A New Year, A Lifetime of Change

January 1, 2011 was the beginning of a New Year.  I did not realize that my ‘year’ would last three.

Today is January 1, 2014.  It is traditionally the beginning of a New Year.

Thoughts, discussions, intentions and commitments for change shared. Summaries spoken and written of the year gone by.  Sentiments of regret and thankfulness for the past year or for the start of a new one expressed.

The thought of taking one year out of my life, summarizing it as a huge event and determining what the sentiments of regrets and/or what I am thankful for seems like such a small measurement of time in the 44 years I have been on this earth.  My ‘year’ is defined as a stage as opposed to a calendar year.

My last ‘year’ began in 2011.  Many events and themes which I did not want and which I thought would never happen occurred.  These events and themes have been on the front lines of my life since 2011.

My Mom and Dad gave me this coffee cup for Christmas.  When I opened it I fell in love.  It will be my ‘go to’ cup for my new ‘year’ because since I was a little girl it is who I am.

In my ‘year’ I have experienced death of a marriage, loss of a six figure income job, multiple, costly court hearings, moving 3 times, unemployed with no income for 2 years, major illness, major surgery, a sick parent, new love, the purchase of 3 houses, selling 2 houses, new job, managing a rental property, becoming engaged, living with my fiancé, moving my daughter twice back and forth to Toronto, my daughter living out of province in a remote area that provided little communication for 8 months, my son’s up’s and down’s as 20 year olds do, ‘adopting’ another son, on-line harassment for the past 2 years by my fiancé’s ex, commuting 2 hours a day, acquiring a puppy and a 4-year-old kennel dog and finally, living with Type 1 diabetes for 38 years and being a Mom of a young adult living with Type 1 diabetes.

In my ‘year’ I cried, I cursed, I have been so angry and so sad that I said things to people I didn’t mean and regret.  I made decisions that I regret.  I beat myself up daily and wish I could say and do differently in certain situations.

Why do I write this and open myself to you?  I do believe that I need to share my experiences to help others.  I have decided this is the end of this ‘year’ of events.  I want to move on.  It’s time for a new stage in my life.

Even though I feel it is time to start a new year and celebrate this, based on the events and experiences of the past 3 years I have learned some very important lessons.

1.  Change is inevitable.  Despite posts and quotes online about the fact one CAN control their life and think themselves into the perfect life, I don’t.  I can plan all I want but my plans are not God’s.  That is different then having a cup half full attitude.

2.  Acceptance creates change.  Acceptance of what I can’t control allows for freedom to focus on what’s important and what I can change.

3.  Let go, selectively.  In my life, I have experienced 3 lives.  My childhood, my first marriage with my children as a family and my current life with my fiancé Steve and blended family.  Advice is abounding, telling us that if one doesn’t let go of the past and move forward then one will never grow.  I refuse to ‘forget’ my past and ‘move forward’.  If I did that I would be letting go of the experiences my children and I have had that are important to us, good and bad.  My past has made me and my children who we are today.  When I dwell on a moment and it creates an emotion, I have learned that it is time to decide why I am dwelling on it.  What is the lesson?  How can I use that moment for my present life?  I believe past and present are a marriage which promotes personal growth.

4.  Always know there is a Plan B.  I am a dreamer.  Dreams come true.  Dreams stay dreams.  When the dreams don’t come true, know there is another way or leave it as a dream.  Not all dreams come true.

5.  It is okay not to be spontaneous.  Spontaneity is fun and I will always be a spontaneous person.  BUT, I have learned that when I really think I have a brilliant idea I want to carry out NOW, it’s time to step back and give it 48 hours.  I have a team of people I trust that I consult with.  I get their thoughts which gives me a different perspective which allows me to make the right choice.

6.  Be thankful everyday.  After I think of all the people and ‘things’ in my life, I imagine all of those that are less fortunate than me.  Those that are lonely, abused, destitute, unloved, sick, dying and sad. I have met those living in such circumstances and they are thankful for what they have.  They have a ‘cup half full’ attitude.  I ask myself, what reason do I have to think my life is anything less than abundantly blessed?  What reason do I have to express less than a ‘cup half full’ attitude?

