Category Archives: health care

Writing Update

SF, fantasy, Canadian fiction, anthology

The Sum of Us, by Law Media

Hi Everyone,

I hope to receive more stories for Alice Unbound. These can be SF, horror, fantasy, or a subgenre. They should be present time or future, and involve a character or sense of Lewis Carroll’s world. They should not be in his style, but your own and I do not want retellings of stories that already exist. Put the Jabberwock in the zoo, or the Caterpillar in space. Perhaps the Mad Hatter is an ineffectual detective and the Walrus and Carpenter are facing a rebellion from the oysters who are campaigning on animal cruelty. Maybe the Duchess now has her own estate but is plagued by pigs. Go wild. Think beyond the borders and if you’re not sure, send me a query. The guidelines and submission portal are here: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit/77982/alice-unbound Remember, you must be living in Canada to submit to this anthology.

In other news, Joshua Pantellersco interviewed me last month. You can listen to the podcast, where I talk about Alice and writing and other things. Check out Just Joshing here, and listen to his interviews with some other writers as well. And the Canadian Aurora nominations are nearly closed. I have numerous poems and several stories that are eligible for nomination. The poems are all almost found online, and one story. The Aurora lists have problems with listing works by authors so it makes it more difficult and you’ll have to do a search, but links are provided.

SF, women protagonists, near future, Venus

Futuristica Vol. II, by Metasagas Press

In publishing news, I received my copy of The Sum of Us, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas Law, with my story “The Healer’s Touch.” Stories are about healers and caregivers and some of the proceeds go to chairty. Release date is Sept. but you can pre-order. And I also received Futuristica Vol. II¬†edited by Chester Hoster, with my story “Love in the Vapors.” These both came last week, during my birthday. And my poem “Voodoo Doll” is now up at Grievous Angel and free to read. “Changes” came out in Deep Waters 2 earlier this year. And a poem “This Song” is in DeadLights magazine.

I’ve been on a bit of my own hiatus, possibly reading fiction for Alice Unbound. But I’m about to start working on some new pieces. You should too. Pick up a pen, a pencil, a tablet a computer and be inspired. ūüôā

 

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Crazy or Batsh*t Crazy

There has been a fair amount of media attention about the mentally ill of late. CBC’s Current (in Canada) was actually highlighting depression two week’s ago with Steven Page hosting, formerly of Barenaked Ladies. And then the guy in Arizona shot and killed people and when arrested it’s reported that he’d been suffering from mental health problems.

Canada and the US are both suffering from the same disease and that is cutbacks in the field of health. What happens then is that the mentally ill are released from hospitals or other health institutions and end up living on the streets or in jail, becoming drug addicts, injuring themselves or injuring others. It’s important to stress that the number of mentally ill people who injure others is a very small number indeed. And mentally ill does not include personality types like sociopaths. By saving money in the health field governments actually put up costs of such things as administering the fight against crime, prisons becoming overfull, latent mental health costs, other crimes and injuries that fill up the system. I’m sure a cost analysis would show that this is not an economical way to deal with the severely mentally ill.

But in that gray area of gray matter, there are those who are not the dangerous. They can fit into society and are not devoid of regular sociability or being able to function in the day-to-day. These people fall into the other categories of the depressed and the phobic. Severe phobias limit people’s ability to do different things, and severe depression can lead to a decrease in being social, integrating with others, working as well as leading to death.

It’s a sad state and many people do not understand even the basics of depression. Steven Page talked about his own battle with it and it affects many many people. There is still that social stigma that should you mention you’ve been depressed or heaven forbid have a permanent condition schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. that you’re then branded as crazy. We’ve all used the term to describe people who might be clinically crazy or just too weird for normal society. We sometimes shy from them, are afraid of them and rarely do we understand.

I speak from experience, and will speak again and again about this because the only way to make this understandable is to talk about it and educate people. Depression often runs in families, some weird genetic fault. I don’t know the mechanism but I know it runs in my family. I’ve been depressed and I’ve been clinically depressed, the second being when you meet most of the markers by which they judge such things. There are different depths of depression and it affects people different ways. I have found that I have even been affected differently each time depression has hit me.

Some of my markers are sleeping too long, aching joints, boredom, flatlining on emotions, becoming overemotional, alienation, not eating, eating too much. Sometimes it’s depended on deeply I was sinking. I’ll overeat but in the darkest depths I’ll stop eating. It could be different for other people and of course suicidal thoughts and attempts are a big part of full-blown depression. Luckily, that’s one aspect I don’t really get though I came close a few years back and was probably scared out of it by the fact that someone I’d known for twenty years hung himself through a combo of a head injury, depression and the inability to pay for his meds. Anti-depressants are expensive and a depressed person finds every stress to be a very large stress.

