Tag: menopause

rabbit, rabbit, rabbit

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit.  I remembered to say that this morning, the first words from my lips.  It is a good luck verbal talisman that somehow arrived to our household when the kids were little, but their Daddy was the only one who usually remembered to claim it each first of the month.

Today is Labor Day, 2014.  I am fifty years old.  I have had one hell of a year.  Here are some of the things that happened surprise birthday party for my 50th, lost more than 40 pounds, found about 10 of it again, became terribly ill with joint pain and debilitating exhaustion, was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, started injecting toxic yellow-green liquid weekly, suddenly needed a pill organizer, started and learned a new part-time job, began having hot flashes, took several terrific vacations, got engaged, teetered on the edge of debilitating depression, zumba’d sometimes, laid in bed sometimes, cried a lot.  

Here’s what I’d like to do in my fifty-second year [I think that is what you’d call the year after you turn 51- my menopausal/chemo brain is math impaired]:  go into full chemical remission, get my groove back including all my energy, straighten up and clean out this house, plan a wedding, run a 5k the whole way, lose the last 20, become addicted to running.

On July 31st, seems like a lifetime ago, I said good bye to Facebook for a month.  I didn’t really miss it much.  Here is what I learned during my Facebook fast:

  • you can get your news in other venues than FB
  • Facebook is a very bad habit like biting your nails that sucks time away when that is the one thing of which we all need more
  • I used to use FB as a filler, something to look at when bored, and apparently I was bored about 38+ times a day
  • I used FB to procrastinate
  • without FB I actually began to read books again
  • without FB, I am more engaged in life and other people [that should have been a no brainer]

This morning, my fast could have been broken, but it is after noon and I have not peeked yet.  I’m not that interested any longer.  I woke up and lay in bed reading this really great new book I am reading, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty.  It is a book about a woman in Australia who finds a letter addressed to her and written by her husband that is marked “to be read after my death.”  She finds out a secret about her husband that poses the question, “how well can you really know anyone?”  I have always known that we all have secrets– shadow selves… dark sides–and I tell Bean this all the time.  I have glimpsed some of his shadows, but I am sure there are more.  The detective in me wants to unearth them.  My imagination is far worse than reality, at times, I am sure.  It is perverse in the possibilities it proposes at times.  It is full of stories waiting to be told.

And so, this entry is about looking back, but more importantly about looking forward.  I am surfacing.  I’ve seen that dappled light before, and it is a welcome sight.

 

Wicked Wheat

This morning I awoke to a swollen ring finger joint that hurts when I bend it or even when I touch it.  My knees ache and my feet ache when I walk.  Blissfully, my shoulder pain has subsided, but my left elbow is still sensitive to touch and my right thumb is painful to bend [so I don’t bend it].

My rash had receded, my joints were beginning to quiet.  I had started back on plan and had a string of wheat-free, low-carb days only to hear a siren song of cake last night at a home party I attended.  The host said, “you must taste my Preacher’s Cake- homemade with pineapple and nuts- I found the recipe on Pinterest.”  I guess she had me at Pinterest, because delectable cake images flashed across my mind at that moment.  “Just a tiny slice,” I said, because I am apparently deep in denial that wheat actually is the primary cause of these myriad ailments- joint pain, skin rashes, congestion, fatigue.  I say that I believe that wheat is the culprit, with my mouth, but I don’t say it yet with my behavior because either at some level I am in denial or I have not reached a bottom that would allow me to say ‘no more.’

I know that I must sound like the whiniest of the whiny with this blog focused so much on my eating and health worries, but I don’t conceptualize myself that way.  I see myself as strong and stoic and hardy.  I am also a natural detective and so I find myself trying to ferret out the cause of any symptoms that make my life harder or give it lesser quality.  I don’t trust doctors, and given the clusterf*@% that is autoimmune disorders and the way my Hashimoto’s is misunderstood by doctors who insist they know how much and what kind of thyroid replacement I need, I prefer to treat myself with diet and exercise whenever I can and be ready to tell health professionals which direction to point when I am forced to sit on the crinkly paper in their offices.

