Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Routine Procedure

The Minnesota Department of Health has run a fairly humorous colon cancer awareness campaign promoting colonoscopies this spring. This billboard replaced one seen last month:
Embarrassment can't kill you!
Being that I've had more experiences with colonoscopies in life by now than I thought I'd ever need, I've had much appreciation for these billboards, even if my screens aren't exclusively for the purpose of looking for colon cancer.

I had my latest routine colonoscopy yesterday (insert cheers and applause here). Like I've said before, the prep is really the worst part. For some reason, the prep this time (the same concoction I've used before) was awful. I'll spare you the details, but I was up until 2 am.

The billboard is right in that embarrassment won't kill you. And really, colonoscopies shouldn't be embarrassing, especially if you focus on the science of it - it's the human body and "everyone poops." But I'll be honest. As you sit in the procedure room, discussing and signing off on the risks of the procedure, reviewing your pharmaceutical regimen and your overall condition with your gastroenterologist, there's a part of you that can't stop thinking, "this person is going to stick a camera up my ass."

Fortunately, the procedure went well. I was happy that no ulcers were found and that my anastomosis (the part where my intestines were resected) had not narrowed significantly since a balloon dilation 2.5 years ago. The anastomosis was, however, red and inflamed, but biopsy results will indicate if it is due to active Crohn's or simply irritation. Once we get the test results, we can go from there. At least I have confirmation of what the pain I have in that area is. I have a photo here - but it's not pretty, so be warned.

Meanwhile, my stomach is still angry about what it's been through, so I'll keep my diet pretty simple for a few days (liquids, oatmeal, bananas). Today's lunch was 3 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter and some greek yogurt, and even that hurt. I was foolish enough (after that pain dissipated) to try some hot dog for dinner. Yeah, that only served to irritate other issues.

Oh, well.

As a total aside, do you suppose the model for that ad was excited? Calling home to exclaim, "I'm on a billboard! You can't see my face but my right butt-cheek looks fantastic! I'll send pictures!"?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stuck in a Moment

I've been trying to do a lot of writing lately, which has been a challenge due to demands at work and at home (you know, "life"). My presence here really started last fall, when I was encouraged to write as an outlet, and I started to document my experience of living with Crohn's disease, starting with my diagnosis. Since then, I've written a lot of material that is in various phases of being finished and edited. Some of it I will post in due time, and some of it I will keep for myself.

The advice to write was some of the best I have received, even if I had concerns about finding the time to do it. I know there benefits of journaling and writing, and I had hopes that it would be a therapeutic outlet for me. Not only has it been that, but I did not realize how far the benefits would stretch for me, nor that a spark would be ignited within me. I've discovered that I love to write (not just about Crohn's), and can feel the words burning inside of me (no, it's not just indigestion). My writing quality is another question - after years of being trained to write in bullet points, with brevity and without emotion, expressing myself here is a new challenge.

There were other things I did not expect. I did not expect this to be an emotional process to the extent that is has been. I didn't realize how much of my past experiences and emotions had been buried and that dredging them up could be mentally and emotionally taxing. I did not anticipate that the process of writing some of these experiences would leave me feeling raw and that my mind would stay awake at night, whirling with words. And most of all, I did not expect that the feedback that I would receive from the few people in my life that I have shared this blog with could move me to tears.

Even though the writing is therapeutic and through it I have found a "release", I've struggled with the words in the past few weeks. I have been trying to understand why, and when the song, "Stuck in a Moment" popped into my head the other night, I realized that I am just "stuck." I'm stuck trying to summarize the emotions of the time, and trying to capture and portray it the way I want to. But if I keep at it, I'll find the words. (Incidentally, I am a big fan of U2, going all the way back to when we could listen to them on cassette tape).

Meanwhile, I've got to remind myself:

"It's just a moment
This time will pass."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Be the Helpers

Yesterday we were reminded that there are horrors in the world, and that they can happen at any time. There are dangerous people lurking among us, and we will never always know when evil will strike. The news is fraught with bad news on a daily basis.

These words from Mr. Rogers bring me some comfort at these times, especially as a parent. They remind me that even in the midst of scary happenings, we should look for the helpers. The helpers are a comfort and a source of good in the face of chaos. I think that's an important lesson to teach our children. Even more important, we need to teach them to be the helpers.

In the face of depressing news, it can be hard to stay positive. Today, look for the good in people and in the world. I'm going to try and go a step further - I'm going to try and BE positive and share love, especially with my family.

Wishing my best to you, and especially the people of Boston and the victims of yesterday's bombing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Honesty in the Face of Punishment

Our oldest son, W, excused himself from the table during last night's dinner to use the bathroom. A few minutes later, we heard a loud crash, followed by the sound of something pinging on the floor, and then, finally, silence.

"Are you okay?" I asked, approaching the door.

"Yes," came the reply.

"What happened?"

No answer.

"What happened?" I pressed.

The door opened. "I don't want to tell you, because then I will be in trouble," W responded, with tears starting to well in his eyes.

I entered the bathroom and found this:

This spot on the wall marks where I had affixed a hook next to the powder room sink to hold hand towels for the boys. The towel bar is too high for them to be able to replace the towels after drying their hands, and this solution had worked well, thus far.

