Archive for ‘Advocacy’

September 25, 2018

#553 – Swimming Through Life with RA

MariannaPaulsonShallowEnd340

 

What an honour it is to be featured on the Arthritis.ca’s Flourish – Helping You Move Through Life with Arthritis section.

See: A Mentor Among Us.

 

Challenges are a part of life, whether they be emotional, mental or physical. Sometimes all you can do is tread water and hope that some rogue wave doesn’t pull you under. Other times, you swim to distant shores, if not always easily, but with practised determination.

Swimming has been a constant for me. Little did I know that all those years I spent in the pool, prior to being diagnosed with RA at 20, would become the thing that keeps me mobile and fit. It brings me joy and allows me to move easily when my land-lubber self doesn’t always do so.

Granted, because of surgeries and the way my body has changed because of RA, I have had to modify how I do things. For example, I no longer do bilateral breathing when I swim front crawl because of my fused C-1 and C-2 joints. So, instead I use a snorkel. While I can still use my arms in the breast stroke, whip kick is ill-advised with my hip replacements and wonky ankle. Speaking of hands, I often use hand paddles which not only provide resistance, but also protect my fingers. Admittedly, it took some work to reconcile myself with the fact that I can no longer execute my swimming strokes as well as I once did. I’ve had to learn to adapt as the years flow by, which incidentally, is a strategy I use to help me age well. I do the best I can for each given day.

Just as certain as there is an ebb and flow to the tides, I will continue to swim my way through life with RA.

I have RA, it doesn’t have me!

Will I see you in the pool?

Si vous voulez lire la truduction en français, le voilà: Une mentore pour nous guider.

September 18, 2018

Disabled Canadians: Discrimination at the Gas Pumps?

HandicapParkGasPump

After seeing this sign at a Shell Station in Washington state, I wondered if disabled Canadians were being discriminated against at the gas pumps. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that assistance is available at self-serve gas stations. There is no such legislation in Canada.

Well-Kept Secret?

I just discovered that if you have a handicapped parking placard, it is possible to get help at the gas pumps at the following companies:

It’s a well-kept secret, though. I have never seen any signage that offers this kind of help, have you? As it stands now, I have to use a wrench to open my gas cap. I’d rather not get started on the frustrating problem I encounter with the credit card slot! Obviously, those slots are designed for the nimble-fingered!

Full-Serve at a Cost

After all these decades of driving, there have been many times when I considered going to the full-service pumps, where gas costs more per litre than at the self-serve pumps. However, if you live in Port Coquitlam, B.C. or Richmond, B.C., full-serve is the only option available. Wouldn’t it be great to turn back the clock when every service stations offered service? Without a policy in place, pain at the pumps becomes a little sharper. Let me know if you are aware of accessibility services at the gas companies that are not mentioned here.

The Cost of a Disability

A disability is expensive, emotionally, mentally, physically and financially. Why do Canadians with disabilities have to take another physical and financial hit that could be quashed by legislation similar to The Americans with Disabilities Act, which the posted sign clearly reiterates:

Vehicle refueling services will be provided upon request at self-service prices to motorists with disabilities. If the vehicle displays an official state or locally issued disabled motorist plate or placard.

Refueling services will not be provided when there is only one employee on duty.

To obtain refueling services, honk your car horn twice and an employee on duty will pump your gasoline for you. If one is available, you may use the intercom for this purpose.

If you are pumping your own gasoline and the card reader is inaccessible to you, the employee on duty will remotely turn on the pump for you when you lift the nozzle, raise the lever, and select the desired grade of gasoline. After you have pumped your gasoline, please enter the facility and pay the employee on duty.

This facility also provides assistance in obtaining goods for purchase for our customers with disabilities. If you require this assistance, please ask the employee on duty.

I have questions with no answers:

  • It appears that gas companies are self-regulated in terms of offering assistance to those with disabilities. Why is there no such legislation in Canada?
  • Where do the organizations who support people with disabilities stand on this issue?
  • Has there been any sort of Canadian government lobbying to address this lack of support?
  • Are you aware of any other communities that offer full-service like those found in Port Coquitlam and Richmond, B.C.?

Related:

September 25, 2017

#536 – #RABlogWeek: Day 1 – Mental Health and RA

 

In a workshop, I once asked when I would finally be over an issue that plagued me most of my life. “When you’re dead,” came the swift and pointed reply. Upon reflection, I gleaned the wisdom in those words. Life is an evolving process, with ups and downs, twists and turns. It’s an ever-changing kaleidoscope of emotions, thoughts and feelings, all of which are impacted by hormones, food, exercise, sleep, medical conditions such as RA, work, social scene, climate, perceptions and more. In other words, life.

 

 

Mental health is very much dependent upon cultivating resources, particularly those that enable you to weather the storms, which can vary in duration and severity. It is about taking action and being directly involved in your own well-being. Action that can be as simple as learning the importance of breathing, something you do anyway, so why not make it count. Action that involves reaching out for help to learn strategies to help you navigate your life. Action that helps you cultivate your innate healing powers and wisdom in order to recognize that while it may not be fair, your life path is strewn with bumps, hurdles, detours and stops. It also includes beautiful scenery, unexpected journeys and friends, new and old.