7.  Act on it.  What I have learned in my past ‘year’ is by delaying action on deadlines not only causes inconveniences for others but consequences for many levels of mine and my loved ones life.  I have learned in this ‘year’ that the stress I have caused over the years by choosing to delay the demands of life has been far more painful than acting on it right away.

8.  Move.  From 1992 to 2011 I have taken very good care of my body by moving.  Through various sports and activities I kept myself well and in good shape.  In this ‘year’ I have put that on hold.  I conjured up many excuses as to why it was okay not to keep the commitments I made to my body.  I am only blessed with one body.  I may think it feels good to sit around and relax after all of the stress is laid before me instead of moving but after a few years my body has sent me a very different message.  I am re-learning that if I move my face glows, I sleep better, my muscles ache from stressing them from movement, they become stronger, my thoughts flow easier, my mood is brighter, my motivations increases.

9.  Try to keep it simple.  Living in this day in age is so complex. I’m learning in this ‘year’ it’s okay to let go of what isn’t important.  It’s okay to do nothing.  It’s okay to not always be thinking about something.  It’s okay to turn off the radio in the car and have it silent.  It’s okay not to worry.

10.  Love.  Don’t let past experiences stop you from falling (in love) again.  It feels so good AND yes it hurts sometimes.  And some loves that are no longer will cause sadness to the end of time OR until you cross paths again.  Don’t hold grudges over past loves unless you are committed to change it, they don’t know you are.  It only takes up space in your mind and robs your energy.

11.  Own a hairy or furry pet that is not nocturnal.  I have always had dogs and cats in my life.  In February 2011 I had to leave my dog behind but took mine and my children’s 3 cats.  I thought that would be enough.  It was not the case.  In October 2012 we brought 8 week old Samson into our lives.  In May 2013 4 1/2 year old Belle became the newest addition to our Samoyed husky family.  With 4 cats & 2 dogs our home can be a hairy circus but the personalities and activities that entertain us every day keeps us laughing and counters the work involved.  I can feel the stress leave my body as I see their excited faces looking for me as I ascend the steps to enter through the door returning home.  As I walk into the house and see their ‘smiles’ I feel an overflow of joy swell up within me by their unconditional greetings.  As I pet or hug one of our pups any stress I have experienced melts.

This is my ‘year’ in summary.  These are the lessons I have learned.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.  I open my arms to the events that will unfold and the lessons that will be re-enforced as well as the new ones I will learn.

Happy New Year and Cheers to you and yours, Tracy

Healing

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Healing

I like to keep my body parts. I figure each one is there for a reason. But, when all other options have been exercised & surgery is the only option….well, reluctantly, I know when it’s time to fold ’em.

I am not new to surgery. I have had 4 surgeries between the ages of 21 – 32. I’m proud to say, I’ve had success with all surgeries & recoveries. It’s a challenge to walk away healthy without infection or complications, especially when living with diabetes.

It’s been 10 years since my last surgery. It’s been almost 20 years since my last major surgery.

When I found out a few months ago I would be under the knife once again, having major surgery with a 6 week recovery time, I decided to be proactive in preparing so my recovery would be uneventful.

I am only 4 days post op so I may be putting the cart before the horse with this surgery but I want to post some considerations about how to prepare before, during & after.

Before Surgery:

1. Gather a reliable support team that can be there for you before, during & after surgery. Make sure your team knows their responsibilities throughout this process. If someone offers to help, this is one time you can’t afford to say no. Don’t try to be a hero. I never heard anyone talking about the time “so and so had surgery & what a champ he or she was going solo, doing it all on their own.”

2. Don’t go crazy cooking, baking & cleaning. What?!? you say? Shouldn’t I have stuff in the freezer & the house spotless for when I come home to recover? Sure, if you were healthy before surgery to do that, it would be ideal. But consider, why are you having surgery? Your body is not running at full capacity. By stressing yourself out making, baking & cleaning you are depleting your immune system to a point that you may set yourself up for illness before surgery (then, it may be cancelled) or cause infection post-surgery. Although it may be tough, go to the local health food store & buy organic, pre-made meals that one of your team mates can heat up. Same with the kids lunches. I’m not meaning pre-packaged boxed/canned garbage…there are a variety of ‘homemade’ soups, sauces & meals available today that have only a few ingredients & are good for you. Just make sure to watch the sodium content…you don’t want to get all puffy & bloated.

