“Splish-splash I was taking a …. swim”

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22
Water Aerobics

And so here we are. Almost summer. And the doctor not happy with the latest bloodwork. Glucose numbers down! Yay me! Cholesterol almost doubled in 3 months. What the heck? My cholesterol has always been fine. Until this last 3 month check up. LOL. Two steps forward and 1 step backwards. (Well, maybe a side trip! LOL!) And so now my diet (I actually love my nutritionist – she has become a good friend) devised by my nutritionist helps me monitor my blood sugar, the carbs, and the various fats. Yep – I basically eat like a squirrel.

Bike Peddler

One of the ways to positively affect your health is to move. I love being at home. I would rather be fiddling around with my husband and dogs, in our home and yard, than almost anything. And in the long winters here in Alaska, that time is mostly indoors. Sometimes it’s just too cold to be out in it. We go to events; we go on walks – but for the majority of winter, we are going to and from places. A lot of time is spent inside. On my recliner. (Recliner potato!) So to combat that, I added a peddler like the one above. I can watch/binge my favorite TV program and exercise at the same time. And it elevates my heart rate and works my legs/back muscles. But I needed more, and my nutritionist/friend asked me to join her at open swim at the local high school. Each time we go, we spend about 45 minutes exercising, and then we sit in the hot jacuzzi tub. Not gonna lie, that hot tub is worth the pool time!

Me and my buddies…LOL

One of the best things about sharing your health journey is that you have built-in support. My friends each have their own health issues they are working on, and we are there to support one another. We also, and this is such a key, we also pray for each other. It makes this whole thing far more doable.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

I have never taken my health for granted, but I have also never really involved entities like doctors, nurse practitioners, and nutritionists. Over the past two years, along with Covid, I was dealing with shoulder/spine issues and was blessed to find doctors and therapists who were holistic in their approach and preferred a dietary/supplemental approach over a pharmacological and surgical one. To add daily pharmacologicals to my diet annoys me. Incredibly. But I also realize I need some help getting my pancreas to behave itself and operate within normal measurable metrics. And right now, it is still reactionary. It is very affected by diet, stress, sleep, and if I catch some random bug. So the medicine is helping until I can reign it in. Along with glucose regulation, I have to keep fats and cholesterol under control. It’s a pretty full agenda. To say I was overwhelmed is to understate it. Having been a person who uses essential oils for pretty much everything, pills and medications are not my preferred method of taking care of myself. I now have a pill dispenser and I refill that weekly. I feel old. LOL!

This is what I now use…

I am excited, though. Summer is arriving every day. We now have 18 hours of sunlight per day. The average temperature is rising and we are supposed to be up to 70-degrees by next week. And the outside is calling me. My aerobics and peddling are geared towards my health, but my secret goal is being able to hike with my kids and grandkids. Alaska is so beautiful I will spend the rest of my life trying to see more of it, but I know I will never get to see it all. But if I can hike the glaciers and see more of this incredible place, with my grandkids alongside me, I will be so happy. And to get there, I need to push myself. Healthy numbers from the doctor, and healthy limbs and breathing from me. I know I can do this. I need to do this. All of this is to say, whatever impetus you need to get going, find it and do it. The rewards are life-extending. The rewards are the physical ability to make memories with your family. And those are my goals.

August 2019

The photo above was my first hike with my DIL and family, in 2019. We hiked a glacier!!! And I made it up and back, a little over 5 miles. I could not have done it without Kathleen’s help. She was encouraging, and physically assisted me over rocks and gulches and steadied me when I needed it. And I want to do this, and more, again. I want to use my new hiking poles I never got to use because of weather, and then a very busy summer in our garden. This year, we have some camping trips already planned and I want to keep up, not be a hinderance, and to enjoy the outdoors with my family, God willing.

My prayer…

There’s always a bright side, right???

So I had Covid. And I had a pretty serious case of it. I am still dealing with the after-effects. One of them, diabetes, is a daily issue. I got a “Fitbit” that I wear all the time. It logs my sleep, which is fascinating and is actually helping me get a better quality of sleep, as well as steps, movement (when I use my cycler), food intake, water consumption, and so much more. It also monitors my O2 saturation, which since Covid, is important to me. It is worth every penny. I discovered I was allergic to the band it came with, and that is apparently very common, and so I was led to a collection on Amazon of bands that are colorful and fun. And so it has become a fashion accessory, as well as a tool I depend upon. I am now used to the buzz it gives me when I need to move (more steps a day) and when I have a text or phone call. I log my blood sugar every morning and it reminds me to check it, as well as reminding me to take my medication. You can set goals and you get badges when you achieve one. I recently got a badge for 10+ pounds lost and over 26 miles in my steps and exercise. I get a notice that I need to wind down for the day and prepare for sleep. It reminds me to check in with the groups I have selected to belong to. It reminds me to eat healthy foods.It posts recipes to try and exercises I might like. It helps keep me on track about my complete health. Honestly, it’s almost like a nagging wife on my wrist! But I love it. I have learned so very much about myself and this stupid disease, as well as how I can combat it and get healthier. Fitbit for the win!

