Sunday, September 19, 2010

Simple Joys & "Must Haves" of a Sick Chick

First of all, thank you to Jodi McKee for coining the term "Sick Chick" and letting me in on it. The "Sick Chick Club" is a small group of strong, awesome, and chronically ill women living in the tri state area and, although I haven't been able to make it to a gathering yet, I'm happy just knowing they're out there.  The list below was born out of a summer that didn't exactly "go to plan." If you've been following along, you know my pain was at its worst these past few months and I'm still in the midst of taming it. The way I see it, though, it hasn't all been for nothing.

In the past, slowing down has made me feel inadequate - like I should be doing something more. But something big happened this summer. Hurting the way I have has forced me to slow down. Ironically, although my body has been physically in distress, I've also never been more comfortable in my own skin. Having actually seen just what this disease is capable of...having been unable to drive or travel and getting strict orders to relax... I've just come to a new place of acceptance. An "if you can't beat em' join em'" kind of thing.

This is me and the way I feel today is just the way I feel. Instead of focusing on what I can't do, I'm learning to feel proud of whatever I can get done. Some days that's meant a trip through Tuscany, while others it's simply meant washing the dishes. Once again, though, I've got to give credit to the family, the friends and the boyfriend who love me unconditionally. They're a huge part of the acceptance and the peace I feel amidst this turmoil.

Believe it or not, being a "Sick Chick" has its perks. Now sit back, and hopefully have some laughs over my "must haves" when all else goes to hell...

It comes in many forms. Be it a hot shower, a nap in the sun, or my most beloved (and sexiest) accessory - the portable heating pad - there's no denying that heat helps! It can ease the aches and pains or just provide enough comfort on "tossy-turny" nights. If you haven't tried Thermacare heatwraps, you must. Just stick em' anywhere on your bod as you're heading out the door and let the comfort begin. Hint: There are almost always generic, local pharmacy brands that are cheaper.

Fur Between My Toes
Is there anything more therapeutic then running your toes through a dog's fur? Maybe it's just the animal fanatic in me, but few things soothe me like being close to my pups.

A Comfy Bed
If you live with pain, you know that a poor night's sleep can be like kryptonite. It tends to become a vicious cycle - the more pain you're in, the less you sleep. And the less you sleep? The more pain you're in. There are places to cut corners financially, but in my opinion a good mattress is not one of them. If you want the name of my mattress, don't hesitate to e-mail me - I'm a very happy customer.

"Magic Fingers"
Identify the person or people in your life who gives the best massages and treat them veeeery well. For me, those people are John and my mom. Thanks guys - I've got your back too.

 Childish Humor (That Often Embarrasses The People I'm With)
If you've spent any amount of time with me (and especially at the dinner table), you know I often revert back to age 5. I like to think this is part of my charm? To the left, behold the face I created with my Thanksgiving leftovers last year that, as I recall, elicited hearty laughs from my family members. The day that I forget how to be a "silly-heart" (thank you, Uncle Buck) is the day you can put a fork in me cuz I'll be done...

Trashy Television
I'll  be the first to admit it that reality TV is my vice. I welcome mindlessness to some extent... Jersey Shore, Project Runway, Real Housewives from any city (preferably New York), Project Runway, and my new favorite - Cupcake Wars! The drama, the shock-value, the panel of overly critical judges - I love it all. Honestly, sometimes obsessing about the lives of strangers is just what I need to get my mind off my own problems ;)


Some Good, Mood-Appropriate Tunes
My brother once said that my music was "predictably depressing." Being a proud college student at the time, I defended my taste tooth and nail. But he had a point. Yes, the bands and the sounds I'm drawn to tend to be more melancholy and sometimes that's just what I need. Other times, I take his comment to heart and put on something bright. If I'm not going to try lifting my mood, then I can't expect anyone else to. Right?

Creativity, In All Its Dorky Forms
Creating art has always been my favorite past time. My parents said that, as a little girl, I was happiest with colored pencils and paper in my hand. Today, I'm almost always in the middle of some little project - be it making little clay sculptures, sewing tiny stuffed animals, or cupcake decorating with my best buds (notice my Yogi Bear to the right). What's your creative outlet?

                                                  Girly Vanities
Amazing what ten painted toes or coconut-scented lotion can do for a girl's mentality. When it hurts all over and nausea and headaches have become permanent accessories, I'd say its more than okay to pamper yourself whenever possible. If you're going to be a Sick Chick, be a fabulous one.

Online Shoppin'
I don't think you need to live with chronic illness to understand that occasionally the last thing I want to do is interact with other humans. I know, I know. "Movement is crucial for arthritis patients...", but let's be honest - I really like when things come to me. So thank you, and (my favorite) for enabling my occasional, yet necessary reclusiveness.

Mac n' Cheese (Gluten Free), Mashed Potatoes, and Other Such Comfort Foods
This one's pretty universal, right? Especially when you're dealing with chronic illness and the unpredictable side effects of medications (nausea is a big one), it's nice to have your own little, tasty army of "Go To" foods. Speaking of mac n' cheese, how cute are these stamps
Coincidentally, I just received a letter full of autumn comfort foods from the ever-thoughtful Betsy! I thought I'd share the ones that intrigue me the most:

The Yummiest Macaroni & Cheese
4 cups cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream - I substitute low-fat french onion dip
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp grated fresh onion
1 1/2 tsp reduced-calorie stick margarine, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/4 C dry breadcrumbs

1.  Preheat oven to 350
2. Combine 1st 10 ingredients, and spoon into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs over casserole.  Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes or until set.