The biggest part of depression that people don’t understand is that the illness isolates in many ways. Coping becomes difficult so that even answering the phone is too hard. Making informed and balanced decisions goes out the window. Hiding becomes the way to exist and a depressed person feels alone and unloved, isolated by their brain and the world around them.

It’s hard for us to know what to do if a person is depressed. After all, who wants to be around a sad sack who brings them down. Our society frowns upon weakness so even asking for help is hard to do. A coupe of times I would say to friends, “I’ve been depressed.” This was a close as I got to admitting or asking for help. What I was really saying was, “I”m depressed. I need you to do things with me. I need you to care. I need you to call me or pull me out of myself.” But how can anyone else know this? The language of the depressed person is circumvented by the illness itself. They may act like they don’t want/can’t handle company but they need to stop dwelling constantly on the whirlwind of darkness. This I do know but it is hard. It’s not just a case of “suck it up, buttercup,” it’s a matter of altered brain chemistry. This is why severe depression requires¬† (though sometimes there is an overmedication of people just feeling sad). They aren’t just feel good, happy pills. They have to fix the chemicals churning in the brain. Eating properly and exercising are also a big part of keep that brain floating on the pond instead of sinking.

Being depressed isn’t so much looking through a glass darkly as it is being in the bottom of a steep dark glass. The depressed person cannot see her/his way out and needs help and support. If you know someone like this, try to get your friends and family to help reach out, to show you care and perhaps you can just throw a lifeline to someone who will be able to climb out into the light.

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Tonsil Tales

Back in the good ole days, or so I remember being told, tonsils were removed as often as wisdom teeth, as a matter of course, as an extraneous appendage we no longer needed. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I was scheduled to have my tonsils out at age six. However, my family, always running on the dysfunction track, was derailed the day I was supposed to go in for surgery. My parents were fighting and I never did get my tonsils out for a very very long time.

Creative Commons--Knol

I spent my childhood and teen years getting colds like every other child but I as often got tonsilitis, involving very painful and swollen throat and bouts of antibiotics. By my teen years I averaged four colds/tonsilitis episodes a year. Some of the symptoms can be headache, fever, cough, trouble swallowing, sore throat and chills.  I think I was 18 or 19 when I started to noticed it felt odd when I swallowed, like something was stuck in my throat. When I opened my mouth wide, I could see small lumps of white at the back of my throat that sometimes I could remove with a finger. Basically food was getting caught in the holes in my tonsils. This did nothing for my breath either.

Finally, in art college the tonsillitis got so bad that even my tongue was swollen. I had cankers all over my gums and I couldn’t really eat a thing. Of course I’d let it get too bad, being a student, trying to finish projects and not getting enough sleep. So eventually I went in to the school clinic, telling them I had tonsillitis. They told me, you don’t know that. We’ll take a look. And they took a look and said, you have tonsillitis; why did you take so long?

More antibiotics but that finally decided it for me. I made an appointment to see my family doctor, the one I had had since I was about ten, who had seen me go through bouts of this over the years. I mentioned the holes and the food sticking in them. My doctor didn’t even look in my throat but told me it was nerves. I said it absolutely was not. I’m not a nervous person. Then he told me that lots of people got this. I said, they do? It was this incident of incompetence, plus the one where my doctor told me I didn’t clean myself properly when I went to him about a bladder infection, that I tossed him by the wayside and went to a new doctor. That doctor couldn’t see much in my throat but he sent me to a specialist. The specialist took less than a minute to look at my tonsils and say, “You have holes in your tonsils. When do you want them out?”

And so, at the tender age of 22 I had my tonsils out. And something I realized once I healed from the surgery was that I had never ever been able to swallow correctly. My throat had always been swollen. If I’d had my tonsils out at six, like I was supposed to, I would have missed a lot less school as a kid and not been subjected to so many antibiotics. Luckily I didn’t take the incompetent advice of a doctor who should have retired, and I sought out another opinion. I don’t¬† miss those tonsils at all.

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A Health & Beauty Tip For Arms

First off, I’m not a medical professional of any sort. I just have some common sense, some experimentation and a eureka moment or two. This one has to do with the upper arms and usually the backs of arms. You might be a person who gets this skin condition, which doesn’t itch usually and is mostly unsightly or makes the skin bumpy.

The skin will sometimes be pinkish or red, or even just normal color but there will be tiny bumps over the back of the arms. It’s called Keratosis Pilaris and seems to be a genetic thing, with about 40% of adults having this skin condition. Commonly called chicken skin, it can affects the back, legs or buttocks as well. I believe these are pores¬† that have become blocked with sebum, oils or other bits of detritus. A quick google search confirms this. They’re somewhat pimple like and might not swell at all. For other people they may become inflamed as with other pimples but there’s not much you can do about them, so “they” say.

