Health update Thursday?

This post may not be the most exciting as I sit here stinky after a small home workout— smelling the petroleum heavy heat of asphalt. But it is a hopeful post. My roses sit heavy with blooms, and the first flowers have opened behind the bush.

Such a metaphor for life. The whole “bloom where you are planted” concept.

I have been working hard— like I want to stop, I want to vomit, my muscles burn. Andrew at Apex Training has been amazing, helping me stretch and challenge spastic muscles in my lower body.

I have had two days now with no hip or back pain, and I can drop into bed and lie anyway I want.

My weight has been up and down thank to Taco Bell and Mothers’ Day cake and ice cream and generic Takis.

But I went for my check-up bloodwork yesterday, and the phlebotomist told me my insurance doesn’t cover vitamin D unless my doctor codes it a deficiency. We skipped that, but my ferritin has risen from 28, just barely in the normal range, to 36. Still far from the middle of normal but rising.

That might be my theme for right now— rising.

And my bad cholesterol, which should be under 100, has fallen from 109 to 107. Again, not a huge leap, but progress. Progress made during a difficult, difficult time of my life.

My pill dispenser has made it easier to take all my vitamins and allergy meds. And I started the process of putting myself back on a low dose of Lexapro,

Maybe it will help.

My personal cat, Fog, decided to love me today. And I wrote a poem about buying my new socks from the Dollar Tree.

The teenager has been nursing an ear infection all week so between that and the roses bloominfection, spring has really sprung.

She returned to school today.

Today I made a leftover sandwich— some old smoked Turkey, slightly wilted lettuce and my coleslaw mix stirred into chipotle mayonnaise.

I spent the morning with my blind friend, Nan, and took her for her bloodwork.

Came home and the dog came out just in time to see that the paving crew had Taco Bell for lunch.

My trainer asked to reschedule my session today, so I told him I would do something at home.

This was my half-assed work out. My trainer asked me to select exercises and do them with intent, and instead I fought with the dog, picked some exercises I thought would move the important parts and retain the ground I made versus improve. Here is a video.

I also received a payment from my short-term disability insurance through work, and I’m grateful as this is giving me time to strengthen myself and recovery from my mallet finger. Hopefully, this will prevent further “domino effect” on my health. I see the neuro-physiatrist at the end of the month.

I’m curious what she will have to say, and I’m thinking this may be the end of my quest for answers about my cerebral palsy.

Zigzag: Random thoughts about exercise, food and friends

Yesterday before the teenager and I took our impromptu trip to Hershey to visit with Curly, I had the good fortune to have a coffee date with a neighbor who has proven herself time and time again as a reliable friend.

We met while pregnant, due dates a week apart, homes a few blocks apart, and with jobs in the same town in the next state. Even though we lived less than a block apart for most of the teenager’s life (and the fact that her son and my daughter have first names that are one letter apart and family names that are very similar and fall alphabetically beside each other), she and I have not kept in touch the greatest— but somehow— when I need her, she seems to be there.

She even worked for me for about six months when I needed a staff member that could act without much hand-holding and understood my working style. The partnership renewed our connection— and the employer recently asked her to return to the organization and she politely declined.

We had the chance to discuss these things over “coffee” at the diner where the teen used to waitress. But the day was rainy and we both wanted soup instead of coffee, so we had our mom therapy session over bowls of pepper pot.

We talked about the teenagers’ post-high school plans, the value and frustration of college, our health, medical insurance in America, and how hard it must be to be a teen in today’s world.

I mention this as a reminder of how sometimes, sharing a moment can bring laughter and release.

Our latest Hungryroot box came, and I realized for the first times in all these months of Hungryroot that the reusable nitrogen ice packs are plant food. Now I can’t wait to pour that on our compost heap.

Speaking of food subscription services, my breakfast today was Cabot cottage cheese from Grocery Outlet and a sprouted multigrain everything bagel and garlic herb probiotic cream cheese from Hungryroot.

