Loosen up

Today I want to talk about exercises that can help with neuropathy. I follow several blogs on Facebook that deal with pain and stiffness caused by neuropathy. My neuropathy was caused by the amputations of toes and poor circulation from complications of diabetes.

The most common problem from neuropathy is stiffness and pain in your feet and legs. It can make difficult to sleep and walk everyday. After my operations and rehab I was shown several exercises that have helped make my neuropathy bearable.

The easiest thing to do is to take a walk in a park or around the block. It loosens up your feet and legs and helps you sleep longer and better. Try to walk two or three times a week. Start your walks on flat surfaces at first , and then try a path with an incline for more resistance. If you have access to a treadmill, this will work well by starting your walking flat, and then gradually building up to an incline.

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The other thing you can do is get a resistance band. They come in different tensions. Light to heavy. You can perform simple exercises with these. My favorite is putting the band below your foot and then extending your leg outward like a leg extension. Two sets of 25 on each leg will help your pain and stiffness.

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My last exercise I perform that helps is sitting on the edge of your bed or chair, extend your right leg out and up, and then roll your foot up and down for a set of 30 reps. Repeat process for your left leg and foot. This helps keep your feet feeling cooler and loose.

All these exercises I perform before I go to sleep, or also during the night if I have trouble sleeping during the night.

The last thing I do is prop my feet up on two pillows. This will help if there’s any swelling of your feet, or can provide some relief from stiffness in your legs and feet. Try these exercises before bed, and in the morning as needed. I hope these suggestions will help you , as they’ve helped me with dealing with my neuropathy.

My next blog I will continue to discuss ways to deal with diabetes mentally and physically. Stay healthy and safe!!!!

Life is hope

Today I want continue talking about how diabetics can help one another. Common courtesy goes a long way. Talking to your fellow diabetics about your diagnosis, past surgeries, rehabilitation, and how you are coping with this disease are all important steps to having a successful future.

I think the most valuable thing you can pass on to your fellow diabetics is how you contracted this disease. We all have our story. Diabetes often comes from poor diet, lack of exercise, and also mental stress.

In my case I was diagnosed after years of poor diet, lack of exercise and mental stress, due to my failures in college. I never finished my degree due to lack of funds and poor academic performance. After leaving school I had take jobs I really didn’t like. I worked in lumber yards as a forklift driver and laborer. My passion was music, specifically guitar playing and teaching, not working in a lumber yard. It was very frustrating working at a job that you hate, when the field you loved wasn’t available at the time. I turned to alcohol and a poor diet as an escape from the everyday grind.

My social life wasn’t very exciting either. I had no girlfriend, and most of my friends were far away, so I only saw them for a limited time. In the end it was my choice to not to take care of myself out of self pity. I made many mistakes during my college years. I should have studied more. I should have embraced the kindness of certain people to make my life happier. I lacked the confidence to do so, which was one of many regrets in my life.

A few years later I came back to the Philadelphia area where I grew up and got a job at a music store. I began teaching and selling musical instruments. It wasn’t the highest paying job, but at least I was teaching. I was proud to watch so many of my students excel through lessons and the rock band program I ran. I began to gain some confidence as a teacher, but I was still not eating properly, or exercising enough. One night during a rehearsal of my rock band program I began to sweat, shake, and my vision was blurred. At this time I also had a small hole on the bottom of my foot, which was getting larger everyday. After this episode I finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with diabetes and a foot ulcer. Four surgeries, lost toes, and many eye injections and laser treatments later, here I am.

I continue to teach guitar, but my ultimate goal now is to get a job helping diabetics. I am very fortunate to have both feet and be able to walk. I also still have my vision. The best advice I can give is to take care of your health everyday. Physical and mental. I’m not trying to sound like an after school special, but too much alcohol and overeating will catch up with you. Talk to your friends and family about problems you’re having. Talk to a psychiatrist if you can. Don’t let a foot ulcer get worse. See a doctor regularly.

With all failures in my life, I’ve learned from them very painfully. I now take care of myself. My doctors have complimented me often on my continued progress. I have many diabetic friends I talk with on a weekly basis. We compare our stories, and offer each other advice. I enjoy teaching the guitar, but look forward to a career someday helping diabetics. I’m happy everyday I get up and am able to walk and see. I need to exercise more, and I will try to everyday. I try to be happy for what I have, and try not to dwell on what I don’t have. I’m optimistic for my future, and will continue to write this blog as often as I can. If I can help one person deal with their diabetes in a positive way, that’s a good day. Stay safe and healthy!

My next blog I’ll talk about some home exercises that can help you sleep better and have a little less pain with neuropathy.

