The WEGO Health Awards Nominations are now OPEN!

It’s that time of the year again!

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Nominations have officially opened for the Fifth Annual WEGO Health Activist Awards. Time to celebrate the men and women who have empowered patients, supported your community and inspired you throughout your health journey.

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Past Winners – See Any Familiar Faces?🙂

WEGO Health is an online network comprised of +100k Health Activists. They have created the awards program to recognize the individuals who are making a difference in the online health community.

Nominations Are Now OPEN (1)

There are 14 award categories, so don’t be shy- go ahead and start nominating your favorite bloggers, Tweeters, Facebook posters! I of course ask for you support, but I hope you nominate all your favorite health activists. There’s no cap on the number of people you can nominate! The whole online health community deserves to be celebrated!

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So head on over to the nomination page today, it takes just one minute!

DoILookSick is Now on The Mighty!

This is really exciting for me! The Mighty is an amazing website that both WEGO Health and To Write Love on Her Arms share from all the time and I’m always excited to read the stories posted there. The writing is always amazing and the stories they curate are always wonderful. So honestly I was surprised they contacted me wanting to share MY stories! This website is right up there with sites like Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post on my radar and I am just starstruck right now!

Don’t worry though, subscribers! DoILookSick.com will remain my primary platform.

Check out Why Sick People Have More Fun here, and stay tuned for more Mighty stories in the future!

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Men’s Health: Advice from One Man At the End of His Life

A few years ago, my husband’s grandfather passed away. I’m blessed to have all my grandparents with me today, and for me, it was my first experience with Parkinsons, cancer, and nursing homes. I didn’t know Grandpa Melvin all that well or all that long because he lived out of state, but he made my wedding ring, and I got to spend a good amount of time with him towards the end of his days. 

It’s fascinating to speak with someone at the end of a long, full life. He asked all about his grandsons’ daily lives, school, and jobs, offering occasional encouragement or advice. He didn’t speak about himself as much. He and his grandsons aren’t terribly touchy-feely types. My husband is definitely the “sappiest” of the bunch. But Grandpa Melvin did offer a few moments of earnest heart to heart, with perhaps even a tear or two sneaking in there.

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Grandpa Melvin was very sick, not only with Parkinsons but also cancer. We asked how he was doing health wise each day and he always told us in the regular way folks talk to each other – how he felt, if eating and sleeping were going well or poorly, how well he was getting around, etc. That is to say, not in medical terms. So I can’t really tell you specifics on his medical condition. But I will tell you what he told us.

One of his final wishes to my husband was “get checked out.”  I’ll paraphrase, but here’s the gist of what he said. “Go to the doctor. Get checkups. Do the embarrassing stuff. It’s one of those things people know they should do but they don’t always. Staying healthy is important. I’m not worried about myself, but when you’re old, you’re sad for your kids and your grandkids. You should do it for them.”

That was one of the last pieces of advice this man left for his grandson, but I wanted to share it because it’s good advice for all men. I have endometriosis and PCOS – this blog talks a lot about women’s health. But statistically, women are 24% more likely to see a doctor regularly. We go to the “lady doctor,” there’s tons of press on screening for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and women are constantly proven more likely to seek medical care for illness than men.

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Well, today I’m going to do my part and use my health blog to not only broadcast one man’s advice, but give you guys some idea of what kind of routine care you need.

1.) The “Embarrassing Stuff.”

Screening for prostate cancer and colon cancer – aka letting a doctor check out your butt. Look, it doesn’t sound fun I admit, but again, ladies’ regular visits to the “lady doctor” are way more invasive and way less stigmatized. What is up with that? I think a lot of it is due to those pink ribbons and awareness months dedicated to breast and cervical cancer. But guys are dying of cancer too! Lucky for them, they have just as much screening available. Go get checked. Survival rates are high when cancers like this are caught early. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the US today. And to anyone who says to skip it because of false positives – I say risking a false positive doesn’t outweigh missing the cancer.

