Thursday, January 31, 2008

Carnival of MS Bloggers

Extra ! Extra! Read all about it at the Carnival of MS Bloggers!! Yours truly is included in the posts by and about MSers....


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Recently I was chatting with a friend about depression. He told me that he was concerned about some of his behaviours and wasn't sure how to go about changing them. Let's pretend that this guy is afraid of spiders; he avoids them whenever possible, he panics if he can't get away, and he won't tell his family why he doesn't like to go to the park with the kids or to the woods to camp. It is said that the first step to recovery is admitting that there is a problem. So this guy has admitted that he has a problem that is interfering with his every day life. The next step is to determine if it's a real problem. Well, if he lived in a part of the world that had no spiders and there was no chance of him encountering one, then there's really no problem. But, he lives in a part of the world that has spiders so his problem is very real.

The next step is to determine if this guy's motivated to overcome his fear. He says he hates the anxiety he feels around spiders and he wants to take the kids to the park. Appearances indicate he's motivated.

The next step is action. This friend went to a doctor years ago to see if his fear could be helped with medication (he had heard that anti-anxiety meds might help) but at the time the side effects were more than he wanted to deal with and he didn't think his fear was interfering enough with his life to warrant medication. Now, however, his fear is starting to become more generalized, and it's not just spiders that cause anxiety, but any creepy crawly. My friend is now going to consult once again with a doctor about meds and cognitive behavioural therapy. In combination, it is thought those two treatments can be the most successful.

Anxiety disorders are closely tied to depression. I've heard it said that depression is fear turned inward. Anxiety is simply fear in a specific and sometimes not so specific situation. When we are afraid of and for ourselves, that anxiety is manifested as depression.

So how do you climb out of that well of depression or stop being afraid? Once a medical reason for the fear is eliminated, you can begin thinking different thoughts. I believe that if you approach your fear or depression in a logical, systematic way, you have a much better chance of overcoming it.

Want an even better chance at overcoming depression? Read a book by David Burns. It's called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. It was first published almost 30 years ago and every time I see a copy of it at a flea market or yard sale I buy it because I give it to people who talk to me about the subject. And this guy has a website. Check it out for yourself. I've never met the man and have no financial ties to him, but from my own experience, I can recommend the book.

I've also given the recommendation to my friend so with any luck he'll be outside playing with spiders in no time.


Picture from
I love Wiki.

Move It On Over

Time for a little audience participation methinks. The topic is music. Specifically, what gets you going?

I comment from time to time to the boyfriend of different songs I'd put on a make-out tape(which instantly defines my age). But since my folks occassionally read this blog I'm going to ask for music that inspires you to move. Which is different from music that moves you. Beethoven moves me, blues makes me want to bake for some reason, 1970s Supertramp makes me feel sexy, but it is electronica and disco that makes me want to move. Get up and boogie, so to speak. Although Supertramp's Cannonball makes me want to exercise.

So, what gets you moving?


Sunday, January 27, 2008

This is My Brain on Drugs

This is my brain. Okay, it's an eraser in the shape of a brain. But it's mine.
And this is my brain on drugs....

I was speaking with someone the other day who first met me when I was MCing the local ALS Walk. ALS is easily one of the most cruel illnesses, and I happily lend my skills to fundraising for this cause. My friend and I were comparing ALS and MS. In the majority of cases ALS is a death sentence within a few years whereas MS is rarely fatal. ALS is continuously and quickly progressive from Day 1 whereas MS is much slower. MS is uncertain, a characteristic about which we MSers like to complain. We don't know what each day will bring. You know what? I realized that this characteristic is something I should celebrate. I may not know what's going to happen, but it just might be great. And I know I have many tomorrows left.

We humans like to be in control. Diseases like ALS and MS can quickly remove that control but we still try to assert some control. I do that by taking Avonex once a week. In my butt. The boyfriend sticks me with that needle after I take some Tylenol to battle the side effects. 4 hours later, around bedtime, I take more Tylenol, the 8 hour stuff, so I can sleep through the night. Usually the next morning, another dose and I'm set for another week.

I've been on the stuff for 8 years now and so far so good. I've had one minor relapse. Is it all because of the Avonex? No idea. I'm sure it has something to do with it, but as one of my neuros is quick to tell me, attitude is pretty important, too.