Support each other

Today I want to talk about ways we as diabetics can support each other. This past year has been very difficult with Covid and a disruption to our normal lives. We’ve had to be extra careful by wearing masks, washing our hands more often, and social distancing. We were unable to see our family and friends as much as we would have liked to. There are ways that we can help one another not just during the coronavirus outbreak, but everyday living.

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The first thing would be common courtesy. Holding a door for someone in a wheelchair, walking with a walker or walking on crutches. Let people with these difficulties come down an aisle in a grocery store before you.

The second thing would be to share extra diabetic supplies with fellow diabetics. It could extra lancets, test strips, or even bandages. The cost of diabetic supplies even with insurance can be astronomical.

The most important would be to share your personal experiences with your fellow diabetics through blogs, web sites, or just a simple phone call. Let people know how you continue to fight this disease everyday through good dieting and exercise.

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These are just friendly reminders that we’re all in this together. Diabetes can be controlled and maybe defeated someday with good habits and caring for each other. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to still walk and see after several operations and procedures. Without my friends and family supporting me from day one I wouldn’t be here. Stay positive and remember your’e never alone. Join support groups, talk to friends and family members who have diabetes, and find healthy distractions to take your mind off the down side of this disease. I hope this blog will give you some positive ideas and as always I encourage feedback!

My next blog I will talk more about how we can help one another. Stay safe and healthy!

New Year, Same plan

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Happy New Year! I’d like to briefly discuss my health care plan for 2021. I’m in Pa. and instead going to Healthcare.gov to pick or renew a plan, I had to go to Pennie.com to renew my insurance. I have the same coverage, with a slightly lower premium. My doctors accept the insurance.

I was looking for a better plan for my eye care, but most supplemental eye plan just cover glasses, and not additional funding for shots to the eye. Fortunately my eye doctor will be able to provide the the shots in Pa., instead of New Jersey. The copay for my plan for out of state is high, so I’m glad to receive the shots in Pa. My advice when picking a plan is to talk to your doctors billing department and all facilities that your procedure is being performed to avoid surprise high copays.

The second thing I’d like to discuss is my plans for the New Year. I will continue to be vigilant with wearing a mask, social distancing, washing my hands frequently, and try to avoid last crowds or gatherings. The vaccine is on the way, and for diabetics hopefully by the summer. Until then I’ll teach my guitar students mostly virtual and limit in person lessons to be safe.

Finally I’d like to say on a personal note I’m trying surround myself with positive people, and losing the negative ones. This goes a long way to staying healthy. I also would like to get a job helping diabetics with amputations and eye issues. I’d really like to do more this year to help my fellow diabetics. Stay healthy and safe.

My next blog I will continue to discuss what we can all do to help each other as diabetics.

Covid free, but still careful.

Today I want to talk about the coronavirus. My test was negative, but my sister and brother in law have it. My sister is getting better, but my brother in law is still sick. My mother is being tested today. I’m praying they will all be healthy and safe.

My test, my mother’s test, and my sister and brother in law’s positive test all came after a Thanksgiving get together. My Mom and I had to get tested to see if we were exposed to covid since my sister and brother in law have it.

I love family get-togethers during the holiday season, but now after my covid scare I am considering dropping presents off, and just spending some time with one family member instead of three. This virus is real and killing up to three thousand people a day. It’s not a hoax. Wear a mask!

I haven’t seen my friends at all during this virus, and yes it sucks, but as a diabetic I have to be safe. Everyday when I get home from work I wash my face, phone, glasses, and anything else I’ve touched during the day.

I limit my trips to the supermarket to once a week, and a few times a week to smaller stores.

I am talking about this on my blog not to be political, but to offer advice on how to stay safe. If you love your family and friends, don’t compromise your health and theirs by not wearing a mask, attending large gatherings, or not washing your hands and face regularly.

The vaccine is on the way, be patient, safe, and practice healthy habits. I normally like to talk about the effects of diabetes and how it has compromised my health on this blog. This is a virus that can kill diabetics, so please wear a mask and practice social distancing!

My next blog I discuss my continued search for the best healthcare I can find. Stay safe and healthy!

Keeping up with your health plan

Today I want to talk about health insurance, and the importance of maintaining your current plan to help ease the burden as a diabetic.

I live in Pa. I am no longer able to purchase insurance on healthcare.gov. My state has it’s own exchange now called Pennie. Through this exchange I am able to still afford health insurance with the help of federal assistance.

Before I had Obamacare I was unable to afford health insurance, due to high premium prices. This plan has saved my life, and has made it possible to take care of my diabetes, and remain healthy.

There are several parts of my plan I want to talk about, and how they are important to my situation and how it might comparable to your plan.

First make sure your doctors accept your insurance, and find out ahead of time of added costs you’ll may be responsible to pay for. My diabetic shoes for example aren’t 100% covered. My shoes generally cost about $2000 dollars. I usually have to pay $500 of my own money to pay for them. Fortunately the place where I get the shoes offers payment plans to ease the burden of this high bill. My plan calls the shoes durable medical equipment, and doesn’t fully cover them. This plan I can afford, so I have to deal with this.

