Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fibromyalgia and Me

Today I am reflecting on many things. Most of them are positive and some of them aren’t as positive as I wish, but they are becoming so. Let me explain.

Since December I have been feeling strange symptoms that had me worried I was having a heart attack. Seriously: heart racing or pounding even when I lie down, my left shoulder and neck aching, trouble breathing, weird bathroom experiences (I won’t go into detail on that one!), dizziness, headaches, eyes twitching, insomnia, extreme fatigue, nausea, weak muscles (I can’t get up off the floor), shakiness and pain all over.

Some of those didn’t surprise me - I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia a couple years ago. But everything seemed worse than usual. And the added shoulder pain and heart problems had me worried that I was having a heart attack. My dad just had quintuple bypass surgery 3 years ago, so it was natural to think it might happen to me, too.

I waited until last week to see the doctor, partly because I was trying to make sure I had adequate insurance just in case it turned out to be serious. I had to wait on getting insurance because my husband has been out of work since November and just started a new job last month. Crazy.

Here’s some other things I’ve been ignoring: my daughter is going through a divorce, my son moved home for a little while to save money, I can’t decide whether or not to keep up my business (which also stresses me out sometimes), and I can’t get a job to help my husband out with bills because of the fibromyalgia. Ugh!

I’ve also stressed over other duties I’ve had, but that’s just icing on a mud cake.

I finally saw the doctor and, looking at my chart, he calmly explained that it was my fibromyalgia acting up. All the stress and anxiety I’ve been feeling are making my symptoms worse.

By the way, I quit a couple of the volunteer positions I had and started seeing a therapist to help me deal with the stress. And I’ve started a health group on Facebook to help people get in shape and become healthier. That, I have to admit, was mostly for me so I’d have someone to be accountable to for my health. And I have been reading “The Gerson Therapy” which helped me add some juices to my diet to help give me more nutrition.

The doctor was able to relieve my fears and for that I am grateful. He said I was doing everything right by exercising and eating right and going to therapy for help.

He also said that the anxiety was worsening my symptoms - but, never fear! - since 2 years ago when I was first diagnosed, there have been improvements! They have found a couple medicines that actually help with the fibromyalgia, not just treat one of the symptoms! I am so excited!

It takes a couple weeks to really start working (similar to anti-depressants) and I am in my second week. So far, it seems like I am improving each day! There is hope!

For those of you who don’t know what fibromyalgia is, here’s a brief lesson, thanks to WebMD:

With fibromyalgia syndrome, the following symptoms commonly occur together:
Decreased pain threshold or tender points
Incapacitating fatigue
Widespread pain

Fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. Still, it is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Its characteristics include widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue, as well as other symptoms. Fibromyalgia can lead to depression and social isolation.

Fibromyalgia causes you to ache all over. You may have symptoms of crippling fatigue -- even on arising. Specific tender points on the body may be painful to touch. You may experience disturbances in deep-level or restful sleep, and mood disturbances or depression.
Your muscles may feel like they have been overworked or pulled. They'll feel that way even without exercise or another cause. Sometimes, your muscles twitch, burn, or have deep stabbing pain.

Some patients with fibromyalgia have pain and achiness around the joints in the neck, shoulder, back, and hips. This makes it difficult for them to sleep or exercise. Other fibromyalgia symptoms include:
Chronic headaches
Dryness in mouth, nose, and eyes
Hypersensitivity to cold and/or heat
Inability to concentrate (called "fibro fog")
Numbness or tingling in the fingers and feet

(see for more info, especially if you think you may have these symptoms!)

Boy, did that explain a lot! It explains the shoulder aches, heart palpitations and many other symptoms that made me think I was having a heart attack. That certainly didn’t help my anxiety to think that, so I was very relieved that the doctor knew this.

I write these things in hope that this article helps someone else who may have or know someone who has these symptoms. Maybe even just understanding what someone with the syndrome is going through will help. It’s not fun, that’s for sure, but it is treatable and manageable, to a point.

Here’s what it feels like, day to day: I have a really hard time moving. Even getting up from sitting is hard. I get shaky and weak. I can’t hike or bike (which I love) very easily because I just hurt all over and the fatigue makes it impossible to keep going. The problem is that being stationary actually worsens the symptoms. Imagine when you have the flu and you ache all over - all you want to do is stay in bed, right? And it hurts to move. You just want to shrink up until it’s over. That’s a daily occurrence in my world.