My lunch was leftover cauliflower linguine and one meatball from Hungryroot, basil tomato sauce from ShopRite and a pile of plain lentils I made.

Turns out lentils are a great way to add plant protein to spaghetti.

And finally, my session at Apex Training today was not easy— but I did it. We did a lot of sweat-inducing balance exercises. I have been having issues with stiffness since I left work and my walk has been unstable. This morning my right leg felt off. So I told Andrew and together we thought it might be super tight. Well, by the time I left, my right leg and back were screaming.

But after a shower and an NSAID to make sure nothing is inflamed, at least I don’t feel like a pile of grinding gears needing oil.

The ordinary adventures

So, if you’re a friend of mine or a regular here, you know that I have asked my employer, Stitch Fix, for a short-term disability/ FMLA leave to deal with my ruptured tendon (mallet or baseball finger) and its impact on my right hip.

This means I’ve made a commitment to work with my family doctor, my chiropractor (Nicole Jensen at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center) and Andrew, my personal trainer at Apex Training.

And to keep my hands warm and not use my finger.

Yesterday, I saw Nicole and we discussed the state of my body and the trade-off I seem to be making— working in the Bizzy Hizzy warehouse keeps me active but causes pain, but not being in a physical job makes me stiff and makes it difficult to move, even when I take the same amount of steps I do at work.

Andrew and I are working on strength, mobility, stability and range of motion.

I had lunch with my mother yesterday, who upon her return home had her dog pass away.

In the afternoon, I spoke with my disability claims examiner and gathered paperwork for her. My eligibility confirmation came through this morning, and I think the actual leave is just a matter of paperwork now.

But paperwork sure is sucking the life out of me right now.

So this morning when the weather looked sunny and conducive to a perfect spring day, Nan and I decided to surprise the teenager and retrieve her hearing aids from the ear doctor. Then, we could grab some cold beverages and visit Bethlehem’s Monocacy Park.

The park is quiet, easy to navigate and has a creek. The birds, geese and fishermen would offer entertainment for Nan, as between the water and the animals there would be nature to hear as well as see.

It was a fantastic way to bring some stress-free moments into running errands.

After a modified upper body workout with Andrew, Joan stopped by and brought me an early birthday gift from the residents of Plastiqueville.

A hat!!!!

The hat was not for me but for my mallet finger.

And for dinner, the teenager made Hungryroot meatballs and cauliflower linguine. We used ShopRite tomato and basil pasta sauce. It turned out so lovely I had to make a slice of butter bread to sop up the sauce.

Small pleasures.

Do as I say not as I do, or fun with medical billing practices

I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that medical insurance and medical billing in the United States makes no sense. It’s unfair to patients, unfair to doctors and makes the lives of medical office staff ridiculously complicated.

Let me just give a disclaimer that anything I say in this post is not a reflection of the skill of my physicians or the caliber of my care as both have been excellent.

But basing medical care on the decisions of private insurance companies attached to employment is reminiscent of the “company town” days when employees lived & worked in the same place and businesses profited on and controlled the life experience of their employees. Check out the old coal mines. I am from Pennsylvania after all.

I have spent much of the last year bouncing from specialist to specialist trying to learn how my body works as a 40-something with cerebral palsy and now, almost three weeks ago, I ruptured a tendon taking off my socks.

Last night, when I was already slipping into a fragile emotional state feeling lonely and physically broken (hey, it happens. We’re all human and have moments. Mine happen after dark while binge-watching medical dramas.), the teenager brought me the mail.

It was 9 p.m., I was curled in bed with an episode of The Good Doctor cuddling Louise, the tripod foster cat who deserves a permanent home because she’s such a doll.

I open my EOBs from my insurance company. Now, I know my recent misadventures will be expensive. I also know my therapist has recently sent me a $600 bill and apologized but said he can’t deal with my insurer anymore. But that’s another story and after almost 15 years with the same mental health professional… I will take care of it.