-Men Everywhere

-Men Everywhere

Starting at age 40, prostate exams are recommended regularly (once a year, calm down). Colon cancer screenings are usually done starting at age 50. If you’re under 40, keeping up with yearly physical checkups and seeing a doctor for any illness or abnormality is the best thing you can do. Your primary care doctor will be able to recommend a cancer screening on a case by case basis if you need one.

2.) The “Boring Stuff.”

Blood pressure and cholesterol levels – aka a chore. Most men report that the reason they don’t get a yearly checkup is that “they don’t have time.” I can’t fault you there – going to the doctor, having them squeeze your arm, and hearing “your blood pressure’s good” is basically white noise. It is to me too. Even when I’m in the ER I pretty much never care what their puffy air sleeve has to say. And having blood drawn and receiving a postcard in the mail a few weeks later that says “normal” is less than thrilling. It doesn’t feel like you’re really doing anything for your health. There’s been once or twice that my cholesterol levels have been high. I got a postcard with a stamp on it that said “eat healthy” with a smiley face.

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Oh boy, glad I took the time to get that gem of advice!

But in all seriousness, monitoring these things long term is invaluable data if anything ever goes wrong, and a great general measure of overall health. A general physical exam complete with hitting your knee with a tiny hammer may seem awfully quick and like there’s no way any useful info could come from it, but look at it with optimism. It’s quick and easy and  non-invasive- staying healthy is SO EASY GUYS! So a yearly checkup is kind of a chore? So what? It’s a ONCE A YEAR chore. It’s easier than cleaning the gutters. And you do it for your family. So just go.

Yearly checkups are reccomended for ages 2 – 200. So yeah, JUST GO.

3.) Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

This one is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest of all. The easy part is keeping an eye on yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror each day. Was that freckle always there? Did that mole get bigger? Here’s the hard part – GO TO THE DOCTOR WHEN SOMETHING’S UP. You know yourself better than anyone. Are you more tired than you should be? Are you moodier than usual? Yeah, if you’re having trouble keeping your temper or getting up in the morning, you might mention it to someone. If there’s a “weird thing” on your skin, go show a doctor. Don’t be the guy who gets asked “hey, what’s that spot on your arm?” and answers “yeah I dunno, I saw it last month and since then it’s gotten twice as big but I dunno.”

Sometimes, you may not be the best judge of yourself. If you’re not sure you should see a doctor, ask friends and family. Do I seem overtired lately? Have I been myself lately? If there’s a spot on your skin that you’re honestly not sure is new, ask your significant other. Don’t have one? Ask your parents. No, get out of here with your “gross that’s embarrassing,” your parents wiped your butt. I have a son now. He’s reached into his diaper and rubbed poop all over himself and me. I have gotten in the shower with him while we were both fully clothed and peeled poopy clothes off layer by layer until we were two slippery poopy naked people crying in the shower together. I’m not going to make fun of him if he has a weird spot on his lower back when he’s 27. Your parents have seen your lower back, they’ll know if something’s new.

Parents: They Already Know You're Gross

Parents: They Already Know You’re Gross

And here’s some good advice for all genders. Do you live with someone? I don’t care what their relationship is to you. Every now and then look at them while they’re reading or cooking or catching pokemon. Look at their shoulders and back – places they don’t see well. Glance over them every few days. If you see a new freckle pop up, let them know. Why not? If it’s kind of weird but saves their life, good on you!

This section’s getting long but it’s gonna get longer because I know two men who almost died and didn’t because they had a doctor look at the weird thing on their skin. One of my friends is a tennis player and photographer – he spends a lot of time outside. He got a new freckle on his back. He got it tested. It was skin cancer. Now there’s a chunk missing from his back and he’s cancer free – but if he saw it and thought “eh, people get freckles from the sun right?” and went on with life, he might not be here today. This boy is younger than me. I don’t like burying people younger than me.

