All posts filed under “Health, Cooking, Fitness

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The Struggle with Sugar

I’ve finally found the best gelato ever, just when I’m trying to cut back on sugar. The above photo is my favorite–chocolate and pistachio. I had it during my birthday weekend at Grandberry Park where Miyu likes to visit a cat cafe and where we also buy Maddie’s food supplies.

I’ve been doing good overall. I weigh 134lbs, so roughly ten pounds away from my target goal. I think the hardest part for me is dinner time, when I have to take my heavier meds, I tend to reach for something sugary then. I don’t drink coffee everyday anymore, and I stopped buying sugary snacks for myself. It’s a struggle though because Miyu has her snack box full of sugary things and sometimes I reach in there when the cravings get really intense.

Other than my struggles with sugar, work has been fine and I’m now in the process of slowly storing our winter clothes. I haven’t been able to put them all away because it still gets cold here and there, especially at night. I’ve also started taking Domestika courses for Procreate and Writing and now it’s just a matter of managing my time so that I can dedicate at least an hour everyday to those.

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Carrot Cake

I’ve been on a carrot cake streak lately. This is the second batch I made for the second week in a row. I noticed for quite some time that restaurants don’t normally offer these on their menus so after all these years, I thought I’d finally make my own. 🙂

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New Chances, New Beginnings

The last few months…well…this year so far, really, if I’m honest, has been extremely miserable for me health-wise. To put things into perspective, I don’t think I’ve ever known such misery in my entire life. I think I lost about 15lbs just by being sick. During this time, I felt like I lost my way. There have been periods in my life where I’ve become lost and my only solution was to start over. So, that’s where I find myself again. I’m starting over.

While I was miserable and sick as a dog, I finally realized the necessity for change. I’ve started to let go of things I don’t need. I’m diverting energy I would’ve otherwise wasted into more productive activities. For example, I’ve decided to let go of Tarot. One, it was a huge waste of time and money, and two, it doesn’t align with my spiritual beliefs and was turning out to be a major distraction. I’m deciding to keep a few decks solely to appreciate the artwork, but I’ll be spending that energy reading books instead—something I haven’t done in a while. I’ve also let go of all social media (including Instagram). As a result, I don’t feel like an anxious, covetous zombie anymore.

I think it’s finally hitting me, too, that since I no longer have the stress of homework hanging over my head everyday, I can finally do the things I’ve neglected over the years. I’m mainly referring to cooking, but also maintaining the house, teaching Miyu how to read and write English, and possibly getting back into studying Japanese.

I’ve stopped pining over my pipe dream of getting into illustration and instead I’m returning to something that has made me so incredibly happy and satisfied for over eighteen years—blogging and photography. I’m not going to pressure myself to get back into art or writing fiction. I’m just going to find happiness and gratitude in the everyday through blogging, however seemingly mundane.

This week, I cooked dinner everyday. That’s unheard of and definitely not something I aspire to do every week, but I have hope that going forward, cooking two to three times per week becomes the norm.

Miyu helping me cook Nikujaga on Tuesday.

Here’s to new beginnings. 🙂

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What Raynaud’s Syndrome Looks Like

There was a snow advisory last night and I spent about five minutes or so outside to pick Miyu up from her grandparents (they live about a 2-3 minute walk away from us, I met them halfway). When I came back inside, my hands looked like this:

As part of my mixed connective tissue disease, I also have something called Raynaud’s Syndrome. Basically, I lose circulation in my fingers and sometimes my toes when I’m exposed to cold temperatures. It’s like that feeling when your leg or foot falls asleep. It’s an aching numbness and it takes a while to go away. For me, my hand warmer really helps with this.

If you want to read more about Raynaud’s, this article explains it pretty well.

