Tag Archives: Pain

Empire Life Insurance apologizes and Hudson’s Bay reimburses

The garden is one way I have to heal

The garden is one way I have to heal

Last Friday, I followed through with phoning Empire Life Insurance and got a reasonable person in the call centre. After explaining the situation, she said she would look into it and get back to me Monday after 12 noon when she was back into work. When I said I had a dentist’s appointment that afternoon, we sorted out that I have vm and she could leave a message.

She did a couple better than that. She waited until 6 p.m. yesterday to call to make sure I was back home. And she fixed it. She checked my computer file and said there was a flag on it since 2013 to not send the letter and to automatically up the premium at the beginning of each new fiscal year in August. She explained that the letters are generated (from the computer) automatically and  sent out automatically unless someone follows the flagged info and someone missed doing that this year. She said it was human error and she apologized for the company. She also told me the amount of the increase which starts with the August bill and confirmed that the amount on the quarterly bill I have is the right one to pay by June 1  and to ignore the amount in the letter and the letter itself.

I accepted her apology. So, no repercussions for Empire Life Insurance Company now.

The companies doing something to fix their errors continues. I have mentioned before having problems with my prescription glasses which I bought at Hudson’s Bay Optical in December 2014. Unfortunately their warranty is only for one year – which covered the replacement of one pair of sunglasses last fall because the one frame handle kept falling off and could not be screwed back in – only could be temporarily glued. They still had one more frame like it, so the lenses were switched to those frames.

Last month the same thing happened with the new frame and in I went and had it glued back on with the caveat that new prescription glasses would need to be purchased as these glasses frames were no longer available.

Mother’s Day at the restaurant the frame side fell off again. My son snapped it in. Then two weekends ago, the right lens popped out of the regular prescription glasses. When I went in to have them popped in (this is free), I ordered a new pair of prescription glasses and of course had to pay full price as the warranted expired in December 2015.

The saga continues. Last Saturday the lens again popped out of the regular glasses and in a very bad mood I took public transit to Hudson’s Bay Optical. They didn’t mind popping it in again and did so. I was wearing the sunglasses and so just put the regular glasses back in their case. They did check and said the new sunglasses had left the manufacturers on Thursday and should arrive this week, Tuesday or afterwards. They also said the manufacturer is in the United States, which would explain the long time frame (pun intended).

Does this also explain the poor quality of the glasses? Because I decided to complain to the manager about all this nonsense. By then I was out of the optical department and walking through the cosmetic department. One of the cashiers called the manager and he came down.

We discussed the glasses problem with me making comments about the poor quality of the glasses and I never had this problem with Sears and had only switched to Hudson’s Bay Optical because the Sears store downtown had closed and the mall locations of Sears are too far for me to go on public transit. I also said I had been wearing glasses for 46 years and had never had lenses pop before. I also complained of the one-year warranty Hudson’s Bay policy compared to Sears two-year warranty policy. He said he would see what he could do about that.

Then he decided I should get half the amount back of what I paid for the sunglasses and had the clerk in cosmetics do the transaction.

While we were talking he noticed that the frame on my sunglasses had again become detached. I handed him the offensive glasses and like my son had done, he snapped it back it.

The next morning at home I noticed that the lens for the regular glasses hadn’t been popped in correctly – it was the same as I managed to do to pop it in with one corner not all the way in.

I’m hoping it stays until I go in later this week to pick up the new sunglasses. And I’m not wearing the sunglasses much if at all in case the frame falls off again. I cannot pop it back in.

The glitches/snafus are getting to be too much and they have affected my health. Last Thursday, I dealt with five problems – all sorted out; Friday was calling the insurance company. Yesterday I finally had that filling put in the back bottom tooth, so hope that is now going to be okay

What all this stress, all this having to be my own consumer advocate is doing is making my IBS and the like worse and it is scaring me. I’m making some changes – more exercise as in walking and gardening (neither of which was done from Saturday to yesterday because of the cold weather). Today it is still too cold to do more than collect fresh flowers but I hope to get out for a walk. I am changing my diet slightly, but mainly starting to drink more water as I’m sure I’m dehydrated. Have also done some more research on the Internet and will see a nutritionist at the Health Planet for suggestions on supplements to help.