3. Which leads me to my next point….eat clean, well-balanced nutritional meals & snacks leading up to surgery. I mean, we all should all the time but if you have lost focus, now is the time to get back on track. If you don’t have a Juicer, I urge you to buy one. Use it often. Eat a variety of fresh, organic vegetables & fruits. Keep your protein lean. Keep your carbs complex & low GI. If you nourish your body properly, it will be ready to perform at a high level of healing during & after surgery.

4. Test blood sugars more often. Keep them within target. Consult with your Diabetes Team to make sure you are running at optimal capacity for diabetes management. High sugars can cause infection and/or slow healing.

5. Be honest during your Pre-Op visit at the hospital about which meds you are taking. I mean, prescription, herbal & homeopathic remedies as well as essential fatty acids. I take herbal & homeopathic tinctures as well as EFA which I had to stop 2 weeks before surgery as they increased my risk for bleeding.

6. If you are physically active until this point, if the Specialist agrees it is okay, keep doing what you do or alter it to accommodate to your circumstance. I was not able to be as active as I used to be but I made sure to walk 5 – 10 km each day to keep my heart, lungs, mind & muscles working.

7. Get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night.

8. Drink a lot of water. More than 8-8oz glasses a day.

The Night Before Surgery:

1.  Pack a cooler bag of simple, instant food that is healthy & wholesome for your hospital visit. Below is what I packed in mine:

– Nature’s Path Organic Instant Oatmeal Plus Flax
– (2) glass jars of Green’s Juice I made with my Juicer
– (2) 1/4 cup containers of hemp seed to add to my oatmeal
– (2) containers of 2 tbsp of Skinny B Breakfast Cereal
– (2) containers of 2 tbsp of Holy Crap Breakfast Cereal
– (2) single servings of plain Greek Yogurt

The Day of Surgery:

1. Ask your surgery to be booked first thing in the morning. You will be asked to have nothing to eat or drink the night before. Some of your diabetes meds may be held. But, with the risk of fasting comes the risk of a low sugar. Being booked in the morning gives you the opportunity to have an IV put in place so that if you have a low blood sugar the staff can give you sugar through it.

2. Remember to breathe deeply, often. Stay calm. Getting anxious over the unknown & probably what won’t happen will raise your blood pressure, heart rate & blood sugar. All the hormones released that cause this will not help with the healing.

3. When you feel yourself getting anxious, visualize what you would love to do 6 weeks from now. Imagine yourself having a successful operation & healing process. Envision how much better you will feel afterwards.

3. Ask questions. Although they may seem dumb to you, they really aren’t.

4. Educate the team in the hospital about your diabetes. They don’t know as much as you do. They can’t! They don’t live with it.

5. Be your own advocate. If something doesn’t seem right, speak up.

The Hospital Stay:

1. Be aware of what’s on your food tray. For the 2 days I stayed, I was presented every processed juice & flavour of jello imaginable. Was that going to help my healing? Nope. It would just spike my sugars. I resorted to my cooler of food I brought. My Greens Juices got me through the first 24 hours. The oatmeal, hemp, yogurt & Skinny B got me through the rest of my stay. The nurses admired that I advocated for myself by bringing the cooler of food.

2. Take the pain meds. Again, don’t be a hero. No pain, no gain does not work. Pain releases hormones that will cause your sugars to go up….and your blood pressure and your heart rate…get it? 🙂 You will not get addicted.

3. Sleep and move. Sleep as much as you can. As soon as the nurse says it’s time to get out of bed, whether you just stand up or take a few steps, it is important to move. It gets the blood flowing which helps your surgical incision heal.

4. Test, test, test. The hospital staff will do that for you a lot too, but I bring my own meter as back up as well. It may not be calibrated to the hospital lab but at least I can report to them if it’s not time for them to test & I know something is off with my sugar. I also wear a Continuous Glucose Meter paired with my pump.

