I’ll have to iron this out the best I can

I wrote this on 7 October 2017 to post on my blog at sparkpeople.com.

About the 3rd week in August I woke up feeling dreadful. My tremors were the worst they’ve ever been, I had a migraine headache and was very tired. The first couple days I dragged myself around the house getting my 6k steps in 500 steps at a time as was my usual, but by the 3rd day, I just couldn’t. I managed to get 2k steps for a couple of days then fizzled out and did all of 659 steps on the 25th. I’m not sure when I went to see my GP, but she sent me for blood work that came back that my hemoglobin was low and my Ferritin score was rock bottom. I’ve been low on iron in the past, and know my body doesn’t absorb iron, so taking supplements will only cause other problems. I was able to get in touch with my usual gastrointestinal doctor that handles this problem, but he’s on leave until the 30th of October. The receptionist was able to get me scheduled for that day, so that’s good. I’ll probably need another iron transfusion, but probably not until he investigates why the change has occurred. Which means a colonoscopy, and other tests, and that means time waiting for appointments.

So meanwhile, I can do what I can, but need to rest when I run out of steam. And the hardest thing – not to push myself too hard and do more than I can handle.

For the last few weeks I’ve made my step goal 1600, and have gone past to 2k for two weeks now, so today I revised the goal to 2k. Today I also did two 500 step circuits around the house, about an hour apart without being totally worn out. That felt good – like a little bonus. It’s probably going to be a long time before I’m back to 6k steps a day, but I’ll get there eventually.

My next puzzle to figure out will be getting some mild strength training in, so my muscles and bones won’t completely disintegrate in the interim. This will likely need to be chair exercises, but I’ll research exercise for seniors to see what can be achieved.

Before it’s Too Late…

HowlingThis is probably one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever written.  But I can’t put off writing it because if I do, it might be too late.  It’s already too late for a lot of things, but saying goodbyes are never easy. I’m no stranger to cancer. I’ve bawled my eyes out at funerals for friends with breast cancer who didn’t make it. This time it’s a little closer to home and way more personal than you’d think it would be if you knew the person I’m saying goodbye to is on the other side of the planet. But old friends will always be old friends, and there are so many memories that come flooding in when I listen to music from the 70’s and 80’s, things that remind me of my youth.

I want to run away from the keyboard and go take a long walk, but I really do need to put these thoughts down, and share them, hard as it is.

Bill the Cat (Bloom County)My first boyfriend, the first guy in the world to ever take an interest in me and who thought I was amazing, beautiful and all that sweet stuff – he had just turned 16 and I was about 13.  We went to the movies. Lots of movies. Towering Inferno, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Muppet movies, you name it, we saw them. We dated on and off all through my high school days. I visited him in Traverse City when he was going to college there, I spent so much time at his home in Saginaw I eventually moved in with his mom when I returned home from the Air Force and my mom had moved up north in the meantime. I got my first job while living there, and later, found my first apartment and moved out on my own.

Time marched on, I got married, had kids, we bumped into each other and had lunch once.  More time passed and then we ran into each other on MySpace (I think) and later Facebook. We’ve kept in contact pretty much ever since.  He once offered to buy a webcam for my kids so I could Skype with them. That didn’t happen, but the offer, and the firm belief that no matter what, I had to keep in as much touch with kids (who at the time weren’t able to use their Dad’s computer without supervision).  And now that the kids are older, we really are in constant communication.

A few months ago, he started mentioning things like chemo on his Facebook page and I finally had to ask him privately what was up.  He has terminal cancer. The type that people don’t want you to know they have. Until recently I didn’t know what that was about, but I get it now.  And I will keep that info to myself. You’ll notice that some celebrity deaths also don’t mention the type of cancer. There’s a reason for that. But it’s not my place here and now to write about that.

He tried a chemo trial that might have given him an extra 6 months of time, but unfortunately it didn’t work and he’s now spared a lot of the extra trauma of going through the nonsense stuff people don’t even realise cancer patients have to deal with. In his case it was trying to get to the hospital the day before chemo to have blood tests, and then get a ride back to the hospital for the actual chemo and stay with him for the hours that it took, and help him home afterwards. He’s living in an upstairs apartment and planned to move before becoming very ill, but that didn’t happen and navigating the stairs has been extremely difficult as well as just living alone.  Thankfully his sister has arrived (after driving cross-country and nearly ending up in Mexico accidentally).  I’m so relieved to know he’s no longer on his own.