There are also these weird pains, which I call “Demons With Knives”, all over inside my body. It will randomly occur and you might see me say “ow!” and grab my arm or leg or head. My description is about as accurate as it gets - it feels like there are little demons running around inside me making random cuts in random places. And sometimes it last for 10 minutes. And they aren’t little pains, either. They are BIG. Exactly like a knife.

I want to play pickle ball with my friends or go hiking with my husband or even just sit and play with my grandchildren, but I can’t even move sometimes. Which is why I don’t even like going to the theater to watch a movie any more. It’s just so uncomfortable!

Other times I can’t even go to church or a friend’s house without feeling like I’m going to explode. I often get really restless in my low back and legs. And then my shoulders and neck hurt from tensing up so much. Then someone asks me how I’m feeling and I either want to cry (which is what I do a lot) or I just lie and say something like “I’m good. How about you?” That way we don’t talk about me.

Let me tell you - I have a really high pain threshold. I told the doctor that I described a (I can’t think of the word, give me a sec …) kidney stone as a 7! He laughed. I know, but childbirth and kidney stones aren’t the worse thing I can imagine. Being tortured or maimed, those are worse. But truly, if I were to be honest, childbirth is really difficult for me. And having a kidney stone was right up there along with it. And now I have to deal with this. Fibromyalgia.

In some ways, this is worse. First of all, I’m a “tough girl.” I like everyone to think I am strong and independent and well-organized. “I can do it myself” is something I think and often say. So having a disease that is invisible to others can be hard. When I can’t walk or stand up or dance like I used to, and when someone sees that, I can’t help but think that they think I’m crazy. If I had a cast on my leg, it would be more obvious. But there’s nothing on the outside to tell others what I’m going through. Once someone asked me if something was wrong when I stood up funny. I just said “I’m just getting old.” Bleh. Why did I say that?

Most people don’t even know what this disease is, let alone what it does. So it’s hard to comprehend. I’m hoping this article helps with that.

If you know someone who has this disease, just be good to them. If they cancel dinner plans at the last minute, just know it’s not you. It’s the fibromyalgia. And if they don’t speed walk through the store like they used to, it’s just that they want to cry with every step. It hurts. And maybe they are trying to be tough so they don’t say anything. They joke about being old. Even when they are only 52.

And exercising? That is the toughest of them all! I physically don’t want to move. I don’t want to do anything strenuous because then I’m down and out for a long time. So walking on the treadmill is absolutely excruciating. Well, it’s not that bad, but it’s still the last thing I want to do. Doing yoga helps keep my muscles working but it hurts a lot. And doing floor exercises and lifting weights is just horrible to me. But I do them because if I don’t, I will just keep gaining weight (which makes things worse) and I actually hurt more. It seems like a losing situation either way, but there it is. It’s what I gotta do!

I hope someone benefits from this and can see a doctor and get treated. I also hope it helps others to understand. Because it’s a little intimidating to put yourself out there on the internet. I naturally want to hide when something is wrong and someone else might be feeling the same way. Please, get to a doctor because it’s not YOU, there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s a disease that makes you feel that way! And you can get help!

“You are not the circumstances which brought you to this point in life, but the desires in your heart; follow them and become what you dream. That is the real you!” 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Crazy Year

As we approach the end of the year, I feel a review of sorts coming on. So, here we go: I didn't grow that garden. I didn't stay on a vegetarian diet, in fact, I have vacillated too much with my diet. The only constant was yoga.

I got my certification as a yoga instructor and have been having classes 3 times a week at my house. This has been a great blessing in many ways: the exercise is easy for me to do with FM and doesn't stress my body like walking or biking, although I did do a lot of biking in the height of summer. It also helps to keep my stress, anxiety and blood pressure down because we always do a few minutes of meditating after our workout. This helped me through some rough moments! Tremendously!

But I still couldn't find the energy to get outside and pull weeds and water and do all the things you need to do with a garden. We have a large area for one and that may have been a bit daunting, which in turn overwhelmed me. I barely kept up with the few flower pots we had.

I did, however, pick strawberries from our already established plants. And I planted some pepper plants in pots on my front porch. (Peter Piper picked ...) Does that count?

So, with all this behind me, I resolve to do better this coming year. Does that sound familiar? Ugh, it does to me. I really need to find a way to actually DO better, rather than just put it on my list. Anyone have any ideas on how to keep up your resolutions? That would be a great topic around the end of December! Email me if you have any fun things to share!

So here are a couple things I like that are yummy as well as healthy. First off, if you know me you know I love spicy stuff. Recently I made a couple spicy recipes that I'm sure lots of other people love as well.

