Monday, February 20, 2017

Sometimes you just need a reset

The last few weeks have seen me having a lot of good days which I desperately needed.

It all started with a trip to Cancun, Mexico with my college roommate. It was a great way to take a break from social media and work. I mean, I did manage to get a horrible sunburn because we were drinking margaritas in the ocean, but that's beside the point.

It's hard to not rest and want to soak up as much sun as possible when you're around this instead of frozen tundra Wisconsin life.

It was nice to get a sunburn honestly. It was a good reminder that pain usually comes to people after they do something. 

Katy and I also just really needed to spend time together in the wake of all the political ick going on.

Despite having a sunburn when I got back, I really felt like I had a fire lit under my ass. For the first time in a while, I had really just taken a legit break and felt ready to attack things.

A week later, T and I got to go see one of my favorite bands - Boyz II Men!

I've been listening to them ever since I was little and I have always enjoyed their music. Seeing them in person was amazing.

It also got me thinking about other things from my youth that I really enjoyed... like albondigas soup... which all connects back to Mexico, funny enough. I talk about it in my latest piece over on Medium.

Hey, and I lost like five pounds within a month!

It's not that things are all going right. My inflammation levels are high. My fatigue is being a butt. I have a million things I want to do and not always enough energy to do them.

Still, things feel better. Rest is incredibly important, especially in times of resistance. Make sure you're taking care of you.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: TechCare Pro TENS Unit

I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Today, I am reviewing the TechCare Pro TENS Unit.

For those unfamiliar with the term, TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This kind of stimulation can help to relieve muscle tension and pain by essentially exercising muscles using electricity. TENS units help provide that stimulation via electrodes the user places on their body. The user then controls the intensity and type of stimulation via the unit itself.

Having used some TENS units in the past, I really appreciated that the TechCare Pro was really light. Others I've had have been heavy and a little difficult to manage. It was easy to plug in the electrodes and easy to utilize those.

It comes with two differently sized kinds of electrodes - a set of tiny ones and a set of larger ones. The larger ones are about the same size that one might find in a drugstore or elsewhere. The tiny ones are smaller than I've seen elsewhere and that was actually pretty nice to have. I was able to use those in spots that were more difficult to get the others onto like around my collarbones.

One thing I found odd with this unit is that there is no start/stop/pause button. Once you turn on the device, it's on and going. If you want to switch modes, you have to turn it off and then get back to the mode and intensity you want to utilize. That would be amazing to have on this unit as it would allow for repositioning of electrodes - or even a quick bathroom break - without turning the unit off.

The button in the middle that one might assume is a pause button actually changes the modes. See, there are these kind of 'parent-modes' - those you see in the photo above - and each parent-mode has 2-4 modes within it. I do wish these modes were slightly more straightforward. However, it's easy enough to switch between these modes that it really doesn't bother me.

All in all, this isn't necessarily the most intuitive device - but does it work?

Yes, yes it does.

This is one of the most comfortable and effective TENS units I've ever used. 

The low-intensity levels are effective on light pain. I haven't had to go past mid-level intensity on any of these modes in order to get relief. 

The fact that it's so lightweight means that it's perfect for me. Between traveling a lot and having major fatigue issues lately, heavier units of any kind are getting more and more difficult to utilize. Heck, my television remote isn't the easiest for me to hold lately. This is lighter than that, even.

The price honestly can't be beat, either. Similar devices can be several hundred dollars, but this one costs far less. 

You can snag your own TechCare Pro Silver TENS Unit over on Amazon.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Repealing the ACA will kill disabled people

With the proposed changes coming to healthcare, I can't afford to tiptoe around the situation.

Repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will kill disabled people.

50 million Americans with disabilities depend on the protections that the ACA provides. The CDC recently came out with statistics that show that nearly half of all Americans live with at least one chronic illness - and they depend on the ACA, too.

Before the ACA went into effect - before I even started this site - I was uninsured for a while. While my father kept insurance on me until I was 18 as a part of child support, mother didn't utilize it at all. Without continuity of care, I suffered immensely - not just pain but issues that wouldn't have happened had she gotten me the right (or any) medical care.

Once I hit 18 and got into college, I was concerned about what to do. I knew I needed to get medical care but couldn't afford anything.

2007 Kirsten
When I met T, I started trying to get quotes from insurance companies. I was very upfront about the fact that I had multiple chronic illnesses... which led to a lot of sad phone calls and emails. One memorable phone call with one representative got me to give up. I was told that it would be $2200 a month for coverage and that it would not cover anything related to my pre-existing conditions.

Since my diseases affect every single part of my body, there was no point to this. I obviously couldn't afford it anyway.

I eventually was able to get coverage through our college's partnership with an insurance company. It didn't cover much, though, and I began to go into medical debt quickly. Luckily, some of that was forgiven as the hospital I saw my first adult rheumatologist at had a great forgiveness plan for us poor people.

Thank you Froedert Hospital.

Still, it was a constant fight. I had to get things rediagnosed or diagnosed at all. This meant far more visits than the average person has in a year with the accompanying blood draws and everything. I moved which meant transferring that care and then dealing with insurance not covering a lot...

which meant more medical debt (that we only recently paid off).

I'm lucky enough that I'm married to someone whose insurance covers me. It's good insurance and allows me to have access to the specialists I need to see.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Others with disabilities or chronic illnesses rely on more services than I usually need. Others are better at seeking out the care they need than I am. Others simply have different needs that wind up costing more like wheelchairs and other equipment - along with the medical visits for physical therapy, etc. 

Hell, if T and I ever got divorced? I'd be practically as good as dead. There are worries that these efforts will force those of us who need healthcare access to stay in abusive relationships because, like me, they need that coverage.

My family will still be affected by the ACA repeal. People in my family or group of friends will lose medical care making access to the life-saving medications and treatments they need nearly impossible. More people will go bankrupt or lose their homes as a result of medical issues. Others will no longer be able to afford to live in more accessible housing, accessible transportation, and more.

Some will die.

The ACA provides protections for many people - things that are often overlooked when we talk repeal. 

It provides access to free contraception, yes, and better access to reproductive health care - but it also allows children up to age 26 to stay on their parents' insurance plans. 

It provides coverage for people through subsidies, but also (finally) makes good on a centuries' old promise to Native Americans to cover their health needs. 

Clinics in rural areas who depend on the ACA protections to keep them going will go out of business and jobs will be lost.

The things I care about the most? CHIP - the Children's Health Insurance Program - and coverage for our pre-existing conditions? Those were basically just dumped.

If little Kirsten was young today and lived with a parent that wasn't abusive? She would be incredibly screwed.

It's not enough for those now running our nation to take progress back - they have to enact legislation that will remove protections for those of us with disabilities and pre-existing conditions. They have to kill us before they'll be happy.

Write to your legislators. Call them. Tell them how this will affect you and nearly half the nation. Tell them that, like me, you're not ready to die for their petty politics and racist ideologies.