PRODUCT REVIEW- Carbon Coco Teeth Whitening System

I am sure that you’ve seen the recent big trend in dentistry all over the internet. The trend I am speaking of specifically is the use of Charcoal Toothpaste to whiten teeth and provide more benefits than other toothpastes. I hadn’t done much research on these products as I was hoping the madness would soon die down. Leaving only the top products for more studies and testimonies from customers. In fact up until a few months ago I really had very little knowledge of what Charcoal Toothpaste did and why it had suddenly become so popular. That is until a few months ago when Meg With Carbon Coco reached out to me. They offered me an opportunity to try their product in return for an honest review & that is what I am going to do today.

Being that, I had no real knowledge of charcoal toothpaste or Carbon Coco as a whole, I decided to do my research before I jumped on the bandwagon. I was honestly very impressed what I found and by their customer service. One thing I love about the company is that they offer free shipping WORLDWIDE, and they have a love it or leave it policy where they will refund your money if you see no results in 14 days. One of the big reasons I like this company and will continue to support them is that they do no animal testing. More about these offers can be found at the end under the link “Frequently Asked Questions”.

According to the Carbon Coco website “Carbon Coco is your holistic alternative to oral health. We have carefully chosen 100% natural ingredients to safely whiten and polish your teeth, strengthen the enamel, detoxify your mouth, and keep your breath fresh without any risk what so ever from harmful chemicals or additives.”

After visiting the website and researching their products And ready others testimonials, I was thrilled to get to try it. When my package arrived it contained THE ULTIMATE CARBON KIT. This particular kit comes with the Activated Charcoal Tooth Polish, the Activated Charcoal Tooth Paste and one toothbrush with Bamboo Bristles.

I will admit when I opened the Charcoal Tooth Polish and found it to be very black. At that point I was really starting to wonder if it work for me. I knew it would whiten my teeth, but I was concerned with the texture and taste. I have a major aversions to overly minty tastes and can gag easily from taste or texture. And neither of those are an issue for me.

The black powder is an oxidized version of charcoal and has been found that it works very effectively to whiten teeth. It works so well by removing external stains from the teeth without using any toxic ingredients that are often found in commercial whitening products. This way of whitening teeth helps to promote good oral health, and helps to reduce issues that can cause cavities, gum disease and bad breath. I was also presently surprised to find out that Carbon Coco is 100% natural. It also does not have any toxic preservatives that are found in other whitening products. Per the website the tooth whitener contains 100% Organic Coconut Shell Activates Charcoal with a hunt of bentonite powder and lemon myrtle.

The Carbon Coco’s Activated Carbon Toothpaste has a unique formula. The toothpaste has an Activated Charcoal fluoride free formula, that fights cavities, plaque, gingivitis, bad breath, while keeping your mouth feeling refreshed and will replace your everyday toothpaste. Honestly, I’m not sure if the rates of other toothpastes, but this toothpaste reduces bacteria build up by up to 90% for 12 hours!

I was very impressed with the packaging of this kit! Not only were the items clearly labeled, they also provide a a card that had clearly worded instructions on how to use each product. Which you can see below along with pictures of the packaging and products.

Toothpaste Packaging

I used these products religiously for about two weeks. I didn’t see any results the first few days. But by the end of the first week! I also started to notice that my breath was much fresher for much longer than any other toothpaste I’ve tried. And after a few uses my teeth felt as smooth as they do after I have them cleaned by the dentist.

I would not think twice about giving these products 5 stars. The only negative I can find with this product is the mess is makes. (And truth be told I’m sure I could brush my teeth without making as much of a mess!) One thing I did not mention is that there are different size kits that include different products. These kits can be found on the website that is linked below. Overall, I am very very happy with this product and the Carbon Coco team!! Below I am going to share before and after pictures. (It’s really hard to get good pictures of your own teeth!). I will also post links to the main Carbon Coco website as well as a link to the Frequently Asked Questions.

Carbon CoCo Website

Frequently Asked Questions

I hope that you enjoyed this review and that some of you decide to try the product!!! If you do please let me know what you think!!!

* Disclaimer: Even though your teeth will feel good, clean and smooth, while also helping to reduce bacteria, a visit to the dentist regularly is still important!

With Love,

Amber

The Strange Foe and Friend by Amy Nora

When it is 3AM and you are awake for your sixth day straight from painsomnia, it is hard to see anything good or nice in pain.  When you have a chronic disease such as Lupus, Fibro, Rheumatoid Disease, or many of the hundreds of others auto-immune diseases pain is just a part of life that sadly you live with.  Pain is a function that warns us that something is wrong.  It is our body warning us of danger in the case of a heart attack, of a catastrophic injury, or of the constant disruption of a system or systems.
This morning, I was laying there thinking that the pain in my legs had become almost a comfortable old friend.  It Is the pain I know that lets me know I have gone to far, the cliff is about ten feet ahead, but I am okay.  It is actually the oldest pain of my disease state.  Maybe that is why it is so familiar to me.  I hate it, I am by no means saying that it is something I like or appreciate as an entity within me.  Yet that leg pain is always the first to warn me that my disease is going haywire, that I have pushed to hard, that my world is not right.  In an odd sense, my foe is also my old friend.  It lets me know that my nemesis is preparing to strike.  It has become something I have learned to cohabitate with regardless of whatever else is going on.  The fire may burn hot with inflammation, but it is a familiar inflammation I know.   I know what will come next… I know what the next steps of my treatment protocol will be.
Today, I challenge you to think about what your warning symptom/Sign is… Do you have something that lets you know you are getting ready to flare?  A trigger?   Is there a common symptom or symptoms that warn of a coming flare?  Part of disease management is being able to target these.  Sometimes, no matter what you do there will be no warning.  You will wake up one morning in a flare, or you will be out to lunch and by the time you get home you will be unable to walk because of fatigue and inflammation.  But knowing symptoms of flares help prepare you to fight back against these diseases.
You can then work with your doctor to isolate these symptoms and work on a treatment protocol when these symptoms arise.  It also gives more information to your doctor as to how your disease works and acts.  This grants them more insight and information.  Remember, any information that we can continue to glean on auto-immune diseases is needed.
Knowledge is power!  Preparing yourself, Knowing what to expect and how to help yourself empowers you.
In Lupie Love…..

