Category Archives: Health

Were You the One?


Costa Rica sunset by Ellie Kuykendall

Costa Rica sunset
by Ellie Kuykendall

“Let us always meet each other with smile,
for the smile is the beginning of love.”       

                             ― Mother Teresa  

Were you the one who stared at me today? I was pulling an oxygen tank behind me. Or maybe I was in a wheelchair. Perhaps I had a birth defect and only had one full hand. It could be that I was the victim of a terrible fire in which my face was badly burned.

It doesn’t really matter which one I was, does it? The question still stands: were you the one who stared at me?

Maybe your children pointed their fingers and laughed, and instead of chastising them gently and explaining that bad things happen to good people, you just pulled them in another direction. Maybe it was all you could do to keep from laughing with them. Was it?

I guess it never occurred to you how much it hurts to have someone point a finger at you and laugh. You’ll probably never understand how much pain I’ve gone through with my disability…it took me quite a while to gather my courage so I could venture out to the dollar store, walk along the mall or enter the grocery store.

There was a time not that long ago when I was in tears. I just couldn’t accept the fact that my life was forever changed. It hurt me that all my plans would never come to fruition. I didn’t understand why I, of all people, had to learn to do life over again — why the simplest chores took so much energy and how I had to allow double or triple the time to do something compared to how it used to be.

I remember those carefree days, when I was roller skating with my boyfriend’s son holding my hand tightly. I can recall how I used to play hide and seek…running was possible then. It isn’t now. It doesn’t seem possible that I once climbed down a steep hill to set up my place for fishing in the reservoir. Oh, how I loved fishing there.

I only have one more question to ask you, and I hope you’ll answer honestly.

Next time you see me, would you hold out your hand, give me a smile, love me with your whole heart through the look in your eyes?

I’m not asking for a handout. I don’t want your money.

But I would really love it if you would look at me with joy knowing that I celebrate living one day at a time. It would mean so much.

If you think you could do this, how about passing this message on to your friends? Maybe they would be willing to treat me the same way too.

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Filed under Disability, Health

Spinning Out of Control or Taking One Day at a Time?


This great photo is compliments of Seemann at morguefile.com.

I was trying to think of a subject for tonight’s blog. And then it came from my lovely muse, who takes such good care of me.

Does your life feel as if it’s spinning out of control?

You’re not going in the career direction you want.

Your relationship/s with your spouse/partner, kids, friends, boss or co-workers isn’t what you want.

You get up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee and a piece of toast and then get yourself and/or your family ready for the day. Then you jump in the car, drive to work through awful commute traffic, park and run in to start your work day. After work, it’s the same story in reverse. By 9 p.m., you are exhausted and wonder what it’s all about.

Or maybe you’re a student. You go to school each day and wonder what the payoff will be in a year or ten.

Remember that old song, “Alfie?” Here’s a link to it if you haven’t heard it in awhile or if you’ve never heard it. Hint…you can click on the link and it will open in a new window so you can listen while you read. Pretty cool, huh? Well, I think it is!

Anyway, Alfie was a playboy. He was never satisfied with one woman. That’s all I remember about the move. If you’re so inclined, you can rent it.

One of the lines in the song is, “Without true love, we just exist.”

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about if you want to stop feeling that your life is spinning like a top.

I learned this the hard way. Two years ago I was diagnosed with an incurable illness. Then last year, my doctor found out that I also have an incurable/unfixable (is that a word?) condition. I have to go into the hospital every two/three months to be treated.

Getting this news made me stand up and pay attention. And gradually, very slowly over the last six months or so, I realized that if I want the peace that passes all understanding, I have to slow down enough to recognize it in the small things (and in the big things, too).

I’ve had to slow down so much that I hardly recognize myself. It’s called taking one day at a time. And it works.

I still plan things, but I know that if my condition warrants a hospital visit when the time comes for the plans to come to fruition, that’s the way it will be.

It’s utterly amazing what I’ve seen and learned about myself and about other people.

I had to learn to be patient with medical staff.

I found out that the major medicine I take for short periods causes massive side effects. At one time, I had 17 of them.

I discovered that a lot of people don’t like to visit patients in the hospital.

I learned that the people you love will stick by you no matter what happens. This group includes very close friends and family members.

There is more, but most important of all, I had to accept the illness.

And in doing that, I also discovered that there are a lot of folks out there who are in worse condition than I am. And they keep going. And so do I.

Above everything, I have to turn over my will and my life to God’s care every day. I have to let God lead me down whatever paths I take now or in the future.

