Wednesday, March 10, 2010

what's in you wednesday

It was two weeks before Christmas in 2008 that we were standing in the holiday section at Lowe's looking at lights. We had just been outside looking at trees, the temperatures were in the low 50's, and my right fingers felt funny, like there was a rubber band tightly around them.


When I pulled my hand out of my pocket to take a look, I was alarmed to see from the second digit to my nail, two of my fingers were totally white. There was nothing visibly wrapped around them, but the circulation had been completely cut off.

Over the next year, it happened to me a few more times, like when I'd be reaching in to the freezer for something or venture in to the cold section at Costco. But the most notable occurrence was when I did my 3-Day breast cancer walk in November. On the first day, we started very early, the temperatures were in the high 40's and even though I had on gloves, all of the fingers on my right hand turned white and went totally numb.

According to my sister, what I've been experiencing sounds like Raynaud's (pronounced Ray Nodes) disease, or phenomenon. For people with Raynaud's , when you are exposed to colder temperatures, the blood vessels in your hands (and/or feet) go in to a vasospasm which narrows the blood vessels considerably, and your fingers (and/or toes) turn white, grey or blue.


When I received my blood work last week that showed I tested positive for ANA, it was one more piece in the puzzle pointing to a possible autoimmune disorder. And from what my doctor told me, autoimmune disorders - including Raynaud's - are often genetic. Which makes sense since my mother's cousin had Raynaud's and apparently, two of my sisters have the same issues with their fingers turning white whenever the temperature drops below 50. This is a bigger issue for them than me, since they live in Massachusetts and I live in San Diego. Now, I'll probably remain for the rest of my life here, given that I have this "condition" that makes my hands look corpse-like whenever it gets chilly.

Still, my mind has been reeling since I've received this diagnosis. Me? With a health condition? Is this part of the reason my feet fall asleep whenever I run? Is this why my arms get tingly? Does this mean at 38 years, 11 months of age, my body is failing? Is this the reason I keep getting sick over and over and over again? What NEXT?


Then, just yesterday, I spoke with a woman who told me that she had the autoimmune disease lupus which often accompanies Raynaud's. But since she has embraced a more healthful diet, a more stringent exercise routine and has taken steps to alleviate stress in her life, all of her symptoms have completely vanished.

Isn't that amazing? A better diet, more exercise and stress reduction can help improve a person's quality of life AND possibly cure whatever is ailing them?

Who knew?!

Well, I knew. And for the past several months, each week I feel like I'm admitting I don't do as much as I should (or could) to take care of myself. I've made it abundantly clear that I'm not the priority in my life. I don't have the time or I feel guilty. Some days I exercise. Most days I do not. Some days I don't have any sugar. Most days, I'm desperately scouring my cupboards for anything sweet. Last week, I ate marshmallows straight out of the bag because that's all we had and I needed SOMETHING.

For some people, it's so hard to take care of themselves. Whether that comes in the form of preparing a healthy meal, getting in some exercise, or going to bed at a decent hour. I know how easy it is when you're working full time and raising a family to not consciously think about the ramifications from an inactive lifestyle or what you eat.

For the first time, I can see that putting my health first each day, is the single most important thing I can do for my family. For the first time, I realize that if I don't make the commitment to ME, my health issues are only going to get worse. So as a reminder, I've made small notes for myself that are hanging up throughout the house that read, "What GOOD are you doing for yourself TODAY?"

If I can answer three correctly, I get a donut.

(Just kidding. Although maybe if they were baked...?)


So I'm posing this question to you, which I hope you'll consider and answer sincerely. If not to me, at least to yourself.

Is your health the priority in your life?


  1. My younger sister has the same issue with her fingers and toes. It started when she was a freshman in highschool. She works out almost religiously and eats well enough to make me feel guilty for even looking at donuts... but she still experiences the symptoms in her fingers and toes. I guess it just depends on the individual. I would venture to say that as a (now) college student, her life is pretty stressful, but other than that and her corpse like fingers, she is perfectly healthy.

    Still, I see your point. I have been making small changes over the last couple of years with my ultimate goal to just be healthier. I don't really care if I lose weight at this point, though it would be nice... I just want to be healthy.

  2. Funny you should post this, as I also made the decision to put my health first about a month ago. I am losing weight and re-started running. I have had a mammogram and scheduled an eye exam. Maybe it's because "40" is 6 weeks away and I have triplet toddlers, but I want to be strong and healthy for them! It has only taken me 40 years to realize we get one life and one body.

  3. Hm... I really want health to be a priority in my life. I'm 21, have no kids, and really should start now before things get out of control. Life still gets out of hand sometimes and I feel like I'm not doing a good job.