What did we learn last night? That while those handy 3M Command removable hooks work very well for many things, they do not hold 57-pound 6 year-olds who try to hang from it using a hand towel.

I was also reminded that trying to punish your son for doing something impulsive and foolish while also encouraging him to tell the truth in the face of punishment is a delicate balance. He's only 6 now, but I predict that it will only get harder as time goes on.

Looking into the future, I see an adolescent, a teen, a young man - learning to be out on his own. How do we reinforce that he can trust us enough to come to us when he needs to, even when he's done something wrong? How do we let him know that if he's in a bind, he can come to us? How do we hold him accountable for his actions but let him know that he did the right thing?

There will be plenty of things that our children will do in life that we won't ever find out about, and I (begrudgingly) accept that. When our children admit to us that they've done something wrong, the punishment is reduced for their honesty, and we tell them how much we appreciate them coming to us. This arrangement has worked well...so far. The formula may need to be tweaked as time goes on.

We could have handled last night's incident better than we did, I think. W was tired, and I think both Chris and I probably overreacted. I give us a B-. Hopefully next time, we'll do better.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Motherhood Attention Deficit Disorder

I saw this on my Facebook feed last night and found it hilariously appropriate.
Evenings, for many families, are beyond busy. Yesterday evening was no different - we were scrambling to eat before heading out to the boys' swim lessons. My my mind was buzzing, and I was trying to capture several thoughts on a paper before I lost them: a few final thoughts regarding a project at work; RSVP to birthday party; make dentist appointment; refill prescription; pick up the dry cleaning; etc., etc., etc.
Meanwhile, my husband was telling me about work, our oldest started to pipe in with a story about school, and our youngest called for me to wipe his bottom (because it HAS to be Mommy that does it!).
I've been working very hard to be more present in the current moment and focus on other things later. But the reality is that sometimes you just have to juggle multiple things. And keep lots of lists.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Why We No Longer Use Anti-bacterial Products

In the summer of 2007, we were enjoying our first summer with our oldest son, W, who at the time was 5 months old. Like many parents (especially new ones), we cautiously researched products we used for and around our baby boy, wanting to make the best and healthiest decisions for him.

Because of concerns about my immune system, I was already cautious about the cleaning products we used, and opted for non-toxic brands - often using natural cleaners such as vinegar. We also used regular hand-washing as a tactic to help prevent the spread of germs and keep our little guy healthy. I didn't put much thought into the hand soap we used, and usually just purchased what smelled good. That year, however, I started paying more attention.

#1: Anti-bacterial soaps can foster the growth of resistant bacteria

In their June 2007 issue, Scientific American published an article reporting that regular hand soap not only works as well as anti-bacterial hand soap, but that the anti-bacterial variety could be doing us more harm than good. Basically, regular soap does its job by lifting germs from the surface of your hands so that they can be washed away. But anti-bacterial soap leaves behind a residue that could actually promote the growth of resistant bacteria. It was at this time that I stopped buying anti-bacterial soaps, and from then on have purchased regular soap. It was also at this time that I stopped buying soap from Bath and Body Works, when I couldn't find a one there that wasn't anti-bacterial.

The active ingredient in many anti-bacterial products is triclosan. At the current time, the FDA has taken the stance that triclosan poses no risk to humans. However, it does concede that animal studies have shown that it can impact hormone regulation and the agency is currently exploring human and environmental impacts further. Additionally, the FDA has not found any benefit to using anti-bacterial soap instead of plain old soap and water.

#2: Anti-bacterial products can harm the environment

In January 2013, the University of Minnesota published a study that found large amounts of triclosan in bodies of water that receive treated waste water. Even after treatment, triclosan can harbor the growth of dioxins, which are a chemical contaminant potentially toxic to the environment, and which can cause health issues in humans.

Based on this study, the state of Minnesota decided to phase out the use of anti-bacterial products in state agencies by June of this year.

The bottom line...
There are no known benefits for using anti-bacterial soap for most of the population. However, the costs include harming our environment and potentially sickening ourselves. In fact, in doing my research, I found a presentation published by Tufts University with concerns about anti-bacterial household products, even linking them to allergies. It was dated June 2001. Why are we still using these products?

While we're on the topic of soap...

I like method soap (among other products), available at Target. For the soap pumps used by our children, I prefer the foaming pump over the regular liquid soap. We tend to get more uses per ounce from those, and the bathrooms don't end up with liquid soap "goop" all over the dispenser, counter, and sink. In the kitchen, I like Caldrea or Thymes.

What you can do
  • Stop using anti-bacterial soap at home. The Minnesota Department of Health does a nice job of summarizing how you can select which type of soap to use.
  • Sign petitions such as this one calling for the elimination of triclosan from cleaning products.
  • Spread the word!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Guest House

This week I had an unwelcome visit from the Crohn's monster, and so have tried to take it easy the past few days. Fortunately, I was able to go wild tonight and eat...CHICKEN! And then I did cartwheels! Really, though - I count myself fortunate that so far dinner is sitting well (after 1 day of a liquid diet and 2 days of a soft diet).

I attended a meditation session over lunch today, and the woman that led it shared the following poem. It was timely for me this week, but I think that it's one many of us can relate to. Enjoy!

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.