Over the last several months, I’ve been trying to find a way to articulate my thoughts on losing a long distance friend – a friend that’s been a part of my life for so so many years.  Worries about how I’ll find out…  Over time, there have been several long distance friends – some that I’ve only known on the Internet – that have simply disappeared.  Just last year, one of our regular clients and a breast cancer survivor disappeared.  Emails to her started bouncing and I found her domain had expired (very unlike her) and after a great deal of searching by several friends, we found that she had died, but no one knew to let her online friends know. She had no close relatives where she lived.  I don’t think that will happen as local friends have been good about letting us Facebook people know when he’s been in hospital and such. But it’s still a fear.

Thor

I also want to be able to say goodbye.  But not in a way that’s sappy or anything. I just want to say, wow, we sure shared a lot of memories together, I’ll never forget you and believe it or not, you’ve actually been a good influence on me.  I don’t want you to go, and I know you don’t want to either. I hope you are able to go with some dignity and I hope that one day, in the next world, we’ll be able to again pick up where we left off.  I will miss you, my friend.

Hand Tremors and Android Keyboards

 

Swype Keyboard

Swype Keyboard

 

Living with Essential Tremor sometimes means making adjustments in our day to day lives. My hands tremble, and sometimes my fingers will sporadically move on their own accord at the most inopportune times. This doesn’t seem to be a problem most of the time, but I have to be a bit more mindful when holding breakable things or walking back to my desk with a cup of coffee. One area of my life that’s been most affected is my use of touch screens on my phone or tablet, especially when writing.

 

I have problems with the delete key and I also have problems with hitting the wrong keys so that makes for a bad combination. Making mistakes and then making more mistakes trying to fix that is really really frustrating.  I’ve found two solutions that use the same keyboard app. The first is using Swype for general writing and if that’s not going well, it has Dragon Dictation built in so I can just speak what I want to say.  Using Swype to draw words on the keyboard avoids hitting the wrong key. The delete key is on the top row, so there’s less chance of my finger twitching at just the wrong moment and hitting the key above it. There’s still the possibility of hitting the Enter key which happens to me often in other keyboards. However, in the one app where this problem was most annoying (Hangouts), the Swype keyboard has a combo key with Emoticons for the default and Enter is a long press. So the likelihood of accidentally sending my comment while in the middle of editing a typo is greatly reduced.

 

Google Keyboard

Google Keyboard

 

Over the last week, I’ve experimented with using Google keyboard, Swiftkey (both the regular and beta versions), Thumb Keyboard, and Swype. Until recently I’d been using the Swiftkey beta exclusively, and my tremors have become worse over the time that I’ve used it. I really have no issue with the beta version of Swiftkey other than my fingers don’t seem to cooperate with it and isn’t the fault of the app.

 

Swiftkey Keyboard

Swiftkey Keyboard

 

My goal has been to find alternatives that make writing on my phone or tablet easier and less prone to errors. The plan: find a keyboard, plus a voice to text method (or app) that could understand and interpret my speech correctly most of the time. Bonus points for any apps that let me easily correct errors when my spoken word was misunderstood. Even better would be if it learned from my corrections. All of the keyboard apps have built in voice to text features. Voice recognition has always been hit or miss for me because I grew up in America but live in Australia now. I write using Australian English but still have an American accent.

 

Most of the keyboards use the Google speech engine, but with subtle differences. Swiftkey performed better than its beta version. Both were set to use both English (USA) and English (Australia) languages.

 

Thumb keyboard was easier to use for typing and offered more word predictions on the screen. It’s voice to text options included the ability to have continuous voice recognition or not. The”continuous” option was pretty much the same as the Google and Swiftkey keyboards. The problem with this was if it misunderstood a word or phrase, the corrections offered were never what I wanted and I had to backtrack to the keyboard to fix the errors. The other choice for Thumb keyboard would return me to the keyboard at the first pause in my speech. This would be okay if it had a dedicated microphone button, but like the Swiftkey versions to get to the microphone button involves a long press. Not very convenient for someone whose fingers twitch.

