Friday, April 28, 2006

Today is Special...and So am I

Every year on your birthday you get to start anew.

--Sammy Hagar

Today is the day I celebrate my birthday. 26 candles for me. Quite impressive, no? It feels like one of those birthdays that isn't particularly noteworthy. Like being 11, or 19. It's a milestone-less event, but that's okay. I still get to choose the restaurant for dinner tonight.

My husband bought me white roses and they are beautiful! They fit very nicely in the vase that my friends Kelly and John got me. I have a lovely collection of birthday cards presiding over our coffee table, and some new books on my shelf. Not a bad start to a new year of life!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Positive Progress!

A message from the CF Foundation...

We are pleased to report that the median survival age of people with cystic fibrosis in the United States has risen to 36.8 years--up from 35.1 in 2004!

For decades, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has tracked the health and longevity of patients treated through its care center network. Caregivers at these centers collect vital statistics about the health of CF patients, which skilled statisticians then analyze and publish in the annual CF Foundation Patient Registry Report.

As an interesting perspective, in the last four years alone, we have added more than five years to the median survival age of CF patients. Today’s trend of continuous improvement suggests that we are getting closer to reaching the goal of curing this disease.

We attribute the improvement in both the length and quality of life to the fact that there are now more CF therapies than ever before and even more now in development. In addition, the standardization of care and the implementation of “best practices” throughout our care center network also are having an impact.

Thank you for your dedication to the CF community. What you are doing in the lab and in the clinic is making a difference. Together, we are adding tomorrows every day to the lives of those with CF.


Robert J. Beall, Ph.D., President and CEO
Preston W. Campbell, III, M.D., Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
6931 Arlington Road
Bethesda, MD 20814

P.S. To help us increase awareness for CF and the important work we do, please feel free to forward this message. Thank you for your commitment.

Friday, April 21, 2006

What's that Smell?

[It] has its own smell. One I've liked very much--flowers, heat and freshness, with a vinaigrette dressing of gasoline over the top.

--Jonathan Carroll

Back in December my company changed its office location. The parking at the new place is far superior, but the proximity of my desk to the restroom is not. I've learned that if I even *think* I may have to use the facilities, I should go ahead and start the journey through the aqua and ecru catacombs that comprise our complicated hallway system. Oddly enough, we have 2 separate kitchen areas on the second floor of the building, but only one set of restrooms.

During my lunch break today I stayed at the office instead of going home, which meant I needed to use the restroom at the same time everyone else did. I wound my way over there and turned the final corner and...PHEWWWWWW!

I don't know who the brilliant genius was who decided that the opening for the kitchen should face the restrooms, but my goodness, what a frightful thing. Someone had apparently burned a bag of microwave popcorn, someone else was nuking what seemed to be a broccoli and toe cheese casserole and I don't even want to speculate about what was going on in the restroom.

On Monday I'll eat at home again. I'm pretty sure it's going to take at least that long for me to get my appetite back.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hungry for Knowledge

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live.

--Mortimer J. Adler

Last night two of my colleagues and I ventured over to UCSD to attend a symposium highlighting the achievements of last year's Kyoto Prize Laureates. We had the opportunity to sit in on a lecture presentation being given by Dr. Simon A. Levin, winner of the award in the field of basic sciences. Dr. Levin has been monumentally instrumental in the development of what is known as "spatial ecology". In other words, he uses mathematical approaches (calculations, formulae, etc.) to extrapolate quantitative data about qualitative patterns in an ecological setting. Additionally, he has observed that there is a profound similarity between economic patterns and ecological ones. I won't bore you with all the details of it, because I doubt everyone is as interesting in being a life-long learner like I am.

But I digress...

I realized something about myself last night. I began to understand why it is that I enjoy learning so much. I agree with Adler's quote that I included at the start of this post. For me, learning is just about cramming a lot of book knowledge into my head. It isn't merely about exposing myself to a variety of different ideas and beliefs (although that's certainly a part of it.) Because learning is a way to grow, I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given to grow over the years.

I was always the type of student to request additional assignments from my teachers. Whenever possible, I strived to exceed the standard. Because cystic fibrosis limited me in my ability to attend class regularly, I made a conscious effort to keep up with my studies anyway as a way to demonstrate that who I am doesn't have to be defined in terms of my physical state of being. I devour books. When I find a topic that interests me, I try to learn as much as I can about it. In doing so, I am given a chance to grow not only in intellect, but in character.

I hope I never stop learning and growing. I am so thankful that of all the areas of my life that cystic fibrosis has impacted, my mental capacity has not been one that has been adversely affected. I will never win any academic awards, but I have the reward of knowing that I can continue to learn as long as I live.

