A wonderful, weird outcome of this stay-at-home period has been the ancestry efforts conducted on Family Search, Family Tree and whatnot, lines and lineage all strung together like the vines on netting, where one branch ends, another begins.
My own discovery has been a bit odd, starting with a round, chunk of grey which, like Star Trek, no grey had gone before. Visualize your face as a clock, then find 11, approximately the upper left diagonal of your eye. Trace the line with your fingertip, starting at the brow, ending at the hairline. Then, because you have nothing better to do at home, make a circle about the size of a quarter. Just for fun, extend that to a silver dollar.
Now imagine that circumference all grey, as in, you took a white marker and painted it grey. That’s how I came to find my heritage with Bonnie Raitt, for she too, has a grey circle at the top left of her hair. Who knew that all it would take is Covid-19 to connect my grey circle with hers?
Why now? Why this time?
As so famously said by the illustrious law student Elle Woods whilst attending Harvard law, when asking the question of a man discarding previous sperm “donor” attempts, but not “this time?” In my case, I’m asking myself, why now? Why this time?
Easy. No hair coloring available, and having learned from past attempts at being my own stylist, coloring is not a skill set in my bullseye. It’s better to go grey than go green (sorry, no images but it’s alive in my memory). The last time my hair was natural was eleven years ago, and before than, fourteen years, both aligning with pregnancies and breast feeding when I went au natural across the board, from eating to dying to fixing, pricking and plumping. The good news for me was I was younger then and I didn’t have grey. The bad news was I couldn’t even recall my natural hair color, but I certainly do now.
Poor Bonnie however. You can see she had “the spot” as I now refer to it when in high school! Youza. I think it’s like a birthmark–one needs to embrace it, just like Cindy Crawford and “the mole,” which somehow got morphed into a beauty mark. If that was on me, my brothers would haven’t called it for what it was: a curse. But in our new-age day and way, what do we do? Love it. Hug it. Embrace it. Let it shine. Don’t cover it up, slice it off or otherwise diminish it’s greatness. Bring it to life! I say.
Rog says not
My dearest husband is not about embracing, loving or cultivating “my spot,” like a fertile plot of soil. He is about shading it with an eye pencil, and when that doesn’t work, he’s not above recommending a permanent marker. When I balk, he offered up one of the girls non-soluable paints from IKEA. I tried to compare myself to Cindy and the mole, which didn’t go far. She had the body to match. Not I.
The real problem with my body’s attempt to become like Bonnie is that it’s on my part line–just like hers! Couldn’t my body have chosen to be original? Or self-identify as a back-of-head spot of above-the-ear-spot? Why on my part line?
Further, could it not have been born a part of me, like Cindy and her “beauty mark?” It was a part of her being from the get-go and her parents were probably too cheap to spend the money on a six-year-old. They had no choice but to call it pretty. By the time she was a teenager and making more money than her parents, she too, was convinced it was pretty. Compare that to my ugly mark, because let’s be honest. When you get a sun spot, it’s from age, not from God. My grey blob at 11 o’clock is a curse of aging, not a beauty gift from the almighty, like a snake in waiting, hoping for the sun of Covid to shine on us all, thereby revealing our true nature.
As I’ve become more reconciled to my relationship with Bonnie, I’m pointing out our similarities: we both have blue-ish glasses. we both insist on having long hair and wearing long earrings, but tragically, the comparisons end there, but I’m certainly not slingling the guitar like a boss as Bonnie.
Two weeks after we moved in to our first home outside Seattle, Washington, the worst ice storm to hit the Northwest in twenty years pounded us. Eighteen inches of heavy snow received three inches of ice. It was heavy, hard and unmmovable.
This doesn’t sound like much, but for an area used to rain, it was nearly catastrophic. We were completely unprepared for our situation. Our home was on a plateau, 800 feet up from sea-level, the paved road steep, the area wooded and shaded. Ironically, we were only a quarter-mile from the main road, but it was enough to strand us and the other fifteen home-owners for two weeks. No way to get down (who owned snow removal equipment? No one) nearly all of us caught off guard, with little food, supplies, gas or heating. We literally had no way to make the half-mile trek down to the main road until the ice and snow thawed.
When Rog finally could make it down the hill, he found every gas station down to Tacoma was dry (about two hours south of us), and it was consuming all his gas just to drive around. The few of us who had small generators had long-since run out of gas. It was the crash course lesson in homeownership, self-preparation and common sense rolled into one very stressful two-week period.
The lessons learned
1) get a bigger
generator that didn’t consume five gallons of fuel for every two hours
2) upgrade said generator to include an automatic “on” switch for power outages.
3) improve the food on hand from random canned goods capable of sustaining life for about a week or two to actual “food storage” which could keep us healthy and alive for months.
4) have alternate forms of heating for the home. Electric is great until the main grid goes down, which it did within five hours of this storm. A fireplace is also wonderful, except when you’ve never used it and don’t have dried wood stored about.
Growing pains: from theory to reality
At that point in our young marriage, (two years) we thought “holy crap, we’re never going to survive,” what life is going to throw us. So we made a priority list. While this article may come too late for some of you, it’s never too late to make an assessment of where you’re at and what you can do to keep your family safe, well-fed and secure, even if you’re “family” is only you.
In order of priority
500 dollars in small bills (10/5/1s). Reasoning: all the electronics systems can go down. No credit/debit cards and no checks accepted. Further, when/if this happens, very few have change. If Rog went to a place and offered a 20, they’d happily take it, but couldn’t offer change. If you fill a car with $60 and need groceries, $100 or $200 doesn’t go far.
Extra gas. Reasoning: Small generators and nearly all home equipment require gas. Rog ran into this immediately when trying to leave our home during this storm. The ice caused branches and a few huge trees to block the road. Only one of our two chainsaws worked (another problem), and neither had much gas. The old-timers in the community had extra gas, but it was limited.
How much? Ten gallons minimum. Additional item: when he went to purchase these, the stores were out. It wasn’t until much later we would actually find/buy and fill them.
Have mixed fuel tanks, diesel and gas. You never know what you/your neighbors will need. Be over prepared.
Food & water. Reasoning: living is good. We didn’t believe going in debt to have food storage was smart, so we budgeted $100 per month for the two of us, our dog and two cats.
Our goal: build up to one-year food supply, but start with 3 days, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months and just continue until we reached that point. Honestly, we never did reach one year while we lived there, capping out at about eight months, and it was a blend of 20 year, 2 year, 3 months, the spread between dehydrated, freeze dried. While I started out being scientific (order or purchasing by item etc.) that shortly gave way to pragmatism. I went with what I could find, but followed a few guidelines.
Purchase 1 extra of whatever I was buying, either water, a can of food, tampons or lighters. When I reached my “goal” of an item and quantity, I stopped. It didn’t take too long to reach cans of tuna, soup, water and the like.
Have a balance of short, medium and long term food and types. 1 20 year can of soup ($14.00) which gives 40 servings, or roughly enough lunches for a month for a family of two. We have three types of long-term food storage, mid-term (think freeze-dried found at Dicks and elsewhere) and short based on preferences.
Use and replace. Canned food has an expiration date. Cycle through and use product so they don’t get old.
Long term food. This is most commonly found in 10 lb cans. As of today, one of the brands we use, Auguson Farms, has paused orders and are 2 months back ordered, but many outdoor and supply stores still have it in stock).
Alternative/back-up heat. Reasoning: gas runs out. Wood doesn’t. We went with a Quadafire wood burning stove for the main floor and a pellet stove for downstairs. Yes, we had to purchase dry wood in the summer, storing it under the deck, but the $250 one-time annual cost saved us $450 per month! Plus it was faster to heat the home and longer lasting, as it heated the floors, walls and multi-story lava rock fireplace.
To-Go bags. When I left for college, my mother gifted me a backpack for the car, one which included the essentials for survival. While the items inside have been upgraded or replaced over time, the bag has never left my car. Ever. What do I have?
Water, water purifier, first aid kit, metallic blanket, storage food, essential toiletries, cold and warm weather essentials (e.g. snake bite kit for warm weather), lighter, mini scriptures). If you don’t have the money or can’t find a purifier, you can get the tablets, commonly found in any camping or outdoor store.
Necessary documents. I’m going to devote another blog to this at some point, but what you must have, either in writing or electronic to take on the go include: family photos, passport, birth certificates-either images/numbers, asset insurance paperwork (home, car, life) medical history – e.g. for your kids/relatives for school or other required materials. You can put this on a solid state storage device like a USB or smart card. I prefer a multi-use USB- it’s versatile.
Home preparation is like that starting a marathon; at first it seems overwhelming, and you can’t imagine you’ll ever finish, but yet you are do, and are satisfied you made the effort. Wherever you’re at, just start. Take it one item, one shopping trip and one day at a time. And along the way, make it fun and remember the little things such as closing the drapes/blinds when it’s cold because it saves heat, or close the doors to unused rooms and make a tent bedroom in the living room. You’ll save heat, have family bonding time and sleep well knowing you are doing all you can for your family.
Interestingly, when we moved to Idaho, we had to start all over. No generator nor gas tanks, and even now, four years later, we still haven’t bit the bullet to convert our gas fireplace to a dual wood/gas. That means we still have improvements to make, and are hoping to get a few vital things buttoned up. It’s probably the rare person or family who has every element of their preparedness taken care of, but I’d hypothesize that they sleep the best of all.
An unforgettable experience at the one-of-a-kind Destination day spa
Within the heart of the Villa del Palmar resort in Cancun resides an untouched jungle of magic, Mayan and modern, soothing yet sophisticated, the Spa at the VDP is unlike any other spa I’ve experienced anywhere. In Kyoto Japan, the lines are clean, wood pristine, services and treatments quiet and inspiring. In the hills of Ireland, the experience is rough and real, deep and pressure-filled, but satisfying, like the food and the people. Every culture and experience is unique and unforgettable, but in 32 countries and multiple more resorts just in Mexico, the VDP Spa should be considered a destination of its own, even if you aren’t staying at the resort.
5 star & my top 10
When I love, I mean truly l.o.v.e. a place or experience, I’ll create a short vid. This is my own concoction from materials, and if it looks like a marketing piece, I guess it is, because the place is a destination not to be missed. More on the resort and surrounding areas in future pieces.
Looking down from a top floor room (or any other balcony in the U-shaped resort) a jungle is visible below, but the activity within is shrouded in secrecy. If you weren’t told what lies beneath and within, you’d never know. Never before have I descended into a jungle, the sounds, sights and distractions of the surrounding buildings and boisterous activities evaporating within the silent darkness. I didn’t need to think Zen, it happened without me knowing it. I haven’t personally traveled to the Amazon jungle, but gained an immediate appreciation for the noise-proofing of the arm-length leaves from towering trees, or the short, thick pedals intertwined among the indigenous wood treatment rooms. The check-in reception area is welcoming and gives a sense of privacy, even though it doesn’t have doors or windows. It is literally one with the jungle, as if the designer intended the visitor to begin the transition from the outside, real world to one where indigenous life began.
That pathway from the rest of the resort is just off a main trail. If you don’t look for it, you’ll miss the entrance entirely.
Let the pampering begin
It starts when you sit in the reception area. Well, actually just prior, because a personal attendant walks you to the chair, offers you several options for cleansing/refreshing drinks, places a towel on your head, essentially takes your cell phone (I hid mine, bad me) and lifts my feet to an ottoman. Whether this five-minute respite was to get me into my Zen zone or not, it worked. As much as I wanted to capture pictures and record every step of the experience, removing my device in a clandestine-type of way seemed to defeat the point of relaxation. But I wasn’t ready to disconnect—not yet.
Keep in mind that my photos were clandestine, taken from my cell phone. Any lack of clarity is due to my pics not the place. The reception area.
After two cleansing glasses (of different tastes and consistencies) I was led to the changing area. Replacing my (hotel provided) robe was another, softer version and upon exit, my assistant awaited, leading me to one of several secluded, garden and waterfront areas. It’s special in size and feel; only a few tartan recliners with plush cushions were positioned in front of three different soaking pools, each one different in temperature and design. Beyond these, and to either side is the wall of jungle, the cozy treatment buildings—which are more like luxury huts—were to be seen.
At this point, I was given a face mask of my choosing (lavender with some herb mix) then my assistant placed head and neck herb sacks in position, lifted my feet and proceeded to give each area a bliss-filled rubbing (see the foot sacks in photo above). I was extremely disturbed about five minutes into this when a woman with a thick, southern accent had no such compunction about talking on her cell phone, and it was impossible to tell the attendant to ask her to stop talking in front of her. I endured it, but mentioned this later. Her constant yapping killed my desire to be there a moment longer or use any of the soaking pools. It was a total kill-joy and hopefully the spa becomes militant about a no-cell phone rule.
The good news is the moment I indicated I was ready to leave, we did. My attendant walked me through the jungle on the wooden lanes, the canopies above continuing to block out both the visual and noise of the surrounding hotel. Had I not known where I was, it would have been impossible to tell we had a thousand guests within a quarter mile radius. Each luxury cabanas offer unique services, and I was led to one at the end, the significance made clear. I’d asked for the most “traditional” holistic-Mayan treatment, and this particular cabana was designed for just that. I was introduced to Leticia, a small, warm-skinned woman who smiled broadly, offering that she is in fact, Mayan, and this is a special, sacred experience. I was prepared—or so I thought.
Cabanas (service/treatment rooms) line the walkway, marked by small signs and thatch huts.
We didn’t go in immediately. She asked me to stand still and close my eyes. Other Mayan rituals I’d been a part of require a smoke cleansing. In this case, Leticia softly brushed different parts of my body with specific sand/herb mixtures, chanting/repeating words I couldn’t understand but felt her emotions as she did so. Arms, legs, face, belly…I personally love the smell of indigenous smoke, having been born in Costa Rica and living in Honduras, so it felt familiar and comforting.
I asked to see where the pedicure services were done, and got a peek into this treatment cabana. It was as private and cozy as the others.
At this point, I took a few final photos and put the phone away for good. It was spiritually and emotional at odds with the intent of the spa. It was also required, because we proceeded inside where I laid down and Leticia proceeded the first phase of the treatment. She ran her fingers over my body, feeling the bones and tissues as a good specialists will do, seeking to understand injuries or issues I might have.
