Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Getting Organized: The Desk

I am not known for having a pristine home. Clean, yes. Tidy? Not so much. And this has two causes.

One, tidying up is not in my top priorities. It doesn’t really hold much interest for me and besides, I usually know exactly where things are in the piles. Once it’s cleaned up, that’s when I get lost. But it’s also not a top priority because I have limited energy. If I spend it on tidying, I rarely get anything else done. So I make a choice to live in what can best be described as organized chaos.

The second cause of the chaos is my disability. I can’t do much of the physical labour involved in cleaning and tidying up. For one, I can only reach my furniture at a certain level. This means that tables and other surfaces are used as horizontal filing areas. It also makes it very difficult to organize and Put Things Away.

I do have attendants coming in, but the time I have tends to be used for other things. As well, cleaning with someone really only works when they had the same cleaning style as you do. Otherwise, it just becomes another kind of mess.

The last six months haven’t seen much tidying. I didn’t have it the energy for it when I first came home from the hospital and after that, didn’t have enough energy to do my work and clean. After six months, as that organized chaos of yore is now just chaos.

And it’s driving me crazy. I can take a certain element of mess, but when every single surface of my home is occupied by disorganized piles of Stuff, the urge to throw it all out and start over is overwhelming.

I have therefore made myself a promise. To slowly and gradually get this place organized. And to keep myself accountable and motivated, I’ve decided to share it online.

Because: blog fodder, right?

The first step was my desk. This is what it looked like a week ago

Although my desk is often what other people might call messy, it’s not as messy as this. Every now and again when the craziness lets up, I’ll do something about it. One wrinkle in this is that I can’t use most of the drawers in my filing cabinet on my own, so what needs to be filed just gets relocated to another horizontal surface. As well, my filing cabinet needs culling and organizing before I can file those things, so it’s a bit of a vicious circle. In other words, what had been sorted into the piles on the desk soon becomes a sea of paper again.

Enter Locker Gear.

This is a new thing at Staples. Or if it isn’t new, then I’m newly aware of it. Magnetized receptacles for school stuff so your locker’s organized. And it works brilliantly out of school, too.

A while back, I bought a thing for markers and put it on my filing cabinet and it’s been wonderful. Easily accessible, yet Put Away. Earlier this week, I wandered into Staples for entertainment purposes and found something else.

Will you look at this:

Isn’t that amazing? This now contains several different types of materials that previously took up residence on my desk. One, stuff I use for sending letters, etc., such as stamps and address labels. Another compartment contains pieces of paper that requires an action. And the third has an envelope in which is located cards and postcards for specific occasions. That will migrate elsewhere once the filing cabinet has been culled and something else to take its place. Or maybe it will be empty. Imagine that!

At the moment, this brilliant piece of equipment is located front of my filing cabinet. Once the filing cabinet has been cleaned to a point when I can use it myself again, it’ll get moved to the side of the filing cabinet next to my desk.

And will you look at what this has done to my desk

A week after cleaning up, my desk still looks like that. This is unheard of. It has never happened before. Usually within a week, the paper mass has have distributed itself into an archaeological dig again. I’m ecstatic. Lucy is less so, as she liked lying on the paper. She used to jump up on the desk as I was working and settle down on the paper “cushion” to sleep between my monitor and my keyboard. These days, she jumps up and wanders restlessly around, then stands across my keyboard and looks mournfully at me.

I’m thinking of placing one – ONE – piece of paper on my newly pristine desk. For the cat.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Stopping Rheumatoid Arthritis before It Starts

I used to think that all the emphasis on raising money for a cure for rheumatoid arthritis was a waste of time. This disease was incurable. All the research in the world couldn't help.

Boy, was I wrong! I now firmly believe that we will see a cure in my lifetime. 

In my new post for RAHealthCentral, I look at the new studies that are exploring how to stop RA before it starts. Doesn't that just blow your mind?

"Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could stop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) before it develops, before it starts wreaking havoc in our bodies?

Does that sound like science fiction or a fairy tale? It isn’t. It’s getting closer to becoming a reality.

A bit of background

Five years ago, I listened to Edward C. Keystone, M.D., F.R.C.P(C) one of the foremost rheumatologists in Canada, talk about how the anti-CCP blood test was leading us toward a bright new future. Because the anti-CCP test can detect RA up to 15 years before it starts, he said it was leading to a rheumatologist being able to identify individuals at the pre-clinical stage of RA. That is, before symptoms begin. This is exciting because it can lead to a future in which RA can be stopped before it affects the systems in your body.

Although I was delighted to hear this, I have to admit that I thought this was very far into the future. But only five years later, it’s starting to become reality."