The first was salsa. I just made some fresh salsa and canned it. That will be gone soon, you can count on it. The other was the spicy carrots, like they serve with your tacos at taquerias and really good, authentic Mexican places. Recipes below.

Who knew vegetables could be so fun to eat?

Cheers and hugs!

Spicy Carrots

6 to 8 carrots, peeled
2 large onions
6 hot peppers, green and red, washed and trimmed
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and divided
1/4 cup canning salt
2 1/2 cups distilled vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
Pint size jars and lids

Cut carrots, onions and peppers into chunks (size depends on what you prefer).
Combine salt, vinegar and water in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil.
Pack carrots, onions, peppers and garlic into jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space.
Ladle hot liquid over veggies, leaving 1/4-inch head space.
Remove air bubbles. Adjust caps.
Process pint (or quarts) 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Add 10 minutes for high altitude.
Let jars sit for 2 weeks before eating, to give carrots time to absorb flavors.

Friday, January 16, 2015

What's Up Doc?

It’s been awhile since I posted, mostly because I have been having all sorts of news concerning my health. I’m not here to complain, but to maybe help others find health and help for themselves, if they happen to be going through the same conditions.

Lee and I started having lots of out of town trips and that meant a lot of eating out; which makes it hard to eat vegetarian because most fast food places have very little to offer that doesn’t include meat of some kind. So we kind of fell off the wagon for a while.

And man, did I pay! All my symptoms suddenly got worse and I was having a hard time getting anywhere with my exercise. Here’s what happened:

I was waking up with a headache every day. I was feeling the need to “nap” almost daily, and we are talking 2-3 hours of knocked-out, full-on sleep! I never even did that in my pregnant days! I was noticing sharp pains all over my body in random places. This has actually happened to me my whole life, but it seemed worse at this point. My anxiety was getting worse, I was having a hard time concentrating or even ... what’s that word? ... oh yeah, remembering simple things like, um, words. Several other crazy symptoms manifested and I was just plain tired. And hurting. All the time.

So I did a crazy thing - I went to the doctor! Now, I am not one to just run to a doctor every time I get sick. In fact, I hadn’t been to a doctor in about 10 years. But after coming home one night wanting to cry because I just hurt everywhere, I figured it was time. I was at my wits end so I got on my computer, typed in “why do I hurt everywhere” on Google, and found this answer: fibromyalgia. Well, I certainly had all the symptoms but that didn’t mean I had that condition. But if the internet can come up with an actual answer to such a question, I figured I’d better go see a doctor.

Thank heaven for a good doctor! At my first visit he didn’t think I had fibromyalgia. Symptoms for that are so wide that it’s hard to tell for sure if someone has it. The symptoms for FM can fit so many other things that it’s hard to really know if it’s just that or another thing. So he tested me for thyroid disorder and sleep apnea.

My thyroid was fine. But when I did a simple sleep test (involving a clip that goes on your finger all night, hooked up to a small electronic device) it came out positive. So we did a stronger test, involving the same clip on my finger (which measures your oxygen and heart rate), another doohickey strapped to my chest, and an oxygen tube in my nose.

I went to the Sleep Institute for my results and found out something very interesting: I had severe sleep apnea. The doctor was right! (Thanks, Doc!) I was having apnea (stop breathing) episodes 68 times per hour! Side note: anything over 30 is severe.

So I got a CPAP machine to help me breathe at night. This helped my headaches, but my body was still hurting.

At my second visit to my physician, he ruled out other things and we realized that I also have FM.

Now I have to decide what to do about this. Exercise is good for FM but it is hard to do when you hurt and feel so run down. Plus, if you over-do it, you have several bad days immediately following. So I stretch, do some yoga, pretend to do some tai chi, and once in awhile I do some floor exercises.

I did notice, however, that I felt so much better when I was eating a more plant-based diet, so I’m back on the wagon, people!

And after reading Charlotte Gerson’s book, “The Gerson Way,” I have also put coffee enemas into the plan. (Don’t say “ew” so fast! You haven’t tried it yet!) These are wonderful for helping me feel better! I don’t really like doing them, but I really like how I feel afterward. In fact, just a few days ago I was feeling extremely bloated, like my liver was trying to push my stomach out the front of me, so I did the enema and all that awful bloatedness went away. I feel sort of cleansed. And I’m a little lighter. Does this really help with weight loss? I’ll keep you informed ...

And now I am back on a mostly vegetarian diet. Which we found out is called Flexitarian.

