Friday, June 26, 2009

Fibro and all that jazz

SS said...
Hi- I am curious about you saying you had fibromyalgia- do you no longer have it? My sisters suffer from this condition and with the limited medication available even with a good rheumatologist they've had trouble controlling it. Were you able to do this through acupuncture or diet? Did you have positive ANA titer? Just curious- good luck with the diet changes. They tried a million of those to no avail.

Ah, yes, well, the fibro issue. OK, so I never got a real diagnosis from a rheumatologist or an MD. Usually I hesitate before mentioning anything about fibro because it all seems a bit...unlikely, even to me. Can you have it and then not have it? What happened was this...I had a super stressful time at work for an ongoing period, and basically burned myself out. Then for months afterwards I had fibro symptoms - intense muscle and joint pain, fatigue, fogginess, etc, but was refusing to believe anything was necessarily amiss. Then I went to a naturopathic doc, or ND, at the urging of auntie, who "diagnosed" me with fibro (not even sure they're technically allowed to diagnose - she may have used whatever wording she had to - suggested or believed or whatever) based on tender points, symptoms and some bioelectric feedback machine thingie. I never had a positive titer or any blood test. I never wanted to go to a regular doctor because I knew they didn't have much to offer and I didn't want it on my insurance records.

The thing is, I know it was mild, even though it was mildly debilitating at the time - it was never so debilitating that I couldn't force myself to get to work. I couldn't do much else, but I could work. My aunt has fibro, and she has it way worse than I ever did, and also can't get rid of it so I always had a comparison and knew that I was lucky. I was also lucky in that it was "diagnosed" very early - after only a few months rather than years as most people suffer through. I think that was very helpful in addition to the mildness. So the first, and only, thing I took specifically for fibro was magnesium malate (also known as malic magnesium). I took it up to my digestive tolerance level, I had to ramp up the amount until I got pain relief, then was able to taper back down when it wasn't so bad. Basically it's a muscle relaxant, but it relaxes everything so you end up with diarrhea - you have to find the balancing point of what you can tolerate, and your body does get digestively used to it after a while. The biggest thing I did I think was deciding that my job was not worth making myself sick over. I decided that if they fired me, oh well. So I cut back down on the hours I was working and the stress that I put myself under. I decided I didn't care any more, didn't want to do the job any more and would look for something else I could do. And 6+ years later, they still haven't fired me, but it came close at various points, I am sure. And now I am on the path to a new job and hopefully not so much stress.

Other than that, I can't really say what worked. I mean, acupuncture I'm sure has helped. I've done so much of it, but we weren't focusing on fibro. Changes in my diet have helped but I don't recall exactly what I did or didn't do. I just generally eat healthier. I took vitamins and supplements, but did any of those help other than the magnesium malate? I don't know. At some point, the pain just faded away and then stopped. Occasionally, it will start to come back - it has lately. I find when I am under stress, or not taking my vitamins, or not eating so healthily, it starts playing around with my middle back, then starts stretching around my ribs, then starts invading my hands and feet. Actually, as I'm typing this, I'm wondering if it's the dairy, as that's the only thing I started eating more of lately just before the pain started coming back. Although school is stressful in its own way, so it could be that too. It may be a combination - maybe I can deal with dairy (and/or wheat) when under no stress, or vice versa, but can't handle both/all together? When it does return, I jump back on the magnesium malate, and make a conscious effort to reduce the stress, and pay attention to my diet again. And luckily, for the last few years, the pain fades out again after a few weeks.

So, did I ever really have it? Maybe not. Did it ever go away? Maybe not. It, whatever it is, lurks. But these days, the majority of the time, I don't have any symptoms.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A food thing

I am all better now, by the way. It was a 24-hour bug thingie, so I was actually feeling pretty tip-top by about 5pm on Friday. Weird.