The traditional smoke and herbs awaiting for me outside the “Fire” room
At this point, she touched my belly, and it hurt, but not overly so. Leticia mumbled something, but I said it was fine, and she continued (I’m a woman after, and women-things happen. That was all). After this was the scrubbing and cleansing treatment not unlike those in other countries; this difference was this version was local, Mayan soaps and sands, the textures and smells unique to this spa alone. As an aside, I was given a disposable pair of panties and wrap around bra, both easily discarded during the washing stage.
Just one angle of the large interior of the Fire room. Incense was already burning when I arrived, the bed warm and my anticipation high.
The scrub-down was a complete massage in itself, the abrasive texture perfect. Each section was subsequently wrapped so I was kept warm as Leticia transitioned to the next area. When it was complete, she conducted yet another body-pressing exercise, and then a period of quiet silence ensued. It felt like the products were seeping into my skin, my pours and my muscles. I actually thought the massage was going to end there, but no, there was more!
At this point, we were about forty minutes in, and I was on the verge of stressing out because I didn’t want it to end. Leticia didn’t give me time to go worry as she led me to the cabana’s shower where I rinsed off, then resumed my position on the table. If I thought I was on my way to heaven before, when Leticia resumed touching my body, I was sure I’d arrived in Paradise.
The private relaxation area for my cabana, perfect for individuals or couples.
The herbs and oils, lotions and
smoke were a blur, because I didn’t want to keep asking her questions. Muscle
from bone, my body gave way under her skilled fingertips, the thirty minutes of
expertise divine. Only when she turned me over did I experience pain, and that
again between my pelvic area.
“Something is not right,” she
said, her accent thick, but tone concerned enough I cracked open an eye. I’m a
woman, I thought, nothing is ever really right. “This is swollen. It should not
be here.” Now, as much as I admire and think highly of trained experts, I’ve
always been a healthy woman, no uncommon issues plaguing my life, so as
politely as I could, I thanked her, but dismissed her concern. I wanted to get
back to the massage.
“You are tied up,” she said in
somewhat broken English. “Knots and stress,” she said. I almost started
“Oh, no,” I said, “I’m not
stressed out. I just exercise a lot.” Well, then I had to bite my inner lip on
the comment. Recently I’d gained weight around my waist and hadn’t thought much
of it. More writing, less working out, a tummy roll will happen, but I
certainly wasn’t concerned.
Yet Laticia wasn’t letting this
go. She pressed again and I squirmed, asking her not to touch it further. “This
is not good,” she reiterated, lips downturned.
After that, I promptly forgot about the incident, falling right back into the bliss of the moment, enjoying the final sacred aspects of the treatment, the smoke and candles, her chanting and then my final moments of silence. The attendant appeared like a ghost when I was ready to leave, escorting me back to the changing cabana. The checkout still kept the Zen feeling alive, the area dark and quiet until I reached nearly the top of the ramp, where the wood meets concrete, and I was reminded that yes, I was in a resort, but a special one at that.
It’s easy to forget that five minutes away is the beach, where you relax in front of the beach that’s made the Gold Coast famous.
The after effects
Another piece details what occurred three months later. I was in Europe for a six+ week vacation with my husband and two daughters, my stomach feeling progressively tighter, or sort of upset. Going back to my prior comment with Leticia, I just thought “I’m a woman, this too shall pass.” My husband noticed I was eating less, but I attributed this to my monthly cycle. Three weeks in, I was barely eating a thing, and we’d made it through Switzerland and Germany, spending a week in Lake Como as well. As we left for Verona, the pain became crippling, and by the time we arrived in our villa I was seeing spots. As my husband frantically called the doctors, I went fully blind. To keep it short, I ended up being diagnosed with massive tumors, along with a rabid infection. The tumors had been inside me in April, but were much smaller—so much so I didn’t even realize they existed. In Italy, they were the size of an egg and avocado respectively. Six weeks later, when they were removed in the US, one was the size of a cantaloupe, the other a grapefruit. At the spa, I’d simply looked overweight around the middle. At then end, I looked seven months pregnant!
No more of that now, as you can read it elsewhere. The message is this: if you are under the care of an observant, skilled, trained professional, and he or she indicates something is not quite right, don’t be dismissive as I was. The surgery was invasive, the removal producing massive trauma, and while I wasn’t going to have children again, I now no longer have that option, and several vital organs were so damaged due to the severity of my condition, my health will never be the same. Let my experience be a lesson to you, while at the same time, acknowledging the power insightful people could (should?) have on your life.
Two different views of the resort: The pier on the left is where a.m. yoga is held (glorious and free), the right is the many shades of blue. More photos of the resort itself in other articles.
My massage is called the HEALING
RITUAL / TULUM , and you already know Leticia was my therapist.
Others came highly recommended as well, but she was the only person working at
my requested evening appointment (about 5:30 p.m.).
The cabana is called the FUEGO /
FIRE / K´AAK´
Cost: $295 USD. Group discounts are available, and 15% off service specials of $50 dollars are more. For special events, two days advance reservations are recommended as the spa will often create unique give-aways.
What to bring: your best zen-like attitude
A view from one of the upper rooms over the near-invisible spa below. Beyond is a cooler pool with bridge, a dedicated children’s pool and play area. To the left is a secluded, adults-only pool area, and in the center, and to either side, a main, multi-aspect general pool. That’s where the swim-up bars, games and aquatics are held. Beach front cabanas and infinity pools both in private (members-only) and public areas stretch the entire length of the resort.
This is the kind of spa experience I’d recommend to individuals, couples, special occasions (showers, birthdays or other celebrations). Consider it a destination and one-of-a-kind experience on its own and make the effort, even if you are staying at another hotel along the Gold coast in Cancun. I can guarantee you that none other than I’ve experience or heard of even comes close.
As a professional novelist and experienced traveler, I write about places I’ve experienced because I choose to do so, not for hire or payment. My content, visual and written, are independently produced and copyrighted. For info on my books or articles visit sarahgerdes.com, or my author page on amazon.com.
Three weeks ago today, I got cut hip to hip, and out popped
myomas (otherwise known as tumors), hence my online absence. With healing
comes pain, and pills address the majority of the discomfort, but not this big
stretch of skin now hanging between my hips. It’s a wonderfully hideous ledge
of flesh with a bubble-like quality, as if air has blown through the tube
ending at either hip.
It’s fun to describe someone else’s angst in fiction, but so
infinitely better when I turn the letters on myself. As my agent has often said
about my life, “You can’t write that. No one would believe it.”
I beg to differ. Lots of my less-than-finer moments have
found their way into my fiction.
A dream foretelling the demise of a marriage, and subsequently losing everything? That became a plotline for In a Moment, recounting a few of the gorier, but amazing moments of my life in San Francisco. Learning to break someone’s neck as a 5th section black belt. Yep, that’s the first chapter and scene in Global Deadline. And who can forget the intruder/robber that took place in A Convenient Date? The home described was the one I actually lived in, and the intruder? Yes, he actually did hack into the security through the remote heating/cooling. Terrifying, and resulted in us getting a dog, but I lived through it. And Meant to Be? It’s a philosophy I live by, so it was a fitting title for the final book in a romance series. Yet life as a writer became downright prophetic when I ended up in a hospital in a foreign land. All I got wrong was the country: in Made for Me, it was Switzerland. This was in Verona, Italy.
But I digress. This is really about “The Ledge,” as I now refer to it. This lip of excess skin was caused by the removal of Gary and Arnold, so named because my 9-year-old explained, “two growing things need a name.” Sure enough, by the time of extraction, one was the size of a cantaloupe and the other a grapefruit. Like having a baby, that kind of stretching leaves its mark. Since I’m dealing with the after-effects of an abdominal surgery with complications, I’m sharing both pics and details with the world because I don’t possess a lot of shame, or embarrassment, two qualities my mother, she-of-all-that-is-proper, believe are important. Me? Not so much. I’m all about information, which is what you should have.
This was the day we left for the hospital- two tumors about the size of avacados, along with what turned out to be a nasty infection
First off, two surgeons spent nearly three hours detaching my bladder and other major organs from my uterus before they could perform the primary task of removing my uterus and tumors therein. Scar tissue and a rare form of endometriosis had wreaked havoc on my insides, which required the cervix to remain (the bladder wasn’t letting go, and no one’s happy with a punctured bladder).
The upside, as my surgeon said, “The sex will be a lot
better with the cervix in.” Good news, assuming my body (and ledge) will at some
point, allow this activity again. The downside is my body is trying to figure
out who it’s going to be when it heals. Anything I eat or drink causes excruciating
pain. Is this due to the trauma of separating the major organs, my uterus missing
or what? No one knows, the opinions of the OBGYN, surgeon and my primary care
doctors are in disagreement, and the vault of all wisdom (the Internet) is void
of people with my experience. Here’s reality.
Inflammation is a real by-product of an abdominal hysterectomy. I don’t care (nor should you) that the Dr.’s say the Ibuprofen will reduce the swelling. If the internals are traumatized, your bladder (and routes) seal up line a drum; nothing can release. I experienced this when my sutures started to rip (internally) from an overfull bladder. Sexy, I know. It wasn’t until I was about screaming in pain that the on-call nurse performed a scan, called the doctor, and together forcefully inserted a catheter (super fun!). Out drained nearly 1,300 ML of fluid. That’s a full bag and third of those IV drip bags of liquid. No wonder I was dying inside.
Inflammation persists. I believed what I was told: “It will go down after a few days.” Nope. Not with me. It’s now day 21, and while I can relieve myself (more TMI, I know, but someone out there needs it), if I don’t take at least one prescription-grade Ibuprofen with codeine, it hurts.
Migraines. These started about 2 years ago, and for a previously non-headache girl, I’d ignorantly subscribed to the notion that migraines were literally, nothing more than a bad headache. As Lindsey says, “We mock that which we don’t understand, and then we get to experience it ourselves.” Yep. That holds true. These eye-darkening, vomiting-producing, in-bed-for-two-days experiences finally led me to the doctor 12 months ago. All I can say is Sorry to all those I doubted and Thank Heaven for the Maxal generic, Rizatriptan made by Aurobindo Pharma USA. The reason I bring this up now is because a) spasms are triggering a migraine a day and b) not all Maxal generic- Rizatriptan brands are the same! With Aurobindo, it’s chewable, fast acting and powerful. Post surgery, I was prescribed Rizatriptan by Unichem Pharmaceutical and it can’t be chewed, hence is slower acting, and not as strong. E.g. I have to take 2 for every 1 made by Aurobindo. I told my pharmacist and he pointed me back to the original prescription. Yet another bit of learning all you migraine-fellow-sufferers must know!
Spasms. Why didn’t anyone tell me. Imagine getting punched between your hips, then having the fingers dig and twist for about 90 seconds or more. That’s what I’ve been enduring about 6-8 times a day for two weeks. Right around the time my suture closed up, these spasms became pronounced. In hindsight, I’d gone off the major pain pills (around day 8) and day 10, had reduced the Ibuprofen to about 1 a day. Some amount of bowel transition is to be expected (e.g. constipation to diarrhea) as it’s figuring out what its own version of authentic self really is. Still. As my primary Dr. said yesterday, “This isn’t’ normal.”
But then, what is in my life?
When I was in the hospital in Verona, Italy, the physicians were quite sure I had cancer in several areas, and while curable, my life would be forever different. I’d have a poop bag attached to my hip, my life of activity and physical relations with my husband altered, and we weren’t sure our relationship would survive. (Imagine the stories I was considering. Real life, sure? But an interesting read? Not so much).
Growing, growing…I’m looking five-ish weeks pregnant, just one week later
Yet the second aspect of this scenario, talking to our daughters about the possibility of death was easier to have. It went like this: “I’ve had a good run, you will move beyond this and eventually, your dad will remarry. I hope he finds a good one.” If that sounds callous, trust me, it was anything but. What you might not know is that after facing major health issues with my daughter, and dealing with her potential mortality from age six to nine, death and dying conversations weren’t new, or horrifying to us as a family. (Thus proving that one truly has no idea what is going on behind closed doors).
Just three weeks later, when we’d arrived home. Can you believe how the stomach had exploded? I’d purchased this maternity top in shop because nothing else I had fit. It became my uniform- and in most of my pictures I’m hiding, turning or somehow camouflaging my belly like a pregnant actress trying not to get immortalized on film.
This is one week before the surgery. Left is after drinking 1/2 cup of water, and the right is in the morning–no food/water. The distension turned out to be caused by a rare form of endometriosis.
Attitude is everything
Do you hate reading that line when you are going through
hardships? My mother does, because, as a shrink, it’s all about validation with
her. Do you feel angry? Yes!! That’s empathy and compassion, sure, but with me,
I actually do believe that attitude is—well, everything.
You see, as I type, I’ve had to push my computer further away on my legs to get it away from The Ledge. It’s getting in the way of my palms, screwing up my writing groove. I could be annoyed, or I can contemplate The Ledge holding a sandwich, making for an easy grab. I don’t wonder if it’s going to go away, I just work around it.
Four hours of surgery later, hip to hip, and I was fortunate another vertical cut wasn’t required. The tumors grew so rapidly in that last month–who would have known?
That brings me to another of my life-themes. When my close
family or friends talk to me about Present-day trials (spasms, always knowing
the nearest, public bathroom on any street, popping migraine pills like candy),
I’m the one saying life is great.
“I don’t have MS, cancer, diabetes, chronic back pain or a poop bag…” I always begin, before I end with “if the worst I have it is taking a pill a day and using the bathroom two times an hour, I’m good!”
At present, pants hurt and skirts show this lovely, thick ledge ringing my midsection like a muffin top gone south, three inches lower than it should be. It’s rigid, too. My arms have flabbed out as I had to stop lifting back in July. Yep, my life’s sexy right now, but it’s real life, and I’m sure that even the batwings may find themselves in a book—well, at least a sentence and most likely on a beloved grandma.
A sting and a prayer
Lest I forget, the day I returned home must be shared. After ten, painful minutes, I’d finally descended into the chair. I lean back, carefully lifting a cup of fresh watermelon juice Rog has made. Immediately I scream, shooting the liquid straight out, a scene perfect for a B-movie. A wasp was on the edge of the cup, and I’d never seen it. My tongue started to swell, I’m laughing and crying, the kids run to get me ice as Rog gives me a Benadryl. I’ve had plenty of bee stings without an issue, but this time, not so. Within minutes, my arms are covered in red bumps, my tongue is expanding and I start speaking like the guy in the original Mummy, when Emotep extracts both tongue and eyes.
