Friday, August 16, 2013


Change is hard. At least, that's what Skip says. And she's right, it is hard. I need something to push me to make a change, otherwise I'll maintain the status quo.

Well, I've got my catalyst. I went to the orthopedist on Monday about my knee and found out a few things. The bony tumor is a non-event. Apparently, these bone growths can happen in your youth when you're growing. Unless the tumor starts to change, indicating it might be cancerous, it's nothing to worry about. But, I do have arthritis in my knee. The doc suggested physical therapy, especially to strengthen the muscles around my knee. He also said I could get a cortisone shot, but I will wait to see how exercising and such helps to reduce the discomfort. If the discomfort continues, I'll think about the shot.

So, it's time to get serious about losing weight to take some pressure off the knee and exercising for general health and strengthening. I joined Weight Watchers Monday evening and went back to the gym on Tuesday. I met with the trainer and got a set of exercises for upper body and core strengthening. She also showed me how to use the quadriceps machine, for leg strengthening.

Weight Watchers has changed their program quite a bit, which is good news for me. It means I can't just assume I know everything about it and be a bit complacent. Along with that, there are some great apps I am using on my smartphone for tracking my eating. It even has a tool for scanning barcodes and determining the Weight Watchers point values per serving. It's good to feel like I am taking control of my eating.

It's also good to be back to the gym. When I was going regularly January - May, I overdid it a bit -- at least for a late 50s, fat gal who's never been a gym-goer before. This time, I'm going to be careful to only go 3-4 times a week and not exercise for more than 30 minutes each time. Also, I'll be keeping close tabs on my knees and how they feel. If either of them hurts while on the stationary bike, I'll either cut back on the effort or stop altogether.

I'm looking forward to feeling stronger and having my clothes start to get looser ....

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Feelings About Caregiving

The way I feel about caregiving is similar to the way New Englanders talk about the weather. We say "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes, it'll change." Sometimes I feel that caregiving is a crushing burden that has overtaken my life making me bitter and angry. Other times, I feel that caring for Skip is a wonderful expression of love and it's great knowing how good she feels when she's lovingly well-cared for. I can experience variations of these 2 perspectives in the space of one conversation.

Lately, I've been mostly on the positive end of the pendulum. I do have a cranky moment at least once a day, typically when I'm tired at the end of the day, but primarily I'm in good spirits and upbeat. This is a welcome change for both Skip and me, since I was feeling darkly, negative and angry for months. (Is darkly a word?)

Another thing I feel as a caregiver is guilt .... What I do feels like it is never enough. I get angry. I sit on the couch playing games on my computer while other people (PCAs) take care of Skip. I'm not disabled and Skip is profoundly so. Of course, guilt isn't a very productive feeling and it can tend to turn me to the dark side. I try to psych myself out of it with a rational, internal conversation. Unfortunately, though, that niggling feeling of guilt manages eventually to pop up again. From what I've read from other caregivers, I think feelings of guilt go with the territory.

I wonder what other people think of caregiving and how I'm doing ...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Right Knee Hurts

I'm concerned about my right knee. An X-ray showed a "bony lump" on it, so my primary care physician recommended an MRI. Got the MRI on Saturday. (Just as an aside - the term "open MRI" is a misnomer. The machine is not open, it's still a donut where your body goes into the hole; it's just that the hole is bigger than a non-open MRI machine.)

On Tuesday, my doc's nurse called to say my doc recommended I see an orthopedist in the next few months to have the probably benign bony lump looked at. That afternoon, I called the UMass Medical center's orthopedics group and got an appointment for this Monday. Surprisingly quick, I thought.

Yesterday, I got in the mail a copy of the MRI write-up. Well, yeah, the bony lump is mentioned, but there's other stuff, too that is bumming me out. Like some issues with the posterior cruciate ligament and a condition called patellar chondromalacia, which is an inflammation behind the knee, with complete or near-complete cartilage loss.

I thought cartilage loss was only for football players and others who played sports for years on end. Apparently, what I've got can happen to older folks who overdo it. Well, also probably to older folks who have been quite fat for most of their lives.

Why did I join a gym? And, when I did, why did I sign up for a trainer who really pushed me? Guess I should have stuck to the treadmill and the stationary bike.

I've read that every pound lost reduces 4 pounds of pressure on your joints. I'm going back to Weight Watchers on Monday evening. There's a WW storefront about a mile from our condo. I'll go to live meetings to help with motivation and accountability.

I'll talk to the orthopedist about safe exercises for now. Guess it'll be upper body, stationary bike and some core strengthening only.

Whine over.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

To Do Lists and Calendars

To do lists were a standard part of my day when I had a career. They were a good news/bad news kind of document. On the one hand, I would feel good when I got to cross things off and on the other, there were always a few tasks that I was putting off that would show up day after day, mocking me.

My calendar was virtual, part of Outlook, and 99% of it tracked the endless meetings that comprised the lion's share of my work day. Sometimes, I'd block out chunks of time in an attempt to get some items crossed off that to do list. Occasionally, there'd be a reminder for a personal thing like a dentist appointment. Other than that, mind-numbing meetings ad nauseum.

You know, I never thought deeply about what my day-to-day existence would be like when I retired, but I never thought I'd need a to do list or a regularly updated calendar. I suspect I fancied it would be more carefree and relaxed than the reality of retirement. I have a hardcopy calendar for the year and a pad entitled "Crap" that tracks my to do items. I'd be lost without these two things.

And, honestly, these tools help de-stress my life. If it's on the calendar, I don't have to remember it. Same for the to do list. I'm tracking doctor's appointments, meals out with my family and calls I need to make. Not client presentations and boring meetings. There's only one thing on my to do list right now that I'm procrastinating about. It's for my mother ... I really should get it done.