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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

patience - not my strong suit

     So here I am one week till I have my first foot "reconstructed" and I am having some issues controlling my impatience with both the wait and the anticipation of what will come after the surgery.  Patience has never been a virtue of mine so that is making it doubly difficult to deal with.            
     I have to confess that one of the "symptoms" of not having any patience with this waiting game is an almost constant feeling of butterflies in my stomach at the mere thought of the upcoming surgery.  
     I am trying to make a resolution with myself to adopt a good attitude about both this pre-surgery waiting game and even more importantly, afterward.  I believe that there are some strategies that one can utilize that might facilitate this process so I am going to share them here as tools for others who may have to deal with any number of treatments, surgeries or procedures as they manage their RA.
     First and foremost, plan ahead! I have a checklist of items that I have been gradually completing that will make the time leading up a lot less stressful.  For instance, I now have enough paper towels and toilet paper in my house to provide a small army with the necessary paper products for a month!  
     I am doing any and all household goods shopping as much in advance as possible so that I will not need to call a friend some afternoon when my husband is at work and say "could you bring me some toliet paper?"....not going to happen!  Stocking up on food that won't spoil is another thing I have been doing.  
     Keeping the house and yard in shape is also a good idea so that when I come home I am not faced with a messy, cluttered environment.  I know I will be able to recuperate in a much more relaxed fashion in a neat, clean home.
      Making sure all of your prescriptions are filled is another one.  I plan to get all of those that I can filled early next week so that is off my mind for awhile.  The last thing I want is to come home and discover that I don't have the necessary medications.
     One of the most important items I have taken care of PRIOR to my surgery is having the necessary medical equipment on hand at home so that I am not caught off guard and unable to be as mobile as possible as soon as possible.  With that in mind I now have a walker with wheels, a knee walker, ergonomic forearm crutches (in red no less), crutch pads for the traditional crutches I will get at the hospital to come home, a shower chair, memory foam foot rest pillows, and a few other items all of which are designed to make my recovery go smoothly and with as little stress as possible.  
     Without a doubt the single most important factor in a smooth transition and positive healing experience is the ever crucial Support Team that I so often reference.  I have made arrangements for different family members to come stay and help out so all of the burden does not fall on my husband.  Friends have offered to help with meals and shopping and I will tap into those offers if need be. 
     I have also made arrangements to work remotely and have even scheduled some meetings for "my back porch" so that I will not be out of touch and/or go stir crazy!  I have gotten anything I could do in advance done so that I do not have deadlines looming when I get home from the hospital.  I am gradually bringing home files and other items I will need to accomplish this and that is giving me a lot more confidence that I can manage this.
    In order to stay sane while being confined for 6-8 weeks I have also planned to do some easy projects around the house.  For instance I have gotten some new hanging jewelry organizers and I intend to go through and sort my jewelry which is currently stacked helter-skelter in various containers on my dresser in my bedroom.  I also plan to clean out some of my kitchen cupboards.  
     I think working on these projects will not only keep me from dying of boredom but will also keep my mind off of the amount of time remaining till I can be more mobile again.  Of all the challenges I face, this one is perhaps the biggest hurdle and brings me full circle back to my original issue of impatience.  There is a direct link between my impatience with this whole process and worrying about the 8 weeks I am restricted mobility wise.  
     I tend to move at the speed of light despite my RA - maybe even because of it - and the stiffness that is ever present if I stay stationary too long.  I rarely sit any length of time...a movie taxes my patience to the thought of not being able to jump up and move around without restriction makes my heart race and nearly brings on a panic attack!  Truthfully the pain aspect of the recovery is not anywhere nearly as daunting a prospect to me as the whole "stuck at home for 8 weeks" notion.  I have managed pain for 15+ years now and if there is one thing I am confident of it is my ability to deal with the pain of the surgery.  
     So in the end if I am able to incorporate most if not all of the strategies I have outlined I think it will help me to be more patient and in the end make this whole surgical process less stressful, more positive and perhaps even enhance the healing so that I can get back to moving and functioning even better than before!  That is my ultimate goal and if you are facing surgery down the road these tips can help you too!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The time for pampering has arrived!