I love that avocados are vegetables. Well, technically fruit, but not much difference where the diet is concerned. These have to be the yummiest things on the planet. Lee and I call them “a vegetarian’s bacon.” Yeah, chocolate is good, but only if there is plenty of sugar in it.

My only problem is bacon. I love bacon. But now I just use it mostly on my spinach salad with poppy seed dressing. Mmmm, recipe below.

Happy eating!

Summer Salad (this is what we call it on our catering menu)

4 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup real bacon bits
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (get the fresh kind that is in the wrapper and has a lot of “water” around it)
1 large can mandarin orange slices (craisins, apple pieces, grapes, or sliced strawberries may be substituted)
Poppy seed or Pink Vinaigrette dressing (recipe for this is on

Toss and serve!

By the way, I totally recommend this book:
"Healing The Gerson Way: Defeating Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases" by Charlotte Gerson with Beata Bishop. 
In it you will find information on how they discovered a cure - cure! - for cancer while finding a cure for heart disease and many other diseases. There are recipes and diet programs to help anyone cure and even reverse a great number of health problems these days. The "recipe" for a coffee enema is in there as well. This is actually a big part of the cancer cure, as it helps stimulate the liver into dumping toxins that have stored up in there. They don't recommend drinking coffee, but highly recommend the use of it in enemas to help cleanse the body. You can find more info at their website, too.
I'd love to hear what you think when you read this book! Let me know!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Carbs Are Our Friends!

Potato-Sweet Potato Braise
I was reading in my newly-arrived June 2014 Health Magazine and this article grabbed my attention. It’s called “Fear No Carb.”

It gives a “low-carb diet smackdown,” listing four top low-carb diets and rating them based on new studies. It also talks about the right way to eat.

In a nutshell, it shows that low-carb diets are actually bad for you.

Carbs can be a great way to provide glucose to our bodies, which is essential to energy and life. While it is not the only way, it is the most efficient, says the article.

Go to and search for “the truth about low carb diets” to find the article, if you don’t get the magazine (or click here). There are several great recipes in there to help you get started on some of these foods, too.

And don’t fear the carb! Corn, bananas, white potatoes, green peas, cold cereal and sourdough bread are just a few of the things they list as being good to eat. And Atkins, Dukan and Paleo diets are not.

One last thing. A quote from the article: “... a study published earlier this year in Cell Metabolism suggests that having a diet high in animal protein in midlife (age 50 to 65) can significantly raise your risk of dying of cancer, compared with eating a low-protein diet.”

Now, that’s scary.

Cheers and hugs!

Recipe of the day:

Potato-Sweet Potato Braise

6 potatoes
1 sweet potato
1 onion
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Rosemary Garlic seasoning

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Wash and cut the potatoes and sweet potato. Cut into slices, scalloped-style.
Cut up onion.
Pour about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil into a 9 x 13” baking dish.
Place potato and sweet potato slices in pan, alternating them every so often. Place onion pieces in with potatoes.
Spritz some olive oil over the entire dish.
Sprinkle generous amounts of the pepper flakes and seasoning, according to your tastes, over the potatoes. Go easy on the red pepper flakes, they are potent! Add a little salt or seasoning salt if desired.
Bake, covered, for about 1 hour. Check to see if the potatoes are soft when poked with a fork. Cook awhile longer, if needed.

Serve plain or with Italian dressing or a light gravy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Protein: The Big Question

Homemade Sushi
Now that I’ve gone vegetarian, I need to think about where to get protein since I won’t have the simple answer of “meat.”

Like most people, I thought protein pretty much only came from meat. Hence, my hesitancy about ever going vegan. But I have since found out that most vegetables have plenty of protein and that you don’t need meat to get it.

Look up “what vegetables have protein?” on Google and you will get a protein counter. Choose any veggie and it will show you how much protein is in it. Cool, huh?

According to, these are the top 7 veggies to pack protein:
1. Peas (16+ grams per cup)
2. Corn (5 grams per cup)
3. Broccoli (3 grams per cup) Add rice and beans, and you have a high protein meal!
4. Chickpeas (8 grams per cup)
5. Spinach (13 grams per cup)
6. Artichokes (4 grams per artichoke)
7. Potatoes (5 grams per medium-sized potato)

According to The Vegetarian Resource Group (
“Although protein is certainly an essential nutrient which plays many key roles in the way our bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it.”

You only need up to 0.36 grams per pound that you weigh. So a 180-pound person (and most of us are or should be less than that) only needs as much as 65 grams. And more is not better. In fact, VRG stated that too much protein can increase your risk of osteoporosis and kidney disease.

