Monthly Archives: August 2010

>No cure for the summertime blues

>It’s HOT, too hot. I found out the hard way that when my nurse told me that staying hydrated will make all the difference in how I feel, she really meant it. Back in the beginning of this heat wave a few weeks ago, I had a particularly busy day, errands to run a doctors appointment, etc. I don’t have a car so I alternate between walking and riding the city bus and sometimes it’s necessary to walk several blocks between transfer points. I felt pretty good starting out the day, more energy than usual, and made ambitious plans. At the grocery store I proudly filled my cart with all sorts of healthy fresh foods,thinking how I am doing such a fantastic job of taking care of myself through this treatment. Yay me! What a good girl!

I don’t know if it was having been in the air conditioning that made outside feel like a giant open faced pizza oven or if the temperature had really risen that much but when I stepped outside I was blasted in face with what felt like an inferno. Because of my super self care shopping spree I had two large canvas bags stuffed to the top with groceries. Ok so it’s two blocks to the bus stop, no problem. That two blocks felt like walking uphill dragging a steam engine pumping heat at me. Ribavirin tends to make you feel short of breath, even without the heat and the load I was carrying. After two blocks my heart was pumping like the aforementioned steam engine, and I started to feel dizzy. The bus finally came and took me to the next transfer point where I helplessly watched my next bus pull off. Ok 20 minutes until the next bus. By now my brain must’ve been addled by lack of oxygen because I decided I might as well start walking until the bus came along. Somehow at the time it made sense to me that it was better to keep moving. “Nothing bad can happen if you keep moving” a desperate refrain from my younger days when my lifestyle was lived in a state of fight or flight. I walked a few blocks, occasionally stopping to rest, and finally surrendered at the bus stop, the one with a bench. By this point I could feel that my face was beet red, I was sticky with sweat, and my tongue was pretty much stuck to the roof of my mouth. I dug in the bag for something to drink, but of course, I hadn’t actually bought anything cold. I settled for a warm ensure, which never before or since has tasted so good. Now I was actually starting to feel chills, despite being hot, and my head was pounding.
I finally made it home, grabbed a huge jug of ice water and some ibuprofen and fell into bed and asleep. I slept for about 12 hours before waking up to realize I was still sick. It took several days, close to a week actually, before I started feeling “normal”, as normal as one can feel on treatment. I think the most difficult part of treatment for me has been accepting the limitations I now have.

The Moral of this story is, like it or not, many of us on treatment can’t do the things we are accustomed to doing. We have limited physical and, based on my poor judgment, mental capacities. One thing I have learned over the years of misadventure and return to sanity is that acceptance is the key to any hardship. Once we surrender to the way things are we become much more able to make adjustments, changes and accommodations which make life much less miserable. So now I’m sitting home in front of my fan, a HUGE bottle of water next to me. I’ve learned to limit my activities, especially in the heat…and I make my son do the grocery shopping with me. Maybe there is a cure for the summertime blues, if the livin is easy. 🙂 © 2010 Jennifer Hazard

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The ride that is my life

“Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment.” Rita Mae Brown

This is one of absolute favorite quotes and I have decided it should be the motto for this page. As I’ve been blogging , reading other blogs and getting to know the online world of survivors, I’ve also been discovering my own style. When I refer to my “style” I mean not only my blogger style, but my personal style. I am indeed in a phase of reinventing myself and creating the future I want. Two years ago, I completed my Masters Degree in Community Counseling beaming with pride and grand plans for my future as a Therapist. First a family tragedy threw me for a loop; my adult daughter was nearly killed by her ex-boyfriend and spent close to three months in the hospital recovering. Then there was the trial, the postponements, the hearings. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and re traumatized. I was looking for work in my field and not finding it. My money was running out. I ended up taking a job that, although fulfilling in many ways, was not a Masters level position. Within months I began to get sick. I was achy and exhausted all the time. I was forgetful and spacey. I thought at first that it was the stress and depression of the past year, and it probably was to a certain extent, but I also discovered that my Hepatitis C was progressing. To shorten the story I lost my job, my performance was suffering due to my illness, and ended up deciding to apply for disability and begin the treatment for Hep C. Life has a funny way of letting you know it has plans other than your own. So here I am on Disability, writing, hanging out with my dogs and my grandchildren, putting in my garden and except for the nasty side effects of the treatment, leading a pretty contented life. And I have decided that there are other, perhaps better, ways to help others than meeting with them for 50 minutes in a Mental Health Clinic. So, my always evolving blog will continue to reflect both my experimentation with technology, and my experimentation with my identity.I have also started a second blog http://jennysliver.blogspot.com/ to record my experiences with this disease and the treatment.The Beauty of being an “older woman with a past” is that you have lots of material with which to recreate yourself in the second half of life. I hope some of you will stay along for the ride! Peace, Nanakoosa
© 2010 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


