Routines, RA, and Menopause – Oh My!

By Marianna Boyce

There’s nothing unusual about having a daily routine. No matter how busy or sedentary our lives may be, we mindlessly perform the same tasks without giving it a second thought. If my schedule is out of sync, it throws off my entire day. Over the past several years, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has forced me to constantly create new routines.

One morning, I’d clearly woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Not only were my joints filled with intense pain, but my brain was also discombobulated. Adhering to my morning regiment was ridiculously grueling. An RA flare made it difficult leaving the house that morning, but I managed anyway.

pexels-photo-313690.jpgAfter making it to the office, I contemplated returning home, going back to bed, and starting the day over again. However, I knew this would not have helped, so instead, I grumpily grabbed my bag and told the ladies in the office, “Hold up y’all, I’ll be right back,” as I rushed out the door.

I feebly limped to my car and got in. As I sat in the driver’s seat with my forehead resting on my hands, nothing helped much in the pain department, but a moment alone in silence allowed me to clear a few of the cobwebs and gather my thoughts. The ladies inside probably thought I was off my rocker for disappearing with no explanation.

A few minutes later, I re-entered the front door as if I was walking in for the first time that day. My big ole smile matched the upbeat sound of my voice as I said, for what sounded like the first time, “Good morning, ladies.” Clearly, I was off my rocker. My coworkers who know me so well quickly identified my forced smile and fake joyful tone. We laughed about my whirlwind tantrum and dramatic exit, then went on with our day. Now, we often chuckle about that funny morning.

It’s taken quite some time figuring out how to (mostly) successfully live with RA, but now, I’m coping with another issue. I’m currently 51, and my body is undergoing another drastic change. Menopause is looming. I still have my cycle, so I’m not quite there yet. However, those premenopausal darts are currently being thrown in my direction.

Person Lying on Bed Covering White BlanketPerimenopause, the transitional phase before menopause, begins several years before menopause. The average length of time for this stage differs for every woman. Ovaries make less estrogen during this stage and eventually, the body stops releasing eggs altogether. When a woman goes twelve months without having a period, perimenopause ends, and full-on menopause begins.

Perimenopausal symptoms include, but are not limited to:  

  • Irregular periods
  • Worsening premenstrual symptoms
  • Severe breast tenderness
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Lower sex drive
  • Urinary urgency and leakage

I’m experiencing eight of eleven signs listed above, while also contending with lifelong symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but I keep moving forward.

RA symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Joint pain (especially in the morning)
  • Joint stiffness, tenderness, swelling, redness, and warmth
  • Both sides affected (symmetric or mirroring)
  • Loss of range of motion, or function
  • Joint deformity
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Brain fog
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Depression

Since I have this wonderful platform, I’ll take this opportunity to also publish one fact and one symptom about RA in my own words:

FACT: Rheumatoid arthritis has absolutely nothing to do with age.

It’s frustrating when people say it is just because we are getting old. While I’m not opposed to getting older, this is not that.

SYMPTOM: Lubricating fluid surrounding the joints feels more like hardening cement instead.

This is the best way I can describe what rheumatoid arthritis feels like to those who have not experienced it. RA is challenging, painful, and life-altering.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful rheumatologist at Lexington Medical Center helping me navigate this life-altering disease. Since Dr. G’s specialty is Rheumatology, I’ll have to seek advice from my OBGYN when the time comes to navigate the menopause department.

I understand that as we age, aches and pains are inevitable. Our bodies snap, crackle, and pop when we wake each morning. As time goes on, we often wonder how in the world we arrived here because it all happens in a flash. We should all strive to grow old with grace and dignity – facing the natural progression of life.

God is good regardless of what curveballs are hurled in our direction. I’m often reminded despite my tough days and everchanging routines that there are many others in more difficult situations than me.

What are you dealing with today? How has it affected your routine? Let me know in the comments!

To My Fellow “Fraidy Cats”

By Shannon Boatwright

five orange and one white pupkinsBy the time this blog is posted, Halloween will have come and gone. And that’s ok, but I’m hoping there might just be some folks out there who can relate to what I have to say. I’m all for spooky fun. I’m all for mysterious fun. But add in the gore and realistically bloody grossness, and, well, I’m out. PEACE OUT. Shannon OUT!

