The Tender Trap Of The Gender Gap

I received three letters in three separate envelopes from the state medical board. I tore the first one open; a single page with the name of the respondent at the top and an official signature at the bottom. “Dear Miss: We are writing to inform you that your claim will not proceed because there is not sufficient evidence…

What the board was telling me is that my claim against three doctors is being denied. They saw my facial droop, my staggering walk, my shaking legs, heard my stilted speech, and then saw it go away when I tilted my head to manipulate the CSF in my cranium, and they wrote in my medical records that I was making it all up. It took me close to a year to get the correct testing after that. When I had everything together, I bundled it and sent it to the state including the disc with my complete MRI showing my brain had collapsed. I sent documentation from my previous surgeries. I outlined how their notes directly affected my life – both by delaying my care, and because I was denied by the Undiagnosed Diseases Network based on their notes.

The only conclusion that I can possibly come up with is that I’m a woman. Who could believe me? Why not attach a hinge to my cranium so I can flip my lid open for everyone to see, and then maybe, maybe, they will consider the notion that I’m telling the truth?

The irony is that this very place where these doctors work tweeted an article today about how there’s such a big gap in women being tested in healthcare trials, and how there’s still a huge gender bias against women when it comes to our symptoms being recognized and validated. THIS EVEN HAPPENS IN LAB RATS. So they are willing to admit it happens,

but

not willing to admit it happens with them.

Here’s another article that speaks directly to the phenomenon of being a woman in the healthcare system. Women are “emotional” and therefore shouldn’t be believed. By the way, female doctors can be just as unforgiving as male doctors.

I’m going to take a little time out to compare and contrast. I have a male family member who had rotator cuff surgery when he was a teenager, at least 13 years ago. He just had to have an EMG of his arms and possibly legs. I was explaining to him what to expect since his doctor’s office didn’t do a very good job. Let me emphasize that there’s a 13-year span between those two medical events. Yes, recovery from rotator cuff surgery isn’t pleasant, and an EMG isn’t pleasant.

In comparison, I’ve had 10 brain surgeries, 12 abdominal surgeries, 4 infections cut out, 7 crowns, 10 spinal taps, 2 EMGs (including my face), a year-long CSF leak, and a spinal blood patch in a 7-year period. For a lot of these I couldn’t have Lidocain because my body doesn’t metabolize it, and it’s the same for morphine. So every time I was poked or sliced or stitched, I felt it. I also tore the capsule and the tendon in three places in my left shoulder (but couldn’t get surgery because of all of the scar tissue I make). I’m also horribly allergic to my shunt that is still implanted and runs from my brain to my abdomen, so I constantly feel like I am being stabbed in my lower abdomen.

This male relative’s doctors immediately jumped at the first sign of his trouble. The help he has received is in stark contrast to how I have been treated, which is to be called a liar and to be treated as a hysterical woman. He was also considerably nervous about the EMG. I tried to reassure him that if he could get through rotator cuff surgery, the EMG would be much easier. Seriously, I would trade that CSF leak with just about anything. An EMG is a walk in the park.

So, what exactly do women have to do to “prove that they are in as much pain as men”? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Advertisements

Big Help In A Little Package – TechCare Pro24 Ultimate Massager Review

People often ask me just what it is that I do with all of my time now that I’m stuck in bed. I love writing and I count myself lucky to have been included in the Chronic Illness Bloggers network, and given many opportunities to try products I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Back in 2007, I had a beast of a knee operation. My right patella (“knee cap”) was tracking wrong, meaning it was slightly dislocated, so it would cause all kinds of problems as I bent and straightened my leg and my patella slid all over the place – but not exactly where it should have. I also had damage to the underlying cartilage. Before surgery I was required to go through months of physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles, and after surgery of course I had to recover. It took me a year to straighten my leg.

Anyone who has been through orthopedic surgery has had a run-in with a TENS unit. I was issued a big, black carrying case with a handle, multiple square pads and a control box with a dial. The controller had an on/off switch and the dial to change the intensity of the charge, and that’s it – no frills. You got what you got.

