We Can Run But We Can’t Hide……From The Flu Season

** the following is based on my opinion that those who can should get the flu shot! It’s just my opinion!

I don’t know about you but I can’t believe that it’s already time to start thinking about flu shots and flu season. It seems like it was just here!! Sadly, it was. And it is back again. As much as we don’t want to it is indeed time to start thinking about flu season. As well as how we are going to protect ourself and our families and whether we will be getting a flu shot. But really, when does the flu season truly become a worry? When does the actual flu season start in the United States? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are seasonal influenza (flu) viruses detected all year long. However actual flu cases are most common to be seen during the fall and winter. Clearly no one can predict the exact timing, duration or even the strain of the flu season. That being said they can assume when flu activity will begin and end based on previous years of data. So based on that data, in most years flu activity usually begins sometime in OCTOBER. And will peak between December and February, and crazily enough, activity can be seen as late as May! So basically, you better start planning how you are going to protect you and your family NOW. That being said let’s take a little closer look at statistics regarding flu cases and the facts of the flu shot!

The Centers for Disease Control estimates, that during the 2015-2016 flu season, 34 million people were infected with the flu, and as many as 710,000 people were hospitalized and nearly 65,000 died. That also means a lot was spent on visits to primary doctors, Urgent Cares and on Emergency Room visits, as well as on cold medicine, Tamiflu and expenses that many feel could have been avoided. In most cases Flu shots probably would have prevented some of those hospitalizations, deaths and many of other flu sufferers that suffered at home. For others like the immunocompromised, chronically ill ,elderly or those that got a strain that was not prevented by the shot, the shots are not always effective.

Flu vaccines (shots) are usually available year round. But you will begin seeing and hearing more about flu shots at the pharmacy, doctors office, or on TV in late summer/early fall and continuing through winter. The flu vaccine you got last year is not the same as the one that be available this year. Unlike other vaccines the the flu vaccines change yearly, so shots should be done annually for your best protection. Why do they change every year? Basically because the shots are made to prevent those who receive the shot from getting sick from the flu strains in the shot. That being said there are years where their predictions are not right thus making the vaccine less effective. Some years they do a really good in predicting what strains will be seen, thus what strains they should vaccinate against, and other years, not so much. Last year the vaccines were less likely to prevent the flu that was widely seen in the US, mainly because the strains in the vaccines were not the strains of the flu that were being seen in the US last flu season. As some would say they didn’t quite hit the nail on the head with that one. But in all honesty the flu vaccine is very safe and is overall the most effective means of preventing or lessening how severe a case of the flu could be if you were to contract it.

Even if you hear about getting the flu shot on the radio it from your doctor in August you don’t want to get it that early. When it comes to flu shots “too early” really is a thing, if you get it before the flu season even starts then it will not be effective and won’t protect you the entire flu season. Generally speaking you and your doctor can decide when is the best time for you to receive your shot. But the best time to start getting flu vaccines generally speaking is mid-September to early- October. On the flip side it’s never to late in the season to get a vaccine. As I said before the flu season usually ends with winter but cases may be seen through May!! So even if you’ve remained healthy but decide in January or February to get one that is okay. You will be protected the rest of the normal season and through the end of that late season as well!

The flu is highly, HIGHLY contagious!! And very VERY easily spread. Did you know that it can be spread to others who are up to SIX FEET away from an infected person sneezing, coughing or JUST TALKING!!!!! And what’s even scarier is that you or anyone can be contagious even before you start to show symptoms.

So what can you do? How can you protect yourself and others from the flu this year?!? Well, it’s actually pretty simple really. The big one is that you can wash your hands often! If you think you’ve washed your hands enough, wash your hands MORE!! You also need to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, if you do touch those areas…..you got it. Wash your hands! The biggest and most important thing you can do during flu season, really if we are honest anytime of year, stay home if you are feeling sick even if you think it’s much a cold. By doing this you are protecting others from the spread of the flu or any other germ or bug you might have. This may not be important for most of the population, but it’s VERY important for those who are most susceptible to the flu.

The population that is most at-risk for catching the flu, for complications of the flu and even hospitalizations or death from the flu, are those over 65, the very young (infants under 6months), as well as people like us with little to no functioning immune system. At least the immunocompromised, and the elderly can have the vaccine and have some chance at fighting off Influenza should they catch it. But anyone under 6 months does not have that chance. As infants under 6 months of age cannot be given the vaccine. But you are NEVER to old for a shot. In fact there are actually high dose shots that encourage a better immune response available for those aged 50-65 and an even higher dose available for those over 65.

