Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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Castaway: The Final Chapter

On October 3, 2018, I was given the clearance by my doctor to take my first steps. I had already made a physio appointment for the next day to help get me moving as soon as possible. The doctor also warned me, in a slightly condescending way, that if I didn’t do what I was told, I could potentially lose mobility and flexibility in my ankle. His exact words, “We babied your ankle for six weeks. Now you have to be aggressive or you will not recover properly. You need to be out of the walking cast in one week.” Determined to show him that he misjudged me as a potential princess, I asked if I could take my first steps, then and there. He nodded and I got up, almost squealed in pain, but I wasn’t going to show any sort of emotion and then tried to walk while using my wheelchair as a crutch. I underestimated how weak I would be, how painful it was to try to walk on my now inflexible ankle and how poor my balance would be. I took my note for physio, plunked myself down in my wheelchair, and my cousin, kindly took me home. All I could think about was how was I going to take off the walking cast in a week. How was I supposed to walk more than 5 steps?

There wasn’t a lot that I could do that first day, but I committed to standing, at the very least, as often as I could, using a walker to help me maintain my balance. I only took 5 steps that day. Better than nothing but not the strides that I was hoping for either. I eagerly waited for physio the next day wondering what the difference between passive and active exercise would be. I showed up at Totem Life Science and was told to wait in my wheelchair for Katie, my physiotherapist. I wasn’t afraid of the pain that I knew would come, but I was afraid of losing my balance a little and re-injuring myself. Katie is a young, positive, skilled physiotherapist. She got me to stand, then walk around the examining table. She looked at my ankle, and showed me the passive exercises that I was supposed to do. They were the ones that I could basically do lying down. I had to rotate my ankle every hour, ten times in each direction. Point and flex the foot the same amount of times, then use an exercise band and do the same thing. I was also supposed to ice it, pretty much hourly. I walked a little more, but felt very thrown off by the cast. I started to understand why I needed to be out of it so quickly – it made me feel unbalanced and it was also hurting my hips. She told me to bring my walker, if I had one, and my running shoes the next day.

I did all of the passive exercises, every hour on the hour like I was told. I iced my ankle, and I went back to physio the next day. Katie told me when I got there, that I would be walking out the door that very day and that I was going to do physio in my running shoe. My ankle was sore, and I had my doubts, but Katie said – trust your ankle – it’s solid, remember that it will hold. So I did. I walked back and forth (with the walker) and did everything that she told me to do and being out of the cast made it so much easier. I asked what else I could do at home, aside from the passive exercises, and she said just walk as much as possible and ice my ankle as much as possible. She said try to walk without the cast when you can. I committed to doing everything that I was told to do and more. I used my mother’s walker which was way too short, when I got home and walked the corridors of the the condo. I knew that there were about 180 steps end to end, and I did the walk three times that afternoon. It hurt, more than I can tell you, but I did it. Then, I did it again, two more times that day, happy to see some progress. Over the weekend, I did it 6 laps, 4 times a day. I pushed the walker away and used I forced myself to walk to it. I did all of the passive exercises all weekend long.

When I went back to physio, Katie could see that I made a big effort and that my walking improved and I stopped using the air walker in 6 days. She was able to spend the time doing ultrasound therapy and massage versus watching me do the assigned exercises. She would add new exercises to improve my balance and my dorsiflexion (ability to move your foot upward so that it is closer to the shin which is crucial for walking). I added single leg squats, regular squats, sideways walking and balancing on my leg to my passive exercise routine. If you don’t work on dorsiflexion, you will limp, have issues walking up and down the stairs and have the potential to injure yourself. Speaking of which, within two weeks, Katie had me try the stairs. My mantra became up with the good and down with the bad. This essentially meant leading with my good foot up the stairs, and the bad foot down the stairs. Once I could figure out the stairs, I did them as often and possible and walked outside so that I could get used to different terrain. I walked as much as I possibly could.

In addition to twice weekly physio sessions, I also saw Stacy, a chiropractor, who was a great support in my recovery. She is one of the owners of Totem Life Science and referred me to Katie. She was also the person who explained to me that the intense, burning pain that I was having was nerve pain. I went to Stacy once a week for additional massage and ultrasound therapy. It really helped to speed things along. By November 5, I was able to go back to work and by December 20, Katie and Stacy both told me that I was well enough to no longer require physio. Here are some tips to remember if you are recovering from ankle surgery and starting to walk:

Everyone is different and will respond differently to treatment and physio. Not to sound cheesy, but recovery is really a marathon and not a sprint and you can’t compare where you are to someone else. Worry about your progress and only your progress.

Do your exercises at home religiously. Don’t shortchange yourself. If you do them at home, your physiotherapist can focus on the “hands-on” therapy that they are so skilled at rather than babysit you as you do the exercises you should be doing on your own. They are trained professionals and will know if you aren’t doing everything that you are supposed to at home. They notice your range of motion and gait. By ignoring the exercise, you hurt only yourself and you will have a longer recovery.