I didn’t have any expectations with this TechCare Pro24 Ultimate Massager, deliberately.
20170606_085029

In actuality, I was pleasantly surprised. The controller feels like it’s made of high quality metal, not cheap plastic. It has the capability of running two lead lines at a time, though the user can choose to run one lead at a time. The lead lines themselves are considerably long, which is useful if you need to reach around to the back of your body for any reason (which, if you’re anything like me, you will).
20170606_085408

I’ve been trying to walk outside while the weather has been cooperating, because I’m trying to get stronger. I have a lot of joint pain because of fibromyalgia, plus I’m in bed a lot to keep the pressure off of my brain, but the downside is that the rest of my body pays the price. Since I’m walking outside there’s a lot of variation in the elevation and terrain and my muscles and joints very quickly and loudly rebel. It’s the perfect time to put the TechCare Pro24 Ultimate Massager to the test.

I want to pick the right size of pad according to where on my body I want to attach the pads. This unit comes with three sizes:
20170606_085732

I chose to work on my right hip, which never fails to make its presence known. The big, rectangular pads are the best for that area of my body, so I decided to slap one on my back right flank, and then one on the top of my right femur.

The TechCare Pro24 Ultimate Massager doesn’t run on willpower alone; it needs actual electricity to roll. I’m always in front of my laptop, so I chose the option to hook up the unit to the USB portal for the juice.
20170606_085212
So as I had everything hooked up and charging, the next step was to choose the actual mode that would work best for what I wanted to accomplish, which would be to relax my right hip. I pushed the slide button over on the top so that the unit turned on, and then I could see the different choices for the massages for the most helpful option. Every time a different mode out of the six options are chosen, the strength returns to the lowest intensity so that the user can change it to his or her most tolerable level. I think this is a good thing because some modes felt more stinging than others, depending on the intensity.
20170602_140747
My favorite option that I found for my hip is the one that appears with the number “1” in this picture. As you can see, I didn’t even have to go to half intensity to feel the effects. The timer starts at 15 minutes but can be reprogrammed all the way up to 60 minutes.

At one point a friend called during one of my sessions, and I was so relaxed that he asked me if he had awakened me from a nap.

I did try it on other areas of my body – my neck, my left shoulder, my right quadriceps – and I tried out the other modes. The best thing to do is try the modes and strengths and find the best combination of style and length of time, because there’s no one-size-fits-all like there used to be with the old TENS units.

One extra goody that is included in the package is a chart of the human body and suggestions of where to place the pads to relieve certain pains.

This TechCare Pro24 Ultimate Massager is light years past that unit I had to use ten years ago for my knee rehab, and is much more affordable to boot. You can find it here – check it out!

Balance In A Jar

As much as I would like to do some Irish step dancing or Zulu (and I verified that that was the region I learned in high school before I specified it here in this post), I have got some things working against me: my medical conditions make me dog tired, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, fibromyalgia, and this yet unnamed rare disease where the CSF is pooling and crushing my brain stem when I’m upright. My medications are also making me tired. I’m seriously lacking pep. I’m the ideal candidate for this little jar called Equilibrium Energy Superfood by Honey Colony. I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
2016-09-13-10-10-57

I always take supplements, and in this case a “superfood,” with a grain of salt when there is a claim that there will be an improvement in my energy level. After all, any one of my listed obstacles would be daunting. I’ve had fibromyalgia for 18 years. I’ve come to know my body well and can tell when the wall is approaching, when I will completely lose it and have to stop what I’m doing and immediately go to bed or I will embarrass myself in public and start crying. The relatively new (6 years old) issues with the CSF are bonkers. If I’m up for more than 20-30 minutes, it’s like I’m drunk. I’m talking head rolling, word slurring, I-love-you-man drunk. I’m on a lot of non-opioid pain medications right now because bed rest plus torn tendons in my shoulder plus an allergy to the shunt running from my brain to my abdomen are wreaking havoc on me.

