Category Archives: drugs

It’s a Nutty World

This is not my parent’s world and I suppose it’s not my world either. At least it’s not in the sense that when I was a child or when my mother was a child, allergies were relatively rare to unheard of. And if someone had an allergy it was asthma. There wasn’t once in my twelve years of grade school that anyone had a deadly allergy, nor that we had to not eat or wear something at school because it could kill someone. It just didn’t happen. Or it did, but it was an extremely rare thing.

I recall in art college my boyfriend developing a patchy rash on his legs. He went to the doctor wondering if it was something he had eaten. The doctor told him you couldn’t get a rash from eating anything. I said, BS, people die from food allergies. So it did exist, the deadly anaphylactic allergies, but not enough that even all doctors believed it then. So what happened? Why has the world changed so much?

My mother has often said, “You never heard of leukemia when I was a kid. It was only after the War that people started getting it.” Now, I’m not a doctor but I have several theories on the increase in allergies. I likewise never had any issues as a kid and now have food allergies.

Overall, there are several factors that I believe add to the increase in and the great number of dangerous allergies. As little as a hundred years ago, people were still mostly using horses, staying in their cities and villages and travelling rarely. It was pretty hard for the common person to taste a pineapple or even get chocolate regularly (unless they lived in countries that had these all the time). The diet was pretty much what our culture is now trying to move back to: the 100-mile diet, or don’t eat anything that isn’t grown within a hundred miles of you.  One reason is to support the local agricultural economy. The other is that if you and your ancestors grew up in one region then the flora in your belly are used to and more adapted to certain food combinations.

Another reason for the increase in allergies is what we put on or in the ground. The highest incidence of celiac disease in the world is in Italy (with Ireland coming in second). Celiac means people can’t eat gluten, the substance found in wheat and therefore pasta, bread and other such items. How could it be that at least 600 hundred years of pasta eating has caused celiac disease? If it was this bad 200 years ago I’m sure the Italians would have stopped eating pasta long ago. Someone also once told me that a friend of his, anaphylactic to peanuts, tried organic peanuts and had no reaction.

So then it’s what we’re spraying on the plants, and it’s what’s going in the ground. Altering plants through genetic modification or grafting to new strains through time might make them hardier to grow in all climates and environments, but it might also make them harder for us to digest. This also means what’s in the air, those pesticides and the exhaust of cars and factories, is changing the oxygen composition and adding other metals poisonous to the human system, not to mention other animals and plants.

I developed more allergies after having to take amoxycillin and then prednisone. None are life-threatening but they’re damn inconvenient, causing rashes, swelling, diarrhea, and palpitations. The drugs fall into the aspect of what is in the ground and the air, or what we’re creating that is artificial. Our bodies don’t have millennia of these drugs, nor does the DNA passed down by our ancestors.

So we’re looking at modified food, fabricated food and drugs, unknown elements in the air, the ground and ourselves and more food than our ancestral bodies should be used to. The highest incidence of dairy intolerance is in Asian groups. In fact, people who are able to digest milk are a minority in the world populations. Anyone who is Asian who has eczema should look at cutting out dairy. After all, their ancestors lived for centuries if not longer, without dairy.

We’ve changed our world so much that people are dying from being around nuts, not even having to ingest them, just breathing in that air. Maybe it’s Mother Nature’s way of population control but I would think it’s more humankind’s blunder into changing things without understanding the repercussions first. It’s time that we looked before we leaped. Even if we cut out one of the factors I’ve listed, it would still take time for everything to settle and there are the other issues. But if you or someone you know is starting to be affected by what they eat (let alone what they breathe), then these are a few markers to look at first.

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Prince of Pot Purloined to Prison

Mark Emery, self-named the Prince of Pot, is on his way to a US prison. For years he ran a mail order seed business. Cannabis seeds that is. He is also a highly publicized advocate for the legalizing of marijuana, having spent thousands giving money to various advocacy groups. He has run for office before but never won a seat.

Emery ran his business for years Vancouver, BC, since 1995. In 2005, on request from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Vancouver police raided the BC Marijuana Party Bookstore and Headquarters. Emery was arrested but not charged for several years.

This happened because of one thing: George Bush. That the US stuck its nose into Canadian business and asked for a raid was not constitutional, nor should Canada be bending over to US demands, but Harper is George’s strange bedfellow. Every Canadian should be wary and upset over this, whether it was for pot seeds or stealing shoes. The US didn’t go through the proper channels and Bush’s war on terror seemed to extend to pot seed sellers.

Yet again, we have many dollars being wasted on something pretty innocuous. As I’ve said before, legalizing marijuana would put police resources to better tests than going after every person with a joint, or seeds, or pot plants. And in fact, organized crime would not bother to continue growing it once it was legalized. Already, the drug wars and shootings that go on are over the harder drugs on average.