And do some meditation regularly and other stress reduction things. Plus get more sleep. Eliminate some stuff from my life and postpone some.

All this may be very well. But God will have to do his part, i.e. stop sending me so many problems in all areas to deal with. And send me some more money to ease the financial burden. The latter is starting to happen. But the first part has to happen or all the lifestyle changes in the world may not be enough. I don’t have the good fortune to have a partner to help with things so the burden of all falls on me. Lessening it would be very helpful.

That’s my take anyway.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Consumer action, Digestive disorder, finances, Gardening health benefits, God, Healing through gardening, Health, Help and Support, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Life Insurance, Meditation, Older Women living alone and health, Pain, Worrying

Only Child on eliminating big stressors

Sharon and her late mother in less stressful times.

Sharon and her late mother in less stressful times.

It all came together like a light bulb exploding inside my head. Three occurrences within the same time period.

Yet another editing client’s manuscript had big formatting problems beyond the usual editing – second one in a few months. I was beginning to wonder if it was my computer software programs. Nope. Checked other clients’ manuscripts from earlier this year and even my writing manuscripts and they were fine. I have to charge extra for this extra re-formatting which isn’t part of copy editing (unless the client can fix it himself) which doesn’t always sit too well with clients. But I didn’t create the formatting problem. No quandary with the first client here a few months ago.

My digestive disorder is acting up and giving me lower back pain so that sometimes I have difficulty standing up straight without pain. I find just moving around (gardening and longer walks) and drinking peppermint tea seem to help temporarily. I’ve also added some supplements, changed a bit of my diet, and play relaxing  music when editing. But stress and stressors trigger these attacks. (I have plenty of house and money-related stress and spent a good part of Friday on the phone trying to straighten some of them out only to find when I finally got around to checking my snail mail that the bank officer I’ve been dealing with screwed up my minimal RRSPs’ renewal – she didn’t listen to what I originally said and didn’t even return my phone call. I left her a blunt voice mail indicating that I was upset; she better fix it, and to call me Wednesday morning when she is back from her extended long weekend).

The final “wake-up call” was when my police consultant – a police officer and novelist of police procedures said he is  retiring  next year and he “just wants to write.”

Bingo.

Early next year I should be getting the OAS pension and can apply for the Guaranteed Income Supplement – that with CPP, hits on my small amount RRSPs (if the bank officer fixes them now so I can get at some) plus income from teaching writing workshops and courses, writing, doing manuscript evaluations and writing marketing consulting – hopefully I will be able to live modestly on that. Meantime I plan to get more gigs in those areas. By this time next year I plan to quit doing copy editing of book manuscripts. If the CAA Toronto branch still wants me as their Writer in Residence I’ll still do that – it’s only 30 pages per client and is often manuscript evaluation and for the latter it doesn’t matter how messed up the formatting is. I’m picking a year from now to tie in with when I would have to renew my Editors’ Association of Canada membership next year (not renewing then). Those few months will also give me some time to see how the new way goes.

I don’t know if it’s a taste of “like mother, like daughter.” As I’ve posted before, my late mother had to quit working as a secretary, then a proofreader for an insurance company because of severe arthritis. My medical condition is different and there are other stressors coming at me too. But I can imagine my mother had a lot of stress about her situation because she was a worrier too and also didn’t have a partner as it was after Dad died. Maybe the lack of a partner is “”like mother, like daughter.”

Now, I have another big stressor to deal with – getting help with and getting the window air conditioner replaced.  Wish me luck or maybe a miracle – maybe I might actually believe in miracles then.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Burnout, Decisions, Health, Health Seniors, Life demands, Old Age pensions, Only child, Pain, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress, Uncategorized, Worrying

Only Child deals with a mixed Christmas

Only Child likes the Christmas tradition of gift giving

Only Child likes  gift giving

It’s going to take extra effort to get through this Christmas because I’m feeling the pain of being what I refer to as an “only person” (no partner, etc.). I think the pain here is coming from real physical pain and having to deal with it alone. It’s been a bad year for me with health issues but lately something more has been brewing and one of these physical pains can partly be blamed on having no partner and no car, i.e., having to cart heavy bags of groceries in several trips – now my right shoulder hurts. That should go away if I take it easy. I may be able to carry my purse on my left shoulder and refrain from buying heavy groceries until the weekend. But if we get all this snow that’s forecast for Boxing Day, it will create problems and more aloneness.