The diagnosis of a chronic illness, such as RA (rheumatoid arthritis), can send you into a nose-dive. Frustration, impatience, pain, regret, guilt, fear, sadness, etc. –  the list can be a large storm surge of negative, stress-producing emotions, thoughts and feelings.

The Dark Days

I’ve experienced periods, some longer than others, when it seems that I am in the winter of my discontent. I won’t bore you with the details, but some adjectives that applied during those times are useless, incompetent, pointless and hopeless. Neither work, nor friends or family seemed to get me out of that darkness. However, gradually, the light got in, the heaviness lifted and I found my equilibrium. All of that was pre-Auntie Stress days. It turns out that there is wisdom in growing older. Imagine that!

My Strategies

Now, my toolbox is full of self-care/self-help strategies. As the primary driver of the vehicle that is me, it is empowering to take responsibility, (even if sometimes I’d rather not!), for my life. If not me, who then? After all, I have the most vested in me. I am here from the beginning to the end, through thick and thin, sadness and joy, disappointments and successes.

However, that does not mean I am the island that John Donne elegantly wrote in 1624: “No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”

When I’m feeling wretched I know that I can do something about it. I am also aware that I won’t feel that way forever, just like I know that a flare won’t last forever, if you take steps to address it. In this instant world we live in, we’ve been conditioned to having things happen right when we want them to. Life does not necessarily work that way. It can take as long as it takes – not much comfort when you are fighting a flare or flailing around in the whirlpool of despair.

I’ve learned to dig deeper. Breathe. Use the power of my heart. Ask what I need versus what I want. Breathe. Use the power of my heart. Don’t eat my feelings – a decades long habit that I’ve mainly overcome. (Yes, I have set-backs, but not like I used to!) Breathe. Use the power of my heart. Spend time doing the things important to me, such as spending time in nature. Exercise helps, as does realizing that mood and food are very much related. Breathe. Use the power of my heart. Sleep, or lack thereof, is a huge mood downer for me. I am faithful to my sleep regimes, because when I’m not, I don’t want to know me! Yes – more breathing and more heart power.

I have dark days, like anyone else. Challenges. Family concerns. A chronic illness. Dashed dreams. Unfilled wishes. I work on not letting the broken sewer pump of negative emotions flood my life. If I need to rise above the dark stinky mess, I first turn on the light and rummage around for one of the many techniques in my toolbox. If I can’t find the right tool, I know where to go for help. However, there is usually always something there to help me move forward.

Cultivate Your Resources

It can be an easy trip down the road to despair, especially if you have a chronic illness. RA has a voracious appetite for energy. It can be relentless in a flare, resulting in a tsunami of damage, that leaves a path of destruction that can touch many aspects of your life – work, relationships and  finances, to name a few.

You have more power than you realize over your emotions, thoughts and emotions. Be patient. Breathe. Access the power of your heart. Add to your toolbox. Trust yourself. Give yourself time to learn, change and grow. Build a support system, whatever that looks like to you. Access and cultivate your resources. Just like life, the road to well-being is an on-going process.

Finally, ask the birds to leave your hair alone and go build a nest elsewhere!

 

 

January 11, 2017

#514 – Goodwill Snow Challenge for Gym Owners

One very snowy and cold Northwestern Ontario winter, long ago.

We’ve had an unusual winter here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Since the beginning of December we’ve had what most of the rest of Canada usually has – snow and colder temperatures. In fact, this is the most snow I’ve seen since I’ve lived here. There are a number of problems with this – the municipalities aren’t set up to deal with the snow with enough equipment (like sidewalk plows and odd/even parking), nor in their budgets. Driving around, it is clear that a number of people don’t realize that there are bylaws on the books that require owners to remove the snow from the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses (another post for another day).

When you live in a snowy climate and are mobility-challenged with a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, it can be a challenge to be a good citizen by shovelling your walkway and driveway.

While browsing through the Delta Parks, Recreation and Culture Leisure Guide I came across a page that melted my heart, even if it didn’t melt the snow. There is a call for Snow Angels who are volunteers who shovel the sidewalks and driveways of the residents who are unable to do so, thus ensuring safe passage.

I’m proposing a goodwill challenge for gym owners whose patrons religiously come to lift, push, step, climb, cycle, row or run their way into better health. Why not create some healthy competition between gyms, such as Trevor Linden’s Club 16, or Steve Nash’s Fitness World, to see how many mobility-challenged homes can be shovelled after a snowstorm? Prizes could be rewarded, even though the opportunity to do some functional fitness (aka real-life workout), enjoy fresh air, and to do something kind and valuable for someone else, should be reward enough.

Imagine if a flurry of Snow Angels descended upon your home or that of a loved one, spreading kindness and goodwill, while helping to encourage mobility and independence in those who might otherwise be housebound. This would be an act of community service that not only warms the heart, but also clears the path to enable the mobility-challenged to get out of the house and take part in the exercise they need to maintain the mobility they do have.

I could see The Arthritis Society, The Arthritis Foundation, The Canadian Cancer Society and other groups who support people with mobility challenges working together to promote this within the community. Exercise and volunteerism are great antidotes to stress and depression. Mental Health advocates can also encourage their clients to get shovelling!

Let it snow! Let it snow? Let it snow. Or, maybe not!

 

 

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