Dear Lupus…..

Dear Lupus,
You came into my life with asking, without an invitation. You came in and made it known by all that you were GOING TO BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION. Who asked you to come? Who asked you to come into my body and take my life away?? I sure as hell didn’t.

Looking back you made yourself known and reared your ugly head the first time when I was in highschool. Although no one called you that. They just said I had mono forever. Six months to be exact! Who has mono for six months?!? I always wondered why the simplest tasks made me exhausted and the people around me could run circles around me for hours. I also wondered why I seem to require so much more sleep than others my age! It was because of you LUPUS.
You went away for several years for the most part and I was grateful. I was able to finish nursing school and my bachelors degree. I was able to work as a nurse for 6 years without any issues. Even though you weren’t active I was always exhausted all the time. And I could never stay up as late as people my age or couldn’t go out and “party” like others my age etc. It was all because of you. Damn you LUPUS!

Finally six years ago you officially made your move. You moved in and took up residence for good. Although we never discussed this, I never agreed to this, I didn’t give you a key or clear out a drawer for you. Instead you just made yourself welcome. Since that day long ago. You’ve made my life or a good part of it a living hell. I have lost several friends along the way because they think I don’t want to see them or that I’m just full of excuses as to why I don’t want to go out to eat or go the bar after work. Or because they simply don’t understand when I say I’m tired it’s not just lay down and take a nap tired it’s pure exhaustion. The one thing you’ve taken away from that hurts the most is the fact that I haven’t been able to cheer on my sister as she pitches and plays travel ball all summer. Because of the heat. Since you moved in you made me so sensitive to the sun and have taken away my ability to be out at the ball field without paying for it later. And it literally has broken my heart.

You came and brought along uncontrolled pain (at times), long term steroids (leading to weight gain), inability to be in the heat or sun, sleep issues, and a plethora of other very undesirable diseases that go hand in hand with you. I can’t thank you enough for your generosity. You’ve done enough. Now go away and take all the “gifts” you’ve brought with you that are also not welcomed here.

One of the reasons I hate you the most is because between you and your friend endometriosis I will no longer be able to carry my own baby. And I’ve never wanted anything more than to be a mother. But because of you, the side effects of the drugs I take to treat you, and your buddy endometriosis that’s no longer possible. My lifelong goal gone in a second.

You can also take adrenal insufficiency and Hemiplegic migraines with you. Because of the three of you I had to quit my job and move home with my parents. Because you were all being so mean. My blood pressure would stay in the 70’s and 80’s because my adrenal glands no longer act like they should. Over the last two years I have spent more time in the ER than most people do a LIFETIME!! All because of the debilitating migraines that are now a part of my daily life.

I’m tired of all of you. Tired of the medications, the depression, the anxiety and most of all the pain.  I never asked any one of you into my life, yet you are all here. You have changed my life in so many way I can’t even count. I’ve lost the majority of my local friends. I will never be able to complete my masters degree that would give me the knowledge to teach nursing school because of you!! Thanks to you I can’t hold down a job outside the home. You need to pack up and get the hell out of my life! GO. GO I tell ya!!

I live by the verses.

*Philippines 4:13 I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

*Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

With Love

-Amber

** This is my updated letter to lupus. I felt with it being Awareness Month this was a good time to update and share.

What You Should Know About Allergies

Most would agree that some years are worse than others, and this year Nany feel like their allergies are going to get the best of them. Even though we have seen just about every kind of weather possible this “spring,” (I won’t call it spring yet!) everything seems to be blooming already. That means that for those who suffer with allergies and chronic sinus infections, this time of year (and fall) can be very frustrating and miserable. Allergies are not classified routinely looked at or classified as a debilitating illness. However, like many others i have talked to this spring, I am starting to feel like it possibly could be in that classification. I have been doing some research on this topic the last week or more, so I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve learned.

It seems that the best place to start this article is to start with a few definitions. I want to provide knowledge for those who may not suffer or those who may not be aware of what allergies are or can be! So let’s start with what an allergy is. By definition- an allergy is when a person’s immune system reacts to some kind of foreign substance, that is know as an allergen. An allergen could be things that can be eaten, inhaled into your lungs, touched, or injected into your body! Specific response can cause anything from sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose all the way to severe reactions that cause hives, low blood pressure, trouble breathing and even death! Examples of possible allergens are dust, mold, trees, grass, ragweed, pollen and food allergens such as milk, egg, soy, wheat, nuts it fish proteins.

How many people suffer from allergies every year?!? Any guesses? I was shocked to find out that allergies have been found to be the SIXTH leading cause of Chronic Illness in the US alone. This can lead to an annual cost healthcare costs of an excess of $18 BILLION dollars. It is estimated that 40- 50 MILLION Americans have allergies of some kind every year!! People of all ages can struggle with asthma, allergic rhinitis, food allergies, and eczema. Asthma is said to affect more than 24 million people in the US, including more than 6 million kids.

I’m just guessing that everyone could probably name at least 5 people right off the top of your head if you were asked who you know that suffers from allergies!! One would think that due to the fact that so many million people suffer with allergies that is would be easily treated by any medical provider. While that may be true for the every day Joe who suffers from seasonal allergies. But for those who have severe allergies that don’t respond to the over the counter meds and treatment, or has allergy based asthma, a specialized doctor is necessary. A doctor who specializes in allergies and asthma would be the best person to see. Simply because these providers received specialized education and training in these conditions. They are able to perform allergy testing, accurately diagnose your symptoms, and develop a personalized diagnosis for your specific allergies and conditions.

There are two key steps in diagnosing your allergies. One would be to take a full and thorough medical history, and the the second would be doing actually allergy testing. You are probably wondering why a full medical history would be important. That’s simply because when it comes to HUMAN allergies the person’s medical history is just as important as the actual testing. The history provides a link between the test results and the actual allergies. The history can help the provider to see what allergies your family might have and to see what certain medications, in or outside settings or food seems to make your symptoms worse. While the provider is taking your history you might be asked about the following:

  • Your overall health
  • Your symptoms and if your immediate family have asthma or allergies such as skin rashes, eczema, hives or hay fever.
  • Your symptoms. They provider will most likely want to know when your symptoms occur( what you are doing and where you are at), how often they happen, what brings them on and what if anything makes your symptoms better. The allergist may also want to know about your home and work environments and eating habits to see if they might lead to your exact allergies.