“My tongue!” I yelp, barely making out the words. Rog and the girls are laughing and worried. Soon, both ears started to close in, and having had a burst eardrum, I knew the signs. My eyes were nearly shut and breathing was becoming short–the space for air narrowing. Rog calls the Dr at the ER, who asks how long it would take to get to in.
“You’re not going to make it,” he told Roger, and when I heard this, agreed. My throat would be closed. The Bendadryl was doing not-a-thing, and so I did what any girl of faith would do.
“I’m going to pray,” I told Rog and the girls. “If God wants me healed, he’ll stop this and take care of me. And if it’s my time, then so be it. Rog,” I paused, barely able to see him, “My insurance is current and you’ll find love and get married again. Just find a good one.” It was a variant of my words a month prior, as though the message needed to be said once again to get through.
I fully recognize these photos are horribly hilarious–but it’s real life. Check out that tongue–as it was swelling, I had to have Rog catalogue it–wasps-be-gone.
With that, I said a prayer that ended with “Thy will be done.” To be safe, Rog inserted a straw down my throat.
Within moments, the tightening around the straw ceased and the red bumps on my arms started to burn, then itch, then stop all altogether. It was like going through an hours-long, three-stage healing process in minutes. Over the next hour, my ears unplugged, and my eyes, though still shut, stopped burning. My head, which had felt fuzzy, started to clear, enabling me to see and think. Usually, after Benadryl, I feel hit like a mack-truck, tired and grumpy. Contrast that with spry energy; enough to want to make dinner- despite my incision and inability to walk. Of course, I looked like the female version of the Stay-puff-marshmellow-man, but I was going to be fine–especially since Rog quarantined me to bed.
What my husband called mind-over-matter and Benadryl, I call an answer to prayer and faith.
Five days post surgery and two post wasp sting.
Now, three weeks later, I’ve thought about the events: pain, blindness, collapsing in Italy, making it through three weeks on serious pain drugs as we finished our trip, then the home coming, surgery, sting and recovery. Layers of blessings accompanied each new challenge, and the way things have turned out, I know it’s all meant to be-this time for my learning. If I can help someone by sharing this, then it’s been worth it.
One of my personal jokes has always involved the notion of being in a foreign land where I don’t speak the language and need to visit the doctor. Well, “We mock that which we don’t understand then we get to experience it ourselves,” as I wrote in my novel, In a Moment. At the time, I was going through quite a bit of self-reflection, but in no way did I think I was going to have a chance to confirm this statement.
Unlike the ER waiting room, the diagnostics area was vacant. Rog prowled the hallways like a lion in the Serengeti looking for snacks at 3 a.m.
Ignoring the pain
My husband calls me stubborn, but I like to think of myself as the anti-whiner. In April, an older Mayan woman gave me a traditional healing massage while we were in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. As I was on my back, she pressed on my lower stomach and it hurt. Bad.
“You have stress,” she said in broken English. “No stress,” I assured her with a laugh. Yes, I felt the same knot she pressed, but it hadn’t hurt until she pushed, and I certainly didn’t buy in to the idea stress caused a temporary ball in my gut. Honestly, I just thought my growing tummy was “a woman thing” and I wasn’t going to waste my time or a doctor’s only to be told I needed to eat less cheese. I went home and ton with life, not giving it another thought unless it was for vanities sake. The waistband was a bit tighter, but it was the cheese, right?
Was to cheese or a bad case of indigestion? My brother suggested pregnancy but no.
So here we’ve been huffing it around Europe for two weeks, walking quite a bit. My midsection had gotten a bit bigger, but I chalked it up to eating, that is, until my husband pointed out that wasn’t really eating at all. I had to think about that, and it was true, I’d not been my normal, Sarah-self-of-culinary indulgence. In hindsight, it hurt to eat, so I just ate less. Around the time of this discussion, I realized I’d not been drinking much either, and since I’m a water girl, I’d been developing dehydration headaches. Nonetheless, my goal was to see as much as possible every day and not talk about my innards, which is never a fun family dinner conversation topic.
The crisis moment
The day we arrived in Verona, my body was angry at me. I hurt the entire drive, constantly switching positions in the car, declining food and water, hoping the increasing misery would go away. I assumed I’d been in the car too long, the twists and turns of the road from Bellagio pressing against my stomach the root cause of pain. I helped unload the car and walked up and down the three-story villa Rog had chosen, feeling worse by the hour. Shooting spikes traveled down both legs to my feet, cresting over my hip and down my butt cheeks, but even then, I thought I was tight from sitting. It wasn’t until I stood and my vision became blurred, I could barely walk that my husband called up our doctor back in the states. He listened to my symptoms, including my distended stomach and told me to get to the hospital immediately.
Alien twins never looked so good on a human, at least not at 4.5 months, right?
That was at four in the afternoon, yet we didn’t arrive at the hospital until 10. The intervening hours were filled with Rog boing back and forth with Blue Cross/Blue Shield back in the States. A process must be followed, we were told, the care providers in Italy linked to BC/BS or else we’d get the bill. When we were finally assured I’d be fully covered did we pack up the girls with items for a potential overnight and get on the road.
The waiting room and process, Italian style
Fortunately, Ospedal (Hospital) San Bonifacio was the
closest and newest facility in the entire region.
The waiting room was interesting, because admissions had
one, non-English speaking staff member. I ushered the girls to the only seats
available as Rog waited in line. Through a double door he went, but not before
another gentleman who wanted to cut in before Rog. As I watched the
interaction, I thought about a universal truth: “No,” is understandable in
pretty much any language.
After fifteen minutes, Rog called up Stefano to help translate. As I stood beside him, I nearly fainted. That was the signal for the attendant behind the plexiglass partition to do something more than keep repeating: “No English.” As I teetered into Rog, a male staff member appeared who asked about my condition in thick, but understandable English. Rog explained I might have an abdominal tear, and if the small intestine went through it, the effect could be sepsis. The man immediately requested another nurse to help me back through the doors. I’d made it in!
Slow but thorough
What I got was a gurney, which spared me from passing out. Left
alone for thirty minutes, I contemplated how this was definitely going to end
up in one of my books, assuming it turned out well. All sorts of plots occupied
my mind, distracting me from the pain until the male nurse returned. He asked
questions as he gradually pressed what we both thought were my intestines back
into my gut. If you think that sounds gross to read, it was gross while he was
doing it. Plus, it hurt like the devil, and I couldn’t stop the tears of
absolute anguish as he massaged and pushed around my innards.
My stomach reduced in size about half-way, but I felt quesy.
“That feels better, doesn’t it?”
“Not really,” I grimaced, but at least my belly wasn’t sticking out like Kuwato alien from the original Total Recall movie.
Nearly an hour passed before until I was led in to another
room staffed the senior ER doctor, and a visiting doctor who translated, along
with the original two nurses. The room was set up for triage, but also had the
makings of an office, because a doctor sat at his modern desk, typing on his
computer, the printer behind him periodically spitting out documents.
Once I was laid on the gurney, he spoke, and another doctor
beside me translated as the senior ER doctor typed. Rapid pace, we went back
and forth. All the while, the two nurses went about their tasks, drawing blood
from one arm, the blood pressure from the other, each having their role, moving
quietly, efficiently and without a pause in the flow. When I asked the
physician by my side where he was from, the handsome man only told me he was
from Morocco and I got the hint: don’t make the small talk with the team, let
us do our job.
Questions over, the silver-haired dr rose, coming bedside.
He pushed my guts around, inflicting more pain than the nurse, but with
purpose. When he’d finished, he was back at the computer typing. I was then
informed I’d be going up to receive scans of my internals, which would be conducted
by another physician.
That began a 90-minute wait, half on a gurney, the other half in a solitary area with my family. It was at that point I thought: “Arg! I need to be one of those crazy wanna-be documentarians, because I should have been taking pics along the way.” I took two pics on my iphone then put it phone away. From the discussions that had occurred, I had bigger things to worry about than the missed photo opp of the crammed waiting room.
Growths, eggs and pain
Once the female physician had me lie down, she said straight
up she didn’t see a bulge. That was depressing. Was I that fat she couldn’t
discern the alien bump protruding straight up and out of my belly button?
I wasn’t going to debate the bump or pain, and just told her
what the previous doctors said. She whipped out the topical goo, spread it on
my stomach and ten minutes later was on the phone with the supervising ER doc.
She’d found two, egg-size tumors in my stomach, although she was quick to point
out that it be unknown if they were benign or cancerous.
The next stop was back to the supervising doc, who
personally escorted me, Rog and the girls three floors up to the gynecologist.
This older man was very refined, and I wanted to compliment him on his choice
or colored glasses and cool watch, but I was a good patient and kept my mouth
shut. (Readers of my novels know this was hard for me because I have a thing
for watches and glasses, sometimes calling them out too much).
He did the full-monty exam on me, politely inquiring why it
had been three months since my last exam, then following up his question with
dismay that in America, ultrasounds on females during annual exams aren’t
required. Here they are. Had I had one, my tumors might have been caught when they
were much smaller. Now major surgery might be required.
After he’d remeasured and reconfirmed what the prior Dr. had
found, he went a step further, telling me all about the myomas (tumors), the
percentage that were cancerous (1%), the “nasty infection,” I had because they
have been seeping toxins in my body, and the reality I’d be in ongoing pain and
wouldn’t be able to eat or drink much until the surgery occurred.
“What do I do about the pain?” I asked him.
He blinked. “Take ibuprofen.” When I started laughing, it was one of those bordering-on-hysterical sounds that break glass and kill relationships. “Maybe I can give you something stronger.” It wasn’t until I filled the prescriptions for both infection and pain that he’d prescribed a granulated mixture of Ibuprofin plus something extra, but since I don’t read Italian, I’ve got no clue. All I can tell you is the moment the liquid hit my tongue, it went number. I have a pack of 60, which I keep on me at all times.
The finish line
Back down we went to the ER doc. By this time, Rog had
gotten him chatting about motorcycles, and I believe when the man realized us
American’s weren’t going to stop trying to speak bad Italian, he started
speaking pretty good English! I suppose in the first few hours, he suspected I
might be in and out, therein using the other doctor to speed up the process.
Now that I’d taken up the majority of his shift, we learned about his travels,
his love for fast automobiles and what in the world I was going to do now.
I thought I was all done when the nurses reappeared on cue,
and IV was set up and one told me it was pain medication drip, which would also
help with the dehydration.
The ER doctor sat at his desk, which was actually located at
the end of the patient’s room where most of this took place! Nothing like
Italian efficiency. A printer was behind him, he did all the computer work
himself, and at the end, while Rog kept chatting him up, he assembled the
documents and scans from the ultrasound, stapled it and asked Roger how he’d
like to pay.
Rog stopped cold, like the blood in my veins. Wha..wha…?
Beyond the fact I’ve never seen a doctor do all the paperwork, a printer in a
trauma unit and using a stapler, he was ready to take our money. Then we braced
ourselves. Rog accepted the documents with the grace of a rat facing a viper,
rather tentatively. He stared, I waited, the doctor was already working on his
“It’s 117.62 Euro,” Rog repeated, as if making sure it was
correct. The doctor nodded without looking up. “Cash or credit?” was Rog’s next
And that, my readers, was the shock of the world. Not that
I’ll need surgery and egg-size aliens making me look five months pregnant.
Nope. It was the beauty of socialized medicine. Just the admittance alone in
the states would have been @2K. Add on that all the doctors, the tests, the
procedures, and we estimate the bill in the US (pre-deduction and insurance)
would have easily been in the thousands.
Roger paid, and the man physician handed me the entire set of paperwork. Then, in the ultimate of wonderful gestures, he walked us to the emergency room and out the front doors. Where in the world does this happen at a medical institution where the commoner (us) doesn’t have the last name Bezos or Gates, and certainly hasn’t gifted the place a new wing. I’m not sure the $117.62 Euro was the reason; I believe this is standard Italian protocol; professional to the very end.
The best part was yet to come
You can imagine my relief and distress on the drive home. Forty-thirty in the morning, the family was wired and hungry. We stopped at an all-nighter restaurant and had pizza. Well, they had pizza. I watched. The next few weeks were going to be brutal if the doctors were to be believed. But going home ceased being an option when I realized I wasn’t at risk of immediate death; this was money spent and time allocated. No way was I going to ruin our vacation. I was just going to follow the gynecologist’s wisdom and essentially suck it up.
That night, I informed my mom and church leaders of my situation, asking for prayers, and that’s when the miracle happened. I woke, expecting the brutal pain, and had none. We weren’t able to fill the prescriptions for another day; each and every hour I braced myself, believing my body was going to revert back to its state of the prior day.
It never happened.
Rog didn’t believe it, nor did the doctor on a follow-up call, but I did. Mom and telegraphed my request to all the family members on both sides, aunts and uncles, children and down the line, the equivalent of the mayor calling the bat phone. The church leaders did the same. The prayers of many were felt by the one: me. It’s now day three. Instead of lying on my back, I’ve been able to walk. No, I can’t eat solids, because that causes immediate pain, but I can drink limited juice and sip light soups, which is a lot more than I could previously.
There was another thing. What we initially thought the time lag in getting to the hospital was a detriment was a blessing in disguise. The Moroccan doctor would not have been on staff, nor the senior ER physician or nurse who got me in so quickly, because they worked the 8-8 shift. Had we come earlier, who knows what we might have encountered? Further, the gynecologist said this was his single night of the week when he worked. His perfect English, and ability to conduct such a thorough exam and to equip me with knowledge and a path forward calmed my fears.
Although I’ve been joking with Roger that this is my version of a European fat farm, (because I’ve been wanting to lose twenty pounds for the last four years), what I’m really thinking is that God knows I exist. He cares for me. He answers the prayers of his children. That I am loved.
So instead of asking ‘why did this happen to me?’ I thank God for the experience and the little blessings along the way which made a hard life moment a little easier. Most of all, I’m grateful for the affirming power of prayer and His ability to answer.
One of the considerations we had before heading to the wig shop was Porsche’s own self-esteem and sense of self. We always thought ourselves fortunate that she wasn’t sixteen and dealing with teen drama; instead, she was still an overall healthy, happy kid. It wasn’t until she started noticing all the stares her way, around 8, that she felt different.
