Pink Promises

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Photo from 2015 – Team Fascione: Son in Law Jason, Chris’s daughter Alicia holding granddaughter Molly, grandson Landon, Chris and me.  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The color pink dominates many events and perhaps some people feel oversaturated by Pink.  Not so for families who’s lives have been forever changed by Breast Cancer.  My family is one of those families.  My husband Chris lost his wife to Breast Cancer in 1994.  In 1993 Chris and Nancy participated in a fledgling breast cancer walk at India Point Park where they proudly raised $62.  Nancy passed away 10 months later, but Chris kept walking.  Every year since he has walked in her memory because he made a promise to himself that he would.  Some years he would say that this might be his last year, but then when October came around, he remembered his promise.  This year will be his 25th, most of those years with his daughter and her family and I’ve participated the last decade. 

This has not been an easy year for Chris.  He has visited the hospital three times with heart issues and recently had a procedure that we hope is a permanent  fix to his heart.  He also is struggling with lyme disease, which has been debilitating.  As October approached, he knew that he wasn’t up to walking in the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.  I reminded him last week that he orchestrated a very nice golf outing for the Realtor Board that he is President of and there are generous donations going to Habitat for Humanity and the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, a local Rhode Island organization that does wonderful work with families dealing with Breast Cancer.  I suggested to Chris that generous donation could suffice for his Pink Promise this year.  

The reason I love this man is because he is a man of his honor.  He wants to keep his Pink Promise this year.  He can’t walk, but I sure can.  I have TWO NEW KNEES!!!!  So we will have our leader cheering us on from the sidelines this year, but the rest of us will walk to honor Nancy and all the families who’s lives have forever been changed by Breast Cancer!!  Think Pink.

Fascione group donation page

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RA Blog Week 2017 – Hobbies

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I must say that I have enjoyed #RABlog week.  Not only has it made me consistently write, but I have also consistently read other blogs.  Some that I read regularly and also some new ones that I will definitely read going forward.  Day 4 is about Hobbies.  This year that’s a tough one for me to talk about.

My number one hobby for a long time has been Skiing.  Snow Skiing.  In fact, my parents live down the street from my home ski area and Mom refers to me as “Ski Daughter” to her neighbors and friends.  I have a season pass every year at that mountain where I ski most weekends and some weekdays.  We also have a group that regularly goes to Switzerland for a 10 day trip.  I had planned to go in March, 2017 but had to back out because of my Knee Replacements.  I also had to turn in my season pass for a refund.  This coming winter I’m reluctant to do much skiing, and any I do will be done late in the season, on a mid week day where the sun in shining.  Just enough to take a few steps to know that I can do it again.  To this end, I’ve returned to regular workout with my personal trainer.  We are working on my legs.

Probably my number 2 hobby is gardening.  Sadly, that has been neglected this year as well.  I wasn’t well enough to garden until the middle of August so the weeds took over.  Hopefully next year I will be up to doing some gardening because I think of it as soul work.  When you’re hands are in the dirt and you’re making your world a little more beautiful, you are definitely feeding your soul.

I wouldn’t say that golf is a hobby.  As a sports junkie, I’ve watched it for years and started playing about 10 years ago.  Sadly, I’ve not been able to golf last season or this season although I’m feeling ready to go out and swing a club.  But I like to do it with Mr. Phat because he’s a patient teacher, and his health has not allowed him to golf this summer.  Perhaps next year we can go back to a weekly “nine & dine” round.

The only hobbies that I’ve participated in this year would be the watching of sports on TV and a little bit of reading.  So that’s not saying much.

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Here’s hoping for a better Hobby year in 2018!!!

RA Blog Week 2017 – Partners

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Where would we be without our partners?  What a great question.  Today’s #RABlog week post is about our partners.  I had almost 10 years of living with RA when I met my husband so I had a groove going.  He knew I had a medical hiccup but it didn’t phase him.  He had nursed his sick wive for 4 years before she passed, so he was well versed on illness.  And heck, I didn’t look sick!  I went to the gym, walked his dog and skied.

