Power and Light

I have a new item on my to-do list: Figure out whether we should stick with our current (no pun intended) electricity supplier, or find a more competitive source. This is important, because the rates are jumping on January 1, and we rely on electricity to power our heat pumps, which I rely on to stay warm and keep my Raynaud’s in check.

We switched over to the pumps from oil heat a couple of years ago, in an effort to make our home more energy efficient. We’ve certainly saved a lot on oil (only use one tankful a year, now), but I have to be very careful how I use the heat pumps, to manage our electric bill. There’s a pump in each room, which allows for customized, zoned heat. I try to limit which pumps are on according to where I am in the house during the course of the day.

For the most part, the heat pumps work well, but when the temperature drops below about 15 degrees Fahrenheit, we have to revert to a mix of oil and baseboard electric heat. Also, there have been days already when it’s just been so windy and cold that I’ve turned on the baseboard heat (less efficient, supposedly) in my little office and the kitchen, because it feels more even.

So, Sunday night I began sorting through all the potential options and learning about kilowatt hour charges for electric supply, plus distribution charges and more. It’s a lot to tackle, and we need to figure it out before January 1, when the rates jump.

There are many other things I would rather be doing right now than a cost-benefit analysis of our electrical supply options.

On the other hand, I’m glad we at least have options and aren’t necessarily stuck with a big rate hike. And I’m very grateful to have the means to keep our home warm enough for my body, with my broken internal thermostat, and a husband who doesn’t mind the added expense.

It’s just a cost of living with scleroderma in New England.

My quest for more cost-efficient power comes as we begin the festival of Hanukkah. We light the first candle this evening. I look forward to this holiday every year, because it always falls near the Winter Solstice. So with each candle that we light for the eight days of the festival, we’re getting closer to the point when the days will start getting longer again. Just knowing there will be more sunlight soon always gives me a boost, despite the cold temperatures outside (and higher energy bills, whatever the source).

When you light Hanukkah candles, you’re not supposed to use them to illuminate a room or as a source of light for work. You’re just supposed place the hanukkiah, an eight-branched candelabra, in a window, where the flickering candles can be seen from the street—silently, peacefully conveying their profound message of religious freedom and liberation from oppression.

Power and light come in many forms. On Hanukkah, both are free.

Happy holidays.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Photo Credit: ** RCB ** via Compfight cc

30th

December 9, 1984. It is sunny, unseasonably warm for Massachusetts. A good omen. I’m getting married today. It’s my second time around, his first. We’ve both been on our own for several years, and now, after knowing each other for just about nine months, we’re taking the big chance that our instinct is right and we’re meant to spend the rest of our lives together.

Our rabbi—who was Al’s Hebrew School teacher growing up, and my mentor when I landed in this community after my divorce—is performing the wedding. He’s responsible for our meeting. (He gave Al my name and number, then later apologized for not asking my permission first. We’ve laughed about this many times, since.)

After an eventful ceremony (one of our friends, who is helping to hold up our wedding canopy, faints, and my dad steps in to take his place, but we’re so absorbed in each other we don’t notice), after a great party with kosher Chinese food and Klezmer music, we drive to Cape Cod for our honeymoon. We discover the magic of Nauset Beach, in December, at night. The sand is phosphorescent and sparkles in the moonlight.

Thirty years later. A Nor’easter is whipping up the coast, but fortunately it’s bringing only rain and wind, not mountains of snow. We’re going out to dinner tonight to celebrate our anniversary. On Friday, our daughters are coming home from their respective graduate programs for Shabbat dinner, the first time in months we’ve all been together, just the four of us, for a meal. Their idea.

I feel so fortunate to be writing these words. Simple things, dinner out with your husband of three decades, Friday night dinner at home with your grown daughters. We’re thinking about what else we might do, later this year, to celebrate coming this far together. But right now, this feels just right.

