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Am I the Only One

 
 
Yesterday at a flower show I met a woman and her daughter and we had an oddball conversation.
 
Somehow we very quickly go on to the subject of ‘things you never talk about’ – sometimes not even with your close friends, and very rarely with strangers.The Mother then said “you think you’re the only one”. And so we talked about the secret thoughts we have that we don’t share with anyone else. The thoughts that go “Am I the only one who …….. – has had  a miscarriage, feels depressed, thinks life is not worth living, that I haven’t lived my best life, that I should do more with my life, that I am worthless,  ……………………. (fill in the blank)”.
 
It made me think that perhaps it’s time we did start having those conversations – not as in spill your guts to everyone we meet, but to somehow stop having those conversation only with yourself  in the dark of night; those thoughts are corrosive and of course lead to depression.
 
Getting them out into the open can be a very healing thing.  Because you usually discover that the person you are talking to has had those same thoughts or feelings – maybe over a different problem, but certainly the same thoughts.
 
And here’s a long bow for you.  What if world peace could be served by sharing your deepest and darkest thoughts?  What if, by exposing your frailty to others you also share your human-ness and we all start to see how we are the same, not how we are different.  And when your next door neighbour (who you’ve known for 20 years but never shared a thought with) hears that you too feel lonely, or sad you might just have a better neighbourhood through sharing a common thought.  I wonder if world peace could be that easy?  I imagine you couldn’t shoot someone, or blow them up, if you knew they’d just had a miscarriage, or been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
 
I’ve focused only the negative things here.  That’s because it’s the negative things we need help with, that we need others to comfort us.  Sharing the joy is easy, sharing the ‘sads’ is hard.
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Can you regenerate connective tissue?

I’m reading a book by Norman Cousins called Anatomy of an Illness, which I think will be particularly interesting to Baby Boomers.  Norman Cousins is the man who supposedly laughed himself to health.  You have probably heard this and wondered if it was an urban myth or if there was more to it.  Well, it isn’t and there is.

His illness was one of the connective tissues and at his worst Mr Cousins says, his “jaws were almost locked”.  The doctors apparently never did agree on a diagnosis but finally called it ankylosing spondylitis – which means that the connective tissue in the spine disintegrates.  Phew!

I picked this book up in an op shop.  The reason I was attracted to it was that on the cover it said  “Reflections on Healing and Regeneration”.  I’m a big believer in regeneration, even though conventional medicine says it can’t be done.  My own goal for regeneration is for the cartilage between the hip joints.  I need to do it quickly too because there’s only about 3 weeks to go before I have a hip replacement.

I’ve actually been working on regrowing cartilage for quite a while now and it has been an interesting journey, but I really have to pull the stops out now.

So, back to Mr Cousins.  He was put into hospital by his physician and then underwent numerous tests – mainly blood tests but nothing conclusive resulted.  Meanwhile, he got steadily worse.  So he decided to take matters into his own hands – but he did have the backing of his physician.

He moved out of the hospital into a hotel room and put himself on a sodium ascorbate (vitamin C) drip.  He had read about Vitamin C and has quite a lot to say about it.  He is also a firm believer in a positive attitude and has quite a lot to say about that too.  He figured that laughter really is the best medicine (jogging for the internal organs he calls it) so he really did rent a lot of movies and laugh a lot – all this with the support of his doctor.

And he really did get slowly better.  Slowly over a number of months and years and his recovery was not complete but pretty close to it.  This is remarkable because the doctors had decided that he would get steadily worse and eventually be in a wheelchair and barely able to move.

Here’s a quote: “I must not make it appear that all my infirmities disappeared overnight.  For many months I couldn’t get my arm up far enough to reach for a book on a high shelf.  My fingers weren’t agile enough to do what I wanted them to do on the organ keyboard.  My neck had a limited turning radius.  My knees were somewhat wobbly, and off and on, I have had to wear a metal brace.

Even so, I was sufficiently recovered to go back to my job at the Saturday Review full time again, and this was miracle enough for me.”