Second my eye care. My doctor only gives injections to my eye when needed out of state. This means if I want to continue seeing him every time I need an injection the out of pocket cost is roughly $300. I now have to change my eye doctor of 45 years because of insurance restrictions. I am switching to a doctor that does all procedures in network.

Third. My insurance covers Covid testing. I have to get one tomorrow, because I might have been exposed. Fingers crossed!

So beware of of these fees and conditions in your health plan choices. In the end we pick a plan that is affordable and accepted by our doctors. I also receive financial assistance through my hospital which helps with prescription costs and medical procedures. Check with your local hospital for similar assistance.

I hope this information is helpful and as always stay healthy and safe this holiday season.

My next blog I will talk about my Covid test results, and what steps can be taken to stay safe as a diabetic. I’ve been healthy so far…..

Be thankful.

Today’s blog I’m going to talk about what I am thankful for. I’m still researching the right medical insurance plan. I will get back to that subject in a few weeks.

During this pandemic and the last four plus years I’ve gone through my share of successes and setbacks. I’ve had my feet operated on multiple times. I’ve had many laser treatments and shots to my eyes to correct my vision. All of these procedures were due to diabetes. You can read my past blogs to see what I’ve went through.

Today I just want to talk about what I’m thankful for, and not what I don’t have. This morning I took a walk in the park. Thanks to my foot doctor, nurses and therapists I can still walk due to successful operations and rehab.

Secondly, my vision has remained stable due to the care I’ve received from my eye doctor. I am thankful I can still see.

Third: I am grateful for my diabetic doctor who has helped me keep my A1C in the range of 5.0-5.5, which in turn has helped with all my medical issues.

To all the nurses and doctors who helped me stay healthy, I am thankful to them as well.

I am thankful most of all for my friends and family who have supported me through this process. I couldn’t have made it without them. When I was depressed and doubting my health they kept me optimistic and made me laugh.

All these friends, family, doctors and nurses I’ve mentioned are what keeps me alive and hopeful for the future. The best advice I can give is to be thankful for at least one positive in your life per day. Life’s too short to be bitter. Remember and honor all the people that have come in and out of your life, and left a positive memory with you. I know I’ll be saying a little prayer for all of them.

Happy Thanksgiving! Stay safe and healthy!

Portion control

Today’s blog I will discuss portion control. If I look back to the biggest reason I was diagnosed with diabetes, with all the toe amputations, and vision problems due to this disease, overeating would have to be the greatest factor to all my problems.

Sitting around eating junk food, sugar filled candy and desserts with no set portion or concept of how to eat properly really took a toll on my body. After everything that’s happened to me the last 4+ years I’ve learned quickly with the help of my doctors and fellow diabetics how to eat smart and safely.

I’ve discussed in my previous blogs about meal prep for the work week, and how to read packages for serving sizes, and how this can help develop healthy habits. Let me repeat myself, read the labels on any food you purchase. If you buy frozen vegetables and the package says 4 servings on it, that’s 4 days worth of servings. If you purchase 6 small chicken breast, that’s 6 days worth of an entrees. This kind of strict portion control can also help your budget.

The biggest portion problem for me was snacking. The majority of the snacking I was doing was done while watching TV. I just kept eating and eating with only being finished when the bag or container was empty. Those days are over, so I actually follow the portions sizes . I love peanuts, almonds, and cashews for example. If you read the can of almonds for instance, the serving size may say 28 pieces. Guess what, that’s what you eat. A typical snack for me before bed is snack nuts, a single string mozzarella stick, and two sugar free Russel Stovers chocolate candies. This snack is about 30 carbs, which my diabetic doctor said is safe.

If you want something to look forward to, pick a weekend day to maybe have a bigger portion, or something different on the menu to break the monotony. Stay away from fried foods, or sugar filled desserts. Try a salad for lunch with lite dressing and some fruit for dessert.

These are just a few examples of being more responsible for your own health. In the end, it’s up to you to eat healthy and read the labels. These may sound strict, but it’ll will help you to stay healthy and avoid further damage to your body.

My next blog I’ll talk about talking with your doctors and fellow diabetics on what insurance plans are stable for diabetics. Stay safe and healthy!

Learn to adjust

Today’s blog will deal with more examples of anxiety and fear. Last blog I talked about my left eye shaking for a time one day. I was worried my vision could be in jeopardy. Thankfully I saw the eye doctor this past week and he told me everything was fine, and that the brief few second shaking was caused by dry eyes. The weather here in the east has been up and down. The cold and dry air can cause dry eyes. He suggested getting an artificial tears eye drop with no preservatives, and it’s definitely helped. I’m glad to sayI’ve had no shaking in the eyes anymore. It’s just another diagnosis to help ease your anxiety.