Four months into our relationship I had a terrible ski accident and he took care of me for the next 4 months at his house.  But I came back better than ever and we spent a number of years being very busy with life, and work.  We skied every winter, including 5 trips with our group to Europe to ski.

March of 2016 was when I went downhill a bit – my knees were slowly falling apart.  Mr. Phat, as I call him, drove me to doctor visits when I couldn’t drive, he picked up meds for me and he would be the one to take the stairs to the basement.  It never phased him, he never groaned or said “I have to go down again.”  He willingly did anything that I couldn’t.

The support that I have consistently received from him continued this year when I decided to have my knee replaced.  I underestimated the pain I would experience due to the stoppage of my RA meds for a month around the surgery.  I cried a lot of mornings and he would take care of me with ice packs, coffee, food and meds.  He took care of anything that needed to be taken care of.   A few weeks after the first total knee replacement, I confidently decided that I wanted to have the other knee replaced.  So eleven weeks after the first surgery, I had the second surgery.  Even when I ended up back in the hospital 3 weeks after surgery for some bleeding, he was calm, cool and took care of my every need.

Not sure how I got so lucky.  I always say that you get what you give.  We both put each other first which is what I believe a partnership should be.  I don’t think I could have gone through two surgeries so close together without him.  We are blessed.

RA BLOG Week 2017 – The best tips from those living with RA

BANNER2017RA is a life changer.  When I was diagnosed, I thought I was too young and that RA was for older people like my grandmother.  I’m certain many other RA patients had the same thoughts when diagnosed.  Then the pain and reality set in and I’ll admit the first couple years were a struggle.  Took me a little while to figure out how best to manage my life with RA and I’m going to highlight three tips that have helped me get to be a person who’s life is minimally affected by RA.

  1.  Learn everything you can.  For me, that was reading on the internet, reading books, and reading blogs.  This is how I connected with others that had RA.  I learned how they managed to live their lives – whether it was with little interruption or great changes.  I put everything in the vault for future use.  If I hadn’t read, I wouldn’t have realized there was an injectible form of Metho, which is the one medication change that has had the most impact on my RA still to this day.  I also wouldn’t have met some wonderful online friends with RA.
  2. Attitude.  I say attitude is everything.  I say Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it.  That’s the greatest lesson I learned from a decade of therapy.  It’s all on me.  I can face each day in misery or I can squeeze joy out of small things – like a beautiful sunset, or a phone call from the right person.  I have really learned to not sweat the small stuff.  I urge others with RA to understand that there is very little we can control, beyond our own reactions to what happens to us.  You can’t control everyone and everything around you, you can only control your response.
  3. Balance.  I use this term alot when I talk about my RA.  I have to plan life events carefully.  I cannot work my full time job and go out several evenings during the week.  If I have functions after work, one, maybe two per week is about all I can manage.  I need down time on the weekends, and I also need to be sure that I get my walks in 5 or 6 days a week.  I have to keep moving – mobilize my joints and stay lubricated.

These may seem like little tips, but they’re part of my mantra on life with RA.

RA Blog Week 2017 – Mental Health & Ra

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I’m participating in RABlog week this year and I’m very excited about it.  For 5 days there are select topics for each day with a couple of wild card topics.  One of which I’m going to definitely use.

Today is about mental health and RA.  My RA symptoms started 20 years ago at a time when my mental health was at it lowest.  Life had become oppressive to me – my boss had a nervous breakdown and four months later my then husband had an industrial accident.  I spent a year racing around caring for my boss’s clients while taking care of my husband, his injury and the workers compensation court process.  This took a toll on me and one day I realized that I was ready to drive my car into a tree.  I didn’t recognize what I was going through, but fortunately my boss did, having been there.

I was fortunate to connect with a therapist immediately.  She helped me understand depression and stress and the connection.  I also began taking an anti depressant.  Within a year I started having the first symptoms of RA.

That was 20 years ago.  3 anti depressant medications, 4 biologics since then and I’m in a good place.  But I recognize that stress and chronic pain have a huge impact on your mental health.  Perhaps I’m weak for saying that I will stay on an anti depressant until death, but I feel that way.