5. Be aware that the grogginess from pain meds can mask a low blood sugar.

6. Be aware of your body. Listen to it. Trust your gut. You know you best!

7. Drink lots of water! LOTS!!

Recovering At Home:

1. Abide by what the instruction sheet & the nursing staff have said. Don’t push yourself. You will not push yourself closer to recovery but closer to a risk of infection & slow it down.

2. Sleep a minimum of 8 hours a night, if your body says to go to bed at 8pm, do it.

3. Nap when you’re tired.

4. Be as mobile as your Doctor has permitted you to be.

5. Inspect your incision(s) daily. If they start to look red, inflamed or have discharge, you need to call your Doctor right away.

6. Test, test, test. Keep your sugars within target. I’ll repeat this again….high sugars will slow the healing process & promote infection.

7. Eat clean, eat well. Keep up with the Greens Juice. Eat lots of vegetables & fruits. Eat lean protein. Keep to low GI, complex carbs.

8. Call on your Team. Refer to #1 “Before Surgery”.

9. Drink lots of water. LOTS!!

These are general guidelines. Your circumstances may be unique & there may be some suggestions I have made that the Doctor has advised against or differently. Please listen to your Doctor. He & you, know your circumstance best.

For most diagno…

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For most diagnoses all that is needed is an ounce of knowledge, an ounce of intelligence, and a pound of thoroughness. – Anonymous

In January, for the second time in two months I arrive in the Emergency Department.  

I have to be in pretty rough shape to go there.  I can count on one hand how often I have gone for myself.  Having worked in the ER, I have seen people’s definition of what an emergency is.   I don’t want to be one of those people.  But, here I am doubled over in pain again.  Just before heading out the door, I stand with my hands shaking, heart pounding, crying…Googling my symptoms one more time, trying to find a diagnosis that I can fix so I don’t have to go.  Then I think to myself…what if I am dying of something and they can treat it?  That would be really stupid!

So off I go.  The Triage Nurse asks what’s happening.  I tell her.  She takes my history.  Takes my blood pressure.  WHOA!!  I guess I am in pain….155/100.  Ok, I feel a little more justified in being there.  They take me right in.  Ok, I’m feeling even more justified.  

The ER Doctor comes into assess me and has already looked up my health history from the past 10 years! That’s a first!!  I describe to him what I have and am presently experiencing.  I tell him my thoughts about it.  I tell him the tests I have had.  He urgently orders a shot of pain medication in my hip.  The nurse comes in and tells me that it will sting a bit as it is going in.  As she injects it, I comment to her that it doesn’t really hurt.  THEN, she pulls the needle out and man, oh, man…talk about a delayed reaction!!  The burn!  But, if it was going to take the pain away, the burn was the least of my discomfort.

The thorough assessment by the Doc gave me some reassurance that this time there would be a diagnosis.  Although I had an Ultrasound and a CT Scan from my earlier ER visit, which showed nothing, the Dr insists I should have another CT Scan.  In my mind, I am thinking MRI! MRI!  But I figure I will humour him.  

Finally the pain med begins to take the edge off.  During the Ultrasound, the Tech is taking the probe across one spot in particular, over and over.  Let me tell you, that was fun…NOT!  A necessary evil.  Finally, she asks if I have a had a different type of Ultrasound.  I have not and feel a sense of relief that she is deciding to do this.  Afterwards, she informs me the ER Dr will talk with us about the results when we go back to Emerg.  She sends us on our way.

Back in the ER, it takes the Dr a bit of time before he comes to speak with us.  I am terrified. Is it, he still doesn’t know or something very serious?

He tells us he has spoken with a Specialist and tells me I have a condition called Adenomyosis.  OK!  I have an answer.  I have a condition.  BUT, what is it, I ask.  He says he doesn’t know, he has never heard of it.  Huh?!?  So is it treatable?  Is it something I have to live with the rest of my life, because pain and diabetes management don’t go well together.  Is it terminal?  He tells us the Specialist wants to see me in a week to discuss treatment options.  In the meantime, he sends me home on Tylenol #3’s and prescription NSAID’s.