After the provider has taken a very thorough history, testing will most likely be done. Allergy testing has become the gold standard in the diagnosis of allergies. Blood and skin tests are used to detect a person’s sensitivity to common allergens. They can show allergies to things like pollen, dust mites, animals, ragweed, certain foods, latex, certain trees or plants. In most cases skin tests have proven to be the most accurate and preferred way to diagnose a person’s allergies. Blood tests are generally ordered less often, but they could be used in cases of severe skin rashes, or if the person can not stop a medication that can possibly interferes with the skin testing. Allergy tests basically give reliable results that confirm information that the provider gathered while taking the medical history.

After you’ve had a positive allergy test and you and your provider are aware of what allergens you react to, it is time to develop an individual plan of care. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America there are many options for treatment depending on the specific allergy and the severity of the allergy/reaction. The foundation states that the treatment of allergies can include: avoiding allergens, medication options and immunotherapy (which can be given as a shot or a tablet placed under the tongue.

You may be thinking what I was when I read through my research, HOW ON EARTH DO I AVOID ALL ALLERGENS THAT IMPACT ME?!?!? That being said the AAFA says that the best way for a person with allergies to prevent allergy symptoms and decreased the required amount of medications is to AVOID your allergens as often as possible. They say that doing this can include removing the source of allergens from home and other places you spend large amounts of time. So if you are allergic to pet dander either remove said pet from the inside of the house or look for hypoallergenic types of animals. They also suggest routine nasal washings to help reduce symptoms brought on by airborne allergens. This can be done by doing a nasal saline rinse using a squeeze bottle or Neti Pot. (Side note if you are going to do nasal rinses you should always use only bottled water or boiled tap water. Never tap water that hasn’t been boiled)

If the avoidance technique does not work for you, there are medications available. Not everyone is okay with taking anything for allergies, simply because they don’t think it’s a big deal. However, not treating your allergies can turn into much bigger and more painful issues like sinus & ear infections. Below you will find a list of classes if medication that can be taken to help with allergy symptoms.

  • Nasal Corticosteroids, aka nose spray- Work by reducing swelling which can cause a stuffy, runny, itchy nose. This option is the most effective for those suffering from nasal allergies.
  • Antihistamines- Do just what the name says. They block histamine which is a trigger for allergic swelling. This type of meds may reduce sneezing, itchy runny noses and hives. These meds come in a variety of forms, and often time can be found over the counter as pills, liquids, melting tabs, creams or nose spray.
  • Mast cell stabilizers – This classification of meds work by keeping your body from releasing histamine (that is a cause of allergies). By blocking the production it helps with itchy, watery eyes, or an itchy, runny nose! This group is available as eye drops or nose sprays.
  • Decongestants – This group of meds works by reducing stuffiness by shrinking swollen membranes in the nose. One has to be cautious with these meds. As they can, if used more than prescribed, cause the stuffiness and swelling in the nose to worsen.
  • Corticosteroid creams &/or ointments – These products relieves itchiness and can prevent rashes from spreading.
  • Oral Corticosteroids- This type of medication has to be prescribed and may be used to reduce swelling and stop severe allergic reactions. These medications do have well known side effects so be sure to talk to your doctor or your pharmacist.
  • Epinephrine – This comes as pre-measured and also self injectable devices. This is the most important medicine to give during a severe allergic reactions (aka anaphylaxis). For this medicine to work properly it must be given/taken within minutes of the first sight of a serious allergic reaction. If you know you have a severe allergy to food, any kind of stinging insect, latex or medications, you need to make sure you always carry EPI pen with you. And that friends/family know how to use it if you are unable to.

Another method of treatment for allergies is Immunotherapy. Currently there are two types of immunotherapy that can be used to treat allergies. They are allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT)

  • Allergy Shots- This method of treatment involves giving injections of allergens in increasing doses over a long period of time. By doing this the person receiving the shots progressively becomes less sensitive to the allergens given in the shot! Allergy shots work best for those who have allergies to pollen, pets, dust, bees and other stinging insects and asthma. However, those who have allergies to food, feathers, hives or eczema will not likely to respond well to shots.
  • SLIT – This is another method for treating certain allergies without injections. When using this modality for treatment, an allergist will give patients small doses of an allergen under the tongue. Over time the exposure will improve tolerance to the the allergens thus reducing symptoms. This method overall is fairly safe and effective for treating nasal allergies and asthma. Currently SLIT is only available for the treatment of dust mites, grass and ragweed!

I don’t know about you but I am feeling a little overloaded at the moment. I have provided you with lots of information on allergies. I hope that my research has provided you with more information about allergies, treatment and diagnosis. I know I learned a lot. I must include this disclaimer, the information provided in this article is just for self education and gaining knowledge about allergies. That being said you should never start a new treatment method without first speaking with your doctor or getting a referral to an allergist. It is a fair assessment that many people will suffer from some kind of allergy during their lifetime. However, like most medical conditions everyone’s journey with their allergies will be different. And what treatment works for you may not work for Your kids. While doing research for this article I came across The American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology. They have a fabulous website that provides so much great information and is easy to understand. Click the link above if you want to learn more.

If you have any questions or comments on this post feel free to share them in the comment section below. And feel free to share with anyone who might benefit.

With Love,

Amber

My Top Ten Must Have Items For Living With A Chronic Illness

I don’t know about you, but I am really bad about taking time to care for myself. Or spending money on things that will benefit me. I often put others needs before mine and that is something I’ve always done that. Until recently, when I realized that my needs truly need to come before others and I need to do more to take care of myself and not just symptom management and doing only what I feel like doing. So I won’t usually take the time or spend the money to take care of me outside of what has to be done daily just to function. Sometimes it will really take a reminder to spend some time taking care of my skin and and body outside of my daily routines. I assume that others are like me as well. Over the last year I’ve actually been taking the time and spending the money to take care of me. So I decided to share some of my favorite products that I think others with Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain should have on hand and would enjoy.

