate because I don’t tolerate them well, but no steroids because I have even worse reactions to them. I’m also taking probiotics because I definitely don’t want to contract C-difficile, which is what my son suffered from AFTER his surgery. We almost lost my precious boy twice.

How it went so quickly from a slight sore throat and congestion to full blown pneumonia in two days, I’ll never know.

There’s always a silver lining though, right? At least the x-rays showed no pleural effusion or pneumothorax and the cardiomediastinal silhouette is stable. (You medical professionals will know this is good news.)

But the real life lesson here is to never stop being your own best medical advocate. I’m only giving myself permission to have one more day of feeling poorly (and slightly sorry for myself.)

Always Wear Sunscreen! A Cautionary Tale…

I just got home from having surgery for a spot of basel cell carcinoma on my shoulder. The anesthetic is wearing off and my arm is sore and achy.

Even though the cancer was caught early thanks to my amazing dermatologist, let me tell you that it’s NO FUN to endure a biopsy and the subsequent treatment.

I’ve had Mohs surgery before for basel/squamous cell skin cancer on the back of my neck and that was even less fun because they had to dig deeper and my movements were limited for a longer period of time.

Since then, I’ve been more diligent about staying out of the sun, wearing a big floppy hat and UV sleeves to protect my arms while gardening.

There will be no more four-hour suntanning marathons at the beach with baby oil or cocoa butter.

According to my doctor, the damage was done decades ago when that was all we did during summer vacation; lie out in the sun. Because I live in Southern California, there’s a LOT of sun and lots of opportunities to attain that deep bronze-y glow.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I have to endure these kinds of procedures. I also had about five pre-cancerous spots removed from my face and chest, but so far none of the suspicious areas are melanoma, the scariest diagnosis of all.

While I’m indoors on the sofa, out of the sun, I thought it’d be a good time to remind everyone to use sunscreen and wear protective clothing when you’re outside.

Another good suggestion is to visit a dermatologist and get checked out so you’ll have an established baseline for the future.

Now I’ll head over to Amazon and look for adorable things to buy for the almost three-year-old Angel Girl. Whatever it is MUST be pink and she loves Hello Kitty. She’s definitely MY little one, that’s for sure!

I See You. Eye Health. Seriously.

Every year I have a checkup with a specialist because I had a torn retina in my left eye in 2014 and a vitreous fluid issue in 2016 in my other eye that so far hasn’t deteriorated. (Knock on wood.)

I thought I had previously written a post about this medical condition but I couldn’t find it which is odd yet timely because I have my annual appointment on Friday to check my retinas. I don’t like ambiguity and their high tech equipment calms my anxiety.

I was told that my severe myopia was the leading cause of my retinal tear. I also believe that the crazy stress I endured because of my son’s life threatening medical condition and subsequent emergency surgery contributed to the tear, but I can’t find any facts to back up my theory. However, we know stress can do crazy things to our body, right?

In my case, I knew what it was the exact moment I saw the white flashes (Photopsia) that didn’t disappear if my eyes were open or closed. A family member was an ophthalmologist and I had worked for him during high school and college thinking I might like to go to med school, but I didn’t really want to spend another decade cooped up in classrooms. And then there was my nemesis, organic chemistry…

I called my eye doctor after hours to explain what I saw; he told me to come in at 7am the following morning, no appointment needed, and by the end of the day I had been referred to and had already been seen by a specialist who confirmed that it was a retinal tear. Laser surgery was scheduled for the next day.

My advice is not to delay seeking medical attention when you see flashes.

I won’t lie; the laser repair is the most painful procedure I’ve ever endured, worse than my C-section when the anesthetic wore off as my OB was suturing me (REALLY) and worse than a poorly done root canal. It was like a thousand sharp knives were stabbing my brain. Some people just feel a dull ache/discomfort and they’re the lucky ones.

The bright lights leave you blind for a brief period after it’s all done. For the first 72 hours after the surgery, you can’t read ANYTHING, no computer, nothing –because the eye has to stay stable and not track back and forth in order for the laser treatment to fully seal the tear. I had to sit up and could only watch TV. My friend brought books on tape to listen to, which was great. Yoga and weight lifting and jumping and pushups and plank were prohibited for about a month to reduce any pressure and inhibit healing. That drove me crazy too, but I still limit my downward dogs because I don’t like how it feels when I keep my head down. I’m scared it’s going to happen again.

As painful as it was, I’d prefer that to the repair options for a total detachment which can take place in a hospital and can involve a gas bubble insertion and/or a scleral buckle. You must hold your head in a certain position for several days to keep the bubble in the right spot.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the risk of developing a retinal detachment is five or six times greater in people with high myopia compared to those with low myopia. People with high myopia have longer eyes (axial elongation), which means that the retina is more stretched and therefore prone to peripheral retinal tears. High myopia is said to occur when a person’s myopia progresses until they need −5 diopters or more of spherical correction.

