Archive for the ‘back pain’ Category

What a 2017 it’s been.

My sarcoidosis went into remission, and although it has caused permanent changes (glasses, asthma, arthritis), I am basically still the same person and not too badly worse for wear. Notwithstanding a few smaller issues with my back and knees, this year was the year my health started the slow climb back upwards, and that’s something worth celebrating. I plan on spending some time in 2018 making small changes to keep on feeling better and staying better. My 40’s have definitely been the years to put plans into action, and my health is a big one on that list.

Shawn and I celebrated another anniversary and every year that we get to do that is a blessing. If there is one thing that we’ve clung to since 2014, it’s that life is short. Super short. You should be with the people you want to be with and let go of anyone and anything that isn’t a positive force in life. We know that as the years go on and the kids keep on leaving to pursue their own lives, it will only be ourselves left at the end, and we better still like one another. We’re still planning that trip to Italy and one of these years, we’ll actually do it.

We bid a final goodbye to our beloved dog, Katie. And we miss her every day.

I took my first ever in my life solo trip this year. At the end of June, I flew to Edmonton Alberta, my first time west of Ontario, to see my baby brother get married. For one day short of a week, I stayed with my internet-now-real-life friend Allison in her beautiful home and learned to drive my way around Edmonton. I went to the big mall, had dinner with my internet family/friends, visited with my family (all six of my siblings in the same place for the first time in six years!) and watched my baby brother tie the knot. I missed my own family dearly and it was sad that my husband wasn’t able to come with me. That just made the coming home that much sweeter.

As soon as I got back from Edmonton, I jumped into a jam-packed rehearsal schedule, as, for the first time since moving East, I got involved with a theatre show. I have to admit, I was a little gun-shy to get into a theatre again, my last experience not exactly leaving on a high note, due to (pun intended) drama, but, I’m glad I did. I threw on a habit, and became a singing nun in Sister Act. The run was fantastic, playing to nearly sold out crowds nightly and it was great to be a part of a production again.

We celebrated three years this fall of Shawn’s life since the heart stopping September of 2014. As always, I had a mini-meltdown in the days leading up to the anniversary and as always, we reflected on the fragility of life.

Speaking of getting back into the habit, I put on my writer’s cap again this fall and was a featured author at the Saint John Fog Lit festival. It really felt good to talk about my writing again and to speak at the events. I am, as ever, appreciative of cities that celebrate the arts and their own local artists.

And to cap off a wonderful year, I did my exam for French with the province and received a certificate of Intermediate ability.

2018 is already shaping up to be a busy one. Shawn and I will both be students at the University, working towards continually improving and updating our skills. I will keep working on French while I move to a new department at work. Kathryn, our second youngest, is graduating from high school and Shawn Michael, the baby, will start his Grade 12 senior year in the fall.

Life is a journey. It should be savoured and enjoyed. Live well, love hard, and let the rest go.

Peace, my friends.


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Saint John has a literary festival!! That’s right, our own lovely city has a literary festival every fall and last night was the launch!
This past early spring, I was contacted by a friend, whose sister is on the board of the festival, to see if I would be okay with being put in contact. Of course, I said! So about two weeks later, Andrea and I sat down at the starbucks in Indigo (how appropriate) and discussed the festival, the events and whether or not I would be interested in participating. It had been a long time since I had been a part of an event that wasn’t a book signing, and of course I agreed.
Last night the launch was held in the restaurant at the Delta hotel in uptown Saint John and it was wonderful! What local talent, what support for the arts. I was the last of the night to get up and read and I have to say, I had forgotten how much I enjoy doing that. After the main event we all stayed and mingled and talked and bought each other’s work. I spoke at length with the other artist of the night and had a lovely conversation with another Irish transplant from Co.Meath.
In gearing up for the event, I reached out to a certain well-known Canadian author with whom I’ve had the good fortune to be somewhat friendly with over twitter and I asked him if he would be willing to come out and be a part of the festival, give a reading? He was touched that I asked, and happy to do so, unfortunately the timing did not work out with his already booked events. So, I’ve asked his agent to please put a pin in it for next year. If/when he does come out, the festival has graciously allowed me to be the one to introduce him, which, to be honest, would be an enormous highlight of my writing life.

Earlier that day, I had thrown my back out helping some strangers put a mattress in their car, I had gone with my daughter to look at apartments as she is gearing up to move out, and I had enjoyed a glass of wine with my husband as we talked about life and next steps. It just goes to show that I really need to remind myself on darker days that my life it pretty damn fantastic. And that I’m one of the luckiest people I know.