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Exhibit B: my dad. He got a weird blood blister on his palm. We joked that he had a stigmata. He got a weird cold and fever that wouldn’t go away. He could have gone “oh, it’s a cold, who cares. I’d rather rest at home than spend a day at a clinic.” He could have thought “huh this blood blister’s weird” like I think most people would. But he went to the clinic. They weren’t helpful at all. He could have gone “I’m not wasting my time with doctors anymore, it’s just a cold. And a weird blister.” But he went to his primary care doctor. They never did figure out what was up. I guess it was just a bad cold. And a weird blood blister. But while they were running tests, they discovered his aorta was enlarged and ripping. The doctor preformed what he described as “a rare surgery” on him – because this is a condition that is usually discovered in a dead person. A few more days of thinking he’d “wait it out and see if this cold goes away” and he literally would have died.

Even if you don’t get answers or it turns out to be nothing, a trip to the doctor is not a waste of time.

So this is me saying to ALL of you, but men in particular because you seem to need to hear it: go to the doctor. Let it be a boring chore and be thankful each time you go home feeling like it was a boring chore. Families like saying “well thank god he went to a doctor!” a lot more than getting diagnoses from an autopsy.

Yup, it just got dramatic all up in here. But the title did promise deathbed wishes. Sometimes you’ve got to get serious about serious business. So send this to someone you love and who needs a loving smack upside the head.

To my sweet dear husband who as of yesterday I’ve been married to for six years: let’s call and schedule you a checkup.

xoxo

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Works Cited and Further Reading:

Six Routine Screenings for Men’s Health – Everyday Health

Health Care Access and Utilization in Young Adults – The CDC

Check Ups and Screening Guidelines for Men – Men’s Health Network

Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Reshare: Illness Saved My Sex Life

I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz on twitter and other blogs I follow about sex in relation to illness. I’m really glad people are talking about this because it can be a very difficult thing to navigate!

I wanted to take a minute to reshare a post I did a while ago for Hearing Elmo titled “Illness Saved My Sex Life” since it’s a hot topic right now. CLICK HERE to read it and keep the conversation going!

I know my blog has been a ghost town for a while. I’m still trying to figure out this whole “getting anything done with an infant in the house” thing. Hopefully this reshare and my last post about Linus and his blanket will tide you over while I work on some exciting things for you including a review of a really cool tool from The Allergista!

Stay tuned…

Linus Without His Blanket is All Of Us

Few things in this world capture the struggle of life with chronic illness as well as the dynamic of Linus Van Pelt and his blanket. Most days, Linus is just like the rest of the gang – he just happens to need a blanket at all times.

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And when he has to be without his blanket, he kind of falls apart. Occasionally he can go without it (“Look! I don’t need my blanket anymore! I’ve gone four whole minutes without it!”) but for the most part Linus without his blanket is a much different boy.

And Linus without his blanket so captures me without medication, or me in a flare, or me without access to a doctor. Sometimes I calmly mope by the dryer like Linus up there, but more often I’m like Linus in the special “A Boy Called Charlie Brown.” See, Charlie Brown is going to represent his school in the regional spelling bee, and Linus gives him his blanket to take as a “good luck” charm.

Of course, Charlie Brown hasn’t been gone long before Linus needs to go and get his blanket back. CLICK HERE to watch starting at 53:47, or check out the embedded video if you want to watch the entire special.

Linus is in a state similar to one I am in when I’m in a flare. Let’s see how his sister, Lucy, reacts.

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Linus explains his predicament and ends with “now I keep passing out!” Been there, buddy. And Lucy, after much eye-rolling, suggests he step outside for some fresh air. Points for listening and even suggesting something that could be moderately helpful, but it’s pretty obvious she’s more annoyed than concerned. Frankly, I’ve had swirls and dots around my head and had my family act as though I was a child without a security blanket – in other words, someone who is overreacting to a stupid problem.

But still, Linus does try going outside. But it isn’t enough. So he enlists help from Snoopy. He says he needs to find Charlie Brown and get his blanket back! And Snoopy agrees to accompany him. With much eye-rolling but at least he’s kinder than Lucy was. Good on ya, Snoopy. Way to help a friend in need!