So as much as I, like the rest of humanity, don't like change, I will celebrate my ever changing disease and do what I can do to make a difference.


Friday, January 25, 2008


My mom told me a story the other night about the summer I played little league baseball. I don't recall the event but it didn't surprise me.

My folks had instilled in my brother and I a "make lemonade from lemons attitude". This alone probably accounts for what I thought was an inherent trait, but now realize was learned (chalk one up for the nurture side).

The coach of my team wasn't terribly thrilled at having me on the team to begin with and I suspect he was maybe trying to hide the fact there was a girl on his team when he told me I should wear my (very) long hair up under my cap instead of the long pigtails I wore it in. I said I wasn't going to do that. Then I told him that life has given him lemons so he's just going to have to make lemonade.

To be honest, I don't recall a negative experience that summer. The coach never deliberately kept me on the bench, I played the same amount as the rest of the team. I do remember the coach's son, who was on the team, telling his dad he'd have to find a place to put on (or in, I don't know how these things work) his cup. His dad said. "Just do it" and the kid looked at me and put out his arms and said, "But Dad..." and his dad said, "just do it". I politely turned around so I couldn't observe whatever it is you guys do. I do remember laughing about it afterwards though. And it still brings a smile to my face as I type these words.


Thursday, January 24, 2008


A coworker, Shannon, told me a story today about her 7 year old son who plays hockey. He (Chris) was telling his mom about a teammate, Jason, who really wasn't a very good player. He was okay in practise, but not at the games. He was kind of a quiet kid and a little bit shy. Shannon felt that the child was probably nervous and a little intimidated during games and that might contribute to his poorer performance. So she told her son that he should encourage his friend when they were at hockey. Tell him when he was doing good job, help to build his confidence.

During a game soon after, Jason managed to score a goal. Shannon said he skated better after the goal and in the locker room after the game, her son praised Jason about his playing. "That goal was awesome! You're playing much better!"

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that. How sweet that a 7 year old heard what his mom told him and used the advice. And how good must Jason have felt? Probably like a million bucks. He scored a goal and was then acknowledged for it.

When I was 11, I played little league baseball. I was the only girl on the team and one of two in the entire league. My coach (who at first wasn't too keen on having a girl on his team) and my folks encouraged me to do my best and have fun. To make matters worse, I wasn't a good player, though I could run like a bat out of hell. But I tried. I usually struck out, a few times I walked, and I never hit the ball to the field. Or the infield even. The only time I hit the ball all season, it was foul. But the crowd (okay, parents and siblings) roared. My coach was yelling at me "OK, you got a piece of it! Do it again! Do it again!" Man, I was pumped. And then I struck out. But that feeling of momentary glory has stayed with me for more than 30 years. I don't know if I played any better or tried any harder after that, but for one moment in time, I had the same feeling that World Series Champions must have. Or Les Nessman from WKRP in Cincinatti in the episode where he caught the game-determining fly ball. *sigh*

I hope Jason had the same feeling and is able to recall it 30 years from now with the same fondness.

Who have you encouraged today?


Picture is from Warner Brother's Looney Tunes Cartoons. Egghead Jr. playing ball with foghorn Leghorn.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MS Movie Night

Each year for the past dozen or so years the Atlantic Division of the MS Society hosts a fundraising Movie Night at Empire Theatres Bayer's Lake. In the past 9 years I've hosted most of them. (I had to skip one year because of what turned out to be a kidney stone, though at the time I thought it was MS related)

This year the event is being held the first week of February and yours truly will be there again. So I just wrote up my little spiel and am posting it here. The drugs and stem cell transplant that I mention are from a news report broadcast last night on the CBC. I will put in the link to CB
C - you'll have to search for the video report as I can't link directly to it.

The little girl I mention is written up in the latest MSIF mailer and I will link to them.

Recent reports indicate positive results on new drugs and procedures to treat MS. One of these procedures is a stem cell transplant. Doctors take stem cells from bone marrow and save it. Then the patient undergoes vigorous chemotherapy to destroy their current immune system. Kind of like crashing a computer. Then they implant the stem cells and watch the immune system rebuild. In effect they reboot the computer.

Sounds simple. Only 18 people have undergone this procedure in the country. Most are doing well with no relapses since their transplants. One person died. How desperate must you be, to be willing to sign a consent form that tells you the risk of death from a procedure is very real?