They have a great chart showing some sample meals and how much protein is in them. Here’s a daily meal chart I made up: (showing examples of a few protein foods only. You can, of course, eat other things with these, and probably should if you want to feel full)

Protein in grams:
Breakfast: one potato (5), baked or shredded and fried as hash browns. Add some bell pepper and onion (1.5). 6.5 grams.
Lunch: Spinach salad (13) with peas (16), tomato (1), cucumber (1). 31 grams.
Dinner: Broccoli (3), brown rice (5) and black beans (15). 23 grams.
Total: 60.5 grams.
Add a snack of a handful of almonds: 4 grams.
Drink some soy milk with that: 7 grams.
Total for the day: 71.5 grams.
Now you’ve taken in more protein than you actually need.

What kinds of whole food and grains contain protein? Oatmeal, whole wheat bread, bagels, peanut butter, spaghetti, veggie burgers, soy yogurt, lentils, quinoa, sunflower seeds, etc.

According to, the average protein requirement for women is 46 g and for men it is 56 g. They add a couple more ideas to the protein menu: cottage cheese (13 g per half cup) and pumpkin seeds (7 g per ounce).

Most vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains contain plenty of protein. Fruits don’t have protein, for the most part, but they do contain many essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as well as calories needed to get through the day. And fiber.

As an example of what one might eat, I have kept track of my meals for one day:

1 1/4 cup Hash browns cooked in 1 tablespoon olive oil
(2 g protein, 70 calories, 0 fat, 16 g carbs, 20 mg sodium, 300 mg potassium, a little Vitamin C)
Frank’s Sauce
(0 protein, 0 calories, 0 fat, 0 carbs, 60 mg sodium, a little Vitamin A).
Strawberry-peach smoothie (peaches, mandarin oranges, coconut milk, mango, strawberries, ice)
(1.1 g protein, 184 calories, 1 g fat, 44 carbs, 4.2 mg sodium, 45 mg potassium)
Total protein: 3.1

-Homemade Veggie Sushi
(3.6 g protein, 191 calories, 2.5 g fat, 9 g sodium, 37 g carbs,)
-Almond milk
(1 g protein, 60 calories, 2.5 g fat, 160 mg sodium, 35 mg potassium, 8 g carbs, vitamins & minerals)
Total protein: 4.6

-Butternut Squash Bisque
(1 g protein, 100 calories, 1.5 g fat, 650 mg sodium, 19 carbs, vitamins A & D, calcium, iron)
-Homemade wheat bread
(15 g protein, 445 calories, 3.2 g fat, 93 carbs, 462 mg sodium)
-Summer Salad (spinach leaves, mozzarella cheese, mandarin oranges, almonds, pink vinaigrette)
(3.6 g protein, 295 calories, 9 g fat, 288 mg sodium, 25 g carbs)
-Iced Herb Tea
Total protein: 19.6

-Cup of soy milk (7 g)
-Handful of almonds (4 g)
Total protein: 11

Total for day: 38.3

Not quite the 46 that I probably need, but it was close.

I hope this helps. For more information, look up those websites above.

Cheers and Hugs!


Recipe of the day:
Homemade Sushi (California Rolls)

2 cups jasmine rice, cooked (2 cups of rice with 1 1/2 cups water, in rice cooker or on stove for 20-25 min)
1-2 Tbls rice vinegar
1 cucumber, sliced lengthwise and cut into 3-4 inch strips
1 large avocado, sliced
1 package carrot slivers
1 package imitation crab, optional
1 package seaweed strips
1 rolling mat 

Cook rice. Add vinegar when done, stirring to mix in thoroughly. Cool at least 2 hours before proceeding.
Prepare your rolling mat by wrapping in plastic wrap.
Put a large scoop of rice on the mat. Spread so that it is just a little larger than the seaweed paper.
Place the seaweed paper shiny side down on the rice.
Line up cucumber, carrots and avocado along one side (long ways, closest to you). Add crab, if desired.
Roll the whole thing, squishing tight when the two ends touch.
Cut into 8-9 pieces. Lay flat on a plate.
Serve with soy sauce, wasabi sauce, and pickled ginger.

You can add some Spicy Sushi Sauce on top to make it spicy:
1/2 cup mayo 
2 Tbls Sriracha sauce
Mix together. Drizzle on top of rolls. Add fish roe if desired.
You can also sprinkle toasted French's onion pieces on top as well.