You also never see people who smoke marijuana breaking into homes or cars, or robbing people on the street. It is the hard drugs that cause an addiction and a strong need to have another fix “right now.” But where would our right ring politicians be without some “cause” to fight. Too bad they and municipal police forces actually aren’t spending time on the real causes. Why? Because it would take real work and it’s easier to hit up a singular pot growing business. Which likens the strikes of police against organized crime to gnats buzzing around one’s head.

Mark Emery goes to take a martyr’s place in the long ludicrous history of the battle against marijuana. Alcohol causes more deaths through too much drinking and car accidents than pot does but it’s legal. Right wing governments seem to want to control people but why? What difference does it make when morphine is legal, when booze is legal? How is marijuana so bad it shouldn’t be legalized?

I haven’t seen any convincing arguments. Mark Emery will serve time and as much as many murderers, more in some ways. There are people who kill people and get a manslaughter sentence, often out of jail in less than five years. Like the Sasan Ansari who stabbed his friend to death thirty-three times. He only got five years because he couldn’t remember what he did and he was an ex-law student. And Mark Emery will get at least five years for selling seeds. Hardly the same scale. Perhaps he should just say years of smoking pot have faded his memory to black and he’ll get off in no time.

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What Do Ovaries and Popcorn Have in Common?

A friend of long ago once said she’d been raised in a Catholic school where the nuns shied from sex education and talking much about those parts of our bodies that have to do with sex and reproduction. However, for whatever reason, they did try, probably to prepare girls for the day that they would start to bleed and therefore be able to bring about more humans. The friend said the nuns explained ovaries as being like a popcorn popper, popping ripe kernels into full blossomed eggs.

An odd image to be sure, but corn like ovaries does have many seeds within it. It’s probably closer to liken an ovary to a pomegranate or a fig, though both are far too large in relation to the size of an ovary. A gynecologist told me that research has shown that women don’t ovulate on one side, and then the opposite the next month. It goes more like this: right, right, left, right, right, left, with one side producing more. Maybe it ties into whether we’re left or right-handed but I don’t know.

The world of gynecology and women’s reproductive systems is complex and as a woman I have had my fair share of issues. Over the years I have used three types of birth control: birth control pills, diaphragms and condoms (worn by my partner as I have not tried a woman’s condom). They all have their issues. Condoms can be uncomfortable and need lube. Diaphragms have to be left in for many hours after sex and can increase yeast infections. Birth control pills can cause cysts, heart conditions and various other denied problems

I was on the birth control pill for about twelve years and it gave me hard and lumpy breasts. Cysts. These cysts can range from smaller than pea sized to as large as a pear. And yes, when they change from the normal size I have to get them checked out. They can be very painful and tender and during ovulation by breasts can swell up to two inches. Inflatable breasts are not as much fun as they sound.

These cysts can also be in the ovaries. So if they are like corn, imagine the cysts as a type of ergot. What that means in how they look, I don’t know. What it means for fertility probably depends on the number, size and severity of cysts. They can rupture and do other fun things that can cause a lot of pain. Ovulation can be very painful to the point where I can’t stand up straight. Sitting can hurt and pain can range from a general bruising feel to a sharp stabbing.

Anytime something seems out of the norm it is best to get it checked by a doctor. So one particular year when my popper was on the blink I went to a gynecologist. I was sent for exploratory surgery, a laparoscopy that leaves three small incisions and which they use to look around inside. The gynecologist said after the surgery, well you may have cystic ovaries and maybe not. We can put you back on the pill. I said, I’m not going back on as there are side effects after thirty. He said, what effects? Even if he didn’t believe the evidence out there, as specialist he should have known about the studies.

And one side effect? Cystic breasts and ovaries. I left, never to see that particular doctor again. A friend recommended a naturopath. At the time I didn’t quite know what they were or maybe even believe in them. But the naturopath gave me a  liver cleanser, a capsule, to take for three months and it did in fact fix the problem until three years later when I had a cyst in the uterus and that had to be removed.

The medical profession doesn’t always have all the answers nor do individual doctors always have the experience, knowledge and wherewithal to diagnose properly. It was only years later that I found out I had endometriosis as well. What’s that? The butter on the popcorn? I think not.

So as analogies go, ovaries are not much like popcorn or popcorn poppers. They pop on average one egg a month. That would be pretty slim pickings in the movie theater. No butter, no salty topping. Just eggs and cysts.

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Healthcare and Privatization

Obama, like his Democratic predecessor Clinton, is trying to bring in healthcare reform in the US. There have been ferocious campaigns against it with people attacking the nationalized healthcare systems in Canada and Great Britain. Although our (Canada’s) system is not ideal, let’s compare a few things.