Drugs are VERY expensive. This little package, one dose of my medication taken once a week, is approximately $500. Lucky for me, the provincial government is covering me on that one. Until last year, Newfoundland did not cover its MS patients unless they were on social assistance. People were forgoing treatment that could help them because they couldn't afford 20-26 thousand dollars a year for meds. People were divorcing and living separately from spouses so one could qualify for assistance and get the drugs.

There are children as young as 2 being diagnosed with MS. A little girl in Ontario, Caitlin, was diagnosed at 8, and is currently campaigning for the MS Society. She says she tells her story because she hopes it will make people donate for research to find a cure and that no other kids or adults will have to live their whole lives with MS.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


This is most of the gang at the Atlantic division of the MS society. Grand Poo Bah, Dena, hinted at celebrating my 10th anniversary along with the gang a the MS Clinic, so I baked a bunch of double chocolate cupcakes and took 'em over on Friday. You can see there's only one left. I almost lost a finger.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Don't Suck

A week ago, a horrifying motor vehicle accident occurred in northern New Brunswick. It claimed the lives of 7 members of a boys basketball team and the wife of the coach and driver of the van. 8 lives gone in the blink of a second. For the past week, that small community has been mourning their loss. Actually, the entire country, and even internationally, people have felt the pain of Bathurst's loss.

There was a mass wake followed by a mass funeral in a hockey arena, as the churches couldn't accommodate the number of people who would be in attendance. The accident (and the aftermath) has been the lead story in the news all week long, and some footage was shown of different people eulogizing the young men. One statement about one of the kids really struck home for me. In describing the type of person he had been, the speaker said the kid was of the opinion that "If you suck, life does, too".

Those 6 words precisely sum up The Secret, cognitive behaviour therapy, and Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking.

So don't suck.

A simple thing to say, and if you say it out loud, it's actually quite amusing. But how do you "not suck"? Hmmm. Therein lies the difficulty. Some people seem to have a natural tendency to be positive about anything. And some have a tendency to be negative. I know a guy who, if he had won the lottery, would have complained about the gas money it would cost him to go pick up his millions.

Since I've been writing this blog, I have discovered a lot of other MSers who are also blogging. And some of those blogs can be downright depressing to read. But one prompted me to write this post. Linda, at Brain Cheese, wrote a post subtitled Should I Feel Bad about Feeling Good? Go read it. I'll wait for you to come back.......

Hit the nail on the head, for me. I look "mahvelous", have no disability, and feel pretty damn good. There are a few little annoyances, but others can't see or hear them. I am certainly not the poster child for this disease. Maybe I could be the poster child for the "best case scenario" of MS. I sometimes feel a little guilty about doing so well when others are deteriorating around me. I saw a man recently who is deteriorating at an alarming rate. He saw me and how well I'm doing and he said "There's hope for me yet". I'm not a neurologist but I have little hope for this man getting back anything he's lost. I didn't say that of course, just held his hand and said there's always hope. But I felt really guilty.

After reading Linda's post I realized I have nothing to feel guilty about. I don't appear sick and have few symptoms, but having MS is always at the back of my mind. Every time I drop something, my keys for example, I'm analyzing why. Did I just not have a good enough grip on them, did I have something else in my hand, or am I having another attack? Every time I have a "brain fart" I wonder if it's just normal human forgetting or is the MS eating my brain?

I could dwell on the facts of this disease and wonder every day if this might be the day I lose my sight, or my legs, or control of my bladder. But living like that sucks. People who live like that drain the energy out of those around them.

Each day is another chance to show someone that you can have a good life even with MS. And that doesn't suck. Neither do I.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pain Relief

I've had a "monkey mind" kind of day today. That's where your brain races around from one idea to another and focusing on one thing at a time has been difficult, so I hope you can understand this post.

I went to an information session about neuropathic pain last night. To be honest there was nothing much new to me at this session but you never know until you go if it's going to be beneficial or not.

I did pick up a few bits of info on the topic that are interesting. Before I get into those, though, I'll just go over the basics of how I deal with my pain. Heat and sometimes activity. Activity, or exercise, and heat provide a distraction from the pain. It doesn't completely relieve it. And that was one thing I took away from last night's session. A lot of pain may not be relieved, but it can be managed.

