Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Part 1 of a 18901832 part series on Life Balance.

Another part of being Fixed by 40 is to find the ever elusive "Life Balance."

What does Life Balance mean to me?  It means an END to the phenomenon whereby I am hugely successful at only one thing at a time.  Actually, make that two.  I'm always successful at being a parent - I freakin' rock at it (read: I have no idea what I'm doing but somehow it works out).  For REALZ.  But I can only seem to rock at one other thing simultaneous with the parent gig.  If I rock at work, my house is shambles.  If I'm Wife-Of-The-Year, I am in trouble at work.  If something else is going well, I need an oil change, air in my tires and I get in a fender bender.  Who has seen the movie "The Devil Wears Prada?"  I love it!  There's a great line that goes something like this:
     Andrea:  "My personal life is falling apart"
     Nigel:  "That's what happens when you start doing well at work.  Let me know when your entire life goes up in smoke, then its time for a promotion."

This concept resonates with me!  As I've told y'all (I lived in Virginia for 7 years - I'm practically southern) - my body was/is falling apart.  Literally I am grumpy, tired, feel awful all the time and yet my boss is loving my work.  Compliments galore!  I *know* I am doing good work - I am busting butt despite feeling like cow dung on a daily basis.  My house [was] a PIG STY and I [was] getting to bed around 11-12 nightly.  I know, I know, there are 432903 readers (OK seriously there are only 2 readers let's be honest) thinking "I go to bed at 1AM every night - my life is way awfuler*" but I have always required the full 8 hrs to feel good.  It's a curse.  Finally, we have been eating out or eating convenience foods pretty much nonstop.  After wolfing down something that is too large in portion and too high in chemicals that I tell myself is a "better choice,"  I spend some Quality Time with my daughter (I really do, I make sure this is non-negotiable and more on that later) and then get back to work on my laptop as soon as she goes to bed.

DISCLAIMER:  A Pig Sty for me means there are piles of laundry laying around and clutter on the surfaces.  Not that there are dishes everywhere and roaches wandering around.  Just needed to tell you that.

Result:  Chubby, high insulin, asthma, allergies out of control, thyroid hormones completely out of whack.

I knew this behavior needed to stop but I didn't know how to stop it.  My recent breathing crisis kinda broke the cycle but here's what I'm ALSO doing to keep things in order in my life:

1.  GO TO BED between 10 and 11PM.  It can wait until tomorrow.
2.  Take my thyroid med at the same time daily.
3.  Take my allergy/asthma meds correctly until such time that I can discontinue them (hopefully soon).
4.  Find a list of go-to recipes that are healthy, made of whole foods without chemicals, and are not so ridiculously restrictive that we cannot actually sustain them.
5.  Hire a personal organizer to help me figure out how to keep my home clean and organized.  Luckily for me, one of my peeps (I have quite a collection of peeps that I keep around for life - she's one of them) is setting up a business doing professional "Get Your Shit Together" type stuff and offered to help me with a cleaning schedule that makes sense and works for us.  I will talk a whole lot about this in the future, but I will link to her awesome site here - because she deserves it.

So anyway - that's my plan.  So far I've gotten the sleep thing DOWN.  5 good nights and here I am at 9:49PM feeling kinda OK.  Not like I want to die and pass out imminently.  Unforch, I haven't worked on my manuscript or my presentation for work this week - so I'll talk to you next time.


*Didn't you know that when you start your own blog you can make up your own words?  It's cool.  Try it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

So what causes asthma? How did I get here?

Inflammation, my friends.  But what does that word mean?  It just means an immune response.  That's all. Simple, right?  WRONG.  It can be caused by a million things, triggered in a million ways - many of which we still don't understand - and it can cause a million "problems" in the body.

Inflammation causes my asthma.  It caused my thyroid disease.  It causes my migraines and it causes my knee and hip pain.  Finally, it even causes all of those womanly pains that come once a month.  So basically, its a big deal for me.  If it continues, it can cause clogged arteries and subsequent heart disease.  Left unchecked, it can cause cancer.  MOST IMPORTANTLY:  it limits my life.  Sometimes I wake up in the morning totally swollen and feeling it - I don't want to move.  Have you ever woken up just feeling swollen?  I will say to my husband "I feel as bloated as a thanksgiving turkey" on those days.  Is this normal?  Do millions of people feel this way and don't even recognize it for what it is?  I think the answer is Yes.  Leave me a comment if you've ever felt blah, taken an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen/motrin or naproxen and felt 100x better.  I bet it wasn't even pain relief that made you feel better.  I bet it was relief from inflammation.

Why do we become inflammed?  There's a trigger - that's for sure.  The problem is that it could be anything.  It could be a drug you're taking.  Do you take a statin (one of those fancy cholesterol-reducing drugs like Lipitor)?  Those can cause muscle inflammation.  Now don't get your panties in a bunch and call to cuss out your primary care physician.  For most people the benefit of reduction in cholesterol far outweighs the slight increase in risk of muscle injury from chronic inflammation.  I'm just sayin' that there are million ways to trigger an immune response.  How about getting injured?  Any time you cut, scrape, scratch or otherwise maim yourself, you get an immune response.  Inflammation occurs.  We sure don't want to turn OFF that response or else we'd be pretty screwed in the event of a real injury or emergency.