 

Swype

Swype Keyboard

 

Swype has a nicely laid out keyboard and really good predictive text. You can type by either sliding from letter to letter as you spell the word (‘swyping’), or tap the letter keys and select words from the prediction bar. The delete key is well placed to keep me out of trouble. It deletes whole words if you were using the swype/sliding method for writing which has saved me time and effort.  It deletes a character at a time if you were tapping letters to enter text; also convenient as it adjusts predicted words as you type or delete.  Last, Swype uses Dragon Dictation for speech to text and this actually understands most of my speech whether I’m taking fast or slow. I’ve been able to make corrections from the voice screen because it offers suggestions that make sense. Usually. Returning to the keyboard is a keypress away and there’s a dedicated microphone key. It seems to cover all the bases and I’m able to get on with using my touch devices without struggling.

 

Swiftkey Flow

Swiftkey Flow

Google Gesture typing

Google Keyboard Gesture Typing

 

To be fair, both Google and Swiftkey boards also offer ‘Swype-like’ writing but each calls it something different. However, Swype resolved more issues for me.  Google keyboard has a dedicated microphone key, but I really dislike its keyboard and predictive text.

 

I’m trying to stay one step ahead of my essential tremor. My experiments should future proof my use of the phone and tablets for a few years to come.  Do you have a tremor?  Maybe this can help you use your phone or tablets, too. Using the right tool for the job makes all the difference.

 

Links:

 

Weekends are for Wine, Movies and Doctor Who

Sunday - Wine O'Clock

I think we’re becoming connoisseurs of inexpensive Shiraz wine. This has been the ‘Year of Shiraz’ in our household. It all started last Christmas when we were at friends for the Holidays and our hosts had lots of wine, but the Shiraz seemed the clear winner. So I bought some for our Saturday movie nights at home and have been ever since.

There’s a Shiraz up at the nearest bottle shop that’s a clearskin named ‘Big and Bold’, made in South Eastern Australia, and really not a bad drop. I’ve been trying to keep it in stock here at home for weekends when we have Saturday movie nights and Sunday Doctor Who marathons.

I’ve also experimented with a $9 cask of Shiraz by Lachlan Ridge, which was so good we finished it in one night. On the same day, I found some Shiraz Cabernet and bought a bottle but it’s still waiting in the wings to try this coming weekend. If we like it, we’ll probably try the cask version by De Bortoli.

“Drink wine. This is life eternal. This is all that youth will give you. It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” – Omar Khayyám

I ordered a ‘Mystery’ Shiraz from OO.com.au a couple months ago and it ended up being a 5-star $25 a bottle Zonte’s Footstep Baron Von Nemesis, which was fantastic. My only problem with it is I could only enjoy one bottle with Rod instead of two because if I had more than a couple of glasses it gave me hives. (Not fair!) We paid $10 a bottle and it was worth it, but I supplemented it with $5 bottles of Big and Bold to avoid the whole allergy thing. (Sacrilege, I know).

Today I just ordered another case of 12 bottles, but this time it’s a bit cheaper. With a $5 discount, 25% off shipping and etc, I paid $53 including shipping. That’s about $4.63 a bottle. Cheaper than I can find it at the bottle shop up the road – and it’ll be delivered to the door. This was Berton Vineyard `Odd Socks` Shiraz 2013. We look forward to giving it a go once it arrives.

Life is short and we really should enjoy more of it. It seems for a long time we had a glass of wine only on rare occasions and special events. Well phooey on that. It’s time we spend our weekends relaxing and enjoying life.

“Age and glasses of wine should never be counted” – Italian Proverb

We’re Finally HOME

Today marks the end of a very long and stressful period of our lives. On October 10th 2006, after months of deliberation we finally agreed to Rod’s Mum’s pleas for us to move back in with her and take care of her. She’d had two strokes and was in rehabilitation. She wanted us to move back in so she wouldn’t need to go to a nursing home when rehab was finished. We kept that promise and she then fixated on trying to make sure that Rod would own the house if anything happened to her, which was part of an agreement they had made many years before I came along. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to achieve that last part before she passed away on November 4th.