I have no one near here to shovel snow for me (and this winter, so far, I can afford to pay someone a reasonable fee to do so). So guess who will have to be out there shovelling snow – probably two sessions in the next couple of days? Not Santa Claus or any of his helpers.

The other situation is that my son and I were planning to meet for dinner on Boxing Day in downtown Toronto (somewhat a central location for both of us). Today he has a gaggle of friends from overseas staying with him and he is cooking Christmas dinner there. His girlfriend is off visiting her sister out of country because of a family issue there. With this snow coming, my son’s and my Boxing Day dinner might be postponed. Although I don’t mind having to postpone if necessary, I do mind now because for Christ’s sake it is Christmas (pun intended). I’m spending today, Christmas alone and the odd Christmas this happens it doesn’t bother me. But then I don’t have all these pains every Christmas (the other one in my foot I’m suspecting is fibromyalgia, at least from the symptoms and connections to another disease I have). Reading about that online is enough to make you depressed. Oh, that is a symptom of possible fibromyalgia.

So, to get over the hump of this season’s next few days, I will call my friends and my son – perhaps we can have the “snow” option of rescheduling Boxing Day dinner. I will also email friends and family from out of town, be grateful for the gifts I have received, prepare my traditional Christmas dinner (the first one – the second family one comes in January when Martin and Alison will be here for a belated Christmas dinner), savour it and the wine and eggnog – try not to overdue eating chocolate and ice cream, listen to Christmas music, read the current mystery novel on my Kobo, and remember Christmases past with my late parents when I was growing up. I’ll leave you with this remembrance of my childhood Christmas.

Christmas Day began with breakfast and tearing into the stockings hung on the mantle. Then it was the obligatory Christmas Mass at Church (a tradition I no longer follow as the only thing that moves me there is the music and I can get that on my stereo). Once back home we dived into the presents and I think it was the sharing that I liked best. When we stayed home for Christmas dinner Mom liked to try roasting a different type of bird each year – sometimes a greasy goose, sometimes a duck, sometimes a chicken, and sometimes a turkey. Some years she had to cook the goose another day because we were off to my aunt and uncle’s on dad’s side of the family for Christmas dinner. We travelled by public transit (no car) and when we got there I’d hang out with my three cousins.  I don’t remember the dinners, but remember this as I write in my memoir:

I gaze around the living room beyond the corner where we are sitting. The grownups are involved in their grownup talk, but my aunt sees me staring at the tree in the opposite corner. Three presents, like lost parcels, lie underneath the tree.

“Those are for Felicity,” my aunt says. “Her birthday is December 26, so she can’t open her birthday presents until tomorrow.” (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford)

Merry Christmas.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Christmas, Family and Friends, Health, Help and Support, Living alone, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Pain, Sharon A. Crawford, Snow, Winter Weather

Only Child’s overwhelm leads to insomnia

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

Looks like my new motto to put off until tomorrow what you don’t need to do today isn’t solving my overwhelm problem. Now the overwhelm has moved into insomnia. Not good for doing client work during weekdays. I don’t usually suffer from insomnia. I may go to bed very late but at least I sleep until the alarm rings or if I wake up, I fall back to sleep within a few minutes.

Not for the last few days. I know I’ve inherited the worry wart syndrome from my late mother, but don’t recall her suffering from insomnia. But how would I know? I didn’t sleep in her bedroom at home. And when visiting cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, if Mom and I shared a room, she slept.

Maybe I’ve inherited it from my late father. He could give Mom a run for her worry money.

Or maybe it’s secondary factors – anxiety over too much to do (and all seeming to need doing at the same times), pain from physical health conditions acting up, and unfortunately age. It might also be because dawn arrives much earlier in summer, but I don’t think that is really the reason as dawn has been arriving early for over a month and my insomnia just started late last week.

An article on the University of Maryland Medical Center website http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/insomnia-000096.htm/  lists those three (not the dawn one) as well as the expected ingesting stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime, menopause, menstrual cycle hormone changes, circadian rhythms disrupted, sleep apnea, snoring partners, decongestants, and the one that surprises me – computer work. Snoring partners definitely isn’t my reason and neither is computer work. My writing and editing work has me on the computer on weekdays and some weekends I spend a few hours checking and replying to personal email. If computer use was the cause for me, I’d have constant insomnia.