I believe that the progest/estrogen compounded cream is helping in general and I think with my joint pain in particular, but every time I eat wheat, I exacerbate symptoms and get sent back to square one or at least square 5 or 10.  Last night as I walked to my car after the party, literally 30 minutes after ingesting wheat, I found myself itching intensely in my stomach and chest, and I thought, “oh, &*@%.”

Trial and error has shown me over the past two years that my body cannot process sugar and carbs in any kind of an efficient manner, and that I feel best when I eat paleo and minus processed wheat and sugars.  Unfortunately, I don’t live in a paleo world. I live in Roxboro, NC, where there is a processed/simple/carb around every corner and at every event.  There is no health food store.  I have to drive to Whole Foods in Durham to find the coconut milk I like, the one with vanilla flavor and no sugar.  I can’t find good quinoa here or any alternative flours.  The restaurants do not lean heavily on fresh green ingredients, although I do have some places I can get a quick salad that passes the muster.   It takes a tremendous amount of planning to stay on plan, especially when I am busy and/or stressed.

If you eat paleo, have Hashimoto’s, are near menopause, or feel like you have wheat sensitivities, feel free to weigh in.  I’d love to hear what works for you and share some tips and recipes.  Message me.  We’ll talk.

Christmas Eve Gratitude

So, it’s been a while since I paid any attention to this blog.  Mostly because my life goes at such a dizzying speed that I cannot keep up enough to document any of it.  I really need to change the name of my blog, since turns out I wasn’t/am not quarter of the way to Menopause- at least not a quarter of a year from there.  So much has happened since I began hyper-focusing on Menopause and how it might be wrecking havoc in my life.  Changing my attitude and focus, well, that sort of solved the premature Menopause crisis.  How did this happen?  Well, I stopped looking in and started looking out.  Shortly after I named my belly, I carefully began to watch as a friend began to shrink and come out of her shell so to speak.  She was doing this crazy diet plan that I wanted no part of.  I didn’t do liquid plans [turns out it wasn’t a completely liquid plan- yay]; I didn’t do such prescribed plans, and I would never do I plan where I had to purchase food!

Fast forward to Sept. when betty was so big I could not deny her existence and she was making my life miserable- I saw her in store window reflections that startled me, I saw her when I looked down in the shower [or out], I tried to pull my clothing over her or make buttons stay closed… well, you get the idea.  That bitch had to go.  So, I began researching this product and I found that it had chemistry behind it, that it was medically safe [the fact that it was promoted by some physicians did not influence me since I continually question why we give them such trust and responsibility with our health], and most importantly… that it worked.  It worked fast and furiously and I wouldn’t have to think about the zone or the south beach or a point or a calorie or a carb.  I would not have to have the perfect ratio of protein, fat, carb, and fiber because someone else was going to do that for me.  I could take food off the radar and live my *&^%ing life.

Cue to Sept 28 when my shipment arrived.  I’ll post the video later.  I was excited to begin and ready to commit.  Oct. 2nd was my start date, and today.. just a wee 83 days later [just shy of 12 weeks], I’ve gone from 196 to 167 this morning and turned all those numbers on their heads– including the big one I was aiming for- HbA1c.  In fact, it’s down in the normal range again from pre-diabetic and I did that in 2 months!

So, on Christmas Eve, 2012, I am grateful for so many things, the primary being my family and their health and wellness and the love of an incredible man who is my best friend, but I am also grateful that my eyes were opened, that I was given this opportunity to change my health and improve the quality of my life.  I am grateful that I have new self confidence that I can do this- I can take control of my weight and my health.  My only regret is that I didn’t start this 20 years ago.  I am living the secret, and now I truly believe that if I can see it- I can achieve it [which I have long subscribed to but did not believe where my weight was concerned].  And so, this morning, as I contemplate a one day reprieve commencing sometime tomorrow and lasting perhaps 4-8 hours, I am pausing at the precipice, and because of those numbers this morning, I will carefully consider each choice I have to make.  This all fills me with joy.  Merry Christmas!