There’s so much I could write about the following months and years but I think it’s best to leave the past behind now and greatly simplify all the history to just the bare essentials. There were arguments with Rod’s siblings. There were lawyers and a court case. There was an agreement. We celebrated. Then the lawyers sent us their bills which were twice as high as we were told they would be when the court case was settled, which dashed our hopes completely. The invoices arrived about a week before Christmas. We were devastated.

A long time later we put in a complaint against our lawyer for several things he did wrong including inflating his bill. The complaints agency acted as a mediator and got him to reduce his fees, but the other lawyers refused to budge.

Without much hope, we went back to the home loan people with the new figures. After a mountain of paperwork, we were approved. There was another law agency that were responsible for Mum’s Will that needed to be contacted for details before the loan could go through. They didn’t respond to phone calls, letters and email from the home loan people, holding everything up. Fortunately the home loan people decided to push through the loan without their assistance. This did the trick as that agency eventually decided to respond. It was the same law offices that dragged their feet when Mum asked for her Will to be changed in the weeks before her death. They finally contacted Rod just minutes before she started on the morphine hours before her death.

Today the settlement for the house has just gone through, ending 7 years, 5 months and 23 days of the darkest days my husband and I have ever had to go through. We have a mortgage that pays all the lawyers off that we’ll still be paying in our old age.

We have certainty finally. I don’t have to dread answering the door for fear of it being someone coming to evict us. This was probably an irrational fear of mine but it’s been with me for over 7yrs. We can make changes, plant flowers, and most of all, simply live life without this hanging over our heads keeping us in limbo all these years.
On one of our visits with Mum, she seemed to know time was running out for her and she wanted things to be sorted out as soon as possible. At that point we were more concerned about her than the promise she desperately wanted to keep. I assured her everything would turn out okay. I believed it when I said it, but in the years since I’ve had to remember the conviction I felt that day and remind myself it was a promise to her we’d do our best to keep.

Mum's RosesFinally, her dying wish has been fulfilled. Our promise kept, and we plan to spread her ashes in the rose bushes she loved. A new chapter of our lives begins today.

How can Evernote help you?

Today on Twitter, a friend that knows how much I use Evernote asked: “What can Evernote do for me/ help me with? I downloaded it ages ago but haven’t used it much”.

I told her I’d have to write a blog post because the answer would be too long for Twitter. Plus it gives me an excuse to write on a topic that I really enjoy.

What is Evernote?

Evernote Logo

For me, Evernote is like a giant virtual junk drawer where I shove all kinds of various information and then when I need something, instead of having to rummage to find it, I just use the search and it’s handed to me along with anything else that fits the search criteria.  To get the most benefit though, you have to first get in the habit of putting stuff you may want later into it. Which for me means that if I think I may need to refer back to it later, it gets put in Evernote. I may have lost my mind and memory a long time ago, but at least I have a useful way of retrieving stuff when I need it. 🙂

Trust is a big issue when it comes to using a software of this type. You need to be sure your information will be there in years to come. I’ve always loved the ‘100 year’ philosophy of Evernote, and it really shows in a very current talk with the CEO which is very long but worth a read –  – or do a Google search on the subject. https://www.google.com/search?q=evernote+100+year+philosophy.

There’s also the issue of privacy. Evernote has a hands off approach to your information. They do not do any data mining of any sort and only you see your notes unless you’ve chosen to share it with the public or with specific people.

Evernote is available for Mac, Windows, IOS, Android, Windows Mobile and on the web. I have it installed on my computer, phone and tablet plus use the web version on my Linux computer. Excessive? Not at all. This is part of the magic that makes it so useful. If I’m at not at home I can still access my notes or create new ones. The computer versions store your data locally and the Evernote severs also have the data as well. On the mobile devices notes are retrieved via the Internet on an as needed basis (such as when you decide to view a note), plus you can have notes that are stored as ‘favourites’ so even if you don’t have access to the Internet you still have your information available. All the device and computer apps sync with the Evernote servers so your info is up to date.

A Note in Evernote can contain text, photos, PDFs, spreadsheets, Word documents, sound files and more – all at the same time even.  You can create notes in the app itself, you can send Email directly to your Evernote account, there are web clipping extensions for most web browser that will copy data to a note, plus there are many mobile apps that let you send what you’re working on to your account. It’s this ubiquitous nature that makes Evernote extremely useful. Info on apps available for all platforms can be found in a section of the Evernote website called the Trunk.  Look here to find web clipper software that you can install in your web browser.