I have many many friends in the US. Some of them work for companies or must work for companies with good health plans. They may, even with these health plans, pay for various services and medications on top of the allotted amount. One friend had to drive two hours to a neighboring city to see a doctor who worked for that particular health insurance company. I have another friend, a doctor, who actually couldn’t find work because the insurance company she was with disappeared and the others needed no doctors. She didn’t want or couldn’t afford the overhead of starting her own practice so remained out of work. You never hear of a doctor in Canada who can’t find enough patients.

I have friends where both worked but their health plans only covered their two children. I know a woman who had ovarian cancer and after the surgeries and care owed $30,000 USD. I have a friend who is epileptic, who only by the grace of once being a coast guard, gets her seizure medication covered. I have a friend, a writer and reviewer, who is diabetic, with complications. He told me once, years ago, that he paid over $800 a month in health insurance. He is now in danger of losing his home because of his health issues. I have friends whose jobs don’t have health plans or very limited ones. They sometimes can’t get the simplest of tests done and what is a minor health issue can become life threatening.

The US health system is expensive and limits or ignores those who are of lower income. They get little help or often die because they cannot afford to treat their illnesses and injuries. And any time a person is injured, whether by their own fault or not, and even if they know it, they must sue everyone in sight to cover the costs of the health care. Suddenly no one is responsible for their own common sense and well-being. There are those who will take advantage of the system but many who are genuinely ill and injured must sue so that they can get better. And that drives up the costs of everything. It clogs up the court systems for years to come and we hear of ridiculous cases, such as the one about the guy who sued his yacht insurance because he had given his ex-girlfriend herpes. (I kid you not.)

Canada’s system isn’t perfect. We do have waiting lists for surgeries and MRIs. There are provincial governments like Alberta’s (under Ralph Klein) and BC (under Gordon Campbell) that have been whittling away at our health services, knocking out this and that and letting in privatization. Campbell took away chiropractic, massage and physiotherapy services (which were only covered for a specified number of visits) and decided that podiatrists and optometrists weren’t essential to one’s health. Of course, things like foot or eye problems affect people more as they age and affect seniors, so we know who suffers there.

But when I found out there was a class action suit against a pharmaceutical company for deadly affects of a drug (one I had once been on), I went to my doctor and requested a battery of tests to make sure I didn’t have any problems. My cost–0. Earlier this year I was exhausted. My doctor sent me for thorough blood tests. Again my cost is nothing. I can get X-rays or other tests or should I take ill I will still owe nothing. My friend who spent a year in the hospital, before dying, also owed nothing.

Surgery is free unless it’s cosmetic. What is not covered is dental. Why on earth it was seen to not be essential to health back when medicare was being form, I can only guess at. So people often want jobs that do have medical benefits for dental, eyes, physiotherapy and chiropractic, medicine (some is covered in BC if you have to spend over a certain amount). Not everything is free. And it can be hard to get a doctor because we don’t have enough. Some leave and go to the US to make more money. And yes you could wait a very long time for an elective surgery.

Some people in the US are fighting the medicare proposal. Do you really want to have to mortgage your home to have surgery, take out a loan to have a child, or suffer silently because you can’t afford it? Because the US already has private practices it is highly unlikely that these will go away. It’s unlikely that people will lose their health care benefits through their jobs. But what it does mean is that people will be able to get aid without having to suffer or bankrupt themselves. It does mean improving the overall health of the country.

Yes it could be expensive, and is costly in Canada. Our government needs to try harder at changing the system so that preventative health care is the first step, and that takes education. But it will burden the system less later as a person ages. People need to also take responsibility for their bodies and try to treat them better. Diet is a huge thing and with North America burgeoning with childhood obesity it would be the best way to head off higher costs and overtaxing any medical system.

One thing is for certain, a medicare plan wouldn’t hurt most people and would help them. It’s too bad people are so paranoid about it in the US. It could definitely alleviate a great deal of suffering if not all.

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The Mind and Eating Disorders

I’ve talked before about the eating disorder I grew up with. It was always accompanied with self-loathing and vows to never binge again. Those vows were always broken. I felt I couldn’t remove myself completely from eating because we obviously need food to live. It wasn’t like alcoholism, I told myself, because you can remove yourself completely from alcohol. In many ways it was just like alcoholism.

One reason to eat all of something was instant gratification. The more my life sucked the more I could find instant pleasure in eating. I could not get enough of the taste. But then of course it was the catch-22 of hating myself for eating so much, feeling fat, sometimes gaining weight (though not always because I’d cut out most other foods), being hungry, eating sugars. Around and around and around.

