Enter Juno

Just when I thought the Farmer’s Almanac was going to be right, after all, predicting less than normal snowfall this year, along comes Winter Storm Juno. As I write on Monday night, we are about to get clobbered by what all the hyped-up TV meteorologists are predicting may be a historic blizzard for the Northeast—rivaling the Blizzard of ‘78.

noreaster-goes-12615The wind-up to this storm has been more nerve-wracking than the actual snow, at least so far. Driving around today, I listened to the new Governor of Massachusetts give his first Big Storm news conference, and all the state officials who reassured us, over and over, that everyone knows what they’re doing and are well-prepared to handle Juno.

N-Star is bringing in electrical crews from as far away as Tennessee to deal with power outages. I received an email from our tree service that customers will get first preference dealing with any downed trees. We managed to get an oil delivery this afternoon before the storm hit, which I insisted on trying to schedule this morning, because it will be incredibly hard to reach the oil spigot under a few feet of snow in frigid temperatures the rest of this week. Around 10:30 this evening, we received a phone message from our city about the state of emergency and travel ban beginning at midnight.

All of this is certainly good. I appreciate having foreknowledge about when the storm will start (it’s been snowing since late afternoon), how long it will last (through Wednesday morning) and how much snow we can expect (anywhere from 18 to 30 inches, according to various reports). At least we can plan a little. Good friends up the street with a generator have offered us a place to stay if the power goes out, a great comfort.

But the reality is, there is no way to know exactly what the storm will bring and how to deal with it until we’re in the heart of it. Which got me to thinking of the parallels between really bad weather and really bad diseases. Too much information about what might happen can only make you incredibly anxious. There’s no way to know how you’ll respond until you’re in the thick of things. And there’s a limit to how much you really want to know about all the scary alternatives, because it doesn’t help you to deal with what actually happens, anyway.

So, I’m trying to keep this in mind as I ride out Juno. I felt a lot better this evening once I knew that both of my very capable adult daughters were safe and sound in their respective homes, at either end of the state, and I heard Al walk in the door. Then I found out he has to go to work Tuesday, as the only social worker covering his hospital, since his colleagues live farther away. But he doesn’t have to rush in the morning, and he may just get there by snowshoe, a much better alternative to driving if the roads get really bad.

Ginger has the best attitude of all of us. She may be 16-and-a-half, but she still loves snow. She must have gone outside at least a half-dozen times this evening, each time returning with more snow on her coat. As far as she’s concerned, it’s just another cold, refreshing night outside. 

According to Roman mythology, Juno was the chief goddess, female counterpart of Jupiter and mother of Mars. She was a goddess of childbirth and worshipped as the guardian angel of women.

If this storm is anything like its namesake, maybe all the warning and hype will be a blessing in disguise, keeping us well-prepared and safe from worse fates. As long as the power stays on, we have heat and Al makes it back and forth to work safely, I will try to sit back, get some writing done and appreciate the wilder side of Mother Nature.

And if things don’t work out so well, I’ll deal with that, too. As I keep reminding myself, I’ve had plenty of practice.

Image Credit: Satellite view of developing Nor’easter off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, January 26, 2015, NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

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.

Fitness and Starts

It’s official. I’m fit. Well, sort of.

In keeping with my New Year’s resolutions, I decided to shake up my exercise routine, which had dwindled to a Pilates reformer class once a week plus morning stretches, and joined a local health and fitness center last week. As part of my new membership, I took a mini-fitness test, to determine my baseline.

After about a half-hour of various activities, including taking my blood pressure, recording my weight, measuring body fat, testing my strength and flexibility, and walking the treadmill, plus running all the results through a complicated formula, it was determined that I’m in pretty good shape, overall.

Not bad for a 60-year-old woman who’s had scleroderma half her life.

Now for the qualifications. Resting heart rate, aerobic fitness and blood pressure are all in the fit-to-excellent range. This came as a huge relief, because I do face some real challenges if I have to accelerate rapidly from 0 to 60, related to exercise-induced pulmonary hypertension. I’ve had some pretty frightening episodes of running to catch trains over the past couple of years that left me struggling for breath. One of my top priorities is to improve my aerobic fitness as well as determine my limits, so I can make better decisions about when I can push myself and when I can’t.