Bath Bombs/Epsom Salt

One of the things I have found that I enjoy and can be both beneficial and a way to pamper myself is a good hot bath. So I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favorite items I use in the bath.

1. One of my FAVORITE things is to take a HOT bath. So the first thing on my MUST HAVE list is a good Bath Bomb. Most of my bath bombs come from an Etsy shop called “ThisLittleLymeOfMine.” Her products are not only aesthetically pleasing, they also have healing properties. She uses Himalayan Pink and Dead Sea Salt to make her products, both of which are known to have a healing properties. One reason that I like to support this shop is because it is owned and run by a fellow Spoonie. She is currently running a special for those who use the code 5OFF15, which will get you $5 off a $15 purchase. You can visit her shop by clicking on the link above.

2. Another must have in my opinion is a good EPSOM SALT! I’ve tried out many different kinds of Epsom salt throughout the years. And my most favorite is Relief MD Lavender Epsom Salt. I use this a lot at night due to its calming properties. Lavender is known to help one sleep, and the magnesium in the product helps to soothe sore and tired muscles and joints! I have found this in stores local to me but it can also be found on amazon. The link above will take you to the product on Amazon.

Skin Care

The older I get the more I realize just how important taking care of your skin really is. And not just the skin in your face, we need to take care of all our skin. We only get one face so we have to take care of it. I’ve been looking for some good skin products over the last few years and the following are the best I have found.

3. The next thing I want to share is lotion, because I have been having some major skin issues due to my illnesses. And I know I am not alone in this. Many with chronic illnesses will deal with skin issues. So I felt it important to share a good product with all of you. Recently, I have really been liking the Jergens Wet Skin Lotion! One of my favorite things about this lotion is that you can put it on your skin while it’s still wet and you don’t feel slimey. When it dries my skin feels so soft and nice!! By clicking the link above or looking at the picture below you will see that if comes on amazon in several size and quantity options, and 5 scents. My favorite is the coconut, it reminds me of being in a beach with a drink in my hand!!

4. Another line of products I’ve been loving is the Senegence Skin Care Line. (And no this is not a shameless plug because I sell them! I truly love them and that’s why I’m sharing!) I use the whole normal to dry line which includes a cleanser, a day moisturizer and a night moisturizer, as well as some other products. Including a polishing exfoliator. Even though I have some major skin issues on my face as of late due to my lupus this line has significantly helped those issues. My skin is much more even and much less red. The dark circle treatment has done wonders as well. You can see before and after pictures below. And if you want anymore information on the skin care products I use just click the link above.

Heat Products

One of the non-pharmacological ways I’ve found to deal with my pain is by using heat! That’s why I want to share my two most favorite heating devices.

5. When struggling with chronic pain a good HEATING PAD is essential. Over the last few years I’ve tried many different heating pads. Most of which didn’t hold up to frequent use. I just got the best Heating Pad I’ve ever had. They have a couple different size and color options for this pad. The things that I like about this specific heating pad is that it’s made more like a heated blanket. This particular product isn’t like the older ones where the cover and the pad are separate, and over time the heating pad gets misshapen and doesn’t fit in the cover. Another positive thing about this pad is that you have options of how long you want the pad to be on before it shuts off. You have the option of a two-hour timer or no automatic shut off. Another benefit is the automatic shutoff. I also like that the temperature can be set anywhere between 1 and 6. Not like the older models where you got not hot, really hot and way to hot!

6. Heated blankets are simply a MUST when you have chronic pain!! There are different sizes and options for these blankets. I have one that’s a heated throw that’s nice for cuddling up on the couch. And one that is queen sized and stays on my bed. All of my heated blankets have been made by Sunbeam. My all time favorite is the Sunbeam Dual Control Heated Blanket. One thing I like the most about this blanket is that there are dual controls so if you were sharing the bed with a significant other you can each set your own temperature. And there is a wide array of temperature options. My other favorite thing about this exact blanket is that you can preheat it. I like to turn on the preheat function about 10 minutes before I get into bed so it’s ready for me when I’m ready. When you are ready to buy this kind of blanket you should watch the prices. Certain times of year (usually during the holiday season) the blankets will drop in price. .

Sleep

Sleep is so important when you are chronically ill. Yet it is often one of the biggest problems we deal with. I have found a few items that have significantly helped me in my battle of with poor sleep.

7. One of my favorite ways to pamper myself is by putting my super soft sheets and fleece blankets on the bed. The ones I currently have are T-shirt sheets . They feel exactly like your favorite soft T-shirt. In my opinion there is nothing better than getting into a clean, super soft, set of sheets! The particular sheets that I have and are pictured below will come in 9 different colors so you should be able to find ones to fit your bedroom decor!

8. A good BODY PILLOW is a must! When you deal with chronic pain of any kind or insomnia good pillows are important. Especially a body pillow because it helps you to find THAT spot that is often very hard to find! When you look them up you will find that they are called maternity pillow because of the shape. My body pillow is a maternity pillow, but has really helped me sleep and I have less nights of insomnia since I got this pillow.

9. Anyone who struggles with migraines, light sensitivity or even insomnia needs a good Sleep Mask. Like many other items on this list I have tried MANY different sleep masks over the course of several years. Things you should look for in a sleep Mask is that it truly blocks all light and is the correct size and will fit your face. Like many other products, you get what you pay for, and that’s the same with sleep masks. The cheapest is usually not the best. But you also don’t need the most expensive. Just try a few and find what you like. The product linked above and shown below is one of my favorites

Miscellaneous Items

10. I think all ladies (and men I suppose) should have a good foot spa! This spa is the one I have and I really enjoy using when my feet hurt! It’s also fun to use for a girls night in! I used it a lot more when I was working and had been on my feet a lot. But you can really use it anytime. It comes with interchangeable pieces that can be used for massage or scraping the dead skin off your foot. Any spa would be good. The one I linked is simply the one I have.

