Friday, 18 March 2016

Quick Walking Stick Trick

Image: Walking stick handle, covered with tennis racquet handle tape, and with gadget for hanging on table.
Saved! My favourite walking stick,
with tennis racquet tape over the
broken foam padding.
It was a sad day when the foam padding the handle of my favourite walking stick finally started to
fall apart.

After searching everywhere for either a replacement piece of foam, or an identical stick, I came up with something a little different.

I went into a sports shop. That's something that doesn't happen often.  And I bought the tape that goes on the handle of a tennis racquet.

It could have replaced the foam, but I put it on over the foam, pulling the broken bits back together as I went.

This works! My favourite stick has been saved, and it's just as comfortable to use as it was before the foam started to come apart.

Oh, the little thing attached to the stick near the base of the handle allows the stick to be balanced on the edge of a table - so I can just pop my stick on the table beside me when I have coffee out or whatever. You can usually find them at pharmacies. (Brain fog won't let me remember what the gadget is called, but if you tell the pharmacy staff what it does, they will know what you mean.)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Games to Clear the Fog

The Vortex Point games are made by Carmel Games,
and published on Mouse City.
Looking for something fun to help clear a foggy brain?

Try playing these point and click games.  (They're flash games, so they will only work if your computer has flash installed.)

This series of games is by Carmel Games. I like their stuff because I don't need fast reactions to play.

These games help provide a little challenge, enough to force a foggy lupie brain to do some thinking, but not impossible.

It's just one of many ways I waste time when I'm not feeling well, and want to at least exercise my brain a little.

Depending on how foggy you are, you may not need this advice:   When you follow the link, you will get to a page, with an ad on the top, you need to scroll down to the screen with the game, and you will have to watch an ad (you can skip after the first five seconds) before you start the game.

 Vortex Point - Point and Click games at

  Vortex Point 2 - Point and Click games at

  Vortex Point 3 - Point and Click games at

  Vortex Point 4 - Point and Click games at

  Vortex Point 5 - Point and Click games at

  Vortex Point 6 - Point and Click games at

(If you're having a really foggy day and you get stuck, you'll find a link to a walkthrough under each of the games.)

While you're exercising your brain, how about thinking about the World Lupus Day activities at Sometimes, it is Lupus?

Image differently decorated gingerbread men.  Text: This year, Sometimes It Is Lupus is celebrating World Lupus Day throughout May. To find out how you can take part, and share your unique story of life with lupus, go to
Tell Me Your Story (Note: if you have a lupus-related website or social media page, feel free to include the link with your story.)

Do the Survey

Monday, 14 March 2016

Stalked by a Serial Killer

I thought I'd share with you the first draft of my next speech for Toastmasters.

I'd love feedback from lupies out there:

Stalked by a Serial Killer.

Right now at least 17000 Australians are being stalked by a serial killer.

The killer, lupus, doesn’t plan to take any of our lives straight away.  First, we have to go through years of physical and mental trauma, and taking toxic drugs to stay alive.

Then death from lupus, or from conditions related to lupus is inevitable, unless, of course, someone finds a cure.

Lupus can do the most amazing things (and not in a good way.)   Because it is a disease of the immune system, and the immune system is throughout the entire body, every part of the body is at risk.

Lupus frequently causes joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue and cognitive dysfunction.  It can also cause heart failure, lung failure, kidney failure, liver failure…. You get the idea.

With careful management, it’s possible for many people to live quite a long time with lupus – but quality the quality of life is variable.  Lupus is episodic, and patients may go for weeks, months, or even years with little disease activity.  Some patients even convince themselves they are “cured”, and stop taking their medication.  Sadly, there’s always another flare.  It will usually come without warning.

In the attempt to live a little longer, or with a better quality of life, we take the toxic drugs our doctors prescribe.

And these drugs are toxic.  There has so far only been one drug developed specifically to treat lupus.  Benlysta was, at least partly, the product of research at Australia’s Monash University.  It’s accessible in Australia, but not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, so no-one can actually afford to use it.

What we do have are drugs that were developed for other conditions, that have been found to help.

Plaquenil, is actually an antimalarial drug, and patients who take it need regular eye checks because Plaquenil can cause blindness.

Methotrexate, is a chemotherapy drug used for cancer patients.  Cancer patients have high doses for one or two brief periods.  We have low doses every week for, well, for ever unless it stops working.  It’s used to kill off part of the immune system to help keep it under control. It means cuts and bruises take forever to heal, and it depletes our bodies of the folate needed to absorb iron.

Steroids, also help to slow down the immune system, but they also cause high blood pressure, weight gain, bone thinning, and (turn around to show) this lovely little “buffalo hump” at the base of the back of the neck.

But wait there’s more – although I guess you get the point without me detailing another dozen or more drugs we use.

So we have treatments, although they’re far from perfect.  What we don’t have, and desperately need,  is a cure

So far the only known cure for lupus is death.

There are researchers working on the problem, developing better treatments, working slowly towards an ultimate cure.

You don’t hear much about these researchers.  People don’t stop you in the shopping centre and ask you to donate. No-one’s going to sell you a flower to raise money.

The organisations that fundraise for medical research for diseases like cancer, are made up of people who have survived those diseases, those who’ve got better.

No-one with lupus, gets better.  There’s no big fundraising organisation. (Not here in Australia, anyway.)  If you want to support lupus research, you have to go looking for researchers to support.