I don’t know if this insomnia will turn into constant. To avoid adding insomnia to my lists of problems and things I’m not grateful for, I am attempting to make some changes. For beating insomnia, the sleep experts say you should go to bed the same time every night and get up the same time every morning. I do the former – it is just very late because of all the household stuff I am still doing late at night. A partner would be helpful here. I am trying to have a cut-off time for doing housework and follow my last week’s blog posting rule – leave it to another day. Now, if I could just get my mind to wind down (and it’s not caffeine. My last cup of coffee goes down before 11 a.m., more than 12 hours before I hit the bed). I walk and/or garden during the day as breaks from work and/or before and after work and get the afternoon sun. Before I go to sleep I do relaxing things – take a shower and read from whatever book I have on the go. The experts say don’t read anything too startling and I suppose mysteries could come under that. This is often my only time to read one of the many books stacked up in the bookshelf by my bed. My room is quiet and so is the neighbourhood I live in – until a bunch of racoons start fighting and crying. Or the newspaper is plunked inside the front door. That  woke me up Friday morning and this plunk never does.  Unlike other times when some noise awakens me, this time I didn’t go back to sleep.

The article at the University of Maryland Medical Center has some other ideas but I don’t agree with them. For example, it says don’t read in bed or watch TV in bed. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom but I do fall asleep in front of the TV in the living room in the late evening and it’s not boredom.  I figure if I read my book sitting up in the kitchen or living room – I would fall asleep. When I transport my body to my bed, guess what? Awake. The article also suggests getting 8 hours sleep; I’m having trouble landing over 5 hours lately. However, experience tells me that 7 ¼ hours works for me.

Now I just have to get the 7 ¼ hours.

Do any of you suffer from insomnia? How do you deal with it?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Books, Burnout, Only child, Overwhelm, Pain, Peace and quiet, Reading, Sharon Crawford, Sleep deprivation

Only Child revisits overwhelm

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

After enjoying the holiday weekend for Canada’s birthday I am now back into the daily grind. And another bout of overwhelm is trying to take over.

I don’t know if my late mother ever felt like she’d spiralled into overwhelm. However, she could have won the title for Worrywart Incarnate. She had a lot on her life plate – Dad dying of cancer and after his death, her own health problems plus going back to work and raising a teenager, and a house. Mom may have come close to overwhelm when she decided to sell the house. And at 19, I wasn’t much help to her here. As I write in my memoir:

I am lying on that living-room chesterfield. My ears are tuned to the top 40 bleating from the radio and the rest of my face and mind are buried in an Agatha Christie mystery.

“Sharon, help me clear out this stuff downstairs. What are we going to do with it all?” Mom shouts up from the basement.

“In a minute,” I reply, as I tell myself I’ll just read to the end of this chapter. At 19, I am Mom’s confidant and unwished-for helper.

“Sharon.”

“Be there in a minute.”

“Sharon.”

“All right.”

I shove a bookmark in the Agatha Christie, place it on the end table and stomp down the basement stairs, around the sharp curve midway. At least I won’t have to look at the orange stucco stairwell walls much longer. What was Dad thinking when he painted them?

I am ashamed of my thoughts and as if to make amends, I dig into the latest box of stored possessions. This carton, tall, narrow and heavy, contains my school exercise books, drawings, high school yearbooks and newspapers.

“Do you want all of this?” Mom asks. “You decide.”

 (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon Crawford)

Today I am thinking of a recent phone conversation I had with my friend who has the back problem. She’s been laid up with it for over a month as it goes through ups and downs. While she’s been literally on her back from the pain and sleeping off the pain meds, she’s had time to think. Like me (or worse) she was always trying to accomplish way too much. (And of course, she is alone, as well). She’s decided to focus on what is really important to her and let the rest slide or wait. She is drastically changing her life, including moving closer to her brother and sister.