These are just a few of my favorite MUST HAVES that I discovered over the last few years. The items I mentioned and linked are good for all people and can be used by anyone. But they are all very beneficial to those dealing with a chronic illness or chronic pain. These days any product I find that will make my life easier is going to be high on my list of necessity and to share with other. I feel like we all need to support and help each other, one way to do that is to share the things we have found in life that make things easier. I hope my list will help one of you and possibly make part of your life a little better or a little easier. If you have any questions about any of the products please just leave them in the comments for me.

With Love,

Amber

How Many Times Have you Heard, “Just Lose Some Weight”?

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard over the course of my life that losing weight would help, I would be a rich rich women by this point in life. Yes, I know that getting to and staying at a healthy weight is important! So is eating the right foods and exercise. But in the long run will losing weight really fix or cure your health issues? Yes, I’m sure it probably will help some. But it’s not going to fix everything!! People like to throw that comment out for every issue. Oh you have headaches, lose some weight! Oh you have IBS, lose some weight! Oh you aren’t having any luck dating, lose some weight. Oh you’re having problems getting pregnant, lose some weight. I assume in the majority of cases people truly do not mean to be a Debby downer by telling others this. But they also probably have no idea how it feels to hear that from people you loved and respect, and expect some sensitivity from. If you’ve never struggled with your weight you have no idea how it feels for a friend or family member to direct those three words at you. “LOSE SOME WEIGHT!”

As a person who has struggled with my weight since High School I understand what a touchy topic this can be. I look back at my teen years and would give anything to be back at that weight now. But sadly that Amber was about 40lbs ago. But I didn’t just get fat due to poor choices and lack of proper food, just like many other chronically ill. Most of us probably took the DEVIL drug, aka Prednisone. Yes, prednisone fixes many many things. But it is also known to cause weight gain due to the cravings many deal with while taking the medication! And not like 3lbs weight gain. We are talking like 25, 50, 75 lbs. And it came on FAST. Your symptoms are mostly gone but now you got all the bonus weight. Sigh. The weight no one wants.

But it’s not just Prednisone that causes weight gain. Hormones often used for birth control can also cause weight gain, as well as Lyrica which is used to treat fibromyalgia! There are many many more that can cause weight gain. The point I’m trying to make here is that every over weight person you see did not just sit on the couch eating chips and watching Netflix all day! Even though that is what people automatically assumes, it is not always the case.

Did anyone think that maybe those of us who gained weight while on Prednisone might deal with a LOT of daily pain or extreme exhaustion!?!? Have you ever lived with so much widespread pain that literally every joint, bone and muscles hurt so bad that it’s torture even getting out of bed. Much less taking a walk or going to the gym. Does anyone consider the fact that many of us who are over weight can’t stand the way we look and can’t look at ourselves in the mirror. Many of us who have gained weight due to medical conditions or medications never asked for this. We didn’t just give up on ourselves and sit and eat chocolate all day. We got sick!!! And because of that many have taken medications that can cause rapid weight gain that doesn’t come off easily.

There are also those in the chronically ill community that gained weight because of the pain. They may have not felt like being the most active person. Every step, every tiny movement make your whole bodg ache. Then when someone throws out the “just lose some weight,” comment and you just wish they could live in your shoes for 24 hours so they know what’s it’s like. It’s honestly really hard to do anything at times, even low impact exercise can hurt! So what I am saying is when you already hurt in places you didn’t know could hurt the last thing you want to do is “hit the gym!”

If you really think you are giving offering up some groundbreaking piece of advice to work out and eat healthy. YOU ARE NOT! We’ve heard it from family and friends and even the doctors. I will admit the best I’ve ever felt was when I wasn’t walking in the morning before it got hot and ate a diet low on gluten. (gluten has been found to mess with inflammation in everyone.) It just wreaks havoc with the chronically ill. But let’s be honest eating healthy can be really expensive! And no that’s not a cop-out, but if you have ever tried to eat a gluten free diet, it’s hard at first and it’s expensive. And let’s be honest until you are ready to make a big change it isn’t going to happen. We are the only ones who can decide that we need to change the way we eat &/or our activity level. No one else can do it for us.

I guess the takeaway from my rant and rambling is that I wish people would work on their delivery. If you are kind and truly concerned about my wellbeing, I’m going to be more apt to listen to you. More than I will listen to the person who just tells me I’m fat and I need to lose weight. It’s not a surprise I know what I look like. I understand that research shows “When patients lose 5-29 percent of their body weight, the symptoms of chronic Conditions will improve!”Per the Cleveland Clinic. I know this but sometimes just getting your body moving and making that first move is the hardest part.

Depression, My Story. By Kayla Aiken

Depression has many faces, and can look many different ways! It’s not always the person that we picture in our minds, or saw on TV. Someone who is so down that they can’t get out of bed or complete their daily tasks. It can look like your best friend who is working and going to school full time and has become very good at hiding her secrets.

This year through a mutual friend I was lucky enough to be introduced to Kayla. I’m really just getting to know her. That being said since the first time we interacted she has always been very open about her battle with depression. Since she is so open and willing to share I asked if she would be willing to tell her story here! Thankfully she agreed. Below is Kayla Aiken’s story, her story of how depression impacts her life.

When I woke up today, I found myself on the couch barely able to open my eyes. I reached for my phone to see what time it was. 10:07 AM. At this point, I had slept 23 hours since the morning before, and I went back to sleep an additional four hours before waking up to even eat something. This is a very minimal depiction of what depression looks like. My doctor calls it “leaden paralysis”, a symptom of Major Depressive Disorder, Atypical in subtype. It’s where your entire body feels like lead. Your arms are so heavy it feels as though you can’t lift them. Your legs are leaden and making it up stairs is a struggle. This is mental illness. My diagnoses include the previously mentioned MDD, severe, recurrent, and atypical, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and an Eating Disorder.