But this particular EOB charged me $200+ to see a specialist (fair) and a $2,000+ fee for surgery. Surgery? I walked into the office, an assistant removed my splint, he looked at me, he looked at the imaging done by Patient First, told me to get a cast and go back to work, and told me to make a follow-up for May 18 and left.

The assistant helped me put my splint back on, I left his office, went to another medical office (unaffiliated with him), filled out new patient paperwork, paid a $50 deposit, and received a cast.

Does any of that sound like surgery to you?

Being an anxious woman of a certain age with a hand injury, I did what seemed best at the time: I poured a whiskey and diet cola and grabbed the bag of sriracha pita chips and binged.

I ate all these chips, but no hummus or tea.

In the morning, I discovered I put my underwear on backward. I had two cups of coffee and a glass of water (I won’t eat until I get hungry) and called my insurance company.

“I’m not aware of having surgery so I’m confused.”

They arranged a three-way call to the doctor’s office.

The woman, who was polite and professional said, “so you’re not being treated?”

I said, “well yes I am.”

And she explained that’s a blanket term for tendon repair.

I replied, “Okay, so this was not explained to me. Let me just get some clarification. I paid the office fee, so the doctor could evaluate me, and he also gets an additional fee? Even though he sent me to a different doctor for the cast?

“Oh, she explained. “It covers any additional treatment in the next 90 days.”

Well then I hope that covers the office visits for all my check-ups and follow-up care.

I thanked them both— the representative of the insurance company and the billing clerk at my specialist’s office. But this is just another example of how the American medical industrial complex complicates and threatens patient care and a patient’s concern for if that care will financially destroy their stability.

** the title of this piece is a reference to me using binge eating as a coping mechanism

Rainy Mondays

This morning, I slept in until 6:30 a.m. and that felt like a luxury. My hip is starting to bother me less. I even managed to give the last foster cat her dewormer. Before coffee!!

I had a cup of my dark roast Supercoffee and a bowl of Cabot cottage cheese. I needed a shower, so I bathed. And then I called to see if I could move my chiropractor appointment up earlier in the week.

My plan is to confer with her about how best to strengthen my core and work with my hip. That will be Wednesday at 9:15 a.m.

Two hours had passed since my cottage cheese. I prepared my main breakfast— a vegan feast of quinoa, lentils, ancient grains, kale, pumpkin seeds, Hungryroot fresh salsa and my homemade roasted red pepper hummus as dressing. And the first batch of the days vitamins.

For dessert I had three slices of dragon fruit “chips,” which appear to be a great source of potassium and even have iron and protein. And a big glass of water.

I used my mid-morning to work on the Parisian Phoenix Publishing May newsletter.

It talks about upcoming events that will blend literature and fine arts.

I puttered about the kitchen and felt my injured hand becoming frightfully cold— so I started a second cup of Supercoffee at noon (which is way too much caffeine but it’s the only way I can keep my blood flowing without a workout and I don’t want to workout without supervision because of my recent falls and my mallet finger).

The teenager’s Keurig kept having some sort of stroke and just refused to make coffee. It acted as if it didn’t have water in it, so I unplugged it, added more water, took my fancy coffee pod out and ran the water through. Then I tried again. It took about three tries to get my coffee.

I gave myself two sesame mochi as a snack and curled up with the dog.

And after we got settled, the doctor’s office called to discuss paperwork for my employer and the disability company.

I’m watching some TV now and brainstorming ideas to make tomorrow a “writing day.” I just hope it finally starts to get warm.

Food (like homemade boba tea) and rest on the first official day of recovery

Today was a day of recovery. I literally fell on my ass yesterday and have a sore bottom today in addition to my mallet finger and hip pain.

My boss sent me an email acknowledging that I should be on leave at least through May 24. I am going to maintain good sleep habits, drink lots of water, eat all the fruits and vegetables, and with the help of my medical team and personal trainer Andrew at Apex Training, hopefully not only recover but improve.