One thing people don’t understand is that the flu for someone who is chronically ill or has a severely compromised immune system can be deadly. A “bug” that might put a “normal” person in bed for three or four days could be potentially deadly for someone like me. I don’t say this to be dramatic. I say this to make you think. My immune system is always busy fighting my own body and my lungs especially, so it doesn’t pick up these infections like most normal immune systems would. The normal immune system picks up the big as soon as it enters the system. But for someone with an autoimmune disease or on chemo with no working immune system that bug may never be “picked up” by the very weakened immune system until it’s way too late. So please, I beg of you, if you have family or friends who fall into the categories I mentioned and you are thinking about skipping the shot, please don’t. It’s much easier to get the shot than it is to bury your friend or family member.

I know not everyone is able to get the shot, and that’s okay. Some people have life-threatening allergies to vaccines or it’s ingredients. Others have or will develop a condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome. And newborns under six-months can’t get the flu vaccine. These groups of people have to rely on a different kind of immunity. They have to rely on what’s called herd immunity. Herd immunity is the idea when most people around them the flu vaccine, it helps to protect the family, or population as a whole.

Honestly, if you’ve had the real Influenza once you will NEVER forget it! And chances are that those who have had it will take the extra effort to get the vaccine in every year in the future. Because the flu is AWFUL! Symptoms can include, but aren’t limited to: sudden onset high fever, severe body aches, on top of all the symptoms associated with a cold. You may not be worried about getting the shot for yourself. But think about getting one for those around you.

I feel like we’ve covered enough of the the basics to get you through the first part of the flu season. It’s awful, you don’t want it. And you just need to wash your hands all….the….time!!!! In all honesty, what you need to know is that the flu ends you YOU (U). What I mean by saying that is there are two simple and easy ways to prevent influenza and the spread of the disease is to get your yearly flu shot, and KEEP YOUR BUTT HOME WHEN YOU ARE SICK during flu season. In all honesty flu shots aren’t for everyone. But if you take nothing away from everything else I have written take away this. If you live with or come in close contact with someone who is immunocompromised, is chronically ill, is elderly, or has a new born baby at home GET THE SHOT! In those cases it’s not for you it’s for them. A case of the flu might put you in bed for three days. But for a person in any one in the groups I just mentioned could die from the flu! So just think before you decide not to get the shot!

With Love,

Amber

Why Moving Your Body Really Is Important

How many times have you heard someone say you just need to ”Move your body!?” And like me you probably rolled your eyes and maybe even ignored the person who said it. And very possibly even muttered a four letter word or two under your breath at whoever said those annoying three little words, because you’ve heard it so many times!! When you live with a chronic illness most days it’s hard just to live in your body much less move it. And like me you have probably wondered why you need to do anymore than what you do on a normal daily basis! But seriously, what does it even mean to move your body anyway? What does it mean when someone tells you to get out and MOVE….YOUR….BODY. Don’t we do that all day everyday?. When we walk to the bathroom? Or roll over in bed? Does that count? How do we know what movement is enough? Or what movements count?

It is said that intentionally moving your body daily is vital for not just your physical health, but your mental health as well. It can also be beneficial for your strength, and believe it or not, even for your skin! If you get moving a little more than normal everyday, you are helping your bodies and minds function at their best. Moving your body isn’t just about getting in shape or losing weight. It can’t also improve circulation, impact the lymph system, boost your energy, as well as help to regulate digestion and elimination.

So what does it mean to move your body? Moving your body can be anything from doing yoga, stretching, lifting weights or aerobics. It doesn’t have to be an activity that you hate. It can be something fun like playing with your kids or walking the dog. It just needs to be something that gets your heart rate up. Whatever you want the activity to be is up to you.

When you move your body that gets your heart beating thus your blood flowing. By increasing the blood flow in your body exercise helps to nourish skin cells and keeps them vital. Blood is a carrier of oxygen and nutrients to working cells throughout the body, including the skin. In addition to providing oxygen to the body, blood flow also helps carry away waste products, including free radicals, from working cells. By increasing the blood flow to the liver, which is the organ that has the job of neutralizing toxins, a period of exercise will help to flush out all the cellular waste & debris out of the system. So moving your body is basically a good way of cleansing you skin from the inside out! Who knew?!?

