A Season of Joy


My family is Jewish and when I was young, we played with the dreidel , received small gifts each of the eight nights as well as Chanukah gelt (Yiddish term for money) in the form of gold foiled chocolates.  We also lit the candles on the menorah  each night. as a remembrance of the rededication of the Holy Temple when the Maccabean Jews reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem in a revolt against the  Syrian-Greeks in the second century b.c  The miracle of the Jewish holiday, Chanukah, was that only one oil lamp with enough oil for one day was found when cleaning the Temple. The lamp stayed lit for 8 days and we honor this miracle each year by lighting the menorah at 8 days at sunset with the number of candles reminding us of the 8 day miracle.

As a child, my family lived in a community where the majority of friends and neighbors were Christian, we also hung a sock on the mantel so Chanukah Charlie would visit us on Christmas eve.  No tree, though – that was too much.  As an adult, I never felt terribly connected to the holidays – though the vacation days were always a welcome gift.

Now, I need a balance of time during the interlude of holiday break.  Most years, we celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with my husband’s family.  Circumstances and low energy kept us from spending the long turkey weekend with my family this year.  But it was wonderful having just my husband and I together with our own family dinner.

We'll be sitting on the porch this week watching the grass grow - if the sun comes out.
We’ll be sitting on the porch this week watching the grass grow – if the sun comes out.

This weekend I planned to join my husband and travel to his mom’s where the family of all ages will celebrate. For reasons that I won’t  mentioned, I am now staying home and enjoying my dogs and my house.  My mom and brother are flying in next week so I will finally spend some quality time with them.

Hooch waits for that cricket to jump
Hooch waits for that cricket to jump

I was single until 50 and always enjoyed my solitude.  This weekend, I am going to make the very best of ‘me’ time.  I’m going to stay up late, sleep in, cook, and piddle around the house. The anger that festered the last couple of days subsided and I’m mindful of how blessed I am to have loved ones supporting and respecting my needs.

Maybe I’ll have a miracle of my own and find my menorah that seems to have disappeared after one too many moves.

There will be lots of this at our house this weekend!
There will be lots of this at our house this weekend!

Regardless of faith, interest, and circumstances – whether surrounded by loved ones or relaxing alone – appreciate yourself, take time to reflect on all the wonders of life.

An Unlikely Role Model


Several years ago,  I was sickened and disgusted as most dog lovers and decent human beings when I read about NFL football player, Michael Vick running a dog fighting ring. I don’t even tolerate my own dogs growling at each other so I cheered when Vick went to jail, jeered when he returned to the NFL, and rejected his claims of rehabilitation and having greater appreciation of dogs and other animal welfare.

Yesterday, I read that Vick repaid his $20 million in debt and for the first time thought, “Good for him.”  He didn’t file for  bankruptcy, negotiating, or running away, Vick manned up. Vick earns a hefty $3.5 million this year for playing football, not to mention a likely fortune with Nike.

But why do I care? Once again, I found myself fighting battles.  A chronic fatigue syndrome/fibro flare caused by a virus, stress, or over activity reared its ugly head and knocked me down. Finances went from bad to worse. Not working steadily for the past four years depleted my savings.  My husband is an Agriculture teacher and let’s just say that educators are not highly valued in Texas. Recently, we have received some assistance from a generous donor which has helped us tremendously. Until moving to the Lone Star State, I have worked and supported myself since college. I was independent and a hard worker. But  some called me  enabled for accepting assistance or just plain lazy.  As chronic sufferers would surely agree, try living in our body for just one week!

But  My admiration for Vick returning the money he owed and fighting to win a spot back as top quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles served as a reminder for me. I too have struggled and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges at times in my life. Things have not always turned out as I planned and goals were unsuccessful. But I accepted defeat, learned, and moved on.  I am resilient!

I took a break from writing this summer to try and give my mind some rest.  I’ve been scattered, confused, and shooting in the dark.  In other words, I was not planning, I was just doing.  I knew what I wanted to do but stress, fear, anxiety, and defeatism kept me from effectively thinking, organizing and doing.