So what does this little jar have to offer? Let’s open it up and see:

So if you were expecting honey because the product is made by the Honey Colony, you’d only be partially correct. This is a superfood; they step the raw honey up with 11 other ingredients specifically targeted to giving your energy a boost. You can just pop a teaspoon of this in your mouth a day (that’s an entire serving for a day), but the taste will likely be overwhelming if you aren’t used to certain flavors like blue algae and medicinal mushrooms with your honey. I’m a huge fan of iced tea and easily incorporated this into that:

2016-09-13-10-23-53

This was my chamomile tea and it was quite complimentary; just be aware that because the Equilibrium is a “superfood” that there are going to be solid particles that are going to settle at the bottom of the mug/glass, so stir and drink quickly to avoid that issue. The company’s suggestion is to consume the product on an empty stomach, but if you can’t tolerate the taste on its own, it can be included in your morning smoothie.

I have to say that even though I reserved judgment, every time I consumed Equilibrium, I felt a difference in my energy level for the better, and it lasted for a minimum of four hours. Every time I tried it I never consumed it later than noon so it would not interfere with my sleep that night in case it worked too well. Usually I only do one chore a day, but every time I had my teaspoon of Equilibrium, I managed to get 2-3 chores done and would make myself stop so I wouldn’t overdo it. I would officially consider this a success.

Overall, I’m impressed with their dedication to quality and integrity. They package the ingredients in dark glass so light doesn’t cause the ingredients to break down, which is very important – they certainly don’t want to add preservatives, which would be counter-intuitive to their core values.

Link to Honey Colony Equilibrium

Down on the Farm

I have had so much fun being exposed to so many products as part of the Chronic Illness Bloggers network and I’ve been able to give my honest opinion, including this one for the Fay Farm Rejuvenation Lotion. Please note that I received it as a gift and the opinions that I state about this product are my own and are in no way influenced by the company.

First, I’m a good candidate for this product because boy, have I got issues. I’m hanging out in bed for about 20-22 hours every day because when I’m upright, CSF tends to pool around my brain stem, and the pressure is mighty uncomfortable. However, laying in bed for so long comes with its own problems. My fibromyalgia is singing the blues – especially now that in the state of Minnesota and while the sweet corn is growing like crazy, humidity is at its worst (check out this scientific discovery regarding how corn is actually adding to our humidity in this state here).

For about three years I also laid on my left shoulder because all of my shunt surgeries were done medially and on the right side, so my left shoulder has a pretty nasty impingement that hasn’t cleared up with 6 months of physical therapy for the third time. At this point I’m up for trying just about anything to feel better, including sacrificing a chicken and dancing around a fire.

So I’ve got pain all over, and I’ve got this crazy pain in my left shoulder. I’m always looking for ways to take away the pain. The Fay Farm Rejuvenation CBD Lotion is formulated specifically to relieve joint and muscle pain because it contains 200 mg of CBD (cannabidiol) – a product of hemp. I’m not going to get deep into the MJ/hemp debate; however, I’m going to say that I was a legal, card-carrying medical marijuana user while I was a patient in Arizona and my doctors were completely stumped about my horrible allergy to my shunt materials. I went the route of medical marijuana to try to control some of the pain and I learned about CBDs and how they are extracted from hemp plants at certain temperatures much different from THC, and also are not “psychoactive” like THC. In other words, CBDs are pain killers but they are not going to make you high.

Here’s what the lovely bottle of The Fay Farm Rejuvenation Lotion looks like (and you can tell I’ve used it):
2016-08-03 16.52.57
Here’s what it looks like straight out of the bottle, it has a slight green hue:
2016-08-03 16.53.23

Fay Farm recommends that this lotion be used for any body parts where fast absorption is desired. I agree! This is a lotion that is non-greasy and absorbs quickly; the base includes hemp oil, apricot oil, grape seed oil, apricot kernel oil, white sesame oil and jojoba oil, and you would think that with the combination of all of those oils that it would be, well, oily, but it’s not. When I apply a dime-sized squirt to my bad shoulder, it only takes about five circles before it’s absorbed.

It’s not just my shoulder that needs attention. Sometimes the tendons at the outside of my knees become tender. Don’t ask me why – I have a lot of theories but I’m sure I’ll never know the real reason. But I’ve been putting some of the Rejuvenation Lotion there too. And of course if I’ve had to do a lot of walking and standing because of physical therapy, I’ll put the lotion on my feet when I get home. Every once in a while I’ll put the lotion on the tendons that lead to the base of my skull (pretty easy for me to do since I am completely bald – no hair to contend with).

