Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gardens, Mom, Luke, Vitamin D, and Lympedema

Last year our garden wasn't much to speak of. I was more determined to get some planting done this year and so it was pretty exciting for us to actually get such nice weather on Saturday and Sunday and that we were home to do yard work. It felt good to be outside and to feel my fingers and toes in the dirt. I don't think I'm supposed to do that but it just feels so good to get dirty.

We're in the midst of getting a new fence. The posts have been up for a week and by the end of this week, the panels should be up. We put up some orange snow fence to contain our neighbour's dogs. Our neighbours on the other side are very excited about getting a new fence ... one that lets light through ... so they can put in a garden. They worked very hard all weekend, too.

There were lots of birds flitting about, poking through the freshly turned soil. Several enjoyed a dip in our bird bath.

We had hoped to get more planting done on Monday but it was shockingly cold! We even brought our unplanted bedding plants indoors for the night.

We're still very concerned about Mom. She's at the farm with Lynn, Darrel, and Lynn's parents right now. This medication is making her very dizzy and unbalanced as well as sleepy. And either the drug or the seizures have really messed with her memory, which is a concern. Mom had bloodwork done yesterday for the purpose of determining how much Dilantin she should be taking. I wonder if she isn't taking too much right now? I hope the blood work comes back soon.

We heard from Luke tonight that he made the box lacrosse team (the Victoria Shamrocks) that he was trying out for. That's good news. He'll play his first game this weekend. He has a job in Victoria and is being billeted at a very nice place. The Leung family (the family of one of his Bellarmine team mates) took him in for his first few weeks there, which was VERY kind of them and most appreciated.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend, Berny, this weekend. She's been through this nasty breast cancer business as well. I always learn something when I talk to Berny. We talked about lymphedema. Berny has been learning quite a bit about it. She had been working out at the gym, trying to rebuild her strength, and she thought she was building up some "guns" only to learn that it isn't muscle. It's lymphedema. My reading and Berny's experience reinforces my belief that the Cancer Centre is really dropping the ball for women who have completed breast cancer treatment. Lymphedema is barely mentioned, if at all, and when Berny and I have asked about it, we haven't been given good information and, in fact, we've been told we can ignore some of the precautions I now know we should be taking. It's quite disconcerting. I notice that after gardening, much like after carrying groceries sometimes, my underarm is a little puffy. My lower arm was a little puffy after gardening, too. Berny's massage therapist said that if she can start working on someone within a month of their surgery she can almost always prevent lymphedema. She showed Berny how to do some self-lymphatic massage. You can learn more about lymphedema here and read about precautions one can take here. If some of the instances of lymphedema can be prevented through massage and simple precautions, it only makes sense that women be given this information and support because it will save them so much grief and save a lot of the health care dollars that are spent treating lymphedema after it develops. There's no "cure" for lymphedema and it can really negatively impact one's quality of life.

Berny and I also talked about Vitamin D. Her previous doctor refused to test her Vitamin D blood levels, which I think is pretty much criminal considering the research linking law Vitamin D levels with breast cancer and recurrence. The following is from a recent report on research on Vitamin D and breast cancer:
"Based on the results, doctors should consider monitoring patients' vitamin D levels and trying to replenish them when they are low, the research team said in a statement. And they might take it a step further. "I think that we need to pay more attention to vitamin D levels in healthy women," said senior research Dr. Kristin Skinner from the University of Rochester, New York. "By preventing vitamin D deficiency, we might be able to promote the health of the population."
Get your Vitamin D levels checked and don't let a doctor tell you that you can't. I believe Vitamin D testing is being discouraged in Saskatchewan because of it being a relatively expensive test. I was told that it costs something like $90 per test. But if recent research on Vitamin D is correct, raising Vitamin D levels in our general population might very well prevent a lot of costly illnesses such as some cancers, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and more. If simply aiming for optimal Vitamin D levels could prevent even several instances of these awful illnesses, the cost savings would be huge! Berny was speaking with someone from Germany who said that their Vitamin D levels are tested as a matter of protocol at their annual check-ups. So, once again, I urge everyone to get their Vitamin D tested and get the resulting report in your hot little hands. Don't settle for a doctor telling you that "it's fine". Learn what the numbers mean and then aim for optimal if you're not already there. And I'll bet you're not even close to optimal, especially if you're not supplementing. Even if you are supplementing, odds are likely that you're still not at optimal.

Have I lectured you enough? Do a little internet research and learn about it for yourself. Search "Google Scholar" or "Google News".

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