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Chronic Pain, Chocolate, and Vicodin

Chocolate and vicodin? No, it’s not the latest Ben & Jerry’s flavor. “Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest For Relief From the Headache That Wouldn’t Go Away” is the latest book by author, blogger, web designer, and busy woman Jennette Fulda.

I became acquainted with Jennette’s blog during BlogHer 2008, where I had purchased her first book, “Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir.” When she asked if I would like a copy of “Chocolate & Vicodin” to review, I jumped at the chance.

In “Half-Assed,” Jennette chronicled her journey to a near-200 pound weight loss. Just prior to that book’s release, she began another journey — one whose goal proved elusive. On February 17, 2008, Jennette went to bed with a headache. She still has the headache.

Name a diagnosis, she’s heard of it (brain tumor, dead twin in the brain, etc.) Name a treatment, she’s tried it (meds, massage, marijuana, mint chocolate chip ice cream, etc.) In “Chocolate & Vicodin,” Jennette is on a journey to find relief from chronic headache. Writing in a comfortable style, Jennette has a subtle humor that will have you laughing out loud. Trust me, her description of using marijuana “for medicinal purposes only” will have your beverage of choice coming out your nose! (Cover the book!)

But it will also choke you up. Under the humor, under the crazy e-mails from readers that suggest the crazy remedies, this is a serious story of chronic pain disrupting life. Persistent, excruciating pain and the work of coping with it takes a toll on Jennette, and when it becomes too much you find yourself sobbing with her. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Emergiblog*

10 Ways Life Tries To Mess With Diabetes Control

Life is trying to further mess with my diabetes control. (Or is diabetes trying to mess with life? Is a zebra white with black stripes, or a horse with black and white stripes?) I’m making efforts to get it together, but odd little things keep leaping in the way. Oh, efforts to thwart: Let me count the ways!

1. Recently, the jar of glucose tabs in my car was empty, so I was forced to stop at a random store and buy a regular Mountain Dew from the vending machine. But I had to open it and let it settle a little first before I could chug it, because draining a can of fizzy sugar would make me instantly ralph.

2. It snowed and/or was freezing on the days I went to the gym. But on the days I didn’t go? Sunshine and warm weather. Stupid weather wants me to be fat.

3. I lost my Dexcom receiver for about five hours, until I heard its muffled scream from between the couch cushions.

4. The sound of the clothes dryer finishing a load sounds like the happy tinkling of the chimes on an ice cream van, which spawns this borderline insatiable craving for ice cream.

5. During my meetings last week with PWoutD (people withOUT diabetes), my blood sugar cruised inexplicably into the stratosphere, forcing me to rage bolus in order to be able to eat more than the plate garnish during lunch. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

I See Pump People

A few weeks ago, Chris and BSparl and I went out to dinner. Dining out with our little bird is a bit of a tangled experience, and we don’t spend as much time people watching as we used to because we’re very preoccupied with the baby wrangling. 

That night, though, we were sitting and settled and throwing gluten-free puffs (yes, all of us) around the dinner table like confetti when I saw this woman walk in with her family. She settled her family in at the table, and then reached to remove her coat, revealing a beeper clipped to her pocket.

Only it was one of them fancypants beepers with the tubes and the buttons and the accompanying not-making-insulin pancreas. I reckon it was an insulin pump.

Immediately, I wanted to swing mine over my head like a lasso and say “OMG lady, me too!!!” I’ve had this feeling before, of wanting to sidle up next to someone and say, “I like your pump — want to see my pump?” but to me that sounds more like an awkward attempt to flirt instead of a moment of diabetes bonding. Living in a very comfortable bubble of diabetes advocacy makes me think that everyone who has a visible “symptom” of diabetes wants to talk about it. I have to remind myself that some people just plain don’t want to talk about it.

But since I still wanted to say something, I targeted Chris instead. “Dude, 12 o’clock. Actually, my 12 o’clock, your six o’clock. MiniMed pump on that lady.” I said to Chris without moving my lips, as if a pump sighting was a covert Navy Seals operation. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

My Pancreas Valentine

Oh rotting, feeble pancreas of mine,
Won’t you be my Valentine?
Won’t you wake from your long sleep
And make some insulin, you creep?

What makes you sit, all shaped like a wiener,
Lazy and dull, with a pompous demeanor?
What makes it okay, that for your enjoyment
You’ve spent twenty plus years filing unemployment?

We need to start over; we need to be friends.
We need this whole type 1 diabetes to end.
I’m tired of shots and I’m sick of the lows,
So I think we should talk about ending this row.

I could use a break, my corn-cob-shaped friend.
I’d love to have “old age” listed as my end.
I think that your time off has drawn to a close.
I’d like working islets, and plenty of those.

How ’bout it, old pal? Care to start working?
Care to start minding duties you’ve been shirking?
I promise to be an attentive best friend,
I’ll thank you each morning and as the day ends.
I won’t take for granted the hormone you make
And I’ll forgive you for the last 24 years’ mistake.

I’ve brought you some flowers and a Border’s gift card,
In hopes that when I bring milkshakes to the yard
You’ll be so inclined to jump start all those islets
Who’ve been holding their breath for so long that they’re violet.

So what do you say, oh pancreas of mine?
Won’t you be my Valentine?

(Image credit: I Heart Guts “Pancreas — Gimme Some Sugar!“)

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

The Poetry Of Labor

Art imitates life, and there’s nothing more hilarious than art imitating a woman in labor. I “stumbled” upon this incredible video and was in awe. Thea Monyee and her husband, GaKnew Rowel, are talented young poets who share their parenting experience at a Def Poetry session in Los Angeles.

What amazed me is the accuracy and clarity of Thea as she describes the laboring experience. Her comments regarding the labor-inducing medication Pitocin are both hilarious and laser-sharp and her description of the epidural placement were reminiscent of my days as an OB/GYN resident. Oh, would I get annoyed with the anesthesiology residents who couldn’t place the catheter correctly into a patient’s back on the first try.

Thea and her husband are a delight to watch. Have you had a similar experience while in labor? If so please share your stories, because as Thea and GaKnew so wisely state: “Nothing compares to having a baby.”

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Latest Interviews

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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