He has some amazing stories to tell about people he met along the way – including Pablo Casals – who in turn have remarkable stories about their own bodies.

So, Norman Cousins recipe for healing is:

  • Have a strong will to live.
  • Become actively involved in your own healing process.
  • Find a doctor to support your decisions.
  • Good nutrition.
  • Believe that your body can heal itself

I typed that really fast, but I know it’s not so quick and easy to do those things.  They are a lifetime journey, and when you are ill they are really a life – time journey.

For myself and my own challenge, I have recently joined a gym and do mainly stretching exercises and a few for upper body strength.  My main purpose is to build muscle so that I can heal more quickly after the hip replacement.  But I have found already that it has increased my range of movement.

I’ve also just started taking lots of Vitamin C.  I think I feel better already.  Is that because I believe, or because it really does work?  Perhaps it is the “placebo effect” (which is extensively explored in this book).  Doesn’t matter really, as long as it works!

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Whale Watching and Volunteering!

One of the things Baby Boomers usually have plenty of is time.  Some of us find we have too much time on our hands, some of us get busier and busier and wonder how we ever had time to work.  But however we cut it, once we are retired 24/7 is ours.

There are weeks when I wonder how I am going to spend the rest of my life.  I imagine I have at least 20 years or so to go.  So how do I fill in each day from now until then?  Work was once the Great Divider of my time.  Five days for the boss, two days for me.  I planned everything I had to do around work, when to shop, how much time for family, how much for hobbies, do I pay someone to do the garden or do I take some time (from where?) and do it myself?

There are days and days when I wonder when I am going to have some time for myself!  I am caught in an endless whirl of paying bills, having lunch, wrangling with the insurance or the phone people, mowing the lawn, writing my blog, phoning friends, staying with people overnight, vacuuming the floor.  Phew!

I wrestle sometimes with the big question – what is the purpose of my life?  Now that I am retired, is there a purpose anymore or have I fulfilled it?  Or have I perhaps missed it altogether?  Is it too late?  Should I have been really good at something but I never discovered the talent?  Or worse still, I never developed it and now I have wasted my life?  I won’t deny that these things do plague me from time to time, but I have learned not to pay much attention to them anymore.

Nowadays I smile at myself a little indulgently and think “idiot, even if all that is true, what are you gonna do about it?  Move forward is the only option you’ve got.”

And so, with my inner best friend prodding me on, I get on with my life.  The questions remain however ..  what am I going to do with the rest of my life?  What am I able to do?  What can I afford to do?  How much risk am I willing to take?

Well, there are a heap of things I want to do and at present I am just adding things to my list.  By the way, have you seen the “Bucket List” film?  Quite a good jumping off point to think about these things if you need some help.

So,this is a long winded way of saying “here is something I discovered whilst browsing the internet and following leads (also a great way to spend the day)”.

How about volunteering to count whales and dolphins in Moreton Bay?

I love the sea, I have the time, this would be great!

Here’s the link.  You’ll see whales breaching and breathing and doing their courtship thing.  You’ll even hear a little whale calling.  I’m enchanted!  Hope you are too.

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What’s an Osteopath?

I thought I knew what an osteopath was.  Someone asked me whether I’d been to one for my hip thing and I said yes!

Then I read an article and I realised I didn’t know what an osteopath was.  And I hadn’t been to one either.

What I have been to is a kinesiologist who “switched the muscles on”, a masseuse who realigned my hips, a chiropractor who helped me with exercises and range of movement, and a specialist who told me I needed a hip replacement, but not an osteopath.

I thought you might not know about osteopaths, or you might think you did – and I’m very impressed by what it sounds like they do.  I have to say I haven’t been to one because what I need is new cartilage, and they don’t provide that.

The 4 principles of osteopathy are:

1.  Each structure in the body supports body’s functions.  If a structure is damaged, out of place or otherwise not working properly, the body will not function as its best.

2.  The natural flow of the body’s fluids – lymphatic, vascular and neurological – must be preserved and maintained.

3.  The human body is the sum of its parts.  Its physical, emotional, social, spiritual and cognitive systems don’t work independently – they work in harmony.

