Tag Archives: “Autoimmune disorders”

Hair Problems in Fibromyalgia, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Hair Problems in Fibromyalgia.

Here’s yet another interesting article from the About.com people and their Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome department.

This particular article deals with our hair! Gals you know what I’m talking about…days and days and days of bad hair days. Actually, it goes a little further than that. This article goes on to explain those of us that deal with this devastating disease may also deal with hair loss or alopecia. There is a bad news/good news factor to this discovery.

Bad News: Yes, it does appear like other autoimmune disorders, hair loss can be associated with fibromyalgia. It tends to rear its inconvenient head during flare ups or times of stress. Big “duhs” there for those of us with fibro, huh? We kinda already knew this!

I started dealing with this factor 10 or 15 years ago when I realized my hair just wasn’t as full and thick as it use to be. I’ve always worn my hair long (at one time waist length) and my hair was always nice and full and thick. There was one point a few years ago it would come out by the handfuls as I washed it in the shower. I associated that episode to a particular medication, stopped that med, started a new one and no more shedding like a sheep dog in the shower.

Good News: Yes, there is good news. It appears the hair loss from fibromyalgia is temporary and will grow back. So, patience Grasshopper. Remember the sheep dog shedding I was doing in the shower? Well, my hair did grow back.

I can’t promise your hair will ever be as full as it once was (I feel like I’m about to bust out into a Toby Keith song right about now), but it will be better than it once was. Also, if you do have other autoimmune disorders, they will also affect your hair, too.

Here’s one thing I can recommend: Nioxin Shampoo .

I’ve been using this shampoo for over 10 years now and swear by it. It cleanse your hair, helps thicken the hair and helps remove the residual of all the meds we take that end up in our hair.

The other thing I can recommend for healthy hair (and nails) for those of us dealing with hair issues is a daily supplement of Biotin. I take 2000MCGs a day. This has been highly recommended by every stylist I’ve used over the last 10 years or so. Biotin promotes healthy skin, hair and nails.

So, if you’re a fibromyalgia patient, don’t think you’re crazy over the “hair thing”. Yes, it can happen and yes, there can be relief and help. Just hold on and ride it out and it will get better!


© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under "Autoimmune disorders", Autoimmune Diseases, Biotin, Fibromyalgia, Hair Loss, Health, Health News, Nioxin Shampoo, Women's health

Autoimmune Disease Overlap Syndromes | Suite101.com

Autoimmune Disease Overlap Syndromes | Suite101.com.

This is a great article to read for all of you who are dealing with autoimmune disorders. I have known for years these diseases/disorders “cluster” or overlap. My body is a prime example of that. If I were to enumerate my laundry list of chronic and disabling health issues, many of you would think I was “joshing” as the old time says.

But, it’s true! Not only do I have overlap within my body, but there is overlap and clustering in my family (on my mother’s side). My very special aunt and I seem to shadow each other.

So, for all of you dealing with these issues, take time to read this article. It might help you to know that (1) you’re not alone in this; and (2) you’re not crazy…yes, your body is doing exactly what you think it is!

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Filed under "Autoimmune disorders", Autoimmune Diseases, Health, Health News, Women's health

People With Fibromyalgia Prone to Falls

People With Fibromyalgia Prone to Falls.

This article is from WebMD and is about a study and patients with FMS. The study found that people with FMS are more prone to falls because of balance problems. Let it be known…I resemble that remark!! I knew it was related to something…just wasn’t sure what…

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Filed under "Autoimmune disorders", Autoimmune Diseases, Fibromyalgia, Health, WebMD, Women's health

Predicting Fibromyalgia: Results of 25-Year Study

Predicting Fibromyalgia: Results of 25-Year Study.

How do you compare to this 25 year study? I was surprised to discover the allergy connection. With me though I don’t know if it’s a case of which came first…like the chicken or the egg. When I was a child I don’t recall having many allergies, but as I got older I seemed to have developed them, but I also seem to have FMS and other problems, too.

As far as the morning sickness all I can say is OMG!! I was sick the entire time I was pregnant…24/7 and actually had to be hospitalized twice because I was so sick.

So, in my mind there many be something to the study…

Smoking wasn’t a factor for me. I was a NON-smoker wasn’t raised by smokers or married to a smoker. That gives me 2 out of 3….

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Anniversary – Part 1, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Anniversary – Part 1

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I am approaching an anniversary in a few days (Oct. 25th). It’s an anniversary I hope I don’t share with too many people. You see on Oct. 25th, 1995 a thoracic surgeon removed 60% of my left lung because of cancer. It’s so hard to believe it’s been 13 years. It actually still feels like it happened such a short time ago. Unfortunately, it was not my only experience with this type of surgery and cancer. In Jan. 1982, part of my right lung was removed.