Our first year together was fraught with medical crises. Only a month after our wedding, I learned I had some kind of auto-immune disease—maybe rheumatoid arthritis, maybe lupus, maybe scleroderma. Just as I had put my life back together again, it all seemed to be unraveling. Later that first year, Al’s mom had the first of two strokes. Al wore himself out, running back and forth to the hospital to visit her, working and leading a youth group. He came down with mononucleosis, his spleen ruptured, and he needed emergency surgery. When they opened him up, the surgeon found six pints of blood in his abdomen. He was held together by a blood clot.

Al came home from the hospital the day before our first anniversary. In the decades that have followed, we’ve each had our share of medical scares, and we’ve seen Al’s mother and both of my parents through the illnesses that eventually took their lives. We’ve been in and out of hospitals and ER’s with our daughters, too.

But we’ve been lucky. So very lucky. With all the medical challenges, with all the stresses of raising a family and keeping our daughters safe in a troubled world and providing them with a good education and making ends meet and finding work and surviving layoffs and starting my own business—with all of that, and much more, we’re still here. Together.

Over the weekend, Al and I decided to sort through all the books, the many, many books in our home, to give away the ones we no longer want and make room for the ones we want to keep. I can’t take books off the shelves easily. It hurts my hands. So Al did all the moving and shuffling and reorganizing, while we talked through what should go where. Do you want these alphabetized? he asked. Yes, but within categories, I said, like poems, plays, essays. Ok, he said, how about this way? We worked like that for several hours, Saturday night and Sunday, too. We can now find all of our books. But the best part—it was fun.

Maybe it’s taken all that’s come before to be able to sit back and appreciate the simple beauty of being able to organize a few thousand books with your husband on a cold wintery weekend, when your hands don’t work, and his do. It’s the kind of deep, abiding, dependable love you can only discover through traveling a rough road together.

Marriage is hard work, especially with a chronic disease as an unwanted third partner. I wish we could have gotten to this place without my scleroderma. But maybe there was no other way. And I’m very grateful that we’ve made it this far.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Time to Stop Typing

I’ve been having trouble sleeping the past few nights. My finger ulcer keeps waking me up. Usually when this happens, I have an infection. But that’s not the case this time. The skin is just too raw on the tip of my right ring finger, but I need to type and do other tasks, and the ulcer keeps getting irritated.

Now, I should be grateful that, at least so far, I don’t need to start antibiotics. I hate taking them. But the good thing about infections, much as they hurt: antibiotics provide significant relief within about 48 hours.

My problem at present is that there’s no quick fix for this particular variant of ulcer pain. It’s like having a headache in my finger. The only cure is time.

Our fingers have an extremely dense concentration of nerve endings. According to a recent article in The Guardian, our fingers have so many nerve endings that our brains actually outsource some neural computations about object orientation and movement to our fingertips.

All of those nerve endings make it possible to distinguish a baby’s cheek from a scruffy beard, stovetop heat from freezer chill, a satin sheet from flannel. When you think about it, the range of our fingers’ neural intelligence is really quite astounding.

That neural density also accounts for why it hurts so damn much when we get a paper cut, or smash our thumbs with a hammer. . .or develop digital ulcers.

The only encouragement I feel right now is that I’ve had two other recalcitrant ulcers in the past few weeks that gave me the same trouble, which are now, thankfully, past the achey stage. I’ve noticed over the years that there is some kind of tipping point in the healing process, when my damaged skin cells seem to wake up and repair themselves in large enough numbers that the pain level recedes. This can happen overnight.

So I’m going to cut this short, give my sore finger a break, take some Ibuprofin and Tylenol (they work differently), redo my bandages, and—I hope—get some sleep. Maybe tonight’s the night my body will work its magic, once again.

Photo Credit: JonathanCohen via Compfight cc

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

‘Tis the Season

Thanksgiving snuck up on me this year. Not that there weren’t enough hints. Two weeks ago, as I sat in my optometrist’s office, Christmas carols wafted through the waiting room. Since then, I’ve noticed Santa statues guarding the aisles at CVS, holiday wreathes decking the doors at Home Depot and Black Friday sales clogging my email.

Oh, wait, was I talking about Thanksgiving?