Anyway, I wanted to write about food. And specifically whether it contributes to infertility. My aunt has been diagnosed with some gluten intolerance issue within the last year, and she's lately been reading a book all about it, and called me up in a lather. She said she kept thinking of me as she read how gluten intolerance could cause infertility, lead to weight gain, fibromyalgia, fatigue, etc, etc, all things that I have had. Now, personally, I think I got fat because I ate too much, not from any other reason. But whatever, I indulged her in the conversation although I pointed out that the infertility aspect was pretty much moot by this point. She said that she was reading how it could be genetic, and could lead to all sorts of microcirculation problems later in life (that she is dealing with now), and eventually to stroke. Which we have running rampant in our family - if family history is anything to go by, we are both doomed to have strokes. Well, actually, I am. She's already had a minor stroke, so I should say she is doomed to have more and I am doomed to rinse and repeat. [I mean, actually, it's a minor medical miracle that my aunt is walking around - both her cardiologist and her internist have told her that she's their most interesting/confounding patient, and would probably not be here if she hadn't led such a healthy lifestyle. Personally, I wish they'd use their interest to finally diagnose the root of her many issues, but they're working on it. Anyhoo, it's a good incentive for me to live a healthy lifestyle, as I don't want to drop dead in my 50's of an aneurysm.]

So I thought I might give it a go. Although I've tried cutting out wheat before, but didn't specifically go to the extent of trying to be 100% gluten free. And I'm not yet gluten free, either, as I refuse to throw food out so I'm using up things in my cupboard. I'm trying to buy gluten free things as I shop, though.

But then, as a vegetarian, it's damn hard to be gluten free AND dairy free. So I decided I would reintroduce more dairy. I'd cut way back on the dairy intake as the Chinese frown on it, but the decision to try gluten free was coupled with the discovery that greek yogurt is, like, totally the best thing in the world so I thought, hey, perfect excuse! Except, I'm starting to wake up in the mornings with the old arthritic feelings in my hands and feet. And I'm feeling a bit more phlegmy in the sinuses. I had forgotten about how those issues used to bug me and how they went away when I reduced the dairy to a very small amount. So, sadly, I may have to cut out the dairy again as well as it looks like I have a slight intolerance to it. Bleh. I feel like I will be a complete social pariah, not able to eat out anywhere.

Of course, it all makes me wonder. If I have a slight intolerance to dairy, and a slight intolerance to wheat, and I know I have an intolerance to peanuts, did a combination of these things contribute to my infertility? Are they contributing to yours? How on earth would we know, and how could we find out? I tried so many things while I was TTC'ing, from cutting out caffeine, to cutting out alcohol, wheat, and dairy. But only for periods of a couple of months at at time - after all, when you're under that much stress, it's only natural to want to comfort yourself with pizza and ice cream after a while. And it wasn't as if I was doing it scientifically, as I was flailing around and grabbing on to anyone's half-baked theories of what and what not to eat, hoping it would bring a result, and then giving up in disgust when it didn't. If only someone would figure this out - if you know about any studies on these issues, please let me know in the comments, as I'd like to read them for my own edification (and, you know me, I'm already planning my infertility treatments for future patients).

Friday, June 19, 2009

To work or not to work?

That is the question of the hour. It's 8.23am. I have not exercised, not showered, not dressed. Not gone to work. I am debating going to work. Endlessly it seems.

Yesterday, I skipped my first school class. I started feeling very flu-ish, and thought I might be prone to throwing up as I was feeling distinctly nauseous. I'd already had a bout of diarrhea seemingly out of the blue before leaving home, and didn't like the thought of having to make a mad dash for the school bathrooms. My head felt hot, my throat was sore, and I started coughing and sniffling.  There's been something going around school. So I left after my first class, and skipped the second.

I got home, and took my temperature, convinced it would say 101 or something and that I'd have the swine flu. Nope, totally normal. No flu even though my forehead felt hot. Nevertheless, I went to bed at 8pm feeling fairly miserable.

And this morning? I'm mostly fine. A tiny bit achy, a tiny bit sniffly. A tiny bit raw around the lungs. The tiniest of headaches. How can you have a 12-hour flu? You can't, I think. So it was not flu. In normal times, I would not hesitate at popping a few pharmaceuticals and heading in to work. But now, I don't know. I know it would be the safe thing to stay home, just in case. I mean, even if this is just a run-of-the-mill virus, I am a person who prides herself on having a cast-iron immune system. What if someone else would actually get sick from this? Then I'd feel guilty.

