Holiday Reminders for Gluten Free Eaters

By Rachel Sircy

Lunch table / salad‘Tis the season for eating other people’s cooking. Unfortunately, eating with family and friends poses special challenges for those with dietary restrictions. There are a few tricks, however, that can make the holiday get-togethers more manageable.

First, talk to the host of the party beforehand!

It’s important to make your needs known well ahead of time so your host can coordinate with everyone who may be bringing a dish. It also helps to be as specific as possible. It’s tempting to want to avoid imposition, but, believe me, your fellow partygoers will feel worse if they end up making you sick.

Second, always offer to bring a dish or two of your own, so you will have something that you know is safe to eat.

I have often run into well-meaning family members who think they’re making something gluten free but end up adding gluten through an ingredient they never thought to check. There is nothing quite as frustrating as standing in front of a table stacked high with delicious food that all happens to be off limits to you. This is especially important for parents whose children have dietary restrictions. It’s difficult for adults to people eat off limits food in front of them, imagine the way a child would feel. Make sure you have safe treats for your kids!

Finally, if you absolutely can’t bring anything or speak to the host ahead of time, make sure to eat before you go.

The motto of a longtime gluten free eater is, “Never show up hungry!” Make what you’d like to eat at home and show up full, so you’re not tempted to grab anything off of the dessert table. I always think it’s a good idea to hit up the health food store for some favorite gluten free snacks and bars to keep in my car or purse. I try never to go anywhere without food, especially when I know there will be lots of delicious temptations where I’m going.

Happy holidays and safe eating everyone!

 

What Are The Chances?

By Marianna Boyce

MyChart at Lexington Medical Center is an online tool that connects your personal health records from various doctors. It allows fluid communication with your LMC healthcare team, enables easy access to test results, manages appointments and prescription requests, etc. If you haven’t set up your chart, you may want to consider doing so if you see doctors within this network.

My healthcare team at LMC includes only a primary care physician and rheumatologist. My gynecologist, on the other hand, has worked at South Carolina OBGYN located at Prisma Health Baptist in Columbia for many years. I never had plans to change that, but always wished he was included on MyChart in Lexington.

My phone buzzed one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. The number looked familiar, but I couldn’t place who it was. I skeptically answered anyway. It was a recorded reminder from South Carolina OBGYN about an upcoming appointment. I listened to the recording a second time for clarity because I could hardly believe my ears. I smiled with delight as the robot-sounding voice on the other end of the line shared not only the date and time of my appointment but also that SC OBGYN had moved to a new location. You’ll never guess where.

Their new address is Lexington Medical Park 1 on Sunset Blvd. I was elated! What are the chances? But more importantly, why dedicate an entire blog post about it?

Up until only a few years ago, I considered my OB doc my primary care physician (PCP). Having never experienced any health-related issues, Dr. Holladay was the only doctor I needed to see—until the summer of 2016.

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When I went for my annual checkup that summer day, I shared that something was terribly wrong inside my body. The pain I experienced was the worst I’d felt in my entire life. It was far too great for me to handle on my own. My presumption was bone cancer—a horrible thought, having just arrived home from an exhilarating road trip across the United States of America. I recently wrote a summer road trip series for Every Woman Blog about this very trip when I was 100% healthy.

The pain struck quickly, morphing me into a completely different person within fourteen days of arriving home. My appointment with Dr. Holladay was at this fourteen-day benchmark. I was completely miserable.

My symptoms were not in Dr. Holladay’s area of expertise, but I confided in him anyway. He was my only doctor, my friend, and my confidant. He didn’t shrug off my concerns as  symptoms of getting older, nor did he make me feel it was all in my head or even weight-related. He was exactly the type of doctor I needed for the emergence of my daunting new journey.

After pouring my heart out about the unfortunate chain of events, he immediately sent me down the hall for a complete blood panel to check for anything unusual. He suggested I make an appointment with a primary care physician so he could forward the results of my bloodwork as soon as possible. These tests revealed nothing unusual, to begin with, but this jump-started what would ultimately be a desperate search for an elusive diagnosis.

He put the wheels in motion in 2016, and now that he’s here with me at Lexington Medical Center, MyChart is now complete. I’m sure the aging process will add additional doctors in the future, but as for now, I’m completely satisfied with the three fabulous doctors that I currently have.

A weight update is looming, but that’ll be a blog post all in itself—Ugh! I’ll “weight” and discuss that after the holidays—you’re welcome! Until then, enjoy your time with family, friends, and loved ones. Remember to be thankful all year-round, but for this special time of year—Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Is Playing Christmas Music Early Good for Mental Health?

By Shannon Boatwright

Ok, let’s chat about this. The logical answer is that it depends on the individual!

For me, listening to Christmas music, whatever the season, is good for my mental health. However, according to a post on DoYouRemember.com, psychologists warn that “early” listening could be bad for your health because it can invoke anxiety and negative reminders of the stresses of the holidays.

I can certainly understand that for some people, hearing Christmas music can trigger bad memories and cause stress. I totally empathize and respect that. On the other hand, anytime I hear Christmas music, it instantly makes me happy. Seriously, it instantly adds a little joy to my heart regardless of what I’m doing, going through or stressed about. Hearing Christmas tunes always lifts my spirits.

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My family and I are definitely the types that listen to Christmas songs any time of the year. Not all the time, but occasionally, yes, even in the middle of the summer. My son will say, “Alexa, play Christmas music,” and we certainly don’t stop him. In fact, my husband and I will watch a holiday movie any time of the year. For us, the music and movies are just the same. They evoke happy memories, joy, and lift our spirits, oftentimes even giving us a sense of peace. We’ve already set out our favorite Christmas movies and made sure the Christmas music station is preset on the radio.