Current mood: complacent
Current snack: Stroopwafels (thanks Ed!)
Health-o-Meter: 98%
Emotional Weather: clear and sunny

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"My Girls"

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.

--Thomas Jefferson

Every other week I get together with a small group of my close girl friends--"My Girls" I call them--for an evening of prayer. I am so blessed by my girls in those times. Last night in particular I felt extremely close to God and my friends after our evening together. Quite a lot of time had passed since many of us had seen each other. Since we are geographically spread out and we all have different schedules, we don't always have the entire group together all at once. But that's okay. Those of us who are there get "caught up" with one another, and those who are unable to make it contribute by way of email. I love it.

When I fall out of the habit of meeting regularly with my girls, I easily forget the incredible impact that the group has on my spiritual life. I am continually amazed to hear about all that God is doing in the lives of my friends. I am also blessed to see God answering our prayers right before our eyes.

A year ago my girls and I were praying a lot about my health. Last spring was particularly difficult for me. I was in and out of the hospital, which included a 2 visits to the emergency room as well as an outpatient surgery. Through all of that I was encouraged and uplifted. I only hope that I have been the same blessing to them that they are to me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I Like Being a Wife

I prefer the word "homemaker" because "housewife" always implies that there may be a wife someplace else.

--Bella Abzug

My husband and I seem to have hit upon a routine that works well for both of us. Brad has been reading the book "Getting Things Done", and has been putting some much appreciated effort into maximizing his time management skills. Instead of working out in the morning and making himself feel rushed, he works out in the evening on his way home from work. This means we eat dinner a little later than we used to, but it's worth it.

I really enjoy the opportunities I have to love my husband in seemingly mundane ways. I know he appreciates a neat, clean home, so I do what I can to minimize clutter in the living room and kitchen. I'm finding that the more time I spend doing my job as a wife, the more I enjoy it. I almost think I was born in the wrong decade. I thoroughly enjoy planning and preparing meals, keeping house, ironing my husbands shirts, etc.

And no, doing all this "woman's work" type stuff does not make me feel oppressed. Quite the opposite actually. My husband holds me in such high regard and treats me like a princess, and that's what makes me want to do those household things for him. I like being a wife, but it's more than that. I like being my husband's wife--his helpmate, his companion and his friend.

Some days I just don't have the energy resources available to me to do all those things, and that's okay. My husband is just as capable and willing when it comes to keeping our household running smoothly. That's what makes our marriage such a wonderful partnership. He fills in the gaps for me, and I fill in the gaps for him. Our life together is a living, breathing example of what it means for "the two shall become one."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Gut Reaction

It has long been known for sure that the sight of tasty food makes a hungry man's mouth water; also lack of appetite has always been regarded as an undesirable phenomenon, from which one might conclude that appetite is essentially linked with the process of digestion.
--Ivan Pavlov

Saturday was, well...painful. I have no idea what was going on with my innards, but something was sorely (and do I mean SORE-ly) wrong. I can't think of anything I ate that was out of the ordinary. I took my usual amount of enzymes with my customary Saturday morning breakfast of Eggos and Instant Breakfast, but by 10:00 things were badly out of whack.

In the past I have had stomach issues associated with certain antibiotics or even steroids. About 2 years ago I underwent a series of abdominal exams, x-rays and various other sundry imaging tests to see why on earth I was bloating almost instantly upon eating even the smallest morsel of food. The gastoenterologist's conclusion was that I had something called "slow stomach". In other words, it takes me almost 3 times longer than normal to digest something. For someone who eats such large quantities as often as I do, this is unfortunate. Because of malabsorption, I won't feel full, and because of the slow stomach thing, I am full before I should be.

What I can't figure out is why I don't have the bloating problem all the time. In fact, it has been quite awhile since I've had a full-on "tummy ache" like I did when I was a kid (before we knew what foods I could eat).

Anywho, back to Saturday. After my usual breakfast, I was uncomfortably bloated. So much in fact that it took me an extraordinarily long time to find a shirt that would fit and not make me look like an expectant mother. Two hours later I was writhin uncomfortably in my seat, trying not to embarrass myself (i.e., break wind) in front of my favorite author. (More about him later.)

I had to excuse myself from the event early to go get groceries in anticipation of my in-laws coming over for dinner. Although I only need 4 items from the store, I used a cart just so I could have something to lean on. I was semi-hunched over, struggling against the pain as I pushed the cart up each aisle. I had broken out into a cold sweat and considered calling my husband to come pick me up because I was afraid I was going to pass out from the pain. Fortunatlely, I made it home (we're just a blocks from the store), but threw up in the bushes on the way into the house.