When I finally sought help, I couldn’t go for counselling because it’s not covered by the health care system. But psychiatry is. Psychiatrists sort of counsel but they love to give out medications. I mentioned in my other post about the Prozac and then the Fenfluramine. Every week when I went in to see the psychiatrist he’d ask me how many times I had vomited. I would say, “Remember I’m the bulimic that doesn’t puke?” It didn’t give me much faith that he couldn’t note this in my chart or get it right.

We never talked about how I felt, why I couldn’t control my eating or why I had a bad body image. We talked about my writing, in the least likely way to relate to eating disorders. He told me, oh you’ll lose weight on these drugs. This psychiatrist specialized in eating disorders and had evening sessions at his home for people to talk about their experiences. I’d go and there would be a bunch of skeletal models and me, the bulimic, the fat one. It didn’t inspire me to feel like I wasn’t the only one with my problem. Instead I felt like the only weirdo amongst the weirdos. But still, all of those models knew at least one person who had died from anorexia. I didn’t. I think I only attended one of these meetings.

It’s said that people’s serotonin levels balance how much they eat. Too much and they eat little. To little and they eat a lot. I don’t believe my serotonin levels were out of whack to begin with but with the years of the disorder I do believe that they became unbalanced and that’s why I never felt full. I don’t know if this is accurate but it did seem to change. After about a year of taking the drugs and not losing a pound, of fruitless “counselling” and seeming to go nowhere, I quit the drugs and I quit the psychiatrist.

I did realize then that in fact my eating behavior had changed. I felt full when I ate. I could now have some chocolate in the house, or ice cream and not eat it all in one sitting. I still rarely keep these things in my place for fear of triggering the disorder but I can have them in small quantities now. When I’m depressed or unhappy there is still the urge to gorge but it’s more controllable. I feel less out of control and I can rule the food as opposed to it ruling me.

When people look at an overweight person and arrogantly say, She/he should just lose some weight, they need to understand it’s not an easy thing. True, dieting in and of itself takes time and isn’t easy but there are many factors than someone judging by looks alone can’t know. There could be genetic factors such as thyroid issues, metabolic such as a sluggish one or high cortisol factors, emotional factors such as past abuses, psychological such as phobias and blocks, and other external factors. One can’t know unless they’re in those person’s shoes. And even the person dealing with eating disorders and weight issues may not know. I’m not a medical professional so I can’t name all of the aspects that could affect a person’s weight but to gain or lose weight is not always as easy as just willing it.

The brain is a powerful tool and it can kill us. People with eating disorders struggle enough within themselves. Not one, whether thin or fat, wants to be that way. They either see themselves as fat when they’re not, or possibly thin when they’re not. However, an overweight person or a skinny person does not automatically mean an eating disorder. As I said, there are other factors and some people are naturally not in what we conceive of as the norm for body size, and some are happy where they are. But one thing is for sure, the more ridicule the person with a disorder receives the harder it is for them to get to a state of mental health.

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Red-Faced About Rosacea

rosacea, acne rosacea, skin problems, red skin

This is a moderate to severe case, where rosacea can permanently disfigure the skin. From clinicaladvisor.com

Just after I returned from my trip to Ireland in the fall of 2007 my eyes started turning pink. Not red, not high grade irritable but a little drier than before and evenly pink. I went to the doctor who gave me drops for allergies. Still pink. I went to the optometrist who saw nothing wrong. I went to the naturopathic clinic where they gave me different drops. Still pink. I repeated appointments with each of these people, ending up at the doctor’s again. So she sent me to an ophthalmologist.

The ophthalmologist took one look through her high-powered magnifying thingy and said, Have you heard of rosacea (pronounced rozaysha)? I had but knew little about it. What she told me was that the oil in my skin had changed consistency, becoming waxier and therefore collecting in the ducts of my eyes and irritating the eyeball.

This also meant that the oils on my skin, especially my face, neck and upper torso, was doing the same thing. In the right light I can see the waxy build-up. I have to shampoo my eyelids every morning to keep the ducts clear. Washing my face and using lotion will help with the rosacea since washing dries out the skin.

Rosacea can cause red bumps, flushing, broken capillaries and in the severe cases, disfigurement. It also causes a rosacea acne, which is the red bumps. These aren’t really pimples in the traditional sense, but more like cysts. They can be itchy as well and asymmetrical in where they appear.

In reading up, I found out that if you have European ancestry, northern European or British/Irish, you are more susceptible to getting rosacea. The classic rosy cheeks is the first sign, or if a person easily flushes/blushes. I’ll get a heat flush that I can feel on my cheeks.

What causes it? Good question. Hormones can and once a woman goes through menopause it can go away. Another contributing factor seems to be foods with histamines. This is interesting because of the eczema I’ve been getting since my amoxycillin allergy and prednisone cure is also caused by histamines. It’s a progression into more severe forms of histamine reaction.