What I need to work on most, not surprisingly, are building up my strength and improving flexibility. (No, that’s definitely not me in the photo. Just wishful thinking.) And the old body-fat-to-muscle ratio could use some work, too, even though I’m on the thin side. Nothing like menopause to make all your body fat sink into your hips and thighs.

So, now the question is, what exercises to do to get stronger and regain whatever flexibility is possible? With the help of fitness center staff, I went through all the equipment and figured out what my routine should be. The center director, after reading up on scleroderma, reviewed classes with me and made recommendations. The next day, I tried out a group class that was a mix of yoga and Pilates, set to music. Over the weekend, I recovered.

The big advantage of this arrangement is that I can go to the gym whenever I want to work out, and most of the classes I’m interested in are in the late morning—well-suited to my work-at-home arrangement and very appealing in the winter, when going out at night seems overwhelming because of the cold.

The flip-side disadvantage is that I no longer have a set class schedule—so I have to be sure to plan ahead and make an appointment with myself to go exercise.

Despite muscle fatigue and some tender joints by week’s end, I did notice three major plusses:

  • The treadmill workout woke up my brain. I really felt much more clear-headed afterwards.
  • I slept better after I exercised. I’ve always noticed this, but it was quite striking after both days of visiting the gym.
  • I had more spring in my step. This was also surprising.

All encouraging signs, enough to keep motivated as I figure out what I really enjoy the most. As one of my rheumatologists once told me years ago, exercise is essential to my health and well being, but I need to find something I really love, in order to stick with it.

For someone who used to hate gym class in high school, I guess I’m making progress. It’s about time.

Photo Credit: QuinnDombrowski 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.

January Blues

Are we there, yet? I mean, springtime. Not even halfway through January, and I’ve had enough, already. I know, I know. Central Massachusetts is not North Dakota or the Yukon or Siberia. My heartfelt sympathies if you live anywhere nearby. But I really, really hate this.

Last week, the Arctic Vortex, or whatever you want to label evil cold weather patterns, sucked all the warmth out of the air. True, we’d been spoiled by unseasonably balmy weather prior to that. But days in the teens and nights in the single digits are not my idea of a good time.

On Thursday, the worst day of all, I decided to brave the cold, regardless, and spend it as planned in Cambridge. This required some strategizing.

I was taking the train to Boston. But Wednesday evening, I realized that neither I nor Al had cash for my ticket, which I had to buy on the train since there is no active ticket counter at our station. I did not want to have to go to the bank on the way, because it was going to be minus-20F windchill and I was not going to try to manipulate the outdoor ATM from my car or leave my car any more than necessary to enter a building. What to do?

Then I remembered my “T” app on my iPhone. Easy-peasy. All I had to do was purchase the MBTA commuter rail ticket and activate it when I got on the train. Just in case we lost Internet service in the morning due to the extreme cold (like I said, I was in high strategy mode), I made my purchase that night. The app came in handy the next morning, too, when I made sure the train was running on time.

My next challenge came Thursday morning. As I confessed last week, I had damaged both Al’s and my car with a back-up mishap that required a new bumper for my Prius and a repaired door on his Civic. My work was completed Wednesday evening. When I went into our garage, I immediately realized:

a) my car reeked of paint fumes; and
b) I had left my car key in the house because Al had driven it back from the body shop.

This required a scramble with the house key, which I managed to drop on the garage floor and struggled to pick up because, well, I can’t easily pick up flat metal objects. So I had to take off my gloves to pry it from the floor. Which made my fingers numb. I said a few choice words.

Once I finally started the car, I knew I was going to have to drive with the window cracked or risk feeling nauseated by the time I got to the train station. On the coldest day of the year. So I cranked up the heat, opened the back passenger window an inch and set forth.

Fortunately, my Prius has a great heater.

For once, I actually got to the train station with enough time to walk to the train without rushing. Ours is a huge, turn-of-the-20th-century station from the grand era of rail travel, so there was no problem waiting indoors instead of on the platform. And, as it turned out, the train pulled in just as I left my car in the open air garage. So I walked through the garage to the station garbed in two layers of sweaters, a wool shawl, wool pants, leg warmers, my heavy down coat, shearling hat, insulated gloves, poofy hood and a warm scarf to hold it all together. I looked ridiculous, but then again, I’m so used to looking ridiculous in weather that most people don’t consider cold that it didn’t really matter. Plus everyone else was bundled head-to-toe, too.

