health

Fibro Fridays: My Difficult Diagnosis Journey

As promised, I’m back to share with you my journey to diagnosis. I’ve discussed some aspects of this journey before, but I really wanted to share additional details of what was involved with getting diagnosed. It’s really easy for me to focus on the immediate months leading up to my diagnosis, but, in all honesty, my diagnosis was a nearly 5-year journey of doctors’ visits and frustrating experiences before I confirmed what was happening with my body.

I had two primary care doctors throughout the time that I’ve suffered from fibro symptoms. My first doctor didn’t see anything concerning on my bloodwork, but she believed me when I said that I felt unwell. She referred me to a rheumatologist for clarity (an appropriate response), because some autoimmune conditions cannot be determined from basic blood testing. I visited the rheumatologist, who seemed to understand that I was experiencing extraordinary stress along with physical discomfort. However, after completing one round of blood tests, she ended up dismissing my concerns (as you all may know, fibromyalgia cannot be determined by blood testing, which is why some medical professionals deny its existence). I was discouraged by my pain but also relieved that I was not suffering from an autoimmune condition.

I continued to battle my symptoms and found myself vacillating between less pain and more pain, but never experiencing a complete absence of pain. After the first doctor decided to retire from medicine, I started working with a second doctor, who repeated the blood work 3 years after my last round of testing. This doctor also didn’t see anything concerning on my blood testing, but she attributed my symptoms to stress and a demanding daily routine. She didn’t seem to believe that my physical symptoms were real and not easily remedied by minor lifestyle changes.

After having a horrible symptom flare, I knew that I had to take my health into my own hands. I directly contacted a rheumatology office that had good reviews and scheduled my appointment sans referral (I have a PPO for this reason: waiting for referrals can be frustrating). I had already been discussing my symptoms with friends, and more than one of them mentioned fibro as a possibility. I did a little research and was able to clearly communicate my concerns with the rheumatologist. Less than one month later, I had a diagnosis confirming that I was indeed suffering from fibromyalgia.

I “fired” my primary care doc and got a new doctor that was far better for me and my condition. I worked with several specialists and finally started to feel better for the first time in years. The journey wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I’m just glad that it only took me a few months from the time that I took control of my healthcare to get a diagnosis: for that, I’m fortunate. I know intimately how this process can take many years and many tears, and anyone suffering from this condition has my sympathy and empathy. This path isn’t for the weak, which is why some have labeled themselves “fibro warriors”.

If you have a fibro warrior in your life, please send them a little loving energy: this isn’t an easy experience, and many are doing the best that they can.

That’s all for this week. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe 4th of July weekend. Take care!

health

Fibro Fridays: Why It’s Difficult to Treat Fibromyalgia

Happy Friday, friends! Today’s post is one that I’ve been eager to write, because I feel that explaining this (from the perspective of someone living with fibromyalgia) may give a little clarity to others that are struggling with their diagnosis, or may help people that are unfamiliar with the condition to better understand why there is no easy “fix” for fibro.

Whenever you try to learn about fibromyalgia online or directly from a medical professional, there is generally a lack of consensus on the causes of the condition. The condition is treated as a bit of a “catch-all” category for a set of uncomfortable (to the point of painful) symptoms. This “catch-all” designation is one reason why there are still some medical professionals that continue to deny the existence of fibro (I already wrote a post touching on this topic).

In any case, the overall lack of understanding behind the WHY of fibro leaves a lot of questions regarding the HOW of treatment. Different root causes call for different treatment protocol. However, fibromyalgia can be linked to muscular, nervous and even digestive malfunctions, so most treatment is, at best, akin to a game of darts. Medical professionals will try to hit the “bullseye”, and many treatments can offer a level of relief, but it seems that no one has hit the “bullseye” of fibromyalgia – YET.

Prescription medication is one treatment option for fibromyalgia

There are many researchers that are getting closer to an agreed-upon definition of fibromyalgia, including its root causes. However, until consensus is achieved, we have an assortment of treatments that can be explored and that may have varying levels of effectiveness. Many of the most popular treatments include physical therapy, aquatic therapy, acupuncture, prescribed medication, nutritional supplements, lifestyle overhaul and lots of intentional self care (which is, by far, usually the most effective treatment [maybe I’ll write more about this in the future]), chiropractic care, etc.,. The trick to managing the symptoms is finding the perfect cocktail of treatments, along with having an excellent support system and medical team in your corner.

Well friends, that’s it for this Fibro Friday! I hope you all have a great weekend, and I’ll talk to you on Monday. Take care!

food · life curation · luxury

Learn About Tea – For Free!