4.  When the body has no restrictions, it has the inherent ability to heal itself.

(from: Alive magazine, Autumn 2011)

I particularly agree with this last point.  I believe wholeheartedly that the body can heal itself.  I even believe I can grow new cartilage, and I intend to be the first one to do it!

I think I was confused about whether I’d been to an osteopath or not because they sound a bit like a chiropractor and in fact have some similar philosophies and practices.  As well as the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments and muscles (which chiropractic focuses on), osteopathy also takes account of functional tissue such as the innter organs, blood vessels, brain membrane and tissues  and nerve tissue and membranes – as well as the nerves themselves..

Osteopathy also focuses on the root cause of whatever the patient presents with rather than simply treating the symptoms.  And like homoeopathy, osteopathy recognises that things are interconnected – for instance people with asthma also often present with bowel problems because the origin of both can be in the mucosa.

So, osteopathy can treat a whole range of things – irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, anxiety, asthma and more.  Unfortunately for me it doesn’t seem to encompass regrowing bits – in my case cartilage.

There is an Australian Osteopathic Association; this quote is from its website:

Osteopathy is not an alternative health option – osteopaths are university trained, government registered, allied health professionals. Currently an osteopath undertakes a 5-year, University Masters degree to achieve registration in Australia.”

The website will also help you find an osteopath if you’d like to try it out.

if you do, let me know about your experience and results.

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Emotional Freedom Technique

As we baby boomers boom along through the 21st century many of us wonder about alternative medicine.  We’re getting some aches and pains, some ailments, some warts, some inflammation.  We all knew this was going to happen to us, but as the fortunate generation after the war and before junk food, we are amazingly healthy – and we thought we would

  • a) live forever,
  • b) never get sick.

My friend who is the same age as I am recently said to me with great surprise “I have high blood pressure, low vitamin D and cholesterol.”  She was outraged that this should happen to her.  She wears jeans to work, wonderful jewellery and acts as though she’s 35.  But she’s 63.  Who knew we would ever get to be 63?  And now she’s getting those things that we’ve traditionally associated with old age.  We just haven’t associated us with old age!  Q: “Who are these old people?” A: “Us!”

Most of our generation also seems to have a healthy disrespect for main stream medicine and a conviction that there must be some other way.  Hence the proliferation of new age therapies and remedies.  I’m skeptical about most of them too, but there are some that intrigue me.

Have you heard of  EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)?  It’s been around for a really long time now (15 years that I know of) and although it’s kinda weird, it makes perfect sense to me.

You may know it as “tapping”.  You may have seen people tapping their foreheads, under their eyes, their heart chakra, their collarbone and wondered “what the heck”?  Well, that’s probably what they were doing – EFT.

EFT has been used for all sorts of things – from illnesses to phobias to emotional trauma and as an aid to ‘reprogramming’ your mind so that you can achieve success or love or whatever you want.

Does it work?  I believe so.  However, there are just as many detractors.

The good thing about stuff like this is that it will definitely work for some people, because they believe that it will work, and belief is definitely the most important component in any healing or change we wish to bring about.  There is a school of thought that says allopathic medicine works because we believe it will, and naturopathy doesn’t work (at least not as well as allopathy) because we don’t really believe it will.  (I have reservations about that belief.)

Anyway, maybe EFT works because we believe it will.  Maybe it works on some deep level.  Maybe we could access those levels without tapping.  Maybe the tapping serves to focus our mind.  Maybe …. maybe …..  but hey, I think that whatever works is a good thing.  And for me, I believe that tapping works – so now I’ve come full circle with the belief thing.

I can’t really tell you much more than this because I don’t know much, but here is a great video that explains it all.

If you’re intrigued, here’s another place you can read about it.

 

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Pushies are back!

What’s a pushie?  A push bike.  Remember when we called them that?  Well, they’re back!  Everything old really is new again. And we baby boomers will welcome them nostalgically.