The irony is that some of my closest friends from growing up, still to this day pick on me for being a “fraidy cat” and not being able to handle horror movies.  Even as adults, at a movie outing together they’ll say “Girls, we can’t see a horror movie, cuz Shannon can’t handle it!”  My response to that is “Kiss my grits!” Y’all will have to forgive me for not wanting to pay good money to see something that will totally haunt and horrify me. To each her own – so I’ll pass!

Maybe it’s the logic in me. Maybe it’s the prude in me. I don’t care what you call it, but I have no desire to pay to be scared, much less horrified. To me, the whole concept of that is simply idiotic.

As an entertainer though, I do value the premise and concept of scaring the heck out of people, leaving them on the edge of their seats and in turn making money off the experience. It’s a lot easier being the scare-er than the scare-e! Again, to each her own! If you want to be horrified by gory, horrid drama, go for it! But I personally have no desire to watch disgusting zombies with decaying flesh or characters with body parts cut off or bitten off by some psychotic clown. I have enough drama in my real life. I don’t need some ridiculous horror movie creating trauma and plaguing my sleep because I can’t get visions of the goriness out of my mind. I apparently have too vivid of an imagination. While I might forget a simple task or someone’s name, I’ll forever remember a horrific scene from a movie. It’s a curse. I’ll literally never forget it.

I’d watch a mysterious vampire any day rather than a zombie with decaying flesh! It’s just plain gross! I joke with my zombie-loving friends that when the day comes, and there is a zombie apocalypse, while they’re all screaming their heads off and frozen with fear, I’ll be the one jumping into action, battling the evil and saving the day.

So, to all my fellow fraidy cats, may we always avoid the blood and guts and in turn, save our souls and maybe actually sleep tight at night!  I’m going to go watch a lovely, fun, romantic comedy now and fill my heart and mind with joy, not gore. 😉

Faith-Based Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating

By Rachel Sircy

I believe I mentioned in my last post (the one about gluten-free trick or treating) that my family and I don’t actually celebrate Halloween. I’ve never made a big deal about this before because I honestly didn’t know anyone outside of my own church who abstained from Halloween celebrations. Last week, however, I was talking to the mom of my daughter’s school friend who asked me if I had any good ideas for Halloween alternatives for small children. This was the first time since I’d moved to Columbia that anyone had asked me that question, and it made me realize that perhaps there are many of us out there who would like something to do with our kids on October 31st that doesn’t involve traditional Halloween celebrations.

pumpkin

If you look online, there are tons of ideas for Christian alternatives to Halloween celebrations for parents to do with their kids at home. I read several blogs, each with some great basic ideas that any family can make their own. You can throw a fall-themed costume party for your children on October 31st and include fun games with candy prizes. One blog suggested doing a treasure hunt (similar to an Easter Egg hunt, I guess) and fill objects with candy. These activities can be religiously themed and designed to teach a faith-filled lesson. One of my favorite ideas was using pumpkin carving to teach a lesson about receiving the Holy Spirit: cleaning out the pumpkin is analogous to what Jesus does to us when we repent and the light that we put inside the pumpkin can represent what happens when Christ puts His Spirit in us. Other sites suggested doing a kid-friendly movie marathon at home, involving popcorn, candy and letting your kids watch fun movies until they fall asleep. These parties can be family-only celebrations or involve neighbors and friends. If you have the luxury of getting out of town, one blogger mom suggested taking your kids on a small weekend trip. Getting out of the house may be a good idea if you’re opposed to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters (personally, I hate telling little kids “no,” so if I stay home, I always plan on handing out some candy. If you’re trying to build your Halloween alternative into a neighborhood party, it might not be a bad idea to hand out candy and spread the word for next year’s party!).

And don’t forget, many area churches put on Halloween alternatives in the form of Fall Festivals or “Hallelujah Nights.” A few I saw online that might be worth looking up near Columbia are Redbank Baptist Church’s Fall Festival night; Family Worship Center’s Hallelujah Night, and Harvest Collaborator’s Hallelujah Praise Night. If your church is having a fall festival or Halloween alternative night, you can feel free to share it in the comments.

