Health

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Doctor’s Orders

Filed in Health

It’s raining. If not, I would be out there on my morning walk. If I were, this would be the first time I achieve the three-times-a-week routine I’m supposed to do. So far, it has been either twice or even just once a week, usually the latter. Some weeks, there were none.

Of couse, I could go and use the walking machine in the gym on the ground floor of my apartment block. I’ve used that before. But ever since I got into the semi-habit of walking outdoors, the indoor alternative has not seemed attractive at all.

This is for my own good. For my health, in general, but specifically, for my bones. It’s what my rheumatologist says I have to do.

Back in March this year, I took the bone mass density test. The last time I had it done was maybe 2 years ago. The results, when compared to the last set of tests, showed that my bones had deteriorated about 8% over the last 2 years.

I could immediately think of the reason for it. Steroids. Prednisolone. It’s one of the two main meds for my lupus condition. Not a big dose, just one 5mg tablet every other day, but over 15 years (with higher doses some months during those years due to a flare in my lupus), it adds up.

But there is another reason for the bone deterioration. Menopause. This is supposed to be a major milestone for women, complete with mood swings, hot flushes and whatnots. For me, it was a quiet transition to the next stage of my life. Actually, I’m assuming I’ve gone thro menopause. There is one less item on my shopping list, which accounts for this assumption. But I digress …

Rheumie also said bone changes are at the highest in the couple of years after menopause. Couple that with my long-term prednisolone use, and that explains the 8% bone deterioration.

Was there anything I could do to put a brake on this?

Yes, there were two items. One was imposed from the outside, the other from the inside, requiring self-discipline.

The outside imposed item was an addition to my meds in the form of a weekly Fosamax dose. I was familiar with Fosamax, having helped to give it to my mother quite a few years ago when she needed it. It’s used to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis, and according to the official website, “the only treatment with Vitamin D, which helps absorb calcium and build strong, healthy bone”.

Prior to this, I had been taking Caltrade to maintain my bone’s health, supplemented with Rocaltrol for the Vitamin D to absorb the calcium. Apparently, the combination was not enough.

Taking Fosamax requires some self-discipline. It’s a once-a-week dose to be taken on the same day, and to be taken first thing in the morning, before food, and after it’s taken, I cannot eat and must remain in an upright position – no going back to bed – for 30 minutes. So far, I’ve been good with this, I even brought along the required dose for my trip to see my pandas in May. I only managed to forget once. When I did, I checked the instructions and found that I could take it the following morning. But I forgot to take it the following morning, and was in a bit of a dilemma until I realised that the following-following morning would still be another 5 days to the next official dose, so by my own reasoning, was still okay to take, better than not taking at all.

The second item ordered by my rheumie was more exercise, particularly a weight-bearing exercise that would get me moving and my bones acting, or re-acting. The easiest weight-bearing exercise, believe it or not, is walking. It is also the least likely to cause injury. I can’t run, or even jog, because the impact would affect my weakened bones. So, I had to walk. And I had to want to walk. That’s where the self-discipline comes in.

It took a while before I settled on my current routine. Initially, I used to go for evening walks around the school field near my sister’s house. But it was a difficult routine to keep; some evenings, I would be late getting there, and if the rest of the family were already home, I couldn’t very well say, wait, let me go for my walk and then we can have dinner. So it was an erratic walking schedule.

Next, I tried indoor walking, inspired by a short story by Preeta Samarasan in the MPH collection, Urban Odysseys. It was fun because I got to look at the window displays as I walked past the shops. But indoor walking just didn’t cut it for me.

Finally, I decided to try the path across the road from my apartment complex. So simple. It was right there in my own “backyard”, but I’d resisted it, mainly out of embarrassment – what would people think? Actually, what do I care what people think – my health is more important.

So now, my walking routine is established, and just needs to be boosted and maintained at three-times-a-week. I even have a little side-routine to get the most out of each walk. I’d read up about it, and have learned to check my pulse before and after each walk, to see if my walking rate is sufficient to keep my heart pumping within an acceptable range – it is. I also wear a simple digital pedometer to help me count my steps on each walk. There’s one more thing I do – I use the stopwatch function in my handphone (mobile / cell) to time each walk. So far, I’ve averaged 35 minutes and 4,000 over steps each walk. Oh yes, there’s one more thing I do – I keep a walking log on my Evernote account, so at a glance, I know how many times I walked each month, and how I fared each time.

Walking. It’s so simple. And inexpensive. And I can say it’s made a difference to my previous sedentary lifestyle. Especially when done in the morning before the rest of the day catches up and drags me down. It may not be much, especially when there are lots of other more exciting ways to keep and stay fit – swimming, jogging, running a marathon, hiking, mountain climbing … But different ways to keep and stay fit for different people, and for me, walking is my way.

Tree-lined and with a rocky side on the left, this walking path across from my apartment complex is shaded against the sun and helps keep my lupus in check

Family Matters

Filed in Family, Health

Mother turned 83 on Monday. I’d promised her ice cream, but then remembered she was having quite a bad cough so I brought her a slice of White Chocolate Macadamia cake from Secret Recipe. I did tell her I would still get her ice cream when she has recovered from the cough.

—–

I was preparing to send Darren a text message when I noticed father’s number is still listed in the contact list. So is my niece WY’s. It’s been a few years since they left us, and I haven’t deleted their numbers from my handphone yet. It’s not like I expect to hear from them (!). Maybe it’s my way of remembering them? But a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of them, especially WY. It’s interesting that I should think of them together today of all days – today, 3 April, is sandwiched between the two dates when they left us, WY on 31 March 2006 and father on 15 April 2005.