Well, I guess a name change is in order

So, if you know why my blog is now titled One Quarter of the Way to Menopause, then you know that I have been enjoying tampon free days now for like nearly 5 months– until this past weekend.  So, I guess now I will have to call this blog one year until menopause since I just reset that clock.  In some ways it was a relief, since it feels like I have been having PMS for at least 5 weeks.  If I had become any more bloated, I was going to have to purchase some maternity clothing.

Now, when you think that your period is gone for good, don’t get too awfully excited, because apparently if it comes back, you might feel like you should have been building an ark.  So, now I am 5 days into this unexpected period from hell which also came along with a sore throat and an impending blue moon during the first week of back to school.  Isn’t that special?

I backed off the hormone creams at least for the week in case they confounded my body and caused this flood.  I am 3 weeks into them and here is what I have:

  • I have slept better
  • I started my period again
  • I have experienced increased libido
  • I have not lost any weight
  • I have been walking and running 5-10 miles a week
  • I have actually gained 4 pounds
  • I am continually bloated to the point of distraction and despair [wtf]
  • I have been calmer and less lethal mood-wise
  • my hair shed has decreased
  • I have experienced a shoe crisis
  • I am a tiny bit less scattered
  • I do not have significantly more energy

I am also now taking the vitamin D mega dose, a multi vitamin with probiotics, saw palmetto [that’s a whole other story], cinnamon with chromium picolinate, and Diflucan

I am about to abort the Diflucan because it might be what has made me feel like total &*^( this week and made my throat feel like I swallowed razors [that stuff is freaking toxic].

I have not begun the LDN yet, which again, is a whole other narrative which I will tackle when I am not exhausted.

I am about to finish this cup of Holy Basil tea and go to bed.

*scream*

Crappiest day of the month so far- so much so that I have cried no less than 3 or 4 times today.  You would think me a mental patient.  The first time I cried was about lunch time and I got on the treadmill to have that cry.  I figured the walking/running/exercise thing might be helpful.  I can’t even remember what I was crying about.  Honestly.  So, I looked back to last month when I was writing about my crappiest day, and it was on the 22nd of July.   Today is the end of the 19th day of August, so it has been– get this:  shocker- about 28 days since my last crappiest day of the month.  Notice a trend here?   I don’t have a period anymore, but apparently I still have a fucking cycle-  I just don’t get relief at the end of it.

I feel like a balloon that needs to pop– figuratively and literally.  Literally, because I have the beastly menopause symptom known as bloating.  If you think you’ve been bloated before, and you’ve not made it to perimenopause– you have not experienced the mother of all bloating.  Even your underpants feel tight.  It feels like you gained 5 pounds and it’s all in your middle.  Muffin top? No, this is more like a giant souffle that overran your waistband.  And trying to suck it in like you used to be able to pretend you could do– don’t even think about it.  You can suck something in, but don’t make the mistake of turning sideways and looking into a mirror.

Yesterday was almost as bad.  I was driving Al to REI to get his hiking gear.  This is my twenty year old who does not have a job or go to school or do anything really productive right now.  I am more than willing to buy him hiking and survival gear from REI because I am trying to encourage him to walk away from me… and yes– survive.  Symbolic?   I think, yes.  But no, really, he does sort of plan to do a thru hike of some sort, or become an au pair in Holland, or backpack across Europe sometime in the fuzzy future.  But, I digress.  So, on the way, he asks me if I ever have a day when I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and of course I think he is reading my mind, but I say, “yes, I feel that way right now.”  I was having one of those bad hair, don’t look in the mirror days, feeling awfully bloated yesterday, too, and longing for a waistline again and some of those new platform stilettos.  I wonder if there is some sort of inverse relationship going on there.

