Saturday, October 31, 2009

Medical Food Diet

For those of you who know me well, you know that if I am dieting it's a cause for alarm, and you may ask me when is the last time you have spoken to your sponsor. So to ease your mind a bit, this was my doctors idea not mine. I'm finished being a slave to dieting and calorie counting.

Before I was diagnosed with POTS I was diagnosed with RA. The medicine I was taking to help lower the inflammation between my joints could no longer be taken because of the issues with my heart, so I was then given a prescription for Naproxin, which I have been on for over two years now. I needed to see my doctor because my perscription had run out, so I scheduled my appointment.

My doctor walked into the exam room and must of seen "easy sell" on my face, or maybe it was the designer purse and shoes I bought before my divorce, whatever it was I was to become the lucky victim of her sales pitch. My doctor looked at my file, and proceeded with the concerned doctor, "so Michele how's the arthritis doing?" she asks. I tell her I'm in pain daily, but the Naproxin does help. She proceeds to tell me that she didn't want me to continue with the Naproxin because of other adverse side effects to my body. She then suggests that diet and a medical supplement might help. She explained why it would be a good idea to change to a healthier diet, and being a bit of a health nut, I jumped on board.

The doctor left the room, and soon a nurse with a plastic jar labeled "medical food", a bottle of vitamins and a pamphlet walked into the room. I should have known anything labeled "medical food" had to be bad. She gave me a five minute spiel about following the diet to a tee, and being the great dieter I am, I told her I was up to the challenge. The nurse put the "medical food" (large plastic jar), vitamins and pamphlet into a fancy bag and charge me a large some of money and sent me on my way. I think I might have been labeled a sucker at that point. But I was going to do this sucker or not!

I get home and began reading the ins and outs of this medical diet that's suppose to relieve my inflammation along with other health benefits, the more I read the more sceptical I became. No milk and no wheat, I'm thinking "I'm sure there's oat bread out there, and I'm sure rice or almond milk will do the trick". it also says no sugar or chocolate, I'm thinking "This sounds bad, but I'm sure I can find a substitute for sugar (no honey either)," no caffeine and no red meat, "hm this may be a little more difficult than I thought, but I'll adjust, and in 26 days I can slowly re-introduce the foods I miss". I decide to begin the diet on Sunday so I can shop for the ingredients on Saturday.

Saturday arrives, and I'm armed with my shopping guide, and a positive attitude. I get to my regular grocery store, I spend an hour in the bread aisle, there is not one single bread without wheat in the aisle! I decide to go to a specialty grocery store later in the day, surely they'll have what I need. I find the rice milk and almond milk, then add stevia (natures calorie free sweetener), along with the many other things that are on my list and head for home a bit exhausted.

Well it's time to do a taste test on the rice milk verses almond milk, I'm expecting them to be tasty, I like rice and almonds, so they must be yummy. I try out the almond milk, yuck! So I taste the rice milk, it has to be good, it's vanilla flavored! I give it a taste, and decide it's the more palatable choice, though no comparison to my beloved milk.

I decide I have to purchase the non-wheat bread, so I head for store # 2, I'm also looking for oat or rice cereal with no sugar. Can't find the cereal products, so I head for the bread aisle, after 20 minutes of searching I find a brown rice bread, and grab it quickly from the shelf, I almost drop the bread on my foot, and fear that the weight of the bread might break something so I take a giant step backwards. I pick the bread off the floor and drop it into my cart feeling joyful that I have found at least one item on my list. I quickly head for the cashier, who chuckles at the weight of my bread, but I'm just relieved I have bread to eat for breakfast.

I take my bread proudly home, and read the label to be double sure there is notheing taboo in the bread. I discover that the bread is made with natural juices and I'm delighted, so I give it a taste. How would I describe it, there is no description for it. It almost tasted like flavored cardboard, and when it landed in my stomach you could almost hear it land with a "thump". I'm still thinking postive and decide that tomorrow I would toast it and add apple butter.

