Thursday, February 23, 2017

Body Image and Chronic Illness: How to Be Bodacious

Chronic illness can seriously mess with your body image, leaving you feeling disconnected and far from attractive. In my new post for Mango Health I look at ways to get back to feeling bodacious:

"Where did the vibrant old you go? The person who felt at home in her own skin, who laughed and danced and took initiative? Living with a chronic illness is like living with a voracious monster that eats everything in sight: your energy, physical ability, social life, self-worth. And in some ways most devastating of all, your belief in your own attractiveness.

But just as chronic illness can take, it can also give you a unique opportunity to rebuild. To accept and love yourself even more than you did before and to become fully realized as a strong, confident person. Here are a few ways you can become bodacious.

Save your sweatsAh, sweats. They have the comfort of pyjamas and let you leave the house without looking entirely indecent. But they also make you feel invisible and decidedly unsexy. My recommendation is to save sweats only for the very worst days. Skinny jeans and form-fitting tops may be too uncomfortable for everyday wear, but you can still develop a different style."

Read the rest of the tips on becoming bodacious on the Mango Health blog.

Oscar Thoughts

My mother has abandoned me. 

Last night, she notified me that she had no intention of watching the Academy Awards with me on Sunday. And I don’t really blame her, because let’s face it, the Oscars are usually deadly dull. What makes it fun is watching it with someone and sharing snarky/admiring comments about the clothes, the speeches, and the presenters.

Every now and again, they do something that livens things up. And then they go back to the same old thing. Take last year. There were one, maybe two of the major awards at the very beginning, followed by two hours of interminable dullness, and then they rushed the rest of the major rewards into the last 20 minutes. Who was responsible for that abomination?

Yet I watch every year in the hope of something unique, entertaining happening, and of course of my favourite movies winning. To that end, I spend some time watching all the Best Movie nominees before the big night. Oddly enough, I also develop opinions about them. Odder still (ha!), I intend to share them with you.

What? It’s perfect blog fodder for a week with excessive brain fog.

Arrival. Aliens land and a linguistics professor is enlisted to try making sense of the language. I’m not going to say anything else about it, because it would ruin the plot, the surprise, and the experience. It is thought-provoking, heartbreaking, and uplifting, all at the same time. I loved it.

Fences. Denzel Washington in a tour de force performance that highlights the joy of talking. Unfortunately, I experienced a severe immigrant moment and couldn’t really understand the accents the characters used. I’m normally very good with accents. This was very frustrating. It looked good, though.

Hacksaw Ridge. Based on true events of a conscientious objector who joined the Army in World War II. The story itself is amazing and there are moments of intense action, as well as quiet heroism. Mel Gibson returns to direct a loving paean to the violence and gore of war.

Hell or High Water. A Western and a thriller, this is the story of two brothers who are engaging in a number of bank robberies, and the man who wants to find them. It has a quiet intensity and takes the time to tell you the reason behind the robberies. Again, I ran aground on accents. That low drawl of rural Texas was hard to understand for these Danish years.

Hidden Figures. The based-in-fact story of the black female “computers” at NASA that helped get the space program develop. Fantastic story of both the space program and civil rights. Brilliant performances by all. I loved this movie.

La La Land. Skinny, white millennials sing and dance their way to adulthood. Gorgeous movie, wonderful eye candy, lovely music, but I kept getting distracted by wanting to feed Emma Stone a sandwich. And by there were only a handful of non-white characters (and that’s counting the extras) and maybe one or two people over the age of 30. Maybe it’s that is been built up so much, but I also sort of…

Lion. Didn’t see it. Do you know how it is?

Manchester by the Sea. Lee is a very quiet handyman in Boston who receives a call to come home after a death in the family. Gradually, we find out why he is so quiet and sad, and see his relationship to family and his past in Manchester. The movie is compelling and yes, quiet, but really gets under your skin.

Moonlight. A story of growing up black and gay in South Florida. And about love, abandonment, the impact of drugs on families (jn more ways than one), bullying, hope, and so much more. This is a fantastic movie, brilliantly written, directed, photographed, and edited. Not the only movie I loved, but it may be the one that deserves getting the award.
What did you think of these movies? Who deserves getting the Oscar?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dealing with Nausea in Chronic Illness

I have battled nausea for as long as I've had RA, so why not write what you know? My new post for HealthCentral looks at how to cope with nausea related to chronic illness:

"Nausea is a particularly nasty symptom. Your stomach’s on a rollercoaster and you’re sure you’re going to throw up. It can occur as a precursor to vomiting, or on its own. Generally, it can happen when you have stomach flu, motion sickness, or are pregnant. But for people with chronic illness, it may be part of their every day."

See the rest of the slideshow with lots of tips on how to deal with nausea on HealthCentral.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Relationships and Talking about Pain Study

How do you talk to your partner about your pain? Or don't you talk about it? A new study investigates the reasons why people talk or don't talk about their pain. One of the co-investigators talks about the background for the study and how you can participate:

"One of the hardest things about living with chronic pain is talking to others about your pain. And this can be especially challenging in your relationship with your partner or spouse. A study currently seeking participants aims to identify the goals behind why people communicate — or don’t communicate — about their pain to their partner. Earlier this week, I spoke to co-investigator Somayyeh Mohammadi, Ph.D., about the study.