I read an article recently about “cycle chic”.  And what it turned out to mean is that people are riding push bikes again, sitting upright and seeing the world instead of bending forward, hunched over handlebars and seeing the bitumen.  Hoobloodyray.  I never could understand the joy of whizzing through the countryside seeing nothing but the ground beneath your wheels.

And, being the 21st century, this is now turning into a cult, courtesy of the internet. Cults usually have a uniform, and so does cycle chic!

This is a fashion model wearing cycle chic. She also has a blog.

If you want to be really in the thick of fashion you might buy a quilted leather pannier from Chanel – part of a $10,000 bicycle that fashion house recently launched.  What you won’t buy is flourescent gear and racing helmets.  And you won’t hunch over.  You will sit up straight, gliding gracefully along a riverside cycle path, perhaps with a pooch in your basket, or your picnic lunch or perhaps with a group of friends.

I love it!  Not so long ago it was remarkable if someone rode a bicycle in a skirt and high heels.  Now it’s fashionable to do so.  And if you’re a bloke, it’s ok to ride a bike in jeans and boots or funky shoes or whatever you like.  And it’s alright to have a basket in the front or the back.

Cycle chic for the city.

I think the Dutch have always had a cycle culture which extended way beyond the mere sporting – more power to them.

Here in Brisbane the Brisbane City Council has introduced cycles for hire dotted around the city.  You simply enter your code, the bicycle is released from it’s bay and off you go, returning the bicycle to another bay when you are done.  The good thing about the bikes (I think) is that they are sit upright bikes, so you can see the city you are cycling through.

Brisbane City Council's City Cycle.

I think they are meant for both tourists and city commuters but either way, it’s nice to see where you’re going.

This “new” bicycle trend is in part a response to the cost of fuel, the overcrowded streets and roads and concern for the health of the planet.

You know the saying “it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good” and this (cycling) is one of the good things to come out of an ill-wind (ill-health of planet etc.)  Think of the wonderful extras attendant on cycling in a sociable way – people will talk to each other, people will slow down their lives, people will smell the roses, perhaps it will even lead to more smiles, more friendship and if you keep joining those dots, perhaps it will contribute to world peace.

I know that’s a long bow, and of course cycling will not bring world peace on its own, but you can see how many small things can bring a big change.

I love the human spirit.  One way and another we keep on keeping on and good things keep popping out of “bad”.  At bottom I think all human beings want to have a good time, be kind to each other and live in harmony.  No matter how screwed up things get the “good” part of us keeps popping up, clamouring for recognition.

I’m going to get an electric tricycle as soon as I find the one I like.  My ordinary cycling days are over – but those electric bikes.  Have you ever seen or ridden one? Fantastic.  You can pedal when you wish and then turn on the power when you need assistance.

I could do my shopping at my local big shopping centre pedalling and powering, I could get to my friends houses or just go for a ride along the cycle paths.  I can buy a whole new cycling outfit too – and be part of the “cycle chic” movement.  This is a part of the 21st century I might just manage without tears and frustration – cos I’ve been there before.

For an Australian retailer of cycle chic accessories or to see an interesting blog, click here.

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A conversation with the Dalai Lama

The theme of the "conversation"

 

I think I’ve said before that a lot of good things had come out of the flood for me (excuse the pun).  A couple of weeks ago it was that beautiful quilt.  I pretty much thought that had to be the end of it.  Could there be any more?

The Universe’s answer was: “Yes, there could.”

Our local councillor’s secretary rang me in my capacity as a floodie and asked if I would like to go and see the Dalai Lama!!!!  Well, yes!  I would!

Apparently he had asked to meet with people who had been affected by the flood and each region had been given tickets to this event in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, at the River Stage.

You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find someone who would go with me.  True to the spirit of the gift I wanted to take someone who had been affected by the flood or who had supported me during my own trying time.   I asked several people who variously said they were not interested (???) or were too busy.

My wonderful friend Alice who had housed me during the flood and fed me sustaining and nourishing meals after a day knee deep in mud and washing up liquid uses a walker so I didn’t ask her first up.  But eventually she was the only one left to ask – and she jumped at the chance.  So, walker or not, we were off to see the Dalai.