Well it's Sunday, my first day of this new diet. I wake up to my usual nausia and light headedness, but I'll be fine once I eat. I open up the plastic jar marked "medical food", and am shocked to see that the powdery substance resembles the color of baby poo (mustard yellow). And when I smell it I think to myself "oh this is bad", my rose colored glasses I often wear could not hide the truth that this "medical food" was going to be a challenge. So I open my freezer and took out the mangos and peaches that will surely cover up any bad taste that this mustard colored powder could have. I make my shake which now resembles baby poo in a blender, and I poor it into my glass. I take my first taste, and the look on my face had to show the disgust at this aweful stuff I had just took a sip of. There was no hiding the terrible taste of the baby poo colored powder, it was aweful! I tell myself "don't give up Michele, you can do this, remember it's a diet, you are the reigning queen of dieting, you can't let this stuff win". So I take two more sips, then my nausia soon overtakes any willpower I may have had, and I soon resemble Mount St. Helen's, up comes the "medical food" shake. So I lay down for about an hour.
I get up, still believing that I can still at least do the diet thing, I knew I could never put the "medical baby poo" in my mouth again. So I head for the kitchen with an "I can do this attitude", and proceed to toast the brown rice bread, and heat up water for my herbal tea. The tea is ready, I add stevia and the rice milk. I spread apple butter on the toast, and begin to eat my breakfast (if you could call it that). The tea is terrible, the sweetener is worse, my toast tastes like sweetened cardboard, and again Mt. St. Helens errupts, and I lose my breakfast to my porcelain lover.

I didn't need a brick to fall on my head to tell me that this diet wasn't going to work for me. There is no way my body could survive on this diet, but it does give me a new appreciation for what people with dietary issues go through daily. Now you may be wondering what I plan to do with my 5 lb. loaf of bread, I've made a list;
1.Make homes for the homeless using the bread as bricks, if they get hungry they can eat their home.
2. Carry it in the car or leave it on the side of my bed, and use it as a weapon.
3. Firemen could use it to break into houses, just throw it at any window.
4. Use it as a door stop.
5. Buy a second loaf and use it as a weight for weight lifting.
6. Use it as a paper weight.
7. Stack them along riverbanks to stop flooding.
I think you get the picture.
Hello milk and wheat, hola coffee and Chai latte tea, guten tag sugar and meat, I did miss you, even if it was only for an hour or two. I have a new appreciation for my delicious food. Good bye "diet food" may you never cross my path again!

Always inspired,

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The show Survivor takes reality tv to new limits every week. This week we watched the 2nd contestant this season become too battered to continue playing and was sent to the hospital. As viewers we watch these people as they starve, shiver through rain and then compete in challenges the well fed and healthy would have trouble completing. But that's what the show Survivor is about; OUTWIT, OUTPLAY, OUTLAST! But often I feel I play my own Lakewood California version of the game.

Survivor Lakewood takes place every day in my little circle of life. Every day I plan my strategy to best get through my day. My immunity chalenge includes paying close attention to weather reports, making decisions of what I can and can't do, obeying my body when it begins to shows signs of weakening, diet, meds, clothing, and stress. They all play a huge role and poor planning could cost me days in bed. But a day planned well means a victory lap around my coffee table. Though on occasion POTS can be sneaky and blow me away even with the best planning.

Daily survival takes some work, and I've learned that I no longer sweat over the little things that come up in my life. People's opinions use to matter, now I just do my best and if it's not enough, it's their problem. I use to worry about a clean house, now I figure it'll get clean sooner or later. I was so good at worrying, that I thought about taking an add out in the paper and offering to take on other people'e worries! Now the serenity prayer makes more sense to me now than it ever did before, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. It's taking things one moment at a time, not worrying about what has happened in the past, and not fretting over what can happen in the future. Living one day at a time, and enjoying one moment at a time has made coping with this disease much easier. I cannot change this disease, but I can change my attitude about how I face it daily. I have noticed the symptoms are getting worse, but my appreciation for the things I can do have become stronger.