This anniversary makes me nervous. As a cancer survivor we tend to count anniversaries…years if you will, for a reason. The five year survival period is considered a benchmark of sorts. You start to breathe a little easier if you have survived five years past an occurrence. Each five year increment also tends to give you additional peace of mind…you have warded off and defeated the big “C” a little longer.

I was 13 years past my first occurrence when out of no where the second incident catapulted into my life with a vengeance. To say it was a shock it like saying Hurricane Katrina was a thunderstorm. I was almost 15 years “safe”! I had even avoided smoke filled rooms. Why?! And, now I am once again at that 13 year benchmark…

My lung cancers could almost be considered a fluke. I was a non-smoker, had never lived with a smoker nor had a worked in a smoke filled environment. Sometimes lung cancer survivors tend to carry a “black mark” on their slate of life…a stigma if you will. Why? Well, many people hear “lung cancer” and automatically decide you were a smoker and as a result brought the disease upon yourself. I feel as if I always need to qualify my cancer history by saying, “a two time non-smoking lung cancer survivor”…and, boy is that ever a mouth full…

Even today when I tell someone I’ve survived bouts with lung cancer two times and had never smoked most people seem incredulous. You can see it in their eyes…” You must be kidding!” They seem to have a need to find a cause…a reason…it’s almost if they can find the reason “why”, then they’ve distanced themselves from such a fate. They usually stand there and tick off the potential reasons “why” and as each reason is answered with “no” there is just a tinge of panic in their eyes.

Then, there’s the opposite reaction…from smokers. Their response is usually, “Well, there you go. You never smoked and look at you. I’ve smoked all my life and I’m fine, cancer-free. Why should I quit?”

Well, let me put it too you this way…if you had a friend who was nearly hit, or was hit crossing the street and survived, would you just go and stand in the middle of the street daring cars to hit you? Would you think “Well, look at so and so? See what happened them. I’ve been crossing the street all my life and have never been hit, so why should I think it would happen to me now?” I have one “intelligent” response to that…duh?! When I get that response from smokers I feel like lifting my shirt up to reveal my large scars and asking, “Do you really want to tempt fate for this?!”

Do not tempt fate! Especially if you are a woman! Every year during breast cancer awareness month I get a tad irritated. It’s not that I think breast cancer awareness is a bad thing. Nope, it’s because since 1987 more women have died from lung cancer than breast cancer in this country! That’s a pretty scary thought especially since we know breast cancer has been one of the major causes of death in women for over 40 years.

My first occurrence happened when I was just barely 28 years old. My baby was 18 months old. I was scared I would not get to see him grow up. A mother should never have to feel that emotion. It rips at the fabric of your heart and soul. I’ll never forget that time.

My cancer was found by the sheer fluke of luck or, maybe Divine Intervention as I like to think. It’s odd, but I always associate that time period with the murder of Anwar Sadat. While I was going through the agony of discovery and waiting and at war with my body, a man struggling to seek peace was murdered half way across the world… (This poses a more current question: If militants and terrorist will do this in their own country, what else would they do in the USA?)

The cancer in my right lung was a carcinoid tumor, a form of a neuroendocrine tumor . This type of cancer is rare and very slow growing, sometimes taking 3 – 5 years to grow to a size substantial enough to be discovered and by then it could be too late for the patient. This type of cancer starts out as a microcarcinoid and grows into “the big guy”…a true carcinoid. Finding this type of cancer can be a life saver because in the early stage it is treatable…usually with surgery.

Unfortunately, even with surgery there is no guarantee you will be clean. Small cells can remain in your body that will cause a new occurrence. Quite possibly you could live for years with carcinoid syndrome and as one physician explained to me eight years after my first surgery, “you could have carcinoids throughout your body and not be aware of the fact”.

Carcinoid syndrome involves a plethora of symptoms including: flushing of the face and upper body, wheezing, diarrhea, and a fast heartbeat. Because this is a type of neuroendocrine cancer the tumors can secrete serotonin and a test to check excessive serotonin levels is a useful diagnostic tool.

I often have suspected that my cancers are related some how to the many autoimmune disorders I have. In autoimmune ailments your body creates antigens that read parts of your body as foreign. In other words these antigens see these substances or objects of your body as things that shouldn’t be in or a part of your body and its systems.

Normally this process works as it should. For example, when you cut yourself and it starts to become infected. Your body’s proper systems…blood in this case…will send the proper tools (antigens, white blood cells, etc.) to the affected area…to the cut to combat the infection.

But, in autoimmune disorders, there is a disconnect somewhere…a malfunction. For instance, in lupus the body may read the liver or spleen as unneeded, unnecessary and even dangerous to your health. As a result, the body will begin to attack these organs to destroy them in an attempt to make you safe and well. But, it’s all a big mistake and it can and does kill the patient over time.