The Lymphatic system is absolutely essential and vital to our bodies abilities to detoxify, nourish and regenerate tissues. It has many jobs like filtering out our metabolic waste and working to keep up a healthy immune system. The bodies lymph fluid flows relies on the actions of the bodies muscles and our diaphragm to actually circulate the fluid. Thus exercise has the ability to increase lymph activity by at least 10 to 30 times its activity when we are at rest. Exercise of any kind is great, but it is recommended that we try to get more vigorous exercise at least some of the time. That can be things like- strength training, cycling, aerobics, or tennis. Practicing yoga is another option for promoting lymph flow.

Exercise has also been known to boost your energy. Physical activity and exercise deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues all throughout your body. Exercise can also helps your cardiovascular system to work more efficiently! Anytime your heart and lungs work more efficiently you are going to have more energy for your daily activities.

Exercise isn’t just good for your physical health is also has been proven to stimulate various chemicals in the brain that can make a person feel happier and more relaxed. Exercise is a really simple was for a person to boost their confidence and improve their self-esteem while reducing stress at the same time. Many skin conditions that be exacerbated by stress, like acne or eczema, so blowing off steam at the gym can help diminish the flare ups or even keep these conditions at bay.

Did you know that your intestines are actually a muscle? And just like any other muscle you have in the body and need to stay toned in order to function properly!?? When we move or exercise regularly, the flow and intestinal circulation is stimulate thus encouraging bowel regularity. The bowel has a series of wave-like muscle contractions called peristalsis that moves food through the digestive tract, but when your intestinal tract loses muscle tone, the peristalsis can become slowed or weakened and can lead to irregularity. On a different note when your bowels are more regular from more regular exercise your body is able to rid itself of toxins much more effectively, and will reduce these toxins from having to resort solely to eliminating vis the skin, which can lead to blemishes, redness or irritation.

Who know that all this happens just from moving your body?!? I know that even with my medical background I didn’t know that all these parts of the body were directly impacted from simply moving the body. It’s now more clear than ever why it really is so important for us to get out and MOVE YOUR BODY. It is clearly not just about losing weight or getting in shape. It’s about having a healthy body. So next time you hear someone tell you to get up and move! It’s truly good for you and your WHOLE BODY!!

With Love,

Amber 💜


Why I Chose To Start Blogging

I have been asked so many times over the last almost two years why i decided to start a blog by my close friends and family. These are people who knew my past and my feeling about writing. They knew that writing was never something i likes or would have ever chosen to do just for fun. That being said it didn’t shock me or surprise me that my friends and some family practically laughed at me when I said I was going to start blogging. I was a little offended because I knew why I wanted to blog and I had a goal in mind. But I also knew that I have also hated writing and haven’t really ever been very good at it. But i had to start somewhere.

Madeira, eyeem.com/u/mdominguezfotografia

In January 2017 I had a goal and a purpose in mind as to why I wanted to start writing a blog. Because of all that starting a blog about living and dealing with chronic illness seemed like the next right thing to do. Probably the biggest reason that I felt called to start a blog was simply because of how I felt when I got my initial diagnosis. I felt very alone and like there wasn’t anything out there for people like me, for people who were dealing with not one but MULTIPLE Chronic Illnesses. Thankfully I quickly found a group of people and started my support group on Facebook called Lupie Groupies, so that aspect was taken care of. But I still felt like there was something missing. After years of searching and trying to figure out what the missing piece to the puzzle was, I finally figured it out. There were no blogs out there that combined personal experience with research for the conditions that I was dealing with. Sure, there were a million and one blogs out there about each of my conditions separately but nothing I related to about the conditions I have combined. And not many bloggers who didn’t claim just a certain niche. But talked about ALL THINGS chronic illness. I felt like that this was a hole that really needed to be filled in the chronic illness community.

The second reason I decided to start blogging was simple. I felt like I brought a something totally different to the table. Not only am I a Spoonie, a Warrior, a Lupie I am also a Registered Nurse. Sadly, at this point I can no longer work as an RN but you can’t take the RN about of this Girl! So, you may be thinking how will that help? I feel like it give me a different view. A leg up up if you will. From my education and time as a bedside nurse I learned how to take research and academically written papers and bring them down to a level that everyone can understand without needing to carry a medical dictionary with m. And my readers won’t need one either. I felt this was a HUGE game charger because there is currently so much research being done, but it’s often so hard for people to understand due to the way its written. I wanted to be able to spread the research to everyone who needed to be able to read it/hear it in a way that they could understand it.