The company has described the scent as a decadent vanilla with a hint of camphor. I’m pretty sensitive to scent, and honestly, I don’t know if I would describe it that way. To me, it smells more “green” than anything and I don’t smell vanilla at all. In any case, it’s not a strong scent and should not overwhelm any of its wearers. Also, this lotion should not replace a good ol’ moisturizing lotion – keep using that chemical-free daily moisturizing lotion (trust me, look up ingredients and products on the Environmental Working Group database: Skin Deep) and get smarter about what you are putting in/on your body.

How effective is it? I would describe this lotion as being gentle and subtle. In other words, the relief I felt was not sudden and shocking; it was more like, “Oh, that part isn’t hurting right now.” It seemed like the effects lasted for about two-three hours. Because I got relief from it, I have continued to use it. It’s that simple. The chickens are safe for now.

Feel free to check out all of their products through the Canna Treehouse website.

If you are interested in this product in particular, you can visit this page directly.

My Aching Back/Arm/Knee/Foot/You Name It

What are the two most common symptoms of chronic illnesses that we hear over and over, without fail? Fatigue and pain. This post is all about pain. That is why I was excited to receive this product to review, because in all of my adult years (24+ now), pain has been my constant companion. Just to be clear, I have been given this product through the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company Mo-Haganys’ Dream Cream Products.

One friend, Nikki over at As I Live & Breathe (https://ilivebreathe.com/about-me/), got her products before I did, and excitedly told me, “Chels, just wait! Just wait! I did not have to take my painkillers tonight!” Now that is a huge endorsement, because like me, Nikki has some major stuff going down in her body that is the stuff of horror films (I will let her tell it).

What is this stuff anyway? Well, it’s some crazy concoction that seems so simple that it should be obvious and available everywhere and after you read this, you should be wanting to bathe in it. Unfortunately, your cynical side might still win out and you will proceed with caution. You will wait a few more weeks to buy a bottle with a homemade label because, hey, what does this woman know that big pharmaceutical companies don’t? But if you’re smart, you’ll give this serious consideration, because I’ve been a doubter myself many times too, and I treat Consumer Reports as a shopper’s bible, and when you find gems, you buy them up like they’re going out of style.

The woman who owns this company, Keri, formulated these products after contracting bacterial meningitis and developing debilitating pain and being placed on, in her words, “ridiculous” pain meds with horrible side effects (something that I myself know well). She began researching apothecary and Chinese herbology, and discovered a way to ferment cayenne pepper to make a capsaicin paste that does not “burn” the skin. She then worked on using different ingredients for blending and aromatherapy to compliment the paste’s action to “deaden” or “muffle” the nerve action. It depends on the person and the severity, but the pain relief can last 6-12 hours.

I was looking forward to this particular product challenge because my body is really giving me hell right now. Besides the ever-present abdominal pain from the rejection of the shunt materials, I am pretty sure the tendons at my left shoulder are frayed. I’ve been in physical therapy for three months and though my strength has improved, the pain has actually become worse; my doctor has ordered six more weeks of PT and an MRI at the end, but is reluctant to perform surgery because of my proclivity to immediately build up copious scar tissue and possibly undo everything the surgeon would do for benefit. This month was also the Hydrocephalus Association conference and so I was in incredible pain from sitting, walking and standing for four days, my feet and hips taking the brunt of the beating.
2016-06-28 16.09.06

Immediately after receiving this package, I tore it open and slathered the lotion, Mo’s Dream Cream, on my shoulder. I could not wait. The lotion has a thin consistency and I would caution everyone to use common sense like they would around light-colored fabrics and tomato food products: make sure it is well-absorbed before contact is made, or there might be color transfer that is irreversible. Also, another caution mentioned more than a few times: do not apply to broken skin. Here’s a small sample so you can see for yourself:2016-06-28 16.09.32.jpg
These products have a very specific scent, though I struggle a bit to describe it. You will recognize the spiciness of the capsaicin, because it’s the stuff that flavors our Mexican/Thai/Vietnamese/Korean food and haunts us later. But the essential oils include orange, tangerine, clove and wintergreen, so you will have hints of hot chocolate and sledding parties wrapped up in your burrito dreams.