Versa 3 SpO2 Face

The Fitbit has helped me to gain control of diabetes, and my overall health, which was spiraling out of control. I am obese. Clinically obese. Yuck. The term sends shivers down my spine. The severity of Covid and its aftermath are solely my fault. If I would have been in shape and had my health under control, I would have breezed through it. I think. LOL. Covid – most infections – love sugar. And diabetics have it in every cell. So I fed the infection. The nurses did not push me to eat in the 6 days I was hospitalized. They said fasting was probably good because it was allowing my body to divest itself of an over-abundance of blood sugar, which would in turn, help overcome the illness. It was a lesson in consequences. Every bite matters. Every still moment of couch potato life, or in my case, recliner life, add to my ill health. And I am happy to say, I am learning so many lessons. Even at my grandma-era state of life – I am still teachable!

Covid Hair Loss Is REAL!

One of the things “post-Covid” that is finally being talked about is hair loss. Especially in women. Well, I can tell you I have had a few cry fests, dealing with all the hair I am losing. My ears show through my hair on the sides. If I towel dry my hair, it is so thin I have no time to blow dry it; it’s already dry. There is a bald spot on the crown of my head in the back. This is NO JOKE. I went 4 days this last week, between washing, to rest my hair. When I got into the shower, it was coming out in bunches thicker than the photo above. I had to clear the drain before I could finish showering. Then, when I combed through my wet hair, the hair that fell out literally filled the sink. I am not kidding. There is no mathematical way it can keep this up and it not show. I am beyond depressed about it. Let’s face it – Covid, diabetes, and now going bald. Ugh. My hair is all over the place. It is on the furniture. It gets stuck in my standard poodles’ hair. I have found it in the food I am cooking. It is all over the carpeting and the floors. I have globs of it on my chair and my pillow. Honestly, it is everywhere, but on my head. And I am angry I still have to shave my legs and armpits. I have weird gray hairs in my eyebrows I have to corral. I have a mustache and slight beard I have to keep shaved. So my body can make hair. Post-menopausal women get more hair in weird places that grows so weird. Why can’t it stay on my scalp????

I love my gray hair!

According to my research, this is called “telogen effluvium” and this is hair loss related to stress. Apparently having a major life event, like childbirth or an illness, can cause hair loss. For some it is barely noticeable, for others it is pretty substantial. Many women are reporting top of the head as their most common site of hair loss. Mine is all over. I have consulted a hair stylist I trust (my sister-in-law – thank you Missy), a homeopath, and several sites devoted to this post-Covid experience. A friend of mine, who is also suffering from this phenomenon, told me it lasts 4-6 months. Another friend, who also had this, said her doctor told her it is becoming more and more common, even though it was poo-poo’d at first. Doctors are not treating any of this Covid issue with honesty. And it makes me even more angry. But that is for another post. This post, I am solely dealing with the aftereffects of Covid. And there are many. But I have to say, this hair thing is what is the most trying… even more than diabetes. Why? Oh boy…

It used to be…

I already stated that I am overweight. Now, to most people, this is just another attribute of who I am. I have been heavy for over 30 years. Before I was married, I weighed 115 lbs and wore a size 6. My wedding dress was an 8 to incorporate my chest and had to be altered the rest of the way down. LOL. I got pregnant on our honeymoon and have struggled with my weight ever since. When I was a teenager, I was walking to the beach and a guy rode by on a bike and grabbed a breast and said, “Nice set of ta-ta’s” to me. I was mortified. I cried. I went back to the beach house we were staying at and the father of my girlfriend, when I explained why I was crying, said to me, “Well, you are wearing a tiny bikini and a towel. Everything is out there. Didn’t you want that attention?” And I have never forgotten that. Thank you, Mr. Raymond. It was a good lesson for me. I was 15 at the time – that was 50 years ago. I have always had a poor self-image. Even when thin, my dad once said to me, “You have a wonderful hourglass figure. It’s too bad all the sand is at the bottom. Your time is running out.” I was a freshman in high school at the time. I have never forgotten that. It fed my body dysphoria. I never wanted men’s attention because of my body. I have had to tell men, more than once, “My eyes are up here.” Consequently, I never wanted to have a provocative figure. So when motherhood came upon me, I hid inside of it. Still do. Through all these stupid body-image issues, I always had nice hair. No matter how heavy I became, my hair was always nice. I was complimented on it by hair stylists all the time. And it became important to me. And this is the rub: when you are overweight, people do not see you. Truly see YOU. They scan over you, but very few see you. I can wear make-up (which I never do) and no one notices. I am now wearing a size smaller than I normally do – only my husband has really noticed. I can get new clothes, even new glasses, no one says anything except very close family or friends. I went from purple frames to grayish black. No one but my family noticed. And so here I am, dealing with losing the one attribute I felt proud about. I am regaining my health and losing weight – that is an amazing thing. But darn it with the hair loss! I am sick over it. I am trying to get it under control. A friend recently told me I had a poor self-image. She noticed I would alway say that I was unable to do things I had never tried before. I just assumed I could not do them. And that I was defeating myself before I got started. I needed to hear that. She also said, “We are both losing our hair from Covid. There is nothing we can do about it. Don’t cry about something you have no control over. Deal with it. Summer is coming. Your hair will grow back.” I needed those words, too. My husband, whom I love more every day, said, “Look on the bright side, maybe it will grow back curly like you want and you can color strands purple if you want.” God bless that man. He even offered his beard hair to me (he is bald himself). He’s such a good man. And so, I need to learn to let these hairs just fall off. Let them go. Be humble. Be strong. Be bald if that is what God wants for me. (Maybe I can get fun wigs?? LOL. Side thought…)