Earlier this year I went through 2 total knee replacements, 11 weeks apart.  Going through it was long, although I’m happy that it’s behind me.  I did have a few days when I felt the old demon of depression knocking.  Time, and some coping skills, helped me move on from that point.  But it was just enough to remind me how delicate the balance is between chronic illness and mental health.

Four Month Follow up

Good Morning.  Happy Sunday.  It’s a beautiful day in New England which makes me feel a bit guilty for all the hurricane ravaged communities that are trying to bail themselves out.  Or for people who lost everything.  I can’t imagine.  I sell insurance for a living and only once did I have a claim where people lost everything and it’s heart breaking.

I thought I’d give you a run down of my final check up with my orthopedic surgeon.  It was exactly four months from the date of my second knee surgery.  He was happy that I had full range of motion in both knees.  He also said a couple of interesting things.  He said that some people with 2 replacement knees have trouble walking down the stairs normally.  Which is something I have issue with but I am not sure if my brain is holding me back or the movement itself.  I am going to try to figure that out.  He also said that most people with knee replacements don’t get on their knees.  Well I observed my father get on his knees in July and he’s had 3 sets of replacement knees (long story).  That alone gave me the desire to not be outdone by the old man.

I started training again with my personal trainer three weeks ago.  On the first day, she asked me if there was something I hadn’t done that I wanted to. When I asked her to help me get on my knees, she knew exactly what to do.  She put down a weight bench that I could use to lean on and I got on my knees next to the bench and was able to pull myself up.  While it wasn’t exactly comfortable on my knees, it wasn’t painful.  I felt accomplished and when I explained that to my surgeon he was so very impressed and stated that I must be an outlier.  And I believe that I’m an RA outlier.  I try hard to live my life with as little interruption from the chronic disease that I’ve had for 20 years.

Thanks goes out to my dad for giving me the courage to go through all of this.  It was his mother who had RA and never complained.  I also have to thank my bitchin’ personal trainer Cathy.  I love working with her so much and she gives me the courage always to keep reaching for the brass ring.  She said the day I walked back into the gym after surgery for the first time was the only time she’d seen me with a normal gait.  She said I had a confidence she hasn’t ever seen.

Music to my ears.

Is it really Mid August?

The summer has flown by.  I’ve started writing several times over the past week to update you but then stopped and never got a post done.

First of all, I’m feeling great.  I’ve been walking alot, and walking faster than I have in a couple of years and other than an occasional twinge of pain, I don’t think of my knees. Looking back, it seemed like a long time, but it really was a 5 1/2 month interruption to my life that I’m really glad I went through.

Lately our issue has been Mr.’s heart health.  His heart has been fluttering with Atrial Fibrillation this spring and summer.  Most of the time we weren’t really aware of it, and he has a home monitor that wasn’t working properly and didn’t notify his cardiology office.  He’s felt punk this year, but we attributed all of that to the lyme disease, never suspecting that his heart wasn’t operating efficiently.

When he had trouble breathing last week his cardiologist suggested he go directly to the hospital to be monitored.  He ended up staying for a few days and he’s doing a lot better now, but more importantly we learned a lot.  We are not sure why he was never instructed on proper heart health procedures, such as weighing yourself every day.  In the hospital he lost 9 pounds of fluid that was caused by an inefficient heartbeat.  The hospital cardiologist and a top notch physician’s assistant explained that he should be eating 1500 mg of sodium per day or less.  We haven’t watched sodium intake.  He didn’t weigh himself every day, although he knew his stomach was distended and had mentioned it to his 2 cardiologists the week before he visited the hospital.  Mr. doesn’t have high blood pressure of bad cholesterol that typifies many heart patients.

My point here is that as mad as we were about not being made aware of what we needed to look for, and as mad as we were at the seemingly subpar care we may have received prior to be admitted to the hopital, we really can only blame ourselves.  On this blog I’ve always preached about being your own advocate.  Asking the questions.  Making the doctors explain certain symptoms.  Being aware and reading all we could.  So I take part of the blame that we didn’t follow my protocol about questioning everything.  As I said to Mr. Phat, I’m sorry you had to spend some time in the hospital, but if it results in better heart health for you going forward, then I’m glad it happened.

Now if we can take care of the lyme……..