It was an amazing event.  Really well organised.  The taxi was allowed pretty far into the site so we didn’t have to walk far.  There was an entrance gate really close to our seats and everything was well marked and well set out (including that important facility – the toilet).

Our seats were in about the 6th row, centre front so we had a good view.

That's Alice waving to you.

The event began with an Irish singer who had been invited by the Dalai Lama to come all the way from Ireland to sing at Australian events.  For his second song he invited his cousin to come and play the flute during the chorus – and taught us all to sing a very simple phrase.

The Irish musician who opened the event.

Then the DL came on stage with the compere.  With the DL came a crowd of people – security guards, monks, an interpreter, stage hands, a photographer.  But he wasn’t phased by this hive of distracting activity around him – he spoke to the thousands of people gathered as though he were speaking to just a few – and as though there was nothing else going on.  Remarkable concentration.

Anyway, he stood at the front of the stage and addressed us all.  However, after a minute or so the sun was really annoying him, so he stopped speaking and called for his “handbag” – a red cloth bag – and got out his sun visor – colour co-ordinated with his robes.  We all laughed with him as he put it on.  Then, a few minutes later, he needed his clip on sunnies – he had an eye problem he said – and when he put them on he kind of posed little like a pop star – quite deliberately, and made us all laugh again.

Then he sat down on the couch with the compere ready to ask him questions which had been sent in by the public in the days before the event.  The compere sat on a chair at the end of the couch and a bit lower than the couch, but the DL didn’t like that.  He asked the compere to bring his chair onto the platform level with the couch.  The compere quipped “upgraded to business class”.  But that still wasn’t enough for the DL who then invited the compere to sit on the couch next to him.  “Upgraded to first class” said the compere.

Then onto the questions and answers.  About ten minutes into this, Paul Pisasale, the Mayor of Ipswich showed up and was promptly invited to sit on the couch on the other side of the DL.  For the rest of the conversation Paul’s knee did service as the DL’s arm rest.  It was charming actually to see the DL so free.  It’s not something that blokes usually do, lean on another bloke’s knee or hold his hand but the DL did – without hesitation or self consciousness and it was actually quite lovely to see.

All three on the couch.

The DL had such a good time!  He gestured as he spoke, then rested his hand on Paul’s knee, then grabbed the compere’s hand then gestured again.  It gave the whole affair quite an intimate feel, as though we were present at a small gathering instead of this huge deal.  And I guess that the was whole intention.  Each one of us felt as though we were personally being addressed.

After the questions had been answered there were live questions from the audience.  Which we were all answered with humour and grace.  It doesn’t matter whether I agreed or not, I was just swept away by the humility and wisdom with which the answers came.

Towards the end a lass jumped up to ask a question, even though she didn’t have a mike – she’d been putting her hand up but the compere hadn’t seen her – so she just jumped up!  At first she was choked with emotion and then she finally got her question out – it was about the place of handicapped people in society.  And before he said anything much the DL got off the couch and gestured for the girl to come up to the stage – where he gave her a big long hug – saying “so much emotion”.

After the hug came a few personal words.

I don’t know if it freaked the security people out but the crowd loved it.  It was a very touching moment.  I know he is a human being just like me, but he is also special and I guess I expect that he just doesn’t have time for every little thing.  But he did have time for that one human being who needed him.

It was a wonderful experience to see the Dalai Lama in action.  I’ve only ever seen him in bits and pieces on the telly so I appreciated seeing him in the flesh.

The crowds on the hill.

 

 

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Tina's Final Gift

Someone I have known for many years died last week after a long illness.  She was very ill at one point and was sent home to die. The hospital said there was nothing more they could do.  Then, with the help of an alternative practitioner, she rallied and was well for over a year.  And then, one day, she wasn’t.  She died in the local hospice surrounded by family and friends.