From Wikipedia

I have had this chicken skin in the past. I don’t like the feel or look of it but I find I can control it.¬† What I do is different that what’s recommended. Overall, medical sites and doctors recommend soaps that are non-drying . And actually soap is rarely needed unless you’re on a job that gets you dirty all over.Years ago a dermatologist told me that soap was really only needed on the torso, and say, the face, feet and hands, but our legs and arms don’t get that dirty and tend to secrete less oil than other areas. So if soap is used it should be used sparingly and anyone who is sensitive should forego it. A good rinse with water will work in most instances.

There is a theory that there could be an underlying bacteria that causes the bumps as well and scrubbing the surface will only inflame, not remove the bumps. Some doctors recommend salicylic acid which comes from willow and is a common exfoliant. This can help open up the clogged pores. Although they don’t recommend scrubbing I have taken a soft nail brush and used it with a bit of soap on my arms and this tends to work for me. But I think I must have a mild condition that has never been severe. Then again, my exfoliating might have worked. I don’t scrub daily but maybe once a week or every two weeks. This seems to keep it in check. But since people do have different severities of skin disorders, it would be best to test one patch of skin and see if it improves or worsens against the other areas.

Some lotions may work while others might contribute to the clogging and this would take more research. I don’t use scented lotions but ones geared to add extra moisture (due to having eczema and rosacea) and with all these tricks, I can keep most of it under control.

Keratosis Pilaris doesn’t inhibit my day to day living and if it was around permanently I would live with it but not suffer much. Still, I find that my skin on my arms is relatively smooth, except for when the eczema hits, which is always worse in winter. And since both rosacea and eczema can be passed on genetically, having a touch of Keratosis Pilaris seems to be just another in the realm of skin conditions. The skin is, after all, the largest organ of the body.

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Hospital Food

It’s been nearly two years since my friend Bear died. The hospital he was in, VGH¬†in Vancouver, through unhygienic¬†procedures infected him with C difficile. (He’s not the only person I know who received infections in the hospital: I know of two others who luckily didn’t lose their lives.) I’ve written about this before but I may not have gone into the quality of the food.

Part of the healing process for any person involves several factors. One is getting rid of the infection/disease or removing /fixing the problem. However mental health also plays a big part in healing. If a person is depressed or of a negative frame it can slow or even halt healing. Having experienced depression in the past I know that depression can even bring on problems. I ended up with elbow joint pain that no amount of therapy could fix. It went away with the anti-depressants.

That’s two factors: medical help and mental health. The third and important aspect is having a healthy body that has all the resources for mending. That means having adequate red blood cells, vitamins, nutrition, etc. I’m not a medical expert and there are many doctors¬†that could tell you the specifics, however any deficiency can hinder health. So that third aspect of healing is having the proper nutrition to bring about a full return to health.

Malnutrition in any of a host of vitamins and nutrients can cause everything from deformity to death. It is a serious issue. My friend had several factors against him in regards to eating. They included being a celiac as well as a picky eater, and of course after C difficile took his intestines and shut down his kidneys, food just didn’t taste right.

I often showed up around his dinner time and his plate would include two stale pieces of rice bread, one incredibly thin piece of luncheon meat, maybe a pat of butter or margarine, sometimes one boiled egg, sometimes broccoli boiled to grey, and very little else. His dinners often consisted of a few chicken drumsticks (he was 6’7″) and maybe one small scoop of potatoes. I never tasted the food but his wife on one occasion did when he didn’t feel like eating and her report was that it was disgusting.

On other patients’ plates, in a healthier state, I would see meat, potatoes and gravy and very little resembling vegetables. Luncheon meat has little to no nutrient value and vegetables cooked to mush do not retain much that’s worthwhile either. One slice of luncheon meat hardly makes up a person’s daily intake of protein. Unpalatable meals are not a way to get a person’s appetite back, which is often subdued after a surgery. It is also the worst thing to do to a person whose system has been traumatized by illness or invasive techniques.

Between the food and the infection and resultant problems it’s no wonder that my friend died. If it wasn’t for his wife showing up everyday with home-cooked meals he probably would have died a lot sooner. It’s sad and criminal that someone has to bring in food to try and heal a patient. Many people stuck in the hospital don’t have that luxury of people bringing them good food or the energy to complain, not that it does much good¬†anyways.