This is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and as a Jew this is the time of year for change to occur. More so than January 1st so future blogs will very likely describe my journey towards the next phase of my life.

“Losing a battle or losing everything we thought we possessed will bring us moments of sadness. But when those moments pass, we will discover the hidden strength that exists in each of us, a strength that will surprise us and increase our self-respect.

We will look around and say to ourselves: ‘I survived.’ And we will be cheered by our words.”

The above quote is from Manuscript Found in Accra by Paul Coelho, which I am currently reading. Coelho is author of the remarkable book The Alchemist. In the Manuscript, Coelho talks a lot about defeat, experience, and love.  Many of Coelho’s writings resonate with me. Anticipate more quotes in future postings.

I survived many obstacles in my life single, alone, and independently. I am now married to a loving, caring, and supportive husband. I have some incredibly loving, supportive, and loyal family members. The moment of sadness has passed for me. I survived and I know my life will continue to be full of hope and joy.

Even Zoe sees a new day is dawning
Even Zoe sees a new day is dawning

What a Difference a Trusted Doctor Makes


Last fall, I began treatments for venous retinal occlusion – a broken vein bleeding into the retina. Not knowing any ophthalmologists in my area, I accepted the urgent referral from a local optometrist. What followed over the next eight months were a series of very painful injections into the eye and one equally painful laser treatment.

While I noticed some progress to my vision, I was less than impressed with the ophthalmologist’s bedside manner and the office’s lack of efficiency.  Each visit lasted at least 2 hours and one ghastly appointment continued for over 3 hours where I was the last patient in the office and when my husband asked the receptionist where I was, she went back to look for me and never returned!  The owner of the practice – not the doctor treating me – brought me into an exam room one time thinking I was someone else.  It wasn’t until he called me by another name that I realized his incompetent mistake.

Finally, I contacted another ophthalmologist for a second opinion.  Walking into the office, I felt the difference.   The other doctor’s office felt like a factory with the waiting rooms (yes there are more than one) full with patients shuffled from one conveyor belt to another.   While the waiting room was large, there are never more than a few people waiting at a time.  While I’ve only been to the new doctor twice, I’ve been treated warmly and never waited more than 10 minutes, even when arriving 15 minutes early.

The major difference is the doctor-patient communication.  Whereas the first ophthalmologist ignored my concerns, my new ophthalmologist and  retinal specialist (referred by my new ophthalmologist) heard my concerns, talked more clearly about the treatment process, and quickly eased my mind.    The final clincher for my trust in my new optical team occurred when they explained why I felt so much pain  after the injection.  Apparently, the antiseptic betadine aggravates the dry tenderness.   Rewetting drops help remove the antiseptic and cools the irritation.  While not completely pain-free, rinsing my eye after the treatment and using drops throughout the day helped tremendously.  The nurse said she always advises patients to use drops after injections for the very reason that betadine can irritate.   I wasn’t a wimp after all!  That little piece of information made the world of difference to my psyche.  This health team actually cared about how I felt post-treatment.   What a concept!

Before switching doctors, I had accepted my fate of being partially blind in one eye.  The first ophthalmologist did nothing wrong professionally though my appointments took twice as long as the appointments at the new doctor’s office.  I researched the process for the treatment and  substantiated it with a second opinion.  The difference is trust.  I forgot to take my own advise to keep looking if I don’t trust a referred health professional.  I know there are no guarantees any physician can save my vision.  I also know that the treatment process will continue to hurt though, thankfully, not as acutely.

Now my voice is heard.   I’m confident my vision team will satisfactorily answer any of my questions or concerns.  And that is what we must strive for when managing medical treatments for chronic illness.

Live, Life, Love Living Life


I’m having a rough flare this week and today I feel especially weak.  I slept 11 hours last night and then went back to bed this morning and slept another two hours.   And I’m feeling happy about livin’ life today.   Typically, when suffering through flares, lack of sleep typically accompanies pain and exhaustion.  But I slept.  I really slept.  This calls for celebration – or maybe just another nap.