Now, we don’t go too crazy and start decorating our house before Halloween. Heck, we’re too busy to go all out before the real holiday season hits, but we do love Christmas!

To those that are stressed out by holiday music and all things Christmas this November, I’m terribly sorry! However, I have to say, I am thankful for Christmas anytime because it is certainly good for my spirits, and I am looking forward to the holiday season!

 

 

Every Story Counts

By Rachel Sircy

online-marketing-hIgeoQjS_iE-unsplashI know that I’ve written many times about how celiac disease affected me before I was diagnosed. The symptoms were all over the place, and no doctor seemed to be able to put the clues together to come up with what was wrong with me. I experienced no digestive issues for most of my life. The symptoms were mostly things like forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, joint pain, and debilitating fatigue. I developed stomach and intestinal issues during my late high school and early college years. It was only after the gastric symptoms – the bloating, the reflux, and the extreme pain I experienced right after eating (which kept me from eating more than about a cup of any given food at once) – became unbearable that a gastroenterologist looked at me and said, “I think I know what’s wrong with you.” Only people who have waited years for a diagnosis know what a blessing it is to finally hear those words.

I don’t know exactly how my mother felt all those years that she looked at me, knowing something was wrong, but not knowing what it could be. Of course, my mother turned out to be a celiac herself. I think there was always a kinship between my mom and me because we were both sick with something we couldn’t name and that, in fact, we weren’t always sure was real. I remember one time, in particular, telling her that I didn’t feel well. She asked me what I meant, and when I told her that I didn’t know, I just felt bad, she shook her head knowingly. It was as if we both understood that we didn’t have the language to talk about the ways we could feel our bodies failing us sometimes. She always believed that the sickness that she felt was the same sickness that I felt, and she was right about that.

She was wrong about what the sickness was, though. She’d been told all her adult life that all of her health problems stemmed from low iron levels. No doctor could tell her why she was anemic. Doctors have a word for when they’ve thrown up their hands and can’t figure something out, it’s idiopathic. I recoil from that word every time I hear it or see it written. If a body is malfunctioning, there is always a reason. That’s my opinion anyway. My mother’s anemia turned out to be only a symptom of her illness: celiac disease. The borderline anemia I had experienced from early childhood turned out to have the same cause.

I keep sharing my story because I believe it’s important for people to know what celiac disease can look and feel like. Raising awareness will get more sick people diagnosed. And that is why I found this story from the New York Times Parenting section so compelling. It is the story of actress Casey Wilson and her oldest son, whose depression, lethargy, broken leg, seizure, and apparent autism all turned out to be symptoms of the same underlying problem: celiac disease. The story is both terrifying and hopeful. Casey’s son, then under four years old, was too young to be able to tell his mother that anything was wrong with him, but Casey and her husband kept watching and finally found a doctor who was able to connect the dots and give them those incredible words: “we have a diagnosis.” And though her journey to her son’s diagnosis was something out of a parent’s nightmare, her son has experienced an amazing recovery just by following a gluten-free diet.

If you have a story of diagnosis, for any disease, (particularly one that’s tricky to pin down, like an autoimmune disease) I would encourage you to share it in whatever way you can. You never know who might be listening, watching or reading. Your story may give hope and much-needed information to someone out there who is still struggling with an inexplicable illness.

For those whose lives or loved ones may be affected by celiac disease, there are many outlets for you to find information and to share information, but I would recommend checking out the Celiac Foundation’s website at celiac.org. You can find out information about celiac disease and gluten-free living, sign up to participate in clinical trials (in certain areas of the country), join the iCeliac patient registry, take part in their student ambassador program and even share your story with Congress.

What I Am Most Thankful For

by Tina Michelle Cameron

Screenshot_20191101-034744_DriveAs the holidays approach I thought I would write about what I am thankful for. First and foremost, I am most thankful for my two children that God has blessed me with. They are the best two things in my life. It was never easy being a divorced mom raising two small children on my own, but I did it. At times, I had to work four jobs at once to support us – I wouldn’t change that for anything. I was always homeroom mom, soccer mom, assistant coach for my younger son’s soccer team, served on the PTA committee, volunteered during testing at their schools, and never missed an orchestra concert, track meet, or football game. Unless I worked the nightshift, I was there to tuck them in bed each night, make dinner, play games, or just snuggle and watch a movie.

I put both through my sons through college – my older son Corey is now a Mechanical Engineer at Mercedes-Benz in Charleston and my younger son is in graduate school at The Citadel and will become a teacher when he graduates next December. I am one proud mommy, and I did it all on my own. I love my boys to the moon and back.

I am thankful for the love and support of my parents. They have always been there for my boys and me through everything, and I love them so very much. I am also thankful for my brother and his family.

Next, I am thankful that I became a nurse and chose to go into the field of oncology. I have been an oncology nurse for twenty-five-and-a-half years, and it was the best decision I have made. I love my patients, and I work for the best nurse manager with a great unit at Lexington Medical Center in the oncology unit. I am blessed to love what I do and thankful for my job every day.

20191006_093104I am thankful that I was hired as a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo and that I have a work schedule that allows me to do other volunteer work in our community, feeding the homeless at the Transitions Homeless Shelter.

I am thankful for my close friends.

I am thankful for my health, despite a few minor health issues, but overall, I know that it could be worse.

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I am thankful for my beautiful home and thankful that I can afford to put food on the table and have a car to drive.

And lastly, I am thankful for my two fur-babies and my turtle that I get to call my children. They bring me such joy.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season. Don’t forget to take some time to be thankful.

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. 😉