So, I suggested we go by DSW, which is a giant shoe store.  I am not sure what DSW stands for, but I think the S & the W stand for shoe warehouse.  It should be called GSW-MWS [Giant Store Warehouse of Mostly Women’s Shoes] since Al noted that only about 1/5 or less of the floor space is devoted to men’s and children’s shoes.  All the rest of that acreage is women’s shoes. He was looking for a certain kind of toe shoes for running on rocks and I was in search of some stacked stilettos that might make me feel sexy again.

First of all, you must know that I have a wide foot.  It’s rather pretty, but sort of platypus-like in its shape, and so shoes that fit in the width don’t always fit in the length or have heels that my foot slips up and out of.  I found a number of suitable pairs, though, because this shoe store has all sizes and widths.  I found this really sharp pair of two-tone heels by, who of all people, but Jessica Simpson.  Let me see if I can find a picture of them:  Okay, well that was an ordeal.  Who knew there were millions of shoe images available for any description of shoe?  So, here is the closest I could come to the shoes I had to have, except mine seemed prettier with a black back and heel and higher, if that is possible.  Seriously, I know they don’t look that intimidating, but they seemed much higher than this, even though they probably weren’t.

I put them on and they looked divine, I mean absolutely lovely, except that my heel did slip a bit, but who’s heel wouldn’t when standing on tippy toes and then trying to walk.  So, I decided to leave my flip-flops in the box and walk in these shoes across the acres of store to a spot all the way on the other side where there is a rack of inserts and gel things to make your shoes fit better and where I last saw Alex, to get his opinion.  If you can, picture me teetering very gingerly across the carpet, trying not to break my ankle or pitch completely forward onto my face.  The sales woman was looking at me with a look of bemusement, so I asked if they also had classes to teach people how to walk in these things.  She just smiled this sort of lackadaisical smile.  By the time I found Alex, I felt as if I had had quite a lower body workout already and my toes were almost completely numb.  I found a pair of gel heel inserts and stuck them in there, only to find they don’t help at all.  Alex thought they looked really nice on my feet [for stripper shoes], but he did note that if I had trouble walking less than four feet in them and for less than 3 minutes in the store, they probably weren’t very practical.  Don’t you hate when your twenty year old blinds you with common sense logic?  I was looking at these works of art on my feet, but also realistically picturing myself trying to walk down the church aisle in my vestments and in these shoes, holding a hymnal, singing, and trying to remain upright or walking on a wood or tile floor without feeling as if I were ice skating.  These shoes with the 4 inch plus heels are so high, it is literally like existing on pointe in toe shoes all day.  I have to hand it to the women who do it.  I am not sure that I could be one of those women for more than an hour or two at a time.  My usual dress up shoes are Clarks, Tevas, and Danskos, and living on the edge for me is a pair of Cole Haans or Donald Pliners.

You might ask, what.. besides menopause, is bringing on this need for heels at this late date?  My sister did when I told her this story on the phone on the way home from our shopping trip.  She said, “Kim, you’re too old to start wearing ‘ho heels now.”  So, I thought about this today, and was surprised at what I came up with.  Only, I can’t tell you because it might embarrass my boyfriend, and no it is not what you are thinking.

Needless to say, though, I now am the proud owner of these cute Tom’s wedges that he admired on my feet last week.  That is as far as I am taking that.

Interesting Results

So, I got my labs back a week or so ago and everything was normal except for very low vitamin D, some individual low thyroid scores, way high thyroid antibodies, high triglycerides, and bad blood sugars.

So, I’ll start with those bad blood sugars since they concern me the most.  I have had a fasting glucose of 100 before.  I have had HbA1C’s of up to 5.9, but today I had an FBG of 99 and an HbA1C of 6 and I am a believer now-  it’s official… I am pre-diabetic.  I had a doctor tell me that a few years ago and I scoffed at him and that diagnosis, but it hit home today and I accepted it for the gift that it is.  So, even before speaking to my new hormone guru, I knew what needed to be done.  I have a plan; and it is to kick that bitch’s ass before she gets into my house.  Step one:  I downloaded a bunch of books onto my Nook about reversing diabetes and keeping blood sugar stable with diet and exercise.  Step two:  I started exercising like I should have been exercising all along.  My first weekly goal was to walk/jog 10 miles and I beat that goal with 2 days to spare.  Step 3:  increase veggies and fruits and decrease high GI foods and eliminate as much sugar as possible.  I have been trying to have protein at every meal and cut out sweets, but apparently sugar is my drug of choice and it is not easy.  I especially love sugar when it teams up with bad fat and white flour, like it does in donuts, but I am working on it.