The doc doing the session, Dr. Ian Beauprie, is affiliated with Dalhousie, the QE2 Hospital, and the Brain Repair Centre. He entertained questions after the session of course and my question had to do with Deep Brain Stimulation. I am not considering getting this done (I'm not that bad, pain wise) but the topic is fascinating.

As the doc explained, Dr. Penfield pioneered brain surgery, mapping the brain, and coming up with surgical techniques to relieve epilepsy. He and his colleagues thought that by excising the part of the brain corresponding to the pained part of the body would relieve the pain. What they discovered was that the body still felt pain, just not in the corresponding part of the body. The person couldn't locate the pain. It was just "there". Electrically stimulating the part of the brain that corresponded to the pained body part didn't relieve the pain either; in fact it sometimes made it worse.

In the course of his work, and while mapping the cortices of the brain, Dr. Penfield also discovered something unexpected. By electrically stimulating the motor cortex, the parts of the brain responsible for planning, control, and execution of voluntary motor actions, pain in specific area could be relieved; ie, if the pain is in your hand, by stimulating the area of the motor cortex responsible for moving your hand, the pain can be relieved.

A light went on. Activity can relieve some of my pain, by being active I am stimulating my motor cortex, which in turn is relieving my pain. The doc said he and colleagues are currently studying this phenomenom.

So how does this translate for others suffering neuropathic pain? Get active. I don't care if you're in a wheelchair, bedridden, or mobile. Get moving. Can only lift one arm? Lift it. Can only wiggle your toes? Wiggle 'em. Hypothetically, physiotherapy involving passive movement (where someone moves your limbs for you) should also help you. But don't quote me on that. I have to do some more research. Something else to consider is visualization. By thinking about specific movements, you might be able to simulate corresponding areas of your brain, and that may relieve pain. Again, I have to do some more research on this, but it doesn't cost anything to try it yourself.

The brain is such a magnificent, complex organ. And mysterious. And amazing. And cool. Electricity and chemicals making us do stuff, allowing us to do stuff, suggesting things to us. I feel frustrated sometimes, knowing that I'll never completely understand this pulsating 3 pounds of white and grey matter in my head. I wonder if even neurosurgeons feel frustrated too?


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's All In My Head

I have discussed pain in a previous post but want to write about it again as I'm having a bit of it these days and it's keeping me from sleeping.

Some pain that results from MS can be the result of using different muscles to compensate for a weaker side or degenerating posture (causing back pain) because of immobility. This is considered secondary pain. Primary pain is neurologic in nature and is a result of the demyelinating and remyelinating process that is MS. Your central nervous system is telling you that your body hurts, despite no evidence of an injury to the outside of your body.

My pain is neuropathic in nature so it really is all in my head, despite my right side limbs telling me they hurt. But what can you do about it? Besides take your head off? Interestingly enough, there are a few things you can do. My favourite is a nice hot or really warm bath. That in itself may seem contradictory for those of us with MS who are heat sensitive, but it generally works for me in, I believe, two ways. First, the hot water can make me sleepy, which aids in prepping my mind and body for going to sleep, and aid in relaxing. Second, the heat seems to "displace" the pain, at least for a while, and maybe even long enough to get to sleep.

If the pain is still sufficiently there after the bath, a heating pad or those magic bags that you nuke can help do the trick. Luckily I don't have these episodes frequently, but they have been severe enough at times to consider heavy duty meds like anticonvulsants or illegal ones like pot. I usually have a one to two week period at the end of summer where I want to cut off the offending limb.

And of course there are meds specifically designed for neuropathic pain. Sativex, a cannabinoid based spray, is one I'm familiar with (though not personally). I've heard from two people who've used it and there was a 50/50 split on its effectiveness. There are other meds on the market, though I've not talked to anyone who has used any of them.

I have also had some temporary relief with massage and physical activity. I suspect the mechanism of relief is similar to the application of heat; it's a distraction for a short period. And of course sex can be of benefit, too, as it helps release natural endorphins and hormones that give you a feeling of well being.

I'm going to be attending a seminar tomorrow night about neuropathic pain so I might have a better handle on it. I'll let you know.

The hardest part about pain and MS, though, is, is it in my head or is it real?