Even then, we always emphasized that being different (no hair) was akin to being cool/unique. It wasn’t until people started asking about “our son,” or ask what our son’s name was that the flip with Porsche was switched. She had no issue being bald, but heaven forbid she be mistaken for a boy, when she clearly, and loudly, is a girl.
In the photos below, my daughter is smiling because as she told her daddy, “I feel like a girl again.” (Yes, I cried on the phone as I was watching this from home).
She went wig shopping the day after Christmas because she’d wished for hair. We couldn’t give her that, but went for the next best thing; a wig. It was Roger who went with her for two reasons. The first is I had a toddler at home and we were told this was going to take several hours. Second, the wig shop specializes in leukemia patients, specifically children. Given my own fragile state of mind and the possibility that Porsche had a deeper medical issue, I wasn’t sure I could handle it.
Round one of trying on wigs. Keeping a positive thought, it’s one way to have her envision what a “big girl” will look like.
Wig selection: synthetic first. Too blond (upper left), too dark (upper left) then finding the right color but needs a cut. The back was trimmed to be more age appropriate and bangs
So off they went. As you can see from the smiles, the wig
shop was a fun experience for Porsche. First, her head was measured. Second,
the colorists started matching what they presumed/thought/ascertained to be her
natural color. Because her hair was gone, Porsche pulled out pictures, and then
they started pulling out colors. Up next was picking synthetic or natural.
Pros: It holds its shape no matter the circumstances, which is wonderful. Reasonably priced, between 300-$750 dollars. Con: It can’t be washed, curled, or modified in any major way. The edges will start to fray so you need to trim occasionally. You must keep it on a Styrofoam head piece after washing and condition (with special products)
Pro: you can wash, style and even color it if you want Con: you have to keep it on a Styrofoam head piece after washing and condition, but you can use normal hair products. High prices- $3,000-4,000.
After choosing the perfect color, the customer is shown how to put on the nylon cap required to keep the wig in place. Then on goes to the wig. Size is very important for children because their heads are still growing, thus the requirement for the cap, which holds the wig in place when it’s a little loose in the first year or two. The final year, which is about how long a wig, real or synthetic, will last, the cap is no longer required.
The wig is then cut in to the shape desired. In our case,
Porsche chose to have a few bangs which could be pulled back or tucked under.
She walked out with special shampoo for the wig, a Styrofoam head, and a
special brush for the synthetic wig. We also ordered a real wig, which took
about 3 months to receive. We learned wigs are produced typically in Europe,
and the color requested is matched to order.
Also, another note on natural wigs. They are made from untouched, or “virgin” hair. For this reason, they can be colored if desired, (unlike synthetics which can’t be colored).
Once the hair is cut to her liking, the big (really big) step was to take her out in public. Rog decided to feed her and just hang out at a café for a while.
Pass it on when you are done
As I’d mentioned in the first piece on hair restoration and loss, we found a young girl, aged seven, suffering from her second round of leukemia. She was the recipient of both wigs. Learn more about the issues we encountered when approaching the local Children’s Hospital to understand why we were unable to go that route (they were rejected).
This is the natural wig. You can see how it’s not quite as fluffy and lays more naturally. The hairline is also very well done–so much so you can’t tell it’s a wig unless you are standing right above her and know what to look for.
Tip: If you are in need of a wig, my suggestion is to call the local wig company themselves. Usually, they are the first stop for children/adults in need, and we have found they are very kind and willing to help connect families who are in need and don’t have the funds to purchase a wig.
In the previous blog on hair loss, I described and showed visuals of the mystery illness that had afflicted my daughter, and to a lesser degree myself. Over the course of several years, her hair fell out in chunks, then entirely, as and a team of doctor’s tried to figure out what in the heck was going on.
Recapping where we started, went through and the beginnings of hope
In the spring of the third year, Porsche was nine, and the door
of knowledge opened up just a bit.
An acquaintance from church came over to the house and asked about Porsche. She then told me it occurred to her that we might want to have our water and food tested for metals.
How to identify “typical” alopecia and something far worse. Top left: Porsche is still thinking it’s all going to be ok. Top right: She didn’t know I started straightening her hair to cover what was happening underneath. Spots larger than a dime, then huge sections
“Our neighbor had a daughter about thirteen who lost a lot
of her hair,” the forty-five-year-old woman told me who lives on a few acres
just outside the city water district. “The doctor asked for a water sample of
the well, and it turned out it had a lot of heavy metals.”
Huh. We were, in
fact, on a community well, but it had been used for over twenty years, and
plenty of kids were raised drinking the water. With the exception of the elderly,
everyone the community had their hair. Per law, it was regularly tested and
passed all the national requirements without exception and always passed.
“Nonetheless,” my friend continued, “you should have it tested again, as well as your daughter for heavy metals.”
Near fatal numbers
Over the next 90 days, we learned that the EPA only tests a fraction of the hundreds of metals in the water (about 350), and that each additional test would be about $1,800 per test. Over 3,000 different metals and permutations exist. We didn’t have that kind of money and wasn’t sure it was going to make a difference.
Seeing huge swaths falling out can be a sign of massive metals in the system
Then Porsche’s own metal numbers came back. She was 70 times
the toxic level for heavy metals for an adult, not to mention a nine-year old.
According to Dr. Nebalski, she should have had permanent brain damage from the
levels of toxicity in her body.
It was a bittersweet moment. At first, we thought: “Yes! We
are finally getting somewhere. With a cause we can find a cure.” We were also
brought to our knees that she was spared having permanent brain damage.
At the same time, we were no closer to determining the “why” of Porsche’s hair loss started. In order to find a solution, we needed to find the cause. Surely, the well alone couldn’t the culprit, it if it was at all, because s we explained, our family of four had been drinking from the well exclusively for seven years. We were left wondering what we could eat, drink or do that wasn’t going to make her situation worse, or heaven forbid, trigger a reaction in the rest of us.
By this time, we were working with a loose team of physicians, western, holistic and natural, who were all intrigued and somewhat obsessive about figuring this out. They all started working together, from Washington, to Arizona, Italy and beyond. I was relieved to find zero competitiveness among the “types” of doctors, but a sense of comradery born of a desire for results.
As Porsche lost her hair, I lost 30 pounds. It’s not a good look. On the right: we had to adapt Porsche’s habits because while she didn’t mind being bald in public, (she got good at ignoring people), her scalp couldn’t take any sun. She wore it for 3 years when not in the house, or a hat.
They believed it was likely Roger and my younger daughter had been spared because Rog always favored protein drinks, milk or juice over water (still does). My youngest had come off nursing, and was eating mostly organic baby food, and not ingesting bottles of water. Both of them had lucked out for completely different reasons. By comparison, me and Porsche likely had very high levels of metal in our systems because we are both water hogs.
The difference between hair growth and hair loss is night and day. Even, overall growth is evident. That said, hair grows back in the order it was lost.
The doctor’s hypothesized that Porsche’s system was triggered by the incredible doses of concentrated radiation in the ocean water from that original visit to Hawaii. What was already resident in her system went on overload. I was affected as well, but as I was older, constantly eating detoxifying foods such as blueberries while maintaining my supplements, it helped my Ph balance. I suffered hair loss, but not in in big swaths, not chunks. Porsche on the other hand, was in the formative stage; her body simply couldn’t handle it.
Cleaning out the system
If you recall from the last blog, at this time, Porsche already had a regimen for keep her hair follicles open. This included applying topical steroids (liquid) every night. She was still receiving @500 shots in her head every six weeks.
Every day to the scalp to keep the hair follicles open
“You need to uses Zeolite to remove the metals from the body,” said Dr. Albert (he prefers we use his first name after Dr. instead of his last, so I’m not being disrespectful here).
Zeolite is volcanic ash. When absorbed, through liquid or capsule, it attracts the metals, and then it’s pooped out. It was so strange, because once I learned this information, suddenly others in my circle, who were well aware of my situation, admitted that they’d been taking zeolite for years because they love fish, but wanted to get rid of the mercury and other metals in the food chain. This is a natural, volcanic ash that absorbs heavy metals from the body. It’s been used for decades and comes in liquid and tablet form.
6 months after taking Zeolite and the magnesium, Porsche went from completely bald to this–the top sections first–early July 2015
We have used two different brands with equal success. The only reason for going back in forth is that they aren’t always in stock. Omica was our original, and our current is Theodosia, and it’s only because it seems to be in stock a lot more. I will say it’s a tad more convenient, because the dose is higher so we only take one per day (30 min before a meal) vs 2 a day with the Omica. But again, we notice no difference between the two.
Once or twice a day, 30 min before meals, depending on which brand you get. They both work equally well, though Thoedosia seems to be in stock more often
Our doctor likened our Porsche’s body to a tree, her hair
being the leaves. The base and insides of the tree had become infected, and the
leaves were falling off. However, the tree might be salvageable, but it would
take time (months/years) to clean it out, starting with the roots.
“It’s critical you drink at least eight glasses of water,” Dr. Albert emphasized. If we didn’t, the body wouldn’t release the heavy metals, we’d be constipated and this would negate any positive effects.
February 2016, the hair keeps coming in–but instead of being thin and fine, it’s tough and corse. We love it.
Even though we have been using Dr. Albert for 17 years and never been sick (thanks to going the natural route), we were dubious. We read quite a bit about scams of powder and pills, and all sorts of claims, but even the western physicians said: “It certainly can’t hurt.”
April 2016. We are astounded with her hair growth– and also the comments. I started getting looks and questions “Is her father African American?” looking between her skin, her hair then back at me. I took the question as a compliment.
Dr. Albert told us what products to purchase on line (not through him) and to ignore the chatter. Without fail, we (me and Porsche) started taking single zeolite pill every day, 30 minutes before eating. In one month, we didn’t see much difference. Two months in, we both had fine hairs sprouting up around our hairline. At month three however, our new hair resembled newborns, with shoots everywhere. Gradually, Porsche’s bald spots started filling in. The regrowth began in the order of hair-loss—not all over, and not all at once. Literally, we watched the spots of first loss fill in. Now, seven year later, the very last areas to go bald are finally becoming full with hair.
The stage of hair re-growth
Phase 1: Interestingly,
like a newborn, Porsche experienced something similar to cradle cap. The
surface of her scalp (the bald areas) first became white and lightly crusty,
requiring a very gentle scraping. We used the soft brushes used on a baby’s
head, then switched to a standard black men’s comb. Our physician recommended
we be sensitive, and we had to be; if we were rough, the skin would break and
bleed. It did, and over time we learned how much pressure to apply.
Phase 2: The next
step of re-growth were the fine, spikey shoots. These would grow to several
millimeters, then fall out, much like a newborn’s hair. After a few days, the
hair would then come in again, but this time, without the cradle cap. Further,
the hair itself was strong, thick and never, ever came out. The doctors tested
the strength, to be sure this was the real deal, and would tug on the hair.
Sure enough, her strands weren’t going anywhere.
Our doctors were extraordinarily pleased, and the shock of the western doctors were high. But when I started asking around to my friends who are nurses, or naturopaths or chiropractitioners, most had heard of, and were using some brand or version of Zeolite! Gah!! As one female nutritionist told me, “I’ve been using it for years because I want to eat fish, and all fish has high metals, no matter what the food companies say,” she contended. Other than metals getting out of her system, I asked if she realized any other benefits. “My hair became thick again,” she said.
Apply to scalp nightly and wash the hair in the morning
While we were thrilled with our results, Dr. Albert asked if we’d been taking Magnesium either liquid of internal. Neither, was our answer. I’d never thought of it. He counseled us to immediately get liquid Magnesium and apply it nightly to Porsche’s hair, which we did. The rate of Porsche’s hair growth markedly increased, and then I asked the Dr. Albert is she could take it internally as well. He said of course. That day, we all started taking a once a day Magnesium supplement.
The added results of the Magnesium were beyond our expectations. About 2 weeks after adding the topical and internal versions, the little fuzzy shoots appeared faster and thicker. As the doctor explained, it was accelerating the healthy hair growth that had been aided by the metal removing Zeolite.
Rog and I were beneficiaries of this newfound supplement
regimen, albeit on a smaller scale. Neither one of us have ever used the magnesium
on our heads, but decided to take it internally, along with the zeolite.
Another lesson learned: hair loss returns….
We learned if either one of us failed to take our zeolite
while continuing to eat meat, fish or other proteins that are down at the
bottom of the food chain, then our hair started to fall out again, and does so
rapidly. (It still does). Also, when the water consumption dipped below eight
glasses, the hair also started to come out. Case in point, once Porsche got
lazy and didn’t take her Zeolite and in two weeks, she showed bald spots. Those
same spots take three to six months to fill back in. For myself, I lose hair
all around, but it’s most obvious at the tip of my hair, at the crown of my
head. Not a great spot to be losing hair.
A recent example was when we went to Cancun. In theory, Atlantic-caught
fish is ‘safer’ than Pacific because it’s further from Fukashima. Wrong. It doesn’t
matter. After all these years, it’s all pretty much the same, and we learned
this first hand because Porsche had remembered her Zeolite, and I’d forgotten.
Still, I made the conscious decision to have seafood every day, my typical
indulgence tuna tacos or tuna sashimi. Seven days in, when my hair was wet, I’d
run my fingers through and they’d be covered with hair. Ten days, doing the
same thing while dry resulted it the same, awful experience. By day fourteen, I
was convinced I was going bald because of all the hair on the bottom of the
shower. My husband talked me down from the follicly-challenged edge, reiterating
it would all be ok when I got home.
He was in fact, correct, but it took another week or two
before the hair stopped falling out in droves. As I bided my time of waiting, I
just repeated to myself that the roots were infected and I needed to clean them
out. Today, about 2 months later, my hair not only rebounded, but I have hair
growing thick at the top of my forehead.
I couldn’t be happier.
In the next
installment, I’m going to go through the side effects and downsides of what I’ve
covered so far (not the supplements, but the shots). They were serious and sort
of awful, but each one temporary and ultimately rectified.
Here’s what you can start to do immediately, and as we
witnessed first-hand; the doctors were right. There were/are nothing but
positive effects from the following?