Several new exciting studies are investigating how to stop rheumatoid arthritis before it starts. Read all about it in my new article for HealthCentral.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tips to Stop Pretending and Live Authentically with Chronic Illness

Once a year for Halloween, we dress up and pretend to be someone else. But when you live with a chronic illness, the pretending happens every day, as we tried to act like everything's better than it is. And it can really mess with your life. This week on RAHealthCentral, I wrote about this pretending and share tips on what you can do to live authentically with chronic illness:

"Pretending to be someone you’re not is not just for Halloween when you have a chronic illness. It’s something we do every day, trying to put a better face on life and how we’re really feeling. We do it because of the stigma of chronic illness. We do it because a bit of daily denial can be a coping mechanism, allowing us to get through the day. And we do it because we want our lives to be about something other than just being sick.

The problem with pretending is that it can take over our lives. There is a fine line between putting on a smile so you can get through the day without explaining your chronic illness to every person you meet and denying your truth, even to yourself.

I did that — made a lifestyle of pretending that I was fine with a capital F. I minimized the amount pain I was in, pretended I didn’t need as much help as I actually did, and pushed myself to do as much as possible on my own, often ending up in a world of hurt because of it. Basically, I spent a lot of time trying to persuade others that despite the visible deformities and using a wheelchair, I was perfectly healthy and able-bodied.

In retrospect, that was probably a lost cause.


Read the full post with tips to stop pretending with chronic illness on HealthCentral. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles

Atticus O’Sullivan lives a mostly quiet life in Tempe, Arizona with Oberon, his Irish wolfhound. He runs an occult bookshop, hangs out with his friends, and his biggest problem is a cranky neighbour.

Well, and that he’s been hiding from Aenghus Óg, the Celtic god of love for well over a thousand years and that his closest friends are a werewolf and a vampire. Perhaps I forgot to mention that Atticus is a druid and 2000 years old, give or take a few years?

Oh, and that although the books take place in our world, there is also another very richly developed, as well as very hidden, world filled with supernatural beings, such as several pantheons of gods, some werewolf packs, and a lively vampire community.

But there is only one druid. All the rest are gone, most of them killed during Roman times during an extermination of sacred groves and druids masterminded by the vampires and executed by the Romans.

And that’s just the background story and the beginning of Hounded, the first book in The Iron Druid Chronicles, a series written by Kevin Hearne. So far, there are eight books with several novellas and an upcoming ninth book. I just discovered that that will be the last in the series and I’m very sad about it.

Atticus, Oberon, and their friends (and enemies) have kept me company throughout this summer of healing. I’ve read every one of the books currently available, alternating with tomes by other authors to cleanse my palate in between adventures.

Each book continues more or less where the previous one left off, although each is also a stand-alone story. The stories are wonderful, building nicely to a satisfying conclusion, even when that conclusion is pretty harrowing. Because that’s one of the best parts of these stories. Contrary to so many other series, there is real peril here for recurring characters. Not everyone gets out alive.

Characterization is also really good. Hearne has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about what being immortal and living for 2000 years would do to a person. Atticus is remarkably normal in many ways — he works hard at it — yet has an element of a lack of regard for consequences. Which would be natural after having lived that long. His actions gets him and his friends and allies into situations that don’t always end well. And that’s another great thing about the series. Consequences do happen and Atticus has to face them.

That might make the books sound very serious, but they aren’t. They have a wonderfully light tone, depicts some terrific adventures, with serious elements. And they are also very funny. One of my favourite characters is Oberon, Atticus’ wolfhound. Fully realized with the ability to speak with Atticus on the mental plane, Oberon is very, very funny.

No review of The Iron Druid Chronicles would be complete without spending some time gushing about the narrator, Luke Daniels. He is the perfect narrator for this series and over the course of the books he develops a superb level of comfort with the different characters. Each have a unique voice and tone that makes it easy to identify who is speaking. His Oberon voice is especially inspired and completely hilarious. I’m going to look out for more books narrated by this man. He is a brilliant narrator.

I think these books would be as enjoyable if you’re reading them in print format, but do yourself a favour and get the audiobooks. They are a perfect blend of excellent storytelling and a fantastic narration working together to create something more than the sum of their parts.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Restricting Biologics for RA

We live in an amazing time when there are more treatments for rheumatoid arthritis than ever before. Biologics have had a profound impact on the lives of people with RA and on the field of rheumatology. These drugs are expensive, though, and it can be an obstacle to treatment. Another obstacle is developing. My new post for RAHealthCentral discusses the news that pharmacy benefit managers are attempting to restrict access to these drugs:

"There are ten Biologics currently available to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). That does not mean you have access to all of them. 

Insurance companies are famous for the obstacles they place in the way of our access to expensive drugs. For instance, they often use fail-first policies. This means that a number of less expensive medications have to be tried with unsatisfactory results before they will approve a Biologic. We live in an era when rheumatologists treat RA early and aggressively to maximize the chances of remission. But this type of policy leaves us at risk for developing damage while we try medications that may not be what our doctors believe is the best option.

But it’s about to get worse."

Read the rest of the post on how access to RA treatments is being restricted.