    Thank you for pointing this out. My future-mother-in-law has lupus. She actually lost sight in both of her eyes for several months because of it. Our health should be a priority for sure.

    Marla @

  4. OMG, so funny you posted this today. I am knee deep in the pantry right now, after I watched this clip on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution/TED Award:

    I'm pitching and starting over. It is time. For me, for my family.

    I hope you don't mind me posting that. I was deeply moved by it.

  5. I work with someone who has the exact same condition with their fingers. He has been diagnosed with Scleroderma. Please take this very seriously and make your health a priority. Your family needs you.

  6. For whatever reason, our turn in the Breast Cancer 3-Day started off a new mindset for me, with me 'getting physical' at least five times a week. Jui-jitsu, jump-roping, spin class, and soon surfing. And it's stuck for almost five months, without me even thinking about it. I just DO it. I can't say EXACTLY what's triggered this. Partly the looming 4-0 b-day, partly the fact that I no longer feel guilty about leaving my five-year-old triplets for Me Time. Why no longer feeling guilty? Dunno. Just don't. My writing time has increased, I'm sleeping more than I have in decades, I'm losing weight, I'm feeling energetic and spry... If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say it comes down to one thing: exercise makes me feel good enough to exercise even more. That's a bit of a Catch-22 when you're trying to get into the beginning of a workout regimen, I know. But for me, that Good Feeling and Energy is trickling down and out into all those other areas, and that has GOT to make me a more pleasant mom to be around.

  7. Is MY health the priority in My life?

    I would say it is a priority, among many. It became a priority when I was a 36 year old woman laying on a table in a hospital with severe chest pains and being rolled in to have an angiogram done while I kissed my husband and told him to tell my 2-year-old daughter that I loved her.

    The chest pains...indigestion. From what? Medicine I was taking to cure another ailment. Fast forward almost three years and I have another beautiful baby girl. And I am currently training for my first 5K and attending Weight Watcher meetings to finally, once and for all, get healthy.

    I block out the time of the meeting. And it is my time. I will drag children with me to the meeting if necessary. I will not miss it. And I follow the C25K program. I don't care if I have to get on the treadmill at 10pm. If I am due to run/walk I do it that day.

    I have made it a priority. As much as I struggle with doing that. I NEVER want to be the woman lying on that table again.

  8. Of course not! :O

    ~Cindy! :)

  9. Yes. It is for the first time in my life. Figuring out I couldn't eat gluten and making the commitment to cut it out of my life takes an enormous amount of time and dedication. But with anything, it becomes a habit.

    I know that not aching to the point of needing iboprofen every afternoon and being so chronically tired that I had to nap every day has changed my entire life. I wasn't living up to my full potential as a mother or wife because I hurt ALL THE TIME. I can remember going to Disneyland last year and telling my girlfriends, "I am sick. There is something terribly wrong with me. I am really, really, really sick." And I was too. Man, I was sick.

    It was getting progressively worse every day. I would say if I hadn't figured it out, I would be on pain pills by now.

    You can figure this out, Jen. You CAN change your diet. I know you can.

  10. Hey Jen,
    Oh man your post is right on! I'm a med student gearing up for the end of my second year and my first set of boards. I literally wrote a flashcard this morning reminding myself that in order to stay semi-sane and semi-healthy, every 24 hour period I have to run, eat, sleep, and maybe find 10 minutes to "play", and I don't even have to make sure 4 little muffins are healthy and happy too! Keep at it Jen! We are both better at what we are called to do when we are fed and watered (in more ways than one:).

  11. Recently I have....well my exercise has tapered off (I NEED to get back to that) but I have been meal planning for the last three weeks 1)it makes me a lot less stressed to worry about 'what's for dinner' 2)it cuts out fast food 3)it saves us money b/c I'm shopping to an ingredient list and buying excess. Trying lots of new recipes.

    HOWEVER, I'm thinking the fried cauliflower I made wasn't the most nutritious option, but HOLY COW was it devoured :)

  12. ah - no - should it be - yes! do i think about it all the time? yes -does this post make me think about it some more? yes, thanks - now lets see how i do!

  13. I really wish it was... right now, taking care of baby William and Shayna is numero uno. I'm lucky if I get a shower and 2 hours of sleep in a row...

  14. no its not as much as it should be. I keep thinking I really need to make it a priority,I am so concerned about what my daughter is eating etc, I need to rememnd myself that if I don't take care of myself thenI won't be arond as long to enjoy her. I am not overweight or anything like that, but my consumption of sugar is awful, and diabetes would not be good. Eating Marshmellows out fo a bag (is normal?)