There are many things one is supposed to avoid with rosacea: wind, sun, cold, spices, alcohol, etc. Foods that have histamines can be a biggy: cheese, sour cream, yogurt, citrus fruit, liver, chocolate, vanilla, soy sauce, yeast extract (though bread is OK), vinegar, eggplant, avocados, spinach, broad-leafed beans and pods, and foods high in histamine or niacin. W.C. Fields’ classic red nose is the sign of a chronic drinker and of rosacea. And let’s see what I like: spicy foods and wine.

You’re not supposed to exercise either where strenuous workouts will increase your temperature. Talk about being a delicate flower. It’s completely annoying and who knows if it was ever only eczema or a progression through subtle stages of rosacea. So yes, I’ve cut down on the aggravating foods though I have a fridge door full of hot sauces. But I haven’t cut down on exercise, though I try to have a fan on me. I can’t say how frustrating this is, eating bland foods, cutting out chocolate, etc. etc. Makes me pout.

There is a rosacea organization and the disease (if that’s the right word for it) is more common than I thought. http://www.rosacea.org/patients/materials/coping/tripwires.php I have lost the good skin I used to have though I can get it back if I’m completely vigilant. It’s better in summer too, when the weather is warmer (but not hot) and the waxiness shows less. Rosacea is common enough that there are lotions and even makeups made for the condition. I’ve tried some and found they don’t do much difference than cleansing with a gentle cleanser and using a good lotion. Sunblocks become necessary as well.

I often have red splotches on my cheeks or neck, or the acne red bumps. It’s getting better and I’m trying a lot of diet related stuff at the moment. If this works, even if it doesn’t, I’ll write about it. Because, besides the rosacea, all the trigger foods are now becoming full blown allergens for me and I do blame prednisone for that. I want to have more flavors to taste, not less.

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The Death of Rock Stars

Untimely deaths in the world of entertainment may not be every day, but they are a little too common, and of course because these people are famous we hear of all the sensational aspects that went along with the death. Looking at three stars of the music world, we have Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Michael Jackson, to name a few but perhaps the most famous deaths.

Elvis made it to 42 and died from complications of obesity and drugs. His life of fame ate at him and like many stars, brought out the hollowness of always being in the spotlight and having money to satisfy every desire but a happy heart. His funeral was big and his grave still gets many fans at Graceland.

John Lennon, didn’t die by his own hand, but was shot down by a nut, at the age of 40 (and Lennon actually said in a interview that day that he would probably be popped off by a loony). I remember when he died and I was incensed that the local paper didn’t even mention it on the front page of the newspaper. But some deaths hit the front pages because they sell newspapers.Because Lennon had moved on from the Beatles to a new phase of his life, his death was big but probably not as big as Elvis’s though they had been contemporaries.

Michael Jackson made it to 50, so did relatively well of the three big stars. He too died from drugs, addiction and who knows what else. His funeral this week was a spectacle with rock and movie stars and the thousands who attended being chosen through a lottery. It was in one sense a big dead concert, with booklets being given out as souvenirs or mementos of his memorial.

Comparing funerals and the splash that any of these men made in death could be difficult. Even Sarah Bernhardt’s death in the 20s held a spectable. Jackson has died in the age of computers and internet, blogging and tweeting. That his death will have hit more media forms than any other big stars death is obvious. This will of course increase his impact on his fans, or the number of people influenced by him. On TV, there must be at least five stations with long, dedicated shows to dissecting Jackson’s life. Not to mention every news hour covered Jackson’s death in detail.

Although stars often do charity and public works, funneling some of the gross amounts of money they make into good deeds, they are not overall big on world impact. That often takes world leaders and the power of their countries behind them to make those changes. But the King of Rock n’ Roll, the King of Pop and the Fab Four were known for their music, for touching the hearts and souls of millions of people. On TV, in movies, on stage, they were more visible, more beautiful and more charismatic than our world leaders.

Is it any wonder then, that we idolize them, place them on pedestals and call them our modern gods? People must place their faith, hopes and dreams on someone. We may not all be famous but we can fantasize of these princes of music and try and dig into evey aspect of their lives. And we can hate them enough to pull them down or shoot them, should they show a flaw or just somehow be what we can’t be.

Michael Jackson, like Elvis and John Lennon, left a huge legacy. It will stay in the hearts and minds of people for a long time. It will be a hundred years or longer before they fade from memory. But other stars will rise and shine and burn brightly for a time, then fade. And amongst those supernovas, there will be millions of other stars, not so bright, but the lives of you and me and those around us who deserve attention and love while alive. The price of fame and fortune was that Elvis and Michael at least, sought drugs and were unhappy. So we, the little stars, should remember this and be happy that we have the ability to be obscure and not always in a spotlight that can singe us to the soul.

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Michael Jackson: Shooting Star

I grew up with Michael Jackson, or his music anyways. But that’s not hard to say for most of us. After all, when a career spans forty-five years, many people can say the same thing.

