Cranky Fibro Girl Harnessing the healing power of snark Tue, 07 Feb 2017 21:43:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Cat Lady And The Copperheads, Or, Six Words That Should Never Go Together Tue, 07 Feb 2017 21:43:02 +0000 So we’ve been here in our new home, in our new city, for about four months now, and we’ve begun the process of putting together our new support network of grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors, and other service providers.

Today I met our new cat sitter; she in turn met Pip, our tiny grey cat who loves everyone, and was hidden from by Emma who, as far as we can tell, spends her nights alone in my office in the dark, writing angsty  teenage poetry and trying on various shades of black lipstick. (We think she’s “going through a phase”, which so far has lasted for…let’s see…5 times 6…carry the 2…um, yeah, the entire 379 days she has lived with us so far.)

I had to fill out some paperwork, including instructions for what to do if one of the cats needs to go to the vet when we’re on a trip. Since last week was the one-year anniversary of having to send our sweet Tigger boy to heaven, and the whole saga of his illness began with our having to rush home from a vacation after an emergency phone call from our previous cat sitter, that part was a little hard. But the cat sitter assured me that she’d never personally had to do that.

Then she contradicted herself. “Oh, well, I guess I did have that one time when a cat was bitten by a snake.”

Snakes. Of course. Only the thing I fear most in the whole entire world. Well, that, and somehow ending up a disembodied consciousness trapped in endless time.

Just keep breathing, I told myself.

“So,” I asked, bracing for the answer, “what happened?”

“Oh, the cat was fine,” she said.  Although the snake was a copperhead…”

“Um, what?”

“…and apparently they’re really…”

“POISONOUS?!” I confess, I was actually shrieking by this point.

“…common around here,” she finished,”so all the vets are prepared for this kind of thing.”

Dammit. I really like it here, and now we’re gonna have to move again. Or get one of those snake hunters, those mongooses. Mongooses? Mongeese? OK, FOCUS PLEASE.

She continued. “Our cats are indoor/outdoor, and for a long time they kept bringing me baby copperheads.”

Whimpering softly I asked, “So what did you do?”

“Well they were mostly dead by that time.” I honestly don’t know if that’s better, or worse. “But that all stopped once we got the chickens.”

I perked up at this news. “Chickens can kill a snake?” This sounded promising, especially since we live in the country now. Chickens would be much easier for us to acquire than a mongoose.

“Oh yeah. If anything comes into their territory they just peck and claw it to a pulp.”

Alrighty then. While I do try very hard not to actively wish harm onto another being, I confess that this tidbit did make me breathe a bit easier. Because while for now I’m sticking with my tried-and-true Snake Avoidance Plan of never leaving the house, it’s good to know I have a backup plan, should I ever need one.


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Good Words Sun, 01 Jan 2017 14:00:34 +0000 New Year Poem
by May Sarton

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.
So much has died that had to die this year.

We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.

Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.
But we have not been there.

We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.

There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?
Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)

Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.

Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.

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Product Review: Quell Sat, 31 Dec 2016 19:03:54 +0000 “I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company. “

Over the course of the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to test out a variety of different products aimed at helping us chronic pain patients find some pain relief. I’ve tried lotions and ointments that focus on easing the physical symptoms. I’ve tested products designed to soothe the emotional aspects of living with daily pain, like teas and aromatherapy diffusers. I’ve read books whose goal is to help patients be as educated and empowered as possible as they advocate for their own best healthcare. And I’m grateful for the ways that each product complements and amps up all the tools I currently have in my pain relief kit.

In addition to all of these pieces, for the past couple of months I’ve been testing something quite different: a wearable, drug-free, pain-management device called Quell. From the website:

“Quell is wearable technology that uses intensive nerve stimulation to provide widespread pain relief. It is designed to be worn on the calf, regardless of where you are experiencing pain, and stimulates your nerves in a way that is powerful enough to trigger the release of your body’s natural pain blockers. Pain is blocked at the spinal cord, which helps you feel widespread relief from your pain, not just relief in a specific part of your body.”

I’ve undergone a number of semi-invasive procedures like epidurals and nerve ablations (nerve burns) that work on pain at the level of the spinal cord. They work for a few months, but they are expensive, temporary, and pretty hard on your system. I’ve also been prescribed medications that attempt to interfere with your brain’s ability to sense pain. But their results vary, and they come with a number of unpleasant side effects. Quell is completely different.

Of course, as with everything I review here, I add the caveat that it is not a magic bullet, I still have pain even when I use it, and everyone’s results will vary. But my Quell unit has provided me with a level of pain relief I’ve not found anywhere else.