My story starts here: I graduated nursing school in May of 2010. After four years of nursing in the same location, I decided to become a travel nurse. I traveled in Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Missouri. I was in Connecticut in 2015 and started to feel sort of “blues-ish”. I thought it was just because of the weather. So, I came home to Missouri in March and by the Fall of 2015 I was a worried, depressed, and anxious mess. I couldn’t take my dog outside without my gun on my side or maise in my hand. I packed food and put it in the trunk for my drives back and forth to work just in case we got hit with a nuclear bomb or an EMP…etc. My hands would shake uncontrollably at times and I couldn’t eat anything. I went on a cruise in October of 2015, but I didn’t even enjoy it to it’s fullest because I was so concerned that the ship was going to sink or we were going to get stranded on some island we visited. My anxiety was out of control.

In January of 2016, I saw my doctor for the anxiety. He asked me if I was depressed, also, but I denied it being an issue. But, it was. It was a major issue. I called in a couple of weeks and said, “Oh, I think I am struggling with depression, too, so if I could get something for that…” He prescribed Prozac, but it put me to sleep for a week; so, we made the switch to Effexor. Between the medication for anxiety and the Effexor, I started to feel a little more normal again around the March/April months of 2016.

By the fall of 2016, I started to feel as though the Effexor was no longer working. I was driving back and forth to work envisioning myself driving off the road into a ravine, or seeing myself take my gun in my hand and put it to my head or my heart, or taking all the pills in my medicine cabinet. I was so mentally ill. So, so ill. I was losing friendships, my family relationships were strained, and I was calling off work more frequently than I could afford. I was faking fine so well, that only my closest friend really recognized how mentally ill I was.

I think it was in November of 2016 that we found out my Dad had been having an affair. And then my extended family and I had a big blowout over Christmas 2016. Two major stressors in a short amount of time.

In January of 2017, I went back to my physician and brought my best friend along to help me stay honest. I told him, very fearfully, that I was having suicidal ideations and that my depression was out of hand. He changed my medications up a little bit, and sent me on my way. The medications did not work. In February, I found out that my two younger sisters had been sexually assaulted by an older boy cousin. It infuriated me. It destroyed me. And, I had no idea what I could do about it; because my sisters are adults now and will deal with it the way that they want to. But, if it was up to me, I would have him and everyone else who was involved put on trial for such a heinous crime.

March of 2017 rolled around and I flew to San Diego for a conference, still so very sick, and losing hope by the minute. I was driving home from St. Louis from the conference, and tears rolled down my face until my eyes were nearly swollen shut and physically ached. What was I going to do? I couldn’t live like this.

A few weeks later, on April 3rd, I delivered my 14th baby during my midwife clinical. I drove home later, took a shower, and curled my hair. I was going to dress and do my makeup despite feeling so depressed. I went to a 12-step meeting, and when I got in my car I just had this feeling of “I cannot do this”. I called a friend, and she was cooking dinner, so I let her go. I went home, I played piano, I journaled, I watched TV, and nothing was working.

So, the evening of April 3rd, 2017, I took approximately 140mg of Ambien. My standard dose was 5mg nightly. I won’t go into the events of that evening, because it is just a lot. But, I woke up the next day in the local ER to find out I was going to be admitted to the hospital psychiatric unit for a week. It was one of the hardest weeks of my life.

In 2017, I was admitted to hospital psychiatric units four separate times. I spent 3 months in a residential facility in Chicago getting treatment for my depression and other mental illness diagnoses. I met a ton of wonderful people there. People who were also ill, but wanted to get help so much that they stopped their lives to go into a long term inpatient facility to work on their shit. It was liberating, and oh so hard. But, I’m thankful I had the opportunity to do it.

So, where am I now? Still in treatment. Still working on my shit every day. Still focused on getting up out of bed and making myself do things like laundry and dishes and putting gas in my car and getting groceries so I can eat. It’s not easy. Every day is hard. But, every day is a gift. I am trying to see that for the truth that it is.

I feel like all of the above was probably very boring to read, so if you made it this far, thank you! I’d like to take a moment in closing to talk about mental health stigma. I looked like I had it all together. I had recently graduated with my Bachelors in Nursing. I was pursuing my Masters in Midwifery from a prestigious university. I was working full time. I was going to church, maintaining friendships, and seeing my niece and nephew as often as possible. But, inside I was being eaten alive by my demons. Many people who struggle with mental illness do not look like they do. Still to this day, when people find out I struggle with depression, they are shocked. “But you are so personable and bubbly.” they say. I would encourage you to get in deep with those that you are surrounded with on a daily basis. Your family, peers, and coworkers…etc. Ask them how they REALLY are. Ask them about anxiety or depression and whether they have ever struggled with it. Be honest about your own struggle with anxiety and depression with someone who is safe in your life. Find someone safe for yourself, and be someone safe for others. When I attempted suicide in April and July of 2017, it was my closest best friends who intervened and saved my life.

Thank you for reading, and if my story resonates with you and you’d like to reach out, I’ll leave my contact info below. Feel free to reach out if needed.

Kayla Aiken

kaylaaiken@icloud.com

If you are having suicidal feelings or thinking of ways you could end your life, PLEASE reach out to someone you can trust! There is help out there for you!!!

As always with Love,

Amber

The Negative Direction In Which National Healthcare and Insurance is Headed

I am going to apologize for what I am going to say. I have no intention of being offensive but this could potentially be offensive when read by some people. These are my opinions, & written by me. And I’m sorry if I offend anyone as that was not my intention.

Let’s discuss Insurance Companies for a moment. Every year the price we consumers pay seems to go up and up, in a way that many can no longer afford. How is this right?!??? I don’t have a problem paying for my Healthcare, because I was raised to always budget money every week, month, year to cover said insurance. But we are now coming to a point that the cost is becoming astronomical. Due to this people are being put more and more at risk for ending up in life altering debt, Due to the fact that they couldn’t get insurance at an affordable price point, but still needed medical care!!

Why should this be an option? When did it become okay for women, children & the elderly to not have medical coverage?!?! Pregnant women, young children and the elderly are typically the populations that need to be able to get affordable insurance. However, that is simply not always happening. Several years back a law went into affect saying that all had to have insurance or they would owe more on their taxes. Now those with low income have the option to turn down said coverage and get a letter from the government saying they will not be taxed because they applied for insurance but were unable to pay the monthly premiums. How backwards is this.