The left shoulder pain is preventing me from sleeping comfortably. I also cannot get dressed easily, pick up items at waist level, overhead or floor level, or reach over to rub my boyfriend’s shoulder in a display of affection. Even doing simple things like buckling my seat belt as a passenger are turning into ordeals, and I have cracked three teeth on my left side because of the pain. So for me, because there’s structural damage, it’s not an easy fix; the pain can spike up to a good old fashioned 10. However, the lotion can bring it down to about a 5 in a matter of minutes, and keep it there for about 4-5 hours.

My abdominal pain is a little trickier. I’m allergic to the parts of the shunt that are housed in my abdomen and the pain is at exactly the place between the front of my abdomen and the middle of my back, so it’s in the middle of my middle. Again, the pain can spike up to a 10, and applying the lotion can get it to calm down to about a 7, but it’s just in a tough spot. Until I can figure out how to get a dose to middle earth, I am not convinced it’s going to get better than that.

After the first day of the conference, the pinched nerves in my hips were severely limiting my gait. My feet felt as if I had walked over hot coals. I could barely move, and I nearly cried at the thought of having to get up and do it all over again for three more days in a row, early to boot. I decided to wash my feet and then try to the stick form of the pain relief:
2016-06-28 16.10.13
Even though the capsaicin paste is the same, the scent and emollients are slightly different. 2016-06-28 16.53.09 The next morning, when I had to go back for day two of the conference, I felt as if day one had been erased by the pain stick. That is HUGE.

Overall, I felt like the lotion did a quick job of penetrating to the pain and providing the relief, but I certainly appreciated the convenience of the “No Mo Pain Stick” too – so much easier to carry that in a purse than the bottle of lotion, which now has a permanent spot on my nightstand.

Now I’m mentally debating making an appointment to see my pain doctor just to push these goodies on him. He’s a younger guy and I know he has chronic back pain. I want him to try it. I mean, what could he lose? He could just put some on a spot on his back and then slap a pad over the top of it if he’s trying to maintain a scent-free office because of sensitivities…

The skeptic in me also wanted to make sure I wasn’t under undue influence of the placebo effect, so I sent this with my sister for a few days, because she has RA. She was afraid that her boys would be put off by the scent but her co-worker dug into it, and she felt as if it helped her with pain (though I didn’t get to discuss it at length before I grabbed it back because my shoulder was singing like the hounds of Hell).

Here is a snapshot of the information that Keri sent with her products that you may find useful:

2016-06-28 16.10.42

Since I can’t transport a bottle directly through my screen to you, you still have to go and get a bottle the old-fashioned way through the internet, but I’m thinking you won’t be disappointed. And hey – Keri is even offering everyone a discount who has enjoyed my review by using the code CHELSEA4U (which I was not expecting, but thought extra helpful if you are on a budget): https://squareup.com/store/modreamcream.

Senior Hours

I fell asleep last night somewhere between 8 and 10 pm, and that is as close of a window as I can get. As I said to one of my short bus drivers this week, it used to be a sign of weakness or a lack of social life if I ever changed to pajamas before midnight; now I think it’s a late night if I’m not comfy by 9:45 pm.

I’m turning into my parents. Maybe I even skipped a generation and went straight to my grandparents.

The trade-off is that I’m also not sleeping long or late. Most mornings now I wake up in agony at around 3 am because my right hip is burning (not at all fibromyalgia pain, so I’m thinking it’s the Lyme), or my left shoulder is angry. I had to sleep on my left side for three years because all of my surgeries used to be done on my right side, so I’ve got a nerve impingement that I’ve had to do shoulder rehab for twice already in four years. It’s not responding to the exercises I have memorized and it’s now doing a weird thing like it’s popping out of and then back into socket. I finally broke down and called my primary care doctor’s office yesterday to get set up with PT and pain management.

As I hunker down in the early morning with my cough drops and water and browse through my WP Reader, a thought strikes me: I no longer think in poetry. I can no longer bear to read poetry.

I think pain has rewired me so that I avoid the most descriptive and flowery words, or think of the significance of pauses and stanzas. I am in the economy car. I want the most efficient features possible for my money (aka time). I want to get in and get out.

And I want people to rethink their use of commas.