—–

The three of us (sister, brother and I) have just gone through some health scares. My brother was the last to get a review of his situation (I just received a text message from him about the results, and it’s good).

All three of us cleared our respective health hurdles. Mine has the most lingering effect. The latest set of bone density test results showed a deterioration in my hips, a loss of 8% over 2 years, which is more than what is allowed for someone my age.

My rheumatologist thinks it’s due to a combination of my use of prednisolone for my lupus and the fact that I just passed menopause. She said bone loss will be most noticeable between 3 to 5 years of menopause. To combat the deterioration, she’s put me on Fosamax, which has been proven to help build bone mass. It’s just one tablet a week, but must be taken on the same day every week, first thing in the morning, and no food or lying down for 30 minutes after that.

I also think the bone loss is due to my lack of mobility (read: exercise). To combat that, I have started (well, resumed, since I’ve done this before) a mild form of regular exercise, which I need to be regular about!

Picture of health

Filed in Health

My dear friend Val has posted some pictures from our lunch back in November 2008. The pictures included 2 of me holding her nephew, Remy. Looking at the second of the two pictures, I realised how much my left forearm had cleared since the minor lupus flare back in May 2007.

Left forearm in November 2008

Same forearm back in May 2007

Trully, if a picture paints a thousand words, then the first picture shows the good health I’m enjoying now that I’m no longer in a 9-to-5 job but working on my own with the luxury of choosing my own projects.

Managing by Colours

Filed in Family, Health, Tech Stuff

My lupus meds are quite boring. They’re the same colour, white. Well, except for the Rocaltro which is white and orange, but it’s not really a lupus med, but a supplement. And it’s in a white foil pack until I pop two to take every other day.

In contrast, mother’s various meds include two whites that come in foil packs in their own branded boxes (so there’s no worry about getting them mixed up), as well as two other meds that are refilled loose from a bulk supply from a medical centre – Lasix, which is white, and Digoxin, which is blue. To help me differentiate the two so I don’t refill the wrong med in the wrong transparent bottle at the nursing home, I use a blue tablet container for the Digoxin (same colour) and a yellow for the Lasix (cuz there’s no white container in the set, only pink, blue, green and yellow). To make doubly sure I don’t mix up the two meds, I used my Brother labeller to make name labels to put on the containers. Like this …

It’s one of my tasks to liaise with the nursing home regarding mother’s medications. Whenever they run low, they would give me a call to bring a refill the next time I visit mother. I used to give them the full refill but the person previously in charge of medication would call to let me know only when there were very few tablets left. Some of mother’s meds require special orders, and there was at least one instance when we nearly couldn’t refill on time to make sure there was no interruption in the supply. Now, what I do is keep about two weeks’ supply on standby at home, so that when it’s time to refill, I give the nursing home the standby meds and then call the pharmacy to refill the prescription. As for the Lasix and Digoxin, I would get a three-month refill from the medical centre but give the nursing home a month’s supply at a time, so as to keep track of the meds; it’s more for my own peace of mind.

Meds are not the only area I use colours to help me manage. I also use different coloured inks for my handwritten notes. This is so that when I flip through my notes to look for something, the different ink colours help me find what I’m looking for faster. I use blue for my work notes, purple for personal notes, brown for family notes, and red for expenses.

But instead of having individual pens for each colour, I have found a multiple pen that contains three different coloured inks, and have two, the first one containing red, blue and black inks, adn the second containing purple, brown and green inks. Such pens have been available for a long time – as far back as when I was still in school – but recently, I found one with gel inks that I prefer over fountain pen or regular ballpoint pen inks.

The pen, a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto, is quite environmentally friendly as it uses refills and has a flip top that allows for the refills to be changed quite easily.

Best of all, the pen barrels and refills are available locally; I’ve seen them in two bookshops, Popular in IKANO and my preferred supplier, Cziplee in Bangsar.

Some changes a-coming

Filed in Health, Rant, Tech Stuff

First off, I just wanna say I MISS MY WIN DESKTOP. It went belly-up a week or so ago, and I’ve been using my MacBook plugged into the external 17″ monitor.

Yes, I have both Windows and Apple machines at home. It’s always been that way ever since I started using computers. At college in San Diego, I had a DOS laptop (yes, in those days, it was DOS, pre-Windows), but the department used Macs. Then, when I came home and started at my second job, we had dinosaur Macs but later persuaded the department head that we needed proper PCs. Then I started hanging out with a group of Mac users, and decided to get me an Apple G4 PowerBook. It was mostly a fun machine while I continued using a Win desktop for serious work. I later replaced the PowerBook with a MacBook, mainly because it can run both Mac and Win OSs.

And I’d been toying with the idea of going 100% Mac, especially since I can use Win on it, too (some necessary apps still require the Win environment). The desktop was getting old, and I thought it was time to make the change.

So for the past week, I’ve been on a Mac environment. It’s quite fun actually but hell on my eyes. The 17″ monitor’s display is not proportionate to the Mac’s 13.3″ display. 1280 x 800 on the Mac became 1280 x 10something … oh, I forget. I’m currently not using the 17″ at the desk, but the “native” Mac on my lap. And suddenly I realised I’d been abusing my eyes with a disproportioned display all week. Not that I didn’t know – my eyes have been feeling tired more than usual, and one night, I even had shimmering images in front of both eyes.

Still thinking of a change to Mac? For the sake of my eyes, I don’t think so.

It is time for a computer upgrade, but not in the direction of a Mac. Instead, I’m staying with Windows. A completely new CPU with the latest components.

I’m planning to sell my MacBook (anyone local who’s interested, please email me chincm[AT]gmail dot com). And getting the new ASUS eeePC (see previous post), a 9″, < 2-pound ultraportable. Cuz I still need a mobile machine when I’m out and about.