One disorder I have is very similar to lupus. Some of the organs and systems attacked are different…others are the same. My ailment, Sjogren’s syndrome carries an increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma…yes, a cancer. In addition to attacking all moisture producing glands in my body and my joints, Sjogren’s can affect the lungs. There it is…

The biggest number of carcinoids are found in the gastrointestinal system, but like mine, they can be found in the lungs and other parts of the body. I have a first cousin who was treated for carcinoid in her appendix. For years when I went to a new physician they seemed more intrigued with the fact I’d had a carcinoid in my lungs than in the problem I was there to see them about. That was extremely frustrating to me and really counter productive to my health.

Thoracic surgery is no picnic. It is major surgery. As one surgical nurse explained to the ex, it is more severe than open heart surgery in many ways. It’s very intrusive, the patient’s upper body, for all practical purpose is almost cut in half. My incision(s) runs from just under my breast, across my side and ribs and onto my back to within a few inches of my spine. Once the incision is made, the ribs are either broken and spread apart, or a section is cut and removed from the ribs for the same purpose. They are spread apart to allow access to the lung. In my case, both techniques were used. The first time some of my ribs were broken, the second time a section was cut and removed.

I don’t recall how long my surgery lasted. Let’s put it this way…it wasn’t a quickie. I was placed in ICU and the first thing I remembered was a bright light as I regained consciousness. I asked the ICU nurse if it was cancer and she replied, “The doctor will have to speak to you.” I knew then it had been cancer. My first surgeon…an angel…told my family we should thank God the tumor was found when it was.

Although I did go through a major depression after my first surgery, I eventually bounced back…or I tried to pretend I had. I can look back now and plainly see I was “cruising for a bruisin’”.

The depression in hindsight was predictable. In the two years leading up to my surgery I had experienced several life shaking events.

I had gone through a difficult pregnancy (I was hospitalized twice and had to spend a good portion of the time in bed due to illness.) My last living grandfather died about a day after I returned home from my first hospitalization while I was pregnant. While pregnant, the ex, Gomez the unremarkable, had a car accident that totaled his vehicle. It was his second in four years. My son was born a month early and as a result his fetal breathing system didn’t shut down. (Heart problems are common in the newborn of Sjogren’s patients.) My baby boy spent the first two week of his life in NICU (neo-natal intensive care).

Then, the tumor on my lung was discovered and “watched” for three months. As I lay on a cold table while my lung was being scanned, I asked one physician, a radiologist, what could be on my lung. He replied, “Well, it’s a 33% chance it’s cancer, 33% chance it’s a calcium deposit and 33% chance it’s an enlarged lymph gland. (I have learned since there are other possibilities.) He then turned and left the room as I shivered on the table. So much for A+ bedside manner…

I lived through a holiday season knowing something angry was growing on a vital organ…and I spent the season wondering if it would be my last with my sweet baby boy. And then, surgery was scheduled for Jan. 1982.

As I counted down the days during a very frigid January, an Air Florida airplane hit the 14th Street Bridge in Washington DC. As I watched victims being pulled out of the freezing waters of the Potomac River, I realized we were in a swiftly changing world and I wondered what I would miss should my outcome be as disastrous as that fateful flight. I survived on Faith and prayers…

So, that my friends set the circumstances surrounding me prior to my first surgery. Post-op depression is severe enough to deal with…but, factor in a possible case of post-partum depression and everything else and well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a train wreck coming…

My train wreck lasted about a year. Sometimes I think that period was the beginning of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was a dark time. Once again I was surviving solely on Faith and prayers.

I would go days without eating and my weight plummeted. As an anorexic survivor, I was already painfully thin. At one point my weight dipped below 100 pounds. I have one picture taken a few months after Gomez had his first car accident in 1976. (He had broken his neck in the same place Christopher Reeve did…it was a miracle he lived and didn’t have any paralysis. I spent months nursing him back to health.) In this picture, I have the typical “lollipop” head…a characteristic of someone waaaaay too thin. By the time I became pregnant I weighed a whooping 112 pounds and was back down to that weight within about two weeks after giving birth. Depression did nothing to stabilize my weight…food literally made me sick to my stomach during these dark days.

After that year, I decided I was tired of living at the gates of hell…feeling the flames flicker at my feet…that is my description of that dark, depressing time…

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under "Autoimmune disorders", Anwar Sadat, Breast Cancer, cancer, Depression, Gomez, Lung Cancer, Mental health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sjogren's Syndrome, Washington DC 14th Street Bridge Plane Crash, Women's health

Practicing Medicine, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Practicing Medicine

By Beverly Hicks Burch

So, what has Bev been up to? Well, as life would have it, a little of the same and a little of the new. It’s been a busy time, a hectic time and as kismet would have it a sickly time. Like I needed that like a hole in the head!