If you aren’t a native Saint John-er, and haven’t done so, I urge you to head on over to Fog Lit’s webpage and check it out. And, if you’re in another city, find out how YOUR town is supporting its local artist and go out to some events. You never know how it will impact your life.

Happy reading, everyone!

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve had problems with sleep. When I was a teenager, it was mostly self inflicted: I’d stay up till the wee hours of the morning curled into my bed with a book or my journal and whatever light source I’d managed to scrounge up. At the time, I probably found it strange that my mother would walk past my room on the way to the bathroom at 3am, although now at 40, I know that’s not such an anomaly.
Then in my twenties I had babies. Lots and lots of babies. Okay, five, but that’s lots by today’s standards. So of course there was a decade where I didn’t sleep through the night. Babies need to be up and fed and changed throughout the night, and then toddlers frequently need you to calm them or to put them back to bed after they wake at 4am and decide that *this* is a fine time for jumping up and down on the mattress. Small kids need consolation from nightmares and one more glass of water and to please take them to the baffroom because it’s dark and scary in the hall.

By the time kids were in full time school, I was writing and often nights were the only times I had peace and quiet, so I stayed up and wrote. Or read.

In my thirties I found it hard to get to sleep before midnight on a good night, two or three am on a bad one. Not at all on the really, really hard nights. Even working full time, raising the kids and being a full time wife, sleep still was not my best friend. Making it worse, or perhaps enabling me, was the invention of Facebook. Now I had hundreds of friends in Canada, the States and at the time, Egypt, and I had all those wonderful time zones in which to talk to people online that were not in the middle of their night yet as I was. Some friends I talked to almost exclusively after midnight.

Last year I threw my back out really badly. It took four, almost five months for it to be back to some semblance of normal but at the time, sleeping was painful. My chiropractor told me to get a pillow for between my legs, much as I did while pregnant, to relieve some of the pressure from my spine. I still have that pillow because event though I’m not crying when I shift (I’m a travel-sleeper), or needing to get up, sit up, and then turn over, my back still aches when I sleep on it and I wake frequently to shift to my other side and carefully take my pillow with me. Frequent bathroom trips also punctuate any sleep I get.

The irony is these days, I’m actually really tired after these long nights. Where just three short years ago I thought nothing of staying up with friends gabbing and laughing until 4 or 5am on a weekend, or typing at my keyboard until 2:30, deep in conversation with a friend, nowadays I really DO just want to go to bed at 10pm and sleep until morning. And yet, years of abuse on my nocturnal systems denies me.

Last night was great. I signed off a conversation with a Facebook buddy of mine, finished texting my daughter in Ontario, had a wonderfully un-rushed shower, washed my face with my favourite smelling scrub, shaved my legs, painted my nails, rolled my hair. Oohh!! Bliss to have some time to myself for pampering. I climbed into bed and spent a few minutes watching some Graham Norton on YouTube (I LOVE him. Hilarious) and then snuggled in for sleep.

Which I had. For a few hours. And then I woke up. Bathroom.
Another hour of sleep.
Up. I had rolled onto my back and now it was hurting (it’s a problem, I wish I could sleep painlessly on my back again. This happens at least once or twice a night, though). Shifting onto my side and tucking my pillow I lay back down.
I’m wide the F awake.
I slept a bit more and then woke again. Already I can see the sky is juuuuuust starting to lighten. Well crap. Now it’s getting close to morning and my alarm.
I lay on my other side but NOW my brain is awake. So, it’s a full hour and a bit of letting my insane thoughts whirl and swirl the way they do and not trying to calm it, just letting my head get its crazy out now so that I can be sane for work. In my head I plan what I’ll wear. I realize I’ll be up with enough time for eyeliner and lipstick today so I smile.
A good 20 minutes before my alarm is due to go off, I get up, turn it off and go to the bathroom. Might as well be up now. I can take my time eating breakfast.

I’m going to try again tonight. Who knows?? I *may* even get six hours uninterrupted!!

Well, I can dream, can’t I?

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I used to feel pretty damn sexy most of the time. I liked how I looked, I feel I have a pretty decent sense of (not fashion per se) what looks good on me and I LOVE me some beautiful shoes. But, over the last couple of years, I lost it.
This should not be a shock or surprise, least of all to myself, and yet one day when I looked in the mirror I realized that all those little changes I had been blowing off as temporary had culminated into me looking different. I didn’t look like a me that I recognized, and I didn’t like it.
Since November of 2012, we’ve gone through a hit parade of bad news and bad luck. It’s no wonder that my reaction to that kind of stress has had a physical manifestation. My body has changed. My mindset has changed too. I think the last blow for me was when I was so gung ho to do the Find Your Fit challenge that my cousin designed and then my back went out forcing me to end it early. My frustration and even depression over that directly linked to those last ten pounds.