So, yesterday, my appt day arrived where I got to drive 90 minutes to Greensboro and talk to this new holistic provider.  Once again, she is a Nurse Practitioner [pretty much the same thing or better than a PA and much more useful than most doctors] who specializes in gynecology and endocrinology.  She was trained out west and she is very much a healthy approach, clean living over a prescription provider.  She does sell supplements in her practice, but she is not a charlatan.  She is very quick and well-read and knowledgeable about what she treats.  She did not try to sell me anything, she assessed my labs with laser precision and gave me a diet and some prescriptions for supplements and natural preparations to take away.

I thought she was going to tell me to decrease my thyroid because my TSH was so low, but she didn’t!  She stressed the insignificance of this value, especially in relation to the individual thyroid values like Free T4 and T3 and said since those were low I could actually increase my Armour.  I have been on natural thyroid for at least 15 years and my life is worth living because of it- no exaggeration.  I was a mess on Synthroid.  I have said it to many:  it was like I was existing in this flat, gray world that suddenly burst into color like in the Wizard of Oz when I started on natural thyroid replacement.  I do self-titrate some, but have been afraid to ramp it up much to prevent going hyperthyroid.  It is also important to note that I have Hashimoto’s Disease, which is the type of hypothyroidism that is autoimmune in nature and usually runs in families along the maternal line.  My body literally views my thyroid gland as a foreign and unwanted presence and is doing its level best to annihilate it.  Tammy commented that my antibody titers were the highest she has seen and asked if I grew up next to a toxic river.  So, given the level of my antibodies combined with a low Free T4 and T3, she said feel free to go crazy on the Armour.  I currently take 2 grains a day, one in the morning and one in the evening and sometimes titrate down to one in the morning and 1/2 in the evening.  So, I was ecstatic when Tammy said I could increase Armour.  I could take 2 in the morning and 1 in the evening or up to 4 grains a day with scores like mine.  Hot damn, maybe I can lose some lbs now, since clearly, I struggle to lose weight even when I am restricting calories now.   So, that was the first good news.

Next good news:  Tammy did not lecture me concerning my bad sugar scores.  She pointed them out and suggested that I begin by doing a yeast free diet for a few weeks to rest my adrenals and to rid myself of sugar/yeast which apparently causes all kinds of ill effects:  bloating, fatigue, mental fog, digestive issues, etc…  She also suggested that gluten free might the way to go from now on since many people with hypothyroidism are gluten intolerant and at the very least it would help with my blood sugar issues and overall general health.  I knew this and we discussed the book Wheat Belly which talks about the genetic mutations in wheat nowadays that makes it much higher in gluten and much more damaging to anyone with celiac disease or allergies or intolerances.

Next good news/bad news:  my vitamin D levels were bottomed out to the extent that it looks like I might be genetically predisposed to this malady.  I was like, “okay, what does low D cause?”  She said:  impaired sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity [oh noooo], increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer”.. basically all kinds of heinous things.  So, she prescribed 10,000 IU’s that I am to take 2x a week.  So, the bad news is that I have low D but the good news is that after treatment, I may utilize sugar and become less insulin resistant.  That is great because insulin provides keys to my cells so that sugar can go into the cells and be used and not stored in my liver and turned into fat when the keys don’t fit.