[And yes, Stephanie if you're reading, I did think "that the lawd that I didn't go to see the babies and give this to them." I guess there really are no coincidences in life. I didn't go because it just didn't work out timing-wise. But did it not work out timing-wise because I was already incubating a virus?]

8.32am. Still thinking.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I gots da hot hands

One of the things I have been doing since starting school is qi gong. If you don't know it, it's like tai chi - well, one of our professors says that tai chi is a form of qi gong. I did it sporadically last semester, but this semester I committed to doing it every single day, because we were told that to really reap the benefits you need to do it for 100 days (the Chinese are big on this 100 days thing - take herbs for 100 days, do qi gong for 100 days, do anything for 100 days). I just spend 5 minutes a day on 8 simple, slow exercises.

And I have to say, there's something about the consistency of doing something every single day that really brings about changes. Not just physical changes, but mental changes too. Yes, there are days when even 5 minutes seems like a monumental chore. I just don't want to do it. I'm too tired. Too busy. Too...too. But I make myself, and that's a good feeling in and of itself. Knowing that I can follow through with a commitment and stick to it is reassuring.

So, first, I noticed that my breathing really slowed down fairly quickly into the exercises. It relaxed me. I have been feeling calmer and more centered. I can't say I noticed any big flow of qi (energy) or anything, and nothing magical had happened. But I stuck with it. It's now been about 6 weeks I think that I've done it every day. Still a ways to go to get to 100.

This week, however, I've noticed something else. My hands. They are hot. Constantly. A few years ago, they used to often be blocks of ice, but I have gradually improved my circulation and energy, and for the last year or two I'd say that they were "normal" temperature - cold when it was cold, not cold when it was warm. But some of my professors have these super hot hands, especially this one new teacher that we have. He has these amazing hands (I am kind of in love with his hands, I think) - they are super flexible, and strong, and like little furnaces on the ends of his arms. When he touches me to demonstrate some acpuncture technique or something, it's like I just feel warmth and healing radiating from his hands. Wowzer. I was a bit in awe of the hot hands. It's like there's this huge reservoir of energy in his body ready to jump out and heal people. And now, thanks entirely to the qi gong I am pretty sure, my hands are hot too! Awesome. The qi it is a-flowing. My handies are not as hot as the prof's, of course, but then he's been doing qi gong for decades. It sometimes surprises me - to feel my hands being hot, it's such a new sensation! I am excited, and hope that this will continue and that I'll really be able to use it to improve my acupuncturing.

One of my fellow students was doing some acu point location on me the other day, and I noticed that her hands were cold clammy pieces of fish. Heh. She doesn't do qi gong. It makes me want to give a public service announcement - make sure your acu has da hot hands! Otherwise you might not be getting their qi with your needles to reinforce your own.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Baby Time

My dear infertilibuddy Stephanie had twins a little over two weeks ago. I popped in briefly to the hospital but I only got to see little J. as N. was in the NICU. I mean, they were healthy 37 weekers, but one had aspirated fluids. Or something. I don't think I was quite listening at the time. They are both fine and home now though.

Yesterday morning, I got some baby time as I went round to Stephanie's house to get me some snuggles. Err, I mean, to help Stephanie out tremendously with all my expert baby wrangling techniques so she could get a shower. Ahem. No ulterior motive on my part at all... But ohmygosh, they are precious. And little. And did I mention precious? And so little. One forgets how that newborn stage is, so delicate and fit-in-the-palm-of-your-hand foldable with balled up little legs and arms. And they smell so pure and new babyish. It quite brought a smile to my heart.

Of course, this time last year, or two years ago, or three years ago...wait, any time in the last 5 years or so, I could not have done this without some crying or raging at the universe for not letting me have mine. Actually, I could not have done it at all. But now I really am over all that. It still amazes me sometimes how peaceful I can be. How I can appreciate someone else's cute babies without any pangs of jealousy. I mean, I still work on an ongoing basis at expanding my heart and being more peaceful in general, so it's not like I don't do anything, but the basic switch from angst to acceptance was pretty much a one day thing - my spiritual conversion moment, I suppose you could say. It was still a test for me to be left alone (albeit briefly) with babies but I'm still so awed and grateful that I was able to pass that test to my own satisfaction, and just find the joy in precious new little humans. Ahhhh.