In BC at least, premier Gordon Campbell illegally tore up the contracts of union workers in hospitals. They lost their jobs and as the courts looked at the issue for four years, Campbell had the Fraser Health Authority hire the lowest bidders. Cheapest is not always best. Eventually it was found that Campbell’s government was in the wrong but not after it was too late. The damage was done and things like cleaning rooms contaminated with biohazardous waste or feeding people back to health were lost.

It’s too bad Campbell felt it was worth a few lives to save a few bucks and use a dishonorable way of getting rid of workers. It’s too bad the hospitals are so dirty now many people fear having to go in. I know I do and many of my friends do. It’s too bad the hospitals have forgotten one of the principles of health, a good and well-balanced diet. I would like to see a world where truly human life comes first and that even the sacrifice of a few should matter.

If you’re in an area where the hospitals are comprimising someone’s health with terrible food, complain and complain loudly. Involve the media, write your legislative members, blog, tell friends, do what you can so that another life need not be wasted because of such indifference. This goes of course, not just about food but about the cleanliness of hospitals too. It’s time to have people heal healthily and quickly and that involves good food.

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Going Postal Over Workers Compensation

“Going postal” became part of our culture’s vernacular after several instances of US postal workers killing coworkers in fits of rage. From Wikipedia we have:

It derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public. Between 1986 and 1997, more than 40 people were killed in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage. The phrase has been applied to murders committed by employees in acts of workplace rage, irrespective of the employer. It’s generally used to describe fits of rage, though not necessarily at the level of murder, in or outside the workplace.

So when a workers compensation claimant took people hostage this week at the local Workers Compensation Board in Edmonton it was a bit like going postal, although he wasn’t an employee. There is mixed information on Patrick Clayton’s background and it seems he was using drugs on top of it all, but we don’t know if he ended up doing drugs because of how Workers Comp treated him or if he had a pre-existing drug problem before his injury.

Clayton might not be the best example of the frustration people feel at workers compensations boards across the country, but he is in the spotlight because of it regardless. It’s interesting that Alberta’s premier’s first concern was looking at security in government buildings and not looking at what in WCB’s policiies drives people to such desperation.

I’ve outlined my own earlier interaction with WCB in another post. But let’s say there are many many people who have felt frustration, fear and hopelessness as they have been denied their claims or cut off prematurely. I wonder what the statistics are of people who have killed themselves over claim denials or people who continue their lives in pain because of such limitations through WCB.

Some people will claim that for every one legitimate claimant there are ten faked claims (some of the many many comments on CBC’s news article listed below), when it is more like the other way around. I’ve had a nephew whose truck was hit by a train when the truck stalled on the tracks. The truck’s maintenance was the responsibility of the company my nephew worked for and they had ignored the problem. However WCB cut my nephew off after a month or so, even though his shoulder was still screwed up.

This is a common statement for people with claims. If they are not outright denied, their claims are often cut very short. WCB seems to think that all people should heal at the same rate. Every knee injury or back injury is exactly the same as the one before and therefore a person should be back to work in X weeks. When that person responds slower than this ideal list, WCB says goodbye. They pretty much make claimants feel ike cheaters, liars and fakers, and it’s guilty until proven innocent.

As I mentioned previously WCB in BC is called WorkSafe BC and I can’t help but believe the name change is partly because they realized they weren’t compensating workers. Sure there are some claimants who try to get a free ride, and sure there are claimants whose compensation is approved. The first time I had to claim was for a repetitive stress injury to my hands. WCB paid for the physio but again when I wasn’t better within the allotted time it was sorry, no more help. I had to work around the injury and lost a job opportunity because of it.

Any doctor worth their salt could tell you that physiology from one person to the next may be similar but there are numerous factor that can contribute to rehabilitation and healing and much of it not in the patient’s control. There are genetic predispositions, underlying conditions and the vast mystery of how the body works. People don’t respond the same or at the same rate. Would that we could, then it would be cut and dried in fixing people. Everyone into physio and out healed and whole in six weeks.

People lose their livelihoods, their way of life and their physical and mental health when cut off by WCB. They’re often not given anyway to adapt, no explanation other than you should be better and the attitude, whether meant that way or not, comes across as cold and uncaring. My own case had someone taking notes for the vacation case worker talk to me but the actual case worker never actually every talked to me, and just sent a letter of denial. How can a person feel other than ignored and dismissed summarily.

Taking innocent people hostage was not right at all, and could have easily been me or friends or family. But if nothing else, maybe this will bring light to the fact that WCB practices are not seen as fair or just from many people. WorkSafe BC probably did the right thing in changing their name and I think that WCBs across the country should evaluate their mandate. If they’re not their to help the worker then they need to let people know that and change the name.

 http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2009/10/22/edmonton-charges-hostage-incident.html#socialcomments

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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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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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