Let my hair go…

And the other part in all this? I know every hair on my head is counted. Every single one. God has a purpose for this. I am still growing and learning, even as I approach old age; even as I am considered old by society (yeah – just got Medicare, too. LOL. Everything at once!!). And so I am laying this all out there, from learning to be more fit and using new tools like my Fitbit and my cycler, to dealing with significant hair loss as a woman. I am learning to eat good, wholesome and locally grown foods. I am learning to “eat to live not live to eat.” And to use food as nourishment, not medicine. The Lord has all of this in His Hands. And I believe in Him above all else. I trust the God who knew me before I took my first breath, and Who counted all the hairs on my head.

Peace in all of this…

It’s all because of my choices…

My bout with Covid was no fun whatsoever. I was exposed mid-September, was sick all of October, and am just now weaning off Oxygen (24/7 on a machine). My heart looks fine, which is a relief. But I was also diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes while I was sick. I have since learned that many Covid survivors are left with a Diabetes diagnosis. And I am learning more and more about this disease every day.

Diabetes – the type 2 variety – is a diagnosis that affects everything in your life. And it is also a disease of choice. Every bite I take affects this disease. And every bite I have ever taken has brought me to this place. Every time I chose to ride and not walk also brought me here. Couch potato life (or in my case – recliner life) also drove me down this road. While I was in the hospital, they did a blood test called an A1C. For diabetics, this test is almost as important as your daily blood sugar. The A1C somehow (I am no scientist) can determine your sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. It looks at how much hemoglobin is coated with sugar. The higher the number, the worse control you have had over your diabetes and the more likely for complications you are. My A1C was 8.3 – that is very high. Most people who do not have diabetes test in the 1-2 range. And what this told me was I have been dealing with this for quite a while.

When I was told I had this disease, I was so sick and fighting for every breath. The nurses would come and prick my finger 4 times a day and 4 times a day I would get insulin injections. Each time I would get 1 injection of short acting insulin and 1 injection of long-acting insulin. I was taught how to give myself injections and how to test my blood. But when I went home, I was prescribed oral medication and a completely different testing system. I spent days trying to figure it all out. (And only when I had to refill those test strips did I discover it was also a costly learning curve!! ) And I had serious bouts of dizziness, cold sweats, and nausea. Getting used to taking medication – and taking it at the same times every day – has been hard for me. I never even take Tylenol! A dear friend suggested setting an alarm on my phone. Genius! I am now taking the medication regularly.

Learning to eat differently has been a challenge. When I returned to my doctor I had been recovering for 2 weeks at home. I kept a daily log of all my testing and times and my blood sugar numbers. My numbers were never under 200 and lots were in the high 200s – not good. So the doctor doubled my medication. Side effects? Yeah. LOL. Shakes, frequent bathroom visits, but also calm and I felt more solid, if that makes sense. But my numbers all hover closer to 200 than 100. Very frustrating. Because I have not cheated – not once. Honestly.

And boy oh boy is there a lot of conflicting advice out there. At first it was no sugar, no carbs, low fat. What is left? I started reading labels. Sugar is in everything. It is mind-blowing. Things I thought were healthy are not – for me. Yoghurt is one of my favorite things. Well, I was eating what I thought was a good yoghurt, until one day I really read the entire label. Hidden sugars and carbs! It was making my situation worse. And cottage cheese. I have to watch which one I choose to eat. I can’t eat anything much that is pre-packaged. No rice. No potatoes. No fast food. No “last minute, let’s grab a bite to eat” evenings for me. Because every bite either shortens my life or extends it. It is really that simple.