This disease has taught me to appreciate what great things I have in my life, and to enjoy every minute of the people and things that are in my life right now. They may not always be there in the future.

So, how would I do on Survivor Samoa, I wouldn't make it on the boat to the island, they'd probably have their first funeral at sea, boy imagine the tv ratings for that. Though I'm not sure how well those playing Survivor Samoa would do playing Survivor Lakewood.


Always inspired,

The Dating Game

I use to love watching "The Dating Game". There would always be some gorgeous hunka, hunka, burning love who would come onto the stage in his tight poly-me-ester pants and his shirt half unbuttoned with his list of questions to ask the three bombshells of his dreams sitting on tall stools to show off their mile long legs. After all the suggestive questions were finished and it was time for the guy to chose, I would stand up in my living room and yell, "Don't pick #3 she's an airhead!", but the guy would always pick the airhead, hmm maybe things would work for them after all. I can only imagine how things would go if they threw me onto one of those stools and I became bachelorette #3. Would I begin things with a bang as I threw-up while the stage was doing a 180 to show off the girls on the stools. Then would come the questions;

Hunk: "Bachelorette #1 what would be your dream date?" answer "Rock climbing in the grand Canyon"

Hunk "And #2 same question?" answer, "A bike ride on Santa Monica Beach."

Hunk "Bachelorette #3 same question?" answer, " A couch, a cool room, salty popcorn, a 1/2 gallon of water, and HBO"

Next round of questions, "Bachelorette #2 describe Bachelorette #3."

"Well, she has her head between her knees, she's a bit green from puking, her hands are purple, and I believe I see compression stockings peeking out of her jeans!"

Well you've got a good picture of my dating appeal. I've been on an online dating service for a while now, and filling out the profile questions honestly has been a challenge. Questions such as; "What do you like to do in your spare time?" Hmm I use to like to hike, bike, visit historical houses, sight seeing, exercise, and gardening. What do I write, I'm best when I'm laying on the couch watching tv. That's going to bring them in by the droves! And I love this question, describe yourself; I'm pale from lack of sunshine, purple hands, wear compression stockings, and I have an intimate relationship with my toilet, so if y0u're the jealous type, do not inquire. Now honestly I'm not always that bad, but the reality is there are many times I am. I'm not exactly what you would call "a great catch" if you're looking at me from the outside. I know I have some great qualities on the inside, but it's getting someone to look beyond my disease that's the hard part. I know it's hard to find a decent guy even if you don't have my medical issues.

I recently shared my dating concerns with a male co-worker, I asked him "Who would want to date a girl who spends most of her weekends in bed?" He chuckled and responded, "I can think of quit a few guys who would want to spend the weekend in bed with a gal!". We both chuckled, but as I was walking away, I had a smile on my face because......there may be hope for me after all! Now really that's not the kind of guy I want (hehehe), but there must be a nice Christian couch potato out there that will laugh at my bazaar jokes and doesn't mind sharing me with the toilet.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Transporter Malfunction

Star date April 26, 2008. Destination Big Bear, altitude 7,000 feet, purpose of mission is to experience food, fellowship and fun! There must have been a transporter malfunction on the way to my destination, it's the only explanation for the unfamiliar body I have now. There must have been a very sick slug or maybe a rotten potato in the transporter room with me because the body I now have is slow and sick. Yes I admit it, I'm a Star trek fan, and proud of it.

I guess you could say I'm having an identity problem. I am not a SLUG! I struggle every day with this body that I don't recognize and refuse to except. The only problem is no matter how hard I try to tell myself that this new Michele is not real, my body reminds me that it is. This body with little energy, nausiated every morning, purple hands and feet, fatigue, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, heat intolerance and medications that are more like poison than healers.