Morning and night, Porsche has used (and still uses) an over the counter steroid, known as Hydrocortisone 1% (see pic above). This is a topical steroid. All the other commentary about what it helps (itching, psoriasis etc.) are other ailments it apparently helps, but these are not our issues. This has helped the hair follicles remain open as her system became cleaned out. We have her continue to use it because her hair is not fully-grown in.
Magnesium oil (see pic above). This is topic, and is applied at night so she can wash it out in the morning. Why night? It turns white and become sticky. It’s not smelly at all, but it’s not the type of thing you want people to see in your hair either. She applies it every night. If she misses for a day or two a month, it doesn’t have an impact. However, if she misses more than that, it’s noticeable. **a note on the magnesium. If she brushes her hair/scalp vigorously prior to applying, it stings because her scalp is still sensitive. Watch out on that though—you don’t want the burning, which is akin to getting your hair bleached and the toxic chemicals hitting the scalp- it hurts.
Daily: prenatal vitamin, magnesium, collagen, flaxseed oil and a barley green pills.
Feature picture: myself and Porsche when she was three and I was pregnant with my second daughter.
When my daughter Porsche was six, she became accustomed to strangers walking up and rubbing her head, muttering in a language she couldn’t understand. Two years later, parents and children would see her and cross the street in order to avoid coming in contact with her. Back then, I would have given anything for information, solutions and ultimately hope—which is what I intend to give to you.
In this, the first of a three-part series relating to the last seven years, I’ll go through the causes, what we tried and what finally worked. The last posting will be about a few of the pitfalls we encountered along the way.
Part 1: the beginning
When we visited Hawaii in December, four months after the Fukashima nuclear reactor melt-down, we thought nothing of being in the water. For two weeks, Porsche lived in the bay, at least four to six hours a day, every day. I was in the water the second most, but was tending my two year-old quite a bit, so my time was limited.
The year before it all started, showing our hair.
Three months later, bald spots started appearing on Porsche’s head, first a dime, here and there, then a quarter size. By June her head looked like it was diseased. What started as a “simple case of hair loss, or alopecia,” as is commonly referred to in dermatology circles, gradually evolved in a medical mystery. much more than that.
The hair started to go. Comb-overs, bangs and massive swaths.
The journey begins
Mom has always told me she can see the sadness in my eyes.
“Don’t deny it,” she’d say to me. “It can’t be disguised.”
When Porsche’s hair loss began, I started removing myself
from pictures of my travels. That’s why you are seeing many of my posts over
the last number years—up until this year, that I’m simply not in the pictures.
(and here you thought I was being modest or shy all this time).
About nine months after the hair loss began, we began doubting the initial diagnosis by the (3) dermatologists. They’d promised rapid replenishment of hair, prescribed topic steroids and regular injections of steroids into the scalp. Our little six year-old had received her first set of injections in one bald spot, then another, the count growing from ten, then twenty, to a total of 59 shots in the first appointment. As the bald spots increased, do did the number of needles in her head. After two months, she was receiving over three hundred shots in her head, without numbing cream (it didn’t work) or numbing injections.
All the hair had gone underneath–the top layer was all that is covering the rest of her scalp.
Judgement and rejection
During this time, the suffering was as emotional and mental as it was physical. Mothers of Porsche’s friends requested we not attend playdates or activities where our children would interact. In truth, Porsche looked like a victim suffering from a transferable disease, and the kinder-hearted would assume leukemia. To the fearful and uniformed, even in a city like Seattle, she was treated as though she had Ebola. We would literally have parents see us, and walk across the other side of the road.
Six months later…..
For those who did have the courage to ask, we responded honestly. “We don’t know what’s wrong, nor do the doctors,” I’d admit. That led to more ostracization by the parents concerned enough ask our child be placed in a separate classroom.
In the end, we could not longer hide and cover up the hair loss.
Over time, the questions changed, but they still felt like
punches on an open wound.
“Your daughter used to be the tallest in the class. Has she stopped growing?” What I wanted to say was that the steroids we were using to keep my daughter’s hair follicles open were killing her hormones, and she was likely going to become sterile as a consequence, but thanks for asking. Instead, I’d used the well-honed technique of redirecting the topic of conversation to how much the accomplishments of their own child.
Hair follicles and injections
The months passed and the injections increased, now reaching 500 every six weeks, about the time it took the bruising the small scabs to heal then come off. Side note: injections in children, done by needle, are done without numbing cream or numbing injections. It’s not legal in some states, and in others, we learned the hard way that to numb the head requires injections themselves, then waiting, then another round of needles. We learned the hard way that the numbing agent didn’t always work, because the amount allowed to young children is so small. In effect, this caused Porsche more pain, because the number of shots effectively doubled. It took only several sessions for Porsche to announce that she would take all the shots straight, no numbing at all. Tough girl.
Why the injections?
We were referred to Dr. Robert Nebalski, one of the premier
hair-loss specialists in the northwest, who had been working with peers in
Italy and around the world on the causes and solutions to hair loss. He told us
that no, he had no idea why Porsche was losing her hair, but until we found the
cause, and identified a cure, we had to do one thing: keep the follicles open.
However, of two things, he was convinced. The first, was that this was not
“normal hair loss, or alopecia.” Second, the injections were a must.
“You need to keep the injections to keep the hair follicles
open so when we do find a solution, the hair can grow through.”
Jump forward two years. Porsche was eight, and the last of
her hair was falling out. Over the months, I’d been cutting her thick hair to
make it appear thicker, and has become creative with comb-overs, braids and
using headbands to cover the spots. But on Christmas Day, as I brushed her
hair, an enormous swath just stuck to the brush. I lost it, holding back my
tears until she’d left to sob. The day after Christmas, it was my husband who
took Porsche to visit a wig store specializing in children stricken by cancer.
We purchased two wigs, one real and one handmade using real hair. The latter he
purchased that day, and the second, we had made (more on that in a separate
As we prepared her for the coming New Year, and returning to
school with a wig, we encountered the questions of “Why is this happening to
me?” or “Why am I going through this?” Of course, these are questions we all
ask when hard times befall us, and we don’t always have answers. The one
grounding messaging I stood upon was this: we all go through things that make
us stronger, turn us towards seek answers and then help others if we can. I
told her that her experiences would make her capable of handling whatever life
would throw at her, and someday, she’d be able to help others.
Still, we had to deal with reality, and confront prejudices
immediately. We encouraged her to be forthright about her hair, acknowledging
it’s a wig, she has no hair, and that we are working on figuring out what’s
wrong with her body.
That was what she did, and you know what? It worked wonders.
Porsche told her friends and teachers, wasn’t ashamed that she had no hair, and
after her wig came off in a game of tag on the playground, she suggested to the
teachers (and boys) that they be careful not to pull on her wig.
For the time being, we were still searching for answers, had ordered a hair made from real hair, and waited.
Synthetic wigs are a fraction of the cost of real hair, as
in, $500 vs $4,000. The primary difference includes the ability to wash, curl
and style a wig made from natural hair, versus one from synthetic. That said,
the synthetic wigs are so well made, one had to get really close to tell it
wasn’t natural hair, and it kept its shape perfectly. The hairstylist at the
wig shop demonstrated how to use the under cap (made of nylon) and place the
wig on from properly. In order to keep the form of the wig, purchasing and
using a styrophome head is necessary. Every so often, it’s required to trim a
few of the hairs that would stick up or out from the synthetic wig, and it
couldn’t get wet or dirty.
In contrast, a natural wig is treated like regular hair, because that’s what it is. We had the hair custom dyed to match Porsche’s previous color, so it matched her skin tones. When it arrived, we also had it cut in a shape ideal for her face, while long enough to style.
Can you tell which one is the real hair or the synthetic one?
A note-Porsche’s head continued to grow, and we knew that
the wig had a lifecycle of about three years. When they no longer fit, it was
my intention to donate the wigs to cancer victims. Imagine my disappointment
when I contacted the local Children’s Hospital and was told they couldn’t
accept the donations! Apparently, it would be a big, political mess to
determine which children received the wigs, and they couldn’t possibly select
two out of many. Not to be deterred, I found a seven year old girl who had
experienced two different bouts of cancer and had had been profiled in the
newspaper. The article mentioned her father, I googled him and tracked him down
at a local car dealership. He took my cold call, (thinking I wanted a used car)
and started crying when I told him I had two wigs for him. It was two weeks
before Christmas, and he’d told me all his daughter had been praying for was a
wig for her hair.
We both cried together.
Later that week, our families met. They’d lost everything as
they mortgaged away their life to pay for their daughters’ treatment. In the
living room of a friend’s home, we showed his daughter how to wear and take
care of the wigs. Her smile was so bright and joy so full, we were without
words. While we were no closer to discovering the source of our daughter’s
situation, we gave thanks we had her in our lives, and that she was otherwise
healthy and happy. It was a great start to what we were sure was going to be a
Traveling is a great thing, but it does have its consequences, weight gain being first and most obvious. I’m like that person who is stuck on an all-you-can-eat inclusive cruise line, except there’s nary a boat or ocean in sight. The world is my culinary oyster and I want the all-in, shooter version. No messing around with me and my food.
Straight up, I’ll confess my desire to maintain my weight while traveling is all rooted in vanity and money. First, I want to wear what I’ve brought on the trip, which is hard to do if my thighs increase like Christmas sausage being stuffed in casings. Second, I want to spend my hard earned (or saved) money on frivolous things, like purses that are meant to bulge, unlike my bathing suit. So, from my shameless-yet-helpful self to you, here’s how I keep my weight within 5 pounds of my starting point.
How I eat tiramisu…with two spoons…don’t come near me or I will spoon you!
Eat breakfast, every day, without fail
I’ll confess. After high school, I stopped eating breakfast. It wasn’t until the weight started to pile on did I look back in wonder at those glory-days and connected the dots. Mom would rise early, make oatmeal, eggs or some variation thereof. I’d be stuffed until lunch, and even then, not that hungry. In my late twenties, I worked out in the same Oakland Gym as a Mr. Olympian runner-up, who trained folks from all walks of life. I couldn’t afford him, so I did what any smart girl does, I chatted him up. He put it this way:
“I’d be out of business if everyone did one thing without fail: eat breakfast. Eggs and oatmeal.” The other thing he said is: “Eat every two hours to keep your metabolism cranking.”
2 eggs (anyway you like), whole, not just whites (“Only hard core body builders who don’t want a lick of skin skip the yolks,” continued Mr. Runner Up. “It’s just not healthy.”
1 cup steel cut oatmeal. I add a dollop of butter and either honey or natural (grainy) brown sugar and a little milk (or whipping cream. Real women use cream).
On the egg
The yellow is the fatty part, which actually keeps you full. My doctor repeatedly says: “God, or nature, whichever you prefer, created the perfect food in the egg. Why would anyone want to strip away one part?” I never knew bodybuilders and doctors had so much in common, but I digress.
As for the oatmeal, the steel cut oats are coarser and I’m a texture girl, so this works for me. Also, I completely fail at any food plan when I strip away the good stuff in life such as milk, butter etc. So I use the age-old “moderation-in-all-things” approach to life. I am full, satisfied and don’t have a bit of craving.
I was actually pleased to read that Patrick Vellner, the “second fittest person on Earth,” has eggs and oatmeal as well for breakfast. Read more about his diet here. It’s not just us lowly Authors and Olympians!
Steel cut oats in the U.S. but variations of this exist everywhere overeas
No fail lunch routine
Is lunch the biggest meal of the day, or a pitstop on the way to the finish-line called dinner? I’ve vacillated back and forth on this philosophical quandary until my brain hurts. The reality for my family and traveling is this: we are seriously starved between 12-2 p.m., and invariably end up eating a really late, robust lunch. Then we have the afternoon activities.
The golden rule: Salad with protein, eating off the plates of others
I love starting a fuss, so let’s get right into it, shall we? Mom raised me right: “Do not lower yourself to eating off the plates of others.” Yeah, I abided by that until I had kids. My two girls are eating demons, because they devour everything in site and look for more, usually going for what’s left on my plate (because every well-mannered female eats and chews, to slow down the actual consumption size, thereby eating less, and losing weight, right? I think that’s right out of a 1960’s Miss Manners. Oops. I’ve digressed again.
The consequence of spawning two voracious rats is that they always order off the adult menu. That means three adult meals, giving me the opportunity to have my salad of choice and take a couple of bits of three other dishes (hence eating off plates). The financial hawk in me loves the $20 I’ve just saved as well, and the others barely notice my fork dipping into their food as their culinary fever takes hold.
This is sort of the forgotten meal when we travel because my body chemistry is unlike my husband or girls. Whereas they sleep better on a full stomach, I’m the inverse. I sleep terribly after a heavy dinner. Sugar throws me to the ceiling, bread just makes me bloaty (so attractive the next day) and water…well, let’s just say I like to sleep through the night.
What do I do? If we go out for dinner or make something, I stick to whole foods, but I’m not militant about raw or cooked. A raw food, for those who have no clue what that means, is simply defined as a food product in its essence, without being changed around by the cooking process. All fruits and vegetables, streamed, broiled, baked cooked or raw, all count. My husband will look at me and say “I feel so bad for you,” to which I retort “why? I have an entire world of food to choose from and be happy.”
The details…what to eat and avoid
My doctor has always said this: “Red is worst, white is better, fish is best and pure vegetarian is perfection.” Well, clearly, God knew that I wasn’t gonna reach perfection in any form, so I tend to bop between the three. Still, here are few things I’ve learned.
Meat and headaches
Now, far be it from me to gross you out, but I subscribe to the idea that knowledge is power, and when it comes to my body, and specifically, why I was getting headaches I had to get knowledgeable. I realized that I was getting migraines about 15 minutes after eating. Through the process of elimination, I realized the culprit was meat. Yet the type and severity was inconsistent. Through more trial and error (and lots of journaling) I sorted through meat types (red, white, fish etc) and organic vs farm raised vs fresh for all the above.
Eating boar…as in the pig…in Lichtenstein….no headache issues there!
Guess what? Any meat, regardless of color, with fins or legs, that was inorganic, was triggering migraines. It was then that I learned about the US processing requirements and usage of…get ready for it, chlorine washes for chicken, ammonia for meat processing, carbon monoxide to keep the color of the meat an even red (because really, would you want to eat a steak with uneven coloring?) were all contributing to the issue. Read more in this article from a reporter who covers the food processing industry, and this doesn’t even get into all the nitrates that are used in the US. More on nitrateshere.