How about the nitty gritty.  What exactly happens during inflammation response?  If you'd really like to know the biology and the -omics and -ations and -enesis's of it all, please read this article from Nature Reviews Cancer.  It's really REALLY good.
Basically it boils down to this:  Something triggers your immune system to "React."  Reacting means that a specific kind of immune cell - in the case of an allergic response its a histamine-releasing cell like a mast cell or a basophil - dumps its load of signals into the bloodstream and like volunteer firefighters to a siren, TONNNNNS of cells are recruited to the area.  These cells, in turn, pump out chemicals that make things worse and worse until you have a full blown overreaction (perhaps justified, but mostly not).  Blood vessels are told to open up - to dilate - to increase blood flow to the area, fluid accumulates just in case its needed, and tons and tons of crunchy matrix upon which cells can repair the wound (or perceived wound) is deposited.  This is just a subset of what happens when a Reaction is triggered.

EEEEEEEEW.  All of this is happening in my LUNGS?  No wonder I'm coughing and hacking if all of that "stuff" is accumulating in there every time my immune system overreacts to something.

I've spent the weekend turning OFF my immune response.  It's working.  The prednisone, inhaled steroid, singulair and benadryl at night have resulting in an amazing ability to - put simply - breathe.  I can breathe in and out without coughing and without any pain in my chest/throat/nose/etc.


Let's keep it this way, mmkay?  We'll talk again soon about some not-so-obvious things that may be triggering these outbursts by my aggravated immune system.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Step 1: Feel better.

OK so yesterday I confirmed with a physician - lets be honest here, I'm not a people doctor - that I have asthma.  Evidently people with asthma need to take a lot of drugs.  For those that live with this condition chronically and don't just get it randomly throughout life, only to have it disappear for a decade, I salute you and sympathize with you.  The drugs don't make you feel well.  :(  I'm taking prednisone to reduce any inflammation in my respiratory tract and while I'm on this systemic steroid, I'm starting on a preventative inhaled steroid, an allergy/asthma drug called singulair and I have a "rescue" inhaler which is used for "attacks."  I don't have the type of asthma where my throat closes up and I have to call an ambulance.  I have the kind where you just hack and cough and feel like someone is sitting on your chest for a few hrs and then it somehow alleviates itself or you get exhausted and fall asleep.

Last night I learned that the rescue inhaler might have been a good idea to PICK UP from the pharmacy.  I was all "nah, I wont need it cause I am not that bad and don't have That Kind of asthma."  Imagine my surprise when I lay in bed hacking up chunks of my lungs from 11PM-12:30AM.

Therein lies part of my underlying problem.

I would never advise someone else NOT to pick up the rescue inhaler that the PA at my doc office told me only hours before that I should have.  So why did I do that to myself?

I really don't want to be taking all of these drugs.  That's all there is to it.  It is admission of the following:
     1.  I am not superwoman and I do not defy the laws of physiology.
     2.  I cannot just ignore certain issues that have been plaguing me for months (this damn cough).
     3.  I am really not taking very good care of myself because WAAH it takes time and effort.

#3 is really the major issue here.

So, this memorial day weekend, I will drink zero alcohol because I really would be an idiot to do that on prednisone AND the antibiotic AND inhaled steroid AND AND AND everything else.  I will stay out of the sun for long periods because prednisone increases your blood pressure and makes you sweat more and anyone who know me knows I hate to sweat.  And finally, I will not run around like a crazy person aggravating my poor sore lungs.  I will sit sweetly on the chair and laugh and take photos of everyone else playing in the pool and actin' crazy.

I hope everyone has a nice holiday weekend.  Once we get me feeling BETTER we will move on to how I got here and how I get fixed.

Thanks for being with me!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Inaugural Post.

Hi.  I'm Stacey.  I'm 35 years old and I'm unhealthy.  This is sorta unfathomable to me since I *thought I was doing everything right . . .but alas, I am 35 and have/had gallbladder problems, Thyroid Problems (that one deserves capital letters, more on that later), high insulin, migraines and now - the most recent addition - chronic asthma.

How did this happen?  Bad genetics, a complete lack of education on what is the appropriate thing to put in my body, and lifestyle.  Mostly lifestyle, I will admit.

This blog is going to be about how I change my life.  Yep - sounds boring.  Aren't there 10,000,000 blogs on this topic?  Mine will be a TEEEEENY bit different.  Why?  Because I am scientist, man.  For realz: I'm a lab coat wearin', goggle donning, chemical mixin', pipet toting, totally geekified Scientist.  I have a PhD in "Biology" but I'm most specialized in genetics, development and most recently, oncology.  So I am going to delve into the science behind what we use ON our bodies, what we put IN our bodies and why we do the weird things we do.

I cannot promise I will blog EVERY SINGLE DAY and I cannot promise that I will have a super fancy background, gadets, widgets, buttons, etc., but I will have interesting things to say.  I'll learn ya a thing or two and hopefully in the process, I will fix myself.

GOAL:  By the time I turn 40, I will be chemical-free (or as good as I can get), non-obese (I'm actually OK with being slightly chubby because today's definition of skinny makes me want to vomit) and not dependent on any medications aside from the synthetic thyroid hormone that I require to live.

Join me.  And please comment as much as you can - I need encouragement, I'm needy that way.