It will hurt – there is no way around that, but the ability to walk is worth it. The pain gets better in time.

You will notice huge changes the first week, and like me, you will get so excited and then….. After the first two weeks, the hard work really begins when you have to really focus on your dorsiflexion. It is the very last thing to come back, and you need to keep pushing through this part of your treatment and your progress will slow.

Lose your pride. I walked with a walker inside and outside. I used canes, had my air cast on to help keep my distance from people. One thing that I didn’t care about was how people saw me. I wanted to walk and I wanted my mobility back as quickly as possible and if it meant that people would see me in a walker, then that was fine. I also knew that I had the good fortune of knowing that my situation was temporary. Others do not have that luxury.

People watch and be sensitive – I always give up my seat on the subway to people who are older, pregnant and have mobility issues. When I was on public transit with a cane and cast, I was offered a seat maybe 60% of the time. People can be rude, but that doesn’t mean that you should be. Use your injury to be a more thoughtful rider.

When I went to my final orthopedic appointment on November 21. The doctor kept saying look at the nice veins! Your ankle looks really good! Look at the flexibility, it’s really coming. He told me that he was impressed with my progress. This was the very doctor who a few weeks early looked at me so skeptically. I wanted to say, you doubter! I showed you! Instead, I just said the truth – I had a great physiotherapist and chiropractor and I listened to them and did everything that they told me to do. My ankle gets a little stiff and sore here and there, but overall, I couldn’t be more grateful for the ability to get myself around pretty much like I used to. They say it takes a full year for the swelling to completely go away, so I’m trying to be patient.

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Castaway: The Recovery – Bed Rest and Beyond

I decided to heal at my mother’s place – it was large, had some of the equipment that I needed and was close to the hospital.  There was also some degree of comfort being there.  When I got back from my surgery and I was tired, and sore and a little disoriented, no place in the world felt safer to me than her room.  I plunked myself down on the bed and settled there for just about 2 weeks.   The day prior, I made arrangements with my mother’s former caregivers, and women that I consider almost like family, to come in for a few hours most days to help me shower and take care of me.  I also made arrangements for some things that I thought would be helpful – more about that later.

After surgery, you are in a white soft-ish plaster cast for two weeks that you cannot get wet and the surgeon told me that I was not allowed to bear weight on my leg at all.  He stressed, that it was important to stay quiet and not do anything jarring, so bed rest it was!  I had many people doubt that I could handle it. People said – oh, it’s going to be tough for you.   I knew that in order to have the recovery that I wanted though, that I had to do everything that I was told to do and that was my priority.   The first two days after I had the surgery were pretty hard.  I was feeling weak, unsure of what I could actually do for myself and I discovered that I was allergic to prescription pain killers.  They all gave me hives – so no codeine and no Percocets.  I had to make due with plain Tylenol or Advil.  Most people will not have that problem.  


The things that I insisted on – showers (cleanliness is next to godliness and after three days of little more than sponge baths, I was eager to be squeaky clean) and brushing and flossing.  It sounds dumb, but it gave me something normal to do. I did have to do something to make sure that my brain didn’t turn to mush so I decided even before the surgery to work from home.   It was something that I could do to help pass the time.  I was also lucky enough to have plenty of people visit.  I think it was over 50 people in the 6 weeks that I was non-weight-bearing.

The first Saturday after my surgery, my sister was sick from her chemo and I had to lie there and couldn’t do anything to help her.  I started to cry, because at that point, I not only felt helpless, I felt useless. Once I cried myself out, I thought about my mother and how she had to cope with being in bed for 16 months.  She was so strong, so happy to see people when they came by and so positive.  It was at that very moment, that I decided that I was going to get through the next 6 weeks, and make something good come out of a rather crappy situation. There was a lot that I missed out on – like concerts that I really wanted to go to.  I missed out on a couple of parties and the last little bit of my favourite season – summer.   First world problems but still…

Anyway, after two weeks of staring out the window, working and entertaining guests, I went for my first post op check up.  It was also the first time that I was going to see my leg and incision.  The leg looked pink, but that was from the iodine that they used.  The incision looked like a stapled, puckered clam.  It was a little gross.  They took the staples out, which took less than a minute and it didn’t hurt, it just felt like little stings.  They showed me quickly how to put on the air cast (walking boot) which was a tease since I couldn’t walk for another four weeks, but it was so much lighter and I could remove it to shower – YIPPPEEEEE!  At first, I was afraid, I was petrified, just thinking I could never live….oh sorry, that’s disco going off in my head.  I was a little nervous about hitting my leg,  in the tub but I never did.  The next four weeks went by relatively quickly – again, lots of work, lots of company and I rented a wheelchair and even had a few outings. Each week I felt stronger and stronger which was great.  I was on my way to being ready to walk….but first, just a few helpful hints if you ever find yourself with a broken ankle, limb or anything where you can’t walk around:

-Do what the doctor says – they aren’t kidding when they say not to put weight on it or jar it.  You may have a little oopsie moments – I slipped off my knee scooter and banged my leg – it hurt, but remember, your ankle has screws and a plate – it’s solid even if you are not

-Make your life easy – unless you are in your 20’s, crutches suck.  I rented a knee scooter which was not only fun, it also made getting from the bedroom to anywhere in the apartment so much easier and faster.  I named mine Herbie

-Get yourself a commode – you will thank me.  If you can’t afford a shower chair, it serves a dual purpose – stick it in the tub or shower and scrub away

-Get a shower chair that swivels – it will make your life easier, even once you can  bear weight.  I thought of everything that I would need before I had surgery and ordered it so that I would have it as close to the time that I came home as possible

-I ended up renting a wheelchair with a leg extender for some outings – it really helped and was around $65

-Ask for a wheelchair accessible cab – they wheel you in and your are buckled in so that you can avoid getting in and out of the car – again, make your life easy and save your energy for the things that you really want to do

-Lose your modesty – it’s over-rated.  I needed help showering and wasn’t going to sacrifice being clean so that people wouldn’t see the girls. Use a handheld shower if you have one  and cover your plaster cast with cheap plastic wrap and a garbage bag so that it doesn’t get wet

-You will have intense nerve pain at some point and it feels like someone is lighting a fire under your foot.  It’s horrible.  I survived on Advil but had to take it regularly (every 6 -8 hours whether I was feeling pain or not, to make sure it didn’t get out of control).  Speak to your doctor if you are having really bad pain and they will help you out – don’t just do your own thing

-Keep yourself busy – go out if you are feeling up to it.  Work from home if you can.  If people want to visit, let them.  There is nothing worse than looking at a clock

-On the flip side, you do need rest.  I had a guardian angel who had ankle surgery and kept reminding me that it was normal for me to not feel my best and that I would be more tired than usual.  I had another friend who fractured her arm who told me that the first three weeks after a fracture, your body burns off a ton of energy helping you heal so don’t be afraid to eat but….

-Watch your salt in-take.  You aren’t moving around and you will get swollen and swelling is painful.  Eat healthy foods – it’s not a time to binge on chips and bon bons.  You need protein and calcium and vitamins and minerals to heal

-You will be pretty sedentary the first two of weeks, and you will need some cushion for your tushion (AKA your bum).  It will hurt.  Turn as often as you can, and if you are lying on your side, place a pillow in between your legs so that you don’t get any bed or friction sores.  Once you can do the one-legged stand, try to be as active as you can

It is hard, but remember, you will survive.  


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Cast-Away: Surgery

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Hello Toes – I’ll be seeing a lot of you….

Having surgery if you have never been through it, can be a scary thing.  My only other surgery was when I was a year and a half and I do not have any memory of it.  I had almost a two day wait for ankle surgery.  The challenging part was I never knew when the surgery would happen.  When I had my oopsie moment, and was told that I would need to go under the knife, I was really hoping it would be immediate.  No such luck.  I went home, high on life (actually ketamine, which quickly wore off).  I was told to fast from midnight onward and they would be in touch.  I received a call at 8:30am telling me that the surgery would not be during the day, so I could eat up until 10:30am and to fast again until I got the call.  At 5:30pm, I received another call saying that the surgery would not be that night, that I was to fast again from midnight onward.  They told me that if I did not get in for surgery the next day, not to worry, I would be on the priority list for the day after that.  Lucky me!

When I finally heard from the surgeon later that night telling me that they had me booked for 8:30 the next morning, I was relieved.  As much as I feared having an operation, the alternative was to be in the non-healing limbo that I was currently stuck in.  It felt like progress at that moment.  Once again, I began to fast – it’s funny how I immediately got thirsty the second that I knew that I could no longer have any water!

I had to be at the hospital two hours prior to surgery, so my dutiful sister made the sacrifice and left the house with me at 6:00am.  Admitting is weird – everyone there will look better going into the hospital than they will leaving.  It was actually just me and other woman, who was clearly terrified.  I felt bad for her because in my own head I was on the road to recovery and nerves simply had not hit me yet.  Once I got through admitting, I was wheeled (in a chair) upstairs to the surgical waiting room and was taken immediately to Pre-Op.  I’m guessing that since I was a fall risk, the wanted me safely tucked away in a nice little stretcher.  You have to change into a gown, are given a robe, little foot covers and a surgical hat which makes you look quite silly.  If you have any modesty, which I did, at least at that point, you can also ask for disposable undies.