U.S. versus Europe
When traveling (and living) in the U.S., I avoid eating meat at any restaurant because I hate to hurt. Contrast with Europe. Due to their wonderfully militant stance on anything mutated or chemically processed, I can pretty much eat any thing I want without so much as a twinkle of pain. It’s divine. But that doesn’t mean I won’t gain weight or spend a crazy amount of money on food. As such, I apply my lunch rules, with a slight modification. I will have protein on my salad, fish or any kind of meat that’s local.
Oh! and the chocolate. Don’t get me started. I can barely eat any chocolate made in the U.S., but I’m in heaven overseas because it lacks all the bad stuff that’s filling up our stores here. Translation: I can literally eat 2 huge chocolate bars of any kind–Swiss, Belgian, Czech- you name it- and a) I don’t get headaches and b) I don’t gain weight!!! I kid you not. It’s unreal.
What to avoid
usually have a lot of salt. If you want your face and body thin the next day,
avoid the soups unless the server can guarantee the chef isn’t using a
salt-laden bullion base.
Breads. What’s the point of working out and crunching sit-ups if you look like a four-five month pregnant woman the next day (regardless of your gender)? The note here is the same with chocolate. I can eat breads galor in Europe without headaches or bloating, but not in the U.S.
Note: Breads turn into simple carbs, which means sugar. Often, a woman will get a UTI on a trip and wail “but I haven’t been eating lots of sugar.” When I ask about break, she’d admit that yes, lots of breads, pastries and the like. Think of that as poison to the system, and running to the bathroom in pain is not what anyone wants or needs on a trip.
Tip: If you do get a bladder infection and don’t have access to a natural remedy, prescription or doctor, do two things. Drop the sugar in all forms immediately (breads, alcohol and deserts). Get a couple of lemons and use half, or a whole, in 8 oz of water. Drink as much as you can…16 oz, 32 oz with as much lemon as you have or can stand. It will push the evil out of urinary tract and out of your system. This simple, home remedy has saved my little self on many occasions.
Overload of dairy. Puffy face and bloaty belly. Two things that should not be in the same sentence, or on your body. I read a piece on the actress Eva Longoria a year before she actually was pregnant, the magazine proclaiming her bulging belly was the result of becoming pregnant by her new husband. She laughed and said “No! I just ate a lot of cheese the night before.” You and I may not be globally famous, but that doesn’t mean we want to be bloated in all the wrong places.
Absolute Must do: Flush that body
Drink water. Lots and lots of water. This doesn’t mean you
risk your sodium levels collapsing, but you seriously need to have a gallon a
day. It will wash out and wash away a lot of culinary evils. Plus, if you are
downing lots of sugar, either by sodas, alcohol or desert, it will lower the
risk of you getting a bladder infection, which is most often triggered by too
much sugar in the system.
The mother-of-all aids: Sleep
How many times do we need to read that 8 hours of sleep is critical for metabolism and weight loss or maintenance? The only thing I will add is that in my experience, it’s not only the length of sleep. When I got to bed is at least as critical is the length of sleep. For example, when I sleep from midnight to 8 a.m. I’m groggy and feel terrible. When I get to bed 10 p.m. or early, I wake up and feel energic, happy and full of life. For most of the week, 6 our of 7 days, that’s what I do. Yeah, I might have a late Saturday night here and there, but I value productivity and joy; without getting to bed at a good time, I’m not either of those, which makes for a less than happy homelife. It’s exacerbated when traveling.
Note on the cover photo: that was shot at a convenience store in Prague, Czech Republic. Entire rows of chocolate….bliss.
Snoring solution: Who we became a traveling couple (again)We had a traveling draught lasting nearly six years; the
time it took to have kids and find an anti-snoring solution that worked. For
those ADD readers who don’t have the time or desire to read the context, the
failsafe is Snore
Guard. Less (and more) expensive options are available (see below) but this
is an economical way to cease snoring and get traveling.
All was well in my marriage for the first six years. Only
later, when the soft bubbles turned into stones craping together did I realize
why: we were young, the room was always a brisk 65 degrees, and I didn’t have
children. Post children, my second-sense, ever-alert state came in to being,
and the house was a lot warmer (72 is warm for us). Heat begat a new level of
sleep restlessness, and I feel and hear every turn and bump Rog made throughout
Enter the solutions
Because Rog and I always traveled for business pre-kids, we
saw parts of the world, but separate, not together. When our eldest daughter
turned three, I was taking her on weekly trips to Arizona, so she became a
little road warrior. It was great—as long as Rog wasn’t with us, and in the
same room. For seven years, he found, bought, used, and discarded every…single…snoring
solution on the market, from the strips to nose sprays, along with various
mouth pieces. The early products failed miserably (but some were great for cleaning
out the nose pores), and the mouth guards pulled his lips or cheeks, and even
some strapped around his ears. Rog thought he’d found the motherland when two
fishing buddies told him they’d purchased the same “mouth-covering-oxygen-pushing,”
device. The only catch with that was the size, the inconvenience (you must
train yourself not to turn over during the night) and the non-sexy appeal of your
husband sitting there, looking like he’s come back from the operating room
In 2015, we’d had a sudden realization of our mortality when
two friends unexpectedly die. We began to change our priorities, and that mean
giving our family experiences, not things. The big catch was this: I could not,
would not, travel with Rog if he didn’t fix the snoring issue. My max was three
days without sleep, which limited our travels to four days. Further, I told him
we needed a few shorter “test trips” before we launched off on a big journey.
Armed with the carrot of a vacation, Rog applied his own
stick: He arranged not one, but eight trips in a single year. He determined he
wasn’t going to leave this life without being with himself and “his girls” as
he calls us. I feared for my sleep (and my life) as he set about trying and testing
the various types of snore guards, for he had shut down the
Rog went to his vault of all wisdom: his hockey buddies.
Some lacking critical teeth, many of a large girth, which makes rolling over
(reducing snoring) challenging. They swore by the Snore
Guard Pro. Rog goes out, buys not one, but two. They mold and meld to the
teeth, holding the jaw open just enough to allow the air to pass through. This
is all it takes to have a wonderful, blissful night of sleep.
The benefit is the cost. It’s about $90 bucks, easy to customize and use. The downside, according to Rog, is that it creates a soreness in the jaw muscles, which takes some time to get use to. It wasn’t uncommon for him to remove it half-way, or three-quarters of the way through the night because his jaw hurt. Nonetheless, on our 3-4 day trips from Alaska to Arizona, where the temperature varied and we were with and without kids, the result was consistent: snore-free until he removed the device. The device also comes with a small case so the notion of the guard and associated mouth juices and grunge isn’t foremost when you see it.
Avoid the non-molding
While cheaper, by 30-40 dollars, the versions that don’t allow
molding not only hurt, according to Rog, but barely work. The size is also an
issue, because the two primary versions are deeper and wider. “I threw away a
hundred bucks trying to save forty,” was Rog’s conclusion.
Also, beware the “night guard,” phrase. This tends to imply
a clear or colored teeth guard similar to what hockey players wear to protect
their teeth. It’s designed for clenching and grinding, not snore prevention.
This is another way to throw away good money (which Rog did on his search for
Improving on Good
In search of the “ultimate” snore guard, Rog visited his dentist, convinced a better solution was available. Sure enough, for the bargain basement price of @$400, the dentist would create a custom version made for his teeth. Grateful for the advice, but unwilling to pay that type of premium, Rog did what just about every human with an Internet connect did: he went on-line and found a product for half the price, roughly $195. Once it stood the test of our next travel trip, he purchased another, “just in case.” A good thing too, because these little things are easy to make and misplace.
The key: After spending further hundreds of dollars, Rog determined that the BEST product is the one that is “upside down.” It holds the top four teeth (only) in place, resting the base on the lower teeth. Because he doesn’t want his mouth put out for public viewing, I’m willingly showing you examples in my own mouth, using his mouth piece. (Appreciate those choppers!)
Two days before we headed to Europe, sans kids, for two weeks, Rog tried out the new device. Perfection…and for two weeks, he snored not a single time. That was the beginning of emancipation from snoring purgatory. Four years later, our family is poster picture for mouth guards that work, because without them, we wouldn’t be traveling, at least not together.
This piece is for anyone suffering from migraines, travelers or not. First, know that I have two proven solutions and a third possibility for you, one over the counter, the other prescription and the last involving diet. Second, this is my personal experience, and not a doctor’s recommendation. I write about what I know and what works so you can potentially benefit.
I have to state right up front I fell in to the doubting Thomas category regarding about migraines, as in, what were they, did they really exist or was it all in the person’s mind? As I write in my novel, In a Moment, Lindsey Gordon, the main character, realizes that she “mocks what she doesn’t understand, and then you get to experience it yourself.” This came from a place of knowledge, and it was migraines.
In hindsight, I figured that God, in his infinite wisdom, finally decided forty years of ignorance was enough, blessing me with migraines starting at age 47. For three years, I’ve been a part of what I call the suffering club. Over this time, I’ve learned how to manage the headaches, and when I’m a really, really good girl regarding my eating, I can almost entirely eliminate them. But alas, I don’t always have that kind of discipline: I travel. I eat. I’m a slightly eccentric author, and succumb. Because of this, you, the reader, are going to get the deep dive so you can travel and potentially a life free of migraines. If this isn’t possible for whatever reason, you can manage (and ideally eliminate) your pain so you can experience all this world has to offer.
Migraine vs headache
Headaches (for me) were throbbing, dulling points of pain, which varied in location. I could always continue to work at the office, travel, sleep or exercise, and generally rid myself of the pain with a couple of Ibuprofen. (As a side note, Aspirin would make me nauseas. Ibuprofen didn’t give me that side effect). When the headaches increased in intensity, it moved to what qualifies as a migraine. Mine have always started with a jabbing point in my right eye, which progresses to a complete wash of over my forehead, left eye, then and down the base of my skull. I’d need to lay down, using cold ice packs on all areas , black out the room, then endure until it retreated.
The short-term, immediate and most cost-effective solution are caffeine pills. In particular, Vivarin. Now, before you shout at me that caffeine causes headaches, and that caffeine withdrawal can actually make the situation worse, I will agree with you, but only to a point, and here’s why. If you are traveling and you need to get rid of the pain, run right into the nearest grocery, convenience or drug store and pick up Vivarin. Full stop.
This immediate solution was gifted to me by my husband on an overseas trip when I started to moan. Initially, he suggested an energy drink (which I hate), and I declined. Then he gave me a Vivrin, and within minutes, the headache eased up.
Caffeine pills increase the size of the blood vessels and associated flow of blood to the brain. The increased circulation has an immediate effect (within 15 min). The was my solution for two years, prior to breaking down and seeing a doctor.
I found that Vivarin worked better than any other brand available, and I’m not exactly sure why. I’d test out others when Vivarin wasn’t available, but found most made me nauseas. I have no explanation for this, only that my system wasn’t compatible with these other brands. Trust me, I’d love it if my head responded to all brands equally, but it just doesn’t. Also, it’s relatively inexpensive and over-the-counter, so you can freely travel with these pills across borders. Even today, I keep a handful of tablets in my purses and jackets just in case I run out of my prescription, haven’t been eating as healthy as I should, or both.
Sleep deprivation and “the bounce back headache.”
The first is obvious. The more caffeine you push ingest, the greater the jitters, irregular heartbeats and inability to sleep. This was intense for me because I haven’t ever consumed coffee or sodas, two primary sources of caffeine. I’d be up for hours (and hours and hours), but eventually addressed this by taking two Melatonin pills each night. After about thirty minutes, I’d start to wind down. For those unfamiliar with Melatonin, it’s a natural sleeping supplement. It’s a godsend.
The bounceback headache
This was an unfamiliar term to me until the day I filled my first migraine prescription medication. After the pharmacist heard my headache-to-migraine journey, he said, “You will really like these (the pills). All the benefits of removing the pain without the bounce back headache.” Users of caffeine pills can attest that the bounce back headache can be can be as bad, or worse than the original. Just as the caffeine pills work to immediately rid the headache, if you go off the pills just as immediately, (thereby constricting the blood vessels) the system goes into shock, and yes, the headache returns in full force.
The step-down approach
If you are going to use caffeine pills, plan on the step-down approach by gradually reducing your dependency on the pills. If you started with two pills, go to one, then a half, then a quarter. It may take a day or two (depending on the severity of what you started with), but you can still function. This is better than going cold-turkey and putting yourself in more danger (for irregular heartbeats—jacking your system sky-high, then dropping like a bomb is extremely unhealthy).
Caffeine withdrawal is akin to sugar withdrawal, which has been compared to withdrawal of serious drugs, such as heroine and meth. In fact, a dear friend who nearly died from a diabetic sugar withdrawal told me (from the hospital) that the doctors told him sugar withdrawal is 20 times greater than the closest drug. That said, I had surgery, used Oxycodone, and as soon as I could, went off it. In my haste, I ignored the doctor and went cold turkey (after about three weeks on the stuff). For two days I experienced headaches, cold sweats and fever-like symptoms. It’s the closest thing I can compare to going off caffeine.
Summary for the quick fix
If you need a quick fix, are on a budget or honestly don’t want to take the plunge with a prescription (which I don’t blame you, I resisted for over two years), then this is a solution that has worked for me, and may give you relief. Just use the pills properly and know what you are getting into.
The crossing point for me from Vivarin caffeine pills to prescription was when even three or four pills weren’t killing the pain. With that much caffeine in my system, I was having diarrhea (say it with me: awesome!) and I increasing worried about my irregular heart beat. Even so, I didn’t want to become “one of those people” who were dependent on a prescription. I tried every alternative I could: acupuncture, every natural remedy known to man, alternative healing…nothing worked, but even then, my obstinate, persistent self overruled my rational brain.
It was then that the Big Man pulled out the stops. One day, the migraine was so severe, I’d taken three or four caffeine pills, gone to bed, holding two ice packs, one against my eye, the other on my lower skull. It still felt like needles were going directly into my eye. All night I suffered and cried. When I woke, I was blurry, but functional, somewhat annoyed I seemed to have a dark spot on my right eye that wasn’t going away. Two days later, I finally got out of bed (this had occurred over a weekend), and the same black spot was present, everywhere I looked. My husband laid down the law: I was going to see a doctor.