She’s right – not just about the family part, but about figuring out what is important in your life and ditching or postponing the rest. I’m taking that to the micro. Each day I am now deciding in my work, (including answering those sometimes pesky emails), in my personal life, just what is absolutely necessary for me to do today. With client work, deadlines help here. If a client needs an invoice so I can be paid, that is necessary for today. I look at all the emails and decide which ones are necessary to deal with today – family, friends and work. I already don’t work weekends except for the occasional workshop so rarely answer business email on weekends. I will also now stop apologizing for being so slow to reply to an email even if I don’t get to it until four or five (or more) days afterwards. I will do as my hairdresser does – just reply to it when I get to it. I have also removed myself from some email subscriptions that were merely getting filed for possible future story ideas. I’m staying on my LinkedIn groups, writing organization groups forums and listserves and blogs I’m connected to, including writing this one. Connecting with other writers is important – we can all help each other. The intent now is to actually connect with them more often. I know – where is the time? It might not be every day, but I’ll do it.

I’ll also shove more stuff in “pending.” To take the reverse of an old axiom, I will “put off until tomorrow what doesn’t need doing today.”

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it – for today, anyway.

Any comments? Ideas on dealing with overwhelm?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Burnout, email overload, Life demands, Mother, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sharon Crawford, Time management

Only Child looks at helping friends living alone

Only Child contemplating how to help friends and not neglect herself.

After last week’s rant on the perils of living life as an only person, I had some sense knocked into me. I emailed one of my friends whom I hadn’t heard from for a few months. Turns out her health is in turmoil (and I suppose her life because of it.) She has a very bad back condition and can barely move.

But she is also living  on her own. That tells me something I posted last week rings true. I bet if I did a survey of older adults (take your pick on where to start age-wise), that those living alone have more difficulty coping with financial problems, health problems, house (and other residential) living conditions, etc. Okay, I know some “older adults” are rolling in money but if they live on their own, there are still the other conditions. And unfortunately, it is we women who seem to suffer the most, at least in my experience – not just personally, but what I’ve seen and read about.

So where does this leave us onlies with no partner or sibling support? My friend’s condition jolted me into deciding that we onlies have to support each other. If not, who else will? The problem here is the time-old one of well, time. How do you find the time? How much are you “your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper?” How much should you intrude in others’ lives? You can’t just go in and say, “Okay, Annie (or whatever your friend’s name is), we/you have to do this. You have to move. You have to get assisted living help. You have to eat healthier. You have to slow down. Put yourself in your friend’s place. How much interference and downright dictating do you want from even a close friend. What is the answer?

One thing I decided is to be more aggressive in getting my life in balance, so there can be time to help my friends. I am going through everything that I do with the proverbial fine-tooth comb and stuff is getting the boot. So far I’ve reinstated not working on weekends, even answering business email or returning business phone calls. I also am not doing another session of my Yoga classes. Some of you may call that a bad choice but I’m finding the once-a-week class (at 6 p.m.), although it helps my health, is also in the way of doing other things that take priority. And rushing to Yoga class right after rushing to finish work for the day crosses out any benefits from the class. Trying to do a few gentle Yoga stretches a few times a week might be better. I’m also active in the garden now and walking more. Now, what else can I dump? I can certainly cut back on the housework, something I don’t like doing unless it is clearing out stuff.

As for my friend, I talked very briefly to her on the phone as she was just taking another pain pill. She has to clean out the garage attached to where she lives because the landlord is tearing the garage down. She asked if I knew anyone who could help her move her stuff stored in the garage (She does have another garage down the road to store her belongings in). I got busy on the phone and found three possibilities (two are brothers and would work together). However, she hasn’t been able to do anything more about it – she has to see how able she is to move herself first. My ex used to tell me when I complained about something that there are others much worse off than me. I used to hate that. Perhaps he was right. When we are in the throes of a problem we don’t want to hear about others starving or in poor health. That’s human nature.

So, what do you think? How can we help our friends, especially those on their own,  without imposing ourselves like little dictators and still not neglect our own lives?

Comments anyone?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Friends, Health, Help and Support, Life demands, Living alone, Only child, Pain, Sharon Crawford

Only Child uses fiction to deal with life’s pain

Only Child reading one of her short stories

If you are writing a memoir/considering writing a memoir, but something in your life is too painful or might cause grief for you and your family, try writing it as a short story. Perhaps you or some other family member has an incurable disease. Perhaps you are dealing with a parent with dementia. Writing about a painful situation, even transformed into fiction, can be a healing catharsis, but it can also turn into the most powerful story. Almost anything is fodder for fiction. Just make sure it is fiction.