After some time went by, the anesthesiologist came to speak with me to ask me my weight (really, who do they think they are – that’s private), height and if I had any allergies. He mentioned that I would have a breathing tube inserted and he warned me that it may chip my teeth.  Horrified, I told him that better not happen and he assured me it was rare.  At this point, I got a little nervous and told him, and he just said not to worry, everything would be fine.  After another 20 minutes, the orthopedic surgeon came to speak with me.  If truth be told, he picked exactly the right profession – he was a real bone head.  Seriously, he gave me 30 seconds of his time and made it clear that he had zero interest in answering any questions.  I only had enough time to ask him how long the surgery would be (2 hours which seemed like a long time to me) and what the next steps would be (no pun intended).  He quickly told me that I would be in a plaster cast for two weeks and that I should stay as quiet as possible for that time.  I was basically only allowed to go to the bathroom.  I thought two weeks was a small price to pay for mobility.  He wasn’t Mr. Personality or Mr. Bed Side Manner and I reminded myself of one thing that my mother always said….as long as they can do their job, you do not need to be their best friend.

This was the point where I started getting really terrified because I knew that I was going to be wheeled into the Operating Room shortly.  My legs were literally shaking.  I tried to put on a brave face for my sister, but I could see that she was nervous for me.  They started wheeling me away, and wouldn’t even let me say good-bye to my sister.  The hall way was incredibly long.  As they wheeled me into the OR, I remember thinking how narrow the door was.  The room itself was so much smaller than what you see on TV.  It seemed not much bigger than a small-ish office.  It was painted a pink-ish purple that was kind of pretty.  I was struck by the number of people in the room already, and the surgeon hadn’t even made his appearance.  They made me slide off the stretcher and onto the OR table.  They told me to wrap remove the top of my gown and to tuck it under my arms like a tube top.  They hooked me up to a blood pressure/ECG (electrocardiography) unit and monitored my oxygen.  They barely spoke to me, talking about me, but not to me.  I lay there, freezing cold (it was like an icebox in there) with some vague promise of a blanket.

The anesthesiologist then told me that he was going to start an IV, and that he would place a mask over my face and that I should breathe into it.  Within 60 seconds, I would be asleep.  I completely thought he was full of it.  A short period of time went by and I was thinking, what if I don’t fall asleep?  I then got really light headed and the last thing that I remember saying was “I don’t feel very well….”  I woke up knowing that time had past, but with no memory of the surgery.  It was a dark sleep, no dreams.  I was overcome with horrible nausea, so they administered something to help….and it didn’t. They tried something else and it didn’t work either.  They tried something else, and still, I was so nauseated and dizzy, it was unbearable.  A little while later they let my sister in and she told me that two of my closest friends were there, but I was still so sick, I couldn’t think.  The nurse asked her to leave.  I was on anti-nauseant #7 when she told me that she only had half a dose left to give me.  She said to try to sleep it off, and I was so groggy that is exactly what I did.  I was supposed to be out of the hospital by 12:30 but at 2:30, I finally woke up.  I felt a little better.  After another half hour, I was allowed to move into a chair, and then I was finally allowed to see my sister.

We sat there for awhile and I was beyond thirsty and was allowed a small drink.  You are not allowed to leave until you can drink and eat something small.  Crackers it was!   After another hour and a half, I was finally allowed to leave.  My friend kindly drove us home and helped me get settled into bed (after mocking my crutch abilities).  I stared down at my fluffy white cast and thought, I just have to get through two weeks of this….

Which will lead into Castaway – The Recovery – Stage 1 – tune in next week to find out if I went stir crazy – how I passed the time, and what home medical aids everyone with mobility issues needs!

 


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Cast-Away: Emergency

“Oh, I’ve never broken a bone or had an operation, ” I bragged, while walking back from lunch with a good friend of mine that I work with.  Little did I know, that 5 minutes later, that would all change for me.  Too cheap to spend $3 on a bottle of water, I walked over to the cooler to get a fill up.  I’ve done this about 100 times over the last 6.5 months at our office.  This time though, as I passed the fridge, I felt my foot slide through something, tried to catch myself, and went down really hard on my ankle.  The floor was concrete, so I knew this was not going to be good.  When I looked down, I saw a bit of water and some shredded carrots.  Yep – carrots caused this.  Anyway, a few people that I work with came over to try to help, but if you are ever in my shoes, err, cast, give yourself a minute.  It’s a shock and you are in pain, so breathe and try to move at your leisure.

I could not put any weight on my ankle, but I was still hoping for a sprain, I’ve had enough of them to know about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and that in a few weeks, I would be back to normal.  Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.  Now, my dear readers, I am going to pass along all of my wisdom to you so that you know what to do in case this ever happens to you.  You will get a first hand account of everything from the incident, to the Emergency Room, to the surgery and finally to the path to wellness.  And yes, I take questions.  I had to depend on some of my own knowledge of hospitals to being a planner and finally, to the kindness of strangers and of course, my family and friends.