It’s kinda like this…in November when I went to my rheumatologist in Birmingham I knew I was feeling really bad. I was sick. I could barely lift my left leg because of hip pain to put on a sock or shoe. As I drove to Birmingham both of my hands hurt just to hold the steering wheel…I wished I had learned that knee-driving trick Daddy used to do when we were kids. No kidding…he could steer the car with his knees and eat a burger if he had to, but of course that was on rare occasions. I guess steering wheels were larger back in the days…

Anyway, by the time I saw the doc, I don’t think there was a place on me that didn’t hurt, ache or wasn’t swollen. My eyelashes even hurt. It was a good thing I was seeing him.

The last few years have been rough…in more ways than one. Of course autoimmune disorders are exacerbated by stress, trauma…and drama. Umm…isn’t that how you spell LIFE?! So, you don’t have a snowball’s chance on a hot day in July unless you live in a deprivation tank or a monastery or convent for avoiding those factors…and I’m sure there’s a different kind of stress in those surroundings.

Sometimes I do become a little skeptical of doctors themselves. I often comment that after all they are just “practicing” medicine…maybe they’re not quite sure yet about what they’re doing. Those expressions are in moments of frustration…

For instance, in October 2005 I literally nearly died because of a careless mistake a doctor made. I had just moved to Knoxville and was looking for a primary care physician. I had begun to have some hypertension problems…something new for me and I could tell it was getting severe because I was keeping a very troublesome headache. My doctor in Alabama had given me a diuretic for hypertension just before we moved, but I knew it wasn’t treating the problem and needed further treatment.

So, off I go to a new doctor in Knoxville. Now, because I have such an extensive and long medical history I keep a record on a Word document which I update routinely. I also keep an updated list of my medications on a Word document. This is a good time to recommend you do this if you have any medical conditions and/or you take prescription medication. Be sure to tell someone in your family where it is on your computer so they can access it in a time of emergency.

Anyway, I went to the new doctor armed with my medical history and medication lists and explain why I was there. I filled out all the necessary paper work…a lot of which was a redundancy because of the documents I provided, but I didn’t mind…better safe than sorry…

When the doctor walked in I got bad vibes right away. First, I felt like he had just gotten off a tractor…he seemed more like a farm hand than a medical professional, but he was on my HMO’s healthcare provider’s list. Then, I knew from the way he talked to me he hadn’t taken the time to review my paper work or the history I had provided him. My first clue? He seemed surprised when I mentioned I was a two time lung cancer survivor even though that was clearly noted on the paper work I had filled out in his office and on the medical history I had brought from home. I also told him I had taken two of the diuretics previously prescribed earlier that day.

As I was to discover later, evidently he hadn’t paid much attention to my list of medication either…and that almost cost me my life. Long story short…he prescribed a hypertension medication for me. I took it to the pharmacy, had it filled and took one with supper.

About 10:30 or 11:00 that evening Tall & Handsome and I had been sitting in bed watching TV when all of the sudden I started feeling strange. He had drifted off to sleep. I staggered up to my feet, mumbled to him I felt odd and tried to make it to the bathroom. He of course hadn’t heard me…the one time Mr. Insomniac was sleeping soundly. He did hear me when I crashed to the floor in the bathroom doorway.

After the cats levitated in the air and shot off and hid (that’s a neat trick I wish I could learn), T & H jumped up and was at my side in a couple of seconds…his face as white as a sheet. I told him I felt extremely odd and it was getting worse. He asked me what kind of odd and I told him it felt like the life was draining out of me. He instantly took my blood pressure. (He really would have looked good in a white coat and been debonair as Dr. Tall & Handsome. But, alas, he has one of the same maladies as me…the sight of blood.).

If he had any color in his face…it drained out at that point…when he read the BP monitor. My BP was something like 78/46 and my heart rate was about 47. He wanted to call the paramedics, but of course being the stubborn Scotch-Irish-German-Native American that I am, I said no…oh, and the fact I’d had a bad experience with an ambulance before didn’t help.

I contended the BP machine had to be wrong and I finally agreed to let him take it again. I think any color in my face must have drained out at that point because the numbers were even lower by then…and I was scared. I agreed to let him call the paramedics.

Word to the wise…don’t ever collapse upstairs…because you have to walk yourself down the stairs…then you get on the gurney! Oxygen, IV, tubes and all! I vaguely remember T & H slipping socks on my feet (he’s sweet like that) before they closed the ambulance doors and then he dashed in to print off my medical history and med list off the computer. He knew in his state of mind there was no way he could recite all of that in admitting…heck, he’ll be the first to tell you he couldn’t recite it all in a calm state of mind. I’m the one that keeps up with his meds!

Off we dashed to the ER, sirens blaring and they sent me right back to a cold sterile room. After giving me a huge bedpan to get sick in (which I obliged), I had to hold it myself for what seemed like forever, shivering, alone until someone finally came in and retrieved it. Once again, I was alone until I heard a commotion out in the corridor. It was T & H insisting he be allowed into my room. I’m glad he did because I was scared.

