Tag Archives: Health

The Naked Truth


by Lillian Csernica on May 17, 2017

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I recently got a phone call that is one of those phone calls you really don’t want to get.

I’d gone in for a mammogram. Not fun, but an important part of keeping ahead of anything that might show up. Went there, did that, got it over with for another year.

Or so I thought.

Got a phone call from the imaging center telling me the doctor there wanted me to come back in for some additional views on my right side. “What does that mean?” I asked. “Is something wrong?”

Never ask the people at the front desk these questions. They don’t know, and they can’t tell you even if they do know.

So I made a follow-up appointment for today. Was I nervous? Hell yes I was nervous.

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The imaging center front office is very cheerful with all the pink items associated with breast cancer awareness. There were a few nervous-looking women in the waiting room along with some very bored men. I’ve been in a lot of medical waiting rooms over the years, some for myself, some for the boys. Rarely have I experienced an atmosphere of everybody trying so hard to ignore the reasons why we were all there.

My turn came, I suited up in the bright pink gown, and the mammogram tech got those images. She took them to the doctor there, who would decide if further imaging would be required.

During that ten minutes or so, I kept myself occupied by telling myself to calm down, to stop imagining horrible outcomes and scaring myself, to have faith.

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Another tech appeared, this one in charge of ultrasound. Yes, the doctor wanted further images. So I followed that tech into the large closet where they do the ultrasound exams. For once the ultrasound goo was not cold. Thank God for small favors.

The ultrasound exam went on and on  and on. Time has no meaning when you’re lying there in whatever position you’re put in, feeling your muscles start to cramp while being too scared to move or say anything for fear of messing up the exam and having to start all over again.

At last those images were complete. That tech went off to show them to the doctor. I did my best to remove all the goo and stay calm while this new level of anxiety jacked up my adrenaline level.

The doctor’s verdict? The mass they’d wanted a closer look at turned out to be nothing more than a water cyst about the size of a small ball bearing.

Thank you, God. It turned out to be nothing, but it might have been something. Now I know and the doctors know and it’s all good for another year.

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Filed under charity, doctors, Family, hospital, Lillian Csernica, mother, nature, research, specialists, worry

Day 14: How’s the Weight Loss Program Working?


by Lillian Csernica on February 2, 2017

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Answer: Fourteen pounds in fourteen days. Yes, that’s right. I’ve lost on average one pound every day since I began the program.

This is not a testimonial or an infomercial. This is a celebration of overcoming a problem I’ve had since I was ten years old.

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I like eating vegetables. I like cooking. I can’t remember how I got into the rut of relying mostly on fast food or microwave dinners. When the kids were little I had to eat fast when I had a free moment, sure. The boys are legal adults now. It’s high time I abandoned the old instant gratification pattern for long term health and well-being.

All this without a specific exercise program. I’m still wearing the knee brace. There’s a communication problem between my doctor and the physical therapy people. I am in the middle, trying to get that sorted out. Until I know what I can and can’t do while my knee recuperates, I have to be careful.

Meanwhile, let me just say that I love Quest protein bars. So many flavors to choose from!

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Fun: Getting Your RDA


by Lillian Csernica on July 16, 2016

People talk a lot about the importance of nutrition, exercise, supplements, fiber, getting enough sunshine and drinking enough water. All of that is certainly crucial to physical health.

I believe there is another “nutrient” that is essential to the health and well-being of both mind and body.

fun

Given all the terrible events that keep appearing in the news, we’ve got to do something to counteract the weight of grief, anger, depression and loss. Does it seem frivolous to talk about the importance of having fun when the world is awash in tragedy?

Damn right it’s frivolous.  That’s the whole point. For those of us who live with depression, there are times when it is critical for us to engage in some activity that will help lighten our loads. Even if you don’t have clinical depression and/or an anxiety disorder, you too can protect your well-being by making sure you build “having fun” into your healthy lifestyle.