Although I had known her for so many years, we were not close friends.  Not for any particular reason, it just hadn’t happened.  But that didn’t prevent me from appreciating her and recognising what a wonderful human being she was.  Just how wonderful though I didn’t really know until her funeral.

It was an amazing gift to have attended that gathering of family and friends and people like myself who had known her over the years.  She had planned her funeral with the help of friends and family.  She wanted a colourful funeral and something that showed her life and the people and things she held dear.

So, the venue was filled with colourful flowers, lots and lots of them.  On two tables were many of the artefacts of her life including a pack of cards – Skip Bo – which I imagine she played with members of her family.  There were photos and statues and little nick nacks.  And there were lots and lots of candles.  She loved candles and requested that there be lots at her funeral.

The family had a lovely ceremony around the candles.  They lit one main candle and used it to light one other candle on the table.  Then they passed the main candle to another member of the family, who in turn lit another candle.  It took several minutes until each family member had lighted a candle, and all the while her favourite song played in the background.

There was also a DVD showing on a big screen with pictures of her life from the time she emigrated to Australia as a very small girl to one of the last days of her life when she was obviously worn out.  It’s a very brave thing to do, to have your friends see you at the very last.  There were at least 200 people at that funeral.  That last picture showed her asleep in a hospice bed, with a very young baby asleep beside her.  Probably a grandchild.  An end and a beginning.  I can’t explain why, but that picture was really big emotionally.

Quite a few people spoke.  There was a eulogy, and a poetry reading, an email was read out, some memories were relived.  Each person who spoke told of Tina’s wonderful smile, her warmth, her feistiness, her endless capacity for loving and appreciating others and her gift for making each person she was with feel important.

What is most remarkable to me however is that Tina did not live a big life in the sense of grand achievements.  She didn’t climb Everest or sail single handed or invent something to save the planet.  She didn’t travel widely or start funds for causes.  She lived bravely though and with gusto.  Always with love.

Her final gift of love to us all was her funeral.  It was a big event.  She planned it that way.  It gave me a chance to experience some very big emotions.  It wasn’t sadness.  And I won’t miss her – because she wasn’t really part of my life.  So what was it that brought those very big emotions to the surface?  I think it was that death is a very big deal.  It’s as big a deal as being born.  The tears are an expression of “bigness” not of sorrow or grief.

I felt very privileged to be able to experience those tears and that emotion.  To have it drawn out of me, to remember that I have big emotions.  They are so easily forgotten in the day to day humdrum.  And I’m going to risk a cliche here: it is so good to have life put in perspective.  When it’s brought home to you that there is an end to this life, and that we will all go the same way. Whether our lives were “big” or “small” we will all make that big leap between worlds and for a while at least I was reminded that I want to live my best life.  It has reminded me of what’s important.  “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is so true.  Enjoy the good stuff is so true – enjoy it and savour it.

This is what I think Tina did.  She lived her life to the full.  She lived the opportunities she had in front of her.  She was both adventurous and content.  She was small in terms of climbing Mt Everest, but she was HUGE to her family and friends.  They loved her, really loved her.  And you know what she will be remembered for most?  Her smile!  How good is that?  How wonderful to be remembered for your smile.

And one last thing – the bow on the gift you might say.  When the service was over and the pall bearers were getting ready to lift the coffin, Tina’s daughter passed on Tina’s last request: That we follow the coffin out of the venue and up the road – and as we follow, we dance!  Yes dance.  So as the coffin moved out of the hall, dance music started to play with the words “get up, get up and dance to the rhythm of life, the rhythm of life ….” and so the very end of Tina’s life was a chain of dancing friends and family – shuffling and swaying and crying and laughing.

So thank you Tina for your final gifts to me.  A chance to experience those very big emotions in a safe way and a reminder to live my best life.  I too want  to be remembered for something as simple and good as a smile.  And on my final breath, I want to be content with and thankful for, the life I have lived.

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5 months later

Here it is 5 months after the flood – almost 6 months and still the gifts keep coming.