>The Next Step

>This post was originally published on http://nanakoosasplace.blogspot.com/ in May 2010

Whenever I sit down to write, whether it be a blog, or journal or my ongoing project (do I dare say book?) I spend some time reflecting on my life, on who I’ve been, roles I’ve played, where I am now and where I want to be in the future. In the moments that I look at the Big Picture, I sometimes think to myself, ‘wow, I’ve had a pretty messed up life”. If I happen to be in a particularly spiritually focused moment I’ll say ‘I’ve really overcome a lot of challenges”. Both things are true, it’s just a matter of perspective. I’ve also accomplished some good in my life. I’ve been a Social Worker most of my adult life and I’ve been able to utilize my experiences and compassion to help many individuals and families. And although I haven’t always been the parent of the year, I must have done some things right because my children have all turned out to be intelligent, creative, caring individuals.
I’ve accomplished a lot of personal growth. I haven’t had a drink in 10 years. I have avoided abusive relationships. I no longer obsess about things over which I have no control. I no longer feel the need to plan ahead for the “worst possible scenario”. And I no longer flinch when someone makes a sudden move or noise near me. I’m far from perfect but as they say no one is perfect, nor would I want to be, but I’m generally pretty content with who I am today.
As most of us know healing happens in layers and cycles, and it seems to me at least, that the more “issues’ you start out with having the more layers and cycles you must negotiate.
So, now I’m into a whole new territory, a new layer, a new cycle. And I am reminded again that there is always considerable overlap between these layers, as most of the problems we survivors have experienced are intertwined. Therefore as we grow through one issue, we are really simultaneously healing other areas of our psyches, bodies and social lives as well. By now I can only hope you are wondering with baited breath what this mysterious “next layer” is. I realized I don’t share much personal detail in my blogs. I write as a survivor/recovering alcoholic, but I stick to generalized topics and themes. And yet ultimately one of my hopes is for my website to become a forum where people can share their stories, because I believe there is great power in the telling, as well as in the receiving, of these stories.
My most recent battle, or challenge, is a particularly difficult one for me because it involves consequences of bad decisions I’ve made in the past and because it is something over which I have limited control. About 12 years ago I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a consequence of my IV drug use back in the 80’s. At that time, being the dedicated alcoholic that I was, my reaction was to drink as much as I possibly could for a solid year because I knew I’d have to quit soon to save my liver. For those of you who are not addicts, trust me, this logic makes perfect sense to an addict. In a way the diagnosis and my irrational response, was a catalyst to my recovery from alcohol. As you can well imagine drinking as much as possible for an entire year leads to some pretty nasty situations. I ended up in jail more than once, lost my job, my apartment and worst of all my kids. Every time I tried to quit I only made it so far before I was at it again. Finally, as an alternative to a 9 month incarceration I was sent to a residential treatment center. I can honestly say that experience saved my life in more ways than one.
Anyway, despite my best efforts to destroy my liver, I have fared pretty well over the past 9 years or so. In the past year however, I found myself increasingly fatigued, foggy and achy. I thought I had fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Then at this year’s liver screen we discovered my viral load was up and some of my other numbers were off. A biopsy revealed a small amount of liver scarring. To make a long story short, my doctor and I decided that since I’m unemployed right now anyway and since the damage hasn’t progressed too far, now might be a good time to try treatment.
The treatment for Hep C is Interferon and Ribavirin combination therapy. I won’t go into great medical detail here but I will tell you the side effects are pretty notorious, and for good reason. The worst and most common are fatigue, loss of appetite, foggy thinking and, my personal favorite, depression. It’s pretty much a full time job. So after all the healing of my emotions, my thought and behavior patterns now it seems to be time to heal the physical realm. And of course there’s the overlap. The guilt I’ve felt at having been careless with using IV drugs. The sense of loss of not having the energy to be there for my family in the way I’d like. The identity crisis of going from being passionate defender of justice for my clients to being unemployed and pretty much unable to work, at least during the course of treatment. And yet, there are wonderful opportunities for growth. I have time to do things like write, gardening and crafting, to nurture my creative side. I have to opportunity to give back to myself some of the nurturing and forgiveness I so naturally afford to others but save little for myself.
I began this journey on treatment 8 weeks ago now and I’ve already experienced a vast range of emotions, insights and humbling epiphanies. Yes it’s challenging, to say the least, but if I’ve learned nothing else from my years of diverse experiences, it is that if we choose to, we become wiser, stronger more complete beings for ever challenge we survive.
Peace and Blessings,
Nanakoosa
© 2010 Jennifer Hazard

Labels: acceptance, health, Hepatitis C, identity, interferon