Emotionally it’s hard not to guilt myself for not finding a way to continue working, but the two falls I’ve had in the last four days prove that I am doing the right thing. My boss was even kind enough to say that he knows this has been a “roller coaster for me.” I am grateful to have such kind coworkers from my second shift team at the Bizzy Hizzy.

I watched some of the teenager’s favorite anime, Haikyu!. And I gave the birds new toys.

But it was a nice eating day so I will share with you.

Breakfast was a cup of Supercoffee, a bowl of Cabot cottage cheese and a taste-test of sesame mochi that I bought at 9th Street Asian Market last night on our outing to Stroudsburg. It turned out to be exactly the food I have been trying to identify for years.

I even made a silly video.

Then for a late morning snack I cooked some tapioca for boba (also a purchase from last night that I have never had the opportunity to play with before.) The teenager got two flavors of the popping bubbles— kiwi and honey. And I also bought a can of melon flavored sweetened condensed milk.

I boiled the black tapioca pearls per the directions and added my own home brewed unsweetened iced tea, some milk and ice to a wide mouthed mason jar. Then I added about a 1/2 teaspoon of the honey popping bubbles and a teaspoon of the melon milk. The melon milk is amazing. Finally I stirred in the pearls.

I was very happy with my first attempt.

The teenager made some crusted salmon to go with leftover rice and Thai peanut salad. That was our late lunch.

And after a quick run to the Dollar Tree and Grocery Outlet, (I needed a pill organizer to remind me to take my vitamins and allergy medicine now that I won’t be tossing them in my work lunches) I mixed some of my homemade roasted red pepper hummus with harissa and Hungryroot’s “fresh salsa” which is more like diced tomatoes, onions and peppers, to enjoy with a massive glass of unsweetened iced tea and PF Pita Chips, also a Grocery Outlet find.

It certainly wasn’t an exciting day, but it was a restful day and sometimes that is the best place to start on the road to recuperation.

Soothing my wounds with healthy food

After my doctor appointment yesterday, Nan and I went to Grocery Outlet. Advocating for yourself, even in a safe, familiar environment drains a person emotionally.

My work in the kitchen not only provides the nutrients for my recovery from my mallet finger, but also helps me continue my fitness journey with Apex Fitness.

Maybe I’ll finally commit to losing weight.

Last night for dinner I had leftover pancakes, almond butter and apple slices with a can of blueberry elderflower sparkling water.

And this morning, Louise insisted I get up at 4:15 a.m. And it’s only Saturday not even a work day.

I cuddled her for a while, tried to go back to sleep, and finally just got up at 5:45ish.

Someone adopt this love so I can sleep instead of cuddle the cat all night

I came downstairs, had my coffee and started cooking my treasures. I sautéed kale (reduced for quick sale) in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt pepper and lemon juice. I made shredded potatoes in the frying pan with peppers. I prepared quinoa and midnight grains.

I fried an egg and mixed some of everything together with some apple, some of my homemade roasted red pepper hummus and pumpkin seeds.

Truly delectable.

And then right before the gym I had two medjool dates.

And I also prepped some plain lentils just to have on hand. I’m taking Nan some of the different ingredients.

Now for lunch I toasted some Ozery multigrain thin and made no-nitrate smoked turkey sandwiches (the free protein of the week from Hungryroot) topped with Brie, roasted red pepper, spinach, butter lettuce (reduced as well) and chipotle mayonnaise also from Hungryroot.

And I fell again today. At the gym today. Andrew my trainer seems to be concerned that I won’t make as much progress with upper body during my injury (but I did bench press today, but I inadvertently favored the right pretty heavily). But I’m okay with that — a body has to stay active and exercise, alcohol and excessive caffeine are the only way I can get my left hand warm. Well, unless I curl into bed under a heat blanket.

That’s two falls this week that lead to not serious but definitely painful bruises and scrapes.