On Facebook, I recently saw an ad from The Republic of Tea, offering a free email course about tea. Tea 101: An Educational Email Series promised to deliver, over a 6 day period, information about the “nuances and complexities of premium tea”.

I’m a sucker for nuance and complexity, so I happily dove into the emails as they arrived.

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The lessons cover the different aspects of distinguishing between and enjoying tea. The lessons are brief and to the point, so they are perfect for busy people.

I especially enjoyed the emphasis on the fact that herbal teas aren’t true “teas” (the only true “tea” is the leaf of the camellia sinensis plant). However, the company still took time to explain the benefits of herbal “teas” and blends. I also liked the description that Republic of Tea provided, regarding the caffeine levels in varying tea varieties. It was good to see which teas provide light, medium and heavy caffeine.

 

beauty · life curation

Getting Gorgeous, Inside and Out

One of my not-so-guilty pleasures has been looking at YouTube videos for beauty, style and life advice. As you all recall, I love watching mature YouTubers give their tips and tricks for living well. Along with the mature ladies, I also check out the younger women that are making great content on YouTube.

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A few of my recent favorite videos have been around the topic of “glowing up” during the quarantine. This concept – improving our looks while we stay home – is very popular because many of us FINALLY have time to do all of the beauty treatments, fitness routines, and dietary changes that we’ve always wanted to try. So, since we have the time, why not?

Here are a couple of my favorite videos featuring how to “glow up”, both on the inside and the outside (because having a beautiful exterior and broken interior is not the goal: wholistic/holistic health and beauty is what we’re creating!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

beauty

Shelter-In-Place Skin Care

While sheltering-in-place, it can be tempting to “let ourselves go”. After all, the only people that are seeing us regularly are our families and friends that we choose to either 1) quarantine with or 2) video chat with regularly.

But while I’m inside, I’m amping up my skincare. Why? Well, *one day* in the not-so-distant future, I’ll be going outside again. And when I do, I want to look great! I want to look good and feel good when life returns to “normal”. So my skincare isn’t taking a break while I’m at home: in fact, I’m learning new ways to improve my skin.

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I’m still doing a version of the Korean 10-step skin care regimen, but I felt like my skin could use a little more care than normal. So I looked up different beauty treatments for the face and body. I created a fabulous coffee & brown sugar scrub using this recipe from Living Chic on the Cheap. I love using this on my body to soften my skin. I prefer to use this after I apply and rinse my soap off while showering. That way, a light layer of coconut oil (one of the scrub’s ingredients) will remain once I leave the shower. However, I have noticed that it helps to use a dark towel after using the scrub: some of the coffee color can remain on your skin if you use the scrub as the last step.

Next, I found this great video showing how to give yourself an at-home facial. I am a HUGE fan of gentle skin care, but there are times where a little more “elbow grease” is required to get the results that you want. This video shows you ways to gently extract impurities from the skin, and how to effectively steam your face. I’ll likely add a relaxing, inexpensive herbal tea to my steaming water, just for the aromatherapy benefits. Also, instead of using a mechanical scrub, I’ll employ a chemical one (I bought one from The Ordinary that I’ll review once I’ve used it a few times).

 

This week, I’ll be using my coffee scrub as well as doing my at-home facial. I’m going to give my skin the extra TLC it needs and deserves!

That’s all for today. I hope you all are doing well! Take care.

health · life curation

What If I Just Want to Rest Right Now?

With all of this unexpected time to stay home and devote to the projects that have been nagging us, it only makes sense that some of us feel it is necessary to do all of our “to-dos” while we can.

But . . . What if all we really want to do is rest and relax?

What if we are too tired to actually do all of the things that we said we’d do when we had “free time”?

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We shouldn’t feel guilty about deciding to simply BE at this time. This time isn’t truly “free” time: this is a period of unexpected, forced containment that has us all feeling uncertain right now.

So if you’re feeling tired, or just want to relax right now . . . DO IT. You’ll be better for it.

art

Virtual Art Exhibits Available Now

This is a frustrating time for all of us art lovers that are currently stuck at home and unable to explore the world as we’d like. However, we can get our art fix by viewing incredible works from the comfort of our home. At least twenty world-famous art museums are currently offering virtual tours that can satisfy our craving for art and culture.

All in for equality

The list below is compiled from articles featured on Travel + Leisure, The Guardian and MentalFloss. Enjoy!

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British Museum, London

Guggenheim, Bilbao

J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Louvre, Paris

Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Museu de Arte de São Paulo

NASA

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (my personal favorite!)