The Benefits of Play for Adults

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is not just some excuse to blow off our responsibilities. Have a look at this infographic:

11 Shocking Employee Happiness Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind

Still don’t believe me? Think we just need to buckle down and make serious contributions to our own lives and the lives of others? Fine, but don’t take that too far. The results can be horrifying:

The Importance of Play: Having Fun Must Be Taken Seriously

I don’t know about you, but I find those facts and figures really disturbing. Bad enough 16  million children in the United States aren’t getting enough healthy, nutritious food every day. How can we possibly get our world into the shape we hope and pray for when such fundamentals as food and good old-fashioned playtime aren’t available?

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world. We’ll work on the serious issues, of course we will.  In the process, let’s make the time to have some FUN.

Today I blew off two important social engagements that would have taken a toll on me physically and emotionally. Instead, I grabbed my son John by the hand and we ran away from home to go see “Ghostbusters” in 3D.

Charity really does begin at home. Give yourself permission to have fun.

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Filed under creativity, Depression, Family, family tradition, fantasy, Food, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, parenting, perspective, research, Writing

Why Permission Slips are Still Essential


by Lillian Csernica on May 12, 2016

Once again, my sons’ high school administration has made me furious.

Earlier this week John came home with a full color brochure full of quotations from famous people and some really disturbing photos.  The subject?  The cruel and brutal treatment of farm animals and how they are killed and processed for our food.

Horrifying?  Oh yes.  Was that all?  Oh no.

There was a video.  Plenty of gross, heart-wrenching detail.

Whoever was behind this went for the hat trick by providing a speaker who hammered the message home even further.

John was really upset.  I sent an email to his teacher/caseworker expressing my outrage over having not been allowed any kind of parental review of such disturbing material. I asked very clearly to know who had approved this material for the class.

As usual, she didn’t know a thing about it and said she’d look into it.  The next day I got an email from her saying she’d spoken to the Health class teacher who told her some other students had also been upset by the subject matter.  Really?  Gosh, who could have seen that coming?

Nobody answered my question about  who approved the material in the first place.

John’s teacher/caseworker assured me this would be taken into consideration for next year.  What about this year?  What about these students?  What about the damage that has already been done?

I have followed procedure by contacting John’s teacher/caseworker.  I’m in the process of making an appointment to talk to the principal.  I don’t expect much.  The school year is almost over and the administration will probably just make the usual soothing noises and promises of doing better next year.

Not good enough.

I will have a name, and if I don’t get one, I’m going to keep going up the chain of command until somebody takes responsibility for this.

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Filed under autism, Family, Food, frustration, Horror, Lillian Csernica, nature, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, veterinarian

Autism + Adolescence


by Lillian Csernica on April 21, 2013

I love my son John so much.  He’s come so far from the days when we had to have a behavioral specialist and a one to one aide come to our home and “play” kindergarten with him until he got the hang of his first icon-based schedule.  He’s become popular at his middle school for his participation in dress-up days.  On one Superhero Day, he was the only person in the entire school who dressed up!  He went as “John-zuka,” with a costume he and my sister had put together.  (She sews, I don’t.)  Thanks to him, his grade won five spirit points.  John was the Man of the Hour, much like Harry Potter winning points for Gryffindor.

Now John is fourteen.  Oh Lord, is he fourteen.  

Because of John’s anxiety issues, he bites his fingernails.  We got him to stop doing that by convincing him if he kept biting his nails he couldn’t paint his nails black this Halloween as part of his planned Frankenstein costume.  So now he’s chewing on his cuticles to the point of drawing blood.  It took three of us to get the Band-Aids on his fingers last night.  Two to hold his arms and one to actually apply the Band-Aids.  The boy is six feet tall, built like a wrestler, strong as an ox, and very very stubborn.  He almost lifted me off my feet, and I’m no petite little china doll.