Hard to know which season it is, or to remember what the holiday is supposed to be about. You don’t even see those hokey turkey decorations anymore in stores—you know, the ones with the cardboard heads and tails connected by honeycombed crepe paper bodies—or garlands of fake autumn leaves. As soon as the pumpkins and Halloween candy go on mark-down, the Christmas decorations come out. Given the commercial Black Friday competition, I’m betting it won’t be long before we’re confronted with holiday mega-sales starting November 1.

The weather is no help, either. Although we avoided the crazy snow that whomped Buffalo this past week, the polar vortex that swept through New England threatened to turn November into January. I now have seven ulcers on my fingers and one persistent sore on my inside right ankle. I am going through bandages like confetti. Some of these ulcers developed weeks before the freezing weather, but several emerged in the past few days, despite my best efforts to protect my hands. Way, way too cold for this time of year, and my fingers are not happy.

A reader recently suggested taking a vacation in Hawaii. This idea has some appeal.

Even as frigid temps made me cranky last week, however, we’re now enjoying a mild interlude before a Nor’easter that could bring at least a half-foot of snow by Wednesday evening. Thank goodness I already put the snow tires on my Prius.

Snow or no snow, I’m looking forward to the approaching holiday. Every year, we get together with our cousins for a wonderful meal, football games on the flatscreen TV and the comfort of family and friendships. And I have much to be grateful for. . . .

Our daughters are both thriving in their respective graduate school programs.

I have a full plate of work for wonderful clients.

We have a beautiful home on a quiet street with good neighbors who wave and say hello as I walk Ginger around the block.

Ginger is 16 and still has “pep in her step,” as our vet notes, with amazement.

Al has made it through yet another sale of the hospital where he is a social worker, and despite the less-than-desirable health insurance provided by his new employer, we have managed to cover our deductibles for my medical expenses (at least, so far).

I’m holding my own with my health. It never gets easier, but I have enough experience with scleroderma that I can figure out work-arounds when my hands aren’t cooperating or my feet need extra support or my body just needs more rest or time to do whatever it is I’m trying to do.

I am blessed with loving family, good friends, a supportive synagogue community and enough resources to live a modest, comfortable life. I have access to some of the best medical care in the world, right in my own backyard. I work for myself, set my own pace and own my own time.

And I can write.

Time for Thanksgiving, indeed.

Photo Credit: smilla4 via Compfight cc

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

In Praise of Naps

It’s 2:30 in the afternoon on a dreary, rainy Monday, and my brain is going on strike. I have spent the morning meeting with clients near Boston, which required more than two hours of commuting in a steady downpour, followed by an hour-long phone appointment when I got back home. The conversations were all meaningful, stimulating and productive.

But now I can’t fathom the idea of sitting at my desk for the rest of the afternoon, and I have a lot of work to do. So I set the timer on my iPhone for 20 minutes, lie down on the couch with a cozy blanket, and go to sleep. I wake up a few minutes before the timer sounds, totally refreshed. My mind is completely clear. What a gift.

Years ago, when I was in grad school, I first discovered my mental low point between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. (unfortunately, back then, I had a class during that hour, and even though I found the content fascinating, I struggled to stay awake). This circadian cycle is offset 12 hours later—if I wake around 2:30 a.m., I can’t get back to sleep until at least 4:00 a.m.

When I was in the early stages of scleroderma, freelancing as a writer, I had to take a nap nearly every afternoon. The disease was exhausting, and there was simply no way to get through the day otherwise. It’s been decades since that phase, and even as I’m often tired mid-afternoon, I usually power through. Often, it helps to walk Ginger. Fresh air works wonders for the mind.

But I realized from my experience Monday afternoon that it pays dividends to listen more closely when my body is trying to tell me to lie down. I’ve resisted naps for a long time, in part because I don’t want to lose precious hours to sleep, and in part, because I don’t want to backtrack to those early years of illness.

Twenty minutes is a perfect interval for a nap. I’m tempted to call it a “power nap,” but that phrase suggests you need to justify napping, so as not to seem lazy. Really, it just felt good—not too short to make me feel even more weary, and not to long to make me feel wasted for the rest of the day. I returned to my desk, ready to get to work, and made it through my entire task list with great efficiency.