We finally got around to talking about my female hormones, which is why I was there, and Tammy agreed that I am a quarter of the way to menopause, well into almost halfway [which means I will need to change the blog name again soon].  My estrogen is still good [yay], but my progesterone and testosterone are low and so she suggested prescribing bioidentical creams of each for me to get some hormonal balance in this area.  I suggested that she put them into the same cream, but she said that this would not work because testosterone is energizing and so it needed to be applied in the morning.  Progesterone is sedating and should be applied at night before bedtime.  I sort of balked at the testosterone, because I was thinking I already have less hair in places I want it and more hair in places I don’t, but she said that is due more to imbalance that a predominance of one, and shared that testosterone deficiency causes lowered libido, brain fog, depression, low energy, fatigue, and belly fat.  She said she can look at a man and tell if his testosterone is low by looking at his belly.  So, with that, I was in.    These creams must be compounded so she faxed them to the local pharmacy that has those capabilities.

Finally, she suggested that with antibody levels as high as mine and the fact that my thyroid is autoimmune in nature, which makes me more susceptible to other autoimmune disorders like MS, diabetes, and ALS [eeekk], that I might like to try the off label usage of a drug called Naltrexone.  This is an opiate blocker that is prescribed in higher doses for heroin addicts and alcoholics, but in lower doses has shown promise in strengthening the immune system and assisting in lowering antibodies and reducing symptoms in MS and other autoimmune diseases.  I agreed to research it and possibly give it a try.  I have the prescription and I think I am going to give it a shot since the side effects are low and it could help in a number of ways.  The main side effect is increased or vivid dreaming, and that along with the testosterone cream I am applying at night might prove exciting.  If you are interested in researching this yourself, google low dose Naltrexone or LDN along with your personal autoimmune disorder keyword.

Lean Into It

 Reading the latest IndyWeek this morning with my coffee I stumbled upon my horoscope.  Ok, I didn’t stumble upon it… I purposefully sought it out and read it….  Nonetheless, I felt compelled to share it because I definitely needed to receive this planted suggestion this morning.
Image
Libra (September 23-October 22)

Philosopher William Irwin Thompson says that we humans are like flies creeping along the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We literally cannot see the splendor that surrounds us. As a result, we don’t live in reality. We’re lost in our habitual perceptions, blinded by our favorite illusions, and addicted to beliefs that hide the true nature of the universe. That’s the bad news, Libra. The good news is that every now and then, each of us slips into a grace period when it’s possible to experience at least some of the glory we’re normally cut off from. The veil opens, and previously undetected beauty appears. The weeks ahead will be the closest you’ve come to this breakthrough in a long time.

A perfect example of this shortsightedness has been my summer so far, my summer that is almost over: I have been so hyperfocused on the work list I need to do this summer for my other job and its heft and length, the unfairness of this, and the minutia required to either work at chunking off sections or avoid tackling it at all, that I have missed so many opportunities to enjoy simple splendors surrounding me.

I have been that fly crawling around on the Sistine chapel, unable to see anything except menopause webpages, files in black notebooks, and small avenues of temporary escape.  So, starting today, I plan to back it up and take notice of the beauty around me at any given moment.

I am also reminded of some advice I recently read on a Pema Chodron link for dealing with uncomfortable situations or any human suffering or pain:  change the way you see it and lean into it.  At the time, I did not completely “get” what she was advising.  The change your perspective part seemed too simple and the lean into it seemed obtuse.  Now it makes sense.  I have a few more days of work before I set out on what might be my last getaway of the summer.  I am also reminded of a friend’s facebook post the other day that asked people to stop all the whining and complaining.  She said:

There is too much negativity out there. Folks need to stop complaining and count their blessings, stop looking at everyone else and judging them, etc. Who is perfect? Be happy, peeps. AND, if you took a vacation this year… what do you have to complain about? Nothing. Nada. Smile already. Oh, and stop watching Fox News, yo. That was on at the gym this morning and all they did was spew more negativity, but the Today Show was highlighting the Olympics and I would have much rather watched that because that, my friends, is a positive. Positive begets positive. Add more happy to your life. Happy = GOOD!

Dawn is on point.  This is my second vacation this summer.  I have nothing to complain about.  I am happy and that equals good.