As the news rolled in, people and media have expressed their shock, that they were stunned. Sadly, I can say I was not. I have said that I expected that Michael would die an early death, like Elvis, than live to a ripe old age. I have called him a shooting star for years, for he is and was exactly that. A shooting star ascends high into the heavens, or so high up that everyone can see that light. But such a bright light eventually comes to an end. As opposed to a star that shines constantly and brightly for eons and then fades out at the end of a long lifetime, a shooting star seems all the brighter for its briefer lifespan, and that it will descend much quicker. The candle burned out long ago, to paraphrase Elton John.

That Michael Jackson was a brilliant musician and stage presence, the greatest pop icon of his time, is obvious by the number of albums he sold and the money he made. It’s irrefutable. That he lived a happy and normal life is arguable. The signs are not so hidden at all that Jackson was a troubled and unhappy individual. Like many of us, I’m sure he had his moments of happiness, but like many of us he was also unhappy with who he was. And he had the money to do something about it.

He was a good looking, handsome black child who grew to adulthood and was still attractive. Looking at those early pictures of Michael, you can see he is still black, his hair curly yet fashionable. Slowly his wide, broad nose, narrowed and narrowed again to the skeletal aberration that it became. I certainly hope that the plastic surgeon who mangled Jackson’s face doesn’t advertise that he did the great Michael Jackson. Of course, Jackson also had surgeries to change the shape of his jaw, his lips, his cheekbones, his eyes until the face does not resemble the earlier Michael Jackson at all. How much plastic surgery is needed for a burn of long ago? Not that much, I would think.

He took to straightening his hair, getting rid of any semblance to the negroid curl. And his skin turned white. It’s said that he suffered from a skin pigmentation problem, vitiligo. On white people this sometimes shows as a darker patch, or a pinker patch of skin. On black people, it shows as white or pinkish skin. This could possibly be true but any person I ever saw who had this condition, where the melanin starts to leave the skin, had it in patches, not an overall and even discoloration. Though it’s possible that he started with this and had a chemical depigmentation performed using monobenzone, to even out the skin tone. He also did not exhibit conditions of albinism, evident by the darkness of his hair and eyes. (The Philipines, as one example, sells many skin lightening soaps.) There are numerous ways listed on the internet on how to lighten your skin tone. Michael Jackson had the money, which gives you the means, to do this to the extreme. Perhaps it started as a pigmentation problem but I believe he went in search of being a white man.

These extreme examples of changing his body indicate how unhappy he was with who he had been born. And proves that money can’t buy you happiness. He was too famous to walk anywhere without being recognized, therefore negating his chances of having normal life experiences. As Michael grew farther away from a normal life (even as a child in a performing family he was more used to spotlight than to family life) it became more unattainable.

Where were the family and friends that could bring him back to center? His family wasn’t a good example as they all lived in the limelight to one degree or another as well. If Michael’s only friends were other stars (as often is the case) then they may have been his yes men, only telling him how wonderful he was, never saying, Michael you’ve gone too far. Or Michael, you’ve got to eat or you’re going to die. But if there were those who tried to balance Michael’s extremes, maybe he just didn’t listen. After all, he was rich and powerful in the music world.

Michael lived in fantasy palaces, with private zoos and was probably happiest when he took his creative genius into the realm of  music where he was an innovator and a leader. I was never that in to pop music but I would argue that there is no better music for teenagers, because pop music is catchy, upbeat and fast enough to engage a young mind. Yet Michael was seen as a god, not as a man. I’m sure he was a romantic icon for enough teens as well.

We have a tendency in our world today to put rock/music stars and movie stars upon pedestals. They are our modern gods. But we (people, the masses) are a fickle lot, that get bored too quickly and demand too much. If our gods slip up, we will pull them down, we ridicule them and we hate them for the fame and money and beauty that we cannot hang onto ourselves. We will pick at their every flaw and as their pedestal crumbles we will hack it to pieces.

And then Michael, the unfathomable recluse who invited children into his palace, was charged with child molestation. Whether true or not, such an accusation is devastating and scarring to the core. It could not do other to a man estranged from a normal life who could only live on the idolization of his fans. Even the supposed three children he had with the rather plain woman (who disappeared from the scene shortly after) were suspect. No matter how a man bleaches himself, or suffers pigmentation problems, they won’t transfer to his children. And black being more dominant than white would show in the features, yet these kids (the few pictures that exist) are more white than anything else, one especially being extremely white.