Mallet finger update: my doctor is a good one

If you haven’t heard my saga of rupturing a tendon taking off my socks, you can catch up here:

Today I went to see my family doctor as I am concerned about the interaction of my mallet finger and my list of comorbidities from cerebral palsy. My crooked gait makes me a fall risk and the last five years or so— more or less since I entered my forties— have included broken bones, SI joint pain, back pain and hip pain.

All of this have led to a more-than-one-year journey to understand my body and how cerebral palsy impacts it.

I have visited doctors and specialists and neurologists trying to understand what I can do to minimize further issues as I age.

And it has worked!!!! My pain levels and chronic issues have dropped from daily pain of 5-8 to pain levels.

So I had a long visit with my primary care physician and told him not only about my injury, but also updated him on my fitness and improvements. I explained how I have been learning how muscles are supposed to work with my friends at Apex Training. I also told him I fell onto the brick wall of my house yesterday. I showed him the abrasions on my left arm.

Then I pointed out that traditionally my left side has been my anchor and by removing that from the anchor position, my walk has become more asymmetrical (according to my iPhone) and my hip is out of whack and uncomfortable all of the time and it’s only getting worse in these conditions.

Unlike the specialist— he filled out the paperwork himself and in front of me requesting that I have an FMLA leave until he sees me again after my specialist.

On top of all of that attention, he then gave me a full physical.

It was very hard for me to be vulnerable and ask for help, and my doctor and his staff made me feel heard, valued, and as if they truly cared about me.

I brought the paperwork home and started the claim process to initiate a short-term disability leave. It took about an hour and I realized my doctor missed one of the pages and on another he misread the questions. (So I added post-it notes.)

And if I’m 100% honest, despite everything I deal with, I still harbor feelings of guilt for asking for this time— much of which I intend to use doing work with my personal trainer and chiropractor to strengthen this hip and improve my walk so I can return to my warehouse job with a strong core and a better understanding of how normal legs work. I’m going to try to teach them. But, with my femoral anteversion, I know there is only so much I can do.

I deserve a chance to make myself strong and healthy.

Cute animal photos and mallet finger impact

It’s the end of April and it was 35 degrees last night. The price of oil continues to skyrocket and I’m still heating my house halfway through spring.

The cold does not help the poor circulation in my hands which has intensified in my left hand because my mallet finger restricts my movement.

My hands are painfully cold, except when Andrew is making me curse him in my head at Apex Training. Today was leg day, and I was so tired that when I came home and let the dog out I turned around and lost my balance and slammed right into the brick wall between my mud room and my kitchen.

Nala, my six-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, started shaking and plucking her feathers today. Nothing in her environment has changed except the neighbor’s dog has been barking nonstop all day. The teenager believes his distress causes her anxiety.

Speaking of the teenager, she made this thick chocolate chip cookie/blondie dessert that I topped with ice cream that Sobaka’s mom brought home from Penn State when we dog sat last weekend.

Before the teenager brought home our dog, I would never criticize a dog owner, but now that I see the difference between different dog care styles, I feel back for dogs that aren’t spoiled like Sobaka and Bean.

And I don’t know how Sobaka’s mom does it— that dog is a bed hog.

But now an update on my mallet finger:

  • Stitch Fix has been amazing. Because my specialist at OAA took a week to return my paperwork and then didn’t properly fill it out, the onus was on me to find jobs I could do to not hurt myself. It turned out I can QC just fine— I hit 92% just fine.
  • But here’s the thing… my specialist knows hands, he doesn’t know me. I don’t think he heard me when I said I have cerebral palsy and that I work 10 hours a day in a warehouse. I’m just not sure that environment is safe for me right now,
  • Why do I say this? Because this week drove home to me how much I rely on my left side for stability. By forcing me to work 90% on the right, I am struggling to keep my right hip in place.
  • I am so stiff by the end of the work day. I also end up pinching and slamming my right fingertips and by the end of the day my left fingers I can use are swollen and sore.
  • And I fold 750 clothing items a day, handle 150 boxes and rip open probably 500 plastic bags. That’s a lot of fingers moving.
  • Once I consider the risk of accidentally losing my cast and bending my finger (which would extend my healing time) and adding the increased fall risk of mine because I am aggravating known issues with my balance and mobility, I just don’t feel safe.
  • This is a horribly stressful feeling.
  • I’m going to talk with my family doctor about it. I already mentioned it to my therapist, because I wanted to confirm my thoughts were rational and not whiny or emotional.