I received my unit back in September, when we were packing up 22 years of living in Georgia to move back to North Carolina, and I pretty much gave it an introductory baptism by fire. Because despite 4 years of not driving long distances on the highway, this time I had no choice; we had to get both cars to NC, so I had to drive one of them. This meant I couldn’t take any pain medicine until late in the day when we’d gotten to whatever hotel we were staying at that night. And of course my pain was fairly jacked up thanks to all the physical labor and emotional stress caused by the move.

So I put on my Quell that first morning and drove for about 4 hours. And when I got to the hotel I was so surprised; I still had pain, of course, but nowhere near the fiery, debilitating level of pain I was expecting given my current life circumstances. I was kind of stunned.

It would be nice if I could give you some hard and fast numbers, I know, a consistent, specific percentage of the decrease in my experience of  pain. But because my amount of pain is fluid from one moment to the next, and my perception of my pain is personal and subjective, I can’t do that. But I can tell you that I almost always have a noticeable decrease in pain when I wear it, unless I’m having one of those flare-ups where nothing helps.

But what I can do is tell you that if you have the opportunity to test a Quell device, you definitely should.

Visit their website for more detailed product information.

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Also Overheard Wed, 21 Dec 2016 18:31:00 +0000 In an examination room waiting to meet my new doctor, and listening to him talk with the patient in the room next door:

Doctor: “…stabilizing the spine…”, “strengthening the core muscles…”, “…distributing weight evenly over both feet when you move…”

Me: Oh good, it sounds like he really knows what he’s talking about.

Doctor:”…don’t rush getting off of you pain meds unless you want to experience mood swings, cramps, uncontrollable shaking, (and a host of other awful symptoms of withdrawal)…”

Me: Huh, his voice really carries, doesn’t it? I need to remember that when he and I are talking.

Doctor: “…so orgasm is going to look totally different…”


Me: Extremely Important Mental Note: In order to avoid similar horrification in the future,  I will now be requiring all my physicians to communicate their diagnostic questions solely through the art of expressive dance.



















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Good Words Tue, 20 Dec 2016 17:19:39 +0000

when Whitman wrote, “I sing the body electric”

I know what he
I know what he

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can’t cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as

-Charles Bukowski

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Overheard Tue, 06 Dec 2016 20:31:45 +0000 Thanksgiving evening, as my engineer husband and our 4-year old niece are building castles with her Lego blocks:

Our Niece: Are we building something AWESOME?

Uncle Mr. CFG: We’re building something symmetrical.

(Important Side Note: Honesty compels me to add that the resulting castle was, in fact, both.)


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Product Review: Organic Aromas Essential Oil Diffuser Wed, 23 Nov 2016 14:08:44 +0000 “I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company. “

For the past few months I have had the opportunity to try out one of the Essential Oil Diffusers created by Organic Aromas. They offer a wide range of beautifully crafted products to choose from, and I am using the  “Raindrop” version of the diffuser.



The first thing I love about my diffuser is just the way it looks. It has a beautiful, handcrafted wooden base that is smooth, easy to handle, and feels really good in your hand, and a custom-blown glass reservoir that holds the essential oil.  And being the child of the ’70s, lava-lamp-fan that I am, I love the little LED light at the intersection of the base and the reservoir because it changes colors as the oil is drawn up and out into the atmosphere. So it’s pleasing to both your eyes and your sense of touch.

I also appreciate the fact that it is a self-contained system, and sturdily built. All the different pieces fit together snugly, and the shape and size of the wooden base make it very stable. I don’t have to keep an eye on it all the time when I’m using it, and I feel safe if I have to leave it unattended in my office for a minute or two and attend to something in another part of the house.

The main attraction of the diffuser is the way in which it functions, the process by which it emits the essential oils into the atmosphere around it. It does not use heat in its process, nor does it use water. It’s worlds away from the only other type of diffuser I’ve used, which is a candle diffuser. I was always afraid that the candle would fall out of the bottom, or that the glass tray would fall off of the base. Plus, I could never get the right ratio of water to essential oil, so I either ended up with no aroma at all, or way too much aroma.

Instead,the Organic Aromas Diffusers work according to the Bernoulli principle, which Mr. Cranky Fibro Girl explained to me in this way:

the movement of air through a small opening creates a difference in pressure.  This pressure difference causes a vacuum to pull a stream of the oil into the airflow and then out into the room.

I have to say that my favorite thing about my Raindrop diffuser is what they refer to as “the volume knob”. You can turn it almost 360 degrees, which means that, one, you have a large range of options for the amount of fragrance you want around you, and two, you can fine-tune your “scent preference” to a pretty high degree.  As Mr. CFG would say, the amount of oil diffused is proportional to the speed of the air, so turning up the airflow turns up the aroma.