Michael Jackson’s life had become a circus, the star on its descent. The millionaire who owed millions. When I recently looked at a progression of pictures of Jackson through his life and I saw how thin he was (not just slim, but very thin) I knew he suffered an eating disorder as well. This fits in with someone so desperate to change into someone else. Anorexia starves the body on all sorts of levels. Not enough nutrients to feed the muscles or the organs and then those organs must work harder. Anorexics, unless they try to seek help and recover, often die of heart attacks when the strain on their hearts become too much. It really was inevitable.

Michael Jackson may have had other conditions too; it’s not clear. But one thing that is, is that he was fighting his body his whole life. To be so gifted and die so conflicted. Could most of us ever hope to shine so brightly? Could any of us fear to burn so painfully? I feel sad for his life, that he couldn’t have loved himself more. Michael Jackson joins the other shooting stars, the famous who died suddenly before their flame burned out naturally: Jimmy Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, River Phoenix, Princess Diana, John Lennon and many others.

Reports are saying that he died of a drug overdose or a cocktail of deadly proportions. Not really a surprise. Jackson was reportedly addicted to painkillers (Vicodin, Demerol, etc.)  since the face burning episode. Put on top of that, the numerous surgeries and his anorexia and you have a collapse just waiting to happen. A bit of a star’s standard way out, whether planned or accidental. This shopping list of pharmaceuticals does support my theory of a man disenfranchised and unhappy with the way his life continued to unfold. So he closed the book.

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Workers Compensation: A Fallacy

There are probably many people reading this who know someone or have themselves experienced a workplace injury and WCB’s attitude toward compensating the worker. In fact, the Workers Compensation Board changed their name to WorkSafe BC, to reflect the greater scope of their reach and because they’re known for not compensating workers, or cutting compensation off arbitrarily.

This could all be hearsay but I do have direct experience. I have had to file twice in my life. The first time was for a repetitive stress injury to the soft tissue of my hand (my fingers and hand swelled) due to writing so much in quintuplicate for the movie industry (with one period that consisted of about 30 hours straight). In this first case, WCB did cover treatments but only until they thought I should be better. A known fact about the human body is that people heal at different rates and many other factors come into play. So I had to somehow manage to get better, without affording the therapy while still working.

The second time was perhaps harder to pinpoint but indicates the arbitrary decision making of case workers. I was working inside underneath three air conditioner vents. I have a couple of conditions, the major one being chronic myofascial pain syndrome (MFS). It is similar to fibromyalgia but more treatable. I can be fine for a long time and then experience a relapse brought on by certain conditions. Then I will proceed into a chronic pain cycle, which can take years to get hrough. I can function but am often in pain all the time.

Myofascial pain can be triggered by various events, some of which are: stress, cold, injury. This means, at the onset a person can try to work through the pain with exercise, which can backfire, causing more trigger point cascades. A trigger point is an area on the body that when pressed refers pain to other areas. People with myofascial pain and fibromyalgia have specific spots on their bodies which will be major trigger points. Each person may not demonstrate pain in all of them but may in most of them. A trigger point is often a hard knot. I’m not a medical expert but from what I’ve read it involves muscle tissue and fascia (the thin membrane that covers muscles [like you see on chicken]). A trigger point cascade can occur where one trigger point starts a progression of spasms and knotting that create other trigger points.

At my worst, I was trying to work out and increased the problem unknowingly. I had trigger point cascades down my arms and back, to the point where I could barely hold a fork or chew. That was an extreme episode that I don’t wish to visit again. Overall, my muscles will spasm and knot up and will forget how to release. I had ten years of chronic pain before the combination of the right muscle relaxant (many painkillers and analgesics don’t always work on this type of pain), a massage therapist who understood how to work with trigger points, and about four months of very warm weather which took me out of the chronic stage.

As I’ve mentioned, stress, injury or cold can trigger myofascial pain. Other conditions can be associated with it, such as Reynaud’s syndrome. Reynaud’s is also called red, white and blue because it will be brought on by cold and the vessels in the extremities (fingers and toes) will constrict, causing the limbs to go from red to white to blue as the blood flow is suppressed. People with this condition will experience sharp, knifelike pain and numbness. I have found, when I experience Reynauds, that the only way to bring circulation back to the extremities is to bring up my core temperature.

I have given these two examples here to wind back to workers compensation. The three air conditioner vents that I was sitting under blew a lot of cold air onto my back. I’m more susceptible to cold, but was the only person in my area who was under three vents (no one was under more than one). Because the muscles tightened up, when I moved suddenly, sitting at my desk, I threw out my back. I was a contract worker so I couldn’t really take time off but I filed a claim. I went to the chiropractor a couple of times but couldn’t afford more than that.

Recognizing that this could be another chronic pain onset, I wanted WCB to cover therapy for a couple of weeks. In all, if I had had treatment right away I could have put off the chronic pain. It would have taken probably a month at most, consisting of chiropractic to adjust my back, and massage to keep the muscles from tightening up and pulling my back out again (believe me, I live with this often, muscles pulling my ribs out while I sleep).