What happened to the Michele I've grown accustom to over the past 48 years. Where did I go. Part of me was left in that transporter room. What happened to the Michele who could garden for hours, who loved to shop till I dropped, who could clean from dawn 'til dusk, who could hike with an attitude because those I was with couldn't keep up. Where is the woman who could watch one of my students soccer game in the sun and only worried about getting a sun burn. What happened to the Michele who loved being involved in an amazing ministry 3 days a week, what happened to being out 5 nights a week volunteering or at church. What happened to the full weekends? What happened to the woman who enjoyed being healthy and physically fit. Where did I go?

I am trying to adjust and accept this new and unfamiliar Michele. I'm just having trouble letting go of the old me, and just as I begin to adjust and accept this new me, a new symptom of this disease pops up and I have to start all over again. I do what I can, and I am thankful of what I can do. I have two amazing children who help me alot. I have some wonderful friends who stand by my side, I have a great job that I love, I still have all my body parts, and I don't have cancer. God is good, I see His miricles working in my life every day. I am amazed that I arrive to work so nausious I can barely stand it, but when my students walk in, I feel almost normal, then when the children leave the symptoms come back full force. I call it my working miracle.

There are some positive changes to my psyche since my diagnosis of POTS, I am more resourceful, patient, and thankful. Life is a waste if we don't learn from our experiences, and I'm going to try to learn as much from this experience as I can. In the mean time;


Always inspired,

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Surprise Package

Imagine you arrive home to find a giant gift on the table with your name on it. The package is beautiful, custom wrapped in your favorite color with a huge satin ribbon around it. You can't wait to open it, as you do, the anticipation mounts, you begin to imagine different items you have been wanting and hope to find in the package. You finally have the paper off, it's time to take the lid off the box, you remove the tissue, and there it is twelve rolls of toilet paper! That's right toilet paper, not quite what you were expecting? Maybe a little disappointed? You begin to think this must be a joke, maybe there's a gift card on the bottom of the box. Nope, toilet paper is all there is. Well, I often feel like that package. I look like fine on the outside cute sweater, nice jeans, great boots, hair done and make-up applied. My outer appearance hasn't changed since I was diagnosed with POTS (except I might be a little paler from lack of sun exposure), but I am not the same person on the inside as I was before the diagnosis, kind of like that toilet paper.

This week a favorite childhood song keeps replaying itself in my head and somewhat explains how looks can be deceiving. It's a "60's song called "Windy".

Who's tripping down the streets of the city?
Smiling at everybody she sees.
Who's reaching out to capture a moment?
Everyone knows it's Windy.

Windy appears to be a normal girl of the '60's, but could Windy have POTS? It's a possibility, she's tripping down the street. You may be saying come on Michele it's the '60's she was probably on drugs. Well, Michele is wearing her rose colored glasses and thinks Windy might have just been clumsy. Who knows why Windy was tripping down the street, but we do know she is friendly and spontaneous from her outer appearance in the song. Windy could easily be me, but I'm probably tripping down the street because of dizziness from POTS, I do try to smile at everyone I see, I figure if they don't smile back they're probably having a bad day (poor them). I try to make every moment count, because I know there's a posibility that I won't be able to do it tomorrow.

Looks can be deceiving, from the outside I look normal. I often get "Michele you look great today!", it's amazing what make-up can do for a gal, and there's a good chance I may barf on their shoes at any minute. They don't realize that my trip to church may be the only thing I'll do that day, because being there has worn me out and I'll have to spend the rest of the day in bed to recoup. While the rest of the world is planning what activities they are going to do for the rest of the day, my day is planned for me, "heigh-ho heigh-ho, it's of to bed I go!". For the longest time I felt deceptive, what do I say to those people that complement me on how good I look. I've learned to take the complement and only share how I really feel with those I'm close too.