I had to stay overnight in the ER because they couldn’t stabilize my BP or my heart rate. Both kept getting perilously low. I was violently ill at my stomach and blood work revealed my kidney enzymes were out of whack. I spent the night drifting off to sleep just to be awakened by the alarms when my numbers went too low. It was a great way to spend a Friday night…

So, example #1 of why Bev sometimes say doctors are just “practicing” medicine…

I changed doctors shortly after that because I found out the hypertension medication the “tractor doctor” gave me had interacted with the diuretic I had taken earlier in the day and he should have known that and forewarned me and recommended I delay taking my first dose until the next day.

To add insult to injury he insisted on keeping me on the medication. I developed a dry hacking cough and knew this was a side effect that needed to be reported to the doctor if I did develop one…the flyer that came with the medicine advised as much. My own father had been on the same medication and developed a cough and his doctor had removed him off the med and place him on a new one.

So, I called the “tractor doctor’s” office told them what was going on and got this response, “Well, I don’t think that a side effect.” And I had to stay on the medication. Grrr…

Example #2…

Once again, good ol’ East Tennessee born, Alabama raised, Scotch-Irish, German, Native American Southern gal that I am…I didn’t cotton too well to that…I got a new primary care physician.

The next doctor was better…to a degree. She was good for some basic things, but not too long after the ER incident I went to her about my neuropathy in my right leg. It had gotten so bad that in addition to feeling like a hive of bees were living in my leg, the burning was becoming unbearable, there was numb spots in my leg and just the softest touch to my leg would send me in spasms of pain. In other words…it hurt.

The new doc recommended a new “great” drug call Lyrica. And it was good. At first my dosage was two pills a day, but I spent the better part of my life drooling on myself in a deep sleep. Good news was…the pain in my leg was gone.

I decided to adjust the dosage to one pill a day and I was in the land of the living again. The trade off was the leg had just a slight twitch of “bother” to it…but I could live with it.

But, there was another very unpleasant, unwanted side effect…weight gain. It was like overnight in one of those drooling, stupor states someone pulled up and said, “Hey, I have a good idea! Let’s turn Bev into a blimp in time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.” And, then, to paraphrase Arnold, proceeded to “pump me up”. Augh!! It was bad enough several round of steroids had already been going before paving the way…

Example #3…

I didn’t know what was going on…at least until I went to see my rheumatologist in Birmingham. When I told him what was going on he hit the nail on the head. He explain that weight gain was a very common side effect of Lyrica and that several of his patients had gained a lot of weight while on the drug. He recommended I discontinue the use…and I did. The pain came back, maybe not as bad…but the weight stayed…

It concerns me now because I see Lyrica being touted as a new drug de jour for Fibromyalgia (another one of my little jewels). It may work, but patients should really be forewarned of the behemoth behind this medication. When you are chronically ill, weight management is a bugger…you have multiple obstacles…and many times your medications are contributing factors.

So, currently I’m dealing with a new situation…this month I started taking Methotrexate for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). This was after going through another round of steroid after I got back from Birmingham and a therapeutic dosage of Vitamin D because I was very deficient.

My aunt had taken Methotrexate for several years…yes, she has similar maladies. Autoimmune disorders tend to cluster in families and mine is no exception. So, I’m a little familiar with the drug and I’ve seen how she’s reacted to it. It’s a mixed blessing.

Basically from what I’ve learned Methotrexate can be used in chemotherapy, but in low doses it can be used to treat autoimmune disorders such as RA as a disease modifying drug. It can have some pretty funky side effects including making you more susceptible to infections. It makes me sick at my stomach for about a day and drowsy for a couple of days. It’s affected my taste and I seem more sensitive to smells. I take it one day a week. Hopefully over time I will become more accustom to the medication and it will really begin to do some good.

If any of you have any experience with Methotrexate I’d really like to hear from you…how it’s affected you and if it’s helped.

What it boils down to is this…we should be informed healthcare patients. Too often people go to the doctor, get a pill, take a pill and a lot of the time don’t even bother to look at the name of the medication they are taking.

I discovered when I became more educated to what was going on with my body and healthcare, some of the fear was removed from the equation…and some of the helplessness.

I learned a long time ago some doctors may be “offended” if you are informed, educated, ask questions and want to participate in your healthcare. They are the ones with ego complexes…god-complexes. I would suggest that for long term care they may not be the one for you…at least they wouldn’t be for me.