I whip out my phone and go to Google.  I guess the Dr doesn’t have Google or a Medical Dictionary at the hospital (insert sarcasm).

After reading about it, a wave of relief washes over me.  I know what the discussion will be with the Specialist now!  It is treatable.  I will need major surgery.  I am excited.  Really, I am!

After researching more, I realize the many issues I am having with my body the past many years, I now know are directly linked to this one condition.  The surgery will fix these things!  

In less then a month I am looking forward to beginning the recovery process.  In the meantime, I have focused on eating well, taking my vitamins and supplements, keeping my blood sugars tight, getting enough sleep and walking.  Ideally, I would like to exercise more intensely to strengthen my muscles but I am not well enough for that.  I remind myself in a few months I will be able to.   I have been reassured by a few friends who have had the surgery that I will wake up one day on week six of the recovery and realize how great I feel, how rough I’ve felt these years.  The countdown is on.

I am looking forward to my new life.

Finding Balance

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Finding Balance

I just completed The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe decided to study whether or not stress contributes to illness. They surveyed more than 5,000 medical patients and asked them to say whether they had experience any of a series of 43 life events in the previous two years. Each event, called a Life Change Unit (LCU), had a different “weight” for stress. The more events the patient added up, the higher the score. The higher the score, and the larger the weight of each event, the more likely the patient was to become ill.

Below is the score Interpretation

300+ You have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.

150-299 You have a moderate to high chance of becoming ill in the near future.

<150 You have only a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future.

Upon taking the survey, it did not consider that I live with diabetes, I have a 19-year-old 'child' living with diabetes who has recently experienced complications, I am still going through court proceedings trying to settle with my divorce, starting two new businesses AND most recently after months of severe undiagnosed pain I finally have a diagnosis in which I will be going for major surgery for in April.

So, not including the above mentioned, the score I 'achieved' is 687. Of the 43 items listed, I have experienced 22 in the past 2 years.

I am not writing this to have you think to yourself "Oh poor Tracy".

I am writing this for 2 reasons:

1. Understanding that everyone has life events that are very stressful. Sometimes when in the middle of it all, as these events pile up one on top of another, it is very difficult to step back and see what has occurred. It is even more challenging to see the positive or how to take care for yourself in the midst of it all. There are many events in life that we cannot change. It is important to accept this and decide ways to find balance by taking care of ourselves.

2. I need to write this to help me. I have wanted to do the survey for a while. I knew the score would be high, so it was not for that purpose. I took it today because I am so tired. So tired, I needed to make myself take the survey so I could sit down & figure how I could find balance among all of it. I am not taking the best care of me as I have in the past. It's time to change that.

The picture posted is from my walk yesterday. I had 2 choices yesterday; sleep or walk. My body felt full of toxins from the stress. I haven't been listening to my body as I should. Although I was extremely tired, my mind urged me to go for the walk. I needed to get the blood flowing and help my body clear out the toxins and my mind.

We ended up driving to a park in the city. We took the puppy and started through the park. I felt like I was in the country. No traffic noise, lot's of trees and snow. We didn't talk much. We both just needed to 'be'.

Initially in my mind, I didn't want to go far. I have an ongoing list in my head of tasks that need to completed at home both on a personal and business level. But as I walked further, I realized that this list never has nor will it be finished. That's life. For this walk I needed to let that never-ending list go and enjoy the moment for my health's sake.

We ended up walking 10 kilometres over 2 hours. Towards the end of the walk, the tightness in my chest and my inability to take a deep breath began to disappear. It felt so good to take a deep breath.

Today we will do the same. I will leave that list behind. I will leave the items I have marked off on the survey behind. I will envision taking these items and tucking them away in a closet only to taken out when absolutely required. But not on the walk.

I urge you to take the survey. Determine where you are at in your life when it comes to stress. Then, decide what you can do to balance these items. Whether it be reading, going to the gym, taking a long walk, yoga, stretching, having a long relaxing bath, lighting some candles and listening to music, playing with your kids, hugging the ones you love.

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." –Ovid

"Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it."
–Hans Selye