Happy holiday alternatives, everyone! 

Suicide Prevention Awareness

by Tina Cameron

While September is National Suicide Prevention Month, awareness can be spread year-round. I am writing this with a heavy heart tonight about someone I never met, someone who appeared on their social media pages to be sweet, caring, kind, smart, funny, and very much loved. While I have never met this person, I am filled with sadness as a mother and as a person who has grieved a friend who died by suicide, my high school friend Debbie.

According to National Today (2019), “an average of 123 suicides” occur each day in the United States. It is “the tenth leading cause of death in America – second leading for ages 25-34, and third-leading for ages 15-24.” I was completely unaware of these statistics prior to my research. Awareness must be spread every single day, not just one month of the year that it is advertised. Reading these statistics is disheartening. According to the Center for Disease Control, researchers found that more than half of people who died by suicide during the study period did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Other issues, including relationship problems, substance abuse, physical health problems, job or money-related stress, legal or housing problems often contributed to the risk of suicide.suicide-awareness-ribbon-2

As awareness about suicide is spreading, television shows and commercials are now showing phone number hotlines for people to call if they are having thoughts of suicide. I am a nurse at a hospital, and we now ask patients if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts when they are admitted. Despite this increased attention and awareness, people are still committing suicide because they may not have access to the help they need or even realize they need it. I cannot imagine the unbearable pain they feel.

My heart is breaking tonight and every day for anyone hurting in this way. Please reach out for help. Call a friend, your family, a crisis center. Breakups, financial problems, marital problems, and bad grades are not worth ending your life over. I have listed the phone number to call and website if you are thinking about harming yourself.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Taking Time to Be Grateful

By Shannon Boatwright

cofffee

As we enter Fall, life seems to be going nonstop.  I find myself exhausted all too often – actually, on a daily basis. The work I do as a teacher is rewarding, so most of the time, the exhaustion is worth it. But the days when the weight of work that has to be done is too much. Sometimes it feels like a constant race, and I can’t ever seem to get in the lead and stay there.

As I write this, I am actually in a precious moment of taking the time to slow down and be grateful. After a long, hard and busy week, when my mind, body, and soul are ready for a much-needed break and some actual real sleep, my duties as a mother kicked in. There was no Saturday sleeping-in because both my children had a 7AM cross country practice. So, after yet another restless night of attempted sleep when my brain won’t shut down and the worry of not waking up in time to get my kids where they need to go, 6AM came all too quickly. But I got up, got the kids out the door, and we made it on time. I was able to drop them off and come back home before having to be back out to pick them up at 9AM. As I drove home, the beautiful sky caught my attention. Seeing the sunrise made me take a moment to appreciate being up early and being a part of this quiet morning. As I parked in the driveway and caught a glimpse of the sky over the gorgeous lake, I knew I needed to enjoy this moment. I fixed my cup of coffee and parked my tired rear end on the back porch. Just sitting, listening to the birds and the sounds of the morning is truly lovely.  As I sat there, being a witness to the environment around me transitioning from night to the morning was priceless. And the most beautiful part of it all is that it made me think of all the things that I have to be grateful for. To be alive and well, to be loved. Life is not perfect and there are certainly a lot of things I wish I could change, but taking the time to just sit, to just be, to witness the world around me, to watch and hear nature in all its glory. Well, that is a blessing and very much worthy of being incredibly grateful for.

So, no matter how busy life gets, take the time to be a part of and a witness to, the world around you. Let nature amaze you – notice it, appreciate the simple, yet amazing beauty around you. It is so refreshing! I am ever grateful that I took this time to count my blessings and to be a part of the world around me.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Marianna Boyce

Breast Cancer Awareness is highlighted in October to bring attention to one of the most diagnosed cancers in women. One of every eight women is diagnosed in the United States alone. Chances are, it’s likely you know someone who has fought or is currently fighting this vicious disease. Men can also develop breast cancer, but their odds are much lower. If you or a loved one have been affected, I’m sure your awareness extends well beyond the devoted month of October every year.