This month alone I have had two procedures and a Doctors appt for Botox for my migraines denied! Apparently this wonderful insurance co I have had decided that they will okay God. They will make decisions for others care while not taking the time see the whole picture. “Oh it says her lungs have likely become involved due to her lupus, since her doctor has done X-rays why would a CT be needed. Oh look at this back X-ray report that said further testing is needed to confirm diagnosis. Nope, she doesn’t need that either we will just start PT sand hope that her pain that she’s dealt with will just disappear!” The patient and old RN feels like she is going crazy.

The RN in me somewhat understands. I get that they want to save people from having totally unnecessary testing and procedures & costs. If they were being honorable to decrease costs for said patient I could stand behind that.

What I can’t stand behind is these big insurance companies who decide to play GOD. There is only some GOD and I’m pretty sure he’s not in the insurance business. They didn’t ask my drs any further questions to help them the decide if other mode of treatment or diagnosis is possible. They just said NO!!! This insurance issue is getting much to out of control for people with chronic illnesses. We are always going to require more medication, more testing and more procedures. It’s just the name of the game. I don’t feel like these big corporations want to take time to figure out what is better for the patient. They just care about what is best for their companies pocketbook!!

In closing, I am super uneasy at the this way healthcare in the United States is going! I like the way it is as headed a few year by requiring affordable for all US citizens. The key word there is AFFORDABLE!! Now in my opinion, Healthcare is heading in a really negative direction. Those of us who have to have insurance should not have to sell my first born, my right kidney, and my great toe to get affordable healthcare. I sure someone in the government has a great idea on how to fix the issue!! Until then, we continue to pay unacceptable premiums.

With Love,

Amber

Explaining Fibromyalgia in Six Quick Points

Fibromyalgia is a term that has been thrown around for years. For many years the medical profession used Fibromyalgia as a catch all. People who had generalized pain that couldn’t be diagnosed would be given the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. The medical profession didn’t really seem to understand what caused it, and what could be done to treat it. In the past decade the condition has become much more understood and there are new diagnostic criteria that the patient must meet. I will discuss those shortly. Like many other conditions the more research that is done the more everyone understands it and it can be treated.

1. So what IS Fibromyalgia? The definition for this condition has evolved over the years. For now it is defined as a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas.

2. How many people have Fibromyalgia? Most recent estimates say that there are 3 million cases per year!! According to The National Fibromyalgia Association, Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain disorders. It is estimated that 10 million people in the U.S. are affected, and an estimated 3-6% of the world population. This condition is normally seen in women, approximately 75-90% affected are women. But it also occurs in men and children of all ethnic backgrounds.

3. What causes Fibromyalgia? Currently researchers are not exactly sure of the cause of FM. That being said more research is being done all the time that is leading in the direction of determining the exact cause. Most agree though that FM is caused by issues with the nervous system. They feel that those with FM will experience amplification of pain due to the abnormal way the nervous system is processing the signal. The newest research is leading in the direction that there may be a genetic predisposition in those who have FM. I expect to see a lot of new information coming on this front in the coming years!

4. What symptoms would a person with Fibromyalgia present with? The main complaints a person with Fibromyalgia usually present with the following: pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.

Pain– The pain that comes along with this condition is usually chronic and widespread. It can be felt all throughout the body and may vary in intensity. The pain can be described as stabbing, shooting, aching, throbbing or even as numbness and tingling. Usually people will complain of morning stiffness and abdominal pain until they get stretched out.

Fatigue– The fatigue associated with Fibromyalgia is much, much more than just being tired at the end of the day. This fatigue is an all-encompassing exhaustion that interferes with daily life! It is causes an inability to complete basic tasks.

Trouble Sleeping– Often times many people who have FM also have some sort of a sleep disorder that prevents them from getting a deep, restful, restorative nights sleep! This making the fatigue that much worse!

Cognitive difficulties – Many who suffer from FM will complain of “fibro fog.” Which is also known as brain fog. This is a symptom of fibromyalgia where you feel as though you can not think straight. You may have trouble understanding things, remembering things, or even losing things. All of which can be “normal” with Fibromyalgia. This is a form of cognitive dysfunction that comes and goes with FM.

5. How is Fibromyalgia diagnosed? In 1990 the American College if Rheumatology (ACR) developed classification criteria for diagnosis. The criteria included a history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum of 3 months prior to diagnosis. It also required that the patient have pain in at least 11 of the 18 designated tender spots. In 2010 the ACR developed new diagnostic criteria that did not rely on evaluation of tender points. Instead focused on the person’s pain being widespread and accompanied with other symptoms like problems sleeping, and fatigue. They also take into account the cognitive issues that the patient may be feeling/dealing with.

6. How is Fibromyalgia treated? In order to effectively treat FM the symptoms need to be treated. Thus treatment is really about symptom management via medications,or other treatment modalities. Medications or other treatments like massage to reduce pain, sleep management and finding ways to lower stress are the main treatment modalities. Exercise and eating healthy, as with most conditions are encouraged to help lower the pain level. A person with FM will also need to discuss the cognitive difficulties they may be having with their provider so a proper treatment plan and recommendations can be made.

This was a quick and dirty way to explain Fibromyalgia, how many people are impacted, the suspected causes of FM, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Even with the changes in diagnostic criteria and more research being done, FM is still not fully understood. And treatments often end up being trial by error. One medication/treatment may be prescribed and if that works they will continue it. If not, they will continue down the line trying to figure out what works for each person. And the fact that many will also experience a number of other symptoms and overlapping conditions, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Lupus & Arthritis can complicate things. That being said over the last decade the understanding of the disease has increased and they are always working on new medications for treatment of FM. Based on the trends over the last few years it should be expected that there will be big advances in the understanding and treatment of FM. This post just shows more clearly that those who suffer from FM are NOT alone! It also shows that patients need to continue to advocate not only for their own care, and the care of others who can’t advocate for themselves. And more focus needs to pushed through the proper government channels to advocate for more money for research of this condition!

With Love,

Amber

How I Have Dealt With Not Being Able to Have Kids!

March is National Endometriosis Awareness month.

What is Endometriosis??

Endometriosis is a painful condition where the tissue that is normally lining the inside of the uterus (the endometrium) is found growing outside of the uterus. The ovaries Fallopian tubes, and tissues lining your pelvis are commonly involved.