My gut was still wrenching. It was as though my digestive system couldn't decide which direction it needed to pass things. To be blunt--it passed things both ways. I vomitted for the better (or was it the worse) part of 2 hours. I had to cancel our dinner plans because I couldn't even stand. I took some ibuprofen hoping that the anti-inflamatory part of it would calm my gut. I also took some Simply Sleep to get my body to relax so I could rest.

Sunday I was still afraid to eat for awhile, which was unfortunate because we were invited to Easter Brunch to celebrate my grandma's birthday. I hate to pass up an all-you-can-eat event. We went, but my tummy was still quite crabby.

It's been 48 hours now and I'm still having issues of discomfort. Any of you CFers out there have similar experiences? I'd love to hear some possible the very least, misery loves company.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Here's What Came To Mind This Lovely Spring Day...

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park
(Tom Lehrer)

Spring is here, a-suh-puh-ring is here.
Life is skittles and life is beer.
I think the loveliest time of the year
Is the spring. I do, don't you?
'Course you do.
But there's one thing that makes spring complete for me,
And makes every Sunday a treat for me:

All the world seems in tune on a spring afternoon,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.
Every Sunday you'll see my sweetheart and me,
As we poison the pigeons in the park.

When they see us coming, the birdies all try and hide,
But they still go for peanuts when coated with cyanide.
The sun's shining bright, everything seems all right,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.

We've gained notoriety, and caused much anxiety
In the Audubon Society with our games.
They call it impiety and lack of propriety,
And quite a variety of unpleasant names.
But it's not against any religion
To want to dispose of a pigeon.

So if Sunday you're free, why don't you come with me,
And we'll poison the pigeons in the park.
And maybe we'll do in a squirrel or two,
While we're poisoning pigeons in the park.

We'll murder them all amid laughter and merriment,
Except for the few we take home to experiment.
My pulse will be quickening with each drop of strychnine
We feed to a pigeon. It just takes a smidgin
To poison a pigeon in the park.

(Copyright Tom Lehrer)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Compliance: Because We've Got Enough to Deal With

Cleanliness becomes more important when godliness is unlikely.

--P.J. O'Rourke

A few years back I was part of a team that did some research to determine whether there was a connection between the frequency and severity of asthma attack and activity level. Part of my job was to assess the study subjects' personal environments (i.e. where they slept, played, lived, etc. ) I was shocked, dismayed and angered by the living conditions of some of the subjects we studied. All socioeconomic variables aside, I observed that one area in particular was dramatically responsible in determining the quality of life for those asthmatics. In a word: compliance.

I'm the first to admit that I am far from an image of perfection when it comes to compliance with my treatment regimen. This was especially true when I was younger. Now that I'm older, I see the extremely vital importance of taking my medications, doing my treatments, and obeying the doctors' orders. I'd like to spend some time pointing out the areas in which I'm sure many of us CFers struggle most, and why compliance is so important.

A commonly overlooked aspect of keeping our health under control involves CLEANING OUR NEBULIZER CUPS. The first place that bacteria likes to linger is in warm, moist places. After your treatment, thoroughly rinse and dry your setup. You don't need to try to cram a paper towel or piece of gauze into that tiny cup to dry it after rinsing. I've found that a hair-dryer on a very low setting, held approximately 8-12 inches from the cup will dry it quite well.

Along those same lines, don't forget to change your nebulizer's FILTER as needed. You're not doing yourself any favors to be sucking in air that has passed through a filthy filter. As an air quality scientist I can tell you that the particles in the air that do the most damage to our lungs are the tiniest ones.

Another big problem is that many of us give up on medications that we don't think are benefiting us. TAKE ALL MEDICATION on time, as prescribed. If a medication truly isn't helping you, then talk about it with your doctor. Don't make an arbitrary decision about it on your own. This is one of the things I struggle with the most. My scientific background helps me in a lot of way when it comes to dealing with CF, but on the other hand, there are times when I don't take a doctor's advice as seriously as I should.

The biggest problem that occurs when we don't comply with doctor's order with regard to medication is that we run the risk of creating a bigger problem that cannot be undone easily. This is especially true for those who have to take digestive enzymes. When we don't take them faithfully and frequently, we are robbing our bodies of the nutrients they need to function well. What may seem like an insignificant weightloss may really be malnourishment, which leads to a decreased ability to fight infection, which allows the infectious "bugs" to be stronger and as a result, it takes a much longer treatment period to wipe out the infection. Tell yourself that the 2 minutes it takes to assess your meal and figure out the appropriate number of enzymes to take with it is a good trade compared to 14-28 days of antibiotics to treat a nasty infection.