Remember when you were a teenager?  Not a child, but not an adult?  Caught between all the things you had to leave behind, confused about everything that was coming at you?  And then there’s the whole issue of hormones and a new awareness of the opposite sex and learning all the social rules that go along with being just classmates or friends or boy/girl-friends or what we used to call “going steady.”  So  much to learn, so many opportunities for confusion, for mixed signals, for embarrassment and humiliation.

Now add to all that the symptoms and processing disorders of autism.

This fall John will enter high school.  It’s a whole new stage of life.  He already has a lot going for him, and he will have a good team of teachers, therapists, and caseworkers to back him up.  There will be the hard days, the days when frustration and anxiety get the best of him.  There will be days when I’m so exasperated I think my head will explode.

I love John.  On the hard days, I’ll try to make sure I give him extra hugs or praise or whatever it takes.

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O is for Olfactory


by Lillian Csernica on April 16, 2013

Again and again we hear the mantra, “Show, don’t tell.” I say, “Smell! Don’t tell!” Sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste is the order of sensory priority I find in most of what I read. Neglecting to use the olfactory sense is a real loss.   Science has demonstrated how powerful the olfactory sense can be in stimulating memory. By stimulating the readers’ memories in ways that echo our characters’ experiences, we can heighten our readers’ connection to the characters and improve the depth of our writing.

In “Fallen Idol,” the first short story I sold, my hero wakes up to realize he’s been tied down on a wooden door:

“A strap bound my forehead and another clamped my mouth. The smell of old seat belt made me want to gag.”

If you know what an old seat belt smells like, you’ll understand immediately. I wanted to evoke decay, abandonment, something forgotten and left to rot.

Some common olfactory associations include movie theater lobbies and buttered popcorn; kindergarten classrooms and clay, glue, or crayons; hospital corridors and some pine-scented disinfectant; a casino and cigarette smoke. These associations are so real and so common that they cannot fall into the category of cliché. The use of key smells to make our characters and settings multi-dimensional will add richness and texture to our writing.

Take a moment to think about smells you love, smells you hate, smells that have powerful meaning for you. Write down these smells, your reactions, and the memories they evoke. This raw material could come in very handy.

Here’s my list:

  Pine-Sol, undiluted. Hospitals. Nursing homes. The place where my great-grandmother died. Sickness. Death.

Peppermint. Christmas. Candy canes. No point because neither John nor Michael can eat them. Loss of tradition makes me sad.

 Freshly mown grass. Green. Allergies. Asthma. Can’t breathe. Rescue inhaler. Nasty taste. Can’t play outside.

Rose incense. Church. Peace. Sunlight through stained glass. The jingle of the little bells on the censer as the priest swings it.

See what I mean? Smells are the doors to memory, leading to one association after the other. Do you have a favorite scent? One you avoid no matter what?

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Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Uncategorized, Writing

Five Ways to Make Life Easier for Special Needs People


by Lillian Csernica on April 14, 2013

While I’ve been occupied with the A to Z Challenge I haven’t said much about Michael and John. Michael is sensitive to loud noises, certain types of music, and some pitches of voice. We believe minor key music causes him physical pain. John has sensory processing disorder, auditory processing disorder, speech delay, and some of the other symptoms that are part of being autistic.

I want to share with you this important article written by Aiyana Bailin, a lady who understands what life is like for Michael and John. She understands what they have to endure minute to minute just getting through the day. What’s more, she can explain why some adults make life really hard for special needs people like Michael and John because of the “challenging behaviors” those adults inflict on them.

Managing Challenging Behaviors in Neurotypicals

By Aiyana Bailin

Many neurotypical adults have behaviors that the rest of us find difficult to handle.  These people are generally unaware of the stress their challenging behaviors cause for autistic friends and family members.  Even the most patient autistic people whose loved ones have challenging behaviors may become frustrated and find their time and energy greatly taxed by the demands of dealing with these behaviors regularly.