One place you can look is my blog,  There you’ll find links to donate cash to two different university teams researching lupus.

The team at Monash University is looking at developing more effective and safer drugs to treat lupus.  The team at Australian National University is using an individual patient’s DNA to determine which treatment is the best for that individual.

They’re not at the point of a cure yet, but they’re at least working towards it, and you can help them.

So where are we right now?

Thousands of Australian lupus patients are trapped in a real-life nightmare, taking toxic drugs to stay alive, and desperately hoping for a cure. Right now that cure’s a dream, a vague hope.  Maybe one day it will be a reality. Maybe you’d like to help make it a reality.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Fat, Food and Fatigue

In my ongoing struggle to lose weight while taking prednisone, I found myself reading "Fat is a Feminist Issue" by Suzie Orbach.  (The Kindle version I bought has both the first and second books.)

Orbach is a psychotherapist, and her books look into the psycho-social development of women and our relationships with our bodies, and how this leads us to the constant dieting/bingeing cycle that so many women (and increasingly men as well) are so incredibly familiar with.

The book reminded me very much of Dr Dorrie McCubbrey's "How Much Does Your Soul Weigh?" that I read a number of years ago.

Both authors say the solution to the problem isn't yet another diet.  It's about understanding our relationship with food, with our bodies, with how we see ourselves.

For those of us who have repeatedly gained and lost weight, the cycle can seem like it has no end.  Each time, it gets harder to keep control, to stay disciplined enough.

Both Orbach and McCubbrey say stop being so disciplined.  Stop fighting for control.  Stop seeing food as the enemy. Start understanding why you eat the way you do.

Years ago, when I first read McCubbrey's book,  I did a lot of work on my emotional relationships with food, the memories food brought up, the fear of scarcity, of not having enough or not having my share.

Revisiting this again,  I think there is now just one main reason I do still binge.

On what I call a "normal" day, I will eat far less food than Calorie King would allow me. That's not because I'm super-good or super-self-controlled.  It's because I've eaten enough and I'm not hungry any more.

But once or twice a week, I will break out and have a binge.  I will eat until I feel sick an keep eating.  I won't care what I'm eating.  Reading Orbach's book has helped me pull myself up mid-binge and work out just what was going on.

Are you ready for this?

It was fatigue.

I was so exhausted I was trying to give myself an energy boost by eating.

Do you know what?  It doesn't actually work.

Sometimes I can overcome fatigue for a short while by drinking lots of coffee, but most of the time, really all I can do is sleep.

Instead of kidding myself I'm fine and can just keep going and going,  I actually need to stop when I'm tired and have the rest my lupie body is demanding.

Bingeing won't fix it.

From now on, when I'm tempted to binge, I'll go and lie down first if the option is at all available.

Will that make me lose weight?  I don't really know.  I'm taking prednisone, after all.  I don't know how it works, but I do know that prednisone has done all kinds of weird things to my body - such as make me retain stupid amounts of fluid and give me a problem with high blood pressure (when my blood pressure was always just a tad lower than it should have been before.)

I do know I feel much better when I'm not shovelling in food I don't want in an attempt to achieve the impossible.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Medical Marijuana
"Medical marijuana" has been the topic for a lot of news reports lately.

The Federal Government has given the green light for it to be produced and the eastern states, at least, have made moves towards doing human trials on the use of marijuana in specific conditions, and the Queensland Government has a bill proposing making it legal on prescription.

I've already seen Facebook posts asking "would you try medical marijuana for lupus?"

Let's start with a basic fact: just because something is natural or even legal doesn't mean it is safe.

For example, natural supplements, that were available over-the-counter or over-the-internet have caused liver failure and even death in some people.  The problem?  Some things that are safe in small amounts are toxic in large amounts. (The water in your tap contains chlorine and is safe - but if you drank straight chlorine, that would be very, very bad.) Another problem, for people with health issues, is that some things have negative interactions with our medication. (Have you noticed that Methotrexate sometimes comes with warnings against eating grapefruit?  Methotrexate can make the usually-harmless vitamin C into something dangerous if you have too much.)

At the moment, I don't think there's been enough scientific research for me to be confident to take it.  (I can't tell you what to do with your own body, so if you disagree with me that's fine.)  I'd like to know more about side effects and drug interactions before I was comfortable to agree to it being added to my drug cocktail.

I do like that, like other narcotics, it will be a prescription-only drug.  That means that not only a patient, but also a doctor who should be keeping up to date on the research would be looking at questions like: is this drug better for this purpose than the other options?  Is this drug safe for this purpose (taking into account the patient's condition, other medications, etc.)

I know there's a lot of anecdotes on the internet about cannabis curing all kinds of diseases.  I feel safer with medicine based on scientific evidence, rather than anecdote, but maybe that's just me.

All in all, increasing treatment options is a good thing.  But a new option is just another new option, and the risks and benefits for each patient need to be weighed up the same as with every other treatment option.


‘Big change’ coming to marijuana laws as Queensland leads the way

Does cannabis cause mental illness?

Herbal supplements linked to at least six Australian organ transplants since 2011, data shows

Medical Marijuana Trial in Australia: What you need to know,40227

NSW medical cannabis trial to treat chemotherapy patients suffering nausea

Synthetic cannabis medical trial to treat Victorian children with severe epilepsy

World first as NSW trials medical cannabis on children with severe epilepsy