The Scamp and Gratitude Challenge Week 18 and 19

I am way behind in the challenge. Way way behind. I have been spending my time trying to get things ready for my move, and I have been trying to get some yoga sessions in before I leave. I was able to find a Groupon that allowed me 30 days of unlimited classes at a new studio by house, and so far, it has been a nice change from doing routines in my backyard.

I’m feeling a bit strange lately, which is why it is important to get back to the challenge. Today I handed over my car to the new owner, and I am starting to have to think about what to pack. I have 30 days left in the US and I think it is starting to set in that I am about to leave for good. I have a place to live, I finally have all the paperwork I need for my visa, and I have meetings and work set up for when I get to Scotland, and the people around me are starting to express their excitement. I am starting to feel very strange about it. I have spent almost three years trying to get back to Scotland,and now it is starting to become real that I actually get to go back.

So back to the challenge. Week 18 is all about the weather. This is easy. Right now the weather is just about perfect. The days are sunny and warm, and the nights are warm enough that I can have my window open and enjoy the breeze and fresh air while I sleep. Lately I have been able to work on my tan too, so by the time I get to Spain for vacation, I will look nice and golden. I am really going to miss the warm weather and the sun, but I am looking forward to the definitive seasons that Scotland offers. I’m looking forward to sunny days in summer, the leaves changing in fall, snow flurries in winter, and the cherry blossoms in bloom in the spring. I know that Scotland sees a lot of rain and wind, but I think the change will be nice. I’m looking forward to practicing yoga in the park, walking everywhere, and my umbrella turning inside out on a walk from the bus to campus. I will miss warm sunny days in California, but that will make visits home that much better.

Week 19 is health. This one is very important to me. May is Lupus Awareness Month. I was diagnosed in 2008, but I feel very lucky. This disease can be horrible, but so far, I have been able to manage my symptoms, and keep the bad days few and far between. For those who are not super familiar with Lupus, Lupus.org breaks it down:

What is lupus?

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years.

In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues (“auto” means “self”) and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.

Lupus is also a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better).

These are some additional facts about lupus that you should know:

  • Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot “catch” lupus from someone or “give” lupus to someone.
  • Lupus is not like or related to cancer. Cancer is a condition of malignant, abnormal tissues that grow rapidly and spread into surrounding tissues. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, as described above.
  • Lupus is not like or related to HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In HIV or AIDS the immune system is underactive; in lupus, the immune system is overactive.
  • Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. With good medical care, most people with lupus can lead a full life.
  • Our research estimates that at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus. The actual number may be higher; however, there have been no large-scale studies to show the actual number of people in the U.S. living with lupus.
  • More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country.
  • It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus.
  • Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too. Most people will develop lupus between the ages of 15-44.
  • Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians.
  • People of all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.

I have been lucky that I am mild. My health has been stable lately, and I have been fortunate enough to have access to doctors that can monitor me and keep me healthy. I know that I complain about Obamacare, but it is nice to have access to doctors and affordable medication. I am hoping that I can keep the trend of feeling good for a long long time.

This week’s gratitude challenge has temporarily calmed my fears and worries about the the coming month and moving to Scotland.

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The Scamp and Sugar

Connective Tissue Disorder: 2; Kim: 0

Thanks to MediCal, it has been almost a year since I have seen my rhuematologist. I have been referred to three different specialists only to be told that they do not take MediCal, so I bit the bullet and went to my old doc as a cash patient. I was happy to see him and his nurses. He has been treating me since I was diagnosed in 2008, and I trust and value his care plan for me. I was properly chastised for not coming in sooner, and thoroughly questions about how I have been feeling. I’m always honest with him about all my aches, pains, and general wellness practices, but today is one of those days that I wish I wasn’t.

For the last year I have been having a problem with dry eyes and a dry mouth. My last couple of trips to the dentist have been stress educing. Until two years ago I had only ever had one cavity. Now I am in the double digits for the number of ones I’ve had filled. What I didn’t know was that all of these things were new symptoms of my disease. Dr. Fab (yes, my doctor’s name is Dr. Fab….well it is Fabricant, but everyone calls him Dr. Fab) informed me that my diet is going to have to change in order to counterbalance some of the things my body is doing to me. That included a new toothpaste, and giving up sugar.