Challenging behaviors in adults include insistence that others make eye contact or physical contact with them frequently, difficulty understanding non-speech communication beyond certain stereotyped facial expressions, difficulty tolerating stimming and echolalia, narrow perceptions of what constitutes “learning,” “empathy,” and “age-appropriate behavior,” inability to recognize the sensory needs of others, and obsession with social rituals.

How to positively address challenging behaviors in your friends and family members:

1) Gently remind them that their ways of communicating, learning, succeeding, and socializing are not the only ones.

2) Regularly let them know (preferably in carefully chosen verbal or written words—remember, they respond best to “polite” requests) when their behaviors are impeding your sensory processing, communication, de-stressing, executive functioning, and other important aspects of your life.

3) Be willing to repeat this information for them as needed. Remember, very few neurotypicals have the precise memories many of us take for granted.

4) Be patient and understanding. It can be hard for neurotypicals to grasp the importance of special interests, the joys of sensory play, or the irrelevance of their social games and hierarchies.

5) Remember to love your neurotypicals, and focus on their good points. At the same time, practice self-care. While your loved ones never mean to be a burden, dealing with them alone for long periods of time can be exhausting and stressful. Remember to take time for yourself, be firm about your own needs, and recruit a good support network to help you manage the challenges that neurotypicals bring into your life.

It’s up to the parents, teachers, and caregivers of autistic and other special needs people to see to it their own challenging behaviors are corrected, and to protect the special needs people in their care from suffering at the hands of people who don’t realize they have challenging behaviors and how much distress they cause.

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Stress: Not Just For Breakfast Anymore!


by Lillian Csernica on March 26, 2013

It’s been a long day, the kind of day I want people to witness when they make ignorant, offensive remarks about my life.

I am not feeling well right now.  Never mind the details.  It’s enough to keep me from leaving the house.

John played a Narrator in his class’ Reader’s Theater production this morning.  He really wanted me to be there.  Fortunately, Chris decided to go in my place.  Chris doesn’t get to be part of school day events very often. so it was a nice surprise for John.  I was happy John’s teacher got to have some face-time with Chris.  I was hoping for a smooth afternoon since John was in a good state of mind after the performance.  Nope.  He was uncooperative and defiant and things wound up escalating into a full meltdown, teenage version.  By the time I worked up the strength to come downstairs and get in the middle of it, there was no way I could interrupt the cycle John goes through.  His aide couldn’t prevent it, and the confrontational style of other people in the house didn’t help matters.

On top of all of that, there was Michael‘s day.  It started off with a really unpleasant diaper situation.  Once that was cleaned up, it was time to get Michael ready for his MetroParacruz ride to the dentist.  (MP is a minivan service for the special needs and senior citizen population in our area.)  Due to my being out of action, my sister rode with Michael and then later, after John’s performance, Chris went to the appointment to add any required parental authorization.  Michael has what’s referred to as secretion management problems, which means he drools a lot.  That results in serious plaque build up on his teeth, which can cause various dental problems.  So every three months he has to get his teeth cleaned.  The problem is, in order for the dental hygienist to do a thorough job, Michael has to be put under anesthetic.   Michael needs more teeth pulled because more are coming in and the narrowness of his jaw due to hydrocephaly means there’s no room.  Convincing the insurance company to give us the anesthesiologist for oral surgery is very very difficult.

And this evening Michael is showing flu-like symptoms including vomiting, which is extremely dangerous for him because it can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

This is why I have all three kinds of insomnia.  I’m too stressed out to go to sleep for fear of what medical crisis might arise when I’m not awake to cope with it.   After about five years of experimentation, my current doctor and I have finally arrived at a combination of meds that helps me sleep without turning me into a zombie.  Sleep is good.  Sleep is essential.  Do not underestimate the importance of sleep.  Lack of sleep screws up your brain chemistry and that does bad things to the rest of you.

Having said all this, let me close by offering my prayers and support for all special needs families everywhere.  I know many of you have a lot harder than I do.

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