But if I am being totally honest with you (and myself), when I started blogging I did it for me. I did it as an outlet. I didn’t necessarily do it so others could read it but I knew if I was feeling misunderstood, frustrated and angry that there were probably hundreds or possibly even thousands of people who were also feeling that way! I hoped that by sharing my writing and what was going on with me, that people would see that they are not alone in their fight. That others are fighting the same or similar fight. I hoped that they could see see that they are not alone in the feeling of depression or frustration. And that they always have a whole family (Lupie Groupies on Facebook) who are always around and available to talk if they need to.

Anthony Tran, Facebook.com/Anthony.fotography

To be frank I started blogging because I felt along in my fight and hopeless. And I wanted others to know that they don’t have to fight this fight along. I truly felt that I was called to start the blog. That it was something I needed to do. Not just for me and my journey but for each of you and your journey. I needed to start a blog all about chronic illness that combined personal testimony with research. I have never been in this for the numbers or the money. I’m always honest with you guys the money does help, but the numbers mean so much more because that means I am reaching more of you than ever imagined that I could. More of you are no longer alone in the fight because you have found this blog and that means way more than any amount of money ever could. If I can help even just one person understand their disease and get them connected to a community I have done my job! If I can provide information to people in a way that they can actually read and understand, I have done my job. Blogging isn’t for everyone, but it has made my life so much more fulfilling knowing that I have had an impact on others who are chronically ill!

With Love,

Amber

The Comment You Meant To Be Helpful May Have The Exact Opposite Impact

It’s no big secret that people LOVE to share their opinion on anything and everything. They love to chime in on everything whether it directly impacts them or not. It is just amazing though at the things people will say. It’s crazy that they think they are being helpful when in reality it’s not helpful at all. I had never really paid to much attention to what people said to me until I started living with chronic pain and multiple chronic conditions six years ago. And I still try to brush it off. But in the last six years I have heard some of the craziest things. Everything from weird natural remedies and diet changes to hurtful comments about my weight and health practices. I clearly have no problem sharing my conditions with others. In fact I chose to share my life and Health with others In hopes of spreading awareness.

📷 Ethan Hoover- Ethan Hoover.com[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
That being said some people really don’t know when to keep their opinions and suggestions to themselves. The following are some of the worst and most annoying things that people can say to someone who is living with a chronic condition.

“You are SICK AGAIN?!?!”

People will a chronic illness or those who live with an inadequate immune system are very aware of the fact that they are often sick. And in a lot of cases they feel bad about themselves due to these issues because they aren’t like others. Pointing it out might only make them feel worse about themselves because now not only are they having to change their plans and they are sick. They may feel that someone else is viewing them in a negative light.

“You’re to tired to catch a movie?!? Just a take a nap first!”

If a nap would cure the fatigue that people with chronic illnesses like Lupus, Fibro or CFS, just to name a couple, there would be a lot of naps being taken. Sadly, a nap does not help and in many cases it may actually make the person feel worse. It’s not the same kind of tired as staying up to late last night. The kind of tired we feel is an overwhelming and all encompassing kind of tired.

“You’re too young to have so many health problems. “

Most young people who are chronically ill are very aware of the things they are missing out of because of their health. They are also very aware of the fact that they are young and have the health of a 70 year old. And by saying things like this and point it out it may only make them more aware of how different they are from their peers. If they could change things and be able to be healthy they would do so in a heartbeat.

📷 Trung Thanh

“You are too young to take all these medications.”

When you are chronically ill you usually have more than one issue going on. For instance when Lupus comes it doesn’t come alone. It brings heart issues or kidney issues or lung or brain issues along with it. And all those issues require more meds. None of us ENJOY taking enough meds to choke an elephant, but it’s the only way we can function. Taking 10 medications a day is not something we woke up one day and decided we wanted to do. So please don’t remind us.

“I knew someone with Lupus and they DIED.”

WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT?!?! Obviously we know that’s a possibility but it’s not something we want to think about. Death is something EVERYONE faces. But chronic illness brings it on so much faster in many cases. Chances are that we know someone who has died from the condition we have but we definitely don’t need you to remind us.

“You were okay yesterday”

Okay, so!?! Things change. That was yesterday and today is today! Health can change hour to hour or even minute to minute. Just because I felt okay yesterday and now I don’t feel good today doesn’t mean I’m lying. It simply means that my condition is flaring and I don’t feel good. I don’t like it but I can’t help it, so please don’t make me feel worse about it.

These are just a few of things that should you should not say to someone with a chronic illness. They may seem benign to you but may be far from that for a person living with a chronic illness. But they may be really hurtful to someone else. All I’m saying in the end is to think before you speak.