Notes are stored in Notebooks which are like folders. If you’re the type who likes to be super organised, you can also use tags with your notes. I find the search feature useful enough that I don’t feel I need tags. But you can add them if you want and then view all notes with a specific tag. It works exactly the same as tags in Flickr and other apps.

Using Evernote

The key to making use of Evernote is to put anything in it that might be something you’ll want to use or see later. Once you’re in the habit of using it to store useful bits of information, you’ll start to also use it for retrieving info when you need it.

My friend has a very active 18 month old, is working part time, has just moved, loves cooking, gardening, bush walking and photography.  These facts are important because all of these can be enhanced with the use of Evernote.

Medical Records

Let’s start with little Spark, her 18 month old. The first things that come to mind are his health records, immunisations, etc..  Doctor visits can be summed up and added to a notebook, health test results can be scanned and added, immunisation type and dates can be noted as well. My adult daughter recently needed to know when she got her second Measles, Mumps & Rubella shot while filling out a form for university. I was able to give an answer but if I’d kept records in Evernote – if it existed back then – it would have been as simple as searching for ‘mmr’ and the date and her age would have been right there to use.  Doctors records are useful because they can be reviewed later and perhaps some items followed up on. I have written instructions from my GP on how to take a certain medication when it’s needed and how much to take per day. I scanned the instructions into Evernote and because it recognises handwritten words (yes, even my doctor’s scrawl) when I search for the medication name in Evernote I find the instructions. Over the years, being able to see records of various illnesses and problems could prove at the very least interesting, but could also be a tremendous help to tracking down problems.

School and Developmental Records

Spark’s daycare sends home little reports and eventually he’ll be bringing home his lovely artwork. How I wish Evernote had been around when my kids were little!  Every piece of art and note from daycare can go into another notebook just for such accomplishments. Evernote works well with photos as well as scanned things so take a picture and add it to a note with some commentary.

Another awesome thing to do: a monthly recording of Spark speaking or playing. Evernote’s phone app lets you do voice recording. I use it for jogging my memory about something later when I don’t have time to tap out a written note.  It’s also great for recording meetings.

Cooking

Have a look at my recipes notebook in Evernote – https://www.evernote.com/pub/flitterby/recipes – I made this public so my friends can view it but it also shows how I’ve used Evernote as my main cookbook these days. When I’m looking up how to make something I start with a search in Google and visit several recipe pages. When I find something I think I might want to use, I clip it to Evernote. My browser has an add-on from Evernote that will clip the entire web page, just the page article or what I’ve highlighted with my mouse. I use it a lot – not only for recipes but heaps of other things too. All my recipes go into one notebook. As searching is so easy, there’s no need to sort categories.  If I’ve tried a recipe and have any comments or ideas, I add my comments to the note so it’s right there for the next time I use the recipe. I’ve also typed in recipes that I got tired of sorting through my physical recipe book to find. I’ve just learned a ‘new’ trick though. I downloaded a scanner app for my phone that can send my scans to Evernote. Now I can just take a photo of a recipe with the app and send it off to Evernote.  It works great for recipes found in newspapers and magazines. No more scraps of paper to deal with!

When I decide to use a recipe, I use my phone, iPad or laptop and have it on either my kitchen counter or the table so I can easily refer to it. All these devices have an Evernote app and as the data is synced, I can use whatever suits my needs at the time. Often I use the phone because it takes up less counter space but if it’s a recipe with a lot of ingredients or instructions the tablet is better suited.

Gardening and Bush Walking

Gardening and Bush walking can be enhanced the same as recipes. If you’re browsing the web and find information on a plant you’d like to grow, hints on making things grow better, clip it into Evernote for future reference. Bush walking notebooks could have websites for places you’d like to visit or you could write a few notes and insert a photo or two of places you’ve been. Perhaps add notes that could help your next walk there be even better.  Geocachers might note areas that would be ideal for future caches. If you’re using the Evernote app on a device with GPS it can even record where you were when you created a note. This would be handy for bush walking and geocachers alike. There’s even a feature in Evernote that let’s you see your notes by where it was created.