And I say no more.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been making a conscious effort to be healthier. No, not to go on a diet, to be healthier. Diets fail. My health, however, is monumentally important to me. Especially in light of Shawn’s heart attacks. That shone a light on all our bad habits and I have decided that half ass-ing it is no longer enough.

That being said. Today was different. I woke up feeling more energized than usual. I was happy, in a great mood and ready to take on my day. Feeling pretty, feeling sexy or however you want to put it has to start with your state of mind. You simply cannot feel sexy, no matter how cute your shoes are, if you mind simply isn’t on board. Trust me, I’ve tried. But today something inside me had flipped that switch again. I knew I had to take advantage of it. I have a basic uniform when I’m home. Comfy jeans or yoga pants. Tank top. Ponytail in my hair. Most women are the same. If given the choice we will usually opt for comfort over glamour. I even have my go-to’s when it comes to work clothes. Black or grey pants, colourful work shirt and a cardigan. I love me some skirts but I hardly ever wear them any more. And, with my back problems, I am almost always to be found in flats.

But, today with that extra scoop of sass in my step, I went for a pencil skirt in tan and black, a sheer black blouse (with a tank under it) and some beautiful caramel heels I bought on sale for $9!!! I even took the time to put my hair up- pin up style, and put on some eyeliner and red lips.

Wearing heels again puts a swing in my step. Luckily for me I don’t have to walk too far in them so I know my back will likely be fine at the end of the day. Wearing a cute skirt makes me ultra aware of my hips and man, did I remember to swing them!

I’ve had a song in my heart today and a little extra va-va-va-voom in my step. And it all started with my mindset.

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If you were counting, you will have noticed that this past week was week 6, the last week of the #FindYourFit challenge that my cousin designed and that I was doing. You might also be wondering, where in the hell my updates and my results are.

In week three, I re-injured my back. It’s no surprise to readers here that I have a love-hate relationship with my back. Last year I injured it so bad that it was painful for over four months and I did not want to go through that again. I can’t stand being on drugs for it and I can’t function when it’s that bad. So, I did what any responsible adult would do three weeks ago; I consulted medical professionals.
It only makes sense, I went to a fitness professional when I wanted to change my fitness, I needed a medical professional for my stupid back.

Here’s the problem: I got heavier again. In a nutshell, this is what it boils down to. I tend to get stress-heavy because I’m a stress eater. No, it’s not a great coping mechanism, in fact it’s no coping technique at all. But, like millions of other men and women in the world, that’s what I do. Lord knows I’ve had enough stress this past year. It was only around this time last year that I found out my oldest was in such deep trouble personally and that he was trashing my house back in Ontario with his negligence. A year ago that we sent Keisha there to bail him out. The fall-out from that whole episode is still something we are dealing with and will be for the next four years. Then of course, the heart attack happened and the residual effects of that are still going on. I gained thirty pounds in the past months of stress. And every time my weight goes over 200, my back pays the price. I was told that I needed to lose weight before my back and knees could take the workouts. Doing it while I am still this heavy is only going to cause strain and pain. I can do low impact exercize and I can watch what I eat and that’s about it for now.
The sad things is, I feel like I let Chris down because I couldn’t finish. I still have the program and I plan to do it when I reach the goal weight loss I was set, but I hate committing to something and then not seeing it through.
Going through all this in the last few weeks has also left a large scar across my state of mind. It’s hard to admit that you’re in an unhealthy place and it’s hard to get out of it. I don’t enjoy a lot of things about myself at the moment and it’s hard work to change that internal dialogue. But I’m working on it.

Anyway, I didn’t want to hijack my winner post with this update so, a rarity, but it’s a two-post day.

Much love to everyone!

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Some of you know that a few months ago I started to watch all of Grey’s Anatomy for the first time on Netflix.  Yes, I was late to the party, but damn if I didn’t fall in love with the show.  Not a big surprise, I was also a huge devotee of ER during it’s time and even Chicago Hope back in the day.

Well, my daughter Ash has also been watching but, due to important things like school, is still back in season six.  Or she was, until yesterday.  It’s exam time for her this week so after yesterday’s exam, she came home and just wanted to veg out for the afternoon and watch some Grey’s.  Of course I was fine with that and I asked her where she was.  Almost at the end of season six.  Well.  I remember those last two episodes of season six and I didn’t want her to watch them alone so I went with her down to the basement to our rec room and snuggled in.

