Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Winter Doldrums

As winter sets in here in our little hallow, I start reevaluating everything. Freezing temperatures, and snow and ice makes driving up the foothill precarious enough for us to not even try in Mel's 4-wheel drive truck. I mean in an emergency we'd chance it, but just to go to way, no how. You'd think I'd be stir crazy, but I'm not. There is plenty to keep my hands and mind occupied.

In case you don't know how much a cord of wood is
It isn't always so bad. Some days we've hit almost 50 before the sun goes down and with it the temperatures. We've burned through a cord of wood already and we haven't hit the really cold months of latter January and February yet. We'll probably go through at least four cords this winter. It's supposed to be a cold one. But even that being said. I prefer temperatures around the mid 60s or low 70s. My heart usually behaves better. Mel on the other hand, in her born and raised Orlando Fl body, prefers high 70s to low 80s. Growing up and living up north taught me to dress in layers to keep
warm and keep myself from being overheated at the same time.Yesterday, she finally pronounced it warm enough and I had stripped down to a tank top,

Today, I shed two layers (jacket and sweater) and was still working up a sweat loading a 1/4 cord of wood into the back of my van from the big wood shed to move onto the front porch. Mel would have just loaded it into unto several wheel barrow loads to make the trip, but being one handed, I have an issue with the wheel barrow. Chock it up to another tool that takes two functioning hands. At least I know that I can handle these splits of wood with little or no difficulty. These aren't the evenly split pieces of wood that you see bundled in the stores. They can weigh upwards of five to ten lbs two feet long a piece with plenty of splinters upon splinters in my arm, hand and fingers. Yes, I should be wearing work gloves, but they are a royal pain to get off and on.

Yes, I know I could use a wagon to pull the small load, but heck, I'd already taken care of the chickens, rabbits, household animals, made the bread/rolls, and set up dinner to cook on top of the wood stove BEFORE I went to get the wood. I had also gathered a 5-gallon bucket of kindling. Burning that little bit of gasoline was a lifesaver. That was until I got bogged down almost to the axle in the slick, clay mud. I grabbed the crepe myrtle branches Mel had cut down over the summer which lined out new makeshift driveway. It gave me enough traction to make it around front again. Another day on the homestead or Murphy's Law strikes again. I guess I could have played the disabled woman in distress card, but honestly, it never crossed my mind.

I'm considering totally coming off some of my medications. I'm beginning to wonder if I really need them all. I am always my own self advocate. I have to admit the Cymbalta helped my depression after my beloved's death. I'm definitely more active here than I was before. Yeah, my body aches, but look at what I'm putting it through. You'd think my fibromyalgia would flare up big time, but it hasn't enough to incapacitate me in almost two years. Considering my pain was so great before that I had even considered taking additional meds. I'm handling the pain better with more natural methods like cups of Earl Grey tea. Bergamot oil has been used for centuries for depression and nerve pain. I work through the pain. I do use reason and stop when I need to. Although I am taking more breaks than I used to ten years ago. Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm getting older too. It may take an hour or two to gain control with meditation and a couple cups of Earl Grey tea, but do I really need prescription too? Meditation is also  my control over my PBA. I'm not really asking you and I will talk to my physician.

My muscle relaxers are the bane to my existence. I'm on Botox, Zanaflex, Baclofen and Valium. Plus dry needling and therapy.  None of them are working worth a hoot to stop my post stroke spasticity. When the Botox wears off that's it. My foot inverts and will develop sores unless I use care to prevent it. My wrist is solidly locked and contractures prevent it from releasing to neutral without some serious, constant manipulation. Surgery is even more not an option with a third heart valve and a triple A in the mix. I haven't taken Valium in over a year. The Zanaflex plays havoc with my heart. I have gradually tapered my dose down to 2 mgs per night instead of 16 because of this. And yeah, there was discussions with my cardiologist and neurologist. There are definitely advantages to not sleeping at a 45 degree angle, ingesting quantities of salt before bed to keep my heart rates above 40 and not feeling like a fish out of water gasping for breath every night since my aortic valve started crapping out last year.

What I've opting for instead of drugs. I'm embracing my spasticity. It is what it is. It's going to be part of my post stroke existence until the powers that be find a way to fix it. It's not a part time thing but a full time issue. Sometimes is worse than it's other. When it's bad, it's horrible and nothing makes it better. I would live the horrible times in a continuous, warm bath of epsom salts, rosemary, and thyme if I could, but that's not living. I'll cry and move on until the next time. Even when I'm in a Valium induced sleep, I'm still in pain. So I'll treat the pain with Tramadol when necessary. I'll pick and choose what I take and when. Hopefully, the increased Botox will have a longer carry over effect so there will be less breakthrough of severe spasticity between series. It's a shame when you have to pick which poison you put in your body.

So do you reevaluate decisions during the winter doldrums? What have you concluded?
Nothing is impossible.


  1. Hi Jo - well all I can say is you're a positive life line ... or certainly should be for many ... you certainly get on and deal with things. Good luck - let's hope the cold isn't too terrible and March comes around relatively soon - though I'd be grateful if it held off a while! Cheers and all the best to you both for 2017 - Hilary

  2. No winter where I am. Seriously Jo, you are a marvel at what you accomplish and how you don't let health issues keep you from living a full life. All the best and God bless.

  3. If they aren't doing anything anyway, I'd dump the drugs. At least some. You'll save money and your body will appreciate less chemicals in it.
    Maybe a little horse to pull your cart? Or a really big dog.


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