Everything Else

I hope this has given you a few ideas and that maybe you’ll find joy in knowing if you need a piece of information you’ll know where to find it. Evernote is an amazing scrapbook, journal, baby book, garden notebook, recipe book, storer of gift lists, idea lists, and a researchers best friend.

How Much is Too Much?

I’m very fortunate to have the advice of a fully qualified exercise physiologist, whom I see about four times a year at very little cost thanks to a great Diabetes care plan. He knows his stuff and unlike “personal trainers” who’ve only studied a couple of years, he actually has a degree rather than a certificate or two. I saw Adam a few weeks ago and again last Monday. On the first visit (the 1st this year that is) he gave me four new exercises that use a resistance band called a Theraband.

Theraband with door anchor

On Monday, I showed him an updated list of what I’m doing at the gym along with any changes for length of time, number of repetitions or the amount of weight for any particular exercise. He was really pleased with the progress I’ve made so far. We went over the Theraband exercises I’ve been doing at home and he helped change a few where my technique wasn’t quite right. There were a couple that he made a little harder to do by changing how the band is used and then he gave me a couple new exercises. One that uses the Theraband and another that makes use of an aerobic step and will help me work on my balance. I had to order the step so I’d have it to use at home but I really didn’t mind because it can be used several different ways.

My new step arrived last Thursday and I incorporated it into my home exercise routine which I’d added the other new exercise plus the harder, more intense changes that were made to 2 of my other routines on Tuesday. Aerobic Step I went to the gym on Wednesday, so by Thursday I found I was doing even more than I did at the gym. When I was done, I kind fell into a heap, took a nap after tea and was generally pretty useless – not to mention exhausted. Realising I’d done too much I opted to have a day of rest on Friday, a day I normally go to the gym. I went instead on Saturday and again had a rest on Sunday.

Arm CycleToday is Monday, a day I would normally be doing my home exercise routines but I need to stop and have a think about what I’m going to do on which days. Before seeing Adam a few weeks ago I’d been using my mini cycle to exercise my arms as it really helps with keeping my lymphedema issues at bay, and using my mini stepper as it helps with balance and being it’s a very short amount of height for each step it really works my thigh muscles. I can do these two exercises with no problems with stamina. For me the point of doing exercise at home on the days I don’t go to the gym is to keep my body moving and to help with things that need help – fluid issues with lymphedema, movement to keep my arthritis from hassling me and of course keeping up on practicing balance. It is not especially to burn calories, build muscles or lose weight. So with that in mind I need to sort through the eight home exercises and split them up into four at any one time. I go to the gym 2 days a week and I want at least two rest days, preferably not together.

So here’s what I’m thinking. Wednesday and Friday are Gym days. Chest PressThat leaves Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday for home exercise. I prefer to keep Sundays free so that will be my first rest day. I usually have a lot of computer stuff I do on Mondays so lets keep that day fairly light. Maybe just the arm cycle, mini stepper and the balance step for that day. Tuesday I can do 2 or 3 of the 5 Theraband items plus what I do on Mondays. Thursday will be a rest day and then Saturday I can do the remaining Theraband items and the other 3 from Monday. Now I’ll just have to decide which of the specific exercises to do on which of the two days I’ve set for them.

Mini Stepper

If you’re under the impression that I’ve been thinking and making decisions as I write, you’d be absolutely correct. I really needed to lay it all out and have a good look at it from a distance. I like and trust Adam, but I also know I need to listen to my body and I absolutely can’t afford to do so much that I burn out and become so exhausted that I give up. Each of the six exercises Adam gave me have a purpose so I don’t want to skip any of them, so by splitting them up into different days and perhaps doing less repetitions of a couple I can have the benefits without burning out. I’ll keep you posted!

Dusting Myself Off

I just finished reading over the last year or so of blog posts as I’d like to write a bit about what I’ve been up to lately but needed a frame of reference that doesn’t appear to be here. In fact, there’s a lot missing perhaps because I shared quite a bit of it on Facebook and made the assumption that my blog readers are also my friends on FB. So this is a bit of a fill in the blanks before sharing where I am now.