The first thing that you should do if you are going to break anything that requires an ambulance is to work in a completely accessible building.  Of course, I do not.   This was not ideal, but I was in an office chair and everything worked out.  Really, the most important thing that you can do is to remain calm.  Yes, I know it hurts, but freaking out is not going to make you more comfortable – trust me.  The nice paramedics put me in a cardboard splint and they advised that if I can make it from the stretcher to a wheelchair, I may get seen faster.  Unfortunately, if you do take an ambulance to the hospital, they will not be turning the siren on.  Think of it as a good thing – your injury is not life threatening.

The most important thing that you do need is someone there with you.  I initially thought, NONO, I do not want to be a bother, but I have since rethought that bit of stupidity.  That person can help you, remember to ask things that you may not think of and advocate for you.  I have done this so often for family members that I thought I would be a pro at it.  It is different when it is you.  Also, remember when you go through emergency, you have to be patient.  You are just one of many people there who have problems, and as difficult as it is to wait, your turn will come.  I listened to the paramedics and transferred into a wheelchair as quickly as I could.  It took me three hours to get through triage and another hour after that before I was seen.

Your next step, once you get a bed is a quick look by the doctor and then you will be taken to have X-Rays.  I was very hopeful that I would just have a sprain, or at worst a break that would just need a boot.  No such luck.  I broke my ankle in a place that would require surgery.  I would need plates and pins.  They needed to reset the bone (also called a fracture reduction) where the doctor manipulates the broken ends of the bone into their original position and fixes them in place with a plaster cast, in my case.  I was given the option of morphine where I would feel the pain, but it would be over quickly. The other option was to do it under a twilight sleep where I would be given a combination of ketamine and propofol (the Michael Jackson drug) and would not remember the pain, although I would be semi-awake.  I initially was going to go with the quick and easy morphine, but my friend convinced me that the pain would not be worth it.  I did what any normal person would do, and I checked with my other friend who confirmed that I was stupid for wanting to remember the pain.

I was a little nervous about being put to sleep, if I’m being honest, and the guy in the next stretcher was screaming and moaning.  They started an IV, told me to think pleasant thoughts because I would be having vivid dreams, and warned me that I may feel a burning.  I remember the burning and initially, I didn’t feel well, but then they an oxygen mask over my face and told me that I would smell plastic but to breathe in.  I did what I was told and all I remember was seeing the prettiest most vivid colours…ever.  I saw sparkles, pick up sticks and even incomplete flags.  My friend told me that one of the nurses was wearing a t-shirt with a flag – I guess that’s where it came from.  It was the most magical 20 minutes of my life.  I remember coming to and looking down and seeing the cast they put on my leg and declaring it pretty and fluffy like a cloud.  I then said, in my outside voice, “That was fun, can we do it again????”  I was loving life, laughing and joyful, and wanted to call my sister and let her know that I was OK.  In my dreamy state, I just called whoever had the letters i and l in their name – and could feel my friend roll her eyes at me.  I was loving life.

Apparently, I was allergic to ketamine and needed Benadryl but I did not care.  I was nauseated and was still just happy to be there.  I went for more X-Rays, was given the clearance to leave the hospital with a pair of crutches, and told not to eat after midnight in case I got my call for surgery….which will take us to:

Castaway – PART 2 – The Unkindest Cut (AKA Surgery)

 


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Not By The Zit on My Chinny Chin Chin

 

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I used to suffer from adult acne.  That’s right – used to suffer.  Tired of the constant up and downs that the skin condition was causing, I finally decided to do something about it.  I spent years on Minocin to no avail.  I tried topical acne products like salicylic acids and benzoyl peroxide.  I tried supplements.  I went for regular facials.  I changed what I ate.  No matter what I did, it didn’t seem to help, and once a month (yes that time of the month), like clock-work, my chin exploded.  Some months it wasn’t as bad, and most people politely told be that they didn’t notice it until I pointed it out.  I noticed it, and it really bothered me…a lot.  Sigh, like every former Winter Carnival Queen contestant (I was Princess of the Debating Club, thank you very much), I couldn’t stand to have my perfection marred (SNORT) by this annoying condition.  Seriously though, like many women, when I had a break out, I didn’t want to leave the house.

The other thing that you may not be aware of, is that even if you only have one spot, when it’s cystic acne, it’s quite painful.  It felt like I had a hot bruise on my chin.  The nodules could get sickeningly big, and I could often feel them before I could see them.  They also can cause scarring and like most people, I couldn’t help but want to squeeze them.  So satisfying, but terrible for your skin.    You can get also a cortisone injection, which I often did, to help the blemish disappear in a day or two, but to say the shot is painful is an understatement.  It’s like someone is injecting you with fire – however, the good news is, that the pain only lasts for about 3 seconds.  Let’s just say there is nothing good about adult acne and leave it at that.