I don’t expect to take a nap every afternoon. It all depends on what I’m doing and how I’m feeling. But I certainly won’t think of it as slacking off or backsliding with my scleroderma. I will consider it a worthwhile investment in my health, well-being and ability to do what I need to do. Not bad for 20 minutes.

Image Credit: “Our Sleeping Beauty,” by J.S. Pughe (1870-1909), illus. from Puck, vol. 41, no. 1041 (1897 February 17), cover. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Around the Block

I’m not yet used to earlier sunsets. It always takes me a few weeks to adjust when we turn back the clocks for standard time. On Friday afternoon, I was running around, trying to finish errands before sundown, which heralds our Shabbat observance, and just made it home as dusk settled. Whew.

Back to my desk on Monday, I lost track again, this time because I was immersed in my writing, only to realize it was nearly 4 o’clock in the afternoon and I had not yet walked Ginger. I should have taken her out when it was brighter and warmer after lunch, but she needed the exercise. I did, too.

So, despite the darkening, chilly fall afternoon (for me—others I passed were in fleece vests or zip-up jackets), I donned my down winter coat and a hat, clipped Ginger’s leash to her collar and headed out the door.

A lungful of fresh air immediately helped to clear my brain, woolly with words. Ginger paused by the huge pile of dried leaves in front of our curb to explore the many and varied, fascinating scents. Our walks take longer this time of year, until all the leaves have fallen and city streets are swept clean. I have to urge her to keep walking so my hands don’t go numb.

“That dog is amazing,” commented our neighbor, walking her puffy little pooch in the opposite direction. Our white-faced golden is 16, but still can pull me down the street if she has a mind to. My neighbor’s dog decided to lie down in the street and watch us, but Ginger, whose nose is better than her ears and eyes, ignored it and kept on snuffling, leading me slowly forward.

Around the corner, two boys in shirtsleeves shot hoops in a driveway. Everything glowed with a deep orange patina—the piles of rakings along either side of the street, the Norway maples that still clung to a few golden leaves, Ginger’s fur, the errant basketball that rolled across our path. “How are you?” asked the boy as he ran to retrieve it. We exchanged pleasantries, and he loped back to his game.

A friend wisely observed over the weekend that all the frightening headlines (Ebola! ISIS! Washington Gridlock! Climate Change!) that describe a world in seeming collapse don’t really square with everyday experience. Most people are good. Many strangers can be trusted. A 12-year-old boy can be polite to a woman walking her old dog around the block.

As we rounded the next corner and headed up a slight hill, the sky turned salmon and violet. For a few astounding seconds, the trees and leaves seemed infused with an etherial, rose light. If I hadn’t left the house with Ginger at the exact, too-late moment, kicking myself for forgetting about the time change, I would have missed it.

Home again, dark settling in, I rubbed Ginger’s ears and thanked her for inspiring me to get out of the house. Sometimes the best part of the day is the part you wanted to avoid.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Au Naturel

Every fall, as the days grow shorter and the temperatures sink, I start looking for a new sweater to add to my collection. This can be a challenge. While there are plenty of warm-looking sweaters on store racks, especially as the holiday shopping season fast approaches, you have to be a fiber detective to be certain they’re really worth buying.

The less expensive the sweater, the more likely it’s made of synthetic materials, such as nylon or acrylic. Pretty as that pullover or cardigan may appear in the store, and attractive as the price tag may seem, it’s usually not worth the purchase. Not only do synthetics wear out faster with repeated washings—they really don’t keep you warm.

I’ve learned from many buying mistakes that polyesters and their man-made fiber cousins trap perspiration, which only exacerbates my Raynaud’s—chilling my body and numbing my hands.

So I always read labels inside the garment before buying a sweater. My latest find was a wool/alpaca blend, three-quarter-length taupe sweater by Ellen Tracy for $49 at TJ Maxx. I wore it for several long days over the past weekend and stayed comfortable through hot/cold cycling of heating systems in private homes and board rooms. Definitely a worthwhile purchase.