National Gallery London

National History Museum, London

National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea

National Women’s History Museum

Pergamon Museum, Berlin

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History

The Met, New York

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vatican Museums, Rome

 

health · life curation · relaxation

NOW is the Time to Make Self Care a Priority

In light of current events, I have more free time and energy to devote to this blog. And now, more than ever, I’ve been called to resume my posting and offer encouragement and advice.

Our world has changed drastically in the past five months. I recall tutoring ESL students from China and they mentioned the effects of COVID-19 in its infancy. In a way, I was aware of the virus earlier than many of my family and friends, due to my students that provided me an inside view of what life in quarantine is like.

In the US, many of us are experiencing quarantines and mandatory shelter-in-place while we brace ourselves for the impact of the virus. This is a drastic change from life as we knew it, and the store shortages, sudden school closures, economic instability and unexpected loss of employment are devastating for many.

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I cannot emphasize enough that NOW is the time to invest more in your self care. If you are able to read this post, you’re likely more fortunate and privileged than you realized. Investing in taking care of yourself in small (or significant) ways can do wonders for reducing your stress levels (stress negatively impacts the immune system, which you need to be at peak performance during this time). It also helps you to relax so that you can come up with solutions to your problems or, at least, to simply appreciate the good things that are already present in your life.

I don’t write this to sound dismissive and flippant: certainly plugging “self care” when people are suffering around the world may not come across as the most politically correct position to take at this time. However, I’m an advocate for self care in its minutest forms: that can mean doing some deep breathing to help calm your nerves, or stretches in the morning to loosen the tension that your body is holding, or even reminding yourself to drink more water (hydration is important).

Please continue to take care of yourselves, and I look forward to sharing more with you all tomorrow. Goodbye for now!

art · life curation

My (Not So) New Hobby – Painting!

During my time away, I had a chance to resume one of my interests: painting! There is something so therapeutic about applying paint to a canvas . . . The brushstrokes, the blending of color, the magic of taking a concept and turning it into a tangible work of art. I love to paint and I can’t wait until I have more time to devote to my craft. Until then, here are a couple of pieces that I’ve created:

Me with a piece I completed earlier this year: I premiered it in Los Angeles in June 2019

Recent piece in progress

I’m so eager to see where this curiosity leads me. I would love to continue developing my skill, take a few classes, and work with some new techniques and materials. This hobby relaxes me and gives me a much needed creative outlet, so I’m sure I’ll have more paintings to share in the future!

 

 

music · words of wisdom

Words of Wisdom: Nina Simone

It’s a new dawn/ It’s a new day/ It’s a new life/ For me/ And I’m feeling good – Nina Simone

Happy Friday friends!  I hope that you all have had a stress-free and enjoyable week. I’m looking forward to this weekend, despite  a forecast indicating snow showers to strike in the Mid-Atlantic region. I’m no fan of the cold, but it’ll be nice to stay in and watch the snowfall.

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The Words of Wisdom today will be coming from none other than Eunice Kathleen Waymon, better known as the incomparable Nina Simone. Her music, that she described as black classical music, is full of passion, wisdom, pain, and love.

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I first became acquainted with Simone’s music in 2010. I was encouraged to listen to her after an acquaintance noted that I dressed (at that time) similarly to Simone. With my naturally curly-kinky hair, brown skin, and penchant for African inspired fashions, I probably looked a lot  more like Simone than I do currently. I purchased the digital version of The Lady has the Blues to acquaint myself with her work. I found myself drawn into Simone’s incredible piano playing ability, but I stayed for her soulful lyrics.

The album that started my love of Ms. Simone

I researched Simone’s history to learn more about the woman behind these poignant songs. What I learned about her was heartbreaking. Simone was denied admission to the musical program that she dreamed of attending. She had unhappy romantic relationships, which were likely complicated by her own mental health issues (she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder). While critically-acclaimed and publicly loved, she suffered indescribable pain behind closed doors. This pain is what we bear witness to when listening to her music.

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But, despite the painful lyrics, there is a lot of beauty in Simone’s work. More importantly, she left a legacy of activism through her art. She actively sought to achieve her own personal peace while on Earth (which is more than most people can say). Relocating abroad, away from a country that had scarred her with its racism and bigotry, was critical for her self care. She passed while living in France at the age of 70. May she continue to rest in peace. And may we all enjoy her impressive ouevre and learn from her life. The world didn’t deserve Nina Simone, but I’m glad that she lived her life unapologetically and left such an amazing example for us today.

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That’s all for this week loves. I hope that you all have a cozy and comfortable weekend and I will talk to you all on Monday. Take care!

(Photos courtesy of AZ Quotes, For Harriet, Women’s Tea Time, and Pinterest)