A retinal tear can lead to fluid and blood collecting in the eye, which can cause the development of several new floaters and loss of vision if the tear leads to a retinal detachment.

The retina is the thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye on the inside. Located near the optic nerve, the retina’s purpose is to receive light and then send pictures to the brain of what the eye sees.

If the retina is unable to receive and process light, the brain won’t receive information. One condition that can stop this communication between the retina and the brain is a retinal detachment, which can result from a retinal tear.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of a retinal tear include flashes in the eye and visible spots called floaters. Retinal tears can develop and progress quickly, which may lead to retinal detachment.

The most common signs and symptoms of retinal tears include:

  • Sudden appearance of floaters.
  • Black spots in field of vision.
  • Flashes of light.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Darker/dimmer vision.
  • Loss of peripheral vision.

Retinal detachments and retinal tears

Those seemingly harmless “floaters” and “flashes” in your vision can indicate serious trouble. “Floaters” are tiny black specks that you may occasionally see floating in your line of vision.

What causes floaters and flashers?

As we age, the gel-like fluid in our eyes (called vitreous fluid) begins to liquefy and pull away from our retina. As vitreous gel changes it can pull on our retina enough to cause a retinal tear or detachment.

Having a few long-standing floaters in your vision is normal. However, if you notice flashes or an increase in floaters — or if you see a curtain or shaded area in your side vision — these can indicate serious eye disease and the need for immediate treatment. Left untreated, retinal tears and detachments can lead to permanent blindness. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical. In fact, vision loss could have been prevented or minimized by early detection in 50% of all medical cases involving blindness.

Please take your eye health seriously!

Planting Seeds: Bija Mantras for Chakras

I hope everyone had all their Christmas wishes come true!

Instead of writing about resolutions for 2022, I think it’s more helpful to share info about things that are easier to attain so I’ll share what I learned about seed mantras– bija mantras–to create and enable healthy transformations all year long.

What is a Mantra? A sound, syllable, word, or group of words considered capable of “creating transformation.” The Sanskrit word mantra means “instrument of thought”.

What is Bija Mantra? Bija means seed. Bija mantras are one-syllable seed sounds that, when said aloud, activate the energy of the chakras in order to purify and balance mind/body.

What is a chakra? In Sanskrit, chakra translates into “wheel”. These “wheels” can be thought of as vortexes that both receive and radiate energy. There are seven major energy centers in the human body, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Emotions, physical health, and mental clarity affect how well each chakra can filter energy. This in turn dictates how pure the energy is that’s emitted from different regions of the body.

Chant the bija mantras, either one at a time or in sequences. Repetition can help you access a meditative state. Try to focus on the different regions of the body associated with each syllable/chakra as you go through the bija mantras. 

  • LAM: Root Chakra – I am
  • VAM: Sacral Chakra – I feel
  • RAM: Solar Plexus Chakra – I do
  • YAM: Heart Chakra – I love
  • HAM: Throat Chakra – I speak
  • OM: Third Eye Chakra – I see
  • OM: Crown Chakra – I understand

Option: Choose one sound that really resonates with you and repeat that one several times. I like this brief seven minute chant, but there are literally hundreds of them on YouTube. Search for a voice that feels good.

Some info curated from http://ar-yoga.com/2011/10/bija-mantras-the-sounds-of-the-chakras-lam-vam-ram-yam-ham-om/

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

No eclipse viewing for me, the sky was overcast last night!

Let’s all be aware of the signs of pancreatic cancer.

My mom had CA of the pancreas, even though she had very low risk factors. Back when she got it, the only way to know for sure was to open her up for exploratory surgery. After that, it was a brief three months until she died.

I miss her every day. I’m sad she died when the original Angel Boy was only six and never got to see him get his doctorate from Yale, get married, and have his own Angels. She loved him so much and was such a big part of his life that he started calling both of us “Mom” and we’d answer in unison, “Which one do you want?”

We took care of her here at home with hospice support. Although she was able to tolerate high doses of morphine, the pain was overwhelming.

About ten years before an official diagnosis, she was consistently nauseous after eating and started taking papaya enzymes.

With her vast medical knowledge as the head RN at a local hospital, she probably had a really good idea what was wrong with her but did all she could to find any other reason for her symptoms. She had her gall bladder and spleen removed but nothing helped. As it still is, pancreatic cancer is a death sentence.

It’s the same horrible disease that killed Alex Trebek, Steve Jobs, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Patrick Swayze.