I know that despite our best efforts to ward off possible infection, sometimes our bodies have plans of their own. However, I'm a firm believer that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to keeping my living environment free from potential health hazards. In all honesty, I think that the effort exerted in order to comply is well worth it, especially when it saves me the trouble of dealing with an infection.

Current mood: complacent
Current snack: peanut butter M&Ms
Health-O-Meter: 95% (sinus headache)
Emotional Weather: clear skies

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Eyes Have It

I took the eye test and passed it on the spot. Then, when he asked me to sign something, I pulled out my reading glasses.

--Benny Carter

I had noticed lately that as I drive to work, the street signs are a bit blurrier than usual. Also, I had developed an annoying habit of ducking my head every so often, thinking that a bug was zooming toward me. At first I thought the blurred vision was from when my blood sugar was out of whack. I attributed the bug thing to being on levaquin (it has a tendency to make me think I'm seeing flying creatures--no lie!) Well, I was wrong. My out-of-date prescription lenses were to blame for the world's fuzzy appearance, and a huge crack in them was the true identity of said flying creature. So, it was off to the optometrist I went.

I called around and found that JCPenney Optical was fairly close by and had the best price on the eye exam. It had been more than 2 years since I last had my eyes checked, and boy oh boy had things changed. Well, maybe things haven't changed so much as the venue was different from the little place I used to go to when I lived with my folks.

The optometrist had a nifty gizmo that he used to check what my prescription was at present. I stared into a high-tech equivalent of a "Viewmaster" (remember those things?) and was told to focus on the Christmas tree in the background. The whole time I was looking at the little scene I was thinking to myself "wow, this looks a lot like one of the questions on my physics 2C exam." Here's how much of a nerd I am...I'll probably go home today and look through my old physics text book and see if I can figure out how that machine used light (optics) to calculate the aperture of my pupil in order to determine my prescription.

After the eye exam I spent WAY too much time trying to figure out which frames to get. I have such a small head that I have to get kids frames. It's a little embarassing, and there really isn't much to choose from on that section of the wall. I'm so afraid I picked something cheesy. At least I know the sunglasses I selected will look awesome. Next time, I think maybe I'll just get the inexpensive eye exam at JCPenney, and then take the prescription somewhere else where there is a better frame selection.

At any rate, in a few weeks a will be a newly be-spectacled Lauren, and I'll be able to read street signs with ease, and sit calmly without ducking away from invisible attack bugs.


Current mood: pleasant
Current snack: Ghiradelli milk chocolate bar (thanks Ed!)
Health-O-Meter: 97%
Emotional Weather: low pressure zones; mostly clear

Monday, April 10, 2006

Singing in Church

We are singing with feelings and emotions, our soul is this whole of this feelings and emotions.

--Jose Carreras

Yesterday was not how I typically picture church in my mind. We are in the process of renovating and expanding our main building, so things are, well...a bit messy. The demolition crew had done quite a lot of work the since the previous Sunday, so when we arrived for the worship service yesterday we were greeted by portapotties, plywood walls, chain-link fencing, and lots of construction tape everywhere. It was all nice and clean, but it was still very obviously a construction site.

The cool thing was, I really enjoyed being at church. For the first time in I don't know how long, I had enough lung power to sing with every hymn. I hardly even coughed much in spite of the lingering saw-dust smells. The main wall of the building was missing and had been replaced by temporary ply wood, but I wasn't cold. I got to see people I hadn't seen for awhile since I had been sick, and our friends Liz and Clay were there with their new baby, Isaac. I don't know why, but I felt very connected not only to my church community, but to God as well. I like that feeling.

Current mood: chipper
Current snack: raspberry yogurt
Health-o-meter: 95% of baseline
Emotional weather: clear skies

Thursday, April 06, 2006

For Lynn

Fear no more the heat o' the sun
nor the furious winter's rages.
Thou thy worldly task has done
home art gone an ta'en thy wages.

--Shakespeare (from Cymbeline)

Early this morning my mom's friend, Lynn, went home to be with the Lord. She valiantly and gracefully battled cancer for the last several years. She was, and will continue to be, a picture of strength, dignity, and hope to anyone who knew her. I am one of many people who have been blessed by her incredible talent for quilt-making. The picture above is the quilt I received from her as a wedding gift.

Lynn put her hope in the Lord, Jesus Christ and had accepted His free gift of grace. Because of this we know that her eternity is secure. As we grieve with her husband and children, we also rejoice with them to know that Lynn is now free from pain. God has given her a new body.

Please keep her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

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