ComfoTThe Best Blueberry Banana Bread 
1 c frozen blueberries
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
3 bananas-mashed
1 1/2 c whole-wheat flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 c oatmeal
2 T canola oil

Spray 5x9 pan w/ nonstick spray and dust w flour. Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle berries w/ 2T flour. Combine remaining flour, sugar, powder, salt, and oatmeal. Blend eggs, oil and bananas. 
Add mixture to dry and stir. Add berries & place in pan. Bake for 60 minutes

Sick or not, what are your simple joys and "must-haves?"



  1. Mmmm....I just told my kids that I would make one of their favorites soon - gluten free pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. Yummy.

    I got a good laugh at the home shopper comic. I prefer shopping online to going out shopping anyday.

    My "must-haves" are a good book, my iphone by my bed, DVR, castor oil packs with a heating pad, Alexander and Sophia by my side as helpers, and the warm hug of Steve. Also, when I am in a flare, it helps me emotionally to receive extra emails/phone calls/texts from friends and family checking in on me.

    Have a great day Maya! You are always in my healing thoughts.

  2. Ha, I'm glad you appreciated that comic :) I loved reading about your "must-haves" too. They're always the least expensive options out there, aren't they? Steve's hug is a great one and so are Alexander and Sophia. I can only hope to have the kind of family you've raised when I'm older.

    You have a great Sunday too and I hope you're still feeling well! You're in my thoughts all the time too.


  3. I love your posts. :)

    Re girl grooming: That is my favorite pick-me-up when I'm feeling low. Give me some red nails, pink toes, and perfectly shaped eyebrows and I am ready for a night on the... couch! Watching antm, because YES for the trashy tv.

  4. Hi Steph! I'm so glad you liked the post :) Its definitely an ever-growing list and I do think girl grooming is a pretty crucial one. You are too funny...a hot night out on the couch haha

  5. haha, amazon is my best friend. i hate going shopping since my feet are where i have the most pain. the's been years.

    my must haves:
    my down comforter, my bath tub, my custom-fit orthotics (that's my most beloved and sexiest btw), and my drawstring comfy pants that i can make look like dress pants by wearing a long shirt!

    hehe, we sick chicks come up with crafty ways of making it through the day, don't we?

    xo, robin

  6. cathy-i would love your gluten-free recipes for the muffins. as i sent maya some of my favorite recipes, it saddened me that none of them are gluten-free and i have just started trying this approach in the past months. so i will be baking with my boys, but i will not be able to enjoy in the end result.
    maya-great list! i can't wait for the day that we can decorate cupcakes together--i know it will be beyond fun.
    i enjoy nothing better than along soak in the tub--favorite bubble bath, candles, and music...

  7. Robin : Thanks for your comment! You had me laughing out loud about the sexy orthodic. We sick chicks really know how to dress up an outfit haha

    Betsy: Glad to see you're conecting with Cathy! She's a gem and so are you. And yes, I cannot wait to decorate cupcakes with you....what will our theme be? Caleb says Star Wars, I bet. Also, I'm with you on the bathtub :)

  8. first of all, i cannot take credit for coining "sick chick club." that was 100% sara nash of the single gal's guide to ra. =)

    but i'm glad you are finding of the upside of slowing down and taking care of yourself.

  9. Okay, so I technically can't be part of the "Sick Chick" club, but I can still personally testify to the importance of a lot of the items on this list. Thanks for putting together this great post...I loved both the online shopping cartoon and the face on the place!

  10. This was a great post! I can usually be found with a good book, a comfy blanket, and my pups when I am not feeling well. Another good sick day is watching Bravo, eating grilled cheese my husband made me, and maybe sneaking in some chocolate ice cream.

  11. Jodi: Totally thought that was your creation! Well thank you to Sara Nash and also to you for letting me in on it.

    RA Guy: You can totally be an honorary Sick Chick. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and appreciate my childish food humor :)

    Morgan: Thanks so much for your comment! How could I have forgotten Bravo, ice cream, and grilled cheese? Great additions xoxo

  12. love reading your posts!!!!

  13. Meloni, thanks so much for reading! I hope you'll keep coming back :)

  14. I am 24 yrs old and just got diagnosed with AS about a month ago. This post not only made me smile but made me laugh out loud because it reminded me of myself and my life. My coping mechanisms for the past 2 years have been snuggling with my puppy, watching endless amouts of reality tv esp jersey shore, lots of cupcakes n chocolate, and of course online shopping.. my weakness (pink of victoria secret). Not to mention after the diagnosis my mind immediately went to all the heating pads, hot tubs and massages i would NEED lol in order to feel better. Its just nice to hear some1 think lightly of the subject despite the pain, the meds, and the probs that come with this disease. Humor is very underrated in chronic illness and i wish people would laugh more, esp when im feelin like crap =)

  15. Hi Anonymous ;) I'd love to know you name. Your comment made me so happy - not only to have a new reader, but to have one that really understands. Sometimes all we can do is laugh, huh? Please keep reading along, you are awesome and I'm wishing you many pain-free days <3

  16. lol i dont know why my name didnt show up but Im Andrea.. 24yr old Nurse.. newly diagnosed with AS and have had about 5 flares of uveitis in the past 2 years. Just started methotrexate and Humira, hoping for results sooner than later... but trying to keep things light & humerous. I recently told my mom I was going to be a sexy Tin Man for Halloween and carry around WD40 lol.. I thought it was hysterical.. she got really upset n told me to b the cowardly lion.. come on ppl its ok to laugh!! Love your blog and cant wait to keep reading.. so happy to have found some1 who truely understands. No one can truely understand the power of some1 just simply understanding where you are coming from. <3 <3

  17. Andrea! I was soo happy to come home from a long day of class and see your message. You sound like an incredibly strong and awesome chick and I'm so glad my blog means something to you! I love your sexy Tin Man idea haha. Please keep reading and, if you ever want to e-mail and talk in some more detail, write to me at I'd love it <3