I had pancreatitis twice in my early 30s. I had gestational diabetes with one of my pregnancies. I was diagnosed a few years ago with “metabolic disorder.” All these markers should have been sirens going off and red flags all over the place. Because each of them points to diabetes in the end. The nutritionist at the hospital wants me to lose 10% of my weight. I cringed. Yeah, I am overweight. And I lost 16 pounds through Covid. I have already gained 6 back. And I am eating healthier and eating smaller portions. Ugh. The pressure to lose weight is real. And I feel it and I desperately want to drop the extra pounds I have carried with me for the past 37 years. My body is comfy at this weight. I’ve worn this same size for decades. My daughter-in-law explained to me that our bodies have “set points” at which they are happy. I am at my set point. It hasn’t changed much over the years. And now I need to change that set point. No easy task.

I have searched through the internet and my daughter-in-law bought me a great cookbook. And I can honestly say I am tired of salads. Ha-Ha. My body loves it when I eat raw spinach. It settles my numbers down. And so I often eat it sometimes three times a day. My nutritionist told me I need 5-7 servings of vegetables every day. Trust me – that is a tall order. Even at breakfast? A serving is 1/2 cup so it’s not a lot. But still – thinking of 3 meals as just meals and removing that breakfast-lunch-dinner label is hard.

Years ago my husband and I did the Primal Diet. And we really liked it. Then we did Whole 30 and that was truly the most eye-opening. I think that between the two we had changed our minds and were resolving to think of meals as just meals. We could have what people would judge as dinner for our first meal of the day. We learned to think of them as meals 1, 2, and 3. And I have to get back to that mindset. This time, it has to be permanent.

When you are fighting an illness and are prescribed lots of steroids and antibiotics, it can artificially inflate your blood sugar. So none of my medical “team” is overly concerned, yet. They all have told me that it takes a few months to settle down and get a rhythm going. And I am hoping that works out to be true. In the meantime, I am trying to adjust to this new paradigm in my life. I am trying to gather as much information as I can. And I am equally determined to beat this thing into submission. Not sure what it is submitting to – my indeterminant will, I guess.

Every morning I wake up and before I do anything, I test my blood. I then eat some plain yoghurt so I can stomach my diabetes medications. Every morning. And I am reading this great devotional entitled, “Living Well With Diabetes” by Constance Brown-Riggs. And this book has brought the importance of relying on God for all things. Each day it has caused me to look at this differently. It’s not a life-long sentence of being full of disease. It is an opportunity for me to grow and learn and change. To make what I have better. I finally had a morning this week with blood sugar under 200…it was 144. That is the lowest it has been since my diagnosis. I felt like I had a small victory!!!

Sunrise in an Alaskan Winter

I love winter. I was born blocks from the beach in sunny Southern California. I hated being hot. I longed for four seasons. We finally made it to Alaska almost 9 years ago, and I love the seasons here. Granted, spring and fall are so fast you could miss them, but summer and winter are glorious. Our dogs love the snow. They are standard poodles and they have very deep foot pads. They get crammed full of ice and snow and you have to dig it out each time they go outside. If you do not stay on top of it, they will develop bleeding foot pads. Luckily the Iditarod mushers found a way to prevent this with booties and this salve you can put on their pads. The dogs hate the salve and the booties, but they work. Do sore feet keep them from running for hours in the snow banks and drifts? It does not! As a responsible pet owner, it is up to me to research solutions and to care for them and their feet. And so I insist on digging out the snowballs and caring for their feet. Every day, several times a day, in the wintertime.

Hope!

We all need to take responsibility for the health of those we love – dogs included – as well as ourselves. We have to acknowledge the problem and take steps to correct it. I sought out resources for our dogs’ feet; why would I not be as diligent about my own health? And so I have found some resources through the assistance and suggestion of friends and family. I am coming to terms with my emotions about having a disease, because until I learned more I did not know diabetes was a disease. I had never thought about it, honestly, and had assumed it was just a metabolic mis-wiring. I had no idea of the far-reaching consequences of living with diabetes. LOL. I was also given some app suggestions for my phone to learn about counting carbs and sugars and fats. Label reading is now part of my life. As I mentioned before, my daughter-in-law bought me a cookbook, “Diabetes for Beginners.” What an amazing collection of recipes. I am trying new things in the kitchen. And because I acted on learning more, discovering more, and wrapping my brain around this whole subject, I have garnered hope! And hope is an amazing thing. I truly believe action helps give us hope, so I am continuing to learn. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Ha!. I am an old dog, for sure, but I am still learning. Each day I hope is a better day for my diabetes. Stay tuned, my friends. I am sure this will be a bumpy ride.