A good wool sweater, with proper care, will last for decades. I have three long-sleeve cashmere sweaters that I bought at Bloomingdales about 20 years ago that are only now wearing through at the elbows. They were investment buys back then, but I certainly got my money’s worth of wear.

Best fibers for sweaters, in my book, are wool and cotton. Rayon, which is man-made but derived from wood pulp, and silk, are favorites for blouses. Linen is also worth considering as long as you don’t mind wrinkles. All natural fibers have the wondrous ability to wick away sweat and allow your body to breathe—essential for moderating body temperature and avoiding chills.

Layering, of course, is the other key to staying comfortably warm in winter. But layering synthetics with natural fiber garments essentially traps air and cancels out any advantage of the breathable fabric.

So here’s to all those wonderful, warm clothes derived from nature’s bounty. Thank you, sheep, for your wool that keeps my body from going numb this winter season—and many winters to come!

Photo Credit: kygp via Compfight cc

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Social Graces

Who ever invented the practice of eating at a party while you’re standing up? I enjoy social gatherings with friends and family for special occasions, but I am a klutz when it comes to balancing hors d’oeuvres plate, napkin, utensils, plus a drink, all while milling about in a crowd and chatting.

It’s gotten to the point that I often stick to just a glass of wine or seltzer, and pass on the finger food. I can’t eat without drinking, or I risk problems swallowing. And I can’t manage the plate and the drink with my hands, and still eat, without risk of dropping everything. As for the finger food, with so many bandages, I don’t like eating with my hands, anyway, especially if the food is drippy or the least bit oily.

This is not the most serious problem in the world, certainly. But it is a challenge, and I do feel awkward unless I can find a place to sit and enjoy the nosh, or at least one of those high tables that are designed for standing and eating at a party.

Portable food courses are, I suppose, just another way our casual lifestyle finds expression. Why be constrained by formal seating arrangements when it’s fun to mingle and eat at the same time? When I was younger and my hands worked, this was fine.

But the older I get, and the less nimble my hands become, I really do prefer a sit-down meal. Even party buffets, when you take a plateful of food and find yourself a seat on the couch or a chair, create coordination challenges. Balancing a plate on my lap while trying to manipulate knife and fork, especially if they are made of plastic, is a recipe for a spill. It’s hard enough to grasp the thin plastic utensils, let alone apply enough pressure to cut food with the so-called knife, without sending the food skidding onto my good clothes or the floor.

That said, my solutions for party-eating logistics are as follows:

  • Don’t load up your plate. Less to cut, less to spill and, of course, less risk of overeating.
  • Find a quiet corner where you won’t get jostled while you eat. This also addresses a second issue having nothing to do with scleroderma and everything to do with aging—I have increasing difficulty hearing what someone is saying when there is a lot of background noise.
  • Even better, find a seat in a quiet corner with a table where you can rest your drink while you eat.
  • Best of all, invite your closest friends at the party to join you in your above-mentioned quiet little corner. That way you can enjoy your food, your drink and a good conversation. If you spill something, your friends won’t care. And they’ll help you clean it up.

Image Credit: Le Sortie de l’opéra en l’an 2000, Albert Robida, c. 1882, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, courtesy publicdomainreview.org.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Clean Hands, Warm Heart

Somewhere I once read that Donald Trump’s aides carry alcohol wipes for him, so he can clean his hands after every handshake. I don’t know if it’s true, but he has a reputation as a germophobe, so I wouldn’t put it past him.

sanitizerMuch as I don’t want to have anything in common with The Donald (although the equivalent of even a small percentage of his fortune would certainly be nice), I, too, am in the habit of cleaning my hands frequently when I’m in public.

In my case, however, I have a good excuse. I have far too many digital ulcers that provide super highways for bacterial infections, if I’m not careful.

So I am. Careful. Almost to the point of being obsessive/compulsive.

Recently I’ve been using mass transit more often when I have commitments in downtown Boston. Driving and parking can take up to an hour-and-a-half each way, sometimes even longer, depending on traffic. Taking the train enables me to get work done instead of wasting all that time driving. It’s also much more relaxing. But I never travel without my little bottle of antiseptic hand-cleaner.