And that, dear readers, is the secret above all secrets. You don’t have to do it alone. I Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Have a blessed day.

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Filed under Health, Spirituality, Work

Food, Glorious Food


Poster for the musical "Oliver"

Click here for the song, “Food, Glorious Food.”  It will open in a new window so you can enjoy the music while you read my blog!

Prednisone is the drug I love to hate. It opens my airways and makes me gain weight and want to eat all the time. So, I decided to write this blog about food, which we all love.

What’s your favorite food? If you had to pick one to take to a desert island (with no mango, papaya or banana trees), what would it be?

Think about it. Food defines us. It defines our relationships, our health and our looks. Healthy foods make you healthier, right? Well, what if that’s not necessarily right?

I’m proud to be a baby boomer. Back in the 50’s when I was growing up, a lot of families ate dinner together, and the dinner wasn’t from a drive through, not always so fast food place. It was made from scratch from fresh ingredients that weren’t filled with preservatives. Mac and cheese in a box? Heavens, no! Pizza at least once a week? God forbid. Soft drinks whenever we wanted them? Uh-uh. Pizza and soft drinks were a special treat, and what was more of a special treat was lemonade made from freshly squeezed fruit and sweetened with (oh my gosh!), REAL sugar. It didn’t rot our teeth, because we didn’t drink it all the time, and a candy bar was another special treat.

Okay. We ate real bacon, high cholesterol hamburger meat, and  real ice cream (was frozen yogurt even invented in 1955?). We didn’t drink bottled water, our parents made coffee in an electric percolator, and when Banquet introduced their frozen dinners, they were a hit sensation overnight that might be enjoyed once a month or so.

We played outside, went for bike rides and drew hopscotch squares on our driveways, on the street or on the sidewalk. The girls played jacks, the boys played with marbles. Steelies, cats’ eyes, and all sorts of beautifully colored little round other ones.

Commute traffic was so light in the Bay Area you could get to San Francisco from the Peninsula in 30 minutes or so. Is that right? I’m sure one of my devoted readers will correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what I remember.

I was lucky. My mom didn’t work outside the home. But even moms who worked in jobs for real money cooked many meals at home.

It worked. We didn’t talk about how stressed we were all the time, but of course, families had secrets that were never talked about at all.

Have you decided what food you would take to the island yet? I haven’t.

Today I’m supposed to eat healthier so I can lose the drug I love to hate weight and get healthier. But I don’t want to! I want to eat chocolate ice cream and chocolate-covered pretzels, shortbread (my favorite) cookies, and gooey pizza (well, okay, my favorite is vegetarian). and lox with cream cheese, onions, capers, tomatoes on bagels.

But wait! I also love salads with tons of fresh veggies, broiled chicken with lemon and pepper, salmon with Dijon mustard and capers and all the delicious fruits of summer, such as peaches, watermelon and blueberries.

What’s a girl to do when surrounded by all this food and when supposed to make only “healthy” choices? Well, I’m a work in progress – doing my best to get healthy, but slipping away every now and then into food heaven.

Mostly, though, I’m just grateful that I have food and the money to buy it. So many don’t. I hope you had one of your favorite foods today.

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Filed under Health, Uncategorized

Yikes! Gray Hair, My Dad and Bruises


My goodness. Someone told me that when you’re sick your hair gets gray faster. Is that possibly true? I don’t know. I’m NOT going to look it up on the Internet…I don’t need to. My hair is noticeably grayer than it was before I got so sick. Shucks.

Who wants gray hair? I don’t. Some people have gray hair and look lovely. I don’t care if I’d be one of them! Time to find the hairdresser to turn my hair back into the age (well, kind of) of my mind – BLONDE. YES! That’s it.

I’ve made a decision and feel great as a result. Unfortunately, there aren’t any stylists available at 10:10 p.m. on a Monday night. Well, I mean, there are some available somewhere, but definitely not here. So tomorrow, that is my goal. Make an appointment. Get my hair done. Bingo, back to feeling like I did when I was young and in love.

Sounds like a plan, right? It is.

Now, about the IV bruises. I remember looking at my father’s arms as he got older and noticing the bruises he had from various shots, scrapes and cuts or bites. I thought,”They look really painful. I hope they don’t hurt him too much.” One time I touched one and asked him if it hurt.

“No,” he said, it doesn’t hurt.” I wanted to wave a magic wand and make the bruises disappear, but of course I couldn’t.