The most significant symptom I’d suggest to be aware of is nausea after eating. Start keeping a journal and get to the right doctor as soon as possible.

We need more research to stop this terrible disease.

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Foot Fetish

Due to a communications mixup, I didn’t get to see the new podiatrist until today.

Lemme back up…about a month ago, my foot started to hurt after a long walk. At first I thought it was a stress fracture, but there was no bruising.

Pretend doc that I think I am, I decided it was a joint or tendon injury: extensor tendonitis and possibly capsulitis of the second metatarsal. I wore a boot in the house, iced it, soaked in epsom salts, taped it up with KT tape, and did a lot of stretching.

Refusing to give in to the pain, I forced my poor foot to go on long walks that were excruciatingly painful.

Finally, this morning, I got an xray and waited for the doc. Actually there were two of them that came in to see me, ‘cos I guess it was a slow Monday. They asked me what happened and I gave them both the benefit of my ZERO years of medical school.

I was pretty chatty and finally, one of them broke in and said, “How’d you like to look at the xray?”

I said, “Well, you could have shut me up about five minutes ago haha”, but he said he liked listening to my diagnosis, even though I was totally wrong.

The xray left no doubt as to what the problem is IT’S a COMPLETELY BROKEN stress fracture at the base of the toe and not healing because I kept re-injuring it.

My initial diagnosis was correct! I should have gone to medical school for real, oh well, too late now…

I hate my feet, I really do, they’re tiny but completely deformed from too many years of ballet and toe-crushing pointe shoes, in addition to breaking every toe multiple times because I’m CARELESS. I call them my fat little trotters.

I can’t walk anywhere for two weeks, I have to wear a hiking boot in the house, I can’t go barefoot at all, and I had to promise to actually and truly wear the boot so I wouldn’t be forced to have an aircast up to my knee. In other words, my foot needs to be completely immobilized.

On the plus side, they told me I had the softest feet they had ever seen, (which was only slightly weird) and they loved my high arches–from an anatomical perspective. The docs said I should see the rest of the feet THEY have to look at all day, and in that regard, my feet were a PLEASURE. LOL. AND that my sunny disposition cheered them both up because they were having a not-so-great Monday. We spent a lot of time laughing which made me happy, too.

There’s a SLIGHT chance I’ll have to have surgery in January, but only if it doesn’t finish healing correctly if I disregard their expert advice.

That’s my Monday, I hope yours is less fraught with injury!

Synergy for Good Health

From time to time I’ll review a company or a product that I feel might be of some benefit to me and my enchanted friends.

When The Synergy Company offered to send me some samples for review, I was intrigued. In this lull between re-opening our lives after the restrictive pandemic shutdown and at the same time closing back up to protect us from the Delta variant and the non-vaccinated, I think it’s important to focus on our holistic health routines.

They sent one of my favorites: Immune Health with Organic Mushrooms and Fuciodan, along with Pure Radiance C, and Zinc Complex, something my own doctor recommends. All are made with organic ingredients, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, and Kosher.

I curated the following information directly from their website: https://www.thesynergycompany.com/  

Immune Health™ is designed for daily, ongoing systemic support with an exclusive blend of 7 organic mushrooms for immune support and SuperPure® extracts of beta 1,3-glucan, astragalus IV & fucoidan

Pure Radiance C® unites our organic camu camu extract and organic acerola cherry extract with 9 antioxidant-rich organic berries and fruits to yield a 100% natural form of vitamin

Zinc Complex combines fermented zinc with an organic food complex of immune-supporting shiitake mushrooms, vitamin C-rich camu camu berries, and wholesome green vegetables and sprouts.

The company is based out of Moab, Utah.

I was provided product by the company for sampling and review; I was not compensated, and all the opinions are my own.

Kale and Chard: A Burning Sensation

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same stupid thing over and over again with the same results — not learning the lesson — and I must confess that applies to me here!

I grow a lot of chard and spinach and lettuce and kale. They all seem to thrive at Casa de Enchanted Seashells. I cook some, freeze some, annoy everyone by putting it in every baked good from brownies to cookies, and I love to eat it raw.

That’s where this started. For a while, I’ve been picking chard and kale while I’m outside gardening, just to enjoy being Mother Earth in action.

For a similarly long time, I’ve noticed that after I eat raw kale and chard and sometimes spinach, my throat starts to burn, not like I ate something spicy, but like I mixed bleach and ammonia and inhaled it (yes, I’ve done that, too, accidentally of course).

After several experiences of this painful throat, I finally did what I should have done the first time, I GOOGLED the symptoms.

Lo and behold, it’s a THING.

Maria Hepler, RDN, CLT: Calcium, which is an essential nutrient for strong bones, can be found in many green leafy vegetables, such as collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, kale, and Swiss chard.