Monday, January 14, 2008

Eating Bugs

I had a brief chat with a caller to the station today about bugs in food. the talk started ordinarily enough about making bread. Then I asked where she stored her flour. And the conversation got worse (for her) from there. Last year I discovered tiny holes in my flour bin. They looked like tunnels or air holes so I went looking for the source in the flour. And I found a few worms. Tiny little worms, but worms just the same. Actually, they were probably larvae of a beetle but they were worm-like. A quick scan of the internet and there they were: flour beetles. So I did indeed have beetle larvae. Cool.

My caller didn't recall seeing anything like that in her flour but I'll bet you a buck after she hung up the phone she went to check. I keep my flour in the fridge now. All that does is keep the eggs from hatching so I'm still ingesting a little extra protein with eveything I bake, but that's no big deal to me. Actually, I began wondering about "allowable" numbers of insects or other foreign material in food.

And that led me to the FDA. In Canada we have an equivalent department, but the FDA regulations are easier to find and I suspect limits are pretty much the same.

A look at Wikipedia and you'll discover that in 100 grams of peanut butter, the allowable number of insect parts is 30. In canned citrus juice, 5 fruit fly or other fly eggs are allowable per 250 ml of juice.

We've all had the experience of finding a bug in our food at some point. I remember being 16 and pouring myself a bowl of puffed wheat. From the bag and into the bowl fell...a puffed fly! That just gave me the giggles all day. And every time I heard about "Puff Daddy", my little fly was what came to mind.

My mother likes to tell the story of when I was 2 and ate an ant at the playground. Mom ate one herself, figuring that if I got sick, she would too, and then she'd be able to tell the doctor what was wrong with me. That's a mother's love for you.

We ingest bugs when we're outside running around, when we're sleeping, even when we're working. I recall a local weatherman in the middle of his forecast on live TV starting to cough and choke. He had swallowed a fly. That made the blooper reel.

The Museum of Natural History in Halifax has regular bug cooking and bug eating "seminars" for kids. It's a big souce of amusement for them, as anything gross is amusing to kids.( Just say the words poop and boogie to them and watch them roll around on the floor in laughter. ) Bugs are a part of people's diet in many countries and were probably a source of nutrition for early man as well. Don't freak too much over unknowingly ingesting these little creatures. You've been doing it for years.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Milestones to Go Before I Sleep

Items made from tin and aluminum are the traditional gifts for couples celebrating their tenth anniversary. In my parents' day, they would have received cake pans or cookie sheets, perhaps cutlery. The "modern" day gifts for the 10th anniversary are diamonds. Considering that aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease and altering the blood/brain barrier, and I'm aware of "blood" diamonds, I guess I'll have to get myself a tin whistle or something like that as a gift. This week marks 10 years since MS entered my life.

MS has been in my life longer than any personal relationship I've ever had. People come and go, but MS will be with me forever. I hope to celebrate many more milestones with MS before I sleep.

Being of a "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" nature, I celebrate my anniversary. Today I took yummy chocolate cake to the MS Clinic in Halifax to share with the gang there. It's not so much a celebration of the anniversary or that I have MS, but more a celebration of how far I've grown as a person since 1998. It's a celebration of the things I've accomplished and learned and of the people I've had the fortune to meet.
I'm the one in the middle, Cindy on the far left, Carrie next to her, Judith (the blonde one) is one of the nurses, and Linda (soon to be a Grand Ma) looks ready to sprint for the camera. A few others, docs and nurses, were busy seeing patients. But we saved 'em some cake. I took a pic of Lucy (one of the researchers) too, but she told me not to post it. You owe me, Lucy.

I've been told that where you are at 10 years is a pretty good indicator of how your MS will progress. So, mine's going along at a snail's pace and that's good. I like snails.

So snails may not be everyone's cup of tea. Or bugs. But the small and the creepy are my cup of tea. I had to chuckle over this website I found today:

My colleague, Thom, said they should include a flyswatter with the funeral kit. Of course, I disagreed.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Back to the Gym

So it's that time of year...back to the gym to prepare for biking season. A little strength training and some cardio plus a couple of weekly winter time rides on the mountain bike should get me back to where I was last summer. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've been terribly inactive for the past few months.

On a side note, the woman working at the gym, who I have never met in my life, suggested I dye all of my hair. As it is, I leave a bit of grey on the front, but I've never had a complete stranger suggest such a thing to me. But she redeemed herself when, commenting on the thickness of my hair, she said my head must be full of poop for my hair to grow so quickly and thickly.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Brain Food

Happy anniversary to me......10 years this week with MS.