My case worker was on holidays so I talked to someone else first. When the case worker came back, he didn’t even talk to me but denied the claim straight out. I wrote back citing the specialist that had originally diagnosed me. I was willing to be examined, get letters from the specialists about the condition and other documentation if needed. I said that the cold of the air conditioning was the problem and the case worker wrote back and said that cold never hurt anyone. Never. Cold.

I wonder what those people feel who suffer frostbite and hypothermia and die of exposure? One of the best ways to get through myofascial pain is to apply heat, along with therapy. This case worker didn’t consult any medical expert but made his own uninformed arbitrary decision. I would have had to go to a new level to fight this, to get the therapy that was now some time from the onset of the injury. And what else causes myofascial pain? Stress. Having already taken ICBC (our provincial car insurance company) to small claims court for not covering the therapy costs of the injury that originally began my relationship with myofascial pain, I knew how stressful that process was (I won, BTW). I didn’t do it and have spent several years getting out of another bout of chronic pain. And of course all the subsequent visits to my doctor for muscle relaxants (trying to find some that work), the few visits to the therapists, and days I take off work when the pain is too much, or for doctor appointments puts more strain on our health care and system. In the long run, it costs way more than what the initial treatments would have been.

This is just one example of how workers compensation is a fallacy. I have heard far worse stories. And I have only touched the tip of the iceberg on what myofascial pain is all about. It is a more accepted condition these days, very hard to diagnose and many doctors pooh pooh it still.  Wikipedia has a very short entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myofascial_pain_syndrome  And should you have a workplace injury that brings on this condition, you can expect workers compensation to not compensate, to not help you get better, and like many other injured workers, leave you out in the cold.

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Traveling in India: Food Culture

Okay, maybe that title is slightly misleading. When I was in India I ended up with dysentery so bad that I couldn’t eat much at all. But I do remember some of the things I ate or chewed upon.

I was in Meghalaya for a month and the Khasis tend to eat their food fairly plainly. Rice, chicken, beef, with these green, little bullet peppers on the side. Begung was one particular dish I remember (and the spelling is more phonetic than anything else). It was a dark green leafy vegetable chopped into small pieces and fermented or aged with something savory. Think Asian sauerkraut but completely different. They also made a beef jerky over the fire used to distill the local rice drink, kyat. This was like drinking very very green saki.

Khasis also eat a lot of boiled eggs. This got to be too much for us on the second day. At one point we got takeout. There aren’t many restaurants and takeout involved getting some kind of noodle dish served in a banana leaf. All biodegradable but now days they put those dishes wrapped in banana into a plastic bag for carrying and once you’ve finished eating you toss the leaf and the bag. It was a sad thing to see that Western culture was encroaching all the bad aspects there as well.

The one other item in Megahlaya that I tried wasn’t really a food item. It would go more into the realm of entertainment, or a side, or like smoking. This was kwai, or betel nut. The Khasis eat theirs fairly pure. You take a peppercorn leave–it’s actually a betel leaf though they called it peppercorn because of the peppery taste, put a dab of lime paste on it (this is not made from fruit). Then you take chopped up betel nut (or areca nut, which is similar to nutmeg in hardness and texture) and fold the leaf over the the ingredients. Then you chew and chew and chew. It’s very hard and takes the lime and the leaf to help break it down.

Betel nut is also a slight stimulant (and has been found to be a carcinogen). It tended to make me turn beet red, which everyone found quite funny. I didn’t notice more than a little rush. Many Khasis eat it often and it tends to stain the spit and therefore the lips red. One woman called it Khasi lipstick. Betel nut is eaten throughout India but it may be sugared, have candy sprinkles, spices or a host of other items to sweeten it up as it is pretty harsh and bitter. In India it is called paan.

Although I got into the habit of trying it in Meghalaya I didn’t continue in the rest of India because it was too sweet. Just as well since it is known for destroying gums and teeth because it is so hard. I remember being in some government buildings in India and seeing corners in halls stained red as if someone had been stabbed to death. People would just spit into the corners and it was never cleaned up.

Through the rest of India, I actually didn’t get a chance to try as much as the food as I would have liked. Dhal (a lentil stew) was common but I can’t eat lentils. And I also had dysentery, which prevented me trying many of the dishes I wanted. I do remember the yogurt being remarkably creamy and not bitter like it is here. You could get a salty or a fruit lassi, made from yogurt and they were a lot of what I survived on when I was very sick.

I’m afraid I never got to try curries and other local dishes. By the end of the two months I was too sick to remember much about the food, except to stay away from the Campa Cola, which was made in Italy but shipped to India because it was carcinogenic. What fun. It’s one regret, that I never got to try more foods while there, especially because I love spicy.

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