I do this. One short story evolved from a family member’s (not immediate) unexpected suicide. No way did I want to add to our family grief, but maybe I had some survivor guilt. I was also a suicide survivor (from 30 years ago) and for five years volunteered at a telephone distress centre.

The short story that evolved changed everything except the suicide fact and one character’s volunteering at a distress centre. The characters were younger, brother and sister, and the story was told from the sister’s point of view. It started with her big brother’s suicide and then went back to their life, including growing up with a mother who was an alcoholic and verbally abused her children. This definitely was not the situation in my family. In my story, the sister was filled with guilt and she felt that she should have been able to stop her brother, especially as she was volunteering at a telephone distress center. I made up the name of the distress centre and what “happens” at the fictional distress centre did not happen with my actual volunteering. For those interested, the story “My Brother’s Keeper” was published in the Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch anthology, Gathered Streams (Hidden Brook Press, 2010). Check out http://www.canauthorstoronto.org/anthology.html.

So, if you want to create fiction from fact, here are a few pointers about what to do/what not to do.

  1. Use only the incident/event as your idea to kick-start your story. The story must be fiction.
  2. Use fictional characters and events, not the actual people or their names. It’s best to have characters with different age brackets and different backgrounds than in real life.
  3. Change the setting, perhaps even the time line.
  4. Use your emotions to propel you forward, but also keep in mind that this must be fiction. You are using your emotions from the real happening to help you dig deeply when writing your story.
  5. As this is fiction, you can have a different outcome than the one connected to the real-life trigger event. Just make sure that the outcome works with the story.
  6. Make sure the story is fiction. I can’t emphasise this enough. Real life (mine) incident – one of my cousins blasted me for writing true stories about the family history. However, she said she wouldn’t mind fictionalized accounts. I’m not going to take that at face value. Readers have the knack for finding themselves or someone they know in fiction, even when it isn’t true. But we do absorb what happens in our life. And that is often the trigger for story ideas.

For another take on writing fiction from fact, check out Writing Truth or Fiction http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/truth-or-fiction.html The author here actually used a real character in her novel. And so do other authors. Here’s another take on this http://www.thebookladysblog.com/2009/08/26/writing-real-people-into-fiction/

For those of you in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, I’ll be teaching a Crafting the Short Story Workshop at the Runnymede Branch of the Toronto Public Library, Tuesday, March 6, 6.30 p.m. It’s free. You just need to sign up at the library. Check this one out at http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/programs-and-classes/categories/book-clubs-writers-groups.jsp and click on “Runnymede.”

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Fictional characters, Healing through writing, Memoir writing, Only child, Pain, Sharon Crawford, Short story writing, Suicide, Toronto writing seminars, Writing fiction from fact

Only Child feels the pain – physical

Only child works through the pain

Physical pain seems to be the norm in our lives. Age doesn’t matter. It seems we can do all the healthy things (or not) and we still get “hit” with pain. I’m not talking about one-offs such as toothaches or labour pains; I mean acute and chronic pain. But I’m noticing something. Those of us in pain are not taking it lying down without a fight.

I’ve been in some kind of acute or chronic pain for 30 years. I suppose I come from it honestly, the pain part anyway. As I write in my memoir about my dad and his cancer, I realize the pain he suffered.

Then Dad gets recurring headaches that escalate into one big throbbing hurt at the top of his head. It must be torture to bend over the toilet bowl to puke out his guts while his head drums to the same painful beat. He becomes weaker and spends most of his time in bed. Our family doctor sends him to the hospital, this time St. Michael’s.

Those are the bad old days, when cancer treatment wobbles in its infancy and has only two prongs – slice or burn. The doctor chooses the fire of radiation to try to destroy the cancer seeds. Daily, Dad is wheeled into the treatment room and blasted for 20 minutes with volts of radiation straight into his brain. Clumps of hair fall out, and his head resembles an abstract quilt with the white batting sticking out.