So here's my lame attempt at brain cake....the cake fell apart coming out of the pan (it kind of looks like a partial frontal lobotomy was performed) and the icing didn't come out quite how I had hoped. So John and I had a chunk of it after supper and I'll stop by a bakery this week to get a real cake for the gang at the clinic.

If I want to be completely honest here, I'd have to say that I really didn't know what to expect with the diagnosis 10 years down the road. I have known from the first year that there was a chance at some point I'd be in a wheelchair, lose my sight, or something else. None of those things really bothered me then. And they don't bother me now, either. Shit happens. I could just as easily be creamed by a delivery van crossing the street in this town.

I know my parents worry much more than I do and that is the only thing that truly bothers me. I have occasional symptoms like a tingling in my left nostril, some numbness and tingling in the toes of my right foot, and some painful spasms from time to time. I consider these things to be reminders of how lucky I truly am. And even my parents' worrying reminds me how lucky I am to have them as my parents.

We don't know how good we have it until something bad happens. That's life.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Some of My Bugs

As requested by Vasha, a couple of my bugs: the first pic is a wasp nest that was built almost above the BBQ at John's house. We removed it when the weather turned cold in the fall of '06 and I cut it in half to see the insides. Funnily enough, another nest was made this past summer in almost the exact same spot.

The second pic is a tiger moth that expired in the back stairwell of my apartment building. I put it in an old pocket watch case. This is my favourite way to mount these creatures. I have a bag of old watches and clocks I pick up at flea markets and yard sales to use like picture frames.

The last pic is a bee I found outside of work. I have always wanted to "pet" a bee as their hair looks to be soft. Not a safe thing to try unless the bee is dead, as this one was.
The frame I found at the dollar store; it seemed to go perfectly.

I am also collecting wings from moths and butterflies that are less than perfect specimens for mounting. I'll be making a collage of those.

Come back tomorrow night as I will have made my 10 year anniversary brain cake and with any luck the pictures will show you what I'm taking to the MS Clinic to "celebrate" 10 years with MS.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Fortune Favours the Brave

In his intro to my submission for Grand Rounds, Bongi says of bugs, bikes, and brains, "That this is a very brave blog". What wonderful words to read! I don't consider myself brave, but it is another one of those coincidences my life seems to be full of. The motto of Clan MacKinnon is "fortune favours the brave".
From Wikipedia:
Fortune favours the bold, Fortune favours the brave, Fortune helps the brave , and Fortune favours the strong are common translations of the famous and often-quoted ancient Latin proverb "Fortis fortuna adiuvat".

The phrase means that Fortuna, the Goddess of luck, is more likely to help those that take risks, take action, and develop their skills proactively.


Almost in the same breath as being told I had MS, I was asked to be part of a drug study to which I consented. Even though my folks and other family members were against it, I was going to do it. I took the risk of placebo versus the drug.

As soon as I was able to, I began to research this disease and affiliate myself with the MS Society to see what I could do to help myself and others. I took action.

I use my PR skills to educate the public about MS and to encourage other MSers that life is not over with a diagnosis.

OK. It's a brave blog, by definition.

I suspect I come by a "brave" attribute quite honestly. My parents, grandparents, and other family members have displayed their "bravery" over the years in different ways. My paternal grandfather, Frank, left school before completing grade 9 in order to go to Boston for work. When he returned to Nova Scotia he married and started a family and worked hard to support them, including sending to university, those who were so inclined (including my father). My grandfather was well read and very well spoken for someone with so little formal education. His perseverance to educate his children, and himself, was brave.

My maternal grandfather, Archie, also a MacKinnon, was a well known rum runner in his day, though the law caught up with him eventually. Never convicted of any crimes, he was financially ruined just the same. He started over and still managed to support his family and others in the community. Starting over was brave.

Archie's and his wife's housekeeper was a woman named Nellie. Two years after Archie's wife died, Archie married Nellie (the woman I considered my grandmother). I once asked her about her marriage and why she did it. "The children needed a mother!" she exclaimed, like I was an idiot. That was brave (not the exclamation, but marrying Archie).