However, oxalic acid, an organic acid found in spinach, chard, and beet greens, and moderately in kale, among other plants, binds with the calcium they supply and reduces its absorption, so in their raw form these should not be considered a good source of calcium.

What are the symptoms that one has eaten too much oxalic acid?  These include burning in the mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, weakness, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Spinach contains phytic acid and oxalic acid. It may be better to steam the spinach and not to eat it raw.

For sensitive individuals, even small quantities of oxalic acid  eaten regularly can lead to kidney stones or bladder crystals, along with the problem of calcium depletion. 

Does this mean we shouldn’t add kale or other greens that contain oxalic acid to our smoothies? Not necessarily. Cooking or steaming these vegetables can significantly reduce the amount of oxalic acid present, which will help with calcium absorption (make sure to drain your greens thoroughly as the oxalates go in the water).

If this is a concern, it’s best to precook leafy greens and store them in the freezer (in individual portions) for quick access.

I never used to notice this reaction to acidity in raw greens but now that I know, I will definitely stick to picking lettuce for my garden treats.

Through the Window

This little one returns every spring to nest in the same old birdhouse.

For some strange reason, I woke up with a raging migraine that haunted me all day. I have no idea what triggered it. Thankfully, I rarely get them but this one was especially dreadful because I was nauseous for hours and hours. I slept most of the day which is so unlike me but my body insisted.

At one point when I forced myself to drink water so I wouldn’t get dehydrated, I looked out onto the deck and was greeted with a melodic, warbling song and couldn’t resist grabbing my camera for a couple of photos and then I went back to sleep.

On a side note, I semi-watched Perry Mason and Wagon Train and Mash and Happy Days, not my usual choices, only because I didn’t have the energy to look for the remote to change the station or turn off the TV. I was able to discern a lot of nuance from Happy Days that I had originally missed, in case anyone studies old TV shows.

I feel better today.

Tail up.

Tail down.

P.S. Migraines are debilitating; I lost a whole day; my heart goes out to anyone who suffers on a regular basis.

Covid-19 Vaccine: Second Dose

No rainbows or IVs this time!

Here’s a timeline of my experience subsequent to the second vaccine:

Due to my visit to urgent care after the first vaccine because I had an allergic reaction, my doctor told me to drink at least 64 oz water for a few days prior to my appointment. I know that’s a great idea anyway, but I never really drank that much water, so I definitely know it’s important.

My appointment was scheduled for Saturday, February 13 at 8:15 a.m.

Again, the facility did such a great job that we were checked in and promptly seen. Because of my allergic reaction following the first vaccine, I was whisked away to an enhanced observation area. I must have made quite an impression (lol) because the same nurse was there and she remembered me.

This time, perhaps due to being well-hydrated, I didn’t experience an allergic reaction and went home. My arm was a little sore but no other major symptoms–until about six hours later.

I became super fatigued, had a pounding headache, muscle/joint aches, and abdominal pain. Still no fever.

I continued to hydrate the rest of the day.

Around 6:00 p.m. I took my temperature and had a fever of 99.8. I had prepared for side effects by stocking up on soups and made a batch of my ubiquitious lentil veggie soup

I fell asleep on the sofa watching Vera on PBS. When I woke up, I was alternately hot and shaking with chills. This time when I took my temperature, it was 101.5. I took Tylenol and went to bed.

I woke up at 1:00 a.m., took my temperature again and it was 100.8, so I went back to sleep but didn’t take more Tylenol.

The next morning I still felt pretty badly and managed to make a cup of tea, wrap myself in a blanket and lie on the sofa. I was extremely tired and unable to do anything but vegetate, and that really annoyed me. The headache was as dreadful as the day before. All morning, my temp was steady at 99.8.

At around 4:00 p.m. I started to feel marginally better; the aches were dissipating, and my temp was 99.

I watched a bit of American Idol but couldn’t take more than five minutes of it before I turned to PBS. After “All Things Great and Small” was over at` 10:00 p.m, I took my temperature again. This time it was 97.6 which is my normal. .Other than a still slightly sore shoulder, it’s as if all the symptoms disappeared at the exact same time. I could feel an immediate absence of all aches and pains

It’s very strange to feel unwell and poorly but not actually BE sick. I didn’t have the flu. I didn’t have Covid. I didn’t have any other virus or infection. I kinda sorta feel as if I’m a human guinea pig involved in a gigantic science experiment.

Anyway, it’s over, I’ve had both doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It’s supposed to offer 95% protection against the virus. I sure hope it does but to be safe, I’ll still follow protocol and wear a mask out in public.

Read about my first Covid vaccine experience by clicking on this link.