Category Archives: Life

Life that happens and I feel compelled to comment about.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Physical Therapy – My Journey

I was recently diagnosed with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and, at this point, I have chosen to not take the medications because, honestly, the side effects scare me. I may change my mind later but for now, I am choosing to try other options. One of my first management methods to try is physical therapy.

[NOTE: I am not a medical professional of any sort. This is just my experience and my RA journey. Educate yourself and talk to your doctor before deciding your path of treatment.]

Physical Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

I did not realize you could get physical therapy for RA, but you can. My primary goal with PT was to learn how to exercise and workout without causing more damage to my joints. It is important that you find a physical therapist that is familiar with RA because this can make all the difference.

Previously I have had physical therapy as rehabilitation for my knee after surgery. This was a treatment that eventually led to healing and a completion point. With RA, my therapist set other types of goals for my treatment which included progress markers to report to my insurance company. Instead of a completion point, there were several goals I needed to reach to have a full workout routine that I could continue doing on my own at home.

Physical Therapy Goals for My RA

My goals for physical therapy included range of motion and flexibility as well as strengthening the muscles around all my joints and core. These goals required strength training, cardio training, and stretches. My therapist made sure I got a full body workout each visit. However, each of my exercises was designed and performed in a way that did not put stress on my joints. My physical therapist also worked around my RA flares and days when some of my joints were too painful to exercise, but let’s talk about what I could do first.

My Physical Therapy Plan

When I started, I was always stiff with constant pain in my wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. Mornings were difficult for me when I first got up and started walking, and my RA fatigue required me to take a nap just to make it to dinner. The thought of an actual workout was overwhelming to me. But, I did it anyway because I was tired of feeling unhealthy and not very mobile. At first, it was exhausting, and I had to lay down and sleep as soon as I got home.

Cardio was tricky for me because I have a chronically bad back from a car accident years ago and my knee keeps me from running or doing other cardio type exercise both low and high impact. Add my RA to these issues and cardio was definitely a challenge for me. Thankfully the physical therapy place has a recumbent step machine, and it was perfect! I achieved a cardio workout with zero impact on any joints and no pain to my back.

The strength training and flexibility exercises were the hardest for me. In the years (yes, years) leading up to my eventual diagnosis, my workout routine was almost non-existent except for walking. That left me with weak muscles and my flexibility was (and still is) just a joke. But I did it and, I eventually, I started noticing a change. I am not as stiff in the mornings, and my pain has been noticeably reduced. Some of my joints don’t hurt at all some days. However, the best part for me is the energy. After a few weeks of going to PT, I realized that I wasn’t needing a nap every day and had energy left over!

RA Flare Days and Physical Therapy

After 7 weeks of physical therapy, I do still have “flare” days and days when my joints just hurt, but not as often. When bad days happen on a PT day, my therapist will adjust the plan. We skip exercises that use the hurting joints and focus more on other exercises. Some days my PT time was spent with my therapist stretching my joints and using some therapeutic massage techniques to help with the pain and stiffness. Then, the next time it was usually back to my usual workout.

This week I will complete my eight weeks that were allowed by my insurance. It was nice to have the accountability of going to physical therapy and having someone push me to do all my exercises. However, I am now equipped with exercises and stretches that I can do at home so that I can keep progressing. I have my own accountability group around me of family and friends that will, hopefully, keep me doing my workouts regularly. For now, these exercises along with other options I have chosen are helping my RA symptoms. If and when they no longer help, I will consider other options, and eventually, I will probably need to start on the medication, but I am just not ready for that yet.

What helps your RA symptoms the most? Share with me in the comments below.

Only Child Walking

My son, my only child, left today for his last day of school…. ever.

This is the last day of his senior year. The last day of our morning routine that has been in place for the last 13 years. The last day I can really see him as a child. When he gets home today he will essentially be at the point of his life where his is ready to be on his own. Not that he is going to pack his car and run out the door this afternoon, no, I know how to disable his car. Just kidding – sort of….

No, he is not leaving the house today, but this day does mark the end of a very big part of both of our lives; his childhood. Don’t get me wrong, he is completely ready, equipped and able to take care of himself and that is exactly what I wanted. However, I suddenly don’t want that quite as much as I did earlier in the process of raising him.

I am currently caught in the cross hairs of the tug of war that comes with letting go of my child:

  • I am so proud of his accomplishments and his graduation, but I don’t want it to be over.
  • I am excited about his being able to go off to college and start living on his own, but I don’t want him to go.
  • I am excited to see where his life leads him, but I want to go with him.
  • I want him to be independent and love creating his own life, but I don’t at the same time.
  • I don’t want him to need me on a daily basis anymore, but I do.