While most of us with chronic illness may not think much about the little things missing from our daily lives – like fewer symptoms during a flare – but I think being appreciative is important.  Gratitude can turn a lousy attitude into a more optimistic one and a depressed mood into a happier one.

Recently, I started keeping a gratitude journal.  Never very good at maintaining a personal journal or diary, I wasn’t certain of my success in keeping this journal either though I like the idea.  Journalists write in their gratitude journal nightly listing three things that they are grateful for the past day.   While I don’t write in the journal every night, I write most nights before bed.  I like the brevity and the discipline of finding gems of positive moments in every day.  Surprisingly, it’s not very hard even on the most trying days.   And I find it very satisfying.  I went online and explored how I could make my journal better.  Below are some tips on keeping successful gratitude journals from The Greater Good website:

  • Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
  • Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  • Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  • Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
  • Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  • Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”

For more information on keeping a gratitude journal go to the following link:  http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_keeping_a_gratitude_journal

I think I earned another nap.

Live more joyfully despite chronic illness.  

Contact me at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com and let’s schedule time to chat!

Tips from my Website


You can conquer any mountain
You can conquer any mountain

Below are tips for sufferers of chronic illness from my website LB Webb Coach.  Check out more useful information at www.lbwebbcoach.com
Please Note: It is important to talk with your physician, physical therapist or other licensed professionals before trying new physical activities or tools.

Find a Trusted Medical Professional – Communicating with your physician is critical. This is the most important advice I can offer.   Go to appointments with lists of questions.  I can offer suggestions on how you can self-advocate.  If you are not comfortable with your physician and (s)he minimizes your concerns, find another!! Talk candidly about medications and if one doesn’t work, explain how it makes you feel and try something else. If unable to find a physician who doesn’t listen or make you feel valued, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and other health professionals may help.

A Trusting Ear – Good mental health is an important part of your health program. It is important to have someone to share frustrations as well as successes. Ideally, everyone needs multiple people they trust depending on the circumstances. Family members, friends, professional therapists, life coaches can all be considered. The key is finding someone who you know who does not judge you, accepts you, and appreciates you.

Exercise – Start slow and easy but do something! Whether walking for 5 minutes; sweeping the floor; practicing tai chi or yoga, it is very important to get into a routine of using muscles and joints. Swimming is probably the best exercise for chronic pain and illness as it easier on joints and muscles. Many pools offer classes specially designed for people like us.

I knitted this baby blanket for a loved one.
I knitted this baby blanket for a loved one.

Find a Hobby –  Knitting, crotchet,  creating scrapbooks, photography, bird watching, gardening or anything that is pleasurable for you and takes your mind off your pain is important.

Massage – Many people in pain (particularly fibromyalgia patients) cringe at the idea of anyone touching let alone massaging muscles. Communicating with the massage therapist can make the experience both pleasurable and helpful.

Pampering – Part of the massage experience feels good because it’s important to be good to yourself.  If massages are not comfortable, try a manicure and pedicure (not just for women anymore).  Going to a matinee, museum or having lunch with friends can  feel like a treat.

Warmth – Baths, hot compresses and heating pads, preferably moist, provide temporary relief.

Massage Foam Rollers – Using gentle pressure on targeted areas by moving the roller back and forth on the floor can be very painful in some areas at first. But even doing a few times at first, muscles are more relaxed and fascia (connective tissue that surrounds muscles and nerves) are lengthened and softer.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Unit – TENS is a pocket-size device that sends electrical impulses to block pain signals. Electrical currents are mild but can ease specific areas of pain. TENS is not helpful for migrating pain.   NOTE: Ask physician or physical therapist about TENS and how to use it properly.