With Love,

Amber

The Benefits of Journaling

When someone brings up journaling what comes to mind?!? Is it the first diary with a tiny lock that you got as a birthday gift when you were a young girl? Or is it the the journal you kept as a teenager and hid from your siblings and patents?!? Or maybe you have a gratitude of prayer journal that you enjoy as you’ve gotten older? For me I think about all the half filled journals I have. Journaling is the best way to record experiences, ideas or reflections, or thoughts on your current health situation. I truly feel that in the age of technology that journaling is a lost art. Which makes me sad considering all the amazing things putting pen to paper can do for a person.

Matt Ragland, mattragland.com

I don’t know if you are like me and love buying journals and notebooks. Sadly my addictions to all things journal often leave me with a bunch of partially used journals. Truly more than I want to admit! I always say I’m going to make it a habit and journal everyday. Which I do, for a week or maybe a month. But eventually I run out of things to write. So I end up falling off the wagon and don’t write anything for a few months. Journaling is truly a form of therapy for many because a journal is a safe place where the writer can really focus on their thoughts and feelings. It is often said that journaling can help an individual gain mental and emotional clarity, validate their experiences and feelings while coming to a better understanding of themselves.

Believe it or not journaling is said to actually improve your overall health. In fact there most be something behind it simply based on the number of medical professionals, friends and family that have suggested journaling to me over the last 6 years. I’ll admit that I was skeptical and didn’t believe that simply writing my feelings and such on paper would make a difference, until I tried it. Over the last 18+ months I had to keep a pain/symptom journal for my disability hearing. I found that keeping a journal allowed me to see trends in my pain in regards to my activity or what I had been eating. The journal also helped me to accept my illness because it showed me exactly what I could and couldn’t do in regards to working and such.

There are several types or way of journaling that are each beneficial in their own way. So let’s look at each type of journaling.

1. Bullet Journal- According to Bullet Journal, ”the bullet journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” A bullet journal let’s you be you. Most if not all of the pages are blank so you can use it to make lists, or draw, o make your own calandar/planner!! You can use all different color inks and stickers if you like. To me this is more of a planner than a journal, as you can track your finances, your health, to-do lists and all kinda of things. And I’ll be honest I’m not artistic or creative in any way so it just wouldn’t work for me as it was designed.

Bulletjournal.com

2. The standard journal- Like I states above a journal is basically a way to express your feelings in a personal way. It has been said that using a journal helps you to clear your mind, get your emotions in check and reduces stress. And I don’t know about you, but I will try anything to reduce to reduce stress in my life. For most this way/type of journaling is most likely to pops in someone’s head if someone else is talking about journaling. These journals come either pre-5lined for writing or with blank pages so you can draw or doodle or write whatever and however you want!!

TeachingEnglish.org.uk

3. A Health Journal – This can be kept anywhere. You can document everything in a standard spiral bound notebook, a journal or wherever you want. So what do you journal about your health?!? That’s the beauty of it being yours, you can document anything from mood, to pain levels, any symptoms you experience on that day, to how you are tolerating your medications. You can totally customize it to what you need or want to track. There are also a number of apps that you can use to track your health! But for me, paper is the way to go. I can easily go back and look at what’s happening so I can track trends.

Kleo.beachfix.co

4. The Graditude Journal – a gratitude journal is really exactly what it sounds like. It is a diary of things one is grateful for. These are often used by those who wish to focus their attention on the positive things rather than the negative.

Thesassybird.com

Overall, journaling is important for EVERYONE young and old. It can help you relax, deal with stress or track your health. It really doesn’t matter what you use to journal in. Just put pen to paper and get to writing. I’ll be honest I was very hesitant to start journaling but it turned into a very positive and eye opening experience. There is something about getting what’s bothering off your chest (by speaking or writing) that just feels so wonderful. It’s truly like living a weight off. Both health journal and gratitude journals are so important for the chronically ill. By tracking your health you can look back and see how long you’ve been dealing with x or how long you felt like z. And it’s a great tool for your doctor as well. They only see you for 15 min (if that) every 3-6 months, so the journal shows them what has been going on. Basically what I am saying is that it doesn’t matter what kind of journal you choose to use, just put pen to paper and get those feelings out there!!

With Love,

Amber

PS: I am working to design a sheet (eventually a book hopefully) that would combine the health/ symptom and medication journal on one side and gratitude journal on the other. Is that something you would be interested in?!? Please leave me a comment down below letting me know what you think of this idea!!