Just a few days ago, my aunt Florence, a nun, recreational skater (on racers no less) and retired math teacher, passed away after having lived with Parkinson's for the past decade. She was 85. She only gave up skating upon her diagnosis. Apparently, years ago, she let it be known she wanted to be cremated on her death. A few months ago, she revealed she had changed her mind and has donated her body to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation instead. Way to go Aunt Florence! Now that's brave.

If you have MS, the bravest thing you can do is face it. You don't have to confront it or beat it. You don't have to speak in public about it or start a blog (though that's fun). Whatever you believe, be it god or evolution, you have been given a gift. You may not have wanted it, like that ugly vase some great aunt gave you, but you have it. When that great aunt comes to visit, you put that vase on the coffee table. Consider your MS that vase. Sometimes it has to go on display and be faced.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Too Tired to Eat

One problem a majority of MSers have is dealing with fatigue. You cannot fight it. It will win. So I just try to conserve energy. If I'm wiped out, I rest. If I have energy to spare, I do a little bit extra. And this is where food comes into play. If you're going to be preparing veggies for dinner, why not prepare a whole load of them? That's what freezers are for.

My mom attended university as a mature student when I and my brother were teenagers. On weekends she would cook up a storm and then make all sorts of "TV dinners" to go in the freezer. This is before we had a microwave. Actually, a few years ago when my folks had the kitchen redone, mom and dad spent a couple of days cooking up hams, roasts, and tons of veggies. Mom portioned out the meals on plates, then vacuum sealed them and put them in the freezer. They moved the microwave into the family room for the duration and at meal time would take out turkey dinners, complete with gravy and dressing(or roast beef, or ham), from the freezer and nuke 'em.

Depending on the size of your freezer you can prepare any number of meals or parts thereof and always have them for days when you're just not up to cooking.

I'm not as organized as my mom, but I have taken a page from her book. If I'm making mashed potatoes, I make as much as I can fit in the pot and freeze the extras in portion sized baggies. Same with other veggies. And the same goes for meats. Everything gets packaged into meal size portions. Dinner time is a lot easier and less tiring.

I also "exchange" food with a couple of friends. One friend, Lorna, usually cooks up a load of something every weekend. And I am the beneficiary of slices of home made pizza, pea soup, or beef stroganoff. I give Lorna beans, cabbage rolls,stew or home made bread.
We've all experienced or heard of cookie exchanges. It works with meal exchanges, too. If your specialty is beans, why not exchange with someone who makes great spagheti sauce?
One of the best appliances I ever bought was a bread machine. I can make all sorts of seed, whole wheat, and specialty breads. And I'm conserving energy by eliminating the kneading stage. Let the machine do it.

My food processor is another excellent appliance. I can't remember the last time I mashed potatoes. I put 'em in the processor with light cream cheese, rather than butter and milk. And for hummus, it's fantastic. Actually, I freeze ice cube trays of hummus. When it's frozen, I put the dozen cubes in a container in the freezer and can take out a couple at a time (in the morning) for lunch. Just add a few drops of olive oil and it's thawed out in time for lunch.

If I buy English muffins or bagels, I slice them, then stick them in the freezer. Same with the home made bread. Slice it up first, then stick it in the freezer.

As for fresh fruits and veggies, I wash and prep them as soon as I take them home. Carrots sit in a bowl of water in the fridge, grapes and strawberries soaked and washed and in the fridge as well. The tomatoes washed and in their designated resting spot.

If you do all the prep work when you have the energy, food can be ready for you when you don't.

A couple of other tricks up my sleeve include prepping my breakfast and lunch for the next day (I am the queen of containers) while supper is cooking and always having fruit and nuts on hand for a quick energy boost. Oh, yeah, and chocolate.

I am far from the healthiest eater around. I do love greasy stuff and junk food, but if I have a meal all ready to go in the freezer, I am less apt to eat what I shouldn't. And for those days when I get home from work and go straight to bed, I know there's something waiting for me to nuke it when I'm ready to eat.

And sometimes I tell John we're eating out tonight....



A big Hello to everyone who came here from Grand Rounds. I have been reading medical blogs for about a year and a half, finally started my own blog, and worked up the courage to make a submission to this week's Grand Rounds, a carnival of medical posts from docs, nurses, patients, and other related bloggers. And it was accepted. I am so excited. Yay!
Anyway, welcome again. and I hope you enjoy your visit.