The last thoracic surgeon who removed 60% of my left lung due to cancer in 1995 was like that…he also “inadvertently cut my pulmonary artery” during the procedure. God doesn’t slip and screw up like that, Buster! Get over yourself…oh, yeah…example #4…

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under "Autoimmune disorders", cancer, Doctors, Fibromyalgia, Health, Hospitals, Lyrica, Methotrexate, My Tennesse Heritage, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Tall & Handsome, Women's health

Yeah, Though I Walk Through the Valley, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Yeah, Though I Walk Through the Valley

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Struggle. Dog-paddling. Coming up for the last breath. I call it “the elephant sitting on my chest”. Some of you will know immediately what I am talking about…others will think Bev has lost her ever loving mind…and some days lately it has certainly felt like it. Others of you will think this is not a very appropriate thing to write about at this time of the year, but actually, it is. The holidays are known to be an emotionally rough time for some people to cope. At least, this will update you, fill you in, catch you up, explain some things and educate you all in one fell swoop. Never underestimate the power of the written word…

First and foremost, I have not tuned out, dropped out and forgotten everyone and everything…or my writing. It’s just been a struggle, that well, I was hoping was coming to some kind of an end. Instead it has protracted and stretched out like a big grotesque rubber band that I’m just waiting to snap back and pop. It can only stretch so far before it breaks or snaps back or I can cut that puppy and prevail! But, let me start at the beginning…

As I sit here writing, I think of all the people across the world scurrying around getting ready for the upcoming holidays. Our scurrying now days is more like dragging our weary backside behind us. Tall & Handsome and I had a bleak, non-existent Thanksgiving (we were both sick) and Christmas is shaping up that way…there is no decorating at the Burch house, no gift wrapping…we are hoping to make the day special, eventful and remember the occasion, spirit and purpose of Christmas Day and have a meal here at the house. That’s it…

So much has happened…and it won’t stop…

Yes, we did complete the move and thought things were moving along just peachy. We had a projected closing date of the end of November on both houses. But, we began to get concerned when we weren’t hearing a definite date from my tenant’s (who decided to buy my house) mortgage broker. She assured him, us and our realtor that everything was fine and that he HAD been approved for his mortgage to buy my house in Alabama. (She talked to our realtor via the phone and assured her that he HAD been approved and everything was fine.)

Then, late on Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, he called Tall & Handsome at work and dropped the bomb that he had been denied his loan!

Ok, remember that education part? Insert first educational moment here…Come to find out, more accurate and to the point, his mortgage broker was charging him $666 a month PMI…Primary Mortgage Insurance. PMI is paid if you do not make a full minimum down payment and typically industry standards are .5 – 1% of the loan amount a year. In other words, on a $207, 000 mortgage, PMI would typically run about $86 a month.

They were charging him way too much…even our mortgage broker said something squirrelly was going on at his end with his people. What the tenant/buyer of my house in Alabama’s mortgage broker was charging was the equivalent of about 5%…way above industry standard. It was the equivalent of sneaking up the interest on his mortgage to 12%!! Well, the man couldn’t afford that…who could?! No wonder the mortgage industry is going bust with deals like that in the making…

So, with his mortgage in jeopardy, that placed T & H’s and mine in the same boat, because we were waiting on the equity out of that house for the down payment on this house. My first instinct is not to crumble, but believe there is an answer, a solution…a fix. Mentally, I went into fixing mode.

We scrambled to come up with Plan A; Plan B; Plan C…you get the idea. Our next option was to hold the note for him for 2 – 3 years, after he made a down payment, and then he would have to refinance after that 2 – 3 year period and procure his own financing. He thought about it (along with his Mom who was going to help him buy the house) and then at the last minute decided to back out and just continue to rent/lease.

Okay…flush down payment down the toilet…

Go to Plan ZZZ…whatever, for this house. Our mortgage broker is great and had some different options…we had been approved for our mortgage for ages…then something very strange happened…and here is where my optimism begins to flag and drag…or at least get weary…

Next educational moment provided by Bev U inserted here…our broker called one morning and said while he was working on one of our options; it appeared that T & H’s credit had dropped seemingly over night. WHAT?! We were flummoxed…nothing had really changed.

So we all put our collective heads together, did some digging and discovered what it was. Remember when I had to trade in that ol’ lead sled during the move? Well, I had already secured financing, but the dealership assured us they could get us a better rate. Tall & Handsome told them to go ahead and see if they could, but we had no idea they would butcher us. They pulled T & H’s credit 17 times and each time they pulled his credit it reduced his credit rating by substantially. Each hit was a reduction…

Now according to the Federal Trade Commission, what the car dealership did was wrong. There is a way they could do the rate shopping without decimating or harming someone’s credit rating. The car dealership should have pulled “soft credit checks” instead of “hard credit checks”. So, FYI, please do not allow this to happen to you. This information is available on the FTC’s website.

While all of this has gone on, the dragon-lady realtor pulled our agent out of the picture and sent her Lord knows where and said, she, the dragon-lady herself, would represent both parties, seller and buyer (us) for the remainder of the transaction. She was the sellers agent from the beginning…so you can begin to see where this road is leading. To a place called Real Estate Purgatory. Everything she has done has verged on unethical and had been purely slanted for the sellers. We’ve not had an agent representing out interest in the transaction now for weeks.