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I can help you live a joyful life.  Contact me for a free consultation at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com

Hopeful Progress


I returned home from Alabama a week ago.  I never thought much of  ‘Bama’ before though thrilled to mark it off as the 47th state Alabamathat I visited.  Before landing in Birmingham, my knowledge of Alabama was limited to its ignoble role in civil rights history and the crimson tide at University of Alabama.  Now I know that U. of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa (and its a beautiful campus).  I know tall

Evergreen forests blanket Alabama's landscape
Evergreen forests blanket Alabama’s landscape

evergreen trees blanket the hilly landscape. And I discovered hope for a healthier life in Alabama.

While not yet fully recovered from my surgery, I notice major changes in my body.  My headaches are gone.  I have not experienced phantom stabbing pain since I left the hospital in Alabama nor have I felt constant aching in joints.  I can’t say that I’m clear-headed as I’m still taking pain medicine but I don’t feel like I’m in a fog either.  As for sleep, I think that I am still recovering from the surgery and travel, but I’m hopeful (yes, truly full of hope!) that my sleep patterns are improving.

The biggest challenge now is my diet.  For 3 months, I am forbidden to eat bread and meat, not even chicken or fish, until my esophagus heals completely.  For now, I’m keeping gluten-free.  I wish I could say that I’m starting with a clean plate and healthy eating but I don’t write fiction.  The gallons of ice cream in my freezer likely will keep me from losing the 30 pounds I’m expected to lose.

Yes, I am hopeful.  I am becoming a believer in Dr. Pridgen and his medical wisdom.  And my confidence is growing that the FDA will approve the treatment later this year (yes, in 2013) and  real help will finally become available to the tens of thousands of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue sufferers.

Hoping for a New Beginning


Yesterday, my mom and I met with Dr. William Pridgen, Dr. P., about the treatment for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.  The journey for Dr. P began when he sought successful treatment for patients he saw as a gastroenterologist.  Suffering from more symptoms than GERD, and alternating diarrhea and constipation, Dr. P. tried regimens of a combination of antivirals and found that medications treating herpes simplex type 1 proved highly successful.

As I discussed in my earlier posting, I contacted Dr. P. and am in Tuscaloosa this week.  In our meeting yesterday, I learned a bit about the biology about the herpes virus Dr. P believes to lives in the stomach.  I shared more of my history.   I found Dr. P not only knowledgeable and caring but funny, approachable, and surrounded by a wonderful staff.   I never felt rushed and just another patient on the assembly line.  I allowed myself a glimmer of hope at last.

After our meeting, I felt overwhelmed with the possibility that my health may change – truly change.  Fibromyalgia and CFS have been a part of my life for longer than not.  I allow myself moments to dream about exercise without fear of crashing, traveling without planning post-travel crash, less brain fog.  I’m sure my keys will always walk away from where I leave them no matter how healthy and clear-headed I may become.

Tomorrow, I have a procedure that repairs my esophagus due to high volume acid from my stomach.  Apparently, the esophagus is the second part of the body  damaged from fibromyalgia.  The gallbladder is the first to go and I thought the surgeon who removed mine several years ago was  a hack since my symptoms continued.  Dr. P assures me the organ had likely stopped functioning.

Post-surgery, I  begin new medications, mostly antivirals, intended to put the nasty herpes virus back to a permanent coma.  The process is not immediate but the results are astonishingly successful.  In fact, there is a study for this treatment in 11 centers around the country beginning in March that the FDA is watching closely.  The plan is for 2013  the year a truly viable treatment becomes available, with FDA approval, for successfully treating fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome!

Can you imagine?! No more trial and error of medications.  No more frustrations that doctors can’t really help and only support groups and bloggers understand.  Hope  for better health for sufferers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome may soon become viable.

I may not post for a while, depending on my energy from surgery and traveling back home but I will at the very least try to keep updates on my Facebook page, LB Webb Coaching.  http://www.facebook.com/pages/LB-Webb-Coach-for-people-with-Chronic-Illness-Pain/328980187115314

LIKE my page so you receive automatic updates on your own Facebook page.

For more information about this exciting and potentially life changing venture, visit:

www.ushapehealth.org

http://www.innovativemedconcepts.com/