I’m always cognizant of when my hands touch surfaces that many other hands have touched—like door handles between train cars or escalator handrails on the way to the T (Boston’s subway) or those straps or metal poles that you need to grab in order to stay upright when the subway jolts and jerks. When I arrive at my destination, out comes the hand-cleaner.

Other points of contact that make me wary: ATM consoles, those ubiquitous ball-point pens that are always handed to you for signing your credit card slips, doors to public buildings and magazines in doctor’s waiting rooms. Once I’m back in my car, out comes the hand-cleaner. I also keep my own pens at the ready.

Public restrooms, of course, are high on the list. I recently saw a video clip of The Doctors talk show that discussed where the most germs reside. It’s not the first stall, by the way. We all avoid that one. It’s not even the toilet seat. It’s the toilet paper dispenser. Think about it. Then there’s the door handle on your way out. So, my latest solution is to pour some hand-cleaner in my palm as I leave and rub it into my hands as I walk. (Washing my hands with soap and water doesn’t work because I have too many bandages.)

If all of this sounds a bit paranoid, well, maybe so. But I have had far, far too many serious bacterial infections in my fingers over the years. The pain can be excruciating. Sometimes I have ended up on IV antibiotics for months. Thankfully, it’s been a long time since that’s happened, and part of the reason, I am certain, is that I’m so careful.

My method is not foolproof. And I go through a lot of hand-cleaner. But the bottom line is that it certainly doesn’t hurt. And as long as I’m not insulting anyone by whipping out my hand-cleaner after a handshake, then why not? Minimizing infections—and excessive use of antibiotics—is well worth being a tad obsessive. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that bacteria isn’t out to get you.

Photo Credit: coolmikeol via Compfight cc

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Just a Cold

I’m kvetchy. I have a cold, and I feel crummy. I know there are many more serious maladies out there, and this too shall pass and all that, but right now, my nose is stuffy and I’m schlepping around with a box of tissues and a plastic bag in hand because I’m going through the tissues so fast, and I’m coughing and sneezing and, and . . .

4048824638_c249f3e4e6_oOne of the things I hate most about colds is how they set off my Raynaud’s and joint aches in the first 48 hours. I also hate struggling to breathe at night and not getting a good night’s sleep. My nose is so narrowed by scleroderma that nasal congestion can be a real challenge.

And I hate being in the middle of cooking and realizing my nose is dripping and having to stop what I’m doing, grab a tissue, blow, toss it, clean my hands so I don’t make the rest of the family sick, then go back to what I was doing, only to have to repeat the same rigamarole a few minutes later.

And I hate coughing so much that I can’t finish the meal I just cooked.

But most of all, I hate the fact that everyone refers to this condition as “just a cold.” Because minimizing a respiratory virus to “just a cold” status means that everyone walks around with “just a cold” and gives it to everyone else, instead of staying home and taking the time to get healthy. And not spreading their germs.

When I was a marketing director in higher education, I used to urge my staff to go home if they started sneezing or coughing a lot, to get better and to spare the rest of the department. Sometimes this took a bit of persuasion, because we’re all conditioned to keep working with “just a cold.” Usually I prevailed, however, and most everyone in our open office space appreciated it. And stayed healthier, as a result.

Being cognizant of how we’re not doing anyone any favors by walking around when we’re sick is particularly relevant in light of the news media’s current obsession with the Ebola virus. Ebola is often fatal. It is scary. It is transmitted by direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids or contaminated objects, like needles or syringes.

But Ebola is nowhere nearly as contagious in public spaces as influenza, which can be deadly and is spread by sneezing and coughing. By people who don’t bother to stay home when they mistake the flu for “just a cold.”

Consider this a public service reminder to get your flu shot if your immune system is compromised or you have asthma or other respiratory complications. Or any kind of chronic illness.

I’m going to get my flu vaccination this weekend, at a free clinic offered by my health care provider. That is, assuming my “just a cold” has finally cleared up.

Meanwhile, I’ll be loading up on fish oil and Vitamin C and hot tea and soup. And kvetching.

Thanks for listening.

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Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.