We had stopped packing because we wanted to make sure the house was going to close before we unpacked a lot more…we didn’t want to have to pack up a whole house to move else where. The realtor was already saying she had a “hot buyer” which was odd because the house was under contract with us, there was no sign in the yard, no MLS listing and we were living in the house and renting it. Was she selling it on the side? (Just today, with our closing date days away, her office calls and set up a showing for the house tomorrow. If you put the old MLS number in the system for our house the search comes back “No listing found”. Who’s feeding these agents that the house can show?)

The realtor came by the 1st Sunday of December to collect the rent for the owners, who she said had driven by and seen the boxes in the windows. She said they had a message for us, which was to start unpacking again…that we were going to work all of this out. Three days later, the realtor sent us an addendum saying if we didn’t close by the end on the month we would have to vacate and forfeit our substantial earnest money. Strictly mind games and high pressure…

(This while we were kept out of the house for a week because the sellers turned the utilities off instead of transferring them to us. The power company confirmed this to me. So we paid them rent AND a hotel room for almost a week. The rent is supposed to be prorated, but the realtor has yet to do it…and her closing agent/assistant has told me she is helping the sellers pay their double mortgages. How fair is that?!)

I had become deathly sick and when T & H went to the pharmacy to get my meds, he discovered when we moved, his company’s HR had for some inexplicable reason removed me from his insurance!!! Ok, another elephant to remove off chest and make disappear…

Then the dragon-lady realtor called a meeting at the sellers’ new home…kind of like a “go to the principal’s office type of thing” for a dressing down, shaming and intimidation session which was totally inappropriate…and I was still too ill to go…

So where are we today? Well, it does look we may be able to close before the end of the month, BUT…yes, you know there had to be one. When the house was built, it was built without a handrail and banister on the front porch. Now, that is against the code and FHA will not close the loan until a banister and hand rail is installed.

Inexplicably, get this one…the SELLERS/REALTOR seem to expect us to put the handrail up on THEIR house they have been trying to sell for months before they will close. The handrail has reared its head before. The home inspection caught it, and I insisted something be compensated for it because the inspector said it was a safety issue. At first they said they wouldn’t do anything until I said I would be glad to get the county building inspector involved. They then agreed to compensate toward a banister and hand rail. Now, the dragon-lady realtor, SR, is saying the house is sold “AS IS” and we the BUYERS have to install the handrail…of course, she’s watching out for our best interest, too, don’t you know. We are appealing to the sensibilities of all…and hope reasonable ones prevail.

We have been on the real estate hamster wheel of Hades…

Then, with these other teeny, tiny things going on, I had my annual “filling out of the papers with the disability people” and a doctor’s appointment with my specialist in Birmingham. It’s a good thing I went. He discovered I was very deficient in Vitamin D and a new “friend” has joined Club Bev.

Club Bev is now housing Rheumatoid Arthritis and is exchanging emails with her doctor about treatment. In discussion, Methotrexate, a medication usually used in chemotherapy, but also used in low doses as a disease modifying drug for RA. My aunt has taken it for years.

So, is our chin scraping the floor? Nope. Are we beat up and worn out? Yep! Would we like a break? You better believe it!

But, folks, I’ve determined that it’s not uncommon to the human condition to have these up and downs and peaks and valleys. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there that feel like I do right now and are saying, “Bev, I’ve had a big ol’ bulldozer come through and plough a city-wide valley in my life for the last several years!”

Well, my friend, that will just make it easier for that mountain-fresh air to rush down and breathe relief into your life! Relief will come…it always does in some way, some form, some fashion. It may take time…but it will come…just remember Job…

It may come in a kind word, a hug, a phone call, a new friend…or when your Tall & Handsome walks into you life and commits an act of love that is so simple and so pure and so sweet it will literally break your heart with tenderness…

In the middle of all of “this” that has been going on, my health has been a causality. One particular time I was so sick that I couldn’t sleep for days, and then I finally had to sleep and could sleep. T & H knew things were getting what he calls “critical”. I was developing that “Rocky Raccoon” look. I vaguely remember him going out and running errands.

When he came back, he had brought in some nourishing food…he knew it had been a while since I had eaten. He saw to it that I ate properly. And then, that six foot, long and lanky guy picked up a bag and sat down by me and said, “Honey, I have a little surprise for you. Let me show you. I notice how you’re always doing things with your nails.”

He pulled a new manicure set out of the bag and proceeded to set by me and give me a manicure…no, not on one finger, but, on all ten fingers! After he was finished, he gently rubbed cuticle oil into the bed of my nails. How can I not begin to see peaks after that?!