The doctor listens, examines my eyes and explains the blood vessels were constricted to such extremes vessels that one literally popped in my eye. In other words, this “jelly” as it’s commonly referred to, won’t ever leave. It’s here to stay, in my vision, for the rest of my life.
This is the generic version of the brand name migraine drug Maxalt. Instead of paying $800 for Maxalt, I pay $10 for Rizatriptan with my insurance co-pay. However, when I’ve not had insurance, it’s $40 for 18 pills. Can we say massive savings?
I’ve never used another prescription, so can’t speak to alternatives. That said, I have friends who use other brand name pills but don’t seem to have the same result.
The first benefit is the pills start to work in about fifteen minutes, almost the same as Vivrin. When I feel the onset of a migraine (again, usually over my right eye), I take one pill, which are chewable, tasting like mint. While the warning says it induces drowsiness, I’ve never experienced this side effect, nor have I noticed feelings of impairment. Sometimes, I’ve felt a little less energetic, but this hasn’t ever stopped me from exercising after an hour or two (unheard of, even with the Vivarin). For someone who went from a debilitating, two-day cycle of migraine to normalcy, this is nothing short of the Red Sea parting. Further, as promised by the pharmacist, I’ve never experienced the bounce back headache, nausea or other issues.
Quantity. Rizatriptan, and all drugs in this category, are in the same category as Oxycodone, so it’s regulated. That means doctors usually prescribe 8-12 pills per month, yet migraines can happen randomly, and in my case, 15-20 days per month. The pills worked great, I just needed more. The only (legal) way to do this was go back to my physician, which I did. But prior to that, I called my insurance company.
The right number
After a (long) discussion with the representative from Blue Cross Blue Shield, I learned the initial prescriptions are 8-12 is because: “Over the years, statistics have shown that if you need more than 12 pills a month, you have something seriously wrong.” It was explained to me that “seriously wrong,” meant some sort of brain ailment. Well, I wasn’t in that category, and the woman was sympathetic.
“My migraines were so bad,” she explained, “I had to get shots directly into my head once a month for three years.” Imagine my shock at hearing this. The representative told me I needed to visit with the doctor and request 18-24. If the doctor signed off, I could get my pills.
I figured 24 might be overkill, but 18 was nearly three weeks. That’s what I did, and what I’ve been doing for about 6 months now. Let me tell you this: By the end of the 30-day cycle, I am counting the pills and monitoring what I eat because I can only get the refill on the exact day noted by the doctor.
Summary for Rizatriptan
Excellent solution, has changed my life for the better, and in my case, zero side effects.
Solution three: manage your diet
While I was thrilled, overjoyed and beyond ecstatic to have my old life back, I have never been comfortable with the notion of being on pills for an extended period of time. So, for the last six months, I’ve continued to search for a way to naturally heal my body.
One day, my next door neighbor (she, a doctor, married to a doctor) asked me if I was “open-minded,” and would consider an alternative view of headache solutions. Of course I said yes, and she gave me a book that focused on healing through foods. When one is desperate, one will do pretty much anything, and I was at that point. To make a long story short, I read the book over the weekend, spending lots of time on migraines and the solutions therein. Very specific recommendations were made to reduce and/or eliminate migraines. Further, it listed the primary culprits of migraines, along with inflammatory culprits. The book is The Medical Medium by Anthony William, Chapter 10 is solely on migraines, and page 131 lists triggers.
The list of potential triggers is long, and by process of elimination, I’ve narrowed down my personal “triggers” for migraines. This includes non-organic meats and sugar: more than a couple tablespoons, two days in a row overloads my system. Now this may sound like a lot, but it’s essentially one can of Coke, a bowl of cereal or cookie, or even some ketchup. Sugar is in pretty much everything. Regarding meats, when you are dining out, you can never, ever guarantee where/how the meat is sourced.
Nonetheless, I got culinary religion and started eating like a rabbit. While I continued to have dairy and eggs, I eliminated meat and sugar, which means most breads, unless I made it myself. Guess what? I’d still have one or two a month around my period, and that was it.
Food to kill the migraine, not just prevent it
The few times I did get a migraine, I held off taking the pill, and put a few of the recommendations to the test. I juiced up celery, cilantro, apple and cucumber. That’s all I drank/ate for the space of four hours. After the first hour, the migraine reduced to a headache. By hour three, it was a dull throbbing. Hour four, I felt like a million bucks. Seriously. That afternoon, I was walking the dog.
It’s not always possible to stop and juice up. On local trips, I take my juicer (which I purchased on sale for $125 vs $300), but honestly, it’s a real pain in the fanny to be trekking the juicer with me, going to the grocery store etc. so do my best not to eat trigger foods. Nonetheless, when I’m home, and I’m all stocked up on celery etc., this is my go-to solution.
Summary for dietary changes
A healthier lifestyle is nirvana, what we all strive to achieve. If you are searching for a natural route, I would definitely spend the money on the book 1 and 2 by Anthony William. They are worth it. For me personally, note I said “strive.” I’m not a no-sugar gal, or vegetables only, and because of this, I know that I’m making a choice to try certain foods, or live on the edge that may trigger a migraine. In the end, my lifestyle is probably 80% congruent with my body-chemistry, and 20% living on the edge. For that reason, I have my prescription handy, and as a fail-safe, the Vivarn. In addition to taking your camera and book on your next trip, include at least one of these items. Your head and traveling companions will thank you!
I’ve always loved the water, as long as I was on top of it, as in, on a boat, a water ski or a jetski. But get me in anything other than a pool or a foot of water in a stream so clear I could see the sandy bottom and I’d start hyperventilating.
This revelation came as a surprise to my family, because I grew up swimming in a lake with a sandy shore and murky bottom, going to and from the dock (or walking when the water was low). Once on the dock, I’d wait until I felt like a lick of heat on the surface of the sun before I’d jump in. Far be it from me to avoid participation in the ‘night swim’ where’d we take the boat out at eleven pm, turn off all the lights and test our courage by jumping in the frigid water, all for the reward of enjoying a hot shower and hot chocolate afterward.
It was all a front. The water freaked me out. Yes, I know, this coming from the dare-devil she, but it’s true. As a child, I knew that the Loch Ness monster was fiction and I’d never seen a freshwater lake-dwelling shark. Still. Anything below two feet was the great unknown, and it freaked me out. I’d close my eyes, swim as fast as humanly possible, spending as little time in the water as I could manage so no one was the wiser. When it came to water skiing, I wasn’t the dare devil without a cause. I’d just found the way to spend the least amount of time in the water. When it came my turn to ski, I’d jump off the end of the boat, my ski boot on and strapped tightly, I’d gather the rope up as quickly as possible, scream ‘hit it’ and start to relax the moment I rose out of the water. I didn’t want that ever-elusive man-eating trout to snap off my leg.
It was irrational, and I knew it at the time. Didn’t matter. I wasn’t about to let on that it scared me to go underwater. Then fate intervened.
The Accidental, Glorious Cure: Scuba training
“Please will you come???” My younger brother was fourteen, I was 17, and he was begging me to accompany him to scuba diving lessons. Dad had signed up but couldn’t make it and the class was…that night.
No, ocean, no way. Not in a lake. I couldn’t even handle looking at the mushy bottom. “Where’s it at?” I asked.
He scrunched his eyebrows and cocked his head. “A pool, of course.”
Oh. Two hours later, we were learning the basics of scuba diving. The course was an accelerated two week course, the first five lessons all in the classroom (sooo boring until I started to appreciate the value of gauges that regulated oxygen flow whilst underwater), and then the last five lessons in the pool. We started in the shallow end, and couldn’t go below more than a foot of water. That was so inconceivably boring for a 17 year old, but it served a purpose. The steps of checking out the gear, testing and retesting, then staring at a little bit of water made me want more. We graduated to moving around in our little circle, and then were finally allowed to go in the deep end. All six feet of it. A 20×30 pool is awfully small when that’s all you have to explore.
Yet here again, it served a purpose. My fear of the unknown dissipated as I gained confidence in my equipment, and the power and confidence that came with knowing I controlled my time underneath the water. By the time we went on our certification dive, out in the Sound as it is known, I was ready.
The dive itself would be considered awful by the scuba-purist. The Sound is a body of water that is very cold (we wore wetsuits but the smart divers wore dry suits), it was cloudy (visibility 10 feet) and not full of exotic life. Rather, it was rocks and a few shellfish, except for….
The wall of death. But before I get to that, I’ll say that the first dive removed any and all fear of the water I’d ever had. There we were, diving along at 20 feet, and I was so comfortable the instructor was worried. “Aren’t you breathing?” he asked, worry clear on his face.
“Of course I’m breathing,” I said in my 17 year old trying-to-be-nice sort of way.
He lifted up my gauges to make sure they worked. “This shows you are hardly breathing. Are you stressed? Having anxiety?”
It was then I tried my best to explain to him I felt like I was floating on air, flying underneath with a quiet world all around me. The murky, freezing grey didn’t bother me at all. I was completely and utterly free. Diving was the most wonderful sensation I’d ever experienced.
He nodded and put my gauge down. “You must be relaxed. I’ve never seen a diver with such low figures for a gauge before.” I took that as a compliment, a sign that I’d overcome my issues.
“Time to get you to the wall,” he said, his eyes glinting. I had no idea what he was talking about. He told us that a wall of rock had a sheer drop off down several hundred feet. It would be the “underwater equivalent of looking over a 50 story building, straight down, and then stepping off.” It sounded freaky, and I figured this was going to be my make or break, poop in my pants moment.
The reality was nearly what I expected. We swam along at 30 feet and then came to the edge. Sure enough, we peered over it and look down in to the Abyss. Unfortunately, I’d actually seen “The Abyss,” and those of you who have as well, understand the nature of a huge drop off like the one in the movie (over a mile of straight down). In any case, my heart caught in my throat and I thought I was going to get dizzy. Yet, he swam out over it (and didn’t fall or get sucked in to the great vortex), my brother didn’t hesitate and swam over, so I had to follow. Then….we started to swim down the wall. That too, was altogether like the Matrix, running down the Empire State Building.
Then it happened. We stopped, and the instructor pointed to a dark crevice within the surface of the wall. I gave him a look like “over my dead body.” I could just image an eel taking a chunk of my hand. He saw my fear and inserted his own hand. Out came a tentacle. It cautiously wrapped it’s limb around my instructors hand, reaching, retracting then extending again. I definitely wanted to try that, so I did. It was the first time I’d ever touched a sea animal.
I was hooked.
I went on to dive all over the place, Australia, the Cook Islands, Oregon, California and Mexico. These aren’t places that the ‘real’ divers I know even bother to mention. They go cave diving, ship diving (all require different certifications), night diving etc. I’m still happy to get under the water. In fact, being underneath the surface is the most relaxing place for me.
It’s not often that someone will voice a fear of the water, and I know why. It’s embarrassing and, speaking for myself, I never wanted to admit to a fear I considered completely irrational. I’m glad I got the opportunity to dive, and for the few hundred dollars it is to learn, it’s definitely worth the price of picking a new hobby (and probably a lot cheaper than a therapist).
It started when our daughter Porsche was six. Her golden locks started falling out in quarter size clumps, what the doctors called alopecia, or hair loss. “Normal,” we were told, for girls starting around six years old. When the quarters turned to dollar-size swaths by the time she was seven, the doctors said it was “severe,” but still “normal.” Let me tell you this: nothing is normal about four inch strips of hair falling out. As Porsche reached her eighth birthday she was mostly bald, and with only some strands of hair left. Just before Christmas, we had the task of taking her to a wig store specializing in children, mostly those suffering from rare forms of cancer.
Porsche at 3
To shorten the reading time, suffice it to say that the dermatologists all said hair loss. The actual “hair doctors”- or those that typically do graphs, transplants and the like, said this was not normal. In fact, we became indebt to Dr. Robert Nebalski, one of the most successful hair specialists in the Northwest, for his work in tracking down and identifying the underlying cause of the loss was first connected to girls between 7-13. For years he’d been studying this in concert with another doctor in Italy. At the same time, a friend from church happened to stop by and mentioned that her neighbor’s daughter suffered from a similar condition and it had been linked to her well.
The well. This wasn’t the problem, for wells have been around for a millennium. It was the toxins–and specifically–the metals in the water. Those metals- and think of everything that’s in the ground. When I mentioned this to Dr. Nebalski, we had her metals checked and found her levels were off the charts. So high in fact, that she should have suffered brain damage. (At the time we were on a different well system).
Now, if you, or your daughter (or son, or wife) have had rapid hair loss that can’t be explained, look to the water. That’s the first take-away. Second, forget what the department of health says is actually ‘healthy.’ That’s general. Every person has a different chemical make-up, and some are more sensitive (e.g. susceptible) to metals than others.
The second take-away is that testing the water itself (for metals) is very expensive- as in, $35 per item, and for our full testing it was sub $400. It was a good thing to do, but as were preparing to drill our own well it was sort of after the fact.
I’m jumping ahead here and doing so on purpose, because if you are reading this page, you are probably desperately seeking a solution just like we were. What we learned was this:
you can decrease the metals in your body (which actually reside mostly in your head, thus causing hair thinning and loss)
the solution is Zeolite capsules by Omica. This brand in particular-no other. its basically ash that attracts and absorbs the metals. the body excretes it through bowel movements (pooping). Note: you must drink a lot of water
keep the follicles open through topical steroids (and injections as necessary…more on the next topic
The last element of this is that we’d already been planning on drilling our own well, which we had started, and it was completed in several months. We immediately switched over (me as the guinea pig) and lo, my hair started to come in even thicker than it already is (and those who know me can attest to the thickness of my hair). I was on our own well for a solid month before Porsche started using it, and it’s now been two years+ of normalcy.
Last March, my plants started dying, resembling my life in certain (morbid) ways, first turning brown (akin to my breaking toes), then limping over (breaks on left foot) then ultimately, hanging over dead like my deceased brother.
It was not good. The universal dark cloud of destruction was like this all-encompassing thing, causing even my plants to suffer.
New growth on a 10 yr old plant-wow. who knew?
“How could this be?” I wondered aloud, my plaintive question coming out as a half-wheeze, half-whine.
“Easy,” replied one of my older, and much wiser friends (Shari 65 to be exact). “You moved to a well in March, didn’t you?” I nodded, wondering what that had to do with anything. Our other friend, Holly, happened to be sitting there, nodding her head.