My healthy appearance often gets me funny looks as I get out of my car while using the designated handycapped parking place. There are no outer signs informing people that I may pass out from heat intolerance on very hot days. Though the self concieous part of me would gladly wear a sign saying "HAVE POTS" (though that might draw some unexpected attention to myself) but I would wear it just so people wouldn't think poorly of me. Believe me, I dispise using the handicapped parking, I'd much rather take my old route of parking at the far end of the parking lot and get a little exercise while walking the extra distance.

The vane part of me is glad I don't look as bad as I feel, and to be honest if I looked as bad as I felt I wouldn't want the attention that would bring. As my Bob blog friend Michelle would say, I don't want anyone's pity. I just wish I felt as good as I look sometimes. Though I have to say in my kindergarten classroom, I could come into work, hair a mess, no make-up, and feeling aweful and my kindergarteners would honestly from their precious little hearts say "Mrs. McGough, you look beautiful." No matter how bad I feel, those sweet little darlings always put a smile on my face, and I forget how bad I feel on the inside.

Always inspired,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Good-bye Miss Independence

This blog is dedicated to my dad who passed away September 28, 2009.

As I was growing up my dad would often have these sweet father daughter talks with me. In these talks he would stress to me " Michele, it would be nice to see you married some day but.... you never know what may happen in life, so you must learn to be independent!". Then different discussion topics would follow that line. I would be told of the importance of getting a good education, making good career choices that pay well, how to change a tire or the oil, the evils of credit and the list could go on but I'm sure you get the jist. I loved these talks, and was fortunate to have them follow me into adulthood. I would often get them in a letter, with newspaper clippings and his opinion on topics he thought I could use his advice on. Thanks dad!

Because I valued his opinion, and for the record I followed his advice. I went to college, and I have a good job that supports my family, and he was right, my husband left and I had to support my family on my own. I love being independent, and I'm glad I had my dad as a role model. I can't remember a time when my dad ever asked for help, you either do it yourself or pay someone to do it.

I can remember as a young mom trying to take on the roll of supermom. Work full time, clean house, dinner at 6:00 soccer/dance practice, attending college, laundry, try to be a good wife, I did it all. If I couldn't do it all in a day I would sleep less and catch up at night. I was exhausted but never asked for help. No wonder my husband left, he was probably bored because I was doing it all.

As far as I'm concerned no-one could do my stuff as well as I could. Asking for help in my eyes meant that I would have to admit that I can't do it all, and that I am a failure. I always felt that if you asked for help people would think you were a leach. A leach was surely something I had no desire to become. I'm sure you know the people I'm referring to, those people who ask for help and suck you dry. Offer them a hand and they'll take an arm, licking their lips and scanning your body for their next meal. I definately didn't want to be one of "those people". Finally, I didn't want to burden anyone else with my responsibilities.

Well God must have been looking down on me and laughing, because nothing was going to change my attitude. I often think God gave me POTS to rid me of my independent, prideful, self absorbed attitude. I needed an attitude adjustment, and getting POTS did just that. There are so many things I can't do on my own anymore, and I either ask for help or it doesn't get done.

Asking for help isn't as demeaning as I had envisioned it to be. I've learned that Miss Independence was often doing it all alone. Miss Independence was often tired and resentful. Asking for help means that I get to do things with people instead of alone. Getting help allows me to use my energy on my family instead of using it on exhausting tasks that have little value in the long run. I've learned that allowing others to help me makes them feel good , as I know I feel great when I help a friend, so why not ask.

I will say I'm not 100% on board yet, it's still very hard to ask for help. I've struggled with being pushed in a wheelchair at Disneyland, having meals made for me, asking my kids to help more around the house, having a co-worker put up my bulletin boards or getting help with grocery shopping. Grocery shopping has been the most difficult. My dad and I did the shopping together until I left my parents house at 23. I loved shopping with my dad, my dad and I had our biggest laughs while carting our groceries through the store. I loved when he would give his best chinese accent in the oriental food section, then quickly go into his Spanish accent as we passed by the tortillas. But since I've been diagnosed with POTS it is probably the most exhausting task I have now, but the one I'm least willing to give up. As I am writing this I believe I have the answer to this problem, I think I'll ask my darling daughter Megan to shop with me or maybe my handsome son Sean, maybe I can pass on some of those joyful experiences I had with my dad on one of them.