So, as Christmas Day approaches I am most grateful for that sweet, caring, loving man who supports and understands me and the promise that tomorrow brings…

King David said it well…

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow…I will fear no evil, for You are with me… Psalm 23:4 NASB

And that friends, goes a long way in removing the Fear Factor…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under "Autoimmune disorders", Christmas, Disability, Holidays, Methotrexate, Moving, Primary Mortgage Insurance, Real Estate, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Stress, Tall & Handsome

Women’s Health Part I: A Body of Unhealth, Autoimmune Disorders, by Beverly Hicks Burch

This year I would like to address some issues near and dear to me, and those are the issues of women’s health. Hopefully this will be the first in a series. While I will try and explain, I will try not to bog the reader down with too much technical info that will make your eyes glaze over. Some things will just come from the heart and experience.

Autoimmune disorders. They sound scary. What are they? Probably the most famous autoimmune disease is the HIV/AIDS virus. The HIV/AIDS virus can be transmitted through contact, unlike autoimmune disorders and syndromes which are non-communicable. So, no, you can’t catch them! There may be a genetic pre-disposition in families for certain disorders, but that’s totally different. A genetic pre-disposition is kinda like freckles. They DO share one common trait…autoimmune diseases and disorders produce cells that attack a body’s own systems, tissues, joints, organs, etc. The result is destruction…in effect the body is destroying itself or better put, it is producing substances that are attacking and destroying it. Women are more likely to be afflicted than men, but men are not impervious from these aliments. What are some commonly known autoimmune disorders and diseases?

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Addison’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Lupus
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease

This is just a very, very short list. According to a recent article in Arthritis Today, the publication of the Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org), arthritis is just a symptom of several such diseases…and they count 104.

I deal personally with several of these diseases. I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome in 1993, but it took many years of pain and suffering to arrive at that diagnosis…and uninformed doctors and doctors who thought is was “all in my head” (www.sjogrens.org; www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sjogrens/sjogrens.htm). Sjogren’s is similar to lupus, but not as “famous” as its cousin. Sjogren’s is most know for the symptoms of dry eyes, dry mouth, and in women vaginal dryness. I can vouch there is a plethora of other symptoms and complications that go along with Sjogren’s. They’re not quite sure what causes Sjogren’s or what the stressor or trigger could be. Some experts believe the birth of a child could be the stressor, as the result of small amounts placental cell material remaining in the mother after birth. I know that 6 months after the birth of my son, my right wrist was in such pain, it had to be wrapped with a bandage to immobilize it and steady it just so I could use it. There are several tests for determining Sjogren’s…I’ve had the lip biopsy, blood test, Slant lamp eye test and others. At my last eye exam, my tear film was totally gone.

Another article I read said that an estimated 90% of female Sjogren’s patients were post-menopausal. The question in the article: Which came first? Kind of like the chicken or the egg… My experience…I started going through menopause in my early 30’s, but doctors wouldn’t believe me. I was too young they said. All they wanted to do was place me on hormones and do D & C’s. Years later, one doctor did a FSH test (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003710.htm) and the lab score came back 45 clearly indicating post-menopausal. Yet, the doctors still dilly dallied with the issue because they deemed me too young. Finally in 2001, during the turmoil of a traumatic divorce, one doctor had the foresight to do yet another FSH test, this one indicating a lab result of 75! Clearly post-menopausal and this time they believed…they really did!

Other organs can become involved. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disorder is common in Sjogren’s patients. I was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism another autoimmune disorder. For years, I was undiagnosed as were many people, but a few years ago, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist realigned their clinical standards for that very reason. My skin had become so dry and itchy it was intolerable. I could have lathered Crisco onto my skin and it would have still felt dry! Since I have started my medication, the difference is astounding. There are blood tests for thyroid disorders. (http://www.aace.com/)

In addition, I have Raynaud’s Syndrome (http://www.niams.nih.gov/hi/topics/raynaud/ar125fs.htm), am a two time lung cancer survivor (I had never smoked), have Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, neuropathy and…well you get the picture. I could make a big ol’ laundry list here, but later on, I’ll discuss some of these. My point? Well, there’s really a few:

  1. First, autoimmune disorders will tend to cluster…so be aware…but don’t be a hypochondriac. Find as much enjoyment and fullfillment in life as you can. Learn how to pace yourself and say no.
  2. Be a proactive and informed patient. Educate yourself. There is plenty of information available today…online and otherwise…and find a doctor that will listen! But, please, don’t believe in snake oil…if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…
  3. Take care of yourself…and if need be allow those that love you to do the same

I don’t know why we get these ailments and doctors don’t many times. All I know is that timing can be everything in managing them. I agree with King Solomon…”There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Ecclesiastes 3:1-10

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All rights reserved.

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Filed under "Autoimmune disorders", Fibromyalgia, Health, Sjogren's Syndrome, Women's health