Who and How Many Are Affected?

Research shows that Endometriosis impacts 1 in 10 women who are of reproductive age. It is estimated that endometriosis will cause infertility in 30-40% of those who have the condition. It is believed that 7.5 million American women are affected by this condition. And 176 million women worldwide. Not only do those with Endometriosis have problems with fertility, they also deal with life altering pain that can have an impact on all areas of their lives. Not just their intimate relationship with their partner.

What are the signs and symptoms of Endometriosis?!?!

-Painful Periods- Pelvic pain and cramping along with the possibility of low back and abdominal pain. The pain may begin before your period and extend several days into the period.
-Pain with intercourses
-Pain with bowel movements and urination – most likely experienced during your period
-Excessive bleeding during period
-Infertility
-Other symptoms someone with endo might experience: fatigue, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and constipation.

My Story

Now that I have talked about what Endometriosis is, how many women are affected and the signs and symptoms to watch for. I want to share a little of my Endometriosis story. As far back as I can remember I was always plagued by severe menstraul cramps. I’m not talking the kind of cramps where you can just take a couple Advil and go on. I’m talking about menstrual cramps that left me stuck in bed with a heating pad on my belly and one of those heat patches (see picture below) on my low back. I always bled really heavy and had pain at all points of my cycle, through most of the month when the Endometriosis is at its worst. I also had issues with passing clots during my period for several years. However, I was led to believe that those issues were due to the specific birth control I was on.

I have tried multiple forms of birth control over the years, from
the shot, to the ring, and the patch. As well as many different pills but none of them were really able to regulate my cycle, and make it a “normal” 28 or 30 day cycle. It wasn’t until like 5 years ago when I finally decided my symptoms weren’t normal and I needed to find answers. The first time I went in my doctor felt that i just had bad periods and we needed to try a different oral birth control. However, things couldn’t be okay with the severe pain and bleeding issues I was experiencing. Also an adult women in her twenties should not have cycles that ranged from 10 days to 4 months apart, & everything in between, even while being on birth control. Before that I just assumed I was one of those women who would have painful periods. And that would take. awhile to regulate my cycle. Boy was I wrong.

Finally in 2011, after multiple scans, ultrasounds and dr visits, I made another appountment with my OBGYN. All the scans and testing had never showed that my appendix needed yo be removed, deapite the most intense pain I felt was right in the area of my appendix. At that appt she gave me a couple different options for treatment.

I had THREE OPTIONS

1. Start Depo Provera Shot– I declined this because I gaines 40 pounds the first time I took it. And honestly I just couldn’t deal with more wt gain at that point.

2. I could recieve the Depo Lupron Shot, which essentially throws you into early menopause. It is effective because you would no longer ovulate, which should decrease the pain. I also denied this option because I was only 26 and not ready to be thrown into menopause.

3. My last option was to have a Laparoscopic Surgery which is the only true way to diagnose Endo. It is also a treatment because as they go in and look they also get rid (burn off) of any of the endometrium that was in places it should not be. This is what I chose. I wanted to know we were treating what we thought we were.

If you aren’t knowledgeable on Endometriosis, the only true way to diagnose it is to have a laparoscopic procedure where they put air in your belly and inflate inflate it so they can see everything with a very small camera. I had my first surgery in November of 2011, when she got in there she saw that I did have significant amount of Endometriosis. Which required her to ablate those sites (aka burn off) those spots, and clean out everything she could, in hopes of getting rid of my pain. This is also the procedure that is done for ladies with endometriosis who are having a hard time conceiving, in hopes that it will help them get pregnant and carry a baby to term!

Finally after having my first laparoscopy in 2011 I received the diagnosis of Endometriosis. And was told at that point that it would most likely going to be hard to get pregnant. Over the following year we found out that getting pregnant and carrying a baby was just not going to be much of a risk for me between the Endometriosis and Lupus. It would put me and the baby at much to high of a risk!! This is probably the worst news I’ve ever gotten. Over the last several years I have spent a lot of time crying over not being able to naturally have my own babies. Being a mom has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. I never wanted anything more. But I have since come to terms with this issue, and hope to adopt one day. I have always felt a calling to adopt. There are so many babies and kids who are in foster care that need a good mama and aren’t getting adopted. So adoption will most likely be the way I have kids. Even though it’s not how I’ve always planned. Do I still have down days about the fact that I will never carry or deliver my own baby? Yes, and I feel that it is just normal to have sad days and negative feelings as you go through life with multiple chronic illnesses. When your ultimate life plan changes you have to adjust. You can’t just stay on that same path.

For other women who don’t have all the health problems that I do and are able to carry a baby, if they could get pregnant, there are all other options. So, please don’t ever let anyone tell you that just because you have Endo that you can’t have children. Because thats just not the case anymore. There are options like doing fertility treatments like IUI or IVF, or even a surrogate.

Endometriosis is not a condition I would wish on anyone. Not even my worst enemy. I have currently had three endometrial ablations done. I am able to get 18-30 months of little to no pain as long as I stay on Continuous Birth Control to prevent me from Ovulating every month. I will most likely be having surgery this year or next, because it will be two years since my last one in December.

My biggest recommendation for someone who has been newly diagnosed, or to someone who has had the condition for years, is to find a support group or a friend who has the same or similar condition. It doesn’t have to be the typical group, like the one that pops in everyone’s head. It can be one person who understands, maybe a friend or family member who struggles. Or a group on Facebook who deals with PCOS or Endometriosis. This condition is just like any other. You can’t run and hide. You will have times when you need support that in most cases your friends, family and spouse can’t give. Not because they don’t want to, but simply because they haven’t walked that road. The best things we can do for ourself and for others in our place is to find someone who understands the daily struggles, that we can talk to without worrying what they think!! The other thing I always push for with any disease process is to educate yourself. You can’t tell others what’s going on or decide what treatment is best for you if you don’t understand the condition.

Please feel free to share this with anyone you think could use the Information and support.

If you have the time check out the blue hyperlinks throughout the post. They are websites that have good correct information!!

With Love,

Amber