Some years ago, my former skin care doctor (he wasn’t a dermatologist, but ran an acne clinic) told me to go on Accutane.  I went to get my blood tests done, picked up my prescription and was ready for better skin.  Then, I read the side effects and got completely freaked out by one in particular.  Can you guess?  No, it wasn’t liver and kidney damage.  It also wasn’t suicidal thoughts.  Was it the nausea?  No siree Bob.  I got freaked out by “thinning of hair (may continue after treatment is stopped).”  I lasted for 4 whole days as my skin was drying and my face was exploding even more.  One of the other nasty side effects is that your skin gets worse before it gets better.  I fixated on thinning hair checking the mirror every time I’d walk by one and I knew it was thinning by the second.  It wasn’t, but that’s what I thought.  I took myself off of the drug and vowed never to go on it again until….

My acne doctor retired and I thought it was time to go to a proper dermatologist.  I ended up going to one that I just didn’t click with.  I never saw him and all I got out of it was very expensive chemical peels that did nothing to solve my skin condition.  Then I went to my mother’s dermatologist who ended up being a better fit for me.  He recommended Epuris, an Isotretinoin.  I’m no dummy – I knew that this was a nice name for Accutane, and of course my very first question was, “Isn’t it going to thin out my hair?”  He almost rolled his eyes, but kindly refrained and told me that it is an extremely rare side effect and that we can stop the treatment if it happens.  He also told me that it wasn’t the same course of treatment that it used to be.  It is a much lower dose and it’s based on weight (yours more specifically, so be honest and tell the pharmacist).

What happened to my skin?  I started it in April of 2017.  Within 3 days, my skin started drying, and I once again got the worse before it gets better blemishes.  As even more time went on, my skin got even dryer.  My lips dried out too, but luckily, my eyes did not.  I read up on what other people used to keep their skin hydrated and I also figured out through trial and error what worked best for me.  Here is my list:

  • Simple Cleansing Wipes – I used these before washing my face to remove all of my make up – these have been my go-to for years.  If you live in Canada, but them at Winners if you can find them – they are $5.99 compared to $10.99 at Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Life Brand Gentle Skin Cleanser – don’t use a harsh cleanser on your face.  This is very much like Cetaphil, but much less expensive
  • Germaine De Capuccini Intense Renewal Exfoliating Mask – I actually didn’t use this as a mask, I used it as a scrub once a week.  Don’t leave it on your face if you are taking Isotretinoins.  You need to exfoliate your dry skin, but gently and this works.  The best tip that I can give you for exfoliation is to avoid natural products like walnut shells – you’ll injure your poor skin.  This is one time when you need to use an artificial skin scrub.  They are far gentler on your delicate dermis.  This product is only available at spas
  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche Soothing Protective Cream OR Avène Tolerance Extreme Cream – I used these interchangeably.  They are both just really good moisturizers for when your skin is at it’s driest and most dehydrated.  They didn’t irritate my skin or give me a rash.  My skin is sensitive already, so I have to be really careful.  You really will need to slather this on
  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Eyes – for the poor fragile skin under my eyes
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Face SPF 60 – don’t even try to go without sunscreen – you will pay for it and it’s not worth the burn
  • Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream Formula – this was a tough purchase at $100, but I wanted to try it.  It is fragrance-free and beauty bloggers rave about it.  The good new is that it works even better than skin lotions that I had been using, and because I need less product and it comes in a pump, it actually ends up being more economical then my drug store purchases.  I was going through one tube of skin cream a month, and I’ve had this one since January.  Sometimes you pay more to get more
  • Eucerin Intensive Lip Balm – I’ve tried every lip balm on the market and when you are on an Isotretinoin, nothing worked better than this.  Avoid things that make your lips tingle – they will end up drying out your parched puckers.  You don’t need anything fancy, you just need a good basic lip balm that works, and this worked the best for me
  • One last tip – don’t wash your hair everyday.  I went down to only having to wash it twice a week.  I would also avoid heat styling your hair where possible and limit the use of hair sprays and other fixatives.  Your hair gets very dry too

What would I say about my experience?  It ended up working for me.  In one year, I’ve had one tiny blemish that went away in 24 hours.  It is not for everyone.  Let your doctor be the one to tell you to go on it.  The only side effect that was kind of bad for me were the nose bleeds.  It wasn’t constant, but a few times a month, I would get one.   Some of you may experience worse than this, so it’s important to think about how you are feeling and whether you can put up with your skin issues.  Everyone’s results are also different.  I noticed that my skin got much better within one month, but I had very localized acne.  I’m thrilled with the results and glad that I stuck with it.