In a few days my son will walk across the stage and receive his high school diploma. And the giant door to his childhood will effectively slam shut. Granted, another much more exciting door will be opening for him, but all I see is the one that is closing. I also know that he may be back for a while after college, but that won’t be quite the same.

People always told me to enjoy every moment because it will be gone so quickly. How is it that 18 years can be gone in the blink of an eye? I loved every second of his childhood and I can only hope that I gave him all the tools and experiences he will need to make the right choices and to be able to chase his dreams wherever they may lead.

In the end, that is what I really want. I want him to go out and experience life, make his own decisions and chase his dreams. All the while knowing that he always has a soft place to land when life is hard and when some dreams don’t work out.

How have you dealt with the transition from child to adult with your children? I would love some tips!

Searching for Bronze

I found myself in Macy’s again, and, despite how it may sound lately, I really don’t shop that much. Anyway, I had made a last minute appointment at the hair salon in the mall and was just killing some time “browsing” and wondering what to do with the hour until my appointment that didn’t involve buying clothes I really didn’t need.

As I pondered the cuteness of a hot pink sweater, I heard a voice behind (and slightly above) me ask, “What color would you say that is?”

I turned toward the voice and shifted my gaze upward to a very pretty and statuesque woman standing behind me holding that same hot pink sweater. I noticed immediately that she was holding a sweater in a size petite small for which she clearly did not qualify as she was well over 6 feet tall.

Maybe it isn’t for her, I think, and I just answer her question, “I think it is hot pink or might be considered magenta.”

“Oh”, she replied, “I’m looking for something that is bronze.”

Well, now I am utterly confused. That sweater she is holding in no way comes even remotely close to being even in the bronze “family”…and then I see it. Her white and red cane. Now it is starting to make sense.

And I ask, “Is this for you?”

To which she replies, “Yes and I am legally blind so it is hard for me to tell one color from another.”

“Well, hi!” I said in my shy and reserved manner (not), “My name is Diana and I was just trying to find a way to kill an hour before an appointment. So let’s go find you a bronze top!”

I discovered her name was Diane and I subtly maneuvered her out of the petite section and to an area with close that fit a taller frame.

We found a couple of cute options – both on sale I might add – and she ended up buying both.

I asked Diane if she had other shopping she needed to do and it turns out she needed to go to another store in the mall for something so I led her there and told her to just follow the sidewalk around and she would eventually be back to the spot where the bus would pick her up because I had to head off to my hair appointment.

That was just an hour out of my life, but Diane is one of those people that you don’t forget quickly. Maybe I helped her some but the truth is that she has completely inspired me!

She obviously sees very little which would be so frightening out in a hectic world, and yet, she gets out and does things on her own.  I am amazed at her bravery and independent spirit. Instead of sitting at home telling herself she can’t do anything on her own because of her blindness, she gets up, takes a bus and goes shopping for a bronze top to wear to church.

I realize that there are many people in the world that live very active and independent lives with disabilities and I am humbled by the fear that I might not be so courageous in the same situation. However, there was something about my interaction with Diane that made me realize that I should not let fear keep me from doing some of the things I want to do.

My fears are not nearly as complex as overcoming blindness but they are about stepping out of my comfort zone and into an area that is unclear to me.  Much like Diane does every day.

Thank you Diane for inspiring me to step out and trust that everything will be ok.

Has someone inspired you recently?
Tell me about it – I want to hear your story!

Home Invasion….Maybe not.

In the middle of the night the other night I was woken up by what I could have sworn was our doorbell. Being as it was 3:15 am I did what any brave woman such as myself would do – I froze. And held my breath….

Eventually, I began the process of starting up the tiny part of my brain where rational thoughts reside.

Rational brain:  Ok. The dogs didn’t bark, so it couldn’t have been the doorbell, it was just a dream. Go back to sleep.

Diana brain:  The bedroom door is mostly closed and the dogs are under the blankets fast asleep. It is possible that they did not hear the doorbell.

Rational brain:  What dog ever doesn’t hear a doorbell?? Besides, even if it was the doorbell, whoever it was is gone now.

Diana brain:  There have been those recent home invasions not far from here and they said they always knock or ring the doorbell first. Since they didn’t hear dogs barking, they are now breaking into our house.  Did I just hear something??

Rational brain:  No. It is raining outside. All you hear is the wind and the rain hitting the windows.

Diana brain:  I wonder if the gates are still locked?

Rational brain:  The gates are always locked.

Diana brain:  If they aren’t locked they can come in the backyard and get in the back door where no one will see them.