     There comes a time when one realizes that some serious self pampering needs to happen.  That time has come for me.  Having just wrapped up the two eye surgeries and with my first foot surgery looming ahead, I knew the time had come for some spoiling!  And so, a vacation that I had carefully planned for during this time period will commence shortly.
I intend to take full advantage of my time off to relax, unwind, renew and "leave my troubles behind" for a bit.  When you suffer from a chronic disease like RA - that need to step back and pamper yourself becomes a real necessity and another tool for managing RA.  So much of our time and effort is devoted to the day to day (sometimes hour to hour) demands of management of the disease that we do not stop to consider that doing some things "out of the box" to cope and ease our symptoms may be called for!  
     One example for me is massage....not only is it therapeutic physically but it takes me to a wonderful place of peace and calm mentally.  I never really appreciated massage or even understood its amazing benefits till adulthood which I really regret.
Now with the benefit of hindsight, I would have started getting massages as a teen!  The ambiance of the massage itself is enough to take my stress level down several notches right off the bat!
Combine that with the soothing music, the healing power of the touch and you have really given yourself a wonderful gift.  I have friends who simply cannot fathom having someone else massage or touch their bodies and I felt that way at one time...but thankfully I decided to be a bit daring and I have never looked back.  It is very professional and entirely in line with my own modesty so that I do not feel at all uncomfortable.  
     Another real treat is a mani/pedi (manicure/pedicure) and/or a facial.
Once again, indulging in some "me" time is so beneficial to anyone, but in particular, to those of us who suffer from chronic pain.  Having someone gently care for my hands and feet and face is incredibly pleasant!  Not only that but for many of us with serious hand mobility issues, it is a matter of having the ability to take care of our hands and feet properly and in a way that allows us some dignity and an appearance we can feel good about instead of hiding our feet and hands!  
They may not be "conventionally" beautiful but they sure feel it after a pedi/mani and that is half the battle!  Taking the time to just pause and let someone else take care of you is so satisfying and it makes you feel valued and treasured and that is priceless!
     I also really look forward to my once a month hair appointment.  The stylist I go to makes me feel like a queen when I am there!  She totally pampers me from start to finish and that is just another one of those ways to give yourself a treat.  We deserve it!
     I also am a firm believer that exercise (and for me that means swimming) is, in fact, a way to pamper yourself.  Taking the time to get moving in a way you enjoy will give you tremendous satisfaction!
     So my message here is clear....yet another tool to managing RA is PAMPERING!  I do it.  So should you!  Talk to you when I get from my vacation!

Friday, May 4, 2012

I can see clearly now...

Wonder of wonders - the cataracts are gone in both eyes and I can truly see more clearly than I have in years!  To be honest I had no idea how visually muted my world had become....
...yep that photo on the right is what I saw before the surgery. I knew about the fogginess, the glare, etc. but maybe because the loss of color clarity is so gradual you don't quite appreciate how vivid the color wheel is till it is back!
I feel like a whole new world has been opened before me.  My poor friends and family are being repeatedly subjected to a constant refrain of "OH MY GOD - I CANNOT BELIEVE THE COLOR OF THAT!!!"  From the spring trees which thankfully are in full bloom here in Vermont in May....
to the amazing landscapes that I see as I drive around our lush, spectacular state with its rolling farms and mountain vistas...
...I am on this visual journey of appreciation of my surroundings that I feel is a blessing to treasure.  I am almost thankful for what I did not see for awhile so that I could have this insight.  
     The surgery itself went smoothly for the second is so incredible that a "cataract" lens can be removed and another one implanted that restores vision and color and clarity...
....and remove the need for me to wear corrective lens for distance...something that has been a part of my life since I was 10 years old!  I remember when the doctor said you will no longer need glasses for distance vision.  I thought I was hearing things. I asked him to repeat that and explain how could that be.  He did and I slowly began to believe it....and now it is true!
Glasses are gone for distance.  I had hoped to be able to get the procedure to implant the lens that corrects for all distances but alas, thanks to RA and the Sjogrens Syndrome that accompanied it, I have exceptionally dry eyes.  That coupled with a rather significant astigmatism in my left eye made me a poor candidate for that lens type.  But....I am so happy I really do not mind needing to have some "cheaters" around for reading close-up.  A small price to pay.  I will have the constant companion of several different eye drops to be put in each eye 4 times a day for at least a month but I actually find them soothing so - no worries there either!
Today when I went to the grocery store I was wandering around in the produce department just staring at all the beautiful fruits and vegetables...
I never realized what a visual "feast" the grocery store was. I hope this feeling lasts for awhile.  That is one of the reasons I am devoting a blog to it.  That way when I begin to get jaded about the beauty that surrounds me I can come back to this blog and, hopefully, reignite those feelings of wonder.
If I can appreciate to even a tiny extent, the pleasure this critter is experiencing when he "smells the flowers" I will be forever grateful!  I love my new eyes...and I think they look more blue than ever...probably not but it seems like it!
    Life offers us opportunities to make the best of every life situation and I intend to do just that!  I am grateful for all that my life has brought to me because in one way or another it has made me who I am - stronger, more in tune with my world, better able to cope with life's struggles and joys and most importantly better able to appreciate all that I have.  
Please go out and take a stroll, truly take in your surroundings and enjoy the view!