(Excerpt from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Individuals with cancer are good examples of those in pain.. True, there are so many more options than when my father had cancer in the late 1950s and 1960s. But I see these good examples in the determination and guts of those with cancer today, for example, many walk in marathons for cancer research. The news has countless stories about the courage of children with cancer. Children getting cancer is something I think is totally wrong, something I can’t quite get my head around. But that is for another post.

My pain started with migraines thirty years ago. Despite postponing some work assignments for the demeral-gravol shot in the hip and crawling into bed  (temporarily) to sleep it off, I didn’t give up on my life. The migraines (which are long gone, thanks to the treatment of a doctor at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto’s pain clinic; he later became head of that clinic). Suffering migraines became a turning point in my life – migraines started my writing in the health area, which I still do (Example, see http://www.samcraw.com/Clippings/OHThePain.html, copy of my story originally published in Body, Mind & Spirit).

I’m not going to bore you with a history of all my pain episodes, but I want to mention the current one because many people may have it but don’t know they do. I have a Vitamin D deficiency and one of the symptoms is severe bone pain in one leg, just below the knee, so we’re not talking arthritis. I also have a digestive disorder which causes malabsorption. The best Vitamin D source is the sun filtering in through your skin; so far I’ve been okay in summer as I’m outside a lot in my garden, walking, and at outdoor festivals. But for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, winter brings little sun and much cold weather. Despite this winter’s somewhat milder climate (in some parts of Canada), most of us do not spend much time outdoors. We bundle up, so our skin isn’t exposed much in the winter. So we have to take Vitamin D3 supplements, but if we have malabsorption those supplements have a hard time getting absorbed into our system.  I have a friend who takes from 3,000 to 5,000 IU’s daily (depending on the season) of Vitamin D and so far she’s had no side effects. Over the weekend, I just bumped mine up to 2,500 a day and began taking digestive tablets.

Studies in the United States and the United Kingdom show there is a dearth of Vitamin D deficiency in people of all ages – from children to seniors. A University of Minnesota study showed the count at 100 per cent to 55 percent with five people having no Vitamin D in their bodies; in most cases the symptom was undetermined muscle or bone pain (See http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/4836.php). In the last few years tests for Vitamin D deficiency have skyrocketed (See http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-07-13-vitamin-d-tests_N.htm). It’s a simple blood test folks; I recommend you ask your doctor for one if he or she doesn’t already do it as part of your annual medical check-up.

Meantime, I think my leg pain may be decreasing. I’ll find out for sure when I go for my daily walk. Walking outside tends to up the pain. And I’m hoping to still be able to start my Yoga class this Thursday evening – a gentle stretch Yoga with meditation, specifically for those recovering from injury and illness. Yes or no to Yoga, I will continue to apply what has kept me going through my pain: determination, passion in what I do, perseverance, and plain old stubbornness, a trait I inherited from my Dad.

Dad’s cancer went into remission – for the time being. I’ll leave you with how he rejoiced at this.

…one day when mother and I walk into his [hospital] room, Dad smiles at us.

“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says.

(Excerpt from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Tell me your pain stories and how you cope.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Bone Pain, cancer, Health, Only child memoir, Pain, Vitamin D Deficiency, Vitamin D tests, Yoga

Only Child looks at growing old

Only Child with her parents in "younger" times

One of my friends recently said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” She’s right. I’m seeing and hearing about so many older adults having miserable lives because of health problems. Whether we like it or not I suppose that is somewhat the norm for the 90 plus crowd. I say “I suppose” because one of my uncles died in his late 90s and except for a flu bout and having to slow down some, he was in good health almost until his death. He wasn’t a blood relative; unfortunately that side of my family haven’t lived that long or those that made it past 90 were in poor health.

But what is scaring me is hearing about younger older adults (those 60 to 75) who are having health problems and because of them their lives aren’t pleasant. A colleague’s sister is in a nursing home – she is 67. My brother-in-law had a stroke in his early 70s;  he lived for a few years after that – immobile and unable to speak. Then there are my parents – my father who had cancer from age 59 to his death at age 66 and my mother. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm brought on by falls due to her arthritis. And her arthritis cost her her job. I write about this in part in my memoir.