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Also, this is the most accurate representation of my face on the way to doctor or medicine when panic has set in. Doesn’t matter if I’m in physical pain or having a mental anxiety attack. This is me:

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And my healthy friend is just lookin out the window like “Is that a pokestop?” (YES I’M ON POKEMON GO- we can gush about how amazing it is later).

Meanwhile, Charlie Brown isn’t feeling so great either. He’s been studying spelling all night! He even exclaims that this is too much! He needs to put his health first and take a break! Which of course he doesn’t, because the spelling bee is too important (as an apparition of an angry Lucy reminds him). Surely he will be able to relate to Linus and sympathize…

Except no! Because just like every healthy person who thinks they “get” chronic illness, he might think that feeling sick or stressed from overworking himself gives him insight. But it doesn’t. Do you know what the main difference is between chronic illness and acute illness? Watch this– CHARLIE BROWN JUMPS RIGHT UP WHEN HE SEES THEM. When he sees his friends he’s suddenly lit with sprightly enthusiasm! Huzzah for you and all your spoons Charlie Brown!

Meanwhile poor Linus passes out waiting while Charlie Brown and Snoopy exchange pleasantries.

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This scene is actually comedic genius. Snoopy runs to the bathroom to get a glass of water – which he comes back to drink himself while he watches Linus come to and explain that he needs his blanket back. Damnit Snoopy.

And after all this, Charlie Brown really doesn’t know what happened to the blanket. He’s been so busy with his own problems you see. The language here is great. Charlie Brown calmly says “Gee I’m sorry Linus” with almost no emotion while Linus is panting and yelling “FORGOT?!?!??! FORGOT ABOUT MY BLANKET?!?!?” Because it’s his entire freaking world.

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Screw you, Charlie Brown. Maybe it’s in the lobby? If not, it’s between here and the library?! I’M LITERALLY DYING. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR YOUR MAYBES.

Now Linus is getting mad. Because everyone around him is horrible so he has every right to be. “He THINKS it’s at the Library!” yup, he even gets a little Gollumy. Nasty hobbitses… they lost the precious…

Then he snaps. He turns around and yells “CHARLIE BROWN I OUGHTTA KICK YOU.” But then he passes out because flares tend to keep you from fulfilling promises of violence.

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DAMNIT SNOOPY.

Then Charlie Brown makes him leave, noting aging how IMPORTANT it is that he keep studying. Yeah no problem buddy, it’s just MY LIFE. But it’s no SPELLING BEE so I understand! Asshat.

So now Linus has to go walk all over town looking for the light of his life that his “best friend” just “forgot about.” And Snoopy tags along, which probably makes him feel good about himself even though he’s not actually helping AT ALL.

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And WTF is this Snoopy? You’re going to wander off and have an ENTIRE FREAKING ICE SKATING MONTAGE while I SLOWLY DIE ALONE? It’s not even just ice skating, it turns into an entire imaginary hockey game. DAMNIT SNOOPY THIS IS IMPORTANT.

And then the blanket isn’t even at the library. All that for nothing! Linus snaps. All hope is lost and Snoopy’s down there making faces at statues, that’s IT. YOU’VE BEEN NO HELP AT ALL, SNOOPY!

But it doesn’t make him feel any better. Snapping at people when you’re suffering rarely does. But it made me, the audience, feel better.

Damnit Snoopy.

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“THE WORLD IS ENDING AND HE CAN’T EVEN HELP FIND A BLANKET.”

I feel you Linus. I feel you.

And after vowing to never forgive Charlie Brown for being a self-absorbed idiot who looses blankets, he returns to find IT WAS IN CHARLIE BROWN’S STUPID ROOM THE WHOLE TIME. AND HE’S USING IT TO SHINE HIS SHOES FOR HIS F%#!$)*@ SPELLING BEE.

DAMNIT CHARLIE BROWN.

YOU’RE THE LITERAL WORST.

But, much like when the cold find warmth or the hangry get fed, once Linus is reunited with his blanket and stabilized, all is forgiven. He even goes on to support Charlie Brown as he faces the spelling bee.

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You da real MVP Linus.