The exact cause of breast cancer isn’t known, but one thing is clear: this global issue is non-discriminatory.

ribbon.jpgAccording to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, approximately 41,760 women, and 500 men will die each year in the United States alone; however, this same website reports that death rates have also steadily declined since 1990. Contributing factors to this trend are increased awareness, early detection, better screening, and improving treatment options.

We should be aware of risk factors, along with small steps we can take in order to fight against breast cancer. Some risk factors can be avoided, such as alcohol intake, but other factors like family history cannot be. A monthly self-exam is a step in the right direction to detect issues early.

According to the American Cancer Society, current guidelines for breast cancer screening is as follows:

  • Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women ages 45-54 should have a mammogram yearly.
  • Women 55 and older should have a mammogram every two years, or continue yearly screening if they wish.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live ten years or longer.

Every woman is unique. You should know how your breasts normally look and feel. Remember that your monthly self-exam is the most powerful tool in early detection. If you feel a lump, or something that doesn’t feel normal, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Visit www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam to learn the proper way a self-exam should be performed.

Life is busy—I get it, but something as simple as a buddy system to help remind one another to self-examine each month could potentially save a friend, loved one, or even your own life. Set a recurring reminder on your phone for a time you can take a moment and devote it to your health.

When’s the last time you did your breast exam? Don’t wait ladies. Do it today.

Lake Livin’

By June Greenlaw

Hello, everyone!  I know it’s been a long time since my last blog.  I apologize.  My husband and I have been on the hunt for a new house and just got moved in a few weeks ago to what we hope will be our forever home on Lake Wateree.  I have to mention that I’ve never lived in the country or on a lake, so there are lots of things that I have to learn out here such as – there is no city trash service!  We have to separate all our trash in preparation for the dump. Very new for this city girl!

IMG_3228I want to share with you a funny story about another lesson I’m learning about living by the lake.  First, let me say, I am truly blessed to be able to work from home and to live on the lake!  Second, glory day, I never would have guessed that THIS would be a new challenge in my life.  Keep reading.

So, during my lunch break today, I placed my leftover spaghetti in the microwave to warm up and put the leash on my baby dog to go out for a quick walk in the yard.  The yard has three levels because of our retaining walls, and we usually walk back and forth on each level.  The baby dog is slower than the big puppy, and she is on a leash (rethinking the big puppy not being on one as I type this).  We walk the first level. It’s a beautiful day, uneventful.  Bentley, our big golden retriever puppy that’s nine months old, trotting a short distance ahead of us on the second level.

Baby dog decides to do some “business” while we are on the second level, so I patiently wait for her to finish and look up to see where Bentley is headed.  He’s on the third level having a great time running in the grass.  He looks a bit intense though – like there might be a squirrel he’s chasing.  I look just ahead of him, and I see what he is after!!!  I promptly start yelling “NO BENTLEY! STOP BENTLEY! SIT BENTLEY!” and probably a few words that made me thankful I don’t have neighbors during the week!

In the distance is a large, dead fish with only the head left on its body.  Of course, I’m afraid he’s going to eat it because this is a dog that will eat anything!  But no, instead, while I’m screaming for him to “leave it,” a command learned from my friend Pam recently, he promptly goes up to the head of the fish, lowers his head down, and begins to rub his face against the face of this dead fish!  As if that wasn’t gross enough, while I’m running as fast as a girl can run downhill without falling on her face, he proceeds to snuggle up his entire body and roll back and forth over the bones and head of this fish.

So, for those of you that have me as a friend on FacebooIMG_3226.JPGk, you may have seen my comment yesterday on my friend Dawn’s post.  It has a picture of us riding in her boat on a beautiful, sunny day with my comment reading, “lake life doesn’t suck.”  I’ll amend that now to say, “until your dog rolls around on the dead fish that some disrespectful bird dropped in your yard!”.

Oh, and did I mention my husband is away on a hunting trip, so I now have to go pick up this dead fish AND wash the dog that reeks of dead fish.  I just need to take a deep breath and remember I still feel thankful and blessed for the opportunity to experience lake life.