Fortunately, the heaters on the train worked. We pulled out of the station with the car’s front doors stuck open, but a hardy passenger got up from his seat and closed them, since the conductor was nowhere to be seen. I spent the next hour-and-a-half working on a client project on my laptop, very pleased to be riding and not driving in what proved to be horrible traffic, from what I could see on the Mass Pike Extension as we neared Boston.

The worst part of my trip was the walk from the train platform into South Station, bitter cold. Once inside, it was tolerable on the way to the Red Line. My next excursion outdoors—from the Red Line exit to the inside of a Marriott where I waited for my friend to pick me up—left me a bit queasy from breathing frigid air, even through my scarf, but the feeling passed once I got in the building.

Reversing the trip later in the day, I was glad I hadn’t let the bitter weather get the better of me. I relaxed into my seat on the train, noted the horrible traffic westbound on the Pike Extension with smug satisfaction, then returned to working on my novel for the rest of the ride home. My Prius still smelled like paint fumes, even after airing out in the station garage all day, but the heater kicked in quickly enough so that I could crack the window on the short drive to our house and still stay comfortable.

Best of all? When I pulled into our driveway, it was just barely sunset at a quarter to five. The Ice Man may still cometh, but at least the days are getting longer.

Photo Credit: Sangudo 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.

The Big Bang

Last Tuesday night, I was backing out of our driveway, minding my own business and listening to music, when, WHAM, I hit something. Now I’m a careful driver, and I had checked both directions before moving. It was really dark out. I was not happy.

I pulled over to the side of the road to see what happened. Not only had I hit something—I had hit Al’s Honda Civic. He’d parked on the street, because our eldest was home visiting and her car was in his normal spot to the side of the driveway, but I didn’t see his car when I backed out.

Not only had I hit Al’s car, but I’d dented the passenger door on the driver’s side. Thirty seconds at five miles an hour. Hundreds of dollars of damage. I hurried back into the house to tell him.

To Al’s great credit, he didn’t get upset or angry. He gave me a hug. We went outside to look at the door. It still opened and closed properly. He told me not to worry and to go on to my weaving class. For the next hour-and-a-half, as I wove, all I could think of was that I was determined to make the repairs, regardless of the cost.

Then I got home and took a closer look at my Prius. Not only had I dented Al’s car door, but I had cracked my rear bumper. It’s fiberglass, one piece. More dollars flying out the window. How is it possible to be driving so slowly and do so much damage to two cars?

The day after New Year’s, Al took the cars to a trusted autobody shop and got the estimates. Well, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it was bad enough—$750 to repair both. Oh, boy. We decided to go ahead, because I wanted to fix what I’d messed up.

So, for the next couple of weeks, we’ll have one or the other car in the shop. We’ll find the money somehow, the cars will look as if nothing had ever happened, and I will most certainly try not to make that expensive mistake again.

With a few more days’ hindsight, here are my bigger takeaways:

The older I get, the more closely I have to pay attention when driving at night.

I’m very lucky to have such a good husband who doesn’t get mad when I bang up his car.

We’re fortunate to be able to repair both cars, even if it will take a few more months to pay off the credit card.

They’re just cars. They aren’t people. No one was hurt.

Now, if only I could find a body shop that would make me good as new for $750—that would be something.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Resolved

How did it get to be almost 2015, already? Time to retrain myself to write the correct year on checks, once again (yes, I’m one of those people who still writes paper checks). And the correct year when I actually write notes or letters by hand (gasp!). And when I track versions of electronic documents. Or date invoices. Or write the date at the top of a page in my journal.

It’s also time for some New Year’s resolutions. Of course, you can make resolutions to do something better/different any day of the year. But there’s something about revising your habit of how you write the date, an act that filters into so many small daily tasks, that prompts a sense of newness, fresh starts, opportunity for change.