No more sugar.

No more peach rings, no sour gummy worms, no more chocolate (I’ve been stress eating that a lot lately), no more ice cream, and no more mojitos. A few months ago I decided to give up dairy (well, tried. I gave up after a month and substantially reduced my diary intake) in order to help with joint pain, and now I am giving up sugar to save my teeth.

I am a sad girl. The next step is to visit a nutritionist so that I can make a diet plan of foods I can eat and ways I can eat them so I don’t get bored.

On the upside, I leave for Estonia in 32 days, there is only 284 days until I am finally rid of the awful people in my program, and I just booked a trip to Spain and Portugal in June. I am beyond excited for all of the trips on the horizon. It is really the only thing keeping me going right now.

The Scamp Learns Through Osmosis

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Let’s be honest, the best way to learn about American community colleges is put the book over my tired face and hope that the musty smell of old library book will help my brain absorb all I need. This picture was taken at 8:30…on a Thursday. There is no reason that I should be as tired as I am, and no reason why I couldn’t read the 36 pages assigned for next week.

This is my second attempt at doing homework. I spent a good three hours trying to code and synthesize books and journal articles for my research class, and after falling asleep twice in my office chair, I decided it was time to switch gears. The picture is proof of how well that worked. I’m only on page 11 (and I am pretty sure the first chapter started on page 10).

This week was hard for me. I’m exhausted. I would love to blame it on the 5 miles I did at the gym yesterday and today, but I know that isn’t the reason.

Stress is the reason. For the last year I have been unemployed. School was my only job. I was in Scotland walking everywhere, on a good sleep schedule, and getting enough fresh air to make me almost forget that I wasn’t seeing the sun. Now that I am home, I have something to do or somewhere to be almost every day of the week. Two days a week I am with my Dillybean, two days a week I am working as an AVID tutor, two days a week I do nothing but homework in order to be ready for my Monday study group. I also have the added bonus of a being completely twitterpaited with a boy I can only see on the weekends. All of this is good stress. I love my Dillybean, I love working with AVID, my study group is amazing, and I signed up for the degree, so the homework has to be done. The thing is, the stress hits me extra hard, and wreaks havoc on me. Thanks to my disease, my body goes into shutdown mode to deal with stress. Suddenly everything from focusing on my reading, to walking up stairs, to chewing food is hard for me. My life is very different than it was a year ago. Very very different.

To combat this, I am going to spend the weekend in my pjs, doing my reading and research, get some quality time with my yoga mat, and take a lot of naps.

Hopefully by Monday I will know a little bit more about American community colleges, and will feel a little less like I’ve been awake for 48 hours.

Wish me luck….I’m going to need it.

The Scamp Hurts Herself to Prove a Point

I went to the dentist today. I’m not a huge fan of the dentist (insert widely inappropriate joke about not liking things in my mouth), but my mama kicked me in the butt and made me go. I haven’t been to a dentist in about 3 years, and the last time I was there was less than pleasant. The pain pill I take sucks the calcium out of your body, causing my teeth to literally rot from the inside out. I had a fair amount of work done during my last visit, and the thought of having to do that again with no insurance scared me. The dentist’s office was running a special on cleanings though, and so off I went early this morning to get my chompers checked. Lucky for me no cavities and no scary gum disease or degeneration (probably the only good thing about asshole David is that he has stronger love for flossing than he does anything else. He got me to floss regularly, and my gums and teeth are happy for that much).

 

….but I digress.

As part of the visit today I had to fill out a complete medical history. I had to list my illness and all of my medications. I just figured they wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to spontaneously combust while sitting in the chair.

The hygienist who took care of me today was a really great girl about my age. We chatted about Scotland, about how she once wanted to be a teacher, and about how scary life is without insurance. While we were waiting for the dentist she mentioned the Lupus and asked me all kinds of questions about being diagnosed, being treated, and being tired all the time. She told me that she had never met a person with Lupus before and that she is in the middle of being tested for it. She is worried because she shows a lot of the symptoms, but doesn’t really know a whole lot ab out the disease. I did my best to reassure her that it wasn’t the end of the world. I told her that if she did have it she would get used to being tired,  that there were plenty of options for exercise, and that my life was pretty normal. She laughed and said she was glad to hear that because her mother-in-law is a nurse and told her if she did in fact have Lupus it would ruin her life. I laughed and promised her that it  wasn’t the end of the world.

and now to the part where I hurt myself to prove a point…..

