Thursday, May 28, 2015

Moments of Spring

It’s a beautiful day, sunny and warm with a fresh breeze. I know where I want to be and leave the house within an hour of getting up. I’m headed for the islands.

I get to the ferry terminal well in time for the 11 o’clock ferry. This is a good thing, because a bed of tulips catch me, stun me with their beauty. They are aglow with the light of the still-low sun, each single one looking like a cup of sunshine. (click to embiggen)

Once on the ferry, I go to the opposite end, the part that faces our destination and wait just inside the gate, impatient to get to my little bit of paradise. One of the first off the ferry, I head towards Olympic Island to sit in the spot that shows you all of Toronto. It’s too early in the year for others to have discovered this place again and I almost have this entire small Island to myself. I look out over the grassy park, spotted by large aged trees. This is bliss. And the view is phenomenal, showing the city in all its glory. I live in a very beautiful place.

I notice small birds scurrying around in the grass and look closer. They are brownheaded cowbirds and I have never seen them anywhere but the Spit. There are four of them, one female and three males, and I begin to realize that there is a drama going on. One of the males seems to believe that he is bonded to the female, which may very well be the case, but she’s too busy running to indicate clearly. The other two males are trying to persuade her otherwise. Every now and again, the bonded male turns around, spreads his wings, and looks scary.

I move on to the farm, doing the rounds of all the pens. This early in the season, not all have arrived from their wintering refuge north of the city, but most are here. I say hello to the giant pig that is, as usual, lying close to the fence. I think she does that to be comfortable, while being able to keep an eye on visitors. The barn cats are huddling under the stairs, watching for bugs and birds, still fluffed up with a thick winter coat. And naturally, I have to go by the large pen over on the right to see Buttercup the Jersey cow and get my foot licked. Today she licks my hands, as well, her tongue slobbery and rough.

On the way out, I get sidetracked by watching two male peacocks jockeying for position and the attention of the female peacock. Both have found a tree in which to perch, long feathery tails decorously draped over a branch behind them. I wonder how they managed to get up there — surely, the tail would make it hard to fly? Every now and again, they both screech loudly and preen.

Having checked that all is well at the farm, I go south. My intention is to head up the straight path filled with flowerbeds, but I’m sidetracked by the sight of trees in bloom. Cherry trees, I think, and having no plans for the craziness that is the annual Sakura cherry blossom extravaganza in High Park, I take the opportunity to enjoy the delicate pink petals with no competition.

It’s time to move on, the pier is calling. The closer I get, the more swallows are in the air. They flit and dive, then fly into the air again, chasing bugs. One of them swoops so close to my face I can feel the air from its wings. When I get to the pier, I see more of them, swooping down below and somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I remember that swallows nest under piers. I watch them, then I watch the water below me, and then I look out over the lake.

I grew up in Denmark, a country where lakes are small enough that you can always see the other side, but this one’s different. This one looks like the ocean — nothing but blue water as far as the eye can see and completely unbroken by land. This is where my eyes feel at home, watching this large body of water moving rhythmically towards the shore, nothing getting in the way of seeing that far horizon meet the lighter blue of the sky.

I walk along the shore, watching the neverending changeability of sand and trees and grass and water and sky. I get to the dune, the one that’s protected, and turn in on the boardwalk that moves through tall grasses until the sand stops my progress.

I sit, I listen, I watch.

There something about this place that makes the muscles of my eyes relax, as if this is what we are supposed to look at: nature, green, blue, softness, rounded. I think of how, when going home, I watch the city come into view, feeling my eyes adjust to squares and straight lines, and the feeling being close to a kind of pain.

I dream of one day living here or a place like it. Dream of spending my days watching the water, listening to the wind and the grasses, the sound of the waves, the birds, and the bugs, and feeling the wind in my hair.

This is home. 

This post also appears on CreakyJoints.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Among the ELITE

Being recognized is always nice. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get an extra spring in their step when they’re told they’re doing good stuff. It certainly makes me happy every time I get a comment on email from someone saying they appreciate my writing and my advocacy. I keep every single one of them. There, I said it. It might make me hopelessly dorky, but if someone bothers to tell me something nice, I treasure it.

Sometimes, the appreciation gets a little more official.

I’ve been selected as the recipient of the PM360 2015 ELITE Award in the Patient Advocate category!

The PM360 ELITE is in its first year and “recognizes the most influential people in the healthcare industry—true catalysts who are creating extraordinary results. They are the industry’s most powerful minds and are the ones responsible for designing the future of healthcare.”


I’m blown away and completely thrilled.

Thank you to PM360 for this honour. The last 12 months have had their challenges and this recognition means a lot. This award focuses on people, rather than companies, and that’s important. I am among excellent company, being one of 60 winners in different categories. Check them out — is theyre an inspiring group.

I also want to thank the staff at HealthCentral who nominated me. April was my seventh anniversary of working for this organization and I am as proud to contribute to it now as I was seven years ago, if not more. They are committed to providing the best health information on the Internet and dedicated to nurturing community and support for people living with a variety of health conditions. HealthCentral are excited about their work and truly in it for the right reasons. It’s a privilege to work with these wonderful people.

This is one of those moments where I really wish I could travel so I could attend the awards party in July. Instead, I think I’ll make myself some fancy hors d’oeuvres, crack open a bottle of wine, and be there in spirit!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor when Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an overwhelming thing. How are you supposed to remember asking the right questions at the right time? 

Over the past few months, I’ve been part of a team of Canadian arthritis bloggers who were, with the support of Janssen Inc., asked to collaborate on ways to support people who are newly diagnosed with RA. We were invited to share questions that, looking back, they wish they had asked their doctors at diagnosis. I didn’t remember much about my diagnosis, what with being nine years old at the time, but I thought about what I would ask now or what I’ve heard others wish they’d asked.

The idea is that these questions can be a resource in helping you have a productive conversation with your doctor. Hopefully, the questions can help you get the information you need to make an informed decision about your health.

1. What caused my rheumatoid arthritis

2. How might my rheumatoid arthritis progress, and what is my prognoses?

3. How advanced is my rheumatoid arthritis? If there is already damage to my joints, is there anything I can do to reverse it?

4. If I am diagnosed with one autoimmune disease, does it put me at higher risk to develop other diseases or conditions? What should I watch for?

5. Are there any lifestyle changes you recommend to help manage my rheumatoid arthritis (i.e. increasing/limiting/changing my physical activity, making changes to my diet, etc.)? Can I continue to stay active while on medication?

6. Do you have any suggestions on how I share the news with my family, friends and co-workers t help them understand?  Are there any conversation starters that you can recommend?

7. How bad does a flare need to get before making an appointment to see you again? What should I use when the pain flares?

8. What are my treatment options? Are biologic medications easy to use? How quickly will my treatment start to work?

9. What are the potential side effects of my medications and how will they be monitored?

10. Where I can find more information, resources and support? Are there any programs available to help me manage my rheumatoid arthritis?

Can you add something to the list?

Crossposted on Your Life with RA