I hope that when I’m not being driven by pain, I can return to the imagery and thoughtfulness of poetry, because I know there is some fabulous stuff being put out there for all to read. I don’t want to forever close the door on that appreciation. (However, my stance on the proper usage of commas will never change.)

Product Review for NatraCure

This is a review for two different products offered through NatraCure, a company that focuses on various products to support pain control. The really great thing about their site is that you can choose an area of your body that you would like to focus on – neck, foot, ankle, back, etc. – and they narrow down the product choices to the ones that are most appropriate for that particular area.

http://natracure.com/

The first item I’m going to talk about is the Soft Gel Toe Stretcher and Exerciser. The material is incredibly flexible, and is actually infused with “7 botanical oils: avacado, olive, jojoba, grapeseed, canola and soybean.” They take it one step further with adding “green tea, willow fragrance and aloe vera.” I am telling you, if you have a cat or dog fascinated with your toes, they are really going enjoy your feet after you’ve had your toe stretcher on because it has such a pleasant smell.

These are very easy to get around your toes because of their flexibility. Pay attention to the instructions and the warnings. For instance, it’s NOT good to let the stretchers be on your toes for more than 10 minutes. The packaging says that the product is “diabetic-friendly,” but at the same time, it’s important to know your limitations. This does restrict blood flow to the toes a bit, even with the flexibility, and that is exactly what diabetics (and patients suffering from gout or good ol’ edema) need to be aware of. Even people with no issues with swelling or stunted blood flow should not go past the 10-minute time limit. Be kind to your feet.

My issue is that I’m in bed for about 22 hours of every 24 hours, so I’m having problems with the tendons in my feet shortening and stiffening. My big toes also tend to bend sideways as if they have been crammed into the toes of pointy shoes from the ’80s. These stretchers are fairly comfortable to wear. I’m not sure if they will help my big toes with realigning, but I’m going to keep using them daily.

http://natracure.com/body-part/foot/gel-toe-spreaders.html

The next item is the Magnetic Shoulder Support. I was warned before it was shipped to me that females who tried it found that it was too large and the “one size fits most” fit them poorly. I explained that I’m a good Midwestern woman raised on corn and built like a horse, so I doubted that I would have a problem with the fit.

The middle picture is the sling laid out flat and inside out. To wear it, you put the white stripes against your shoulder, then fasten the cuff around your arm with opposing Velcro pieces. The long, skinny part travels around your front and back and is closed with opposing Velcro pieces under your arm that is not being “treated” by the magnets.

This was fairly easy for me to put on. I estimated how tight I would need the sleeve, then slipped my arm and shoulder in, then closed the flaps under the other arm. However, I could see that if someone has mobility or fine motor skill issues, they might need assistance putting this on.

As predicted, the piece fit me just fine. One thing to be aware of, though, is that the fabric is 75% Neoprene (the same material divers use for their wet suits) and 25% Nylon, so right out of the package, there is an overwhelming chemical smell. I am particularly sensitive to chemicals and so I found it necessary to hand wash this before wearing it.

I wanted to try this product because for three years, all of my surgeries were done on the right side of my body, so I always had to rest and sleep on my left side. My shoulder really took a beating. I had to go through two rehab series because of an impinged nerve, and I could stand to go through rehab again – but I remember all of the exercises, so I’m trying to take care of it at home.

The idea is that the magnets (1,000 Gauss each) combined with the fabric that provides gentle compression will possibly “help stimulate blood vessels and blood oxygen levels and may help speed up the natural healing process.”

After wearing this for five days and up to four hours a time, I have not noticed an improvement in my range of motion or the pain. I don’t think that wearing it is doing me harm (I take it off for my rehab exercises), so I’m going to continue strapping it on for another week or two. It’s possible that it will be an appropriate treatment for other issues with the shoulder; I can only talk about what is affecting me directly.

The Magnetic Shoulder Support can be used on the right or left shoulder because it’s designed to be interchangeable.

http://natracure.com/body-part/shoulder/magnetic-shoulder-support.html

This seems to be a great company that is focused on care for our most common trouble areas. My interactions with them have been pleasant, upbeat and thorough. I wish them every success as they continue to test and add products to serve the acute and chronic pain communities.