So, here’s my list of healthful resolutions for 2015, half-way through the teens decade of the new millennium:

  1. Enhance my weekly exercise routine. I do stretches every morning and Pilates once a week. But I stopped taking dance classes last summer—mainly because I was getting bored and the class involved a long drive. Time to check out a class closer to home or find something better. But I have to move, more, to keep my joints in shape and stay strong.
  2. Say thank-you to someone for something specific, each day. It’s all too easy to get stuck in all the things that go wrong. Expressing gratitude not only helps me appreciate all the good in my life—it also makes someone else’s day better.
  3. Declutter our home. This is a work in progress, to repair, repurpose or recycle what we don’t need and replace what’s broken and beyond fixing. We really don’t need so much stuff. And I feel better when our space is simplified.
  4. Favor locally grown, organic produce. It’s healthier, and it helps the planet.
  5. Write the first draft of my novel. Yes, I’m getting serious about my fiction. Started a novel in the fall, and my goal is to have a solid draft by this time next year. Investing time in my own art is central to my being—and well-being.
  6. Go/do/see someplace/something new each month. I want to keep growing.
  7. Limit multitasking. I’m really good at this, but it drains my brain. This is Part One of slowing down and focusing on what’s really important.
  8. Limit my to-do list to what I can actually accomplish in a reasonable period of time. This is Part Two.
  9. Spend undistracted quality time with family and friends. Silence the iPhone and put it out of sight. (Yes, Al, you can quote me to myself.)
  10. Give back to my community. I have to be careful with volunteer commitments, not to overextend myself and drain my energy. But I’ve found a pretty good balance between family, work and volunteering at present, and I want to continue as long as I’m able.

As 2014 draws to a close, my thanks to all of you who read this blog, to those who have shared your thoughts and feelings, and to all who care to understand what it means to live with a complex disease like scleroderma. My best wishes for a healthy, fulfilling, joyful and prosperous New Year!

Photo Credit: JoePhilipson 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.

 

The Right Tools

My dad had a saying: “Any problem can be solved if you have the right tools.” He was something of a tool geek. In the basement of our home, hanging on a pegboard over his workbench, he had every kind of tool imaginable: crescent wrenches, socket wrenches and pipe wrenches, neatly arranged from small to large; flathead and Phillips head screw drivers; a carpenter’s hammer, tack hammer, ball peen hammer, rubber mallet; an electric hand drill with a full set of wood and dry-wall bits; rulers for every task.

Then there were his electronics bench, with its oscilloscope, soldering iron and various pliers; the table saw, with a variety of sharp-toothed steel discs hanging nearby; the drill press; the radial saw. Wooden shelving he’d built was filled with nuts, bolts, screws and nails in baby food jars, each labeled and ordered by size and type. And that’s just the short list.

I found it fascinating. I was his little helper, handing him the right transistor to build his latest Heathkit or the proper socket wrench to adjust his tractor snow-blower.

I learned a lot about how to make things (and how to get out of his way when he inevitably made a mistake and started cussing) and a deep respect for the value and care of good tools. Although my hands don’t work well enough to be able to build my own bookcases or tables or chests of drawers, I understand what’s required and how to envision the project and its implementation.

I also learned an approach to problem solving that has carried me a long way in dealing with scleroderma. Just because my hands don’t work properly doesn’t mean I can’t do what I need to do. I just need to figure out a different approach. And, sometimes, get the right tools.

Dad died five years ago, this past week, on the fifth night of Hanukkah. And so it was exceptionally fitting that in the mail on Saturday, a large box arrived from my Virginia brother-in-law, with a Hanukkah gift—a tool I’d been needing for years.

Saul had visited us in October. While he was here, he noticed I was having trouble opening cans. It’s ridiculous, really. I know I’ve needed an electric can-opener for years, but just never got around to buying one.

Sure enough, when we opened the box, inside was a sleek, black-and-chrome electric can-opener with an easy-lift handle. I tried it out Sunday night. Voila! No more sore fingers from struggling with a manual can-opener, ergonomic design notwithstanding. The can of plum tomatoes turned quickly and quietly, the lid came off easily, and there was no messy blade to clean.

It’s amazing how this device has instantly made my life easier. Especially when I have intransigent ulcers, as I do right now, opening cans has become quite an ordeal. If my fingers slip, it’s extraordinarily painful. Sometimes I’ll turn the manual crank all the way around the can, only to have to repeat because the blade didn’t cut all the way through the metal lid. There have been many times I’ve had to use rubber gloves or a towel for extra padding on the handle, to be able to manipulate the can-opener. Sometimes I just can’t open the can at all, and I have to wait for Al to be available to help.

Why it took my brother-in-law’s thoughtful gesture to turn this around, I’m not sure. Sometimes you just get so immersed in the way you’ve always done something that it’s hard to muster the energy or awareness to fix it.

So, I repeat, in Dad’s memory: Any problem can be solved if you have the right tools. And I’ll add this caveat: It helps if you’re paying attention. Thank you, Saul.

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.

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.