Good-bye Miss Independence, Hello Miss Dependent, life's tasks are meant to be shared!

Always inspired,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gooood Morning!

Good morning, good morning, rainbows are shining through. Good morning, good morning to you!

I love this song from my favorite musical "Singing in the Rain". In fact for years it was the song I would sing to my children to wake them up. I'm not sure my children have the same love for this song as I do. Their responses of moaning and covering of their heads with their blankets should be a no-brainer. I'm sure it wasn't my amazing voice that triggered this response ( I sing like a 5 year old) or maybe pure disgust over my cheerful mood. My families morning demeaner has always been totally oposite of mine, not my problem, I'm too busy singing to care!

I'm one of those people who love the mornings and can't wait to get out of bed and start my day.
I have always been a morning person, waking before the sun rises and taking great pride in getting things done before the rest of the world is out of bed. My average morning consisted of brewing my favorite coffee (raspberry chocolate from "It's a Grind") breakfast, quiet time with God, scouring of the bathroom and grocery shopping all done before 8:00. The rest of the day often followed the same pace.

I didn't realize a diagnosis of POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) would drastically change my blissful busy mornings. I should have seen the flashing warning signs when the doctor gave me a list of things I would need to change. They mainly consisted of morning activities. Some of the things on the discharge papers were:

* Bathing must be done at night.
* Rise slowly out of bed.
* Drink 1 quart of water or Gatorade before getting out of bed.
* Limit morning activities
* And my all time favorite! Drum roll please.....
Change bowel movement to later in the day.
Yes, you read that correctly. I didn't want to appear ignorant, but REALLY, REALLY!
Not quite sure how to manage that one.

Reality set in on the first morning home, I forgot I had POTS, and got straight out of bed (habits die hard), and found myself on the floor seeing only black and wondering what had happened. The rest of the morning was a nightmare. Not wanting another morning like the one before, I realized this was serious and decided to change my morning routine.

1. Wake up and wiggle hands and feet, do this for 5 minutes.
2. Slowly rise, wait another 5 minutes.
3. Sit on the edge of the bed about 5 minutes, a quarter of an hour has been wasted.
4. Drink very large glass of water even though I really really have to use the restroom.
5. Slowly get out of bed, feeling unsteady but I really need to use the restroom!
6. After my trip to the restroom, I sit at my computer to rest for 10 minutes.
7. I feed the anoying meowing cat, rest 5 minutes, another quarter hour passes by.
8. Make COFFEE! Rest another 5 minutes.
9. Make toast,too nausiated to eat anything else, rest another 5 minutes.
10. Do my hair (10 min.) another quarter hour has come and gone!
11. Quiet time prayer/Bible reading. Scheduled so I can rest in between the next thing (30 min.). 12. Get dressed, rest 5 minutes.
13. Can't go to work without make-up (10 min.)
I've been up a little over an hour and a half and I have accomplished very little.
14. I'm pooped, rest 10 minutes.
15. Make lunch, and gather things I need to take to work.
*Note to self can't forget the extra sweater the air will give me a chill,
and get the ice-vest for the heat later in the day.
16. Rest again.
17. Add extra time in case I lose my breakfast.

Out the door in 2 hours, it's a good thing I work 2 minutes away, if I had any kind of commute at all, I'd probably be out of a job! I know I'm lucky, some of my friends who have this disease can't work and would gladly go through this routine to be able to work again. And I totally think my new morning routine is worth it just to get to go to work and do what I love and have a passion for.

I so appreciate what I can do now, because I realize it can all be taken away at any minute. Life is precious, enjoy every minute, you never know when that one thing you love may be gone!