Today’s vegan lunch: curry carrots, lentils, quinoa, my own roasted chick peas, toasted sesame seeds, green olives and a touch of Thai peanut sauce topped with pumpkin seeds

And last but not least, cats. Misty caught a mouse! Video here.

Meal planning without grocery shopping

I’m scheduled to return to work tomorrow which is especially awkward since my specialist gave me a return-to-work note for my mallet finger but has not filled out any of the paperwork my employer requested. Even though I paid for it and gave it to them Tuesday at 10 a.m.

I have this irrational fear of bending my finger accidentally now that the hand rehab/ occupational therapists and the specialist have warned me that one bend at the knuckle could restart my healing process from day one.

So instead of getting the “Sunday scaries” on Saturday as I fear going back to work, I decided to use that nervous energy to meal prep.

Usually I have things I want or need to make when I undertake my meal prep— typically lunch for my four work days and some planning or preparing of dinners.

I didn’t do any grocery shopping this week nor do I get a Hungryroot box, so the goal was to recycle leftovers and see if we had enough food to survive.

I didn’t have a plan per se… I did know I had taco meat, baked beans, turkey hot dogs and mac and cheese leftovers. I also knew I had an unopened container of Hungryroot’s cashew cheddar sauce. And that the teenager really wanted me to make plain white rice. And while we were doing push up at the gym, we decided to make a puttanesca-style sauce with vegan chorizo and olives.

Today’s session ended up having 12 steps.

Step One: Nancy had given me one of her Tupperware pitcher and I thought rather than shove it into my very cluttered cupboard, I would brew some Earl Grey tea and add some honey granules to make a wicked iced tea.

Step Two: while waiting for the water to boil, I put 1.5 cups white rice and 3 cups water on the stove to boil.

Step Three: I gathered leftovers, ingredients, sauces and dishes and piled them on the counter.

Step Four: Started water to boil for pasta.

Step Five: while all that water comes to a boil, (except I think the teapot was already done at this point and I had tea steeping in a giant novelty mug) I transformed leftovers into work lunches.

Leftover Korean barbecue chicken and veggies was placed into the work lunch pile as is. added hot dogs to the beans and the Amy’s Organic skillet mac and cheese that I had also added riced broccoli to. I added some spicy kimchi to the taco meat (which I had originally prepared with black beans and peppers) and Hungryroot’s green Chile sauce, which I also added rice to when it was done.

I organized them in the fridge with the oldest (and least processed) leftovers going to work with my tomorrow.

Step Six: start spaghetti

Step Seven: cook vegan chorizo in extra virgin olive oil with some scallions I found in the back of the fridge, green olives and roasted red peppers. When that’s cooked, add tomato sauce and that will be the topping for the spaghetti.

Step Eight: cook a couple chicken breasts from the freezer with smoked paprika and garlic powder. Spread some rice into a casserole dish. Liberally add parsley and pour on the cashew cheddar.

Step Nine: dig out a vegetable from the freezer— in this case garlic seasoned cauliflower. The chicken and the cauliflower will go into the rice/cashew cheddar mix to make a chicken-rice casserole that we’ll probably warm in the oven Monday night.

Step Ten: assemble pasta.

Step eleven: assemble vitamins and realize you only have four days of allergy medicine left.

Step twelve: have a late lunch with the teenager and pack up the leftovers.