“Metals,” Holly intoned, saying it like she was revealing the ‘mother-of-all plant’ ailments. Of course I had no idea what they were talking about, and then I was schooled in the connection between wells and plants.
Wells, you see, have high metals, mainly iron. Long term solutions are available but I’m impatient and besides, for plants, it’s easy. The way to get rid of all metals, and the iron, is to “let it sit” for 24 hours in a container. Then it’s drinkable. Both these women have been on wells for the last 35 years, I was comforted by the fact that they both had gone through a period of mourning the plants they had inadvertently sent to the great plant farm in they sky.
This conversation was in September, and sure enough, I started using water that I’d left out for 24 hours, but most of the time, I cheat. I take bottled water each Saturday morning, look to my left and right to make sure Rog isn’t watching, pour it into the pitcher and then lovingly drench my plants, that are no longer stooping over or brown. In fact, each one has started sprouting new braches, a phenomena that is as close to the second-coming in this household.
“It’s a miracle,” I said one time within earshot of Rog.
Back in Sept of 2010 when I wrote about remedies for reducing and eliminating ugly varicose veins, I should have written a section about prevention. Silly me. In my defense, I was trying to keep to She’s comment about the 5 paragraph blog which is the bane of my existence. I’m more writer than blogger, and not so good at that, but I digress on what my readers already know.
I had the uncommon good fortune to have a friend whose family was in the circus. Literally. Three generations of performing with Barnum & Bailey’s traveling circus. What, might you ask, does this have to do with vericose veins? Everything, for it was my friend’s mom bit-o-wisdom that I largely credit with keeping the snake-like demons of ugliness off my legs.
One afternoon, while we were inside their round house, which resembled a four-story high hobbit home (as in, hand-constructed and earthy, more like a mountain than a residence for humanoids, we were having a chat. I was watching my friend’s brother flying around in the trapeze in the center of the room, their practice space. The father was in his wheelchair (he fell without a net) years before I met the family, and my friend was harnessing the belts on her waist. As usual, I was in awe of the graceful, lithe bodies that swirled above me, commenting on keeping a beautiful physique. Somehow, the conversation turned to legs, the mom’s in particular.
“Just don’t cross your legs,” she said, something my mother had also told me. “It’s the most important thing you can do.” She went on to point out that men who cross their legs always have a lot of red marks and bumps above their knees. “And do you notice the women? They have red marks on the top of their thighs from the hours and days of weight on their legs.” She then lifted her calf to show where the pressure on the lower leg creates spider veins.
As a teenager, I took her words to heart, never, ever, crossing my legs. It was hard to sit sideways, knees touching, as the others looked far more compely, sitting with their gams crossing, ankles touching delicately in perfect posture form. As an adult, I struggled to look refined as men and women in business meetings crossed and uncrossed, as much to make a statement as to be comfortable. Not I. I kept the faith, just as I did for not wrinkling my nose, raising my eyebrows or raising my forehead in order to stave off deep lines (that worked!).
Years later, as women of my age started getting saline solution injections or having their veins removed, I have been fortunate to do neither, but have used the horse chestnut oil I mentioned in the earlier blog.
Is it the floors?
Quite a few women I now hang with are firm believes that the floors they stand on have assisted in the maturation of veins. Hard floors, particularly in the kitchen (slate, tile etc) are considered the culprit by many. I can’t say either way, since I have slate and have been standing on that for a dozen years now. Several women have ripped up their floors and put installed bamboo floors or cork. The bamboo is supposed to be quite soft, and the cork feels bouncy in a weird sort of way. It’s an interesting look (not for me) but works well in the right setting.
Teenagers reading this….don’t cross your legs, exercise, and adults, give your feet a rest and keep the horse chestnut oil handy.
PS the last time I saw my friend, she was getting shot out of a canon as I watched in Entertainment Weekly. Yes. people do live that life.
One of the fringe benefits of taking up martial arts was the youngish, hot-looking instructor on staff during the times I found most convenient. I was married of course, he single, and about a decade and a half too young even if I had been of the four-legged, mountain-dwelling type of feline, but still the motivation of impressing the young man increased my determination to complete a V-sit up, learn to flawlessly execute rolling knuckle push-ups and stand in a lung poster longer than I thought humanly possible.
The impossible dream of him ever glancing my way for a comment other than to push in my hips or keep my elbow up higher when lifting a sword during a down thrust was dashed when, during a break, he asked if I’d been out in the sun. I responded that no, it was Seattle in the winter. Of course not. Why do you ask?
“Your ears are really dry.” With that, I slunk out of the studio as fast as decorum would allow, cursing my Swedish roots to the edge of the land from which we came. Why me? Why my dry ears?
It’s not like I hadn’t known about my dry ears for oh, say, twenty years already, since I’d hit puberty, nor had I used every method, tip, trick or remedy to rid myself of this evil malady. But no. It’s with me, like my long legs, thick hair and fat, cow milking hands, the progeny of my generations of Scottish cow farmers I’m sure (Vikings conjures a more flattering image, but I lack the prerequisite red hair).
Thankfully, I’d forgotten this ego-reducing incident until I had my hair back in a baseball cap and my 6 year old brought it up. “Mom, why do you have dry ears?” Off goes the cap, down falls the hair, covering my offensive, though perfectly shaped ears and I wonder…why can’t we all be perfect? Would it have been so hard for God to have extended his love from the outer edge of my ear to include the inside? It couldn’t have required more than a nudge fingertip to give my inner lob the moisture it needed.
Until this unanswered question of the universe is answered, I must rely on man to solve the problem. First, why?
Some common reasons include…bad hygene. People who don’t bathe more than a few times a week get the dry, crusty film. Over bathing can cause a similar result, since the oils on the skin get washed away and the surface becomes like the scalp–dry and flaky. The Mayo Clinic cites actinic keratosis which are lesions on the skin. I’ve never seen nor suffered from that. From all my research, ‘itchy’ is a common side effect, but I’ve never had a single ear ‘itch.’ This is attributed to Swimmers Ear or an ear infection and so on. All kinds of remedies are available for this, none of which apply to me.
Here’s what I’ve had and tried…(it comes and goes, like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons). During the spring and summer, my ears are mostly fine. Enough moisture, enough sun, the proper balance of both. Fall and winter, not so much. My mother hypothesized it was in line with the amount of water I consumed….
Natural remedy #1….more water and liquids. This certainly has helped, perhaps more than anything else. My scalp and skin produce similar results, why not my ears?
Natural Remedy #2… less moisture…in other words, when I shower, I must pull my hair back and get ALL the moisture off every surface of my ears. Just like my scalp, when the moisture isn’t 100% gone, my scalp goes berzerk.
Natural Remedy #3…the weekly ‘scrape.’ It sounds more disgusting than it is. We scrape our teeth two times a day (brush) we scrape our scalp by combing, we scrape our legs, faces (men) and armpits with blades, why not scrape our inner ear.
Here’s what you do. Take the end of a tweezer (mine is round and thin but not sharp) and gently run the flat edge along every area that is dry. This gets off the old, invigorates the new.
Natural Remedy #4….Along with the water, start taking Vitamin E or daily Omega 3 gelcaps. This is a long term solution–it won’t take effect for a few weeks. When I take one or both daily, my ears are nearly perfect on the inside, plus my hair is glossier and skin/nails much improved.
Things that DON’T work. Lotions are terrible. It just turns the dry skin in to the ears version of pancake mix without the benefit. Oils are worse. The oils plus dry skin is a mushy goo, that still then needs to be scraped off. gross. The last thing that doesn’t work are Q-tips, or the soft removes. The marketing folks would have us believe pushing dry skin around is the same as getting rid of it or improving circulation. Not so.
Now if you are completely desperate, getting ready to go out and you pull your hair back (or get your hair trimmed) and see the white dry skin, scrape it off (gently, so as to not make the skin red). Then apply a little bit of Borage oil from a gelcap. Borage is one of the beauty world’s best kept secrets. Years and years ago, I was told of a great concoction to use on my face: primrose oil, vitamin E and borage. You can find my recipe here). That’s fine for the face, but much too thick and heavy for the ears. Borage is light, and just the barest hint, when applied to the ears, will eliminate the dry and cracked look, allowing you to go out for hours and not worry about being embarrassed.
Today, whilst I was running on the treadmill, contemplating what topic to write about for ‘workout Wednesdays’ it struck me that I have thus far focused only on the physical aspect of health. That’s only half the equation, for what is the body without the spirit? (so said the Mrs. Steve Jobs in the bio I read over vaca). What indeed?
I’m no swami, but have a strong faith that serves to carry me forward through dark times, enlightens my mind and keeps me focused on family. I was taught at an early age that the spirit, and all aspects therein, must be exercised or else it grows weak, just like the flesh. Over the holiday, I read the Jobs bio on my Kindle (it was darn depressing, I tell you), yet it had a few redeeming qualities. One being the eternal search Jobs had on the Zen part of his existence, searching, striving, and seeking more. Of course, searching is not enough. One must apply what one learns. Through the school of hard knocks (e.g. choice and consequence), I’ve developed a few daily exercises or I grow weak spiritually–my energy ebbs, my outlook on life is grey rather than blue, I’m not listening (or receiving) promptings to help others etc.
1. daily prayer. Obvious, I know, but when I say daily, what I’m really saying is ‘meaningful’ in a way that requires me to verbalize my thoughts outloud. As a writer, I find it interesting that concocting words in my head is one thing. To say them outloud is another. Any good writer (and all books on becoming a better writer) council to speak the written word outloud. It’s requires thought. It carries meaning. The clarity quotient skyrockets.
Daily also means ‘whenever I want’, not just in the morning at night or at mealtimes. It means before a big meeting or presentation. I was seriously praying (silently however) backstage before I was to go on live TV with a movie producer from LA during the launch of my book last year. (I ramble, I get confused. I just asked for calm, peace and the ability the articulate my thoughts). My prayers were answered. My responses were short and concise (a miracle in itself). I smiled. I was calm.
2. Study-not just read-the scriptures. It’s strange. Sometimes I get nothing from reading the scriptures and other times I get a lot. Know the difference? Reading is just that–a straight through reading while on the treadmill or couch that I do. This is good (how can this activity ever be bad?), but not the best. About 2 years ago, I found my ability to truly learn and grow in the experience was found by following a 5-step process. 1) pray before hand that your mind will be enlightened while reading. 2) plan a specific time every day. Dedicate this time and have a routine. 3)have a pad of paper and pen to take notes, write down questions (therein is the studying part) 4) search/answer above questions. It doens’t have to be more than a verse (I used to set goals for reading–five chapters or 15 minutes type of a thing). Searching and answering can be much more or less. 5) pray upon completion that the words read (messages, meaning, understanding) can be remembered and applied.
Once I employed the above guidelines, I found the effort of scripture study much more enjoyable (and yes, it is still an effort), but interestingly enough, I began to look forward to it instead of dreading it like an obligation (like the treadmill).
3. Open your heart to being a help to another. This element of spiritual health brings benefits to others as well as yourself. Have you ever been inspired to call someone and done so, finding that the call was ‘just what was needed,’ to the person on the other end? What about writing a note of thanks for a job well done, then later learning your hand-written card (or email) was much appreciated? These little promptings are called ‘tender mercies,’ but also fall in the category of running God’s errands. Opening your heart to the prompting is the first step, but acting on the prompting is the fulfillment for both you and the recipient. I’ve found that the more I act on these promptings, the more I hear.
As with my own physical health, my spiritual workouts are stronger some days than other. The key is to keep moving forward, even if a bit at a time, to be as strong spiritually as one is physically. Ironically, the body will get weaker over time. The same cannot be said for the spirit.
Over the holiday, yet another layer of my rose-colored classes were scratched. I recently learned that many of the women in my circle have been using products for years, and I had no clue.
Sorry to do this-but you had to see the skin results–no injections etc etc. a’course, I’ve since gone back to blond, but the skin remains the same…43 yrs old
“No one reveals beauty secrets,” I was told by a female relative as she listened to my story, her voice including a bit of humor for my denseness. When I left San Fran for the netherlands of civilization, I didn’t have a need to apply facial products. Now that I’m older and have gotten a clue, that has all changed. A good moisturizer no longer suffices. From the articles on what men do for their faces, they’ve figured it out as well. Products help, especially those that get rid of the top layers of dead skin. Like every other non-sacred topic in my life, figure I might as well share what I’ve learned about facial products. Heck, I share everything else, so why hold back on the most important–or rather–most visible line of learning I’ve had??
Like other women, I paid a Dr a visit, got a slew of products, handed over my credit card, closed my eyes and followed this regimine precisely.
For the 6 week regime, the routine was different than the one I am now on. During the 6 wk period, where I had dramatic results, I didn’t use the night cream (#7) nor did I use the Bio Crème at night (#4). The whole point of the intensive regime is to dramatically tighten and lift the skin, which it did. I noticed a huge difference after just 2 days. That’s because of the twice a day application of the smooth gel, and then retinol every 2nd evening. For my face now, I am on a maintenance program, and it’s a bit more laid back, and includes the moisturizer.
Here’s the starter program.
1.Herbal wash (w/luke warm water), pat dry face 2.Apply glycolic smoothing gel and leave on for 3 minutes 3.Rinse off w/herbal wash. Apply the #3, skin lightener (if you have dark spots). Leave on. 4.Apply #4 (restorative crème) then #5 (SPF 60). 5.Put on make-up as desired.
For the evening: 1.Herbal wash (w/luke warm water), pat dry face 2.Apply glycolic smoothing gel and leave on for 3 minutes 3.Rinse off with herbal wash. 4.Apply retinol (avoiding the corner of the eyes and the corner of the mouth. It will burn and make wrinkles worse. Also, not on eyelids). Leave on overnight. Remember to rinse off first thing in the morning, as the skin will be ruined if the sun hits the skin and you have it on (burned red permanently).
When you are done w/the 6 wk routine, you modify by: 1.Cutting back on the retinol to once a week (Saturday is best, since it leaves the skin a bit reddish). And replace with: 2.#4 restorative lotion followed by 3.Vivite night cream.
A few tips:
1.when you use the smoothing gel, you also can put on the eyelids and around the eyes. It’s makes a huge difference.
2.Go all the way down to mid-neck. If you limit it to just the jawline, it looks freaky. A smoother transition to the neckline is natural.