Now, the first time I watched this, I had already been a several weeks in to the series and so, while it was a devastating and sad story arc, I was accustomed to how Shonda operates and yes, I cried, but I moved on to season seven.

I finished catching up to real time well over a month ago and have not been watching since.  Maybe that’s why it hit me so hard this time.

When Charlie dies in the hallway with patient Mary and Bailey holding him, the camera does a very long close up on him in those last few minutes of his life.  I’ve seen deaths in movies and television a million times but whoever did the makeup for this particular scene must have watched someone die at some point because it was so real.

I don’t think it struck me the first time around, but yesterday afternoon it did.  The pale, almost grey skin, those dead eyes.  It wasn’t Charlie’s face I saw on the screen.  It was Shawn’s.

There was a stretch of time back in September on that fateful day where his heart was stopped and I literally watched him die.  His pupils were fixed, and so dilated they looked black from where I stood.  His mouth slightly open, his skin went almost grey.  And his face was pointed straight at me.  It’s one of the things from that day I had and still have the hardest time dealing with.  Most of the time, I don’t see it, although it took weeks to stop having that image in my head, nowadays it doesn’t hover at me the way it did for weeks afterwards.  Still I have the odd night where I see it in the dark or in my dreams but I can generally deal with that.

Yesterday I was so overcome with emotions that I couldn’t talk.  I came upstairs and went to hug Shawn who is home on holidays this week and I couldn’t even bear to do that so I went up again to our room, lay down on our bed and cried myself into a very deep sleep for two hours.  When I finally went back down I was still having trouble talking without crying. The image hovered there and by nine o’clock I could not bear being around everyone and came up to watch a movie on my computer.

Shawn was confused, worried, a little upset that I was shutting down.  I finally talked to him and told him exactly what had happened just before we tried to get some sleep last night.

I think it’s easy to forget how completely traumatic that whole episode was when we’re locked in the middle of our daily life routines. We eat, we sleep, we go to work, we hang out with the kids but it’s always there to give us little reminders every so often.  Shawn still has days when he becomes short of breath way too easily, or when his body just tells him no, he can’t do something he wants to do.  Likewise, I have days of panic where I’m sure the whole thing is going to happen again.  Thankfully, we have more days without those symptoms than with, but when it happens, we all get a little gut-check.

I guess its one of the reasons I wanted to do my cousin’s program so badly and why I got so frustrated when my own health issues said no, you have to wait on this.  I want to stay healthy and be around for my family.


Be kind to one another and as I have said before, tell the ones you love that you love them.  Don’t lose the moment.  You will never regret the times you said it.  You will always regret the times you didn’t.

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In less than a month, I will turn 39. Which means, of course, I only have about 12 3/4 months left until I turn 40.

40, in the abstract, is a very weird plateau to hit age-wise. When I was younger, WAY younger, it seemed ancient. A far-away, ‘concept’ of an age instead of something I would one day be. 40 was for teachers and parents and postal workers it wasn’t for me. Oh sure, I did the mental math that every mother does where I figured out what age all my kids would be by the time I hit the big Four-Oh, but to have it just around the corner now is striking me as strange.

I have never really felt my age, if that’s even really a thing.
When I was a teenager I always felt older than my age. I was told by adults all the time (probably people in their 40’s, ironically) that I acted more mature than my age. My friends were all older. Hell, I was a mother by age 18 and I can tell you, I felt older than my age then too.

When I hit my twenties, a shift happened. I started feeling…younger. Having five kids by age 26 will do that to you though. It makes you acutely aware that you are by far and away, the youngest mom at the playground, on the school yard, signing your kid up for high school. When Liam first started high school, I went in on the second day to drop something off at the office and the secretary asked if I was a transfer student.
TRANSFER STUDENT. TO HIGH SCHOOL. I was 32. It was my favourite brag moment for a LONG time. (She also might have been a much older lady with thick glasses, but it still counts!!)

Right into my mid-late thirties I felt young. And then this past year my back went out. Really badly. For two months, I couldn’t walk without a slight limp and hunch. I needed a cane to go out, and even then I couldn’t take walking for more than about twenty minutes at a time. My back STILL isn’t completely back to normal (it’s been over six months) but it’s much better now. What it has done for me though is really made me feel my years. I’m almost forty. I can’t drink like I used to, I can’t stay up like I used to and now when I injure myself, my body does not bounce back like it used to. It’s pretty much a rip-off to age.

So, I plan to fully enjoy my last year in my thirties. I’m excited to see what 40 is going to bring.

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