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A Prescription for Plaquenil

On Monday, January 18, we went to see my rheumatologist who prescribed me Plaquenil (200mg). I’m supposed to alternate the dosage—2 pills one day, 1 pill the next day, repeat. One month supply costs ¥19,380 or roughly $200. Yikes. At my next appointment I will need to verify with my rheumatologist whether he can prescribe me the generic version (Hydroxychloroquine). If not, my American doctor will provide me a prescription so that I can purchase a mail-order for the generic brand from an online pharmacy in the U.S.

So… I started with two pills on Tuesday, January 19. What I did notice on Day 2 (Wednesday) was that in the morning, I felt a little bit better. It’s hard to tell though because the barometric pressure was also 1017 hPA for the second day in a row, so that may have attributed to an improvement on pain levels. Since about mid-December, my entire left leg and hips have been hurting, making it hard for me to walk and stand up from a seated position. Sometimes I’m laying in bed trying to get comfortable and my left knee pops as I’m straightening it out and it’s so painful and sudden that I actually cry/curse out loud. Also, my right middle finger has been stiff and swollen for over a month, and my upper right back makes it so that it’s painful for me to raise or fully extend my right arm.

Dr. Matsueda said it can take two to four weeks for me to start seeing results. He had warned me that if I get a rash in the first 1-2 days, I should immediately stop the medication. Also, if I am having any trouble with my vision, I should immediately stop.

That morning when I first took Plaquenil, I had just finished eating my breakfast and Miyu was getting dressed for school. I asked her to pray that this medicine will make me better. I was a bit surprised when she took my request quite literally because a few moments later, she was kneeling in front of our shrine arrow. If I remember correctly, I think she prayed first in English and then in Japanese, LOL. My daughter is so kind and sweet, and I am ever grateful. 🥰

A few other things I’ve learned recently are:

  • I have the worst reaction (severe pain for days) when I ingest anything containing dairy and any milk derivatives
  • I can tolerate a few slices of bread per week with very mild pain
  • I can drink my favorite hot white chocolate mocha with almond milk and no whip cream from Starbucks without any adverse reaction (I might ache in my fingers and wrists for a few hours from the sugar but it goes away after about a day)
  • My energy levels drop significantly in the evening, which incites pain
  • I get headaches before my period and I’ve found that drinking one or two cups of coffee really helps, probably due to the higher caffeine content. I drink pure (Japanese) green tea regularly, which has caffeine in it, but I guess it’s not enough to prevent/deal with my monthly headaches.

Some things I’ve started to implement in order to help manage my pain better:

  • Take regular Epsom salt baths. The first time I think the water was too hot and when I got out, I was really dizzy and lightheaded. Otherwise, I’ve found them to be relaxing and it does help a little bit. I can only stand to be in there for 20 minutes at a time though. For some reason I get anxiety if I stay too long. Like I’m being lazy or too indulgent. Plus, my fingers get pruny, it becomes stifling in the shower room, and I have to constantly rewet my face. The latter is what prevents me from enjoying my Kindle Oasis in the bath tub. Maybe I’m just not really one of those luxuriant bath-taker types? LOL
  • I bought a hand warmer which works so well whenever my fingers turn cold. Sometimes I’m just at my desk as I’m doing now and out of nowhere, a few of my fingers will start to feel ice cold and numb. It’s as if I had stuck them in the freezer for a few minutes. Really bizarre.
  • Drinking tea with and in between meals (rotating between: Green, Burdock, Ginger, Chamomile, Mugwort, and Artemisia Annua)
  • I take naps whenever I can

Apparently pulmonary hypertension is a big cause of death for MCTD patients, and I can totally see why. Sometimes I’m just walking around the house doing chores and I notice my chest starting to ache and my heart beating fast—almost painfully. For those moments, I make sure to sit down and rest. Sigh. I think I’m finally getting to that point where I’m accepting my body’s limitations and making peace with that. I’m thankful that I’ve now started my medication, at least, and am finally on the road to recovery. The path may not be an easy one, but it’s a path nevertheless and as always, I’m looking ever forward.