  15. My health is not a priority. I know things have to change, yet I struggle with the changes. Every day I am making positive changes-- mostly mental at this point. Thank you for sharing your story. We can both do this.


  16. I can't say that it's the only priority. It's one of them, certainly, but God and faith, and family trump it. Not to the exclusion of all else, and I don't think I necessarily neglect myself for my family's sake, but I do generally try to think of others before myself. Part of being a child of God, though, to me, is taking good care of the body He has given me, so I do put my health fairly high up on the list.

    Long winded answer to a short question. :-) No, my health is not THE priority in my life, but it's one of them.

  17. I've had Raynauds since I was 21 and I just turned 39. The only time I didn't have any problems was the winter I was pregnant. It's mainly in the winter because I live in Texas and in the summer I can usually just go outside. I only wear mittens, not gloves- a doctor told me this in the beginning and it really does help. My husband bought me a rechargeable hand warmer for my bday, best present EVER! I have learned that it does seem to be worse when I'm under stress but I've never had any other problems like others have experienced.

    Yes, I try to keep my health a priority. After I was diagnosed, I graduated from college and then decided to back to school and got my masters in Health. I still love sweets, that won't go away....I can oh so relate.


  18. A good friend of mine, who happens to live in Massachusetts, was just diagnosed with Raynauld's. She is just 36 years old (young, like you). She ended up with frostbite on her toes from walking around outside for about 15 minutes in sub-zero temps.
    Anyway, I wish you the best in your efforts to put yourself first. I had just recently had a minor operation and it woke me up a bit and motivated me to start thinking about myself more. I have two small children under the age of four so it's not the easiest thing to do right now. However, the one thing I did was to get a couple of exercise videos that I can easily do. Even if I just do 20 minutes a day, I feel better about myself. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I am also spending a lot more time going for walks with the kids. The next step is to get my skin cancer checkup which I should get every year, but I don't.

  19. You know if you look hard enough you can come up with a multitude of diseases. You come from a long line of long lived healthy people and if you are careful and don't get hit by a car or a flying object, you will love long past your prime. I never noticed my white fingers until your Mother told me I had white fingers,soooo, this is no big deal forget it and have a piece of fudge.

  20. You're speaking to the choir, sister! I've been neglecting my diet and my lack of energy and just "feeling" good is gone. It IS amazing what the basics can do for our health. And with so many kids, I've got to make sure i'm around a very long time! Glad you put it out there! And that you live in a warm climate. You might scare me up here in the Pac NW! :)

  21. I've had Raynaud's since I was a teenager, although I didn't know what it was until a few years ago (I am in my late 20s). My mom has it too so when I showed her my fingers the first time they turned white, she told me that's normal and it happens to her all the time, and of course I believed her and didn't ever mention it to my doctor.

    It got out of control when I started taking birth control pills, which affects your circulation, so that coupled with my already poor circulation led to a rough winter with sores on my toes by the end of it. That's when I showed them to my doctor and got the diagnosis. I went off of the hormonal birth control and started being more careful about wearing warm socks and boots, no matter how goofy I look on my way to work. I also find that I will get an episode when I tense up too much, so I try to relax when I feel my feet starting to go numb.

    Good luck to you! Of all the "conditions" that are out there to end up with, Raynaud's really isn't so bad once you figure out what's going on and how to manage it.

  22. don't have to put this comment live, but I couldn't find your email address in my book. I know I had it once before.

    I just wanted you to know that I signed up for my first 5K June 5th. It is a ways off...but I knew I would need time to transition from training on the treadmill (hello Connecticut weather) to actually running outside. In public.

    I decided to not just run a 5K, but to do a little fundraising too. I rode my bike for Diabetes. I walked for Diabetes. But this time I decided to run for breast cancer. So I signed up for the Race for the Cure.

    I wanted you to know that you have been one of the main inspirations behind me doing this. And since we have never met, I consider that a pretty big deal. At this time, when in your blog at least, it sounds like you have hit a wall, I want you to know that while you may have to stand still for a little bit, you have encouraged others to move.

    I am not a runner. Never in my life have I said, "Hey. I think I should go for a run." But that is what I am going to do.

    I remember your humor and your ability to make everyone else on the RESOLVE boards (and then the extension of the RESOLVE boards circa 2004/2005) feel comfortable in their own skin.

    So...if today is one of those days when you just can't get your body moving the way you want know that your mind and your words have gotten others moving.

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for inspiring.

    Amanda (ajdub)

  23. Amanda!

    That is quite possibly the most awesome comment I have ever received.

    THANK YOU!!!!

    And ROCK ON! Running a 5K for breast cancer. I'm so proud of you. You are going to LOVE it!! :)