Last year, on Easter Monday I decided I really needed to get a bit more active and decided to take a walk by the beach. This is something I’d looked forward to being able to do once I had my provisional drivers licence but hadn’t yet done. At the same time unbeknownst to us, Rod’s thyroid levels were dangerously low. On the day I took my walk, I felt as if I’d spent the entire Easter weekend alone and looking back, I had. Rod slept more hours than he was awake. I didn’t wake him before I left, which was also a first for me.

Christies Beach 9 April 2013I went to Christies Beach Bluff and walked along the trail enjoying the view of the bluff on one side and the sea crashing against the rocks on the other. The fresh sea air felt great. When I was near where the trail ends, a young lady passed me with her dog. At the end of the bluff she stopped and started doing yoga stretches. I was so impressed. What a great place to exercise with the sound of the ocean, fantastic view and fresh air. What happened next isn’t anyone’s fault. Her dog (medium sized) noticed me and came over to greet me with more enthusiasm than I was prepared for – he jumped up to say hello to me and I toppled like a rag doll, spinning around trying to catch my balance. I landed on the sharp rocks and I’m lucky to have escaped with only a broken rib. The young lady came to my rescue as did another older couple and I ended up having a ride in an ambulance to the local hospital. Imagine Rod’s surprise when I rang him and told him he’d have to get the neighbours to drive him to the beach to pick up the car!

That fall set me back quite a bit more than I realised at the time. It shook my confidence and over time I noticed that I had many many near misses with losing my balance and nearly falling. Fortunately it was often while getting dressed or standing up from my desk and if I did lose my balance I landed in either my chair or my bed.

I saw my rheumatologist in August and told him about my fall and the near misses since then. He offered a suggestion that has truly changed my world. He recommended me to the Falls Clinic at the Repatriation Hospital. Normally they only accept older people but made an exception for me. I had a few appointments with a specialist that included blood tests and a brain scan, then I was enrolled in the clinic.

Falls Clinic

Twice a week for a month I attended two separate exercise sessions with a bit of an afternoon tea break in between at the Repat. Each day was an hour of balance exercises and an hour of strength exercises. When I graduated from the clinic, I had the option of continuing to use the gym at the Repat or take part in one of a few different options for older people locally. And the third option was to join a gym on my own.

After a few weeks of driving to the Repat to use the gym twice a week, I was pretty keen to find something more local. I checked out the choices and decided to with a gym membership as the cost was nearly the same and I have much more flexibility in what days I go and what equipment I can use. My other consideration was the age of participants. I’m probably one of the older users of my gym, but I think it’s healthier for my psyche than spending time with the older crowd. I’m still going twice a week but my time at the gym has increased to a couple hours as I’ve increased the time I spend on some tasks or do more repetitions. Most importantly the last fall I had was two months ago. I’m much more balanced and I’m feeling better both in confidence and physically.

I have a few items I use here at home for the days I don’t go to the gym – a mini stepper that imitates walking up stairs – this requires I really work on my balance, and I have a mini cycle for my arms. It helps a lot with the lymphedema issues I have.  My latest addition is a little device called a Fitbit. It’s a pedometer but also measures any climbing of stairs and is a great little motivator. It syncs to the website whenever I’m in rang of my computer which is also pretty cool from a geek perspective. I don’t have to hand enter any data.  I love this little device and love that when I’m more active it grows a little flower. I’ve also seen it send me cheery little messages like “You Rock Gaelyne!”.  Aww. Everyone needs a bit of encouragement now and then.

So that’s where I’ve been and where I’m going. From very little strength to enough to stand up, walk and not fall over! Coincidentally as I looked at the photos I took the day of my fall last year I was really surprised to note that it was one year ago today. I’m very tempted to take a walk along the same trail just to prove to myself that I can, and to get over the last bit of fear in facing the memory.

Added later in the day: I did it.  After talking it over with Rod about whether or not he wanted to go with me, and if he thought I was OK to go alone, I went to Christies Beach bluff this afternoon and had a lovely – and emotional walk to the end and back. I stayed away from the rocks and only walked on the side that’s parallel to the bluff. I had a few tense moments as people walking their dogs passed me but I made it. I feel so much better for having made the trip and faced my fears.

Oh, and I should also mention that I now have my full drivers licence as of a week ago. Whoo hoo!

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