The gym has become my daily break from writing. I go and do yoga or rowing and sweat for an hour. It has become a stress reliever as well as a change of scenery from the tiki masks in my office. I was feeling uninspired today so I went to the gym to do some yoga and see if I could find my focus. When I got to the gym though, I just kept thinking about what the hygienist said about her life being ruined if she had Lupus.

Was my life ruined? Sure, most days I am too tired to really want to get out of bed, but insomnia keeps me from sleeping, the joints in my fingers are so swollen I can’t get my rings off, and increased stress can cause me to lapse into a down cycle that makes me cranky, sore and a general pain in the ass to be around, but my life isn’t ruined….is it?

My aches and pains usually keep me from doing any strenuous workouts. I’m not supposed to be on treadmills, or lifting a lot of heavy weights. Since the pool was closed today, I hopped on a treadmill and decided that I was going to run until I was no longer focused on the stress of my paper or the potential ruin that was my life.  3 miles later (which may not seem like a lot, but for a girl who hates running is a lot) I was sweating, out of breath, and immediately regretting my decision.

4 hours, a hot shower and some iced knees later and I am still regretting it. There is a reason why my doctor told me not to do anything strenuous. The worst part of all of this is I have run out of pain pills. I can’t see my doc for another 2 weeks (not that I am counting) and I can’t really take Aleve because it causes me to bruise, so I should be taking it easy, but just had to prove to myself that I wasn’t ruined despite already knowing that I wasn’t.

On the upside, a small discussion of my analysis and a conclusion is all that separates me from a complete dissertation. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will now be glued to my desk chair so that I can finish it tonight, and start the editing process tomorrow.

I also think I will skip the gym….

The Scamp Down For the Count

Right now I have about as much sex appeal as a camel….with gingivitis. My body hurts. The joints in my hands are so stiff and sore that I can’t make a fist, and I’m walking like an 80 year old woman.

I feel like an 80 year old woman. I’m not much of a complainer when it comes to my health, but today I am complaining. I have been feeling icky for a week, but it seems to be getting worse. Most days the pain doesn’t bother me too much, but the pain in my hands and wrists is making it hard for me to sit at the computer all day and work on my dissertation. I am still about 5,000 words from my goal, and I have a literature review to edit, and instead of working, I am laying in bed trying to both not move and get comfortable at the same time. I have about 10 days left until I would like to be done with the dissertation and into the final editing stage.

I just have to make it that far.

This time last year I would call the doctor and go see him to get some extra pain meds and to make sure that there isn’t something seriously wrong with me.

This time though, I am not really doing anything about it because I do not have insurance, and definitely don’t have the $300 just to see the doctor and then the $75 or more that it will take to fill the prescriptions. American is a scary place to be without health insurance. Everyone keeps going on and on about how great Obamacare is, but considering I can’t apply for it until October, and then I  might not get covered for another 6 months, I fail to see how great it is. Trying to figure out how to get my own insurance from a healthcare provider is proving equally as challenging. I require regularly scheduled maintenance, and most plans only offer a certain number of covered visits. The first three months of being covered would max me out. The plans that do offer more visits are a lot more expensive, and might not still be valid when Obamacare actually kicks in.

I may have hated being in San Diego, and I may not have always loved my job, but the insurance coverage I got was amazing. I could afford the payments, doctor visits were never a problem, and the price of meds was rarely over $10.  I wish I could have that kind of coverage for a price that didn’t make me want to cry.

This is another moment when I miss Scotland. I miss being able to see the doc and fill my prescriptions without having to spend a dollar and worry about my amount of coverage.

If only the doctors here would take my Scottish insurance.

In the meantime, I am going to guzzle Aleve like it is candy and try not to stress about the fact that I only have 4 pain pills left.