But on Sunday I was gifted with an amazing patchwork quilt. It was made by the women of Perth for the flood participants in Queensland. And one of them came to me. It is like a jewel in my loungeroom – I’ve got it draped over my recliner so that I can look at it’s glowing colours.

Today a man came to give me a quote for a new kitchen.  5 months later my kitchen has finally started to fall apart.  I thought it was going to be fine.  My friends who came to help clean up after the flood worked really hard to save it.  They dried it out and cleaned it and everything looked as though I’d gotten through unscathed!  Well, I haven’t.

But I’m probably getting a new kitchen!  What a gift.

I’ve never been really happy with the colour I painted the wall in the bedroom.  Now it’s flaking off.  It has to be repainted.  What a gift!

The tears I shed anywhere and everywhere?  It has made me softer as a person.  Knocked off some of the hard edges.  It has also brought me a kind team of people who are treating me with Bach Flower Remedies – free of charge.  Because the Bach Flower people have donated remedies for floodies.  What a gift!

A friend who is doing renovations in her house doesn’t need her cleaning lady for a couple of weeks.  So she’s come to me instead and cleaned mud out of crevices.  What a gift!  She’s an amazing woman too.  I was glad to have met her.  Another gift!

What a lot of gifts I’ve had since the flood.  These are just the latest round.  There’ll be more I’m sure.  I’m hoping for some funding for all of the above from the Premier’s Disaster Relief Fund.  That would be a gift too!  I’ll keep you posted.

Look at these lovely colours.

Look at these lovely colours.

The colours glow.

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Ten out of Ten for TENS

I have this fabulous little “machine” called a TENS machine.  It helps with the joint pain I get from “shattered” hips.

Last week I saw my specialist who says I need 2 hip replacements.  He says he’s not surprised I’m in pain.  He says he’s surprised I can put my socks on at all.  He says this after looking at my x-rays.

When my GP first saw my x-rays he said “A lot of operations for you”.  I’m telling you this so you know how bad the pain is likely to be.  I’m not always in pain though.  When I’m sitting comfortably in a chair or lying in exactly the right way in bed I can forget for a while that all is not ok.  Sometimes I’m only stiff, not in pain.

The worst time is when I’ve been out in the garden or shopping.  That’s when I can really suffer.  My hip joints – and to some extent knee joints – get really painful when I’ve been bending or kneeling.  I try not to do either but in a garden you can’t get away from it entirely.  Shopping is just plain horrible.  The hard concrete surfaces of shopping centre floors are murder on the legs and hips.  And that slow strolling you do when you’re shopping is also a killer.

So, my strategy for dealing will all this is:

  • hot water bottle on the lower back
  • arthritis cream on the affected joints
  • a couple of panadol
  • and my TENS machine wherever there is pain.

What is TENS?

It stand for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and works by passing mild  electrical impulses through the skin, via electrode pads, into the nerve fibres which lie below.  The TENS impulses help your body produce its own pain killing chemicals, such as ‘endorphins’.

The level of pain relief obtained varies from person to person but for me, it’s fantastic.

TENS produces electrical signals to stimulate nerves via self-adhesive pads. This releases endorphins, and disrupts the pain signal to the brain, effectively reducing the pain sensation.

I have the Hi-Dow brand although I believe there are many other brands as well.  They are quite expensive (mine cost $200) and they look more like an iPod than a pain relief machine.  The good thing is it’s so compact that you can wear it in the car or when you’re walking or whatever.

One of the drawbacks is that the little pads that attach to your skin eventually wear out (about 150 applications but if you use the pads four or five times at a sitting they only last for about a month) and they are quite expensive to replace – $15 for two.  However, I’m here to say that they are well worth it.  To me, this little machine is a miracle.
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There are drugs I can take to minimise the pain.  A  neighbour of mine is on morphine and while it works well for her, she has to get a new script every month (visit to the doctor) and she gets terribly constipated.  Everything you do comes with another little hiccup, when all you really want is for the problem to be fixed and no side effects.  Well the TENS machine is as close as it gets for me.  No side effects, no doctor’s visits.

Ya gotta love it!

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