Rheumatoid arthritis battered her feet first with swelling, aching and distortion. When the arthritis spread to her hands, her boss switched her from typing to proofreading. And another disease with a hard-to-remember and an even harder-to-spell name also invaded her body. Scleroderma…

She is on a mini-leave of absence, when one day I walk into the house and find two strange men with her in the living room. They’re both sitting on the chesterfield, one on either side of its designed split. Mom is in the pink chair by the bookcase as if the World Books standing guard behind can lift her up beyond the swollen foot propped on a footstool. The conversation stops and the two men stare at me with blank smiles on their faces…

The men say, “Hello,” and nod, and then one continues the conversation.

“Julia,” he says. “I know you are a valuable employee but we need to know if you are coming back to work.”

“I don’t like to say it, but I have to,” the other man says. “It might be better if you retired now.”

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Mom lasted a few more years. She was 63 when she died.

On a less personal level, check out Statistics Canada http://www.statcan.gc.ca/search-recherche/index-eng.htm. Do a search for “Seniors Health Statistics” and you will find statistics on the consequences of falls, chronic conditions of seniors living in the community, and many more. Scary stuff.

So, as I approach my parents’ ages of dying, I become more reflective but also more practical. That and the big eye scare in December has prompted me into estate-planning mode. I am also on yet another big sort-and-purge around the house. You have to plan for these things.

However, it’s not all  doom and gloom. I’m continuing my writing, editing and writing instructing  – not only are they my livelihood, but they are my passion. So are gardening and reading. I’ve escalated what I do for my health. Beyond the nutrition and diet, I’ve started walking 30 minutes daily unless snowstorms interfere – then it’s shovelling the white **** (begins with “c”). And tonight I’m starting a weekly Yoga class  and getting a 10-minute walk each way – if this incoming snowstorm hasn’t hit full blast by then. I may shake my shovel at the sky before I dig in ( two or three sessions) to the 30 centimetres or so expected by late tomorrow.

How are the rest of you doing with getting older?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Death and Dying, Health, Health Seniors, Only child memoir, Pain, Seniors

Only child looks at pain and stress

Only child contemplates pain and stress

How many of you are living with chronic pain? Maybe it’s from arthritis. Maybe it’s fibromyalgia. Maybe it’s back pain. Maybe it’s  – God or someone forbid – cancer.

My late father died from brain cancer but before he died he spent six and a half years from diagnosis to death and much of that time in excruciating pain. Some of it I saw and heard – I was a child then.  As I write in my memoir:

But with his second cancer stint, Dad … starts vomiting. Mother tries everything from toast to tomato soup, but nothing stays down. I hear him heaving in the bathroom. Mother and I draw no comfort from each other, she the fussing worried wife, and I scared back into my pea shell, not much protection for a 12-year-old.

Then Dad gets recurring headaches that escalate into one big throbbing hurt at the top of his head. It must be torture to bend over the toilet bowl to puke out his guts while his head drums to the same painful beat. He becomes weaker and spends most of his time in bed. Our family doctor sends him to the hospital, this time St. Michael’s.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

My pain is more from an aging body fed up with all the stress and other stuff coming at and in it. So…I’m convinced I have to deal with the stress. Ideally I’d like to get rid of the stressors and stop  them coming at me. I’m one of those people who believes in tackling the problem head on – once I stop waffling about what I need to do. I have never found that just changing my attitude gets rid of the stress or stressors. They are still here until I do something about them.

Doing something, however, I’ve learned, also means having a goal, a passion in life and focusing on it. I actually have more than one passion – writing and gardening. I am also learning that relaxing methods (like meditation and Yoga) can help to at least lower the tightness in the body and help the mind get to “clear” (although just temporarily) so that you can think better and focus on what you love to do. Another important thing to lower stress is getting enough sleep, which I’m finding difficult to do. Usually I don’t have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. My problem is trying to find the time to get ENOUGH sleep – not easy when you are alone with no partner, siblings or living parents and have too much to do. Yes, I have a son and friends who help, but none of them are here day-by-day, minute-by-minute to help – they do have their own lives to live. I’m grateful for the help I get from them.

So, I’m trying to delete some activities from my life – not easy when emergencies such as computer or house problems jump at you out of the bad blue. However, I believe the bottom line for me is taking control.

Which gets me back to tackling the problem(s) head on.

Excuse me while I deal with the latest computer problem.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes



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Filed under Aloneness, Death and Dying, Decisions, Health, Only child, Only child memoir, Pain, Stress