I want to talk about a blog I read on one of my Facebook groups. It was a reminder of what I went through after my several toe amputation operations. The person on this blog just got her big toe amputated on her right foot and was having a hard time looking at her foot because she felt ashamed or afraid of what people may think of her if they find out she’s missing a toe.

I remember how I felt the first time I saw my right foot missing a big toe after the operation. My foot had to have it’s dressing changed everyday, so you’d see the wound healing and feel a phantom pain where the toe was. It looked like something out of a horror movie. The first thought that comes to your mind is that you have to live with this deformity and how will other people see you. It’s like you lost a sense of normalcy. I already was worried about left foot being hooked up to a wound vac and knew I would lose several toes on my left foot, which were removed on future operations. You’re laying in your hospital bed thinking am I going to walk right again, am I going to lose a foot eventually, and how embarrassing would it be if someone would see these deformities.

After all these thoughts were going around in my head daily I realized the only way to ease my anxiety was to learn to adapt to my deformities. You learn in rehab how to walk again, regain balance, and how to care for your wounds and take care of your feet with daily cleaning and moisturizing. I was so determined to walk again, I really almost forgot I was missing toes. You just want to get back to your everyday living, and learn how maintain good habits to develop a healthy lifestyle.

I would say the day when all my wounds were healed, and I could take a shower, with shower shoes of course, and then start a cleaning and moisturizing exercise every morning is when it finally sunk in where I was. I would never win the prettiest feet award,(ha, ha) I could never could go into a pool or the ocean without water shoes again. I couldn’t walk around the house bare footed anymore, because of my neuropathy and the chance I could get a new wound on my foot. You sit there and look at your feet, and realize the damage you’ve done to yourself, but are grateful you can walk, without assistance. I learned quickly that your friends and family like you for who you are, not if your feet are whole. If you’re starting a new relationship with someone, and they are uncomfortable with your deformity, then they’re not worth the effort. Be proud you can walk, take care of yourself, and help others deal with their fears.

My next blog will deal portion control with a diabetic diet, and how to avoid temptation to fall back to bad habits. Stay safe and healthy!

Face your fears

Today’s blog I will discuss fear and it has affected me as a diabetic, and ways to ease your anxiety.

I’ve talked before about my many fears as a diabetic. I often worry about losing a foot, or my vision due to diabetes. It could be a concerning doctor visit, a blister or red mark on your foot, or even blurred vision. I’ve had all of these.

The other day my left eye was blurry and shaking for a few seconds. This has happened before when was I first was diagnosed. It was usually a longer episode of blurred vision, and not so short and a tremor like feeling. Fortunately I’m seeing my eye doctor this Tuesday and I can tell him about this day, and he will examine my eye extensively to see if any problem is present. I’ve read on numerous web groups I belong to similar stories. Some people have said it was a drop in sugar, which may require a sugar spike to even things out. Others have had mini stroke symptoms that have caused this. I will share my doctors diagnosis next week on this blog to help others going through the same thing. The fear is always there of a possible vision problem, but I’ve learned not to dwell on something until I get the word from the doctor.

My best defense against fear is music. I enjoy listening to a variety of types of music. Classical, metal, rock, country , and some pop. I also play and teach guitar which helps alleviate stress. I was saddened to learn my all time favorite guitar player Eddie Van Halen had passed away this week.He was the reason I picked up the guitar. I would watch videos, listen to his records and go to his concerts frequently because his music made me happy and he always looked like he was having a great time playing on stage. I always teach my students to always smile when you perform, this way even if you mess up the audience doesn’t notice as much. Of course when Eddie would mess up, you never recognize it. The great ones can always cover up their mistakes.

The greatest lesson I learned from watching him is to have fun while you’re playing guitar, and when you’re down pick up the guitar or listen to music to calm you down. Try to have a positive outlook on life. Eddie was dealing with cancer treatment, but the way he looked and played on stage, you would never know it.

I try to follow that example whether playing or teaching the guitar. Yes diabetes is a horrible disease, which can lead to many health complications. You learn to deal with each success or failure as it comes. Find your outlet to relieve stress. Trust me it goes a long way to your healing and continued good health.

Eddie Van Halen had a great approach to playing the guitar. Just plug in and play and find your sound. If it comes from your heart, it’s right. This is a great life lesson to me. Be yourself, help others, and take care of yourself by finding that outlet to relieve your stress and anxiety. Don’t let diabetes rule your life in a negative way. Look for the positives. I know now I’m eating better, and care about my health more. Stay safe and healthly!

Next week I will discuss my eye visit and diagnosis and continue to talk about fear.