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The First Birthday Without You

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“Was Zaydie as good of a person as you remember him to be?” I asked my mother about my grandfather one day.  Everyone just thought he was a wonderful, kind gentleman, and my mother was the original Daddy’s Girl, but I was still curious.  “Oh no, Jill, he wasn’t.  He was better.”  Even though it’s only been 6 weeks, I can already tell you the same thing about my mother, she was better than I remember.   We had our first holiday without her two weeks ago.  Now, it’s her birthday and we are trying to figure out what to do.  I did a little self-torture, looking at birthday cards that I wouldn’t be able to give her.  That was the day that I got a little sign from her.  Last night, I read cards and poems online that people wrote to their dead mothers just to make sure that I could cry, although, there hasn’t been a shortness of tears on my part.  She really was special.

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Nobody loved a birthday more than my mother, especially the cake.  Every year, we had buy her the same cake – the repulsive store bought chocolate cake with the GIGANTIC pink roses.  She loved it, and every year for my birthday, when I was growing up, I got that very cake even though I hated it.  She’d always say “Tough luck.  I love it, and that’s what your getting.”  That was my mother – every inch a brat.  But before you write her off, that was only one part of my mother, she was so much more than that.  I could gush about how brave she was, but here is a quote from my cousin, a very religious and learned Rabbi, when I ask him for a quote for a treasured book in our family:

Judith Schneiderman returned her heroic,courageous and dearly beloved soul to her Maker on March 3, 2018. May She find comfort forever in the everlasting world. Rest peacefully. Never to be forgotten.

You see, my mother was heroic, not because she had cancer, but because of who she was.  You don’t become a hero because of a disease or because you die, you become one because of how you live you life and my mother lived her life with honour.  She was honest and giving and made decisions that were right, even when they weren’t right for her.

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I was told by many people how special my mother was to them.  One of her pottery teachers wrote this to me “I often told her that when I “grow up” I want to be just like her. “  Me too.  My mother loved life.  Even when she was at her sickest, she still lived it.  She managed her pain from cancer with nothing more than Tylenol until 6 days before her death when she couldn’t handle it anymore.  Even though she was bed-ridden the last year of her life, we still laughed, and she still loved having visitors.  She was still herself.  She was curious about everything and she never felt sorry for herself, not even once.  I wish that I could be as brave as she was.

To be a Motherless Daughter is a very sad thing.  My sister wrote these beautiful words:

“The end is the beginning

Bright lights…I cover my eyes

A slap, a cry, the journey of life begins

Daughter to wife, wife to mother

Motherless daughter, child no more

Full circle, light in my eyes and I cry.”

When my mother died, my sisters and I lost our last parent (and really, our only one).  My aunt lost her sister and became the last of the first generation of N’s (we all refer to ourselves as N’s, D’s or M’s in our family meaning the Zelikovitz brother that we belonged to, Nathan, David or Max) – a very difficult place to be.  My cousins lost their aunt and beloved cousin.  Her friends lost the joy of having my mother around.  It’s so hard on everyone.  Her friends and family called me today, thinking about her, and crying too.

“You can never count your mother out – she’s hard to predict because she’s so tough.”

“If you had told me a year ago, I’d still be standing here talking to you about your mother, I would have told you that we were both crazy.”

“Your mother was an absolutely lovely woman…She had a wonderful outlook/attitude that I admired deeply.”

Those are all direct quotes from her doctors.  Even they recognized the type of person that she was.  The week before she died, her palliative doctor told me that though she wasn’t conscious, she could still hear.  She said that it was important to keep talking to her.  With at least a dozen people in and out all day, every day, we never had to worry about her not having something to listen to.  Even then, everyone wanted to be around her.  My sisters and I talked to her all day, every day, no matter how hard it was on us, we told her that if she needed to go, that it was ok.  The doctor gave me one last piece of advice, because my mother was so strong, she had to know that she wasn’t dying because she wasn’t fighting hard enough, it was just that she was too sick from all of her illnesses to go on.  Everyday, I told her that she fought so hard, but she could stop fighting and rest.  And eventually, she did, in her own time, in her own way.

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I’m often told by people what a wonderful relationship that I had with my mother, and some even said that they wished that they could have had the same kind of bond with theirs.  My favourite photo is the black and white picture above you – even though it’s not perfect, it perfectly illustrates us.  No one ever has made me laugh harder than she did, and no one ever had a better mother.  I spent a lot of time with her the last year, and many times, before I’d leave she’d say thank you to me for something that I did for her.  I’d always tell her that you never have to thank me, I wish I could do more.  I should have said, “No Mummy, thank you.  Just thank you.”  Wherever she is, I hope that she knows that on her birthday, and every single day, how much she is loved and missed.

 

 

 


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Plop – Revisiting My Take on Goop

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The people who know me best know how much Gwyneth Paltrow and I have in common.       I’ve written about my respect for her several times before, indeed citing some of our greatest similarities, minus the size of my wallet of course.  Check these out if you know not of what I speak – https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/plop/https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/plop-part-deux-dos-due-zwei-twee/  Gwynnie does have it tough, don’t get me wrong.  Just recently, Goop was called out by NASA for spreading misinformation about using NASA technology in healing stickers sold on her site.  She also enraged GOOPIES (get it, like Groupies, only snobbier) at a recent Summit for the brand in NYC.  Not only did many get upset and leave the meeting of the fabulous minds due to lack of Gwynnie time and ill treatment if they only spent $500 on their ticket, there were ridiculous line ups for treatments promised when they booked their day of grace with the chosen Hollywood Health Nut.  Lastly, some of her adoring public is thinking about consciously uncoupling with Gwyneth when she admitted on Jimmy Kimmel’s show that she really has no idea about what is being sold on her site.