Dr. Mohammadi studied for a doctorate degree in the Netherlands and is now working in Canada. She has a background of working in the field of chronic pain, primarily focusing on “the relationship between patients with chronic pain and their partners and main family caregivers.” She is particularly interested in “how family and caregivers can impact the chronicity of the pain or how pain and living with an individual with chronic pain can impact the health of the other person.”

She’s currently doing postdoctoral work in Halifax, Canada, with a focus on two areas. One is "pediatric pain and the impact of parental pain on the children's well-being." Secondly, Dr. Mohammadi is working on a study on pain communication at the Couples and Sexual Health Research Laboratory in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The focus of this research, which is led by Natalie Rosen, Ph.D., is to investigate “why some individuals with chronic pain decide to communicate their pain to their partners and why some decide not to.”"

Read the rest of the interview and learn how you can participate in the study on HealthCentral.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Photo Friday: Ironic

Earlier this week, the Fat Mum Slim February photo challenge included the prompt faceless portrait. This was my submission, taken on a cold Toronto day in the financial district.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Am I Single Because I Have a Chronic Illness?

It's something almost every single person who lives with chronic illnesses wondered: am I single because of my condition? The answer in my new post for HealthCentral:

"When you’re single in what seems to be a sea of happy couples it’s all too easy to look at reasons for your singleness with an excessively critical eye. For those of us who live with chronic illness, it can feel obvious to blame our condition for not having found love. But is it? To my thinking, the answer is both yes and no.

Yes, you are single because of your chronic illness

A chronic illness affects every area of your life, including relationships. Dating takes a lot of energy. When your chronic illness is being particularly present and requires all your attention, while at the same time draining your emotional and physical batteries, there’s just enough of you to get through the day. Meeting new people, getting dressed up and going out, putting your best foot forward, and following up to show your interest… Well, it’s exhausting just thinking about it. During those times, it might be best to focus on getting better before you make plans to find your Prince/Princess Charming."

Read the rest of the post (including why you aren't single because of chronic illness).

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Joy of Bread

“Bread is bread.” The Boy claimed. And I shook my head and told him he was completely and utterly wrong.

I have not had good bread — proper bread — for at least 15 years. That’s when I became allergic to nuts and had to stop eating baked goods from bakeries. Most bakeries make things with nuts and the risk of cross-contamination is just too great. Ever since, I have obsessively read labels and been stuck eating the kind of bread that comes in plastic bags. Not bad for sandwiches or toast, but does it really qualify as bread?

I have longed for proper bread ever since. Good, crusty bread. Bread that bites back. Bread with flavour.

Also croissants.

Growing up in Denmark gave me free access to amazing bakeries that provided freshly baked bread and heavenly pastries every day. Once, coming home from a party held in celebration of graduation, a friend and I dropped by a bakery at 8 AM to bring home fresh bread and danishes still hot from the oven. Is there anything better?

And by the way, you haven’t tasted danishes until you’ve had the real kind. From Denmark. I highly recommend you put that on your life list.

If you do an Internet search for nut free bakeries, you will find a plethora in the city of Toronto, but any lists tend to focus on the sorts that make cupcakes, cakes, cookies, and the like. And although some of them have absolutely wonderful products, it’s no good when all you want is bread and pastries.

But then, thanks to someone with whom I work, I was introduced to that other kind of bakery. Because it turns out that kosher bakeries may at times be nut free. Apparently, nuts are not kosher, although I don’t know why — do you?

But there was a bit of a wrinkle to that. Most of the time, our availability is on Saturdays and kosher bakeries tend to be closed on that day because of the Sabbath.

And then The Boy took Friday off. And went to Grodzinski’s to pick up a selection.

There are many reasons why he is the best partner ever. His dedication to feed me yummy things is one of them.

There were three kinds of bread, fresh bagels, rugelach, wee danishes, and yes: croissants! And he arrived just in time for breakfast on Friday. I spent the next three days scarfing down an excessive amount of carbs and being very, very happy.

The thing about bread is that it also facilitates other foodstuffs. For instance, ham and cheese breads. I first learned how to make these in grade 4 Home Ec and ever since, my family has used them as a go-to dinner when we don’t really want to cook. Except I haven’t had them for a very long time, because they really do require somewhat sturdy bread.

Home Ec Ham and Cheese Breads: spread a thin layer of butter on slices of bread, then add ham of your choice. My mother swears by cooked ham, but I used a Tuscan pepper ham and it was delightful. Spread Dijon mustard on top of the ham (other mustards work as well, as long as they has a bit of a kick), then add slices of tomatoes and whatever cheese you have that’s good at melting. Sprinkle a bit of paprika on top for colour. I didn’t have regular paprika, so added smoked paprika. Turned out this brought out the smokiness of the ham, making everything even more delicious. Put in oven under the grill until the cheese is melted to your taste.

And then there was an added treat. The Boy also picked up a couple of Napoleons and Eclairs. Which had the most amazing aroma, leading to a new catchphrase among us: “I have to smell the Napoleon.” Something I did at least five times a day (an act that’s a lot less perverted than it sounds).

All of this yumminess was a bit of a shock to my system. I don’t normally eat much bread or sugar at all — or any sugar — and usually stay away from cheese, as it tends to give me migraines (except I have recently discovered that Jarlsberg cheese doesn’t). As a consequence, I’ve spent the last couple days with a bit of a roiling stomach and a significant migraine. 

And it was absolutely worth it. I’d do it again, but perhaps not immediately. The rest of the goodies are in the freezer. We also have plans to check out Isaac’s and Hermes, two other nut free kosher bakeries.

In a couple of months.