Rational brain:  The motion detector light will come on if they walk on the back porch.

Diana brain:  What was that??

Rational brain:  What was what??  If you are so scared, then just go close the bedroom door and lock it.

Diana brain:  (staring intently at the partially opened bedroom door) What if I get over there and the bad guy is there and shoots me??

Rational brain:  Seriously?  This is not a movie.  You would have heard something by now if someone had broken in the house.

Diana brain:  Ok. On the count of 3 I’m going to run over there, shut the door and lock it. I can do this…

Rational brain:  Oh just get up and do it already!

[door is now closed and locked]

Diana brain:  Ok. I did it. I wonder if the bad guys heard me shut the door?  If they did they are going to be coming over here and trying to get in the bedroom.  They will be walking up to the door any second now. [I am now intently watching the light coming in under the doorway for shadows]

Rational brain:  Seriously??  It is time to wake up the hubby. He will make you feel better and calm you down.

Diana brain:  What if I wake him up and he insists on going to check out the house and the bad guys get him and kill him? Then they will come get me and kill me.

Rational brain:  Again, seriously??  Just wake him up.

Diana brain: Ok.

[tap tap tap. Pause. Tap tap tap. Pause. Shake shake. Pause.]

He moves slightly.

Diana brain:  It’s working. He’s waking up!

Rational brain:  Of course he’s waking up – you are shaking him.

[shake shake. Pause.]

Hubby: What’s the matter baby?

I give him the full story of the bad guys that have probably entered our home and are now on their way to our bedroom to kill us.

Hubby:  The dogs would have barked if it was the doorbell.

Rational brain:  I told you.

Hubby:  Do you want me to go check out the house so you feel better?

Me: No! (Panic rising inside me) Don’t open the door!

Hubby:  (sensing my very real panic) Ok. Well, it’s ok baby. No one is in the house. You just hear the rain and the wind.

Rational brain:  Again – I told you.

Hubby:  I will protect you. I just have to go to the bathroom first.

Me:  No. Don’t leave me.

Hubby: I’m just going to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.

[He did survive his trip to the bathroom and came back to protect me. He wrapped himself all around me like a human shield/cocoon type thing]

I try again to calm down and go back to sleep when a large wind kicks up and the house creaks and I jump 3 feet! Waking my poor hubby up again.

Hubby:  It is just the wind. Sweetie, what can I do to make you feel safe and calm again?

Me:  Make it day time and us still alive.

[It was at this point that he, for some reason, suggested that perhaps I might want to take a Xanax]

Me:  No. I will never be able to get up for work if I take that.

[I again attempt to calm down and fall asleep. Then my brain kicked in once again]

Diana brain:  If I fall asleep, that is when they will come into the bedroom and kill us.  If they kill us both, no one will know we are dead. Then, on Friday, when Caleb comes home from his Dad’s, he will find us brutally murdered. He will be scarred for life. I don’t want him to live with that.  I cannot fall asleep….

Rational brain:  Maybe a Xanax is not a bad idea…..

Have you ever been woken up by a noise at night and been too scared to go back to sleep?
What did you do?

At the Department Store with a Tomato

unnamedThis past Saturday I was running some errands and ended up at a nearby mall in Macy’s for a couple items. By the time I got there I had been out and about for a while so I needed a little pit stop – if you get my drift.

When I entered there was a mom and a couple kids in there washing their hands at the sink and were there longer than usual but I waited patiently for my turn and took the time to return a text from a friend.  By the time I had completed my text and looked up again, they were gone, but I noticed that they had left something sitting on the sink.

My first instinct was to grab the item and run after them to return it, but something made me pause a bit too long to follow through on that initial reaction. The item that they had left behind sitting on the bathroom sink at Macy’s department store was a TOMATO.  Just for clarification purposes, this was not a little cherry tomato – this was a large full sized, nice looking tomato.

How does that even happen? What is the thought process for something like that?

– Hey, let me grab a tomato on my way out the door to Macy’s. Oh, and let me stick it in my purse and take it into the store with me.

Even if this scenario were reasonable (which it isn’t)- How does it end up getting left on the bathroom counter??

Now I know, some of you are going to comment saying that she had kids with her and they had the tomato. So, let’s  explore that option….

– Here small child. Take this large easily smooshed and potentially very messy veggie (fruit – whatever) and carry it with you in the car and then into the department store while we go shopping.

I cannot make that work in my mind. I cannot find any reasonable scenario that puts that tomato on the bathroom counter of Macy’s. I just can’t.

However, I would be willing to bet that the actual sequence of events that led to that tomato ending up in that bathroom is better than anything I could make up.  It just has to be….