I would never abandon my Gwynnie though, and decided to take some of her advice (even if she doesn’t take it herself) and live the Goop-ie life for one week.  Here are some of the things that I tried…

  • Earthing – Gwynnie said she didn’t know what this was really, maybe some electromagnetic energy force field that’s only available in the ground.  I knew she was just kidding, after all, she was on Jimmy Kimmel and we all know what a joke-ster she is, so I decided to try Earthing for myself.  I pondered the name first, that’s just how deep I am, and thought, well, this is something that I can only do on Earth – not Venus, Mars or Jupiter, just Earth – coolio.  Immediately, I felt a connection to the land.  It can also cure a multitude of maladies like insomnia, arthritis, inflammation and depression.  According to Clint Ober, simply put, “Earthing therapy rests on the intuitive assumption that connecting to the energy of the planet is healthy for our souls and bodies.”  I decided to walk bare-foot through the park, or tip-toe through the tulips, if you will.  I kicked off my Naot sandals (not on Goop’s list of must have, I must invest in one of their choices) and plunged forward into the grass.  Immediately, I jumped back after stepping into a big pile of doggie doo – GROSS!!!! I found a bird bath and joined my fine feathered friends for a quick rinse before I tried again.  I got squeamish thinking I saw a worm and a deer tick.  Earthing isn’t for the faint of heart, so I gave up, running like a girl back to the safety of the pavement and my sandals.  Verdict – caused more stress then it cured.
  • Jade Egg Practice – wanting a deeper sense of connection to myself and all of the other side benefits of the Jade Egg suggested on Goop including some kegel help, I decided to try it.  When I saw the $66 price tag, I immediately thought, I can’t spend that much money on my hoo-hah why not try a regular hen’s egg?  Same shape – right?  Except every time I did it, the egg kept cracking – what a mess!  People on the subway also looked at me strangely because every time I tried to shove my way into the doors, another egg yolk appeared at my feet.  Verdict – don’t use regular eggs, and skip this whole thing. 
  • IV Drip  (available at the Goop Wellness Summit) – I wasn’t able to charter a private jet to fly down to LA to partake in a weekend of wellness and GP disciples, so I thought about just getting an IV drip which they promise will rehydrate you!  Then I thought about it and went with nature’s hydration, scientifically proven to help you bring more water to your little cells – good old water.  Verdict – OH PLEASE!
  • Meaningful small talk – My Gwynnie has meaning behind all of her conversations, so delving deeper into Goop, I found an article on how to have meaningful small talk.  All 8 steps would be overwhelming for a mere mortal like me, so I decided to start with one small tip – ask for advice, because it makes people feel good about themselves.  I’ve started at a new work place, so I thought this would be a great way to get to know people.  I went to the Executive VP’s office and asked him if he knew the best place to find a gun-metal coloured purse would be.  I’ve been looking everywhere for one!  Instead of feeling like an expert, he ordered me to leave his office.  I then walked into the Sales VP’s office and asked him if he thought I should go with Mac Lipglass for a tried and true colour (my fave is Love Child) or go with Charlotte Tilbury?  He never heard of either but I’m sure it made him feel important to be included in such a riveting conversation.  Verdict – mixed.
  • Spirituality (Understanding How to Move and Manipulate Energy) – GP is a spiritual goddess, really!  It pours out of her pores.  The first thing that I think of when I see her, aside from the awful hunchback she will have later in life if she keeps slouching, is how she is a child of the Earth – so in touch with herself.  I read this article and felt overwhelmed by the ten steps, so I focused on one for more energy: “Make a list of different feelings. Free associate with each feeling. What is your relationship to that feeling? What are your beliefs or images about those feelings? Where do you tend to feel those feelings, if at all, in your body?”  When I wrote down my feelings, particularly about Goop, the first was bored.  I saw myself yawn as I was thinking about my feelings.  I felt my arms stretch back and my mouth open wide enough to catch flies.  My relationship with boredom – too boring to think about.  My beliefs are???? Not sure, can’t answer that one.  I think it’s find something less boring to do.  Verdict – MEH!

So, after basking in Goopie brilliance for one week, I learned several valuable lessons – never go to someone who is not a health care practitioner for advice or someone who has no clue what she is talking about for that matter for mental advice.  Stars like Gwynnie and Cameron Diaz, will never be my go to girls when I need treatment for something.  Remember Goop isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a business.