This last time in the hospital I had about 15 side effects of Prednisone. Did I say that yesterday? Who cares? I’m too lazy to look tonight. As a result of those side effects, I had to have other drugs, like insulin and a blood thinner. So now I have bruises on both arms and my stomach. They look awful. But they don’t hurt. Thank God for the small favors and graces.

Tonight, however, one of them itched. Now why did it do that all of a sudden? I haven’t a clue. So I scratched it and it got bluer. I think I’ll leave it alone and not scratch anymore.

Dad always scratched his sores. I do too. I popped pimples in high school, scratched off scabs in my middle years, and now I ran my fingernails across a bruise.

You may be wondering…”So what’s the point of all this talk about gray hair and bruises, Ellie?”

Have you ever noticed that when things are changing, you kind of feel itchy, like you want them to change quickly and just GET IT OVER WITH? I’ve had those feelings before, and that’s where I am tonight.

I’m ready to just GET BETTER. I’m ready to take back my life, start living like a normal person and not an invalid, and have the energy I need to have. I’ve made progress. I’m eating more healthily, getting exercise every day and petting my cats more often. Okay, I lied. I ate some chocolate yogurt ice cream and brownies today. But it was just a small slip!

You see, I’ve decided I’m going to be the only person in medical history to be completely cured of COPD.

After all, in 1996, my doctor told me I’d be in a wheelchair in six months if I didn’t stop cleaning houses, which had given me osteoarthritis in my hands, hips and knees. Today, 15 years later, you’d barely know I have that disease. I’m type on my ergonomic keyboard a LOT, can walk up and down stairs with no pain, and so forth. Why? Because I took charge of myself and my health and decided I wasn’t going to let any disease get me down.

It worked.

So, no matter what is going on in your life, you can turn it around if you really want to. I believe that. I’m living proof of it. And I know you can do it too, because I believe in you and most of all, I believe in God helping us.

I hope you have a bright and positively blessed day.

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Filed under Aging, Health

Everything is Bits and Pieces


My two special pieces: my daughter Molly and my grandson Hammie

I am thinking about bits and pieces today. Everything in our lives, as well as our lives, our bodies and our Earth, comes in bits and pieces. Or it’s put together that way. Or not. Sometimes the pieces are huge, such as birth, death, divorce, marriage and so on. Other times, the bits are so very tiny we can’t even see them, such as the thousands of particles emitted when a wood fire is burning or the electricity that is only visible when we see lightning or sparks coming out of the wall outlet.

Today is the day before the 4th of July. That makes it the 3rd of July. I have just gotten out of the hospital again this week. That makes 12 days out of the last 52 that I had a nice little private room, no rest, peanut butter and crackers (no salt on the top) at night, and thousands of milligrams of Prednisone. I had my vital signs taken over and over, three IVs had to be replaced and found out they don’t allow hair dryers in hospitals (at least not here) because of the possibility of a short.

Friends and family called and came by, always making my day brighter. One friend sent flowers, the beauty of which will always remain in my memory. They were yellow daisies and lilies in a short, square vase. Yellow is my favorite color. The bits and pieces of my life in the last nearly two months are clear and cloudy. In between hospital stays, I went to Atlantic City, watched my beloved grandson graduate from eighth grade, swam and walked so much my muscles were sore for days afterward and won $14 (my gambling limit was $25).

A couple of people got angry and frustrated with me, my cats missed me more than anyone else I think (they refuse to leave the room I’m in now, no matter what room!), and my feelings ranged from elation to despair. I had wellness to drop-dead headache pain, watched the rain fall and the sun go down, and now I’m trying everything I can to just STAY well and GET healthy.

I’ve lost ten pounds in the last ten days. I haven’t done it on purpose. It just happened. That’s a blessing compared to the 30 pounds I gained the first time around on Prednisone. Prednisone – a miracle drug that wreaks havoc on your body.

Everything we have materially, all things we say either verbally, in writing or in sign language, and the whole fabric of our life experiences comes in bits and pieces.  Our cloth is made of plaids, stripes, stars, lying down and getting up, music and silence, and warm and cold. We can never predict what will happen each day.

How we go with the river of rapids and pools determines how we feel each day. If we fight the rapids, we’ll probably drown. If we never get past the cool, blue pools, we might not see a tomato plant growing day by day.

There are so many side stories to these last nearly two months of my life. But the most important story is that God blessed me today by giving me these words to share with you. I hope your holiday is safe for and friendly to you. This is an amazing country that we live in. And each day, our lives can be wondrous testaments to that and to life itself, or they can be cesspools filled with bacteria and viruses waiting to eat us alive. It’s really ours to choose. What will you choose today?

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Filed under Health, Holidays