So far, I’ve only experimented with the complimentary oil included with my diffuser, but I’m looking forward to trying out a lot more of my favorite scents.






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Some Encouragement For Those Times When I Haven’t Written For A While And Therefore Am Convinced That I Have Lost Every Single One Of My Blog Readers Wed, 16 Nov 2016 17:42:07 +0000 (And also for these times when I’m trying to find The One Perfect Action that will magically heal the world, instead of rolling up my sleeves, starting where I am, and “making it about the work.”)

From Humans Of New York:

“But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”

-President Barack Obama

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Good Words Tue, 25 Oct 2016 16:28:20 +0000 Every Morning All Over Again

Only the world guides me.
Weather pushes, or when it entices
I follow. Some kind of magnetism
Turns me when I am walking
In the woods with no intentions.

There are leadings without any
Reason, but they attract;
If I find there is nothing to gain
From them, I still follow—their power
Is the power of the surrounding world.

But things that promise, or those
That will serve my purposes—
they interfere with the pure wind
From nowhere that sustains a kite,
Or a gull, or a free spirit.

So, afloat again every morning,
I find the current: all the best
Rivers have secret channels that
You have to find by whispering
Like this, and then hear them and follow.

— William Stafford

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Product Review: The Patient’s Playbook by Leslie Michelson Tue, 18 Oct 2016 19:16:14 +0000 I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

If you’re like me, you’ve read a lot of different things over the course of your illness: leaflets and patient handouts from your doctor(s); websites and online articles; and of course, books. These days we have unprecedented access to pretty much all the information we could ever hope to find, and that’s wonderful in so many ways, especially for people like me who are frequently stuck at home due to chronic pain and illness. But the downside to living in The Information Age is that it doesn’t take much to drown in The Information Sea. The Patient’s Playbook, by Leslie Michelson, offers a knowledgeable, reassuring guide to help patients and their caregivers navigate the frequently overwhelming waters of our health care system.

The book is divided into three main sections. The first section lays out the steps a person can take to become more proactive about their own healthcare right now, before any serious health crisis occurs. The remaining two sections describe the steps to take and the resources to explore when you’ve facing a serious illness and need to find the best specialists and treatments for your situation.

This book found its way to me at a very opportune time, as my husband and I have just moved to a new state and I need to find a brand new medical support team. With a few exceptions I’ve always been fortunate to have had good medical care in the past, but I did find my doctors in a very haphazard way, just adding a new doctor to the mix every time another health crisis popped up. I never had any one physician coordinating my care. But now I have an opportunity to start fresh when it comes to my healthcare, and I’m hoping that I can use the tools described in The Patient’s Playbook to help me learn how to become more skilled in putting together my medical team.

I will confess that I did feel overloaded at times while reading this book. There is just SO much information in it that at times it triggered the same kind of overwhelm it hopes to prevent. If you’re in a position to be reading this while you’re at your-version-of-healthy, I definitely recommend consuming the information in small doses. I’m currently working on one-third of Step Three: obtaining copies of all my medical records. But little steps make a difference; before reading this book, not only did it never occur to me that I could request copies of my records for myself, it never occurred to me that I should. Now I know differently.

Another things that bugged me about the book was the kind of stories the author told to illustrate his points. It’s not surprising that he includes many stories about people who suffered through years of bad care and misdiagnoses before finally turning to the strategies laid out in the book, which led the patient to the perfect doctor, who found the perfect clue/piece of information, which led to the perfect treatment, that led to a major recovery, if not total cure. I don’t doubt any of the stories, and they’re certainly dramatic. But there aren’t any stories about patients like me, who do everything we humanly can to manage our conditions but never find a magic cure. I had to catch myself a lot while I was reading the book because I’d frequently start mentally and emotionally flogging myself or telling myself I was a failure because I haven’t yet figured out how not to be sick. Or I’d start blaming myself for my illness.

All in all, there are many helpful things I’m taking away from the book. Like learning how to treat myself as someone who deserves really good medical care. And getting better at advocating for myself. But I’m also following the “take what works, leave the rest” rule; there are things I know I’m never going to do, like spending enormous amounts of time reading medical journals for the latest papers published on my illness. Not gonna happen.

I can definitely recommend The Patient’s Playbook as a helpful resource to add to your toolkit. It’s been a long time since I read a book that offered any new information that I haven’t already read a million times before. But it’s not a magic bullet. As we chronic illness patients know all too well, sometimes you do everything you humanly can, and the best outcome you get is just being able to maintain the status quo. But sometimes, if we’re lucky, that can be enough.

If you’d like to check out The Patient’s Playbook, it releases in paperback today, and can be found here on Amazon.

Visit The Patient’s Playbook website for additional resources and information.

Visit Leslie Michelson’s Facebook author page here.


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